"We'll be known for our opinions, we'll be remembered for our love." - Bob Goff
We've hit that point in the year when my not so mini is gone way more than she's home. We get precious moments smattered throughout the otherwise two best months of the year, so tonight with lightening bugs hovering around us and the wind chimes out playing the cars driving by, we laid on the trampoline, watching the big, fluffy clouds and talking about things we've not talked about in quite some time.
I think all the time about everything I should be telling her...all the things I should be teaching her...fearing that I'm somehow missing great opportunities to help her become someone I would want to know...someone who she will want to be. But, most of the time I find myself without the words, without the advice, feeling totally unprepared and ill-equipped to handle whatever scenario she has laid at my feet. Yet, what I think to myself, what I find myself saying to her, is that "I've been there...I was 13 once...and I survived"...not exactly words of comfort or direction, yet sometimes that's all I've got. But tonight was different...tonight we laughed...and we talked about her need to find her place, her passion in a world that tells these kids they must have something they excel at or they somehow aren't doing/being enough (at 13...I'm almost 40 and STILL struggle with this so I find this topic particularly frustrating, but a highlight of the night came when I shared this with her and she said we were twinsies because of this very fact)...we talked about the clouds and how beautiful the sky was...we talked about her friends and I told her that if I were her age I would want to be her friend because she is such a good friend...we talked about how important it is to me that she not do anything that forces her to focus on her looks/image because she is so much more than that and who she is is so much more important.
I read Bob Goff's words the other day and they stuck with me. So simple, so true. Our opinions are the visible, outward perspective we leave with those we meet...our love, while often quiet or understated - or, perhaps withheld or not freely given, is what those left long after we're gone will remember about us. Tonight, as we talked about who she wants to be...as I shared that I still don't know who/what I want to be...I said that at this point...what is very possibly the middle of my life...I fear that I have not done, or given, or been enough. I fear that I've wasted time, or opportunities - precious moments that may not come again. I told her to be brave, to not fear failure like I've always done...I told her to chase her dreams and learn about lots of things. I told her that what matters now is watching her grow and helping her find her way, and that if I've touched a few people along the way then I know I've done what I was put here to do. I know I often give opinions without really researching them. I know I often share too much and then regret it. I know I often interrupt rather than let others just speak. I know I often feel the need to fill a space so I say something even if it means saying something pointless or unnecessary. But...I also know I love. And I just pray that somehow that love will overshadow all that other junk in the end. And, if she gets nothing else from me, I pray she will always love and extend grace especially when giving her opinion, or speaking without real thought, would be easier.
While the number may be a little higher, the story...the memories...the love are still the same. Happy Birthday, Weisy...may you always know where you came from and how very much you're loved.
To the rest...there is little I can say that I didn't say before...please read the link below and think of your own memories of her...or, of siblings you, too, cherish.
To have a sister is to have a built-in best friend...the most honest reflection of yourself...a keeper of memories...the one you learn to fight with...the one you learn to share with...the one you learn to make up with. She knows your secrets and will protect you like no other. But she will also remind you where you came from and keep you grounded in ways no other can. Our hearts are always connected and forever we take care of each other.
The last two days of our trip were just as magical as the first two. Looking back, I still can't believe how much we did in such a short amount of time, and how when it was all said and done there wasn't a thing we wanted to do we didn't get to do. Sunday we had tickets to see Wicked and plans to meet my college friend for brunch. The rest of the day was up in the air. We hadn't had dinner Saturday night because we were so exhausted when we got back to the hotel we couldn't even make a decision about what to get. M was starving and brunch wasn't until 11 so I ran over to the little Bouchon Bakery across from The Today Show and grabbed coffee and pasteries and then stumbled upon Magnolia Bakery on my way back to the hotel (they had the roads blocked off again so I had to go the long way around - this seems to happen a lot there) and had read all about how if you were in NY you HAD to get the banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery so I got the small clearly underestimating the ridiculous goodness that one little container could hold because we devoured it in about 3.5 seconds and were left wanting more.
