Monday, December 1, 2014


Some people answer the phone like they are surprised the phone rang. As if the phone's purpose is not to connect you with someone else. As if they are so confused and unsure of what they are going to hear. "Helloooo?" An ever-present question mark hanging at the end of the word, their tone inflection rising up, up, up, like a roller coaster.

Others answer with a grumble, their mouths rolling the letters around like marbles or gravel that sticks between their gums, the greeting anything but friendly.

My grandpa, though. My grandpa had his own way of answering.


Not with a question mark, but a period. An emphasis on the end of the syllable, the "l"s rolling around happily, the word coming out slow and sure. Grandpa took his time answering the phone, and when he did, he answered with a sense of certainty. As if he knew you were the person calling (even before the days of caller ID).

Usually when I called Grandpa, it was almost always to see where my dad was.

"Hel-loh," Grandpa would answer in his traditional tone.

"Hi Grandpa, it's Lindsay." Whenever he answered, I straightened up and spoke louder, clearer, feeling a bit robotic and silly as I emphasized each syllable. Grandpa's hearing wasn't too keen with his old age.

"Oh, hi," he'd say.

"Do you know where my dad is?"

Grandpa would either answer with a, "No, I haven't seen him today," or "Yup, he left about 20 minutes ago." His voice was usually upbeat. I'd say thanks and hang up, go on about my day.

I had that conversation with my grandpa hundreds of times over the years.

I called my grandpa yesterday. Or rather, I called the phone number to connect to the phone line to make the phone in my grandpa's kitchen shrill. I could just hear the ring bouncing around his kitchen, echoing against the fridge in the corner. The fridge with the wooden magnet of a salmon fish I bought him when I went to Montana. The fish magnet holding up a newspaper clipping of an obituary for his best friend Johnny who passed away a week ago. The fridge where my little brother and I used to grab cans of Mountain Dew and Coke, then sit by the coffee table in the living room where we put coins into a wooden piggy bank.

"Have you fed the pig?" Grandpa would ask us. He kept change nearby so we could stick the coins in the pig's slots.

I have the pig now. Grandpa gave it to me for my birthday last year. I cried when he gestured towards the pig, saying the pig was mine. I remember my hands running over the smoothness of the wood, catching on the pig's wooden ears, tail, snout. The tears rolled down my cheeks that day because it was such an unexpected gift. Unexpected tears.

So many unexpected tears.

Yesterday when I called grandpa's house,  I sat on my bed, the cell phone stuck to my ear. I pictured the ring traveling across the phone lines, skipping and jumping along M-52 until my call cozied up in the hollow of Grandpa's phone, waiting to be answered. Like all of the other times when I called Grandpa's house, I was calling for my dad. But as I listened to pattern of the phone ring, pause, ring, pause, I realized I was expecting grandpa to answer. To say, "Hel-loh." To tell me where my dad was.

But no one answered. Dad didn't answer. He must have left, I thought. He was over there picking up some paperwork and forms and other things the funeral home needed to plan a burial.

Two weeks ago on this same day-- a Monday-- Grandpa was here. He was here, on this earth. And I was here, but I was worrying about a speech I had to make and if the hem of my yellow skirt looked bad because it was fraying and if the polka dots on my shirt were too much and if I was going to trip in my heels. I was worrying about saying the wrong thing.

Now I don't know what to say. Now I don't feel here, even though I am. I'm here and he's not. My grandpa is not here. My grandpa's heart and body gave out and now he isn't going to answer the phone in his certain voice and he's not going to tell me stories about Ireland and he's not going to make jokes about President Obama or talk about Michigan State sports.

How does that happen? How can I be worried about the hem of my mustard colored skirt falling apart one week, and this week, it's me I'm worried is going to fall apart?

Forty-eight hours. Less than, really. Maybe 46. That's how long it took for my life to change. One minute, I'm talking about wedding planning and signing contracts and sipping on Chai Tea, the next minute, I'm answering my phone and telling my mom that yes, I will go meet my dad at the hospital, and really, Grandpa has chest pains?

Forty-six hours and he's gone.

I loved my grandpa very much. In other seasons of his life, I've heard he did things and said things that the lessons of life and mistakes and burned bridges teach a person later. By the time I had come around, though, his edges were softer, his sharpness ironed out. He was the grandpa that made me "Happy Birthday Lindsay" signs and a cake and a fishing trip to his Canadian cabin when I turned eight. He was the grandpa that would pick us up at daycare sometimes and knew about politics and got a smirk on his face when he said a good joke or comeback.

He was my grandpa. Our grandpa. We all called him grandpa--Mom, Dad, cousins, sons, nieces, nephews. All of us. And now he's gone.

So now we pack up and we move forward. There's obituaries and memorial services and driving and phone calls. And though those 46 hours were painful, they were also moments I will never forget. Moments filled with words I needed to say and I needed to hear, and I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful for the moments and the memories.

But amongst it all, and above all else, I'm thankful to God. I thank God for faith and family and friends. I thank God for fishing for Northern Pikes in Canada and jokes about politics and stories about Ireland and trucker hats with well-drilling rigs and Michigan State Spartan T-Shirts.

I thank God for my Grandpa.

I know Grandpa is at peace now. And one day, once the pain and the grieving subside and I don't cry when I drive by his house or when I see a Hillsboro coffee can, I will smile when I pick up the phone, and I will pretend to hear his phone answering on the other line:


And one day, that's what Grandpa will say to me when I see him again. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Pool

