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Fixed the link for the feed! Sorry about that. See below!
If you're seeing THIS then please update your reader/bookmark/feed to:
the new, direct link to my blog now on WordPress!
I'll admit, for a long time I waited for you to call. I checked my phone for missed calls when I knew it hadn't rang. Because my phone never left my pocket. For weeks I held my breath at the sound of footsteps outside my window even though I knew they weren't yours; I knew better than to think you were coming back. Yet I would close my eyes and wait anyway for the doorbell to not ring. I watched the clock for more minutes, hours, days than I care to confess for your call to never come. For closure, I told myself. But really, I just wanted to hear your voice.
I would have taken you back.
I shouldn't have, but I would have.
I reasoned that you were busy working. You were probably tired. But you probably missed me. Maybe you missed me? Maybe you were thinking of me? Maybe I wasn't out of sight, out of mind. You might not have called that night but the next night? You would. And when you didn't, I was certain you would tomorrow. Because of all the things I knew that I knew, it was that you were better than that.
I was certain you were better than that.
In the wee hours of the morning, when I would finally give in that this night was not the night you were going to come through, I intentionally avoided my own reflection in the mirror knowing I would only see the epitome of pathetic looking back at me.
I couldn't stand to look at me anymore.
Finally, after weeks of that song on repeat, I turned it off. It was like pulling the plug on everything that had sparked life in me for that little while. Lying awake in the dark, the irony still singing, "You. You bring me to my knees in spite of all these lies that I would just love to believe..." The words haunting me.
I wanted to be angry at you. Look at what you had done to me. Look at who I had become. Mad at you for turning me into the girl who sits and waits and watches the phone and looks through the peephole and what the fuck? repeatedly allows herself to be hurt and sad and miserable and chalks it up to 'worth it' just to be with you.
Angry at you for being someone I thought I could trust and open up to, for saying those things - those things you just don't say to a girl unless you mean them - and then disappearing. Furious at you for making me feel so worthwhile and then so worthless - like everything and nothing - in such a short period of time.
But the truth is, I'm just mad at me for loving you, who couldn't love me.
I only deep-clean when I'm angry. And I was angry. Rather than be spending time cleaning out a closet and re-organizing purses, wallets, clothes, shoes and every accessory I own by color, style and length I would have preferred to be seeking revenge. That kind of angry.
It's a damn good thing I chose the closet.
Or so I thought.
Inside that closet I didn't just come face to face with bad fashion choices and ill-fated purchases; I ended up confronting my past. Notes from a marital counseling session found in an old purse. God. My wedding ring which no longer fits. Fitting. The Hawaiian carving from our Maui trip that was supposed to bring us good luck. Right. An entire box of momentos from that trip. We were already having trouble.
I was only trying to clean out the closet.
See? THIS is why I don't clean.
Perched up on one of the shelves sat my old jewelry box which, in reality, became more of a keepsake box, having never been one to wear jewelry, even my wedding ring. I got it down, curious what memories might lie in it. Definitely handmade macaroni bracelets and necklaces from the boys, that much I could count on.
I wasn't prepared for what I saw.
The bracelet my Dad gave me at my eighth grade graduation. The purple bow I wore at Maddie's service. The visitor badges I saved from Big T's plastic surgery. The cigar my Dad and I were supposed to smoke together on his 50th birthday and never got around to it.
And then that tongue depressor my sister made me that night in the ER. Dated and everything.
I started crying. Hard. There, on the floor in my closet I cried out loud, for no one to hear, mascara burning my eyes, letting go of I don't know what.
All of it.
So much has been welling up in me the last few weeks and I've complained and joked and rationalized and refused to stop and feel any of it. My past has been haunting me more than usual and in more ways than one and in my typical keep-my-head-up-high demeanor, I've carried on with a la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you-life! attitude.
It catches up with you.
It caught up with me.
People ask why I'm doing this 30 day challenge Operation Eleanor. Some have even suggested I seem so 'fearless' they are curious what my fears could possibly be. The truth is? I'm afraid of everything. Everything. And it's exhausting. It's exhausting to be constantly afraid and it's exhausting to not live the life you want to live because you're too afraid.
It's time for me to get rid of the skeletons in my closet. Or at least face them. And it's harder than I could have ever imagined.
