Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Remembering Mom

11 years ago today, mom left for heaven. Despite the passing of years (which I'd hoped would make this day easier) I still find that May 18 leaves me broken-hearted all over again. I would love to share a little of what made her so special to me.

Mom loved bunnies. LOVED them. We had a house filled with trinkets and pictures and yard decorations. I never asked her why; it was always just a given that she adored them.

She was the ultimate cheerleader for us. When I'm traveling to different cities for baseball games now using my GPS, I smile thinking about how Mom had that big old paper roadmap that she plotted out her drive to whatever school we had a game at. I'll never forget the first (and only) time I hit a home run in softball. I was so excited, and she had been watching the game from the car because it was cold. After the game I got in the passenger seat and excitedly asked her if she saw it, and she admitted (sadly) that she had not, because she had fallen asleep. We got a good laugh out of that. I could never be mad, because she was always so busy doing all the things she needed to do and still showing up (even if taking a nap) for all my games.

She adored having a house full of people. I don't think she ever said no to a sleepover, because she really enjoyed having my friends around.

She secretly bought me Dr. Pepper and chips every grocery trip that I could hide in a drawer in my room before my brother and his friends ate everything else within a day! :)

She had the best laugh. It breaks my heart that I can't seem to recall her voice anymore, but I can still picture her smile when she'd laugh. It was beautiful.

Her favorite color was green. She said because it was the color of money. Ha!

She used to embarrass me by showing my writing (poetry, short stories) to people. Ooooh, I would get soooo mad at her! When I look back now (and since having my own kids), I can see that she did it because she was so proud of me and believed in me. Perhaps that is why I want my writing to succeed so very much; she always had faith that I could.

She would pick up onion rings from our favorite diner and then pick me up from work, and we'd go do something fun like shopping together. I loved those afternoons. 

She celebrated in my joys and mended my broken hearts. She gave sage advice to help me make my own decisions, and was there to help me restart when I'd still made the wrong one. 

This list could go on forever. Today, Mom, I am thinking of you. I am crying a little (of course) because I still miss you so very much. And I'm hoping that somehow I see a little sign that you know how much I love and miss you.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Checking off the 40 Before 40: My First Bulls Game

Yay! We finally made it to my first Bulls game! Hubs really wanted to take kid 1 to his first Bull's game, so for Christmas (and through the help of my awesome buddy Steve), I was able to purchase 4 tickets for a game in February.

We brought along kid 1 and our nephew, and everyone had a lot of fun! And, it was pretty cool to share the "first Bull's game" experience with my little man.

Only about a billion things left to check off ;)


Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Rose Amongst Thorns

Written a year after my mother passed, in 2006.

