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 her home state.
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.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Soundtrack of Life

Life is one giant jukebox. Lyrics filter in and out, providing a backdrop for the stories playing out in our lives. A favorite song plays for a little white before it ends, leaving you waiting for it to play again or better yet, be replaced by an even better rhythm - though you never quite forget your love of the original. Oldies but goodies find more playtime and you remember, with a smile or perhaps sometimes a tear, the moments you danced to that sweet melody. Then a new song comes on and makes you grateful for yet one more track to dance to.

That’s exactly how I’ve felt cleaning out what has fondly been called in my household "The Bins.”

You see, I moved out of my parent’s home in 2002. Before I’d even received my college diploma, I’d signed the paperwork for my own house. In a hurry to start life in the real world and forget about some sub-standard personal choices I'd made in college, I tossed a ton of pictures, cards, books, awards, and mementos into bins and moved most of them into my basement with dreams of a fresh start. When I moved again five years later with my new husband, we moved the bins with to a new basement - again.

And they sat. Again.

Over the past couple years, I’ve only cleaned out a couple. (There are a lot, embarrassingly. I am a sentimental person. And a writer. Cut me some slack!) When I start sorting through a bin, I begin reading letter after letter and before I know it I’ve wasted so much time that I don’t even get the intended task done. Then this weekend, I opened a bin and an old, familiar song started to play until a giant scratch in the record forced its retirement. Some of my favorite photos from the past were ruined, and I was truly heartbroken. Really, really sad. I know many would probably think it ridiculous that some paper and photos could break a heart but here’s the thing: I don’t collect things. I don’t collect figurines or other trinkets. I collect moments, scenes in time that are of importance to me (okay, and some just to document ridiculous fashion and wonder why good friends let others style their hair in awful ways like the photo above).

In fact, most places I go, no one else brings a camera because it is assumed I will have one to document whatever event it is. I'm THAT person.

I know not all people are sentimental. In fact, my husband is not a sentimental person. He is a sweet man, but he is not one to hang onto mementos or photos. So sitting alone and sorting, I found a few tears falling for a sadness others might not understand. They’re just photos, I reminded myself, and I clearly remember the moments they represent. A first concert with friends; hugging a high school sweetheart on the field after they won the state championship; cruising in a friend’s convertible to another summer party. All different songs in a very long playlist from life.
I don’t look back on these items and wish I was back there; there’s no point in living in the past. Where I am now, surrounded by dance recitals and baseball games and new friends that have been made over the years, is exactly where I want to be. But these moments are all very special memories of some pretty incredible times in my life that I am happy to remember. Friends that made me laugh until Dr. Pepper came out my nose; a boy who made everyone better just for knowing him; a friend who is no longer here to talk to because life took her far too soon (that's her above, helping me assemble furniture at my first house).

People come and go and while I perhaps wish I was still closer to some, the bottom line is that I am so unbelievably happy to have had the experiences I did and to have known some very special people who will forever remain a part of my heart. (I wish I was better at reaching out to old friends but even with today's technology... I'm a bit of a coward!)

While I had to retire the records of a few extraordinary soundtracks last night, their melody will always play on in my heart.

Back when I could shake my booty.

Friends through so many ups and downs. 

We need proof of our mediocre fashion choices. 


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