Thursday Thanks. Helping #19.

It’s the first Thursday of the new year and it’s high time I spent a little time in my Thanksgiving Chair.

Thanksgiving Chair

Some of my friends got engaged last year. Some got married, some became parents, some had a milestone year.

But, for a lot of people I love, 2013 was a broken year flooded with bad news, deflated dreams and health gone kaput. It wasn’t my favorite year because, frankly, it wasn’t an easy one. But I am thankful for it. And the more I looked back on it, the more 2013 looked up. Here’s an itty bitty smidgen of the blessings I counted.

January:

We rang in 2013 with some of our dearest friends and hotfooted it into the new year full speed.

Tucker started reading more and more–signs, labels, recipes. And Jeff and I had to stop spelling secret things out loud.

reading

Case’s contagious dino craze intensified.

Dino World!

Dino World 2

And I kicked off what would become my busiest, best professional year to date.

Publix shoot

February:

I got 1 year older and I got a bike.

bike

March:

We celebrated my sister’s 30th birthday in the most magical way.

Disney Digression
Disney Digression

We danced. A lot.

my three

April:

We spent Saturdays unplugged at the ball park. Tucker batted.

Tucker at bat

Case cheered.

biggest fan

They grew. I noticed.

growing big

May:

We celebrated our brand new 4-year-old spunk muffin–my own personal sunshine.

my heart

We unleashed the Jedi on Star Wars Weekend.

The Force

And we joined Forces with some pretty great friends.

Disney love

June:

I started this silly little blog.

For possibly the only time this will ever happen, the boys were on the same team. Summer Flag Football.

flag football

Well, Jeff coached. Tucker played. Case chased the field’s wild peacock family.

peacock

Tucker had his first sleepover ever (gulp.) and said goodbye to his best bud who moved out of state.

Gavin

I bought a fancy dress (for the first time in years, no lie) and went to a swanky industry soiree in New York City.

NYC

July:

Because I have the best parents (a lot of people think they do, but I know that I do), they came to keep the boys so Jeff and I could celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary a few weeks early. I will always remember our trip as one of the most wonderful weeks of my life. Plus, we hit all four Disney parks in one day: Grand Slam Dunk.

grand slam

We also celebrated Tucker’s 7th Birthday a little early. Lego love for life.

lego party

Jeff had a birthday. And we popped into the Trop. Sat up top. Make me stop.

Rays

August:

I flew to LA for a shoot.

pie

There was Pretty everywhere.

LA

My boy, my little man, thoughtful old soul, turned 7 while I was away.

Seven

I hung out with my parents–just the 3 of us for the first time since ?–on a work trip in the Big Apple.

Morandi

And another school year started.

school

September:

I realize just how much I love my husband each football season. His unshakeable fanhood has rubbed off.

football

October:

After so many seasons in the stands, Case finally had a team of his own. And an amazing coach.

Cubs

Tucker perfected his slide.

slide

And Gamps & Grandmama came to see.

G&G

During our 5th annual sister trip to EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival, Lindsey sat with me through 3 sets of Boyz II Men. Check.

Boys II Men

Halloween was pretty rad, too. The boys trick-or-treated in my office, in the neighborhood and in the Magic Kingdom.

Halloween 2013

November:

We joined our church.

Jeff’s Movember team raised $2820 (and quite a few facial hairs) in honor of his dad.

staches

And when we went to spend Thanksgiving with his dad in the quiet Carolina country, we had a good prognosis to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving

December:

In a season that’s bedazzled with busyness, sometimes you need something simple to slow you down. Like these December skies.

skies

The Bucs did not have a winning season, but the Faith & Football event cemented one thing. Love has already won.

Bucs

And I spent Christmas with my entire family–my husband, our boys, my parents, my sister and my brother. It. Was. Super.

supers

At first mention, 2013 rings a little unlucky, a little sour. But, look at all the life, the fun, the growth, the triumphs, the good.

I’m so grateful that I re-measured the year.

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A letter to my boys

To my boys:

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 the tears that I hope I’ll hold until that moment will topple and spill. And Jeff will rub my back and say, “Oh, Wife” (even though he’s been expecting this).

I know it’s a beginning but, to me, that moment thuds like an ending. I worry that I’m missing too much, that I’ve let another whole year slip away, that maybe I’ve failed you too many times. It’s an ambivalent dance; I can physically feel time racing. And I’m wonderstruck at the amazing little people you are.

