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Some observations after Week 1 of braces

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So, last week I got braces. These are not to be confused with the braces I had at age 8 to fix a few wily teeth growing in odd places, or the braces I had at age 15 to straighten my entire mouth. No, these grown-up braces are to correct everything that my teeth have been doing over the last 29 years. (Hint: they have been very busy!)

I will spare you the details, but in a nutshell I’m now correcting problems like alignment and migration issues, which honestly sounds like my teeth are ready to retire to Boca Raton. I opted for lingual braces, which are metal brackets that attach behind the teeth because I was swayed by the promise of “hidden braces.” Nobody needs to know!

On the plus side, the lingual braces will work magic on my teeth and I don’t have to look like a teenager when I smile. On the downside, there is a major adjustment period while my tongue learns to speak properly with sharp metal objects infringing on its personal space. Supposedly it takes a week or so to adjust but I must be a slow learner because I'm not there yet. It’s been a very long week, my friends. Or as I like to say, my frienths.

My observations so far:

1. The “nobody has to know” is exactly true as long as I don’t talk. Otherwise I sound like I have a lisp AND a mouth full of marbles.

2. Some orthodontists call these braces incognito braces, which sounds very cool and James Bond-like. But I can’t even say the words CIA or spy without spraying myself in the face. So...not very cool at all.

3. I would like to temporarily change my name to Kate because hard letters are much easier to say. “Hi, my name is Lith” is getting so annoying.

4. Also annoying: My kids, who keep asking, "Can I call you Brace Face? What about Metal Mouth? Is it funny yet? What about now?" No and no and no and no.

5. The braces might be the best diet ever because it’s such a hassle to eat that I would almost rather starve to death. A 5-minute snack requires 45 minutes of brushing/flossing/waterpikking nonsense. Math has never been my strong suit, but even I know that’s a raw deal.

6. Having a work-from-home job is a big perk when you are self conscious about every word you say. Until... you have an outside meeting and must explain the new speech impediment. My boss was super supportive and said, “Oh thank God! I thought you had been drinking!”

7. For years my kids and I have been making fun of the way Ed Sheeran pronounces sixth when he sings “Under the lamppost back on 6th Street...” but now I’m convinced he has incognito braces too. Nobody needs to know, Ed! (But now we all do!)

8. My entire vocabulary has suffered. I’m avoiding all kinds of difficult “S” words and resorting to simple, toddler-like conversation. When trying to explain how I thought a recent event in the news could be a “slippery slope for the Supreme Court”...I instead opted for “Ugh. Bad.” Insufficient is now lame. Unconscionable is now mean. Luckily, all my favorite cuss words have hard sounds and have been unaffected.

9. To help buffer the pain, my orthodontist gave me all kinds of wax and goo to put on the brackets. These work pretty well, but I also found that a square of Dove chocolate gets stuck on the brackets just as easily, so I might as well leave it there to enjoy for hours and hours.

10. The Dove chocolate (#9) is sort of ruining my new diet plan (#5) but like I said...it’s been that kind of week, my frienths.

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Peace and joy and other favorites

I hope this time of year brings you many words of joy. Words like...

No assembly required Dishwasher safe Batteries included One size fits all

And also,

I love you Please Thank you Hooray I love it Yes No thank you See you soon It's perfect You're welcome Come over I remember I love you, too

Thank you for reading my words here this year. I hope to bring you even more in 2016! xoxo

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Photo credit: Bonnie Berry Photography

What my dog is wondering right now...

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What time does the school bus come? Do I smell a snack? What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding? Is it nature or nurture? How long til Liz makes me get off this yummy rug and on to my bed? Why does everyone in the house have a regular bed except me? What does “weight-management” dog food mean? I bet Isis from Downton has a sweet deal. And a king-sized bed. How did Katy Perry changed clothes so quickly during the Super Bowl show? What the hell, Sarah Koenig? Does anybody really know what time it is? How long until dinner? Plant, animal or mineral? Remind me again why Pluto can’t be a planet? How does gravity work? Why is it OK to chew on that rectangular thing but not this one? If everything evolved from amoebas, how do we still have amoebas? Squirrel? Squirrel?? Is it mind over matter or matter over mind? Why does Liz think I need music on when she leaves the house? I'm a dog. And the mailman is coming in 3, 2, 1.... I hope I peed on enough spots this morning. I totally could have caught that chicken if I hadn't been on the leash. Why the hell are there chickens living in the middle of our city? If a cat meows in the neighborhood and nobody hears it, did it really make a noise? What's the frequency, Kenneth?

