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Beaches

9 Feb

**** Before I share my Florida trip, I have a shameless plug for Becky’s fabulous husband, Ben! He has entered a contest that could really help his career and get his artwork in front of the right people. In Ben’s words: “The winner gets flown out to pretty much the biggest comic book convention and introduced to all the bigwigs in the comic book, video game, and toy/statue industry which will jump start my career in comics and everything else!  I am so freakin’ excited about this it’s not even funny!  The voting ends on the 14th so it’s a very limited time in which to decide the winner so everything has to be a concentrated effort.  Thank you so much for the support.” So how can you help? Go to this link. Click on “Support Ben,” via the Facebook button. The website will email you when to vote; both views and votes count! *****

So, Florida.

Apart from the chaos that ensued before we actually got there (in a nutshell: Knight’s flight getting canceled, him having to juggle to get on my flights out of StL, dealing with a flat tire in the ghetto of STL, arriving at 1am) and the fact that we got no sleep the night before (hooray for 24 hour amazing breakfast places to kick off the trip), our first vacation was totally ah-mazing.

There was nothing but hugs, love, laughs, holding babies (hers, not mine… duh!), drinking, eating our way through North Florida, laughing some more, watching ridiculous reality TV (hello, Jersey Shore. Nice to meet you, finally. And I may be hooked.)

There was not lovely weather by any means but it was still warmer then this stupid midwest. Like by a lot. And it rained, warm rain. The good kind of rain, you know?

I wore flip-flops and short sleeved shirts. I slept in. I cuddled with Knight and my niece. I sat with my childhood BFF (she needs a nickname, seriously) and laughed, smiled and cried over the pictures and memories of us from the last five years. We hung with my niece and had good life chats. We sat in silence at times and it was more than ok.

I put my toes in the sand despite the insane fog that was covering the Jacksonville beaches. I had to talk to a cop in order to get into the bar since I was a dunce and left my license at home (it worked). I took shots to celebrate my childhood BFF’s birthday, the attainment of my Masters, and friendship and love in general.

Future trips were planned. Tears were shed when it was time to leave. Bonds were strengthened. Knight and I spent five days and six nights together; the most in a row since we’ve met one another and were left hungry for more.

My soul is rejuvenated (again). My heart is soaring (still). There is a smile plastered to my face (like usual). I’m in love with Florida all over again. I fell more in love with myself, with Knight, with life.

When was the last time you fell in love with yourself, your life, your loved ones all over again?

Lessons Learned: Soulful Weekend

1 Feb

Bright and early on Saturday morning I picked up Lisa at a very packed airport (I think everyone was trying to flee this ridiculous weather are getting), greeted her with a classic Midwest Bear Hug, and we were off! This trip has been planned for only a month but it seemed like a long time coming; I think this past weekend was something we both needed: lots and lots of girl time.

Here are some of the things that I learned this past weekend:

* Apparently Mother Nature is nice and graces us with her lovely presence (as in 45 degrees and sunny) for special out-of-town guests. This will lead you to shedding your coat in favor of feeling a bit springlike. Don’t be too fooled, though. The weather will change after the sun goes down.

* Getting to the zoo within 30 minutes of them opening? Best idea ever. No lines to see the penguins!

* You know a lot more about the history and culture of your city than you think, but you always forget the Arch is 630 feet tall.

* Sitting on your bed, magazines askew, Generation X music on in the background? Reminds you both of high school, the days you couldn’t drive, and it is SO much fun. Nothing like just relaxing and being girls for a bit, no worries about driving, bills, plans, boys, nothing beats it!

* Celebrity gossip and looking at fashion is fun at any age. You’re also reminded of why you and Lisa are such good friends: your thoughts and tastes are incredibly similar.

* You might get totally giggly and say something like “smokes like a fish,” when you really meant “smokes like a chimney.” This will become a running joke for the rest of the weekend.

* Introducing your boyfriend to one of your best friends is really fun, especially when they like each other and get along really well.

* Mexican and margaritas is more fun when you’re celebrating a friend’s early birthday (and when the margaritas go down very easy).

* There are some bars in St. Louis that would be ideal for numerous episodes of “What Not to Wear.” We found one of those bars. We also think we should have a stack of Vogues to hand out to people who need some fashion advice.

* Chatting over a delicious breakfast with no agenda on a Sunday? Divine.

* Colin Firth is amazing and dashing, even when he’s playing a King with a speech impediment. (In other words, go see “The King’s Speech.”)

* Sex and the City is a lot funnier than you remember it being; so fun to watch it with a true fan!

* Spinach & feta stuffed chicken breasts are really good; maybe it’s the company (your parents + Lisa), the wine, and the fact that you were totally relaxed, but the recipe is definitely a keeper.

* When going to THE custard place of St. Louis, it’s probably a wise idea to call before you go, just in case they are closed for the season. (Lesson learned the hard way.)

* Sometimes the best weekends are the ones where you put down the camera and only have a few photos to share!