This moment will happen tomorrow and next year’s tomorrow. But I know tomorrow will begin another amazing year. So this is what I wish for you.

I hope you always walk into learning with the starry-eyed eagerness that brought you to today. I hope you read all the books you can touch. Devour them. Sip them. Share them. Read them again.

If it’s numbers you love, use them. Master them. I know that I’m awfully clumsy with them, but Dad can help. Or we can always call Pop.

Tuck—you can have all the paper and pencils you want. Draw whenever you can (just not when your teacher is talking). When your teacher is talking, listen with your eyes first, then your ears. Remember that there’s just one her and a lot of yous, so be gentle.

Case—I know I’ve spent hours, maybe months, telling you not to touch everything in reach. I hope I haven’t crippled your curiosity. Keep curious. Ask every question. When you’re allowed to explore, take your time. I promise to try and rush you less.

You’re sharing the year with a lot of kids. You won’t agree with each other all the time. But you can almost always find one piece of common ground with almost anyone—even if it’s as small as having the same favorite color, the same tooth fairy fee or the same disgust for peas. Find that one thing.

Eat your fruits and veggies first. But don’t let the lunch bell ring before you’ve had your treat.

Tucker—I get on to you for being a bossy sprocket, for parenting your little brother and antagonizing and swatting at him when you think I’m not looking. But, you should know, he sees you as his fierce protector, his comfort, his best bud who always gets an extra sticker or toy just for him. And so do I. You may meet other kids who need that kind of partner, kids who need a louder voice.

Case—your silly has no limit. From food-flinging to ear-ringing, I’ve never seen someone entertain so well with a single fork. You’re our live wire with a contagious sparkle. And you’re not happy until everyone else is. This year will be no different. I hope, one day, you understand what a gift that is.

I hope you two keep an open mind and open ears. But stay locked to what you know is right in your gut.

Ugly words are never cool or powerful or right.

You (still) will not get any new techie toys this year. And you will live.

I hope you pitch a thousand sillies—but never at anyone else’s expense.

It won’t be perfect, this year. There will be messes and oopses and flubs. But we’ll look for the good, the helpers, the magic.

Disney Digression
Disney Digression

Because you’re still 7 and 4. I want you to laugh the length of 7 and 4. Run the width of them. I want you to create, stretch, get dirty—and take your shoes off before you come inside. I want you to have the time, the year of your lives.

And, tomorrow, when you lug in those brand new book bags, I hope you also carry in the precious assurance that you are wonderfully, wonderfully made. And that your Daddy and I love you more than you’ll ever know.

Grand Slam

[Spoiler alert. This entire post is a Disney Digression.]

To celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, Jeff and I spent a week in Walt Disney World. Jeff is Señor Scrupulous—detail-driven, strategy-happy. And he gets a little twitchy when we’re not on time. So, when we decided that we wanted to go to all four theme parks in one day, he went into a spreadsheet stratosphere.

People—we had a plan. We had a back-up plan. We had T-shirts.

We also set a few magical mandatories. Number 1: We had to experience at least 3 attractions in each park for the park to count. Number 2: We had to take picture proof with each park’s icon. Number 3: We were not going to let any rain, literal or temperamental, fall on our parade.

sun shower

Because we were there smack in the middle of summer, deciding where to start was tricky. We were staying on property, so we could’ve taken advantage of Extra Magic Hours. I argued that everyone else would be starting their day at the park that opened early, so we should avoid that park. I was fraying Jeff’s logic fibers, but he agreed.

And our Grand Slam began.

We walked from our hotel, the Swan, to Hollywood Studios.

walk to the studios
Walking path from the Swan to the Studios

Our giddy feet were booking it and we got there at 8:45am—15 minutes before the official opening. First stop? Fastpass for Toy Story Mania.

midway

The stand-by line wasn’t awful, so we hopped in. But after a few minutes, we got right back out. Silly rabbits. We didn’t have time to ride anything twice. We ran to Rockin Rollercoaster—which was not running yet. Doh.

This was the line.
This was the line.

But, 35 minutes later, we were in the back row of a super stretch limo, blasting through the dark, screaming Aerosmith like we’d just discovered our outdoor voice.

