Monday, September 27, 2010

Cold Feet: Not For the Marriage...Just the Wedding.

There's a contract sitting on my desk.
It's been there for well over a week.
It's due tomorrow, in addition to a $250 deposit.
To be dropped off at the Kitsap County Parks & Rec office.
For a wedding reception location.
A location that I haven't actually had the chance to look at yet.
I don't know which idea makes me more nervous.
That I haven't seen it...
Or that it will be the first absolute, the first handing over of funds, the first real, followed-through plan.
The date will be locked.
I'll be having an actual wedding.
Not Vegas.
Not a back yard.
I wish Paul had a little more opinion on these things.
I don't want to make these decisions alone.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

We Made Tayla Cry

Last Thursday after work, Tiffany picked her girls up from daycare and stopped by our house where all the boys were hard at work laying bamboo flooring. Tayla, Chris and Tiffany's three year old daughter, looked around with wide blue eyes at what used to be her grandma's house. All of Grandma's photos and knick knacks were gone. Her furniture was gone, and in place of Grandma's familiar ordered chaos, sawdust, power tools and carpet scraps reigned.

Tayla's eyes filled with tears and her lower lip pouted out. "Where's Grandma's house? I want Grandma's house back!"

Tiffany explained that Grandma lived with Bill now, and that this was Uncle Paul and Heather's house. Tayla really didn't like the idea and her sadness and confusion evolved into full on crying.

Until I handed her a marker and told her she could color on the subfloor.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Subfloor Messages

The floors are down, and they are beautiful. The guys did an excellent job and I'm both proud of them and impressed by them.

Before they laid the flooring in the dining room, the guys added their own bit of personality to live on, unseen, beneath the bamboo. I couldn't help but add my two cents.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Never Want to See Another Paint Roller Again

I realize that this blog has lost any semblance of art it may once have held. I love writing good pieces and believe me, once I can write them again I will. But for now you have to be content with boring updates and insights into my little world.

After a very long week we are done painting the house. Well, a few spots might need touch up, but all the hard work is done. And not a moment too body is about to succumb to painting exhaustion. How do people do this for a living? It turned out pretty nicely if I do say so...

This is the living room. Trust me, it's not nearly as yellow as this picture makes it look. The room looks bright and warm and mellow.

And here is the dining room. Believe it or not, Paul picked out the purple. I think it turned out really nicely!

Seen all together, the red of the kitchen, the yellow living room and the purple dining room coordinate really well. I was worried that it might look like Rainbow Bright puked all over our house, but that's not the case at all.

This Thursday, Paul, Christopher and Peter will lay bamboo flooring in the kitchen, dining room and entryway, and at long last we'll be able to finish moving in! I can't wait...I'm really sick of this whole moving thing.

I thought you'd like to know that I survived my first dress-trying-on experience. And I actually had fun! Once I discovered that I don't necessarily look like a linebacker draped in satin, I was able to relax and get an idea of what I want to wear.

At one point, the consultant said, "do what you're the bride!"

And I thought, oh my goodness. I am. How weird is that?

I didn't find the dress, but I did find a lovely number for my mom to wear. It's what we in the Johnson family fondly refer to as a 'mother of the bride' dress. In other words, awful beyond words. Here's Tiffany modeling the frothy, bedazzled confection:

Monday, September 13, 2010


I have an appointment to try on wedding dresses this afternoon after work. I should be really really excited, right? I mean, this is the most important dress I'll ever put on (according to Monte on Say Yes To The Dress: Atlanta, who has incidentally never worn a wedding dress. Well. I can't say never. Who knows.) I should be confident and ready to feel beautiful and find that dress that was made for me to wear.

But...I don't. In fact, I'm kind of dreading it. Hello? Insecurity? It's Heather, and I wanted to let you know that you can go now! A few minutes ago I looked at my reflection in the bathroom mirror here at work. It's at such a height that I can see from my head to the tops of my thighs and all the imperfect bits in between. And there I was in jeans and a hoodie. The same thing I've worn every day for the last year. How am I supposed to transform this basic girl in casual clothes to a radiant bride?

But this is me. Believe it or not, I used to clean up pretty good. I used to wear skirts and heels and a full face of makeup every day. Maybe that girl is still in there...maybe I can lure her out.

I'm really hoping those bridal consultants can work some magic tonight. Who knows what might happen? I'm more than ready to be surprised.

Tiffany is going with me, and I'm very thankful for that. We have very different taste sometimes, but she'll be honest with me and we'll have fun. She's the planning queen.

