I was in the sixth grade when I first learned about Harry Potter. At the time, I was really into watching the Rosie O’Donnell Show (random, I know), and Rosie kept raving about this book called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Rosie’s stamp of approval was solid for me, and I decided I needed to read this Harry Potter book, too. That week, I was able to get my hands on the second Harry Potter book in the series—Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets—though at the time, I thought I was reading the first book.
It didn’t matter, though. I was hooked. I went to the library and checked out the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, falling more in love with the story now that I got the whole picture.
From then on, Harry Potter became a permanent fixture of my life.
I went to book release parties. I bought all of the books and reread them countless times. When I interned at The Saginaw News during the summer of 2007, I even convinced my editor to let me go to the movie premiere at midnight and write a column about my adventure.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m aware I’m not nearly as hardcore as many other fans out there. But over the holidays, I was playing around on my phone and recorded my mom answering random questions.
The video below is solid proof that for years, I’ve been:
On December 31, one of my best friends had a baby. A girl. Her third. Despite being a week overdue, the baby is tiny. New. And perfect (maybe I’m bias…but it’s true).
Here's a picture of us, about a month and a half before she had the baby.
The baby came on her own timeline. If it were up to us adults, this baby would have born when she was due. Like she was supposed to (Because babies listen to us, right? They come exactly when they are supposed to, right?)
This baby had other plans, as babies do. She let us know who was in control here.
“The baby is going to be a social butterfly,” I told my friend a few days before, when it was looking like the baby would arrive around New Year’s Eve rather than Christmas. “She wants to come out when there’s a party and lots of people.”
Sure enough, New Year’s Eve came, and the baby was still hanging out in my friend’s nice, comfy womb. (I mean, I assume it’s nice and comfy, as far as wombs go. Not that I would know what my friend’s womb is like.)
I’m making this awkward. STOP IT LINDSAY.
I texted another friend that afternoon: “I’m sitting here eating cheese puffs on the couch, and our friend is about to have a baby. Life’s weird.”
Life IS weird.
My friend had a baby on December 31. On the flip side of things, my mom was working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit taking care of other people’s babies who aren’t as healthy as my friend’s newborn.
My cousin and aunt were in New York City in December 31 to ring in the new year. The Michigan State Spartans were in Texas, playing a pretty ugly football game. I was inhaling pineapple and ham pizza with my new in-laws and husband, watching aforementioned sad Spartans game.
People got engaged. Announced pregnancies. Threw confetti and streamers. Sat with their cats (I did that later on in the night, much to my parent’s cat Tabitha’s dismay).
All on the same day: December 31. Different memories. Different meanings.
Like it or not, we have entered a new year. I know a lot of people “aren’t into resolutions.” I get that. I’m not that sold on resolutions, either.
But I do enjoy a new beginning. Everyone needs a new beginning at some point. And it doesn’t have to be, you know, coming into the world on the last day of the year like my friend’s baby (but that’s pretty cool).
It’s a chance for us to start over. To have our beginnings coincide with the beginning of a new year.
As for me, my resolution is more of a challenge: put myself in new situations. Hence this website, for one. Letting everyone know that I have a dream of getting published and I am pursuing that dream, for another. It’s not easy to be vulnerable and put yourself out there. It’s not easy for me, anyway. I’m a stickler for certainty and comfort zones. I have this perfectionist problem and this lack-of-coordination problem and then there’s the “What if I embarrass myself?” anxieties that trip me up sometimes.
This whole thing can be downright scary.
BUT I SHALL PRESS ON.
I will forget about the times I tried new things and completely flopped. Like when I went ziplining in Mexico and couldn’t stop myself when they told me to, so I got nervous and grabbed the zipline rope and abruptly stopped. Like, STOPPED. Middle of the Mexican jungle-stopped. Dangling alone with people ten feet away in a tree-stopped.
I didn’t just abruptly stop one time and then figure it out on the next go-around. I dangled mid-air in the middle of the zipline three times. THREE TIMES.
When I tried paddleboarding in Frankenmuth, I went very slowly and got behind my pals. I couldn’t figure out how to steer. When an unexpected large boat (like multiple levels-tall) came down the river, I panicked and went straight into the riverbank amongst the mud and muck. My saving grace was our friend Kristin, bless her heart, who switched my paddleboard for her kayak. Had she not switched with me, I think I’d still be out on the river, floating on the paddleboard, woefully shouting “HELP ME!” at random intervals.
