Winter Beautiful

•January 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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My first post of 2016…

The title of winter beautiful is a bit misleading for several reasons: one, because I’m not a fan of winter, and two because we haven’t actually had any snow this season so far, save for a little 2 inch dusting a few weeks ago.  The northeast is slated to get hit with a big one this weekend, but for now we have blissfully sailed since November with just the tiniest bit.

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Unlike the starts of years past, for the very first time in the entirety of our relationship, Gabe and I did not to anything exciting for New Years Eve.  There was a huge funk hanging over me because of this…Christmas was over and for the BCE II (Best Christmas Ever, Part Deux) Kellie, Shawn and Nola spent their entire 6 day visit to PA at our house.  There was of course, some issue with this as other family members also wanted to stake their claim on the Byrnes.  It would be hard for me to put into words just how special it was to just be together, not just with my sister, but with our entire families (as Big Gabe is usually missing from our treks south).  The extra driving for other members of the family was worth it, to me, to have us all together in my home.  I know this won’t happen every year, or maybe even ever again, but for this year, it was perfect.

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Aside from family, another aspect of Christmas (and the day after Christmas, when family and family friends returned for more Byrne-stalking) was the inclusion of my friends in our holiday–specifically Josie, Christina, and Joanie.  Its also hard to explain how much this meant to me, for Josie to hold Nola or to see Joanie and Beth chatting away at the island like old friends.

Speaking of friends, back to New Years Eve. It was not the same for me this year.  It’s always been a holiday I genuinely love, and part of that is the celebration aspect, the getting a little dressed up and drinking fancier drinks and laughing and being with the friends who are most important.  This year, that didn’t happen. Oh, sure, we made plans.  But it wasn’t with the people I wanted to be with.  And I ended up falling asleep on the couch before midnight–and before anyone says anything about this meaning I’m old and I’d better get used to the idea, I should mention that most of the company we were with at The Lookout House were in the 50-75 age bracket.  And the only reason I passed out fell asleep early was because I had way too many vodka tonics in effort to cheer myself up at missing my girls (did not work, in case anyone was wondering.)

So, in addition to a paltry NYE, I made no resolutions for this year.  The funny thing is, I feel this year will bring great changes for our family, for me, for my kids. So many aspects of our life–which more or less appears the same as it did in January of 2015–have changed underneath the surface.  Two of my most important friendships have undergone radical transformations.  Living someone else’s drama, pulling them to other side, and watching things spiral again is not something that leaves one unscathed.  And my friendship with my girl who feels closer to me than most anyone has also hit deeper levels of connections.  Things on the professional front with Gabe have been moving in a crazy and exciting direction and its been uplifting to watch him navigate this new phase (stay tuned for updates!) As for me I’ve felt on the cusp of…something…for awhile now. Stella starts kindergarten in the fall and that was always my go back to work deadline.  Still marinating ideas but…stay tuned.

And so January has been okay so far this year.  No disasters, no massive snow emergencies, no major sicknesses.  My kiddos are doing well and we’ve somehow morphed into one of those families, you know, the ones who have their kids in every single sport and spend weekends and evenings driving them all over, washing uniforms, learning how to do ballet buns and spending a small fortune on extracurriculars.  But, you know what? Its been a blessing for them.  I think 2016 will also bring some changes on that front…karate may have to take a back seat because I think our girl might be more into dance than I thought she was.  Her first ballet recital was this past Sunday, and I know she’s only 4.  But she totally impressed me, not just her little dance but her bravery and that big, confident smile while she did it.

And in one final bit of news, the Original Drama Team was finally reunited in it’s entirety this past weekend.  After much planning, my college roommates and I all met in Hershey PA for a day at the spa (read: a day of drinking wine and reminiscing about our lives 15 years ago). We have been together in various aspects and dynamics over the past decade and a half, but this was the first time since Crystal’s wedding nine years ago that we were all together.

And so that’s it for January so far.  Life treks forward.  There is no telling what will happen in 2016, and I have no resolutions this year, but my new favorite quote is going to be front and center.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Happy New Year!

The Power of Female Friendship (Otherwise Known As, It Always Ends Up In My Kitchen with Wine)

•November 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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(Okay, Gabe’s in the picture too, but he’s a good sport…)

If I were to make a grid of the things in my life that are important, sort of a food pyramid for one’s soul, if you will, one of those big, solid blocks in the bottom half would be clearly labeled “Friendship”. It would be surrounded by several other big blocks, labeled “Children” and “Husband” and “Family” and some smaller ones like “Health” and “Animals” and “Money” and let’s face it, a medium sized one labeled “Wine”. But of big chunk of my core is the fact that I thrive on friendship…particularly, female friendship.

