Enjoy the Silence

Last week I looked around and had to admit to myself and the people I trust the most that I’m overwhelmed. For the most part, I handle whatever life throws at me with a sense of humor and determination. I take life on and I’m willing to toot my own horn and say that while it sure isn’t always pretty, I get most things done and some extra as well. I balance as much as I can and keep the plates spinning so to speak. But with working full time, 2 kids who have very different needs, a husband who is working opposite hours, pets, my project to help kids in need, and the day to day grind, all it takes is one plate to get unbalanced and they all crash down on top of me.

The other week, I saw the plates wobbling. I knew that my mindset wasn’t quite where it should be, and I felt down and sad. My brain felt overwhelmed, with too much life noise coming at it every day. When you have so many things spinning at once, things start to get neglected. The house is a wreck. Jobs I need to do weren’t getting done. Impediments were stacking up and making things damned near impossible. Money issues felt more concerning. The yard was overgrown and an absolute disaster. Summer wasn’t feeling summery at all as the fun, lazy time I remembered as a kid. The heat was making me aggravated easily. I was antsy, but I was not sure about what. Suddenly all the little jobs I had been neglecting in order to get things done appeared insurmountable, and I froze not quite sure where to begin.

My bestie who had knee surgery was home, so I headed to her house one night for a chat. I laid out some of my worries to get her advice. That’s one of the best parts of having a blunt, brutally honest bestie who has known you your whole life…you can show up and vent your worries and they will give you their unadulterated opinion with no sugarcoating.

She gave me some ideas for resolving the money issue I had, told me I need to pick a starting place and chip away at each job one at a time, and had a very frank conversation about some of the people in my life and that I need to circle my wagons and just quietly watch their behaviors because actions don’t lie like words do. She also recommended I tell my husband I was overwhelmed. I left her house feeling determined to try some of her advice and seeing how it goes.

I admitted to my family how I was feeling. I spent my weekend tackling jobs that had been rather neglected with all my busyness, starting with the back yard. I mowed, I weeded, I pulled out gigantic patches of pricker bushes that had become overgrown and taken over a memorial stone I had received when my mom passed. Our back patio, which had been taken over by vines that were creeping up the house, was cleared and the vines all taken down. I dug, I sweated. Oh how I sweated. I think every fiber of my being was drenched in sweat and smeared with dirt by the time I was done. I felt utterly disgusting when I finished.

But I felt….happier.

My husband tackled a couple of jobs inside. The kids tackled cleaning up their rooms and my son laid down the new rug in my daughter’s room. To be honest, all the work we did is a drop in a bucket to all the jobs we want and need to do around the house, but I still felt like we had been productive. I felt a bit less overwhelmed. I felt inspired to keep going.

While I was weeding, pruning and clearing, I let my mind wander, and it brought me to some conclusions. I talk a lot. I listen sometimes to engage, rather than just listen. I need to work on that. Not only because I could do with being a better listener, but I could also stand to be a better observer. The more I mulled over the words of my best friend, the more I realized that while I had been listening and trusting words, I hadn’t been paying close enough attention to people’s actions. My willingness to always seek the best in everyone was clouding my judgement and causing me to not pay enough attention to actions vs words. People will show you their true selves before they will tell you about their true selves. As I worked, finally not distracted, I started realizing a few things, and I know now I need to make some adjustments. On one level it’s upsetting, but on another, it allows me some freedom without guilt, and I’m feeling it’s a good thing. Silence also allowed me to work determinedly, calmly, and to allow me to see the end goals more clearly. My brain needed the quiet to thrive.

I feel like there is light at then end of my tunnel, so to speak. It’s merely a case of putting one foot in front of the other, quieting my mind, and doing one task at a time. Not everything needs to be done at once. After so long of having attention on everyone else and everything else, I need to focus on me and mine, and make good choices going forward. I need to feel and work in the quiet so I can hear and see what is important. Will my house be spotless and everything be perfect? No, I don’t see that being the case. But I can see me getting through some tasks to creating a place I feel calmer in. I don’t need perfection. I need peace.

Wish me luck as I tackle the mountains that currently feel so insurmountable. One step at a time, I’m determined to scale them.

Oh yes, and I shall reward myself in a few weeks with a lazy, fun filled vacation with some of my beloved tribe. I can’t wait.

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MUST DO activity in Vegas

I wrote a post the other day about my fun filled trip to Vegas but I also wanted to do a post just on our last excursion. Honestly, it was the best part of the trip for me, and I came away from it exhilarated, worn out, but all smiles. Before I tell you about it, know that the owners have no idea I am writing this, and I get no benefit for doing so other than sharing what made my trip to Vegas unique and amazing in my eyes. When we were initially planning our girls’ trip to Las Vegas, my friend handed me a list of excursions/shows etc we could do, for free, on her Chase points. I perused the list full of Cirque de Soleil shows (I recommend Ka, while I got a bit lost in the storyline the show itself was magnificent), some other options that weren’t really my thing, and then I saw it: UTV riding in the desert. I looked up excitedly and said “dune buggy things in the desert?” My friend’s head whipped around. “Would you DO that?” she asked, “because nobody else will do it with me and I want to!”. We booked it immediately. The company who runs it is OUI Experience https://www.ouiexperience.com/.

Fast forward to our trip to Vegas, and she got a text from Jake, who runs the operation. He explained that he would show to pick us up from the Uber lot at the hotel in a white unmarked van. He also warned us it might be a bit dusty (after all, we found out he and his wife live in the desert, so a little dust is normal). He gave us some flexibility as to when we wanted to be picked up, in case we wanted to bypass the sun’s strength a bit by going out earlier. He let us know the excursions were private, so it would be just us and him, no other people. We decided on 9 am as a meet time. My friend and I joked about the fact we were getting into a dusty unmarked white van with a stranger in a cowboy hat, and I mentioned it was a good thing my husband could locate my phone in an emergency to “find the body” (you all should know I have a dark, dry humor by now, but if not, you do after reading that).

9 am rolls around and we head to the Uber lot at the hotel. As promised, there is a large white van parked and a tan, smiling man in a cowboy hat chatting with someone. We walked up and he immediately introduced himself as Jake, and escorted us to the van. We hopped in and he turned the AC on which was certainly a welcome treat after the Vegas temps we’d had for the past few days. We headed out to the highway, with Jake filling us in on what we would be doing, how his company had special permits and permissions to go where other places couldn’t, and various other tidbits. Before long, I saw a sign indicating we were crossing into Arizona. The drive took about an hour or so, but it flew by with good conversation. You could tell immediately that Jake loves what he does, and his excitement became our excitement. I was staring out the window in awe at the landscape. I’ve been to Las Vegas once before but had never left the strip until that day. The views were beautiful but very different than anything I had ever seen. Next thing I knew, we turned off the paved road and onto a dirt road. I was laughing to myself how it reminded me of Breaking Bad when they are in the RV headed down dirt roads. I had always wondered how people found their way in the vast desert and here I was rambling down those very types of dirt roads.

