Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How To Do The DC Area In Three Days (And Still See A Lot!)


My husband and I are certified travel junkies. Any chance we get, we are dropping off the kids and hopping on a plane to wherever we decided is next on our list. I love our life. A couple of weeks ago, my kids were in Florida for Spring Break so we decided to take some extra days off and get away ourselves. If we're just going for a weekend, we tend to stay closer to home; California destinations typically. But since we had an extra couple of days, we decided to fly ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY and visit one of my very favorite spots: the Washington DC area.

My husband hadn't been since he was seven years old, and I fell in love with it while living there for a travel nursing job in 2012, so we decided to head out there for some fun.

The thing about the DC area is it is COMPLETELY overwhelming with things to do. You could spend a month there and still not see and do everything, so we wanted to organize the three days we'd have and see as much as we could.


My first recommendation is to fly out early and fly back late. Flying back on Monday evening (and gaining three hours going from DC to Arizona) was a big bonus; it gave us the day to fit something else in before flying back. We left on a Friday afternoon and four hours later landed in Baltimore. My second recommendation, if you don't JUST HAVE TO stay in downtown DC, is to stay in the area of the Baltimore airport. It is easier to get in and out, and it was centrally located to all of the activities that we wanted to do. Traffic is MUCH easier to conquer if you stay outside of DC near Baltimore. We like the Embassy Suites Baltimore Airport, it was a nice hotel with great amenities, so that we were able to grab free breakfast before heading out everyday.


Make Reservations Here for the Embassy Suites Baltimore Airport

Since we lost three hours flying out, we got in late and headed to bed right away so that we'd be up early to get our day going without the time change affecting us too much.

Day One: 

We debated on how to organize the weekend because there were several things we wanted to do: spend time in DC proper, visit Gettysburg (on my sweetheart's bucket list), go to George Washington's Mount Vernon, and walk around the Baltimore Inner Harbor. For day one, we chose to head down to Mount Vernon, about an hours drive from our hotel, and spend a few hours at the home of the the father of our nation.




Let me tell you, Mount Vernon is BEAUTIFUL, and absolutely worth the trip. The historical portion is fascinating and the grounds are stunning on the bank of the Potomac River. To stand on the porch where George and Martha Washington undoubtedly sat hand in hand, looking at the same sights that more than 200 years later was touching. Get there early, as the tour of his actual home is scheduled by time when you purchase your tickets, and we barely got into the last group of the day and had three hours to kill before our house tour time was available (no worries--there is plenty to see and do on the grounds while you're waiting, including he and Martha's tomb).




Purchase Tickets to Mount Vernon Here, There Is A $2 Discount Purchasing Online!

There are no photos allowed inside the home, which included the same bed President Washington died in, hence you get the outside. You're welcome.

To continue our day, we wanted to head back into DC for dinner. We are suckers for seafood, but also like things casual for the most part. I did some research prior to the trip and found the PERFECT spot! Be forewarned, it's in the Georgetown area and on a Saturday night the traffic is UNREAL. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you want to go.

After finding super expensive underground parking in Georgetown, we walked a couple of blocks to a tiny little restaurant that had rave reviews. You do NOT want to miss out on LUKE'S LOBSTER!
In a little building, you will find DELICIOUS Maine lobster and all of the necessary accompaniments. We both ordered the Maine lobster roll (my favorite thing of all time, I got hooked on them while living in Maine), with JUST butter and seasoning. No ruining it with mayo for me.
And let me tell you, the lobster roll is to die for. 

We took our food up the narrow wooden staircase to the second floor and shared a table with another couple (yes, it's THAT small). I grabbed a Maine blueberry soda and we overlooked the hustle and bustle of a beautiful spring evening in Georgetown. HEAVEN. Just heaven.


 



After Luke's we had one more stop before heading back to the hotel for the night. We walked a few blocks over to GEORGETOWN FREAKING CUPCAKE! Ok, so it's JUST Georgetown Cupcake, but I love this place. My daughter and I used to watch their show on TLC and went there several times when we lived there. They have cupcakes from heaven. My husband was shocked, even with my prior warning, to see the line that went DOWN THE BLOCK just for cupcakes. I assured him it would be worth it. :)






Forty minutes after getting into line, we picked up cupcakes for that day, AND for the next. He went with red velvet and chocolate, I went with cherry cheesecake and pink tulip. If you ever want to order some and have them shipped to you, it's worth it! Click the link above to treat yo'self.

After this we walked around Georgetown holding hands in the beautiful evening, did some shopping and then headed back to Baltimore to get some ZZZ's for day two.

Day Two: 


Up bright and early on this day, because we had some ambitious plans. Today we were conquering both DC and Gettysburg. We could have spent the whole day in DC, however, my husband has always wanted to see Gettysburg, being the southern hottie that he is, so I vowed that we'd get it in there no matter how long this day ended up being.