 

Hammering

2015.01.write-1 Sometimes you just have to start. Pick up the damn hammer and put a hole in the wall. How hard can that be? It’s only a tiny hole. Sure, it might end up being in the wrong place...too high, too low, too wonky. There is always potential for error. In fact, you may get a few holes into the project and realize you have the entirely wrong kind of equipment. You may have to pull everything out and start completely over, in the process making a mess or making a scene. Cleaning, patching and cussing invariably follow. If you are lucky, there will be no permanent damage.

But you have to start. You have to remember that this is not your first time. You’ve sat right here, usually in a January much like this one, and you’ve made plans and charted goals. You are not a rookie. You know that starting is the hardest part.

Yet. You are experienced enough to know that once you do finally start, once you make that first hole, you’ll eventually hang something on that hook, and it’s quite possible this something will look like garbage. Perhaps its no fault of the artwork, but once it’s placed, it simply may not work in the spot you imagined. You may find yourself starting all over again. You may have to scrap the plan entirely.

You may even (gasp) have to live for a while with a bare hook on the wall...goading and taunting you for your inability to finish something. That’s certainly one way to look at it. It’s often my default. But you could also take that bare hook as a sign of determination and optimism...a sign of starting. A sign of doing the hardest part.

A sign of picking up the hammer and hammering away.

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Happy New Year, readers!

I’m looking forward to a new year of storytelling through words and images. Thanks for being here and inspiring me to start...and then to keep going. Liz xoxo

I spent 3 solid days obsessing over grout color so you don't have to...

When you tackle a complicated project like, say, tearing the roof and walls off your house, you want a large team of experts on your side. As seems to happen in many life-altering adventures (parenting comes to mind), you start with a few hand-picked experts. And then your team grows. Slowly and organically at first and then suddenly reaching cartoon proportions.

That’s exactly where we are now. My team of invested experts now includes, but is not limited to: architect, builder, husband, vendors, subcontractors, friends with great taste, friends with strong opinions, family members, children, neighbors who I adore, neighbors who I don’t even know, designers on Houzz, strangers who comment on designers on Houzz, the lady in the checkout line at Home Depot, the guy at the veterinary clinic who overheard my phone conversation....

For better or worse, as we near the end of the remodel, this team is still right beside me, weighing in on every last little decision.

 

Me: So I’m doing all white subway tiles in the kitchen and the new baths. Same size everywhere. You know...clean, crisp and affordable. Classic and modern all at once. I’m looking for a sense of continuity. I love it...decision is done!

Expert 1: Actually the grout color will make all the difference. It can radically change the look of the whole room. Radically! Don’t believe me? Let me show you 5,000 photos as proof.

Expert 2: White on white is really the only way to go.

Expert 3: Only boring people do white. You aren’t boring.

Expert 4: I tell all my clients to go one step darker than the color they most like.

Expert 5: I tell all my clients to go one step lighter than the color they most like.

Expert 6: I tell all my clients to go with their gut.

Expert 7: Dark grout doesn’t show dirt.

Expert 8: White grout can be bleached.

Expert 7: Dark grout is more modern.

Expert 9: Dark grout is too modern.

Expert 7: Light grout is too traditional.

Expert 8: Light grout is more versatile.

Expert 10: This brand of grout doesn’t stain.

Expert 11: Don’t believe them--all grouts stain!

Expert 12: Black grout will look like the '80s threw up in your kitchen.

Expert 13: Look at this photo of black grout! It’s perfect!

Expert 3: It really boils down to what you want the tile to say about you.

Expert 14: It really boils down to resale value.

Expert 15: Did you decide how thick your grout lines will be?

Expert 4: You don’t decide how thick your grout lines will be. Expert 17 will decide how think the lines are.

Expert 8: You should DEMAND to know the thickness of your grout lines before you go any further!

Expert 3: Silver grout? Yesss! That color is so you!

Expert 2: Silver? It’s really the only way to go.

Expert 12: Silver? This was my favorite all along, I just didn’t want to sway your opinion.

Expert 8: Silver? It’s all over Houzz, but don’t worry you are still original.

Expert 16: Silver? Do you mean Silver or Titanium or Platinum or Pewter?

Expert 6: I know you want Expert 16 to make this final call, but Expert 16 is not going to live in your house with this grout color. You are going to live here and see it every day. I cannot stress the importance of this decision. You need to dig deep and rally. Cancel today’s plans, get back in the car, go to the showroom, and pick a color. You will not regret it.

Expert 16: Ok great. Silver it is! Now let’s talk about floor colors...

Expert 3: Why are you crying?

 

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It's a blog hop! My friends have also done something wildly awesome or awful so you don't have to. Read about them here...