When I think of summer, I think of the St. Charles Community Pool. Set back amongst pine and oaks in the corner of my hometown’s community park—the one with the rusty canon and the creaky swings and the water fountain within the mouth of a cartoonish-yellow concrete lion—this pool’s sidewalk perimeters are soaked with memories, permanently absorbed within the pools basin’s walls (along with the chlorine smell and urine, I suppose).
My mom signed my little brother and I up for swimming lessons at the St. Charles Pool when we were young. I learned the backstroke and the sidestroke and how to float on my back there. I learned to breathe underwater there.
I still remember.
The instructor took us to the pool wall, my small class of fellow students grasping the edge. “Kick,” she’d tell us, the sun beating down and the pool shining a not-natural aqua.
“Splash, splash, SPLASH.” I had a tendency to kick my legs a little too eagerly, my feet rising above the water, making flap, flap, gurgle noise with each hearty kick I made. Big splashes. Obnoxious splashes, really.
“Now,” our instructor would say, “Keep kicking, but gently.”  She’d look at me when she said this. I eased up. “Hold the wall”—my little fingers would grasp the edge, smooth and rubbery like a dolphin’s side—“and I want you to talk to the magic fish.”
We all gasped. Magic fish?
The instructor nodded. “It’s a secret,” she explained, “but there are magic fish in this pool. They are invisible, but you can talk to them and they will hear you.” She glanced at us, hanging on her every word. “Do you want to know how?”
“Yes!” we all cried. My brown eyes were huge with excitement, the water reflecting in my pupils.
“Okay,” the instructor replied, tugging at her dark curly hair held back in a ponytail. “Watch.”
She lowered her torso and began to kick. With her fingers still clutching the pool’s edge, the instructor put her mouth to the water, pursed her lips and blew outwards. As if a pop can had been opened underwater, tiny bubbles gurgled to the top. I was amazed. The instructor lifted her mouth.
“Now I’m going to listen to hear if they talk back,” she explained.
We watched intently as she turned her head to the side, placing her ear into the water. Her face broke into a wide smile, freckles from the sun scattered across her nose and cheeks like cinnamon flakes. I liked her freckles.
“I heard them!” she said, lifting her ear from the water to stand upright next to me.
She nodded towards us, our little bodies awkwardly kicking like puppies. “Now it’s your turn.”
Yes. I smiled. Then I began kicking hard and fast as I gripped the pool wall. I wanted to hear the magic fish, too.
Slowly, I put my lips to the water, just as my instructor had done. I hesitated, then blew outwards, as if the water was blue bubble gum. To my delight, bubbles popped up, tiny ones, dancing and bobbing. I grinned, looking at the instructor.
“Good, Lindsay!” she said. “Now turn your head and listen to hear if they talk back.”
Oh yes, I thought. The best part.
I turned my head and placed my ear into the water. It felt funny, the cold water flowing in the crevices of my ear. I listened for the magic fish. Nothing.
Maybe I didn’t talk long enough, I thought.  I turned my head and blew bubbles, more eagerly this time. I placed my ear back into the water. Listened. Nothing.
I blew bubbles. Listened. Blew bubbles. Listened.  And soon enough, I was breathing.
It was a great technique the instructors used, the whole magic fish-thing. A few summers later, when my brother was listening for the fish and I was off in the deep end with the advanced class, I knew the magic fish weren’t real anymore. I wish I did, I often thought. I wish I believed. But with things like that, it’s like Santa Claus. Your gut eventually speaks loudly, and your belief switch turns off. Still, I asked my brother then if he talked to the magic fish.
“Yes!” he claimed. I smiled.
As I got older, the St. Charles Pool inspired feelings of excitement, nervousness and anxiety for me. It wasn’t about magic fish anymore. It was about Tom the High School Lifeguard and swimming by his stand, pretending to “just happen” to pop up from underwater right where he sat with that hot dog-looking lifesaver. George Strait’s “Carrying Your Love With Me” blasted from the pool’s gated office. I asked for that George Strait cassette tape for my ninth birthday that fall. When I hear the song now, it takes me back to the pool all over again. Funny how songs and smells do that.
The pool was where I sometimes saw classmates, but more importantly, crushes. Every time my mom took us to the pool when I was older, the butterflies would grow as I looked for my crush’s bike outside the pool gate. If he were there, my stomach would both flip with excitement and flop with anxiety. I needed extra bouts of Play It Cool vibes. Once I took my required pre-pool shower and walked into the pool area wearing my favorite bathing suit—a hot pink one-piece with a white tie-dyed heart my mom and I picked out at Meijer—I would “nonchalantly” glance to see where my crush was. Once I identified his location, I would actively avoid eye contact and the side of the pool he was swimming, then pretend I never saw him. I liked him, of course, so I avoided him. Some things never change.
The St. Charles Community Pool is closed now. I think it had to do with money and costs to keep it open or something like that. Recently, I drove my bike around the paved path that circles the pool. I couldn’t help but look past the gate and see the empty concrete basin of a pool, drained and chipped and cracked and empty. The dark forest green slide tubes, dismantled and disconnected like broken bones. The chipped paint and the dull wood. It’s depressing, really.
But the memories don’t fade for me, to my surprise. Even now, almost 20 years later, when I look up at a blue sky framed with pine trees and oak tree leaves swaying in the breeze, it takes me back to the pool. Where I had the same vision of the sky and the trees while floating lazily on my back in the cool water.
That’s what the pool is to me. Sunny skies and floating and hot days. George Strait and concession stand beef jerky sticks, splashing noises and bare feet on hot sidewalks. Magic fish and Tom the Lifeguard and fifth grade crushes.
Since the magic fish are invisible, I’ll pretend they still live there. In the empty basin of a pool full of memories. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"I Was Born in a Small Town"