Jake filled us in on how he met his wife, Ani, and his whole face lit up when he talked about her. As we pulled into their land, where they keep the vehicles, he beeped the horn, mentioning it was his way of always letting her know he was home, as well as a symbol of good luck. Ani comes out of the building where she does the paperwork and has the supplies and has a huge grin on her face. She helps us get equipped with helmets, does a quick introduction to the vehicle, and explains my friend and I will be riding together on this tour, which was fine with us. She handed us a GoPro to take videos with, and gave us a tutorial on that. Like a mother hen, she reminds us of the heat (honestly, no reminder was necessary…..116 degrees is not something you easily forget, trust me!) and tells us we must drink tons of water. We get bandanas to cover our noses and keep the dust out. Jake has a bag packed by Ani filled with ice cold water and anything we might need. She lets us know to be careful of rocks with the tires, as occasionally a rock, if caught the wrong way, can slash the sidewall. She also takes a moment to quickly quip about Jake, before assuring us we will be in good hands.

We set off. Jake leads the way and we follow. Slowly at first, as I learned to navigate the vehicle and the terrain. Before long we were going 50 mph down the dirt roads. Occasionally we would ride on little cliffs, and I had to go easier, being mindful of dips in the road so as not to launch us out. We hit a bumpy patch and my friend and I burst into hysterical laughter as boobs bounced mercilessly. Periodically Jake would stop and give us thumbs up to see if we were ok. We were feeling great.

It wasn’t lost upon me that this was an amazing adventure that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. I shouted to my friend over the roar of the engine how grateful I was. She decided she didn’t want to drive and said she was quite happy to let me drive while she filmed videos on the GoPro and took pictures. When we passed wild donkeys with a baby in tow, her whole face lit up. Aside from the wild donkeys, we saw free range cattle, including babies, as well as jackrabbits, bunnies, and even a roadrunner (meep meep!).

We first headed off to an abandoned gold and quartz mine. It was partially boarded up, but other areas simply had a few pieces of metal wire around it. I suppose not too many folks would be out that way anyways. Jake told us you might get some unsavory wildlife in there, so I was quite content looking around at some of the beautful rocks around the mine. We jumped back in the UTV’s and headed out down to Lake Mohave. As we started our way down there, the water looked a bright, crystal blue. In the dry desert heat, it looked a picture of heaven.

As we got down towards the water, it only got more beautiful. Suddenly we were surprised to see a few Apache helicopters (I think that’s what they were) zooming effortlessly above the water, looking to be mere feet above the waves. It was such an unexpected site I had to pause to watch. We headed all the way to the lakefront where surprisingly there was a building housing a toilet. Jake told us we could go in and change into our swimsuits if we like (they had told us to bring them so we could swim). My friend looked panicked. She had left them back at the startpoint by mistake. We decided, due to the heat, we’d just go in our clothes. After all, Jake said we’d probably dry off within no time. I was in awe at a tree growing quite far in the water. Just one, lone tree amongst the beautiful crystal clear blue waters. Jake informed us the lake often recedes during drier months and the tree must have taken root. We headed a bit further down to another spot and jumped off a small rock into the water, clothes, sneakers and all. I will tell you that the water felt like all my hopes and dreams after being out in that heat all day!

After a long, leisurely swim, we hopped back in for our final stop, which was at a peak of one of the mountains. We hopped out to appreciate the view, which was stunningly beautiful. I had to pause for a moment to take it all in. As a farmgirl from the emerald green fields of England, to the green, tree lines streets of New England, USA, to the dry, dusty, yet picturesque desert in Arizona. This area was nothing like anything I had ever seen in real life before. I wondered at the cacti that were spotted around, looked for wildlife, and honestly wondered how people navigated the area. The mountains had a reddish, earthy tone, and while it was hot and dusty, the dryness of the land against the crystal waters of Lake Mohave below was just something you had to take a moment to absorb.

We headed back to where we had started, all in all doing about 100 miles or so that day in the UTV. Ani came out to greet us yet again, asking excitedly how we had liked our day. I couldn’t really put into words how much I had enjoyed myself. After handing over the helmets and bandanas, we were handed another ice cold drink before the ride back to Vegas. This time, Ani joined us for the trip. I found ourselves asking lots of questions, which she was eager to answer, filling us in on her version of how she and Jake met, how they live in the desert, and what their days are like. She told us she also works as an English teacher. They live full time in the desert on about 8-10 acres of land, in a large RV that has sides that expand. I sat fascinated as she described life in the desert, the beautiful amazing parts, and the challenges too. Her and Jake mentioned how many nights, they take their jeep down to the lake and go jetskiing or swimming to cool off and relax.

Now it may sound silly, but when they dropped us off, they gave us a huge farewell, and I was honestly sad to see them go. Not only had I had an amazing, fun filled, memorable day, but it felt like I had spent it with old friends. And, if I’m really honest, in a world where marriages often struggle to survive, it was a joy to see a couple who seemed to really love not only each other, but the life they have created together. I turned to my friend and said “I really wish I could follow along with their story, they were just so fun to be around”. I will be rooting for them.

We arrived back to the hotel, hungry, dusty, and surprisingly not too sunburned! (Thanks for the sunblock Ani!!!).

After showering, getting prettied up, and feeling relaxed and sleepy, we headed out for a good meal.

It’s not all too often I write reviews, and it’s even less often I’d ever blog about a company, but here’s my 2 cents…..if you head out to the Vegas area, look up https://www.ouiexperience.com/ Spend the cash, and go. It’s not super cheap but I guarantee it’s a lifetime memory and experience. The excursion is a full day. We left at 9 and got back at 5, but you can make it shorter etc if need be. You’ll be back early enough to do dinner and nighttime excitement in Vegas. Not only that, but you’ll put your money in the pockets of two really great people who will be a joy to hang out with. This is a MUST DO experience, and you won’t regret it.

It was Vegas, Baby!

So I’m back! Back from what felt like a whirlwind girls’ weekend to Las Vegas, otherwise known as Sin City. Never fear, not too many sins were cast during our time there. I must say however, I had a grand old time, saw the sights, heard the sounds, saw a show, and had a wild and crazy time after climbing into a white, unmarked van (much of that I will get into in more detail in a later post, as that warrants it’s own post). Some of this may venture into the rated R level, so please be forewarned.

