talk weather to me

Wednesday was a big day for me.

I woke up to the news that major storm systems were brewing in the Midwest. I wrote about this last year, but severe weather is a deep and profound passion of mine. News of a summer storm makes me giddy. Aside from watermelon and ice cream, it's the only reason I tolerate summer. I tracked the weather all day long like I was tracking a package, fully aware that the meteorologists could be wrong, and all the severe storms could be delivered to the wrong address.

The sky was dark and foreboding all day even though the storms weren't supposed to hit until the middle of the night. I was disappointed they weren't coming during the day, but it made it feel like Christmas Eve. When James got home from work, I bounded down the stairs at 4:57, shouting that we had to turn the 5:00 news on and watch the weather update. I was on the edge of my seat, like I was someone who cared about sports watching an ESPN pregame show before a college football game. They showed Columbus under flood watches, tornado watches, severe storm watches, high wind warnings, the whole nine yards. Even ABC World News was doing their severe weather update from Columbus. I was jazzed. The word "derecho" was even thrown out, and while I did NOT want there to be any damage from these storms, the derecho 4 years ago was the wildest thing I've ever experienced.

I was feeling especially chatty last night, so James and I were up late talking and peeking out the window like kids looking for Santa. I went to bed feeling giddy like a kid on Christmas, wondering if Santa really was going to come in the middle of the night, and maybe I'll wake up and see him? James assured me a tornado could blow in and he would sleep through it.

Two hours later I woke up to what appeared to be a strobe light but was actually crazy lighting. I fell back to sleep just to be woken up less than an hour later to deafening, crackling thunder that made my ears ring and my heart pound. The lightning was so bright and constant that I could've read a book without turning the light on. Mr. I-Can-Sleep-Through-Anything was wide awake next to me for the next several hours. It was the storm that never ends. Yes it went on and on, my friends. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I had been so excited about this storm when I COULD BE SLEEPING INSTEAD. I was so bleary-eyed this morning that James had to wake me up multiple times and pull me out of bed kicking and screaming.

Once I settled down on the couch with some coffee and nursed the babe, I watched the Facebook videos the local meteorologists posted in the middle of the night showing the storm track and live shots. It was like watching replays and highlights after some kind of ball game. That's what sports people do, right? I got excited all over again, even though I should've known better considering I only got a couple hours of sleep. This is the price you pay to be a weather enthusiast, and let me tell you, I've paid the price today.

This has been the Mondayest Thursday I've ever had. Gracie must've been awake through the storms, because she's been tired and cranky and just generally a bit of a bear, but she's going on hour three of her nap right now, so all is forgiven. There was road construction on the way to the grocery store, so it took twice as long to get there as usual. Once the traffic cleared near Kroger, I momentarily lost sanity because I DROVE PAST THE STORE. I blame sleep deprivation, but that doesn't mean I didn't cry about it, because when you're tired everything is A Really Big Deal. I made it through the store without dropping any more sweet potatoes and was feeling rather proud of myself, until I pulled the bag of produce out of the car at home. The bag handle broke, and tomatoes, strawberries, and bananas fell out of the bag and rolled through the street. It's becoming clear at this point that I'm a danger to produce in general.

(Also, for those of you invested in the story of the Produce Lady, she was there and we chatted. Our friendship is still going strong. Thanks for asking!)

I've been so tired today that I've promised myself to never get excited about a nighttime storm again. But as I was writing this, I was notified that we're under another tornado watch. Before I could stop it, I felt the excitement rush in.

I'll never learn my lesson.


where have all the chill moms gone?

Monday morning I made the important decision to take Gracie to story time at the library. We left a little early and decided to walk around outside for awhile, since a local knitting group had taken it upon themselves to yarn bomb the town, and I can't get enough of it.

I underestimated the humidity levels in the air and walked into the library absolutely drenched. I have never been so uncomfortable. I looked and felt as though I had just dunked myself into a hot tub. I contemplated leaving story time and just going home, but since I am a strong, capable woman, I decided to stick it out.

