Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Here we go again

I'm ringing in 2014 the same way I rang in 2013: wearing yoga pants. In Lucy's living room.

There's one more page to finish off in the story of my 2013, so I will hold off on the Cliff's Notes rewind of the year until it is officially over.

I will say this: I feel like I am in a far better place this New Year's Eve than I was last New Year's Eve. And it's not just because I am wearing a new pair of yoga pants.

Thank you for spending 2013 with me, you guys. I appreciate our friendships. I appreciate all of you.

Happy New Year!  

Monday, December 30, 2013

Departure

The Coach left today.

I have all sorts of feelings about his visit that I want to write about and, at the same time, that I don't want to write about.

It seems like I do a disservice to him or to us or to you guys every time I write about anything involving me and The Coach. That I can never get the words just right and so it is painted too perfect or too woefully pathetic or otherwise inaccurate and disingenuous. I can't ever get it right. I can't ever explain how it is imperfect or frustrating or critical or rewarding. I can't explain him: the decisions that he makes that annoy me and that I trust, the devious twinkle he gets in his eyes, his awful habit of interrupting, the way he loves his job and the way that he loves where he's from.

I can't get it right so, this time, I am not going to try. I am not going to dissect it. I will continue to go with my gut.

I knew that this Christmas visit would be unlike his other Christmas visits. And it was. It was short. The time that I spent with him was perfect. And when he left I cried.   

Friday, December 27, 2013

Party Animal

My cousin/roommate, Liz, is having a party tonight and the party that my cousin/roommate Liz is having tonight is basically the last event that I feel like attending.

As the party is in the house where I live, as it's the nice thing to do, as I don't really have any legitimate excuses, as I wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings: I will be attending Liz's party. Such is life.

Thankfully, Meg will be there, as well as the few friends of Liz who I actually like. In addition to a great number of her friends who are perfectly fine just not exactly my type for one reason or another. It will be fine. I would prefer to spend the evening with The Coach but The Coach is hanging out with his two siblings, their spouses and his six nieces and nephews. A guy who wants to spend time with his family is the kind of guy who I want to have in my life so I can't really fault him for being unable to whisk me away from this party or dutifully stand by my side throughout its duration.

Due to an overwhelming desire to dress up, Liz engineered this to be a fancier post-holiday soirée. I expect that there will be sequined dresses. I will be wearing plaid.


Because I meant for it to be my Christmas dress and I didn't get a chance to wear it for Christmas. Also because I don't care very much.

Rest assured that I do care enough to iron the dress and put on a more, um, voluminous bra. I'm not that lazy.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas and beyond

I had a delightful Christmas, starting with a holiday wake up call from The Coach. It came far, far earlier than he would typically be awake over vacation. I couldn't help but be charmed: 35 and still giddy about Christmas. I find it so endearing.

The holiday was lovely. So much family time and everyone was on good behavior. So much food and it was all delicious. So many presents and they were all thoughtful. It was a Christmas abundant in love and health and generosity. I am incredibly fortunate.

Then I cried my whole drive home. It was the end of Christmas: the end of three truly wonderful days. The end of a merry distraction. No longer in the shadow of Santa Claus, the end of The Coach's short trip home glared at me. I want more time. I want more time than I can possibly have.

I didn't have a Christmas list this year but, next year, I won't make the same mistake.

More time, please. More Christmas lights. More holiday movies. More cookies and hot chocolate. More Christmas carols. More time.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas with The Coach

It all fell into place.

The Coach missed his connection to Detroit. When he called to tell me (I was supposed to pick him up at 10:30 on Sunday night), he told me about how he was just dying to go to this Christmas festival at one of the local museums but that tickets for yesterday were sold out.

I promised that I would work on it.

10 hours, a little Craigslist trolling and some good luck later: I had tickets lined up. He was thrilled.

The Coach is the biggest nerd about Christmas and I find it incredibly endearing. While he was overseas, he was lamenting the fact that this great coaching opportunity meant that he was missing out on all of his "favorite Christmas activities." Such as seeing The Christmas Carol and the like. He was more than a little bit grateful that we could squeeze in the holiday celebration at the museum, even though it meant three hours outside in very bitter weather. We drank a lot of hot chocolate. We spent a lot of time defrosting by the fire pits that were staggered about the grounds.

