Thursday, July 19, 2007

Day Brightner

This email was waiting for me in my inbox this morning:

File under "random": I found your blog about Stella Mae. I've thought about being a big brother for a few weeks, but was worried it might quickly turn into a commitment rather than something I looked forward to doing. I just want you to know that your honesty and openness sealed the deal, and now I feel guilty for not getting on the ball sooner. So thanks.

It's kind of nice to feel like a positive influence.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Yesterday a very lucky friend won tickets on the radio for the Augustana/O.A.R. concert at the Ryman. Because he's awesome (or maybe because I am...wink, wink), he invited me to go with him.

All in all, the show was fantastic. Both bands are amazing live and put on great performances. But I came away from the evening with a few observations...

1) Three out of the five Augustana band members wore ridiculously skinny jeans and severely v-necked (women's?) shirts:

I'm sorry, this isn't a good look for ANY man, but especially not for an under-developed "rocker" who spent his formative years playing guitar in a dark basement.

Dude, please keep your bird chest to yourself and your groupies. Oh, and if your pants cause me to wonder if you have to tuck your junk behind you to zip them, you should probably go up a size. Just a suggestion.

2) With that being said, there really is something about a man rocking out on a musical instrument, standing in a pool of stage lights. Generally I gravitate towards the All-American kind of guy and am probably the last person to sleep with someone simply because they're famous...but when Jerry of O.A.R. played that sax with his rippling muscles... Whew.

3) I am old. Seriously OLD. I swear out of the 4,000 people there, my friend and I were one of maybe 25 adults who didn't need a fake ID to stand in the beer line.

The minute we walked into the place, I felt like I'd accidentally stumbled my way into a high school field trip. Little pubescent people ran through the auditorium, shouting to their friends about their summer vacation plans. You could almost smell the mixture of false self-importance and zit cream.

My old age truly hit home while standing in line for the bathroom and overhearing a peppy cheerleader type tell a slouchy rocker type, "I'm 15 and a HALF."

It took everything I had not to belly laugh. Mainly because I so clearly remember those long-ago days of enhancing your age in an effort to appear more mature. Like those extra six months make any real difference.

I suddenly realized that from here on out, I'll probably want to do just the opposite. Someday, I'll be one of those 56-year-old women who are "39 and holding" or other such bullshit. Never again will I pump up my age to impress a boy.

Although, the thought is actually quite funny. I think the next time someone asks my age, I'll smile sweetly and reply, "24 and three-quarters" just to see what happens.

Friday, July 13, 2007


I've been so busy this summer that my involvement in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program started to become an afterthought. As horrible as it sounds, instead of actually looking forward to spending time with Stella Mae, she'd become just one more obligation to fit into my hectic schedule.

Although I love her dearly, Stella Mae can sometimes flat wear me out. She has more energy than I ever thought possible and likes to ask questions over and over and over--especially when it comes to buying her things. In the past few months, I'd begun feeling more like a glorified babysitter than a mentor actually making a difference in a child's life...

And then everything changed in an instant.

I promised Stella Mae a week ago that we'd hang out last night. Every single day leading up was met with calls and garbled text messages from her guardian's phone making sure we were still on for our "play date". (Needless to say, it became annoying.)

I picked her up promptly at 5:30 as promised (but not before she sent me three texts), and thought to myself that I'd have her home in a couple of hours and be off the hook for another few weeks (terrible, I know).

Because I didn't feel like doing much, we just headed to my house where we cooked dinner together and played with my dog in the backyard. Later that evening, while watching marathon episodes of Hannah Montana, Stella Mae asked if she could see my cell phone. I handed it to her and she promptly started snapping pictures of everything in the room.

After taking a picture of herself, she looked at it and proclaimed, "Dang! I look drunk!"

I sat stunned for a second and then asked her how she (at 9-years-old) even knew what "drunk" meant. She replied in the quietest voice possible, "My daddy gets that way a lot."

In that instant, my heart completely broke for her. I had no words to make things better so I simply scooped her into my arms. She nestled against me and we sat like that for awhile, as I mentally railed against the world's unfairness.

