My teensy Thanksgiving chair is in serious need of a warm up. I can’t remember the last time I sat still in gratitude. So, today’s the day. I’m settling in my chair, thankful for all of the friends who keep my heart cozy.
My husband Jeff wasn’t a runner when he registered for a marathon. I’m thankful for the friend who bet him to do it–and then coached him through the training and doubt and nipple stickers.
I’m thankful for my friend who followed Jeff’s race progress from across the country, grounded me in goodness and then video-chatted with a Texas-sized toast after he crossed the finish line.
I’m grateful for the friends who believe in starting bus sing-a-longs, post-midnight pajama dance parties and sangria breakfasts.
And what about the friends who notice things and, in a single snapshot, capture the best bits of your kiddos? Your favorite little pieces of life: boy fingernails, fresh freckles, untamed hair, airborne feet.
There are friends who are fountains, not drains. Friends who put your furniture in their truck and drive all the way out to the burbs for you. Friends who know what to say and when to pray. I’m so grateful for them today.
Any Needtobreathe tune. These gritty Southern ditties will feed your brain and rock your soul.
Boyz II Men’s Water Runs Dry. I know the step-snap choreography by heart and I’m not scared to use it.
The Nutcracker score has always put a twinkle in my toes, especially the haunting arches of The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. And a 2016 holiday remix of the piece composed a new magic that left me starstruck.
ANY Disney melody is an instant transport to my happy place. From movies to parades to attractions, they all make me cheese and wish for great big beautiful tomorrows.
The Harry Potter theme song illuminates all the fun our family has had getting sorted and launching our patronus charms into the universe.
But the songs that make me the happiest are the lullabies Tucker makes up for his little brother, when he thinks no one else is listening. The just off-key, just-right compositions that lull a busy little mind to sleep. Le sigh.
Of course I’d like to weigh less, stress less and screw up less. But, I’m kinda done with counting pounds like counting coins, done with the bitter way guilt ruins my favorite chocolate, done with equating everyone else’s triumphs to personal failures.
Instead, in 2017, I will eat more bacon. I’m already off to a brilliant start. And, sure, I’m going to run a little, too.
I want to be a difference maker (who doesn’t?) so, since Jan. 1, I’ve made my bed every. single. day. Game changer.
I’m going to write more. Even if it means posting a Table Topic Tuesday on a Wednesday.
I want to hug more. Some of you may crave personal dance space, but hugging is my love language. And there’s not much a hug can’t solve or soften. I’ve read to never unfold from a hug first; you never know how much the other person needs it. What a beautiful thing to practice.
In 2017, there’s a promise for more magic.
And I’m praying to be a better partner: at work, by my sister’s side and for my husband.
More than anything this year, I want to shift into first. Stay tuned for more on that.
My friend Natalie has 2017 goals, too:
For reals for reals…I want to stick with my blog. (Suprise! It’s the goal of every writer who has ever started a blog.) At least one post a week. Must write something other than ads.
I may cry tomorrow. Who am I kidding? I’m crying right now.
Tomorrow means another new school year. And this year, both of you will wear official uniforms.
It’s not your fault I’m crying. It’s those collared shirts, dagnabbit. Because they make you look so sure and ready and grown. And that makes me proud and tickled and teary.
We’ll need routine tomorrow and I don’t wear routine well. I’ll be down to minutes, rushing me, rushing you, sighing and apologizing for it. And Tucker—you’ll just smile and say, “That’s okay, Mommy.” And Case—I’ll do one small something, inside-out your socks for you, and you’ll say, “You’re the best Mommy ever.”
We’ll drop you off tomorrow, with fresh supplies and the shiny smiles of a new start. We’ll chat with your teachers and hug you and hug you again. We’ll walk away from the classroom door and…
Which *other* culture would I choose to be born into?
I’m 1/4th Italian which makes me a maestro in the culture, right? Magari!
First, there’s the language. It’s the love language. The language of the Renaissance and revival. If wine is bottled poetry, Italian is that wine uncorked. Each voluptuous sentence seems to promise love or music or the best pasta you’ve ever put in your mouth.
Calabria, Napoli. Gelato. Every Italian word tastes so good. Roll them between your cheeks. Just look at all of these vowels!
