Thirty for Thirty

Today is Janaan’s big THREE OH.

OH as in OH YEAH!

I would never, ever go back to my twenties. Ever. And I totally started over in my thirties. My thirties have been incredibly transformative. They have been brutal and beautiful, awful and amazing.

I think what I’m trying to say is this: unlike me, Janaan did all the right things in her twenties. She can leave knowing that she extracted the very best out of the time. Combine all of those experiences with all of the confidence that comes from knowing yourself better than you ever have before and, well, let’s just say that the upcoming years are going to be her very best.

To Janaan: Thirty for Thirty

1. You are beautiful. Really and truly beautiful. Strangers stop you in the street to tell you that. Often.
2. You really are the taller, thinner, more svelte me. Sometimes I think because we look a lot alike we have the same body, but no. (Next time we take the same pair of skinny jeans into a dressing room, remind me of this, would you?)
3. From fashion to motherhood and everything in between, you are my maven and my muse.
4. You taught to appreciate a photo booth. Especially one that has old-school-why-does-the-sample-photo-have-a-girl-holding-a-Raggedy-Ann-doll black and white film in it.
5. You are smart. Like, graduate from both high school AND college a year early smart.
6. You have the most amazing discount shopping eagle eye. You can spot a gem on a rack of crap like no one I’ve ever known.
7. You are fun. And funny. Damn funny.
8. You walk fast. Seriously, it’s handy.
9. You have introduced me to countless awesome things and places. I love that you have your finger on the pulse and always have something that we need to ‘check out’. I can’t tell you how many times I get comments or compliments on something and I say “It’s really all Janaan/Janaan’s idea/Janaan found it/etc.etc.etc.”
10. You love In-N-Out burger as much as I do.
11. You know how to transform spaces. Your vision and eye made my house beautiful. I am happy every single time I walk in the door.
12. You know how to travel. You have led me to some of the most fun, most delicious places I’ve ever been.
13. You give thoughtful gifts.
14. Your mild case of road rage makes me laugh. Driving around on my wedding eve is still one of the funniest afternoons of my life. (Losers!)
15. You are the best person to go to a concert with. See #7 and #8 above.
16. You can dance.
17. You know how to throw a party.
18. You are my favorite person in the world to stay up late talking to.
19. You really and truly understand my skin. That may not sound like much, but it’s nice to have someone else out there that gets it.
20. You’re organized. You like lists. I like that.
21. You like to “woo” after exciting movie previews.
22. You are a great cook and an even better baker.
23. You know how to take beautiful pictures and you know the value of a pack of Polaroid film.
24. When you believe in something, you stick to your guns.
25. You have taught me how to live life more beautifully in big and small ways.
26. You are creative in a way that I will never be. And you share your creative talents freely. You have made me look good on countless occasions.
27. You are such a good friend. I love to see you with your friends because it makes me happy that there are women in the world that love each other and care for each other like you guys do. 
28. You are good at what you do and it shows in your long lasting professional relationships. When we’ve had the opportunity to work together it has always been great.
29.  I think of you as the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Kids love you. They always have. You know how to charm them. No one ever begged me to be their babysitter. I don’t think I can really express how I feel about you as a mother. You are a natural. You are completely the same and completely different. It’s something on the inside that I can’t quite put my finger on and it is beautiful. You inspire me. Also, I’m totally counting on your maven/muse/finding awesomeness everywhere/great friend/eagle-eye-bargain shopperness when I have kids.
30. You are my best friend. And I don’t mean that in a cheesy way. I mean it this way: You are the only person on the planet who could possibly know what I was talking about when I said “You know, that movie with thingie and guy, with the clothes that we like so much?”

Welcome to my decade sister.  I’ll try my best to keep up.

Thank You Hotel Monaco.

I love a great customer experience and I’ve decided that I should start documenting mine. Thoughtful touches. Tiny details. I want everyone out there to know that I notice and I APPRECIATE.

