Friday, February 28, 2014

Warning: I am going to ask you for money.

We've all had that moment when we are reading along through a perfectly worded email (or a letter sent through the actual mail if someone was really classy) when you realize,  "oh shoot... they're getting ready to ask me for money". I thought I'd save you from that moment by making the subject line of this post really clear so that you can either run for the hills right now or you can get your credit card ready with great anticipation :) 

I have been invited to go on a trip to Cape Town, South Africa with a group of less than 30 people from my church in May to explore a potential new partnership with an organization called Orchard Africa.  During our trip we will get to participate in a vacation bible school for kids, visiting creches's (pre-schools), observing healthcare centers and serving the community in whatever capacity we are needed while we are there. 

Last year, my dad, brother and niece went on a similar trip and the experience for them was life-changing. Below is a link to a video that paints a great picture of their trip and the previous work that's been happening in other parts of South Africa through our partnerships and a lot of really awesome, really generous folks. I am honored to have been invited and I am asking you to help me get there.  

South Africa Trip Video

Asking for your financial help to allow me to go on this trip is an act of faith in my community and I am confident in your generosity as I've already experienced in many different ways over the past year when I've need it most and didn't exactly know how to receive it.  I've learned during this season of my life that I am surrounded by incredible friends and family who have been teaching me lessons in receiving so often that the idea of asking for what I need or want is no longer terrifying. 

You can click here to donate. 

Thank you in advance and I can't wait to share all of the stories from my journey and post about one million facebook and instagram photos

You do not have to create a login to donate.  If you have trouble, please let me know.  Video used with permission...kind of. Thanks, Andrew! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

So, you're leaving for college tomorrow...

I was 13 years old the day I found my mom sleeping in her favorite recliner with her face covered up with a blanket.  I thought it was weird that she was able to sleep like that because I'm so claustrophobic and the idea of smothering under a blanket makes me break out in hives even as I type.  The sight of this made me walk right over and rip the blanket off her face.  Her nose was red and she had big tear streaks all down her neck. My mom is a pretty strong woman and this wasn't a normal sight so I knew something was wrong. I'd learned that her "Oh, I'm ok, honey" response was a lie and I'd heard it before.  I made myself comfortable in the other matching burgundy recliner (Burgundy and Hunter Green were the hippest colors that year and our house was full of it) and I made her talk to me.  

She waited awhile and then she told me that I was going to be an Aunt. She explained to me that it was my teen brother who was going to be a new daddy.  I didn't exactly understand why this wasn't excellent news and all I knew was that I was going to get to babysit and that made me happy.  I learned later that day that my dad, who was a pastor, was going to marry my brother and his girlfriend on the spot (best idea ever?) and that they'd be my new roommates for the next nine months or so. I watched my new sister in law go in an out of the hospital for her entire pregnancy with extreme sickness, many times thinking my sweet baby niece wouldn't survive until her birthday (knowing that strong person that she is now, I'm not surprised at all) and then on May 13, 1995, I met the sweetest little blonde I'd ever known.  

You still give me this same look all the time

Over the last 18 years, I've watched this baby girl grow into a beautiful, smart, strong young woman who has not had the most perfect life, but has been so surrounded by so much love from her amazing father, grandparents, aunts (yeah, me), uncles and cousins you would never know the things she suffered during her childhood.  I can't believe the little girl that was my tag-a-long for so many years is leaving for the University of Kentucky tomorrow morning.  I'm not worried about her because I know who her father is - he's the man who figured out how to provide for a family at the age of 17, how to raise two great kids that have his same spirit and they can work their way through anything.  Having said that - I'd like to offer some "what not to do's" for my sweet Candell.  This isn't necessarily a list of things I learned the hard way, but personal experience and observations of other people in my life who went to college.  Enjoy and good luck, my love. 

1. Don't go for the cheap carbs.  Colleges feed you garbage because its cheap and it is cooked by Satan himself.  Skip the pasta, breadsticks and Oreo extravaganza they offer 4 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The "Freshman 15" is a myth made for skinny people.  For a Smith, it will inevitably be the "Freshman 55" and that junk doesn't come off easy.  If there is a salad bar, only eat the lettuce and carrots and skip the dressing - it's actually just pure fat that wants to make a nice home on your behind.  Trust me on this one. I've never lied to you before. 

2. If you're going to be best friends with all dudes, I totally get that.  Girls can be lame and I understand, but please decide who your friends are and the ones you actually just want to kiss - separate those into two different groups and don't let those lines get blurry.  Its real awkward when your friends get real girlfriends (or boyfriends).  So I've heard... from friends of mine. 

3. Save your financial reliance on your dad for when you need it.  Don't take advantage of it freshman year.  I once put my ATM card into the machine and asked for the same $20 about 10 times before it declined me.  I think there are tougher regulations on that kinda thing now, but I overdrew my account by $250 more than 10 times my first few months at school.  My parents were too good to me - your dad will let you starve if you do that. 

4. Go to class.  Academic Probation is no place you want to live.  They won't let you sing and I know that's important to you. If you lose the respect of your teachers out of the gate, it will take you until graduation to get it back, if they don't send you home first. You are there to learn.  You can party when you're 25. 