First off we drove into the city, which, from Baltimore is truly easy as far as distance. It doesn't take more than 30 minutes if traffic is good. We decided we were going to a good museum first, then to the national mall.  We chose the Newseum! It's not one of the free Smithsonian museums in the area, but well worth the admission. We went on recommendation of a friend who happens to be a travel blogger! It was fascinating and we spent a couple of hours there perusing the multiple levels of the museum, observing things from pieces of the Berlin Wall, to the antenna from the south tower of the World Trade Center, to our favorite part: the FBI exhibit where they actually have the entire cabin that belonged to the Unibomber and the suit OJ was wearing when the verdict was read. We truly enjoyed the museum and the breathtaking views of the Capitol building, just down the block.



After the Newseum, we were a little hungry, and still in search of seafood, as always. My husband has been to one of the Legal Sea Food locations elsewhere and wanted to try this one. He raved about the clam chowder, which has been served at every presidential inauguration since Ronald Reagan's. We had to check it out.

AND IT'S THE BEST. I GET IT. We both had crab rolls with a side of clam chowder, which hit the spot because it was a colder, blustery day.



After lunch we took a walk for a few blocks down to the national mall, to stand in the middle and see the Capitol on one end and the Washington monument on the other. It added to the experience to have seen George Washington's home and learned so much more about his life the day before. Knowing we still wanted to get up to Gettysburg this day, we didn't spend much time there, as it was also getting very cold (hence my warming my face on my husband's cheek). :) But he needed to see it again, as he hadn't since 1978.


After the mall we walked back to the car and headed to Gettysburg, about an hour and a half away. It would technically be the fourth state we'd be in in only two days! Staying in Maryland, Mount Vernon in Virginia, the District of Columbia and now on to Pennsylvania. We checked the times for the Gettysburg Visitors Center and it looked like we could make it with fifteen minutes to spare, so we could pick up a map and do the auto tour of the area. EXCEPT, when we arrived, we had just missed it. Luckily, there are comprehensive maps outside, so off we went for a self-guided tour.

IT. IS. HAUNTING.

Never mind that it's allegedly the most "haunted" area in all the country (I can totally see that), but walking on the battlefields, listening to the stories with the audio app that we downloaded was nothing less than eerie. We looked up what the most haunted spots in the area were and naturally, WENT THERE. It was cold and windy, overcast and nearing evening, so it added to the mystique of the area, most especially at a rock formation called Devil's Den, where Confederate soldiers had hidden and held strong in a particularly bloody battle.




After our tour, as darkness fell and things got blisteringly cold, we threw on our jackets and headed to the downtown Gettysburg area for our scheduled creepy night tour with Gettysburg Ghost Tours. We aren't exactly into ghost hunting, or believe in "ghosts" per se (though demons strolling around is a different story) but this looked like too much fun to miss.

For the next two hours we walked through the darkened streets of Gettysburg with our tour guide, she appropriately dressed in colonial garb. There was an element of the creep factor, hearing stories of gory soldier deaths and the massive amount of dead bodies left to rot after the battle was over, along with ghost stories to go along with it; but the BEST part was all of the historical information we picked up. Absolutely fascinating to walk where history comes alive. We LOVED it. And nearly froze to death. But we DID Gettysburg in just a couple of hours and it was worth the trip!

After the tour ended, we were INSANE and drove back onto the battlefields, trying to catch a glimpse of something similar to THIS VIDEO THAT SCARED THE BEJESUS OUT OF US. I had a momentary freak out meltdown because I did NOT want to see anything, truth be told, but we didn't.

We DID however, pick up some real oddities in a couple of the pictures we took on the ghost tour. I'll save that for another post.

After a good scare, we stopped by the local Friendly's for a quick dinner and to warm up, and headed back to Baltimore, tired after a wonderful, activity-packed day.

Day Three:

We were heading back home that evening, so we didn't have A LOT of time. We chose to wear ourselves out by going to Gettysburg on day two so we could sleep in on day three and just head 15 down the road to the Baltimore Inner Harbor.  Day three was beautiful and sunny, perfect for a leisurely walk along the harbor, where there are colonial ships and a WWII submarine to tour and no shortage of seafood restaurants. We weren't impressed with the small restaurant that we chose, so I'll leave out the link. We held hands, looked through shops, and enjoyed the last day in one of the best parts of this country. Later that day, a quick drive back to the airport and we were back on our five hour flight bound for Phoenix. We had managed to do the perfect amount of activities in those three days and recommend this game plan if you ever have long weekend to visit the nation's capitol!



We are already planning our next getaway, but will definitely be heading back to DC before long, to see more sights. I couldn't recommend it more for a fun and still romantic three day getaway. :)

XOXO,

Cyn

Monday, March 13, 2017

I Got A Man (He's Not Tryin To Hear That)



So I was in a 90's music video this morning. Well, it pretty much felt like it.

We have a breakfast/brunch spot that we frequent on our solo weekends, and often during the week, on my days off, I will take my laptop there and write. I tend to focus better outside of the house.