We spent our anniversary at The Hotel Monaco. In addition to a fabulous room upgrade, upon check-in we were greeted by this:

Wine, water, dessert, a goldfish to keep us company, fuzzy handcuffs and an intimacy kit (natch!).

Oh, and a handwritten note with a super cute kissing-goldfish doodle.

Love.

Melon

Not shown: the back of the helmet, which reads “I love my brain.” I mean, this helmet is six kinds of awesome.

Alek: OK, there are a couple of different styles. I like the ones that look more skater than biker.

Me: Oh yeah, I am ALL OVER that.

Alek: You can really get whatever you want.

Me: I want that one.

Alek [moving down the wall o’ helmets]: Really, you don’t have to get that style just because I like it. Here’s what your Dad has.

Me [not moving]: I mean, how perfect is it?? [pitch rising] It’s a melon for your MELON! GET IT?!

Alek: Oh yeah, I get it.

Me: I want that one. Bad. I hope they have it in a large.

Alek [head cocked to the side]: Aww, Babah, you don’t need a large.

Me: Have you SEEN my head??

Alek [trails off]: Aww…

Me: YES! They have an L/XL. Done. Sold. MELONS!!!!!

Alek: Now you can go home and cry yerself to sleep on yer HUUUUGGGEEE pillah.

Sixty for Sixty

This weekend my Dad celebrated his 60th birthday. There is really no other way to put it than this: my Dad is awesome. And he always has been.

I’ve often heard girls say that they wanted to marry someone like their Dad. I’ve always thought that was kind of weird/creepy/indicative of some kind of daddy issue. My desire is this: to be as good a parent to my children as my Mom and Dad are to me. If I can do that, I will truly be successful.

Happy Birthday Dad. This list is just a sliver of the man and the parent that you are.

I hope I can live up.

