Friday, October 31, 2014

Thank you, David Sedaris

Thank you, David Sedaris, for last night. For the fun time that my Sister and I had in our really bad seats. I was so crabby about that. When I had called to make the purchase of the tickets to your show, I had told the person on the other end of the phone that I needed to have a seat on the aisle. She said sure.

And when we arrived at the Holland Center for your show, we were promptly lead to a non-aisle seat. When I protested that this was NOT what I had stipulated, I was told that since it was a sell out concert, there was nothing to be done. We sat. I pouted. My back immediately began to hurt and I couldn't stretch out my legs and I was MAD.

And then you came on and made me laugh so hard that I forgot about my back.

I swear to GOD  that if I were not already married, I would beg for your hand. I suppose you aren't that droll and witty every second of the day, but...just maybe you really are.

This morning, I am limping like a motherfucker. But, I still love you and I'm still chuckling. I probably had great dreams last night because of you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thank you to the gentleman at Blick Art store...

I don't think you have any idea how much I needed that today.

That look. And that slow, well, well, well smile.

You don't know me but my name is Maria and I am not a graceful ager. I am now nearly 57 and for the first 45 years of my life, I pretty much got away with murder because I was one of those really good looking people. Once I hit 45, though, well...overnight, I just sort of aged into my real skin. My 45 year old skin and looks. It's true. I look at photos of myself when I was 44 and I was still a looker and then ones where I am 45 and I suddenly look...welll....about 45 years old.

My hair, always shiny and bouncy, even if it was sort of a mousey brown was suddenly kind of dry and lifeless. My skin, always peaches and cream (my college nickname from friends was the milkmaid because I had this gorgeous skin) was suddenly as dry as rice paper.

My breasts drooped. A lot. And I didn't have much to begin with, they were never my biggest seller...were suddenly like little half filled balloons that would fall into my armpits when I laid down instead of staying nicely puffed.

My hands, which I tended (and still tend to) let fly around when I spoke, were supple and pretty and always colored with a pretty polish. Now, stringy looking veins started to appear and my knuckles looked strangely crinkly.

The hardest for me was losing my eyes. I developed advanced crow's feet seemingly overnight and my eyelashes, once so long that they would occasionally knock against my glasses, were now sparse and had a major loss of curl.

I did not go gently into that good night of the last ten years. I had to be pulled kicking and screaming and I would embarrass myself sometimes by trying to wile myself out of a speeding ticket or get a price reduction on a store product and it wouldn't work!

Well, sheeeeeiiiiiiiitttttt.

I began to notice that when I got on a crowded elevator, walked into a room, or a store, I no longer got appreciative glances from (mostly) men. In fact, I was mostly ignored. There is actually a syndrome for this called the middle aged woman syndrome. It basically is that once you reach a certain age, you sort of become invisible.

I didn't like that much. I LIKED being given the once-over. I would never admit that to anyone, but secretly...I DID. Very much. And it just wasn't happening anymore.

So, you I looked through all the wonderful sketch books, trying to find the perfect one for my daughter, who loves sketching, I wasn't aware of anyone watching me. Because no one ever does. I mean it! I could stick four sketch books in the waistband of my skirt and walk brazenly out the door and no one would notice!

Except that I heard a little movement next to me and then looked up into your face and you were smiling at me, an older, very attractive man (in a sort of Brian Williams way) in a suit and tie. I have expected you to say, "May I help you find something, ma'am?" because I have been called ma'am for years now. But, you didn't. Instead, you smiled and we had a little discussion about why I found this sketchbook more attractive than that one.

And you listened, smiling, with YOUR crow's feet crinkling in your warm blue eyes. And then, you asked me how old my daughter was and I said 15 and you said that your daughter was 18 and that you kind of remembered 15 as being a difficult year.

"They leave you for a year or so," you said. "But then, when they are 17, they come back. They know they'll be off to college soon and suddenly they realize that they love you and don't relish leaving you."

I laughed and said that this was nice to know because, that while my daughter and I were close, if given the chance to hang with friends or hang with me, I would be alone.

You nodded wisely. Been there. Done that.

