I Love You StephyPoo!

My sister and I are six years apart. As a parent, I can completely understand my parents reasoning behind having kids that far apart. By the time my sister I was born, I could read, feed myself, bathe myself, put myself to bed and even watch over my sister if my mom needed to step out of the room. Heck I was even in kindergarten so it was almost like she only had one kid for most of the time.Within a few years I could help change her diapers, play with her and give my mom a break.

But also within a few years, she became the most annoying thing on the planet to me. She would bite me (“bite her back” my dad said as I cried) scream in my room, knock on my door to play, follow me around, ask me to drive her places, ruin my weekends because I wanted to be with friends and had to babysit, and do all the things that someone six years younger would do. What did we have in common? Nothing.

My parents made us to go Tennessee EVERY.SINGLE.WEEKEND. in the fall for 18 years. They went to the Tennessee games and we stayed with our grandparents. Those 3.5-hour-car rides with her were often brutal. We were enemies for much of my life. In church my dad had to separate us and we often would antagonize one another just for the sake of being annoying.

Yet somewhere during college, she entered high school, and we had some things in common. At some time, I cannot remember when, we became friends. We could tolerate one another. She started mimicking me and doing things I liked to do. Her musical interests were close to mine. In fact, I came home from college one weekend for a Phish show and she was there, not with me! I wrote her letters from college and learned she was becoming her own woman. Not the bratty sister I remembered. As she came to visit me in college, she being only 15, my friends took a liking to “little bac” and treated her with the same respect they showed me. I had to remember she wasn’t a bratty little girl anymore.


After I returned home upon graduation, we got an apartment together. She was on her own for the first time and in some ways, I was too. I was back in Greenville, graduated, trying to figure out where to go and what to be in life. She was going to technical college doing the same. Somewhere in those days of take out (did we ever cook?) and parties and laughs, we became best friends. We started to realize that our lives weren’t that different, we’d just lived them at different times. Mom and Dad did the same thing to me that they did to her, well at least most of the time. And we got in the same type of trouble and had the same punishments, most of the time. We started forming inside jokes that now make us laugh until we cry to think about. We became annoying to other people, most notably my husband, because we act like five year olds around one another. And we fight sometimes, but like all siblings, we make up within minutes of petty arguments over boys or who stole someone’s this or that.

Today, in my mid-30s and she nearing 30, we are the best of friends. We talk daily, laugh daily and know every detail about each other’s lives. I cannot imagine not having a sister. As my husband and I talk about planning for another child, we have never considered NOT giving our son a sibling. As much as I think it would be good to wait several more years for another kid, I realize we probably need to think about planning for one sooner than later (But still not anytime soon!) because my son needs a brother or a sister to beat up, hug on and protect.

As an older sibling, I am very protective of my sister. I am there when she gets her heartbroken and there to celebrate her successes. Today she was named Employee of the Year at her job and I could not be more proud. When she falls, I will pick her up. I love being a sister and wish everyone could experience what we have. My husband thankfully is a good sport and so is my sister to both be around me and love me. The three of us have taken many trips together and it is always an adventure. My husband has lovingly adopted my sister as his own, and my sister treats him like a brother. They have a true sibling bond.

Then I got pregnant, my sister was the first to know—even before my husband! (I was waiting for a creative way to tell him). When I had my son, she instantly transformed before my eyes and became this selfless caring person who so generously gives of her time and love to my son. She is the most proud aunt I’ve ever known. She has yet to come home without a giant bag of clothes every time she visits. She calls to Facetime with him and shares in his first steps, words and solid foods. She is a proud auntie. Her desk at work looks like a shrine to him.

She stood beside me on my wedding day and I cannot wait to do the same for her one day. I cannot wait to celebrate all of her big milestones and just want the world to know what amazing joy it brings me to have a sister like her. I love you Stephypoo!

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The Write Life

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I have been a writer my entire life. From kindergarten to today equals 30 of the last 35 years of my life have been spent writing. My mother still has my books from kindergarten where I drew animals I visited at the “zoo.” When it was time for “centers” I would always want to go to the writing center.

In middle school, I had notebooks upon notebooks of really bad fiction. Usually they involved some heroine who was less than popular, pining away for some popular guy a few grades older. Hmm, was this fiction or fact? Nonetheless, they are stored away in some Tupperware® bin right about now, never to be shown the daylight.

