I am a Survivor fan… I have watched every single season. Watching the new season’s first episode of all winners really struck a nerve. Amber a mom of four young daughters said the very thing I thought to myself many moons ago… when I was filling in my application for the show. “Being back on Survivor will be a vacation, no kids, no laundry, no wondering what to cook for dinner”.
I think my kids were 6 and 8 when I decided to apply. I filled out the form (which includes a box you check that they are not liable if you die), I storyboarded my video concept (a day in the life of a mom… working full time, class parent for two kids, Sunday school teacher, Girl Scout leader of eighteen… my video would show that being on Survivor would be a walk in the park, a vacation). I was ready to take the plunge. When I expressed this plan at dinner the excitement was over the top, the kids were thrilled, mom would be on TV! Thrilled until one of them asked if I could tell them all what happened each night at dinner… they thought I would be coming home nightly after my “Survivor work”. You know, traveling back from Fiji each evening to make dinner and chat about my day. Needless to say, after explaining that I will be gone for 45 days, and after witnessing the flood of tears flowing onto their dinner plates, I did not apply.
My generation of moms made these kind of decisions all the time. Being one of the first working mom generations, we still insisted on doing everything for our families ourselves, and in doing so we missed out on some opportunities. When I watched this young mom of four little girls say she would be “on vacation” as she prepared to race, starve, climb, solve puzzles, hunt for idols, and basically live off the earth, I got a bit teared up. I am so proud of these super moms… they know it is ok to hire cleaning people, exercise daily, get groceries delivered… and even leave their families for a bit. It is dreamy that they can afford these things, two high paying jobs needed to do so, but there is no shame in outsourcing and enjoying your life if you can afford it. It is ok to follow your dreams. I am thrilled for Amber’s little girls who get to see their mom win physical challenges and try and outsmart competitors. I am impressed that these young moms have the strength to get out there (in bikinis), and kick some ass. And (spoiler alert) if they get voted off the main island, they can show their kids what it is like to fight their way back… because it isn’t over til it’s over. Teaching their kids that if they get tossed aside, to walk away holding their head high while figuring out a plan b. Grit, self preservation, me time. All I can say is swoon…you go girls. I bow down to you.
Today I saw a post on FB from a friend who just lost a bestie to cancer. These two ladies met at a bereavement group as raw young widows. They became friends and supported each other at the worst time of their lives. One of them remarried. The other died from cancer. Life is not fair, life just is. Below is the story of the wedding, the happier of the two endings. We are on this earth for a blink, let’s try and enjoy it.
April 2019: We just attended a wedding. People our age (or so) who had both lost their spouses in the last few years. They met at bereavement group, became friends, became more, became married. Attending a wedding of people of a certain age is enchanting. Everyone is comfortable in their skin, no spray tans or 6 inch heals. Vows are wise and funny. Mistakes happen and they are laughed off. Butterflies are to fly out of a beautiful silver box representing the new beginning… but when the box is opened they are in individual glassine envelopes, looking very dead. We wait and watch as the bride opens an envelope with hope. We applaud in relief as the butterfly flies in a circle and lands on the brides dress… keeping her company for a bit. The groom hands out butterfly envelopes and it soon becomes an interactive experience, a community. A happy surprise that would have left a young bride in tears. We watch as the friends from the bereavement group dance, dance so big, so hard, so full of life. They dance for the happiness of their friend who found a new start, they dance for the partners they lost, they dance because they can. I could not get on the dance floor with my guy, it felt selfish. Looking back of course we should have danced with the widows. No wasted moments. Life is short. Weddings always teach us to remember who we love, a renewal of why we are with the ones we are with. This one reminded me to live.
