Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Quotes

Like every blogger, I have an end of the year post!

I have learned more about myself in 2009 than any other year. It was the year I became a full-time single mom. It was the year I graduated. It was the year I was dealt some tough cards and I learned who I really am in dealing with them. It was the year I was forced to dig deep. It was the year I learned to accept my flawed, exuberant self.

Which is a lot.

I like to get my way, I am already a loud talker and that just gets magnified when I drink and I always try to get too much done every day. I used to freak out when my calendar wasn't filled and while I still keep a fairly active social life, I've learned to really enjoy quiet time alone. My best and worst quality is that I wear my heart on my sleeve and I let people into my life freely. You get all of me- the good, the bad, the loud, the overly honest, the emotional, the frustrated, the indecisive. I am incapable of holding grudges and probably forgive too easily. I am kind to everyone, even when they don't deserve it or don't even want it. This, of course, means that I leave myself wide open to getting hurt. But that is just the way God created me.

I feel like I spent my younger twenties trying to look like I had it all together. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to look happy. I tried to convince myself that my life was just as it was supposed to be, even though I knew it wasn't.

This year I came to terms that my life isn't what I thought it would be. I thought I would be happily married and on my way to five children! I thought I'd be staying at home and throwing dinner parties with my husband on the weekend, the husband who took care of the family. I am decidedly single with one amazing little boy. I work 40 hours a week. And I throw some pretty fun girls' nights. So the picture is not what I thought it would be. But I am absolutely certain that I would not be who I am today without this path, without all of the struggles I've had, without being forced to do this all on my own.

And the funny thing is, I totally stopped worrying about looking happy. Granted, I may have been a little emotional while wrapping Christmas presents alone, thinking about everyone who gets to share that task with another. And I laugh a little too forced and loud when I state that I do not have one girlfriend who is single. Not one! Even if I count my girlfriends in other states!

But my heart is at peace. I've accepted imperfect me. And despite ups and downs and drama, that has made 2009 the best year ever. I'm genuinely happy.

I have a lovely girlfriend in another state with whom I email regularly. We often share "quotes of the day." Here are some of my favorites from the year:

"Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open." ~John Barrymore

“Your beloved and your friends were once strangers. Somehow at a particular time, they came from the distance toward your life. Their arrival seemed so accidental and contingent. Now your life is unimaginable without them.” ~John O’Donohue

“Life is too precious, too important, too short for quick fixes that in the end fix nothing and from which we learn nothing except that we have wasted our time trying to find happiness in short cuts. The only way to real fulfilment is to look inside see what is there, then look outside and see what difference we can make with what we have to offer - whether we knew we had it in us, or whether it was something we grew within us over the coldest, most seemingly dormant, or darkest times, in order to reap the richest harvest of all.” ~Jacquelene Close Moore

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” ~e.e. cummings

"A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked." ~Bernard Meltzer

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin--real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” ~Alfred D. Souza

"Do everything. Love as much as you may hurt but it helps us grow. Give all you may be poor but you will be content. Always forgive...your heart can not afford not to. Teach what you know and learn what you don't. Stay open to all." ~Anonymous

“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” ~Margaret Lee Runbeck

“Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort, of the feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.” ~Rex Cole

"Any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary." ~ Mark Twain

"I must learn to love the fool in me--the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my fool." ~Theodore I. Rubin, MD

“The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depend upon the future. We let go the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance, and so relinquish a certainty for an uncertainty.” ~Seneca

These were all quotes that were sent through emails during 2009. I encourage you to live in the present.

The best to you in 2010!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

25 Days

So I've decided to do "monthly experiments". The focus being something I attempt to concentrate on for that particular month to make life more enjoyable and to better myself. I am a firm believer that life is the journey, that there is not some happiness to arrive at, but rather the experiences shape us and we are continually growing and learning. I could write a laundry list of ways in which I would like to improve myself as a human being, so hopefully I'll tackle those slowly but surely.

This month I made myself write down one thing I was thankful for before I went to bed. Rather simple considering it's the season and I graduated this month. But having all of these things contained in a few journal pages reminds me that I have incredible people in my life and, even on the days where I'm feeling down, I have been blessed with much.

In the future, I'll go the whole month and report back, but I thought this would make for an appropriate Christmas blog.

12/1 - One of my girlfriends sat on her couch with me, offered me a glass of wine and helped me to think through some personal stuff in my life. I am thankful for genuine friendship and the ability to be open and honest.

12/2- My Mom and I were in Ann Arbor looking for Arbor Brewing Co. before a show and we were totally lost. Hunched under an umbrella too small for two with water beginning to seep into our shoes, this older woman appeared out of nowhere. When she didn't have directions herself, she followed us and went into a shop to ask for us. She sent us on our way, then disappeared. I am thankful for kind strangers.

