It Occurred to Me About My Mom

{This post also featured on BlogHer.}

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Days like last Saturday make life perfectly lucid. I attended a dear friend’s wedding, and every single detail of the day was gorgeous, colorful, and extraordinarily merry.  So much so, that even in the fuzzy days following, I have maintained a steady second-hand happiness high.  I was fortunate enough to be accompanied at the wedding by both my immediate family and lots of close friends, and as always, spent much of the evening being told over and over how much I was like my Mom. Throughout the night, but particularly on the dance floor, loved ones huddled around us, all saying basically the same thing:

“Oh my gosh, Bridget! You are your mother’s daughter!”

I smiled politely again and again, said thank you (and meant it), but as the night wound down, I noticed that my mind was frozen in the sentiment, which had me simultaneously bewildered and pleasantly surprised.

Because lots of things have occurred to me about my mother over the years…

That she practices the sort of kindness that softens people – the sort that I try to emulate but can’t seem to maintain, that elevates stressful encounters to a more personal, human-to-human level. That she is arguably the best nurse in her entire hospital, because she has the capacity to treat every patient with the same care that she would provide to her own family. That she is the most devoutly spiritual person I have ever met; she doesn’t ever tell me how to live, but she shows me all the time.

Yes, lots of things have occurred to me about my mom. But being “my mother’s daughter,” which insinuates that I’m just like her? Never.

I suppose that’s because of the fact that, despite her exceptional accomplishments and incomparable character traits, I have spent too many of my 28 years focusing on everything she wasn’t, instead of appreciating everything she is.

I have always fiercely loved my mom, of course, but haven’t always showed it in the way she deserved to see it.

I used to think I shied away from being just like her because she really bugged me. Now I think it was because, in my heart, I couldn’t quite appreciate her brand of pure goodness until I began to see how much I needed it in my life. I don’t regret one thing about our mostly-amazing-but-sometimes-a-little-shaky relationship. It is the realest thing I have ever known.

Sometimes, I assumed she didn’t understand me. I realize now, it was often I who misunderstood her.

Sometimes, I resented the perpetual positivity she prescribed for my teenage angst. I realize now she was teaching me resilience.

Sometimes, I allowed myself to be defined exclusively as a Daddy’s Girl. I realize now, there was room for both of them in my fan club.

Worst of all, sometimes I so unfairly made her my preferred emotional punching bag. I realize now she was the only person I felt I could let down.

Because, you see, I knew she would love me anyway.

And she did.

People like to say that once you’re a mother, you begin to appreciate your mother. I just didn’t want to wait that long. So, let me say boldly and for the record: I am so proud to be my mother’s daughter. We are, and always have been, the same in all the best ways.

Mom:

For all the times I rolled my eyes, I’m sorry.

For all the times I forgot to say it: I love you. So very, very much.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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The Man of My Daydreams (A Valentine’s Day Love Letter)

Then and now

Someone posed this question online recently:
​Was there a specific moment you knew you had found the ONE?

Hmm. Much ado is made about that term: ​The ​O​ne​. The idea that there could possibly be just one moment to predict ​The ​One seems preposterous to me. Isn’t the very notion of choosing a mate dependent on the hope that there are so many good moments, so many great reasons? Isn’t walking down the aisle a little bit like saying I love so much about you, that I want you to be a permanent part of me? A singular moment seems too simple to me. Still… the question was there, and so I pondered it. And in spite of myself, something came to mind.

I often hear myself telling Coaching clients, “If you can shape it in your mind, you can find it in your life.” I mean it when I say it. And I think I believed it wholeheartedly before I ever really ​put the words together​.

To this point: When I was young, I had lots of dreams about the kind of man I would marry. I read lovey dovey books and indulged in every romantic comedy on God’s green Earth. Let’s put it this way… I did just about everything EXCEPT buy an actual gown! Yeah. I was that girl.

I wondered:
What would he look like?
What kind of job would he have?
What would his hobbies include?

I imagined something like:
Handsome and preppy,
Law or Medicine, and
Talking about feelings under the stars.

You can Imagine my surprise when I fell in love with a long-haired, ear-pierced rock band drummer from downtown Chicago.

