From my family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy Hanukkah! May your holidays be filled with love, laughter and the joy of family and friends!
From my family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy Hanukkah! May your holidays be filled with love, laughter and the joy of family and friends!
Anyone who knows me- even if it’s only through this blog- knows I like to read. A lot. I’ve read 79 books in the past 7 months, so a real lot. My taste skews towards fantasy- fairies, vampires, demons- I’m usually all in for anything in that genre. I don’t usually read crime stories or mysteries- heck, I don’t even watch the news. I much prefer the make-believe monsters, because usually they are a lot less scarier then the real life monsters.
Many, many moons ago when I got engaged, I joined a wedding planning website and hung out on a message board full of brides getting married the same month I was. One of those brides was Shonna who married her husband, Travis, the same day the Hubs and I got married. 16 years later, we’ve stayed friends. She’s seen me at my lowest, knows crazy details about my family and has cheered me during my successes.
I’ve had the privilege of watching Shonna’s career flourish when she published her first book in 2011 and have seen how well Travis’s career as a signer/song writer has taken off. This is one seriously talented couple with huge hearts, a wicked sense of humor and unparalleled compassion.
Shonna’s latest book, Dirt Roads and Diner Pies, was released this summer and, frankly, it’s not a book I’d typically pick up because it deals with the real life monsters that I’d like to pretend didn’t exist. But, I love Shonna so I happily started to read it out of of loyalty to her.
What I didn’t expect was to love this book. I didn’t expect to be sucked in and I didn’t expected to be moved to tears and laughter.
When Travis was a child, he had the opportunity to attend the American Boychoir School in NJ. If you’re a child of the 80’s, you’ll know this school and its talented students from the Kodak commercial featuring the choir signing Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors. While at the school, Travis was repeatedly sexual abused by those in charge. He and his fellow classmates were forced to both endure and witness the abuse for years.
In her book, Shonna details how her marriage started to unravel under the stress as Travis started to remember and deal with the details of his time at the school. Travis is a successful musician, a reiki master and an animal whisperer- but he still sleeps with a body pillow between him and his wife with a machete by his head. He doesn’t like to be touched and rarely sleeps through the night. Travis has been diagnosed with a host of mental illnesses and battles through his demons on a daily basis.
And sometimes? Sometimes- hell, a lot of the time- that is really hard on a marriage and a spouse. Dirt Roads and Diner Pies details Travis and Shonna’s road trip one winter as they try to reclaim their marriage and find their solid ground. It’s unflinchingly honest- both in its humor and the scariest aspects of Travis’s abuse and aftermath. I inhaled this book in under a day even though I already know most of the story from our years of friendship.
In a perfect world, monsters don’t really exist and all children are cherished and adored. But this isn’t a perfect world. Shonna’s books shows us not only that the monsters are real- but that the monsters can be defeated. It’s not easy and it takes guts, grace and strength – but the monsters don’t have to win. Travis is a shining example of that, as is the life he and Shonna are making together.
Bottom line- read the book. Give the victims a voice and educate yourself on the startling statistics around sexual abuse. The monsters can only live in the dark- and this book shines the light right on them, their devastating affects and the resilient human spirit that refuses to stay down and let the monsters win.
Oh November, how did *you* get here already? Since you came in with 70 degree temperatures, I’ll be welcoming, but I have my eye on you.
We all know that November means a month of highlighting what we’re thankful for. Which is good because, lord knows, I need to do this. For some reason I’ve been more on the whiny side of the street than the thankful side these past few months which is no good for anyone. But let’s be real, posting each and every day just isn’t going to happen- my life just isn’t that organized. But I do promise to post 30 things I’m thankful for before the end of the month. So without further ado, here we go:
Day 1: Traditions
I don’t like Halloween. I never really have- I just am not creative enough (nor do I care enough) to come up with elaborate costumes for myself. But having the kids has forced me to embrace the holiday because itty-bitty kids are ADORABLE when you dress them up.
Sadly, at 9 and 7, my kids are too old to want me to pick out ADORABLE costumes for them any more and now insist on being independent and wearing pop-culture related costumes (*grump*). Thankfully, the Halloween tradition we have with friends means that Halloween hasn’t gone back to being my least favorite holiday. Friends of ours who live in our city take in all us country bumpkins and invite us over to their house. We eat, drink and play like mad before we get all 12 kids changed and ready to take on the neighborhood.