That night when I dropped her off, instead of bounding out of my car like she normally does, she sat quietly for a few moments before saying, " make my life seem good. You know?"

I cried the entire way home.

Those childlike words from a hardened 9-year-old made everything worth it. I know I'll never be able to replace an absent drunk father, but damnit if I'm not going to do my best to try.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lucky One

On the rare occasions that I have shitty days or feel sorry for myself, writing is the only thing that truly grounds me. The simple act of recording my conscious stream of thought allows me to understand myself better than most.

Tonight was admittedly rough. I was completely disregarded by someone I cared about and the worse part was that everyone with us seemed to pick up on this, despite my attempts at cheerfulness. My smile was bright and my jokes were on target, but they somehow saw through my facade. I do realize that their insightfulness is a sign of true friendship and am grateful, but their well-meant hugs and whispered reassurances did nothing but make me feel small. So despite their protests, I received their last rounds of hugs and said my goodbyes. As I walked away, I simply felt...numb.

After unlocking my door and greeting my exuberant puppy with a mixture of love and relief, I suddenly felt drawn to my laptop. So I cued a favorite soulful artist on my iPod and sat down to a blinking cursor. I stared at the screen woodenly for a few minutes as indistinguishable thoughts and feelings poured through my mind. And then, as quickly as they arrived, everything settled and I was simply left with ME.

The freshly blank page provided nothing but clarity. Gone was the self-pity and self-doubt and in their place was simply the green-eyed girl who always sees silver linings in thunderclouds. The smart-aleck girl with the juvenile sense of humor who loves her friends to a fault. The girl with a soft spot for the neglected, but an (ironic) intolerance for the closed-minded. The girl who oftentimes speaks before she thinks, but still desires to make everyone feel included. The girl who unwaveringly knows that her respect and love are valuable and will therefore disappear the moment they are taken for granted.

So despite whatever is going on in my life, the ability to write causes me to feel blessed. It causes problems/worries/insecurities to fade into the background as I reintroduce myself to my true self. Somehow, that tiny blinking cursor manages to reach straight into my soul and reminds me that no matter what the circumstance, that green-eyed girl is going to not only prevail, but will more than likely throw her head back and laugh in the process.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Kindred Spirits

It seems that my appreciation for family grows with every year that passes.

I spent last week in the North Carolina mountains with 50 of my closest family members. This annual reunion is a tradition which has been in place since I was 8-years-old and is miraculously still going strong.

I loved the reunion as a child. My cousins and I made crafts, played hide and seek, teased each other mercilessly and basically had a bang up time. But in typical surly, pre-teen fashion, the family reunion spiraled out of my favor as soon as I hit the middle school social scene. The thought of missing a single glorious afternoon flirting with boys at the neighborhood pool to be forced to wear matching t-shirts for things like "potluck night" sent me into a prickly bitterness. My family was lame, my cousins were dorks and the world was completely and utterly unfair (of course).

But as I got older, my viewpoint shifted. The reunions slowly morphed from excruciating endeavors to tolerable obligations to enjoyable vacations.

I now look forward to my annual reunion with fervor—it's the only time all year that the people I love most in this world are gathered together in a single place.

This year was no exception. As I approached the familiar town limit sign, joy welled up to the point of almost bursting. The minute I parked my car and flew up the familiar steps, I felt completely at home. My favorite cousins were waiting and within minutes, we fell into our natural repartee as if a year’s time never separated us.

One afternoon, after laughing until gasping for breath, sprawled side-by-side across the floor of the “cousins’ house”, I looked around at the faces surrounding me and felt truly thankful. For the first time, it hit home that these amazing people were mine. I belonged to them and they to me.

They’d been there through my bout with scrunchies and bike shorts, my too-cool adolescent attitude and mean-spirited practical jokes. They’d seen me at my absolute worst and loved me anyway.

Despite our obvious differences, their faces and spirits somehow reflect my own. Within these unique individuals lies my home away from home. Within these unique individuals lies not only my identity, but absolute proof that I’m one of the luckiest girls in the world.

Despite still being made to wear matching reunion t-shirts at the age of 24.