Friday, October 4, 2013

I'm moving

Have you ever heard someone say some version of, "Don't wait for tomorrow if you can do it today"?

I'm doing that.

There was no big life lesson involved, just felt like the right time. I had told myself, "once I get to THIS level I will grab my domain and start a new website."

But I didn't get to that level, not yet anyway, but I got to a level that I never could have predicted: I don't see myself only as a mom. 

This site dealt with life as a mom. First as a SAHM then as a WAHM and now as an I HAVE NO IDEA WHO I AM. I'm still, first and foremost, a mom...but I'm more. I'm rounded (insert butt joke here)- I have more dimensions more interests and more passions than I did 5 years ago when I started this site. I have outgrown this, my starter blog, and am moving.

I don't know if I will post here again, but I don't want to take it down. It's where I grew up...ish. To me it's a scrapbook of the last few years and I don't want to forget them, even the hard ones.

 If you are interested in following me to my new is the link Susan's New Home

Thank you for reading, I usually make posts that I think only I will read so anytime I see others have, it makes me happy. And I like being happy.

Don't wait for tomorrow if you can do it today.

One more link to new site because I can

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mixed Message in a Lunchbox

"Mom," Noah told me last week as he rummaged around in a cabinet, "when you give me blueberries in my lunch, you should put them in this." He held out a plastic container with a lid. "It would be perfect, just the right size and they won't get smooshed in my lunchbox."

"I think you're right," I told him while cooking dinner and writing a grocery list at the same time. "Good thing I saved that. I thought it was cute, good for saving small amounts of gravy or sauce or something."

"It IS cute," he agreed, put the container back and left the room.

Flash forward a few days. This morning I was making his lunch and rinsed off a few blueberries. I remembered what he had said last week and thought he would be happy to open his lunchbox and see that I had remembered his suggestion.


But then I took it out again. I had doubts. Maybe this wasn't the best idea. But the image of his delight at having been heard, something that the youngest child in the family struggles with, overwhelmed me. If those blueberries were in any other container he would be sad and disappointed that I didn't remember what he had suggested just a few days ago. An idea that I had agreed was a good one.

So I got out a black Sharpie and did a little artwork on the container. I covered up anything that I thought might have raised eyebrows, proudly put it back in his lunchbox and sent him off to his first full week of third grade.

A few hours, and several cups of coffee later, I had a bold jolt of OHMYGOSHWHATDIDIDO?!

I grabbed this out of the fridge in it's pre-repurposed form. He's still at school and I'm expecting a call from his teacher any minute.

I guess any mom can write a note, but it takes a special breed of mom to send a message.

Yeah. Sigh. Big sigh.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A very short post about a very long summer.

This summer was long.
This summer was hard.
This summer had some fun in it, but mostly it was a struggle to get through.

Then this happened:

Summer was, for all intents and purposes, over. The kids went back to school and I get to go back to doing the things that I love to do when they are not home.

Which is really, really, really, really, really, really great because I had a really, really, really, really, really hard time doing it while they were here this summer. If I had to summarize why:  interruptions from them and guilt from me.
I tried to focus on the good, file away the bad and enjoy the time with them. 
I may have succeeded.

But now summer is over, I have plans...really big plans...and am going to get on them right now.

Yes, I am.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

What am I? (Not G-rated)

"Mom! Dad says you  have to put sunblock on me."

I was outside with the lad for an hour, a full hour so he could play and have fun. I didn't want to be out there-I wanted to be alone and write, work on the novel that I have been struggling to find time to finish this whole summer. Instead, I talked with my son, watched him throw a tennis ball up- bright yellow contrasted against deep blue then skillfully landing in a worn, black baseball mitt. I talked with him and watched while rocking in a chair and glancing at a book that someone else got the time to write. I did what I have done all summer and am grateful that I get to do but am feeling a bit resentful that I have to do it- I spent time with my kids instead of getting lost in the words that are screaming for attention from inside my own head.

"You were outside with him," he said when I confronted him, "you couldn't put sunblock on in that time? I thought you had."

So it's my punishment to be hauled away from what I was doing to do something he could have easily done, I don't say.

Not even ten minutes to write before I got interrupted by something that, apparently, only I can do despite the fact that there is another fully capable adult in the house.

I give up.

I don't want to give up. But who am I? This is what I am struggling with right now.

I don't get paid to do this, so it's a hobby, I hear.

But it doesn't feel like a hobby.

It's an itch. A desire that needs to be fulfilled.