I am not sure if all women are this way, or if its just me. Maybe it stems from the scars and rawness of middle school years of frenemies, of high school girl drama, from a college blowout where my “BFF” turned against me over a lost hat. Maybe it stems from the connection I have to several of my high school ladies that has stood not only the test of time, but the test of geography. Maybe it comes from growing older and realizing that there is no need to hang on to not only people who bring nothing to the table, but even those who show up half-assed. Maybe its because I’m in the trenches of a weeks-long binge of Sex And The City (thank you Amazon) which—as any true S&TC fan knows–is at heart a show about girlfriends.

So it brings my mind nightly to my own girlfriends, and to the evolution of my need of good, solid girlfriends. I’ve never taken lightly how blessed I am that despite time marching forward and people and lives changing, that I have a handful of ride-or-die type chicks. Soul sisters. And while I may not see or talk to them every day, they are there and that won’t change. Just as some people drift apart, others do not. But there is also something very strong and real in the physical presence of a friendship. Of the people who see you in your pajamas when they stop by unexpectedly and who have seen you cry over something stupid or snap at your husband in public and haven’t judged you or who have washed your dishes and know what your favorite pair of jeans looks like and know to help themselves to your box wine without asking. There is a palpable human need, I believe, for physical presence and the absorbtion of these small, tiny details of life.

And so this is how, even in my late 30’s, I found myself with a new friend who quickly became an old friend in the space of a few months and a few years. A friend who shows up in my driveway when things have gone bad. A friend who comes over after I’ve had surgery with a bagful of groceries and not only cooks me dinner, but cooks my kids dinner and takes care of my dog until my husband gets home. A friend who makes the elusive Girls Night Out a priority and when more than a week has gone by without getting together, a plan is made. A friend who in such a small space of time has come to know all of my little idiosyncracies and loves me anyhow. A friend who has flaws and yet, that isn’t what I see when I look at her. Who I have multiple inside jokes with and who I have no need to add background details into stories because, of course, she already knows them.

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If I were to list my closest friends, I would note that each one has only been in my life for a few years. There are different levels of connection, but for the purposes of this thought train, I find myself thinking of one friendship in particular. And I feel, much like meeting a boy that you like in high school, that sometimes women meet and just click and friendship comes out of it like a great surprise. A new friend who feels like an old friend almost immediately. Because in theory, we have little in common on the surface. But below that layer, there were details of similarity: a love of reading, dogs, and wine. Extroversion, displayed differently. Intelligence, used differently. A little bit deeper, a love of nature and a belief of spirituality and shared struggles that often are not discussed and only when inhibitions are lowered with a bit of wine. And deeper than that, a connection that feels strong, as though it was always meant to be nurtured.

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And within friendships, as they grow, you develop this lovely little story full of chapters and anecdotes and inside jokes and moments that at the time seem to be nothing but yet you find yourself remembering the mundane and ordinary so fondly. Even if it was just, that one night at a dive bar eating to-die for burgers and discussing failed relationships past with our newly single 20-something girlfriend. Or the night we dressed up and went out to dinner and then lounged until well after midnight on the patio talking, sprawled out on the furniture drinking wine under moonlight, even though it was a Tuesday. Just an ordinary day, moment, conversation. But I thrive on it. These women that are front and center in my life are absolutely part of sustaining my contentment and ability to flow through the ups and downs without ever really falling.

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(Yes, there’s Gabe again…)

Several months ago, I hung up my Mom Uniform and headed to a music festival with a group of people, including my friend in mention, Joanie. There was a moment in the wake of sunshine, summer, music and of course, $14 cans of beer, where she and I went off in search of my husband, who had left us in our VIP box to travel to another stage where he assured us, a greater band was playing. We wandered about, clueless about where he was other than the general direction. Caring very little about when and if we actually would find him (though, he did have our free meal vouchers…) We were distracted by people-watching, hippie stands selling jewelry, and our own bursts of conversation. There was a moment of hysterical laughing when we realized we were no closer to the “Mushroom Stage” than we had been a half hour ago, and she said “Where would I be without you?” and I said “I have no idea, my friend”.