We saw Santa. Santa stands on the balcony of one of the old buildings and he yells down to all of the kids. "I see Mitchell from Florida! Hello, Sophie and Evelyn!" Parents whisper their names to a trio of women dressed as carolers and they radio up to Santa. It's clever. And the kids lose their shit.

I am a thoughtless and childless bitch and said something to The Coach about finding out who we needed to talk to in order to get a shout out from Santa and a mom almost killed me dead with her stare. I'm pretty sure her kid didn't hear me (we were well away from Santa at that point anyway) so I will maintain the belief that I did not ruin Christmas for that innocent child. But I still feel like an idiot.

The museum is a bunch of old, historic buildings so we got to duck inside them and see and hear about all of the history -- they always included what Christmas in that year would be like -- which was both interesting and a good opportunity to warm up. There was music everywhere and The Coach would always stop for a second to see. He insisted on roasted chestnuts. He had to look closer at every Christmas tree. He held open doors, told the museum goers who came in costume that they looked good, tried on a women's hat in the old fashioned hat store and thanked the older woman who insisted that he looked quite fine before the hat.  

We talked about his future coaching plans and what he bought his nieces and nephew for Christmas. He told me about his tournament overseas; I filled him in on all of the random things that I never think to mention to him while he's gone. We complained about the cold and I would press my gloved hands over his very cold ears.

He crashed when we got back to the car. We defrosted and he looked exhausted all of a sudden, his two days of travel and three weeks overseas seemingly catching up with him at once. I had been so happy to see him that it barely registered that he had just arrived that morning, spending the afternoon shopping before coming over to my house. I got him all to myself on his first night home and it was such a treat. A cold treat. A cold treat that required I show up at a stranger's house with $40 and the hope that she wasn't a murderer. (She wasn't. She was actually quite nice and I'm glad that I brought along a box of chocolates to thank her, too, because scoring those tickets was clutch.) 

His trip home is so short this year. I won't see him nearly enough. Spending every minute with him over the next week wouldn't be nearly enough. And it won't be anywhere near that much. He has a lot of family to see. A lot of catching up to do. He feels like he misses a lot when he's away. He says he's ready to come back home. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy, happy

The Coach was supposed to get in late last night but he didn't arrive this morning.

It doesn't matter. He's here now. I saw him with my own eyes. It was so, so good to see him with my own eyes.

I will blink and he will be gone, this trip cut dreadfully short by responsibilities on either end.

No sense in worrying about that tonight.

He's here now.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Jinx

Writing about this is complex.

Not because I don't want to jinx it.

Well, somewhat because I don't want to jinx it. Also because I don't want to get my hopes up. And because it's complicated and I just really want what's best to happen even though maybe what's best isn't what will make me the happiest the fastest.

I am currently writing about The Coach's job.

I'm giving him a really great Christmas present: a present that would be terribly awesome for someone who was living far from home. Which, one week after purchasing it, is now a little bit ironic. Or it has the potential to be. Or the timing is just interesting. I'm not quite sure what to think.

Last week, a posting for a job that piqued my interest and was located quite close to where he coaches landed in my inbox and I didn't delete it.

This week, he threw me for a loop.


Ultimately, I want him to do what makes him happy. I want him to chase his dreams as far as his heart and his ambition will carry him. I am not in the business of molding, modifying, validating, cancelling or otherwise meddling with his dreams.

And if I could without consequence, I still don't know that I would. It plays such a big role in who he is; I don't know if The Coach would be The Coach if he wasn't actively coaching a team he wanted to coach at a skill level that he wanted to coach. 

Forgive me for being vague. Writing even this much makes me nervous. It makes me want to cross my fingers and light a few dozen candles. I haven't told Lucy. I haven't even said it aloud.

The words on the screen make my skin crawl. I want to delete this and pretend that I never wrote it and never wished it and never thought about what it would be like. 

It's just too much to hope for.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Loving

Beyoncé. Leave it to Queen B to drop a secret album and kill us all with her awesomeness, right?