If you have ever been to St. Charles, Michigan, you know how small of a town it is. Not the smallest in the world, no, but definitely small. Smaller. Small-ish. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it-type of town, but not in a bad way, just a “these are facts” kind of way. You drive through it to get to the state capital-kind of way.
It’s a town with one stoplight. Three main roads. Restaurants that look like  taxidermies, with duck and deer and moose and elk heads on the walls. Jukeboxes in the corners, pictures of the ‘99 State Championship football team hanging at a slant, showing tinged wallpaper. We got a Subway when I was in high school, which was the Highlight of Life, those chicken teriyaki subs, aside from the McDonald’s that came several years earlier.
Near the high school, there’s a road leading to the football stadium that might as well be the paved path to the pearly gates. Football is a form of worship here, with the lights and the field and the sky. Bleachers are the pews, the town coming together as a collective red, black and white “Go Bulldogs” group sitting on the silver metal, the constant sound of the “clang, clang, clang” as others walk up the steps.
There are thousands of towns across the country like this one. I grew up here.
I didn’t know my hometown was a small town. Not really. Not until college, anyway. That’s where I realized not everyone gets stuck behind turbines and farm equipment on their dirt road. Not all people hear cows mooing at night. Not everyone gets school cancelled because of opening day of deer hunting season. In turn, I didn’t realize Tiffany’s jewelry is not just for celebrities and people graduate with classes bigger than 300. It doesn’t take everyone at least 15 minutes to get anywhere that’s somewhere.
As a teenager, I wanted nothing more than to leave the Small, allured by the Big the flashy and the bright and the bustling. The city. I had my heart set on New York City. Chicago would do, I supposed, but I wanted skyscrapers and glossy magazines and editors and subways. As a freshman in college, I applied to Seventeen magazine. I didn’t get the internship.  At the time, I was frustrated, angry, upset, but in the end, it all works out the way it’s supposed to. It all does.
I realize now that where we grow up, where we’re from, how we live in those formative years becomes the perimeter in which you base your life around—you can reject it and leave, or accept it and stay. Neither is better or worse, in my opinion. It’s just a choice. Even if you want different, even if you leave and prove the saying right, the one that’s all “You can never go home again,” even if you wanted to leave the town or the city and the people and the memories, it’s still a part of you, whether your hometown is a small town or a big city.
It seems when you’re from a small town, the breadth is smaller, the depth deeper. The fabric is woven just a bit tighter in your life tapestry because it wasn’t just where you lived, it was the knowledge that came with it. You knew who lived where and who’s dating who and what’s what. There’s a bonding there because of the proximity. Big fish in small ponds. Then the question becomes: Do you want to swim here or move on to a bigger pond? A lake? An ocean? Either way, you can’t erase the waters you first swam in.
We all have our past that becomes a part of our present. The things that happen behind high school walls and on gymnasium floors, in the backs of cars and beyond the burnings of a bonfire, it affects us and how we choose to live after the fact. 
Where we grow is just as important as how we grow. The deepness of a tree’s roots depends on the soil.
When I was in elementary school, my daycare provider lived across the street from the football stadium. One day, I was allowed to walk halfway up the road towards the football field, past the bus garage and turn around when I reached the gate near the softball field. I felt brave and independent, until I looked down at the concrete and saw giant paw prints. Alternating red, black, red, black paws stretched out in a line down the road before me.
“A monster has been here,” I thought, feeling the fear turn my legs to jelly. “I have to turn back. NOW.” I ran as quickly as I could back to my daycare provider, hurriedly explaining my fears about the monster and what I saw. She assured me that no, there was no monster, the cheerleaders had recently painted those paw prints because they represent our bulldog mascot. Whatever, I thought. I don’t care. There WAS a monster.
These memories stay with me. Who I was when I lived here stays with me. Who I wasn’t stays with me, too, and how I’ve changed and grown from that girl scared of the monster on the paved path. A part of me will always be that little girl. I will always be grateful for growing up in a small Midwest town with deer heads and cow fields and farming because that is engrained in me. That’s part of my history.
And when I feel lost or can’t find myself or don’t know who I am anymore, maybe it’s good to go back. Even for a day. Maybe, just maybe, sometimes it is good to go home again. Once in a while, anyway. Just to remember who you were in order to see who you are now.
Go back to where the monsters are, and you’ll see they’re just paw prints and paint.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sometimes You Have to Leave to Grow

It’s hard growing up. But they don’t tell you that when you’re a teenager.
No, when you’re 16, you tell them. You scream when you’re grounded, you pout when you’re sad, you try to get the last word, the last say, the last quip because you know more than your parents do and all the rest of your friends have curfews at 1 a.m., so why can’t you, too??
WE tell THEM. We tell them we can’t WAIT to be adults, can’t WAIT to stay up as long as we want, doing whatever we want, eating whatever we want and not gaining weight in the process.
Then it comes. Adulthood.
Suddenly, all we want is someone to tell us what to do. Wait, let’s backtrack a bit, OK? I’m not ready for this. We realize that maybe, just maybe, we really didn’t know everything back then, since we sure are aware of how little we know now. Because all of these decisions? Making all of these life-altering, mind-boggling, often expensive, sometimes painful decisions?
It sucks.
It sucks because we aren’t on the same page anymore. We aren’t all in the same grade, learning about the Revolutionary War and the square root of pi. Life isn’t split into freshman, sophomore, junior, senior years. Our days aren’t divided by first period English, second period Geometry, who’s in first lunch, who got to second base, bathroom whispers and hallway swagger. High school is hard, and yet the boundaries, the rules, the rigidness, can give us a perimeter to live within.

