What is weird, anyways?

I wear my mini top hat every opportunity I get, which is a lot.

I wear my mini top hat every opportunity I get, which is a lot.

I remember the first time someone called me weird. I had always been considered weird because I didn’t talk like everyone else. My parents were Yankees, and ‘ain’t’ wasn’t a part of my vocabulary. But no one had ever said it to my face until high school. I would have been insulted no matter who told me, but because it came out of the mouth of my weirdest friend, it really hurt.

Annie was smart, funny and quirky. I never knew what would come out of her mouth, her driving made me want to pee myself in fear, her choice in boys was questionable and she was awkward. I liked her a lot but if she thought I was weird? Well, I was in trouble.

For me, being different in high school was not desirable. I wanted to fit in with the crowd, go by unnoticed and unscathed. And while I liked Annie, I thought her weirdness brought her down. I was naïve to the fact that being weird is a good thing.

This mustache, which is awesome by the way, was a 29th birthday present.

When I went to college, I left a lot behind – my friends, my family and my image. I was dropped off in a Midwestern town ten hours from my Southern roots. I knew no one. My accent was different again but in a good way. To them, I had a Southern accent. It was like everything in my life had flipped. I no longer had to play to the small town image I had – responsible and straight laced with a bit of a stick up my butt.

This is an array of my favorite hats.  The head dress was for a birthday, the balloon hat for Lollapalooza and the warrior hat for a race.

This is an array of my favorite hats. The head dress was for a birthday, the balloon hat for Lollapalooza and the warrior hat for a race.

I was relaxed in college. It was a fresh slate without any preconceived notions so I let my freak flag fly. I let it out occasionally in high school, but it was never flown for a long period of time. I hoisted the flag sometime my first semester of college and have never taken it down since. Today, I’m weirder than ever.

I was talking to my trainer yesterday, when she said, “I saw your New Year’s photos on Facebook. I love your mini top hat. It’s the same one from Halloween, right?”

This shirt was for a trip to Toronto to visit Lana.  Evelyn, Lana and I wore different kitten shirts for a day of site seeing at Niagara Falls and winery tours.  Classy.

This shirt was for a trip to Toronto to visit Lana. Evelyn, Lana and I wore different kitten shirts for a day of site seeing at Niagara Falls and winery tours. Classy.

My mini top hat is black and sparkly with a bow. In the middle of the bow is a skull and cross bones. I originally bought the hat for a friend’s bachelorette party but have since worn it every opportunity I get. It’s weird. Yet, most everything I do is weird.

I wore this for my 25th birthday.
I wore this for my 25th birthday.

For this post, I was originally going to show only a picture of my mini top hat but then I got the idea to look through some pictures for some other Elyse weirdness. After about ten minutes and a lot of photos, a pattern emerged – crazy hats. They are one of my favorite things. When I have on a hat, I am allowed to be silly, and it’s like a costume without the commitment. It’s a win, win.

I also found pictures of various wigs and some kitten attire. In every picture, I’m with a group of friends with smiles on our faces. We are having fun, laughing like hyenas and enjoying life with flair. If that’s weird, well, I’ll take it. Being weird is much better than being ordinary.

 

A New Year Means New [Lofty] Goals

GoalsI kicked off 2013 the same way I’ve kicked off every other year for the past decade – nursing a wicked hangover. I woke up in Evelyn’s bed blinded by the sun. She always complains it’s too bright in her apartment. While I always responded that it wasn’t so bad, yesterday, I realized she has been right all along. I tried everything to slow the drumbeat in my head – my arm splayed over my eyes, the pillow wrapped around my head and blankets pulled high. Yet, as usual, nothing worked except time. As Tom and I made the epic journey back to the suburbs pale faced and nauseous, he asked me what my mom always asks me, “Was it worth it?”

I was quiet.

For the first time in my life, I found myself not answering an enthusiastic “Yes!” Instead, I was rewinding the night. I was fortunate to ring in the new year with my best friends – Evelyn, Jack and Tom. Yet, I could have had just as much fun if I had only 3 glasses of champagne instead of the countless number I drank. But as with every new year, I celebrated with the freedom of ending one year and the hopefulness of another. It’s a fleeting feeling but one that fills me with joy to know there are new beginnings ahead.

As I drove into work today, relieved to feel like myself again, I thought about the year ahead and the things I want to do. I’ve never been one that’s good on follow through but last year I began to make a series of life changes. Work is going well, I’ve been working out regularly, being more money conscious, writing, etc. Surprisingly, those changes have added up, and somehow I’ve turned into a responsible adult. With this revelation, this year I’ve decided to make a few more hearty resolutions. When I texted them to Tom this morning, he said, “Wow, that’s a very comprehensive list.”

