Monthly Archives

December 2015

Tune in Today

The big reveal

December 31, 2015


For a goal junkie like me, it shouldn’t come as a shock when I, right here on this blog with tens of dozens of followers, officially declare my unyielding love for New Year’s resolutions. I am, after all, an aspiring optimist. I embrace the idea that, even though I haven’t been able to pull something off for the past 365 days (or 33 years … whatever), the changing out of the calendar, as cued up by Jenny McCarthy of Singled Out fame, will somehow bring about the strength and willpower and skill necessary to finally climb that mountain … give up those sugary snacks … pump up that flat tire.

“This is it! This is the year,” I proclaim every January 2 (January 1 would just be unrealistic, cocky and disrespectful to the due process my hangover demands). And I mean it, too. I go into it guns blazing, ready to fight the good fight in the battle of habit vs. headway. I print off lists and pencil in reminders and attack the first month with all the gusto of a potential Bachelor suitor at her first cocktail party. Eye on the prize. Forward ever. Backward never.

In the spirit of the aforementioned optimism, I’m going to drop this particular line of commentary off right here and gloss over the point in the year when the wheels inevitably fall off the wagon and I find myself in a parking lot eating Ritz crackers dipped in chocolate and drinking gas station cappuccino listening to the new Adele CD, working through all the feels. Yeah, I think we’ll just stop there and move on to the goal portion of this post.

First, let’s journey back in time.

Resolutions for 2014
1) I want to practice mindfulness/meditation.
2) Have a fit pregnancy.
3) I want to find a passion project, something that isn’t tied to work that encourages me to stretch as a writer again.
4) I want to play more with the girls.
5) Move forward with our dream of backpacking.
6) Try to stay positive at work.
7) Stop living by a schedule!
8) After this baby gets here, it’s time to get IN THE BEST SHAPE OF MY LIFE.
9) No more yelling.
10) I want to start celebrating other people more and making them feel special

Resolutions for 2015
1. Meditate (10-20 5 days a week)
2. Run the half in September
3. Backpack at least twice
4. Kick sugar addiction
5. Write something more than subject lines.
6. Quit. F-ing. Smoking.

So, being generous, I’d say I’m 4 for 16. The numbers could be stronger, I’ll admit. I’ve checked off some important ones – the cigs and the half – and I’ve thrown a few into this year’s group for a third consecutive round. Who knows, maybe this really will be their year. (Meditation, I’m lookin’ at you, kid.)  After a great deal of deliberation, and with some input from the peanut gallery, here is the big reveal – my list for the year ahead. This is it. I’m really doing it. Forward ever. Backward never.


Feel free to share your own resolutions or give me unsolicited but helpful advice regarding any of mine. Anything goes!


Tune in Today


December 29, 2015

Tune in today to see if she can … get a tattoo. (Yes, you read that right.)

I don’t know how many times I asked myself how I got there  … wearing a cardigan backwards, negotiating the benefits of unbearable vs. extremely uncomfortable pain, as framed skeleton faces looked on in disapproval. I remember the playful banter and hypothetical happiness, but I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, some 3 months ago, somewhere between mojitos and margaritas, when it was confirmed that we would, indeed, get matching tattoos on this fateful day in late December. But here we were, 5 high school friends getting fresh ink on an otherwise mundane Wednesday. I came straight from work. I mean, I was wearing opaque tights for crying out loud. Who gets a tattoo wearing tights?


The shock some of you might be experiencing upon hearing that I went through with this is not lost on me. In fact, no one was likely more shocked than I, the tattooee, was. I am, after all, a mother of 3. And in my 30s. And a complete pansy ass. I have diapers and smashed goldfish crackers in my purse and I can sing the theme song from Jake and the Neverland Pirates like a baby-lovin’ boss. I take melatonin and tuck myself in at 9. I have a Pinterest board dedicated solely to Crockpot meals and I can’t remember the last time I was up past 2 a.m. when it wasn’t related to a baby’s fever, diarrhea or teeth. All of this would suggest I’m not a prime candidate for getting marked for life. But I guess, in a lot of ways, all of this was the argument for why I did it.

My hesitations – and there were many – were tied more to the actual act and placement. I mean, it’s gonna hurt, that’s a given. And I’m not particularly fond of self-inflicted agony. But also, how will I explain it to the girls when they see it? And shouldn’t I get something that symbolizes my family first, if I’m going to do this at all?

The design our group agreed on, arrows crossing, is a Native American symbol of friendship, representing the meeting of two different souls. That was the easy part. The bonds I feel with the great women in my life mean enough to me that I knew I’d never regret wearing a reminder of that love. So, about 2 weeks ago, I started mulling over the mark by having Hank draw different arrows on me in different places I was considering; my hip, my ankle, my wrist (a close second for the perfect spot) and my side, right under my armpit.


I must have had that poor man draw 50 pseudo tattoos on me. “Yeah … but smaller maybe.” “Do you think that looks trashy?” “Is that too noticeable?” “My fat is eating it there.” Always the patient onlooker and supportive spouse, he kept his criticisms to himself (and I’m sure he had a few he could have shared), and erased and replaced arrow after arrow, until finally I arrived at a spot, design and size I felt comfortable with.