I'm mostly venting and it's hard to relate to. But maybe think of it like sex. Being a housewife- while I'm ironing and cleaning and cooking, and driving kids everywhere, taking care of all the pre-business and getting and things in place? Foreplay. It's required and necessary and the main event wouldn't feel right, wouldn't work right without it. I tease myself and imagine what I will do when I get alone. The words that will be spoken, the emotions that will be felt, the different paced actions that will occur- fast, slow, build-up, and up and... I lustily dream about it and whip myself into a frenzy of anticipation.

But too much foreplay isn't wholly satisfying and at some point you have to get down to business or the moment has past and it's forced and not at all as good as it could be.

Being told to put sunblock on a kid ten minutes after getting down to business killed the moment.

And I have no reason to get back to it.

So I'm going to iron.

Because I'm a housewife.

Which, technically, I don't get paid to do either.

My whole life is a hobby.

I should feel more grateful.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Uniform of Our People

Bekah stood in front of me. Her hair was pulled back in two ponytails and she was wearing minimal makeup. "Does this necklace work?" she asked me.

I gave her a once over. "Sure. It only adds to the look."

"What's that look?"

"It's the uniform of your people."

She seemed happy with the assessment and headed out the door to school.

"Mom, I am wearing sandals because I can." Luke was digging into the show orgy by our front door.

"Sandals? You own sandals?" I watched him shove his white sock clad feet into soccer slides, pop-in ear-buds and finish getting ready for school

"Mom? Does this match?" I turned from Luke to Noah who was holding two blue shirts: a t-shirt and a button down.


"Oh, good, I thought they looked nice together," he said as he slipped them on, and partially buttoned the outer shirt.

It occurred to me that all three were in uniform.

Kids try on a lot of different identities as they grow up, although it seems (based on my minimal research) they settle into the one that is most comfortable for them at some teenage point. This is their look, and the look of most of their closest friends.

Bekah likes to have a spark of individuality and tell people through her look that she is a Library Rat. Her favorite classes are centered around books, and she really likes marching band. Those are her people and she is her best, most comfortable self when she is around them.

Luke is a jock. He's also got a bit of Theater Kid in him, but he identifies primarily with his footballbaseballbasketball teammates. He doesn't mind attracting attention, and thrives when it finds him- but sports rule his life.

Noah wishes he could spend his entire summer on Martha's Vineyard, he wears ties to school frequently and likes to look sharp. He's only 8 so who he will be most comfortable as when he is in high school is anyone's guess. But now? Sharp Dressed Little Preppy Man.

That day they all were dressed in the uniforms of their people. After they had gone to school, I saw that my Googleplus friend Angela had shared this picture.
via Angela Mia Googleplus

She commented that her days of primping were replaced by hustling kids and all their gear to and fro- her own grooming going by the wayside.

And I related. Ho-boy did I get it. Minimalist is the uniform of my people. In that moment I was inspired to take a selfie. Here it is.

My eyes are crinkled and sport some bags; my skin is blotchy and all I did this morning was wash my hair- no product means Frizz-City. I'm even wearing the same t-shirt I had on in the previous post- it must have been clean and on the top of the stack.

But I'm smiling.

A real smile.

I am content; I am happy.

I've been out and about in town today looking like this, and I didn't care. I was just as confident as I was years ago when I had the luxury of spending time (and money) on my appearance. Actually, I know I am more confident now.

More content.


Sure, I would like the time to pamper and primp once in awhile and judge a good outfit day by more than simply putting on cute shoes. Maybe some day I will have a high maintenance day and when I do you bet your Aunt Fanny I will take a picture.  But for now, I know that this look- the oft seen shirt, the wrinkles and the blotches and what-style-is-that 'do? is the uniform of my people. And I am most comfortable in it.

To the casual observer I may look like the picture above and the more critical in that bunch might see flaws but I don't. I don't see things on my face as imperfections because I don't even see them.  They disappear when I look in the mirror. Maybe they are obscured by all the blessings that I do have in my life.

Blinded by blessings. Not a bad way to look in the mirror.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Right now- this very minute- I am hiding from the kids and man who made me a mom.

Moms- They're better than Dads

Horrible, right? Yeah, it is. I had this burning desire for solitude and a keyboard. I spent the morning with them and will...oops, one just found me.

Middle child, teenage boy...and just back from a run

Dang, teenage boys after a run smell like...umm, smells. It's easy to remember when his smell intoxicated me. That newborn, fresh from a bath smell? I still can get happy-dizzy thinking about it. I would take his tiny foot and pretend to eat it, or nibble his toes until he giggled. Now I tend to stay as far away from his feet as humanly possible...

