Sunday, December 4, 2016

The 3 Great Loves In Your Life

I came across this article on how you fall in love with three people in your lifetime, after a friend shared the writing by Kate Rose on Facebook. I found it to be a pretty incredible read - a pretty true-to-life account of the three types of love I've encountered in my life. Kate says:
"Often our first is when we are young, in high school even. It’s the idealistic love—the one that seems like the fairytales we read as children."
"The second is supposed to be our hard love—the one that teaches us lessons about who we are and how we often want or need to be loved. This is the kind of love that hurts, whether through lies, pain or manipulation."
"And the third is the love we never see coming. The one that usually looks all wrong for us and that destroys any lingering ideals we clung to about what love is supposed to be. This is the love that comes so easy it doesn’t seem possible. It’s the kind where the connection can’t be explained and knocks us off our feet because we never planned for it."

When I think back to the three gentlemen I've had significant feelings for in my life, her description is pretty accurate. Though we had our share of struggles, any time I look back on that first love, I do so with a smile. With him lie the memories of school dances and Friday night football games, goofy folded-up love letters scribbled during class, long conversations about nothing, and those big future hopes and dreams created in the minds of high schoolers. 

The second is just as Ms. Rose said: the tough one. The one that started as the fairy tale I was looking for - with roses and grand gestures - and ended in broken promises and unforgivable words from both sides. I think we spent more time fighting than we did talking, both of us trying to be ourselves and someone else at the same time to appease the other. The one that shattered my heart almost so completely that I thought I'd never feel anything again.

And then hubs came along. That third love. The one I didn't even want to think about considering, because I felt too broken to be such a burden on anyone else. Somehow, without trying, he found his way around the wall I'd put up and slowly eeked his way into my heart. I hadn't looked at another guy in the year since love #2 and I had broken up. I couldn't fathom the thought of another human's fingers intertwined with mine as we set forth on the rest of our lives. I couldn't even relax enough to let someone hug me - girl, boy, family, friend. No one. I was lost. And by the second time I'd met hubs I knew; my heart had decided before my mind could object that this was a man worth taking down a brick or two for. I hadn't planned on loving anyone else, but that's the thing about life: it often goes exactly the opposite of what we have planned.

When I look back though, each one helped me to understand a little better what love was - but more importantly, what love was not. Every day, when the kids have been chauffeured to activities and dinner is done and we have a moment to breath, I have the opportunity to take a look at hubs and feel exactly the same way I did in those first few meetings: like my heart cannot possibly love him any more. We don't have folded-up love notes, and we certainly have our share of fights, but there is no one who makes me feel more loved than he does.

I've always been a sucker for romance stories, which is probably why everything I write contains romance. But no better story has been written than the one I'm living. 


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Some Chances Set You Free


"Some choices hold you down, some chances set you free.

And right outta nowhere
You open your heart and that changes everything,
And you're going somewhere
And all you need to know, is that you're free to go."

Those are lyrics to a song by one of my mom's favorite singers, Christine Kane (you can listen to it here). I found myself listening to that CD tonight after years of not hearing it. My fingers had danced across it on a cupboard shelf the other day, the dust of years gone by painting my fingertips. There was no question it has been a while since I heard the tunes that had brought both smiles and giggles to my wonderfully funny mother.

To me, music has always been a soundtrack for life. I guess maybe that's the writer in me. I grew up dreaming about writing plays and novels and movies, and each time I'd dream up one of my storylines, the emotion of my characters would come to life in my mind through the music that wafted into consciousness. 

And somehow, music has always had a way of speaking directly to my heart. When I'm stressed or sad or just searching for answers, the melodies that stretch out around me somehow convey an answer to whatever question is plaguing my mind.

Lately, I've been feeling sort of lost. My dad isn't feeling well, and it breaks my heart to see him so down. I always miss my mama around the holidays. And between work and coaching and trying to be a good wife and mother, I'm finding myself somewhat overwhelmed. Which is why this particular lyric stuck with me tonight. I've been so focused on the unknown and what lies ahead and feeling so flustered about everything that this lyric comes at the perfect time.

"Some choices hold you down and some chances set you free."

I've been lucky that in life; whenever one door closes, another opens. It hasn't always been a great door, but it's always been something -- and that's the key. There's always a new adventure to be on, and some of the best adventures I've had have come when I stopped trying to be in control and instead just let life take the lead.

"Leap and the net will appear."

Well, maybe that's the key to life sometimes, isn't it? 

Now, if you need something lighter, check out this - my mom's fave song by her which coincidentally, she used to sing as I got ready to go out during my college years. ;)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

History is Made



We are a baseball family.

A little after 11:40 p.m. last night, the Cubs won the 2016 World Series. 108 years, 10th inning, 8 runs. 108 is a magical number it looks like.