The day of the appointments, still not 100 percent convinced I was in, I told myself I’d know what to do when I got there. Surely, your instinct kicks in in a situation like this, right? It was 2 days before Christmas and the Midwest was blanketed in thunderstorm warnings. I thought it might be a sign. In fact I mentioned that more than a few times to my friend Jackie when she picked me up from work. “It’s not a sign!” she urged. “You’re freaking out.”

And I was. When we walked into the tattoo parlor (a sentence I never thought I would write) I was relieved out how nice it was, but the tidiness was no match for my nervous stomach and rapid, racing pulse. I couldn’t stop peeing and pacing. My cool cucumber buddies, all of whom already had tattoos, were also sweaty and super chatty. ,Not a good sign. If I were to walk in cold of the street and assess the situation, I would deduct the group was recently exposed to an abundance of gases or 5 seconds away from meeting Sarah Jessica Parker (because people, I imagine, get ridiculously giddy before meeting Miss Carrie Bradshaw). We did not have our shit together.

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Naturally, I was last of the five. I stood like a first-time dad in a delivery room, watching as they tightened their mouths and clenched their teeth, covered their eyes with their forearms and lied out loud, buzz after buzz. “It’s not that bad.” they’d say. “It’s an annoying pain.” Let me ask you a question, dear reader, does an “annoying pain” sound like something made up but tolerable to you? It did to me. They were selling crap and I was buying manure by the bucketful.


This is your badass move, Courtney, I told myself. You only get so many opportunities in your life to do the unexpected and make this kind of memory. Tomorrow is never promised. Get out of your head and live this moment. No regrets. No second guessing. Go grab this experience by the balls.

After sharing the illustration I unearthed in my exhaustive Pinterest explorations, I was told the artist wasn’t super comfortable making it as small as I’d envisioned (“The size of a nickel?”). He mocked up an alternative and I agreed. First blow to my plan and psyche. I walked over to the table like a death row inmate who’d just finished her fried chicken. The second blow came swiftly and shortly after I pointed to the spot where I wanted my arrows, a spot still red from my husband’s practice sketches. “Can I tell you something?” the nice man with the needle gun asked. “Oh gosh, what?” I said. “I only say this because I know this is your first tattoo and I can tell you’re a little nervous, but that spot right there is going to be pretty brutal. The farther down you go, the more tolerable it is.” He didn’t say painless, mind you, just more tolerable. So, we moved ‘er on down.

I assumed the position on the table and, sensing my sobering realization of the reality of my impending pricks, was joined by my friend Jackie, a nurse and all-around outstanding individual. This is a woman who has birthed 3 babies herself, stopped people from bleeding out and seen patients in their final moments on earth. She’s powerful stuff, is what I’m saying. And thank God she is because, in this instance, mama needed a life coach. She crouched down next to my face, held both my hands and talked me through it. “Acknowledge the pain. Now let it go. Acknowledge the pain. Now let it go. You are OK. You are going to be OK.”

“I’m going to do one line,” the artist said, “and then we’ll see how you feel.” A sweet gesture, but I didn’t come for a line, man. I think it’s kind of like peeing your pants. Once you start, you’re pretty much all in, even though it totally sucks. You’re getting a mark whether you finish it out or not.

The peanut gallery SnapChatted and verbally high-fived me for several seconds before … well … something terrible happened. I started to cry. In my defense, it really freaking hurt. Like getting stabbed with an epidural needle in your ribs for a stupid amount of time. And, like Jackie said on the drive home, “I think it was an emotional release, too. I mean, you were so nervous.” Whatever the cause, it was a release of epic proportions. It could not be denied that there, on a paper-covered massage table in a tattoo parlor on the outskirts of downtown, I, Courtney, aspiring bad mother shut your mouth, sobbed all over my rebel moment. Possibly my one shot at being a badass, and I drowned the whole thing in salty, sticky, mascara dripped tears, and the entire room got really uncomfortably quiet.

From the tip of the first arrow to the final stroke of a feather, homeboy had me wrapped up in about 3 minutes flat. Everyone erupted in over-compensating support, declaring how proud of me they were as I used a tough paper towel to rub off streams of mascara from my upper cheek. None of it was what I pictured; the tattoo, the pain, my ability to hold it together. But it was done. I had a tattoo. I even got a bent, broken tip to forever remind me that I jumped but fought through it.  If I hadn’t seen a picture of the thing and felt a bit of a pin cushion tingle (what I would accurately describe as an “annoying pain”), I wouldn’t have believed it.

My tat

We paid the guys in time for them to, I’m confident, go meet their buddies to recall the side-splitting tale of the suburban housewife who just an hour ago cried on their table getting a one-color, three-minute arrow tattoo. They probably slapped their full-sleeved forearms on the table and wiped away tears of laughter with fingers intricately dressed in cursive letters and celtic symbols. But alas, who gives a shit, right? We too went for drinks. Shots all around with the clever caption, “First the ink, and now we clink!” And then, sitting there, I felt a little bit of the badass I’d imagined.