Our love story was like a lot of others’ – unique only because it was ours. We met in college when we lived across the hall from one another​:​ ​b​egan as friends, which turned into “best friends,” which turned into inseparable. Of course meeting at​ age​ ​19 didn’t come without its challenges. We acquainted as young adults, and quickly learned that we didn’t just have to grow together, we had to grow up together. The perfect moments were sprinkled with difficult ones, including a break up that did nearly that – broke us. We shared everything together during those dating years, and finally graduated into adulthood a bit wiser, but together, and thus – happy. ​​19 turned into ​25 very quickly, and before we knew it, our little chapter had turned into a six year book.

In knowing one another this long, we had became very familiar ​with​ our respective quirks, habits and guilty​ little​ pleasures.

My own ​guiltiest being the TV ​talk​show “LIVE with Regis and Kelly.”

I had recorded the show religiously for years, because plain and simple – it made me happy! Ryan didn’t share my passion for the show, and if he was aware of my obsession with it, he certainly didn’t ever talk about it.

Regis Philbin ​​retired on November 18th, 2011. (At 9am CST.) (Writing this is embarrassing.) Being the avid fan I was, I worked from home that morning to watch his ​final​ show​, and ​settled into my couch with a Kleenex box in hand. The opening credits began to roll when I heard a knock on my apartment door. Slightly annoyed, I glanced through the peep hole and answered. Behind the door was my sweet boyfriend entirely dressed for work, with ​a​ mug of coffee in one hand and a breakfast pastry in the other.

He smirked and simply said, “Let’s watch it together.”

T​hat was the moment that defined The One​. It wasn’t about the TV show, or the fact that my non-tv-addicted boyfriend watched it with me that day. It wasn’t about the coffee or the breakfast pasty. Those things were kind, but still somewhat unremarkable in hindsight​​… had it not been for this:

He didn’t care that what mattered to me was ​mundane​, or even silly. He just cared that it mattered to me.

When ​Ryan and I​ got engaged a month later, it was the best ​day of my life.

When I champion the idea that we can create in our mind what we want in our lives, I think what I’m really trying to say is​ this: ​I​t’s good to have grown-up daydreams.​ They’re never going to exactly predict our futures – we’re not clairvoyant. But, they can​ prepare our minds and hearts to recognize the distinct feelings we get inside when we feel giddy, peaceful or fulfilled. Those feelings are our daydreams coming true.

My long-haired, earring-wearing, rock star drummer is a preppier, balder guy now. He works in real estate and ​plays his​ drums​ticks​ on the steering wheel of our Jeep. He is a slightly tamer version of th​e​​ Ryan​ I met across the hall. He still doesn’t like talking about his feelings under the stars, but he buys me a Regis and Kelly mug every single Christmas.

​And yep… he’s still The One. Lucky me.

{P.S. Regis and Kelly turned into Kelly and Michael. Yes, I still LOVE it. No, I don’t stay home from work to watch it. I schedule people around it. So, I kind of do.}

bridget@bridgetchambers.com

MS²

Comparatively Speaking

happinessIt’s noon and I am rushing off to Starbucks for my second coffee of the day.  June is almost over, I think, annoyed.  Moments ago it was winter – the worst one ever.  Now the Fourth of July is lurking.  Ugh, and with so much left to do this year…

I decide to exchange my mindless iPhone Google searching for something more productive, and instead dig out a crumpled Post-It from the bottom of my purse: To Do’s.  Fifteen of them, to be exact — annotated with bright red scribbles, circles, and lots of urgent exclamation points (do those ever really work?). The notes scream “hurry up, do it now, you’re latelatelatelate…!” But who can hear them way down at the bottom of my purse?  I think to myself that maybe I should start reserving all future walks for thinking about the things I have to do — a very sneaky and convenient alternative to actually doing them.

As I walk into the coffee shop and stuff the list back where it belongs, I am thinking to myself that I NEED to finish writing my book this year.  Well, this half-year, actually. July starts next Tuesday and I’m miles from being done. I think I can, I think I can. And I think to myself that the journey of a thousand books begins with a single word

An echo rings in my head as I’m drawn out of my daydream and back into real life. “Word,” I hear the cashier say to the chic-looking woman at the counter, after she opines that it’s too hot outside to be ordering hot coffee. That expression –“word”– sounds odd as a response to a woman who looks like she looks, wearing what she wears. It seems appropriate only for rappers, college co-eds and the occasional 50-year-old man who thinks he’s still “hip”.  Nonetheless, their voices snap me out of self-analysis, and I welcome the distraction.  “I’ll take it iced,” she says, oblivious.  “Add a little milk – soy milk – and a sprinkle of cinnamon.”  I notice her opaque tights and midnight-black tailored suit.  A lot more put-together than I, I instantly think.  (Mental note – add number 16 to the to-do list: buy a chic working-girl’s suit. It’s time. It’s been time.)