12/3- A girlfriend
texted me to let me know she got us tickets to the Nutcracker as a graduation present. I am thankful for friends who love me.

12/4- The battery in my phone has been losing power for quite awhile now. I was gifted with a nearly new phone by a friend who was upgrading hers. I am thankful for generosity.

12/5- My son and I experienced
this disaster and my friend laughed, loved us and told me what a good mom I am. I am thankful for needed words hitting my ears.

12/6- My Mom watched Aidan during the evening while I utilized her computer to write two papers for school. I am endlessly grateful for a mama who is so good to her grandson.

Aidan's dad and I talked about Christmas and he told me I could have whatever schedule I wanted. I am thankful for a drama-free divorce.

12/8- My boss gave me dark chocolate during a long work day. I am thankful to be employed, to be busy and, always, for dark chocolate :)

12/9- One of my closest friends sent me the most lovely email. I am thankful for
soulmate friends, the kind who get you and love you unconditionally.

12/10- Today is so easy. I was unexpectedly gifted with a gorgeous pair of diamond earrings that I would never be able to afford as a graduation gift. It made me cry. I am thankful that there are people in my life who recognize that this mama isn't often (or ever) gifted with fine jewelry and wanted to make my day.

12/11- I had sushi with a good friend who openly told me what some of my positive character traits are. I am thankful for people who do not hold back, who say what is on their mind and who let the people in their life know how special they are.

12/12- My lovely little sister drove to be at my graduation and my Mom threw me a surprise party. I am thankful for my family. My wonderful, crazy, loud, honest family.

12/13- Five friends of mine threw me a graduation dinner. I am thankful for people who love good food, wine and
conversation as much as I do.

12/14- I went out with friends and watched Monday Night Football. I am thankful that my son sees his dad every week and that I can relax with a beer and my friends.

12/15- Tonight was officially the last class of my undergrad. I am thankful to the parents, professors, bosses and friends who helped me finish.

12/16- I visited a girlfriend of mine who just had a baby. Every time I hold a precious new life, I am amazed at the miracle. It made me really thankful for the health of my son and for my own health.

12/17- I started to read a book tonight. For pleasure! In English! With a homemade candle lit and a cup of tea in hand, I am thankful for my awesome, cozy home. It is all mine and I feel very blessed that I have been given the abilities to earn what I have.

12/18- I like to dance. I really do. Completely sober in my living room or a couple cocktails deep out with friends, I enjoy it. I'm not really a good dancer. I'm just someone who looks like she's having a good time when she's doing it! I danced tonight. I am thankful for music and dancing.

12/19- I went for a run this morning and it was a snowy, winter wonderland scene. I am grateful for my ability to put one foot in front of the other and for every moment where I feel truly alive.

12/20- Aidan behaved so well when I took him to an indoor garden/sculpture park with tons of different Christmas trees decorated for various countries. I am thankful that God entrusted me with the little boy who is perfect for me.

12/21- Bedtime was before 8. BEFORE 8. I am thankful that I have every evening with my boy and can give him a better schedule now.

12/22- Aidan brought home a little brown paper bag from school with a gift that he made for me in class. He is obviously very proud of it. I am thankful for a school that gives children something to put under the tree for their parent.

12/23- I walked into an establishment as one of many last-minute shoppers. Having already checked at multiple other places with no success, I told the clerk who I was shopping for and what they're in to. Help. I am thankful for patient people who work in retail.

12/24- I went to the Christmas Eve service at church alone. And I was running a little late. I am thankful for the usher who helped me find an empty seat and for the kind people surrounding me.

12/25- After Aidan opened his gifts I was able to set up the
Wii by myself, help Aidan build a lego house and I taught him to drive a remote control car. I am thankful that, even when I doubt my own abilities to do something right on my own, I always seem to pull through. And I'm thankful that I had people I could call had I not been able to.

From my family to yours...Merry, merry Christmas.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Unique Divorce

My divorce is, hands down, better than my marriage was. We’re free from drama. We’re not trying to love each other just because we had a kid together. We channel all of that love to the amazing boy we created.

To some, my divorce might seem odd. At times, it is to me. The basic facts are simple…we’ve hammered out a weekly schedule that works for both of us, the majority of that time being with me. We both bend over backwards to accommodates changes when they arise. We keep every last detail out of the court system. I really don’t feel that a third party is necessary to make life choices for our son. On the other hand, I know I’m lucky that my son has an incredibly laid back dad who sees his son every week and isn’t ever looking to pick a fight. And I’m never looking to be on a power trip.

It’s the other details that are different. We have no filter with each other, we never walk on eggshells. When I go to pick Aidan up and my ex is like, “Wow, it’s chilly in here.” I’m all deadpan, “Turn your fan off, buddy.” He brings Aidan out to my car and says, “Wow, clean your car much?” I can tell him his haircut looks bad and he can make fun of me for talking too loudly on my phone in his house. Yet we somehow never offend each other.