5. The people you're friends with first semester are not the people you'll be friends with last semester and for the rest of your life.  Don't be discouraged :)

6.  If your roommate sucks, get a new one.  You have to share a shower with them.  If they are dirty or weird or have weird friends, run for the freaking hills. 

7. Be kind to the people who have authority over you.  Teachers, cafeteria workers, security patrolmen, dorm supervisors, parking lot attendants, etc.  You might need a favor one day and keep that with you as a general life practice.  Always be kind - to everyone. Be known as the girl who is always kind and you will never regret it. 

8. Guard your good reputation.  Don't be that girl who becomes known for anything negative. I don't feel like I need to further explain that. 

9. Study and get good grades.  I've said this in other ways, but, on those nights when you'd rather go out and be with "the coolest new friends ever because its Tuesday", remember why you're there and save it for Friday. There will always be a reason to go out if you make up reasons in your head. You'll still have that 8am exam and if you fail, refer to #4 and don't make me come down there and freak out on you in front of the cool kids.  

10.  Don't ever let anyone borrow your car.  For any reason.  Ever.  Especially dudes. 

11. Have fun and don't do anything I wouldn't do (and I mean me as in the present day me, not the 18 year old me who made large mistakes).

12. If you do make large mistakes, it will be alright.  Remember where you came from. Remember what you've been taught your entire life -  that we are a family who loves well and who takes care of one another.  There is never a reason why you won't be rescued or accepted and welcomed home with giant hugs if you make a big fat mess. 

I love you very much and you have brought so much joy to my life and continue to every day that I see what a great grown-up you've become. Be confident in who you are and know that people are going to love the real you.  Don't try to be anyone else. If you get in a pinch, call me (and by pinch, I mean a low-grade money pinch or an advice pinch.  I'm not picking you up at 3am, ever). 

Thanks for making me feel old.  Thank you for being a great aunt to my baby these last few months.  I'd like to think you've learned from the best :)  I am your biggest fan and am rooting for you - always. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

I'm Doing My Freakin Best

One of the wisest men I know once wrote me a note that read: 

"I suspect you, like me, have a confident exterior, but are plauged with inner doubts, like an impostor.. improvising every day, afraid the "real experts" are going to find you out.  The thruth is - we are ALL improvising.  Embrace improvisation.  Usually "experts" have maxed out and have very little capacity for improvisation.  If I could choose - consciously - I would choose improvisation" 

The above paragraph was part of a much longer letter of sorts that was written to me when I made the choice to move to Cleveland with my husband and son to start the next season of our life as a family of three. I understood the letter to be about my professional life and my ability to improvise in my job. While I had always been cool and confident in my work on the surface, just beneath I was constantly kicking and trying to keep myself above water, often looking around a room of people 10, 15, even 20 years my elder and wondering "what am I doing here? if someone figures out that I am really only 12 years old, I'm going to fired on the spot!" I didn't realize how much these words carried over into every other role in my life. 

I went back to work when my son was 5 weeks old (try and hold your judgement Pinterest mom cowgirls). I did it because I wanted to.  I love my job and thankfully, I had some flexibility for the first month or so to bring my son to the office with me. There I was, in my office with a newborn baby on my lap and I felt powerful. I would think to myself, "I'm doing it! Everyone probably thought I couldn't do it and look at me.. I'm working and momming." 

Conrad under my desk at 5 weeks old. Yeah, that was too soon. 

When my son was 7 or 8 weeks old, a sweet lady named Gigi came into our lives and she became his primary caregiver while I was working full time. When my son was about 7 months old the inevitable mom-guilt hit me hard in the face.  I would cry on my way to work almost every day over the idea that someone else was raising my son.  The reality was that I only saw him for an hour in the morning and 2 hours in the evening.  Three hours a day. 15 hours a week was the only amount of time I was with my baby. 

When my husband was offered an opportunity to work in Cleveland, the idea of being able to stay home with my son was like seeing a leprechaun riding a unicorn in broad daylight.  I imagined how awesome it would be. Images filled my head of my son and I sitting on the floor in my immaculately clean and perfectly decorated house while I read a million books to him and how I'd join seventeen mommy groups and go on play dates every morning and then sometimes another playdate after his nap (yeah, two play dates in one day. what?) with all these other moms I'd meet at *nowhere* and how he'd be the smartest and most well developed child because I'd take him to the art museum four times a week.  In my spare time, I was probably going to start doing Tae-Bo (cause that's still around...) and take up a hip-hop dance class and then maybe learn Japanese or something.  The possibilities were endless, really. I imagined all of these things because I had NO idea what it was like to really be a mom that stayed home with her kid.  Remember, I was only with him 3 hours a day at the time. 

Leprechaun riding a Unicorn.  Anything better than that? No.  

We moved to Cleveland and Jason went to work.  

My boss and I decided that I should keep working for him remotely which I am certain is the only reason I haven't had an honest-to-god nervous breakdown.  Having that outside connection with the familiar has kept my feet on the ground. About four days into my stay-at-home-mom gig, I realized that I really have no idea what I'm doing.  I started having thoughts about how this was the absolute wrong choice for my son.  I didn't really know how to make meals for him, I didn't even really know his schedule.  How much should he be sleeping during the day?  30 minutes?  11 hours?  How do I know?  How do I NOT know this stuff?  

