Radiant: Empirically Erin

Friends, this next story in the Radiant series is particularly special to me. Not because it was written by my sister. And not because I'm in the story. But because it's an event that I remember so, so clearly. I've thought about it from time to time since it happened and, though it was a difficult time, I so much appreciated hearing it told from my sister's perspective.

I think that's part of what's so beautiful about family: these collective memories, each told from different perspectives, in unique voices. But with the same messages. And hopefully those messages, like this one, are of love.

So here it is, Radiant with my sister, Erin.

When I think of love, I think of family. I think of the amazing family I grew up in.

Lately, I've been watching a lot of the show, "Parenthood" and I can't help but be reminded of my family when I watch. See, my family is really close and we take care of each other in lots of ways. We support each other through everything. When one of my cousins has some kind of sporting event, the entire family goes. We have family dinners all of the time and spend every holiday with at least 15 people and usually more. My cousins are more like brothers and sisters because we grew up with them. My great aunt was more like a 2nd grandmother to me. My mother's cousins are like aunts and uncles to me. And that is where I grew up learning about love.

My cousin Maddy, Em, and Me
We all make mistakes in our lives and go through hard times and do things that we wish we could take back. I am no exception. When I was a senior in college, I made some pretty stupid choices and put my family in some pretty awful positions. I've never forgiven myself for the selfish way in which I acted, even though I know I learned so much about myself and about my family during that time.

For the purposes of this story, it doesn't matter what the incident was, but suffice it to say it was an incident that had me totally scared, my mother furious, and my sister caught in the middle. I had learned some information (that later turned out to be false) that really scared me. My mother was furious because she couldn't believe I could have gotten myself into such a stupid predicament, but I also think she was scared as well (and rightfully so). Her reaction to the information was to get upset with me and keep asking me how I could have let myself get into this mess. As she continued talking, my anxiety level rose and my tears turned into hyperventilating.

And in the middle, was my sister. I could tell she didn't know what to do but she knew she had to do something.

She took my mom in another room and told her that getting upset with me wouldn't help right now. Then, she took me into my bedroom and told me to just breathe.

My mom called my aunt to come and try to calm me down and she was there in no time. Seriously, I think she must have driven 75 mph the 5 miles to our house because I turned around and she was there.

My aunt Marta and my mom with our cousins from Mexico
I will never forget the way my sister acted to calm me down and the way my aunt just held me and told me everything was going to turn out fine.

During our younger years, my sister and I never got along. We were completely different people. I was an athlete but also a major home body. My sister was a little socialite with a million friends all over the state and would leave at a moment's notice to go and hang out with this person or that person.

When she stepped in the middle of this situation, I was sure she'd take my mother's side. But she didn't. She knew exactly what my mother and I both needed in that exact moment.

Em and Me
 My aunt barely had to say anything to me. Just being there was enough. She has always been there and I feel so lucky to have such a close relationship with her. She was the perfect person to come and calm me down.

And even though in that moment, my mother was upset with me, I knew just how much she loved me. She was upset because of her love. She was upset because she couldn't bear to see me hurting that way. And that's something I will always appreciate about my mother. She will do anything to make sure her children aren't hurting.

Me and my mama on my wedding day. Photo courtesy of Russell Caron Photography.
When my sister asked me to write about a fleeting moment where I was able to see love, I had no idea what to write about. And I think the reason why is because in my life, love doesn't happen in fleeting moments. Love happens all of the time. And I have my family to thank for that.

My mum, my sister and I all love the show Parenthood. It's just as Erin said, it reminds us so much of our own family. Struggles, disagreements, but a strong willingness to see it through, to stay committed as a family and to be there. No matter what. And we have an awesome sense of humor, so there's that, too.

If you haven't yet spent time on Erin's blog, well, you should. Even if it's just to say a huge congrats because I'm going to be an auntie!

For other stories in the Radiant series, check here:

Redesign and a hello!

I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to have been included by the incredibly, incredibly talented Katrina of Pugly Pixel in her February list of relaunched blogs. When I redesigned this blog for February to reflect my reattempts at keeping blogging simple, I never imagined that this is where it would take me. But when she asked for submissions, I knew I had to send her an e-mail and hope for the best. I have long admired her work. If you haven't seen Katrina's work, take some time to check her out.

So for those of you coming by way of Pugly Pixel, thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Oh Hello, Love is a collection of stories, photos, graphics and blog designs all about love. The emphasis is on celebrating small moments that make life and love worth it.

I've rounded up some best of the best of Oh Hello, Love for you to make this a little easier on you.