I didn't have a lot of expectations. I haven't been to story time since I went as a little kid and just figured I would sit with Gracie on my lap while someone reads a book and sings a song. Maybe the mom next to me would be looking for a mom friend too, and then we'd go to lunch and braid each other's hair and bond over our mutual disdain of the word "babywearing" and our kids would grow up to be best friends? I don't know. Like I said, no expectations.

Rather, what I discovered is that story time is where the professional moms gather. I expected to be in my element amongst friends (read: books), but oh, I was not. There was one other mom in the room when I got there. I smiled at her, and she ignored me. It could've been the fact that my clothes were soaked in sweat, which is understandable. Her daughter toddled over to me and started hurtling books in my lap and staring at me, waiting for me to read them to her. I'm a relative expert with my daughter but no one else's. Once I'm placed with someone else's child, it's like I've never been around a baby before. I don't know what to do with them, so I stared back at the baby and waited for her mother to rescue me. She didn't.

Another mom walked in.

I smiled; she ignored me. She looked at Rude Mom 1 and said "Didn't I see you Thursday? At that workshop? At the other library branch?"

Rude mom #1: "Did you? I don't know. You might've. We're so busy. We're always somewhere."

RM2: "Oh my gosh, me too. We go to story time at another branch on Tuesdays. Our whole crew from this branch was there. I was like, 'that's our story time crew!'"

RM1: "Oh, well we go to three different branches. I have a schedules of all the different story times so we never miss one."

RM2: "Which branches? We'll join you. Sometimes we go to two story times in one day and then I just let my son play for an hour after while I talk."

It's a good thing they completely ignored my existence, because my jaw was on the floor listening to them. They have spreadsheets and schedules of story times all over the city. And here I was proud of myself for going to one story time a week at one branch and doing the dishes from breakfast before leaving. I finally started to get a picture of the kind of moms that hold auditions for their moms group.

The room quickly filled up with other moms. Everyone was divided into cliques like tables in a high school cafeteria. There was a large group of moms who barely spoke English, including one dad, and the rest were 30-somethings in their athleisure-wear. One mom was dressed to the nines and pulled out a cushioned changing pad from her diaper bag and sat on it.

Gracie sat on my lap, listening to the story and wanting nothing to do with the kids who were running around screaming. Every now and then I would hear RM1 throw out a tidbit of information, like how her kid just turned 14 months old, so "he's been walking for like a long time now." The kids were wild animals, chasing each other, running up to other kids and stealing toys, and throwing occasional tantrums while the librarian read a book about music. Every time I'm around other kids, I'm reminded how chill and laid back Gracie is. Let's put it in literary terms. She's like a Jane Austen book: definitely some drama, tears, and frustration, but lots of reading, talking, walking around outside, and giggling. The storytime kids were like an action-thriller: lots of running, screaming, stealing, and suspense. WHAT WILL THEY DO NEXT? You can't tear your eyes away for a second or you'll miss something.

There was a surprising amount of singing and hand motions that I was not prepared for. The other moms were more into it than the kids were, energetically clapping and dancing and trying to get their kids involved. Maybe that's why there was so much athletic wear? You'd think it was Zumba class with the excitement over hand motions. Gracie was completely uninterested, and no matter what I did she just wanted me to read books to her. It looks like I'm raising the next Rory Gilmore. All I have to do to complete the process is add coffee in about 15 years.

Regardless of our rocky start, we'll be back. Freshly showered this time. And if all else fails, I'll track down the yarn-bombing knitting group.


in which I crash a family reunion and accidentally become a photographer

James' company picnic was Saturday. It was a shame to interrupt our lovely Saturday of snacks, naps, and a Boy Meets World marathon, but such is life. We didn't go last year since we had a tiny little baby and it was incredibly hot, but we went two years ago when I knew no one. I was a nervous wreck the whole time. His coworkers threw me the sweetest baby shower last year and I've gotten to know some of them, as in his boss walked into my hospital room the day after Gracie was born, so I felt a bit more comfortable going this year. At least I would be dressed in something other than a hospital gown and mesh underwear this time.

