Category Archives: me and my thoughts

Illini. Forever.

For Christmas, the boys all got new Illini pullovers and tickets to the basketball game against Northwestern. Saturday was finally the day we got to go to Champaign-Urbana!

We left early Saturday morning from STL, so that we could have several hours on campus for shopping and sightseeing before gametime, and also to ensure that we could eat two meals at our favorite Green Street locations. Priorities.

On our way out of town, my friend Kelli texted to see if we’d seen the latest forecast. I hadn’t, but it had changed from the 1″ of snow that I was expecting to 5-7″, on its way midday into the night. Great. But at this point…whatever. We were on the road, so not much we could do about it now.

We got to C-U, and I swear, I smiled all day long. I love being on campus so so much! We had lunch at Zorba’s, followed by shopping at the local bookstores for some new Illini gear.

zorba's entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

zorba’s entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early.

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early. #goodparenting #ftw

I posted this picture to Instagram/Facebook kind of early in the day.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn't wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in '99.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn’t wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in ’99.

My roommate Karen commented on that picture: “Um, not trying to be mean, but are you wearing orange? It looks like something cute and trendy, but it better be orange!”

Hilarious! Because every good Illini fan knows: YOU WEAR ORANGE TO ASSEMBLY HALL. I didn’t have anything to wear (my Illini gear was all old and too big), so part of the plan was for me to find a new tee while shopping and change clothes in the van in a parking garage. Which is exactly what I did (my kids: “Are you serious?” Me: “Totally. There is nothing weird about this.”).

We took the boys by all of our old res halls and apartments, which just made me grin even more…Wardall 6 and 502 w Green #205 were home to three of the greatest years of my life, and just getting to see them made me happy. (Matt did not feel the need to be photographed outside where he lived. Weird, right? ;) )

because you needed to know which rooms were mine.

because you needed to know which rooms were mine. and…there’s my orange!

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

And THEN, we got to spend some time with my other roommate, Kim, her husband Rich, and their daughter Zoe at our other favorite Green Street spot, Murphy’s Pub. Our boys love going there and scratching their names into the tables and benches, and, of course, the food is great. Loved catching up with our friends, and making big plans for a fall reunion!

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

By the time we left Murphy’s, snow had started falling on campus. Oh well. We got to the game about 30 minutes before tip-off, and the boys were so pumped. They just wholeheartedly love Illini basketball, even when the team isn’t that great.

assembly hall with these crazies.

assembly hall with these crazies.

Fortunately, it was an awesome game that saw the Illini hit 14 of 28 three-pointers and result in a 26-point victory. Less fortunately, it had really started snowing by the time the game was over, and our drive towards home got more treacherous the further south we got.

So, we made a decision about 15 miles outside of Effingham that we would take Matt’s parents up on their offer to let us stay there overnight instead of continuing on with horrible visibility and road conditions. They graciously took us in, and the boys crashed immediately.

We woke to a full foot of snow on the ground there, but were happy to hear that STL had only gotten about 4″. And by late morning when we headed out, roads were clear and the snow had nearly stopped, making travel much, much easier.

I think it’s safe to say that none of us will forget this trip soon.

Let’s All Be Brave.

Friday night, I had some good-for-the-soul time with two of my best girlfriends. Over dinner and a couple of drinks at one of our favorite spots, we talked and laughed for a few hours that served to recharge our batteries.

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here we are, reunited on sunday morning.

 

Also: it’s not a night out with me until someone has told me I’m too loud. And that happened a couple of times, which is another mark of a successful evening. What can I say…I am a tiny bit loud.

These girls, Kelli and Robin, are not just friends that I have a good time with. These are girls who know me. They know about these big, scary dreams I have for myself, and they’re supportive. Not just cheerleaders for my cause, but people who ask hard questions, pray for me and my family, and hold me accountable for the things I say I’m going to do. And I do the same for them.

They’re the girls I referred to at the end of my Maybe It’s Time post, who are also dreaming big this year. And they’re well on their way to pursuing their goals, and we are only seven weeks into the new year.  I’m kinda proud of my people.

And? I’m beyond blessed to have more than just these two in my corner. There are a select few others, too, pulling me out of my comfort zone and into this next whatever-it-is stage I’m entering.

>>>>>

On Friday morning, I saw a review for a book called “Let’s All Be Brave” by Annie Downs. I read a little more about it, and I decided it was something I needed to read. I ordered it from Amazon, and thanks to prime shipping, it was in my hands by 9:45 on Saturday morning.