I wish my mom was here, though. She wouldn't be much help because she'd love everything I came out in. She'd be enthusiastic and supportive and funny, and maybe a little sentimental. We'd have fun. Who knows...maybe we can make another appointment sometime when she can come down.

I mean, who else besides my mom knows to check whether or not my flat Jensen butt looks blissfully bigger in the dress?

Lil' Lauren Lou

I've talked about Paul's kids quite a lot on this blog. I've posted pictures and told you about the things we do and the funny things the kids say. But I haven't talked much about the process of learning to be a stepmom.

I've been included in Paul's family for a little over a year now, and I think I can finally say I'm getting there. I've calmed down. I'm starting to put less pressure on myself. We've successfully passed the point of initial relationship building and now we're moving on to a rhythm of life together. In hindsight, I wish I would have documented it, because it has been one of the hardest things I have ever done.

This post is about Lauren. Lauren was just shy of 13 when I finally met her, and I was ridiculously nervous about meeting her. Paul is enormously proud of all of his kids, and when he talked about Lauren I could tell that she meant the world to him. He bragged about her constantly and was always telling funny stories about things she had said and done as a little girl. I knew that it was very important for Lauren and I to connect.

Lauren is an amazing girl. She's smart, and a little flighty sometimes (she is a teenage girl, after all!). She's a talented budding artist and shows interest in a huge variety of subjects. She learns about the things that interest her and takes pride in having that bit of knowledge to share.

Lauren is her own person, and even at the impressionable age of 14 she doesn't let anyone take that away from her. She exhibits creativity through her clothing and loves to push the boundaries with her hair and makeup. Instead of spending all of her money at Hot Topic (though she does shop there), she loves to glean her accessories from antique stores and thrift shops. She's a kickback to the resourceful punk spirit of the 80s, and she is truly unique in a time when 'unique' has become uniform.

Lauren is mature for her age. She loves to help out, especially with the little kids. I've been hesitant to let her because I don't want her to feel like I'm taking advantage of her willingess, but I'm finally learning that it's ok to let her help me. She truly enjoys it, and she knows that if I ask her to help it's because I'm working, too. I hope she knows how much I appreciate her.

While Lauren and I have gotten along extremely well, I've felt that we haven't been as close as we could have been. We're comfortable around each other, but I think we each held back a little bit. I was terrified of doing or saying the wrong thing, of invading her life too much or too little. The fact that she was a teenager intimidated the daylights out of me. I had no idea how to take care of, spend time with, or entertain a teenager. I tried my best to make her comfortable in our home, and as much as she reassured me that she was fine, my own insecurities always left me feeling like I had fallen short.

Paul had drill this weekend, and it was the kids' scheduled weekend with their mothers, but Lauren decided to spend the weekend helping me paint our new house and pack up our old one. We worked insanely hard this weekend (in between episodes of America's Next Top Model and Starbucks Frappuccinos), and we managed to pack up a good chunk of the house and paint the entire living room. I would never have accomplished as much as I did this weekend without Lauren's help.

As we worked together, we talked or didn't. I felt my hesitation slip away and I enjoyed Lauren's company. I stopped worrying and just enjoyed her. She's funny and slightly sarcastic. She notices little details that completely escape me, and she has decided opinions on many things--just like her dad.

When Tracy and Troy stopped by to pick Lauren up on Sunday evening, she held her arms out to me and asked, "Hug?"

It took me by surprise. She had never asked me for a hug before and I, not being much of a hugger, have worried that I don't show her the affection that I feel. It was an amazing sensation and I felt like we reached a new level in our step mom/step daughterness. (Ok, so the title isn't official, but it will be before long! I consider them my step kids and I love them each as if they were my own) I feel closer to Lauren now, and I hope she feels a little closer to me, too.

Lauren, I do love you very much. I'm proud of you, and I enjoy spending time with you. I feel honored to be allowed to watch you grow up and mature into a young woman. I'm glad you're in my life. I appreciate you so much, and I'm continually grateful for everything you do for Dad and me. 

Pedicures. October 2 or 3. You in?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tomato Red

The house! Paul and I have started to make the new house our own, maybe at the expense of packing and actually moving in, but I guess that's ok. Here's what we've done so far:

Paul wasn't so sure about the color. I guess he thought it would be too dark, but I love it. I think it's warm and colorful. He's finally coming around to my point of view and embracing my love of all things red.