I know that, for the rest of my son’s life, I will have to remind his dad at least three times, on separate occasions, if I want him to show up for one of Aidan’s functions. He knows that I would be crushed if I did not have both Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning with our son, so he kindly sits in the backseat and waits to accommodate my schedule preference.

This semester it was not uncommon for me to pick Aidan up after a Tuesday night class and have dinner waiting for me, courtesy of my ex-husband. And you have to understand, the ex is a fantastic chef. I mean really, really talented. He also took the pile of leaves I raked this fall and dragged them to the curb for me because I wanted to leave earlier to visit sisters in another state and I, of course, had waited until the last day to get that little project done. I bought his birthday dinner and gifted him with gorgeous beach shots of Aidan for Father’s Day. He hooks me up with delicious eats when I'm throwing a girls' night. Since child support is included in the list of what we keep out of the court system, I'm extremely flexible. I would never, in a million years, intentionally create drama where my son is concerned and we both agree it is in his best interests to keep our relationship in a good place. I was extremely nice to the girl he dated for awhile, because she was extremely nice to my son. Though I haven’t introduced Aidan to any males yet, I know the ex would be supportive.

So, knowing all of this, the other day was typical.

My phone rings. It’s the ex, he sounds a touch frantic.

“What are you doing?”

Me, all sassy, “I’m getting dinner on the table for your son, what are you doing?”

“I’m cooking for some people at their house, right by you. And I forgot to bring a whisk. And I’m making this custard and I have to have a whisk. Please?” The restaurant where he is the head chef is miles away.

So I load up our son and grab my whisk.

When I pull up to this house, I realize how ridiculous it sounds when I talk to the guy who greets us, “I’m dropping this kitchen utensil off for my ex-husband. He’s the chef.”

After we depart I call him. “You owe me.”

“I know.”

“I’m just saying, next time you see me in your restaurant, you better pull out all the stops.”

He counters, “I have a feeling you’ll be calling me to shovel soon.”

Darn it. He can always get me with the enticing manual labor offer.

“Whatever, you owe me dinner.”

“Will do.”

My favorite part about this is that it’s all representative of the norm. Aidan’s parents loved him too much to stay together, but definitely enough to pull off one hell of a divorce.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Double Digits are Normal

Thank you for reading the previous self-indulgent graduation posts. And now, back to your regular programming.

I was asked to sub on a bowling league last night. I originally agreed because I was excited I actually could. I didn't have school and Aidan wanted to see his grandparents. Perfect! The only problem is, I am a terrible bowler. Really bad. No, worse than that. I bowl all wrong. I have my hand turned the opposite way it should be so that I am basically flicking the ball which generally sends it to cold, dark gutter land. In addition, apparently I bowl on the same side I am stepping with so I have to throw around my leg, which is also a very ineffective manner of getting the ball to the pins.

And this is a LEAGUE.

I watched a guy from the team next to me throw down six strikes before he had a frame where he only knocked down nine pins. And subsequently looked as though perhaps someone had killed his cat. On purpose.

The first round I bowled a 62. Then I felt inadequate and tried to improve. I bowled a 54 in round two.

If this wasn't enough, evidently the three guys I was bowling with forgot to brush me up on bowling league etiquette. Because after a few frames this woman stormed over to me and hissed, "You need to wait until the person on our team is done bowling before you walk on the wood." What I really wanted to reply was, "Thank you, D-Cup. You really need to wear a bra while you're bowling."

I refrained and instead smiled sweetly and, in a sugar-coated tone, said, "Oh, I had no idea! Thanks!" Immediate mean eyes were dished out to my teammates, as they probably knew I was going to get called out on this. I guess this is what I missed out on by not having brothers.

The shining moment of the night was when this old man from another team felt personally called on to help my sorry ass out. First he helped me lead with the right foot. Then he, very kindly, told me that I look a bit challenged when throwing the ball and assisted me in correcting my horrendous form.

First frame of the third round I threw his way. I threw a strike. A strike! I hadn't even had a spare up until that point! I jumped up and down like I won the lottery and he just had that proud, satisfied coach look written across his face.

"Thanks, grandpa!"

My team looks at me like I am an idiot, because it's not like he gave me permission to call him grandpa. But he totally looked like a grandpa and mine aren't alive. If they were, teaching me how to bowl would be something I'd like them to do. Besides, he definitely didn't mind. I don't think. He kept giving me pointers.

Guess what? Yeah, that's right. TRIPLE DIGITS. Just barely. But I felt better about that 101 than the guy next to me felt about his 235, I'm sure of it. I almost made the employee at the counter print it off for refrigerator material but decided against it, as I think I adequately embarrassed my team for the night.