The boys asked if they could watch a movie, and I readily agreed, and ran upstairs and jumped into bed to read my new book. In just a few pages, I was in tears (in addition to being kinda loud sometimes, I’m a bit of a crier, even more so recently). It’s not a sad book; it’s just that I’m feeling like I’m at this transition that’s requiring some courage, and a few of her comments read like a friend writing encouragement right to me.

Like this.

I think it’s really nice when other people remind you that you are loved.

It makes you brave.

When you know who loves you, you know your safe places. You know where you can rest. You know where you can go when you fail. (I’m sorry if I’m the first to tell you this, but brave or not, you are going to fail.) Knowing who loves you also lets you know who you can trust with you brave ideas and who will hold you accountable to being brave but not being foolish (if you let them).

Right?

I hope you have brave ideas. And that there are people right there with you.

You Never Know…

I wrote earlier this week about having breakfast by myself at the end of my retreat overnight (already a distant memory. Sigh). The restaurant was, of course, really busy late Sunday morning. I brought a book along to read in case I ended up sitting at a table by myself, but I was seated at the bar, which was totally fine with me.

At the same time I sat down, another lady who was also by herself, was seated next to me. As it turned out, she lived close by and was a regular. We started chatting immediately (I know, y’all are shocked that I needed to talk). She shared pictures of her grandsons, told me about her four grown daughters, and we talked about my little retreat and my family, too.

Near the end of breakfast, I asked if all of her daughters lived here in St. Louis. Three did, she said; the fourth lived in their hometown 80 miles east of St. Louis. Since I’m from 120 miles east of here, I was immediately interested in details!

It’s a good time to interject that I LOVE small world stories. So much.

She was from Centralia, a town 60 miles south of Effingham, and I was really only familiar with it because in the mid-1980’s, neighbors moved in backyard kitty-corner to us. The girl who moved in was 6 years older than me, and she became my surrogate big sister. This family that became our neighbors was from Centralia.

Given that it’s a fairly small town, I asked, “By ANY chance, do you know the C family? They moved from Centralia to Effingham in the mid-80’s?”

Aaannddd of course, she not only knew them, but the C family had many years before their move to Effingham bought her parents’ home. And, my breakfast friend ALSO lived on the same street, so her kids played with the C kids when they were young.

Can you believe it? How fun is that?

I was suddenly so glad that I hadn’t been seated at a table by myself, but instead at the bar, where I got to have a nice conversation and make one of those small-world connections that can only happen when you take the time to chat with a stranger. :)

Retreat.

Last weekend, my husband gave me the best gift.

I know that when I told him a few months ago that it was something I wanted, he thought I was a little crazy for making this request. However, over the last several months, I’ve sort of made a habit of telling him things that make him think I’m losing it, so what was one more?

{I am a joy to be married to. Bless.}

Anyway, my request was a one-night retreat, in a hotel right here in town, all alone. Just a little time to exhale, and sleep in a big bed all by myself. I emailed him 10 days ago with a link to a great hotels.com deal on a nice hotel in Clayton, along with last Saturday night’s date, explaining that our calendar was clear.

And he told me to book it. I think this is an acceptable trade for the 4 days he spent in Colorado last month skiing with guys from work, no?

I think moms too often feel like they can’t or don’t deserve time to themselves of some sort, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Obviously, I got to do this in a big way, but breaks of any kind are important. My friend Karen sent me this post last week, and I couldn’t agree more. Find a way to get yourself a break.

So late on Saturday afternoon, after my friend Kelli and I spent some time together, I checked into the hotel. It was perfect…if I ever get to do this again, I’d go back.

So what did I do? Walked to Pastaria a block away and sat at the bar and had a drink while they made my dinner, which I brought back to my room and destroyed.

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first of all, they sent me with a million containers. but, i feel like you need to know that i can EAT. and since i’d skipped lunch, i did.

 

I did a little reading and writing, and crashed into that big bed with ALL FOUR PILLOWS TO MYSELF :) with the laptop and one of my favorite old movies I hadn’t seen for a while, When Harry Met Sally. I’d say I slept like a baby, but we all know babies don’t sleep well, soooo…just know, I slept so, so well. I love hotels*.

this was pretty much my setup. complete with u of i sweatshirt from 1995 that i will literally never, ever for my whole life get rid of.  i'm leaving it in my will to someone.

this was pretty much my setup. complete with u of i sweatshirt from 1995 that i will literally never, ever for my whole life get rid of. i’m leaving it in my will to someone.

Sunday morning was more of the same, except that I went out for breakfast at Half & Half. So yes, more food pictures.

you guys. these pancakes are tied with wildberry's in chicago for the best ever. go eat these.

you guys. these pancakes are tied with wildberry’s in chicago for the best ever. go eat these.