It's so easy even an Undomestic Diva can do it! Ha. Truthfully: Y'all know I can't cook or bake (hi, Mr. Fireman) and I am not the least bit artistic yet I can fake a fondant cake. It's no Charm City creation - that's for sure. But it's good enough for my boys and that's my target audience. And if I can do it? You can.
I set out to make a Jack Skellington cake for L-Dub's 7th birthday because Nightmare Before Christmas is his absolute most favorite movie ever. Ever, EVER.
If you're stacking cakes, you will need to 'top' the cakes... make them level by cutting the rounded tops off. You can buy a saw-like tool to do this but honestly, I have one and it's easier to use one of these long serrated cake knives.
Carve your cake. I needed a sort-of round cake (think pumpkin-shaped) so I took that same serrated cake knife and started carving. Yes, it will look like a mess but you're not done so don't be discouraged.
Here's where you start seeing ALL THAT BAKING go to waste as you cut away a ton of cake you won't need. (Tip: save your cake scraps in case you need to 'piece' together shapes or missing chunks later.)
Carefully move your cake from your messy area to its final destination (plate/platter/cardboard wrapped in foil is awesome for bigger, heavier cakes). Yes, it will get messy but you can easily wipe away crumbs, icing, etc.
Ice your cake. This is what is referred to as crumb coating since it will not look pretty and smooth -- it will have crumbs mixed into the icing and be messy. That's ok. It won't be seen. Put an even layer of icing around your entire cake. (Tip: Put store-bought icing in microwave for 10 seconds before using to make it easier to slather on.)
You can spend a bajillion dollars in the one baking aisle at Michael's with all their nifty tools. HOWEVER, if you're like me and lacking a bajillion dollars, you can make do with only buying a few of those tools and faking it with a few items you already have around the house. These are a few tools & ingredients you will definitely need for the next steps.
Fondant: I have made my own (marshmallow), bought the Wilton brand (I do NOT recommend) and this time, tried the new line by Charm City Cake's Duff at Michael's and was very pleased. It was extremely easy to use. (Tip: You can dye fondant use gel colors HOWEVER if you need a color like red or black I highly recommend buying fondant already dyed in that color.)
Fondant rolling pin: Your wooden rolling pin isn't long, smooth or heavy enough. It's worth the investment.
Cornstarch: A must-have. This keeps the fondant from sticking to everything from your counter to your hands to the rolling pin.
Crisco shortening: Good to have on hand if you end up needing to work with the fondant more than a few times. Cornstarch can dry it out and a touch of Crisco on your hands while kneading the fondant will help bring moisture back into it. (I found I didn't need it with the Duff brand fondant.)
Piping gel: Depends on your project and what detail you will need to add but a good idea for details smaller than fondant can handle.
Fondant smoother: Helps smooth fondant/remove air when you apply it on cake.
Wilton decorating tools: You can skip these if you want, but I find them really helpful especially the more cakes I do. (Using one of those Michael's coupons... good deal.)
This is what 4lbs of white buttercream fondant looks like - straight out of the tub. It's hard and unpliable. Read the directions on the tub - microwaving as directed will make your life much easier. Trust me. ;)
And this is four pounds. Doesn't look all that different, does it? I show you this because it's imperative to know that fondant doesn't go far. It seems ludicrous to put FOUR POUNDS! of fondant on a cake but a) you're going to and b) a lot of people peel it off anyway. (And yes, after ALL THIS WORK people will peel it off and just eat the cake beneath it. Know this.
Knead the fondant until it's smooth and pliable.
Roll out the fondant on your cornstarched surface, careful to spread in as round of a shape as possible. This is harder than you think, but, you will not want to have to start over because you end up with a weird shape of fondant that doesn't cover your cake on all sides. The moment the fondant starts sticking to the rolling pin, re-cornstarch it. CORNSTARCH IS YOUR FRIEND!
This will be your biggest challenge: Picking up the fondant to carry and lay it over your cake. Fondant is a) heavy and b) stretches when you lift it and c) is an asshole. Drape it over your rolling pin and be sure your cake is very close by.
If your fondant cracks/breaks/falls apart guess what? You get to start over. Knead, roll out and try again. It always takes me a few tries and several F-bombs.