I didn't have tickets to the games (because, well, my kids need to go to college someday) but I was able to watch the games with my son, a die-hard baseball fan who lives and breathes the game all year long. He wasn't really a fan of any given team until the start of this season when he found a love for the Cubs, quite possibly breaking the heart of his die-hard Sox fan father. (Even though I dressed him in Cubs gear to sway his decision early on.)
  
 
The Cubs/Sox rivalry started in our home long ago, while hubs and I were dating. We had a Cubs/Sox themed wedding complete with a blue and black cake. He refuses to believe my old adage, "There are only two teams in Chicago: the Cubs and whoever they're playing."

    


And my Chicago-loving Sox-fan husband even rooted for the Cubbies this post-season. As a Sox fan, he knows the tremendous pride of seeing your team in the World Series; he knows the absolute excitement at watching them win it all. And more than anything else, he is a fan of Chicago and was proud to see his city back on top in a sport.

The last seven games were the best to watch with my son. Seeing him get fired up over errors by his favorite players, only to jump and scream for joy the next inning after the same player cracks a home run (we're talking about you, Baez and Ross!) totally redeeming themselves. And, in a moment of hilarity (and probably parenting gone wrong), watching him yell "GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER!" before he covered his mouth because he realized he'd just swore in front of his mother, brought a moment of a stern face followed by a twinge of joy that he'd used the word in the correct capacity and said exactly what I was thinking.

I know some people think it's silly to get that invested in a sport, in a team, in a bunch of players who have no vested interest in you. When we look at the Cubs, though, we see the history of a game that has brought people together for generations. We see something that we can share with our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents; the love of a team that represents your city. We see a place where you can gather with complete strangers and for nine innings, feel like you've been friends forever as you cheer on your boys.

I wondered last night if the parents of all those players on the field remember a moment sitting at home, watching a game with a son who loves baseball. Or on a dusty old diamond at a ball park watching their 10-year-old learn how to make a double play. Did they know then that their son was destined for such a historic moment? Did they know those hugs and flowers on Mother's Day at a youth ball park would turn into ecstatic hugs on a major league diamond in front of hundreds of thousands of people?

For the rest of my life, I'll remember where I was when the Cubs won the World Series: snuggled up with my little baseball fanatic and biting my nails with two outs in the 10th. 

No, I didn't get to see a game in person this post-season. Hopefully one day I'll get to watch a post-season game from the stadium, and maybe - just maybe - it will be his.   


 
 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Signing!

We are so excited to be hosting a local book signing! Join four local authors this Saturday!


Denise M. Baran-Unland is the author of the gothic vampire BryonySeries, cofounder of WriteOn Joliet, and features editor at The Herald-News. She is a former freelance writer and features writing teacher at a homeschool cooperative and current instructor for a small monthly writer’s workshop. She has six children, many grandchildren, and four cats. Visit her at bryonyseries.com.

Ralph Carey
Former ironworker Ralph Carey was born in Joliet and raised by a single mother. After 40 years of addiction and a criminal lifestyle, including a stints in both federal and state prison, he has turned his life around and authored Life's Wisdom: Overcoming Addiction. When not writing he is making the most of every day, spending time with his children and grandchildren, and expanding upon his writing.

From 1982-1990, Sue Merrell worked at the Joliet Herald-News under her married name, Sue Wallace. After working for the Grand Rapids Press for almost 20 years, she retired in 2009 to write novels. She has written a memoir, Laughing for a Living, and a mystery series inspired by her years working in Joliet. She has one grown son. Visit her at suemerrellbooks.com.

Allison Rios is the author of the Healer Series, as well as co-author of a book on several caregiver’s journeys with brain cancer. In between a full-time job, chauffeuring kids and shopping for high heels, she spends her free time creating new worlds with her imagination – a hobby she likes to share with her two children. She is currently working on the next book in the Healer series. Visit her at facebook.com/HealersAndGrims.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Simple Joys

You know what one of the best things is that has come out of this blog?

Reconnecting with friends, old and new. I love catching up with people I haven't seen in forever, finding closure where it's needed, making new friends, saying the things I've always wanted to tell someone, and hearing what they've always wanted to say.

So if you'd like to brighten a day, send me a note ;) I promise to send one back!

Monday, October 3, 2016

October, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

I will never forget that October morning. We were moving our work office from one building to another, and I was carrying files all morning back and forth. Six weeks pregnant, I was ecstatic that hubs and I were finally going to add another little one to the family. (That's me, on a work trip to DC, taking my first monthly photo!)

The cramping started and I didn't pay much attention. Then the bleeding. Panicked and in tears, I called the doctor's office from the pristine white-tiled work restroom. A soft voice on the other end told me, after consulting with the doctor, that I could be having a miscarriage or it could be bleeding that some pregnant women experience. I should go to the hospital for an ultrasound.