Not so long ago, going out to eat by myself would have been something that felt awkward, but not anymore. I sort of loved it. And I have a fun story from breakfast that I’ll save for another post.

I finished up my alone time by running by the mall to find a pair of black dress pants. I left with some dark magenta skinny jeans, so that went exactly as planned.

I met up with the fam at Bennett’s basketball game, totally refreshed and ready to dive into this week, which has already included pulling a tooth, hosting small group, and getting everyone out the door this morning with no yelling.

Boom.

*Let’s be clear: all 5 of us smashed into a regular-sized hotel room is not what I’m talking about here. For the record.

What’s Next.

Almost every Saturday morning of my childhood was spent in a dance studio. For the past several years, many, many Saturdays are consumed by the boys’ practices or games. For me, Saturday usually equals busyness and fun. Not quiet and time to reflect.

So it was really weird last Saturday to find our calendar empty (which ended up being a great thing, because Matt’s parents were able to come over for a quick visit later in the day!). Matt decided earlier in the week that he’d like to do something fun with the boys: take each of them out for a meal by themselves at a place of the boys’ choosing. Just some one-on-one time with each boy to hang out.

And in the semi-quiet of our house, something that I’ve been thinking about abstractly for the past several months came into better focus. I’ll try to put it into words as succinctly as possible.

We’re at a transitional stage of parenting where Matt needs to play a bigger role. I think this is particularly true because we’re raising all boys (not that girls don’t need their dads, clearly). Clarifications:
1) This is not because he’s been checked out to this point…on the contrary, he’s a great dad and has always been involved.
1b) This does not mean that I am checking out. I know I’m still very much needed. For at the very least rides, food, and help with homework ;)
2) THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT FROM ME. The early years of parenting are hard, particularly on the primary caregiver. Which obviously was me, especially the last 8 years since I’ve been home. And we’re through those years, mostly unscathed, praise God.

ahem. yes. we so totally were.

However, can you see where this is going? It’s not even sadness, really, that I’m feeling. It’s simply that so much of me and my purpose (and the reason I quit my job) were enveloped in a stage that’s over. And I didn’t think much past this stage (because let’s face it; when you’re in the thick of those years, the light at the end of the tunnel seems very, very dim). PLUS, even though those infant/toddler/preschooler years are ridiculous and difficult and challenging and often gross, they’re my favorite. Parenting littles was so totally in my wheelhouse.

i had no idea what i was in for, even this many years into parenting.

2 Augusts ago, when Jack Henry went to full-day school, I felt none of this. There was just happiness over my newfound freedom. But starting last fall, I’ve been feeling like I’m ready for a new something. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking. And the truth is, I’m still not at all clear what the next stage looks like for me and my family. I have lots of ideas…I am a fantastic daydreamer. Also, I am an excellent song-lyrics-memorizer, so if you can think of a way to parlay that skill into a perfect part-time job for me, feel free to let me know.

Truly, while I’m a terribly impatient person and the idea of waiting for the timing to be right for whatever is next does not thrill me, I’m excited. I’m excited to think about doing something I’m passionate about, and being challenged beyond what I’m doing right now.

And this is the second kinda vulnerable post I’ve written in the new year. I need to go back to easy fluff writing.

Dear Cashiers of America,

I know. Your job isn’t glamorous (and yet, it was my first childhood dream job). It’s repetitive, and you often have to deal with ridiculous people on their phones/with bad attitudes/who are in a hurry. Because I know so many of the afore-mentioned people exist, I promise you that I’m always trying my hardest to be polite and engaged when I come through your line.

Sidenote: if I were you, I would love seeing the strange combinations of things that people buy, especially in the express lane, when it’s obvious your customer has just run in to grab exactly what they needed. If my purchases are particularly odd, I usually just comment on it. Like last week when I bought a bouquet of flowers and a single tomato at Trader Joe’s…flowers for a friend, tomato for supper that I’d forgotten to pick up the day before. But I digress.

The real reason I’m writing to you today is to talk to you about carding people. And by people, I mean me, and presumably, also my girlfriends of a similar age. And by age, I mean well past the minimum 21 but not yet old enough to look like we shouldn’t be carded (which I think is 40, right?).

Yes. I may look pretty close to 40, and my bottle of wine combined with a cart-full of grown-up looking grocery choices doesn’t beg for me to be carded. Yes, it will slow your line down by 30 seconds. But it will make my day, knowing that when you glanced at me, you thought that there was a chance I was under 40. I will never be frustrated about having to pull out my ID. I may even text friends when I leave the store about what a great day it is when this happens.