First born, only daughter

...another one found me. This kid is the oldest and, unfortunately for her, the one who had to endure our steep parental learning curve. This child was the recipient of some of my worst parenting theories, but despite those errors in judgement she is also the one to set the bar for how all three kids are going to develop into adults. She is setting that bar high. I know she looks young, she is young, only 16, but she is morphing before my eyes into this creative adult who...

Mr. Hugs-A-lot

..and hello, Little Guy. My snuggler. He promises to never stop snuggling me, but I won't hold him to it. If he doles out a hug once in awhile during his teenage years, I'll be content. I know he loves me.

I have completely lost my train of thought.

It's gone.

I sat down at my desk to write something sweet and deeply felt about Mother's Day. I had a glimmer of an idea (Love On All The Moms)based on 24-hours of thought about my post yesterday. I thought I had the rest of a post, or that the rest would magically fall from my fingertips as it sometimes does.

But it's gone.

And that is what motherhood is all about. Every kind of motherhood- whatever your definition. You have this idea of how it's going to work out, then actual humans get involved and mess up the plans.

But, when you look back, the way that it did happen is far better than you ever could have imagined.

Happy Mother's Day!!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Even when we have been there, we don't know the answers

I've seen the tweets, facebook and G+ posts. I see them every year. A quick google brought up a bunch of blogs about it. The hot topic? Being sensitive to women with infertility issues on Mother's Day.

Every time that I read a post I have the same question but have been to chicken to ask it of anyone that I know.


How are we mothers supposed to react?  How do we simultaneously celebrate this huge thing in our lives- for better or worse- while respecting those feelings? What, exactly, are we supposed to do?

I had fertility issues for years (didn't have my first kid until I was 33) and I remember Mother's Day stinging that open wound. Going to church for a service that celebrated motherhood made me sad. Why couldn't I be celebrated for that? It's what I wanted. Why wasn't it happening? How could ALL those women have kids and I couldn't?  I longed to wear a cheesy corsage and get a handful of flowers plucked from my own garden. It finally happened, obviously, but it took a long time and pain to get there. Likewise, it's taken a great deal of time and pain to raise kids and they are not done- not by a long shot. We are in the trenches.

One of my best friends never was able to have children. My heart broke for her because, honestly, she would be one kick-ass mom, and her husband? Super Dad. It just wasn't in the plans for them no matter what they did; no matter how hard those of us who love them prayed and wished and hoped. I always tried to be considerate of her feelings but went way overboard one year and this is what she told me:

She loved me. She loved my kids. She loved my life FOR me, and loved being a part of it but it hurt her when I kept quiet about things that were important to me because I was trying to spare her feelings. I should be able to vent to her about what I was going through just like she could vent to me about anything in her life. If I started keeping stuff from her, it would lessen our friendship and she didn't want that.

(This is why she is one of my best friends.)

But let me ask you, woman who is posting about your feelings on your blog, while I am posting about mine over here: What do you hope people (I'm assuming like me) do to make today and tomorrow more comfortable for you? Because, I'm going to be honest here, for a lot of Moms this is a very big deal. We have gone through pain and loss and hard work to get here, and we wouldn't change a moment of it because it's not only what we wanted but more than we could ever have imagined. Some days it also sucks a big one. Sometimes that Suck a Big One Day falls on Mother's Day.

Mother's Day is different for all of us. Some love having a special breakfast and handmade cards. Others plan activities with their kids and have a fun and frolickey day. Some escape for time that they don't usually take for themselves. Some just want Dad to do what Mom always does: take charge and plan something, anything. Some set super high expectations and are let down; some set no expectations and are still let down. Some don't do anything. My own mother is of the, "Every day should be Mother's Day" school of thought and pooh-pooh'd any celebration.

Me? I'm of the Grab The Gusto When It's Presented and will do whatever I can get away with. If they want to celebrate me, I'm certainly not going to stop them.

Tomorrow a lot of us moms will be tweeting and posting pictures and commentary about Mother's Day. We aren't bragging (well, really MOST of us aren't) and we aren't (ok, maybe we are) whining when it's a Suck The Big One Day. But, simply put, we are sharing our day with people who we think would be interested.

And I suspect you are not the interested sort.

And that's cool.

But you keep asking us to be considerate of your feelings. and a lot of us shared those feelings at one point but we still don't know so I'll ask.

What, exactly, are we supposed to do to help you on this one day?

This one day that is set aside to celebrate motherhood.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I started this thing...