I'm not thinking I'll be asked to sub again anytime soon. But I totally want to go bowling again. Seeing three digits next to my name was, sad to say, genuinely thrilling.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Let's put it this way. The week my sister got married, I had insomnia. She, on the other hand, slept just fine. If there is a party happening in my family, I'm up to my elbows in the planning. I am not, in any way, complaining about this. I used to be an event coordinator and I absolutely relish in the preparation and pulling off of an event.

That same sister knocked my socks off by driving 16 hours from New Orleans to cheer me on when I walked across the stage Saturday. As I scanned the crowd to find my family, I realized my error in not wearing waterproof mascara as my eyes landed on my little sister, waving with the same ferociousness as someone who has just realized the camera is poised in their direction while in Times Square on New Year's Eve. She spent 32 hours in a vehicle with her 5-year-old over the course of four days so that she wouldn't miss my day. That is love.

I also thought there was a very real possibility, even as the first person to graduate in my family, that we might just order pizza that night. Okay, I'm joking. But I certainly was not expecting to see a white stretch Hummer casually hanging outside my mom's house when we walked out, calling who was going to ride with who.

What the what?

And then we showed up to dinner and I'm all predictable, "Table for eight, please." This, of course, right before I notice that friends of mine are already sitting there! It was amazing. My two closest friends, one local, one in Philly, had helped my mama pull off an epic surprise.

Every last detail- the Spanish champagne, the invite in rhyming Spanish, the Mexican had been planned perfectly.

I LOVE surprises.

Thanks to all the awesome people in my life.

And now I'm feeling the itch to plan a party for someone...


Monday, December 14, 2009

Finally a Graduate!

I cannot sum up graduation weekend in just one post, so this one will be Aidan-focused and the next one will be everything else(surprise party, limo, etc)!

A typical day in the life of Aidan and his mama for the last semester: Mom gets up around 6. Aidan gets another 50 minutes of sleep. Then we're both up and a flurry of activity ensues. Breakfast! Arguments about clothing! Making sure we don't forget show and tell items for A, homework for Mom, both gloves for A, Mom's coffee thermos to keep her sane, etc.

Comments like this constantly ring out, "Aidan! A royal blue shirt and navy blue pants do not match!"

"But Moooommm! They're both blue."

Screw it. We don't have time. You'll just have to look like your mother blindfolded herself before picking out your outfit.

Aidan is off to either his dad's or school for the day, I'm off to work.

The after party: Three days a week Aidan has either been with his dad, a grandma or a girlfriend of mine while I attend school. I pick him up just in time to cuddle him, maybe get a short activity in and on to the bedtime routine. Which he has been dragging out even more than normal as a result of not getting in enough face time with his mama. Which has whittled my patience down to something resembling that of a person who has been stuck behind a train for twelve minutes and was already five minutes late when they got on the road. Not good.

After this full day of excitement, I settle down on the couch with a Spanish novel, or an assignment from writing class.


This has all been about as fun as shoveling my driveway in a hot pink bikini while someone shoots paint balls at me. Just keep going! It'll end at some point! C'mon, dodge that potential disaster! DO IT! Even though you feel as though you may just throw in the towel, sit down and decide it's not worth it.

Last Thursday the mitten blessed us with a snow day. Granted, it was supposed to be my final presentation day for my final Spanish class and now I have to go do that tomorrow, but it was the first Thursday night I've had with my boy since summertime.

We made fudge, we read stories, we took a ring off the Christmas countdown chain we made and we delighted in this lovely little gift of a lowkey evening together.

Last night, after the perfect dinner with friends, I turned off all the lights except the Christmas tree and we cozied up and slept by it together.

I get this ALL THE TIME now. Every week night. Weekends. With my boy. I haven't had this since he was born.

Blinking back tears as we fell asleep under the shimmer of Christmas last night I felt really grateful. Grateful for a boy with infectious laughter and genuine hugs and kisses who sacrificed so much so his mama could finish what she started eight years ago.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Heels and Push-Ups and Why Wandering Target Is Better than a Pedi

Me: “Careful, Aidan. There’s snow and slush all over the ground.”

Aidan: “Why do you have to be careful? You’re wearing push-ups.”

Me: “Huh?”

Aidan: “You know, your shoes.”

Me: “Oh, you mean my heels?”

Aidan: “Yeah, your push-ups.”

I love laughter at 7:34 in the morning. And Aidan, thank goodness, is always good for a laugh.

This foot related topic reminds me of something I was thinking of the other day, while Christmas shopping for the boy.

Oh, love of my life. Target.

I think every female in the country will agree with this universal truth: It is impossible to go into Target and spend less than $50. I don’t know who is responsible for their store layout and marketing, but BRILLIANT I tell you.

A typical trip: I go in for laundry detergent. Twenty minutes later, I also walk out with a new whisk, sweatpants for Aidan, wrapping paper, a journal, black tights, new push-ups (no, not a bra, I’m using Aidan’s word for heels), contact solution and a blue candle I totally needed for my TV room.