So there's this creeper of a server at this restaurant. You ladies know what I'm talking about; a guy that throws out the vibe that he's oh so into you but doesn't want to say so outright.

I've noticed several times that he's waited on us; he'll only make eye contact with me when we order; even if my husband is saying something-- dude is answering to me.

He's just SO NICE and trying to act like he's just that cool guy.

It ANNOYS me, but he hasn't said anything wrong so I brush it off.

We were there yesterday; dude saw me with my husband. I kept hoping we would NOT get him as a server and thankfully, we got a lady south of seventy. I was more than happy with Fran, Fran looked more likely to hit on my husband, to my great relief.

FRAN DOESN'T MAKE IT WEIRD.

I LIKE FRAN.

Today I went in to do some writing and my heart sank when I saw so cool guy was one of the only servers on a slower Monday morning. Thankfully, a serve who appeared to be a relative of Fran, let's say Nan, swooped me up into a booth.

I got Nan.

And breathed a sigh of relief that I'd be able to write without being ANNOYED.

Now, I get that it sounds stupid that I'm annoyed that someone attempts to flirt with me. But that's beside the point.

He knows that I am married. He sees me with my husband. I wear a ring.

D-I-S-R-E-S-P-E-C-T-F-U-L.


Today, he was overt. And I got mad.

Nan had taken my order, and this guy was walking down the aisle where my table was. Another server, let's say Gertie, strolled by at the same time. Dude says, as he's walking by my table, "Hi beautiful!" and though I KNOW KNOW KNOW he wasn't talking to Gertie, I pretend he was and ignore his nonsense.

STOP, MAN.

Those diamonds that the sun is bouncing off of on my left ring finger?

THAT MEANS I GOTTA MAN.

I think he felt stupid because he didn't come around for a good twenty minutes. I was seething a little, though.

It's NOT insulting to be called beautiful.

But it IS insulting when the one saying it knows full well that you are very much married.

Funny, he has NEVER said such a thing in the presence of my husband. EVER. What exactly is your end game Dude, because you're obviously seeking my attention?

A few minutes later, he comes around again, stops at my table. Leans over and says, "You're so pretty. I like your outfit today!"

I look down. I take in my blue and white striped loose Old Navy t-shirt and the distressed jeans and flip flops that I'm wearing. An outfit that shouts nondescript and "Hey it's Monday and I just dropped my kids off at school". Also, I didn't even brush my hair. So let's back it up right now, Mister. My outfit says "go ahead and leave me be" and  NOT, "HEY, THE HUSBAND IS AT WORK SO START DROPPIN' SOME COMPLIMENTS BECAUSE I'M JUST A FEMALE WHO CAN'T THINK FOR MYSELF AND I AM JUST SO DESPERATE FOR MALE ATTENTION THAT I NEED THE ******** SERVER TO MAKE MY DAY."

Think about it. Think how disrespectful and dishonoring it is to KNOW someone is taken, but to wait until she's alone to say something to her.

So, Dude, I realize there are women out there who won't say no to whatever man throws them attention, but I'm not going to be one of them.

I texted my husband the story and told him we'd be going to a different location from now on, because if Dude is going to make it weird and be disrespectful of someone married, then we'll go somewhere else.

There's a big difference between just telling someone they're attractive and waiting until someone's spouse isn't present to make more than one attempt to flatter and flirt with them.

No Thanks, Server Dude.

I didn't even stay to write. I left, and shook my head as I drove home.

It dawned on me that this was the exact issue in that piece of music excellence from 1992, by the infamous Positive K. (I know, I didn't even know who did this song nor what he's done since, IF ANYTHING, but I sure knew this song).

I'm happy with the man who will probably still call me beautiful when I round 50 and 60 and 70 and 80....and that's the only man whose opinion of me matters.


Take heed, Server Dude.

I GOT A MAN.  <-----------you're welcome that this will be stuck in your head.
















Sunday, March 5, 2017

On Daddy-Daughter Dances. #NOPE



Yeah, I said it. Don't be mad.

Daddy-Daughter Dances are CREEPY AS HELL. 

Aww, I'm such a killjoy, right? Its SO SWEET for Daddy (first of all STOP calling him that if you're over two years old) to take his little princess out on a DATE, complete with FLOWERS, DRESSING UP and SLOW DANCING.

No. That's not weird AT ALL.

Yes. Yes people, it IS.

There's an epidemic out there ya'll; it's called daughter worship. It's a glorification of daughters and a princessification of girls. It's forcing Dads to go on "dates" with their daughters. To go to dances at school that are supposedly to create an everlasting bond and "teach daughters how a man should someday treat them, because their Daddy is just SO AMAZING and loves little princess SO MUCH that he should absolutely date her."

It makes my skin crawl.

The definition of a "date"?: A meeting of two persons where at least one has a "romantic interest" in the other. Romantic interest can either mean one has a romantic feeling toward another, the feeling can either be described as love, crush or simply wanting to find out if there is possibility for a romantic relationship.

BARF. 

