My Favorite Hero

“The sun shows no mercy this morning. I’m staring thin-eyed as the rolling ground comes to a halt. A heart once close has stopped beating. But its memory lives forever and your blurry eyes will make some sense of this. You will always be remembered, you will be celebrated. You will never be forgotten, these tears still haven’t faded.” ~The Flatliners, Eulogy

With Memorial Day weekend winding down, I thought I would share a few words on one of my favorite people, who also happened to be U.S. Army Captain Thomas Casey McCausland. I have lots of family members who have served and some who gave their lives. However, they were gone before I was born or I didn’t know them. Casey was my friend, and he kicked ass.

I first met Casey in high school. He transferred from another school, and I will never forget the first time I saw him in the halls. He was already friends with some of my buds, so I was quickly introduced to him. He walked down our Catholic school hallway in our required uniform of solid shirts with khaki pants…with combat boots on. We were all in to ska and punk, so sometimes he would wear suspenders and a tie. He was the best. One of the first things I knew about Casey from Casey was that he was going to be a soldier in the U.S. Army. Period. End of story. I knew he would do great things. And he did.

Casey served in both Iraq and in Afghanistan. His team was under constant fire in Afghanistan. While driving, his vehicle was hit by an I.E.D. His driver died, and his interpreter lost his legs. I can’t even imagine the trauma. My brain shuts down trying to even process the things he heard, saw, smelled and experienced. Casey medically retired from the Army in 2008. I know he felt lost at that time. Perhaps he never fully recovered in finding his purpose. When we spoke upon his return from Afghanistan, all he could talk about was the kids he encountered. He wanted to help them. He would repeat, “The kids…those kids.” All I could say is, “I know, Case. You gave them your best. You did everything in your power for them.” I’m not sure if he agreed. I hope he knows that now. He suffered from PTSD, and we lost Casey on November 1, 2013. I think about him almost every day. When I think of him, I think of the following stories:

  • Once Casey was driving me from and to another party. We were driving down a long stretch of road when the Whitesnake song “Here I Go Again” came on the radio. We both looked at each other, rolled down the windows without a word and starting screaming it at the top of our lungs. Casey was pumping his fist out the window with a lit cigarette. We could not stop laughing when it was over, and I even called the radio station and begged them to play it again. I heard that song every single day on the radio either to or from work for three months up in Chicagoland after he passed.
  • Some of our friends were in a ska punk band and often played this dive venue called the Creepy Crawl (the original location). He decided that on their last show he should blow fire. He did, and I am pretty sure he almost lit himself and the ceiling on fire being that he was about 1-2 feet below it.
  • Casey came to many of my volleyball games with our other guy friends, including when we went to playoffs and off to state. He said it was to support us. I’m pretty sure that was true, but he also admitted later it was because of the uniforms…
  • He had a very serious skydiving training accident in the Army. It should have killed him. He was left with some hardware in his pelvis. He called me after and said, “You know what this means, right? I’m fucking invincible. I told my Officer that. I think he thinks I’m fucking insane!”
  • Casey was one of my most favorite people to hang with at a party. He liked to joke around, laugh, listen to good music and get hammered with me. Once he and another buddy of ours had way too much whiskey. They were both off in the yard taking turns puking. At one point they were both laying down on their stomachs. When our buddy was puking, Casey would army crawl over and pat his back. It was gross and adorable.

This is how I remember my old bud. Smiles and acts of kindness. It sums up his big heart. It may be the only thing larger than his smile.

I want to share a poem Casey wrote about his time overseas. It shows the good he hoped to do for his country and how the horrors of war still haunts you when your duty is over. It was on the prayer card at his funeral. I’m so glad his family shared this with us. I love you and miss you, Case. Pour one out for your homies tonight friends:

To do good we went out one day
We went to talk, we went to see
We were warned, but we continued on
To clean up another’s mess
To do good we went out one day
And we learned, and we talked, and we left
As a result, we felt the fire
We felt the burn from the ground It came from everywhere, but
To do good we went out one day
The good went away and the bad came 1,2,3, down
And ours went against theirs
And we fought, sweat and blood
The smell of death
To do good we went out one day
And when we came back what was left
A hole, a void that cannot be filled
Forever changed, never forgetting
Living it over and over I close my eyes
Wondering, did we do good when we went out that day?