I swear I just went in for the detergent.

This happens to me all the time. I actually have to have months where I forbid myself from entering a Target, otherwise my budget will get flushed down the toilet. I used to think maybe it was just me, and my impulse for pretty and random things, but look at every other woman’s cart. They’re doing it too.

And it just isn’t the same thrill to buy one $200 item. If I’m going to drop $200 at Target, I’d like to have 17 items to show for it. It’s the hunt, really. The mindless wandering through each and every aisle, the debate about whether I really need new washcloths. Or glassware. Or eyeliner. Or paint and construction paper for Aidan. Or kitchen utensils. Or a picture for the wall. It’s the joy of finding items that have just been put on clearance that maybe no one else knows about yet. These trips are absolutely a guilty pleasure of mine.

If I had to pick between a pedicure and an hour by myself at Target with a $50 gift card, I would TOTALLY pick Target. You?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Not Exactly According to Plan

I think a lot of moms get these big, fantastic ideas of activities they will do with their children. You know, trips to the museum with an art project or perhaps a day at the zoo with a camel ride. It all sounds so promising in theory. And just think of the cute picture opportunities!

This morning's vision: A friend invited Aidan and me to accompany her in picking out her Christmas tree at Teusink's farm. They also had hot chocolate and donuts, Santa, face painting, ornament making and hay rides. Sounds like kiddo bliss, right? I'm imagining us frolicking through the snow, big flakes grazing our cheeks as we help our friend select the perfect tree and partake in the fun designed for a little kid's joy.

This morning's reality: Aidan throws a total fit before we even leave the house. Does NOT want to wear his coat and his boots FEEL ALL FUNNY. We compromise in getting him to the car. Once we reach Teusink's he returns to being a disaster. My kid is the one loudly sobbing in the middle of the field while all the other families search for the perfect tree to take home and adorn with holiday decor. Excellent. Once we calm that little situation down, it's on to the activity room! Aidan walks in and the first thing he says is, "I only like the REAL santa. Not that fake one." Oh, that's not embarrassing. I mean, I guess I'm proud that he is bright enough to recognize that Santa with a candy cane painted on his cheek and cognac-colored loafers is probably not legitimate.

I don't know what the hell I'm going to do with the ornament we made and sprayed with fake snow. Every time I touch it little white particles are left on my hand.

Next up.

Hay ride!

And he'll even voluntarily put on his coat for that! Amazing!

I am carrying him over to the John Deere-led wagon filled with hay when I slip on ice and drop us both. He's bawling (again) and my left knee is black and blue. It's positively freezing on the hay ride, though I'm trying to salvage some of the adventure.

"Aidan! Look at the horses!"

Whoo. Hoo.

These are types of things where I'm all, huh. Should have just stayed home in our pj's. Would have been great.

At least I can laugh about it now! And maybe you will too.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Song and An Adored Mother

My mother is impossibly easy to love. She is genuine, she is casual and she has a heart of gold. She is one of those women who is constantly doing kind things for others and never seeking praise or recognition. She allows my young, single mama self to keep my social life and sanity by continually being worthy of Grandma of the Year accolades. If that wasn’t enough, she is gorgeous, with warm, caring eyes and a great smile. She still turns heads. I can only hope heredity will bless me with aging as well as she has. More importantly, I have much to learn from her mild, easygoing, gracious and loving manner.

Needless to say, she is one of my favorite people in the world. I love sipping red wine and chatting with her or making dinner together or taking my son to the museum with her. When she called last month and asked if I’d be interested in going to a concert with her in Ann Arbor, the answer was an easy “yes”. I love that town, the delicious eats available, a chance at quality time with my mom and I rarely turn down the opportunity to enjoy live music.

This was quite the show.

If you haven’t heard of The Swell Season, I would recommend you check them out, immediately. Glen was naturally inclusive of the crowd and wove his way into our hearts with his genuine manner and sharing of insight into their music. He was the kind of guy where you instantly turn to the person you’re attending the concert with and say, “I want to have a beer with him after the show. Or three. I TOTALLY feel like we would get along so well.” He told stories, he encouraged the crowd to sing, he was connected with the audience and obviously very passionate about their music. And I swear Marketa’s voice was perfection floating in the air.

One of the stories he told was about meeting a late 70’s/early 80’s aged woman in Chicago. He complimented her royal blue coat in the elevator and they struck up a conversation. In typical “old person” fashion, she was blunt and told him she had never heard of his music, never heard of his movie ("Once"), never heard of him. He was affable and accommodating and helped her get her bags to her taxi. She informed him that she was on her way back to her hometown, New York, and he invited her to their next performance there. She agreed. Her weathered, wrinkled hand on the door of the car, her silvery hair glistening in the sun, she turned to him.

“My son went into that fucking building, you know.”

His employment had ended on September 10th. He had gone back on the 11th to pick up a few last things.