I left work early that day, unable to halt the waterfall of hopes and dreams cascading down my cheeks in sorrow and worry. I waited for that appointment, waited to call my husband. I wore a baseball hat to the hospital because I worked there and didn't want anyone to know it was me. And once there, in a cold, white sterile room, I learned our baby no longer had a heartbeat. Crushed isn't a strong enough word to describe what I felt.

I called my hubs, who still didn't know what was going on, and between sobs begged him to come pick me up. He did, shocked, and we went home in relative silence (aside from my crying) and tried our best not to discuss it. The doctor told me what would happen: I'd essentially go into a mild labor and may potentially have to undergo a D&C. I wanted to throw up every time I thought about it.

I had told everyone we were pregnant right when we found out. I was excited! We'd already had one healthy baby during the most stressful time of my life (when mom passed), and so I thought this pregnancy would be a breeze. We'd been trying for months to get pregnant and I couldn't wait to shout it from the rooftops.

When I told people who excitedly asked how the pregnancy was going that I was no longer pregnant, some would say, "at least it was early," or "at least it wasn't a baby yet." I understand that people don't know what to say in these situations, but those words stung. He or she was a baby, our baby. And yes it was early, but my heart wanted that child so badly. My poor husband - I asked him to tell everyone. I told a few people, and asked them to leave me alone. I sobbed. I sulked. I hid. I felt ashamed and could barely look at my sweet husband, who did everything he could to comfort me. I'd let him down, I thought. My body failed to make a safe home for this baby. No words otherwise could reach me; I was broken-hearted.

It was around Halloween and I can remember getting our son ready. That's me and the cutest Batman ever, as I try and somewhat hide my tummy. I didn't want any pictures of me that day, because the slight bump of my belly would just remind me of our loss.

I ignored the doctor's advice because it had taken so long for us to get pregnant that time, and I figured it would be the same once we began trying again. But somehow we ended up pregnant right away. Like, immediately.

Again, I was so excited. We couldn't wait. I took a first month photo. We were a bit scared, but feeling like this was the one. We were on our way to baby #2! We didn't tell anyone (well, I told some close friends, but no family) and I comforted myself in the belief that lightening wouldn't strike twice.

Then on a cold December day, again, I noticed blood. We were eight weeks along and I was at a department holiday party at work, feigning smiles and laughs. I had begun bleeding that morning; I called the doc; they said the same thing. I already knew though, before the cold ultrasound wand touched my stomach.

Same thing - I went to the hospital, but this time hubby came with me. I watched the screen and there was no movement, no heartbeat, no nothing. In a small little patient room, I was told again there was a loss, but I wasn't crying. I was just...not believing it, I guess. We went to the doctor's office where she hugged me. I love our doctor - she has such a big heart. She talked with me, gave me medicine to induce the labor, and then hugged me some more.

I stared at the medicine for hours. I'd take it in an hour; in two hours; tomorrow, I told myself. I couldn't let go. Turns out the medicine was unneeded - the next day, early afternoon, I began cramping. I had a holiday party with friends to go to that night that I swore I wouldn't miss. No one had known I was pregnant, and I didn't want to raise any flags. I sent my husband out with his friends. He didn't want to leave me, but I told him I was going to the party and wanted to just go on and celebrate the holidays. I was cramping again and knew what was coming, and I didn't want him to be there for it. It was embarrassing and awful. This handsome, kind man wrapped me in his arms and reminded me how much he loved me, and I still couldn't look him in the eyes.

We went about the holidays, and I put a smile on my face for my family. That's us on Christmas Eve, and me trying to hold it all together. When I felt like crying, I'd escape to the bathroom and will the tears away. And I still don't know which was harder: having to repeat over and over to people that we lost the baby, or to be crying alone on the couch because nobody knew.

Just three months later we were pregnant again, and the excitement was overshadowed by fear. Every step I took, every bite of food I ate, I worried if that would be the day that something happened. When we made it past the first trimester I felt a little relief, but the fear was always there in the back of my mind until our precious baby girl was safely in my arms later that year. I think about women who have lost a child at two, five, nine months and my heart breaks for them. Some may wonder how you can love someone you've never even met, but as a mother, it's absolutely possible. From the moment that test said "pregnant," my heart grew, as it does for mothers everywhere.

The heartbreak and disapointment are immeasurable when you lose a baby you wanted. To all the men and women who have lost a child, whether it was at five weeks or 40, my heart is with you. You aren't alone. Sending hugs your way.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Parenting is Hard - And I Let Down My Son

Last night, I had a parental failure: I let down my kiddo.