"I'm divorced," you said, out of the blue. "But, my ex wife and I divorced when our daughter was 5, so she really knows us separately. And I have major custody. My ex sees her every other weekend. She is an international banker. Travels a lot. Are you married?"

I said that I was. Held up my left hand.

You sighed and snapped your fingers in a c'est la vie gesture and then tipped your head handsomely and said, "So, I guess you don't want to go next door and get some coffee at Panera?"

I said no, I couldn't. Needed to get home to my family. But, hey...thanks for asking.

You smiled very warmly to show me that there were no hard feelings. And then I picked up the sage green sketch book that we had both said was the prettiest and I tapped it and said I'd better get going.

"Hey," you said, "What's your name?"


"Bye, Maria. Really nice meeting you. That's a lovely suit you have on."

I thanked you and went to the cashier. I tried to sneakily find you as unobtrusively as I could, but you had disappeared up an aisle. the gentleman at Blick Art store on an early twilight day in late October.

You just made this woman's day.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

How I spend my Autumn Saturdays

The best thing that came from Bing teaching for a semester at UNL was that she was eligible to purchase season tickets to see the Cornhuskers play. We now spend nearly every Saturday at Memorial stadium watching our boys in red play. And unless you are a diehard Husker fan, it's hard to explain what it feels like when you see those players do their tunnel walk, leaping to touch the lucky horseshoe and then sprawling out into the field to our sea of red.

There is NOTHING as fun as a Cornhusker football game. Nothing. Me, Liv and Bing. In our red tee shirts, then our red sweatshirts and in November, in our red jackets AND sweatshirts, with hot cocoa.

There isn't a lot of hoopla about living on the prairie. Except this. And...just WOW. I dare you to watch this and not want to jump to your feet.

Fear Ameer.

There is no place like a cool Saturday in October in a sea of red.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Married to a sage.

As many of you might have noticed, my wife and I are not what you'd call a match made in heaven.

Some days, I look at her and cannot for the life of me figure out how we ended up together. We are opposite in nearly every way.

We don't argue in the same way. She has a quick, hot temper. It flares up and she lets the steam out and then ten minutes later, all is fine. I am a slow burner. I simmer slowly. My anger builds up, sometimes for months and then it all comes out and I stay good and mad for days, sometimes weeks.

She is extremely active, likes to be moving ALL of the time. She rarely sits still to do anything except to maybe grade papers and even then, her foot is tapping, her pencil is going in one hand while her other hand is rapping out a beat on the table. She MUST have music, the television, ANYTHING but silence when she is doing seat work. Her preference is jazz, which I detest. Jazz reminds me of snapping rubber bands. She has tried to explain that jazz is like one big party where notes and harmonies meet, mix, kiss and then break apart to find new partners. I just can't hear it. I am a very sedentary person, partly forced because of my RA, but there is nothing that I love more than curling up with a good book, a cup of piping hot green tea and complete and utter silence.

She is friendly, talkative. She is the belle of our neighborhood, knows everyone within a two block radius by their first name, knows what they do for a living, their children's ages. She goes for a run every morning and takes our dog for a long walk every evening and it is not uncommon for her to be gone for an hour or so because she stops to talk to anyone who happens to be outside. This drives me insane to the point where I have stopped walking Socks with her in the evenings because 1) she walks too quickly, is not a stroller and 2) she stops every 20 feet to shoot the breeze with the neighbors. Socks adores this. I do not. I am not adverse to knowing my neighbors, I just don't want to be besties with them. If I'm out walking, I like to wave and smile, not stop and jaw. Bing tells me that the neighbors are very curious about me because I am so aloof (that word has become the catch-word of my existence) and reticent. It's not that I'm unfriendly,'s just that I want to get my walking in and have a lot of other stuff to do and I don't really know you and frankly, have no big desire to get to know you that much. Sorry. Okay. Maybe I AM aloof.