Do I let him watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse AND Jake and the Neverland Pirates back to back or will someone call social services on me?  It was a great trifecta of moving to a place where I have no one, my son turning into a toddler and me going from being with him 3 waking hours a day to ALL waking hours each day.  I think to myself at least once a day,  "Holy cow, my mom did this.  With no television or Ipads.  She did this with FOUR of us, two of which were only 11 months apart and our house was clean and we had food all the time..  My mother must actually be like, married to Jesus or something".  Cheers to you, Joyce Smith.  You are a SUPERHERO. 

My mom with my two oldest brothers... and she had her hair did

Today I put my precious baby down for his nap, which I have now figured out happens from 10:30am until almost 1pm which is awesome.  I can work, take phone calls without fear of random screams, clean my house... Oh, and my house is NOTHING like it was in my fantasy, by the way.  It typically looks like someone peeled back the roof and blew in those fat multi-color legos with a firehouse. I swear there is not a place you can look inside my house (or car) and not see one of those fat legos laying around (you know the ones.. the ones they probably can't choke on..  that your mother or mother in law or well meaning friend bought you... that came in a giant container that your kid insists on dumping out every single day and and putting them in places like the fridge or the toilet just to surprise you? I hate those them with a pure, pure hate).  
Welcome to lego hell, ya'll. 

We've lived here since November and it looks like we moved in last week.  Who has time to decorate when your kid just pulled your dogs tail while he was trying to eat causing him to growl and send your child into an inconsolable frenzy that only an episode of "Yo Gabba Gabba" can fix and he wants you to sit by him and watch it.  

Sidenote: I am convinced that the people who create these kids shows are tripping on acid the entire time.  Half the time I wonder if I'm tripping on acid when I watch it.  (Inside my head: "I am pretty sure we don't have any acid laying around that I just accidentally dropped, right? That's what you do with acid, right? Drop it? Who knows? Oh, drug lingo. I don't know you.  Geez, what IS this show about?! This is worse than Baby Einstein from when he was a newborn! I thought THOSE people got high and wrote kids show, but these Yo Gabba Gabba people aren't screwing around.. they should drug test them").  

I am abruptly snapped back into reality because the show is over and Conrad is in his fave drop-it-like-its-hot spot in the corner and he's giving me that look that says "you do NOT want to come over herrrrrrrrre right now".  Then I smell it.  Sweet Lord. This is my life.   

When Conrad woke up from his nap I went up to change his diaper and oh crap, no diapers.  Not one diaper in this entire house or in my bag or in my car.  How does this sort of thing happen?  Who didn't tell me we were running low on diapers?! I look around for someone to blame, but I'm the only other person here besides naked, no-diaper Conrad.  Dangit.  

I am equal parts not proud / extremely proud of what happened next.  I tucked my pajama pants into my boots, put on a hat and sunglasses and a large coat. Put a pair of tight fitting soft cotton pants on my sons bare bottom.  Put several... let's call them..  feminine napkins,  pads,  sanitary products, maxi pads,  (there really isn't an acceptable non-gross word for these.. its all terrible).  So I put these items (a few of them) on the exterior of the cotton pants and pulled up another pair of big sweatpants over these "products" and loaded him into the car to drive to the edge of my neighborhood to the drugstore where I paid like $400 dollars for 10 diapers, but let's face it - we may have never made it to the grocery store and I cannot throw away another car seat, folks.  My biggest fear was that I'd get in an accident where I would sustain an injury and they'd have to take me to the hospital and my son, while unharmed would have to, at some point be changed by a stranger who would discover what was underneath his sweatpants and they'd surely call 241-KIDS after they'd peeled those puppies off and put a proper diaper on the poor kid. 

As I changed my son (on the kitchen table) when we got home, I said "thanks for hanging in there with me, buddy... momma is just doing her freakin best."  I think he understood. 

The rest of the day I recited these words over in my head... "we are all just improvising.. we are all just improvising".. and spent the afternoon watching Yo Gabba Gabba with my son who will never know this even happened.  He's gonna be fine.  

I just needed 15 minutes to clean the kitchen... so this happened. 
I wanted to watch the inauguration... so this happened. 

We will have fun.  Always. #teamriveiro

Disclaimer: I am not complaining.  I am in love with my son and after three months of this crazy business I have decided that I will never have it any other way.  No one will ever care for him like I do.  No, I don't make my own laundry soap or have spare time to pin and repin cookie recipes like some supermoms I know and love but dangit, we have fun and we will always be having fun up in this crazy house. and yes, I'll have another sometime soon and then these stories will get even worse. 