You know how people liken life to a rollercoaster? You've got your ups, and you've got your downs. You've got your thrills, and you've got those days when you want to crawl under the seat and roll into a fetal ball and cry your eyes out but you can't because the safety bar is holding you in one position and you are so stuck you can barely breath but now that you think about it, getting off the ride would be optimal...but you can't. So you sit there and wait for the happy gleeful wheeeeee part?

Well the last few months have been like that. It's like I'm on a supersonic speedy rollercoaster that never ends and the icky sicky pukey wailey parts far outweigh the gleeful ones. In my head I know that this is just a phase, just a season and the wheeee parts will outweigh the ugh ones in the big picture. It's just that some days, it doesn't quite feel like it and my head has a hard time believing.

I thought I would capture some good. Some glee. Some wheeeee. Even if just a little bit. Not knowing how else to do it, I started a page on here called Something Good Happened To Me Today. Most days I'll just write a little bit, one good thing that happened. Maybe a picture, or just a couple of words- something.

Most days.

Although I have only been documenting for a few days now, It's safe to say I like it. I like having to concentrate on the good; I like putting effort (however minimal) into capturing a happy moment into words and pictures. I like that I have to look for and track the good things throughout the day and pick the best one.

 I might end up making a tumblr or something less awkward but lemme get through the month of uuugh, wheeeee, nooo, seriously?,wheeeuugh first. But for now, I started this thing and the link is on the right hand side of my homepage.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Knock, Knock...

Who's there?

Bad blogger.

Bad blogger, who?

Bad! Goodness! It's been awhile since I blogged on here! Forgive me?

No? Ok, I'll accept that. But maybe if I tell you what I've been up to you might understand.

I've been writing. A lot. Unfortunately at this point in my career no one cares. I can prattle on about the novel that I finished and am now submitting to try and get an agent. If you have done this, you know what I'm going through and my talking about it won't enhance your life at all. You know that it has nothing to do with the writing (although it feels like it) and you know that I simply need to be patient and persistent until I find someone who has enough of a connection with my work to want to champion it. Maybe not this project, but maybe they will connect with the next one.

 If you haven't  been through this I can explain it, but I lack credibility. I don't actually have an agent yet, haven't sold a book yet- you will point out to yourself- the novel  must suck because if it didn't, it would have been scooped up by now.

It doesn't suck, ok?

It doesn't.

And the one I am halfway through rewriting doesn't suck either.

And the one that is written but waiting to be rewritten doesn't suck.

And the one I have outlined and character sketches for won't suck when I write it. Well, it will then I'll fix it up to non-sucky. I will. I've trunk filed novels for being sucky. Sometimes I start a column from scratch hours before it is due because what I wrote the first time did suck. I didn't take a freelance assignment because the samples I wrote to see if I could do it sucked. I think I know when I suck.

For the last couple of months I have taken the advice of others and have reformatted my life so that I am sitting and writing for at least six hours a day. Writing and reading and researching and rewriting and learning as much as I can from that seat. (And standing up and stretching every hour or so because I know how painful a wacked-out pelvis or back can be.)

I love it.

I hate it.

It's easy except when it's excruciatingly difficult.

It's what I want to do, what I have wanted to do and I am sitting my ass in a chair and doing it (with limited external reward, I might add).

Which totally sucks.

But hey, that's the ride I got on, pulled down the safety bar and it's pulled away from the launch pad. I have to try, I'll always regret it if I don't and I might be rewarded if I do.

Meanwhile, upstairs...

A couple months ago my husband got reorganized out of a job. For the same six hours that I am yabba-dabba-dooing at my desk, he is working his business at his. Networking, visiting company websites creating profiles and applying for as many positions as possible. He has a nice career as a Customer Service and HR Manager to fuel him, a very impressive work history, an inimitable work ethic and more common sense smarts than any other person I have ever met.

What he doesn't have is a degree. And that is where he often gets spit out in the application process. See, when he ran out of money while going to college, he took a break to earn it...and landed with a company that offered him one job after another that he loved. He never went back to college. When the graduating class that he should have been with were pomp and circumstancing, he was managing a staff of college grads across a couple time zones and several states for a multinational company.

While his classmates were working through entry level management jobs, he was being promoted to a hard-earned Director level position.

It's not our first time doing the Restructure Lay-off Boogie. That great company had to do it back in the mid '90's. The company he landed at here in Kansas City had to do it again six years later. He restructured himself out a  position 10 years after that, and this one? He was there for less than two years before we heard the same line.