After 5 days of living with it, I’ve decided I really love my tattoo, and I think we’re going to get along just fine. The reactions have been pretty stellar, I must say. “What possessed you?!” my mom gasped with tears in her eyes. “I can think of so many other things to get …” my sister snickered. My dad just laughed nervously and walked away. Pretty positive otherwise. The kids haven’t noticed it yet, but when they do, I’ll just tell them that Mommy and her friends got matching pictures, and I’ll hope that someday they have friends who are as crazy and lovable and loyal as the ones I’ve managed to pick up along the way. And when the day comes when they ask if they can get one just like me, I’ll be sure to tell them, in great detail, what an “annoying pain” it really was.

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Until next time … Badass, out! 



Merry Marilyn and her bag of tricks

December 27, 2015

I’ve managed to pull myself out of my sugar cookie coma just long enough to piece together a blog post before the week runs out. This is not a drill, people. Today alone I’ve consumed 2 snickerdoodles, 2 chocolate mint cookies and 4 peanut butter Frosted Flakes candies. I hope your Christmas was full of family, food and chaos, just like ours. At 6, 4 and 1, the kids were so into it this year and it just made for so much fun. Candy the elf was here with her typical shenanigans and, for the first time, I set an alarm but didn’t have to go wake up the girls. The sound of those excited little feet, followed by, “He came! Oh my gosh, Santa came!” made my ovaries wink up at me with that familiar ache of fleeting bliss. It was the sweetest. (The girls, not the ovary wink.)


But as much as I feel like I get through the season with some successes – ignoring the fact that I’ve never gotten Christmas cards out the door and didn’t roll sugar cookies of my own for the second consecutive year – I always find myself in awe of the master of the holiday, my mom. I was born from Mother Christmas and she is as legit as they come when it comes to jivin with the holly jolly.

Here are a few things I’ve observed in my time watching her in action.

The more the merrier.
I’ve mentioned the Grand Lighting Ceremony and a bit about the outdoor decorations, but truly, my parents’ house is a joyful joint in its entirety come November 29. I don’t know where she keeps all this stuff the rest of the months, but once the turkey goes in the fridge, every beam is garnished with garland, every cabinet topped with a stuffed Santa and his pals, every light adorned with ornaments. When your dwelling is deemed the “Christmas house” I suppose you acquire a lot of yuletide knickknacks. It makes sense. But it’s during this time, when her home is dripping in glitter and gifted craft show Santas, that my mom seems most comfortable in her house. And I love the smell … like sticky kids and cinnamon pinecones.

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Be the classic. Let others experiment.
My mom always hosts at least two, often three, Christmas gatherings at her house every year. The amount of food this woman churns out makes my wallet, back and stomach hurt. Rows of slow cookers brimming with simmering meatballs, ham balls, chili cheese dip, macaroni and cheese, and wings. Platters of rye bread, cheese and meat. Ham sandwiches and homemade vegetable dip on the relish tray. As impressive as the quantity of it is, the menu is constant from year to year. She has mastered her holiday spread and thus, her plan of attack the day before and morning of the party. People look forward to her predictable fare and never get bored because everyone else brings different sides and desserts. Every Christmas is deliciously familiar with some new things to nosh on as well. Genius.

Get a list and then get creative.
I can remember, when I was a young girl, my mom would give me the catalogs that came in the mail and a marker and I would go to town. I’d circle things I liked and triple circle the ones I had to have. No doubt three circles, pressing hard with the marker, was unspoken code for, “Put this one next to my new Popple, yo.” Guaranteed, on Christmas morning I would get my most-treasured catalog callouts but also, a handful of the most thoughtful surprises. Things I didn’t even think of, but I was so glad Santa did. A classic is the year Mom got a beagle puppy for my brother. She hid the dog for at least a week, often right under Matt’s completely unsuspecting nose. Christmas morning, she has him close his eyes and plops this precious little pup down in his lap. I swear the giant smiled the most sincere, most surprised grin I’ve ever seen. It was like holiday urban legend. It was my maternal role model at her finest. She conditioned me to go for the big moment. Now, as a mom, I have to have at least one thing for everyone in my family that they weren’t expecting and, upon seeing it, realize they can’t live without.It’s an exhaustive pursuit, but when it works out, it’s like Christmas crack. I know a lot of folks like to give their loved one a list with very specific links to very specific products in very specific colors. I dabble in that, but I still love the unpredictable presents. It’s a Marilyn move, and it’s pimp, to deliver a Christmas miracle for someone you love, especially when they never saw it coming.

Holiday albums on fleek.
Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, Neil Diamond, the Judds and Sandi Patty. Those are the CDs that magically pop into the shuffle every December at Mom and Dad’s. Just a few notes into “A Christmas to Remember,” with Dolly’s sweet, sugary voice popping from the speakers and I am all in for holly and twinkle lights.

Throw a blanket on it.
When it comes to the packages under the tree at my family’s Christmas, three things are guaranteed: 1) My mom will have at least 5 gifts with no name on them that she then has to open herself to hand out to the proper owner. 2) At least one person will get a gift that makes them sob like a little holiday bitch. (This year it was a hand-painted portrait of Mom’s dog, Buddy, who she lost last year.) and 3) Childlike excitement will build around the giant gifts in the corner with blankets thrown over them. Sometimes it’s a big ticket item, sometimes it’s a laundry basket. You just never know. And that’s the joy of the blanket. In the end it doesn’t matter what’s under the blanket. It serves its purpose by populating hype. It’s a mind game and she’s the master.