Sixty for Sixty

1. My dad has never yelled at me, ever.
2. He only spanked me once that I can remember. I was 9 or 10 and I TOTALLY DESERVED IT.
3. He folds laundry and makes beds with military precision.
4. When he tucked us into bed at night, he would take the bedspread and fluff it up in the air to straighten it out and let it slowly float down and tickle our faces. He’d do it three or four times even though the first time would have done the trick. Sometimes I do this with Alek. I will do it with our babies.
5. He loves Veterans.
6. He taught me how important it is to vote.
7. He is willing to shop with us. He carries our bags and has been known to slip us $100 bills on more than one occasion when we’ve run out of money.
8. We have the same thumbs.
9. He is a big softie and isn’t afraid to cry. He’s also intimidating as hell. Not sure how he pulls that off, but it works.
10. When he gives me advice I really and truly listen to it because I know it comes from a place of love that I can’t really understand.
11. He took us on lots of family trips and he was the one that did all the driving.
12. He is insanely generous. You have to work really hard to pick up the check.
13. He always has a pocket knife and black chapstick on his person.
14. He loves to read.
15. He is passionate about politics and always willing to get into a political debate at the dinner table. As a general rule, we don’t have the same views, but I’ve learned from him to appreciate that we live in a country where we can all say what we think.
16. He taught me how to shoot a gun.
17. He has lots of hobbies and isn’t afraid to spend time doing what he enjoys.
18. He believes in quality over quantity.
19. I know that there is always a place for me at home. And when I called and told him I was getting divorced and I needed to crash there for a while, he said stay as long as you like.
20. He has always done my taxes for free. And he’s not one of those accountants that wants to figure out ways around paying taxes. He is straightforward and honest and runs his business with integrity.
21. He will bring us home random gifts. Like when I showed him this BMX bike that I wanted and it showed up in our garage after school one day. No big deal. Or like a couple of years ago when he was shopping with my Mom and bought all of us these really lovely dresses. Just because. (I still have that BMX bike by the way.)
22. He takes care of his Dad.
23. He always has great hair.
24. He is an awesome tipper.
25. He is an even more awesome Papa to my nieces and nephew.
26. He is always up on the latest technology and isn’t afraid to try out something new. In fact he just switched from a PC to Mac.
27. If he wants something and he has the money for it, he gets it.
28. He always bought us flowers on Mother’s day.
29. He loves America.
30. He is passionate about food – especially Utah tomatoes. He will even help my mom can them so that he can have the best salsa, ketchup and marinara sauce year round.
31. He taught me to love 60’s rock music. Especially Credence Clearwater Revival.
32. He taught me how to drive a stick shift.
33. He is tough as nails. He can do wonders with a butterfly bandage.
34. He loves animals.
35. He knows how to use tools to build things and fix things and hang things. (Yeah, we hang up a lot of crap.)
36. He is a snazzy dresser. Like dry cleaned jeans snazzy.
37. He is spiritual.
38. He makes the best breakfasts. In fact, he has ruined me on breakfast cereal (wheat hearts, oatmeal, etc.) because his is ALWAYS perfectly cooked and never, ever has lumps. No one, nowhere else can do it like he does.
39. He used to do our hair before school and knew how to use a curling iron. He’d pull our pig tails so tight they would slant your eyes.
40. He is Mr. Action. If you have an idea, thought, plan, whatever, he is ON IT. I never would have met Karen without him. One of his clients recommended her and 10 minutes later I had an appointment.
41. Even though we are grown up and moved away, he is still our Dad and takes care of us in whatever way we need at this point in our lives.
42. He has always accepted my lifestyle choices even if he doesn’t agree with them.
43. He loves to have fun and creates opportunities for us to have fun as a family.
44. He hates boats, snorkeling, and the tea-cups at Disneyland as much as I do.
45. He is a cowboy.
46. He is always willing to help us out with whatever project we’ve cooked up and are a little bit over our heads with.
47. He’s sensitive to people’s feelings. He bought me this sad, perfect, beautiful chalk drawing when I got divorced. It was in the car with him when he picked up my Mom and I from the airport and it remains one of the most thoughtful and lovely gifts I’ve ever received.
48. He loves a clean car.
49. He has always been active and fit.
50. He charms all of our friends. They adore him.
51. He is always willing to learn new things.
52. He has never said I’m too old to do anything. And he will train for something until the Dr. tells him that he can’t do it.
53. He loves my Mom.
54. He is warm and affectionate.
55. He has always made us feel special and loved.
56. He supports whatever it is we want to do.
57. He supports our spouses.
58. He’s not someone that is “set in his ways”.
59. Disappointing him or letting him down is still one of my greatest fears.
60. He gave me (and is still giving me) a beautiful life.

Hot

Based on what I know about firefighters, this could quite possibly turn out to be the cheesiest show ever to hit network TV.

But come on…
Chicago?
Firefighting?
THIS SONG?

Three of my favorite things wrapped up in a single trailer?

I am SO THERE.

At least until it gets cancelled five episodes into the season.

(P.S. The song is Radioactive by Imagine Dragons and I have my friend Ty, who I actively stalk on Spotify to thank for introducing it to me. You should listen to it really really REALLY loud while you drive to work in the morning. It will make you happy.)

No Regrets

A few months ago Alek and I were driving home. I don’t remember where from, but I do remember that we were at 3300 South and I-15 when he suddenly turned to me and said, “I want you to know something: if for some reason I die tomorrow…or sometime soon…I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I am exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to be doing.”

It was so out of the blue and so not sad at all. It was lovely. I always want our relationship to feel that way. Everything in its right place.

So last week when I came across this article from The Guardian, it gave me pause. I totally made Alek read it while we were at dinner on Saturday so that we could talk about it. People probably thought we were one of THOSE couples, you know, the ones that are all awkward at restaurants, not talking to each other and looking at their phones. But I really wanted to make sure that we still felt the same way about dying, and, more importantly to check-in on where we were at, months after our conversation. If we had somehow veered off the “no regrets” path, we would start finding a way back.

I’m definitely going to work on working less…wait…you know what I mean.  

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

Half-Assed

Today marked the finale of our marketing summer fitness challenge. In addition to a Biggest Loser style weight loss contest, there were prizes for various feats of strength, speed and flexibility. We specifically chose to end the challenge today so that we could all live with reckless food abandon over the 4th of July.