Bumper Cars

“Congratulations you have won. It’s a years subscription of bad puns. And it makes your story of concern. And you set it up before it burns. My opinions, mmm, mmm…” ~Nirvana, Opinion

I was driving to work the other day and was behind a car with four bumper stickers. All four were Pro-Life messages. Did they need four? If someone tells me anything four times in a row I think…do they mean this or are they being sarcastic? When something seems a bit excessive or overkill, I can’t take it for face value. If it was one or two, I’d think…ok. They don’t support abortion. But four? Now I’m unsure…

Regardless of your feelings on the issue, it got me thinking. Actually, it got me judging this person. Then it got me thinking. Why do people put bumper stickers on their cars? I don’t get them. (Before you say anything, I fully realize I’m questioning people’s self-expression via bumper sticker in a blog full of my stories and opinions. Moving on…)

Bumper stickers. They’re everywhere. Like a car tattoo. Except all of these tattoos are bad tattoos. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed or nodded in agreement with anyone’s bumper sticker. I’ve never felt some sort of solidarity with someone because they had a 13.1 sticker, or their kid was on the honor role, or if their kid beat up your honor student, or they’re voting for Nader (I am a master of current events), or they have a boy, a girl and a dog based upon their cartoon stick-figure family, if they hate another type of car because a comic strip character is pissing on the logo…whatever it is…even if I agreed or personally accomplished their sticker statement. My conclusion is always an eye roll followed up by drawing assumptions about this stranger. NO WAY would I let my parents put a bumper sticker that said I made honor role on their car! Being a teenager is hard enough. I don’t need other kids and their parents thinking I was bragging. Bragging is not looked upon kindly in my old hood. I ran two half-marathons. I have zero stickers telling people about it. Guess who doesn’t care? EVERYONE!

Do you think bumper stickers were like Facebook before Facebook?

At the very least, I understand that teenagers want to be expressive. I give them a temporary pass because they’re still figuring it out. They want to put band stickers all over their car because they’re proud of who they are that month. I’m just suggesting perhaps it’s a bad idea. Why? I don’t know…say you’re putting a bunch of stickers of bands on your car notorious for drinking, partying and weed. Guess who is going to get their car searched when they get pulled over? Those cops are judging you, and you won’t get the benefit of the doubt. What if you like a dude then he sees your stupid “I’m a Belieber” sticker (I have no idea if those are a thing) and decides…no thanks. Maybe hide that shame for a minute so he can get to know you then laugh because you’re so adorable when he discovers you love Bieber. Just some suggestions. Maybe I’m getting old. Get off my lawn!

Side story: My friend once created a magnetic bumper sticker that said “I Love Nickelback” so we could put it on friend’s cars. We thought this was hilarious. And it was.

When I’m driving, I don’t want anyone to know a thing about me. I want to be anonymous on the road. I think it’s best to not draw attention to yourself. People are nuts. I don’t want anyone to have an excuse to drive crazy around me, not let me over when I’m merging, disagree with me about who I’m voting for therefore not letting me out of a speeding ticket, or simply having someone I know see my car. You don’t need to know I’m at Target buying cardigans in every color! That’s my business! That could be anyone’s black car that half of American women in their 30s are driving these days. I don’t need identifiers.

Overthinking this further, do you think bumper stickers were like Facebook before Facebook? They were a way to share political views, what sports teams they like, bands, radio stations, family details…just pushing their unsolicited opinions in your face. The more I think about this, Facebook is the bumper sticker of social media. The only difference is you can’t delete the truck driving in front of you with the offensive bumper sticker stating he kills hippies. Ugh. Please excuse me while I go delete my account.

Welcome to the Neighborhood!

“I could sleep. I could sleep. When I lived alone. Is there a ghost in my house? When I lived alone. Is there a ghost in my house. My house…” ~ Band of Horses, Is There a Ghost

Last year I went through the process of selling my house. It was a laborious process, and I was left to handle most of the grunt work and projects to get it ready to sell, finding and scheduling contractors, all of the realtor communication, cleaning and showings for the house. It was a lot to handle alone, and I was utterly exhausted when it was over. But…not so exhausted that I couldn’t mess with the new owners.