KIND Bars and cottage cheese. Not together. Cottage cheese has been a breakfast staple for the past few months and it is kind of disgusting and I love it. I am totally weird about my granola/protein/whatever bars and KIND Bars totally fit the bill because they're basically a handful of nuts in bar form and I should probably learn how to make an equivalent before I eat myself out of house and home.

Gift giving. Either I am getting better at buying presents or I am completely delusional. Whatever it is, I am very pleased with every present I bought and anxiously awaiting giving each of them out. I will write about the gifts I gave after the holiday; I have a strange paranoia that somebody is secretly reading my blog and that I'm going to ruin their holiday.

Masters of Sex. Lucy talked me into trying this Showtime drama and I am hooked. It's a little bit of everything and I love it.

"A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote. Because I read it every year. Because it's a sweet story. Because everyone should have a short story that never fails to make him or her cry.

The rapid advance of the month of December. The Coach comes home at the end of the weekend. His trip will be short and no matter how much I see him it won't be nearly enough. And then he will go and then I will cry but I'm not worrying about that just yet. I'm too busy being anxious for him to go home. I am just SO BEYOND READY for this wait to be over.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A little less vague this time

What happened was that I wanted to be a crazy girl because The Coach is far, far, far away (as opposed to the majority of the year, when he is just far way) and I thought that it was only logical that he fill my inbox with the details of his overseas trip/tournament even though I TOLD HIM NOT TO DO THAT.

I was like "hey, go on your trip and coach your heart out and don't worry about updating me. It's okay. I know you'll be busy. And I will see you when you're home and you can tell me about it in person and that will be the beeeeeeeeeeest."

And then I go and have a few freaky anxiety dreams and immediately turn into the crazy girl who I do not want to be.

But when you're in Crazy Girl Spiral Mode it's really hard to get out of that crazy girl spiral.

I don't feel like I go Crazy Girl too often, but when I do, these things help: food, distracting work crises, friends, reading the perfect sentence at the perfect time, David Beckham, vague blogging and perspective.

So, my apologies for the vague blogging but trust that it played a large role in finding my sanity before I hacked into his email, tattooed his name on my forearm and called his mother to tell her that her oldest son was breaking my heart.  

...because he wasn't. Breaking my heart, I mean. He was following directions.

My directions.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Waking up smiling

If I hadn't had work to distract me yesterday, I would have burst into flames before noon.

And last night, mercifully, I had dinner plans with Lucy and Chet. We had macarons for dessert.

My subconscious was cooperative. Instead of a night filled with anxiety dreams, I work up this morning laughing. I can't recall the dream, but the feeling of waking up smiling isn't one that I will soon forget.

I wanted to pout this morning away but I woke up smiling and there was Premier League soccer on the television and the prettiest blanket of snow on the ground. I sipped away my frustration with my coffee. I was still but I was not overcome.

Better but not gone. It continued to simmer.

In the afternoon, my eyes stumbled over a small piece of advice. I was skimming and suddenly I was stopped. Stalled right at that sentence. Three words. In the order I needed to see them. On the snowy Sunday afternoon I needed to read them.

Loosen your grip.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pictures, Lately

I am busy. Busy at work. Busy making broccoli cheese soup. Busy getting my hair cut and colored. Busy having incredible awful anxiety dreams about The Coach. Busy inventorying all of the Christmas presents I ordered online as they show up at my doorstep.



I had a meeting just around the corner from Lucy's house on Thursday morning. When I was done, I picked us up Thai from her favorite restaurant and stopped by for lunch and snuggles with Baby L.

Yesterday, I saw my grandma and she was telling me all about how the water in her Christmas tree froze around the trunk. The tree was hanging out in her garage until she could get around to decorating and the weather happened and she was left with a treecicle.

Don't worry, my cousin Emma captured a picture of my grandma chiseling the tree to freedom. She's very resourceful.



While we're on the topic of my Grandma: I've been plugging away at the photo book that my cousins and I give Grandma every year. Our theme this year is Christmases past and, oh my goodness, my family and I have unearthed some gems.