Like a nest to tuck our wings.
Last summer, a robin built a nest in the pine tree in our front yard. The mother bird worked hard to build a sturdy nest out of clay, twine, leaves and cotton. After a few weeks, the blue eggs broke open to reveal bulging eyes and fluffy feathers. Three baby birds.
Since the nest was built about five feet from the earth—right around my eye level—I would easily sneak a peek or two at the nest each day. As weeks passed, I watched the babies go from writhing naked bodies to little fluff balls with gaping mouths to almost full-grown robin birds, all gray feathers and red breasts.
Then one day, the baby robins were gone. They had flown away.
Well, all but one.
The Lone Robin
I knew it was coming. The baby birds were getting so large they barely had room. They looked like chubby marshmallows in between graham crackers, all stuffed in the nest. So I was surprised to see the nest not entirely empty that day, but occupied by one lone robin. He sat, eyes beady, looking unsure of what to do with all of that room without his brothers and sisters.
“Hey, little guy,” I said, taking a nonchalant step towards the nest. Just then, the mama bird swooped in and began angrily chirping at me.
 “Alright, alright,” I said to the bird, now staring at me from a nearby oak. “I’m walking away.” I took a step back from the pine tree and started walking towards the sidewalk.
Suddenly, I heard a rustle of tree branches and noise. I turned around and looked down on the ground. The last baby bird, alone in the nest just a second ago, had flown out of the nest… he just sort of missed the flying part. Now the bird was sitting in a low bush near the ground, about a foot next to the pine tree.
Oh no, I thought. He’s scared. He’s scared to leave the nest. And now I was scared he was going to be eaten by a barn cat.
Out of the nest, but stuck on a limb
The baby bird sat on the bush, his weight making the branch sag down. His mom was chirping quickly from her oak tree, helpless. Flying out of the nest is like squeezing toothpaste of the tube. You can’t really put it back in. It’s a done deal.
I walked back inside the house and sat near the front window, watching to see if the baby bird would complete the mission. He had already flown out of the nest successfully—flew or hopped, I’m not sure—now he just needed to go out into the world.
I sat there for about 10 minutes. So did the baby robin.
It must be so strange, I thought, to have one view up for your entire life. To be surrounded by others in the same situation as you. Then, one day, you’re on the bottom looking up and you’re all alone and you can’t go back, no matter how hard you try.
I decided to walk away from the front window. It was too hard to watch him just sit there, knowing I could do nothing to help him. He was on his own.
Later that afternoon, I looked out the front window and took a peek at the bush where the baby bird had retreated. The branch—once sagging with the bird's weight—was now empty.
I opened the front door and walked outside, stopping right in front of the pine tree with the nest. No scattered feathers, I thought. So he wasn’t eaten.
The Lone Baby Bird had used his own wings and had flown away.
It’s scary to leave the nest. It’s hard to take on the world by yourself—without the agendas and the lunch hours and going with the flow in a school of fish.
But we have to.
Whether we’re 16 or 60, life is full of leave the nest-I’m scared to death-fight or flight-speak now or forever hold your peace-moments. Moments where we have to leave the Comfort Zone and buckle up for the bumpy ride.
But leaving your comfort zone is the only way to stretch as a person. Whether you’re the bird leaving the nest, or you're leaving a guardian, a house or a hometown, a job or relationship, if you are stuck feeling empty, it means you need to go get full again.
So leave the nest. Expand your comfort zone. Stretch yourself. If you know it’s the best thing, if you know you can only grow by leaving, the answer is often hard yet so simple:

Monday, December 30, 2013

Plan (Un) Accordingly

I fell in love with making plans when I was in the fifth grade. At the beginning of the school year, Mrs. K gave us planners with shiny covers and spiral binding. She required we write down our assignments daily, and she checked our planners weekly, signing her name with a flourish to provide proof that we were, indeed, planning. Like the nerd I am, I enjoyed the process. Here was this planner with boxes and dates, times and schedules that provided me with life structure. Such control! Such ease!
I have used a planner ever since. I write down appointments, schedules, ideas, trips. I daydream about the future, the hows and where’s and what’s. I make plans.
But here’s the thing… A thing I am starting to understand more and more as life goes on:
We have no true control in this life. And plans? They fall through. Plans change because circumstances change. Situations change.
People change.
The change seems to always hit you where it hurts, that thing you weren’t prepared for or expected, your Achilles heel. The career major, or the school, or the state you live in. The job. The person you date, the friends you make, the places you love.
It all can change.
This past weekend, I traveled to Nebraska to stand up in a friend’s wedding. Another friend was also in the wedding, and we were having a great time dancing and laughing during the reception. Later on in the night, however, after the bouquet toss but before the Conga line, my friend checked her email.
“They canceled my flight,” she said, staring down at her smart phone. It was 10 p.m. Her flight was originally scheduled to leave at 2:45 p.m. the next day. There weren’t signs of bad weather, no explanation for the cancelation in the airline’s email. We didn’t understand.
And so we did what you do what plans fall through: We made new ones. It took one hour, two long phone calls, another flight delay and some extra driving, but my friend made it to her family the next day. It worked out.
Because it always does, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
A change in plans pushes us to change our course, right as we think we’re steering it in one solid direction. Just around the riverbend, and all that. During this whole growing up thing, I’ve looked back and realize that failed plans can be a good thing and, if not a good thing, a necessary one at least.
If we truly did have control over our life’s paths and life really worked according to OUR plan, then we’d be stuck being the versions of ourselves based on the decisions we’ve made at the time. Which means I would have married my first boyfriend and moved to New York City to become a magazine editor at Seventeen. Looking back now, I know I would have hated living in NYC, my first boyfriend should not have been my last, and I would have gotten tired of writing about hot crushes, male boy bands, and current prom dress trends.
But I didn’t know that back then.
Without a change in plans, I wouldn’t have gone to grad school. I wouldn’t have changed majors, or worked at a baseball stadium, or tried octopus.
We all deal with changes.
I know people who planned to do one career, then ended up pursuing a completely different path. Men who go to college, then go off to war instead. Women who don’t plan on being moms, then have a beautiful baby boy. Women who plan on having a baby, then suffer a heart-wrenching loss.
We don’t plan for the speeding tickets, the missed reservations, the job relocations across the country. The “We Have to Let You Go” speech. The “It’s Not You, It’s Me” speech.
The fighting, the breakup, the cheating, the divorce. The judge’s sentence, the doctor’s diagnosis. The car accident.
We don’t make these plans.
But these things happen. Life happens. And it’s in these moments, where we are scrambling to make new plans, to deal with the cracks in the ceiling and the pain or the panic, that we grow as people. As much as it can hurt, it’s these changes that allow ourselves to become ourselves.
So if something isn’t working, if the relationship is wrong or the career is wrong or your life is just all wrong, then we have to do the opposite of planning:
We have to let it go.
Life changes. Let’s plan (un) accordingly.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