* You are incredibly thankful for the blog world and the best friends it has brought you and you will always wish they lived much, much closer to you.

* It is way more fun to drop a friend off at the airport when you know you’ll see them again soon!

* Fact: You need much, much more girl time in your life than you’re currently getting.

The 2010 Wrap-Up

5 Jan

I hadn’t planned on doing the 2010 Wrap-up partially because a good portion of the year was spent recovering, healing, with my nose in books finsihing up my masters. And partially because you were all here for the good, the bad, the ugly (and I thank you for it!).

But it doesn’t seem right to start a new year without looking back, at least a little bit.

So, 2010, in a paragraph…..

Blogger meet-ups that were good for the heart and soul. Fried food on a stick. Bar Crawls that left me with mean hangovers. Training for a 10-mile race, getting injured, but forging on and running a 10k anyway. Adjusting to living with the parents. Countless books read, movies watched, journal pages scribbled in. Learning how to get over heart-wrenching pain. Embracing the people in my life who make me feel good. Eating a whole lot of Mexican food. Letting go of toxicity in my life, whether it be plans, people, or dreams. Cuddles with Jack. Laughing so hard it made my stomach hurt and tears roll down my face. Reasserting my hopes and dreams, ones that are attainable. Finishing my masters and being so thrilled that I actually did it. Squeeing with joy when my diploma came just before Christmas. Getting back to my roots, back to who I really am. Being surprised by love. Being surprised by what I would do for love. Growing stronger every day. Being choosy. Road trips, lots of road trips. Allowing myself to be a hopeless romantic again, and not apologizing for it. Refusing to settle. Learning to say no. At the same time, learning to say yes. Becoming obsessed with all things Ann Taylor Loft, Nintendo, and baking (again). Deciding that I won’t dye my hair any color other than it’s natural color, even if the grays show through. Making amazing new friends that I would be 100% lost without. Hugging my parents more. Falling in love with not only a great man, but also myself.

I’m not making resolutions this year (I’m really bad at them). Instead I’m just facing 2011 head-on with all the changes that I know are ahead of me, some which will change the rest of my life I suspect, and am prepared to tackle all the changes and challenges that I can’t yet see. I’m going into 2011 with hope, joy and smiles and I know that it will be a good year.

What are you going into 2011 with?

Believe it or Not

22 Nov

Don’t miss the first two installations of this mini-series here: Spark and Starry Eyed.

Everyone’s teeth started chattering and their bones were soaked in cold, despite the warm down comforters they had piled on top of themselves.

He grabbed her hand as helped her climb off the roof. She reminded herself that he lived six hours away from her current residence. That no matter what happened it would be very unlikely that she’d ever see him again. “That’s that,” she thought to herself.” If anything happens, it will be just for fun. Nothing can come of it.”

********************

“Are you sure you want to sit on that couch all by yourself?” he asked, a smile playing on his lips, as he subtly pleaded with her to join him.

She joind him, albeit a bit reluctantly. Although there was no point in denying that she was drawn to him, she just didn’t see how it could possibly work out. She quietly chastised herself for being such a forward thinker and decided to enjoy the present.

He engulfed her in his strong arms while they watched some sort of ESPN late night highlights though truth be told she wasn’t paying attention. She wondered if he’d kiss her. Not more than 10 seconds later she turned to look up at him and there he was, kissing her. Soft, gentle, quick but it was enough. She drew him back down for another kiss. And then another…

“What are we going to do?” he said, his voice suddenly serious, pulling away from her.

“Ummm, about what?” Her voice squeaked. She wasn’t sure what he was asking or where this conversation was going. She wanted to be touching him, kissing him, not talking. They had limited time after all.

“I have to see you again.” He looked her straight in the eyes when he said this. Chills ran up and down her back. He was serious. He did want to see her again. A man she had met not even 12 hours prior and he wanted to see her! Again!  Her mind began to race: six hours between the two of them. They both work full-time, have various life obligations. How in the world would they be able to see each other again? As if reading her mind, “It’s not that far. We could make it work if we want to.”

********************

The next morning at the farm she woke with a heavy sense of dread. They would say goodbye today, each go their own separate ways down the highway. She glanced over to the other side of the room where he lay sleeping. (He claimed he didn’t want to miss a minute of being near her, so he brought his air mattress into the room she was sleeping in.) So handsome. She knew it would be a tough morning.

******************

She somehow convinced him to join her for lunch before they departed. They wandered around her old college town for a few minutes after lunch, joined practically at the waist, both of them soaking up what little time they had left before real life called to them. He kissed her by her car. They talked briefly about seeing each other again. She led him to the highway. They got separated by traffic. She surpressed her sadness and instead called a few close friends to let them know she’d met an amazing man, recounting as many details as she possible could.

******************

Her phone rang.

It was him.

” Hey. I’m coming to see you in two weeks. Let’s go to that wedding you need a date for. And also? I’ll be calling you every night until I get to see you again. I can’t get enough of you,” he said.

And so began a new journey with a new man.