Disclaimer #2:  I did a quick facebook poll for moms to inbox me if they'd had a similar experience.  7 moms wrote to me and they'd ALL done the same thing.  I'm not a freak. If someone calls 241-KIDS on me... I'm taking all of you down with me. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dear Mom

Dear Mom, 

It's your birthday.  Mother's Day and I'd like to say thank you for a few things.

you're pretty
  1. For letting me say that my imaginary friend Jake was a real person and pretending not to know when I lied to your face about him cutting my bangs really short when I was 4 years old - yeah, that was me. 
  2. For letting me change my name to "Maria" in 2nd grade because I thought Hannah was a dumb name (and for basically saying the name you picked for me sucked.  ouch)  
  3. For not telling me that the optometrist knew I was lying when I tried to fake an eye test so I could get glasses like all the cool girls in my class.  That one really came back to bite me now that I'm 30 and can't see without my cool glasses or contacts. 
  4. For letting me be the only girl at my elementary school to try out for co-ed basketball and not being mad when I made it... and then decided I didn't want to do it. 
  5. For paying for years of piano lessons and taking me every Saturday even though you knew I couldn't read music and that I'd fake my way through my lesson playing by ear, but would still occasionally turn the page of my music book (in the wrong spots).  
  6. For singing the alto part with the radio in the car all the time. I think I could hear harmonies in my head before I could speak. 
  7. For letting me and my imagination run wild and going along with every new thing I dreamed up and wanted to become. 
  8. For saying you never had any money, but always having a secret $20 bill in your purse zipper pocket. 
  9. For telling me every day of my life that I was beautiful, especially on days when I didn't believe you.  
  10. For teaching me when to hold my tongue because sometimes silence is best.  
  11. For fixing my hair every time I cut it, permed it, crimped it, hot sticked it and dyed it.
  12. For listening to me cry when I have a broken heart.  
  13. For laughing with me when I am spilling over with happiness. 
  14. For listening to me scream and say irrational things when I'm angry. 
  15. For keeping the peace in a house full of men.  
  16. For crying tears of joy with me when I told you that you were going to be a grandma. 
  17. For coming over to give my baby his first bath because I was too scared. 
  18. For teaching me to be patient and kind and loving and forgiving. 
  19. For teaching me how to pray. 

cool stuffed dog, mom. 
corn flakes will fix anything

Friday, April 13, 2012

Gymnastics and Puppets and Musicals, Oh My!

I like to imagine that I've always had the ability to make anyone believe anything I say and can often convince people to join me when I get a wild hair and want to do something "awesome".  Life is never dull because I'm always on to the next adventure. 

Some of my first memories are riding in the car with my mom to pick my brother up from school and telling her all about the "amazing day I had at school" and how "my friends and I had SO much fun in class".  My mom knew full well that I had been at home with her all day long and that I hadn't been in school at all. I had been in my room setting up my stuffed animals and dolls in order of vocal part (sopranos on the left, tenors in the middle and altos on the right) and directing my gospel choir of animals, Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids. She went along with everything I said and let me describe in detail the things my teacher said, how well I did on my test, how much fun recess was, etc. I blame thank her for my wildly awesome imagination because she never made me suppress it.  

obviously, I've been in school all day.

They say those who can't do - teach. When I was 9 years old, I decided that I was going to teach gymnastics because watching gymnastics on my 10" black and white tv that was hidden in the back of my closet (hidden tv's are another story for another day) clearly qualified me to teach "little girls" (a.k.a. girls who were my same age but were smaller than me. a.k.a. all girls in the entire world) gymnastics. I also felt like it should be a fusion of gymnastics and dance since I also liked to dance in front of my mirror, alone. I made up some flyers with sharpies and put them on the bulletin board at my dad's church.  I couldn't believe that 10 girls showed up for my "gymnastics / dance" class on a Saturday morning in the half-finished basement of my parent's house. In hindsight I fully understand why the parents of 10 girls would drop them off at my house on a Saturday morning.  Free babysitting. Genius. I taught them all a "routine" to some christian hip-hop music I was rocking out to in those days, but things got awkward when they asked why I couldn't do a handstand or any other gymnastic tricks. I was the teacher so I declined to answer. They all went home and I never taught gymnastics again. I think I just wanted to be in charge of people because around that time I also threatened to "whip" a girl in the dorm at church camp because she was being a brat. She yelled across the dorm "you can't whip me!! I'm the same age as you!!!".  I'd failed to notice that we were both 9 years old because in my head, I've always been 30. 

obviously the gymnastic instructor is on the right - freaking rockstar pose

At the ripe old age of 11, after seeing some puppeteers perform at church camp - I decided that I wanted to be a puppeteer. When we got home, I convinced my mom to buy me 4 really expensive puppets.  I didn't need to take any classes because I had an incredible knack for it.  The only thing about my puppets is that they didn't talk  - they only sang gospel music, which was terribly hilarious because the two "soloists" were pasty white puppets with red hair, so the fact that they were singing Kirk Franklin songs couldn't have been more of a stretch. My puppets performed for the entire church almost every Sunday night and they always brought the house down. In hindsight (again), I can't believe actual grown-ups would sit through the hilarity of two pasty white, red-headed puppets singing black gospel songs and even stand up and clap along as if a giant gospel choir were onstage.  Absurd. 

obviously a professional puppeteer - I even made the newspaper

Shortly after the puppet phase, I decided that I wanted to be a psychologist.  I didn't  know exactly what that meant, but I had seen a few sitcoms (on my secret, hidden television) where people would lay down on leather couches and tell the smartly-dressed person in the upright chair with the notebook about all their problems and they would leave one hour later feeling better. I wanted to do that. I wanted to do that for other people.  I wanted to do that for the poor kids that lived across the street with their grandma because their parents liked to party too hard. I was going to change the world - starting with those kids. I got a couple of huge books that said "PSYCHOLOGY" in a really big and intimidating font from the public library and after looking at the pictures and reading the table of contents, I was ready to see my first patient. I brought one of the girls from across the street over to my house and asked (in my best psychologist voice that I'd heard on tv) "so, tell me about living with your grandma."  She did.  I had nightmares for a month after that and decided maybe being a psychologist wasn't what I wanted to do after all. 