When my husband and I first tried kayaking, we didn’t go on a small test run on quiet waters for thirty minutes. We went on Lake Michigan, one of the largest fresh-water lakes in the world, for two hours (no clue it was going to be two hours) to get to this landform called Turnip Rock. Three minutes in the water and once again, I couldn’t figure out how to steer and hit the marina wall repeatedly. I went slowly. My arms burned. I paddled so much water INTO the kayak that I could have created my own Michigan lake. My legs were soaked and my eyes were stinging with tears of frustration.
Let it be known, though, that we made it, though. To the rock.
So yeah, my record with trying new things isn’t the best. I mean, I don’t expect to be great at things on the first try, but I’d like to aim for something a little bit higher than horrible. I’d settle for decent or mediocre. But I seem to consistently hit REALLY BAD.
My husband says I pick the wrong things to try. “It’s water sports, I think,” he tells me. “The steering and the paddling.” He’s good at trying to make me feel better.
This year marks new beginnings and trying new things. I will work on steering, should the experience require steering. And with whatever it is that we try, I’ll probably go slowly.
And that’s OK. I’ll just do what my friend’s baby did: Make ‘em wait until I’m ready.
Side Note: Here are the pictures from the aforementioned failure adventures, which only provides more proof that a picture does not always reflect the context of a situation.
I wrote the following back in November, ten days before Thanksgiving. I never intended to share this post, as this isn't really my story to tell.
I wrote this blog for myself...minutes after a good family friend/neighbor passed away and I came home to an empty house and a broken heart. Sitting alone on the couch, I needed to make sense of the jumbled emotions tangled in me. Honestly, I don't even know if I needed to make sense of the emotions....I just needed to let the emotions OUT. I felt lost and had the laptop on my lap and the words spilled out and over me, sloppy and cold and thick, like day-old coffee in an overfilled mug.
After writing, I shut the lid of my laptop and told myself I wouldn't share with anyone. The topics were too personal, too difficult, and involved feelings of men that aren't one to share their feelings with anyone.
I didn't read the post again until New Year's Day. Cleaning files from my computer, I stumbled upon "Till Death Do Us Part..." Reluctantly, I let my husband read the post.
"You should show this to them," he urged. "John should read this."
Yesterday, I gave this blog to John to read, which he did.. And I was told to share it.
So here it is.
This blog includes the experiences of two amazing men in my life. I am fortunate to know them.
Eleven days ago, I got married.
Our wedding day was everything that everyone says a wedding day should be: love and laughter, nerves and excitement, happiness and new beginnings. I wore a beaded ivory dress and my husband wore a tan tux and my dad and I hugged each other tight as he gave me away.
We danced and kissed and cried. We ate vanilla cake with butter cream frosting and I wore silver sparkly tennis shoes and the bridesmaids held bouquets of autumn colored roses. Crimson. Orange. Peach.
Everyone said it would go by fast.
Everyone said to soak it up as much as you can.
Everyone said to make sure you take time to eat.
Eleven days ago, I got married.
Two days ago, my new husband and I returned from our honeymoon, a weeklong affair in Cancun. Our tan lines still linger, the intoxicating buzz of love and strawberry daquiris run through our veins. These past few weeks were chock full of happiness bubbles floating around our heads, bobbing up and down with bliss.
But an hour ago, I got a call from my mom.
“He called,” she said. “She could go anytime. Can you come say goodbye?”
The bubbles popped.
Our neighbor Karen had been battling cancer since March. What started as a shingles diagnosis and a trip to the doctor to check things out had progressed to cancer in the brain over the past year, its tendrils wrapping its way around this person who was so much more than a neighbor, but family.
Karen’s heart was huge, always giving, caring, loving. But her huge heart was slowing down, it’s steady pump now a weak flutter. Her husband John had called so we could come say goodbye to the woman who represented so much in our lives over the years: a friendly face, warm baked treat, silly prank or advice about Michigan birds in the backyard.
Sometimes, all you can do is be there. But sometimes, being there is the most important thing you can do.
So I went.
A year ago to the week, we were making a similar trek to the hospital to say goodbye to my dying grandpa. The third week in November—ironically the week before Thanksgiving, a holiday centered on gratitude—has been a difficult time for my family, to say the least.
As my mom, brother and I walked into our neighbor’s house, my parent’s house visible from the back porch, I took in the glassware decorations on top of the windowsill. “My Grandkids Made This” magnets. Diet ginger ale bottles scattered near the kitchen sink. This house was lived in. Memories were made here.
And then I saw John.
Wearing a red zip-up sweatshirt, white Hanes T-Shirt and baggy grey sweatpants, his eyes looked tired as he smiled, telling us he appreciated us coming to say goodbye to his wife.
I had no idea how he was keeping it together.
“How’d the wedding go?” he asked, pulling me into a hug. They couldn’t make it due to the necessary hospital visits. When I told him the wedding went well, John nodded.