“Have a nice day,” the cashier says as he extends her a napkin.  But she’s already deep into her phone, scrolling with exquisite nails.  She directs a likewise nod in his direction, grabs her drink but declines the napkin, and strides out.  She isn’t unfriendly per se, just purposefully curt and in a hurry.  A typical Chicagoan with better shoes.

I’m daydreaming again as I watch her through the window.  She tucks her hair behind her ears, places her phone into what I can only assume is a pristinely organized handbag, and unhooks her well-behaved dog from the No Parking sign.  Before she crosses the street, she looks left, right, then left again – adding credence to my long-held theory that ancient kindergarten habits still work, even for the most sophisticated.

As I continue to wait in the typically long line, I tap my flip-flopped toes to the beat of the coffee shop music (John Mayer… again), and my mind begins to flutter around and about the specifics of the perfect, perfect stranger I’d just encountered.  Who is she and where does she come from? Where is she going? What does she have that I don’t… and more importantly for me in this moment, what can I do that she cannot?  (“Nothing” stabs me in my ego. She probably writes lots of books. Two per month.)  Suddenly I’m being defeated in a nonexistent battle.

Intellectually I know I’m being silly, not to mention dramatic, and am playing an unwinnable game (I’ve read enough Pinterest quotations to know that “comparison is the thief of joy”).  Still, something inside me stings.  Maybe it’s the always buried, always unfinished to-do’s, or maybe it’s the fact that December 31st – the day I decided I must be finished with my book – is only six months away, but I suddenly feel unaccomplished and really far behind…

As a young girl, I remember telling people I wanted to be a writer.  I think in some ways I just liked the way that sounded, though I really did love writing.  I actually looked forward to activities that the other kids almost-universally despised: the essays, the spelling bees, the speeches.  I loved imagining a world where I would write, help people, and create work that really meant something.  But writing now is hard, dammit. A lot harder than when I was young.  Why did the younger me write with the same enthusiasm I now reserve for reality TV, strappy slingback heels and oaky Chardonnays? Where was that simplicity, that joy, that —

I stop on that thought.  Now I’m not just comparing myself (unfavorably, natch) to a woman I don’t know, I’m comparing myself to myself.  I begin to think about why I have this constant tendency to contrast myself against the mere snapshots I have of other people. Why? I know it’s not self-loathing; I have my faults, but I still like me — most of the time.  It begins to dawn on me that maybe I’m not just being critical.  Maybe I’m learning.

A realization springs to mind: maybe it’s through others that we make sense of our own lives.  We gain context.  We gain perspective.  We glorify others to have something to aspire to; we vilify others to lessen our own faults.  That’s the thing about other people: they unknowingly allow us to borrow their lives for a few moments, and then they take them back, none the wiser, when we’re done.  And maybe when we borrow them for comparison’s sake, we don’t, as Theodore Roosevelt suggests, suffer a “thief of joy,” but rather we remind ourselves that joy is a journey.  That the best times of life aren’t in the past or the future, but in the now, inside the people we are today.

Besides, how do we know where we are without context? Is there a poet alive who hasn’t read Maya Angelou? A rocker on the planet who hasn’t crooned to Elvis? We don’t compare to shame ourselves. We compare to continue our journeys down the brightest paths. We can buy working-girl suits, or use expressions like “word,” or do whatever feels like the best version of us – and right now, I can coach and write. And help people. And create work that means something.  To me.

I leave the coffee shop and head to my coaching meeting. My client greets me with a smile. “Happy almost July, right?!”

Yes, she is right.

Today, I choose not to say the year is half over, but that I have a half-year left. I get home, dig into my handbag abyss, and write “6 more months” on my to-do list. I punctuate the statement with a red exclamation point. This time, not for urgency, but for excitement. ( )

If Walls Could Talk

spark

Last Wednesday started out like many Wednesdays, accompanied by a scribbled checklist of countless to-do’s, and a shaky (at best) strategy to accomplish them.

The day ended familiarly, too. Spin class: check. Shower gift: purchased. Client meetings: productive. Writing conference: over. Laundry, dishes and grocery shopping: no, no, no. Wine: never mind.

Yes, on the whole, Wednesday was just another day, but there was a moment in the afternoon that took me by surprise.