The buyers were a young couple. She was a hairstylist and her boyfriend did something for a living I don’t recall but had bad credit. During the sale process, the buyers were a huge pain in the ass, and their realtor was unorganized, late with everything and annoying. They switched the type of loan they wanted, demanded ridiculous repairs and had to push the closing date out twice because of the loan issues. Perhaps it was the fact that I was dealing with this myself while simultaneously handling all of the divorce proceedings, or perhaps it was the fact I was cooped up most days and weekends working on the house then hurriedly packing when it sold and my mind wasn’t right. Who can say for sure? Either way I decided it would be funny to make the new owners think the house was haunted, or at least creep them out.

I took a little inspiration from a story my dad used to creep us out with when we were younger. He would tell us a tale about Rachel in the Wall. Rachel was a dead woman who lived in the walls of our house. Per my dad. He would even make creepy scratching noises from another room and whisper things like “help” or my name…whatever was necessary to scare the crap out of us. Nothing like striking a healthy dose of fear into your kids, am I right?

In my house, there was a weird set of stairs in the hall closet that went to nowhere. I found some blueprints for a second floor. I’m assuming these stairs were built with that in mind, and then the project never happened. I had no second floor. The walls in the closet and stairs to nowhere had a really old scene of cowboys and Native Americans. The house was built in 1954, so I have no idea when this wall paper was added. There was a small cutout in the wall that had a cane in it. I don’t know if it was the previous owners or how long it had been there. It was an old, thick wooden cane. The whole closet gave weird vibes, but I found it hilarious. I laughed to myself every time I hung up my coat. My jackets were like a curtain blocking a fun house. Most people found the setup strange when they saw it. They always had so many questions. So…I decided to add another layer to the confusion for the new owners. Before I moved out, I decided the cane needed to stay. I left the cane in the wall in an attempt to make the new owners think the house was haunted. My own “Rachel in the Wall” of sorts. I took a piece of paper, wrote a quick note and taped it to the cane. I carefully put it back so they could clearly see the sign stating “Not To Be Removed” taped to the handle. I didn’t try to make it look old. I wanted it to look like I put it there on purpose so it would raise an eyebrow. I have gotten so much joy pondering their confusion over why the seller would write a sign on that cane in the wall next to the cowboy wall paper and stairs to nowhere. I picture them thinking what happens if they remove it? What happened to make the seller keep the cane in the wall and send them this warning message? Should they leave it? Was the seller just messing with them? I giggle at the idea of them being uncomfortable every time they walk by the closet to go to bed or hang up their coats. Nothing like striking fear into a first-time home owner, am I right?

More Than Just Farts

“When I accelerate I remember why it’s good to be alive. Like a twenty-five cent game. Maybe this weight was a gift. Like I had to see what I could lift.” ~Nada Surf, Do It Again

Generally speaking, I don’t like surprises. If you’re wondering if you should throw me a surprise birthday party. Don’t. I’m naturally anxious, and I’ll sniff that plan out anyway. I will know you’re hiding something and ruin it for both of us. If you’re like…I should hold off on telling her something that might emotionally impact her so I can see the look on her face when it happens. Don’t do that either. Just tell me. I’d like to take a moment to thank my friends who always gave me a heads up when there was a possibility of running into my ex and his girlfriend. It was appreciated even if I thought I was going to vomit at the notion of it. Because of this, I was ex-free for a year. Was.

I have visualized this train wreck of an encounter more times than I care to admit. The summary of that daydream was me feeling crushed and always leaving in tears feeling like a loser. Well, turns out life can be a funny lady sometimes because that is NOT what happened. I hit a brick wall when it came to my healing process. I was in a good place, but I hadn’t quite closed the door. Until now.

I was aware my ex would be at a music venue I was headed to last week with his girlfriend. Nada Surf is a band I love, and I needed to hear Matthew Caws sing me some sweet jams. I figured the place was big enough for the three of us, so fuck it. I kept my plans.