We had plenty of time before our Fastpass was up, so we headed to Star Tours, got right on and snuck on the speeder afterward for a photo. Cheese.

speed racers

It was back to Toy Story Mania at 10:17 and we watched the clock until our 10:25 Fastpass time.
I can’t remember ever riding through that midway without a squirming youngin’ next to me. Jeff still dominated.

Park 1 Proof
Park 1 Proof

And we were out of the Studios @ 10:50am.
We went to see about a bus to Animal Kingdom. One finally rolled up at 11. We pulled in to AK at 11:15.

Park 2 Proof
Park 2 Proof

Ran. Galloped. Straight. To. Expedition. Everest. Our only chance was the single rider line. After a quick switcharoo in the holding zone, we ended up together. (Can we pause to discuss how the train’s backward fastness flops the tum tum in the best kind of awesome?)

Then it was running feet to DinoLand USA. We nabbed a Fastpass to Primeval Whirl and walked over to ride Dinosaur, but the wait was too long. So, we waited on our ride time with a fruit plate and front row seat to live African jams. Rump shaking required.

We rode Primeval Whirl, which flings you into a silly stupor.

silly-ness

Dark clouds tumbled in. Facing long wait times, with no Fastpass on hand, our 3rd attraction was the Dawa Bar.

Dawa
I promise it was raining.

With Safari Amber and Sangria, we watched the sun shower from beneath the shade of a thatched roof. Le sigh.

thatched roof

A teense reluctant, we left Animal Kingdom at 2:20pm, boarding a bus to the Contemporary resort. The drop off plunks you directly on the walking path to The Magic Kingdom. We were in by 3 and ran, in the rain, to get a Fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain.
After that, we found a sunlit table for two by the window in Pecos Bill’s, where we demolished a late lunch. Clutch.

Then we broke a personal rule. We stood through a 90-minute wait for Space Mountain. But the two 13-year-old kids who chattered easily with us and told the cast member that we were a “party of four” so we could all hop on together made every minute worth it.

Park Proof 3
Park 3 Proof

We made it to Big Thunder just in time for our Fastpass. In Frontierland, we boarded another train, hitching a ride back to Main Street. I love that old train—the swaying cars, the white steam, the warm narration along the way.

We left the Magic Kingdom at 6:50pm. It was the monorail to the Transportation & Ticket Center and another monorail to EPCOT. We arrived, triumphant, at 7:10pm.

Park Proof 4
Park 4 Proof

And we walked right on Mission Space. Okay. The “less intense” persuasion. Next, it was just a quick skip over to Test Track where we wound round through the single rider line.

Then, in a beguiling twilight, we stepped in to the World Showcase at 8:15pm for a celebratory drink.

showcase sunset

My hopes were locked on Tutto Gusto, the wine cellar neatly tucked into Italy. If you’ve been there, you understand why I consider this old-world nook an attraction. It was an elegant-reds wine flight for me, Moretti for the boy, breads, meats, cheeses, an Italian love song sung table-side and a surprise dessert in the candlelight.

Italian dessert

We left the torch-lined showcase at 9:45pm, spellbound, happy, full. It all made sense, then, that we floated back to the Boardwalk on the good ship Friendship.

4 in 1

Grand Slam Dunk.

Tucker’s story

Tucker is seven today.

I’ve never put pen-to-paper on his story before because I still can’t believe it happened. And I also have too many friends with raw hearts. But, here it goes.

Tucker’s story starts with his parents. Us. We were two plus years into our marriage, on a (mental) permanent honeymoon, broke and blissful.

newlyweds

We had just gotten back from Thanksgiving with Jeff’s dad in the mountains—we had four-wheeled down Spill Corn, filled up on 3 southern-squared meals a day and breathed in a big dose of pure North Carolina goodness.

Back home in Tampa, while we were unpacking, I realized that I was late.

How late? Jeff had asked. Since I didn’t keep track, we had monthly freak-outs.

Late, I promised him. He went to the store and bought a box of pregnancy tests. We watched the pink results flood across in instant slow motion. An indisputable positive.

I didn’t have time to think because Jeff said: Take another one. (Don’t worry. I still haven’t let him live down his first words to me.)

A box full of pink pluses later, we locked eyes. We grinned. And cried. We had made a person.

I could not keep my hands off of my belly. Sitting, standing, breathing. Everything felt brand new.