Actually, the moment more than surprised me.

I had a major wakeup call in a run-down, nearly-deserted gas station in the middle of nowhere.

“I’m so busy. I feel like I am hitting a wall,” I said to my friend on the phone as I sped away from my writing conference and pulled up to the first gas station in sight. I immediately cringed at how cliché that sounded, though the phrase seemed fitting in this instance. It was noon, and my next coaching client was scheduled in exactly one hour, at a coffee shop exactly one hour away. My gas tank was on empty (as usual, it seemed), and the LOW FUEL light glared mockingly at me as I hung up the phone.

(A quick aside: I probably felt like I was hitting a wall because I am often running late and can be somewhat disorganized. Just ask my friend Christina, who discreetly snatches the iPhone from my purse every time we’re out together just to catch an updated tally on my unread emails. I’ll spare you the guessing game and just tell you: As of today at 11:42 CST, I’m at 11,113. Sure, most of these are coupons, Groupons and other spam I don’t care about, but the fact that I cannot find time to delete them is pretty pitiful.)

None of that mattered now, though, as I raced into the Citgo station and bee-lined it to the refrigerated section to grab my Diet Co… DANG. I gave that up for Lent. Okay, fine, water. Everyone keeps telling me I need more water. This Evian looks good. Why is it so overpriced? Hadn’t someone once told me that E-v-i-a-n spelled backwards was Naïve, and that its manufacturers had named the water that way on purpose, so buying it was really like drinking my money away? Well, what do I care and maybe I am n-a-i-v-e! I’ll take it.

I power-walked toward the cashier and noticed a middle-aged man whom I instinctively and immediately avoided. He was in my path, and I conspicuously weaved away from him and purposely ignored the half smile he intended for me. He had long and unkempt hair, wore dirty work boots, and moved much too casually for my rushed agenda. As I walked past him, I am pretty sure I all but grimaced as he gradually moved out of my way.

I stopped at the cash register and sifted through my purse until I found my Visa. Before I could even present it, the cashier shook her head, informing me that I would need to spend at least $10 if I was going to pay with a card. Hadn’t I noticed the sign saying so? It was hanging right in front of me. Guess I musta missed it. I couldn’t decide who I was more annoyed by: myself for missing the posted rule, or the cashier for enforcing it (I chose her). With one swift movement, she slid my water to the side counter, and all but shooed me on my way. But just as I had one annoyed foot out the door, I heard a man call behind me.

“Hey,” he said. “I got it! Take your water.”

As I turned around and saw it was him, I felt instantly and simultaneously surprised and guilty. I tried to refuse him, but he insisted. “Just take it.” And with the same grin I had tried to ignore before, he said, “Go on. I got it, really.” Taken aback by his unnecessary (and definitely undeserved) generosity, I guardedly walked back to grab my water from the now-really-annoyed cashier, and thanked the man very much. As I retreated, he called after me once more:

“Oh, and one more thing: If you happen to see any yards with damaged trees this spring, do me a favor and refer them to my company, Beaver Tree Repair.”

I nodded and promised him I would.

It was one of those moments when the Universe stares you straight in the face and makes you forget about your agenda, your emails, your car ride, your Diet Coke-less existence. A moment when something legitimately surprises you, and the world asks you to notice it. That man changed my outlook that day. It wasn’t about the stupid, overpriced water, or the fact that I was in a hurry. It was about the fact that in my hasty effort to hurry the heck up, the man I wouldn’t make time for had so graciously made time for me.

I remember being little and actually noticing other people. I remember taking mental notes on the woman in front of my mom in the grocery line, and the man behind her at the video store. l remember being fascinated by what other people wore, who they were with, and what they had to say. Was it possible that in my old(er) age, I was forgetting how to look and really see?

On the (exactly one-hour) drive to the coffee shop I got to thinking about walls. There are the walls we build, live in and call our homes, and then there are the walls we build around ourselves emotionally in order to avoid the things we are afraid of, or believe we don’t have time for. Walls protect us, sure. But what do they prevent us from experiencing?

If only these inner walls could talk, maybe they would say the things we shy away from saying out of fear. Maybe they would open a door to allow us to do the things we’d normally save for another day. Maybe we would smile at the stranger instead of averting our eyes, and maybe we’d have the insight to realize that the emails on our smart phones are no less significant than the real people behind their addresses. If our walls came down, maybe we could mentally commit daily life-lessons to the memory card in our brains… and then stop, look and listen before we click delete.