Thankfully Stephanie appreciated my need to not make one more decision that weekend and chose a great place for brunch - The Smith, near Lincoln Center - and it couldn't have been more perfect! We met at 11 and spent the next couple hours catching up (we had only seen each other once since graduation from UNLV in 2000 and that was in 2009 when she and our friend, Marcie, came to KC while I was going through my divorce). M asked her all about life in NY because after two days in the city she had a lot she wanted to know. We enjoyed our visit and after a fantastic meal, M and I headed up Columbus Ave. through the Upper West Side to the American Museum of Natural History where we had hoped to see the dinosaurs, but the line was too long so we walked back down along Central Park, stopping at Strawberry Fields before taking the paths through the park back towards our hotel. We had one last major stop before getting ready for Wicked - Top of the Rock - and we were there at the perfect time...no real wait and the sun was just low enough to make the view all warm and shimmery. We stopped at each level, enchanted by every detail of the city below us, feeling as if for a few moments nothing else mattered except taking in as much as we possibly could: trying to memorize not only the view, but the way I felt standing next to my mini and thanking God I got to share this with her. (And, yes, the view was better up there than at the ESB because the ESB was PART OF THE VIEW from up there and that made it even more magical.)
We freshened up and walked the three blocks to Times Square in search of pizza before seeing Wicked and found two fantastic slices of pie (okay, I will likely never call it that again, but I know that's what they call it so I'm trying to be authentic) at Famous Original Ray's Pizza on 7th Ave. The place was tiny and crowded - always a good sign - and the guys behind the counter (who flirted mercilessly with every girl in there and we were no exception) were quick to give us our pizza - cheese for M, margarita for me. M had learned how important it was to grab seats when they came available so I joined her at the table we were sharing with a couple (this is normal there - not something we're used to in the Midwest, but we thought it was pretty cool...although, I think if we were doing it in the Midwest it would be more of a communal thing, but there everyone kept to themselves). After pizza we ran into the giant M&M's store and filled a bag with all sorts of colors and types (why does something so everyday like M&M's taste so much better when bought on vacation from a giant, hyped-up super store??) and then stopped in a little souvenir shop to grab a couple things before walking the two blocks to the Gershwin Theatre where we joined the crowd of people gathered in the lobby trying to stay warm while waiting for the show.
Let me just say...I saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway the last time I was in NYC, but was so incredibly excited to see Wicked - more so than I had to see Phantom - likely because I couldn't wait to see it with M, but also because I knew the level of talent we were about to see and we were not disappointed. We were six rows back on the right side of the stage and our seats were PERFECT. We were mesmerized from the moment the first actor stepped on stage until the very last second. For two and a half hours we felt like a part of the musical, so close we could see their expressions, near enough to see them looking right at us...we could literally feel the power of the music as Elphaba closed out the first act with "Defying Gravity" and left M saying she HAD to get the music! We were speechless as the curtain closed, almost exhausted by what we had just seen. We left wanting to see it again, and feeling a little sad that it was over. If you haven't seen Wicked...do it! Pay for the good seats (our's were $160 a piece and worth every single penny), take your daughter and go. The storyline is so much more than you might imagine and hits on topics our kiddos are facing every day - inclusion, sticking up for those who can't take care of themselves, loyalty, the power of diversity, the fact that family comes in all shapes/sizes/colors - and it was just INCREDIBLE. We left the theatre feeling magical and thankful to have been in the presence of such talent.