It’s an alphabet carpet with pink As and orange Bs, blue Cs and a ragged looking D. All of us are sitting around the letters, X marks the spot, while Mrs. A reads us a story. I scoot next to you, our Keds barely touching. You move over, away from me, so I move closer. And we remain close for the next 15 years.
It’s a note scribbled “W/B/S” and “LYLAS” at the bottom, silently passed between desks in 4th Hour Social Studies. Those were the days before YOLO.
It’s an orientation line where your mom says,  “She looks nice,” so you come up to me and we make small talk that turns into years of deep talks, late night-in the hallway-or on the phone-talks.
It’s the piano I sat on, the teasing comb you used to make my hair look special and voluminous on my 21st birthday.
It’s the borrowed satin tops and sequined belts, the bikinis and flip flops at Pompano Beach. Red heels and a piggyback ride down Mission Street because those things hurt, and you were there to carry me.
It’s a Yukon he let you drive. A cafeteria table where we all ate and analyzed, gossiped and shared.
It’s a nickname.
It’s a Bob Evans restaurant. A bonding conversation over mean girls and bad boyfriends.
It’s a bar where we stand next to the juke box and mock the dudebros with the gel’ed hair. It’s grad school exams and getting excited about mint chocolate shakes because heck, we were too stressed to be excited most of the time. It’s eating ketchup packets and airline cookies in the Metropolitan Museum because hunger trumps NYC museum exhibits.
It’s a phone call saying, “He broke up with me.”
Or worse.
 “…Dad has leukemia.” It’s the fluorescent laundry room lights, blinding me as your words echo through the phone speaker. It’s the tears we cry together in separate places, the prayers we say, the Olive Garden breadsticks we bring to the hospital room.
It’s you being on my side by my side, even if that means us both losing in order to gain.
It’s a North Carolina beach and a corporate office and walking through the hallways giggling behind tight-lipped, white-collar suits.
It’s bridesmaid dresses.
It’s a tightly closed hug as you sob into her shoulder because you have never felt pain like this—heart-wrenching, gut aching, pain.
It’s a baby boy in a blue onesie named the name you told us back in high school hallways, before the parties and the boys, then the men and eventually, than the man that becomes your husband. The man who makes you a mom.
I guess the song is true, you know. Make new friends, keep the old, and all that. One is silver and the other is gold, and just like any currency, sometimes we make change. Break even. Break away.
And that’s okay.
Because there’s something to be said about the world of girls, the friendship ties that bind. As I get older and now have old memories mixed with new, I clearly see our past while standing in the midst of the future we dreamed about, talked about, wondered about.
All I know is the world is lonely without a shoulder to lean on. Despite the changes, the growth, the separations or the closeness, every bit of it counts. It’s part of the fabric of our histories, woven in and out.
Like letters on an alphabet carpet.
And for that, I am grateful.