He’s right – it is. But I’m already on my way. This year is about taking the changes of last year and bringing them to a new level. Here are my resolutions, exactly as I sent them to Tom:

1. Enter a writing competition
2. Continue to work out each week to get into my goal pants (I bought the pants a year ago. They didn’t fit when I bought them so I’m not sure why I bought them. They taunt me every morning in my closet).
3. Reach new goals professionally – this one is vague but includes trying harder at work and/or a new job in the city
4. Maximizing the money I put into savings
5. Try to limit the processed foods eaten at home (this one is a bit aspirational). I want to continue exploring how to make things from scratch.
6. Be the best person I can be for Tom, Sam, friends, etc. This means always contributing at home, coming up with and initiating things to do on the weekends, being kind, etc.

So there you have it. I am welcoming 2013 and all it has to bring with open arms…and lofty goals.

What are your resolutions?

Wardrobe Decisions

Cowboy BootsI am always antsy the day before a trip. For one reason, I wait until the very last minute to pack every time. It’s a bad habit that will most likely never change.

There is a lot of thought that goes into packing for a trip home. When I was in college, the primary one was do I pack all dirty clothes to take advantage of easy access to a washing machine or do I pack half and half? I once brought home a 55 lb suitcase of dirty clothes. Luckily, it was before the days of being charged for luggage. In my twenties, I thought about how often I would be out with friends. And now in my thirties, I think about how many lounge outfits I need because let’s be realistic – when I am at my parent’s house all I do is sit around, eat, drink, watch tv, hang with the family, rinse and repeat. It’s awesome.

This year is a bit different. While lounge outfits are still what are being primarily packed, there is one other factor to consider. My mom is getting me a pair of cowboy boots for Christmas. I have been dying for a pair of boots and picked them out myself. I know they are already wrapped and under the tree, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. When I do, I will have four days left at home to wear the boots. That means, I have to plan four outfits that I can wear with my new boots. It also means, I have to actually get dressed in real clothes for the last half of my vacation.

I love skirts and dresses with cowboy boots, but I also have a newfound love of skinny jeans after working my butt off at the gym. I have a lot of decisions to make today – maybe a spreadsheet will help. What do you think? What should I wear with my new boots?

ECSTASY

License PlateLast night, I had the pleasure of being behind a car with a license plate that simply read ECSTACY.  The car was not a sports car or any cool car, it was a cross over vehicle, which is basically a minivan trying not to be a minivan. 

I have so many questions about the license plate, the main one being “Why?”  Most of the time when I see something that has me intrigued but I have no way of getting the answer, I just make up my own story.

I have not written a fiction short story on paper since I was probably nine; the stories usually are just kept in my head so this is a new one for me.  I hope you enjoy the story I have created about the origin of this license plate.

Life had become mundane and routine for Rob and Lily, who live a typical suburban life.  They have a single family home, three kids, a dog and overbearing in-laws (on both sides).  Every day, the family wakes to little Emma crying at 5:30 am.   Like robots, Rob and Lily roll out of bed in mismatched pajamas to start the day, exactly the same as the day before.  The days go by without thought.  No move is calculated.  They go through the motions purely to make it to the next day. 

Rob loves Lily more than he did the day he met her.  She gave him three beautiful children and a dog, who is his partner in crime.  And while the love remains, the monotony of the day has begun to wear on him.  No longer are there things to look forward to and dream about as they lay their heads to sleep, like starting the rest of their lives together.  Their life already started, and it’s the same thing day after day after day after day.

Lily is exhausted.  She stays home with three kids under 5 and a dog that refuses to be house trained.  Her day is spent cleaning up poop – human and pet – and trying to maintain some sort of order in their house.  She is living life in the moment.  She is too tired to think more than a minute in the future. 

Each night when Rob returns home from his day job as an accountant, he and Lily embrace to give each other a short peck on the lips.  It’s a brief moment that time stops for both of them.   Life is pushed to the side as they express their love for each other.  It’s a fleeting moment but an important one; because as soon as time starts again, the routine continues – dinner, bath time and bedtime stories. 

Lily and Rob usually don’t make it more than a half hour past their kids bedtimes before passing out, exhausted from the day’s events. 

