American Pride

FLagI was six years old the first time I felt an overwhelming feeling of patriotism. I was standing in my elementary school gym, staring at the flag with my right hand over my heart, singing at the top of my lungs.

If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.

I admit I don’t appreciate my freedom like I should. It’s not something I thank God for when I wake up in the morning. Instead, I find myself thanking him for the mundane conveniences in life, like being able to button my favorite jeans with no muffin top or a short commute. I skate through life, a smile on my face, rarely stopping to think about why it’s so great in the first place.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin’ here today.
‘ Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

When I do stop and think about it, I realize why it’s so easy to forget. I live in the greatest country – a developed country, a democracy. I’ve grown up with choices. The American dream was in my grasp from the moment I left the womb. I was born with the ability to succeed, if I chose to do so.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

A grin spread on my young face as we all approached our favorite verse. I grabbed my best friend, Kayla’s hand, bending my knees in anticipation of what came next.

And I gladly stand up,

In unison, we stood as tall as we could. We stretched our heads to the ceiling, our voices filling the air. We sang louder, and we sang prouder.

next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

The beauty of this country is that we come together in the time of need. Unfortunately, those times seem to be happening more and more often. The internet swirls with banners of breaking news. News that makes my heart sink. News that makes me reevaluate my priorities and hug my loved ones at home. News that makes me ask “Why?”

From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

I don’t think I’ll ever find the answer to that looming question but what I do know is that I will always find people who care. And just as I was filled with pride as a six year old singing a song, I am filled with the same feeling as an adult.

From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there’s pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.

Last night, Tom and I went to the Blackhawks play-off game. The crowd was a sea of red, filled with loud, excited chatter. I was anxious with anticipation as we waited for the game to start. I sipped my beer making small talk with Tom as I observed the crowd. It was amazing to think just a week earlier the whole country was in a state of turmoil.

That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

For every tragedy, there is a nation united, standing as one. And I can’t think of a better place to experience this unity than a Blackhawk’s game. As with most American games, it is preceded with a rendition of the national anthem. The difference being at the United Center it is not the quiet rendition.

A voice boomed through the stadium announcing Jim Cornelison, the same singer who has sang the anthem for the last four years. In that moment, I was transported back to my six year old self but this time I grabbed Tom’s hand. We stood up, anticipating what came next.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA

As soon as Jim belted the first note, the fans erupted in cheers. The entire stadium was yelling, clapping, singing…and smiling. I looked around observing the pure joy and pride on every single person’s face. The fans were united. The fans were proud. And the fans were loud!

And I’m proud to be and American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

“I’m so happy.” I shouted to Tom. “I’m busting with pride. This is amazing!”

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,

For me, pride is an overwhelming feeling that doesn’t happen every day but last night was a reminder. Being proud of our country shouldn’t be a feeling that comes out only in the wake of tragedy. It should be something I feel every day.

God bless the USA.

*Here is a video of the Blackhawks national anthem.

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Downsizing

Image Source: Wallstreet Journal

Image Source: Wallstreet Journal

It’s been almost three months since I sat down to write creatively. I think about it daily, writing stories in my head but lately, as is my usual excuse for everything – life got in the way. Seriously, I don’t have kids. It’s the only excuse I have.

I started this blog after moving to the suburbs with Tom being the only person I knew and vice versa. While the space was amazing, the rest of it was mundane and boring. Writing filled the time as I stared out the window wondering why our neighbors never spent time outside. From the moment, I moved in with Tom, we talked about moving back to the city. After all, he was commuting everyday into the city, and I missed the hustle and bustle immediately. So after a year of talking about it, we finally made it happen. We put our (technically it’s his) house on the market and crossed our fingers. We accepted an offer in six days and closed six weeks later! We were tremendously lucky except that we had no idea where we were going to live next.

We had already started looking for places to buy in the city but we still hadn’t found “the place”. Being in a time crunch, we weighed our options, took a break from house hunting to pack up the suburban house and find a temporary place in the city. Together, we put together a list of must haves for the temporary place, which in retrospect was an absolutely ridiculous list. It’s amazing how a year in single family home with a yard changes the perspective on apartment living. Among the requirements on the list was a short term lease, a place that allowed a dog, cheap rent, in the neighborhood we wanted to buy, had parking, an in unit washer and dryer, dishwasher, no elevator and non-radiant heat – oh and central air. The only one of those things I had when I lived in my last apartment was no lease.

“So what do you think?” I asked Tom as he read over the list.

“It looks good. Are you taking this one on?”

“Sure! I’m good at apartment hunting.” He wrinkled his and looked at me skeptically.

“Seriously, Elyse? I hope you don’t call your last apartment good apartment hunting. That place was gross and questionable.”

“Well, I loved it. It was the first place I could ever call my own. I promise, I’ll find something that meets our criteria.”

In the past, I walked around neighborhoods looking for “For Rent” signs on the doors of buildings. I would run up the steps immediately calling the number of places that interested me. It’s how I had found every apartment but this time was different. Craigslist has single handedly ruined apartment hunting. Continue reading

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?

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!

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.