Monday, December 2, 2013

That Time We Went Shopping on Black Friday

Black Friday is something I avoid. The idea of shopping the day after (or night of) Thanksgiving overwhelms me. Long lines, busy traffic, and getting in a wrestling match over a Hugging Elmo can create anxiety butterflies in my stomach full of turkey and pie. I’m more of an online shopper.
My mom, on the other hand, loves Black Friday. She and Dad usually go out shopping together the night of Thanksgiving, a Bonnie and Clyde tag team amongst the crowds and craze.
But last year, fate intervened, and I found myself at Walmart on the night of Thanksgiving.
“Lindsay, I have to work on Thanksgiving night,” my mom explained one early November afternoon. “Can you please go out and help your Dad? There’s this big screen TV on sale at Walmart we want to pick up.”
I looked at her. We all have our faults, and Mom and I both knew cranky shopping was mine. I have like, a two-hour maximum shopping threshold, and it’s all downhill from there. I’m like a toddler. I’m not proud of it.
“Mom,” I said after a pause, “I just don’t think I would be good at it like you are. You know I’m not the best shopper.”
“I know, honey, but I don’t want your Dad to go out there alone,” Mom continued. “It will be fine. It’s one store, just for the TV and a few video games for your brother, and that’s it. Adam could come with. All you have to do is stand in line.”
I already felt bad Mom wouldn’t be able to go out shopping with Dad. Every year after their price tag slashing conquests, she complained about how tired she was and how she “would never do THAT again.” But I knew better. I knew she loved scooping up the deals like ice cream flavors. So I decided, in that moment, to rise above.  Rise above my shopping dislikes and take my mother’s place—sort of like in that Disney movie, Mulan, when Mulan goes to battle in place of her father. I would bring honor to the family! I would fight the Battle of Black Friday! I WOULD GET THAT GINORMOUS WALMART TV.
“Well, okay,” I said after a pause.
It’s not like I’d be out all night like the Hardcore Shoppers, I thought. The stamina of those people is impressive. Survival of the Shoppers’ Fittest, and I was at the bottom of the retail chain. But I thought again of Mulan and Mom and family honor, and as my mom gave me a hug of thanks, I was glad I said yes.
On the afternoon of Thanksgiving, Dad, Adam and I set the plan. Dad would drive his truck, while Adam and I would drive in Adam’s Taurus. We’d meet at Walmart and assess the situation once we got there. The anxiety and excitement were starting to rile me up. So many questions. Would we get the big TV? Would we have to wait in line all night? How many people would be there?
Day turned to dinnertime, turkey became a carcass and the side dishes found new homes in plastic Tupperware containers, officially deemed Leftovers. Mom left for work, giving me a hug and a “Good luck, honey! Thanks so much!” as she walked out the door. I smiled and gave her a thumbs-up. “Okay guys, I’ll see you there,” Dad said as we walked out the door, cell phones charged and jackets on.
And we were off.
In the car, Adam and I turned on the Christmas music. This was our first Thanksgiving as a couple, and I liked the idea of Adam, Dad and I doing something together as a team—building the family bond, breaking in the boyfriend with the father and all that. Little did I know what the night had in store for us.
“Do you think Walmart is going to be nuts?” I asked Adam. Traffic was busier than usual. I felt like we were entering an entirely new world. Busy traffic was the first sign of change, like when you go to Florida and start to see palm trees.
“Nah, it’ll be good,” he replied, ever the optimist. “I think it will be fun.”
Adam and I pulled into the parking lot, cars quickly pulling into spaces on both sides of our car. As we started walking towards the sliding glass ENTRANCE doors, I saw Dad’s red truck parked near the back. He was already inside the Mad House.
“Here we go,” I said to Adam, grabbing his hand.
“Here we go,” he repeated with a smile.
Once in the store, my eyes widened with surprise. I knew there would be a lot of people, but there were so many people—all in lines weaving in and out, aisle after aisle. There were people amongst the glass freezers of frozen pizzas and Eggo Waffles, there were people in the main aisles towards electronics, there were people near the mangos and the fruits, crowded around displays of Barbies and basketballs.
There were tons of people in the Health & Beauty lines, all standing in aisles amongst creams and shampoo and razors. And there, near the boxes of hair color in between the Blondes and Brunettes, stood my dad.
“Here, take this.” I gave Adam the ticket in my hand. Ironically golden in color, this ticket could be redeemed for the TV that Mom wanted us to get. Our job was to stay in line and wait until the clock struck 8 p.m.; that’s when the TVs became available to purchase. We’d hand over the ticket in exchange for the TV, pay, leave, get home, collapse on the couch and call it a Successful Night.  
“Will you go stand in line for the TV and I’ll meet you there?” I asked Adam.
“Sure,” he said.
“Thanks,” I said, giving his hand a squeeze. “I’ll be over there in a minute, I just want to see how my dad is doing.”
“Take your time,” Adam said and started heading towards the lines near the Frozen Foods.
I turned back towards the Health & Beauty aisles. Dad hadn’t seen me yet, but I watched him for a second. I smiled. Wearing his favorite St. Charles Bulldogs sweatshirt and a red trucker hat, Dad looked slightly out of place as he stood in line amongst strangers. This was out of Dad’s comfort zone, doing this shopping stuff without my mom, but he was doing it anyway. This is love, I thought.
“Dad!” I waved, shouting from the main aisle. People turned to look at me.
“Sis!” Dad smiled, waving back. He was towards the end of the aisle, which was roped off so I couldn’t get to him. This is all so Titantic/every man for himself/women and children first, I thought.
Just as I began to move closer to the roped off area to talk to Dad, a large woman in a Walmart uniform started to shout.
“All right,” Walmart Woman said, her voice booming over conversations. “Move ahead,” she gestured towards the front–of-the-liners, sweeping her arm forward. “Thirty people go in at a time, and you get three minutes. JUST THREE MINUTES.”
People started moving ahead towards the woman, my dad now closer to the main aisle where I stood. Three minutes? I mouthed at Dad, confused.
Dad reached above his head and pointed over the Walmart woman’s shoulder. Right behind the woman was a gate-like metal bar. The woman lifted the bar and began to number off people who were allowed to enter into another roped off section. Normally reserved for Home & Garden Tools, this area had been transformed into a DVD/Video Game “Land,” where displays of DVDs and video games stood on the concrete. The whole roping off-thing reminded me of the black velvet curtained room at video rental places that housed the naughty, adult-only stuff.