3. Spark

3 Nov

They met for the third time in the kitchen of her best friend’s house. She gave him a casual glance when they were introduced mostly because she remembered him from the past two introductions and also partially because the buffalo chicken dip that was on her plate was just too good to ignore.

He gave her the standard man nod of the head and a “hey, nice to meet you.”

He kept running into her throughout the day: while she was busy peeling onions and carrots for the stew, while she carved pumpkins, when she was just hanging out and drinking beer with the girls. The conversation was casual, no flirtatious overtones. His voice was gravely and sexy, his laugh infectious, his smile contagious. Of course these were all things she noted after the weekend was over.

At some point he offered to put her beer in his cooler; he fetched it from the trunk of her car which was rather far away from where the group was, and that was the first time she thought that maybe he wanted to get to know her a little bit. She reminded herself that she was there for a girls’ weekend of sorts and pushed the thought of meeting someone to the back of her mind.

The best laid plans, well, they never quite work.

He kept popping up next to her side throughout the night and before she knew it, she found herself wanting to be close to him, craving the conversation, hoping he’d graze his hand against hers.

They shared a hay bale at the bonfire. They sat close for warmth. The conversation ranged from Jimmy Buffet concerts to travel, from their personal histories to farm life, from Dave Matthews Band to Hawaii. And then he asked her a question she hoped he’d ask. ” Want to go for a walk to look at the stars?”

to be continued….

Life in Front of the Camera

11 Oct

I have a reputation among my friends: the chronicler. Always with the camera, taking pictures both posed and candid, and back when I was on Facebook I was known for posting them within mere hours of getting home. Sometimes you miss out on the jokes, the commradery, the fun, when you’re focused on the next best shot.

My capstone class behind me, I went to my best friend’s fall ball (aka the best farm party ever) for the weekend. And that is when I decided to give my camera a rest and live my life in front of the camera, focusing on really being in the moment.

Tossing the camera aside meant that when I went on the tractor ride, through little valleys and over rocks, clutching my beer and laughing the whole time, soaking up the weather and fresh country air. It meant that I got my hands dirty with pumpkin carving, helped the men make dinner by peeling oodles of onions and carrots, and got to be friends with the local country boys including those who looked like Heath Ledger a la Brokeback Mountain. (Ahem, swoonworthy.) I learned about beer darts, the strategy behind washers, the merits of Natural Light vs Busch Light, that people will laugh at you if you are drinking Bud Light Lime, even if it really does taste good.

I fed horses, avoided cowpiles, and marveled at how huge the bonfire was. I sat on hay bales, chatted with friends I haven’t seen in ages, and took walks away from the fire to cast my eyes upward. I made new friends, had the kind of conversations that leave you with nothing but hope and maybe a few butterflies. I climbed on top of a roof with large blankets to stare up at the galaxy , voiding my head of all the normal weekday clutter, chatting with my best friend, her husband and his best friend, giggling until 2am over the silliest of conversations despite the fact our teeth were chattering and our fingers were cold. 

We convened over breakfast casserole, swapping stories and learning new things about what happened after we left, retreated to the couch for a brief nap and then we all went our separate ways.

It was a soul-searching, rejuvenating weekend that reminded me of what’s important and that life is full of lovely, unexpected moments. Sometimes that’s all you need.

And Just Like that I Married a Country Boy

5 Oct

On Sunday evening we were all cozied up in the kitchen: Darling slicing cucumbers for salad, Gram (who was over for Sunday dinner) was perusing the Sunday paper and I was focused on the last bits of my reading for class.

We all started taping our feet when this song from Crazy Heart came on the streaming playlist my dad put on for us:

“This makes me want to get in my truck and go,” Darling said.

“What truck?” I asked.

“You know, our old-school green pick-up truck,” she said while dancing around the kitchen and winking at me since we obviously have  no such truck.

“This song makes me want dance with a cowgirl hat on with a very handsome, tall, country boy. One with a farm. And a lot of land,” I responded deciding to play along. Imagining is fun after all.

“Well in that case can you have a barn so that I can have horses? And then maybe buy some sheep too?” Darling asked eagerly. Darling has always wanted a horse of her own.

“Since we’ve made this entire scenario up we can have horses and sheep. And dogs! Lots and lots of dogs! I can start my charity finally,” I exclaimed.

“Will there be a room under the eaves for me?” my Gram chimed in, never one to be left out of a conversation or an adventure for that matter.

” Certainly, Gram. Consider it done.”

“Now, Nora, we will have to sheer the sheep and sell the wool, too. I wonder if your husband will be okay with that?” Darling asked.

My dad shouts from the other room “What’s all this about sheep and horses and living under eaves?”

“Didn’t your hear, Dad? I live on a farm now. With my farm-owning husband.”

“Alright,” he said albeit a bit skeptically, “so long as I can sell my candles in the wool-shop next to your mother.”

We all burst into fits of laughter at the sheer hilarity and silliness of this little invented future we created for me based upon a song. But it was kind of fun. And I could kind of picture it, you know, as long as the farm wasn’t too far from a big city.