She comes from a large, boisterous, rollicking old South family. Lots of skeletons in her New Orleans family history. And they are all right out of a Flannery O'Connor or Harper Lee novel. Once her uncle greeted us holding a shot gun at the front door. He'd been cleaning his gun when we came by and just toted it to the door with him, hooked it over his arm. Her mother, who died a few years back, used to give me pause constantly. She would tell an overweight niece that she needed to start pushing herself away from the dinner table more often. She flat out told me that she thought I sometimes acted like I had a corncob up my butt. She used to drive me crazy by calling me to give me the names of sex offenders within a ten mile radius of our home and give me a description of them in case they came sniffin' around Liv. She also called us nearly every week to apprise us of what was on sale at Walgreens. Toilet paper nearly always was and I would often come home to find two or three giant bags of it piled on our front porch. Once I came home and she was pruning our creeping myrtle. Told me that I was being neglectful. And dinners at her mother's house were chaotic. Everyone talking at once and with their mouths open. Once Bing's two sisters got in a huge argument about whether one of them dyed her hair or not and one sister threw her shoe across the table at the other. I, who grew up in a very conservative Catholic family, thought that this would cause a family rift that would last for years. But, no. At the end of the evening, the sisters were hugging goodbye and planning on going bra shopping together the next day.

Which brings me to my family. Which you've already heard about ad nauseam. But, in my family, we hold things in. There is much more NOT said than said. In my family, if two sisters argued, my parents would send them into two separate rooms and we could not come out until we wrote down ten things that we loved about our sister. My sisters and I quickly learned not to argue out loud, but to simmer in silence. And if there HAD been a fight about hair dye at the kitchen table, said sisters would not talk for years! Grudges are held tightly in my family, and with both hands. We were charged a quarter for a door slammed. Voices were seldom, if ever, raised. Now, I am known as the sarcastic sister because I tend to make very sarcastic, biting comments in a soft voice. My family has NO idea what to do with Bing and are half scared to death of her. If she thinks the eggs are too watery, she says so. If one of them says that she thinks her hair looks stupid, she will agree. Bing is honest to a fault and has little use for tact. She wasn't raised with it and has little experience with it. This is why she can tell the principal at her school to stop acting like a dick and do his job. It is one of the things that I love the most about Bing and dislike the most at the same time.

If my butt looks big in that dress, she has no trouble telling me so. But, at the same time, when she says that she thinks I am the most beautiful woman she has ever known, I know she isn't flattering me. It cuts both ways.

Bing and my relationship is very volatile, very fluent, very honest and one of the few things in my life that I know I can depend on. She wishes that I were more open with my feelings. I sometimes wish that she would just keep her opinions to herself.

But, bottom line, if there was a zombie apocalypse, she is my Daryl Dixon.

I know with full certainty that she is mine and I am hers. Forever. No matter what. Come what may. And she waited a good long time for me to see the light. Considering that she has the patience of a gnat, that says a lot about how much she cared. If the house was on fire, she would not rest until me, Liv, Socks, and even Liv's old teddy bear, Blue were safely out of harm's way.

Lately, I've been feeling guilty that she is stuck with me. I am not aging as gracefully as she is. Actually, I seem to be aging at about twice the speed as she is. I am a year older than she is, but feel like 30 years older sometimes. I especially have noticed it that last couple of days. My RA is acting up again, not specifically in a swelling of a particular joint, but an all over aching. This often happens to me on cold, wet days or when the Autumn winds step up. Winter is very hard on my joints. I almost always have to use my cane when the air is cold or wet since my right ankle joint or left knee joint have a nasty way of just going out on me at random. Luckily, they haven't both kicked out at the same time yet. That would be ugly. But, I watched myself walking towards a glass store front a few days ago and thought to myself that if I didn't know better, I'd think it was a much older woman walking. I was lurching a little bit like a penguin as my left hip joint had been aching like a sombitch all day. As I got closer to the door, I could see from my face that I looked like a 50 something, not a 70 something, but that didn't help my vanity much.

And dudes, I am vain. Or as Bing tells me, I am vain in only the way a woman can be if she was one of the beautiful ones as a younger woman. And I was. Maybe not beautiful. But, I was exceptionally pretty. And I knew it. Used it. Often. I was able to wile my way through many, many men and women. Get my way with my smile and eyes. Now, without that crutch to lean on, Bing jokes that I have to live my life like "the rest of the average lookers." I used to be able to bound up steps two at a time, my hair was glossy, face peaches and cream, body lithe but curvy. And life is a little easier for those like I was. I see that plainly now.

