Tag Archives: family

Day 50: Care Bear

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Today, I’m thankful for one of my best friends on the planet, Ms. Carrie Stribling. I could have easily written this post last week, while I was in Phoenix and staying with her and Jake. We had a great time entertaining ourselves all week, the same way we have since we were in grade school. But, after talking to her until late last night because I was upset, and continuing our conversation again throughout the day today (thanks to Voxer… you’ll get a post soon too my little voice-activated friend) I realized how valuable a friendship is that you don’t have to be physically around for.

So, let me take a minute and tell you why she’s so great. First. She works really hard. She not only works a full time job, but she also runs her own photography business, and she’s actually really good at taking pictures. I’m not saying that in an obligatory ‘she’s my friend so I have of’ sort of way. When I first saw her work I was shocked. Not because I didn’t think she was capable, but because I didn’t realize we were at a place in our lives where we  were able to be really good at something. She’s creative not just in her job, but in the rest of her life as well. She’s planning an adorable wedding, she can draw, she blogs, photographs, works for a design company… she has a vision and she makes it work. She took a risk to do the thing that she loved, even though a lot of people told her that it wasn’t a stable form of work. She started out slow, but now she has a steady stream of work, and her skills continue to grow with every shoot. You can see for yourself here.

So there’s that. The hard work, integrity thing that makes you say, “wow, that person really gives a shit about their life.” I can’t help but admire that in a person.

Second. It’s who she is as a person. It’s only fitting her “pet name” in high school was Care Bear. (Sorry, “nickname” wasn’t quite the right word there). Carrie doesn’t only give a shit about her life, but she gives a shit about other people’s too. We were joking tonight that we will always be the people that cling onto the leg of a person trying to run from us, the way a toddler does when it wants to be picked up. Carrie will always be the apologizer, even if she don’t completely understand the reason for it. Not to be insincere when apologizing, but to be completely dedicated to a friend and a relationship. And she always is. She notices when people around her are off, if only just a little. She’ll follow you to the bathroom to hold your hand when no one else even noticed you were crying. And she doesn’t tell you everything will be okay because she knows you know that. She just lets you be sad, and then she hugs you and tells you she loves you.

And I’ll end with one more – although I could go on for the remaining 90 days.

I love how much she’s able to love. I can honestly say she knows the darkest, most character-degrading deeds I’ve committed, and she loves me anyway. She’s had a hard time telling me things in the past, but she trusted enough to let me in so that I know her twisted, hard-to-tell stories too. And then there’s Jake. Soon to be husband, always to be a character. They just fit together. He’s thrust her into change (I know he’d appreciate my word choice there) and she’s made him an honest man. They’ve been through it, but she loves him so unconditionally. Little Ms. Life-Plan-to-be-Married-and-have-Babies-by-25 put in almost nine solid years and her blue print is with the engineers. Pretty soon she’ll have 14 kids and that many more to love.

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So, at risk of sounding like a complete lesbian, I just want to express gratitude for one of my very best friends, and part of my family. When I was out dress shopping with Carrie and her mom last week, her mom said that she thinks we all got to be so close because we all had brothers and no sisters. I think that may have something to do with it.

We found our own sisters in the world.

Who would have guessed our taste would have been so spot-on as third-graders. I love you Carebear. I’m so excited to see where you let life take you.

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Day 48: My Father’s Daughter

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Every day when I get home, my dad comes to the door, pushes our wild pack of dogs off of me, and heads to my first destination: the kitchen. We snack, grab a drink with some ice in it, and usually end up sitting at the kitchen table talking. Our bosses, the weather, the yard, the speed of light, J.R. Tolkien … no limits. We just sit and talk for hours. I’m not sure how many people have that relationship with their father, but it’s such an exceptional gift to me.