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And its honestly true. This is the person I call when I need someone to talk to. This is the first person who comes to mind any time I want to do anything social. This is the friend who appeared on my patio for twenty minutes the day she put her 12 year old dog to sleep because she needed to go somewhere and clear her head. This is the friend who I need not say anything upon showing up at our beloved poolside in the summer and she will know exactly how my Sunday Funday has begun (happily or pissed off at my kids) and she will know exactly how strong I’ve made my Bloody Mary based on this. She is the friend who will meet me on a Saturday afternoon between photo shoots or after grocery shopping for a “quickie” aka lunch and a cocktail and a super fast catch up session.

She is the friend who, upon introducing her to another friend in turmoil, immediately embraced that friend and has gone above and beyond to help her. The friend who treats my kids like they’re family. The friend who is not afraid to tell me the truth, always, and who not only values me but my husband as well. The friend who can call me out on bullshit and who can handle my sarcasm and jokes about her age. The friend who I recently spent an entire girls day with at a bust of a wine festival, then at an outdoor restaurant with a few other girls, and finally sitting in the bottom of her driveway with a nearly empty bottle of wine watching a lovely October sunset.

A friend who is always in the back of mind and always close to my heart. What is that? Where does it come from? Is it a connection of shared interests or compatible personalities or is there truth to the idea that people cross paths for a reason? That everyone who is in your life is there for a purpose? And there is just something about girlfriends that fills a niche that no other – husband, family, child – can. We often join forces with our girl Cristina and there is literally no topic we have not discussed from men to dogs to gossip to serious issues and bodily functions and everything in between. My circle of friends is not small, but it has layers, and these are the heart of the layers at the moment.

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Somewhere in season 3 of Sex in the City, Carrie and Samantha are walking arm and arm down 5th Avenue and discussing fate and something in Carrie’s past that didn’t happen, and she says to Samantha “But then, I wouldn’t have you in my life.” Several nights ago, Cristina and I went out to dinner and Joanie chose not to join us because she had plans with a group to organize a cookie bake…we told her where we were and to come join us when she was done. About halfway through eating, we both expressed good-humored annoyance that she went to a cookie bake organizing party instead of Girls Night with us (read: we missed the dynamic that is there when it’s the three of us.) More good humored ribbing led us to take selfies at the restaurant and text photos of the enormous amount of food Cristina was putting away. Somehow in the garble of texts she missed the memo and thought when we said “Come over” we meant to my house, not to the restaurant we were dining at.

And so Cristina and I paid our bill and rushed back to my house. Amid the laughter and the rolling of Gabe’s eyes a couple glasses of wine we learned that the cookie baking went south, she should have come with us in the first place, and the attempts to figure out how she misconstrued our messages. A couple more glasses of wine and lots of chatter into another late night that we are always sorry (not sorry) about, and a moment where she said to me “I can’t believe I ditched you guys tonight” and I said “But somehow, it always ends up in my kitchen with wine.” And I remembered the Peach Festival and our lovey-dovey friendship moment and reminded her “What would I do without you?” And her response was “I have no idea”.

And I could write of so many other little things, such as the dynamic when our husbands are involved or how she reminds me so clearly of an old boss and mentor in my life or a million goofy little stories or jokes but I sort of think that’s the thing about friendship. Unlike love stories, unlike children…there really is no big great moment, no wedding ceremony, no birth. Its stronger than that, with no need for fanfare. Its nurtured through kindnesses and blunt truths and support and so much conversation and built up and fed, mostly, in my kitchen drinking wine.

That Time Moose Ate The Chicken…

•October 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

So, two things have shifted in our household over the past  month or so.  The first is relatively significant.  Everyone should brace themselves but…I have begun cooking.  As in, meals.  Sometimes meals that contain meat.  Gabe has always been the commander in chief of the kitchen, for a variety of reasons, some noble (he’s a man who cooks for his family) others less noble (he’s picky.)

Over this summer and increasingly so as school has been in session, its become clear that due to work demands Gabe does not have the time to cook dinner, and M-F its anyone’s guess whether he will be home at a reasonable hour.  In the past, this didn’t matter as much, but with school and strict bedtimes and the fact that the kids are starving as early as 5pm has made waiting for Dad less desirable.  Much of the summer our dinners were “mom meals” aka microwavable or pasta.  Or take out.  Realizing that this whole Lindsay Being In Charge of Dinner thing was becoming a trend, I decided to start trying to cook.  Which means I get to make a meal plan!  And do the grocery shopping!!  its pretty exciting ;)