Has no one heard of the Electra complex? The gender-switching opposite of Oedipus? It's where the female child considers herself in competition for her fathers romantic affection. So in essence, isn't the daddy-daughter dance an extension of "Haha, he's dating ME and not YOU"?


It makes things awkward. It romanticizes a relationship that should not be romanticized. It is akin to the atrocious "Purity Balls" that are out there. Girls being paraded in front of others, pledging their VIRGINITY to their father until their husband comes along.

A freaking purity ball.

I would have RATHER DIED than have done something like that. When I got my period and my Dad was away for police training at Northwestern University, Mom made me call him to tell him. She handed me the phone and I said, "I'm a woman, here's Mom." NOPE. NOPE NOPE NOPE NOT HAVING THAT DISCUSSION.

I get the concept of abstinence before marriage, I understand that's the "best way" in the minds of most people, but to humiliate and minimize a young lady in that way is abhorrent. Where is her own God-given will? Where are the decisions she'll make for herself? Is she so weak and unable to make solid, conscious, GOOD choices on her own that she has to pledge the most private part of her maturation to her FATHER? What in the ever-loving HELL?



My Dad has been approached for blessings to marry me twice in my life. Instead of "handing over the keys", my Dad's response was; "She is an adult and she can make her own decisions." How beautiful and amazing is that?! Imagine--my Dad knowing that he raised me strong, I could decide for myself and if I made the wrong one, I'd learn and figure it out--because I was CAPABLE and he believed in me. What an amazing, loving gift to a daughter. (He still, for the record, fully expected them to at least ASK, because he's my Dude). 

Daddy-Daughter dances, in the same way, insert a tone of fatherly ownership. Pretty yourself up for Daddy and he'll do nice things for you. Oh, and he'll be told when, where and how to do so. We're going to schedule some forced time for him to spend with you where he can do the hokey-pokey and other things he just LOVES doing in public. 

Hey ya'll, here's a concept: How about let's not force Dads to take their daughters to a dance (which, let's face it, most Dads would rather NOT do) and instead focus on one-on-one relationship with them? Talks about REAL issues and feelings. Activities that you both enjoy. Maybe Dad teaches his daughter about how great baseball is. Maybe he teaches her to shoot. Maybe he teaches her how to protect herself and to never settle for anything or anyone that does not suit her. 

These dances started in an era when Dads were sold out to their work; they spent minimal time with their kids and Mom was at home. Those days are long gone! Dads are everywhere now. They're at the school Christmas program. They're driving daughters to cheer practice and teaching them how to drive. They're enduring movies like Frozen and Moana because they're spending time with their daughters and building relationships, not being forced into a social glorification of their daughters.

Let's just stop with the courtship-like pressure for the father-daughter relationship. 

And yes, it's courtship-like. If it isn't then why aren't there Mother-Son dances and events? Why, if you google "Mother-Son Dance" are the ONLY things that come up, photos of Moms and Sons at weddings? 

BECAUSE MOMS DON'T DATE THEIR SONS. 

DADS DON'T DATE THEIR DAUGHTERS. STOP IT. 

This very issue was addressed in the greatest tv show of all time: ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.

They capitalized on the weirdness of Oedipal and Electra complexes, by making fun of it. Buster and his mother, Lucille, were famous on the MotherBoy circuit. It was hilariously creepy, and we laughed because it should never be and it makes us uncomfortable. 



So, do tell, why is it socially acceptable to have FatherGirl every Spring?


Not to mention, how about the kids whose fathers are total douchebags and took off years ago? How about the Dads who are deployed? The ones who've died? And what pray-tell, in this inclusive society, is supposed to be done about gay children? Is daddy taking his son to a daddy-daughter dance to exemplify how a man is supposed to someday treat his son?

Yeah, I went there. But it's TRUE!

Now, I'm NOT criticizing the Dads that DO take their daughters to this creepy ass tradition. My own husband took two of his daughters and my daughter went with her Dad. I'm thankful for Dads that actually care and build relationships with their kids. But how is a two hour dance going to force that? Shouldn't schools and society mind their own damn business and let parents and kids figure out their own relationships?

Let's stop putting daughters on a pedestal while simultaneously devaluing sons in society. Sons are equally precious and, in my opinion, overall kinder, quieter, more sweet and loving than are daughters. They are valuable and worthy of time spent and having relationships built too. Where are the society-ordered events for them and Mom?

If you really want to impact both your sons and your daughters, moms and dads?

Love your wife. Even if it's their stepmom. Love your husband. Even if it's their stepdad. Treat each other well. Date EACH OTHER. Show affection. Make sure they see that you value one another and that you do kind things to one another. MODEL healthy relationships. BE who you want your sons and daughters to be. They don't need Daddy (PLEASE DEAR GOD STOP SAYING DADDY IF YOU'RE NOT TWO--I ASKED NICELY--TWICE) to bring them flowers and slow dance with them.
They need to see DAD-NOT-DADDY slow dancing in the kitchen with the woman he loves. They need to see Mom bringing the man she loves his coffee and kissing his forehead.