He doesn't suck, ok?

He doesn't. Although he is sitting at his desk with limited external rewards feeling like he does- he knows it's a matter of time. He knows that he has to be patient and persistent and work at it to find that job that he wants and can do better than anyone.

Maybe it won't be the job he hears about today.

And maybe not the job he hears about tomorrow.

But he'll get there.

And so will I.


Monday, February 25, 2013

The Orange Story

Last week in my Kansas City Star column I wrote about a short story that was intended to cheer up a friend, but also helped me ignore that I had the flu and helped me to stop whining about it (if only for a little bit). In the column I had posted a small portion of the story, but here it is in its entirety. It really was a facebook conversation, and yes, I did plump it up a bit and made it more of a short story than it had originally been. Several people- including some Star readers which really tickled me to bits!- have asked to read it, so here it is. All the names have been changed, the characters really aren't even close to what my friend is like and she never did tell me the details about her strange date.


I opened the door and there was Clark. I had expected odd- I did know the man and had been discouraging such an evening for months. But I hadn’t expected this level of extraordinarily odd.

He was dressed from head-to-toe in orange. Hat to shoes. I’m not sure where he found an orange belt, I never got the nerve to ask. He looked like an OOmpah Loompah in a fun house mirror – the natural odd shape becoming a normal man shape. But that was Clark- even what appeared normal was not.

“Didn’t I tell you to wear orange?” he asked looking convincingly shocked. “I thought I made it clear,” his expression changing to sad.

“I’m sorry, Clark. I thought you were kidding with all the ‘orange you going to wear yellow and red together’ comments.”

His faced changed again to a look of hopefulness as handing me a bouquet of orange carnations. I really hate carnations. Ok, I’m snobby but they are a cheap flower and only get their color from dye so they are fake and cheap.

“Thank you, I’ll just get these in water and we can get going.” I reluctantly let him into the foyer as I hurried to the kitchen feverishly texting my friend Tammi:


When I came back into the living room Clark was sniffing my bookcase. Not the books – the wood, well, the composite wood. As I put the fake flowers on the fake wood I accepted not only that I was a hypocrite, but that I had to go through this date- if only for an hour. He was nice enough, right?

Clark was looking rather squiffy as he took one more hit off the top shelf and turned to face me. “Do you have an orange sweater or something Maybe a shrug?”

“Clark, no one…I mean I look horrible in orange. I don’t have anything. Why is this so important?”

“Orange is the color of joy and friendship in Lithuania,” he sure sounded convincing. “We would match and have a great inside joke forever if we were both wearing orange. Then, on our honeymoon, we could go to Lithuania. Only then we would wear green because that is the color of love.” He paused and made a face that probably was supposed to make him look sexy, only it really made him look pained. “Or puce which is the color of fertility.”

I should have made up something right then and there, or told him the truth: I wasn’t interested in him and only agreed to this date to show him how incompatible we really are- but I didn’t. Instead I grabbed my blue coat- hoping that it wasn’t the color for Ravish Me and lead him out the door.

Little did I know that this was the least strange thing that would happen that evening.

“I haven’t seen one of these in years,” I told him as he opened the door to the old white car with wood-esque paneling on the exterior, “I thought they all died out.”

He began to sing, “Chevy Chevette it will drive you happy…” and silenced himself as he closed me into his car, seeming to whistle as he rounded the hood. Strapping myself in, I glanced in the back seat and took a big sniff.

“What is that smell, it’s so familiar.” I asked as he whistled himself behind the wheel.

“Lavender and vanilla. I mix the potpourri myself, grew the lavender, too. Is it too much? I just put a new sachet in the backseat yesterday.”

“No, it’s nice. And this car is so clean, did you have it detailed, too?” I wondered how out of his way he had gone for this date that was only going to last one hour. One hour, Nikki, ONE HOUR, I told myself.

“Oh, no. I keep Chelly in mint condition. I love her and she loves me back. Lovin’ each other since 1981.” He caressed the dash.

Dear God, he named his car. I have a theory about guys who name their cars and it isn’t a good one. Tammi could not text me fast enough.

“Where are we headed, or did I miss that in our conversation, too?” I asked as he checked his rearview from all angles times and finally pulled out into the deserted street.

“No, I didn’t say. It’s a surprise, you’ll love it.” He pushed an 8-track into the player, “I hope you like ELO,” he said as he started to sing along with the music, looking over at me and karaoke-ing from the driver seat.

“The visions dancing in my mind, the early dawn the shades of time…”

“I have never heard this song in my life,” I told him.