For those not caught up, my bestie is going in for surgery this week. For some reason, despite having many surgeries and hospital experiences throughout her life, this one in particular is bothering her a bit. She’s anxious about it in a way I haven’t seen her anxious before. To alleviate her anxiety, she decided to plan a vacation in Las Vegas, and I was her desired travel partner. We’ve been friends since high school, were housemates once upon a time, and have been through the best and worst of times. We laugh together, we’ve cried together, and most importantly, we’ve been there for each other. When she had a prior surgery, I cooked meals and dropped them off for her and her non-cooking husband. When my ex treated me badly, she scrubbed the toilet with his toothbrush. You get the drill. She’s one of my ride or die friends, the ones that are hard to come by in a world full of selfish people. Anything the other one needs, we’re there for each other. I trust her implicitly and I know she feels the same. I’m so very lucky to have her. We had talked about going on a girls weekend to Vegas since we were in our teens, but marriages, kids, and a world of responsibilities later, we never made it. She asked me to go. I said I couldn’t, because while my kids are cute as hell, they are EXPENSIVE and I just didn’t have the cash to swing it.

She told me to pack my bags, she was taking me on her dime. All I needed was some spending money. My husband said we’d make it work, he’d work short days, and my kids bonus grandma said she’d watch them when my husband was at work. How amazing is that? So with tickets booked, hotel room reserved, and bags packed, we headed to the airport on Saturday night. We flew out Mint on jetblue after 9 pm, arriving at around 11:30 PM Vegas time. Mint is extraordinary, with all the perks and seats that go into full on beds. I slept and awoke just before landing feeling refreshed. Off to the hotel we went.

Arriving at the Bellagio, I walked in feeling a bit underdressed, but excited. I had been to the Bellagio for a wedding years ago, but didn’t know all to much about it. I had stayed next door at the Vdara (which was awesome by the way….it’s a none gambling hotel and it is quiet and smells non smokey, which is a plus. The rooms are modern, calming, and quiet…plus they are well air conditioned, but I digress). Our room was up on the 26th floor, in the building on the left side of the main building as you’re looking up. We checked in, grabbed our bags, and started the LONG walk up to the room. Everything in Vegas is a long walk from everything else. The sheer amount of steps and miles I walked last week was unreal. Anywho, we arrive at the room, and step in. The room is clean, pretty, and has an AMAZING view of the Las Vegas strip, but not only that, we can view the Bellagio fountains going off throughout the day/nights! We had a prime view of Paris, as well as some other hotels. I immediately stepped to the thermostat to turn the AC on, after all, it was Vegas and it was warm in there. I tried lowering the temp, but it wouldn’t go down past 65. Also, the AC cut off. I went all the way back down to the desk, only to find out that the AC is on a motion sensor. This meant that the AC would cut off at night and when we left the room. “Do you understand this is the Bellagio? In 105 degree heat? Why does the AC turn off?” I asked. I know, not my proudest moment, but I HATE being hot at night. The person at the desk shrugged, apologized, and sent a fan to the room. I slept every night with a fan blasting me in the face.

Now, you can tell when long term friends, especially those who lived together, go on vacation together. Concessions are made, and adjustments to keep everyone happy. I am always hot, she is always cold. She said I should sleep near the AC vent, with the fan, and she got an extra blanket. This happened for the whole trip, each of us finding ways to “make it work” which resulted in everyone having a great time.

After checking in, and getting our fan, we wandered down to gamble a bit, and played for a few hours before turning in to sleep. We awoke early Sunday and headed off to see the casinos. She wanted to make sure I saw as many as possible, as well as some free shows or things that made each casino unique. We also found eating a big breakfast and then eating dinner worked best for both of us. We went to Caesar’s Palace, MGM, Mandalay, Mirage and some others. We each had points from playing the free “My Vegas Slots” game, which scored us free passes into the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef. I am a huge water person, always happiest near the water, so this was totally my happy place. They had some other animals and fish there, including a piranha who had had it’s lip bitten off, leaving it with a permanent toothy grin. The woman who worked there informed me he was one of the best eaters of the group despite the deformity. The shark tanks and tunnel were awesome, and I got a pretty great shot of a shark swimming right over my head. Beautiful creatures, but I must say seeing them up close confirmed my nervousness about open water caused by the movie Jaws many years ago. Speaking of Jaws, I am fairly confident that may be a movie that impacted multiple generations of people.While you don’t necessarily think “Jaws” when someone asks which movie has had a huge impact on you, if you spend much time near the water and think about it, I’d be willing to guess you have thought about that movie more than once when on the beach. If you are going to Vegas, play the free slot game…they give you free play money, you earn rewards, and you can earn points towards free food, experiences, and discounted or even free hotel rooms! Another side note, your ticket to the Shark Reef also gives you a free pass to Mandalay Bay’s beach and pool. Score!

Over the next few days, we did some more exploring of the various casinos, checked out people on the strip (Vegas is simply AMAZING for people watching) and hit up Fremont st. Now, speaking of people watching, Fremont street was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip. It’s a bit of a trek to get down there, so we caught an Uber. I had only Ubered once before this trip, so I had to get the hang of it, but I was very impressed. The Uber rides became a challenge for us. For those not familiar, Uber is an app you put on your phone. You select where you want to go, the app figures out where you are, and it offers you a few selections of cars, as well as how much each one will cost. Most of the time it was 8-10 bucks for where we needed to go, but the price can fluctuate a bit depending on time and how busy it is by the looks of it. That being said, all our drivers were prompt, had good AC (a total blessing in 105-110 degree heat) and chatty. My friend initially started chatting with them, and in no time, we had a game going…”which is your weirdest Uber driver experience?” This is a great game to play if you use Uber a few times, especially in a place like Las Vegas. Some of the stores were mundane, such as drunk vomiters who got charged a very hefty fine, but the winner winner chicken dinner of the vacation belongs to a driver in a Nissan minivan. He had a couple in his car, and they were headed to a bar. The boyfriend poked the girlfriend in the side, teasing her, but poked her hard enough that it hurt, making her angry. He told her not to be mad, and said “ok, you can bite my thumb if that makes you feel better”. She grabbed that thumb and bit part of it off. LET ME REPEAT, SHE BIT OFF A SECTION OF HIS THUMB. The Uber driver, mortified, said he didn’t know what to do, so he simply asked if he should divert to the local hospital to have the thumb piece reattached. The couple declined and said they still wanted to head to the bar.

I have so many questions.

Well, it is Las Vegas, so while he was the winner of our contest, I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised by severed body parts in an Uber minivan in Vegas.