I wish that I could say that I am just fine with myself as I am, that I like this older, wiser woman....but honestly? I miss her. I miss that ease. And mostly, I miss living my days pain free and limp free.

Last night, Bing and I climbed into bed early to make love. It had been a warm-for-October day and Liv was spending the night at a friend's house. Prime time for love making. As I tried to swing my legs to get into bed, I suddenly winced as pain shot up my leg and into my hip. Bing, ever watchful, gently reached over to assist me.

"Oh, fucking CHRIST!" I sputtered. "This isn't doing much to turn you on, is it? Maybe you need to close your eyes and fantasize about Charlize Theron."

Bing got me settled comfortably and then reached over to turn on the side lamp. I immediately reached to pull the covers up around me. She stopped me.

"Don't," she said. "I love to look at you."

"Why? You suddenly into decrepit old ladies?" I retorted.

She gave me a long searching look. "God, WHY don't you get this?" she asked. "I love YOU. It has nothing to do with your body, which, by the way, I still find very alluring."

"Don't give me that shit," I chided. "Part of who you fell in love with was that 18 year girl with the body and good looks."

"No," she argued, staunchly. "That may be who I was attracted to initially. But, the woman that I fell in love with was this person who was extremely guarded and cautious on the outside but I could see was an incredibly kind, smart, funny, flawed woman on the inside. SHE was the one who hooked me, not the dimples or that Lauren Bacall voice or those cool grey eyes."

I felt tears start. Which annoys me because the older I get, the more I am prone to them. And tears have always felt like weakness to me. Bing stretched out next to me, gently running fingers over my breasts, the curve of my waist.

"I just don't feel very attractive anymore," I admitted.

Bing leaned over to kiss my cheek, my nose. "I've noticed that," she said. "And I wish that I could fix that for you because, girl, you slay me. You always have and you always will. Even when you are 95 years old, you'll still be the one person in the world who gets me, who knows the real me, who loves me for who I am, not what I look like. And it's the same for me. When I'm with you, like this...naked and just laying here talking, I still want you so much that I can hardly be still. Don't you feel the same?"

Suddenly shy, I nod.

"Give me your hand," she says, very softly. I do. She places it between her legs. It is warm there and very, very wet.

"See what you do to me?" she whispers. "Even if I only had you for a month, it would have all been worth it, but look at lucky...we have TIME. Let's use it well tonight, okay?"

I start to talk, but she shuts me up with her mouth and then...we use the time wisely. Our lovemaking is very different from the energetic jousts of our younger selves, many positions aren't possible for me anymore and even though she is fierce in her want, there is a gentle tenderness that is just for me. She adjusts to my limitations and weaves in and around them. For the first time in a very long while, we leave the light on and gloat over each others skin, hair, freckles, bends, curves, sharp edges and tender spots.

Later, tired and lethargic, laying in the dark as she softly snores next to me, I think to myself that this is indeed true love. That maybe we are two very strange ships that somehow passed and merged, but together we are better, stronger and happier.

I stretched out my legs shivering a little with the ache that caused, but happy in my bones. How did I get so lucky to be married to this sage, this nymph, this true believer? I reached out and touched my lips swollen from kissing and allowed myself to feel sexy and desirable. My hair is thinning, my hands veiny, my eyes crinkling with crow's feet and my body slowly failing me, but I will always have this love in my life. This woman who saves me from myself over and over again. This woman whom I almost let slip away. And what a loss that would have been!

I turned over gently, carefully to my side and reached over to place my hand over the swell of her hipbone. Her soft snores slowed and she sighed deeply before falling back into dreaming. With my hand on my wife, I fell asleep, at peace.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Needed a laugh...

I actually love Taylor Swift.  I listen to her cds when I want to go into the past.

Which, admittedly, isn't often.

But, it's been a long week of feeling like I'm being picked on. My hairdresser tells me that my hair is beginning to thin. Doctor's reports are not great. AGAIN.

A teenage boy at Target smirked at me as I stood before some lipsticks. His look seemed to say that all the lipstick in the world wouldn't help.

A co-worker told me that I act like my opinion is the only smart one. (We were arguing about the ebola virus....she's in favor of shutting down our borders....WHAT?)