If these walls could scream, maybe they would tell us that only thing more valuable than the day in this life is the life in this day – and that life might surprise us.

If only we take the time to let it.

Oh, and one more thing. If you happen to see a broken tree, do me a favor and call Beaver Tree Services. Tell him the girl from the gas station says thank you – for a lot more than just the free water.

——————-

bridget@bridgetchambers.com

 

 

 

What’s in a Name?

hi

Well, it happened!  During the little while since I last wrote here, the little Miss became a Mrs.

Both the wedding day and the year leading up to it were incredibly dreamlike. Even as I sit here today just two months later, it all seems to have happened so very long ago. We planned our wedding for 355 days (exactly). Those days flew by, and were filled with fantastic parties, pretty shower dresses, blush-and-silver flower arrangements (blush-and-silver everything), champagne (often), smiles so big my mouth hurt, and, admittedly, a few tears. 2012 culminated with a wonderful day, and in its aftermath I find myself with a humbled sense of gratitude and a whole lotta love.

In the 8 weeks since we were married, I have become devoted to re-branding my business. I am excited and looking forward to diving in, and without the piles of wedding planning ‘to-do’s’ on my desk, I feel energetic and ready to work.

Okay… re-branding.  First things first.  Change my name:  Bridget Drolshagen Chambers.

It seemed it should have been so easy – not to mention actually, quite a relief – to drop “Drolshagen”.

How tiring and monotonous it had become to begin every unfamiliar phone call with:
‘D,’ (as in dog).
R-O-L.
‘S,’ (as in Sam). H-A
G-E.
‘N,’ (as in Nancy).
“Not M. N!” “DROLS-HEY-GEN.”

 

How annoying it had become to let various strangers play their one-sided guessing game that began with, “Wow, long last name… what is its origin? Swedish?!” Of course, I never wanted to be rude to these strangers, so I’d try to WOW them with the very interesting fact that actually, DROLSHAGEN was a Town! In Germany! Usually, I didn’t even get the chance to impress upon them the riveting fact that the town had its own coat of arms, too… before realizing I had lost them. That conversation always seemed to end one way: “So, not Swedish, then?”

Aye yi yi.

How confusing it had become to make dinner reservations under the slightly shortened moniker, “Hagen,” only to have my friends arrive at the restaurant looking for me under my real (much longer) name, and hence, never find me.

I used to tell my friends I couldn’t wait to change my name…and as my dating relationship with Ryan progressed to the point that marriage was an eventual certainty, I was downright excited to say goodbye to Drolshagen.

Good riddance, I thought, once. Chambers is a writer’s name. Chambers is a name people can pronounce. And respect.

And on the phone: no spelling necessary. It’s Chambers. As in… Chambers.

But the truth is that in the days since the wedding, I have become a little scared to legally change my name. When I stop and think about it, I realize that Drolshagen has been attached to me from the minute there ever was a “me.” That this 3-syllable, German, and very long name has served as my lifelong faithful escort, and in some ways, made me who I am today.

Alphabetically, it sat me next to my first (and forever) friend on Day One of Kindergarten. It was the largely-printed label on the back of all my extra-curricular t-shirts, and it was the name I heard regularly yelled down the dormitory halls by friends I loved so much. It was the name I would type on my business copyright application, and the signature I would neatly endorse on my very first rent check. It is the title that ties me to my relatives and, more than that, it is the name that connects me to my Dad.  It is most special to me because of that…

…All of a sudden, changing my name feels a little bit like that critical moment on the wedding day, when Dad kissed my cheek and guided me to my handsome almost-spouse … and something inside me, if only for the slightest millisecond, felt like while I was gaining a beautiful beginning with the love of my life, I was losing something, too.

Memories a year in the making now fit tightly into a shoebox within the His & Hers closet I share with my brand new husband (the 7-year-old inside me still gets giddy over that word). Inside the box, of course, are the beautiful heels that led me down the aisle, their signature red bottoms scuffed and scratched from dancing the starlit night away. Next to the shoes – our invitation, slightly wrinkled but still perfectly embossed with the major details of our big day. Under the invitation – a special handkerchief, my lucky sixpence, and my crinkled-but-still-sparkling veil. And at the very bottom, a picture of the dapper groom and myself, completing the collection with our most important memory of all: The uniting of two. The uniting of us. Ryan and Bridget. Last name and all.