I think life looked at me like an adorable idiot that night. She wasn’t done making me laugh.

During the show, I caught a glimpse of my ex, so I knew he was there. For some reason I didn’t feel like puking. I felt ok. I am going to credit Matthew’s angel voice. It heals all wounds. I did see him leave, so I knew he was gone by the time I decided to head out with my pals. Or so I thought. Beneath the venue there are a couple bars. I opted for the one that, if they happen to be lurking around, I felt was the least likely one they would come to. I sat down at the first bar stool, grabbed a drink menu and something told me to look towards the door. I was wrong choosing this bar. All wrong! Sure as shit, they walk right in. I see him head towards the bar. I’m sitting there thinking…how does he not see me? It’s a small place. He keeps his eyes on the wall menu, and I realize oh…he does see me! He just saw me too late and had to commit to walking over to the bar. His discomfort made me laugh and broke the tension I created within myself. He finally looked over. We said hello, made about one minute of small talk about the show and he left without ordering a drink. I have no idea who took over my brain, but I was oddly calm and had a surge of confidence in this exchange. I thought…huh? That’s weird. Where the hell did that come from? How come I’m ok and not crying? Why am I laughing?

I took this as a good sign, ordered a drink with my buds and assumed all was over. I think life looked at me like an adorable idiot that night. She wasn’t done making me laugh.

When I was nearly finished with my drink, I decided to use the restroom then say my goodbyes before I headed home. On my way to the bathroom, I noticed they were in the other bar. So naturally, my instinct kicked in and knew my terrible luck would make damn sure I run into my ex’s girlfriend in the bathroom. I should note these bars share a bathroom. This is not the thing I wanted to be right about that night. I was right but not at first. When I walked in, she was not in there. I was hopeful but knew I wasn’t in the clear just yet. My mind was racing with all of the sad and uncomfortable things that could happen between now and washing my hands. I just needed to hold it together for a few minutes. I was first in line and a stall door opened. It wasn’t her. However, I could tell by the look on the woman’s face she did more than just farts in there so I was in for it. Hoo boy! It smelled so bad! I held my breath and hoped that I would stop peeing before I passed out. Damn you, delicious beer! I didn’t pass out, but the smell was still so terrible I didn’t want the next person thinking it was me! When I came out of the stall, I told the cute girl waiting that, “I swear that was not me that ripped it up in there. I don’t want that credit!” She laughed, and I laughed. As she stepped forward to take over the poop stall…yep. My ex’s girlfriend was standing next in line with her arms crossed. Now, I have pictured this encounter countless ways and walking out of a smelly stall swearing I didn’t just take a shit was not on the list. The situation was so ridiculous and embarrassing I could only laugh. I laughed, smiled, washed my hands and left fully intact. It was the second internal ice breaker life threw at me, and I am thankful for it.

I went upstairs and told my friends what happened. We were all laughing. As I stood to put on my jacket, Matthew Caws walked right by me towards the backstage entrance. I said nothing. Just waved. But I knew at that moment I was fine. I was more than fine.

While I knew I had a high chance of a run-in, I was not prepared for the outcome. I could only visualize it as something soul crushing. I went from stagnant in my healing process to closing the book on that relationship. I don’t know what forces aligned that night to make these encounters more hilarious to me than awkward and sad, but I am so thankful. I certainly needed a win in that regard. This might be the one time I was ok with life’s surprises. How about that, huh?

Tailgate Tournaments

“So let’s get a party going. Now it’s time to party, and we’ll party hard. Let’s get a party going. When it’s time to party we will always party hard.” ~Andrew W.K., Party Hard

From about the ages of 11-18, I played club volleyball. It was everything to me. My weeknights consisted of two nights of practice and me playing with my sister during every minute of free time we weren’t in the gym or doing homework. If she wasn’t around I would practice against a brick wall on the side of my house. Passing, setting, my own jump training…you name it. I would run my own drills. My weekends were filled with tournaments. If you’re not familiar with the structure of club volleyball tournaments, they’re an all-day affair. The first game typically starts at 8am. You have about three games of pool play and ref or sit while the other teams are playing. If you make it out of pool play (which we always did), you start playoffs. You have one or two playoff games and then the final. All of this in the same day. It’s exhausting…at least it was for us.