Now, back to Fremont st. Some folks call it Freakmont st, and 5 minutes in, I could see why. When you arrive at Fremont, it is a flurry of activity. Normally, that’s not really my bag. I like things a bit more quite and low key in my old(er)(ish) age, but this was Vegas, so I was up for it. Fremont street is an assault on your senses, but it also tugs at your sense of humor and your heart as well. It’s a very interesting place, to say the least, and probably not a great place for kids. Although I notice some people are a bit more lackadaisical about what they expose their littles to than I am. At Fremont, you walk and there is almost a canopy overhead, with a lightshow. It’s bright and blingy. Also above you is Slotzilla, a giant zipline that goes very high up. You can zipline seated and Superman style, depending on your choice. Now, I didn’t do the zipline, and unfortunately its my one big regret on this trip. I wish I had done it, because it looked a blast. Now there is the main walkway, but along the sides there are these black circles. I was curious about these, so I looked them up online. Apparently street performers can sign up online to reserve a circle, which they get for 2 hours. They can then do basically whatever they want in the circle. The night we were there, I saw an “older” woman standing holding a sign that simply said “finish on my face”. I’ll leave that one there. There were two women in skimpy outfits offering to whip people. There was a guy in only a thong with KISS makeup, and he stood next to a “Little Person” who looked like Mr. T. One guy had a guy with a sign and a clown nose that advertised you could kick his friend in the nuts. (There were actually two guys who did that schtick. I’m not sure how they did it, but I have video.) Two guys did a “human gumby” routine where you could pose them any way you’d like and they would stay in that pose. Another circle was occupied by a small group who did dance routines, only all were contortionists and did moves that made me cringe. It’s not required to tip the performers, but most people would if they participated. It’s not the same vibe you get in NYC with some guy in a shitty Elmo costumes that curses you out for not tipping if someone takes a picture. It’s all about fun and crazy and freakishness. It’s Vegas on a street level, with fun and fabulous. There were a few vets hoping for tips. One guy used his time to complain about Hilary….which was about the saddest waste of time I could think of. Dude, you’re in VEGAS and she’s not president or impacting you…move on, or have some fun! There were free concerts with great bands, and the whole vibe was bright, flashy and most of all, a fun party atmosphere. The street performers were my very favorite, and most seemed to be enjoying their time. If I wasn’t so tired from the heat and walking from the day, I likely would have stayed well into the night, but I’m a British girl who wasn’t built for heat and sun. Freemont is free to go to, so definitely plan some time to spend there in the evenings. As long as you’re not prudish, you’ll likely have a blast. We topped off the evening with Hash House A Go-Go, where I got a little burger. Their portions are HUGE….like crazy huge, the food is reasonable, yummy, and the server and hostess were sweet. I got home full bellied, tired, and slept well.

Tuesday we had a lazy day at the hotel, starting off with a big Bellagio buffet lunch and a dip in the pool. I was coated in 100 SPF and tried laying out for a few but 106 degrees is a beast. The pool was lovely, albeit small, and there were plenty of chairs, to my surprise. We then went up to get ready to head to a show. My friend scored tickets to the Cirque show KA on her credit card points. We arrived at the theater, grabbed snacks and wandered to our seats. I believe we were about 7th row, not bad at all!! We were unable to take any photography once we walked in. Unaware of this, I took a picture of the side set, and was quickly asked not to take any more. The best way I could attempt to describe the side set is that it looked a bit like the Ewok village. There were people swinging from the set over the audience. The show hadn’t even started and i was already having fun! I’ll be very honest that I am not entirely sure what the plot was, and I left very confused but in awe. The cast was simply amazing, and some of the stunts I witnessed, as a mom, made me cringe with nervousness. These cast members were nothing short of athletes. Climbing, spinning, jumping, and doing feats that seemed impossible. I left the show saying “I have questions” when it came to the plot, but having thoroughly enjoyed myself. If you get the chance, go see it. You won’t regret it.

I’m not exactly sure whether it was Monday or Tuesday, but that was the day my mystery friend left. I was sad to see them go, to be honest. It started out with a hallway table and a simple pad of paper. As I made the long trek to my room each day, I noticed someone had written something on a pad in the hotel hallway. The next day, I wrote something silly back. As I headed back to my room, I laughed when I saw they had responded, so I in turn responded to them. Back and forth it went, until the pad stayed blank. I suppose they must have checked out. I was honestly sad to see them go, and wish I had met my mystery pen pal to see who they were. Such simple things, yet it made me smile.

Wednesday was the day I was most looking forward to. It earned every ounce of anticipation, and to be honest, was so awesome, it deserves its own post. We were able, through my friend’s Chase rewards points, to book an excursion to ride dune buggies in the desert. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted in. I’m more of a speed freak than a heights person, and this seemed perfect. I will post separately about the excursion because it was an experience to remember in all the right ways, and I was able to capture not only stunning views, but also met some awesome people who run it. If you are headed out to Vegas or anywhere near, check out OUI Experiences. You won’t regret it. We had a private, full day experience riding UTV’s across the Arizona Mohave desert, topped off with a massive jump into Lake Mohave for a swim in it’s crystal blue, perfect temperature waters. I saw wild donkeys, cattle, and plenty of cacti. The couple that run the tour have exclusive access to certain areas, and you feel like you stepped onto the set of Breaking Bad when they are driving the RV into the desert, except there’s nobody but you and the guides, and an occasional passerby once every few hours. It was without a doubt, my favorite part of the trip. That being said, it was 116 degrees out. Now, I know folks always follow that up with “but it’s a dry heat”. No joke, 116 degrees feels like 116 degrees, especially wearing a full helmet, bandana, and riding a cart that also got a bit hot in spots. Ice water became hot water in no time, so we were constantly chugging cold water to stay hydrated. I think I drank more than a bottle per hour, and topped the whole thing off with an ice cold beer at the very end. It was fanfriggentastic.

We arrived back at the hotel with just enough time to wash the dust of the Mohave desert off of us, pretty ourselves up, and Uber out to the Stratosphere at the end of the trip. We we tired from the heat and hungry as hell. My friend treated me to dinner at the “Top of the World” at the top of the Strat, as they are trying to rebrand the hotel. Now, The Strat as the call it, is at the far end of the strip, and the area has a much different vibe than everywhere else. It starts to look a bit dicey, and there are some drunks roaming. The casino part is alright, but the access to the elevators was through a doorway into a hallway. It left me uneasy, but I can’t really explain why. It’s not a place I’d walk to late by myself comfortably, nor did I feel comfortable in the darkish hallways. Once on the elevator, at the top where the restaurant is, it’s a totally different vibe. The restaurant is busy and the views are unparalleled in Vegas. The floor of the restaurant slowly rotates, which allows you to see everything around it, doing about a 360 degree turn in an hour. This means that during an average dinner, you can see everything surrounding the hotel. 107 floors up. Not for those who are afraid of heights, but I sucked it up and dealt. The meals aren’t cheap, and you can easily run dinner over $300 for 2 people with just a single alcoholic drink or two per person. That being said, the food was delicious and the ambiance was awesome. My bestie treated me. (Sadly, she’ll be treated to my less than stellar cooking for the next week while she recovers from surgery…it hardly seems fair). After dinner, we wandered up a floor or two to the bar. Not only is there a bar up there, but also RIDES. Yes. You heard me, and everything is there with the intent to see if you are a crazy person. I forgot to mention that during dinner, one of the sites we got to see was someone doing a controlled drop off the roof. God knows how they did it without having a heart attack, because I was freaking out just watching them!! They also had multiple rides which dangle you off the side of the building, 108 or more floors up. I got anxious just watching them and had to step inside.