obviously a legitimate psychologist

One could argue that this is all sort of normal kid stuff, but I never really grew out of it.  In 2007, I decided that I wanted to be in a musical.  That's right. A musical.  I'd never been in a play or acted before but since I grew up singing and and studied music for a bit (and dropped out because I hated everything about studying music... I really just wanted to sing songs all day long) - I was obviously qualified to audition for a play.  I went online and saw that open auditions were being held for "The Sound of Music" at a local theater and since I knew all the songs from that play, I was obviously going to nail it.  I called the number listed on the audition site and they informed me I would need to sing "32 bars of any song except songs from Sound of Music."  Dangit! I convinced my friend Jonathan to go with me and audition.  He said no. I talked him into it in under an hour (see first paragraph)and he prepared to sing "76 trombones" and I did "Someone To Watch Over Me" (because Mr. Holland's Opus was one of my favorite movies of all time).  We got to the audition and people were DEAD SERIOUS about it.  Theater world is an alternate universe. They all seemed to know each other and most of them had done dozens of shows together.  There were hipsters and middle-aged women and dancing gays and little kids - it was the most diverse circus of crazy folks I'd ever encountered and I loved it. 

I got a "call back" and was selected to be a nun! I showed up for the first rehearsal and Terry LaBolt, the fabulous director asked me to sing the notes on the paper he'd given me. This would have been easy but I didn't know how to read music.  I had to publicly announce to my new nun friends that this was my first audition, first play, had never acted AND didn't know how to read music. Terry was sweet and let me record him playing my parts on the piano so I could learn them at home before the next rehearsal.  I learned my part and 4 months later all of my friends and family came out to watch me be onstage for 3 minutes of a 2 1/2 hour play. I bet they all loved it. 

the hills are alive
the cast at the covedale - I'm the last nun before the von trapps begin

I will be 30 in August and my current adventures consist of glamorous things like changing  diapers and walking around disoriented in the middle of night in my underwear trying to figure out who's teething 10 month old kid is screaming in the room next door. The fog clears and I realize that it's my kid.  I have a kid.  I'm someones mother. Holy cow... where are my puppets? 

obviously my greatest adventure

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dear Me

I made a very sweaty resolution on New Years Eve. I was with some of my closest friends and just after midnight we were discussing what we wanted in 2012.  For me it was a simple one word answer: Freedom.

My resolution was sweaty because I had just lived out my dream of dancing in pajamas on NYE. To kick off freedom year, I wanted to dance with my friends and my husband... in pajamas... with a disco ball. I didn't want to be judged or self conscious and I definitely didn't want to be uncomfortable with pesky "real clothes" so the pajama dance party dream was brought to life by my friends and was executed to a level that I never imagined possible. Since that night I have intentionally started embracing my real self and doing something that frees me a little more each day.  This could be dancing, singing, making cookies at 11pm, NOT cleaning (I have a little cleaning obsession and many perfectly good Saturdays have been ruined by my cleaning projects and I say NO MORE - Saturdays are for coffee and snuggling and being with family), telling the truth (I have gotten into a habit of telling white-lies if I don't want to do something.. "oh, I can't today.. all of my hair just fell out".. lies.  NO MORE) and working on having real relationships.  It's harder than it sounds.  

While visiting my parents today I hit the motherload of treasures. I found 4 giant boxes of old photos, most of which I had daydreamed about setting on fire but settled on the thought that maybe they'd just stay in those boxes until I was long gone and I'd never have to see some of them again.  Every kid goes through "awkward" phases but it seems like I had an awkward 10 years (give or take another 5 years) and as I looked through the photos I started saying things to my younger self (quietly in my head).  I tried hard to explain to awkward Hannah that one day when you're almost 30, you're going to find your freedom and it's going to feel so good.  

A few hours into this experience, I decided I was going to share it.  I'll let these photos and their captions tell the story. Some of these will make you laugh and some of them may make you uncomfortable, but don't be.  Freedom for me is loving every phase of my life - even the extremely awkward ones. 

Dear Baby Me, you look like a son you'll have one day named Conrad. That lady holding you is going to be your best friend for the rest of your life. Sorry that you have a mullet.
Dear 3 or 4(ish) Me,  you are going to love singing more than anything. You are lucky your daddy makes you sing at church every week because you are learning about harmonies and such and that will benefit you later.

Dear Cool Hair Little Me, you should have just stuck with this hairstyle your entire life.  It would have saved you a lot of trouble since 30 year old me has your exact hair.  Full circle. 

Dear Birthday Me, you should celebrate yourself in a HUGE way every year. Oh, and you will still be friends with Jamie when you're 30. At one point, she's going to marry that guy you liked but you weren't supposed to marry him anyway so it all works out.  I promise. 

Dear Painter's Daughter Me,  learning how to paint will really serve you well.  You're holding the brush all wrong now, but later you'll be able to cut-in without even taping off and when you're 8 months pregnant with Conrad, you're going to paint his room all by yourself and it's going to look awesome.

