Uh Oh, It’s Almost Christmas

Where does the time go, seriously?

I don’t think I’ve posted a photo on here in AGES, so in reverse order…here is how trying to get Christmas photos for our Christmas card went:

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Jon looks like he’s skeptical at best, Elle has completely melted down and I’m trying to hold my chin up (to look my skinniest) without appearing to completely look down my nose. How’d I do?

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At this point, we were hoping one of THESE would turn out. These photos were taken AFTER we’d gone to the orchard and had family photos taken in October. That didn’t go how we’d planned.

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And then of course, just like the camera battery in the middle of the photo shoot, Elle needed a recharge. This was probably somewhere in the midst of Elle pulling the stockings off the mantel and the beautiful stocking holder onto her head, miraculously only skimming the edge of her noggin.

🙂

We also attempted family photos with a local photographer. I will say that the final edited photos came out better than I would have thought they could, but they weren’t what I had hoped. It really is hard to find great photographers, because so many people (hello, self) stumble into the photography market thinking they can be photographers. There’s way more to it than a digital SLR is all I can say…

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We also hosted Elle’s first birthday party back on October 13. Here’s what it looked like…

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Damn Pinterest – it always looks better in the pro shots, but this was definitely the over-the-top monstrosity I was going for. Minnie themed without being TOO Minnie Mouse-y.

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My Aunt-in-Law, Laura, did all the fabulous desserts, including Elle’s cake. She is a master in the kitchen and this all was just as easy as paying her — which is how I like to do parties these days!

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The Minnie cupcakes are amazing. Here’s an uber-close up.

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Elle may in fact have an Oleg Cassini cake server in her hands, happily stabbing her cake. She wasn’t THAT into the cake, I have to admit. I think us adults did more damage on her behalf than she actually did. Which is amazing, because I feel like she tears everything ELSE apart.

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We worked for weeks and weeks leading into her birthday for her to hold up one finger when you asked how old she was. And here she is, holding up one finger on both hands. She’s advanced and ready for ‘two’ I guess.

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The only picture of the three of us that day. Well, the only one where at least 2/3 of us are looking in the same direction. There was a lot to be distracted by.

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Elle’s Uncle Trevor got her her very first Tiffany’s, carrying on a family tradition that my Grandpa began. It was overwhelming to me – but Elle thought it was fantastic (so did I, but it made me tear up, I’ll admit).

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Did I fail to mention that I got Elle and I matching outfits? Except I didn’t wear red pants? Yup, totally matched. Sort of dweeby, but there’s only so long you can actually pull that off…so…I did it. It kind of made me want to puke, but I kind of secretly liked it, too.

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Did I mention the distractions…err…how I may have invited 80 people…

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…and then…

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This was Elle’s actual birth-day. What you can’t see by my selective posting of photos is that the outfit she’s in in this photo is the SAME ONE we put her to bed wearing the day before. You can obviously see the tired-ness in my face and general appearance here. It was a big night the night before.

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My Mom and Dad got Elle a baby jogging stroller and a baby, Abby. Elle can be seen here sitting on the box it all came in 🙂

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I took these the day before the big party and had them printed at Meijer as 5×7’s and used self-adhesive magnets that Jon’s Mom, Karen, gave me. It was PERFECT. I just stuck them around the house on different magnetic surfaces or on fridges and people could take any that they wanted. It was kind of a favor, but whatever…and the magnet was thin enough that you could still put the whole thing in a frame without ruining the picture itself.

Here are a few others I printed for that day:

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A few days later, we took engagement photos in the park here in town with Jon’s brother and his fiance, Jen. I thought I did an alright job!

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Not too shabby, right?

Anyway, that’s pretty much where we stand at the moment. Or at least the goings on in October.

And to think that I began this post to complain about how I have no Christmas shopping done. And then got distracted…which is why I have no Christmas shopping done.

Well, if you were planning on having a present from me and this blog is any indication, you can expect your gift sometime in February.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the pics and tonight’s catch up post.

 

I Think I Was A Bully

I’ve been struggling with whether or not to even write about this topic, to even put it out here, in my blogging space. But, from back in my sports media days — you talk when it’s good; you talk when it’s bad. So, here it is.

I think I was a bully.

