A little bit about Robin

I was born in raised in Alabama and am proud of my Southern roots. I love to write and share life experiences, thoughts, and crafty ideas about interesting things past and present. Welcome to my neck of the woods. Sit down and swing a while.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Secret to True Love and Surviving the Fire Swamp

The picture of the fall flowers on my blog today holds much symbolism. Today is my 6th anniversary to Michael Paul Seale, my best friend and my own "Dread Pirate Roberts".  I always go through all our wedding photos with care on this day.  It was the most beautiful wedding.  The most beautiful day of my life. The Tiffany vase was a gift from my bridesmaids on our wedding day. Basket weave to match my carefully picked out wedding cake.  Forget the fight I had with my mom about not paying enough attention to me when I was getting my hair done, or the time I threw the wedding resister gun across the linen section in Macy's at Michael while stomping my feet because he could care less what color towels we picked out.   Or the OCD clipboard I carried around our entire wedding weekend to make sure everyone was in their place.  None of that really happened....well maybe some of it happened....OK all of it happened.  There is a Princes Buttercup inside me dreaming of true love and living out my happily ever after.  YET, SO MUCH as happened while we have been storming the castle since our crisp fall October wedding in the foothills of the Appalachians 6 years ago. Like most couples our anniversary marks some unique milestone every year. Last year’s anniversary was one we will never forgoet. Michael and I had just returned home from The University of Alabama Homecoming Game in Tuscaloosa when he looked at me and said, “Baby something is not right, can we go to the hospital?” 

Turns out my 38-year-old husband of five years had a heart attack, his LAD artery was blocked and there was an ulterior artery doing all the work.  The LAD is also known as the “widow maker.”  That is right, the widow maker. October 27th 2012 was a scary day and scary year for our family. Two heart stints later, a Miracle Max of a doctor and a couple visits to The Pit of Despair (not the one from Princess Bride, just St. Vincent's Hospital)  Michael is still coaching football, refereeing basketball and filling our living rooms and radios with his infectious laugh on Birmingham Mountain Radio’s Sunday night show Southbound.  

Whatever folks make of our unique situation at such a young age, Michael seems to be doing great.  For me, and sometimes to Michael's chagrin, our life is on open book and sharing bits and pieces of our story is part of who I am.  He understands that it is healing for me, and for that I am thankful.  We together appreciate all the concerns, moral support and smiles pointed in our direction. Until you live this heart thing or any illness at such a young age, the strength it takes to get through life is lost within our generation. Living with heart disease is part of our daily routine now and a major turning point in our marriage. It is not a negative thing; it is a gift.   Michael listened to his body and got a gift in return, the gift of life and a reminder that at any moment, ones life can change. This is just the beginning.

I am very grateful as I sit here this morning with Michael in my robe with wet hair watching the replay of the Alabama/Tennessee game from last night.  Yesterday we had an impromptu football gathering, friends stopping by, great conversation, an open door policy.  Lazy fall days like these define my marriage right now.  You won’t see pictures of us on Facebook at some fancy restaurant throwing our last paycheck on the table for free range chicken and pumpkin braised cous cous (although that does sound delicious). With our marriage, what you see is what you get. It is not picture perfect.  It can be the best of times, it can be the  worst of times, and it is now our time. We own it.

Ironically on our anniversary day this year we start the process of saying goodbye to Michael’s Grandmother, Christine who made peace with her maker late this week.  She was a strong woman, a southern lady.  Always dressed to the nines with earrings to match her favorite blue suit.  She may have been quick to judge others at times, but I liked it.  I too hold some of those old southern values. For instance not walking to the mailbox or going to the Piggly Wiggly without my lipstick on.  Ladies Clubs and Sunday dresses to Church or Synagogue is a must.  There is no reason people should wear jeans in the house of God. True Story.  I know God does not care, but let’s just look nice it makes it that much more grand and beautiful.  She would agree I think.  I like the traditional pomp and circumstance.  That I know Michael also agrees with too.  Tradition.  I am thankful since I lost all my grandparents before 23 that I found a kindred spirit in Christine Jones, even if only for a little bit. The woman in both my families are not for the faint at heart. They broke the mold. May she rest in peace.

This past 6 years since I have been married to Michael I have gained a second family, worked hard in a job that I love and worked to find a familiar place in my Birmingham community.  I figured out that to be a good wife, friend and daughter is not about serving just one person, idea or expectation all the time. Michael is my person, the one I am strong for when he can’t be.   Doing this all while staying true to yourself, your own family, and never forgetting whom your true friends are is very important and hard to do. In my opinion the best way to be a good wife is to submit to your own heart, because from that place the love can only grow outward to all the people around you. A happy wife is a happy life, but we as woman are the only ones that have the key to our true happiness. If I had advice to a new princess bride and how to survive the preverbal Fire Swamp,  I would tell her stay true herself, and she will have the strength to be true to everyone else around her. True love can defeat even the Rodents of Unusual Size(R.O.U.S's) when they visit our forest, because they symbolically exist in every marriage and they are sneaky little bastards.  (You have to be a Princess Bride fan to understand that one too).

I dedicate this blog to all my best girlfriends everywhere spread around the world. 
You know me the best and bring me down to earth when ever I start to float up. Thank you for teaching me and showing women everywhere, in all your own l
life experiences, how to be strong. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The House on the Street Where I Live

Me and My cat Wilbur in front of our Condo at
Foxhall Condominiums Summer 2013
Mountain Brook, Alabama
My life choices have navigated me in many different directions from Alabama to Colorado to Georgia and back again.  My experiences have included many apartments, houses, friends, landscapes, neighborhoods and jobs.   This suited me because I have always walked to the beat of my own drum, playing slightly off tune. People that know me well might say I am in the center of the crowd, although I never really quite follow it.  My ideals and expectations as I grow become more realistic according to what hand life deals me.  My choices have become simple, and I find beauty in that simplicity. 