Dear Lady Like Me, I'm so glad you learned to cross your legs.  You sat like a boy all the time before this photo and that would have never worked out because you always wear skirts.

Dear Sweet Tooth Me, I wish you'd have never learned that you can't eat chocolate every day. Who told you that? Chocolate is awesome.

Dear Scissor Happy Me, you'll still be cutting your own bangs when you're 30.  Mom will still get mad at you and it still won't look right, but at least you didn't have to pay someone else to do it. Bad news is you can't blame it on your imaginary friend "Jake" anymore, unless you want to be put on medication. 

Dear Christmas Me,  that sweatshirt rocked and you were popping your collar before it was cool.  

Dear Kindergarden Me, you are always going to hate school so you might as well settle in for the long haul instead of trying to fake sick everyday for the next 12 years.  

Dear 2nd Grade Me,  please don't cry.  Flubbing your dance moves in the Silver Grove Elementary Talent Show will not be the end-all for you.  You're going to keep singing and dancing for years to come. Great call on the matching shirt and socks. It looks great. 
Dear Jean Jacket Me, that hand me-down from your brother is not doing you any favors. 

Dear Wedding-Planner Me, you do NOT want a fountain in your wedding cake so cross that out in your wedding book that you've already started. When Dad sees that sneaky little bracelet you're wearing, he's going to take it from you and this will start years and years of you trying to sneak and wear jewelry and Dad hiding it from you. It's in the Bible that you can't wear it... somewhere in there.  

Dear Really Good at Posing Me, the hand under the chin is genius.  Your high-tops are awesome. 

Dear Confident Me, why did you ever become uncomfortable with your body?  I wish you could have stayed free like this forever. You're awesome.

Dear Junior Camper Me,  "Hot Sticks" are the devil.  Please don't curl your hair with those!! 

Dear Fashion Fail Me, The "Eastland" / white athletic sock combo will never work.   Tight rolled sleeves on a shirt that says "No Comment" will never work.  A scrunchie headband will never work.  

Dear Curly Me, you started getting perms.  This phase is really going to mess your hair up for years to come.  Years.  You look great in this photo so you should order tons of them and hand them out to all your friends. 

Dear Great Idea Me,  making mom order these in every possible size was genius. You want people to have this image of you in their homes and wallets for the rest of your life. 

Dear MovieStar Me, Glamour Shots TOTALLY made up for that permed hair and pink and gold chain outfit fiasco last year.  You're looking pretty awesome, cowgirl. 

Dear Left Over Hair Me, maybe an 8am call time for photos with mom wasn't a great idea.  You both made it on time but didn't get to wash your faces or fully wake up.  It's a good thing you have great leftover hair from church last night or this could have been bad. 

Dear Awkward Teenage Me, I'm sorry that you got another perm and wore that unfortunate faux denim vest.  Don't be sad.  I promise you will not always look like this.

Dear Uncomfortable Me,  I see you've gotten another perm.  In a couple of months  a lot of things are going to change for you, including your diet.  One day when you smile, people will still be able to see your blue eyes.

Dear Just Started Losing Weight Me,  I know you feel beautiful, but the one straight strand of hair on the face thing is never going to work for you.  Just slick it all back. 

Dear Just Lost 100 Pounds Me, I'm so happy for you.  You worked so hard and you feel amazing.  I 'm sorry that you've discovered plucking/shaving your eyebrows.  This is not going to end well for you at all. 

Dear Braces and Glasses Me,  the braces sucked for two years but your teeth turn out pretty great.  I'm sorry that you've almost completely shaved off your eyebrows.  They are never supposed to be that far apart.  Those frames may have also not been the best choice, but you'll get contacts in a few years. I see you've went back to the perm again.  It never looks how you imagine it will in your head, so please stop. Seriously.

Dear 16 Year Old Me, you are wearing prescription contact lenses that are tinted purple with non-prescription glasses just to look cool. That is lame. When you are 30, you will have those exact frames but with a strong prescription because when you're 25 your eyesight turns to crap and you're not allowed to drive without your cool big black glasses.  I think it's Karma.

Dear First Half of My Life Me, I'm not sure why you were so uncomfortable with being who you were.  You were always cool, but you wasted so much time wishing to be someone else (with better hair or eyebrows).  You can't go back and do it all again, but don't worry - everything turns out great.  One day you'll finally get to be the princess that 6 year old you always wanted to be.  Your mom is still your best friend and you married a handsome prince and now have your very own baby that is WAY cooler than all your cabbage patch kids (although he strongly resembles them).

Dear January 2012 Me, please don't start to doubt yourself and erase this tomorrow. That's not freedom :)  You have nieces and future daughters and granddaughters that need to know they're awesome being exactly who they are today. You might save them from years of trouble and/or really bad perms. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bits and Pieces

There are lots of little things that I've been wanting to share lately, but nothing interesting enough for a stand-alone post. Here are three (3) short stories. 
1.) Irrational Things New Parents Say in the Middle of the Night

The longer I'm a parent (a whopping 7 months now), the more I realize there isn't much that other parents haven't already experienced so why don't we talk about it?   People tried to tell us how hard it would be to go from being married without kids to married with kid(s) but I feel like we had no idea what was about to hit us in the face. 