Me, shameless, after a 12 hour road trip
Me, shameless, after a 12 hour road trip

We made an appointment with the doctor. He didn’t need to see me until I was a little further along. But my mom was coming to visit us that weekend and I couldn’t keep it from her. We told her that she was going to be a grandma. And her elation made our surprise feel more like a reality.

To celebrate, Mom and I went shopping. And then I started having a few unsettling symptoms. So, I dialed the on-call doctor and explained what was going on.

Do you feel pregnant? He had asked me.

I was quivery and loopy and terrified. I’d never been pregnant before. How could I know what pregnant felt like?

I don’t know, I told him, apologizing. He asked me to come in first thing the next morning. I tossed and turned and clutched my stomach all night.

We went in the next morning and filled in stacks of paperwork. After measurements and samples were taken, a chipper ultrasound tech whisked us into her room so she could “take a look.” She sang out pleasantries in her outdoor voice.

Let’s take a look at this baby, she sung.

This baby.

Here’s the sac, she cheered, pointing to a shape that we absolutely saw. Joy flickered.

Now, we’ll turn this on and listen for a heartbeat. She did. We listened. She was bright-eyed and wide-smiled as she maneuvered each angle—and as each hour-long second crept by, my heartbeat quadrupled. As if it could pump enough for me and the blob shape. After a few minutes, though, our tech dropped her smile and her outdoor voice.

You go ahead and get dressed and I’ll get you back to the doctor’s office.

My limbs, heavy with worry, made dressing slow and clumsy.

My hand clung to Jeff’s, our fingers laced, mouths closed, as we walked into the doctor’s office. There we sat, we two, waiting on a doctor. My doctor was not in that day. That day, we saw Doctor G. He came in, shook our hands and sat down, making it a professional point to lock eyes with both of us.

His room was cold and alien, like an out-of-date space station, and the overhead lights buzzed as he confirmed, out loud, what we already feared.

There’s no heartbeat and, with your symptoms? I think, he said just so, as if he was reporting the 10-day forecast, you have miscarried.

I took it in as if it were a spoonful of cough medicine—swallowed quick, shuddered, shook my head, answering in silence.

You have options, he had said, diving straight into his speech.

We can wait a few days just to see if your hormone levels change. You can let this happen naturally. Everything will pass, but it may take a while and I can’t tell you how long it will take. Or, we can do a procedure here—as soon as tomorrow—called a D&C. That way, you don’t have to wait through it.

He lifted his hands off of his desk as if he were throwing good options before us.

I’m going to let you talk about it. I’ll be back in a few minutes.

He left. I slumped. Jeff just rubbed my hand with his thumb. What could we say? There was nothing to say.

I didn’t cry until I opened my mouth to speak. My eyes were drowning in indecision—a deluge of hot doubt soaked my shirt and our interlocked hands.

I guess the procedure will be the easiest, I told Jeff—saying it, but asking him. I don’t know if I can do it naturally. It sounds awful.

I’m okay with whatever you want. I’ll be here with you.

So, we agreed on the D&C. He wiped my face with his shirt. The doctor came back in.

A chill raced through my veins and across the tops of my arms and seized my stomach—an alarming chill. Something whispered. Something Holy. Something snapped. Something understood.

I want to wait.

The words popped up—and there they sat—between a surprised doctor and husband.

I just—I can’t do it tomorrow.

I understand, Doctor G said, without any understanding. I’ll wait with you. But I have to tell you that I’m 99.9% sure you’ve lost the baby.

The baby. My free hand found my belly. We had to wait.

Follow up appointments were scheduled and we slipped into waiting. Grief’s breath is strange. My nerve endings felt short-circuited, unplugged. How many days ago had they tingled with shock and promise?

I stayed home from work for a few days, nursing my numbness. How could this unplanned blob shape stir so much? The fraction of ounces was lead in my gut. I couldn’t taste, listen or focus, but each twinge in my belly felt like a violent convulsion.

Jeff was spoon-feeding me smiles, trying to.

We would’ve been good parents, I cried into his lap.

We will be, he said.

We went back to the doctor. They took more measurements and blood.

And then? Then? A miracle.

My hCG levels had increased. Two days later, they took more blood. The levels had doubled.

Nerves were tingling again.

One week later, that same sweet tech ushered us into the room for another ultrasound.

There was the sac. And there, I swore, was movement. An eye twitch? A glitch?

The tech found her outdoor voice. THERE’S THE HEARTBEAT!