I’m definitely my father’s daughter. He’s called me his “little girl” since the day I was born. He still addresses my birthday cards that way. When I was a little girl, he taught me how to hold my breath under water, play HORSE, and catch the lizards whose tails fall off when you pick them up. When I got older he taught me how to drive, lay tile, change the breaks on my car, and put someone in a chokehold. He always knows what the weather is going to be. When he’s proud, his chin starts to tremble. Sometimes tennis matches do it to him too. He is too cheap to turn the air down in the summer. He would eat a hamburger from Red Robin every day if we would let him. He made me my first olive and cream cheese sandwich. We have the same taste in beer. He drives way too close to the person in front of him. He curses when he can’t find things in the fridge. He puts his initials on practically everything he owns.

I know he won’t be around forever, and meanwhile, I’m running in every direction as fast as I can. I get a lump in my throat thinking about the day that I get the call telling me he’s gone. So I’m not going to think about it. I’m just inflated with love for that crazy old man.


Day 43: Wedding Veils, Fried Pickles, Politics

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Today was such a fun day. We went dress shopping for Carrie’s wedding – by “we” I mean Carrie, her mother and I, and we found the dress! We had so much fun matching veils and jewelry with dresses and driving around town to find the perfect dress at the best price, of course. We had a great lunch… I’m seriously looking forward to those left overs … followed by cupcakes.

Then we met up with my new friends Lauren and Bobby for a roach coach food fest in downtown Phoenix and binged on French fries, fried pickles, Indian fry bread (noticing the theme here?) and ice cream. I’m going to have to go on the diet of the century when vacation is over, but for now, man, I am enjoying everything soaked in oil.

After running to a few thrift shops to look for hidden treasures and hitting the grocery, I headed to Frank’s place for a few beers. Frank is the older brother who I have nothing in common with. I say that if he died I wouldn’t go to his funeral, and I’m honest
ly not sure if that’s a joke or not. We just don’t get along. I think he’s arrogant, he thinks I’m spoiled, or whatever he thinks – I’m actually not sure. But Barry, his best friend for as long as I can remember, also made a long drive to come hang out for a little while. He’s been at law school and completing a fellowship, so I haven’t seen him in years. I hate to admit it, but I wouldn’t have made the less than five mile drive to see my brother if he weren’t there.

Franks apartment is suitable for one of those Febreeze commercials, where the people are blind-folded and placed inside of a wrestling ring or garbage truck or whatever. I didn’t want to touch anything, but I didn’t want to look like I was avoiding touching anything either, because I’m already spoiled. The three of us talked for about an hour or so, debating politics and religion and nationalism as it relates to security. Although I don’t care for my brother’s company, it was nice to have somewhat deep conversation with compelling arguments on both sides, without personal attacks and frivolous exceptions on either side. This is probably one of the only times we’ve been in the room together for more than an hour without spawning a riot. I’m glad we’ve both grown up enough to at least be able to be in the same room as each other. I realize that sounds extremely immature and borderline pathetic, but it’s major strides for us.

Day 42: Things that Never Change

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Today I had lunch with my oldest friend, Cassie, who I’ve  known for 19 of my 24 years. I saw her mom, who I have referred to as mom since I was old enough to tie my own shoes. It’s crazy how quickly life flies by, how much can change overnight, how fleeting each moment is. Cassie and I used to spend nearly every day of our summer together. We’d pack bags for weeks at a time and stay at each other’s houses. As we got older, went to different schools, started working and going to college, moving even farther away, we saw each other less and less. We’re not the people we ever were before. We’re lucky if we talk every six months anymore. But even so, we can sit down and chat about life, laugh about the way things used to be, and let each other in on our darkest secrets. I love that no matter time and space and how much we change, she’ll always be a sister to me.