That's where they learn romance. That's where they learn relationships, love and equal partnership.
Don't let them down.

And to my DAD-NOT-DADDY, thank you. Thank you for not taking me to those creepy dances in the basement of the church. Thank you for spending time with me and teaching me the things that only you could have; I can shoot a gun, throw a ball, parallel-park, know what's going on in a football game, change a tire, throw down some sarcasm and be a tough-love mom because you gave it all to me. You've loved Mom unconditionally for 44 years. You didn't need the world telling you how to treat me. You taught me what I needed to know and let me fly. You trusted me to make my own decisions.

And THAT'S exactly how you raise a daughter. 

PS: My opinion may be unpopular, or maybe it's not. Either way it's okay because this is my blog.

My Dad raised a free thinking daughter. And I'm so, so glad he did.







Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dancing With Ghosts





Grief swirled around me like the dense gray fog that had rolled in on Monday morning. I sat down on the moist earth, grass browned from the frigid Chicago winter, and talked to my grandmother's grave.

"I'm here," I told her, "I may have been gone physically but my heart never left".  Mary and Bernadine, my grandmothers who stayed behind in the western Chicago suburbs as we pulled the Uhaul on to the highway, bound for Arizona in 1981, are still inhabiting my soul.

I was approaching my sixth birthday when I lost the first one, quick and painful, to a heart attack. I have spent years as an Emergency Room nurse now, trying fervently to prevent others from feeling the sharp sting of sudden death, like I had when I was pigtailed and carefree, making my way through kindergarten. That sting has subsided some, like I'd doused it in lidocaine, but the hurt of loss at that age isn't curable. Time is simply a patch placed carefully over the wound, shrouding and protecting it until it's not quite so raw. That is, until you can function as a grown human, a deep fear of death attaching itself strongly to your ribcage, to be drug around silently and then reappearing with each new loss or trauma, clawing at you from the inside.

I lost the second at the age of 40. Less than a year ago. So many more years of phone calls and letters, more kisses and stories and love to share. I can't say that, at this age, that it stung any less. The loss of her is fresh, open, tangled up with guilt and not being able to see her as much as I'd have liked. Not able to care for her in her last years, being the only nurse in the family, eats at me. She was 1,800 miles away. It blessed my soul that she knew the joy of a new generation; I recall the smile and the outstretched arms when, in 2004, she enveloped her first great-grandbaby, my sweet boy, into her arms. Later, two great-granddaughters would be introduced, and just last year, another great-grandson. Generations that existed because of her.


Back in Chicago this weekend, I was stricken by grief, suddenly, violently. It took my breath away. The last time in town, last June, we buried my grandmother. The familiarity of my surroundings pricked at my heart. I couldn't go see her. The goodbyes were done. I couldn't go to my other grandmother's grave, it is several hours away in southern Illinois. And yet, my roots are dug deep here. 35 years in Arizona, but my debut into the world was HERE. My first memories, being pulled by my Dad on my sled down the hill at the end of our street, the sloped back yard at one set of grandparents' house, where I picked little daisies and twirled in my hula skirt in the scorching and humid summers; the broad garden in my other grandparents' yard, now withered and grown over, where I picked cucumbers, rinsed them in the hose and enjoyed their crispness standing there in the grass.


So much life has happened since those years, rolling by in a blink, packing experiences and joys and hurts one on top of another and landing here, nearly 40 years later. The buildings remain, the people don't. Time has stolen them and returned them to the earth, me sure to follow.

I want to talk to my grandmothers. I want to ask them how they felt at this age; watching their babies grow and make their own choices, how their physical bodies wound down and how they felt about life; did they feel like they missed anything? Did they have unfulfilled dreams? Did Gram maybe want to be a physician and not a stay at home Mom all those years? Did Nana want to run more restaurants and be a businesswoman? Did they wish they had had better opportunities? Did they have regrets? I'm sure that I'll have the answers some day, but by then, I'll have moved on beyond the earth; I'll maybe have little granddaughters wondering who I was, what I thought, what it was like to raise their parents.




I'm thankful that I was able to go to my grandmother's house, talk to my uncle, pick up pictures that my grandmother had kept; of me, my Dad, my brother. Little angel figurines she surrounded herself with; two of them coming home with me, one for my daughter, a reminder of the lady she barely knew. A heart shaped pin, that I'll wear often, because she called me her sweetheart. Little connections like sharp electrical currents reaching through time and generations and death, connecting us. I'm thankful that, on the solo nights in my aunt's house, while she lay recuperating in a rehab facility, I found letters in my other grandmother's loopy cursive. They were letters of love and the latest gossip sent from Arizona, while she was visiting for the birth of my brother, sent the day before she died. Her words initially haunted me, "I'm not feeling well", punching me in the chest, her not knowing that before that letter would even reach Illinois, she'd be gone. Then her words made me laugh; at the time tears streamed down my face; I still missed her so much, but her next words made me laugh straight through the tears:



Nothing has changed. 