“So if you’ve got something to say to someone. SAY IT.”

Such simple advice. But it’s human nature, I think, to often let things linger between our mind and heart and the impossibly long journey to gracefully rolling off our lips. I’m still not certain if it is fear that holds us back, the possibility that our feelings will not be returned and we’ll suffer some form of rejection or if it’s just difficult to appropriately form the phrases that explain the way our heart feels and our head thinks.

Her words struck me. I have stuff I’m thinking and not saying. I do. And I really like to think that I am one of those people that habitually puts myself out there. I’d like to think that if my life ended prematurely, someone would order some great food and delicious red wine and $10 bars of chocolate like I bought at Zingerman’s yesterday and all my friends and family would have a celebration and say, “Damn that girl loved life.”

But I’ve still got things I’m thinking and not saying. Sometimes I wish I could get to the “old person” mentality. They’ve lived so much life. They’ve got it all figured out. Nothing is as big of a deal as you think it is. No one scrutinizes your actions half as much as you think they do. The vast majority of the time, we all wish the other person would put themselves out there.

So I leave you with this song, and this message: Say it.

I’d rather know I tried and failed than to never know what I could’ve had.

PS Mom, you are the most amazing mother a girl could ever hope for. I love you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Trees and Boy Stuff

Dragging the Christmas tree up from the basement this year nearly caused a trip to the ER for this mama. I'm sure I've already offended some who feel that only a real tree is appropriate for the holidays by admitting that my 7 1/2' tree comes out of a box. I have this thing for symmetry and besides, attaching a tree to the top of my vehicle, taking it down by myself when I get home and dragging it inside while Aidan offers helpful suggestions does not sound like my idea of an enjoyable afternoon. So I got the large box out of the holiday corner and pushed it over to the flight of 12 stairs. The box is unquestionably too large and too heavy for one female to hoist upstairs. Particularly a female who is 5'1" on a good day.

But I am stubborn.

I got it to the 11th step the first time around and then simultaneously dropped it and nearly fell down the stairs, thereby forcing my now sweaty and frustrated self to start the project from square one. So there I go, again, huffing and grunting and using more adrenaline than muscle to force it upstairs. Got it this time.

But I was so flushed and tired by the time I got to the top, that I was in no mood to decorate anymore. It is times like this I wish I had a man around. If I would have been able to say, "Hey, will you bring the tree up for me?" I would have been singing to Christmas music and wrapping twinkling lights around the branches while encouraging Aidan to pick out his favorite ornaments to hang on the tree.

The tree is still in its box in the middle of my living room and I get a little pissed off every time I walk by it.

I had another moment yesterday, where I wished for a male to help, this time in answering a question for my son.

"MOM! It won't go down!"

"What's that, honey?" I question, absentmindedly.

"My pee-pee. IT WON'T GO DOWN!"

"Uh. Um. Uh. I'm sure it will. It has to at some point."

Right? I mean, it will. I'm sure there's also a much better response for that kind of statement. But I don't know what it is.

Sometimes I really, really love my independence. And sometimes it is all a bit overwhelming.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ten Good Reasons to Finish School Before You Get Yourself Knocked Up

10.) It becomes very difficult to face forward in the classroom. Then impossible. Those desks are not designed for a pregnant woman's comfort.

9.) It is kind of embarrassing to have milk stains on your shirt when in college.

8.) Your prof doesn't really care if you were up all night. Everyone was. Only difference is, they were knocking back Coronas and you were trying to calm a child getting two-year molars.

7.) You cannot work full time and go to school full time and raise a child and pay a mortgage. You will either go crazy or never see your child. Which will make you go crazy. So you must opt to take one to two classes per semester. I like to call this THE FOREVER PROGRAM. Major doesn't really matter, it's just going to be forever before you're holding that expensive piece of paper.

6.) Getting up at 4am to write a paper before you go to work when you didn't go to bed until 1am because you were doing laundry and getting kiddo's stuff ready for the next day really sucks.

5.) You will criticize the clothing of your fellow classmates and be all, "Is she really wearing that? How old is she?!" And then, no matter how old you are, you will realize you are old in comparison with everyone else.

4.) Study Abroad does not really work with a child in tow. Go ahead and cancel that semester you were planning to spend in Brazil.

3.) In your Senior semester, it's really odd when your prof is only three years old than you.

2.) You will want to turn to a fellow classmate who is complaining about their allowance and tell them to shut the hell up. You probably will go ahead and say it.

1.) Motivation when you're a Senior? Not good. Motivation when you've been a Senior for TWO YEARS? Practically non-existent. I may actually go crazy during the next ten times I have to sit in class. But then? Well, the forever program actually ends.

So I guess there is a little silver lining! But really. Finish school. Then make babies. That is my PSA of the day. Please let me know if you need another hundred reasons or so.