Be careful cutting away at the fondant. Just like with the cake - you will have lots of scraps of fondant. But you don't want to cut too much because 'piecing' fondant is not as fun as it sounds and doesn't always look seamless. So cut a little, tuck, cut a little more. Lather, rinse, repeat. Except that rinse part -- fondant HATES water. Good to know. (Tip: Never refrigerate fondant or a fondant covered cake.)
THIS is when you can add dowels (see Michael's baking aisle) or kabob skewers for stability if necessary. Make sure they're cut to fall just-below the heighth of cake so they don't show.)
I used my Wilton tools to cut out my accent pieces however you can also use a toothpick or kabob skewer. Tip: Dip your cutting tool in our beloved cornstarch first so that it does not stick to the fondant as you are cutting.
To adhere fondant to fondant, all you will need is water. AND ONLY A TINY BIT! (Remember: fondant hates water - however it does act as a glue.) I used the cornstarch cap to put a tiny bit of water in it and used my finger to 'paint' the backside of the eye with just a little water. (You don't want it to drip.)
I gently pressed the eye on the cake, holding it still for a few seconds, careful not to move it (black fondant runs and leaves color on the white fondant, I learned) before letting go. Tip: Don't press hard - you will change the shape of the very pliable fondant you're adhering.
You are the best kind of friend a person could ask for, the defender of the playground, Mr. Do-Good, an amazing chef, the best assistant, the peacekeeper, happy-go-lucky, gracious and kind, a brilliant artist, a hard worker and so easy to love.
Your smile - the one you were born with and has seemingly never left your face - is infectious and cathartic and it has brought me so much happiness.
You have brought us all so much happiness.
Today is your 7th birthday. I can't believe it. Just yesterday you were all chunky legs and round cheeks and dimples. I hope you never lose those dimples.
You have grown up so much lately and I'm very proud of the little man you've become. While I hate to see the baby version of you disappear so quickly, I love watching you come into your own.
You're an amazing kid who is going to do amazing things. You already have.
Happy birthday dude!
I love you.
If you're joining me on this adventure, you can already account for one of your 30 things: This. Doing this. Check today off on the calendar.
Be sure to link up below if you're participating and add your twitter handle in the comments. Use and follow the #OpEleanor hashtag on Twitter and Instagram too.
Wishing you a very memorable November.
Clearly I'm not one to be motivating anyone else to take this trek if I'm in need of taking it myself, but Mark Twain is. I think. I don't actually know if he's inspiring to you but this quote was like oh-so-fitting so let's just roll with it, ok? Ok! *brisk hand clap*
A lot of people had questions about how the "Do one thing every day that scares you for 30 days" challenge [which we will call Operation Eleanor and hashtag #OpEleanor] works so I thought I'd elaborate.
Here's the thing: there are no rules, no wrong or right ways of doing it so, basically, it's up to you to take the idea and run with it in your own big way.
The things that 'scare' you don't have to be huge things. They can be small moments like saying something to someone you when you would have normally held your tongue. It could be trying a new food you've always crinkled your nose at. It could be having a conversation or introducing yourself to that person you always see at Starbucks every morning. But you can conquer your bigger fears if you're so inclined. Flying? Skydiving? Snowboarding? Whatever.
These 30 things can be moments you consider very much random and blog-worthy or extremely personal and private. They can be serious, gut-wrenching moments or completely silly and irreverent or even better: a mix of the two. Most importantly, they don't need to be planned out. I have no idea what 30 things I will attempt to face in the month of November. Some will require some thought, yes. Others will find me by chance.
I know the mere idea of a whopping *30* things has got a few people shying away from the challenge. Here's the thing: this is YOUR thing. So, while 30 things is the challenge, even if you only overcome one fear, you've made progress. That's one thing you wouldn't have done before so you win.
Whether you decide to blog about it is completely up to you. Maybe it will be too personal, maybe you don't blog, maybe you will want every one of those 30 things accounted for on this here internet... Your call. You can blog as you go or when the month ends. If you do decide to tweet, Instagram, whatever, hashtag your accomplishments with #OpEleanor. Someone asked me about one of those linky-dinky-doo widgets on this blog so I can link everyone who is doing the challenge together. Yeah, let me figure that out. I'd love that.
