Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dear Winter,

Dear Winter,

Yesterday was the first day of spring. Get the hell out of here, mmkay? You are making me cranky and my kids are stir-crazy and we need to get outside.

My skin is the attractive shade of a melting snowman.

My body's lack of vitamin D is making me want to stab kittens.

I want to wear some of those cute and colorful ankle pants that are in style this year. With sandals instead of boots.

You, Winter, are no longer welcome, so skedaddle.

Buh-bye, now.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013



Today's writer’s group prompt: Tell us about your childhood best friend. Are you still friends?

This is the perfect prompt because I had lunch with her today!

First of all, that photo up there is about four years old, I can't find anything more recent. We totally need to do some fish-faced selfies the next time we're hanging out. And she is WAY taller than me, even though it doesn't look like it there.

My best friend is Jen. We’ve been friends for something like 27 years. (How can that even be possible?!) She moved to my town in eighth grade (from another planet, it seemed: the state of Mississippi) and we hit it off right away. She had a soft, southern drawl that she lost when she grew up, although the ghost of that accent haunts her voice after she’s had an adult beverage or two.

God, the memories we share. I don’t even know where to start, so I’m just going to write what pops into my mind:

At fourteen, we walked home from the drugstore in the dark, linked arm in arm, laughing so hard that I wet myself, which made us laugh even harder.

In high school we did everything together: We worked at Maid-Rite, making greasy burgers for the fine people of Newton, Iowa. We went to youth group together, hung out at the mall, got ready for proms together, spent time in between classes with each other. She was tall, willowy, and beautiful. I was short and cute. We made quite the pair.

Jen's mom and dad were my second set of parents, always making me feel welcome in their home. Her dad is the only person I ever allowed to call me "Mony." I can hear that nickname in his gentle voice, along with the soft chuckle of his. Mr. M introduced me to my favorite Beatles song (Oh! Darling) and would drive us around in his little truck before we got our licenses.

We learned to drive together as partners in Mr. Bond's driver's ed class. She drove too close to the curb, I drove too fast. But we both passed the class! Her parents bought her a cool blue mazda, and it was a stick shift. I will always be impressed by her badass ability to drive a stick, maybe because I never mastered the skill, but also because it's just cool for a girl to know how to do that at 16.

At sixteen, Jen and I went to a Bon Jovi concert and had seats so close to the stage that we could see the trickle of sweat run down Jon Bon Jovi’s neck. (Swoon!) Some guy, who seemed old to us at the time but was probably not even thirty, offered us beer and weed. Being the good girls that we were, we looked at each other wide-eyed, the unspoken "Oh my gosh, can you believe this is happening?!" passing between us in a flash, and politely declined his generous offer.

Oh, the memories that a Bon Jovi song brings back. Just yesterday, the song "Never Say Goodbye" came on the radio and I was instantly taken back in time to Jen’s living room. The room had dozens (hundreds?) of family photos on the wall, Jen’s dad’s comfy chair in the corner, and the tv tuned to MTV. In that room, a couple of girls with permed, frizzy hair belted out (badly, we aren’t singers, Jen and I) the verses to "Never Say Goodbye" while mooning over the band in the music video.

Now’s as good a time as any to show you just how cool she still is. At lunch today, she gave me my birthday present, which was a thoughtful collection of items that remind her of me. Some of the items: A jar of Chi-Chi’s salsa, because we loved eating at Chi-Chi’s. A bottle of purple Gap nail polish, because I love purple, and we loved shopping at the Gap. A hilarious plastic foot with a suction cup attached to it (that is actually meant as a toothbrush or pencil holder) because I have always been grossed out by feet. And THIS:


That’s right. It’s a Bon Jovi charm bracelet with four photos of Jon Bon Jovi. Who has the best best friend ever? This gal.

Once we sat in Jen's driveway as the end of Journey's "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezing" was on the radio. We counted every one of the "Nahs" at the end of that song, and then promptly forgot how many there were.

At eighteen, we said goodbye to our families and went away to college together. Every time I hear Bob Seger’s "Old Time Rock and Roll" I remember the feeling of pure, giddy excitement that filled us as we unpacked our black and white (with an accent of red!) dorm room items, because that’s the first song we put on the stereo and blasted through our open door. All around us, the small college town of Ames, Iowa buzzed with freshmen moving into their dorms. The atmosphere was electric and something I will never forget.

In our first year in the dorms, we won the floor's "dipshit" award because our dorm room was so messy that we couldn’t find our cordless phone and we had to go next door to call our phone to find it. We went to parties together, held each other’s hair when the world was spinning, encouraged each other to wake up for class. We sized each other’s boyfriends up. Approved of some, kept quiet about what we thought of others.