Monday, November 16, 2009


There was absolutely a time when I defined success in terms of money, titles and what I could show the world I had accomplished. My first two years at Michigan State were spent as a Journalism major with a determined desire to work long hours, produce shows and some day have a comfortable spot in front of the camera, รก la Katie Couric.

I remember mid-sophomore year as I juggled being a co-producer for MSU News, planning activities for the girls on my floor as an RA, working at the front desk and maintaining a decent level of energy on a routine four to five hours of sleep a night, that everything changed.

I woke up and thought, "I'll never be able to keep this pace and be a good mother."

Which was a thought lobbed totally into left field as I was 19 years old, decidedly single at the time and had absolutely zero prospects for a family life.

The story, in facts, is simple: Got a restaurant job, got knocked up, got married, got divorced, get to raise world's most amazing child. (Possible bias on that last fact.)

There are times, I will admit, when I feel a little stuck. I cannot save the majority of each paycheck and take a few weeks off to travel Europe- something that would certainly be feasible of I lived in the world of singletons. Perhaps I would sell my home and live in a cramped apartment so I could start an event coordinating business. I can guarantee you that I would have finished my degree long ago. Maybe I would live in Spain right now. Maybe I would have experienced being a big city girl for a year or two like I had always imagined.
Perhaps I would get all crazy and set some goal like biking coast to coast. I don't know.

The reality is that I cannot. At least not right now.

I went to Indiana this past weekend, where three of my four sisters live.

In the midst of pure chaos, which is the norm for a family with five sisters and 10 offspring, I glanced around and listened to life happening. Dinner cooking, football on downstairs, Wii competition commencing upstairs, the dog barking, my darling little niece falling asleep on my chest...certainly nothing out of the ordinary.

I'm right where I'm supposed to be. I'm a family girl. My intuition from seven years ago was spot on. And I may be slow on the take...but I will finally graduate in 26 days.

Success is now defined in terms of relationships and in slowly working towards goals and never giving up. Success is having a house full of people who love one another and being able to yell, "Go Colts!" at a television screen with my son. Success, to me, is not what I am wearing, what I am driving, what I live in, how much money is in my bank account or what my job title is.

Everyone defines success differently, of course. And while there was a time that I thought I was absurdly off the path I was intended for, I now think that detour shaped my perspective in a way that nothing else could have.

When someone else's life is more important than your own, the world gets really simple all of a sudden.

Monday, November 9, 2009

One of the Good Guys

I am well aware that there are parental hurdles that I will have to overcome as a single mother of a boy. There are the inevitable stereotypes that come along with each gender. I am hyper-sensitive to them, with a heightened awareness for the fact that Aidan is modeling after a female on a more frequent basis. I am forever trying to both cuddle him and engage in rough and tough wrestling with the enthusiasm of a guy. I endeavor to raise him to be as well rounded as possible. Then there are the undeniable opposite sex basics: we use different restrooms when out in public, one of us goes lid up, one goes lid down, we have different “junk”.

However, there are differences far superior in importance to me than the fact that only a few more months can slip by before posted signs regulate that I must send my child through the men’s locker room before we can swim together.

I wish I could think of a more eloquent way to phrase it. But what I want to say is this: I will not raise an asshole.

That kid will continue to put the lid down and open doors for women and be good, SO GOOD, to people. He will be the kind of guy that returns communication and is genuine and treats people like they matter. When a bunch of adolescent high school girls are having a sleepover, their topic of conversation will not include how my son Aidan is a self-centered jerk. No one will be crying because he broke their heart and then stomped on the pieces. He will be fun, he will get himself in crazy trouble, he will break the rules and have to fix his own mistakes, he will continue to cause me to pull my hair out. But he will not ever intentionally be an asshole, so help me.

So this morning is totally typical. I’m drying my hair; Aidan is eating breakfast at the table. We turn some music on so Aidan can rock a little 6:30 am air guitar while I attempt to locate the desired pair of turquoise earrings to match my outfit. Aidan walks up to me.

“Mom?” he questions, totally serious.


“So. This girl in my class wants to marry me.”

“Really? What do you think about that?

“Well, I like her and all. But what about all the other girls?”

A ladies’ man? Maybe. Probably. That kid is so charming. But his mama will make sure that when the time comes to have relationships with those girls…he will treat them right.

I’m sure his future wife will thank me that she got blessed with this guy who is cuddly and engaging and sensitive and articulate and active. Because his mama cared, more than report cards, more than athletic prowess, more than his creative ability to fashion something impressive on a piece of paper…she cared that he was one of the good guys, that he knew what it meant to value the life of someone else.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Road Trippin'

One four-year-old.
One Mama.
One drive from Holland, MI to Madison, WI.
One drive from Madison, WI to Holland, MI.
Zero stops.