Everything happens for a reason, or so I’ve been told. I find it hard to believe we have finally arrived at this moment in time.
For twenty-five years you watched me grow and stumble through romantic triumphs and heartache as you’ve listened intently to the depths of my heart. You’ve observed me playing dress up in an oversized gown with a garage-sale tiara on my head as I walked down a makeshift blanket aisle towards my favorite stuffed bear.
We’ve been dreaming of this day, Mom.
I’ve looked to you my entire life for guidance on avoiding apocalyptic romances and finally, I have found someone that both of us trust will treat me as you’d expect. He may need a little time to get there, but he’s given me the go-ahead to peruse these magazines with you.
I flip the page of the first wedding publication and we laugh at the hideousness of the pink wedding dress crowding the page. Knowing we have the same tastes thickens the bond tying us together. Years ago, I would have revolted at the thought of sharing my mother’s ideals and visions; now, I find that time is passing by far too quickly and I worry that I’ll never discover all of the idiosyncrasies we have in common.
Your fingers slowly move across a simple white gown, very similar to the one I wore to senior prom. Remember that dress? The beaded gloriousness of the wedding dress – yes, wedding dress – the clerk brought out from the back proved too much for us to send away. In vain we made excuses for why I couldn’t wear it; why I shouldn't wear it. We knew it was only prom and seeing in bold, black numerals how expensive the dress was reminded us it wasn't a good idea. Dad’s wallet may not have agreed, but you bought it for me anyway. I felt every bit the center of a fairytale as I stepped out of the limo the night of that dance.
I’ve dated a range of men in those twenty-five years, Mom. The only two worth mentioning are the first – that teenage boy whisking me off my feet to prom – and the last, the man who will carry me across the threshold in the dress we pick out.
We carefully study each page of the magazine, finding we are both at a loss for words. This moment is too big; too epic to belittle with words like beautiful and classic. We’ve practiced picking out this dress my entire life during annual trips to out-of-state malls with our closest girlfriends, scouring shelves and racks for the best in bargains and splendor.
I remember your face on prom morning, seven years prior, as I stepped out of my room in that prom gown. The happiness exuded from you, dwarfing just the smile on your lips. Your hand reached up to my face and you gave me a kiss, choking back the tears from escaping. I imagine you’d look the same at my wedding. I’m making a futile effort to fight back the tears as I recollect.
Do you understand how much that day meant to me? Will you understand how much the dress we are choosing for my wedding will mean to me in the not-so-distant future? Do you know how important your input is, and how much I want to absorb every suggestion you make so that in time, I can make these imperative choices on my own?
Your hand covers mine because I’m sure you can sense my anxiety. One look at you confirms my suspicions and I lose control of my emotion, letting the tears break through the barrier I’ve been building for the last three months.
You don’t utter a word because you can’t. The brain cancer has robbed you of that ability, along with the opportunity to plan my wedding together.
We both know the turning of these pages won’t make time stand still, and won’t bring my wedding any closer. We also both know that the day will come – days, perhaps weeks, we’ve been told – when the only part of you I’ll have for wedding planning is a few dog-eared magazine pages and some notes in blue pen dotting the margins.
You won’t be here for my wedding or for the birth of your grandson, which neither of us know yet will happen a little more than a year later. You won’t help me get dressed in that big, poufy wedding gown with the corset back. You won’t be there to close the clasp on my diamond necklace. And you will not be there to entertain the cutest little ring bearer; the one who will share a middle name with his grandma.
While we both shed our tears, we lay back in that cold, mechanical hospital bed situated in the middle of the living room. A room once exploding with joyous family parties now lies captive to a more sullen audience as friends and family filter in and out to whisper their goodbyes between our brief moments of respite. As you lay next to me with your bald head and bruised skin, I feel you wrap your arms around me. You’re the one dying and you’re comforting me.
As the sound of tears and sighs fill the otherwise empty room, I hope that your mind has drifted to the same place mine has: that morning spent getting ready for prom. I hope you’re remembering our trip to pick out that dress. I hope you’re reminiscing on how you helped me get ready that day. And I hope you’re also starting to believe that things happen for a reason. Otherwise I have to wonder why, after years of selecting formal dresses from a clearance rack, we found and purchased a $400 wedding dress for my prom.
We had our wedding day together, Mom. Maybe not the way we wanted it, but the way it had to happen in our fairytale. Seven years, a full head of hair and about four dress sizes earlier.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Checking Off the 40 Before 40: Anniversary Trip to Chicago

Yes, I realize Chicago is not a big hike for us, BUT, we are pretty limited on time during baseball season/recital season. And, we both LOVE the city. So, we took advantage of jetting (driving) away to Chi-town for a fun night out.

It rained and was a bit cold so I didn't get to rock the (super-cute) dress I had picked out in his fave color, but after swapping out the lace dress for jeans and riding boots, we were off on our adventure. We walked around in the rain, under umbrellas, checking out stores and architecture with no agenda in mind but to relax and have fun. I think the best part was the (very sweet) note from Liz at the front desk that read "Happy 27th anniversary" with a cold bottle of champagne. No idea where the 27 came from but I went along with it in hopes they'd think "Damn, she looks good for her age!" 