His boss, by the way, is the spitting image of Tim Allen's wife Jill on Home Improvement. Same haircut, face, voice, everything. I get a little starstruck whenever I'm around her. I'm always so tempted to ask if she knows how Jonathan Taylor Thomas is fairing these days, and do you think he'd be interested in joining my book club?

It was hotter than Satan's oven outside, and I was reluctant to venture outdoors as I believe summer is best experienced from inside an air-conditioned building. James signed us up to bring a side dish, so I whipped up a pasta salad. Once we arrived, I handed the pasta salad to James and pushed the stroller, because while I wasn't as nervous as last time, I still needed what I like to call "The Baby Barrier." There was very little shade and zero available seating and I almost turned around and walked back to the car. We put the pasta salad down on the table of side dishes, which just so happened to be full of pasta salads. It felt a lot like that scene in Christmas Vacation when Clark brings his boss a Christmas gift, just to set it down on a table full of identical presents. 

I planted myself on a bench at the dessert table since it was the only spot I could find, and I felt it necessary to be close to the chocolate. James held Gracie's hands and walked her around, showing her off to his coworkers like the proud dad he is. I sat there, munching on watermelon, trying to avoid eye contact with people, when a young gentleman walked up and asked someone to take a picture of his family. Everyone was ignoring him, he kept asking, and I felt bad for him. He was wearing a charcoal grey shirt, the same color of the company shirt some of the employees were wearing. I just assumed he was one of them. I finally piped up and offered to take the pictures. He was so thankful and asked me to follow him. 

I started to walk after him until I noticed he was walking far away from the picnic. I panicked. I turned around to see James staring at me, and I mouthed "HELP ME PLEASE HELP ME" until he took off after us. I don't know what I would've done if he hadn't seen me walk away; the only thing deeper than my fear of being kidnapped/murdered is my fear of confrontation. Apparently. I didn't know that until this moment.

We trudged through grass and playgrounds until we came upon another shelter. Turns out, the guy was legit and he just wanted a picture of a family reunion. Once again, I narrowly avoided being turned into a Lifetime movie. I was handed a handful of cameras and iPhones by people yelling at great aunt Doreen to go stand with everyone else, and I started the photo shoot. Before I knew what was happening, the spirit of Jerry Seinfeld came over me, and I was cracking jokes and making them all laugh. Usually my mind goes blank when put on the spot, but every once in awhile I unintentionally channel my nervous energy into cracking jokes and one-liners. It surprises me every time. It happened for the first time in college. I was handed a microphone on the spot and asked to tell hundreds of people about a missions trip I took to Mexico. Jokes were flying out of my mouth left and right and much to my shock, everyone was laughing. Hopefully at the jokes and not at me. I sat back down ten minutes later. James and I were freshly dating, and he just shook his head and said he had no idea I had it in me. Neither did I, dude. Neither did I.

I finished taking pictures and handed the cameras and phones back to their rightful owners. Everyone was calling me "dear" and "darling" and telling me how much they appreciated me. I'm not sure, but there's a chance they adopted me into their family. I loved them. I wanted to stay and party with them and great aunt Doreen instead of going back to the company picnic, but I made my way back anyway. My shyness had completely dissipated after meeting my new family. I grabbed a plate of food while James held Gracie and introduced me to a coworker. She took one look at me and said "So when will you guys be trying for number two? I think it's time you guys start trying for number two." I wasn't even the tiniest bit surprised since two years ago a man asked us when we would be having kids just seconds after shaking my hand and introducing himself. At the time, I was in no mood to be asked about my reproductive plans and emphatically told him that we would not be having kids, just to be obnoxious. It's worth nothing that I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test only a few weeks later. Apparently old habits die hard, because I told the woman asking about #2 that there was not going to be a number two, despite the fact that I've almost warmed up to the idea. This time, James told her that I'm still recovering from my first pregnancy. It's nice that he works for a company so concerned about our reproduction. 