I'm going to keep a composition notebook for daily notes and I hope to take photos whenever relevant and possible. I plan on coming back to you in the beginning of December and telling you as much I can -- what I learned, what I did, what the experience taught me, whether I fell short of my goal, etc. and I'd love to hear what you're willing to share too.
For the next 30 days, "...throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor" as Twain said. Or if Twain isn't your style, this one may suite you better:
Let's take life by the balls, shall we? Look out, November.
Veterans of broken marriages promised me it would be a year - a full year - until my life regained any semblance of normalcy again but I shook off the idea, pledging to myself that I wouldn't allow it to take another year from me. No, I would be the exception to this rule. I would find a new normal quicker than that.
Yet here I am. Already and just now. Exactly one year later from that fog of a day I remember so clearly. And there is nothing normal about my life. Everything is new with a touch of old, bittersweet and unexpected. The highs are euphoric and the lows are devastating. It's an uncomfortable mix of trying to learn from my past and give hope to my future and the whiplash from looking back and going forward is exhausting. It's unsettling mix of lonely and liberating, facing fears I always hid from and finding courage I didn't know I had.
I can't tell you how I got here; from that day to this one. I don't know how I survived a year of spinning circles without falling over. Because the truth is, I've fallen down a lot more than I've stood on my own two feet.
Thank god for good friends who continue to help me back on my feet.
There is no futuristic road map or emotional GPS for this sort of journey - that much I've learned. And for someone who always needs to know who, how, what and when, this has been quite a trip. Who knows where this road will take me. All I know is I just have to keep going.
As best as I can describe it, the day we found that rock on the beach came straight out of a chick-flick: a barefooted walk on the beach in the late afternoon, flip-flops in hand, flirtatiously threatening to throw each other into the waves. It was equal parts cheesy and perfection, this-can't-be-real and please-let-this-be-happening.
A wave retreated just long enough to reveal a lustrous speckled rock that looked nothing like the other smooth colorless stones we had tried to skip just moments earlier, laughing at our feeble attempts at childhood talents. It was shiny and translucent and glimmered more than the others. I couldn't help but pick it up and take in its charm. A rock was a rock but this clearly wasn't just any rock, this was a gem.
"I'm going to keep it," I said matter-of-factly.
Because when you find something that rare, well, that's what you do. You keep it. He laughed and shrugged, helping me rinse off the remaining sand that marred its beauty.
Whisked away in the silly grins of the afternoon, the rock went forgotten until later in the evening when we circled the kitchen counter, still beaming, sunkissed and wind-chapped. The rock! I laughed as I got it out and showed him. We both took a second look. The beautiful rock that shone like granite in the wet sand at the beach now looked dull and like, well, just any other ho-hum rock.
I frowned. How was that even possible? We joked about taking the rock out of its element and it being sad the way Orcas' fins fold over when they're removed from the wild. He quickly rescued the rock via a Solo cup, tap water and table salt as I giggled, suddenly 12 years old and starry-eyed again, watching the rock magically transform back into a gem.
The rock sat in its red Solo cup ocean for several weeks, peacefully, while we weathered our own tumultuous waves and storms. I had stumbled upon him a lot of the same ways I had the rock - unexpectedly and very much taken aback. I had been caught off-guard and found myself marveling over this lustrous gem amongst a sea of seemingly dull rocks. I had grabbed on immediately with the intent to keep him only to find he didn't look the same when removed from his element. I tried to find ways to make him glimmer and shine again only to discover that sometimes a rock is, in fact, just a rock.
In the end he was no gem and he certainly wasn't the guy in the chick-flick movie that ends Happily Ever After. He was just another rock amongst many rocks that I would eventually tip-toe, stumble or trip over. It was a lesson that you can't simply polish something so tarnished back into perfection that wasn't meant to shine the way you hoped it would. Who I thought he was had eroded quickly into a smattering of pebbles and disappointment. All I could do was let him go for someone else to find.
Aside from a splash of simulated salt water and a few specks of sand, the red Solo cup sat empty on the kitchen counter for a day or two, a memorial of heartbreak and lost promises; its emptiness loud with metaphor. I didn't want to let it go. I didn't want to let him go. But I couldn't hang on to just a few remaining grains of sand when what I needed was a rock.