“Really? ELO? Twilight?”

“Nope. “ I answered as he turned down one side street after another. I had lived in this town for ten years and he had me lost in less than two minutes.

“Where were you in 1981?” He asked it like it was a very important question, like what religion I am or if I ate meat.

“Middle school.”

“Ahh,” he nodded and sang along with the chorus. I stared at him waiting for him to finish.

“Ahh?” I finally asked.

“Ahh, Chelly. She wasn’t there with us,” he leaned in and spoke into the steering wheel. Names his car and talks to her…er, it. I glanced at the clock on the dash. 45 minutes until Tammi got me out of this.

He continued to sing along with ELO for two more, stopping only to ask me random questions:

What my first concert? (Corey Hart, but I lied and told him Cyndi Lauper which was a close second, sorta)

What would have been the major I would have least chosen in college? (Engineering. I suck at math.)

What color is my bathroom? (Purple, but I told him it was none of his business. Which it isn’t.)

Finally he pulled behind a strip mall that I thought I recognized and parked the car in a lot that was surprisingly full.

“Where are we? This isn’t a strip club or something is it?” I grabbed my purse tightly.

“No, of course not. I don’t just talk the talk at church, you know.” He looked hurt.

“I’m sorry. Where are we?”

He hopped out of the car, indicating with his finger to wait a moment, “All will be revealed. You’ll love it.”

“It’s not some weirdo hookah lounge is it?”

“Hush. I won’t spoil the surprise,” he answered as he closed his door and ran, no, he skipped- as he skipped around to open my door and help me out. With a flourish he bowed and offered his arm, which I reluctantly took because I figured if this was some sort of trap I could use him as a shield.

We walked to a door that was blackened from the inside and he pulled it open. The wave of warm air that washed over me smelled like exotic spices, soft jazz played in the background.

“After you,” he bowed again. I wished he would stop with the stupid bowing.

I took a few hesitant steps in, letting my eyes adjust to the low light.

A voice from beside me asked, “Hello, do you have a reservation?” I turned and saw a middle aged woman wearing a white peasant blouse and black slacks.

“Several,” I said.

“Kenneth, Clark Kenneth.” Came the answer from behind me.

“CLARK!” And then something that sounded like, “Labas vakaras!” I spun to see a round and tall man barreling our way. I stepped out of his line of fire and behind Clark.

“Mike!” And then something that sounded like “Labas! Malonu tave matyti!” The two hugged. But not Bro-hugs of the guys I know, and not romantic hugs, either- but hugs of two people who have been through a lot and love each other because of it.

I’m sort of an expert on hugs. Don’t judge.

“Who is this lovely woman?” The man asked. His voice had some sort of accent that I couldn’t place, maybe Eastern European, maybe Greek?

Clark put his hand on the small of my back and pushed me forward, “This is Nikki. Nikki I would like you to meet my good friend, Mykolas, he is the owner of this place- Little Lithuania!”

The very large man with a grey handlebar moustache stuck out his beefy hand, “Call me Mike, everyone does. Welcome.”

He turned to talk to the women who had greeted us only it was more rapid fire words in a language that I didn’t understand. Clark leaned in, “He’s getting us the best table.”

“How do you know him, this place?”

Clark winked, “Oh, I get around.”

Mike smiled big at us, “Follow Rasa, she will take good care of you. I must go put a fire out in the kitchen.” he smiled and continued with his heavy accent, “Not real fire.” And then he laughed a laugh as big as he was as he walked away.

The restaurant was nicer than I would have imagined based on the location. Yes, ok, I’m a snob. There I said it, are you happy? Tastefully decorated in what I could best describe as Scandanavian modern- polished woods with complex grains, sleek lines and a lot of white- lighting, tablecloths, candles, walls, artwork- it was very pretty. Rasa seated us on a dais that held three small, square tables. The table was set with three square vases that held tight bunches of orange carnations. I made a mental note to do this with the ones that Clark had brought.

Clark held my chair for me, then settled into his own across the table.

“Rasa, might we have two Svyturys?” Rasa nodded and headed off towards the large bar on the far side of the restaurant. “I hope you like beer, this one is my favorite.”

“I do. Hey, Clark, orange carnations. They must want us to be joyful and friendly,” I said as I put my linen napkin in my lap and settled my cellphone next to the water glass.

Clark’s smile faded.

“What? Isn’t that what you told me?”

“Yes,” he lowered his head, “but I made it up. I knew they put orange on the tables on Saturdays and I wanted you to match. I thought it would be a nice surprise for Mike.”