I went back to my camp at the dessert table and fed Gracie water and watermelon in an attempt to ward off heat exhaustion. We were both withering. The closest I came to relief from the raging heat was winning a cooler in the raffle (the Ohio State one behind me in the picture!). I had been eyeing it the whole time, thinking how perfect it would be for picnics and road trips and how I'd like to put ice packs in it and then crawl inside. I was not made for life above 80 degrees.

We went to church Sunday morning, and nearly everyone sitting around us had a newborn baby girl. I couldn't stop staring. I've never been one for baby fever, but the lady asking about baby #2 kept floating through my mind. Even though I've done the around-the-clock nursing and been up all night with a screaming baby, I found my mind going to forbidden places. And then Gracie fought her nap for two hours, and suddenly it all vanished quicker than my self-control in a bookstore. Which is good, because I imagine it's easier to pursue a job of Family Reunion Photographer with only one kid.


this world is not our home

The summer of 1996 is the summer my family doesn't like to talk about. It was horrible and tragic, and even at 7 years old I could feel the weight of it. 20 years later, the summer of 2016 has followed the exact same pattern with nearly the exact same chain of events.

Yesterday morning, my precious grandma passed away. 20 years and 8 days after my grandpa.

She went to the doctor for a routine visit last August and walked away with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. It quickly metastasized to her brain, and 10 months later, she's gone. After already fighting and beating breast cancer 6 years ago. I'm eternally grateful my mom took Gracie and me out there last fall to say goodbye. The fact that four generations of us had the privilege of being together is something I will forever cherish. Even after the brain cancer had stolen her memory and motor skills, she always remembered Gracie. She never forgot her, and Gracie pictures were the one thing that would bring her happiness during her last days. So much grace. Our girl is living up to her name.

Grandma was one of the funniest people I've ever met, and most of the time she wasn't even trying to be. She would constantly put her foot in her mouth, realize what she said, and then laugh until she cried, along with everyone around her. When I was 8 years old, she gave me her childhood pearl necklace. We were sitting around the dinner table as she told me about it, and she tried to calculate how old the necklace was. It was given to her when she was 16, and as she did the math she sat there with a puzzled expression and asked "Now, how old was I when I was 16?" She was extremely intelligent and bright, but would have the silliest moments. My parents have always told me I'm exactly the same way. Whenever I've found myself deeply interested in something, my mom will always tell me it's something my grandmother loved, too. The older I've gotten, the more I realized how strong genetics are. I know she's never completely gone, because so much of her lives on through me. I think of her whenever I cook a meal for my family. That's the kind of thing she loved to do and the kind of thing she excelled at. She was as talented as Martha Stewart, but with a Texas drawl and fantastic sense of humor. I pray I learn to take care of my family the way she took care of hers.

She was raised in an orphanage in a tiny Texas town and grew up to marry her high school sweetheart, my grandpa who worked on Nasa missiles during the height of the Space Age. She worked as a Home Ec Teacher, sharing her passion for cooking and sewing and other domestic things. And she raised my mom, which is by far her greatest accomplishment. She lived on the coast of California most of her life, but she was forever a Texan. She always wore lipstick as strong as her thick southern drawl. Aside from my mom, she's the only person I knew who loved coffee as much as I do. She had a pair of glasses to match every outfit, and when I was in high school she gave me some of her own shoes she didn't deem comfortable enough, and I wore them all the time because her sense of style was that good.

Whenever we visited, she would take my mom and me to Santa Barbara for the day. I lived for our Santa Barbara days. We would drive south down highway 101 in the morning while we sipped on our lattes, the fog still resting on the ocean, and spend the morning shopping. We'd have lunch at our favorite Italian place, the one where she once spotted Steve Martin. We'd have a cup of afternoon coffee and a treat in a third floor cafe that looked out over the palm trees and mountains. I never felt more special than when I was old enough to spend the day with mom and grandma. We haven't been able to do that since I was in college, but I think about it every time my mom and I go to lunch with Gracie.