Up next? Wood flooring. We're going to purchase the materials tonight, and Paul and Peter will install new wood flooring in the dining room, kitchen and entryway. And this Saturday while Paul is at drill I'm hoping to get the living room, entryway and maybe even the dining room painted. And most of our stuff moved's going to be crazy! But I'm excited and I'm definitely ready to get into the new house.

Last night, with red paint smeared across his sweatshirt, Paul paused in his work, looked at me with pride in his eyes and said, "I remember being a teenager and my mom and dad were painting their house...renovating. And now I'm the one fixing up a new house. I'm glad to be doing it with you, Baby."

Finally, we've come across something that is new to both  of us, and we're doing it together. That makes me feel warm and comfortable on the inside.

We have big plans for that house. Maybe they're more dreams than plans, but we have a whole lifetime of togetherness ahead of us to convert them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Monday/Tuesday Recipe

Saturday night seemed like an excellent time to make brownies, but a quick search revealed that I had lost my brownie recipe. Not a big deal, you may it! But this is not just any brownie recipe. This is the brownie recipe. The only one I've ever used. The only one, in my opinion, worth using. Now don't get me wrong, I'll eat any brownie you place before me! I'm not a brownie snob. But these are the only brownies I'll make. They're that delicious.

A quick phone call to the Lindz saved my tush. She typed up and e-mailed me the recipe that has lived in my mom's cookbook cupboard for years and years.

Marc's Brownies

1 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs

Stir only until well combined, pour into a greased 9" x 13" pan and bake for 25-30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Thirty minutes, depending on your oven, makes very fudgey brownies. I do tend to like mine with a mostly liquid center, but leave them in longer for a cakier brownie. My family have never been lovers of crunch in their baked goods so we leave nuts out, but you might want to add some. A cup will do. However, we are a little obsessed with chocolate, so I sometimes add chocolate chips to the batter before I bake it and sprinkle even more chips over the top.

Don't make these on the first day of your new diet...the dieting point will be moot.
Fudgey, chewy, melty deliciousness. I suppose I should have taken a photo...but I didn't. Trust me, these are amazing.

My favorite part of making brownies takes place just after I've scraped the last of the batter into the pan and plopped the whole thing into the oven. I carry the mostly empty bowl and the spatula into the living room, stand in front of Paul to snag his attention, and raise on eyebrow. Erhm...that's what I'd do if I could raise on eyebrow. But I can't.

Paul knows what I'm asking, though, and his face lights up like a little kid. "Heck yeah!" he yells, he snatches the bowl and spatula from me and goes to work cleaning every smear of brownie batter from the two with childlike enthusiasm.

If that's all it takes to make the man happy, I'm set for life!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Our Story--Part One: In which fate lays the foundation

I met Dana in 1995. She stood with a group of girls in the downstairs entry to the dome that would be my educational institution for the next five years, and although she was a grade ahead of me she was new, too.

"They're forming a volleyball team," she said. "You should play!"

"I don't know how to play volleyball," I hedged, feeling shy and painfully aware of my lack of athleticism.

"I don't either, but it'll be fun!"

I did join the team, and Dana and I remained good friends for a couple of years. But as life goes we split ways when she left the school and moved on with her life.

We regained contact almost 12 years later with the aid of social networking. That is, we became Myspace friends. Although each of our names and profile pics sat comfortably in the friends list of the other, we never talked, and I considered deleting her one day while trimming down my list.

I didn’t, however, and that was the best decision I’ve ever made.

February of 2008 found me bored and alone. I spent quiet work days doing my job and wasting time on Myspace. So it was that I got the e-mail at my desk.

“My boss saw your pic on my Myspace,” Dana wrote. “He says you’re a hottie boombalottie with a naughty body! Do you mind if he e-mails you?”
Intrigued and flattered, I followed Dana’s direction to Frikafran on her friends list.

His face beamed at me in black and white. His eyes, slightly crinkled at the corners, twinkled with warmth and kindness, and his smile was wide and free. He caught my attention.

“Ok,” I replied. Tell him to write me!”

But…he didn’t. I waited, and I waited and I heard nothing.

I am not a patient person, and what must have been only days felt like weeks to me. So, as any bored young woman would do, I took matters into my own hands. I couldn’t tell you what I wrote, but it broke the ice and he finally replied. We exchanged a few e-mails. E-mails led to instant message conversations on Yahoo, and IMs turned to text messages and phone calls.