I am particularly fond of this one of my mom and her sisters with Santa. My mom is the middle sister, on the far right. This picture always makes me smile.



I found all sorts of pictures of me as a kid and it's always sort of weird to look at them because: I was really that little? I believe I was just a few months past my fourth birthday in the picture on the left; I was 15 months old in the picture to the right. 

Of course, they aren't all cute.


That was one immensely awkward Christmas.

Unfortunately, I have no disbelief that I was the awkward creature in this picture. I remember this period of my life all too well. The braces seared the hideous years right into my memory. As though living through it wasn't enough.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gym Snobs

I'm taking group fitness classes for the first time in years.

On a whim, I bought a Groupon for two weeks of bag classes at the local boxing gym. I didn't really think about where it is (the snotty side of town) or the clientele. I just thought it might be fun to mix it up for a few weeks.

I always intended on using it these two weeks. I figured it would be a good distraction up until The Coach comes home and it has proved to be such.

It has also proved to bring out my worst side.

Mainly: how intolerant I am with certain girls at the gym.

As I said, this gym is in an area that brings out all sorts of girls in a full face of makeup and fully coordinated workout gear and pink boxing gloves. And they walk into the gym like LOOK AT ME, I AM HERE AND I AM FIERCE.

So then they go into this elaborate routine leading up to the start of class. Look at me jump roping! Look at me wrapping my hands! Look at me stretching!

It's intimidating. When I went to my first class, I was holding my breath and watching these girls and thinking about how poorly I was going to do and I've taken hundreds of kickboxing classes. Plus I'm in really respectable shape.

What pisses me off about these girls is that, if you weren't particularly fit or confident and it took all it had for you to get in the door to that gym, they are nothing but discouraging. They are the reason women are afraid to join a gym.

Class starts and the snobs keep up fine but they are not anything special. They are not far superior than anyone else even though they obviously take plenty of classes and have no shortage of confidence or lululemon yoga pants.

Then the instructor has us do pushups and THEY DO GIRL PUSHUPS.

I'm sorry, but if you can't do a real pushup (and I'm a firm believer that anyone of any gender can learn to do a real pushup and girl-style pushups are just some horrible holdover from the 1950s), you have no business intimidating other women at the gym. Get over yourself.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Smart shopper

You guys, I have an announcement.

If you've been reading for some time, you're probably eternally annoyed at all of the quirks and the faults that I know I have but cannot and/or will not abandon even if it's for my own good.

But here is the thing: THERE IS HOPE.

If my Christmas is any indication, there is legitimate hope for me. 

You know how I am basically the worst Christmas shopper ever? How I wander around the mall looking for The Most Perfect Gift and then I don't find it so I go home to regroup instead of buying the second best thing and getting on with my life?

Yeah. So, somehow I broke the habit.

Today is December 10 and I am all but done with my Christmas shopping.

It is a miracle.

My success can be credited to a few early victories: I bought chocolates for my staff the week before Thanksgiving and, while shopping online just before the start of Pie Night, I snagged a really good present for our family exchange game.

My mom is easy to shop for. My father is getting hockey tickets because he is not easy to shop for. I toned down the bitch and bought Meg an actual present even though I insisted that I would not. Friends, cousins, cute boys without proper titles, random gifts to keep on hand at work just in case I get a gift from someone I'm not expecting to get a gift from: done.  

I am on fire. While shopping with my mom last weekend, I was picking out gifts for her to give with such uncharacteristic confidence that, at one point, she turned to me and said "who ARE you?"

Awesome at Christmas. That's who I am, Mother.

I am so pleased with myself. I am also very anxious for Christmas to finally get here because I am not used to having to keep these secrets for so long! 

I would turn my attention to cookies but I am absolutely certain that any batch of cookies that I bake now will not make it to Christmas. So, I think I'll read A Christmas Memory once or four times in the meantime. It's my absolute favorite. And maybe get a pedicure. I think I've earned it.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Risk, Reward

Last Sunday, I was a controlled wreck. I joined my family for our annual trip to the Christmas tree farm and I held it together. I skipped lunch because I knew that I couldn't much longer. I went home and finished reading a book that made me cry. ...or let me cry. Thank heavens for that book, because I needed to.

