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 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!







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