Our final morning in NYC started early...super. early. Like 4:15am early. But, in the name of making dreams (mine, not hers - this final adventure was selfishly all for me and she was a good sport about it all) come true, no hour was too early. For anyone who has known me for any amount of time, you know I ALWAYS dreamed of being on The Today Show...of being Katie Couric (no, I'm not a stalker, just a dreamer). So, when I knew decided we were going to NYC, I was very intentional to stay near Rockefeller Plaza so being a part of a show one morning would be more likely. So, we were out the door of the hotel at 4:50am and the first ones in line at 5am! No, I hadn't had coffee and it was all of 25 degrees out, but nothing was keeping us from making this happen. I made friends with a security guard (shocking, I know) who loved hearing we were from KC (he's a big Jeremy Guthrie fan) and told us exactly where to stand and gave us a few pointers so we'd know what to expect. The plaza was all set up before we got there and we could see people inside the studio preparing for the day's show. It was MLK Day so I knew there was a good chance Matt Lauer and All Roker wouldn't be there (I was right, but that didn't take away from our experience). People started lining up with us and everyone had signs or birthdays to share and everyone was excited for the chance to be on tv. At about 6:45 we were finally allowed through security and since our friend the security guard had told us right where to stand, we made our way around the barricades and got ready for the show to start. We could see in the windows and there were monitors in front of us where we could see the anchors sharing the day's stories. The cameraman came around and recorded our shout outs, and we had no idea if ours would be played or not, but ultimately we made the cut! There was a lot of standing around in between segments and then the anchors came out for the first time at 7:30...and they were literally a foot in front of us! We got to chat briefly with them, and they were incredibly gracious about taking photos and saying hello. M and I were beside ourselves! When they came back out at 8:30 they did a longer teaser for an upcoming Valentine's Day contest they were promoting, and when Tamron Hall didn't want to say "Will you marry me?" to Willie, she turned around and handed me the microphone so I could say it! Friends! I WAS ON THE TODAY SHOW!!! Not just in the crowd, or even in a shout out...but, I spoke in a microphone (to be honest, I would have said ANYTHING at that point so I don't care that what I said was cheesy)...on The Today Show. Yes, I'm a total nerd. Yes, for me, that was an absolute dream come true. It was one of the best moments and I got to share it with my girl. After four hours standing in the cold, we were hungry, tired and ready to thaw out so we grabbed coffee and food from Bouchon Bakery and booked it back to the hotel to sneak a quick nap under the covers before heading to the airport. While we were ready to be home, we loved NYC. There isn't a thing I wish we had done, nor a thing I wish we had done differently. The city was kind to us and we left loving its beautiful chaos. I would go back in a heartbeat and while I can't ever see myself living there, I can see why so many people call it home. The neighborhoods and people, the food (oh. my gosh, the FOOD!), the sites, the history, the art, the culture, the talent, the lights and the sounds...each a part of why this city is so magical, so over the top in so many ways, yet so incredibly personal and inviting in all the ways that matter. NYC, you've got a piece of my heart and I look forward to the day we meet again.
Saturday in NY started off with a full agenda (side note: when I was talking with my college friend, Stephanie - a born and raised New Yorker - about our trip and everything we were hoping to see and do she was clearly skeptical about our ability to do it all...well, when I put my mind to something I generally make it happen and that list of fun was no exception!) A few things on our list for Saturday: get a NY bagel, take the subway, walk the Brooklyn Bridge, visit the 9/11 memorial, go to China Town and Little Italy, walk neighborhood streets, do some shopping, find some iconic tv sites, and eat more good food.
I found a highly recommended bagel shop a few blocks from the hotel so we set off early with a fully-charged phone and a vague plan. First stop was St. Patrick's Cathedral. M didn't fully understand why we were going into a "church" until we walked in...and then she was mesmerized. The absolute beauty was breathtaking and we spent quite a bit of time walking all the way around, admiring every statue and ornate detail, and imagining what it would feel like to attend church in a place like this each week.
Ess-a-Bagel on 3rd Ave. had a 45-minute wait outside the door, but we were starving (and I hadn't had coffee yet) and everyone who walked out the door raved about how good the bagels were so we hopped in line and chatted with the people around us (shocking, I know) while we waited. The wait was so worth it....an everything bagel with eggs, cheese and bacon (and of course a cup of coffee) for me and a plain bagel with strawberry cream cheese for M (her's was the best, hands down).
