Her happy place…

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Every family has their own vacation rituals, right? My childhood trek was to, wait for it, the great state of South Dakota. Every. Single. Summer. My mom had little vacation time, so the yearly pilgrimage to South Dakota was a big deal. We got a bag of cheetos, twizzlers, made some sandwiches, filled up the coffee thermos, and wouldn’t dream of forgetting to pack “Love is- Best of the 70’s” tape, part 1 and 2. I can still recite every single line of “Islands in the Stream” and “I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me.” (Now if that isn’t a great party trick…I don’t know what is…)

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No air conditioning, sticky seats, and an older sister that barely tolerated me headed to a town smaller than my own. Sweet bliss! As time has gone on, what I remember most about these trips is how happy my mom was. This was the one time that I could imagine what she was like as a child. She hummed getting close to South Dakota. She let me blow things up with my rowdy cousins in South Dakota. She let me drive a car (when I was 13) in South Dakota. This was her happy place.

Of all the gifts from childhood, the ability to see your parents as people separate from yourself is a lasting one. I always associated my mom with work, cleaning the house on Saturday mornings, grocery shopping, and worrying about the future. I saw someone different in South Dakota. It was the equivalent of seeing your elementary school teacher on a ride at the county fair. They can have fun?! That’s allowed?

I just spent the last week packing to decamp with my own family to the lake for a month. I hummed while writing my packing list. I overheard my kids talking last night, “Just ask her. She’ll probably let us. Mom’s in her happy place.”

Bike to get ice cream? At 10 o’clock? You bet. I’ll do you one better. I’ll race you there.

Keep sharing moxie. Happy Canada Day to our friends to the North & Happy 4th to those stateside.

 

Mothers are crazy birds…

FullSizeRender (68)My porch has been taken over by an expectant robin. She is fierce and a little unhinged. My daughter made this sign to make sure that no one dares to step foot on our porch. This bird will fly at you like a missile. She will pretend to be wounded to lead you away from her eggs. Her dive-bomb tactics will make you run screaming for the hills. Today is Mother’s day, and to me, it isn’t about just being a mother, it’s about anyone that is ready to dive-bomb to protect a child, that instinctively thinks of someone else before themselves. A mother’s love is not limited to biology, to race, even to gender. I have met some single fathers that are better “mothers” than me. I have known aunts that rock parenthood like professionals. I have been taken in by someone that shares not a drop of DNA structure with me, but loves me unconditionally. Unfortunately, I also know “mothers” that don’t give a fig newton about their children, that are mothers in name only.

Mother’s Day is about celebrating the slightly crazy, fierce, unhinged birds that love with their whole hearts and would sacrifice themselves to protect whoever they have claimed as their own. Welcome to the ranks, Little Mama Bird.

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Before you go thinking I’m some ribbons for all, celebrate everybody fluffer nutter, I’m not. A mother’s love is something to be celebrated, its sanctity is the ultimate reflection of sacrifice. I’m saying that can come in all sorts of vessels and in no way is that something to scoff at.

I was playing a “What-if” game in the car with a group of friends years ago and one of the questions went something like this “You’re in a room, you have a choice to push a button to kill yourself, or someone in the next room that might or might not be your spouse. What would you do?”. One person answered, without a moment’s hesitation. “I would push the button and kill the person in the next room. Even if it were my spouse. No one could love my children like I can.” As I said, a mother’s love is not to be trifled with.

So today, on this day that is beautiful for some, and something to be endured for others, let me leave you with this…You may be a mother, you might not be. You may have children, you may have lost children, you may have chosen to not have children. In any case, I hope you have someone you would dive-bomb to protect and a person in your life that loves you with a mother’s love, because it is fierce and glorious. Happy Mother’s Day!

agathachristie

 

 

Dear Dad…

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Dear Dad,

All my memories start and end with you. Did you know that? You’d probably say you don’t remember all this crap, but I’d call bullshit. This is the relationship we have. I’m a “goddamned pain in the ass” and you’re mine.

I’m not a “Daddy’s girl”. You know that, right? Only because it makes me think of pretty dresses and princesses, which is decidedly not me, but I am your girl. I always have been, always will be.

All my memories start and end with you.

I am 3- and I leave my trike out in the driveway. I promise not to do it again.

I am 4- I do it again.

I am 5-I’m certain that there isn’t anything better than sitting in the middle seat and shifting your truck. I was right.

I am 6- I know what divorce is. Don’t try to explain it to me. I know.