I had a lot of fun with the team, but I have to admit, I pretty much did my same thing throughout the challenge. You know, run 29 miles one week and eat my face off the next. In this manner I’ve managed to maintain the same weight, for, oh, about 10 years now. At the end of the challenge I’d actually lost a teensy bit of weight (hey, what do you know!) and increased my flexibility by ~40% as a direct result of a bunch of stretching I’ve been doing the last few weeks…because my IT band has been hurting…because of being kind of overweight…and semi-out of shape…and running 29 miles one week and eating my face off the next. But I digress…

ANYWAYS, my plan to just have fun with the team and do my normal thing resulted in me being in the bottom three females in the “Biggest Loser” part of the challenge, a.k.a. the “Littlest Loser.” And I was pleasantly surprised today (NOT) when a pie eating contest was announced between the three “Littlest Loser” females and the three “Littlest Loser” Males.

Which brings me to:

Pie Eating Contest Life Lesson Number 1: Always be aware of your surroundings. A pie eating contest can occur anytime and anywhere.

The team put together a delicious menu for today to treat everyone that had been denying themselves for the last eight weeks – pizza, shave ice, frozen yogurt, chocolates, cupcakes – there was even a pinata.

I was so lulled by the good times and the laughter and the warm breeze and my Nutter-Butter-Frozen Yogurt that I missed the six grocery store pies. Yes, in the middle of all of these specialty-shop-locally-made-with-love-delicacies, underneath the pinata, were six grocery store pies.

If you ever find yourself in a situation with a surplus of amazeballs food and there are a bunch of grocery store pies, there will most definitely be a pie eating contest at some point. DON’T BE THE VICTIM OF A PIE EATING CONTEST. KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN FOR PIES AT ALL TIMES.

My first thought when faced with the contest was denial. And then, of course, anger. At myself. I should have tried harder. Look, if you’re not going to win, at least go for a respectable position mid-pack, right? In this way, you avoid having to participate in (be punished with) a pie-eating contest. And thus Pie Eating Contest Life Lesson Number 2: Try harder.

As I walk up to the table I make a mental note to explore why I’m not more competitive.

I saddle on up to a french silk pie because that is my favorite kind of pie and, given a fork and enough time, I think I could probably polish off a whole one with no problem.

Only we weren’t allowed to use forks.

Suddenly the pie seemed so huge and so…not edible without a fork. It was like I was a toddler and someone had plopped a pineapple on the tray of my high-chair. I was literally racking my brain trying to come up with some sort of strategy that would result in the most pie consumed with the least amount left on my face.

We had one minute to eat as much of our pie as possible.  When the timer started I sat there staring at the pie, partially in stunned disbelief that I was actually doing this, and still trying desperately to figure out what I was going to do.

I had to make a move.

So I stuck my mouth in and took the biggest “bite” I could. A real cheek-buster. I say “bite” because it really wasn’t a traditional bite, per se. The pie had sort of melted into a warm milkshake-like-pie-ish substance with whipped cream on top. So it was more like I sucked in the cheek buster. Still, I thought, “AAAWWWWW YEEEAAAAH, that’s definitely going to make a dent!”

It didn’t make a dent. Not even a little one.

Balls.

On to my next move: the fake. I decide to just get in there a bit more and push the warm milkshake-like-pie-ish substance around and maybe (totally) there would be some accidental (on-purpose) spillage over the sides and then I could possibly see my way to the bottom of the pan in less than a minute.

Genius, right? 

My problem, in the end, was that I just didn’t go for it. My heart wasn’t in it. I went half-assed and ended up with pie on my face, and pie on the table and a hot mess all around.

Pie Eating Contest Life Lesson Number 3: Go for it.

Like I said, a pie eating contest could be sprung on you at any moment. And if it is, just EMBRACE IT. You’re going to be sticky and messy and gross no matter what you do.

Don’t end up like me. Some tragic half-assed pie eater.

Close your eyes, stick your whole face in there and GO FOR IT.