“Sis, here I go!”
Dad had reached the front of the line, and the Walmart woman was motioning him forward.
“THREE MINUTES!” the woman reminded the group. Like ants on a picnic blanket, the shoppers started to scatter.
“Go, Dad, go!” I shouted, laughing as I watched the madness begin. Dad began to move like a burglar, all stealthy and quick as he darted amongst strangers.
I felt like I was watching a game show like Supermarket Sweep or Minute to Win It. These grown adults were grabbing DVDs like hotcakes, as if each DVD was a $100 bill. It was all just too much.
“Come on, Twinkle Toes!” I shouted jokingly. I couldn’t stop laughing. Dad fought back a smile as he looked back at me, brows furrowed, a DVD in his hand. I squinted at the cover: Breaking Dawn: Part 1.
“Sure, Dad!” I shouted. “Grab it!” Dad nodded, chuckling as he ran faster from display to display. I stood alongside other encouragers as they coached their people.
“Sue! SUE!” one guy wearing a Lions jersey shouted next to me. “Go to the back! Look for the NCAA game Jacob wants!” A husky woman with a red face and curly blonde hair nodded, determined, and headed towards the back.
Just then, the Walmart woman shouted.
“You have 10 seconds left! 1, 2, 3…” Now people really started to move, pushing past each other and grabbing cases left and right. Dad emerged from the roped off area, his hands full and breaths heavy.
“Dad,” I said, giving him a hug, “THAT was impressive. That was hardcore. It’s like a freaking jungle in there. I felt like I was watching a game show, geez. And there you were, in the thick of it all….just...running around, grabbing….” I was laughing hard now, waving my hands above my head as if I was grabbing things out of the sky.
Dad smiled and looked down at the Breaking Dawn DVD and video games. “Well,” he paused, all serious. “That’s how you do these things.”
“I guess so,” I said, smiling.
Dad and I started towards the Frozen Food section. During the DVD madhouse, Adam had texted me he was waiting in line near the ice cream.
“I wonder how good ole’ Adam is doing,” Dad said as we walked by Women’s Wear, People were everywhere, their carts already full of other Black Friday deals.
“I’m glad Adam came with us,” I said.
“Me too,” Dad replied, then stopped in his tracks. “Oh, wait, Sis. SIS. I gotta get this for Adam. He needs this.”
Uh-oh, I thought, walking faster to see what he was looking at. Dad is a notorious prankster, always has been.  Whatever he was holding, I could bet it was embarassing, inappropriate, or gross.
Or a combination of all three.
“This is perfect,” Dad said.
“Dad, what do you…” I looked down. “DAD, come on!” I said. Hanging off a hanger in Dad’s hand was a triple F cup-sized satin bra, bright purple. I could probably put my entire face in one of the bra cups. Dad looked down at the bra, a grin spreading over his face.
“Dad, you cannot give that to him, what are you doing?” I said half-heartedly, trying not to laugh. Laughing only encouraged him more.
“Oh no,” Dad said, nodding his head and smiling. “I think Adam would like to get one of these in front of all those nice shoppers.”
“OhmyGod, Dad, you are ridiculous, put it back.” I said, but I smiled. I couldn’t help it. The smile was all it took, like giving silent permission. Dad threw the bra in a nearby empty cart and started down the main aisle that ran parallel to the Frozen Foods. I shook my head and continued walking, searching for Adam up and down aisles full of people.
After passing the Pizzas and Frozen Veggies section, I found Adam near the Mackinac Island Fudge and Strawberry ice cream flavors.
Dad won’t give that bra to him, I thought as I walked towards Adam. Too soon. Too soon for pranks. Even my dad had a threshold, rules for when and how and where.
“Hey!” Adam said, opening his arms outwards in an embrace. I walked into his arms and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “How’d it go over there?”
“It was INSANE,” I said.
“Adam, it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, seriously,” I said. “They let people in, like, in waves, and you get a time limit.” Adam raised his eyebrows.
“I know, right?” I said. “So Dad was in there, amongst all of these people, and he was just darting in and out grabbing these DVDs...” I started to laugh again. “People were shouting, saying ‘Grab this! Get that!’ It was like a game show, for real.”
“Oh my God, that’s crazy,” Adam said. “I’ve just been standing here. I’ve heard people say at 8 p.m. they’ll start to give out these TVs.”
“Yeah, that’s the plan.” I looked around. We were surrounding by people. Most of them were middle-aged, but there were teens and older adults, too. We all were looking for the same thing: Deals. I guess Christmas did bring people together.
“Adam!” A deep voice shouted across the main aisle about 50 feet away. Adam and I turned towards the aisle.
I saw a glint of purple. Satin. Oh no, I thought. He’s doing it.
“Adam!” my dad shouted again. This time, people were staring at us. “Adam!”
Adam looked across the aisle where my dad stood, holding the giant purple bra over his head.  “Adam, is this the one you wanted?” Dad shouted. Our aisle-mates turned and looked at Dad, then back at us.
I stood frozen like a statue, staring at Adam’s face. Whatever Adam responded would be important. Dad would remember how he responded. For my dad, it was like a Project Runway, “either you’re in or out” moment. I could not believe Dad was doing this, here, in Walmart, with a purple satin BRA.
Dad continued to hold up the purple bra in the air, grinning. Adam stared. Oh no, I thought. He doesn’t think this is funny.
After a pause, Adam looked down at his feet. Then, he slowly began to smile as he lifted his head up.
“No,” Adam shouted to Dad. “I told you to get the leopard one!”
The crowd of people began to chuckle, and I laughed as I punched Adam playfully in the shoulder. Dad brought the purple bra down, smiling and nodding back towards him. He’s good, I could hear my dad thinking. Of course, I knew Adam was good all along.
“I’m so glad you came with us,” I said, taking Adam’s arm and putting it over my shoulder. “Thank you.”
“Of course,” he smiled. “Your dad is hilarious, did you know that?”
“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I do.”
Adam, Me, Dad: The Black Friday Trio.
In the end, the clock finally struck 8 p.m. and we were able to nab the giant TV, the DVDs and the video games from my dad’s mad dash. We did not, however, purchase the purple bra. But when I heard my dad re-telling the bra story to my grandma over the phone the next day (“And then he said, ‘No, I told you to get the leopard one!’”) I knew the bra would live on in our memories for years to come.
Despite my dislike of shopping, I started to see why my mom liked Black Friday. It wasn’t just getting the items for a good price, it was the planning, the strategy, the Us vs. Them. It was the adventure. The quest.
The fun.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Perspective of a Mirror