She turned on the sound and a strong warble flooded the room. It was a symphony. An opus. My breath quickened to its beautiful beat. We were all crying—me, Jeff, the tech. And the baby’s heart, muscular, alive, kept pounding. We had waited.

Now, Doctor G was not at that office that day. I had not seen him since we’d sat at his desk. My own doctor was there, though. He took us through the packet, the appointment schedule, the new parent track. He explained that I would see all of the doctors in the office in a rotation because any one of them could be in the delivery room on the baby’s birthday.

I did not see Doctor G throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I was angry. And I don’t get angry. Forgive him 7 times 70 times? No. That’s how many times I wanted to punch him. The memory of his face, his voice was bitter. Soul-corroding. I went out of my way to stay out of his.

I spent the rest of my pregnancy happy, healthy. I ate 3 watermelons a week and held on to my belly for dear life.

belly

On an evening in early August, we I was watching SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE while a summer lightning storm fumed outside. I’d been having contractions all day, but now they were taking my breath away—every few minutes. Still, I insisted on finishing the show, taking a shower and putting my make-up on before we headed to the hospital. I was in labor all night, but my doctor—my own doctor—was on duty the next morning. And he delivered our baby boy.

Suddenly I was holding Tucker’s warm weight in my arms. The perfect fit. I put my palm on his teeny chest until I could feel his heart thumping beneath my fingertips.

Jeff’s lips were thick with prayer, a grateful murmur only God himself could understand.

We locked eyes. We grinned. And we cried.

Meet Tucker

What a boy.

happy Tuck

baby Tuck

Unreal combinations of Jeff and me, our best bits, wrapped up in one big, blonde, beautiful boy.

Photo by: letterbcreative
Photo by: letterbcreative

By the time he was two (oh, how much do you love two?) we decided that we really needed to do this again.

Photo by: letterbcreative
Photo by: letterbcreative

My second pregnancy was planned, expected, easy. I sailed through the doctor’s appointments, still avoiding Doctor G. We knew we were having another boy. And, though the world didn’t know it yet, we knew his name was Case.

I had an appointment to be induced and I planned to have Case naturally. Everything was set. We had the sweetest nurses—troopers, really—who were coaching me through labor without drugs. I was really close to being ready—in the throws of acute active labor—when the doctor on duty walked in. Doctor G.

He was not part of the plan.

I tensed to my toes, the acidic bitterness more painful than the contractions. I stared Jeff down, silently begging him to do something. Anything. He knelt next to me.

It’s going to be fine. Think about Case.

Doctor G did not recognize us. But he talked with us—with us, not at us. And then? Then? He was encouraging me. He said he’d get me anything I needed. He made me smile.

I did not want to smile.

I only pushed for mere minutes, five times, and Case was born. Doctor G was intent. He was kind. He was amazing. He melted my anger. I hadn’t realized it had calcified in my gut—an impassable block—until I felt it dissolving. Doctor G delivered our little one. And I’m so grateful he did. Because I forgave. Freely. Easily. Gladly.

Then, I was holding Case, feeling his warm weight in my arms. Jeff and I locked eyes. We grinned. We cried. And we prayed.

Meet Case
Tucker meets Case
photo by: letterbcreative
Baby Case
photo by: letterbcreative

Build-up to a birthday

Tucker turns 7 this year, but this year he had his very first birthday party.

Because he has a summer birthday (and because I never want to test the elements again) he agreed on an indoor shindig. And because our daily reality goes something like this:

Keep Calm

We went with a Lego theme. There are Star Wars Legos. Super Hero Legos. Ninja Legos. Tucker could be content to manipulate, build, deconstruct and re-imagine with Legos for hours. And there just happens to be a place in town that specializes in Lego Birthdays. Can I get a whoop whoop?

So, we sent out invitations.

Photo by: Valerie Bogle
Photo by: Valerie Bogle

And I pilfered Pinterest. There are fab freebie printables out there. My favorites were the labels we wrapped around Powerade.

prep

Yup. I referenced the deuce.

Now, at our house, I’m always the potty-words police. You have to regulate with two little boys, so I usually poo poo the ew talk. But for Tucker, this was the ultimate hilarity. This and the whoopie cushions for the goodie bags.

goodie bags

With another free printable, we made a mask for each guest.