We headed back to our hotel room via Monorail (I definitely recommend getting a pass before you go to Vegas, as there are some great multi day pass deals out there. Mine was loaded to my iphone and popped up on my watch whenever I got close to the monorail, making hopping on and off a breeze). After a quick stop in front of the hotel to video the Bellagio fountain show for my daughter, we headed back to the room to pack and stumble into bed. It was midnight and man, were we wiped. I was sad the trip had come to a close, to be honest. It had been so much fun having time with just my friend, seeing and experiencing so much. Had I had more time, I would have done one of the ziplines. Ah well, another time. 3 hours later,after a nap, we were on our way to the airport. I was so tired I felt it in my bones. We both crashed out on the plane. The Jet Blue flight attendants scored MAJOR brownie points when they made me an Americano when I commented how sad I was to have missed coffee (and how much I needed one!) They handed me one not long before landing, making me promise to keep the lid on for safety. Thank you, Jet Blue!!!!

It took us ages to get back to our area due to rush hour traffic. My kids were with their aunties and uncles at a local sandwich place, grabbing a bite to eat. I saw their location on the tracking app they have on their phones, and showed up to surprise them. My daughter came running to hug me, a smile but also some tears of happiness on her face. My son, the too cool 13 year old, gave me a smile and looked surprised but pleased to have me back. My husband looked so happy to have me back when I got home that I could have cried. Nothing like a girls trip to make you realize how amazing the world is, especially the little world you’ve created in your own home.

Waving From the Chaos Whilst Finding Joy

June is one of those months where it seems like there is always a million birthdays, a million things going on, and no money with which to do all the things. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE all the celebrations, parties, events, and end of school things, but I feel like I am in constant chaos all month. I find myself constantly checking the calendar to make sure I am not missing anything.

It’s funny, I was never a calendar person. I simply kept everything in my head, like a giant mental Roladex. Then I saw other moms who seemingly had it all together, and these women had CALENDARS. Big, paper calendars with millions of things color coded and organized. I wanted to be like them. They seemed relaxed, despite their crazy calendars that gave me anxiety. I thought perhaps it might be freeing to go ahead and try this whole “organized mom” thing. I started out with a paper planner, and wrote everything super important down. I then started using my phone, putting in my work schedule, kids’ schedules, birthdays, events, anniversaries. I now live by the calendar, but spend an awful lot of time panicking that I may have forgotten to put something on my calendar and it will bite me in the ass. All too often I grab an appointment card with best intention to get the info on my calendar, but life is chaos, and sometimes I forget. Businesses that do reminder calls? I salute you!

This weekend, I need to find time to mow the grass, start work on clearing my patio, go to a gymnastics show, celebrate 3 birthdays, one graduation, prep for the week, as well as do all the laundry that I got behind on. Oh yes, and pack for an upcoming trip, get necessary items from the store, and figure out what sunblock a British lass with ultra fair skin should wear in the desert so as not to spontaneously combust. Hell, I went outside in the Northeast of the US for an hour and ended up with a sunburn! Also, what does one wear on a dune buggy in the desert for multiple hours so I won’t get a melanoma, exfoliate all my skin off, burn, or overheat and die? Do you know how much time these thoughts and concerns have consumed me the past few days? Way more than they should. I surmise I am going to overpack and still not have all I need.

So if you’ve been reading a while, you know I love a good story where I make an utter ass of myself. If you can’t laugh at yourself, it’s a sad life, really. So in the midst of my chaos, I stopped off to pick up some paperwork this week. I walked in and notice that there were security cameras around, which most businesses have. I walk in and find where I need to go. I see there is a little bell to push for service, and I look down and ring it. As I looked down to press the bell, as I am pushing it, I see that I have a situation. The button on my pretty flowy shirt with buttons has decided to unbutton itself. It also appears my boobs have decided to look out to see what it is I am up to that fine day, glad to be freed from their cotton button down prison. Now, I’m wearing a bra (big boobed girls rarely have any choice in that matter) but still we have a clear situation at hand. I begin to frantically try to rebutton myself before someone comes to assist the bell ringer. I am anxious though, and fumbling about like I am having a medical situation. I get my shirt buttoned at JUST the last second before the woman comes to help me. Now I am laughing at myself and cackling away, while looking like I am touching my boobs as I try to button up. I then realize this is all on the security cameras. #NotWinning.

My mom has been on my mind a lot lately, and I remembered looking in a closet while she was ill and remarking that she had some wonderful lotion in there. She commented she was saving it “for best”. I think we all have things we save for a special occasion. The problem was, however, that after she died I found that same lotion, untouched, in her closet. There were multiple things I found like that. It got me thinking how much she would have enjoyed that lotion, as simple as it was, and how by saving it she never got to savor it. It made me so sad. It also made me think, this past few weeks, how easily we often let joy slip through our fingers because we deny ourselves simple little pleasures for a myriad of reasons. Maybe it’s because we were taught it wasn’t appropriate as kids, maybe it’s something we are saving for “best” like my mother did, or maybe it’s because we feel we have to be a “good person” and do things we don’t want to do because “we should”. Why? The other day I wanted ice cream, for breakfast. I know, I’m a savage, right? So you know what I did, despite being told my whole life that ice cream is not an acceptable breakfast? I had ice cream for breakfast, because I’m a grown woman who can do that if she chooses. It seems so silly, so minute, but it brought me joy. My new goal is to find joy in small things at least once every day, even if it means “breaking the rules”. I had multiple conversations with various people this week who got put in a position where they were doing things they really didn’t want to do. These weren’t things they HAD to do. I responded by saying “so don’t?”. I get we all try to fit into social norms, or make people happy, but at the end of the day, nobody gets a martyr award for doing things we don’t want to. Look, I am all for kindness and doing kind things. But do them because you want to, and because they bring you joy. Why? Because the joy flows through to the recipient. If I show up and hand you something you need with a smile and light in my eyes, it’s a much different experience than if I show up looking like you disrupted my day and you’re a burden.