Not in the overt way that one thinks of bullies, but in the more subtle, texturized, intentional way of a teenaged girl.

There was this girl in school. She was sort of weird, but not in any harmful sort of way. She was always one laugh behind, one snort too many when the rest of us at the ‘cool kids’ table thought something was funny. It wasn’t JUST me — we all thought this way about her. In our silent, nose-turned-up kind of way, we ganged up on her.

She’d grown up in our circle of friends, she ought to have moved around it effortlessly. But it seemed as though fitting in took tons of effort for her. It was never natural. Never easy.

It’s like those girls who sometimes grow too fast, they hunch their shoulders in, and suddenly, one day, they realize they are confident and fearless and capable, beautiful and they stand tall.

Except, this girl wasn’t like that. Her shoulders hunched in, as though she were insecure about every step, and she never stood tall, never seemed confident in who or what she was or was about to become. And in high school, that was all that was needed for ostracization.

We graduated from high school 14 years ago this June. We have all gone on to become adults — in one way or another. I knew that the girl had moved out of state, away from the hometown I’d returned to live in. I knew that she was a teacher. That was all I knew.

We weren’t the sort of friends who kept in touch, and she wasn’t on facebook, or at least our paths hadn’t crossed out in cyber space.

Maybe if they had…

I’m telling you folks, this girl got shaving creamed at every sleepover. And yet, she was at every sleepover. We gave her an awful, making-fun-of-her-behind-her-back nickname and she had the exact same hair style for as long as I’d ever known her (how that matters I’m not even sure). But, it was all part of the leaving her out, of keeping her at arms length, of ‘allowing’ her to hover around our circle of friends while never totally, unequivocally letting her in.

If you never had someone like this in your social circles, I applaud you and the rest of your circle of friends. You are better than me and mine. We were not the friends we ought to have been.

Wait, stop.

I was not the friend I ought to have been.

Leave the rest out of it. Perhaps I’ve included others in my memory to ease my own burden of guilt.

And why do I bear the burden so heavy right now?

Because just over a week ago, that girl-turned-woman took her own life, apparently after a bad run of luck and timing in the life she had built for herself.

So maybe if I’d been just a bit nicer…just a bit less judgmental. Maybe if I’d been less inclined to laugh when someone else made fun of her; less inclined to lead the charge or remind everyone else why it was (again) that we were making fun of her.

Do I think that I – or any of us – were the reason she made the choice to take her own life?

Absolutely not.

Do I believe that there was a way for me to have made her journey a bit smoother, a little less rough for the going?

Absolutely.

It haunts me, that the strongest stand she seemingly ever took for herself was at the end of her life. It haunts me that I couldn’t find common ground with someone who I KNEW needed a friend; with someone who I understood to be less comfortable in every social situation than I was.

I think I was a bully. By today’s definition, I very well may have been.

I’ve spoken with several of the women who moved in the same social circle back in high school, and while we have all navigated our way through losses, this one, of a mutual high school friend, of a girl who grew up across the street/down the road/in the same class is haunting us all. Mainly, we’ve seemingly agreed, because we all feel overwhelmingly like we could have done better by her and maybe – just MAYBE – things would be different today.

We knew that she was more fragile. We knew she needed us more than we probably needed her.

And yet, now that she’s gone; now that there’s no way to include her at the Christmas reunion or the 15 year class reunion or the girls weekend, there’s guilt. And a need for absolution.

Every word I have read or spoken of this woman since finding out about her death references a single common word: ‘kind’.

She was overwhelmingly, unfailingly kind.

She was – and will remain in my memory – smiling, kind and caring.

Someone I came across wanted to refer to her suicide as ‘such a waste’ and I loudly refused to allow that. I will not allow her to be bullied anymore, even though I never stood up for her before.

Not a waste.

Perhaps a crying, sorrowful shame.

But not a waste.

Never a waste.

I am better for having known her, for having had her in my life.

And I will attempt to teach and lead my own daughter — and the social circles she chooses to move within — how to be better than I was, than I still am.

 

Juxtaposition

It’s funny, the way things look up against one another.

Thursday night Andrea, Molly and I and our babies enjoyed a laid back evening dinner at Andrea’s house. They had just closed on a cabin across the street from her Dad’s cabin. It was an exciting time.