I remember when our biggest decision was where we were going to get coffee after we slept 10 hours straight and were still in bed at 10am on any given Saturday morning. Those days were over for us on June 1, 2011. The most amusing (not at the time, but later) thing is the CRAZY stuff new parents say to each other in the middle of the night when you want to sleep but your baby has decided it's time for Screamfest Extravaganza. It was cute at first and we'd say things like "it's ok babe.. I'll go get him.  I want to cuddle with him anyway".  We are now 7 months into this thing and earlier this week when our son decided to party at 2am, the conversation went a little something like this: 

Me: Babe, it's your turn. 
Jason: Huh? no it's not, it's your turn!
Me: I got up with him twice already tonight (ummm.. not true, but you lose all perception of what night it actually is because you're delirious)
Jason: YOU'RE A LIAR!!!!!!! 
Me: I THINK I HATE YOU!!!!!! I'm going to throw myself over this balcony if you don't go in there!!!! 

The best part is that you don't hold it against each other the next day.  You wake up, kiss your spouse and go pick up your angel from their crib and pretend it never happened.

2.) Why Momma Bears Eat People

I love my neighborhood. We choose to live in Over-the-Rhine because we love it.  I'm often criticized for this choice by people who haven't been here in at least 10 years and especially now that I have a baby.  People say things like "Oh my God, you live there with your baby?  Is it safe?" I always want to respond "No, people break into my house like everyday" and roll my eyes, but instead I usually respond with another question (power move) of "well, when is the last time you were in OTR?" and they usually respond with "I don't know.. 1994 or something".  Exactly.  It's now a thriving community and I wouldn't live anywhere else.  

We've lived in OTR since 2006 and just like living in any urban neighborhood, you follow simple rules.  You lock your car, you don't go walking down certain streets alone after dark, you don't roll down your window when the friendly guys on the corner want to chat and the #1 rule (in my mind) is that you don't yell back at a crackhead.  When people are out of their mind on drugs, you can't rationalize with them so no matter what they say you just keep walking.

Last week I finally understood why momma bears eat people who mess with their baby bears.  I was walking to my car with my son and a lady yelled down the street asking for some money for the bus.  I didn't have any money so I kindly yelled back "sorry, I don't have any cash", but apparently she was a.) out of her mind on drugs and b.) didn't believe me. She yelled again and started walking over to my car.  I immediately knew that I needed to put Conrad in the car because if she came near him, it was going to go down (which was odd because that's not a thought that would have ever popped into my pre-mommy head and I was very aware that something in my brain had changed).  

I shut the door with Conrad inside, turned around and she was right behind me and everything went fuzzy. I lost my freaking business on that lady.  I stepped into her and started screaming a string of amazing expletive combinations that my old cellmates would have been proud of in a crazy momma bear rage. It was not my shining moment as a mother (or maybe it was). I let her know that she was never to mess with me again when I have my child with me (in so many words).  She was not expecting that response and honestly, neither was I. It was completely out of character for me.  I then heard the sweetest, most timid voice behind me say "Oooh.. oh honey.. let's not do that, ok? She's just on drugs honey.. "  It was my brand new neighbor who I'd never met.  That was her first impression of me.  Awesome. I profusely apologized to my sweet neighbor and drove off in humiliation.  I can't say I wouldn't react the exact same way if that happened again.  Momma Bear instincts are CRAZY.

Me and Conrad... in my head. I would eat a crackhead for my baby.

3.) Seriously Grandma?

I feel like weird stuff happens to me and I often find myself looking around thinking "did anyone else see that?" Today was no exception. I went to Barnes and Noble with Conrad and was sitting in a corner doing some light reading and sipping a coffee when this little girl appeared out of nowhere.  She was 7 or 8 years old with blonde hair and I immediately noticed her lips were so chapped.  That caught my attention because I'm obsessed with chapstick and lip gloss (I will put on 4 layers of lip stuff at a time and can't remember ever having dry lips so it freaks me out when other people do. I can't hear what they're saying because in my head I'm wondering how they manage to put words together without Chapstick on.)

Without any introduction or preparation this little girl started asking me RAPID-FIRE questions. Our conversation went just like this (no exaggeration). 
Girl: What's your baby's name?
Me: Conrad.
Girl: How do you spell it?
Me: C-O-N-R-A-D.
Girl: Can he say hi?
Me: No, he can't talk yet.
Girl: Why's he in a car seat?
Me: Because the car seat fits in his stroller.
Girl: Why's he in a stroller?
Me: Because he can't walk yet. 
Girl: Why?
Me: Because he's only 7 months old. 
Girl: Can he say hi? (yes, she asked twice)
Me: No, he can't talk.  Remember? 
Girl: Do you have a dog? (Unannounced subject change. Genius)
Me: Yes. 
Girl: What's her name?
Me: It's a boy, his name is blue. 

Girl: What's your..

(Lady who I can only assume is Grandma walks up out of nowhere.  I was relieved that someone was with the girl and sad because she was awesome at asking questions and I was getting a kick out of it)

Grandma to Girl: Come on sweetie we need to get going (looks right at me, tilts her head to the side and her face got really sweet and she lowered her voice to a whisper like you would if you were about to say something really nice or apologetic).