One of my favorite memories of Jen is when we were at a party and the song YMCA came on. She was holding two beers (I’m not sure if she was holding one for someone or just felt like having two). During the part of the song where you form the letters Y, M, C, A out of your arms, she held up her arms and made a perfect Y. Transitioning to the M, she apparently forgot that she held two glasses of beer and dumped them both on her head. Hee.

Two days after my 20th birthday Jen and I sat in our dorm room. I held a pregnancy test in one hand and a bottle of some kind of liquor in the other. “If this is negative, we’re splitting the entire bottle.” I told her. I peed on the stick. She waited with me for three of the longest minutes of my life, and then she held me as I sat shaking and tearful, terrified because I was going to be a mom.

We shared an apartment when Brie was born. When I came home from the hospital, she’d decorated our door with "Welcome home, Niki!!" signs and balloons. She helped me with Brie for those first months before Dusty and I moved in together. I remember that she had kittens who liked to lick up Brie’s projectile vomit.

And then we left our crazy college years behind. We graduated, got married, stood up at each others’ weddings (Brie was her flower girl) and our families grew. She is Brie’s godmother, her youngest son is my godson.

As in life, not everything is perfect. Our husbands had a serious falling out years ago. As you might imagine, that changed things, so instead of going out as couples, we socialize through lunches, book club, and the occasional girls night out. Family events aren't what they used to be, but we are still as close as ever.

Jen is one of the most amazing mothers I know. She’s raising four happy, respectful, productive and beautiful children. She gets how crazy life can be as a working mom with four kids, because she’s one too! We both work at the same giant company and we both drive Honda minivans. Our families both cheer for the Packers and the Cyclones, and we both still love Bon Jovi.

I am incredibly blessed to have someone like Jen in my life, and I look forward to the days when we sit laughing in a restaurant, our false teeth clacking away, all the while hoping that our Depends are in place (we have a history of making each other wet ourselves, after all!)

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Boy is Sixteen

I can hardly believe this, but Jake turned sixteen yesterday. I could go on about the passage of time, and how that doesn't seem possible, but I think that goes without saying. Instead, I want to spend a little bit of time talking about this young man, and what makes him so incredible.

First of all, he is an amazing big (and little) brother. I snapped this photo yesterday and am going to frame it and put it on my desk at work, because it is just so, so perfect. You can see how comfortable Natalie is with her big brother, and you can see how much he loves getting the hug from his baby sister.


He and Vali fight like the Bloods and the Crips, but every so often you'll see him helping her with homework or playing a game with her.


One of the things I admire about my teen-aged children is their strong religious beliefs. Jakob is very involved in his youth group at church and he gets a great deal of support from his friends and the youth leaders who are teaching him to grow in his spiritual journey. I admit to being a skeptic on many things in the religious world, and so it sometimes surprises me to see that my two oldest children have such a strong and powerful relationship with God. I bring my children to church to expose them to religious life and the sense of community that belonging to a parish provides, but I admit to keeping my own feelings on many things to myself. I want my kids to form their own spiritual existence. It fills me with warmth to listen to my son talk about how he has experienced spiritual enlightenment in his church activities. I remember being his age and having such a strong and powerful faith, so I can identify with those euphoric and hopeful feelings, even if the bloom has fallen off the rose a bit for me as an adult. Having something to believe in is so very important for children.

My son is a writer, and while I can't for the life of me get this kid to tell me about upcoming schedule commitments and deadlines, he will talk for hours about plot lines of stories he has in his head. Seriously, I don't know how he keeps it all straight up there, but he has about seven novels being simultaneously constructed in that mind of his.

In so many ways, he is like I was at his age. He's got a close-knit group of friends but is a homebody who would prefer to stick around home with one or two of the guys when he has free time. He's got a self-conscious air about him that I know will fade with time. For now, though, he is still learning about himself. Still coming to terms with who he is and isn't. It might be years before he sees how amazing he is.

He is SUCH a boy. This morning I was driving him to play practice when one of his friends texted him to see if he'd be at practice. He didn't reply to his friend's text. When I asked why, he looked at me like I was crazy. "Mom, I'm going to be in the school in 10 minutes and he'll know the answer. What's the point of telling him?" ARGH. THAT right there, is his father shining through. :)

He used to struggle with school, but somehow he grew into his academic life. This year he's gotten all As and Bs and has had no trouble keeping up with his schoolwork, even though he's been involved in more activities than ever before. He's not afraid to try new things. This year he got a part in the school play, joined the speech team, and signed up for golf. These are all new things for him, and I'm proud of him for trying them out.

I could go on and on about him. I am his adoring mother, after all. But I'll end with this: Jakob has the best hair in the world. It's curly and thick and has the perfect texture. I'm jealous of that hair.

Happy birthday to my little guy. The one who stands a good 8 inches taller than me.

(Weird picture alert - the candles are glowing in a strange halo-effect.)