You guys- it’s the best. Potluck dinner, lots of fun and kids that are still young enough to be so very excited! We walk through this most gorgeous neighborhood, bumping into friends and talking about how lucky we are- it’s straight out of Mayberry, y’all. Because of these fantastic friends and their amazing kids, Halloween ranks up there as one of my favorite nights of the year- and the fact that it was on a Saturday this year was icing on the cake.
Day 2: Audiobooks
On the days I go to the office (as opposed to working from home), I’m in the car for over 1.5 hours a day. When I started this job, I thought I was going to lose my mind because there are only so many radio stations to flip through and 85% of them play the same songs over and over. I had listened to a truly terrible audiobook years ago and never had the desire to pick up another one after, but at a coworker’s urging, I gave Audible a whirl.
It. Was. Life. Changing.
Ok, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but my commutes (or really any time I’m solo in the car) are so much more enjoyable. I’ve listened to everything from YA to historical non-fiction and a bunch in between and while I have had some stinkers, most of the books have been fantastic.
Some favorites include:
Friday’s are fast becoming one of my favorite blog days because I’m given a topic. This week, it’s friends. I have 5 minutes to write about the topic given. No more. No less.
I’m not one of those women who calls their husband their best friend. I love the Hubs to the moon and back, but he’s not my best friend. Nor should he be. Being my husband is job enough. In fact, the Hubs frequently laughs at me because he says I have too many best friends.
To that I say bullshit- that’s impossible.
I have the best friends who I’ve known since I was in elementary schools. The girls who’s homes I slept over at, who’s pool we swam in, who’s parents loved me like I was their own and vice versa. These are the girls who I called when I was mortified over my horrible, horrible first french kiss. Who I cried with when we dealt with some of life’s unfairest blows. Who I celebrated milestones like first periods, learning to drive, heartbreaks and graduation with. Girls who taught me how to be a good friend over long distances when we all went away to college. Girls who now, 25 years later, I can still call anytime and it’s like no time at all has past. Girls I celebrate with all the infrequent times we see each other. Girls- now women- who will always hold my heart.
I also have best friends who I’ve made in the past 8 years. Women who’ve watched me turn into a mother. Woman who’ve reassured me that I’m not crazy, nor are my kids. Woman who’ve shown me that there is no such thing as a perfect marriage and that no one really marries Prince Charming. Women who’ve shown me that not marrying the Prince can be just as much fun and worth every minute of the crazy. Women who are helping me raise my kids with their advice, babysitting and love. Women who help keep me sane and refresh my soul every time we’re lucky enough to get together.
Does that sound like too many friends to you?
Earlier today my daughter had her very first phone conversation with her girlfriend. She was absolutely delighted when she realized that not only was the phone for her, but it was her BFF calling to talk. Their conversation was sweet and funny and awkward and the Bean *glowed* the whole time. Truly I was surprised that her cheeks didn’t hurt after getting off the phone.
Last night I went out with my girlfriends to celebrate one our birthday’s. We sat around the table for almost 6 hours last night talking about everything from the mundane to the insane. We covered kids and marriages and home improvement as well as faith and suicides and crises. We laughed a whole lot and may have even teared up a time or two and it was fantastic.
My husband is my rock. My family is my life line. But these women? They are my sanity.
I know the friendships my kids both will go through as they grow won’t always be amazing. They won’t always pick the right people. They’ll have their hearts broken. But they’ll learn as they grow what to look for, what to value and who to keep. I pray that when they get older they’ve sifted out the people that aren’t worth their time and been left with the ones that are. Because those people are worth more than anything.
3 years ago today, I wrote about my friend Paul on his birthday.
Paul was a sweet kid I went to school with. He was short with dark hair and amazing eyes not unlike my Scorch. He was a wise-ass and a charmer and he always, always had a big grin for everyone. He was honestly one of the nicest people I ever have met.
Paul died the summer I turned 16.
The day is etched into my brain. I spent the afternoon driving around country hills with my boyfriend- with no particular destination in mind, we just enjoyed the day. When I got home my parents were literally standing in the window watching for me. Paul was in a car crash- he was driving on a windy road and crashed head on into a dump truck. He was killed instantly.
At almost-16, I had never lost anyone close to me before who wasn’t elderly. My friends and I had lived a charmed life up until that point. Paul’s death shook us to the core. The days after his death are still so clear to me. The crying, the huddling together, the wake, the funeral, spending time at Paul’s mom’s house trying to prop each other up.