Happy anniversary, baby. Love you!






Thursday, April 7, 2016

There Will Be Time Tomorrow...

One day last week, while my husband was working late and after I picked up the kids after school and work and got us home and ate dinner, my seven-year-old daughter approached me.

"Mommy, can I go play with Mac?"

"Can I go play with Jon?" my son chimed in.

"Yeah, sure," I responded, watching them trot down the stairs and down the street to our neighbors. I sat down on the couch, totally prepared to put off housework and daily life. About thirty seconds in, I had a realization.

My house was quiet.

I've waited years for that moment of silence. Craved it. A house to myself, even if for a short time. I could watch anything I wanted on television. I could craft. I could write. I could read.

So what did I do?

I thought about how many times over the years I've said to one of them that I couldn't read them a story or color with them at that moment because I had something to do. I thought about how many conversations I haven't had because I'm too busy; how many walks I haven't taken with them because I just had to do something else. 

It doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen. We've done plenty together and we spend lots of time making good memories, but there are obviously times where we haven't, too. We're parents and spouses and friends and family and chauffeurs and coaches... and sometimes we fall short on moments that matter the most. At least I do.

And here I sat, alone on a couch, realizing that their days of waiting for me to spend time with them or begging me for just one more minute are quickly dwindling, because they have lots of sweet friends and blossoming social lives. They want that freedom to go out around the neighborhood and be kids, playing kickball in the street and hide and seek in everyone's yards.

My daughter is getting old enough now to not need me to escort her to someone's house if she wants to play. She has neighbor kids her age now, ready and willing to play games or draw with chalk or ride bikes. She's excited about this new stage in her life, and wants to take advantage of it as often as she can.

Now I'm the one sitting on a couch, begging them to stay with me and read a book for one more minute. Or color with me for just a little longer. Or sitting alone and wondering how much longer they'll actually want to do all that stuff with me, even for just a little while.

And their innocent words echo in my ears and remind me of the irony of life: "Mom, we'll have lots of time to do that this weekend. I'm going to go play with my friends for a little while."

Someday they'll understand what I sometimes forget: all the time in the world is never enough time.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Get in the picture!

I have been cleaning out storage bins (long overdue) and sorting photos like crazy the last couple weeks. There are so many great memories of my mom both sweet and hilarious, so many wonderful old photos of my great grandmother. 

As I'm sorting and putting in albums, I came across a time when there weren't a great deal of photos with me in them. It was right around when my daughter was about two or three. This was a time when I didn't feel comfortable with who I was; I had extra weight, I looked exhausted, and I couldn't find clothes that fit right. I remember it because it took me doing exactly what I'm doing now - sorting old photos - to realize the mistake I was making by hiding from the camera.

I get it. The years go by and our bodies change. We gain extra pounds, our muscles aren't as tight, wrinkles seep onto our faces and my enemy - grey hair - finds it's way into our locks. And yes, what we all wouldn't give to be as fat as we thought we were at seventeen. We shy away from the camera, untag ourselves in photos, never include them on a Christmas card. I understand. I've been there and sometimes I still am there.

And then I look at this photo of my great-grandmother, in the moo-moo she wore with her white hair in a messy bun, and a huge grin across her face. The kind of grin where you smile back at the photo because it's obvious she is somehow having the time of her life simply standing knee deep in a river. It's one of the few photos I have of her, not because she didn't want to look fat in a photo, but because they didn't have the same photographic capabilities then. Pictures were expensive, and I am so grateful that she spared the cost of printing this photo out.

What if she had told the photographer (likely my grandfather) no? What if she had refused to be the subject? I wouldn't know what she looked like, or that my smile looks just like hers. All I'd have to remember this woman would be her name in a book with no image to accompany it. What a loss that would be!