I figured that wasn't as odd as anything else he had done tonight so I let it pass. Besides, I was waiting for a fake emergency text. I may be a snob, but I had already learned that night not to be a hypocrite.

Rasa brought our beers, while Clark told me about the heritage of beer brewing in Lithuania, and some other things about the country.

“Are you Lithuanian?” I finally asked him.

“Oh, no, I’m a mutt. But I have been there, it is a beautiful country. I met Mike there, helped him come here and open this place. He loves America and Rasa is his wife that he met once he came here- they have three kids- natural US citizens. He loves it here- but he loves his homeland, too.”

As he prattled on about the places he had been on his several trips, my phone buzzed with a text from Tammi:
Where R U? Emergency.

 I picked it up and made a decision as Clark stopped talking and gave me a saddened and worried look.
I held up a pointer finger, “It’s nothing, just let me tell her I’m busy.”

Little Lithuania. No help.

I quickly typed and put my phone back into my purse. At that point I figured that one meal, one evening with Clark wasn’t going to kill me. I might get a decent dinner out of it, learn something and then at the end I could tell him we had no sparks. Clark was a nice guy, a little odd but he had a big heart. Maybe going out with me would give him the confidence to ask other women out.

Over the course of the next hour, I would drink another beer, discover that pink borscht isn’t as Pepto tasting as it looks. I learned about Gira -a surprisingly refreshing drink that hides a little wallop of alcohol-is made from rye bread, and that my new favorite food is Bulviniai blynai- basically a potato pancake with a name that despite all the liquor, I couldn’t pronounce. It was a dinner full of dark bread, potatoes, mushrooms and cheeses…and it was amazing. I tried not to think about how many miles I would have to run to work it off.

Near the end of our dinner, a band set up at the rear of the small dance floor. The tables closest were moved back, and the wait staff reconfigured that part of the dining area to create more dance space. Two women took out and tuned violins, or maybe they were fiddles. One man strapped on a small accordion, one set a table of percussion instruments and the final member uncased his bass fiddle. The jazz that had been playing through dinner was turned off as the band began with what Clark told me are traditional folk songs.

“But they can play anything, I’m sure as soon as things get hopping in here, we’ll hear Free Bird.” He told me sipping his coffee.

“Are you making that up, too?” I asked.

He blushed, “No, they will.” He turned toward the kitchen and the smile returned to his face. “Here comes part of the show!”

Three waiters came out of the kitchen carrying trays that held cakes that looked like pine trees covered in snow. Everyone in the restaurant turned to watch the spectacle and applauded when they were placed on a long table near the band. Following them out of the kitchen were several more wait staff and Mike carrying trays of pastries.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Lithuanian tree cake. It’s a tradition, usually at weddings, but the cake is hollow and made on a spit in the oven. Layer by layer the batter is dripped over and cooked. It takes hours and Mike serves them every Saturday night on the dessert bar. He says it’s a good way to get people out of their seats and onto the dance floor.”

As I was admiring the dessert spread, a burst of activity by the hostess stand caught my eye.

She spotted me, pushed Rasa aside and ran over.

“Are you okay?” She asked as she got to our table, eyeing Clark suspiciously.

“What are you doing here?” I asked. Tammi looked really scared, but ready for a fight. Which is one of the things I love most about her- she’s scrappy and tough, and really a loyal friend.

Clark stood up, “Hi?”

Tammi cocked an eye at me, “Who is this? Didn't you get my texts?”

“I did. I answered you,” I didn't want to have to say anymore out loud and hurt Clark’s feelings, “I’m fine. There isn’t anything I needed.”

Tammi was having none of it.

“You said. Help.”

“I said ‘no help.’” I corrected her. I wanted to whisper but the music was too loud, she never would have heard me.

Tammi dug her phone out, “No, you said to make an emergency and then I did and you told me where you were- which, hello? I have never been here or even heard of it before and it was hard to find although it’s kinda cool- then you said…” she scrolled through her texts and read aloud, “Little Lithuania. No help. Shit.”

“Shit.” I agreed.

“I’m so sorry!” She dropped her fighting face, “I guess I didn't read it right.” Then she stuck her hand out towards Clark, “Hi. I’m Tammi. I thought I was saving Nikki from a bad date, but instead I am totally embarrassed.”

The other thing about Tammi? No filter.

Clark shook her hand then dragged an empty chair to the table and smooshed it on a corner, “Well, you are here now. Sit down, the fun is about to start.”