After breakfast we got on the subway at Lexington and 51st and rode it all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge stop, also known as the very end of the line. The NY subway didn't disappoint. The people watching was solid and after getting off the subway we found our way to the Brooklyn Bridge where we only walked to the middle for a few photos. We then made the short walk to the 9/11 Memorial after walking through the cemetery at St. Paul's chapel where George Washington once sat and the tombstones dated back to the 1700's. I have only been in NYC one other time and it was the end of August, 2002...almost a year after the 9/11 attacks. On our bus tour of the city that hot August day, we stopped at what once held the two World Trade Center towers...and was at that time a gaping hole that left me reeling with emotion and feeling like I didn't deserve to be there because while I was an American, and the attacks were on all of America, I knew no one who died that day and what I was looking at was the burial ground of innocent lives that, while unknown to me personally, felt like family on 9/11 and as I stood there that day. What haunted me then were the memorials and tributes that lined the wrought iron fence surrounding the little cemetery I had just walked through, and while they had long been removed, the memories were there still the same. We did not go through the museum. I didn't have it in me and we had a lot more on our list, but we did spend some time at the memorial. I never would have been able to come up with a way to memorialize those who died that day. Nothing in my mind could have ever been enough, but somehow what I was looking at...the huge pools and cascading waterfalls that created a calm and peacefulness in the world's most chaotic city...were exactly perfect. I found myself sad, but in a much different way than I had felt in 2002. This time I didn't feel the fear and anger I felt then, but more so the sadness I have felt at other monuments and memorials. And, while I know M didn't feel nearly the same things I felt in those moments, she was well aware of why we were there and as much as she hates to see me cry in public, she didn't dare question the tears that filled my eyes even as we walked away.
Next we hopped a bus up to China Town - a few city blocks that put M and I into sensory overload. We had hoped for knock-off purses, but decided to quickly move on to Little Italy and the heaven we found in Ferrara Bakery. Friends, I can't begin to tell you about the goodness that came in the form of strawberry gelato and a chocolate cannoli. We absolutely loved this place and got a little rest before heading towards SoHo and shopping. It was about this time it started to snow. I can only describe the rest of the afternoon as iconic New York, snow globe, fluffy, beautiful snow. It was magical, and I'm so glad we got to experience the city that way. We spent the afternoon wandering neighborhoods and going in and out of little shops. I got a killer deal on a great pair of leopard print heels that I get compliments on every time I wear them. I consider that a win. I knew we weren't too far from the Friends apartment building so we set off on a scavenger hunt to find it. I'm not sure which one of us was more excited when we came around the corner and saw the exact view we've seen hundreds of times when watching my favorite show. We snapped a couple photos and then moved on to find Carrie Bradshaw's stoop (only a few blocks away) from Sex and the City. M then asked if I thought we could find Kleinfeld's from Say Yes to the Dress. It was a bit of a walk, but so worth it when the owner herself gave us a personal tour! M was in heaven! We ended the evening at the Flatiron Building before grabbing an Uber back to our hotel. It was quite a day and we covered so much ground. To be honest, I know there are things I've left out, but we went non-stop for 11 hours and were cold and damp from the snow, but we saw so much and laughed a lot and ate yummy food. It was one hell of a day, and I know neither of us will forget it.
In January I took M to NYC for the weekend. She had just turned 13 and I wanted to share something with her, make memories with her that were so much greater than any gift. I know the next few years aren't going to go any slower. The amount of time I get with her is fleeting, and with each passing day she opts for her friends over me more and more. I wanted something that was just ours...to show her an incredible city and just be us without any of life's typical distractions for a few days. And that's exactly what we did. Here's a little peak into three, jam-packed days in one of the most incredible places. There honestly wasn't a thing on our list we didn't do, and we walked over 24 miles. From mid-town, to downtown, the Upper East Side to SoHo, the Brooklyn Bridge to Broadway, the Upper West Side to Little Italy, and China Town to Central Park...we made Manhattan ours and it was truly everything I hoped it would be and even more than I imagined. When asked what my favorite part was, the answer is simple: watching M take it all in...seeing her reaction to every site and sound...experiencing it all with her.