In high school, my notebooks were still filled with mindless dribble, only this time it was journals of angst and stories about less-popular girls dealing with bitchy girls and more popular guys. Hmm, I am starting to see a pattern here. I also expanded to song-writing once I learned to play guitar and most of those songs were about the same subjects, lust and longing. For a suburban teen I seemed to have quite a bit of depression. Or maybe it was oppression. Who knows? My friends didn’t quite understand my affection with words and how they completed me. Sometimes just finding a synonym or learning a new word was as exciting as their trip to the mall. They put up with my incessant blabbering about such and such writer and accompanied me to poetry slams and Southern writers’ fiction readings. After all, downtown Greenville in the mid 90s only had a bunch of coffee shops for teens to hang out in.

Then one day I had a teacher encourage me to submit my stuff to the Fine Arts Center. After all, I was the kid who got excited about essay tests, secretly thanking God they weren’t multiple choice. My mom and dad however poopoo-ed the idea of me going to a magnet school and alas, my dreams were shattered. At least back then it was the biggest dream I had.

Fast forward to my junior year. I had a quasi-boyfriend who was of equal talent and had the same fondness for music as I, and he was applying to the FAC. My same English teacher again told me to apply and I decided to do it against my parents’ knowledge. This time I was chosen for an interview and somehow, through a tiny miracle, I was chosen to be one of the elite 11 creative writing students.

I spent my senior year immersed in all things writing-related and led a double life. I tried to indulge my high school friends with all their goings-on and be regular teenager, but all I wanted to do was run away with my magnet-school friends and play music or talk about writers or even watch the ballet group. I hated ballet but I respected the hell out of those girls and dancers and artists who performed and listened to me read my poetry on the big stage.  My mainstream school never seemed to “get it.” But that’s okay; I loved those friends just the same.

Fast forward to college and I was an advertising major because it was a logical choice for a creative person who liked to write but still hoped to find a job. Unbeknownst to me, advertising also required a business minor, which meant math and math and more math. Um, no thanks. Math and creative types go together about as well as Kim Kardashian shopping at Tj Maxx. Practically flunking out, I switched to creative writing, without telling my parents, and prayed my advertising credits would suffice for a journalism minor. This was the best decision I have ever made.

Like most, my parents wondered what in the world would I do with this degree. But I had no intention of being a best-selling author or poet. At least not then. I met friends who didn’t question my reasoning for taking Chaucer as an elective. “You want to speak and read in Middle English for fun?” My dad asked. “You LIKED Shakespeare enough to take multiple semesters of it,” my friend wondered. Yes and so did my classmates.  So I pursued a career in copywriting and have made it my job for as many years as I can remember.

The thing I love about writing is you can take it anywhere and do it at anytime. The older I get, the more I enjoy writing about my true passions: Music and relationships. I’ve been pretty lucky to see every band I’ve ever wanted to see (minus Bob Marley) and have even been paid to interview musicians and attend festivals as a reporter. My favorite movie is “Almost Famous” because it describes my life to a T. I am the struggling music writer and also the groupie or “Band-Aid” as the movie so eloquently describes the die-hard female fans. I’ve toured the country following bands and even spent some time working for them.

So last night, I had my A-ha moment! All this time of working on a non-fiction piece that is still in production, I’ve been itching for a piece of fiction to hit my brain. And it occurred to me during a screening of the movie, “The Words” with my husband. I would adopt the number one writer’s rule and write about what I know. Music! Concerts! Bands! Fans! I am music’s number one fan. I live it, breathe it, see it, write it, play it. Music is in me 24-7. I may not be a successful musician, but one only has to know me for a few minutes to know it is my biggest passion. I once asked a girl who was dating someone close to me who her favorite band was, mere minutes after meeting her. She looked at me like it was an odd question but to me it was the easiest way to get to know someone with the least amount of conversation. Her answer would quickly define her. Good or bad. Music to some people is just something in the background and I feel so bad for those people. They do not know the joy music can bring. And to others, it is a reason for being and to get up in the morning. It offers a sense of camaraderie and purpose.

I write all of this today because I am excited for 2013’s biggest goal to be to write my novel. I have an entire framework created in my mind and now I need to get it on the paper and see where it goes. Somehow, I will find the time to fit this into my already crowded budget of time for workouts, weight loss, parenting, healthy cooking and maintaining friendships that are so dear to me. But if my hair starts looking a little stragglier and my drinking becomes a habit, you will know I am happy writing J Cheers to 2013!