Ok, so.  The other shift.  Awhile ago one of the kids left some bakery muffins open on the counter…and Moose ate them.  He’s never been a counter-surfer or trash hunter but of course he is an animal, a lab at that, and the muffins were lovely and aromatic.  I didn’t think that much of it.  Couple days later….freshly baked loaf of banana bread disapeared…all that was left was the foil.  Then some cornbread.   Then something that I can’t remember but I do remember angrily texting someone “That was my LUNCH!  He ate my freaking lunch!”  We started putting him in confinement when not home and I made a point to tell everyone to be more conscious about leaving food out (you can imagine how that went over with an 8 and a 4 year old…)  But.  Moose is nearly 4 and he’s never done this, so we aren’t in the habit.  Then there was a loaf of bread that disapeared.  The banana that was stolen from the fruit bowl and scarfed right in front of me.

So.  The month of September has been busy.  I can’t remember every single item of food.  Last week, in my now deluxe planning mode, I made a roast chicken.  A whole chicken, with a homemade rub, stuffed with lemons and stuff, in the crock pot for 8  hours.  Came home and put it under the broiler for 5 minutes.  Transferred to a platter where it basically fell off the bones…which I picked out and then arranged it all with the vegetables.  Covered it all with tinfoil and ran upstairs to give Stella a fast shower before the Gabes got home.  The house smelled heavenly.  The chicken was beautiful.  My only regret was not taking a picture of it.  Because when I came downstairs no more then 10 minutes later, this is what I saw:

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Gone.  The whole thing.  AN ENTIRE 6# CHICKEN!  He was nice enough to leave some scraps and vegetables but the entire chicken was gone, foil strewn about, the cooktop smeared with slobber and pawprints.  I screamed out “OH MY GOD!!” (Just kidding, I screamed out a bunch of expletives and Stella started to cry.)

I’ve heard stories like this.  Of labs stealing food.  Of counter surfers.  Of dogs taking the Christmas Eve ham.  But seriously.  Moose has always been a dog of extremes…I am fond of saying that everything about him, good or bad, is 150%.  And he gets a freaking A+ in food stealing.

The good news is its kind of a funny story.  And he had zero fall out from his thievery in the digestive area.  And we happened to have a frozen pizza and it wasn’t the end of the world.  And Stella learned some new words.  (Just kidding again!  She’s heard them all before!)

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And…he’s a big lug of a dog who doesn’t even fit on the chair.  And if nothing else, I think we’ve all learned our lesson about leaving food out.  Everything is safely stored in the fridge, the microwave, and the oven.  Fingers crossed that he doesn’t figure out how to open these!!

Squeezing Every Last Bit…

•August 28, 2015 • Leave a Comment

A few weeks ago I was chatting with one of my “pool friends” who said, in almost a desperate voice, that she had been spending nearly every night on her front porch, long after her kids and even her husband had gone to bed, because she was “soaking up every last minute of summer”.  There was a sense of dread and panic in her voice as she gestured wildly around our happy place – the pool nestled in the mountains and under blue sky with the sounds of the mushroom fountain and kids laughter and the thwack of golf balls and the smell of popcorn and burgers grilling – and said, “I am going to miss this so much.”

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I see it everywhere…running into mom friends at the mall Oh, are you back to school shopping? Us too.  CAN’T WAIT FOR THE KIDS TO GO BACK! and I nod and agree that yes, my kids are getting bored and lazy but in my head I’m thinking no no no I am nowhere near ready.  Sure, it will be nice to not be breaking up fights all day long.  And I swear to God I’m going to need therapy to deal with the amount of times a day Gabey has complained that he’s “bored”.  But, no.

I see the cute little things everyone is posting on Facebook, such as an orangutan dancing wildly with the cute little caption, “Moms On The First Day of School”.  And its cute and catchy but no.  I cannot relate.

I’ve written up our little whiteboard calendar for September.  Color coded each kid’s soccer practices and games.  Have written in when I have photo shoots and chiropractor appointments.  I’ve typed up a “weekly schedule” as a reminder to everyone (ahem, Gabe) which nights we have karate, soccer, and which nights have the highest likelihood of the 4 of us eating dinner together.  I’m currently searching online for crockpot recipes to keep on hand because its the only way my kids are going to eat dinner outside of the realm of chicken nuggets and pizza.  And while organization and planning excites me like nothing else….I’m just.  No.