Even I'm impressed that I have my little boy so well trained that he follows the "Mommy does not like to stop the car before reaching destination" policy that I've instilled. I take great satisfaction in getting the computer print out that tells me it will be a 5 hour 47 min drive and getting there in 5 hours and 10 min. I'm all triumphant: SUCK IT, MAPQUEST.

Silly, yes. But absolutely true.

I was equally impressed that nothing but a new pad of paper, markers, two cars, snacks and dance parties (okay, arm waving and head bobbing) was required to keep my little dude decently entertained.

Of course truth be told, it poured for the first three hours of the drive out to Wisconsin and two different colors of marker mishaps had stained Aidan's cheeks within minutes of our departure.

BUT. We did it. Our longest road trip ever, just the two of us.

I remember, vividly, when driving through the speedy, bumper-to-bumper scene of Chicago caused me to lean forward, white knuckles gripping the steering wheel. On this trip I was the definition of relaxed: shoes tossed in the passenger seat, flipping through my ipod and crusing with the flow of traffic.

I've described in other posts the things I've had to buck up and figure out how to handle on my own: shop vac usage on Christmas Eve with 18 people on their way to my house, shoveling at 3 am so I can get out of the driveway for work, killing live mice with a broom.

I've come to find that we can all handle more than we give ourselves credit for. I think it defines a person, the way we react when the mold of life as we know it breaks and we're left, standing alone in the pieces. I was a little bit of disaster for months.

It's just me and this boy. And I realized, while crossing state lines, listening to Fleet Foxes and munching on goldfish crackers...I'm finally totally okay with that. I'm comfortable in these single mama shoes. And I get to share so much life with the coolest kid I know.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Because You Just Don't Know

There is a reason I sometimes announce to Aidan, "Let's have icecream before dinner!" as though I am a babysitter trying to get him to like me, instead of his mother. After work it is not uncommon for me to park by the autumnal splendor of Centennial Park, where the ground has been painted various shades of harvest, take my little boy's soft, young hand in mine and skip down the sidewalk. Sometimes my mom gets a copper tin filled with sunflowers and daises and a note that reads, "you're the best grandma ever" while at work. Aidan charms me by asking for an extra penny at Meijer, so he can find a new friend to gift with a horsey ride.

Reason being: We love life. There are no guarantees.

I am the kind of blunt, spontaneous, do-not-care-if-I-look-like-an-idiot person that does and says things with little to no regard for if I look or sound ridiculous. Like, high-fiving my date saying, "Duuuude! We totally avoided first date awkwardness!" Or dancing, in absurd fashion on my birthday, to amuse my friends. I am not bothered in the least by potentially being thought silly because of my overly exuberant demeanor. On one spontaneous, snowy day last year, I sent a card to a longtime Via customer who was getting divorced at the same time as me. The card sparked a beautiful, soulful friendship and we now see each other at least once a month. We went out for a bottle of wine and appetizers last night. Settling in to a much-needed chat session and the kind of laughter where I unconsciously slap my knee, throw my head back and squeeze my friend's arm in delight that we can share this, two things happened.

1.) Another restaurant patron picked up our entire tab on their way out. I won't go into the details, other than to say it was completely unexpected and we were both touched to the point of blinking back tears.

2.) We got chatty with a group of three women sitting kiddie corner from us. Being our typical goofy selves, we asked what they were drinking and engaged in playful banter about how female camaraderie is bliss. It is, to me, that light your soul on fire kind of getting flowers, listening to live music, getting a genuine bear hug and sipping on a glass of exquisite Cabernet while nibbling dark chocolate ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Over the course of the evening we shared a little more talk and then I announced, loudly, that they MUST get the chocolate lava cake with gelato and three spoons. A warm bite of chocolate gooeyness cut with silky smooth gelato is hard to beat as the most preferable manner in which to wrap up a meal.

Our server called me rather quickly after our departure.

Evidently one of the three ladies at the other table has cancer and, according to her doctors, does not have very long to live. They had "a wonderful, fun time chatting with the ladies at the table nearby."


There are no guarantees. My earlier bitching about raking leaves has been replaced with a gratefulness for the fact that I am completely able-bodied and can gather the blanket in the backyard into piles and drag it to the curb. When my kiddo wants to read that 68-page bedtime story I always try to avoid, I will say yes. I owe some stranger dinner, because, that. is. just. fun.

I believe. I believe in humanity, in extra hugs, in putting myself out there with the simple hope of making someone else's world a little more enjoyable. I believe in surprises, in grinning at people I don't know, in my-eyes-are-too-wide-and-my-nose-is-all-crinkled-up-smiling-too-big excitement when good things happen to my friends. I believe in laughter and contagious enthusiasm. When Aidan chases down his friends for a hug before we end a play date I'm all, "Yep! That's my kid!"

I KNOW that a kind word, an open heart and a warm embrace have the power to change...everything. And I know that I better make this day good, because I don't know how many more I've got.