The last 365 days or so

Sometimes Christmas letters or blogs can come across as extremely self-righteous and narcissistic. And maybe mine is and I don’t even realize it. In church a few weeks ago the pastor preached about how so many Christmas letters only seem to brag about their kids, their trips to X places, their jobs, their material things, their this’s and their that’s. I tend to agree. Even my own parents’ Christmas letter read that way to me and I know they are not pretentious or bragging. They were just sharing the news of their millionth cruise and latest wine excursion (That was also a cruise) and yes, I am jealous. I can only hope when I retire I will be able to do the things they do. But they work(ed) hard and play hard and when they are home they are quick to babysit my son and do nice things for us. And then the rest of the time they are off at Tenn games and cruising around the world.

A friend of mine’s year-end review posted more memories and experiences rather than just a list of expensive trips and things that won’t be used a year from now. I feel like that is more in line with how I’ve been feeling lately. Not to say any of the other is bad or negative, but I’ve just been trying to savor some memories lately because I feel that I moved too fast by many of them and spent so much time wishing for change in the early part of the year, that in some ways I might have missed something. So reflection is good.

Right around January my son turned 6 months and I can say that it is then that I finally started to feel like my old self. I love being a parent, but I don’t think I had any idea how hard it was in regard to taking over your entire self. Not just physically, that part was pretty easy, but mentally. There are so many struggles with being a new parent that no one tells you about or talks about. There are doubts and questions and times when you think the day will never end and he will never stop crying. There are times when I wondered why wasn’t he crawling or walking or doing this or that. There was the stopping of breastfeeding after 5.5 months and wondering if it was okay to stop? Then there was weight gain after stopping, which made me even more resentful.

There were the many months of praying for God to bring a new job to my husband, and He finally answered our prayers in May. But thankfully I had some friends and LOTS of family who helped me when I needed it most. I coached basketball and had a church friend take care of my son in exchange for my driving her daughter to practice. This helped us both tremendously. Getting to coach with my dad is an experience I am so glad to have had. Our little K, 1, 2-grade girls’ team was something I am grateful to have been a part of.

Another awesome experience this year was a sister trip. My sister is easily my best friend, outside of my husband, and we have talked about wanting to do a sister trip for a long time. We finally made it happen this year with a trip to Savannah. It wasn’t luxurious and was quite affordable but we made some awesome memories through our silly laughs, inside jokes (woman with a scarf!) and some fantastic food and shopping. But mostly, it was just a great way to bond somewhere away from home and experience some history while also making some.

My hubby and I got to go on a great kayaking river day trip this year ending in a friend’s back yard and went to the lake a few times on my parents’ boat. We treasure the outdoors so these were also great experiences. Another new-found love was the Swamp Rabbit bike trail where we spent Saturday mornings biking and showing our son the not-so-pretty side of our city. My sister and I found ourselves front-row at a Phish concert, something that never disappoints, and also found ourselves cheering on a very disappointing season of the Tennessee Vols. On the flip side, I did get to enjoy two Clemson games, who did NOT disappoint. But my allegiance to the Vols will never waiver.

In one year my son learned to crawl and walk, much later than most, but these were big highlights. He got a few teeth (still only four!) and we taught him sign language. We read the same books over and over and over again until I have them all memorized and can read them without even needing the book. We began eating real foods, brushing teeth, giving kisses on command, throwing balls around the house and loving to swing. We went trick-or-treating and met Santa and the Easter Bunny. He busted his lip, cried so hard he burst a blood vessel and showed me that his form of venting anger is to hit me in the face. The latter is something we are still working on. Mostly, he became his own little person this year and left the days of babydom behind.

He was also baptized in February, wearing the same gown I wore and my grandfather wore. My husband joined the church that same day and we have been regularly attending each week. I am even coaching church basketball again!

Perhaps one of my favorite experiences this year was getting to officiate a friend’s wedding. It was a challenge yet felt natural once it started and was an honor to perform. It was also our first extended road trip with my son for five days away and two time changes. Somehow, we prevailed, albeit many times we forgot things here and there and had to pull over for poopy diapers and dropped pacifiers.

There were many other highlights, such as getting to dress up like a westerner for a friend’s birthday in Cherokee, NC., having all my friends over for an 80s murder mystery party, meeting a friend for an all-day wine lunch, going to the wedding of my brother in law, celebrating Christmas three times, celebrating my 4th year of marriage and 35th year of life, and lots of other celebrations. But mostly it was a year, like all others, where there are highs and lows and memories being made. My resolutions are fairly simple this year…to try and be less messy with my never-ending laundry pile; (My husband even built me a closet to curb this bad habit.); To try and look less frumpy around the house. And to try to enjoy things as they happen.