About 10 days after Paul died, I spent the evening with two friends. As it often did, our conversation turned to Paul and how we wished we knew that he was at peace. On the walk back to my house, we sat down on the side of the road and asked Paul to give us a sign that he was OK. We sat there in silence- waiting, watching for that sign. After a few minutes we realized how silly that was- because anything from the owl hooting to the car honking could have been a sign. So we got specific. We told Paul if he was OK to please please cancel swim lessons the following day. The three of us taught swim lessons for 4 hours a day and wanted a break.
That next day while I was driving to swim lessons, I saw one of my friends and her mom driving away from the pool. When I got to the pool, the director was sitting outside. She told us that lessons were canceled that day- the pool pump broke in the middle of the night.
I still get chills when I think about that.
Happy birthday, Paul- I’m glad you’re OK.
A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk to a psychic. I realize there are a lot of fakes out there, but I also know that some people have a talent that I’ll never understand. It was towards the end of my 25 minute conversation with this woman and I wasn’t entirely convinced I was speaking to the real deal. She got some things completely right, but other things seemed to be entirely off base. She asked if I had a last question so I asked about Paul. Here is what I asked word for word: “When I was 16, I lost a friend of mine. We asked for a sign to see if he was OK and we got what we thought was one. Was it?”
There was a pause and the woman I was speaking to started to laugh:
Your sign had to do with water. And yes, don’t worry, your friend is wonderful!
Happy birthday, Paul- thanks for the confirmation!
We just returned from our annual camping trip. I really wish I could tell you it was as relaxing as years past, but frankly, this was the worst trip we’ve had in as long as I can remember.
First, there was the weather. Hello rain and cold temperatures- you’re not welcome this week. We arrived on Saturday to the camp ground and within an hour, it started to rain. And it didn’t stop until 4 pm on Sunday. While we do have a pop-up camper, you still have to get out in the rain to walk to the bathrooms, get food, talk to others, etc. So we spent Sunday at a local (30 minutes away) mall seeing a movie and wandering around. Thankfully that night was gorgeous, so we were able to go back, have dinner and a much needed campfire. Monday was lovely, but cold so we drove an hour to this cute touristy town full of great bars and adorable shops. You know- just the things a 5 and 7 year old want to spend their days doing. Thankfully there was also a 2 hour boat ride to help pass the day along.
Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday were picture perfect beach days so we did get to soak up some sun and relax. But the weather was supposed to take another nasty turn Wednesday night, so we packed it in after a day at the beach and headed home 2 days early. That about broke my heart, but there is a very limited number of things to do when the weather is bad and we did ’em all.
The second strike against our trip was the Bean. Or more specifically the Bean and her mighty attitude. Her sass turned to down right rudeness and for the first 2 days of our trip I really wondered if I gave birth to the spawn of Satan. She was rude, she was demanding and she made me feel like the biggest parental failure on the earth. Thankfully after Day 2 (and countless time outs, loss of privileges and discussions), she came back around to her normal self.
And lastly, my husband. Last week before we left on vacation, he went to the doctors because he thought he had strep throat. That was negative, but he didn’t feel much better before we left. He was a *trooper* on vacation- taking turns getting up with the kids, taking them fishing, playing kickball/baseball/lacrosse- but he clearly didn’t feel good. We got home around 8:30 last night and he was back at the walk-in at 9:15. Turns out the poor guy has Influenza-B. In July. While we’re on vacation. Only him! Here’s hoping the meds kick in soon.
All that said, the trip was not a complete bust. The kids had a awesome time, despite the weather. We had a great time with the kids making fun memories on the boat ride and on our first fishing expeditions. We laughed until I cried around the camp fire at night telling stories and reconnecting with the family and old friends camping with us. The days at the beach that we did have were gorgeous- pure sun shine, clean water, gentle waves. We ate like kings and I had a blast watching my kids get more self-confident and self-assured navigating their way through camp site life. We started to teach Scorch how to ride his bike without his training wheels and I taught both kids how to play a mean hand of Uno. The bad never outweighs the good- I mean, we were on vacation and that can’t suck no matter how hard it tries- but I can’t wait for our do-over next year!
This past weekend, I had the time of my life when 5 friends and I drove about 2 hours to take part in a Dirty Girl Mud Run. I had heard about this run last summer when some friends did it and it looked like a blast. Add in the fact that part of the money raised goes to breast cancer and basically you had the perfect excuse for a girl’s weekend.