I rifled through pictures upon pictures. Cards I'd sent and were signed in kindergarten print, my yellow and weathered birth announcement from the local paper in 1976, perfectly preserved. My beginnings, laid out bare, to be shared with my kids. Realizing how much I was loved, being the first grandchild on both sides, and how grateful I am that I got to know those two amazing women at all.

I sat on the floor and let myself feel. Feel their presence in that place; the place we'd all been born, the place they'd lived and died. Grieving that they're gone but knowing that I will always carry them with me and that, as long as I'm still here, so are they. Because I will keep their sweet spirits alive, talk about them, and, when I come back to visit, I will make the effort to visit where their shells lie. Just because they're not physically here, doesn't mean I can't still love them.

And so, in a couple of days in Illinois, I danced with ghosts. The ghosts of them, the ghosts of me that still live there, somewhere. I let the past creep out from the walls and surround me. I felt the soft earth beneath me, as tangible and real as they'd always been. I kissed my grandmother goodbye, even if it was on the cold, marbled stone that has her name engraved upon it. I told her what I'm up to, what I wish I could ask her, what it's really like being with Jesus every day, is time irrelevant?

Someday, I'll know. But for now, Mary and Bernadine travel this road right along with me. They feel the warm Arizona sun; see the messy house full of kids and voices and love. They're in the eyes of my daughter when she smiles; in the laugh of my growing son. They're in my hands as they grow older; in the smile lines on my face, in the appreciation that I woke up with breath in my lungs and joy in my heart. I'm still here, carrying on. Appreciating. Laughing. Loving.

And always, taking them right along with me, no matter where I go.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

When You've Got A Good Thing.



I just have to brag on my husband for a minute. I KNOW, I talk about how great he is like, all the time, but it's because he's legit, ya'll. Let me tell you this. 

I am currently 1800+ miles away in Illinois, being the good nurse-niece and taking care of my aunt, who is in a rehab nursing home in the western suburbs of Chicago after a fall and a subsequent femur fracture. No bueno. 

My little girl (his stepdaughter) had a daddy-daughter dance this week, which I wasn't aware of until the last minute before I was to leave for Chicago. My daughter assured me that she had a dress at her dad's house (surprising to me, as I am always the one who gets them clothes, special event dresses, etc). She told me the colors and before I left town I picked her up some shiny, sparkly patent leather shoes and some tights. We spent some sweet mother-daughter time as I taught her how to roll up the tights to put them on without putting runs in them. As I'm packing for my flight, at 9pm, my daughter informs me that her dad "couldn't find" the dress she was talking about and she'd need to find one of her old dresses to wear. So we scrambled to find one that would be appropriate for a dressy dance and settled on one that still fit, one she'd worn to school. It ate at me that I couldn't go out and find a special dress for her. My husband reminded me that it's not MY responsibility for a daddy-daughter dance, as every time his daughters have had one, he is the patient, amazing Dad who takes them dress shopping HIMSELF. His daughters have no idea how blessed they are to have a Dad who takes care of everything and someday I hope they appreciate that they never had need of a SINGLE thing, because their Dad has handled it all. 



I set out the dress, tights and shoes for my daughter and enlisted my oldest stepdaughter, who is amazing at braiding hair (because her stepmommy bought her a book on it, just saying) to do my daughter's hair. That next morning, at 530am, I was headed to Chicago. 

I spent the afternoon at the nursing home assessing my aunt and getting the ball rolling with better care in her facility (don't PLAY with an ER/ICU nurse's family, ya'll. We know what to watch for). 
It was busy, and in the middle of things, I got a text from my daughter:

"Mommy, what do you think of this dress?" it was a selfie of her in a dressing room in a beautiful black and white floral print dress. 

"Where are you? Are you SHOPPING?!" 

"Yes. John took me to get a new dress. They're all so expensive but he wants me to get one!" 


Her older sisters (stepsisters, but none of them consider themselves "step" anything) helped her pick them out. Her stepdad also found her a little sweater to match because it was rainy and chilly outside yesterday. 

And so. This man took all four girls out to the movies and then out dress shopping. He has handled everything, and somehow manages to make them all feel special. My daughter has never felt unloved by her stepdad; I texted her how beautiful she looked, and then "You really have the best stepdad in the world". Her response: "Yes, I do." So many times I see that she appreciates him even more than his other kids do. 



Last night she was dressed, her sister did her hair, and she felt like a little princess going to a ball.  




Her dad was notoriously late, leaving this little girl waiting. 

But I am grateful. I am grateful for the man that shows up every day; that patiently has learned her, that has loved her as his own. It speaks volumes when, as I am going out of town, that my daughter asks to stay home with her sisters and stepdad, because that's where she has her voice. It's where everyone is on time and she fits in. She has the example now that I always wanted for her; a man who loves his wife with an unconditional love, who is considerate, caring, faithful and thoughtful.  A man who looks at his bride every day, just like this:


(even when she's crankypants or ugly crying or ramped up and letting her temper fly at outside sources). Our first dance song, and "Our Song" is called "When You Got A Good Thing", by Lady Antebellum. It speaks truth; because when you find that One, that makes you realize how good you have it and how much you lacked in the past, you don't ever let that go. Thank you to my sweet husband, the one home holding it down with all the daughters at the moment, being the man that he is. 