You can see more of my blog designs here.

I'm currently in the middle of a series called "Radiant," featuring stories of small moments of profound love written by some of my favorite authentic bloggers, here.

And I write a lot of stories, which can be found here.

Welcome and enjoy. Be sure to leave a comment and introduce yourself so I can find you as well!

(If you are a current follower, be check back later this week for a recap of my Oscars party!)

Oh Hello How-To: Marquee Letters

I've seen Marquee Letter how-tos all over the blogosphere. But for whatever reason, they are always the most comples how-tos ever. They involve far too much cutting of cardboard and creating letters from scratch. My favorite how-tos involve five steps or less. 

So here it is, marquee letters in five steps or less.

1) Drive on over to Hobby Lobby and buy some 3-D cardboard letters to spell out whatever you'd like.

2) Cut off the front side of the letters.

3) Spray paint.

4) Drill holes for lights.

5) String lights.

There you have it. They seriously look amazing at night! And since we're sharing living rooms, can I show you the new set-up? I'm in love.

On that note, Happy Friday! Get out there and enjoy your weekend! We'll be hosting an Oscars party on Sunday night and will of course be making good use of the living room bar! Anyone else watching?? (And you know I'll be live tweeting, so follow me over on twitter, @ohhelloemily.)

Radiant: We Loved Here

Hey all! Happy Wednesday! This "Radiant" series has been so wonderful, hasn't it? I am absolutely loving how very different and profound each story is. It is exactly how I imagined it to be. 

This week, Ashley from We Loved Here is sharing a beautiful story about her relationship with her little sister. I've gotten to know Ashley over the past couple of months through blogging and I love keeping up with her on her blog but especially on Twitter. She reminds me so much of my own sister in her courageousness and her willingness to be exactly who she is. 

I was barely a teenager when my second sister was born. She came into the world the first week of April and slept restlessly on warm summer nights in the months thereafter. My parents, though young, were tired. She wasn't sick, she didn't always need a diaper change, she wasn't always hungry, and she didn't want to be rocked. She did want to be up all hours of the night for no specific reason. Growing up in a house full of children (I was the oldest of six at this time, that would later grow to ten) I knew more about babies and child rearing than most parents themselves did and this behavior was new.

On weekends my mom and I would spend evenings together watching television shows or talking, unless she was on the phone with a friend. This changed when Rachel came along and went to bed in the evening, only to wake a few hours later. With my dad working non-stop I could always tell that it was wearing my mom down by the end of the week, and that at times she was missing having moments to chat with friends or just have some alone time once her little ones were down for the night. I adored my baby sister, but I did not adore her crying so I tried my best to help. At some point during that summer I started getting her out of her crib when she woke up early, usually some time before midnight, so my mom could have that time. I tried walking through our house with her, my dad's favorite trick, but felt bad when she fussed because it would disturb my other siblings. I tried rocking, which rarely worked. I even tried playing sometimes... but my mom discouraged that one since it just caused her to be wide awake. One night after trying everything I could think of I decided to wrap her up in a thin blanket and take her outside for a walk. 

My parents live at the end of their dead end street in a quiet neighborhood on the edge of town. Even if she wanted to cry the only people likely to hear her lived in the duplex across the street and they were usually up late anyway. Much to my surprise once we stepped out into the night air and I cradled her upright against my shoulder, where she could look around, she grew quiet. I made my way down the porch steps, down the sidewalk and driveway, and to the end of the street. The streetlight wasn't as bright at that distance and you could look out onto the field at the end of the road. The night was clear and the stars shone brightly in the sky; sounds of crickets and katydids echoed around us, and occasionally the deep croak of frogs in a nearby creek. Rachel loved it. At least, she enjoyed it. 

She would stay silent as I walked her up and down the street, from my parents' driveway to the end and back over and over again. I'm not sure what a four month old's visibility is but she always stared up at the night sky as if she were studying the stars. I would whisper to her about the constellations I knew, softly sing lullabies, tell her about our family, or if she was especially restless I would beg her to stop fussing (something I think most parents do at least once) until she fell sleep. Sometimes I would see my mother standing on the porch, just watching us. Occasionally she would walk out and meet us on the road, ask if I needed her to take the baby and I usually told her we were fine. Other times I could tell she really wanted to share in those peaceful moments and would hand Rachel over, then watch as she walked with her for a bit.