Our parents? These long practices and all-day tournaments were welcomed with open arms. Practice time meant party time, and tournaments meant tailgates. We practiced in this crappy gym in south St. Louis that was across the street from an equally shitty dive bar. Our dads ALWAYS offered to drive the girls to practice because it meant they could meet at the bar and have some beers together. They NEVER missed a tournament. The days, for them, started and ended like this:

  • Between 5-6am, while we were packing our gym bags, they were packing coolers making sure they had enough beers, brats and snacks for 12 hours.
  • During our warm-ups for the first game, we could hear them excitedly talking in the stands about who brought what food, who had their Smokey Joe, charcoal…all the makings you would hear someone bringing to a tailgate for a professional football game.
  • After our first game, the dads would disappear into the parking lot to start organizing the days’ festivities. We wouldn’t see them again until one of the moms went out and told them we were getting ready to start the next game.
  • We couldn’t wait to win pool play. They couldn’t wait until it was noon so it was acceptable for them to crack that first beer.
  • Once pool play was over, there was typically a long wait before playoffs start. The girls and I would finally venture out to see what the parents were up to. They were up to a lot. Music was usually playing from someone’s car, food was going on the grill, beers were going down and stories were being traded. What were the parents from other teams doing? Not this. At all. Our parents got looks of confusion or jealousy.
  • During our first playoff game we noticed our dads and some moms were a little louder in their support. Each point we scored was a little more amazing then in pool play.
  • When the game was over, they were gone. Back to the parking lot to talk about who we were playing next over beers and snacks. We were getting exhausted from our fifth game of the day while they were feeling just fine.
  • The finals. Hoo boy. My team was good, so it was rare that we didn’t make it to the finals of every local tournament we played. The tailgate was in full force and they were full on hammered at this point. I felt bad for the parents of the teams we played. Our side of the bleachers was super rowdy. If the refs made what was perceived as a bad call, they heard about it. Sometimes I wonder if calls went our way because the refs were too afraid of what might happen!
  • If we won…it was like the World Series up in that gym. Our parents celebrated us winning a tournament that ultimately meant nothing like we were the best athletes on the planet. We loved it.

Once after a tournament that took place near one of my team mates’ house, we all decided to go back to celebrate. I’m sorry, our parents decided they weren’t done hanging out after 12 hours so decided to go back to their house to keep partying. My team had 9 girls on it. I have pictures of all of us wearing the empty 12-pak boxes of Bud Light as hats (still in our uniforms) while our parents are dancing in the background. This was not uncommon behavior for our team. It was awesome. If social media existed back then, our club probably would have been shut down, and I would have never gotten a scholarship. In fact, I may not have been accepted into college at all.

My team was a group of girls and parents from all different walks of life and social status, but we loved the shit out of each other. I can’t say all of us would have been friends if we had met outside of volleyball, but this sport brought us together and bonded us for life. When club ball was over, I’m pretty sure our parents took it harder than we did. I never want to be a teenager again, but I might make an exception if it meant I could experience one more weekend with those fools.

Why I Started Running

“It’s hard to find your way through the darkness. It’s hard to know what to believe. But if you live by your heart and value the love that you find, then you have all you run. Don’t follow. Lead a life the best we know.” ~Hot Water Music, It’s Hard to Know

Several years back my friends and I were looking for something to do outside of a bar. Our drinking habit was our only habit, so we decided to find an activity. We signed up for a 5K and had a good time. We decided to make running races our thing and continued over the years to do a dozen or so more. Some were 5K, 8k, 10K and even a half marathon. Some of the races, bless them, give you drink tickets. After each race we would have our beer and leave. Not really. For some reason we looked like we like to have a good time and strangers would offer us their drink tickets. It felt rude to say no. Old habits die hard I guess because after a couple free post-race beers, we would go to brunch and day drink. So much for staying out of the bars!