I am 7- You let me eat so much candy I swear I don’t ever want to eat another peanut butter cup or SweeTart again. You know better. I will never stop eating candy. Ever.

I am 13- I get caught stealing toothbrushes with a friend. You ask me what the hell I was thinking. I wasn’t.

I am 16- I piss you off. You disappoint me. I tell you I don’t want to talk to you anymore…until I do.

I am 25- You walk me down the aisle. You stand on my veil and my head snaps back as I try to move forward. You’re embarrassed. I know you just weren’t ready to let me go. Plus, it gave my sisters something to talk about (until the end of time).

I am 30- You are laughing. Your granddaughter is testing every limit. You love this.

I am 35-I name my son after you. You love this, too.

I am 40- I’m wishing I became something more useful like a doctor. I will be forever grateful that some fellow student spent more nights studying than me, so they could one day repair your heart.

Years ago you started calling us every Saturday. I love these calls, have I ever told you that? You try to call early enough to wake me up. This never happens. (I’m always up first).You ask me about work, the kids, and try to make me lighten up. I push you about your health and you call me a “goddamned pain in the ass”. It’s the new “I love you”, it just hasn’t caught on with everyone yet.

Here’s the thing. I don’t know what it’s like to not have someone in my life that all my memories start and end with. I’d appreciate it very much if I don’t have to learn how to live like that for a very long time. Stick around to annoy me, your grandkids, your wife. We’ve got your number, we can handle you. So, with that, “Keep your boots on, you goddamned pain in the ass.”

Love,

Your girl.

Forget the guests, use the nice pillows.

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We’ve all heard the battle cries of carpe diem! Seize the day! Use the nice china. Don’t wait. I have one more to add: forget the guests, use the nice pillows.

We were recently preparing to have a guest at our home and I realized that I had given them the very newest pillows we own. How nice. When I tucked my son in for his nap that afternoon, I glanced at his pillow and found that had been through every storm, sick episode, and was likely older than I was. It was nasty looking. What the? I like to have guests, I’m sure you do, too, but they don’t live in our homes.

With this a-ha moment (light bulb!), I started looking around my house. I have a very large, grand sidewalk lined with boxwood shrubs for our guests, while my family comes through a dirty garage to the most confounding pile of crap in a muddy, muddy mudroom every day. My formal entryway is decorated with a theme for every season, in front of a door my family and closest friends never use. (See exhibit B for February). The spaces my family actually resides in? Tag sale city, sweetheart.

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What’s wrong with this picture? Image, I guess? Without being aware of it, I have cultivated some of the nicest spaces in our home for people that I care the least about. Have any of you done this, too? What is it about appearances that sucks us in? I can blame Pinterest and other social media sites, but it’s more than that. I don’t have to give greater credence to any of those sites than you do.

For me, I ordered new pillows in our house, for my family. I switched up our towels and paid someone to come in paint my mudroom. While finishing designing and decorating my home, I’m going to proceed with my family and our style in mind first from now on. Our real style, not how I wish it was, but how it actually is (storage for sweaty gear, heaps of laundry and all). I’m kind of done with appearances for fictional guests. My extended family members and closest friends recall when I barely washed my clothes and ate ramen noodles. I don’t think giving them the highest thread count in the guest room is going to change their opinion of me. Flattering or not, their memories of me have been cultivated over decades. It comes down to this…my favorite people use the back door. I bet yours do, too. Make it nice for them. More than that, make it nice for you. 

Keep sharing moxie.

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Want. Need. Wear. Read.

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The Christmas gift-giving concept is straightforward: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. It sounds simple. It should be simple.

I pitched my idea to my firstborn and, ever the rule follower, she promptly gave me a bullet point list. 1. Want-Bookniture, furniture made from books. 2. Need-Shopping money for Paris.

I stopped reading at number 2.

I tried with my preschooler. “I want a drone.” What do you need? “I need a drone.” This prompted a discussion on the definitions of want and need.

Is this a hard question? I turned inward. What do I want? What do I need? Nothing, really. My children don’t truly lack for anything, but I don’t either. So what do I want? Time. Uninterrupted time with them, with my sisters, with…my favorites. What do I need? The same thing, time.

I realize that now that my list-making days are over. I’ll be asking for the same thing every Christmas from now until the end. I want time with the people I love. I’m going to be vocal about it, too, so my children start to begin to get the idea that this concept of time is important. As in, “my mom has been asking for time with us for the past 20 years, it’s sooooo obnoxious, it’s all she wants.” I’m not some paragon of sainthood, but I realize that my children will only live under my roof for a short period of time. I will always want more time with them, especially at Christmas, and I’m perfectly comfortable making them feel guilty as hell if I don’t get it. It’s all I’m asking for.