Rachel turns thirteen this April, the same age I was when she was a newborn. She has a sassy attitude and is more keen on teasing our four youngest siblings than comforting them. I don't love any of my siblings more than the other, and certainly don't favor the one with the attitude, but when she does act especially unnerving I can't help but think back on those summer nights I spent calming that little fuzzy haired baby. Her dark eyes used to shine so brightly as she gazed up at the stars. They grew heavy and tired as I whispered to her, finally closing as she drifted off to sleep. I would snuggle her closer, happy to have the special moments, and slowly make my way back into the house where I would put her back to bed and hope she would sleep until morning.

Tears, no? I loved the gentleness of this story and how I could picture each and every part. A beautiful portrait of family. Thank you Ashley!

For other stories in the Radiant series, check here:
Radiant with Antiquarian Miss
Radiant with Priceless Adventure

Writing the story.

Every now and then on my way from one work location to another, I tune into NPR. Those times when class has been difficult and Taylor Swift just doesn't seem appropriate. (Blasphemy, I know). The other day during one such drive, they had a segment where a twenty-five year old woman was going to be interviewing various people about where they were when they were twenty-five. She was interested in what they were doing, how they felt, what they struggled with. Mostly anything from that year of their lives.

In the course of that ten minute car ride, listening to an interview, I came to a little realization and that realization has taken up residence in the forefront of my thinking for the past few days now.

What I realized was this: No one ever writes stories about easy lives.

While all of us struggle in some way, some are undoubtedly dealt a more difficult hand in life. And those who overcome or make the most of or survive or flat-out awe the beejesus out of the rest of us? Well those are the ones whose stories are told. Again and again. They are the videos gone viral. The stuff of Oscar movies and classic novels. The basis for an unforgettable melody. Pages upon pages in a history text book.

My parents will tell you, I'm quite the complainer. I like easy. I don't like to struggle and I detest adversity. In short, I'd love life to be handed to me in a perfect little package with the most perfect little bow. But I've taken this notion of stories to heart. And I've been reminding myself lately that I'm writing the story of my life. When obstacles come. When despair lurks in the dark nights. When even in sleep, I'm restless. It's then that I'm writing the story of my life. I'm stringing together the first notes of that melody. I'm creating those "Call me Ishmael" moments. And the challenges and disappoints, well, those are the necessarily compelling plot twists that keep a reader up til late in the night, lights dim, book in hand.

And if I can remember that, remember that never was there a great story without equally great conflict, then I can keep pressing forward. Head down, shoulders squared, pressing forward always and no matter what.  After all,  Florentino Ariza didn't win his love, Fermina Diaz, until they were far too old. And Harry Potter didn't become one of the most beloved fiction characters of all time by killing Voldemort on page one. The greatest stories are rarely about lives lived easily.

So, I'll take my hits and my obstacles and keep pushing on, knowing that those are the foundation of this great story. And I'll hope that when the story of my life is written, someone somewhere will stay up late into the night to read just one more page.

How will your story be told?

She loved the world.

I love Valentine's Day and have since probably forever. My mom has always done such a wonderful job of making each of us feel loved and excited on each holiday. Every Valentine's Day as a kid, I'd walk into the kitchen for breakfast and find a small stuffed animal, chocolates and a card. As a college student, my mom sent valentine packages with much the same but with added festive necessities, like socks or even undies. And as a married adult, my mom sends packages to both myself and Adrian.

Valentine's Day has always been about love, though rarely the romantic kind. And, I think, there's a beauty in that. While I appreciate a card from Adrian, I wouldn't feel disappointed if he forgot. Valentine's Day, for me, is an opportunity to celebrate love of all kinds.

I am so excited to finally share with you all that I am so so so in love right now and cannot wait to celebrate it with all of you. In case you haven't heard it from my sister, I am in love with this little baby she is carrying about. I cannot even begin to express to you how absolutely overjoyed I am at my sister being pregnant!

Since the day I found out, I have been head over heels in love with this little being that I have yet to meet. And since it's not me that's pregnant, I get to relish in the excitement of it all without being sick or worried or tired or anxious about what to do with baby when baby arrives. And when that baby does come, I well aware of my role as auntie: to spoil and love and adore for-absolutely-ever.

So happiest of happy valentine's day to you all! I will be spending the day thinking of this little tiny baby that I simple cannot wait to meet!

Radiant: Priceless Adventure

Hello again, friends. It's Wednesday which means I'm sharing with you another story in our "Radiant" series. This story comes from a wonderfully talented blogger and web designer, Katie from Priceless Adventure. I love this story that she chose to tell and can't wait to hear what you think about it.

Love is not selfish. 