The book and the subsequent tears made me think a lot of things through, which I also desperately needed.

I spent the next day sorting it all out in my head. When I finally blogged that night, I explained myself -- to myself, as much as to you guys -- and, the next day, I explained myself a little bit more.

And once I got that out, once I cleared that up, once I felt like I had picked the path that I needed to take: I was rewarded with a lovely week.

It was just a really, really nice week. A week where things fell into place and work was decent and Christmas felt fun again. There was the coffee incident and we got great news about our World Cup tickets. The running tights Meg wanted for Christmas sold out before I could but them buy then they magically reappeared online. I made risotto for the first time and didn't ruin it. I got a massage. I took a new class at a new gym and it was awesome. I was a simple, uneventful happy. I can barely remember last Sunday, that sad Sunday. It seems like it was weeks ago.

I am not much for signs or superstition, but it feels like something or someone was telling me that I got this one right.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Hobbies

From just before Baby A was born, my mother has found many hours of entertainment in shopping for Lucy's babies.

Among her numerous skills and her various degrees and the plethora of people who depend on her mothering (myself included), my mom is also a very talented shopper. She loves scoring a good deal.

After many years of absence from the children's department, my mom has a few very adorable reasons to browse the selection for the tiny set and, oh, does she ever take advantage. I don't think she leaves GAP or Macy's without a tiny outfit or two that cost less than a cup of coffee.

She gives it all to me to give to Lucy. Eventually. "Put this away for _____." A birthday. Hanukkah. Valentine's Day. When he's grown to twice his current size.

Half of my extra closet is filled with outfits for the boys. Organized in size order. I'm always a little afraid that I will miss an outfit and they won't get a chance to wear it. (Thank goodness Baby L came along to fill in any potential gaps.)

My mom definitely buys the boys more than their own grandparents do and the whole thing is a little bit weird. But so is my friendship with Lucy so who am I to judge? Lucy is always very appreciative. The boys get a lot of wear out of what my mom has bought and I think it only makes her want to buy more. Which, I mean, I guess that's okay. Children need to be clothed. And my mom needs to shop.

Everybody needs a hobby.

Considering my mother's, I should be more grateful that she doesn't also dabble in nagging about her lack of grandbabies.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Mandela

I am thankful to have witnessed a small fraction of Mandela's legacy during my trip to South Africa in the summer of 2010.

His beautiful country changed me.


Nelson Mandela is omnipresent in Johannesburg. We learned about Madiba at every turn.  

Of all of the attributes of that remarkable man, what stuck me was Nelson Mandela's magnificent capacity for forgiveness. If a man who is imprisoned for 27 years can forgive his captors, I could become a more forgiving person, too. I could hold less grudges. I could be a better person.

He inspired me. He inspired countless others. 

We are so lucky, to have lived in the world with Nelson Mandela.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

On being decent

This morning, I stopped at Tim Horton's on my way to work.

It was especially busy at dear ol' THo's. The line of cars for the drive through wound out onto the street. As I got in line, I saw a man in a Subaru who had pulled in through the parking lot. There was no way he was getting his car into the line unless someone let him in. So I let him in.

What's an extra two minutes, you know?

When I got up to the window, the girl working smiled and told me that he had bought me my coffee. And that the woman in the SUV behind me had offered to buy it, too.

It's the little things.

The same thing happened when Meg and I were getting to our race on Thanksgiving morning. I was in the line to get into the parking structure and another car -- another Subaru, actually -- was coming in from a different direction and somebody had to let them in so I just did it.

The driver paid for my parking.

Such kind gestures for what is, essentially, nothing. A minute of my time. A second to be considerate.

But each act of reciprocity served as a timely reminder that people notice.

I try very hard to err on the side of love and kindness and goodness. I would rather be too generous. I would rather be too nice. There are times when I feel like my (generally) good nature is overlooked. Like I am throwing my heart and my good intentions into a black hole. As though I am setting myself up to be taken advantage of.

How wonderful of those strangers to show me that it isn't the case.