I just spoke with a colleague yesterday that hasn’t had their children all together for 10 years over the holidays. She wants time. There is a lovely young woman in our community that was just diagnosed with cancer. She wants more time, god, she deserves more, please.

Christmas is a magical time for some, for others they’d like to just get through it. It’s financially and socially stressful and is less a celebration of true love and selflessness than it is of consumerism. Grinchy, grinchity, grinch.

When it comes down to it though, our deepest wishes, the theme is often the same. You want more time, you were deprived of more time, or you haven’t found the right people you want to spend time with.

For all of you, dear readers, I hope your Christmas is filled with time. Time with the people that make you laugh till you cry, drive you insane, make you snort with derision, and fill your heart up. Find your tribe. Love them, fiercely. Merry Christmas, friends.

Keep sharing moxie.

 

Christmas Card Competition

christmas-catString me up by toenails, I mailed out my Christmas cards today. I’m THAT person. The obnoxious one that sends Christmas cards every year. Early. I’m sorry. Before you pelt me with olives, let me assure you, I do not have my crap together in any other way.  

I have posed with a shovel, made my friends take pictures of me when I was single and sent them out with aplomb. If I had a cat in the 90’s, no doubt I would’ve been this super festive twee love pictured to the left.

Somehow, though, my favorite time of year to visit the mailbox has lost a bit of luster. I think it’s gotten a little too competitive. My sister gave me a look of unbridled (yet, well deserved) disgust when I handed out Christmas cards at Thanksgiving last week. The personalized return mailing labels with our family photo emblazoned on them? A bit much, perhaps. My family is not as bright and shiny as we appear on the thick cardstock. Yours isn’t either, precious. None of us are Christmas card perfect. We just aren’t perfect, period. So let’s just write a Christmas card disclaimer, like a surgeon general warning on a pack of ciggies: these photos may be dangerous to your self-esteem. May cause you to vomit a little in your mouth. Smiling is good for your health, so smile, piss ant, and be glad someone mailed you an actual card.

In my heart of hearts, I know that my favorite Christmas cards are the ones that make me laugh, the ones that celebrate joy. The family that mocks themselves a bit. I loved it when a friend of mine had her husband wrestle with a barn cat one year for a photo shoot in striped sweaters. Admittedly, my humor veers towards David Sedaris.

Let’s make our goals certain and true: try to  make people smile and be glad they’re friends with you, rather than wanting to bash your perfect face in when they open up your Christmas card. My labels are pretentious this year, the contents inside- flagrantly braggadocio, hopefully the cover photo redeems the hot mess. So, from my family to yours…Merry Christmas from Bossy Boots & the Pot Stirrer.

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Keep sharing moxie!

 

Thankful for Pickled Beets

Thanksgiving was my Grandma’s holiday. She owned it like a boss. It was her birthday, plus Thanksgiving, and the mission was clear: fill the Taopi town hall with her family. Grandma is gone now and new traditions have replaced the old trek to the drafty hall. I miss the bent folding chairs and being paraded on the town stage.

I have two feet planted squarely in middle age and have never bought pickled beets till this year, because Grandma isn’t here to make them anymore. I saved her last beets until I needed to google shelf times, safety and canning. My sister made a commemorative batch, but it wasn’t the same. Nothing is as good as the loving original.

Grief is the thing that makes your throat hurt when you’re past the point of crying. I stood in the grocery aisle staring at a jar of beets this week and my throat hurt a little. “Are you finding everything, Ma’am?” My voice cracked on “yes.”.

This month I met with two families that have lost their children and wanted to set up scholarship funds in their memory. And I heard it again, the voice crack. Their throats hurt a little. Those hearts bear scars that they will never show to the world, but will smile this spring giving scholarship money to someone else’s child.

The dark side of holidays is the simple truth that sometimes they suck for others. It’s hard to celebrate when your heart hurts, but celebrate we must. I think it’s important to be thankful for a life well lived, however short or long. It’s also good to give an extra squeeze whenever you hear someone’s voice crack. This Thanksgiving let us be thankful for those that are gathered around our table and the empty chairs that we wish were still filled.

If I were to assemble my favorite meal, it would have Grandma’s pickled beets, my mom’s chocolate cake, Willie’s fish, Jan’s deviled eggs, and my husband’s steak. Some of these people are living and some are not, but I’m thankful for all of them. Who makes your perfect meal? Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Keep sharing moxie.