On a recent shopping trip with my best friend we were waiting at a long light to turn into the mall when a homeless man approached the car. Even though I know the generous character of my friend, I was honestly still a little surprised when she opened her glovebox and pulled out a carefully folded dollar bill. 

In a world where everything seems to be about "me" and "now" it's easy to overlook opportunities we have to show love and kindness. I know that I'm often too busy or catch myself feeling it's not my responsibility to help those who have less. 

She rolled down the window and handed him the dollar bill, at which point he told her how pretty she was. They had a short conversation that ended with him saying something like "I'll be behind the Denny's later if you want to come find me" or maybe it was a little more direct than that, but the point is her intentions were good (even if his may have been a little shady.) Later that day I heard her say to her boyfriend, "Babe, remind me to replace my homeless dollar in the glovebox." 

It was then I realize that this wasn't a random occurrence. She purposefully puts a dollar bill in her glovebox to have ready for moments like that. And although no one may ever find out, it's just one of her many ways of showing a little love to the world. 

How much do you love this story? Living in a city with a large homeless population, I often wonder about how to best respond to requests for help. Most often, I look them in the eyes, say hello, and continue on my way. But I do like this idea of keeping a dollar handy. Perhaps it's not our place to judge or to worry about where that dollar might go, but to offer a smile, a hello, a dollar and a prayer, no?  To follow in Katie's friend's footsteps and "show a little love to the world."

You can find more of Katie's stories and her beautiful blog design work over at Priceless Adventure.

If you missed last week's story from Renée at Antiquarian Miss, you can find it here.

Happy Wednesday!

The most quintessentially Maine Christmas. Ever.

So to continue with this month of love, I want to tell you a bit about my Christmas. I should tell you, I'm also that neighbor with the Christmas lights up year round. So there's that.

But this Christmas was a love story. A love story about my husband and a love story about my family.

Adrian and I have now spent three married Christmases together. As I've written about before, I absolutely love Christmas, but each year it presents this dilemma. To stay or to go. Adrian never has more than a day off from work and my family lives half way across the country. For the past few years, I've spent the weeks and months leading up to Christmas carefully considering how to spend those blessed two weeks of vacation. Wanting to be here with Adrian and enjoying our first Christmases together. While still wanting to return to Maine to hold on to the traditions that have made Christmas such a wonderful time for me in the past.

The first two Christmases I chose to stay here in Chicago for Christmas Eve with Adrian and returned to Maine for Christmas day with my family. Each year, I felt like I was missing a bit of both worlds.

I've made no attempts to hide that these past two years have been difficult years. I recently joked with a friend that at some point here I intend to write a book on my experiences. And the more I think about it, the less I think I was joking. Until my book hits shelves, suffice it to say that Adrian has been an incredibly supportive, considerate and absolutely adoring husband. I feel more sure today of my decision to marry Adrian than I did when I said I do.

Adrian's capacity for knowing what I need before I know I need it never fails to absolutely floor me. This year, back in October before I even began my annual fret of what to do, Adrian told me one day, "Why don't you go home for Christmas this year?" And with those little words, I booked my flight.

In my two years of Christmases away, I sometimes wondered if my nostalgia for Christmas past was simply a trick of my memory. Another product of my profound ability to gloss over the past, remembering only the lovelies and forgetting the not-as-lovelies.

But Christmas of 2012 was precisely as my eight year old heart remembered.

From the traditions of going to Mass as a family (Thank you Aunt Marta!) to eating dinner in our new pajamas to filling up on crepes and pies on Christmas morning to always forgetting previously-purchased gifts, my family has this incredible knack for making the holidays just feel cozy.

When I arrived on Christmas Eve, Maine lay snowless. For a little moment, my younger me felt that twinge of disappointment. A snowless Christmas in Maine just didn't seem right. Ah, but this too conspired in the creation of the quintessential Maine Christmas.

I woke on Christmas morning to a steady falling of the most perfectly fluffy snow flakes. With few cars on the road, the snow remained glisteningly and gloriously white. Falling at those perfect speeds recreated only in Christmas movies. I spent a few minutes by the window, filming that perfect snow. When I sent the video in a text to Adrian, he asked for more.

My Christmas in Maine reminded me of everything I had loved about Christmas as a child. I loved every little moment and cannot wait for the year that I share all that tradition and love and joy with Adrian, in Maine.

Radiant: Antiquarian Miss

I want to introduce a series that begins today and will continue on throughout the month of February. I've invited other bloggers to share stories of small moments of love. I asked them to write about just short, quick moments of love, that had we not been paying close attention, may have passed without our recognition of their significance. While I wasn't discouraging stories of romantic love, my hope was to celebrate love in a variety of forms and to recognize the life-giving importance of all relationships.