I really dislike Valentine’s Day. It is torture. Even for the little ones…drama over what themed cards to give out, are they cool characters, is there candy attached, is it cool candy? Did mom write them out? Does your child have fine motor skill issues, if so writing them takes days, with illegible results and many tears. It is just another “holiday” to emphasize who has more money, who has more time, who has more advanced kids. Ugh. I am glad that is over. My most embarrassing Valentine’s Day was in high school. Chubby and the invisible bestie to one of the most popular girls in the school… It. Was. Brutal. Roses were purchased and delivered during classes throughout the day. The longest day of the year. Perky, adorable, and loud student council members standing in the front of the classroom delivering the red popularity markers. My friend had so many roses she couldn’t carry them. It was a living rose piechart of popularity. One year… in a delicious and thoughtful gesture… my bestie made her boyfriend buy me a rose. He signed it in a clever way, so I had no idea it was from him. I was thrilled to receive a rose and hopeful it was from one particular boy. Confusion ensued. I am sure you can guess that it did not end with the person of my dreams showing up to declare their love while great 80s music played in the background… no John Hughes movie moment here. It ended with her boyfriend yelling “why did you make me buy her a rose, she doesn’t even know it’s from me!” in a very crowded auditorium. I’m not sure what happened next. I probably ate a pack of Lindys chocolate chip cookies. What I do know is I hate Valentine’s Day to this day. I’m still hoping there might be a day when someone sweeps me off my feet in some ridiculous romantic gesture… but I don’t have high hopes about it. I married someone who hates Valentine’s Day more than I do. Go figure.
I am kind of afraid of an upcoming wedding. This June, my first ever nephew… someone I adore to pieces, who is all things good, and talented, and funny, and kind. His fiancé is beyond adorable, smart, and appropriately sassy. Family will congregate and we will be joyful. They are an amazing group of people. I should be so excited. The problem is, it is in South Dakota. Did you know it costs as much to fly to South Dakota as it does to fly to Paris? I was afraid of Paris for a long time too, then I went and I completely adored it. I have been to South Dakota numerous times and loved it every single visit. I spent much of my honeymoon in South Dakota and it was glorious. I should not be afraid. My husband is one of 5 kids, his mom is one of 9 kids, his dad is one of 17 kids. I kid you not, 19 births, 17 survived. Small South Dakotan farm, many kids to a bed, many hands to help with the work. It blows my mind. The extended family in South Dakota have always been extremely warm, and beyond inviting, I have felt very loved. On our honeymoon hundreds of aunts, uncles, and cousins welcomed us with open arms at the yearly family picnic in Pierre, SD (pronounced pier, not Pierre… as in the boy who did not care). They got me on a horse for the first time (ride would be a huge exaggeration), they created a cozy honeymoon tent for us in the middle of the park (proof below). We slept amongst the offspring of the amazing Elizabeth and Edward Nemec, the parents, grandparents, great-grandparents of the crowds sleeping around us. The youngest cousins outside our tent listening and giggling at what might be happening inside the tent… I assure you, given the setting, it was beyond a G-rated situation. Many relatives have since come visit us in NY, such fun times. Until Fall 2016. In Fall 2016 lines were drawn, labels became tattooed on, beliefs were spouted and anyone who differed in thought became “the other”. People (on both sides) behaved poorly and I became scared of South Dakota. I would joke with the South Dakotan snowflakes… “they will tar and feather me if I step foot in your state”. Nobody disagreed. Hmmmm. Nobody disagreed. A few said “don’t worry, we will have your back”, which is lovely and reassuring, but having a posse is not the way I attend most weddings. One said “don’t worry, they are scared of you”, again, not exactly what I was hoping to hear. Sigh. It will all be just fine. The conflicts are yesterday’s news. I am thinking I should have been a lot less outspoken, less Queens, NY (an ok delivery for the President but not a 5 foot woman also from Queens). I am thinking of course they are the same kind and giving and loving people I met on my honeymoon. I am thinking I am being ridiculous. I am thinking I need to keep telling myself this because I really want to enjoy every second of this wedding… an amazingly joyous occasion where two completely delicious people declare their love for each other. Swoon.