I guess, technically, you could say beer is to blame for my running habit. However, it’s not the reason I continue to run. It just jump-started my hobby. Like a gateway drug…sort of. I never really took it seriously until a couple years ago. Before I made the decision to end my marriage, running was like that annoying friend you stay friends with because you’ve known them for so long. You don’t really like them and can’t remember why you are even friends, but you can’t get rid of them. So-and-so isn’t all bad. She means well and is always there when you need her so…you keep so-and so around. Running was like that.

When I was working on rebuilding my new life, it became clear I needed an outlet for my own sanity. Not to compare humans to dogs, but most dog trainers will tell you that you need to exercise your dog because, if you don’t, the pent up energy will override everything else. They will be unfocused and out of control. I think this applies to people. Or maybe it just applies to me! Either way, I needed to do something with my pent up energy and raw emotions. I didn’t want to channel my energy into partying. A sad and angry person who drinks too much is not who I wanted to be. The point was to rebuild my life, not make it worse.  I needed my mind to be calm. I needed to listen to what my heart was telling me to do. So, I signed up for another half marathon I had no business running, printed up a training schedule and forced myself off the couch. It was time to call up my annoying friend.

It worked wonders. During my runs I plotted revenge schemes and evil pranks against my ex I would never actually carry out. That may sound mean to some of you, but those running day dreams sure as hell made me feel better! It continues to help me work through the pain and sadness I experienced and helps me to let it go. I also worked out how to handle changing friendships, new friendships, whether or not I should start dating, how I felt about myself, how to ask for a raise, how to ask to keep my job and relocate, fight for a promotion, what to eat for dinner, serves as my excuse to stay in on Friday to watch Dateline during training, whether or not running means I can eat as much bacon as I want for breakfast…what else? My latest thoughts surround whether or not I could live in a tiny house and be a part of the tiny house craze sweeping the nation…says HGTV. I think I can swing it. I don’t know. I have another long run set for this weekend, so we will see what the final decision is on that one.

There are health benefits I am failing to mention. I have hypothyroidism, which isn’t as fun as it sounds. It causes your already slowing metabolism to slow even further. You get to feel confident about not knowing why you’re gaining weight for no reason until your doctor diagnoses you. It also has some other amazing side effects such as digestion issues, dry skin, thinning hair, depression (your slow metabolism should help with this one…), memory loss…the party list goes on. Running has helped me with many of the side effects I have experienced with this disease, especially the weight thing. My pants button in the morning, and that is enough motivation for me to keep moving.

You’re probably thinking, “I hate running.” I get it. I was an athlete most of my life and felt the same way. I used to say I wouldn’t run distance unless someone was chasing me. I also used to wear plaid pants every day. I am glad I quit taking my teenage advice. Now, even though I start and stop in the same place, the miles in between take my mind to a million places I wouldn’t go to on my couch. Even if running isn’t your thing, find your thing. Your mind will thank you. When your mind is right, you can function and make the right decisions for yourself.


Hey Ma!

“Lady. Don’t ya know we love ya? Sweet lady. Dear mama. Place no one above ya, sweet lady. You are appreciated. Don’t you know we love ya?” ~Tupac, Dear Mama

In honor of Mother’s Day, I am going to tell you some stories about my mom. My mom deserves the world to know she is the greatest. She is probably the most patient person I know. I can’t say I always deserved her kindness, but she always gave it. She didn’t just raise me right and put up with me, she did the same with my three siblings. Four times over she did this…I just can’t even imagine being in her shoes. I want to take a nap thinking about it.

My mom has done lots of amazing and funny things. Our life was so hectic, and I have to say her reaction to some situations was surprising. She laughed many times when you would predict otherwise. I learned a lot from that. Being able to find humor when times are tough might be one of the greatest lessons she never knew she taught me.