And I love that Italian is not just the words that fall out of their lips. Italians feel each syllable all the way to their clenched, shaking fists. No matter what they’re saying (and unless it’s “cannoli” or “vino” I have no idea what they’re saying) it all sounds like kiss, kiss, hug, hug, let’s all go have dinner, have a smooch and have a nap. And that’s one happy serenade.
Speaking of happy, look at the paper scraps of passion blanketing the Wall of Love in Verona. Here, lovers leave letters a la Romeo & Juliet.
Shakespeare. Sentiment. Si.
And Italy is a coastal country, too. I’m a Pisces, so the sea sings to me. This particular pink beach, on the shore of Sardinia, is crooning my name (in Italian).
Can you smell that briny-thick breeze? I imagine Italy smells like love, the sun-soaked Mediterranean mingles with whole plump garlic cloves bathing in hot golden oil, interlaced with almond, bergamot, cedar wood and vanilla. Plus pizza.
It’s just a yummy culture. But nothing is more lovely than this little nugget. An Italian mantra. Delicious idleness. Sweet doing nothing.
What a magical old expression.
Now you need to hear from my friends.
If I could be born into another culture it would have to be in ancient Rome during its prime. You know, when Rome was referred to as an empire. This is how dinner party conversation would go:
“Where are you from? Oh, Wikachichi Florida you say… How interesting. I hear about that city often where I’m from. Where is that you ask? Oh. I was born in an empire. Yup. An empire. Just across the pond. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. The Roman Empire. You have heard of it! How splendid. It’s pretty great as far as empires go. If you’ve never visited an empire before, you must… They are deviiiiine.”
Then I’d take a long sip of my wine from my goblet as I touch their cheek gently with the back side of my hand, and walk away.
Other examples of dinner party quotables include:
“I have heard Wrigley Field is wonderful. Is it anything like the Colosseum or the Circus Maximus? You know, I saw a man riding a lion fight a bear there.”
“How was your Bar class this am? What! The AC was out!? Ooooh sounds rough. Well, I have Gladiator Training School this evening so I better get going!”
“This meal looks delicious… But I typically don’t dine at the table. I prefer to eat all my meals lying down on a couch.”
But best of all, the Romans made wearing a bed sheet out in public totally ok. These guys could get out of bed, wrap the sheet around them that they just slept in, throw on some flip flops and hit the town. The toga is like the elegant snuggie of yore. Plus, you can insta-nap everywhere. You’re wearing half a bed already.
Do you understand how many discussions I’d have to have with HR if I showed up to work in a bed sheet? Let alone the discussion about why I have a branch wrapped around my head like I’m king of the wood elves.
Which other culture would you choose to be born into?
I could say I’d like to be born into royalty. I’ve always liked laying around and doing nothing and imagine a staff of subjects, including a Court Jester, would be pretty baller. But, there would be no Netflix; the Court Jester would be my Netflix. (*Ponders writing a pilot about a Court Jester thrown into today’s culture. *Is immediately distracted by 37 episodes of 30 Rock.) Netflix is better than a Court Jester. Next.
I could say I’d like to be born into whatever culture it was that Shakespeare was doing his thing in. Seeing a Shakespeare performance with Billy in the audience would be like seeing Kendrick Lamar at SXSW in 2009 or something. I also just made a Shakespeare-Kendrick comparison and I think I should be commended for that. But, there are probably 4 or 5 really good Shakespeare options on Netflix and I wouldn’t have to wear a funny hat and pantaloons; I could wear basketball shorts and decided whether or not to change underwear that day. Netflix is better than Shakespeare.
I could say I’d like to be born into that culture Wood Allen captured in Midnight in Paris… the imaginary culture Owen Wilson traveled to, not like the ‘trying to sell a screenplay’ culture he actually lived in. It’d be dope to get first edition copies of Hemingway and Fitz’s books and go around to jazz clubs wearing busboy hats. I think I could do well in that culture… I look really good in those hats. But, Midnight In Paris will probably be on Netflix at some point… or at least HBOGo. Netflix is better than Paris.
Do you realized how amazing Netflix is? For like $10 you can watch ANYTHING. Ok, ok, the movies aren’t great, but at the push of an Apple TV button you can watch thousands of episodes of TV about ANY CULTURE EVER and you don’t have to be around people, you can eat food in your boxers, WHATEVER FOOD YOU WANT FROM ANY CULTURE.
I choose the Netflix culture. That is my culture of choice.