Friday, her Dad had a brain aneurysm and was gone.

 

My Dad, who successfully conquered bladder cancer 20+ years ago, had to go in Wednesday for surgery to remove ‘they-didn’t-know-what’ from his bladder.

Now I’m a parent and shuddered at the thought of my own daughter not having her Dad.

And then it went and happened to one of my best friends.

 

We grew up on the same lake, where our grandparents both had cottages.

Her Dad had a cabin at the same lake, and that’s where Andrea and her family had just bought their cabin.

It used to be the place I went when everything else fell apart. Then IT fell a part and I found other places, friends, people to lean on. And Andrea could never fathom how it went from what it was to what it IS.

Unfortunately, now she gets to know.

 

You try so hard to protect yourself, the people you love, your children, everyone you care for from the world, from spontaneous car accidents, from themselves. And then, you get a crappy phone call from someone whose job it is to tell you to come quickly, as you sat safe at home, protected. Or so you thought.

 

And I’m so sad for her. I get a lump in my throat thinking of it. And isn’t part of it that when it happens, for a glimmer of time, we’re grateful and thankful that it’s not us. Not this time, at least. Those of us who have lost – and lost big – know the impossibility that living, breathing, eating poses in the face of great loss and we’re thankful that, for this one moment, we can support the grief instead of owning it.

I wish I could un-ring this bell for Andrea, for her family. But I can only be her friend.

 

There will be life. There will be loss.

There will be sun. There will be clouds.

There will be rain. There will be wind.

There will be floods. There will be drought.

There will be friends. There will be foes.

There will be memory. There will be fantasy.

But at least there will have been…well…something, anything, to allow us to savor our time here together.

 

Tomorrow I’ll write something not so Debbie-Downer. I feel like my blogs have been that way lately.

Tomorrow I’ll write something fun and tell you something good, because that’s what we want to hear.

 

 

 

When Asked About Friendship, This is How I Answer

I was watching an episode of Charlie Rose the other night and Matt Damon was on promoting “We Bought a Zoo”. It was an interesting interview and I enjoyed Matt Damon — though it appears as though his hairline is receding. How did that happen?? Feels like something that happens to old people…turns out, we’re getting there.

Anyway, I digress already.

Charlie Rose asked Matt Damon about friendship, about his friendship with Ben Affleck, and that right now, Charlie’s writing a book about friendship and wondered what Matt might have to say about friendship.

Matt answered something to the effect of “Start Early.”

Which is where tonight’s story begins…

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My high school girlfriends and I have been attempting to get together each year on Memorial Day…it worked for a couple of years, and then last year there were too many pregnancies and new babies in our group of gals that it just didn’t work. We decided to try for the holidays.

Christmas came around and it turned out that just the Katie’s were coming to town…Jay and Mindy and Lindsey and Megs and Kristy and, well, everyone else was out. They were doing other things that hitting up the hometown for the holidays.

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I live in my hometown, and I’m glad of it. Glad to live so close to our families, to have the home and the friends that we have. So, when the Katie’s were both available on December 26th, it was that day that we opted to choose for a get together, and I offered to host (what’s one more in a series of holiday parties, anyway?)

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Erin was another high school friend – her and one of the Katie’s even lived together for a blink of an eye in college. But somehow, our friendship sort of traveled a different path.

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Because of the Wonderful Wide World of Facebook, we were able to coordinate our time and location, etc., but I was also able to get a hold of Erin and see if she would be interested in getting together with Katie and Katie and I. We opted to bring spouses/domestic partners (in my case 😉 and children. Erin’s five month old son Easton, Katie’s four year old daughter Maria (they left little sis Juliet at home with her Grandma), Katie’s six month old son Carter, and Elle and I.

So yes, Erin opted in, the Katie’s showed up and the bar was stocked, the wine was flowing and conversation ensued. Until about 30 minutes ago, when the last visitors called it a night.

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When asked about friendship, how do you answer?

Start early. Well, Katie and Katie and Erin go much farther back than I do, but we all came together in at least middle school at some point to become friends. We continued through high school. And college. And now, here we are mothers, with children the same age, getting together over wine and beer and cocktails and laughing — about the same things we used to, about the stupid things we used to do — but also laughing about new things we share. Our children, our body-after-baby complexes, nit-picking about how our significant others help (or don’t, rather) with the laundry.