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This is what I want to be doing.  I said early in summer one night, dining on the patio at our club with my girlfriend, sipping an extra glass of wine in the extended daylight when really both of us needed to go home (oh wait, no we didn’t Summertime!) that “I just want to wine and dine in the summertime all year round.”  I know this isn’t real life.  I know we must return to responsibility and schedules and enforced bedtimes and I probably have to stop drinking wine on my patio nightly, staying up late each night just to soak it in…

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So, no.  When everyone says they’re ready for the kids to go back, bored, looking forward to fall and campfires and football and cooler weather I’m over here like…no.  I’m already mourning summer and there are still a few days left.  I realized this morning that today is really kind of the “last” day as we have the weekend, and then 2 days in which other things that aren’t fun or frolic need to happen, and then the first day back is next Wed.  So today is it, and we can’t do anything really memorable or big because I hired a landscape guy to come do some maintenance work as an anniversary present for my husband (best wife ever) and I want to be here while he is here.  So, today will be hanging at home.  Nothing “special” and nothing “celebratory” to commemorate what has unbelievably come to end, already.

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And I know that its not the total end.  There are still plenty of warm nights left.  I don’t need to pack up my flip flops yet, and the pool will remain open until the middle of September.  But its dying down and ending and as with every year I have such a sense of profound sadness.  How many more years is Gabey going to be into doing “stuff” with his mom?  He will be NINE next time this season rolls around.  How many more years until he’s a surly kid who doesn’t want to do anything?  How many more summers until Stella is off and running with friends at the pool?  I will probably start working again this year….so was this my last summer with complete and total freedom?  Will I never again have the luxury of waking and going about the day at my leisure?

And so, Summer 2015 encompassed a beach trip, a cabin trip, various lake adventures, all but 1 Sunday spent at our beloved pool with a wonderful group of friends that, for the most part, I will likely not see most of them until next summer.  Many conversations happened last Sunday of “lets make sure we get together” and “what can we do for Sunday Funday once fall starts?”  The intentions are good but the fact of the matter is it most likely won’t happen.  School starts (for those of us with kids), jobs resume (for those of us in the education field), and the weather turns (for those of us who hibernate).  It is what it is and maybe that’s part of what makes it special….that its just those lazy, slow 12 weeks that seem to drag on and fly by all at once.

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Summer, I will miss you tremendously.  But until you’ve truly left, I intend to squeeze every little last bit out of you…

The Weekend in a Nutshell

•August 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I had intended to blog about this weekend…we attended my grandmother’s 90th birthday party.  My healthy, sound-minded (well, as sound of mind as you can be in this family!) grandmother is NINETY.  Let that sink in for a minute.

And then add 6 children, various children-in-law, 12 grandchildren, various grandchildren-in-law, and 14 great grandchildren, nearly all of who attended the party.  Throw in a gaggle of siblings, cousins, and extended family and the word my grandmother used the most to describe how she was feeling – overwhelmed – is probably the most accurate word.  90 years.  Overwhelmingly amazing.  Overwhelmingly special.

And yet, my favorite part of the weekend was of course the evening before and the evening after the party.  When a bunch of my cousins gathered at my parents house, my childhood home, to catch up, fish, hang out, take pictures, drink beer, and just spend time together.  The last time we were all together was Kellie’s wedding (I think) and its hard to say when the next time will be.  Its hard to put into words what a great experience it was, but since my Dad beat me to it, I shall give you his words instead.  Enjoy.

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To Everyone:
 
As I cleaned up today, the only party animals that remained are the ones on the attached picture.  I could not help thinking over this past weekend how wonderful it was to see everyone together . . . and not for a funeral. 
 
While the party for Gram was our purpose for getting together, I cannot begin to express how it made me feel to see all of you together; especially our time away from the party goers – when we were at the pond. I got to spend time with Max and Alex on Friday night.  To see that gleam in a little boy’s eyes as he reels in a fish with a grin from ear to ear is what life is all about.  To finally meet Alexandra who simply blew me away with her ability to repeat words (and eat!).  And she melted my heart when she called me Uncle Mike!  Looking at her takes me back 33ish or so years to another little girl who melted my heart. Thank you Ken and Erin for coming over the first night.  Kellie and Shawn, I know this trip is a bear for you guys and with such a short turnaround, even more of a challenge.  But, knowing that you were with Gram on her 90th birthday is special, very special.  And, for Nola to see her cousins and for them to see her was special too.  Seeing her between Shawn’s legs fishing almost brought me to tears. Watching Gabe and Max run around the pond just to run and answering their questions as we placed the luminaries in order to “Make the Magic” was indeed memorable.  Stella’s fascination with other little people, especially other girls is always something I enjoy. Seeing the kids running up the path to the house was one of those sights that I will not soon forget.  Who will forget seeing Vanessa dressed to the nines catching a fish at Pinto-Bay Pond (Ok, she just came of a photo shoot).  And her sister Lily dressed completely the opposite; casual/cool.  And both mesmerized Stella as older girls typically do. Peter and Danny are the newest members of this elite group and with parents like Nate and Abbey anything and everything is possible.  I am so happy you are living so close.
 