My Good Thing. 



Everybody keeps telling me I'm such a lucky man
Lookin' at you standin' there I know I am
Barefooted beauty with eyes that blue
Sunshine sure looks good on you
I swear
Oh I can't believe I finally found you baby
Happy ever after, after all this time
Oh there's gonna be some ups and downs
But with you to wrap my arms around
I'm fine
So baby, hold on tight
Don't let go
Hold onto the love we're making
Cause baby when the ground starts shakin'
You gotta know when you've got a good thing
You know you keep on bringin' out the best of me
And I need you now even more than the air I breathe
You can make me laugh when I wanna cry
This will last forever I just know, I know
So baby, hold on tight
Don't let go
Hold onto the love we're making
Cause baby when the ground starts shakin'
You gotta know when you've gotta good thing
We got a good thing, baby, whoa
So hold on tight
Baby, don't let go
Hold onto the love we're making
Cause baby when the ground starts shakin'
You gotta know, oh you gotta know
Oh you gotta know, you gotta know
When you got a good thing
We got a good thing baby

Monday, February 6, 2017

When Change Breaks Your Heart



The last time I was with my grandmother I fed her her dessert at my cousin's wedding.

It was one of those full circle moments, this woman who had held me the day I came into the world, first baby of a new generation two removed from her, was now being tenderly cared for herself. She was different by then, but she had many moments of clarity. Snippets of my sharp, funny Gram. I can still see her form an "o" with her thin lipped little mouth, her left hand falling against her lower left cheek when she was pondering something you told her, and responding in her sweet little old lady voice, a drawn out "ohhhh yeah?" I can't still hear her say everytime I went to leave after a visit "ohhhkay. I LOVE you." And she'd touch my face with her tiny arthritic hands and kiss me square on the lips. She wrote me letters in college, and I would write back. I can perfectly imitate her loopy cursive "L" that became progressively shaky and unsure as the years marched on. 


I can't believe she's gone. When I went to her house while in town for her funeral, I couldn't imagine that when I sat on the couch she wasn't making her way carefully down the hall with her walker to take her usual seat in the corner of the couch. That I would never again see her puttering around her kitchen making tea. The way she would laugh in the middle of telling a story, and have to pause because she was so tickled. How she would flippantly toss her hand dismissively toward my grandfather, my uncles or my dad when they teased her. She raised four boys and a girl. She could take it. She collected angel figurines and they were scattered around every bit of shelf space in her living room as though she was building a tiny army to carry her home. A picture of the Pope leaned against the candle on her coffee table. 

She is gone. Admittedly, having been moved to Arizona from Illinois as a child, I didn't talk to her as much as other family members. But I'd been with her long enough in my first several years to know how much I loved her and how much she loved me, her first grandbaby. I still called her. She still sent cards. I still stopped by to see her every single time I was in town. Kissed her goodbye. Told her I loved her. 

I tried desperately to get a plane flight back while she was in hospice, working around the frenetic schedules of a busy job and a large blended family. Two hours after buying my ticket and preparing to leave the next morning, she was gone. 

Change had come, without my consent.

In January this year, my aunt, the one whom I just wrote a Christmas post for, to honor her for what she's been to me, fell at home, splintering her femur. She underwent surgery, spent a week in the hospital and was transferred to a nursing home rehab facility, where she is unable to walk or move around on her own; she slurs her words from the narcotic pain medications that numb both the physical and emotional pain she's in. She is not her; she is only able to relay when the care is subpar and how desperately she wants to be home, if she's ever able to reside there again. The sadness and melancholy of her voice makes my heart ache and long for the aunt I knew all my life. She is hidden somewhere, behind a tired, battered woman trapped in the shell of a body that fails her.  She isn't able to hand out advice; her strength has gone, at least for now. I couldn't call her to talk about the meeting at the school today about my son's academic challenges; the one after which I cried in the parking lot, unsure of what to do and feeling alone as a parent. She was a teacher, she'd know what to do. 
Except now I'm on my own in that.

Change has again come.  

I sit next to my son in that same meeting, discussing learning difficulties he has, feeling helpless as to the future course of action. I look at him; the little boy is gone. He grows, exponetially it seems, in a matter of days. His face is dotted with the blemishes of new and unfamiliar hormones, a wispy mustache is appearing above those perfect little boy lips. He still throws his arms around me, but I can't pick him up and walk the house with him clinging to my hip, asking for bananas and snuggling in for an episode of Blues Clues. His voice has deepened, the distance between mother and son, for so long tiny and immeasurable, now sometimes feeling like a chasm that won't be bridged until the maturity of adulthood has fully bloomed. It will be different; it already IS different and that one little boy I had can't, under any circumstances, be seen as a little boy anymore. My heart cracks a little more every time he shares an inside joke with his father, or has a conversation that I'm not privy to with a friend, as his bedroom door closes on my Mom feelings. He'll always be my little boy, and yet he won't be.