I Wrote Another Godforsaken Blogiversary Post So You Don't Have To - Ann Imig

I Toured Washington DC in a Night Bus So You Don’t Have To - Wendi Aarons

I Listened to KidzBop So You Don’t Have To – Midlife Mixtape

I Had Food Poisoning While Sitting On A Diaper Genie So You Don't Have To - Smacksy

I'm Surviving October So You Don't Have To - The Flying Chalupa

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Silver it is.

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Throwback Thursday: 5 years

Phew...I'm back! Life got crazy for a variety of reasons, and my blog got the short end of the deal, but I'm happy to be here now! Today, in honor of Throwback Thursday AND my 5-year blogiversary, I'm looking through my old posts with fresh eyes. I'm discovering and rediscovering all kinds of treasures...

I'm finding that of course some things change and others stay the exact same. Siblinghood continues to be equal parts harmony, chaos, discord and joy. That's why we call it Sibling Revelry, right?

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I'm finding excellent and timely reminders about parenting and forgotten photos that need no caption.

I'm finding that I hardly recognize the faces in my early blog days.

And I'm finding that some things really never get old. No wonder these are my kids' favorite three posts: Next lesson: What is lame? See also: "Totally bogus" I mean, seriously

I'm finding that I STILL get traffic on this post and frequent requests for the bumper stickers. (I've still got them if you want. Long live Tami Taylor!)

But mostly I'm finding that I'm grateful to have this blog and people who cheer it on. I've always been happiest at the place where stories, family and art intersect. Thanks for sharing that space with me!

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Dismantling

The thing about building something up is that sometimes you first have to knock it down, to make space for all the growth. At least that's the mantra I keep repeating every time I drive by my house. Or more specifically, by the remains of my house. Because here's what it looked like 3 weeks ago...

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And here's what it looked like a week later...

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Neighbors and friends keep texting to say, "OMG, I knew you were remodeling but I didn't know you were doing THIS!" The truth is, neither did I. Sure, it's all in the architectural plans and there's even a page or two dedicated to something called "demolition" but my mind has not been on the dismantling part--it's been all about the end product. Eye on the prize! The after picture is so much prettier than the awkward, in-between phase. In construction and, of course, in life.

But change is all about the transition and our family is knee-deep in it right now. In our living conditions and elsewhere. Two kids are making obvious leaps...from elementary to middle school and from preschool to kindergarten, but it's also becoming a season of smaller, more subtle changes in all five of us. Shifts in maturity, in confidence, in perseverance, in patience.

In general I'm a nostalgic type, but I have no room for it right now. This season of transition is one of moving forward. The kids are ready for new adventures. I'm ready for more challenges. We are all ready for a little more space and some room to grow.

So instead of nostalgia, I'm mostly standing back in awe as the house gets taller and wider. I'm watching the upstairs comes alive and the downstairs transform. I'm hoping to hang on to this awe when it comes to all the changes happening right now.

After all, my family doesn't need me pining for the old when the new is so promising...

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Speaking of new stuff: I'm happy to share that my photo artwork is now featured on Great.ly. If you're a maker/tastemaker/shopper, please check it out and follow!

As always, my full collection is found at ewmcguirephoto.com. Email me with any questions or special requests. I'm always on the lookout for new projects!

 

 

 

Show Your Work: Possessions

I’m trying something new that’s inspired by a writer/artist whose work I admire. Austin Kleon is the author of Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work, both simple and genius manifestos for the creative life. I keep his books on my desk the same way some people keep their therapists on speed dial. I find his words both inspiring and grounding. In his latest book he advocates showing some of your work in progress, as opposed to fully formed, as a way to boost creativity, move past mental blocks and ultimately get your work Out There. By bringing people along for the ride, you and your audience will both see your work in a new light.

The idea of posting my incomplete thoughts doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me, but I’m giving it a whirl. I’m giving lots of things a whirl lately, because it seems to be that kind of year for me (Did I mention I humbled myself enough to aquajog?? I digress.)

So I’m embracing this idea and will periodically highlight miscellany that's on my mind or projects on my horizon. Incomplete but still interesting. We will see where they take us!

Lately I’ve been thinking about stuff. As in, possessions.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, we recently moved into a small rental so we can remodel our house. The move required  extensive purging and methodical packing. The goal was to pare things down as much as possible, store most of our belongings, and live for 6 months or so with only the basics. Now, I realize that “basics” is a relative term and we all have our threshold for needs and wants and everything in between.