You had no idea you had so much power, did you?

Whatever you do, please don’t grab the alcohol to scan it, INTENTLY STUDY MY FACE, and decide not to card me. That’s just rude. You’re going to have to be a little less obvious, lady-who-did-this-to-me-right-before-Christmas.

Love,
your 37-year-old customer

Maybe It’s Time.

At the end of my post about our anniversary trip to Siesta Key, I said something about writing about living in a bikini for a few days and what it taught me. I said I’d write about it if I was brave enough.

Well, I decided I wasn’t then. But I guess I am now. Maybe?

Yes. Yes I am. Deep breath. Girl talk time.

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>>>To start: this seems slightly off-topic, but I promise it’s not. It’s good time to interject that I read Brene Brown‘s Daring Greatly, a book about vulnerability and leadership and living wholeheartedly, late last fall. I loved it and swore she was stealing thoughts from my head several times. It’s very well-written, and totally thought-provoking, so you don’t just breeze through it, and it messed me up in a really good way. And perhaps gave me the confidence to write things like I am today. Truly a perspective-changing book if ever I’ve read one. If you haven’t heard her speak, I highly recommend starting with her TEDx talk, followed by her TED talk, followed by the book.<<<

So. At 37, it’s just time to get over some of these insecurities I’ve had for years. I’m not that young anymore, but I’m in the best shape of my entire life, so I’m declaring that 2015 is the year I let go of some of these stupid, warped-by-society issues I’m still carrying around primarily from my teenage years.

Especially because the things I don’t love and nitpick? They’re not even things that I can change. I mean, via surgical means, lots of things are possible, I guess, but I’m not going to those lengths :).

I’ve even blogged about both of my main hangups in the past: stretch marks and body shape. One stretch mark comes with a funny story. Here’s an edited excerpt from 2008:

I got stretch marks that were not run-of-the-mill when I was pregnant with Luke…The main one to which I’m referring is on my side, and it wasn’t all that noticeable until after he was born. When Luke was about 3 months old, I was putting his car seat in our car, and my shirt lifted at my waist a bit. Matt gasped audibly, and asked, “What happened to your side?” He apparently hadn’t noticed until then my gigantic, red stretch mark that was like 1/2 an inch wide and 2 inches long. I glared back and said, “Uh, I had your baby.” Priceless look on his face…like I’d somehow been stabbed without him knowing it or something.

My other issue is that despite two years of working out, eating healthy, losing 30 pounds, etc., and major changes to my body, my body shape remains the same. As in, I carry my weight in my lower body…I may be a few sizes smaller, but I’m still a curvy few-sizes-smaller.  And my sweet friend Heather, who’s a trainer as well as just smart and full of good sense, has talked me off the ledge several times with a simple reminder: this is how God made you. And that’s more than ok. And, you really can’t change this anyway, so tone it up as best you can and deal with it.

All of that brings me to the beach trip. I bought a small-ish bikini; with no one I knew besides my husband, who was unshockingly a fan of this decision, AND no offspring on this trip with us – oh my gosh, they would be so embarrassed to know that their mom even owned, let alone wore, this in public – I felt confident enough to do this.

Until that moment at the beach when I first took off my cover-up…momentary panic. What was I even thinking back in Missouri when I made this decision?

And then? This overwhelming feeling of WHO IN THE WORLD GIVES A RIP ABOUT THIS? I am on an amazing trip to one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and I’m going to worry about my imperfect, non-airbrushed, yet totally healthy and capable body? That’s just crazy talk. I literally decided in those first moments on the sand that I was done thinking about that…and I was for the rest of the trip. Totally at peace.

The thing about insecurities, though, is that they have a tendency to creep back up on you eventually…hence waiting a couple of months to actually write this out. Work in progress, people.

I wore that bikini 3 of the 4 days we spent on the beach (one day, my never-sees-the-sun-stomach needed a break from the rays or I would still be peeling). I walked miles of shoreline and laid for hours in a chair reading or sleeping in that suit. And it was incredibly freeing to be rid of all of those gremlins, as Brene calls them.

Also, all of this makes me think: I love and am gifted at being on vacation, and I want to go back as I sit in the frigid Midwest right now.

—–

A couple of friends of mine and I have claimed 2015 as our year. We have big dreams and big goals and we’re going to make them happen. I’m not ready to write about what it all means just yet; it will likely come out in bits and pieces as the year goes on and as I actually know something.

I know I’m not the only girl (yep. Still going with girl instead of woman) carrying around nonsense like what I wrote about today. Maybe it’s time for you to be ok with something you’ve long disliked about your body, too? Join me. Be brave.