After a crazy early start to the day, our flight landed at LaGuardia almost an hour early (thank you westerly winds) which proved to be a huge advantage given the state of traffic into the city. I decided to take a cab from the airport so she could check that off her bucket list. And, yes, it was exactly as I expected and and over/underwhelming as she imagined. An hour and ridiculous amount of money later, we discovered that our hotel was smack-dab in the middle of a 20-block radius that was closed off for the funeral of NYC Police Officer, Steven McDonald, being held at St. Patrick's Cathedral. (Side note: there is NO WAY to give adequate credit to, or truly express, the emotional gravity and absolute sadness and pride I felt at being present for such an incredible event. I have never, and hope to never again, witness such a monumental display of gratitude and grace. It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.) Long story short, our driver could only get us to 48th St. and our hotel was on 51st between 5th and 6th so, we got out and walked the last few blocks through barricades and the hundreds of officers and all of a sudden stepped into a clearing and realized we were at...Rockefeller Plaza!! The flags, the ice rink, the crazy tall 30 Rock building, and to our left...The Today Show (stick around, there's WAY more about that later) - the place I spent most of my life dreaming of and we were looking right at it! We snapped a couple quick photos and walked around the block to our hotel.
We stayed at the incredible Club Quarters Hotel (opposite Rockefeller Center location) and could not have been more pleased with our stay! The location was perfect, the staff were beyond helpful, our room was much larger than I expected, and we even had a nice view of St. Patrick's Cathedral from our window. I would recommend this property to anyone and would go back in a second! Anyway, we settled in, and made a game plan for our first day in the city. Thanks to the Explorer Pass, we were able to purchase discounted tickets for both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock (I wanted to do both - one to start our trip and one to end it - both iconic buildings with incredible views, neither of which disappointed) so we set out to kick off our weekend with a trip to the top of the ESB to get a view of the city. We walked down 5th Avenue - passing by the NYC Library, blocks of motorcycle officers waiting to lead the funeral processional, and thousands of people rushing from one place to another as we took it all in. The weather was gorgeous! Near 50 and sunny, which made a mid-January trip absolutely perfect!
We found our way to the ESB and when we walked into the lobby it felt a bit like something out of a movie (thank you Sleepless in Seattle and Elf for that). I had read about how long it could take to wait in line, but we were at the top in 15 minutes. The view was breathtaking. And watching M's face as she took it all in was priceless. We were able to see everything...the new One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty way off in the distance, the beautiful Chrysler Building just below us, building upon building each view better than the last.
From the ESB we walked back uptown along Park Ave. so we could walk through Grand Central Station and the Waldorf Astoria as we made our way to Bloomingdale's and ultimately Serendipity 3 - home of the world-famous frozen hot chocolate as seen in one of my favorite movies, Serendipity. This quirky, whimsical restaurant was more than we imagined and the frozen hot chocolate...can we just take a moment in honor of the absolute frosty, chocolatey, creamy goodness that this giant cup of heaven truly is...and, yes, I ordered fries with it!
After Serendipity 3, we strolled over to Central Park where the sun was starting to set. We wandered through a bit of the park, seeing Wollman Rink and the zoo while enjoying the paths and bridges. We talked about how for the kids who live in the city, this is their backyard, their playground and while it is a beautiful park, for us mid-westerners it made us even more thankful for our little yard and the space that is all ours everyday. It was getting dark and cold and for fun my phone died, but we had one last stop to make on our way back to the hotel - the Museum of Modern Art, which is free to the public on Friday's from 4-8pm and I had my heart set on seeing Van Gogh's Starry Night so we asked a nice gentleman walking a dog for directions (I had a general idea of where we were going but didn't want to waste a bunch of time wandering the streets of NY in the dark and thankfully he was very kind - something we found to be true of New Yorkers all weekend). We lucked out and stumbled upon the LOVE sculpture on our way and grabbed a couple of fun photos before finding our way to MOMA. Let me say, I've been fortunate enough to travel to Paris and see some of the world's greatest art, but MOMA was incredible! We were greeted by a docent who shared invaluable information with us about not only the museum, but how to navigate the massive crowds and exactly where to go to see not only Starry Night, but several other pieces I had no idea were on display. We made our way up to the fifth floor and, just as he said, came around the corner to find the piece I had been waiting for...and it was even more beautiful in person, even more incredible than the Mona Lisa...rivaling only Monet's Water Lilies - and I was so thankful to be able to show it to M...something she certainly doesn't fully understand now, but will in time. There is something about seeing great art...for me it's a connection to the past and to all those who've stood in its presence and been touched by it...and I wanted her to be able to have that memory as well. We left MOMA in awe and exhaustion ready to put our feet up for a bit before finding dinner.