For us, that meant ALL the Legos stayed, because nobody could decide how to divvy them up. Almost all the books were stored, knowing that between the library and the bookstore, stories would keep coming into our lives. Bulky things like the large Kitchenaid mixer were happily stored, and have already given me an excuse to avoid baking things from scratch. We packed half our dishes, every single vase or decorative item, and most everything that was hanging on a wall.

I have long subscribed to the philosophy of only keeping “what you use or what you love” so our home was already pretty lean. Now it’s anorexic. Part of me finds it liberating to live with only the basics, but it’s strange not to be surrounded by at least a few material things I love. Of course, we've got our people and our pet so life is good...our home just feels different right now.

Last week I ran across this video by filmmaker Gemma Green-Hope, who created a short film after her family sorted through her grandmother’s belongings. It’s a lovely tribute. My favorite quote is, “I wanted to show her to myself.”

That video got me thinking about the things my mother left behind when she passed away three years ago after a long illness. She had battled multiple sclerosis for nearly 30 years and had spent the last 10 years of her life supported by a ventilator. The "basics" in her life are relative too. My mom's life was extremely simplified the last few years, but required unfathomable amounts of medicine and complex supplies to keep her comfortable.

A couple months after her death, I helped my father clean out her closet, which in some ways seemed frozen in time from when she was first diagnosed. I wrote about it at the time, but until yesterday I had not re-read that piece in years. Of course it brought back a flood of emotions...just in time for Mother’s Day. It’s amazing how your own words can come back and catch you off guard. I lived and breathed that experience, but still it seems like another me altogether.

During the clean-out, I also photographed some of the little things I uncovered in my mother’s drawers. There were no big surprises...only small moments of nostalgia or grieving. There were a few questions that would never be answered: Why did she save this but not that? Why was this recipe tucked in with her jewelry? There were also some heartbreaking juxtapositions. I had been in her closet hundreds of time and grown numb to all the medical supplies that filled her shelves. But seeing them through the camera lens changed everything. Suddenly I saw not just the life-sustaining tubes, but the neighboring sweaters that she hadn’t worn in 10 years because she hadn’t left her bed, much less her house, in all that time.

By now I’ve sorted through her treasures and kept a few things that mean something to me. When our house is finished, I will unpack them once again and find a new home for them. The photos...I don’t know what I’ll do with them. But I’m sharing a few of them here. Showing you what’s on my mind. Seeing where it takes me.

Thanks for seeing with me.

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Thanks to everyone who entered last week's giveaway. The winner of the Moms Are Nuts book is NaDell. Enjoy!

#WhereILivedWednesday: 29th St.

Thank you to my dear friend, Ann Imig, and her monthly link-up for today’s inspiration. You can read more #WhereILivedWednesday stories at Ann’s Rants. 58

Somewhere lost in a box at my Dad’s house, or maybe at this point only burned into my mind, is a photo of my mom taken a few days after she became a mother. She’s standing at their front door in tiny Premont, Texas, holding a swaddled baby--my older brother. She has a gentle smile on her face. Her hair is cut short and it holds her waves perfectly. She wears a simple, lovely dress and maybe even pantyhose and pumps. After all, it was November 1969 and my mom was the kind of woman who wouldn’t show bare legs past Labor Day, even in sunny south Texas.

Beyond that, the details of the photo escape me. But the impression it made on me is unforgettable. Everything about the image said my mother was beginning a brand-new chapter of her life. Unchartered territory, right there on the doorstep.

When I brought home my own first born, I recall being a mess of emotions and exhaustion. My eyes were swollen and achy from 12 hours of squeezing them shut in pain followed by 24 hours of holding them open in awe. Omigod she’s really here, she’s really here. Cannot stop looking at this beautiful thing.

Once we pulled into our driveway, I should have been ready to collapse. Instead, I uncharacteristically set aside vanity and asked my husband to take a photo of me with our new daughter. I wanted to be standing at the front door, cradling my treasure...just like the photo of my mom, but minus the pantyhose.

We lived in that little house for almost four years. It was the first home we owned, the first time we felt like we might actually become grown-ups, even though we painted the outside a bright, playful purple. We spent more hours cultivating that yard and garden than we have spent at all our subsequent homes combined. We hosted outdoor movies in the backyard and dinner parties out of the one-person kitchen. We made sweet friends and great memories on that block.

But the single biggest memory I have of 29th St. is that it was there that I crossed the threshold and became a mother. Today when I look back at photos of our home, I always come back to the front porch. I stare at myself standing there, exhausted and awkward, by the door. And as I have done with so many photos of my own mom, I soak up the details to try to remember who that woman was.

Since then, there have been two more children and a few more front doors. But this one, this was the first, and it opened up a whole new world. A whole new me.