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Be Scrooge at the end of the movie.
From Christmas Eve through Christmas night, my madre’s merry spirit makes all of us feel so grateful and giddy and lovey. She is so generous and so thoughtful but doesn’t make a show of it. She just wants to watch everyone enjoy her hard work. She doesn’t even open her own presents until the kids are already playing with theirs. Since having kids of my own, I get it. I gather more jollies from my family’s reactions when they open something special than I do from anything someone could pick up for me at a store. I feel nostalgic about the season and people and the traditions. I see Christmas through my mother’s eyes and it’s beautifully simple and worth all the hard work. God bless us, everyone.

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Happy holidays, everybody. Let’s all meet back here in time to make some New Year’s resolutions and revaluate these bad dietary decisions, shall we?


Chain letter

December 19, 2015

In my stack of recently unearthed journal entries, was a letter written to my younger self. This was my wisdom at 17.

One day on a walk, I ran into my 10-year-old self. She was short and skinny and stood with a worried look permanently stretched across her face.

“Courtney?” I said.
“Yes, and you are?” she replied.
“I am you in 7 years. Older, wiser and most importantly, stronger.”
“But I don’t get it. How? Why?”
“Just trust me. I don’t have long, so pay attention. Ahead in the road, especially middle school, you’ll feel lost and lonely sometimes. It’s important that you don’t allow yourself to become a follower. Followers never outgrow the people they stand behind. Be open to new things and doubtful talents. Most importantly, people will try to get you down, but that’s just their insecurity showing through. Everything lands where it’s supposed to.

And with that, I turned and walked away. The rest she has to learn on her own. That’s how she will become me.

First, I have to just say what we’re all thinking here. This seems like a crazy heavy conversation to be having with a 10 year old, no? Not to be my own worst critic, but ease up there philosophical Phyllis. She can’t possibly process that deep of an emotional dump. Cheese and rice ….

I do feel the need to rekindle this assignment; to right the wrong that is my over-dramatic, over-analytical junior year docent into adulthood. If, at 33, I just happened to collide with this high school version of myself on the street, I would smile fondly in an attempt to calm and quiet her 50-miles-a-minute thoughts. I would speak deliberately and honestly, knowing her thirst for truth, clarity and directness.


“Courtney,” I would say, “stop focusing so much on what success should look like or might look like. It will look like different things at different times. Sometimes you’ll think you have it, only to discover, it doesn’t really feel as great as a simpler happiness did. It will find you if you resist the urge to chase it. It will mean less when you get there than you think it will right now. In fact, you could measure it in the increments they use to measure air in comparison to the value you find in the people who will fill your home.

Those people, those amazing blessings your mind can’t even fathom at this point, will come to you through love. I know you worry about if and where that kind of love lives and how it will find you. It’s there, dear girl, and it’s much closer than you think. Find a peace in your being and confidence in your own skin and your heart will let you know when he gets here.


Make your friends, your family and your health a priority. Make phone calls, send cards and take walks. Watch your mom; believe it or not, one day your crazy and her crazy are going to look pretty darn similar, and you’ll be better for it. Relax on the sugar and the smokes and the self deprecation. Go out and push your body.


You worry so dang much. And, I’m sorry to tell you, that’s not going anywhere. You are cursed with a persistent perplexity and it only grows as your care for those around you deepens. The only thing I can tell you is that, to this point, the road has been mostly smooth with subtle turns that brought unexpected joy and growth. Try to look around and appreciate the adventures when they come.

Never stop working on yourself. Never trust a stranger when they stand to gain anything more than friendship from your relationship, and visit with yourself in the quiet moments. You might like what you hear when you really listen. Enjoy the journey … it’s a good one.”


And then I’d go get frozen yogurt and she would go get a pack of Camel Lights and Diet Coke. I mean you have to let kids make their mistakes, right?


I hope I’ve made it

December 15, 2015

“Honey, go upstairs and see if there’s anything you want to take home before we have that all torn apart,” Mom said. Every couple of years my folks get the bug to overhaul some section of their farmhouse. The long-vacated second level seems like as good a place as any to slap on some fresh paint and throw down some new vinyl. The rooms that once held my sister and me have been a warm ghost town for my parents’ puppy to defecate and grandchildren to Crayola the walls for years now.

I’m always amazed at how even now, 15 years since I technically lived under Mom and Dad’s roof exclusively (Hank and I did spend a year back in the nest in 2010-11 when we moved back to town) these relics of my younger years still remain. A high school phone directory with pager numbers written on the back. My cheerleading jacket and an “it’s a cheer thing” t-shirt. Pictures dimmed by a centimeter of pasty dust. A vase keepsake from prom that reads, “Oh what a night”. (Which I believe it really was.)

I’ve come and left with a carful of boxes at least three times, and these are the memories that didn’t make the cut. There just wasn’t a place to put them in my grownup life. Not that I wanted to lose them forever, but I didn’t want them on my suburban mantel, either. You just assume your folks’ place is your evergreen locker. A vault you can crack open at your leisure. Until they tell you to get your shit and throw it in your own dang attic so they can have a designer come in and punch up the color scheme.