A prime example of joyful giving is totally evident with two of my friends. I mentioned in an earlier post that my friend and I are going to Vegas. She is basically taking me for a girls’ trip. I am utterly beside myself with gratefulness and excitement about this trip. I NEED a vacation, and honestly, I need a few days where I don’t need to be responsible for anyone but myself. Being a mom is the very best thing I have ever done. That being said, being responsible for the well being and keeping two other human beings alive and well and raising them to be productive members of society is HARD. Hard in a good way, but still hard. I have trouble keeping plants alive, but here I am, keeping two humans alive, healthy and kind. Being able to take a few days to be responsible just for myself is a strange kind of freeing. That being said, I’ll probably get out there and be missing them like crazy. My husband is a top notch dad so I don’t fear anything happening. Anywho, back to joyful giving. My friend is treating me to a trip, yet she also emails me daily with an excited countdown of how many days we have before we go. She excitedly tells me about all the things she wants to show me. She makes me feel like my presence on this trip will make her trip better, and that is an amazing feeling.

This morning, my other friend messaged me to say she had dropped off some tickets to a show in my mailbox. She asked if I was awake and I said I had just woken up as I needed a lazy morning. She texted commenting it’s the perfect day to sit outside in the morning and enjoy a coffee. A few moments later, she showed up back at my house WITH COFFEE. I can tell you it was AMAZING and awesome and SO appreciated. We stood outside catching up for a few moments, and then I sat on my steps outside after she left to do all her errands and I SAVORED that coffee. It felt like it set the tone for the whole day and I felt absolutely joyous.

Yes, I have amazing friends.

Yes, I appreciate every single one.

Yes, my circle is small, brutally honest, full of kindness, feisty, and I could call on them for anything. How awesome is that?

What else is new? (Well, it’s been a few weeks so I am feeling quite chatty today, plus I am extra caffeinated).

Oh yes, my much beloved cousin, who is like a little brother to me, is off scaling the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales this week as part of an event to raise money for charity. Over 1000 miles of driving, 3 mountains to scale, and a ton of physical endurance. I’m amazed and proud and am cheering him on from 3000 miles away. I am also sitting here eating cheese puffs and chocolate, drinking my coveted coffee, and realizing why I am probably chubbier than most of my cousins. Ha! I miss my cousins terribly. They were the siblings I didn’t have as kids, and even as adults. I miss my UK family to bits and I think another trip is in order. That being said, this year so far is currently stacked with trips and things to do, but maybe next year. I asked my kids where they would like to go for a next big family vacation, and they both chose to go back to England to see their family. It made me so happy to see they love it there as much as I do, and that they had such a great time on our last trip. .

Well, I’d better get moving. I’ve done a load of procrastinating today and it’s time to get rocking and rolling.

I leave you with this…find the joy in the mundane, find time to laugh at yourself and the world around you, and know that tomorrow is always a new day. Treat yo’self. Use the expensive candles or lotion, dress up just because, and find the happiness in the little things.

Waving from the chaos!

Wide Eyed, Like, REALLY Wide

Did I ever tell y’all about my bestie’s wedding? I may have. After a while the days start to slide into weeks, and posts come and go. (Yes, I am still working on the big post I keep mentioning. You have no idea how much time and effort it takes to get all the info aligned and put together). In the meantime though, it’s often fun to look back and laugh at all the chaos that life throws at you. Today someone posted a video on FB from Cian Twomey. If you haven’t seen this guy, he’s usually hilarious. He usually performs as a character named Emily. You kind of have to see it to understand, because I’ll never do him justice describing it.

Anywho, the video appears, and Cian is doing his Emily persona, and is doing a makeup tutorial. Cian is in full beard, doing a purposefully terrible job doing the makeup, but talking himself through it. Now I know that made that sound horribly boring and uninteresting, but I promise you might get a chuckle if you go look him up. Anywho, I digress. Cian gets to a point where he attempts to apply false lashes, and it’s just a hot mess. There is glue where it shouldn’t be, the lashes aren’t where they should be, and the whole thing is utter chaos. I laughed way harder than I should have, because it’s a perfect representation of how things went at my friend’s wedding, only he did a better job than I did.

The wedding was a destination wedding, and we couldn’t afford for both my husband and I to go, so I went while he stayed with the kids. I flew down to Florida for Valentine’s weekend. I arrived at the rehearsal dinner immediately after checking into my room and racing to the location. After racing in, I plopped down and my friend came over to sit next to me. “I need a favor….I need you to iron my dress” she said. “You can’t iron a wedding dress!” I laughed. “I have faith in you” she said. She wasn’t joking. Now, I had gave her all the info…how to take the dress on the plane, how to contact the hotel concierge to get it looked after/steamed if necessary, and all the other travelling bride tips I had learned. She did not of it. Instead, she put her wedding dress in a suitcase.

Let me repeat that. She put her wedding dress….IN.A.SUITCASE.

The next day, I headed to the bridal suite. My friend, her sister, and her old best friend from when she was in elementary school were the bridal party. I asked where the dress was. It was an utter disaster. I was armed with a steamer I had purchased from Walgreens. The dress was hanging in a closet. I sat down on the floor and started steaming. I steamed, I steamed, and I steamed some more. The brides sister announced she didn’t want to do a speech. I saw my friend looked panicked. “I’ll do it if you want” I said, and kept working on the dress. My face was bright red, my hair frizzed, and I was sweating heavily, but by the time that dress was done, it was exquisite. Not a wrinkle in sight.

The 3 women were getting hair done and getting prepped. I headed back to my hotel room to get ready. I now had to get glammed up, plus write a speech. That’s when the cramps started, and I ran in the bathroom. Something set my stomach off, and there I was, having to write a speech while on the toilet. Classy lady, I tell ya.

I get myself together, and now feel a lot better, so I hop in the shower to start the process of turning my swamp creature self into something passable enough for a wedding. My makeup looked cute, my dress looked cute, and I had a few extra minutes.

That’s when I got cocky.

I should have known better.

I decided to put on false lashes. Now let me preface this by saying that I rarely wear lashes, and I don’t know how to put them on easily. Every time is difficult, and while I love the look of them, I hate how inept they make me feel. I was about to be a big ol’ hater, because the lashes and I went to war.

I trimmed them, added my glue, and went to apply gently. Something went wrong, and next thing I knew, my eyelash was stuck to my lower lashes, meaning I had effectively glued my eye shut. The glue went into the corner of my eye and then spread across my eyeball. The pain. OMG, the pain. Now I am left trying to pry my eye apart, but it keeps sticking back to itself. I decided to break from that side and try the other. I gently go to apply the last, and I wish I could explain what I did wrong, but all I can say is that the last somehow stuck to my lashes, and then stuck up by my eyebrow.

I now have one eye WIDE open, with the last connected almost to my brow, and one eye almost glued shut, with glue in it. I look like an old, creepy, broken doll. I pry my eyes apart, and somehow manage to get the lashes in the right place, however I still ave glue in my eye so it’s extremely red.