After a brief rest at the hotel, we decided we needed dinner and couldn't think of a better place to find food than Times Square (just a couple blocks from our hotel). The lights, the people, the sounds - all a lot to take in and I could tell M was a little overwhelmed, so we found our way to Sardi's - a restaurant rich in Broadway tradition, with caricature lined walls and a nod to days gone by. Times Square didn't disappoint, and with a visit to the huge H&M store, we called it a night to rest up for Saturday.
I read the words "trust the timing of your life" a long time ago...and unlike many things, they stuck. I've reflected on them, I've referred to them, I've written them, and I've learned to...trust them. Timing is everything. Truly. And tonight as I visited with a dear friend, that very concept was brought up. We rush and we hurry. We push and we pull. We ask for things we aren't ready for and we let go before we should. We force situations that aren't meant to be and we hold onto those we fear releasing. We manipulate time to work in our favor almost constantly. We beg for more of it, yet waste what we're given almost automatically. We take moments for granted assuming there will always be more. And then we curse fate, or God, or each other when the time runs out.
Every decision we make, every path we follow, every relationship we make happens in time. But, how often is it the RIGHT time? That's what I think about a lot. So much of what happens to us is out of our control. When we meet someone, or being in the right place at just the right moment...having the courage to not let a moment pass...saying what we mean when we need to say it...letting go when we should...and holding on when it seems like there's nothing left to hold onto. Reaching forward, blindly unaware of what comes next and taking a chance when you have little left to give. But mostly timing affects those we meet...those we build lives around and with. What if we hadn't met them at the moment we did? Where would we be? Would we have been more ready for what they had to offer? What if you hadn't talked to that stranger? What if you had said hello? There are so many what if's, so many things to look back on and wonder...so many moments that if you had done even one thing differently your life would be completely different. Think about that for a second.
For me, there are lots of those moments. And, I'd be lying if I didn't wonder from time to time about where a certain person is now, or what my life would look like had I made a different choice. But, this IS my life and I wouldn't change a thing about it. All those what if's mean nothing unless I allow them to, but what difference does it make? There are no take-backs, no do-overs. There's only the right here, the right now. This is where we are, this is what we get - no more, no less. Looking back won't make today or tomorrow any better. If anything, it will only make them worse. Show me one person who doesn't look back with even an ounce of longing for something or someone. We all do it. But, it's what we do with what we have right now that matters.
So, back to trusting the timing...doesn't that imply that we have to let go...that we can't micromanage every little thing? What do they say about unanswered prayers? You know. The frantic bargaining we do with God, often for something or someone we are grateful didn't work out in the long run. We beg Him to give us this one little thing, or let this one person love us, or to make us this or that...but so much of the time it comes back to being, or feeling, loved. We beg for it. From Him, from others, so much of the time (see what I did there?) when it's just not meant to be. And then, when it's right in front of our face, we think it's not right or we aren't ready, or a whole bunch of other junk. #neonsign It's funny. I haven't heard God for a while...a long time now really. And tonight I didn't hear him as much as felt him speaking to me through a few simple words. See, I believe God shows Himself to us through those He surrounds us with - that we feel His strength and compassion through the arms of those who comfort us. His physical presence is only felt if we let others in, giving them the chance to show us His love and grace. And then...allow Him, trust Him with the timing of our life.