Day 41: Sting like a Butterfly

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There’s a theory in communication called the Social Exchange Theory. It’s based on a system of costs and rewards you assign to relationships. Basically, when you feel that the costs outweigh the rewards, you terminate the relationship because you no longer get any pleasure out of it. I’ve certainly terminated a few relationships in my short lifetime. There are people who I used to be extremely close to that I began dreading being around. People who drained the optimism out of me just by being themselves. I never want to turn my back on anyone, but I don’t want to spend the limited time I have surrounded by black holes who suck the happiness out of the room either. That sounds grim, but there are unfortunately people who have that effect on me.

I know fights happen. I know that people get mad about things that don’t always make sense to others. I tend to consider myself a pretty go-with-the-flow sort of person. I tend to care more about resolving a conflict than expending the energy it takes to be upset about it. Afterall, we learn about each other through stepping on toes, hurting feelings, and punching it out. If you’re mad, there’s hope. When you become apathetic is when you should consider if a relationship has any place in your life.

I fight with my mom more than anyone else in the world. We’re finally at this magical place where we can yell and scream and get it all out, then take a breath to cool off and laugh at how ridiculous we are. When you love someone, pride has no place in your relationship – saying sorry is easy because it’s not important who is right or wrong – all that matters is that they know you love them. When you love someone, you get in the ring, take a few swings, then take a shower and buy them a latte. As long as the person gets in the ring with you, the fighting lets you get to know that person even better, it makes you closer, lets you love each other just a little more.

I have that relationship with a lot of people. Today, I realized that I’m glad that I’m the kind of person who will throw off my gloves and take a few hits, but I’m never too proud to apologize, or compromise, or do what I have to for someone I love. In the scheme of life, being right seems to be the least important thing of all.

Day 35: Soulsong: Music that Moves Us

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Music has the power to transcend a murky soul or damn it further into submission. It takes us to a place where heartache heals, love prevails, passion ignites – where pain has a repeat button, and snotty tears break a shaking voice. And it’s so intimate in that way. We wallow with our favorite singer/songwriter when we need someone to understand that we haven’t moved on yet, but are too afraid to say it out loud, to admit to ourselves. We scream the lyrics to an empty room, wishing we had the courage to say those words aloud to someone… wishing those words were our own. We bob our heads at our steering wheels. We turn the volume up when we get ready on a Friday night, soaking in the energy of every pop!beat!ye-ah! We sing happily and freely with our friends at the bar, words uniting us, subtle reminders how similar we are. We cha cha slide, we macarena, we show how low we can go.

We associate songs to our experiences; those cries of pain to our own, or a distant joy that fuels us. We relate them to people; when we are in love, when we stop loving. They make us sick to our stomach – a reminder of a life you thought was yours, now mocking. And even though we shouldn’t listen to those songs – the ones that make us remember a time that now seems a million miles away – sometimes we do. And sometimes our hearts are broken all over again for it. But we are able to find another, and speak through a voice that’s not our own. We find strength through a streaming courage.

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Every time I hear the Spin Doctors I am reminded of driving to my brother’s t-ball practice in my mom’s minivan. Whenever my Format album is playing, I am transported to my 16-year-old self, the back seat of an old Civic, windows down, a car full of giggling girls. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s We Ain’t Much Different will remind me of my father until the end of time. I Want it that Way was my first couple-skate song in the fifth grade. I belted Lady Gaga’s Speechless to my steering wheel in a mellow dramatic frenzy for weeks on end when stitching up my heart. It still gives me the same feeling of empowerment, even more perhaps, now that I’m on the other side.

And, I know it almost seems too obvious, but Modest Mouse puts a smile on my face on the worst of days with “Float On.”

I’ve had Fun.’s Aim and Ignite album in my car for weeks (yes I’m still living in the age of CDs…) and every time I hear The Gambler, nearly without fail, I start sobbing uncontrollably. I’m not sure why- it’s not intended to be sad, nor do I feel sad when listening to it. It’s a love song. A life-long, old on the porch, sort of love song about falling in deep and having babies and growing old. There is something so beautiful about it to me that I just can’t hold back. I don’t imagine anyone else could really feel the same way toward it. And, that’s the beautiful thing about the music. It’s one of my soulsongs.