French Culture, and here’s (mainly) why:
1) French food. And I’m not just talking about expensive French restaurant faire; I mean just legit, amazing food. Have you ever had peaches from France in the summer? Amazing. Fresh baguettes and brie for lunch? Awesome. And let’s not forget the out-of-this-world pastries. But overall, the French culture has a different relationship with food. They don’t consume to be satiated; they consume with a love of the process and a passion for using fresh and homemade ingredients to create the finished product. In turn, they don’t have to worry about “eating healthy” because it just happens.
2) Urge to Explore. I think this is true for a lot more European countries vs the US, but there seems to be a stronger drive to travel and experience cultures different from your own. I was working with a young French producer one time and one of her goals was to move to China in the next year because she wanted to live somewhere where she didn’t speak the language. I thought that was pretty cool, and something I can’t imagine my friends here saying.
3) Quality of Life. Maybe it’s the all the wine, but the French seem to just have a more relaxed culture. Less worrying, more sitting at tables well after a meal is finished just to talk and connect. Sure, they still have stress with their jobs, families and have money issues just like the rest of us, but the French culture seems to operate with more of a “glass half full” mentality—maybe because it’s half full of champagne.
I’m going to skip the part about not posting anything for 3 months and roll right into this Table Topic Tuesday.
Here’s the question:
Because this make-believe movie is about my life, my mom will be played by Disney characters. First things first. Meet my Momma.
Mom’s always been our family’s Tinkerbell because she’s a blonde bombshell, of course, leaving sparkles in her wake. But she’s also one moody little pixie.
Mom always nudged our eyes Upward.
She showed me–when you find magic in the everyday moments–real love will always out-forever any fairytale.
And this woman has inhuman, supersonic freak ears. Never mind that she could hear a whisper through a closed closet door, through a closed upstairs bedroom door, from the basement. My mom could hear the half-baked thought nuggets that prowled around my head.
From french braids, side braids, fishtails and 100-bobby-pin buns, Mom was a hair musician.
Unlike Queen Elinor, though, Mom didn’t exhaust a list every day nagging me into a little lady. Instead of rattling off dainty blueprints, laying down the rules, she lived them herself.
And music was a mandate. We knew her mood by the tunes that woke us up for Saturday morning chores. Our house had a melodic rhythm with kitchen concerts, unrehearsed dance parties and a style-your-own beat.
Mom is as hip and enthused as Winifred Banks.
But she was always present, always available, always leaning in. Messy imaginations were encouraged, so long as our rooms were spit spot.
Best thing about Momma? Every time I feel like this:
The lady who would play my mom in movie would have big shoes to fill. She’d have to be really fun–the kind that organizes birthday scavenger hunts in the mall. She’d have to be a really good pretend-cook who always manages to pull something out of nothing. She would have to dry tears–a lot–and make up songs on the spot. She’d have to magically sneak coins under my pillow when my teeth fell out and believe in Santa as much as I did. The best mom to play my mom would be a funny gal that doesn’t even know she’s a freaking riot. My movie mom would be the super-powered Mrs. Incredible, the frazzled and warm and loving Mrs. McCallister, and Ms. Kathleen Kelly, the big dreamer with a little bookstore. But no one is quite like my mom. Like I said, big shoes.