At my child's school conference, a teacher took me for the GRANDMA.

A librarian told me that I always check out such high brow literature. But, she said it like I was showing off or something.

I feel in my bones like I just don't fit in. Anywhere.

And this song made me sing out loud.

So, here's to all of us who don't fit the molds....

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Joanne, weaver extraordinaire....

I had a lovely surprise this morning. A gift from one of my favorite bloggers. A woman who weaves and writes. Joanne at Cup on the Bus.

Two lovely woven towels that will now be used with such a warm heart. I asked Liv to take my photo with the towels. And, of course, because I am vain, I almost decided not to use it. I am still adjusting to the amputated finger and in the morning my fingers are so swollen that I can't even wear my wedding ring. I looked at the photo and saw my Mother's hands. All veiny and wrinkled.

And then I decided to just GROW UP. I am 56, nearly 57 years old. It's time to wear my age with pride.

So....take a look at how lovely these towels are! And so, so soft.

Joanne, they will go to good use. They are now part of this prairie family's life! In a few years, they will have some interesting stories to tell.

Maybe...the day that Maria tried to bake bread and forgot about it and grabbed me to take the smoking pan from the oven. Or the day that Liv left for college and Maria wept in me. Or the day when Socks came in from the rain and Bing grabbed me to dry him off and Maria screamed, "DON'T use the good towel!"

'Thank you, Joanne. What an accomplished skill you have!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The ten things that I miss the most about your childhood

Well, first off...what a difference a day makes. The wrist swelling is down A LOT. Yippee! No cortisone shots, nothing! It. Just. Went. Down. Liv, who is now into prayer, swears it's because she had a school mass said for me this morning.

Uh huh.

At any rate, I am grateful.

Tonight, as I drove Liv home from school, she suddenly turned to me and asked me what I missed about her childhood. I sat quietly for a second and then told her to let me sleep on it and I'd have an answer for her tomorrow.

Actually, I already could name my top ten but I find that as I age, or I should say, as Liv ages, I have become incredibly weepy. Yes, me. Ice woman. The one who has been accused on more than one occasion of having Vulcan blood. All I have to do is run across a pair of her baby shoes in a basement box and I am reduced to a shaking, sobbing woman.

Motherhood has brought me to my knees on more than one occasion.

So, here you go, Liv.


And I should add that, weirdly enough, these reasons were times that were not seen as particularly fun when I experienced them. I was often exhausted by them or bored out of my mind when they occurred. But, now...I didn't tell Liv right away because I feared that the joy that these memories brought to me would make me cry.

1) Christmas carols
Starting on December first, whenever we were in the car, we would play Christmas carols and sing along to them right up til January first. It was a Mama/Liv rule. And since you tended to be with me EVERY time I was in the car, I had Christmas carols running through my head all December. By the 20th, I would be so sick of them that I would sigh as I turned the tape on. Now, I just have to hear this song and I cry. Every time. Because you loved it so much.

2) Reading the Harry Potter series to you.

We started when you were in kindergarten and finished when you were in 4th grade. Every night, we'd read a chapter until we finished the current book and then wait feverishly for the next one to come out. You adored Hagrid and Dobby. You were resolute about the fact that while you would miss me, you would be fine when it came time for you to go to Hogwarts. You hoped that you would be a Gryffindor, but if you were a Ravenclaw like your Mother, well, that would be okay too. You were crazy to learn how to play quidditch and wanted to be a seeker. You wanted to drink pumpkin juice and sit under that sorting hat. I don't know when you stopped believing, you never told me, but I still remember your shining eyes when you'd be tucked up into bed and I'd sit in the rocker next to your bed and say, "Okay, should we see what's going on next with Harry?"

3) Mornings in the rocker

From the time you could get out of bed by yourself and come downstairs, the first order of the day until you were nearly ten was to sit in the living room rocker for a morning cuddle. In the Winter, you'd come padding down in your flannel nightgowns or pjs with feet and I would wrap a quilt around you while we talked about our dreams of the night before and our plans for the day ahead. In the Summer, you'd sometimes just come down in your underpants. I would try hard to wake up very early so that I could sneak in a cup of coffee and a few pages of my book before you woke up but I rarely beat you by more than twenty minutes. I would just settle down in the rocker with my coffee and book and then I'd hear your feet hit the floor over my head and pad over to the steps and come down slowly, sometimes with your thumb in your mouth or your teddy bear, Blue, in your arms. And you'd crawl into my lap. I remember sometimes feeling a little like sighing, a whole day ahead of us and all that time to I look back and I wish I could get all that time together back. Now I feel as if there is never enough time to spend with you.