My most recent sweep turned up a stack of notebook pages torn from the spiral binding nestled in my old vanity drawer. At first I thought they were just pieces of my typical written ramblings about teenage angst and pimpled pipe dreams, but then it came back to me. They were assignments from my …maybe junior … English class. The teacher, Mr. Rusk, would begin some of our sessions by proposing a question or topic. He would give us a few minutes to consider it and then encourage us to free write our thoughts. At the time, I don’t remember thinking this was anything particularly motivating or inspiring. But to read them from where I sit at the table now … gold. Pure gold. There are some real nuggets here.


Rusk’s Topic: Insignificance 

2000 Courtney: “There are so many things in our world that we find insignificant; people, emotions, litter, time and pennies. I see these things trashed day after day. Throwing bags of litter out of the car window or spending a gorgeous April day on the couch watching a movie you’ve seen 8.000 times. Pennies are everywhere. People are always seeming to drop them, leave them, or simply just misplace them. They’re found stuck to drive through windows and clinging to car floor mats. People see them as 1 cent, and well, meaningless. Each penny is worth something. Saved, it can add up to a small fortune. Greed has led to the demise of the copper piece. Everyone wants a quarter instead. But those who save and don’t waste will pull ahead in the long run.”

Rusk’s Topic: What does it mean to be fearless?

2000 Courtney: “How many people can honestly say that they are fearlessly themselves? Maybe it only happens when we’re older. Maybe it’s impossible to fearlessly be yourself in high school, a time when most people don’t even know who they are. What holds people back from being themselves? Is it insecurity? Is it doubt? Or do people simply not know how to be themselves? I believe society drives people to be like everyone else because that is socially acceptable. I think that people should live by that statement. Fearlessly be yourself. After all, it’s only showing the sides of yourself that we usually hide away. It can’t be all bad.”

Rusk’s Topic: If you could invent something, what would it be?

2000 Courtney: “Warning labels for human beings. I would be able to read what I’m getting myself into before I was in too deep. For instance, I would probably avoid a person wearing a sign saying, ‘I am on a path to complete selfishness and you’re in my way.’ Perhaps maybe I would even be wise enough to notice a sign saying, ‘I say what you want to hear and do what you want me to do … until you leave.’ Boys would be another area of my life which would greatly benefit from these signs. Hearbreak is an inevitable part of dating. They go toegether like peanut butter and jelly. The warning label might read ‘I’ll give you the best 3 weeks of your life. It’s the three months after that you have to worry about.’ But, as helpful as these would be, I’d rather take the bad with the good and experience life’s lessons.”

Rusk’s Topic: Purpose

2000 Courtney: “A predestination given by God which is usually realized and achieved by a human being. That is purpose. I find different purposes in different ways. For example, after a month-long relationship that my friend assumed would be a lifetime, her heart was broken when he ran back to his ex girlfriend. i learned of the news when my friend showed up on my doorstep with nothing but a handful of tears and a broken heart. We stayed up late that night and I listened to her cry and gave her my advice. And right then, for one night, my purpose was to be there for my friend.”

Rusk’s Topic: Some book we must have read

2000 Courtney: “In the story, the wolf makes the brave decision to take freedom and independence over stability. As a 17 year old preparing to graduate from high school, I am surrounded by stability. I know I am alive and I know I’ve lived fro almost 18 years. But have I really lived? Have I ever been in a situation where I could only rely on myself and my personal strength? So, hopefully, come Ausgust 2001, I will be heading off to college. Somewhere far away from my 3 dogs, my flowered bedspread, and the goose cookie jar in the kitchen that always seems to be full. And when I am alone and searching for my future, it is then I will walk away from my collar. I will find my freedom. My independence. Myself.”

Rusk’s Topic: What would you do with 30 minutes of air time?

2000 Courtney: “I would sell it to the highest bidder and take my girlfriends to Cancun for our senior year spring break.”


Rusk’s Topic: Change

2000 Courtney: “In this world, there are always things we want to change. But the 7 girls I call my second family are just ‘cool’ the way they are. We couldn’t be more different. There’s the funny one, the crazy one, the moody one, the responsible one, the supportive one … However, it was only when I got all mixed up in the diverse group that I found myself. I know time will move us all in different directions. We will settle down and watch our children make their own friends. But time will never erase the campouts, the deep talks while everyone else was sleeping, or moments crowding in front of a mirror trying to fix our  hair. It’s always been said that time would pass and then I would write a movie script about our relationships. I don’t know about that, but I value their optimism in my future. The ladies who have shown me strength, hope and love, my second family, I hope will never change.”

Rusk’s Topic: If you had a dinner party with 3 people, alive or dead, who would they be?

2000 Courtney: “I would have my maternal grandmother, Garth Brooks and God.”

Dinner Party

Rusk’s Topic: What lesson would you share with your younger self?

2000 Courtney: “Never hurt others to make yourself feel cooler. Popularity, i have found, is like a game. The finish line being popularity, whatever that is, and the starting point being your first day, and everything in between is just scandals and drama and gossip. People get pushed around and stepped on simply so others can feel good about their social status in the end. Never give up on the human race. Just when you think it’s too ugly, someone will shine through. Never sacrifice parts of yourself to satisfy someone else.”