Friendships are funny, they are like marriages, houses, children, bodies… you love the ones you have but sometimes wonder if everyone else’s are better, stronger, tighter. I had the privilege of a weekend away with my college girlfriends. When I say college friends it’s because that’s where we met, it is not where we became life long besties… that happened gradually over the past 30 years. Marriages, divorces, babies, sicknesses, kids’ struggles, career changes, it has not always been pretty but we survived. Art school is a window into your soul. Sleep deprived, vulnerable, putting your work out for criticism, realizing you are a very little fish in a huge pond of talent… it is tough. The friends I made at school saw me at my worst, my best, and everything in between. They know my strengths and weaknesses. They can call me on my shit and be my biggest cheerleaders. This weekend we talked for three days straight. I am not exaggerating. It was ridiculous. We cooked, cleaned, complained, questioned, cried, exercised, shopped, revealed ourselves, hugged, and just did… we just did what sometimes needs to be done. We lifted, applauded, and grew. We complained but also realized how very lucky we are, realizing life is super hard, but could be so much harder. Three days of learning, growing, and positive energy coming at me from people who know me… and can nudge me on… to create my best self. Swoon.
Walking Jasmine this very very wintery morning… clogs with no socks, crazy harsh wind blowing my coat wide open and hair all Beyoncé. A woman of similar age all bundled up in a hat, scarf, and a long parka zipped to her chin approaches. As we pass she gives me a big smile, clearly understanding the joy I was experiencing. Oh the temperature flux of a woman in her 50s… a lovely way to bond with strangers.
I spent the other day at a 4th grade play about the thirteen original colonies… it was delicious. It wasn’t just the nostalgia of sitting in the little auditorium where my daughter performed many moons ago (dressed as the sun singing about her gasses while wearing radiant sunglasses). It was pure emotional goodness watching kids give 100% of themselves, belting it out in full Ben Franklin garb and Native American (Target brand rain) boots. Wearing wigs meant for adults, they looked like living bobble heads, it was insanely perfect. Inspiring lines about the sale of Manhattan from the three Native American singers… “we shook their hand, they took our land”… this was no old school American history play. There was a game show (fyi, Idaho was NOT one of the original thirteen colonies), Martha Washington set George straight a few times (and had the majority of the narrating lines… go Martha). One child broke into an English accent every time he had his Red Coat costume on, another gave a long monologue without managing to pronounce the letter r… it was joyous. There were kids of all abilities sharing a stage, singing, reciting, laughing, and dancing, they were equals. Our school district seems unique in its belief in the value of the performing arts. Starting in Kindergarten every child is on stage performing at least once a year. This exposure to speaking and singing in front of large audiences is gold… they are comfortable in front of a group. They can project their voices and hold the spotlight. They have made mistakes and forgotten lines… and survived. A few years ago I posted a video of my son singing a solo in his 1st grade play, belting his little heart out, lisp and all. His comment on the post: “wow, back then I had so few teeth and so much confidence”. I just got a text from him, he is taking an improv class in LA. Once again he is getting out of his comfort zone, he will perform, he will be part of a troupe, he will create. May we all recapture the confidence we had at 6. Swoon.
Well this is embarrassing. Me. Writing a blog. I barely passed English in high school. Not because I didn’t like to read, I did. Not because I couldn’t write, I could. I just could not be bothered, it was not important to me. I was never a super student, that role went to my siblings. I was just me. In art school I met this smart, talented, and cute boy from Iowa. We fell in like, then fell in love. We grew up together, got married, and grew up some more. We were pretty darn adorable (image below). The best thing he ever did for me was tell me he thought I was smart. It was a gift. It gave me confidence. It gave me hope. It gave me the permission to reach for the unreachable. Sometimes that’s all a person needs, someone to cheer them on. He believed in me so now I write. I hope you enjoy my observations, celebrations, rants, and swooning.