These are some of my favorite stories about my mom:

  • She fueled my love of reading at an early age. She gave me the P.D. Eastman book Are You My Mother? when I was learning to read. I proceeded to imitate the book by asking her if she was my mother loudly…in public…usually at the grocery store. She recently told me this was endearing. I would be mortified. Maybe strangers thought possible kidnapping in the 80s was adorable? Luckily this didn’t stop my mom from buying me books.
  • She kept the music playing. Clearly I don’t recall this, but when I was learning to crawl I apparently liked to rock back and forth in time to The Beatles. I would cry when the music stopped. She kept the music playing so I could keep rocking.
  • She always has a dish towel strewn over her left shoulder. I noticed I picked up this same habit while cooking.
  • She puts up with my siblings and I teasing her. I mean…when kids get a reaction from their parents they keep it up. We KEPT it up. Twenty years ago my mom mispronounced pepperoncini. We thought this was hilarious. Here is my mom going out of her way to make us and our friends sandwiches, and she says, “Do you guys want pickles? Oh, we have some pepper-on-see-knees!” We died laughing like a bunch of assholes, and she never gets to forget it. My sister and I bring this up almost every time we get together. I’m pretty sure her patience ran out on this joke 19 years ago, but she tries to be a good sport. She still answers when I call so…
  • Watch her whip! Watch her Nae Nae! This is pretty recent, but last Christmas I fueled my mom, sister and I up with enough gin that she decided to learn this dance. My mom has got some moves. (Her fave from her day is the Funky Four Corners.) We got super white about it and watched a YouTube video to learn all the dances referenced in the video. My favorite tipsy mom quote of the night, “Oh! The Bop is just the funky chicken!”
  • Once, my parents and I drove to Atlanta from St. Louis to visit my old coaches. When it was my mom’s turn to drive, my dad went to the back to sleep. I sat up front. My mom popped in my Aretha Franklin tape, cranked it and hit the pedal. When my dad got nervous that we were goofing and not paying enough attention to the road she just turned and mouthed the lyrics to “Think” while diva finger-pointing in his direction. This image is still perfectly in my head. I laughed and so did she. My dad DID NOT laugh.
  • We didn’t have a dishwasher growing up, so it was a group effort to wash the dishes for a family of six. Mom always put on music. When I hear Steve Wynwood’s “Higher Love” playing in a Walgreen’s I fight the urge to grab an imaginary dish towel.
  • The holidays can be stressful. My mom was always stressed. Yet she still found time to bake bread for all of our teachers, family and us. Once she had a lot going on and thought she was out of nutmeg. For whatever reason this was particularly frustrating to her. She asked my brother to go to the store to get her some because she was out. My mom had a spice rack where we could clearly see she had a full bottle. My brother said, “Um. What do you need me to get you?” My mom yelling in frustration, “Nutmeg!” My brother (I’m pretty sure afraid to point out the obvious), “Ok. What does it look like?” My mom was not in the mood. “I just asked for help for one little thing! It looks like this! (pointing at the nutmeg) See? N. U. T….oh! haha!” Then she threw her shoulder dish towel at him. We all laughed. Her from comic relief. Us because we were too afraid not to. The holidays, man…
  • She so wanted girly girls. My sister and I were not girly. I used to tell her dresses were itchy, and she only made me keep them on for pictures. When I came back from my first trip to New York, my hair was magenta, blue and green. Her response, “Please tell me that washes out.” Me, “I’m not sure.” My mom…”Well, that’s what we’re going to tell your father.” She later said, “Well, if coloring her hair is the worst she’s done, we did a good job. It’s her generations thing!” She also said this about piercings and tattoos. Damn right, mom!
  • She took in strays. Not just animals. People. Any friend of ours that was kicked out of their house was welcome and fed until they were too full at ours.
  • Once, before leaving for a Van Halen concert, my brother’s friend mistook her for his sister. She laughed. I high-fived her.
  • Every day I pray I have her aging genes. Which is basically the no-aging genes.
  • My mom is a kickass cook. Not like, oh this is good because my mom made it sort of thing. Her food is amazing. When she makes a recipe she thinks I will like, she keeps a portion and freezes it for me to bring home when I visit. I mean…once I didn’t have to cook for two weeks. Now that is endearing.