4) Naptime ritual

You took an afternoon nap until you started kindergarten. You rarely slept for over an hour, but that hour was gold to me. It was my time to re-group, to sneak in some reading, to just have some time to myself. We had a ritual. At 1:00, I would give you a bath and put you in your napping pants. These were just a pair of soft red pants and a white tee shirt. After your bath, we'd comb out your tangles and I'd slide Johnson's baby lotion all over you (and yes, I can hardly stand to smell that brings me to tears...) and then I'd let you pick out two books and we'd sit in the soft red chair in my bedroom and read them. After that, you'd curl up with your head resting on my shoulder and we'd talk in whispery tones until you drifted off. Sometimes, I'd rub your feet or gently scratch your arms to help you relax. And when you fall asleep, I'd very cautiously stand up (you were a notoriously light sleeper even then) and carry you to your crib and gently lay you down on your stomach. All the baby books said to never put a baby on their stomach, but it was the only position that you were able to sleep in, so I did it. And then I'd tiptoe out of your room and oh-so-gently shut your door, careful not to let you hear it close.

5) Watering the tomatoes

Every Spring, we'd not only plant our garden, but we'd plant a few big pots of tomatoes in the back yard next to your sand box. These were YOUR tomatoes and you were solely responsible for them. Every morning, after rocker time and breakfast, we'd head out and water those tomatoes. You'd pull on the hose and I would help....but just a little. And then I'd turn the water on softly and you would stand and water your tomatoes and sing them an encouraging made up tune. Something like: "Grow pretty red matos! Grow, grow up to big and red and so so tasty in my salad!"
If it was a very hot morning in July or August, or even June, I would sometimes grab the hose away from you and say in my witchiest voice, "Time to water the Livvy flower!" and I would squirt you with the hose. You LOVED this game, especially because it was random. You never knew when your Mama would turn into the witch who loved to water the Livvy flower. When you were soaked through and through, you'd take off all of your clothes and run around dancing in the back yard naked. That was so fun for you. The holy roller neighbor next door put the note in our mailbox saying that she thought it was disgraceful that I let you run naked in the back yard. This peeved me since our yard was fenced in and the only way she could see in would be to stand in her upper windows and stare down. And you were a TODDLER. That was the day that I stripped down with you and danced. Just that once. But, I had seen her shadow in that window and I wanted to show her that we were not intimidated at all by her.

6) Bathtub Olympics

I never thought that this would be one of my top ten memories because I used to get SO sick of this game. You loved to go to the Goodwill and buy Barbie and Ken dolls. At one point, you had about a dozen of each. When it was time to take a bath, we would play bathtub olympics. I was the announcer. You would take turns with first the Barbies and then the Kens, having them perform high dives off the edge of our clawfoot tub into the warm water. And then, we would judge their dive. Some, like the vapid looking blonde Barbie always ended up doing belly flops and then would act all silly, getting out of the water and saying, "Wasn't I just so good? Did I get a ten?" The winner was almost always the unfortunate dark haired Barbie with one side of her hair missing. We decided that she had lost it when she rescued a baby from a burning building. But, she almost always did a perfect swan dive and earned the olympic medal...a little bracelet that served as a necklace. And then we'd move on to the Kens....I used to privately despise this game because you LOVED it and insisted on playing it almost daily. Now, I look back and feel so nostalgic about those Barbies and Kens. Whatever happened to them? Did we take them back to the Goodwill at some point? I think we did.