I throw on my dress, my sky high heels, and teeter downstairs. I say teeter because as I said, I am but a jeans and t shirt swamp girl on the daily, and not the high heel wearing goddess I was hoping to be for just one night. I finally get the hang of the heels and I head to the wedding. Or, at least I tried.

The car never came to get me. The hotel called some guy who showed up in a very dirty minivan. I wasn’t sure if he was a serial killer, but I had a wedding to go to so I hoisted myself right in and off we went. The guy drove like a bat out of hell, which I appreciated. I arrived, flustered, red eyed, eyes sticky, but happy, and set out to find the wedding. That’s when I realized the wedding was on the far side of the hotel, and the hotel was HUGE. I slipped off my shoes and started running, not wanting to be late.

I arrive, winded. My chubby, mediocre bodied self huffing and puffing. I am starting to surmise I am not looking as cute as I had attempted to look.

I see a familiar face, and am promptly asked “oh my god, are you ok? why are your eyes so red?”. So there’s that.

The rest of the night? Pretty awesome. Lots of drinking, dancing, celebrating. There was a Cirque de Soleil performer. There was laughter. There was, however, the incident. You know, the one where we are all stumbly drunk and being silly. I am pushing my friend’s aunt in her walker that has a seat on it. She is laughing and yelling, and I am doing a fast walk, until I hit the lip of carpet, and we both toppled over, crashing to the ground. She gets a head wound, I almost broke my foot. The next morning, I awake still drunk, my foot black and blue, and one of my favorite shoes is cracked in half. I pack, sober up, and race off to the airport to fly home. Not my best choice of travel plans, but I digress.

Now, did I mention the part where I am a terrified flier? Ridiculous, I know, especially as I practically grew up on planes. Yet suddenly, I became a scaredy-pants and get very anxious on planes. I am sitting at the gate where I see a handicapped boy in a wheelchair being pushed to the gate. I noticed that periodically he makes a shriek. I suddenly realize that he will likely be sitting near me, which doesn’t bother me at all except I know if he shrieks and it catches me off guard, with me being so tense, I might shriek too, and then I’ll look like an asshole. I get on the plane, and frankly I may still be a little buzzed from the night before. The boy is a couple of rows up. I settle into my seat. I am trying to get my nerves fine before we take off. I look casually to my left and see an Asian woman with a mask on…the kind doctors wear. I glance around and suddenly notice I am surrounded by people with those masks on. I start to wonder why everyone has a mask on. I fall asleep and start to laugh that perhaps my friend is pranking me. I wake up as we are in mid air, and I awake to a shriek by the boy a few seats up. It was also at the exact moment we hit turbulence and the plane dropped a bit. I SCREAMED. Like, fear in all it’s glory scream. All I felt was my seat drop out below me and heard someone scream, so I screamed. Then I realized what happened. I peered around sheepishly and saw an endless sea of masked faces looking at me. Some looked concerned, some looked angry. I realize I now look like I was mocking a handicapped person. I slink down in my seat, cursing my stupid fear.

I arrived home, hobbled with bruises all over my foot and leg, still unable to apply lashes like a grown up, but having had a hell of a time.

Viva Las Vegas!

The other day, I was chatting with my bestie of probably 30 years. We met in school and have been firm friends ever since, even buying a house together when we were younger and before we each got married. We’ve done many an adventure together over the years. She was the one that came down to make the drive with me once I moved up north. We got each other through bad dates, bad boys, good time, the best of times, and the worst of times. Through it all, we’ve rarely had falling outs, and the friendship is an easy one. While we’re both married, I have kids, and she doesn’t, but she loves my kids and understands that my first priority is being their mom. That sometimes makes getting time to go adulting a bit difficult.

She was asking about what I’m up to, which basically revolves around marriage, kids, the project with the Kindness Closet, and all the usual mom things. She was telling me she’s itching to go on a trip to Vegas (she loves gambling, and if I’m honest, I do too, I just don’t have the extra funds these days), and asked me if I want to go. After all, we’ve talked about going to Vegas together for probably 25 years now, but we’ve never managed to go. I told her that of course I would love to go, but I can’t swing it now. After all, we have a family trip coming up that I am saving for, as well as a ton of expenses for camp etc that were all hitting at once. There was just no way I could swing it. “Do you WANT to go?” she asked? “Of course!” I replied. “Is it just finances?” “Well, yes, and coordinating with the kids.” “Ok, you coordinate the kids, I’ll pick up the flights, hotels and excursions” she said.

I blinked. “WHAT?”

She explained that since she goes out there quite a bit, she has a ton of points that she can use for free items. Miles, points, and other offers that she can take advantage of. She then went on to explain how my parents had always helped her out when we were younger, that I was always there to help her out, make meals when she had surgery, color her hair for her, and other stuff, plus I always help people. She said this was a way to turn the tables and help me. I’m stunned, floored, and honored.

And so, a girls’ trip has been planned, just the two of us. She handed me a list of things to do and said to pick a couple. When I squealed and said “They have DUNE BUGGIES?” she squealed “you’d do that? I’ve always wanted to and nobody would go with me!” Needless to say, we’re dune buggying it up! For her, this is a way for her to showcase a city she loves, and for me, it’s a chance to decompress and relax, while having some bestie time and seeing new things. I am GIDDY.

The other day, I was in the orthodontist office with the little and while trying to make an appointment, I started having chest pains. I won’t lie, it frightened me. A LOT. I made jokes about it, and the staff looked clearly panicked. I asked for some Tums, assuming it was just severe heartburn. Turns out that’s likely what it was because it eventually disappeared. When I recounted this to my husband he pointed out that I need to find ways to relax because I am always stressed and with a million things on my plate. I told him he was silly, and he just looked at me and started doing something he knows I do when I get very stressed. Ok, point taken.

I told my friend that while she goes gambling, there is a good chance I may wander around and people watch, or even better, park out by the pool for a while. I think the downtime is going to be amazing, but am excited to see all I can and do a few crazy things. Honestly, I have the best friends a girl could ask for. I simply cannot wait!

If you’ve been to Vegas, let me know your favorite things to do and see!

The Collector

Old Friends. They really can be the very best, can’t they? Friendship is something that really morphs and flexes over time, and I am a firm believer that the most cherished of friends should often be the ones that stayed in it to win it for the long haul.

As a kid, we focus on how many friends we have. We collect them like pebbles at the beach or pennies, and it often feels like the more we have, the better. As we aged through to high school, some friends faded away, and a few stuck around. College brings new friends to add to the mix, and new experiences to share with those friends. Post college life, when marriage and kids often happen, is when we see who remains when life gets so darned BUSY. After a while, we look around and see a hodgepodge of friends from various times in our lives, and then we start to pay even closer attention. Slowly we start to weed through those friends, seeing who is a true friend, and who is there to witness our failures without lifting us back up.