Change continues. 

I visit with my parents, active, fun and full of life; yet can't help but see the signs of aging on their hands; pronounced veins, bonier fingers, crinkling skin. They aren't rushing off to work and I'm not safe nestled on their couch, our family life swirling around us, talks of dances and little league games and what's going on at work long forgotten. They are retired; but thankfully are more close by than ever. Their focus has transferred from the boy and girl they raised to the two little boys and two little girls their own two have brought into the world. It's a beautiful sight to see your parents loving your children so well; and yet you know you never get to be that little girl, that hopeful teen, that enthusiastic college girl home for the weekend again. It is no longer your turn. 

Change, time, marches forward

You. 41, an age that you couldn't fathom in 1992, so far removed from your everyday reality then. You see those tiny sharp lines at your eyes that signify four decades of smiles. Overall, you look and feel much younger than you are, but see the changes in the texture of your neck, the lessening ease at which pounds fall off. You begin to accept that the four lost babies in your 40th year means that this body, or your husband's, can't quite handle the jobs done so easily in the early 30's. Pregnancy was so easy then. Taken for granted that once pregnant, staying that way for the next 40 weeks. Your elbow hurts most days. Sleep eludes you more than ever, the changes swirling around you keeping you up and anxious at night. There is no turning back that clock. And so you are thankful for every normal minute, feel good day, happy news that comes, because you are now so very familiar with how quickly it can all be pulled from beneath you. 

I feel changes every day.  



And so, What Now?

For me, the Change That Breaks My Heart is given over to the knowledge that, for me, the Creator of the Universe is fully aware of these hurts; is fully in control and fully standing by for when I move up the chain and am standing in the place of my grandmother, my body giving way to forever. 
There is no stopping it. 

So, in my humble opinion, it all comes down to Love , because we truly have nothing else. 
The social media fights; the political discourse, the stupid obsession with all things Kardashian, none of it matters. They are all distractions from the pain of change we're all fighting every single day. The only thing that heals is the love that I both give and receive. The arms of my husband after a bad day. The quiet bike ride with my daughter on a warm Sunday afternoon. The calls to my aunt to say "I'm still here and I love you". The time spent with my Mom and Dad, making sure they know how grateful I am for them. Encouraging my friends. Helping my coworkers. Spreading joy and silliness through my podcast to give our weary hearts a break and maybe laugh a little at our irreverence. 

Change hurts but it grows us; expands our appreciation, deepens our understanding of the universe around us. It may inspire us and give us something, someone, or a memory to live for; to be better for. Nothing ever happens by accident. 

All we can hope for is that, through the struggles and fires of change, we figure out who we are supposed to be, in the midst of all of the tangles. 

XOXO,
C.

 


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Not A Recipe Blog, But This Breakfast Casserole Is Everything.


Hey ya'll.

Yeah, I KNOW this isn't a recipe blog, because I'm just not that kind of girl.

But I HAVE TO fill you in on my family's FAVORITE weekend breakfast 'round here. My 11-year-old said today, "Can you make this every day? You're the best cook ever". So, I thought I'd share just one more aspect of my awesomeness. ha. 



I have made it in the past but modified for our preferences and essentially combined three different recipes.

It is NOT, I REPEAT, NOT healthy, so if you're no-sugar-carb-bad crap like I am, you can just stare at it, like I did, whilst partaking of my plain greek yogurt with stevia and berries. Almost as good (ok not really but I'm 13 pounds lighter than 2 1/2 weeks ago so it's worth it).

This is perfect for a Sunday morning, especially if you make your kids wait until like 11am for breakfast because you sent your husband to the store. They'll eat better than they ever have, therefore annoying you MUCH less than usual. Also a GREAT and easy idea for "Brinner" as my kinds call breakfast-for-dinner.

So, your shopping list for this recipe will be:

1. 1 16oz. can of Grands biscuits
2. 1 pkg sausage links of your choice
3. 1 packet of country gravy mix
4. 6-8 eggs (depending on family size)
5. 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
6. 2 c. frozen hashbrowns
7. 1/2 c. milk
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Brown sausage and cut into bite-size pieces
Spray a 9x13glass baking dish with non-stick spray
Cut each biscuit into four pieces
Layer on the bottom of the baking dish
Layer frozen hashbrowns on top
Sprinkle with Pepper
Mix eggs, salt and pepper, milk and 1/2 c. shredded cheese in a bowl
Pour over biscuit/hashbrown mixture
Prepare gravy mix per directions
Pour on top of egg mixture
Top with remaining shredded cheese

Bake for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees!
That's it!





You'll thank me for this one, because everyone will shut up long enough for you to drink your coffee in peace. And isn't that what Sunday mornings are all about?