I am an observer in my community of over seven years since I have settled in  Mountain Brook, Alabama. For those seven years I have walked down the street Euclid Avenue, a busy side walk- lined street with old bungalows, wisteria and Jackson vine. I go busting out of our condo door with headphones in toe, passing old dogs and children.  I scoot by bouncing ponytails, sorority row t-shirts and 24 year old boys running off the stress of a first job or the night before.  I have every house on Euclid and many in between memorized.  Although it would not be my first choice to live on such an exposed and busy street, I used to dream of what it would be like if we lived in one of those houses.  My head filled with foggy imaginations of our future children running out into a front yard with bare feet, summer outfits, and copper curls the color of a faded penny to greet us as we picked up the morning paper from the lawn.

My once foggy daydream of what it would be like to live on Euclid has kind of, well, lost its luster. Our busy and grueling lives are ever changing.  More fiscally realistic options and expectations that we always knew and humbly accepted are still in place.  But as I walk down Euclid every week there is one house that always seems less foggy in my daydreams.  It is distinctively out of place among most of the old English charm, immaculately redone bungalows, and carefully manicured lawns.

This timeworn house could have Atticus and Scout carefully placed inside it’s screened in doors in a time when men’s wilted collars did actually in fact wilt by evening and ladies did in fact take afternoon naps and smell like sweat and sweet talcum.  This bungalow with settled brick and a dipping roof sits back from the crowd as retired couples slowly drive by on Wednesday nights on their way to the Birmingham Country Club.  I imagine its owners are older than dirt and may have even been acquainted with Boo Radly himself.   An oak tree stands tall in the front, a large willow tree on its right, with its translucent green leaves hanging in the wind.

The house is surrounded by mostly larger newer homes.  Other homes like it knocked down to make bigger and better for the world to see.   It is the choice of the person buying the land I suppose.  We see more knocking down of these little gems so bigger kitchens can be built, and higher ceilings can be vaulted in preparation for designer drapes to hang.  But when I pass this particular old house I have my own simple and offbeat illusion of what it could be if it magically fell into our possession.

Over the years work would have to be done, of course. I would first paint the front door kelly green to match the willow tree.  In the fall, mums would adorn the cracked concrete stairs leading up to the screened in porch where we would rock away watching the world go buy. I would start a garden in the spring on the side of the house. I have actually pictured myself greeting my husband has he walked in from work, me wiping my onion-soiled hands on a fading tea towel that I grabbed from the small spot where it would hang right above the farmhouse sink.  In time we would paint the house and sand hardwood floors to get ready for a nursery.

For the past 7 years this house cradled my perfect little vision every time I walked by it. By the time I would reach the Chevron at the end of the block I would have spruced up the screened in porch and added a master bath with a claw foot tub. Lace curtains would be hung in the guest bedroom with a bowl of lavender placed on the side table and air loom linens in the half bath.  And out front would sit our orange cat Wilbur, his head held high to catch an afternoon breeze on his whiskers.  

About six months ago the for sale sign went up in the yard.  The price too much for us to afford, they were selling it as two lots.  The owners must have died or taken ill and the children, if any, did not have use for the house, for it obviously needed work.  It happens everyday in my neighborhood.  One house goes down and two go up in its place at a price tag that buys you Mountain Brook.  Not what I imagine this part of Mountain Brook used to be but what it has somehow become.  God honest truth, I never expected that we would ever be able to buy that old house.   I did hope one day that someone who had the means to afford this property would buy it and follow through with my same vision.  Not likely, but there is always a chance.

I still have foggy dreams of a house, some house, in my head.  When the time is right we will move maybe to an adjacent zip code, maybe in Mountain Brook, maybe in Birmingham city where folks like us are confidently migrating.  Who knows what God has in store for us.  I take things day by day in this fast pace world that surrounds us. But I know the best in life is yet to come for us and hopefully that includes a screened in porch.  I have learned as I observe my surroundings that my zip code should never define me.

In the meantime, I will continue to walk down Euclid Avenue in the neighborhood where I live, busting out of Foxhall Manor Condominiums into the Tiny Kingdom.  I must look lucky to passers by to live in such a unique setting.  It took me a long time to realize that.  I am lucky to live and work in a safe community, to have dreams that I can’t afford. Otherwise they would not be dreams.  I am happy to have a husband that truly loves me, a life with him that has medium to large imperfections I am not afraid to wear on my sleeve.  I feel fortunate to have the foresight that we will continue to make memories and start new ones. 

 They knocked down my old house just the other week, I assume to build two in its place.  I won’t like the houses they build and will walk by in disgust, mouthing something negative under my breath that won’t make it better.  In years when we drive by for old times sake I will look at my husband and say,

“Remember that old house, the one with the front porch and the good bones, the one we loved so much.  The one with the willow tree and red brick chimney.”  He will nod and smile and we will continue on down the street where everything changes, yet somehow I imagine it will still feel the same.
The house a couple weeks ago before they tore it down, in a sad state.  The two large trees shielding its mystery had already been removed from the yard.  One fell on the house during a storm too.  All the character gone and overgrown.  But if you look really close you can see the house has good bones.  Wish I could have saved it and enjoyed that land. All that yard in Crestline!!!  What a shame. 
This blog is dedicated to my husband Michael.
He has the best dreams, and deserves for them all to come true.