Not because I didn't buy him a toy he wanted or made him go to bed earlier. No, I broke a promise I'd made to him and it was all my fault. The tears of a broken-hearted child are one of the biggest pains you can feel as a parent!

I had promised him that on this Friday, we'd go to Great America. Actually, I've been promising him all summer that we'd go. Because of baseball and cross country and lots of little things, we'd come down to the last possible weekend to go. He loves roller coasters. He loves water slides. And getting to experience a double whammy of roller coasters AND waterslides was epic. I was making arrangements for kiddo#2 (who does NOT like roller coasters and waterslides) when a sickening realization came over me.

He had practice scheduled. As in, their first cross country meet is Saturday morning, and Friday is their last practice (when they're still learning how to pass the baton for relays) and he really shouldn't miss it. Plus, I'd volunteered to drive for another child, too.

Guilt swept over me, saturating every inch of my well-intentioned self. I've made plenty of mistakes before. I've faced bosses. I've faced teachers. I've faced my hubs. But I don't think I've EVER been more anxious than that long, arduous walk upstairs to my son's room to break the news. He's an awesome kid. When I can't make a baseball game because of work, he's the one patting me on the back and saying it's okay, he understands. When I can't get to a school musical in the middle of the day because of prior obligations, he's the one assuring me he'll sing the songs again when he gets home; he understands. Those moments where I need to miss things are few and far between, but they do happen and he handles them with more grace than most kiddos I like to think. But this, well, this wasn't missing something. This was breaking a promise.

"Buddy, I messed up, and it turns out we aren't going to be able to go to Great America on Friday. But I'm looking at late September or October - we can go during Fright Fest. It's really neat," I said, trying to slide some of that guilt off by replacing it with an exciting secondary option.

Tears basically exploded from his eyes, which is not typical for him. And the tears piled on more guilt. Deserved guilt. Mama-failure guilt. I wondered if I should start in with the "Life isn't always fair, sometimes things like this happen and we have to learn how to handle them" speech, but I knew it wasn't the right time, and that speech would only have been to try and lessen my guilt.

I sent my little boy to bed with snuggles, although the tears still clung to his eyelashes long after he fell asleep. We had a fun day on Friday, complete with giant slides and mini-golf and go-carts and arcade games and ice cream. And that night when it was bed time, he told me that it was the best day ever.

It's moments like this that remind me of one of my favorite quotes: While we try and teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about. He didn't bring up Great America once on Friday, and not once did he act like it wasn't the greatest day of his life. Whether he'd forgotten about Great America (unlikely) or was making the best of the situation, he acted in a way that I know many adults don't (myself included at times) when something doesn't go their way - positively, and with class. I am one lucky mama!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Before the School Year Starts...

Before the school year starts, I have a special message to anyone whose kiddo will interact with mine in a classroom, an activity, or even just the lunchroom:

Please tell me if my child is anything less than kind to yours.

Let me start by saying I love my babies, and I will protect them with the ferocity of a mama bear when the need arises.

But, I've also seen them physically fight with each other over ridiculous matters like who has the "most-brownest hair". And they're human. And they have my genes. So if I'm being honest, there is the likely possibility that they will have some less-than-stellar moments in dealing with other people.

Don't let the angelic faces fool you. They look all adorable with their long eyelashes and tan skin, but the moment you aren't looking, they'll likely accept a dare if it will yield them an extra snack for lunch. 99.9% of the time they are great kids, but there's the 0.1% when I hear my mom cackling from beyond the grave with an "I told you so! I hoped you'd have children just like you!"

So, if my kid says something not so nice to yours, tell me.

If they don't keep their hands to themselves, tell me.
If they taunt your child or say/do anything that makes your child feel like an outsider, tell me.

And not just your kid. If while you're on playground duty (may the force be with you) or on a field trip (like a field trip to the zoo when it's 95 degrees - again, may the force be with you), and you hear my kid being unpleasant, please tell me.

Most of the time, my kiddos have hearts of gold and would give you the shirt off their back. They help collect things for the shelter and they draw cards for those in nursing homes. We talk about peer pressure and being good examples and making sure that everyone is included, but they're kids. They're kids who want to fit in and want to have friends, and we've all been kids on a playground where sometimes we fall into the trap of doing something we typically wouldn't because it's less scary than doing the right thing.

And I want to know if those times occur. Not so I can scream and yell and punish them til they are 25, but to use the opportunity to figure out what we can do better and how we intend to remedy the situation. (Oh, and yes, they will likely get grounded from something valuable to them. That's just parental law, right?)

Last year, there was a bullying incident at school. My kiddo was not the instigator, but was a follower, and by being a follower, failed to stand up for a friend and do what was right. We had a long discussion and in the midst of it, I realized that I was hypocritical in asking my child to stand up for others and not take the easy way out -- because I hadn't stood up to the bully's parental figures on other occasions myself where I should have. I was asking my grade schooler to do something I wasn't prepared, at 36, to do myself.