It makes me want to buy them each a coffee.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

And the other thing

Is that I trust myself to know when I am done.

My heart loves stronger than maybe it should. But, historically, I have known when it was time. I knew when it hurt too much. I knew when I had to let go. And I did.

I don't have a hundred breakup stories to cite as examples as I don't have a hundred breakups in my past. The best example I have wasn't even a romantic relationship. It was with my other best friend, Colleen. I knew when she exhausted her chances. I knew when I had to stop trying. I knew when it was time. I made the decision. I did not waiver.

I trust myself to know when it's time.

I trust that I will know when I need to be completely done with The Coach.

I trust that I will know when it is time to dial it back so that making a regular, concerted effort to date other people doesn't feel so awful.

It's funny to say it because I overthink everything but it's true: I have a pretty decent gut instinct.

And I'm going to continue to go with it.

You don't have to agree with me on this one. (I'm not sure that I agree with me on this one.)   

Sometimes a girl just needs to make her own mistakes.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Sharing a heart with Ann Patchett

Over the weekend, I sat in bed and finished Ann Patchett's newest book, This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage. And then I cried. And cried and cried.

This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage is a collection of her nonfiction work that I zipped through in just a few days.

I was stupid and took for granted all of the excerpts that gripped my heart. I should have written them down. My punishment for my stupidity is not punishment: one day I will have to read it again.

What I love about Ann Patchett, other than her writing, is her capacity to love ferociously. I envy Patchett's ability to write about her ferocious love in such a way that the reader can grasp what it means to love as hard as she loves. You can feel how big her heart is. And maybe recognize your own big heart in the description of hers.

She wrote an exquisite memoir (Truth & Beauty: a Friendship, which also made me sob my face off) about a deep friendship she shared. This friendship is touched upon again in This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage. She writes a piece about the years she spent devoted to her grandmother's care. The book closes with a piece about a nun who was her schoolteacher and, later in life, becomes a treasured friend.

The way she writes about these relationships is so familiar to me that it feels like she's taken up residence in my own heart. I don't have the capacity to write as she does, but I think that I love in much the same way. It's overwhelming. It's all encompassing. It cannot be halfway.

I finished that last essay and I cried and I cried and I cursed this trait, this stupid heart that insists on being all in.

It is my best trait. It is my worst trait.

It's why joining Match isn't as easy as filling out a questionnaire and picking out a few cute pictures and plugging in my credit card number.

I'm not saying that it isn't a fault.

But I'm saying that it's me.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Donut Brigade

I ended up spending the night at my mom and dad's house on Thanksgiving because I was too exhausted to drive home.

I guess a 6.2 mile run and a 5:15 am wake up call will do that to a girl.

Friday morning was spent drinking coffee and cleaning up from the Thanksgiving tornado that hit the house. Mom and I cleaned from 8:30 am until probably 1:00 pm. Amazing how thoroughly 25 adults can trash a house. Truly amazing.

I took a break from cleaning to mix up the dough for the Pioneer Woman's donuts, which I had promised to bring to Lucy and Chet's house for our Hanukkah celebration.

Any recipe that requires yeast makes me extremely nervous.

After the first rising of the dough, I brought it over to Lucy's house to finish off the recipe with the help of Lucy and Baby A.

Baby A was all about making donuts. I thought my heart was going to explode.

We would put flour down on the table and swirl it around. He thought that was great.

And pat a little flour on the top of the dough. He thought that was great.

Then we'd flip the dough and pat some more. Also great.

Then we would roll. That was great fun.

And punch out holes. Terribly entertaining.

And punch more holes in the holes. More!  

Baby A was very much into the process. Somehow the task managed to hold his attention right through the last donut. (Auntie may have made it a fairly speedy assembly line.)

He was also very much into the eating process. The kid obviously knows a delicacy when he tastes one. I would like to think that it is due to my influence on him -- introducing him to the finer things -- but the kid hasn't met a food that he doesn't like.

Lucy said he woke up the next morning babbling about "dough, dough, dough, roll, roll, roll" and patting imaginary flour on his imaginary dough. I could not be prouder.

Heavens, that child is fun.
 
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