Rusk’s Topic: Write a letter to your future self.

2000 Courtney: “Dear Courtney, There’s probably a smile and surprised look on your face right now. My friends at the prsent time are Jenn, Kim, Kelly, Molly, Ashley, Jill, Jackie and Haley. News just broke that Jackie is pregnant and I see her less and less every day. I am awaiting my senior year of high school and thinking about going off the college. I hope that I am reading this while sitting with my dream husband, in my dream house, doing my dream job. I hope I actually went away to college and stuck with it. I hope I have an amazing job at Rolling Stone or a couple movie scripts on the screen. There’s a possibility I even pursued acting. Overall, I hope I lived the last 10 years the most I could have. i hope I took big risks and some even paid off. I hope I’m not sitting somewhere reading this with a heart full of regret and a mind filled with unfulfilled promises to myself. I hope I’ve made it and most of all, that I am happy.”


If these excerpts tell me anything, it’s that I was an over-analyzing, cheeseball of a teenager who had incredibly ambitious thoughts about what could be smushed into a decade. The crazy thing about this last one is the fact that our friend Jackie’s little girl is about to start driving and is one of the most beautiful, balanced young women I’ve ever seen. I still consider these girls my second family and I still value pennies, kinda. Really pissed that Rolling Stone thing didn’t work out though.


JoJo Just Said

A poopy playdate

December 10, 2015

You know, I’m fine with saying, “I have a 6 year old.” I can wrap my mind around it on paper. But when I turned around the other day and she had her legs crossed and was using her hands and eyebrows to converse with me, it was not OK. It’s not the age, it’s the physical ache of seeing this little grownup in my rearview mirror. It’s like I know her better than anyone and yet there are days I feel like I’m meeting her for the first. time.

Millie collage

Anyway, the other day I was scrolling through things on the ole’ Facebook, and came across this story I shared with my close group of girlfriends. It’s a classic.

January 9, 2014

Who wants to start their day with a funny story? Oh, you guys do? OK!

So, JoJo has this little friend at Kay’s. He’s 5 (older man), JoJo says they’re going to get married and he is her best friend. He lives in our neighborhood and we’ve been trying to figure out a playdate. Well, yesterday, his mom came to get him around 2 and ended up just taking JoJo back to their house to play. As you can imagine, she was geeked up!

It must be said here to the people who know me best, and know that I am often a sweaty, discombobulated train wreck, that this young man’s mom always looks so put together. She’s so cute and knows nothing of me but that I am JoJo’s mom.* So, I go to get my kid at 5.  After I stood in their entryway rambling on for far too long in an attempt to distract them from the fact that my children were throwing huge, whiney fits in protest of our exit, I managed to reign it in and move the circus back to our house.

While we were eating dinner, JoJo mentions that she got too excited and had an accident in their basement and “poopied in her underwears.”

Mil, “Mom, one thing did happen. While we were playing trains, I got excited and poopied.”
Me: “You did? Where, honey?”
Mil: “In my underwears.”
Me: “Aw, honey, It happens. Did his mom help you?”
Mil: “No. I didn’t tell her. I just told him.”
Me: “So where are your poopy underwear now?”
Mil: “I left them in their basement.”

So, on her first playdate, JoJo shit her pants and then left it as a little “thank-you-for-having-me” present on their bathroom floor. But the real winner here was me, the woman who had to text the pretty mom and tell her my daughter crapped herself and there was a treat waiting for her in her lower level. Happy Thursday!


*I know this lovely lady much better now and I can safely say if this were to happen today, I’d feel a tad less like a freak show calling to relay that we had a Code Brown on our hands. She still always looks cute though.