Not a great feeling.

But that's why I say this: tell me if these situations arise. Because at 36, I'm still learning. I'm still making mistakes or shirking away from confrontation at times because it's easier. And if I can do that at 36, I am certain that times will arise when my kids are prone to give in to pressure, too. It won't just be now. It will happen when they're 10, 17, and even sometimes in their 30s and beyond. But if I don't know, I can't help all of us learn a lesson and make better decisions next time.

We're all parents, and we're all doing our best. And while I'd love to think my kids are amazing enough to have bronze statues made in their likeness for their unwavering goodness, I know they have another side. Throughout our kiddos' years together, we might not see eye-to-eye on everything. But you can be sure that I won't tolerate the needless verbal or emotional abuse of another person, especially a child. 

So talk to me. Let's work it out together, because if we don't have each other, it's gonna be a longggggg ride!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Baby Girl, You Can Say NO!

Yesterday, as I drove to the dance school to sign up my daughter for classes, we chatted about what classes she wants to take. She's been dancing now for five years, and she loves the teachers and classes and performing in the recitals. But she's young, and she still enjoys lots of other things - which is perfect, because she should have other interests. (That's us in that picture, before her last recital.)

I asked her which classes she'd like to take: core, hip hop, company? All? None? Now, I've asked her this several times over the summer, and every time, she had the same answer. Every. Single. Time.

"Core, mommy, and company."

"What about hip hop?"

"No thanks. Just those two. Maybe I'll do hip hop another year."

"Sounds great," I replied for what felt like the thousandth time.

We pull up, get out, fill out the forms, get in line, and our turn arrives to meet with the teacher to register. We sit down at the table across from the open teacher, and she hasn't had my daughter in class before. She asks her age and begins checking the second grade classes. This sweet teacher looks at my daughter and says she is eligible to take second grade core and hip hop, adding that she isn't old enough yet for company.

"Do you want to take hip hop, too?" she asked.

My daughter smiled and nodded yes, and watched as the teacher began to write. I watched my baby girl's smile, and it wasn't genuine. It was a forced "okay-if-you-say-so" smile.

When the teacher looked away, my daughter's face dropped. Then immediately picked up when the other teacher to our right, who has taught my kiddo before, says, "Oh, no, she's been dancing up a year. So she's with the third graders. And that makes her able to do company."

It's true. My baby girl has a late birthday and came into the studio with a couple years under her belt, so they moved her up a grade so she wouldn't be bored. For the last 3 years, she's danced up and (mostly) loved every moment of it (except when she has to miss a party or something for class because let's face it - parties are pretty awesome).  

My girl's face lit up with excitement. I told the teacher that we'll just be doing core and company (hey, I have a budget here!) and we finished the paperwork and headed back to the car.

"I thought you didn't want to do hip hop?" I asked.

"I don't."

"Then why did you say yes when the teacher asked you? Are you sure you don't want to take hip hop?"

"No, I really don't. I just didn't want to hurt her feelings."

Oh my, a teachable moment! One of those opportunities to tell my daughter that she can say no, without being rude, when there is something in her life that she doesn't feel strongly about being a part of. I want her to be able to say no, and not feel like she has to say "yes" to please people or fit in. Mommy was a yes person, and it led to lots of mistakes and heartache (but many good lessons learned). So, how do I instill the strength in my daughter to say no, without having to share the grownup details from my life as to why it's important?

"Honey," I said, helping her with the seatbelt, "you didn't have to tell her yes. You have the right to say no."

"Isn't it rude to tell adults no?"

"Well, I think that depends on how you say it. There are some things in life you can't say no to; well, not without serious consequences. You shouldn't say no to doing your homework. You shouldn't say no to washing your hands after you use the potty. You can't say no when I need to run to the store and you want to stay home, at least until you're much older. Those are things that need to happen for your health, education and safety. But you can absolutely say no to being a part of something you're not comfortable with. You have the opportunity to participate in things like art and ballet and music and sports. And it's okay to say no to doing these things and you don't have to feel bad about it. You have to do something to stay active, but it's your choice as to what that is."

"Do you ever say no?"

"Good question, kiddo. I do. Not as often as I should, though. Sometimes I say no at work, when I don't believe strongly in something. I say no to photoshoots sometimes, when my heart tells me it's more important to be at your games or programs. I even have to say no sometimes when a friend needs help with something and I'm just spread too thin, even when I know my friend's feelings might get hurt. Mommy's still learning these things, too, and that's why I want to share them with you early."