But, as much as the grandchildren put smiles on our faces, it’s you guys, our children that grew up in the same general time frame, who have been together at family events for decades and who bring new faces to the mix that really make me proud of our family.  Seeing you guys as adults is a cherished time for me.  Partly because I am getting older, partly because I love hearing about your lives and seeing each of you change as you mature.  Learning, succeeding, becoming parents; really responsible parents and achieving success in jobs or personal accomplishments is like watching a great movie where you know all the stars.  Sometimes failing or falling short of people’s expectations or being dealt a bum hand is all part of life.  Don’t ever, ever think someone else is lucky because they are not dealing with whatever life stresses you are dealing with.  Everyone gets their share of disappointments in life but there will always be someone else’s story that is worse than your own.  Stay positive about what you have and stay positive about your futures.  You are this family’s future and I am so happy to see it playing out before my eyes.
 
Keeping families in touch with one another is not easy, even though e-mail, text messages and FaceBook have made it easier.  It takes work.  It takes effort.  To think that the Merrell kids all ended up in the same general geographic area as young adults is simply unbelievable to me, especially when I think of how many times you all moved.  And yes, it has already begun to change, but in the years ahead, that time in your lives will be very memorable – trust me!!  Kellie and Shawn are 8 hours away and now Ashlee and Steven will be across the globe.  Who knows where we will all be 10 years from now. Everyone’s lives will change and as they do it will become harder to maintain that connection.  Don’t expect someone else to do it – be the one that reaches out to make connections, get together from time to time – and not just at weddings and funerals.  It’s an investment in family – something that your parents and I have worked hard on over the years. There are lots of people who do not have what we have and simply said – their lives are not as rich as ours have been.
 
So I guess I just wanted all of you to know that you are very special and that Kathi and I and your parents think the world of you.  The future is yours.  But I caution you – the time will fly by and all of a sudden you will be our age (scary) and (hopefully) planning parties for us!!! (hint, hint).  Don’t put off saying or doing things that in your heart you yearn to do.  Ashley & Steven – your move to Germany would have scared the hell out of me but I so admire what you are doing and why you are doing it. Life goes by quickly and I know you all think you have forever to say and do all the things you dream about – maybe you do, but maybe you don’t. Embrace yourselves and those around you.
 
Please share this with Jessie and Ian and of course “Tre”, as I could not find e-mails for them. Let’s try hard to make sure we do this every so often, even if it’s just to make this old guy smile!
 
I love you guys,
 
Dad/Uncle Mike

A Journey to a Place, or, How Summer 2015 is Going So Far

•July 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I always consider my birthday “the beginning of the end of the summer” and despite the fact that it seemed like time dragged itself on allll winter long, we are already at the beginning of the end.  May is gone, June is gone, July is going.  We’ve going to North Carolina twice, the pool a million times, and half of our cherished “Sunday Fundays” are already in the past.  This weekend was yet another much anticipated summer moment that, unfortunately for me, is not going to happen thanks to a very angry uterus and a body that is apparently saying “Screw you Lindsay!”  Instead of being in VA reuniting with my college roommates and enjoying a 4 day break from my kiddos, I’m laying on a couch writhing in pain.  On the bright side, I guess I will have time to do things like write in my blog and catch up on Netflix although this is not even remotely how I anticipated my birthday weekend to begin….

So, the summer started with two trips to the OBX.  One in May, our girls trip with Mom, Sue and the kiddos over Mother’s Day.  It was decidedly unremarkable, which (if you know my kids) is pretty awesome.  Our second trip occurred in the end of June…my parents, my kids, and me.  It was first compounded by my lovely woman problems (we should call this summer The Summer Lindsay’s Uterus Tried to Kill Her) and then further complicated by some very, very willful and difficult children.