Masks

And we filled an assorted collection of glass jars with an assortment of white, yellow and red candy. To be all Lego-y.

color coordinated candy

Then, it was party time. Bricks 4 Kidz was ready to celebrate the birthday boy.

signs

The venue is a comfy old home they’ve transformed into a play palace. Each room hosts a new building opportunity. So, the only thing I had to do was set up the food table. With my sweet Mom’s help, that was a piece of cake. Or donut.

table 2

table 1
Lego candy was a must. You can eat it and build with it. A chance to play with your food? 7-year-old heaven.

Tucker’s buds jumped right in to playing while we waited on all the guest to arrive. (I need a table like this for our house.)

table play

When all of his friends were there, we started the first activity–an outdoor Lego relay. Then everyone trooped back inside for the first build–an electric Lego car.

electric cars

I’ve never seen such a polite and patient group of little people. Their fingers were twittering between parts and pieces and they shouted encouragement to teams across the table. Tuck, my thoughtful and meticulous one, was in his element with his favorite friends. Then, as the final ta-da, their motorized creations actually moved with the touch of a button. Legos have come a long way, folks.

After everyone’s vehicle had its victory jaunt, it was time for Happy Birthday.

singing

Tucker chose donuts over cake, which was just fine with me. And I know a few kids reached for seconds (and thirds). Sorry, parents.

Disney Digression
Disney Digression

A-buzz with sweets, it was back to the building blocks. This time, they each built a car they got to keep. So, the selection process was a serious business.

Notice which two goofs are the only ones who kept the masks on? Those would be mine.
Notice which two goofs are the only ones who kept the masks on? Those would be mine.
Birthday Boy
Birthday Boy

When each oh-so-carefully-constructed car was complete, we hit the high note. They got to race their creations side-by-side.

racing 1

racing 2

The acoustics in that old house were built for lego car racing. Those few minutes of high-fiving and hollering made the room sing. And my boy’s excitement was electric.

But, we only had an hour and a half. So, after the races, there were goodie bags and good-byes.

goodie bag table

I asked the boys and their Marmee (grandma) if they had a good time. And this was their response:

expressions

Lucky seven. Lucky me.

4

Morning Music

I’m in NYC for work this week (cue the piano and Alicia Keys). Oh, so smitten with this city.

I feel small here—beautifully small—in the best way. Here, the city’s electric current is charged by the millions of heartbeats packed in so few miles. And—whether it’s your hometown or a hotel stop—this city is built to love.

NYC

Beyond the energy and the artistry and the food (oh, the food!), I’m also giddy in the city when I get to see this guy—my baby brother and Actor Boy extraordinaire. He’s gonna make it big in the Big Apple. Meet Tim.

Katz

Norwood

I haven’t traveled a ton, but traveling means trying and NYC has gifted me a lot of firsts. My first taste of oysters. My first Lambrusco. My first subway ride.

subway

And, sometimes, I’ll see a show. (Disney Digression time.)

NEWSIES

Traveling also makes me want to write. Write by hand, on actual paper. I’ll steal a quiet minute and let my pen go. There, on a page wedged between radio concepts and casting specs, I’ll detail everything and nothing. Sometimes, I’ll write so fast & loose that I can’t even read my own writing.

Early one morning during my first visit to Canada a few months ago, I snuggled in a booth in the hotel diner to write. It’s a 24-hour diner, so there was ketchup & mustard and honey & jam on the table. This was a place of possibility.

Toronto, sleeping just outside the window to my left, was so cold I could feel the chill seeping through the pane. The kitchen to my right was alive with warmth. A man was singing in there—low and silly and free—and I wrote that everyone should sing in the morning. He sang songs, but he sang when he talked, too. Notes instead of words. “The soup of the day is broccoli and cheese,” he sang out to the staff. And I wished he would sing out all the ingredients, too. He sang out with all the pride and joy of the person who decided that today is the perfect day for broccoli and cheese soup. I have broccoli and I have cheese and that is exactly what I’m making, thank you. And I’m going to sing as I make it, thank you very much.

And this morning, in this city, it feels like a sing-about-your-soup kind of day.

Peace

Lucky Charm

We met out-of-town friends at Animal Kingdom yesterday. Magical day!

Disney Digression

 

And I saw a lot of tattoos. Hundreds. I like to think there was a story behind each one of them. There’s definitely a story behind mine.

I never thought I’d get a tattoo.