"But I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings." She makes a good point. I was never good at saying no for just that reason. I'm still not great at it. So I wondered how I would explain to a little girl that it was okay for her to stand up for herself and what she wants without making her into an entitled brat.

"There will be lots and lots of times in life, sweetie, when you want to say no, and then there will be time when you will need to say no. No, you don't want to do this. No, you don't believe in that. No, you don't have time. 'No' is not an excuse to get out of doing something you should; 'no' is an opportunity to make a difference and better your life. I don't ever want you to be afraid to say no when it's important for you to do so. And you have every right to saying no to taking an extracurricular class you don't want to take."

Silence infiltrated the car for only a few moments before she piped up.

"Mommy, can we get ice cream? And you shouldn't say no, because ice cream will make life better."

Somehow, I'm not too worried that this kid is going to be a-ok. ;)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Another day, another gray hair

It's late but I promised myself I'd keep up with the blogging, sooo....bear with me.


Do I go dark? Do I go blonde? Do I throw caution to the wind and go bright red? This is a serious #momlife issue for me right now.

I looked in the mirror tonight as I was brushing my teeth and noticed yet another gray hair. Oh, how I hate you gray hair! I don't have the 20-year-old bod to rock the current #grayhair trend, and I don't have that sophisticated Stacy London swishy streak of gray. No. I have little gray spaghetti noodles popping up everywhere, in a much different texture than my wispy brown.

My mama was mostly gray by the time she was 36, which is when she started dying her hair blonde. Let me tell you - my hair is dark brown, and I've had my hair blonde before. Not a great look for me, in my opinion. If I was brave enough I'd dig up photos, but I'm lazy (and/or not willing to shame myself like that, could go either way).

I know it's only hair, but... I admit I have some serious gray hair insecurity! :)

Since discovering the multiplying gray offenders, I try and dye my hair the color it is naturally, which at this point is anyone's guess. I've been dying my hair red or black or brown or ombre or highlights or a myriad of other colors (sans blonde) for as long as I can remember. Dark brown is what the (non-gray) roots are, so we'll go with that. 

But lately, with running kids around and a full-time job and everything else we're working on, I haven't had time. And tonight, peeking in the mirror at myself, the gray hairs stand out. I know, I know, it's so shallow to care about the gray hair but come on, I'm a woman and I'm a little insecure about some things, like getting called "ma'am" at the store or the gray hairs creeping up on my skull.

It probably doesn't help that the last few months I've been going through and organizing old photos in my futile attempt to declutter and de-crap-ify the house. Pictures of childhood and high school and college and even five short years ago when no gray hairs were anywhere to be found. Turning 30 wasn't hard; I don't even think nearing the 40 mark is hard. What IS hard for me is finding those tiny, long and thin gray reminders that another day has passed.

I have two boxes of hair color sitting on the shelf in my bathroom; dark brown and blonde. For three weeks I've been in a wishy-washy battle over which to try. Meanwhile, the world is abuzz with presidential politics and chaos, and I'm over here fretting over which hair color to use. Which, let me tell you, only adds to my wishy-washy-ness on choosing because of the guilt of worrying about such frivolous things as gray hair!

   


And yes, I'm still undecided. So perhaps the gray will stay for awhile.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Today's World

I read an article yesterday on a mother who took a photo of her child, thinking it was silly. Her cute little girl standing on the toilet seat. What she learned, however, was that her child was doing what they'd learned in school for a drill if there was ever a shooter.

It breaks my heart that kids today have to think about that.

I remember all too well, two years ago, a similar moment with my then five-year-old daughter. We'd had a bat in the house while she was sleeping, and because she had a scratch on her belly that we didn't know if she'd gotten earlier in the day or possibly from the bat, she had to go through rabies shots (that's a story for another day - yowsa! My poor baby girl!) Six shots total over the course of a few weeks. :(

During one of these follow-up sessions, which have to be done at the hospital, she was sitting in the room on the hospital bed with her stuffed animal as we waited the necessary time after the shot to make sure there was no reaction. I'd worked in a hospital for seven years, so when the overhead speaker came on announcing a code on another floor, it didn't even phase me. (Here she is, right before the overhead announcement came on.)

It did, however, phase my baby girl.

I watched as her eyes grew wide and sheer panic set in. I mean, utter and total panic. I have never before (and thankfully, never since) seen that look on her face. She bolted off the bed and behind the nearest, biggest thing she could find, which was a piece of medical equipment in the room. She was screaming at me to hide, and I had no idea what she was talking about. I tried to calm her down and get her to come out, but she just kept begging me to hide. I finally went to where she was and asked why we were hiding. She replied that they had just said a code and that meant there was a shooter there.

I think my heart broke.

It was only a couple years before that when my son, then in kindergarten, heard about the Sandy Hook shootings from some kiddos on the playground at school. He came home and told me not to worry about him, that he'd figured out he could break a window with a chair, jump out, and he knew how to get home from the school if he had to run.