When Romeo and Juliet poetically asked, “What’s in a name?” I think they were definitely on to something. And I’m here to tell you that William Shakespeare had it quite right when he told us that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Sure, names tie us to the things we know. They define who we are as children, and they connect us to our parents and families. They give us our greatest nicknames and provide us some of our best memories. But we are, certainly, much more than our names. We are the lives we choose to live, we are the people we choose to be, and we are the futures we choose to create. And when we choose to marry, our names and lives may change a bit. Now, it’s only been two months, but so far the change feels pretty wonderful to me.

I was once a Drolshagen. I am now a Chambers.

But a Bridget by any name feels complete.

 

I’ll be Home For Christmas

I smell cinnamon and pine. I hear the sounds of rhythmic pa-rum-pa-pum-pum’s in the background of every shopping mall and doctor’s office, and they remind me that the Special Day is nearing. I watch the shoppers and taste the ginger, and mostly, I feel the briskness of my walks from my car to work (and back again), and I race the almost-snow to dusk so that I can wrap my presents and bake my cookies. My most favorite holiday is back, and this year, it has shown up in its very best attire.

Okay…I know. Not everyone is hopping aboard the Santa sleigh. Not everything about the season is fun and exhilarating. Many people hate the stress; the pressure to buy more and spend more and be more…. chipper, is just exhausting. People seem ruder. Traffic is worse. Everywhere is unbearably crowded, and every intended gift that seemed purely perfect in November is now sold out – or worse, overpriced. So we make a choice: breathing in the nostalgia of the holiday or caving in to the annoyance of the hubbub. Which do you choose?

I was watching the news on a Thursday evening in early December. The Chicago Post Office was urging residents to claim letters to Santa, written by underprivileged children who would probably see close to nothing under their Christmas trees this year. “Over 4,500 unanswered letters…” the news anchor mentioned quietly, and then it was on to the next segment. The following Saturday around 12 noon, I went with a few others to retrieve a letter. We parked, took an elevator and a few staircases to the main building, and prepared to read through several notes before choosing the right one.  We reached the desk, and inquired hurriedly, wanting to do a “good deed” and get on with our day.

“The letters are gone,” the postal worker smiled, “they’re all gone.”

Not nostalgia, not hubbub, just thousands of people making a choice to make a child’s Christmas magical.

This got me to thinking. Maybe Christmas is a way of bringing us home. Some of us go physically. We sit by the tree with our eggnog and our board games and our indulgent meal, and we enjoy the company of people we love. Others of us go home to the place in our hearts where the excitement of our first Christmas remains. We stick true to our early traditions, partaking in the very same activities we always have: watching the same movies, cooking the same food and reading the same stories.

And then there is circumstance. It can prevent us from being surrounded by people we love. They are too far away, or have passed on, and we can only be encircled in the memories we have with them. Christmas emulates goodness but it also magnifies sadness. We miss them. Maybe this is the time we choose to bring others home. We answer a letter, or we say a prayer of thanks, or we commit to creating a new tradition that embraces what we always loved about this time of year.  

So, as much as I love the cinnamon and the constant shopping, those are not the things that make this holiday shine so bright. It’s being at home. And no matter where our home, it is always the people who make us want to be there.

Then, even when the obligatory winter flu sets in, or when it gets too cold to not yearn for summer, or when the chaotic commotion seems just too much to bear, we commit to remembering the reason for the season.

Christmas is about renewed joy and hope for a better next year. It is about miracles and forgiveness, and most of all, it is about recognizing the people who make us feel better. They are our family, our friends, or the people we wish were here. They are our homes. They remind us of where we came from, and they lead us where we need to be. They are Christmas. They are Christmas every day.

www.yoursmartheart.com

Eat, Drink & Be Scary

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I really like Halloween.

It isn’t my favorite holiday, but it does pave the way for Thanksgiving, Christmas and spiked Eggnog, so I think it deserves the designation as one of my favorites. As my mid-twenties approach my upper-twenties (really?!), I am finding that some of my childhood memories are becoming more blurred than I’d like. Things once effortlessly recalled – first days of school, names of toddler friends, permit driving and becoming a teenager – now seem more difficult to remember. They always stand out as important, but have lost their details and particulars as time has moved forward and I have grown up. However, those annual chilly (and chilling) October 31-sts always stand out prominently in my mind. Perhaps this is why I like them so much.