A few days ago you turned 13...more than a child, not quite anything else. Tonight you walked out of your room looking like that...and I almost cried. It's funny, this age. You've never been a teenager and I've never raised one so we're both new at this, and both struggling in our own ways. But, I promise that if you give me a chance, I will give this everything I've got. And, while I am certain I will fail from time to time...I hope you always know that every time I embarrass you or make tough decisions that upset you...I'm trying and you can bet that if those moments are hard for you, they are even harder for me. You have your life ahead of you. You are kind and loving and give everything to those you care about. You call us out when we judge or act poorly, moments that cause me both embarrassment and pride. You keep me humble and make me want to be better. I love your enthusiasm and passion for life and the friends you hold dear. Your ability to encourage and guide is admirable and your friends are lucky to have you in their corner. The fight in you, while not always pointed in the right direction, will help you persevere when life challenges you. Be quick to find joy, slow to criticize. There is almost always something good, you may just have to look hard to find it. Find something you care about and make it your passion. Treat others as you want to be treated and always remember to have courage and to be kind. I can guarantee the next few years will have moments that are just plain hard. You have so much to figure out and your emotions will be all over the place and no matter how hard you try to do and be the right thing...crappy things will happen. Give yourself, and others, grace. Often things aren't what the first seem, and there is always more than one side to every story. Seek truth and others will trust you. Character outlasts popularity and the popular choice is often not the best one. Follow your heart, but don't forget to think. And, no matter what, when, where or why...this is the most important part...no matter what...I will always be here. I will fight for you...sometimes with you...but always for you. I will learn with you and give you everything I can. I will always be on the side, cheering you on and helping you pick up the pieces when things fall apart. I know I seem old, like maybe I've never been there and can't possibly understand, but I assure you...I have and I do and sometimes life just sucks. But, more often, it doesn't and those are the moments we live for. I am so proud of the young lady you're becoming and while I can't believe 13 years have passed since I first held you in my arms, I look forward to watching you become whoever it is God is shaping you to be. So, happy birthday, my girl. I pray the awkwardness of 13, the unknown of this weird age, the emotional roller coaster of the next few years is more amazing than difficult. I love you more than you could ever imagine...even in the moments you wish I would go away and just be normal or like everyone else's mom. Trust me, there is no normal and I will never go away. But, I will love you. Always.
November came and went and December is quickly doing the same. This year Father Time did his thing and the days turned into months which turned into “Holy Crap, where has the year gone?”…yet again. Where it goes I have no clue, but without fail, the time passes and for a couple weeks I find myself looking back over the past 50 or so weeks with a mixture of nostalgia, a little sadness and, overall, a thankful heart.
2016. You were the typical rollercoaster, but for this year, the ups definitely outweighed the downs and for that simple fact alone, I’m thankful. There’s little need to regale the details, but the highlight reel contains moments and memories now etched deep within my heart. What I’ve come to realize is, life is a constant balancing act…no one gets it easy all the time, and it’s almost always how you play the hand you’re dealt that determines your happiness. Dad tells me…okay, has ALWAYS told me…not to worry so much, that life shouldn’t be so hard – I’m starting to think that what he means is…stop MAKING it so hard and just live. We muck stuff up. We take simple things and turn them into something they were never meant to be. Anyway, back to the past 12 months. I got to travel again…twice…to two different beaches and be it the sun or the surf or the solace that comes with being surrounded with something that reminds me of just how big the world really is…I found my center, I made peace, I allowed myself to be okay with, and to let go of, things I no longer had control of, nor wanted to worry about anymore. I remembered how much I not only love the beach, but how much I love to travel…to see new places and expand my little world…and how much I love coming home. It had been too long, and I’ve since vowed to not let that happen again so we are kicking off 2017 with a trip to NYC! Again, I digress…
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I do not make resolutions. I am a terrible goal setter, and making resolutions seems like another way to say I’m going to do something (often unachievable) and then end up not doing it which makes me feel foolish and like I’ve failed. So, I don’t. What I do instead is look back over the past year and take stock of what I’ve done, all I have to be thankful for, and what I hope to improve over the next 365 days. This year I was called the V.P. of Sunshine at my new job by our company attorney. That man had no idea how big of an impact that had on me because I have struggled with feeling like I bring that piece of myself to the table the past few years. It truly is the little things. So, here are the things I want to BE and DO in the months to come:
- Be more mindful, more grateful, less negative (where did that side of me come from, anyway?), more genuine, less hurried, more aware, less anxious.