What?

I never had to think about that stuff when I was younger. I never had to formulate a plan in my head to escape anything except maybe a test I hadn't studied for. What happened in that short time between when I was in school and when my babies are that they all of a sudden have to start preparing for things of this nature?

So Stacey, I am so sorry your little girl has to learn how to stand on a toilet. I'll be thinking about you, and hoping for a future for our kiddos that doesn't involve escape plans and codes.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Three Tacos and Guacamole

After a tough 4-1 loss at little league baseball tonight, we were all pretty hungry. We'd rushed right from work and the sitter to the game, and 8 p.m. loomed on the horizon. We pulled up to one of our favorite taco places and got in line to place our order. The line was seriously long, and we would normally have jetted off to some other quick place, but for some reason we stayed.

Not more than a minute later, an older gentleman was at my husband's car window. He said he was down on his luck and I looked at the kiddos in the back. They were watching intently everything that was said and I knew that what my husband said and did was going to resonate with them and impact how they handled these situations moving forward.

When the gentlemen, who was quite dirty and had calloused hands, finished up his introduction, he ended it with "I'm just really hungry and I don't know what else to do at this point but to just ask someone for help."

Without skipping a beat, the hubs asked him what he'd like to eat and offered to buy him some dinner. The gentlemen went back to his truck and waited while we ordered and got the food. I packaged up his meal in the extra bag they gave us and walked it over to his truck. He said thank you and immediately opened it up to begin eating. I wished him well and said I hoped things got better for him soon.

We headed home in relative silence, which is how we also ate our dinner. My son, always inquisitive, asked me why the man had asked for food.

"Sometimes," I explained, "we all get a little down on our luck. Daddy is a good man and he knew that the man needed something to eat, so he wanted to help him out."

"So it was the right thing to do?" he asked.

"Yeah baby," I replied. "That could be anyone. What if that was us? Sometimes things happen in life and times get tough. It's important to be there for people when they need it, and you hope that others will be there for you too if you ever need help."

"So do you think his tacos and guac made a difference to him tonight?"

Well, I don't know if it did for the man, but I know it did for us. In a week where there is so much horror on the news, where there is blame and shame galore, I hope we can all take a moment to remember that life can change in an instant and we need more kindness in the world. And kindness starts with each of us, one small moment at a time. Together, all those small things will make big changes. To anyone who is down on their luck, hang in there. We're rooting for you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

New topics needed!

I need some new topics to write about! I'm suffering from a terrible case of writers block. Any suggestions?

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Year 2000

My son asked me the other day what I was doing in the year 2000, after a documentary we came across on television about Y2K. Sometimes, I look at the current year as I write a check or update the calendar and can hardly believe it’s already 2016.

What was I doing in 2000, I thought? I had just turned 21. I was a pretty lost soul, trying to figure out just who I was. I was in college, deciding if I wanted my major to change. I took classes like International Marketing as an elective instead of something easy, to graduate sooner and get work towards my future Master’s Degree done. I was in a terrible relationship that I had a large part in making worse, in part because my heart was still in love with someone else who didn’t love me back. I was excitingly cast in my first and only play – a very small role but fun to be a part of. I was working two jobs, one of which I absolutely loved. My nights began at 10 p.m. instead of wrapping up then. And oh, I made plenty of lesson-learning mistakes.

I can remember wishing that I would just figure out where I belonged in the world. I’d always been timid and shy but tried to hide it behind a goofy personality. I’d stopped talking to many of my high school friends because they all seemed so sure of their futures and their paths in life, and it intimidated me. It scared me that they knew exactly what they wanted to be when they graduated. They had plans and significant others and I still had no idea where I was going. And while I had some really great friends during college, I also had surrounded myself with some people who were as lost and unhappy as I was – and that just made me feel even more confused. I was great at hiding it. Though I always had people around me, I felt pretty alone.

I happened to watch my favorite movie, Fried Green Tomatoes, during this time. One part always stood out in particular to me - where Idgie goes to pick up Ruth and bring her home with them to live. Ruth had demanded Idgie leave when she’d arrived on a visit years prior, and they hadn’t spoken since. But when that letter came from Ruth, along with the Bible verse of Ruth 1:16 highlighted, Idgie went back to get her friend, no questions asked.

But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God."

I loved the sentiment of that verse. I loved what it meant for the characters. And I loved the idea that despite the distance life can sometimes put between people, those who love us will always be there when we need them.

I did manage to mend some of the friendships I’d drifted from, but some I was too timid to reach out about. I eventually found my path in life and a career I enjoy. I found a great man who loves me as much as I love him, and have two beautiful babies that I’d dreamed about for as long as I could remember.