Halloween as a little one was fun because chocolate never tasted as good in April or August as it did in October. We paraded around in our ghoulish glory, and the school parties always included dry ice.

Halloween a little older meant going trick-or-treating while our parents waited on the sidewalk and not by our sides. We exhausted ourselves inspecting every inch of Party City for the perfect accessories and the greatest face makeup.

Then, we started celebrating with our friends, starting at dusk instead of in daylight. Uproarious laughter resounded as we tip-toed from block to block, racing each other for the best brands of candy and the heaviest bags of loot.

Unlike other things that gradually slowed to a dullish end as we grew older, Halloween always continues for those who love it. Theme parties and taffy apples and scary movies are no less appealing now than they were when we experienced them at 11 years old. Sure, the drinks have become stronger – the nights later – but the fanfare of the holiday remains year after year. Why?

The answer here is simple: we love to dress up. We become scarier, or meaner, or prettier, or more fun. We become Snooki-liscious or Disney-esque or mummy-fied. This is almost more amusing than ever before, because we are adults and we have careers, relationships, homes and other things that give us a regular “identity.” Maybe we continue to embrace Halloween, because it is so freeing to let those things go for a night…

…And then, just like that, it’s back to reality. November 1st is here. Halloween is over. I giggled putting away my Tinkerbell costume last night because what seemed so fitting for a bash on Friday seems quite silly now. Photos and green glitter remnants remain as evidence of the fabulous evening, but already its memories begin to fade.

Life is funny like that. Every once in a while, it gives us a chance to revisit our childhood. It gives us an opportunity to remember why we love a particular day or season. It even gives us an option to dress in disguise for one night a year.

But maybe the trick here is remembering that what makes costumes so fun, is that we are our regular selves for the other 364 days. What makes a holiday so treasured is that it so seldom occurs. What makes youth such a great phase is that it’s so hard to get back. We grow and realize that as adults, it takes guts to don disguises with conviction and pride, but that the real courage comes in being brave enough to take them off.

And, when Halloween comes around next year, we know our very best costumes are only a congested closet (and a really great memory) away.

www.yoursmartheart.com

What If?

So, I hear the world is ending tomorrow. HA. (If that’s true, I’d like to know why I chose NOT to splurge on the Chick-fil-A ice cream cone I was dreaming about after spinning class last night.)

Each time a rumor is instigated that predicts the so-called end of our world, senseless buzz begins about what we would do or say or eat or dismiss in the case that we really did know the end was near.  People make jokes about quitting their jobs and spending their life savings on one last trip to Vegas via jumbo jet.

But if we’re serious about it, the would-do’s and would-say’s revolve not around money or jobs, but around other people.

“I would tell him how I feel.”

“I would spend extra special time with a close friend.”

“I would give her a hug and tell her how she’s changed my life.”

“I would say ‘I’m sorry.’”

Similar thoughts occur when someone we love gets hurt, becomes ill, or sadly leaves us. The feelings arise because when we are faced with the unbearable thought of no tomorrow, we beg for second chances with the people we love most.

This got me to thinking: we 20-somethings are past the point in life where we can depend on a physical place like a high school gymnasium or college campus to help us foster and keep relationships with others. We are growing up and older, and are striving to create new beginnings with people we meet along the way. We must also do our best to honor those “forever” kind of friends – those rare ones who know us by heart.

The thing is, we won’t be privy to our last day or moment. We won’t have it broadcasted on the radio or shouted from the mouths of psychics. In a perfect world, we would remember to live like every day is our last. Then, our world only ends when we choose it to be done – when we stop truly living and stop deeply loving.

Whether it’s the people we love, or the ones we have forgotten, we should remember to spend the quality time now. Give the hugs more often. Say the sorry’s sooner. To remember that the world doesn’t let us hold on to much. Not to time. Not to money. And certainly, not on to forever. That’s why it’s important to hold on so tightly to each other.

Tomorrow, our entire lives may very well flash before our eyes, but not because the end is near.  If we get it right, it will occur because we are spending just a few moments remembering to be thankful for the people who brought us to now.

 I don’t know about you, but I’m off to get my ice cream – and maybe this time, I’ll go with a friend.  😉

www.yoursmartheart.com

Princes, Princesses, and Pippa, OH MY!