When my mom called me last August and told me the cancer diagnosis, I had been in the kitchen making cookies. I was stunned. We flew out a few weeks later to introduce her to Gracie and for me to see her one last time. As we watched the cancer take its toll, the phrase that kept whirring through my mind is "this world is not our home." As a Christian, I know it with every cell in my body and my whole soul. I'm so grateful she gave me my mother, who in turn spent the majority of the past three months in California caring for her, even though she was in the middle of her own cross-country move. Death has no victory, death has no sting. I'm grateful I had 27 years on earth with her, but it is no match for what is to come.

"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39


tales from the grocery store

It's funny that I posted yesterday about my difficulty making friends lately, because a few hours later I found that I had unwittingly become best friends with the produce lady at Kroger.

I see this woman occasionally. She's big and burly, outspoken, and hard to miss. She chatted us up by the deli counter last week, always eager to say hi to Gracie while Gracie clings to me for dear life, but that's as far as our interaction has ever gone. I've found that grocery shopping on weekday mornings is so much better than weekends. Not only is it far less crowded, but the employees are so much friendlier you'd think Kroger stole them from Chick-fil-a. The young man at the deli counter always gives Gracie a free slice of American cheese. I'm tempted to invite him to my someday book club.

But back to the produce lady. She cornered us by the berries within 4 seconds of us entering the building, and in a strange turn of events, Gracie smiled and waved to her.

"There's my girl!!!" -produce lady

"?!?!?" -me

"Is she walking yet? She's so cute!"

Oh, she's talking about Gracie. Phew.

"Well, sh--"

"Aurora didn't walk for a long time. She wasn't interested at all, and then one day she just got up and went for it."

Who is Aurora? Does she have me confused with someone else?

She then proceeded to pull out her phone out and flip through pictures of her grandkids, giving me a rundown of their personalities while I feigned enthusiasm. She was very kind, but it's hard to pretend to be excited about random children when all I'm trying to do is pick out an acceptable pint of raspberries and keep my daughter from climbing out of the cart. Plus, in this world of Facebook posts warning of scary people trying to kidnap your kids at Target and the grocery store, I'm wary of people who show us more than a little attention.

I smiled and nodded for awhile until she leaned in close and said "Did you hear about the toddler in Orlando?" Ugh. Yes, I had. I instinctively reached out to Gracie. She told me she had taken her grandkids to Disney World last week and had been on that same spot on that same beach on Friday. My heart sank. It could've been any one of our babies. She put her hand on mine and told me to hug Gracie extra tight tonight. I walked away feeling like we had almost developed some kind of strange friendship.

I sauntered off to grab the rest of the fruits and vegetables I needed. I was looking at fresh bunches of spinach when I heard the boisterous voice of none other than PL behind me. How dare she befriend someone else right in front of me! I turned around to see what was going on and saw her talking to a girl I had graduated high school with. I whipped my head back around and pretended to closely inspect the spinach until she left, listening to her boyfriend brag to PL about what a good cook she is. I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, but Gracie was busy scream-shouting "a-da!" and then I accidentally did the same once the sprayers came on and partially soaked me while I had my head in the leafy greens.

I decided to finish my vegetable perusal later and hightailed it to an out-of-the-way aisle to hide in until danger had passed. I pulled my phone out to tell James what happened in a series of dramatic, all-caps text messages, only to look up and see the girl from high school walking right past me. I froze in place. By the grace of God and God alone, she didn't notice me.

I made my way back to the produce section, only for PL to come by and pinch G's toes by the banana display. I was still so flustered by the impromptu high school reunion and completely thrown out of whack that I didn't notice the produce bag I grabbed had a hole in it. One by one, I dropped sweet potatoes in the bag, not noticing that they were falling through like a basketball in a hoop, smacking the floor along with my dignity, and rolling through the aisle until a little girl screamed at me like a miniature Kate Gosselin for getting my potatoes in her way.

And where was PL when I needed her then? Maybe our friendship wasn't as strong as I thought it was.