I've decided to name this series Radiant, in honor of the relationship between Wilbur and Charlotte in Charlotte's Web. This was one of my favorite books as a kid and continues to be one of my favorites to this day. E.B. White did the extraordinary by compelling his readers to fall in love with the story of a pig and a spider and their miraculous friendship.

As the stories have come in for this series, I've grown increasingly excited about sharing with you all not only the stories, but also the talent behind the stories. First up in the series is Renée from Antiquarian Miss with a story about her relationship with her grandmother. So without further ado, this is Renée's story:

I never really got along with my Grandmother. She died when I was 12 and it wasn't until I was older that I knew very much about her life at all. I hated going to her house when my parents went on trips. She made me do chores and she didn't think everything I said was funny or interesting the way my parents did. The only thing I enjoyed about spending time with her was that she watched the BBC show "Are You Being Served?" before she went to bed each night and I liked watching the ever changing pastel colored hair of one of the main characters. 

When she first became ill, she lost all of her hair and began wearing a turban. My cousins and I laughed and laughed at it and we thought it was even funnier when she got a wig. She'd chuckle a little along with us but in a beat she'd be back to her old self; telling us what to do and pointing out our flaws.

On the last visit before she became bed ridden, I came for a visit. It was just me this time. I was shocked to find that she had moved a TV out to her dining room table because she was a big believer in traditional mealtime. She spent almost every day, of this particular trip, sitting at the dining room table and watching that TV. 

One morning, I woke up before her which was very unusual. I was surprised not to see her standing in the kitchen cooking or in her spot at the dining room table. I poked around through the videos that she had stacked up and took notice of the bag of twizzlers that she had been working on. I picked out a video tape of Red Skelton, the comedian, and started eating the twizzlers. 

A few minutes later I heard my grandmother's voice. "What do you think you're doing?" she said and I shuddered. I wondered just how angry she would be and how much I would suffer the rest of the day for trespassing on her space. 

But she wasn't angry. She sat down next to me and grabbed a twizzler. We watched Red Skelton at her dining room table and aside from our laughter, we were silent. When the tape was over, she started cooking breakfast and things returned to normal. 

Roughly a year later, after attending her funeral, my family and I sat at the same dining room table and had dinner. When we all bowed our heads to say grace, I closed my eyes and imagined that it was just the two of us there again and I was full of gratitude...that I had even a glimpse of what it would have been like for us to be friends.

Such an untraditional view of love, no? I loved that this was the story Renée chose to share. A small, unexpected moment of connection. A huge thank you to Renée for sharing her story! Please feel free to leave your comments either here or right on Renée's blog and of course be sure to check out her blog for more stories!

Enjoy your Wednesday!

Back to what I've always known.

Every couple months or so, I find myself reevaluating and rethinking and rewriting my notions of what this blog should be. For a while there, I kept thinking to myself that it was ridiculous to continually analyze and reanalyze what I want this blog to be.

Then something clicked.

And I realized that what I want for this blog ought to be rewritten and rethought from time to time. I often feel this temptation to include sponsors, particularly of the paying variety. Or that pressure to host link ups and giveaways. But I keep coming to the same conclusion: while those are great for other blogs, I think ultimately they're just not in line with my vision for this blog.

So what is in line with my vision?

Creativity. Originality. And, of course, Love.

This time off has been a time of reaffirmation for me. Of remembering who I am and how I want to present myself. Of what I love and what I love to support. And of deciding to stick to what I've known all along. That my blogging will be about writing and creating and asking life's tough questions. And about working together and encouraging one another and pushing each other even when it's a bit uncomfortable. Ultimately it's about creating something I never thought I could. And then encouraging others to do the same.

So in the month of February, the month of love, Oh Hello, Love will be all about just that: creativity, originality and love.

While we might talk about romantic love from time to time, I want to highlight a variety of loves that play an equally important role in our lives.  And to do so, I've invited some of my favorite, most genuine bloggers to share their stories of love of all types. I'm incredibly thrilled that they've agreed to participate and even more thrilled to be sharing their talents with all of you. Their stories will be shared each Wednesday through out the month, beginning this week.

So then, a month of love and a fabulous start to 2013. Here's to remaining ourselves, celebrating authenticity and encouraging others to do the same.

(Also, for those reading via a reader, click on over. Of course 2013 merits a redesign.)
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