What are some of yours?

I swear when I grow up, I won’t just buy you a rose.
I will buy the flower shop, and you will never be lonely.
Even if the sun stops waking up over the fields
I will not leave, I will not leave ’till it’s our time.
So just take my hand, you know that I will never leave your side.

Day 29 – 30: Looking Back

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My uncle Dan is in town from Florida for a couple of days. He is my dad’s brother, a Littlefield through and through, although completely opposite from my father.

We went to Florida to visit that side of my family when I was somewhere around the age of  12 or 13 and stopped in a gift shop at the Nickolodeon area of the park. We got a set of Pinky and the Brain little bendy action figures, and gave my dad Pinky (to remind him of my uncle) and my Uncle Dan got Brain, obviously my father. So, with that early association, that’s always how I have thought of them. Pinky and the Brain. One is a genius, the other insane.

Day 29. And boy, does that ring true. I’ve spent as much time as possible around my uncle as possible because I know it will be a while until I get to see him again, and who knows, I may not ever. We were sitting at the dinner table last night, and they were telling me stories of their glory years. My uncle had just gotten out of the military and was willing to pick a fight with anyone who looked at him cross-eyed. My dad, younger by two years, was much more logical and tended to be more of a runner than a fighter. It was one after another story about bar fights, fights with bike gangs, bricks, baseball bats – my uncle charging forward at full speed, and my father unsuccessfully talking him out of it. After one fight, to get back at a guy, my uncle doused his car in gasoline to set it on fire, but couldn’t light the matches and had to walk away. I’m surprised they survived it with as many teeth as they have left.

It was good to sit around and listen to their stories, to see them laughing and thanking their creator for making it out alive. Their youth was a lot different than mine and my brother’s, but it did make me wonder what stories we would be telling in 30 years…

Day 30. Tonight, my dad and uncle were in the dining room when I got home, looking through a ViewMaster (Google that if you don’t know what it is) at photos from the 50s and 60s their grandfather had taken. I adore these pictures. Not many people can say they have seen their father (in 3D) in a full cowboy getup, at age 3. They are old and spotty with discolored film, and you have to hold the viewer up to the light, and click through each of the pictures. It’s pretty amazing to think this was technology over 50 years ago. It still seems pretty darn neat today. 

It was so touching to see my dad and uncle as little boys, my grandparents who are no longer around, and what they had. They lived in an eight-foot wide trailer and had hand me down everything, and wanted for nothing. My dad’s first bike was nothing more than a pile of rust with wheels, but he had a beaming little toothy smile while riding it. They were dressed as cowboys in nearly every picture. “The only good indian is a dead indian!” says my uncle in a low, mocking voice. And they both laugh because I’m sure they heard it and said it a thousand times as kids. My dad tells me a story about getting a rifle for Christmas he had wanted so bad, and my uncle breaking it the very next day – not exactly the Jean Shepherd version of the story, but they laugh about that too.

My father is a very proud person, and both he and my uncle have a lot of pride in our lineage. These photos are a small piece of that – and I get it. I don’t even remember having met my grandparents, but my dad tells me I have his grandmother’s lips, and Arthur has the same lanky walk as my grandfather. There is something borderline spiritual about being able to see where you come from, and hearing about a past that you can almost make out, as if you were already there.

Our family has our genealogy traced back to the Mayflower, and if you asked my dad and Uncle Dan, I think they’d be able to recite half of the names. I haven’t decided if I care much about where I came from. Sure, it’s neat to say I’m related to William Bradford, but I’m not sure that I’ll ever allow it to have meaning. It seems pretentious to think that where we come from matters at all.

On the other hand, I can almost feel how close I am to parts of a past I know only through hearsay. I’m glad I have the pictures and the stories to help me connect the imaginary dots.