I realized the same goes for my kids. Nearly every morning, I feel pretty lucky that my daughter will tell me I look nice. "Why are you putting makeup on Mommy? You look beautiful without it." She'll compliment my shirt (which I may secretly be thinking I look to chubby in) because she likes the design. She looks at pictures over the years in the albums and says "Mommy, I love your dress! It's pink, my favorite color!" or "Mommy, you have the best smile in this one." Wrinkles, grey hair, and pudgy arms don't exist in her mind because that's not what she sees when she looks at me; she sees her mama, just as I see my own when I look back at the only place I can see her face since she went to heaven.

Here's the thing: our kids see us as beautiful. They see our smiles, they hear our laughter, they remember how mom and dad smell. The body negativity only seeps in when it is taught, and I am guilty of that. By hiding from photos we aren't saving ourselves the embarrassment of how we think we look; we're robbing our kiddos of the opportunity to remember how happy we are to be a part of their lives and their experiences. We're instilling in them that if you don't look a certain way, you certainly shouldn't allow yourself to be photographed. We're saying that we aren't confident enough in ourselves to create a visible memory with them.

In five, ten, twenty years, our kids aren't going to look at a photo and think, "Gee mom, you looked really chubby." They may comment on a retro hairstyle or laugh about clothing choices, but behind the giggles will be the sheer pleasure they have in holding a photograph of one of the people they look up to most - the same pleasure we have when we look at photos of our loved ones.

I may not be the most confident person in the world, but I've learned over the years to step in front of the camera with my little ones. Of all the accessories I have that could make me look like a million bucks, this little girl and little boy make me look every bit as beautiful as I feel when they're in my arms. (Side note: They're the best filter my camera has ever had - every picture looks better with them in it!) 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Checking off the 40 Before 40

Geez, 40 is creeping up on me!! I better get cracking on finishing my list before I have to start the next one! I still have a lot to do so I'm taking offers from anyone willing to help ;)

So here it is - go ahead and make your own! I try and include things that are simple things that I just don't always make time for (and should), as well as some stretch goals. Take a peek and let me know what you think. And if you do the same, share your list with me. I'd love to see it!

40 Things to Do By the Day Im 40
1.      Take a dance class. - DONE June 2015
3.      Write a complete book. DONE May 2012
6.      Visit Nancy in Idaho.
8.      Take the kids to a big show at the Rialto or Paramount (or somewhere like that)
10.  Go back to New Orleans with friends.
13.  Go to my first Blackhawks game ever.
14.  Learn how to make cake pops. (Attempted December 2013. Unsuccessful. Will try again, so I won't cross it off. Yet. Cake pops: 1, Allie: 0)
17.  Get Jaime’s artwork displayed at a gallery.
18.  Tip a good waiter $50 on a $10 bill.
21.  Fix something big in the house myself, with tools, without asking for help.
24.  Decorate one room in the house so that it looks like a showhouse!
25.  Go wine tasting with the girls in another state.
26.   Start writing each kiddo a book about my best memories of them growing up.
27.  Travel to 5 states. (so far: Wisconsin, August 2011, Kentucky and Tennessee, August 2012; Florida, September 2012; Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida 2015)
28.  Fly in a small plane.
29.  Go to Italy or Ireland.
30.  Get a song I’ve written sung in a public venue.
31.  Take each kid to their first concert. (Peyton - July 2015 - TRAIN)
32.  See every major museum in Chicago in one summer.
33.  Take each kid on a ditch day from school and do something totally fun. (Peyton - May 2015 - American Girl, Hershey factory) (Alex - May 2016 - Captain America Opening Night, Bowling, Fishing)
36.  Go ice skating on State street
37.  Take Alex and Pey on a rollercoaster (Half done. Alex rode one at Disney. I have a feeling Pey might be 40 herself before she goes on one). DONE! Legoland August 2016. Pey screamed until her voice went supersonic.
38.  Go to a Cub’s game in Milwaukee.
39.  Own a Dodge Charger.
40.   Organize all the bins sitting in storage.


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