“Mom,” he asked again, surely noticing my mind had drifted off (as it often does). “What were you doing in 2000?”

“I was in college,” I replied.

“What was the best thing you learned in college?” Oh, smart kid - using the same question on me that I use on him daily when he gets home from school.

“That no matter where life takes you,” I replied, “the people who love you will always be there for you, and you should do the same for them.”

“I meant in school,” he replied, clearly unsatisfied with my (oh-so thoughtful) answer.

“Well then,” I said, “I learned that year that my international marketing plan to bring Krispie Kreme donuts to Switzerland would have landed me in bankruptcy.”

“You’re so weird, Mom.”

Weird, yes, but lost? Not anymore.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tuck That Memory Away...


Today is one of those days I'm going to tuck away in my memory and pull out during those awkward teenage years.

Today, my daughter and I had a completely argument-free day. It gets better, I promise.

Sometimes, during the hurried rush of getting off to school, rushing home after work and school to head to activities, rushing home again to eat, do homework, shower and go to bed, I don't always have the time (or make the time) to really look at my kids; to really observe the people they are becoming. Then I get blindsided by a moment where I am overwhelmed by something: amazement, pride, sometimes shock, and sometimes even disappointment. It is in these times I am reminded of how much I miss by not being present when I'm present (and I'm working on that).

I am beyond grateful for today and the opportunity to be present. Sometimes in the midst of the arguing and the tears, I worry about how she is going to get through life if we're melting down about the softness of socks in the morning.

Then we have a day like today where I'm reminded that her stubbornness and independence are not as much of a detriment as I sometimes worry they are. Perhaps those will be the things that keep her from making some of the very mistakes I did growing up. Perhaps those will be the qualities that make her an exceptional boss or entrepreneur. Or perhaps those are the qualities that are just going to make her the unique, interesting, and fun little girl I know and love.

You see, she and I butt heads on quite a bit.

Her: "I don't want to wear this, it itches!"
Me: "It's a uniform. School rule. I don't make those rules. Put it on, we're going to be late."
Her: "I don't want to eat this. It's gross."
Me: "You picked it out at the grocery store!"
Her: "These socks make my shoes shrink."
Me: "Your socks and your shoes are the exact same size as last night, sweetie."

And this is all within 20 minutes of waking up. Every. Single. Day. (No, I'm not kidding. EVERY SINGLE DAY.) It gets frustrating. I try and remind myself that she is looking for things to control in her life and try and cut her some slack, but many times I fall short and we both end up near tears as we struggle to be the victor in this chaotic battle of which pair of shoes she picked out, tried on, wore all over the store and out to play and now refuses to wear to school because they feel funny, will be the ones she dons that day for school.

I love her to the moon and back but some days make me question how we're going to survive the teenage years.


Last week, she brought home a note saying I'd been chosen as a field trip chaperon. Odd, I thought, since I hadn't volunteered. But somehow, that little box got checked and I was picked.

Sometimes the greatest blessings are total happenstance.

Over the last week, I kept thinking back to her face when she told me I'd been picked. She was so very excited, smiling ear to ear. She talked about it non-stop for days, and I was excited, too. Then this morning, we were completely argument free. She got up, got dressed, ate, and hopped in the car. It was awesome.

When I walked into her classroom to get on the bus, her grin was even bigger. I felt like the Grinch on Christmas -- my heart grew three sizes in that moment. She took my hand and walked out to the bus and wanted to sit next to me (very untypical of her). While my son is a laid back type of dude, my daughter is definitely the more independent of the two (need proof? See here).

I'm not going to lie: her excitement over spending the day with me had me feeling like a million bucks. She's always excited when mom or dad is going to do something special with her and every time, it melts my heart all over again to know how important these special times are to her.

"Mom, this is going to be the best day ever," she whispered.

And it was. We saw the animals, ate some junk food, played with her friends. We survived the nearly 90 degree weather and the sweat drenching all of us. I watched her lead the way down the path, and settle into following when someone else wanted to lead. We bought cheap plastic toys and got on a stinky bus for the ride home. And for one whole day, I had the opportunity to catch glimpses of my baby girl being the feisty, independent, sweet little girl she is. For one whole day, we didn't fight. And for one whole day, we got to walk hand-in-hand around a zoo in front of her friends -- and boy, I know those days are numbered. Pretty soon they'll be too cool for showing affection ;)

Today, we had a day where I was reminded that her strong will is not as much of a detriment as I sometimes worry it is.

And that's what I'm going to tuck away in my memory for those awkward teenage years. Because let's be honest - when the eye-rolling and sarcasm debuts it's ugly head, it's going to take a lot of convincing that despite the attitude, she's going to be one amazing woman someday.

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 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!



 




 

 


  




 




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