When I coached for an amazing, girl-power program called Girls on the Run, we taught weekly lessons to third through fifth-grade girls lessons about health, self-esteem, and confidence in an effort to promote positive self and body image. When you teach about the good, you often address the bad, and it was during these lessons stressing positivity and self-love when several girls would voice that they thought they looked fat or ugly.

It breaks my heart to think that an eight-year-old girl's mind will focus her thoughts on being fat, ugly, not enough. But you know what? It also sucks that 28, 38, 48-year woman thinks it all the time, too.

So one morning, I walked into the bathroom, the mirror hanging innocently on the wall. It's strange how an innocent object can turn into enemy as soon as you address meaning to it. Looking at my reflection, the mind chatter of "Ew, look at my nose" or "I need to do something with my hair" immediately began in my brain.

Suddenly, amidst the mind chatter, an idea bubble popped up. "I wonder what it'd be like," I thought, "if this mirror had a voice. If I told this scenario from the mirror's perspective instead of my brain's perspective, it's script running on REPEAT.

And so I wrote "Perspective of a Mirror." This blog post is featured on Libero Network, and you can read it here:

Perspective of a Mirror

Screw society's expectations. I, for one, will take the Mirror's side on this one.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Time Rudolph Fell Off my Roof

If there were a meter to determine Activeness of Imagination and Gullibility levels, my needle would be pointing towards the HIGH end. My mind is constantly going, going, going like a battery-activated brain powered by that pink Energizer Bunny, all BOOM, BOOM, BOOM like a bass in my brain waves.
Side effects shown in this highly active adult brain of mine include excessive worries, over analyzing and—on occasion—an idea or two at 3:14 a.m. But in my younger years, these cranium waves made little Lindsay’s World prettttty interesting.
For example, when it came to movies, I believed everything that happened to the characters would happen to me. Take Hocus Pocus.
I saw Hocus Pocus for the first time when I was 8-years-old. One afternoon in October—after seeing the movie—I was riding my bike down my street. As I approached the neighbor’s house down the street (I could only go so far, Mom’s rules) a jet black cat darted out front of me.
Now, in Hocus Pocus, one of the main characters is a talking black cat named Binx. So when I saw this black cat, my brakes squealed loud like a pig in pain as I brought my bike to a dead stop.
Ohmygosh, I thought. I can’t believe it. I hopped off my bike, not even kicking out the kickstand. I was too excited and eager to meet Thackery Binx, the talking black cat from Hocus Pocus.
The bike fell to the concrete with a clatter as I scrambled towards the ditch where the black cat had run.
“Binx!” I shouted, digging through the grass. “BINX, it’s me! I just saw you in the movie! Hocus Pocus?! Please come here! Let’s talk! ”
But “Binx” was nowhere to be found. I went back to the ditch every day that week, looking for the talking black cat. When my searches remained unfruitful, I used a different tactic.
Dear Binx,” I wrote in my practice cursive writing, “I promise I won’t tell anyone it’s you. Please come talk to me so we can be friends. I won’t tell. Pinky promise. Love, Lindsay
P.S. Please don’t let the witches come around here
I carefully placed the note in the ditch and waited a few days. Surely Binx would read my note, immediately trust me and talk to me like he talked to those kids in Hocus Pocus.  But when I rode my bike to the ditch later that week and discovered my note, wet and crumpled from rain and outdoors, I finally gave up the Search for Binx the Talking Black Cat.
My encouragement from films did not stop there, though.  Inspired by Disney’s movie Pochantas, my childhood best friend and I would often run to a large tree we named “Grandmother Willow” after a character in the movie that talked. Our tree didn’t talk. Come to think of it, our tree wasn’t even a willow tree; it was oak. But that’s neither here nor there.
In The Little Princess film, there is a scene where the father tells his daughter Sara that her dolls come to life when she leaves the room.
“But why don’t I see them move?” she asks her father.
“Because, as soon as they hear you coming, they quickly jump back into their places,” he explains. “It’s magic.”
I spent the next month hiding in the hallway outside my bedroom door, trying to get a peek at my dolls and stuffed animals having a party while I was out of the room. I would stand all stealthy, back flat against the wall. Then on the count of three—1,2, 3—I’d quickly dart inside my room, my eyes wild and searching for movement, catching my dolls in the act.
“Darn it,” I’d say with a sigh, walking out of the room every time with my head down. “I guess I’m just not quick enough.” It took me awhile to quit that one.
My eagerness to believe was always intense, but the levels went off the charts when it came to Christmas. One year always sticks out in my mind, though.
In the house I grew up in—a ranch-style at a dead-end street—my room was at the far end with a window facing down the road. This room was also farthest away from the chimney so if, oh I don’t know, a bearded man in a sleigh parked his ride on our roof in order to hop down the chimney, the reindeer would stand right above my sleeping, dancing sugarplum-ed head.
And so, the night before Christmas…no, let me do this right…Twas the night before Christmas, and I had just put on my special flannel Christmas pajamas, the acceptable kind to be seen in. Normally I wore just long ratty old T-Shirts, but I had this random fear for a while that Santa Claus actually would come into my room. I felt the need to look presentable for Intrusive St. Nick, I guess.
Anyway, my mom was tucking me in, my brother was asleep, and my dad was sitting in his chair in the living room. Just as Mom whispered goodnight, I turned my head towards the window and gasped.
There, shining in the glass amongst the darkness, was a big, bright red circle of light.
“Mom!” I shouted, sitting up in bed. “Mom! It’s Rudolph. Mom, it’s Rudolph! MOM, RUDOLPH HAS FALLEN OFF THE ROOF!”
“Oh no!” my mom said with raised eyebrows. “Rudolph is here? Wowww.”
I leaped out of the bed and starting running down the hallway towards the front door. If Rudolph had fallen off the roof, that meant Rudolph was ON the roof, and if Rudolph was on the roof, then SANTA was on the roof. SANTA WAS ON THE ROOF.
Now on the porch, I took one quick breath. “I am about to see Santa,” I thought. “Good thing I’ve been a good girl.”
I leaped from the porch onto the snow-covered front lawn, smiling as I turned my face towards the roof and saw…
“Wait, what?” I stood, breathless. The roof was empty, just as brown and slanted against the star-dotted sky as ever.
“Sis, what are you looking at?” my dad shouted from the porch with Mom standing next to him. They were both smiling.
“Dad!” I shouted from the yard, eyes scanning the sky. “Santa was just here! Santa…Rudolph…he… he fell.” I could barely talk as my brain tried to process the magic I just witnessed. Well, sort of witnessed. Taking a second to determine that yes, the roof was indeed Santa-less, I walked back towards my parents on the porch.
“Come in, honey, it’s freezing,” my mom said. Dad opened the front door and we went inside.
“But Mom, he was RIGHT there,” I said.
“I know,” she said, shutting the door.
“You almost saw ole’ Santa, huh?” my dad asked as he sat back down in his chair.
“What about Rudolph?”
I looked at Dad, my eyes big and serious.
“Dad,” I said in a hushed tone. “Rudolph fell off the roof. And I SAW IT.”
“Rudolph fell off the roof and you saw it?” Dad whispered. “You SAW him?” He glanced over at Mom in the kitchen and winked.
“Yes,” I replied, still whispering. “That’s why I ran out onto the porch. I tried to see Santa and the reindeer before they left but I wasn’t fast enough.”
“Wow,” Dad said. “No wonder you ran outside so fast.”
I thought for a moment. “I hope he’s OK.”
“You hope who’s OK?” Dad asked as Mom sat on the edge of his chair. She put her arm around his shoulder.
“Rudolph,” I said.
“Well, honey, let’s get you back to bed,” Mom said, standing up and taking my hand to lead me towards the bedrooms. “Maybe he’ll leave you a note in the morning.”
“Yeah,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “Maybe.”
Sure enough, the next morning, next to an empty glass of milk and a cookie crumb-covered plate, read a note in swirly writing:
Dear Lindsay,
We had a little accident last night. Rudolph fell off the roof. Don’t worry; he’s OK. Thanks for being a good girl, and thanks for the cookies.
Merry Christmas!
Santa Claus
You know, I think about these stories—these predicaments—my active imagination has gotten me in (with a little help here and there from my parents) and I could find them a bit heartbreaking. Focus on how I believed SO much and ended up disappointed; I ran SO fast and never saw what I wanted to see. But that’s the funny thing. The feeling of disappointment isn’t the part I remember. In fact, even when the event happened, I don’t recall my child-self feeling deep-down disappointed.
The excitement is what I remember. The hope is what I remember.
The dreams and the magic and the believing. The fun in the writing notes to talking cats and talking to Grandmother Willow-Oak trees and gasping because I just saw freaking Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer in MY WINDOW.
That’s what I remember.
So yes, as an adult, my active, Type-A brain can cause excessive worries and overanalyzing. But my imagination and willingness to believe is part of many joyful moments in my life.
And for those parents out there, I highly suggest the red-bulb in the window trick. I learned years later that Dad got a kick out of it as an adult back then just as much as I did as a child.
I hope you all have a happy Christmas season.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sometimes I Make Video Blogs....

....Like this one, which is titled "Like, Ever." Here you go:

Like, Ever.

The title of the video is pretty self-explanatory, once you watch it.

Also, I mention someone named Ryan. That's my brother. The orange cat is my pet. The otter is not (though I wish it was).