- Have a thicker skin and not take things so personally.
- Laugh more – truly. Life is pretty damn funny if you let it be and if I can work on ^^ then I think laughing more should be a positive side effect.
- I say this (well, I know I THINK it) every year, but I’m putting it on here again…spend and give more of my TIME, primarily with those I share this little life with.
- For practical purposes I have set a couple financial goals that should also help with the anxiety in the long run.
- Read more. I asked for a Kindle Paperwhite and M made sure Santa brought me one so I’m going to put it to good use.
- Try something new each week – this seems a bit like setting a “real goal”, but I read this not long ago and thought of it more as a challenge and it seems like a good one so I’m going to try it. I’m a person who thrives on the familiar and routine aspects of my life and I think this could be really good for me.
- I’m carrying this over from (many years) before…get (something) published. Yes, I’m terrified. Why? Rejection, is the simple answer. But, to me anyway, words are so personal and while I don’t want to feel anything less than that about them, I know that if I ever want to see myself doing something I’ve wanted to do since I was nine, I’m going to have to buck up and get over that (cue thick skin).
- Set my phone down more – be truly present. Social media, while necessary in many ways, has been a killer for our interpersonal relationships/communication skills and I am no less at fault than anyone else but I hate that we have allowed this to become our norm and I want to be more mindful about it.
- Have more intentional family nights (no phones, play a game, cook something together, learn something new together, explore a new place, etc.)
- Continue making our house more “us” - including getting rid of the things taking up space rather than serving us.
I’m sure I could think of more, but that’s a pretty good list for someone so against resolutions. I want to set the tone for a positive year, to roll with things rather than react to them, to not let stupid things affect my attitude and overall be more mindful, genuine and authentic. I have always said that love is the great motivator, the one thing we all need almost as much as we need air…if we want to receive it we must be willing to give it…and I am thankful to end 2016 and begin 2017 full of, and surrounded by, just that. I am looking forward to the next two days…I will spend time with those I love dearly, closing out one year and opening the door to another with nothing but hope paving the way for what it will bring. God speed, 2016, and make way for 2017!
It happened simply enough...scrolling through Instagram, paying little attention to what I was looking at until all of a sudden I saw this photo my cousin posted...
See, she and her little family are living in Gran's house and I often wonder if she comes across things like this, but never ask. Gran was the master of note writing - to us, to others, and to herself - reminders of things inconsequential, yet written with care, with love. "Warm up in microwave." "Here are a couple stamps." "Outside water gage, put out in spring." I can't help but wonder what she was thinking when she wrote this last one...see, she died in February, so I can't help but assume she wrote this the fall before, and given how sure she had been for years that she was going to die (she was 99), I just wonder if she was writing this note to herself...or to us...something so simple, yet something she knew we would need reminder of...one more thing she could do for us, even if we didn't find it for five and a half years...
Some people are natural caretakers, they do little for themselves, always putting others first. Gran was that above all else. She cared for others like no one I've known since. There were always special treats, meals made with individual dietary needs, letters written anytime one of us was away, a special "pallet" on the floor, pies baked for friends, early morning card games...each one of us felt like her favorite, yet she never once played favorites. She set an example of how to care for others, of how to be a friend, of how to love...even when no one was giving her anything in return. She used the good china for Sunday dinners without any special reason. She made extra pie dough so we could roll out our own little pies or miniature cinnamon rolls. No matter what else was going on, no matter how much else she had going on, no matter what else needed to be done...if someone needed a little extra care, she was there to make them feel special.
Tonight as I looked at that photo and read her words, I thought of the quote at the top of this site "We write to taste life twice..." Tonight it was her writing that allowed me to taste life twice...of days gone by....of memories and moments long since passed...and, as often seems the case when something of hers turns up...I cried. I missed her, and I cried. I wish to love as she did. I pray that my selfishness will someday give way to at least some version of her selflessness. That those in my life will know that kind of love and find ways to pass it on themselves. It's funny what a simple little reminder left on a sticky note can do...