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Could also be known as the The Summer Stella Ruined all the Pictures.  Or The Summer Mom Snapped So Many Times and the Kids Learned All the Different Ways Swear Words Can Be Used.  Ok, our trip was not horrible, not by any means.  And I won’t lie and say that my feeling terrible physically doesn’t impact my mood or patience.  BUT.  The kids were bad.  Stella adopted the role of “middle child” so well I had to stop and think about whether I had a 3rd kid I was forgetting about.  Gabey was his ornery self.  The kids fought a lot.  My parents and I had disagreements over things like food and grocery shopping and bedrooms.  Kellie had panic attacks about the fact that she had to leave Nola with someone besides Shawn for the first time (me!!  And it was AWESOME!)  There were shark attacks happening while we were there.  I just read a fantastic article that talked about how, when kids come along, it is not a vacation.  Its nowhere near the definition of vacation.  Its simply “a journey to a place”.  A trip.  A “work trip near water”.

The main highlight of the trip, of course, was Miss Nola’s 2nd birthday.  A reminder to all that life is certainly miraculous and not to be taken for granted…even in the midst of siblings punching one another and 7 year olds crying in the bathroom telling you “I wish I had a new life!” because you would not tolerate him punching his sister in the back in front of a crowd of 30 people.

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Speaking of Gabey, he’s had a rough summer.  I mean, he’s had a pretty freaking awesome summer thanks to his MOM who took him on multiple vacations, signed him up for Lego camp, and makes sure to hit the pool a few times a week.  Along with making sure he reads books, taking him to the library, and driving his butt to karate.  Still…he has so far spent a grand total of 2 weeks of summer being grounded.  He has – at one point – lost every single electronic and toy he owns.  He lost all of his money to pay to replace the family’s Kindle that he broke in a moment of frustration by throwing it on the floor.  He has been punished multiple times for telling lies about stupid things, such as “Did you take a shower?” I know that maybe he is just testing boundaries and my harsh punishments of slave labor (see above photo) and the cessation of all fun things are just as torturous to Gabe and I, but sometimes I just want to smack him and say, Come on, Kid!!!  Stop ruining the summer for everyone!!!!!!

Ok not totally ruined.

What else?  Well we also had our annual trip to Dunwoody, which came at a much needed time of a break from people and things and electronics.  It was peaceful and easy, and proof of my theory that no matter how many adults are on a trip, kids are easier to manage when both of their parents are present.   Our weather was lovely, we got to spend some time with cousins Nate and Abbey and their kids, and Miss Stella caught a fish!

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We also celebrated Gabey’s birthday.  His EIGHTH birthday, which is hard for me to contemplate.  8 just seems so…old.  I can very clearly remember myself being 8 years old.  As usual, the poor kid’s birthday got sandwiched between our 4th of July festivities, our Dunwoody trip, and a bazillion other things that all happened in one week such as Lego Camp and the Pavuk visit.  This was the 3rd year Aubrey and kids spent the night with us on the eve of Gabe’s birthday, and it panned out much as it has in the past with chaos, crazy kids, a campfire and some pool time.  And, following the trend, Stella’s refusal to smile for any pictures….

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And I guess the final detail of the summer so far is the adult fun that has been occurring.  Its so, so easy to push aside responsibilities and the need to go to bed at a reasonable hour in light of late summernights, moonlight, fires, wine, and just in general, good friendship.  We’ve spent a lot of nights on our patio together, or with friends, and I must admit that its my favorite part of summer….summer nights outside.  Our patio has really evolved in the past few years with the addition of the pavilion…twinkle lights…furniture….fans to blow the heat when needed, fire to warm it up when not.  It’s truly a little oasis that I adore.

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And so as we hover closer to August, we have lots to look forward to, provided my body issues don’t ruin everything as they have this weekend.  Peach Festival with friends to celebrate our 10th (yikes!) wedding anniversary.  Another camp for Gabey (solar powered kids).  More pool.  More Sunday Fundays.  A family reunion of sorts.  More long nights.  More fun times with the girls.

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And as much as I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoy all the “journeys to places” that we take, I am happy to be spending August at a slightly slower speed, not leading up to any more vacations trips, and just enjoying what I can of the best season ever.