In the movie of my life, my mother would be played by Oprah Winfrey, because my mother is Oprah Winfrey. My mom is Oprah “I Will End You” Winfrey. Oprah, “I don’t have a studio audience, I have an army of zealots” Winfrey. Oprah “I have the power to designate the fate of your world leaders” Winfrey. Oprah, aka my mother, don’t play. I love my mother dearly, but she could wipe me off the planet faster than she loses and gains and loses weight again. Would you mess with Oprah? Hell, no you wouldn’t. Oprah feels no pain. She knows know fear. My mother has looked into the endless, dark, maddening abyss – the eyes of Tom Cruse – seen the end of days and laughed in the face of the horrible nothing that stared back at her. My mother don’t need no man. She crushes men with her book clubs. Giant clubs made from only the heaviest of books. Books with the weight of a dead star. Book clubs that she wields like an extension of her own thunderous hands. But, my mother did indeed take a man. A man amongst men. The tallest, most powerful man in all the land. A man with a name so masculine and bursting with testosterone, that he only needs to go by ONE name. A name that is so wrought with raw vigor, his name actually contains the word “MAN” in it. Stedman. Did she marry him, you ask? HA! I scoff at the idea of my mother even entertaining the thought of marriage. Oprah-mom will not be referred to as an equal to even the strongest mortal. Instead she and Stedman engaged in the seldom written about and never visually documented ceremony knows as a “Spiritual Union” – an ancient war dance in which one warrior consumes the spiritual life force of the other so that they may live two lifetimes. Stedman never had a chance. However, my mother, Oprah, can be soft and sweet. She has, many times, referred to me as “one of her favorite things”. While she’s often tried to give me away to audience members as a result, in the end I always found my way home. To be called one of Oprah’s favorite things is to dance in the warm light of the lord, or be held in the bosom of Big Bird. It’s like both at once. Held tightly in a comforting, warm, lordy-light giving, feathery, muppet bosom. Yes, my mother is quite the woman. A woman who smells like pancakes and who’s laughter once deflected a giant asteroid from hitting the earth. A woman who’s true age is undocumented but many guess she is over 5,000 years old. My mother. Who’s name means “dragon baby” in the tongue of the ancients. Who once made me the most delicious pb&j by giving a firm look to a stone which turned into a diamond which turned into a sandwich. Who once forgot her wallet at the grocery store, and instead paid her bill by giving everyone a car. A woman who got me a bounce house for my birthday that was a modest three bed, two and a half bath bounce home. The best, scariest, most loving, monster of a mom. Oprah “I am the force of a thousand suns” Winfrey. Love you ma.
Your turn. In the movie of your life, who plays Mom?
The real question is: What will I admit that I hoard?
I hoard emails. I knew it was bad, but it might be time for an intervention.
Did I just lose a few friends?
The next confession is just as embarrassing and not at all surprising. Most families have a junk drawer, right? That catch-all collector where you can stash all the stuff. We have one, too. But we also have a Disney junk drawer. You read that right. But calling it “junk” is a little harsh. We have a drawer where we keep the sorcery cards, old room keys, last year’s passholder guide and unused fast passes (which are now collectors’ items). Shameless.
I participate in normal hoarding, too. Take a peek in my office. I’ve held on to hundreds thousands of pieces of paper. Those scribbles are precious, y’all. And I’m partial to purple pens and pretty notebooks.
Let me get out of the hot seat and give my friends a chance to out themselves.
Come in to the merry wonders of my mind where we’ve got shame of all kinds. In my brain I horde a veritable wonderland of shame! I produce embarrassment like a tragic Wonka Factory, and the shame business is a-booming. We’ve got all types of shame to choose from. Try out our Chronic Shame – the kind that bubbles up at 3 am to remind you of what you should have said to that one time to that one person when you were six. Timed Shame, packaged neatly in the form of a sad trombone noise that plays whenever you take your shirt off. And, Shame Bursts that shout across the recesses of your soul, championing your behavior with encouraging phrases like “congratulations on taking down that sleeve of Oreos like a wood chipper! Next time let’s charge the neighborhood children a nickel to see the amazing fatso huff an uncooked cinnamon bun roll from the cardboard tube!” Get in line to ride the various shame attractions. Slide down the dizzying Shame Spiral. Brave a long stare into the Pit of Shame. Climb the treacherous Mountain of Shame. And, stroll down the Walk of Shame lined with plenty of cringe worthy moments to reflect on like Every Second of High School, The Time You Butt-Dialed Your Boss While Singing Spandau Ballet In the Car, Every Time You’ve Tried to Ask a Girl Out, and soooo many more. Yes, if you’re looking for embarrassment, shame, or just a moment that feels like a train wreck happening in slow motion, you’ve come to the right place my friend. When it comes to disappointment, we don’t disappoint. We’ve got shame and we’ve got it in droves. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a shirt that needs tucking into underwear.
I used to have a problem letting go of things. Like when I graduated high school, but refused to join the notebook burning party with my classmates. What happens if I need those Trig worksheets someday?
I held on to letters from friends from gymnastics camp from the fourth grade. Sentimental value.
Pancake sneakers and racing flats with no miles left on them were shoved under my bed and wedged at the top of my closet. Some of my best runs and races were in those babies; every pair has a story.
Stationery. Oh, beautiful stationery. Everywhere I go I pick up a new package. The writer’s disease.
Blue ribbons and yellow ribbons and participant ribbons from Estling Lake Field Events. My home away from home, where I found and fueled my love of sport.
I’ve stopped collecting as much over the years because, well, my parents’ garage is running out of room, and my sweet parents are running out of patience.