“How long have you and Karen been married?” I asked him. I sat beside his wife now, my hand holding her hand as she lay in the bed, her eyes closed, her breaths raspy. Their son and daughter sat on couches, updating my mom on the medical details. It would be soon, the hospice had told them.
“We’ve been married 49 years,” he said. “And she put up with a lot with me, much more than I put up with her.”
“You make a good team,” I nodded.
“Yeah, well, these kids nowadays who get married?” he started in his gravely voice, “They have one fight and then they want to divorce. You gotta take the bitter with the sweet. Sure, you’ll have your good times and your bad times, but if it’s not abuse or nothin’, I say it can be worked out. She put up with a lot with me.”
John looked down at his wife, and I wondered what was going through his mind. 49 years. They met in high school and got married at 19. A man’s man through and through, John loved to hunt and fish, often making the activities a top priority.
“I did my own thing and she put up with that,” he said. “She took care of me.”
In the past nine months, John took care of his wife in every sense of the word. He cleaned her. Took her to her appointments. Bathed her.
“I pulled down her pants while she held the counter and the railing so she could go to the bathroom,” he said.
I thought of the vows I had spoken to my own husband, not even two weeks ago.
For better or worse. In sickness and in health.
I have a co-worker and friend also named John. In his mid60s, John is gruff. He has salt and pepper hair and drinks black coffee in a mug. He can build anything, paint anything, fix anything. He swears and smokes and makes sassy jokes at your expense, but it’s his own type of affection. He's one of my favorite people.
Earlier this year, his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. As the disease progresses in her brain, his wife’s personality changes hourly. She smokes like a chimney, then forgets she even likes to smoke. She makes us blush with her comments and laugh along with her sporadic glee. She gets angry with her husband for staying away at work too long and she wakes up in the middle of the night to throw clothes out of the drawer.
To calm his wife, John takes her for drives.
“I’ve put 5,000 miles on my truck in the past few months because we drive so much,” he told me.
Earlier in the summer when the sunshine was still shining and the grass was still green, John took his wife out for picnic lunches. They’d get sandwiches at Subway or Arby’s and eat and sit and be together in the world. She liked the flowers outside, he said.
Now, John stays up in the middle of the night to make sure she’s safe, missing hours of sleep to ensure her well-being. When his wife tells him to take her somewhere, John listens and follows her directions as he drives even if he knows his wife has no idea where she is.
Earlier this week, John brought his wife in to work to say hi to us. I noticed his wife’s nails were a bright, aqua color.
“I love your nail polish,” I nodded towards her fingers.
She grinned like a school girl. “You wanna know who does my nails?” She pointed to John, who cracked a smile. “He does.”
John is a brute of a man. A man’s man who makes witty jokes and smokes cigarettes and can fix anything. But he can’t fix his wife’s disease.
So he takes her on drives and paints her nails aquamarine and stays up to make sure she’s safe.
He is a tough guy who is soft and caring in the way that men are for the women they love.
After leaving our neighbor’s house to say our goodbyes today, I came back to the duplex I just moved into with my new husband. My phone rang as I sat down on the couch.
“She passed away,” my mom’s voice echoed in my ear, her voice shaky.
I looked at my wedding bouquet on the counter, still perched in the vase I put the flowers in the day after our wedding. The autumn roses had dried, their petals now fragile and thin.
Society teaches little girls that Prince Charming rides white horses and slays evil dragons before they can hurt you. It teaches teenage and 20something girls that the right guy is the one with smooth pick-up lines and money for drinks and random texts once in a while.
But Prince Charming is neither of those things. Prince Charming is a fabrication of fairy tales and romantic comedies.
Love’s seeds may scatter during the happy moments of newly wedded bliss. But love’s roots are deepened during the difficult, the tragic, the uncertain.
Love is in aqua nail polish, in bathroom trips, in angry outbursts. Love blossoms in the messy and dirty and difficult.
As I sit and mourn the losses and love of those I know and those close to me with their own loves and losses, I think of my husband. I think of our vows. I think of what true love really means and what it really looks like. What it sounds like.
It’s not in the galloping of white horse’s hooves and the clinking of drinks and ringing of text messages asking to “come over tonight, baby.”
It’s showing up. Again and again and again. No matter what life throws at you.
Till death do us part.
I told my parents I launched a website and am going to dedicate time this year to get my manuscript out into the world.
They had questions.
A lot of questions.
And pen name suggestions....Well, Dad had pen name suggestions. One pen name suggestion.
P.S. Sorry I turned my phone the wrong way. I am not living up to the expectations put on my Millennial generation. FAIL.