There are loads of stories I can spill here. The hours she sat at a gym watching me play volleyball, sacrificing personal things so my family could have more than she had as a kid…the list goes on. And on. But the bottom line here is, with four kids and a limited income, our life was a huge struggle at times. In between the laughs, shit was real. My mom kept a sense of humor and underlying toughness through it all. Having a mom like that is the reason I was able to get through my toughest days. Being that way was just in her DNA. She didn’t have the best examples growing up. So, she shaped herself. That’s as badass as it gets.



Dating Requirements

“Maybe I would have been something you’d be good at. Maybe you would have been something I’d be good at. But now we’ll never know.” ~Tegan and Sara, Call It Off 

I frequently talk about what I do and don’t want in my next relationship. Most of what I talk about are standards. My standards are more or less qualities I want in a partner. For example, loyalty. Honesty is another big one. Open-minded, kind…you get the picture. The natural qualities and makeup of a person. These are different to me than requirements.

When I think of requirements, I think of them as something separate than standards or personality. Maybe you don’t. This is just how my brain works. I think of requirements in terms of things like employed, takes showers regularly, doesn’t still live with his parents, etc. All things you need in order to consider dating someone.

I feel like many people have a backwards view on dating requirements. I hear people say things like… I can’t date someone who doesn’t like football. (By hear, I mean a guy said this to me two weekends ago when I said I don’t really care about football. I don’t hate it. I’ll go to a game. However, during football season when left to my own devices, I don’t turn it on.) My response to this is a very logical – why not? (He didn’t really have an answer.) Would you really not date someone who you find perfect in every other way because they don’t give a shit if a team you love is playing some other team you both don’t give a shit about for three hours on a Sunday?

I was catching up on my log of recorded Steve Harvey episodes, and I kept hearing things like this from people whose dating lives Mr. Harvey was trying to help. I kept hearing things like I don’t want to date a guy who travels for work, I can’t date someone who doesn’t like baseball, I can’t date a guy who doesn’t like…whatever. You get the idea. When the camera would pan to Steve’s reaction, I noticed I was making similar faces of confusion. He was muttering what I was thinking, which is basically, “Uh. Ok. A man has a good job and has to travel sometimes so you’re just not gonna…ok.”

Maybe my Nickelback thing is someone else’s football.

Is this where dating is at now? We can’t date someone who shares different interests and hobbies? When did this become a thing? I think dating someone who likes all of the things you like is boring. I don’t want to date myself! It’s now acceptable to meet a guy who is kind, chivalrous, loves children and has a good job but doesn’t follow baseball so bye Felicia? For the most part, this is weird to me. I also find it bizarre how people like that are confused as to why they’re still single.

However, it got me thinking…do I have some weirdo underlying requirements? Are there quirks or interests that would totally turn me off from trying to get to know someone who was otherwise seemingly perfectly wonderful? It turns out yes. I do! What would cloud my interest in getting to know a guy, you ask? Here they are:

  • If you currently own or previously owned a Nickelback album. I feel like there are other underlying terrible judgments you have, and this is just scratching the surface. Those other good qualities have to be REALLY perfect for me to not look at you with some harsh skepticism. Translation: I’m not sure I could sleep with you.
  • If you don’t like animals. I will probably think you have no soul and saved myself from ending up on Dateline because our fighting over my passion for rescue animals became too intense for your black heart. (This is the only possible and logical outcome in this scenario.)
  • If you have a terrible work ethic. I can’t deal with you. Grow up. Stop being lazy.
  • If you have been to jail for a violent crime or drug dealing. This requires no explanation, and if you feel like this is an unfair requirement…then you have a story to tell. While I don’t want your business up in my business, I am interested in hearing the details of your stay in prison.

That’s all I could come up with, and I don’t think they’re too terrible. I feel like they’re pretty fair with the Nickelback thing possibly being the exception. I didn’t say I wouldn’t date you at all, but there will be some extensive interviewing, a trial period and some other tests I haven’t come up with yet should this issue arise.

My point here is, people need to chill out. Your partner doesn’t need to be your mirror. So what if they don’t like football? Have you considered this is your chance to have some “me” time with your pals every Sunday for 16 weeks and maybe longer if your team doesn’t suck? I don’t know. Just a thought. What do I know? Maybe my Nickelback thing is someone else’s football. That is a sentence I never thought I would be typing.