I just looked at him, “That’s it? I’m so sorry Clark…” I began but he put his hand up.

“It’s okay. You are not the first woman to fake an emergency to get out of a date with me. I know you didn’t want to come and I realized about three minutes in at your house that this wasn't going to be romance for us, but I thought it would be fun. And it has been. If I spend the rest of my evening with two beautiful women eating pastries and dancing then I will consider my evening a success.”

“Hey!” Said Tammi pointing back and forth between her and Clark. “We match! And we match the flowers on the table. I put this dress on- even though I know that Nikki says no one looks good in orange because it makes me happy. Joyful. It makes me feel like dancing! What is this music? I love it!”

In that moment I realized three things.

One: Some people do look good in orange.

Two: I judge people based on the most ridiculous, superficial reasons. That night I learned not to.

Three: That someday I would be standing here, giving quite possible the longest wedding toast in the history of Maid of Honors and toasting the two most wonderful and amazing people that I have had the pleasure to love and who love me back.

To Clark and Tammi- God bless your marriage, all of us here today wish you many long years!  Buk sveika!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Very Peculiar Birthday Party

There are two kinds of people in this world: the ones who think all birthdays should be celebrated, and those who ignore  birthdays.

The former get a flash of childhood glee as they approach the anniversary of their own birth. They countdown to the day, awake excited to greet a new year.

The other might enjoy some birthday attention but if no one remembered that would be okay, too. They think that birthday celebrations are for children or perhaps an occasional, milestone party would be ok but keep it low-key.

The former are walking around in a cloud of party glitter on their birthdays; the latter are walking around pretty much the way they always do.

I am a former.

My husband is a latter.

Several years ago I decided that I had reached a point in life when waiting for people (my husband) to throw me a birthday party simply wasn't the right strategy. The family members who were picking up the celebratory slack needed to be given a reprieve. It was time for me to take charge.

So I threw my own party. Well, sort of. I planned a meetup of members of a local message board on the weekend of my birthday.

And it was awesome.

To be fair, "threw" is a bit of an exaggeration. Everyone picked up their own tab at a restaurant that was kind enough to let us hang out there for several hours.

It was so much fun, we did it again the next year and it sort of became a thing- Susan's Birthday Party Lunch.

But we missed a year, last year I was visiting my family in Connecticut. I got to spend it with the guy who followed me out the door- so to speak- my twin brother, and my parents. I did things that I had never imagined doing. It was a very, special birthday.

I got to give myself a double chin on the ferry to Martha's Vineyard in late  January

I got to shovel the snow off the decks of my parent's boat

And I got to blow out my candle on a shared cake. We hadn't done that since we were kids.

This year, for this milestone birthday, I want to have a day that exemplifies how I feel about turning 50. I want to share the feeling that my collective body of life experiences and attitude earned is something to be celebrated.

 I want a day that shows how I feel: perfectly seasoned, not aged; wise not weak; fresh and sassy not stale.

I have been thinking about what this year means and how best to celebrate it for a long time. I want to stage dive into 50.  I want to slap on a  Hello, I'm Having a Mid-Life Crisis name tag  as an excuse to get away with some particularly hair-brained schemes. But mostly I want my friends to get rid of the over-the-hill, washed-up, too-old-for-that-mentality and join me if only for an hour.

Because if you want to stage dive, you should. And when you do stage dive, someone has to be there to catch you. That's what makes the leap worthwhile.

So my inner control-freak is taking charge.  I'm planning a day where I can go to the places in my city that I have always wanted to, but lacked time. I want to look into the eyes of people that I don't see nearly enough and those whose face I have never set eyes on but have longed to. I want memories with the people I care about- that's the best birthday gift I can imagine.

On that day, I will travel North, South, East and West in our city. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but if you are in Kansas City on my birthday, I will be near you. And if you are reading this, I want to meet you.

It's a little weird, divaish and peculiar to plan your own birthday party- but I like to think that I am a little weird, divaish and peculiar so I suppose it's very fitting.

You who has made it this far in this highly self-indulgent post, are most cordially invited to share the day with me- Susan's Peculiar Mid-life Diva Stage Dive Tour

RSVP in the comments, or send me a private message via facebook, twitter or G+.

 If you don't know my birthday, I'll give you a hint: my mother got a 2 'fer1 when she gave birth to twins. Yes, it's a school day, but the schedule goes early and late. And, because my husband may be out of work by then, I'm afraid we have to go dutch. I know, peculiar. 

PS: Not posting any RSVP comments for this post to keep your participation choice private- so feel free to not use your public voice.