When I look at my friends now, I have folks who are somewhat newer friends, but most are those I have known for very large chunks of my life. My deepest gratitude goes to the long haulers, who have been by my side through the best of times, the very worst of times, and the times when I didn’t know I could make it through. My first best friend and I are still facebook friends. We’ve known each other since second grade, and stayed good friends all the way through high school. I moved away, she left for school, and we lost touch for a long time, but have since reconnected and stay in touch. While it’s been a while, I still feel to this day I could call her and say “I NEED you” and she would come, just as I would for her. She holds such a special place in my heart, because she knew the youngest me, the dreamer, the girl who wanted to be a dolphin trainer. She knew the fun me, before the world handed me hardship and responsibility. She’s known me as a wife, a mother, and a grown up with a career. She’s seen the progression of where I came from, as the girl who would wail the “fish heads” song while watching Elvira play music videos late into the night, and the girl who had a search party called out for her when she went missing (I really should document some of our escapades), to a fairly responsible mom of two. She knew my parents, WELL, and I knew hers. We spent endless nights at each other’s houses, went to camp together, and caused general mayhem. A lot of the reason my childhood was so memorable was because of her.

Another one of my closest friends I met in high school. We both liked the same boy, and it so happened he asked me out. We hadn’t know each other before that, but soon a silly argument happened. We ended up becoming fast friends, and soon figured out the boy was a jerk not worthy of a moment of our time. We’ve been besties ever since. She taught me to drive (like a maniac, as she did), she took me to her college classes with her (she’s a couple of years older than I). We cried over boys who broke our hearts and cheered when we each met “the one”. I actually introduced her to her husband. We have laughed a lifetime of laughter together, and the very best part is that I still see many more laughs in our future as we grow old. She was my roomate for years, which created some hysterical stories of chaos and mayhem as we navigated our 20’s as two single women. The week I had the stomach ebola she had gone up to the Yankee Candle flagship store and knocked on my door with a huge tray full of full size candles in various fall scents. She knows I love the fall, and she sent an email the next day saying she appreciates all I do for her and wanted to treat me to something. When I have to put up with crazy people, I call her and we collapse with laughter at the situation. I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

Some of my other friends live down south. I have a small group I know from the 10 years I spent down there. We are a small group of 4 who have stayed connected over the years. There have been some rough times. One of us became and addict, one had her fiance take off with someone else, one’s wife cheated and abandoned the family. One of us ended up on life support and almost died. That was a tough one….I remember getting that call and driving 5 hours each way to spend the day in hospital by her bedside, and then driving to John’s Hopkins a few weeks later and commuting 3 hours each way from there to visit her. At the end of the day, none of us speak often, but when I am down that way, we reconvene for a night out and catching up. All of us have kids around the same age, with three of the group being single parents. We appreciate the luxury of a night out, and often sit up until late in the night chatting and playing catchup with each other. We are a family of sorts, and when the need is there, we show up to support each other.

Back in 2001 or so, I met a coworker I clicked with. She ended up leaving the company shortly after I started, but I always liked her blunt honesty and no bullshit attitude. Imagine my surprise when it turned out we’re neighbors. She lives around the corner from me, and we have become tight friends. We house sit for each other, and each one is the other’s go-to for emergency help. We often sit around the table and laugh at what life throws us. When crazy happens, I tell her all the chaos and the two of us end up in stitches with laughter. I now count her as one of my closest friends.

Another former coworker and I clicked immediately and have been fast friends ever since. People always said we looked a little similar (my husband admitted one day he came to the office and went to playfully spank my butt, only to realize it was her and not me right before the hand connected. Luckily he was able to pull back!) She and I share so many of the same viewpoints, both suffered the loss of a parent, and we shared similar childhoods. She GETS me. While our career paths went in totally opposite directions, our lives are quite different, she is still someone I consider one of my closest friends because I know I can call her for an opinion and it will always be right and well thought out. She knows I am there if she needs me.

There are others, too, who are close to my heart. The common thread with all my friends is brutal honesty and laughter. I know I can call on any of these friends I mentioned above and I will get the cold hard truth. I know each and every one of these folks will call me out on my own bullshit, will tell me if I am out of line or if I am in the right. There is no sugar coating. There is no fluff. There is no guessing where I stand. It’s BEAUTIFUL and AMAZING. Having the freedom to be yourself and have people love you for it, with no pretense and no BS is the very best feeling. These friends have known me before I took on a role as a wife and mother. They knew me from various stages of my life…when I was a dreamer, when I was angsty and messy, when I was anxious and stressed, when I was a little crazy, a lot crazy, and when I settled down into my current life. They support me. They cheer me on, they have my back if I need them. I never question their loyalties to me. Oh, and the laughter. If I you asked me to list some of the things I have done right in my life, on the top of my list would be that I have surrounded myself with laughter. Prime example: When I worked with one of my friends, a coworker, who was in her 60’s, showed up to work in clear, light up stripper shoes, y’all. CLEAR, LIGHT UP STRIPPER HEELS….TO A BANK JOB, BY A 60+ YEAR OLD WOMAN. Now look, a big part of me now is like…go ahead girl, you do you, boo. At the same time though, this was a bank we were working at, and I had to question her thought process on how these shoes were appropriate. I mentioned this to my friend and the two of us had a great time giggling about some of the choices that were made that day. Now, 365 days later, my mother died. I was in the darkest, saddest place of my whole life, stuck in a car in traffic trying to make it down to say goodbye to her, before getting a call she had died. I was in shock. But then, a text came in. The text from my friend…letting me know she loved me, knew I was in a dark place…and that perhaps she could shed some light on my darkness by letting me know that 365 days later, those light up shoes had reappeared on the coworker’s feet that day in the office. I HOWLED with laughter. I had tears pouring down my face, for a moment not in sadness, but in glee that my friend had seen those shoes, on those toes, and had KNOWN I would want to know because it would make my day, at least for a moment, less painful. That’s friendship.

My daughter bemoaned the fact that many of her friends moved out of the school when they redistricted us. She went from loads of school friends to just one or two. I had a conversation with her the other day about quality vs quantity. I explained that having just a couple of true, honest and solid friends is so much more important than having lots of fair weather friends. We discussed how friends should be, and how sometimes, you need to clean your friendship closet, because not everyone is a good friend. I hope when she grows up, she will see that while I may not see all of my friends as often as I would like (lives get so busy at this age with work, relationships, kids, pets, commitments, etc) that true friends will always be there when you need them.

True friends we collect through our lifetime are those we can count on, and who trust in us enough to count on us. They may be old friends, newer friends, or family who became friends (or vice versa!). They are the ones who tell us how it really is. There is no fear of offense. There is no fear of being taken the wrong way. There is honesty, loyalty, trust, and most of all, lots and lots of laughter.