Even if you don’t eat the most pie, at least you can win the most laughs.

Oh hang on, was that a competitive spark that just lit up?

Texts from Alek

Technically this was a facebook post from Alek, but it was just too damn awesome not to remember forever.

Ty:  
So are we all in on getting a house? Lisa and I talked about it at feBREWary and we thought it was a great idea (many things were that night re: shoulder rides and chair dancing). What does everyone think?

[a string of comments ensue]

Alek:
What?!?! Natalie told me this morning that she wants to stay at the KOA in a tent or there is also a sweet ass youth hostel, probably we will just sleep in my truck in some abandoned parking lot – that’s what Natalie said she wants to do, “it’s just sleeping and eating out of a cooler, no big deal, I’d love to sleep in a parking lot” direct quote from Natalie, this morning, I heard it with my own ears, so….

Sixteen

Today would have been my sixteenth wedding anniversary with My X. We divorced four years ago, almost to the day. We were what the therapists would call enmeshed and co-dependent. We were what I would call a cliche: married too young and too fast, because that’s what we were supposed to do.

I remember thinking on our first wedding anniversary “I’m going to give it one more year.” And on our second anniversary, “I’m going to give it one more year.” And suddenly a decade had gone by, and I had become comfortably numb.

Months after our divorce, during what would end up being our last conversation, My X said, “The part of me that’s mad is still mad. And the part of me that’s sad is still sad. But deep down, I know that we never should have been married in the first place.”

Divorce is an ugly and awful journey that eventually leads to BEAUTY and HAPPINESS and LIFE and LOVE at the end of it. But I’d say, even now, that the part of me that’s mad is still a little bit mad, and the part of me that’s sad is still a little bit sad. And deep down, I know for sure that we never should have been married in the first place.

He did always have a brilliant way of boiling things down to their essence.

People ask me a lot if I ever miss him. And the short answer is yes, I do miss him sometimes.

My X was one of the funniest, wittiest people I’ve ever met. And most of the time when I miss him, it’s because of an inside joke that only he would understand. Like when Walgreen’s launches a new Wal-brand generic medication. Or when my family starts a new “kick.” 

He taught me to love dogs, to appreciate beautiful cars and to always buy great seats at a concert. He taught me that a well done steak and a perfectly cooked steak were not mutually exclusive. He introduced me to the incredible beauty of southern Utah, the cult of Steve Jobs, and independent films. He taught me about critical thought and asking the next question. We left our religion together.

To My X: I really and truly mean it when I say that I am sorry for my half of it. And I really and truly mean it when I say that I hope that you are happy.

To the girl in this picture: So far in my life, you are my greatest loss. I’m sorry it took me so long to find you, to let you be yourself, and to love you. And I do love you.

And I know it took a long time, but we’re at the right place now. And it’s better than I ever even imagined.

It is what it is.

This year, the fabulous Wendy from Blue Lily Photography did the Grand-babies photo shoot in the most off the hook beautiful orchard located on the grounds of a psychiatric hospital (Seriously. It is incredible.) Sidebar: I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of weird to have a photo shoot without Jodi (kind of like how when you move out of state and go to a different hairdresser, it’s just feels wrong…but I digress…). Wendy was so so lovely and so so SO SO great with the kids.

Mom and Janaan pulled the wardrobe together and made special bows to match and got the kids ready and hauled them down to Provo and all I had to do was some simple Auntie reinforcement. You know, bring water and try to amuse the kids. I brought water, but the kids, well, there was just no amusing them. They were all tired, Alexis wasn’t feeling well, G-Zilla was dialed up to an 11, Eliza was stressed out and Future Boy, well, he’s such a little trouper. All of this had been going on for hours and by the time I got there the kids were in full meltdown mode. Needless to say, my Mom is a saint.

In the end we decided that it is what it is and sometimes you have to shrug your shoulders and accept that despite your best efforts, the final outcome will be screaming and tears, because that’s what happened. It’s beautiful nonetheless.

Someday we’ll laugh about it.

Someday.

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