So after months of planning everything from when we were going, where we were staying and what we were going to wear, we were off- dressed in our finest ’80-inspired fashions! Our wave was at 11:30 in the morning so when we arrived the fun was in full swing. 2 DJs, a band and 8,000 runners alone on Saturday- it was a mad house in the best possible way. Women of every age and shape were walking around sporting some awesome team t-shirts- Save 2nd Base, The Dirty DD’s, Mud, Sweat & Cheers- tutus, crazy socks and wacky headbands. It was really, really impressive.
I had no idea what to expect from the actual run- was it going to be too hard? Too easy? How dirty were we going to get? Turns out, I worried for nothing. There wasn’t much running at all- you simply couldn’t run over the terrain with that many people on our course. We ran when we could, but we walked about 95% of the 5K. The obstacles were absolutely do-able- although I though 2 of them were difficult. I was very, very glad I had on leggings as your legs take a beating between all the climbing and crawling.
But we did them all. Even the most girl-y of us crawled in the mud pit and “swam” through the mud bath.
As for getting dirty? Yeah- even if you skipped all the obstacles, you were still getting wet and muddy because our course had us walking thru a creek at least 4 times. And if you chose to play, splash and throw the mud around? Well, you ended up looking like this:
When the fun was over, there were food and beer vendors, places to buy Dirty Girl merchandise and plenty of places to sit and relax. I seriously can’t recommend this enough- we’ve already signed up for 2014!
(that’s me- it took 3 showers to get all the dirt off!)
And it was. It, of course, being Christmas! All the shopping, wrapping, stress, anticipation and craziness was more than worth it for all the fun we’ve had in the past 8 days.
To recap, we have:
> Celebrated Christmas 7 times since last Saturday: 1) the Hub’s Dad’s side of the family, 2) the Hub’s Mom’s side of the family, 3) my immediate family (parents, siblings, etc), 4) my Dad’s side of the family, 5) just the 4 of us, 6) Christmas night hodgepodge at my aunt and uncle’s and 7) my Mom’s side of the family. And we still have one more celebration to go!
> Taken over 300 new pictures.
> Celebrated my brother’s engagement!
> Gone through 3 rolls of wrapping paper and 3 rolls of tape.
> Unwrapped all those hard-wrapped presents in under 20 minutes each time we’ve exchanged gifts.
> Eaten more food in one week then I have in months- and enjoyed every bite of it.
> Spent 2+ hours sledding.
> Driven well over 400 miles doing round trips to various family members homes.
> Gone on one date night, had one breakfast with friends from high school and had one girl’s night out with my sister and mom.
> Watched Scorch put together 7 lego sets and meltdown approximately 100 times when said lego sets fall apart when moving them around.
> Had a billion lightsaber fights since we are now the proud owners of 7 lightsabers (you can never have too many, you know).
> Watched 4 movies with the Hubs- only one of which I’d recommend (Trouble with the Curve).
> Enjoyed each and every day of this vacation as both the Hubs and I have been off since the 24th!
All in all? This has been one amazing holiday!
Six weeks ago, I got to spend a day with some of my oldest friends. Last week, I got to have lunch with my college roommate. Yesterday, I got to spend part of an afternoon laughing with some of my favorite women. Tomorrow, I get to spend an evening with some of my dearest friends.
I am so very lucky.
When the Bean talks about her friends (both boys and girls) she tells me a lot how one person is mad at another person for playing with a 3rd person. I hear her and her friends saying to each other “I’m not your friend anymore.” I get that it’s completely age appropriate and that this giving and taking away of friendships will settle down, as it has for Scorch, but every time I hear those words come out of her mouth, I want to point to all the amazing women that line my life and tell her- see, see what friendship is really about?
It’s about being able to laugh with friends that you’ve had for 26 years- friends that loved you during your bad perm years, who snuck out of houses with you all while terrified of getting caught, who know your family and all your secrets and love you for them and despite them. It’s about being able to pick up where you left off with an old friend, but instead of complaining about professors, you’re complaining about pediatricians and finding that balance between work and family. It’s about having a group of women who you see at every practice and game, at school drop off and randomly at the park that have your back, mother your kids when you’re not around and keep you sane by reminding you that it’s just a phase.
I want so very much for my kids- more then I could ever list. But if I did write that list, the joy of friendship would be near the very top. I hope that my daughter surrounds herself in crazy strong women who lift her up, make her laugh and always, always wants what is best for her- just like I have.