Category Archives: friends

Life’s a Beach

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We are a family that loves our vacations. But we are, usually, a family who road trips (with mixed results, tbh). We drive to the NC beaches or Florida or up to one of the Great Lakes. In fact, the kids have only flown once prior to this month only because 1) I got a great deal on airfare and 2) I pretty much bribed the Hubs – he hates to fly.  But 2 years ago, I was out with my girlfriends – my friends whose husbands are the Hub’s friends and whose kids are my kid’s friends – and we decided that February 2020 was the year we were all going on vacation. 10 adults, 11 kids – we were going on vacation together, damn it.

And that sounded all well and good until it actually came time to plan said vacation. Then things got a little dicey as we tried to figure out where to go and I tried to figure out how in the hell to get the Hubs to agree to this vacation. My Hubs is a creature of habit and, as mentioned before, hates to fly – let’s not even mention the cost of this.  All of our vacation options would require us to fly outside of the US and I knew this was going to be a hard sell.

So this past summer, our friends booked their vacation. The February 2020 trip that was dreamed about in 2018 turned into a trip to Cancun and everyone was committed – except for us. The Hubs was still holding out for some very legit reasons (the cost) and some more interesting ones (not wanting to fly, being convinced we’d be kidnapped in Mexico).  Turns out, going to a friend’s 40th birthday party with all our friends taking the trip, getting a few beers in him and begging worked – I got a very begrudging “I’ll leave it up to you – if you want to go, we’ll go” from him.

For those of you who haven’t been in a relationship long enough, that was his passive-aggressive way of agreeing to go on vacation while making sure I knew that if things went badly, it wasn’t his fault, it was allllll mine.  Was it an enthusiastic yes? Not even close! Did I care? Not at all- I booked that trip the minute the travel agency opened Monday (pro tip: traveling with 20+ people? Use a travel agent).

Of course, after we booked the trip everything we read and watched on TV had to focus on terrible things happening in Mexico.  Seal Team on CBS? Multi-episode arch about the horrors in Mexico due to the drug cartels. Hell, even the new <horrible> Rambo movie dealt with Mexico. Every time something came up, I got the side-eye and a quick muttering about how Mexico was a fantastic choice for vacation from the Hubs. It was a fun few months, let me tell you.

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But – miracle of miracles – we still managed to go to Cancun if February with our friends! I’m very happy to report that we all survived the short plane ride (~3.5 hours, direct flight), no one got kidnapped and no one got sick (although two of the travelers- Scorch included – got the flu the day we got home). It was perfect.

Heather holding a heart-shaped shell in front of the ocean.

We stayed at a resort that was a great fit for our 11 kids. There was so much for them to do and the resort was small enough that we could let them roam in packs by themselves all day. Would I recommend it for adults only? Hell no – again, so. many. kids. – but it worked great for us. The food was great, the staff friendly and kind, and the ocean. Oh you guys- the ocean.

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We had to put our beloved 18 year old cat, Reese, down two days before we left. I’ve lost two other pets in the past 3 years, but Reese’s death gutted me. She was the last of the animals we adopted before having the kids – she was our constant companion since I was 24 years old. I cried into her fur when Pete was in training for months in Georgia, while we battled infertility and miscarriages, when I felt like a terrible mother, when our marriage hit rough spots. Losing her was horrible enough- but it also felt like saying goodbye to a huge chapter in my life.  I was a zombie in the days leading up to her death and the day we put her down.  By the time we hit Cancun, I needed this vacation – and the ocean didn’t disappoint. It didn’t bring my cat back, but it soothed my soul.

I honestly have no idea if we’ll ever take a trip like this again. Getting everyone’s schedules to align took an act of God, committing to savings for 2 years wasn’t easy and who knows if we can make the magic happen again. But I’m so glad we had this experience- this moment. It was worth all the back and forth, heartache and annoyances to get us there.

 

Merry Christmas!

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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!

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Real Life Monsters

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Thankful Heart: Days 1 & 2

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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.

HalloweenBabiesSadly, 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:

  • Anything narrated by Edward Herrman, but Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat are two of my all time favorites
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, read by Caroline Lee. Amazing narrator, compelling chick lit with a twist.
  • Mindy Kaling’s books Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and Why Not Me?  Smart, funny and wickedly hard working- what’s not to love?
  • The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Adore the books, love the series, really enjoyed listening to the books- the series may be an obsession. Don’t judge.
  • American Sniper by Chris Kyle, narrated by John Pruden. John just got the drawl and brought such life to Kyle, it was impossible not to get sucked into the story.
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, narrated by Fiona Hardingham & Steve West. I’m not normally a fan of the duel narrators, but this one clicked on all levels.

Five Minute Friday: Friends

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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.

Go.

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.

The girls back in 2007. Such an exciting event, we needed t-shirts to commemorate it!

The girls back in 2007. Such an exciting event, we needed t-shirts to commemorate it!

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.

My lovelies on Halloween before we set out with our husbands and 13 kids!

My lovelies on Halloween before we set out with our husbands and 13 kids!

Does that sound like too many friends to you?

 

 

 

Worth Their Weight in Gold

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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.

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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.

Paul: Part 2

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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.

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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!

I’ve Had Better

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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.

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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!

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Dirty Girls Make for Filthy Women

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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.

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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.

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But we did them all. Even the most girl-y of us crawled in the mud pit and “swam” through the mud bath.

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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:

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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!

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(that’s me- it took 3 showers to get all the dirt off!)

Well, That was Awesome!

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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!

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> 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.

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> Eaten more food in one week then I have in months- and enjoyed every bite of it.

> Spent 2+ hours sledding.

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> Driven well over 400 miles doing round trips to various family members homes.

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> 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!