What Lies Within

•June 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday, I came across the above quote and from now on, when people ask me “What’s your favorite quote?” that is going to be my answer.  Beyond the literal truth, what I take it to mean is that the details, the events, the happenings, the things that occur in our life are of little matter when compared to what is within us, what makes up our character and personality and the core of who we are.  Our attitudes, perceptions, acceptance and how we handle the world are far more important.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a lot of things, lately (shocking, I know.  So much thinking!)  Friendship.  Family.  Kids.  Life.  I’ve had a few days lately where my level of contentment was so high I felt the need to tell the people around me, repeatedly. Some of it, of course, is situational.  I mean, who wouldn’t be content sitting on the side of a pool on a gorgeous May day with a beverage, happy kids, and good friends?  But then again, was it the situation?  Or was it a general sense of being satisfied with myself and the life that we have that leads me to take a bit more appreciation for what’s around me?  Because if truth be told, Gabey was causing problems and Stella pretty much begged non-stop for “something from the snack bar” and my beer was warm before I even drank it and I was coming off of a few days of lingering…intestinal distress.  But it just didn’t seem to matter on that afternoon.

I’ve spent the better part of the last week watching someone I care about tremendously go through what has been described as “the worst moment of my life”.  The details are not important and its not my story to tell, but living something second-hand is hard on a person.  All kinds of feelings…shock, horror, anger, sadness, helplessness.  Fear for my friend on many levels.  And then, her leap of courage of the kind most people will never take.  A journey of self-realization read through probably a thousand text messages.  And its been said to me to back away and distance myself, after all, its not my tragedy.  But how do you that?  How do I do that, and stay “right” within myself?  The answer is, I don’t.  Can’t.  What can I say, when it comes to empathy, I’m a badass!

But in all seriousness, her story isn’t over, and won’t be, for a long time.  In many ways its just begun.  But for me, to have gone through this with her, and to see her break through the surface on the other side, has been powerful.  Its caused me to look at all of the things in my own life, to have thanks for things I don’t actually think about on a regular basis, like being able to do what I want, when I want.  For having a marriage that is not perfect, but solid and safe.  Kids who are far from perfect (sorry guys) and often bring out the worst in my patience level (sorry again, guys) but who are smart and healthy and, lets all just admit it, pretty good looking.  For having a family that’s real, without any Duggar-esque drama or estrangement or tragedy.  And friendships.  In particular, girlfriends.  I have lots of friends, and some are old and some are new and some are acquaintences and then there are those who are close to my heart.  And guess what all of those friends have in common?  A sense of integrity.  A sense of loyalty.  A sense of happiness and a general peace of mind about life.  NONE of them have perfect lives, far from it.  All of them are different with different priorties and different lifestyles but when it comes down to it, they are genuine and real and good.  And I find as I have gotten older, I’ve slowly gravitated towards this–surrounding myself  (and by default, my family) with people who bring positivity and contentment, and letting those who don’t, fall away.

The perfect contrast: last night I had a girls night out with two of my favs, Cristina and Joanie.

We’ve all known one another at different levels over different amounts of time, but somehow fell into a tighter friendship over many nights around my island or at one of our favorite restaurants over the past year or so. The 3 of us could not be more different in many ways: our ages span 2 decades. Two of us are married, one is not. Two of us are childless, one is not (guess who!) Our jobs are different, our styles are different, our pasts are different. But yet there is a connection on a fundamental level and its tough to find words to explain it.

Anyhow, last night as we sat outside around a table with our glasses of wine and our conversation that flowed effortlessly between some hard core emotional advice-giving to trying to come up with something that rhymes with “30” for Christina’s birthday invitations (related: dirty, flirty and birdy were all suggested). I got a message from a lady who I met when our daughters had an activity together this spring. She had sent the message to a few people, and was trying to arrange summer playdates “for the ‘cool’ kids only”. In the past I would have struggled with what to think, how to answer. I would have checked the names on the message and wondered why so-and-so was not on there. When you’re in your late 30’s, what does that even mean, “cool”? This is a woman who once spent a great deal of time gossiping about someone else’s mothering skills to me…only to realize halfway through the conversation that I not only knew who she was talking about, but that it was someone I considered a friend! Once I disclosed this information, her tune suddenly changed to nothing but praises and statements that completely contradicted the catty gossip she’d been spewing just moments before.

And then, an invite to join the group of “cool” kids. Lucky me!

I put the phone away, and fell back into the present time. A lovely summer night of wine, friends, a couple of dogs and some really, really pathetic attempts at birthday poetry. (Its safe to say Emerson will not have any competition from us in the poetry department.)  With the aforementioned friend in the back of my mind, and the girls in front of me, and the knowledge that I was there at all because Gabe had the homestead under control and that overwhelming feeling of content…it suddenly clicked.

This is the cool group. Its what lies within.

 
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