7) Charley's birthday cakes

Charley, your imaginary tiger friend. God, how you loved him. He was such a mischievous guy, though. Apparently imaginary tigers celebrate their birthdays almost every month, so we'd bake him a cake. And you'd decorate it with jelly beans or reeses pieces or m & m's. And sprinkles. Loads of sprinkles. We'd sing to him and have him blow out the candles. Charley went everywhere with us. And he was TERRIBLE about keeping his seat belt on in the car. I can't remember how many times you'd tell me that he'd taken it off and I'd have to pull the car over and refuse to move it until he complied with the seatbeat rule. And he could be STUBBORN. He also liked to jump on the kitchen table and dance with you even though he knew that I had a very strict rule about kitchen table dancing. But, he could persuade you to do almost anything from eating 5 cookies to cutting the hair off of that creepy doll that your Aunt Patrice gave you. The one that was supposed to look like you and sort of did. In fact, it creeped us both out so much that I suggested that we put her back in her coffin, I mean box. And then I started laughing because I said coffin and you said that Charley needed to know what a coffin any rate, he talked you into cutting her hair and that was a shame because every time Aunt Patrice visited, she would ask you to bring down your Livvy doll and we had to tell her that Charley talked you into cutting her hair. Aunt Patrice did not think that was funny, Liv....but secretly, I did. And secretly, I was glad that you cut her hair. Charley could be very smart.

8) Playing slap seven

Ugh. I rued the day that I taught you to play that card game because it quickly became your favorite. And we played it at least once a week, sometimes every day, always on rainy days. It was a silly game where we'd take turns slowly turning over cards and whenever it was a seven, the first one to slap it got a point. You always won because I swear you peeked, Liv. I KNOW you did.

9) Making jack o'lanterns

Another thing that you loved. Still love. Except now you invite a friend or friends over to help you do it. And I kind of miss that time. We'd go to the pumpkin patch and get a hay ride and pick out two pumpkins and eat a caramel apple. And the next day, we'd carve them. The worst part was when we'd carve the top off and pop it off and it would be filled with those slimey seeds! And we'd carefully take them out to clean and dry and then bake in the oven until they were brown and then lightly salt them! Those were delicious! But, what a mess! We'd lay newspaper out and we'd still find pumpkin in our ears and on the floor and on the side of the dishwasher. And we'd be sticky all the way up to our elbows. And then I'd let you draw a face and I would carve it and let you help just a little bit. The best part was when we'd put the candle in it and turn off all the lights and there it would be...our jack o'lantern, all spooky and perfect. Now, the ones you make with your friends are so much more sophisticated, but you know...I preferred our old ones....with the rickety teeth!

10 Braiding your hair.

I can see you laughing because I always said that I wished you would consent to a pixie cut so that I could stop having to braid your hair every day. But, you know...while I hated having to get those tangles out and I KNOW that you hated hearing about how MY Mama used to hit me in the head with the hairbrush if I whined or cried out that it hurt, I actually loved the feel of your soft hair in my hands. And I loved the way I would sit on your bed and you'd sit in between my legs and we'd talk while I braided. Sometimes a french braid, sometimes two braids, sometimes one long braid behind your back and sometimes braids around your head. Other times, you'd choose pony tails or a pony tail or just a barrette. But, we always talked and to this day, I think you have the most beautiful honey blonde hair and I have no idea where you got it since neither your Father nor I have blonde hair, although there is a stray blonde streak in my family that shows itself in every generation. Your Aunt Celia has blonde hair too, just like yours. Liv...I love the feel of your hair and I miss you wanting me to braid it for you. Now, you just bend over at the waist and do it yourself. You are so incredibly pretty.

And those are my top ten...but honestly...I could go on and on...

Singing to the vegetable garden
Green eggs and ham
Let's talk in English accents days

Liv...I wouldn't want to trade a day with you. I've so loved being your Mother, even though now it feels hard sometimes because I feel like you grow farther and farther away from me each day. But, I don't want it any other way. You are getting ready to fly and it's my job to make sure that you have everything you need to do that. So, I am standing out of the way. But, you know....if you fall...sweetie...I'm right here. I'm right here. Always.

Please excuse Maria again...

....she is having a hard time typing as her right wrist is the size of baseball.

RA sucks.

Sorry to be such a downer, dudes. There are those who have it so much worse than I do. I have good health insurance, a supportive family and a soft bed.

Still, every time something swells up on me now, my first thought is amputation. Hopefully, my head doesn't swell.....