What I’m gettin’ myself into Vol. 2

December 6, 2015


1. I remember the first time my husband told me he liked Cream of Wheat. My face looked the way a gag feels. How I managed to love him in spite of his affinity for the breakfast sludge is a testament to what his toned forearms and chiseled jawline do for me. It’s a consistency thing. Oatmeal, chia pudding, Cream of Wheat, bananas … they all feel pre-chewed to me. Until Hank brought home this Think Thin Protein Oatmeal. Now, I fell hard for the Farmer’s Market Berry Crumble flavor and have yet to branch beyond it, but all the flavors sound tempting. It’s got quinoa and steel-cut oats and it’s just what your belly ordered for winter mornings.   2. OK, so let’s just get it out there: Empire is the shit. Cookie is the shit. The music of Empire is the shit. After a sweet friend, who has an impeccable viewing record, urged me to give in to the hype and just start it, “Oh my gosh, it really is that good …” she said, and another friend upped its cred with, “You know it’s based on the story of King Lear,” I began dating the show on Hulu. It’s always that third episode that really plants the hook. I put a sleeping bag down in the Lyons’ den and wasn’t going anywhere. I love how it constantly flirts with vulgarity and violence, but rarely actually goes there (If you watch, you know when it went it really did go there). My 33-year-old-mother-of-three ass feels cool for being up on the storyline and, let’s face it, Cookie’s one liners and insane outfits force our affection, and I dare you not to be fascinated with the dynamic between her and Lucious. And the latest plot line with Marisa Tomei’s character … Boo Boo Kitty, please …  3. True confession, I pulled 3 empty, worn Ziplock bags out of my purse yesterday. This was the greased up evidence I didn’t even need to see to confirm what I’ve known for weeks now. I am addicted to Buddha Bowl Himalayan Pink popcorn. I have to have it. First of all, like 3 cups of it are well under 200 calories, and it only contains coconut oil, organic popcorn and the Himalayan pink salt. That’s it. No crazy crap and it tastes like perfect little popped clouds of flavor. Just buy it. But not if you live near me because I can’t let my supply dry up.  4. Let’s talk about The World Needs More Love Letters and get everyone on this planet involved, shall we? Some big-hearted, beautiful individual named Hannah Brencher (she wrote a book explaining her mission) decided that nothing lifts the soul more when it’s down than a handwritten love letter, even if it’s from a stranger. There are a few elements to this site that pulled me right down the rabbit hole. First, they feature random love letters found in various locations by various strangers. They’re unbelievably thoughtful, some of them, especially considering these messages are being jotted down and tossed out into the wide open universe. It could be picked up by your neighbor, or it could be picked up by someone visiting from across the country, but they all feel so personal. Just browse a few. But the other element of this project, the one that cranked up my vapors, is the deliberate love letters. Friends, family members are caregivers share the stories of people in their lives who are down or feeling empty, and the crew at The World Needs More Love Letters post the ones they select every few weeks and open it up to submissions. Perfect strangers from all corners of this earth will read a fellow human’s struggle and take the time to sit down and compose an encouraging, compassionate, you-got-this message for them. I’m sure I’m late to the game and people are super familiar with Ms. Brencher’s project, but I wasn’t and I read for at least an hour. It restored my faith in our species. I suggest you check it out and get a little of the same. Maybe even write a letter.  5. If I was crushing on Amy Poehler after reading her book, I am at full blown stalker status now that I’m nearing the end of Parks and Recreation. But it’s not just Amy now, it’s all of her friends, too. Just this video, all day, please. Or, wait, no this one when she got half a perm. Or the one with the ice or the one where they backed into the memorial service during Leslie’s campaign or Snake juice for sure, or maybe I should have just done a post on Parks and Recreation. Just put on your sweat pants make a dent in the couch and plow through it. I have 4 episodes left and I can’t let it end.


A most beautiful pain

December 3, 2015
I saw a man down on the ground fighting for his life. I was a passerby for one of the most gut-wrenching, heart-aching moments one family probably ever faced, and it won’t leave me. It seems the universe is peeking around every corner lately, sending me evidence that life is fleeting and fragile and fast.

We were about 2 miles into the Galloping Gobbler race on Thursday. I ran with Britni (who you might recognize from my half marathon posts) and my friend Jackie, who happens to be a nurse. We were coming up to a turn when we heard, “Get to your left! Stay to your left! To the left, folks! Keep to the left!” There was a group of people, likely some of them family, standing around and a bit of motion near the ground caught my eye. A gentleman, probably in his 40s, was down on the ground and another person was performing chest compressions. I’ve never seen someone in such a severe situation; teetering on the edge of life. Jackie calmly explained that there were already plenty of people assisting and as we made the turn she thought she saw his arm move. Shortly after, the ambulance and fire truck arrived. The rest of that day and each day since, I’ve thought about that man. I’ve thought about this stranger and imagined a scenario, not knowing whether it’s his truth. I imagine his family signing up for a fun race, maybe it was even their Thanksgiving tradition. I imagine them coming out on that beautiful, unseasonably warm morning, taking a group photo and smiling. And then the unimaginable just struck through them. I’ve asked around and heard he is alright, which is a huge relief, but I just can’t get the image out of my mind. Hundreds of people running around one man’s tragedy; A constant motion while one family’s life stood completely, startlingly still.


But like I said, the weight of life has been on my mind a lot lately. Researching a story, I recently visited a needleworking group. These women contribute intricate, hand-crafted blankets, hats and shawls to perfect strangers and want nothing more than the feeling of being needed and valued in return. I spoke with several of them one on one. I asked questions like, “How long have you been crocheting?” “Who taught you?” and “What’s the one piece you treasure most?” I looked into their eyes, the nucleus of their worn, wonderful faces, and I watched them relive the facts as they searched for answers. They recalled grandmothers and aunts, moments spent crafting precious blankets for first grandchildren, and time spent in the meditation of their craft after the passing of partners. I spoke about my girls and each lit up like they’d held each one of them in their arms. They would say, “Enjoy it, dear.” and “It just goes so fast.” and “Ah, bless you.” And I felt it. I felt how fast it is going to go.

We had several friends facing their first holiday without a parent or grandparent this year. When I sat down the other night to write about my own traditions, it wasn’t lost on me how so many of the people I loved were going to have to make new ones in the absence of their mom or dad. We take Christmas morning for granted. We do. We take our phone calls and potato salad recipes and hugs completely as they come without considering what an original treasure we have. One of our friends, who lost his mom way too young earlier this year, put out a beautiful post about how he’d come to realize that to avoid the pain of losing his mother, the gift of ever knowing her would have to be taken away, and so he would take the pain.