When asked about friendship, how do you answer?

I can answer this way: I have known these women for years. In high school, we often don’t know what we’re choosing in friends and what that might mean for our days then — and down the road. These women share common history. And while our lives have taken different courses, while we have veered from one another and found our own paths, man, what a life we have had and how great it feels to be together again, like tonight.

When asked about friendship, how do you answer?

Are your abs sore from laughing after just a few minutes together?
Are you already planning the next – albeit too long interlude — until you can meet again and retell the same stories?
Does your heart and soul feel warmer, fuller somehow for having shared time and space with them?
Do they listen when you talk about the challenges of motherhood, of raising a child, of hospital stays and doctor visits and specialist visits?

When asked about friendship, though you can’t answer with any of those questions, I guess here is what I would say:

Start early.
Stay late.
And laugh at everything possible in between.


Love you girls.

Dear Drew,

Note: Drew is my friend Andrea and Frank’s pending arrival and I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately…thus today’s post.

Dear Drew,

You’ll be here in just 2 1/2 days! I can’t believe it – we’ve been anxiously awaiting your arrival for over nine months now. Your Mom and Dad are great friends of mine and I’ve known both of them for a REALLY long time. I was in their wedding last year, too. They’ve been waiting for you to come for even longer than you’ve been in your Mom’s belly!!

Seriously, they are both SO excited for you to get here. Your Dad is ready to be your DAD and to do all sorts of boy things with you. He’s already an awesome Dad to your big brother, Devyn. (Don’t tell him this, but it’s honestly one of the things I am most proud of in him — how great of a Dad he is already to Devyn!)

Your Mom and I have known each other since we were REALLY little. Our Dad’s went to school together in Clio and your Mom’s grandma and grandpa and mine both had cottages on the same lake (Clear Lake — that’s a story for another time, buddy). I remember your Mom coming over to our cottage with your Uncle Jeremy to jump on the trampoline in the summer and I remember going to their cottage to slide down the slide they had in the lake. I was always jealous of that super-cool slide.That, and your Papa’s super fast blue boat with the big motor (you’ll be driving that in no time!).

Your Mom and I ended up going to the same high school, too. We were even friends then. We had a lot of the same friends upnorth at Clear Lake. Really, we grew up together.

Your Dad was a year older than me in school and he graduated from Clio, too. He was quite the athlete back then (football, hockey, baseball — you name it). He and I have a lot of the same friends, too.And now, we’re all grown ups and we’re still friends. It’s hard to do that in your life, stay friends with people for a lifetime — but I’ll tell you this little secret: it’s worth it.

Isn’t it exciting that you and I will be friends for your WHOLE life? I think so.

And the most exciting part is that you’ll be just four months older than my “Minnie” girl! How cool will that be?? You guys will get to be friends from the days you were born — you will have both been in your Mommy’s tummies at the exact same time. You’ll grow up knowing each other and playing with her and fighting over toy sharing. I’m really glad about that — know why? I grew up with a bunch of MY Mom’s friends’ sons (Chad, Colt, Galon) and even though we don’t see each other often at all anymore, we grew up together and are friends from waaay back. It’s good to have people that have known you for a long time like that. And I’m so thrilled that my Minnie will have you as a forever friend like that!

My hope is that you’ll be an awesome sleeper in the next couple of months, that you’ll let me hold and cuddle you without crying (I need practice buddy, Minnie’s coming in just FOUR MONTHS) and let me take some fun pictures of you over the next four months so I can get some good photography practice in before Minnie arrives. Hopefully that’s a deal.

Honestly, you couldn’t be getting two better parents. They have been working so hard to get ready for you — your room is all ready and waiting for you. Your Dad and Uncle Bob and Grandpa Jim just finished the basement so you’ll have lots of extra room to play in and Devyn — well — he’s a busy guy but he’s going to be such a good big brother, I just know it. Your Dad is a good big brother, so I know he’ll show Devyn how it’s done!

You’re a lucky guy and I can’t wait to meet you SO, SO soon!!

Be careful on your way here!

Love,
L