I found him charming and funny, and slightly mysterious…maybe even aloof. He was silly and a tiny bit dorky and he made me feel comfortable. As we learned more about each other I realized that we shared a similar intellect—the very first item on my list of priorities. While we often had different points of view we were able to discuss them together. I learned from him and enjoyed the company of his conversation.

After several weeks of talking, Paul asked to meet me.
Not yet. I typed. I was shy and unsure. I was afraid that he wouldn’t like me after seeing me in person. I was afraid to disappoint this man that I already liked so well. But he is, if anything, persistent, and I agreed to spend an afternoon with him.

I had to work that Saturday morning, but Paul was to make the trip up from Snohomish in the afternoon, and I asked him to meet me in the parking lot of my workplace. I wanted a safe place to run in case he was a psycho.
I was nervous as I waited for him. I paced the parking lot and kept my eye on the highway, watching for that bright yellow Mustang to make its way towards me. And when I finally saw it I watched it zoom past the driveway and on down the road. I grinned to myself and waited.

Within minutes he was back. He parked, climbed out and strode towards me. He walked with confidence and sported a wide smile; he held his head high, and I noticed a slight swagger in his step—that rhythm of motion that I would come to know so well. He wrapped his arms around me in a quick hug, dispensing with the awkward moment of first contact, and we agreed to go to the Starbucks next door.

We talked. Well, he talked. My nerves, as they always do, kept my tongue in check and I struggled to respond. I just knew that he was going to be disappointed…I had no problem talking online, but in person I was agonizingly boring! But the longer we sat together, the looser my tongue became. He made me feel comfortable and I liked him.

Our date meandered. We drifted from place to place, never actually doing anything specific but enjoying each other and taking our time in deciding what to do next. I would later learn that this is how we work together. It hasn’t changed.

We drove around the island. And talked.

We drove to Skagit County. And talked.

We ate dinner at a small Thai restaurant in downtown Mount Vernon. And talked.

Finally, far too soon for my liking, the hour grew late and Paul still faced a 90 minute drive home. We drove back to Oak Harbor and this time we were quiet. But it was the comfortable kind of quiet. There was no emptiness.

I dreaded leaving him. I wanted the night to go on forever. I wanted to talk and talk and talk until my words ran dry. I wanted to know everything about this man, and I wanted to rest in his presence for as long as he would let me.

I had managed to forget about what might happen at the end of a date, and I was mildly surprised when, parked again in my employer’s parking lot, he leaned in to kiss me. More like swooped, as he was nervous (I later learned). I recovered quickly from the surprise and discovered that our mouths had been created for each other; they fit together perfectly. I melted in his kiss; I abandoned myself in his kiss, and I kissed him back with the knowledge that this was the kind of kiss that was created by the gods. He pulled away and I felt dizzy. My face tingled and I was grateful to be sitting down. My legs would not have held me. I looked into his eyes in the dim light of the dashboard and asked him to kiss me again.

And he did.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Guess We're Doing This Thing

I have a confession to make.

Paul and I are not engaged, but I've started to plan our wedding. Technicalities be darned...I only have six months to do this.

I'm about a week into this state of mind, and I already want to shoot myself. Or...just jet off to the courthouse and get it over with. I'm not a fan of weddings, and I hate planning. I'm overwhelmed. I'm annoyed. I'm feeling broke. I need a game plan.

Fortunately for me I have Tiffany, party planner extraordinaire. She might save my sanity, my reputation (as a non-psycho), and my skin.

My mom has always said, usually whispered to me in the pre-ceremony hush, "At the end of the day, they'll be married; no matter what happens." If I remember that and maintain my usual chill (yes, I'm chill dangit!), we should all survive this ordeal. 

I'm not the type of girl who has dreamed of her wedding day since she was wearing diapers. I hadn't even thought about it until fairly recently. So I have no ideals, no deeply-seated desires, no visions of how the day should be.

I think my biggest fear is the idea of people looking at me. I hate being at the center of attention, and I hate the idea of a whole day just for me. That statement alone bugs me. Over and over I've told Paul that it's our day. There is no "me" in this. And over and over he says, "But really, the wedding is for the bride." I don't want it to be for the bride. I want it to be for us!

Get that through your head please, my darling. I don't want my own wedding. I want our wedding.

So I've just taken my first concrete step. Maybe it's a little out of order, but who cares. I have an appointment at a bridal salon, and the thought makes me want to throw up a little. Me? In a dress? I guess I'll have to shave my legs...

I'm thinking about something like this. What do you think?

I hate weddings. But I want one.