Enter my mother:

girls

“You know what I think?” she had said, placing her hands on the table in a way that we knew she was telling and not suggesting. “We should get matching tattoos.”

Newly free from wigs and chemo treatments, Mom was piloting life her way. And, up until that moment, I was an eager front row seat passenger. But there are certain things I don’t do, a few unwritten personal rules. I don’t let different foods on my plate touch. I don’t wear white after Labor Day. And I don’t do tattoos. It’s not so much the flawed stigma that goes along with them. It’s just that for someone who never does the same thing twice, a tattoo is a pretty permanent accessory. There’s also my fear of needles.

My sister Lindsey, though, who has as much ink as a Bic, squealed at the mention of a new tat.

“On our feet,” she said. “The top of our left foot.”

“I was thinking the inside of an ankle,” Mom said.

They both looked at me.

“I was thinking…no.”

“C’mon, Min,” Lindsey said, rolling her eyes. “For all your so-called free spirit-ness and whatever, you are no fun. Have you ever done one crazy thing?”

With no decent reply, I blushed the truth. And, after much discussion, I agreed to a stamp on a toe—a teeny, tiny tat that maybe, just maybe, could be mistaken for an unfortunate freckle.

The next day, they got me in the car and we were on our way.

The Big Kahuna tattoo parlor was edgy and cold and terrifying. Possibilities were plastered on every corner of the walls and counter—symbols and serpents and fairies—and my indecisive soul was already quaking with panic. Mom and Lindsey were flipping through a big black book on the counter and I slid between them. Three pages in, I saw a three-leaf clover—each leaf was a heart and the shape was created with Celtic knots so that you could trace the entire design without ever lifting your pen from the page. I pointed.

“A heart for each of us.”

“That’s it,” Mom and Lindsey said on top of each other, nodding, nodding yes.

A guy walked down from the other side of the counter, joining us where we hovered over the page.

“Ah. Good one,” he said. “Luck Forever.”

“We each want one,” Mom said. “On our second toe.”

He was tapping tattoo-covered fingers on the counter. “We can’t do toes. Or fingers. Plus—see the detail in the knots? If it’s not at least this big, you’ll lose all that. It’ll just be a black blob.”

“I gotcha. Okay. Well, how about the inside of my ankle?”

He nodded. “Fine.”

Lindsey crinkled her nose. “I still want one on the top of my foot.”

“Yeah. Fine. And how about you?”

I shook my head no. “Not getting one. I’m just the cheerleader.”

Mom sighed. “Min. This is something I really wanted to do with you girls.”

Oh, the guilt. Thick as organic peanut butter. Without the jelly diversion.

“I was only okay with the toe because of you guys. I really don’t want one.”
She wasn’t going to push further, but I still felt awful.

“I’m still represented,” I offered. “Three hearts.”

But they had given up on me. And soon they were each settled in a different artist’s seat, tipsy with luck, ready to paint the town.

I sat between them, green-eyed as they laughed through the stinging. I sat there, safe, familiar and not without pain, wondering how many times my rules had kept me from tasting, from trying, from feeling something new.

The tattoos were small and simple, and only in black ink, so it wasn’t too long before Mom and Lindsey’s new additions were wrapped in hot pink cellophane that crinkled with fun. We left and I was conscious of my naked legs as we walked. Then we stopped for dinner. At the table, Mom’s legs were crossed and the arc of what I imagined was my heart was peeking through the transparent pink.

She caught me.

“Do you want one, honey? We can go back. It’s just down the street.”

My silence must’ve given her hope.

“We’re going back.”

The guys at Big Kahuna welcomed us with hugs.

“So. Where do you want it?”

“The inside of my left ankle,” I said, motioning to my Mom’s. “But maybe a little smaller?”

Twenty minutes and a roll of paper towels later, the final knot was tied. I had to look away at the first sight of blood. But, after my sweaty palms were under control, the pricking was (almost) exhilarating. Later that night, when I peeled the cellophane away, the black ink winked against my pale skin in triumphant relief.

The pigment has faded a little now. But my tattoo is as much a part of me as all of my unfortunate freckles. And, at first handshake, you probably would take me for a buttoned up, plays-by-the-rules girl. My clover betrays me, though. And I’m always happy to twist and twirl my ankle to show off my lady luck forever.

photo(35)
Mom. Me. Lins.

How about you? Do you have a tattoo (and a story behind it)? Ever broken your own personal rule?