Last week I was helping someone work on a piece to remember their grandmother and it got me thinking about what makes us. How, in the end, we are truly composed of ten trillion tiny moments and a million memories. How we pick up and carry our children’s memories for them, before they are ready to hold onto them. I thought about the thread and fabric of a person’s soul and how it’s woven from people and words and laughter. That’s what really matters. That’s the good stuff that makes every worthwhile wrinkle and scar worthy of a story.

With the reality of loss constantly looming, all I can do is be thankful for this life. For the people who fill its hours and the gifts I have been given. I hope I can accept what I can’t hold on to and cherish the memories I can. I hope I can make waves and ripples of positive change. And mostly I hope I can be the kind of person who’s worth the pain, because receiving love like that is the most beautiful thing there is.

The Thanksgiving cadence

December 1, 2015

Tis the season for zero free time and a feast ’round every corner. Now, I am a creature of habit, so traditions are an idea that I can really get behind. I love how, every year, the agenda is relatively the same, but the details are subject to change on a whim. The framework of our turkey day festivities typically looks a little like this …

Thanksgiving Eve. 6:30 p.m.
We have a Friendsgiving with a group of Hank’s high school buddies. I was present the night the event was conceived. It was 2007-ish, before we were married. Before we had babies. Before the hangovers hung on for days. The bar scene On Thanksgiving Eve has always been such a trainwreck and we were just never into that noise. So, on that fateful pre-holiday evening, we went to Chuck’s instead. Let’s just say one of the guests slept with his head in a litter box that night and an annual event was born. These days, mini vans line the street outside Chuck’s suburban home and the only trip-inducing raves come from the little girls’ dance party upstairs. Things typically wind down by 10 o’clock (about the time they would start in our younger days) and the conversation is typically WTF (work, traumas, family).

Thanksgiving Morning, 7:45 a.m.
Three years ago, after noticing both of my siblings were signed up, I decided that I, too, would rise at the break of dawn and trot about with hundreds of my fellow townfolk at the Galloping Gobbler. It’s a 4-mile race that winds through a cemetery and I can tell you, that first year was rough. I remember starting out, at a stride even snailier than the 11-minute miles I log today, and my brother looked at me and said, “Is this really your pace?” I nodded, too winded to verbally confirm his inquiry, and he gave me a reassuring, “OK!” (Completely out of character for big Matt.) The course is serene but rolling. At the base of each and every hill, my brother would say, “Oh, this is the last big hill.” But it wasn’t. We reached at least 6 summits on that chilly November morning, but I did it. The next time, with Matt towering at my side again, I did it a little easier. And this year, with him and a few of our friends, I found myself feeling stronger, more capable and in a position to support other people. It’s such an invigorating start to a day that’s inevitably saturated with sugar and all that toxic, delicious temptation.

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Thanksgiving Morning, 11:00 a.m.
After my go-to greasy breakfast sandwich from the golden arches, Matt drops me off at home. The chicks are always hanging out in their pjs eating donuts and watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I pour a cup of hot coffee, take off my running shoes and settle in for some cuddles and lip sync performances from up-and-comers perched on floats with dancing gingerbread men and Smurfs. We shower and get ready at a leisurely pace with the dog show on in the background.


Thanksgiving Day, 1:00 pm.
The eating commences. My favorites include but are not limited to: Corn casserole, dinner rolls with cheese slices and turkey on them, deviled eggs and pecan pie.

Day After Thanksgiving, 12:00 p.m.
This is when we typically pull out the totes and start decking our halls. If we haven’t formally met, allow me to introduce myself here. I am not that woman who adorns her mantel with tasteful, elegant snowcapped trees and precise scalloped garland. I don’t discriminate against multicolored strands and I rarely discard a keepsake craft. Each year I pack away more than I unpacked at the start of the holiday. I live for glued-on Rudolph noses and worn trinkets with my babies’ names written on the back. If there’s a clear space, I’m gonna cover it. There’s going to be glitter on the walls and blow ups in the front yard and if you can’t handle it then I can’t handle you during Christmas, soooooo …

Saturday After Thanksgiving, 6:00 p.m.
If, for some ridiculous reason, you want to experience a truly voyeuristic glimpse into my life, The Lighting Ceremony would be it. Growing up my father was Clark W. Griswold. The art of exterior illumination was handed down to him and snowballed over the years into an intense, extensive Christmas display that earned my parents the title of “The Christmas House”. His holiday spirit isn’t quite as bright as it was in its prime, but my mom still bleeds red and green and sneezes tinsel. So, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, she sets the dining room table with the special holiday dishes she’s had since I can remember, cooks a feast that embarrasses the week’s earlier attempts and we flip the switch that sparks the official start of the season. We gather out front while Dad scurries around matching female ends to male ends and calling out for extension cords. We clap and cheer and critique and point out what’s better this year than last year. Then we get in our cars and drive by the house on the highway (they live along the interstate) so we can honk … at a house … where no one is because we’re all in our cars. Anyway, that’s what we do. And it always feels like every feeling I have for my family condensed into one magical night.

So, those are my traditions. They are the smells and tastes and faces that make my holiday so warm and sweet. They are part of what makes me who I am and the woven cloth of memories I’ll hand on to the girls. You know, these girls …