“We should do something.”  Lily said smiling at Rob.  She was propped up on her elbow tracing his chest with her fingers.  He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. 

“What do you mean?” Rob rolled over on his elbow matching her position. 

“Oh, I don’t know…something exciting.  We do the same thing every day.  Let’s think of something to do to break the routine.” 

Rob pulled Lily toward him, kissing her neck but she begrudgingly pulled away.  His kisses had so much control over her.

“Not like that, Rob.  I mean something more adventurous during the day or going on a date – something without the kids.  I need to get away from life as a parent for a little bit and so do you.  I want to be your wife.  Will you let me be your wife?”  

She let herself back into his arms soaking up his warmth.  Despite the mundane days, she was still in love.

“I get what you’re saying and getting away would be nice.  Let me think of some ideas.” 

They were both struggling to stay awake.  Lily was wrapped in his arms; her breathing getting heavier and regular.  It was a familiar sound he always missed when she was away. 

“And Lily,” Rob yawned, “you will always be my wife.”

It was a typical Wednesday night when Rob came skipping in the door home from work.  Continue reading

A Year of Firsts

2012I always get nervous the world is going to end as the new year approaches. It’s a worry that happens every year. There are so many things I want to accomplish and experiencing the end of the world isn’t one of them.

This year introduced a lot of firsts in my life. Some of them have been life changing, while others have been fun – like owning my first car. So without further ado, here is my countdown of firsts that happened in 2012.

1. I moved to the suburbs.
If you asked me two years ago if I would live in the suburbs, I would have laughed in your face. But alas I fell in love, and believe it or not, January 1st will mark my one year anniversary in the suburbs. It has been an ,err, exciting time.

Seriously, I can’t wait to move back to the city. That’s on our list of things to do in 2013.

2. I bought a car.
Her name is Tiffany, and she is amazing. The whole process of buying a car was awful. Thank goodness, Tom, was there coaching me the entire way. If I were by myself, I would have run out crying after the first five minutes.

3. I became a manager at work.
There isn’t much to say about this one, except yeehaw!

4. I tried Quinoa and love it!
We recently had a gym built in our office so I’ve been on a real health kick. I grew a giant boyfriend belly the first year I dated Tom, and the latter half of the year I have been working my butt off to get rid of it. Quinoa was one of the foods I discovered that is a healthy alternative to rice. It’s too bad I’ve eaten more white rice in the last week than I have Quinoa in the past three months. Please note, my intentions are good, I swear!

5. I converted to Apple products
I haven’t put my iPad down since the day I bought it. It’s turned into an obsession. Then, I recently got an iPhone. I’m a convert, what else can I say?

6. I started a blog.
It’s my favorite hobby to date. While I struggle to keep at it consistently, just like the Quinoa, my intentions are good.

There is one other first that is going to happen this year. Tom is coming home to Alabama for the first time. He will meet the rest of the family, and I get to bring to life all of the childhood stories I have shared with him. I have never brought a boyfriend home to Alabama. This is a big first for me (and him). I hope the first of many.

Happy Holidays!

This Too Will Pass

HopeA wise woman once told me to treasure every second of life. I had called home to complain about the minutia of my college life. I was an early twenty something navigating my way into full-blown adulthood. I needed my mom to not only listen but to point me in the right direction. She did that night, just as she always did when I was younger and just as she continues to do today. She told me that time will only go by faster as I get older, to be the best version of myself every day and that life always goes on no matter the circumstance.

Ten years have passed since that conversation with my mom, and yet, I still think about those words every day. Each year that goes by seems to be faster and more of a blur than the year prior. Time seems to be whirring by as I go about my days. Most of those days are filled with laughter, routine, joy and love but then, there are some days that are unexpected. Last Friday was one of those days.

Time seemed to stop as details came out about the Newtown, Connecticut shooting. There were so many precious and innocent lives taken too soon. My stomach lurched into my throat and a sadness came over me. It wasn’t the first time the holidays came with bad news. A few years ago, while I was home to celebrate Christmas, my mom learned she had breast cancer.

My mom was the first person I called when I left work on Friday. Her words were echoing through my head.

Always treasure every second of life…be the best version of myself everyday…life goes on no matter the circumstance…

The day I found out about my mom’s cancer is one that is etched into my memory. It was a few days before Christmas when the phone rang. My mom left the room to answer it. She had been holding the phone, as if expecting the call. I sensed something was wrong.

“Was that your call?” my dad asked.

“Yes.” They both disappeared into the kitchen.