I noticed today in retrieving my People from the mailbox that every magazine, newspaper and tabloid is still abuzz about the Royal Wedding. Two weeks have passed, and yet the time gone by has seemingly increased America’s interest in the majestic affair.  Perfect pictures grace glossy covers and accompany headlines boasting, “From Waity Katie to Princess Catherine,”  “Pippa: The Sister who Sparkled,” and (what I find to be the most hysterical), “When will Kate Middleton Get Pregnant!?” The Royal Wedding of 2011 has been hailed the event of the century. And, if loving the event was wrong, I don’t want to be right!

All joking aside, it was a beautiful day. Kate looked magnificent in McQueen. Daylight glistened through the stain glassed windows of Westminster Abbey as the bride took her 4-minute stride down the aisle. Harry looked dapper in black, and William seemed perfectly blissful. Pippa, wondrous in white, was every bride’s dream of a lady in waiting. Even the Queen herself seemed sunnier than normal.

After spending my own fair share of time perusing RW coverage, I began to wonder, what is our fascination with this marriage? Could it be that most of us are relieved to see joyful news on television and in the newspaper? Could it be that, as Americans, a wedding abroad is just plain fun to watch? Might it be that after the sad ending to Diana’s marriage, privacy and life, that it was nice to witness this pair tying the knot so connected and in love? Probably.

But perhaps the real reason we revel in these fanciful moments is because we have secretly dreamt of being princesses since we were little girls – of having the wardrobe and the castle and the life.

Maybe growing up changes that.

We spend our twenties building our lives, so often forgetting that we get to choose our fairytale. And the funny thing is, being a princess is probably not all it’s cracked up to be.

Here’s the truth. Most of us will never have to deal with the media during the biggest moments of our lives.  We won’t need to worry about our siblings being exposed, or our vacations being interrupted, or our lives being under constant scrutiny. Pictures of us lounging in bathing suits will probably never hit the newsstands (and I am particularly grateful for that).  

So, since we’re not princesses, we may never stand on a balcony in front of thousands cheering for a kiss. But we’ll also never have to sit down with reporters later asking why, exactly, the kiss was so short.

And, if we’re lucky, we’ll snag our own version of a prince, who – not because of a crowd, or an expectation, or a photo, but just because – asks for just one more.

 www.yoursmartheart.com

May I Trouble you for the Time?

Today, I am thinking a lot about growth.

 Often, I have trouble thinking of a topic to blog about. Most things seem too mundane, or boring, or personal. Sometimes, though, I am lucky enough to be inspired to write because of a moment that takes me by surprise.

 Yesterday, I had a 15 minute window for lunch. It was a crazily busy day, and I knew I needed to rush home, throw a sandwich together, and return to my car before my next client meeting. Of course, I got stuck behind a school bus, which made at least 5 stops between the entrance of my neighborhood and my house. I tried hard not to be annoyed – there were children in the bus, after all – but I was so wrapped up in my own schedule and the clock that dictates it, and I became distracted. So distracted, in fact, I almost missed my blog topic, standing right in front of me.  

 While behind the bus, I looked at my side-view mirror and watched as a middle-aged man ran rapidly down the sidewalk. He was in jeans and not running clothes, so I wondered where he could be heading. When the bus made its fifth and final stop, the man stopped also, threw his hands up dramatically with a grin, and waited for the children to exit the bus. The last little girl stepped off, and she smiled toothlessly at the man. Her dad.

 I now know three things for sure. One: that the man was racing the bus to make his daughter laugh. Two:  that he probably raced it everyday because he looked so forward to her coming home from school. And three: that I felt oddly verklmept as I watched them walk hand-in-hand back to their home.  I thought about it a lot that day, and made sure to hug my own Dad extra tight when I saw him next.

 Someone wise once told me that time is the one commodity you can never get back. How true that is. Today, a year seems far. But next year becomes tomorrow so damn quickly.

 Do you remember when our twenties seemed far off? Remember when our biggest problem was finding a cool lunchbox? And then finding a flattering haircut? And then finding the perfect prom date? And then finding the best college? But, that’s the thing about growth. The minute we hit its next stage, we instantly wish we got those problems back.  We cannot appreciate the phase until it’s over. We cannot understand the lesson until we learn it.

So, all we can do, is try to be thankful. To value that today is the only time we will ever be this age during this month again. The truth is, we will never get our twenties back. Nor the simplicity of our childhood.  But, sometimes, if we’re lucky, we’ll experience a moment that lets us re-live it. And when that happens, we can choose to reminisce on a time when all it took was Dad racing down the street to make life seem absolutely perfect.

(Happy 55th Birthday, Daddio.)