My heart fluttered in my chest. My niece and nephew were crawling on top of me. We had been playing all afternoon. I don’t get to see them very often so every chance I get is a blessing. But I couldn’t stop my mind from shifting to my parent’s quiet whispers in the other room. I didn’t know what was happening but I knew it wasn’t good. We aren’t a family that keeps secrets.

The kids were oblivious to the change in the room as my parents emerged from the kitchen with forced smiles on their faces.

“Do you want a glass of wine?” my dad asked.

“Yes.” It was only three in the afternoon but we both needed it – although I didn’t know why. My mom came back to her recliner and gave me a smile.

“Is everything okay?”

“No, but I want to wait until your brother is here. I’d like to tell you together.”

I took a gulp of wine. My thoughts were running rampant. My sister, Lana, wasn’t getting into town for another day, and my other sister, Avery, wasn’t able to come home this year. We were each going to have to hear the news at different times.

Just as time stopped on Friday, time stopped on this day. My senses were heightened, and I was worried. The conversation felt forced as we talked over the elephant in the room. When my brother arrived, I was cautious and quiet. I didn’t want to start the conversation but I was anxious for it to begin…it never did. There was never a good time for my mom to tell us. My nephew was old enough to understand, and she wasn’t ready for him to know too.

The next day, my mom and I were running errands when her phone rang again. This time it was unexpected, and it was her doctor. When she was finished, silence hung in the air.

“Mom. Are you sick?” I knew the answer before I asked. Tears were welling in my eyes.

“Yes. They found a lump. I had a biopsy last week, and it’s cancer.” At a time when I should have been the strong one and be there for my mom, as she always had been for me, I wasn’t. I started crying. I was overwhelmed with emotion. The idea that my mom was immortal was no longer true. The reality hit me like a rock. I was numb.

“Elyse, please don’t cry. I’m going to be okay.”

This Christmas will mark the third year my mom has been in remission. While it’s hard not to think about that painful day every year as Christmas approaches, it has also become an important reminder. Life is precious, and we only get one chance at it. I am living the words my mom told me in passing a decade ago, and creating my own words too.

1. Do one thing every day that makes you happy
2. Give hugs to those you love frequently
3. Remind yourself, that this too will pass

Baby Fever

I took this photo while waiting to get my oil changed.  The little chair made me warm & fuzzy inside.  Seriously, the fever is in full force.

I took this photo while waiting to get my oil changed. The little chair made me warm & fuzzy inside. Seriously, the fever is in full force.

I have baby fever.  I laughed the day Lana told me the same thing four years ago.   It was a few days before her 30th birthday.   We were walking to our favorite neighborhood hot dog joint when she almost melted at the site of a baby in a stroller.   

“Oh my gosh, Elyse, did you see that little girl? She is adorable.” 

I looked at her cross-eyed.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  Lana had never been one to coo over babies.  Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t kicking babies on the sidewalk, but she always had an indifferent attitude toward them. 

“Where is Lana and who took her?” 

“It’s strange.  Everywhere I look, I see babies.  I want one.”

I was shocked at the revelation.  Lana always seemed more interested in her career.  She worked a lot and as a result was very successful at her age. 

“I think my biological clock is ticking.”

“That really happens?” I asked.

The first time I had heard about the elusive clock was as a young girl.  I was watching Look Who’s Talking.  At the time, I didn’t fully understand the concept but I wasn’t worried.  I was going to get married right after college and have babies in my late twenties.  Timing was never a question.

I’ve always known I wanted a family.  I played dolls and house regularly as a little girl.  My Christmas list was littered with the necessities – doll clothes, strollers and diapers.  I wanted the real deal, well as close as I could get.  I remember the smell of a fresh diaper.  It was a sweet perfume.  I would learn later as a teenager babysitting, that smell didn’t last long in real life.  In fact, I regularly gagged changing diapers, but it didn’t deter my want for children.

Even though I want kids, I didn’t feel magnetized toward them like Lana did.  I thought she was crazy so I teased her often about her newfound baby fever.  What I didn’t realize is that as the years passed, I would soon be experiencing the same fever. 

It’s a strange phenomenon to want to hug every child.  I find myself smiling, fighting the urge to scoop them up and give them a twirl.  I want to cuddle a baby and rock her to sleep.  I want one.

I know like Lana, my fever will too pass.  And the reality is as it passes so does the optimal conceiving window but I am not deterred.  It’s something I have always wanted.  My time will come.

Side note for my mom and dad: No worries guys, I’m hoping that ‘time’ is after I am married.