Grandma TO ME: I'm sorry.... (whispers lower) she's a little bit retarded. 

I swear on my life that she said those exact words and walked away. WHAAAAATT?! What just happened?! 

a.) I don't think there was anything wrong with that little girl.  I thought she was awesome.
b.) Who says "shes a little bit retarded" ?! Is it 1970 already? Holy Crap.

I sat there in disbelief for about 10 minutes.  Weird things.  Weird things happen to me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bible College Adventures

I graduated high school at 16 years old, not because I was extra smart, but simply because I hated high school so much. I worked hard to get out of there as fast as possible.  I've always been a little older and cooler in my head so I felt like high school was a complete waste of my valuable time. I graduated in May, turned 17 in August and started Bible College in September.  Looking back, I wasn't even mature enough to be left at home alone, much less be in another state... at College. 

Indiana Bible College: scene of the crime(s)

A few days after getting settled in, there were auditions being held for "Chorale" (which was like a mini-choir that got to go on tours, etc).  I went down to the music department office and shamelessly dropped the names of my cousins who were chorale alumni in hopes of getting in with the "right" people (I'd always had a knack for being friends with the right people. Every time I changed schools as a kid, I would spend a day or two observing the class to find out who the cool kids were and make them laugh and then we'd be best friends forever).  

The "chorale" with our tour bus.  I liked to entertain people on the bus and be center of attention :) 

I met three seniors who seemed to be the coolest and I desperately wanted to be their BFF.  Again, being older in my mind often meant that I didn't have time for kids my age and I knew being friends with Seniors would be the key to my success. 

Jonathan was the one I immediately fell in love with and am still in love with to this day, but in a different way. After College, Jonathan moved to Cincinnati and is a current rock star around town. 

Chelsea was the beautiful and graceful one who was everything I wanted to be.  A true grown-up who I successfully corrupted. Chelsea also moved to Cincinnati after college.  I like to think that I was the cause of everyone discovering our great City. 

Corey was the Hilarious one who can still make me pee my pants with laughter.  Corey moved to Houston after school, but I have high hopes that one day he'll move to the promised land and we'll all be together forever. Maybe we could all live in the same house, like a bff compound. 

Jonathan and Corey = so cool. 

My favorite post-bible-college picture of Jonathan and I. He showed his bible college rebellion by never cutting his hair again, ever.  He still hasn't.

Beautiful Chelsea and her current family.  As far as I know, she didn't have any babies while we were in school :) 
Corey and some models that he pays to take pictures with him :) 

I asked them to take a little trip with me (one hour away) and visit my cousins they'd went to school with and they agreed.  I was so nervous that I spent about 2 hours cleaning my Bronco II and hiding all my sinful music so they'd see what a great christian I was.  The only tape I had in the car that wasn't hip-hop or Mariah Carey was an accompaniment track to a christian pop song (the worst).  I was so nervous about having the cool seniors in my car that I didn't even notice the track was on repeat and playing over and over and over again and that the cool seniors thought I was such a weirdo (they told me this after we were BFF's).

I made it into chorale and a smaller group with only 6 vocalists (and Jonathan was the piano player. What a dreamboat). The dean of music gave us a talk about how we had to be on our best behavior and get good grades, etc.  The only problem was that I didn't hear anything after "you made it". 

The smaller group I was in.  There were two sopranos: LeAnna Grissom (the tiniest, most precious and delicate human being on the face of the earth who was professionally trained and me, who was opposite of everything I just said about Leanna. She even traveled with her own travel pillow, just for "her face and not anyone else's greasy face") I'm the giant in the middle with the sensible shoes. I haven't always been into clothes.  

I was living the dream with tons of new friends and I was singing all the time.  The best part was that curfew was at 11pm, which meant I would leave the dorm at 11pm and hang out with my new bff, Jonathan and end up eating "Moons-Over-My-Hammy" at Denny's around 4am (quickly packing on my Freshman 55 - no one told me it was supposed to be Freshman 15. I gained less weight with my pregnancy than I did my freshman year.  At least I don't have to be that annoying girl that's all "I wish I had the body I had in college" ha. no thanks) 

You would think I would be exhausted from the late nights, but luckily I could just sleep until lunchtime the next day.  Who goes to school in the morning?  The only class I went to was choir (because it was fun) and Chapel (because it was pre-cell-phone days and I had to see what my friends were up to). Grades were released just before Christmas break and I'm not sure what I expected since I hadn't been to class in months, but somehow I was still surprised when I saw my GPA.  It read "1.8". Ouchie. 

I was called into the office of the Dean of Music and he informed me that I was going to be put on academic probation and if I didn't get my grades up, I couldn't sing.  I was certain I would only be there one more semester and since I didn't plan to come back anyway, it was party time :) I had a great second semester staying out all night with my pals and at the end of the year I said good-bye to my friends and went home.

Some other Bible College friends. Namely my cousin Craig (the boy on the right ) who stayed for about 1/2 a semester and the girl all the way left, Heidi.  She was my roomie and she was amazing. 

That summer I decided to come back for round two and although I couldn't sing the first semester, I was confident that in January I'd get back into the group and all would be well.  I studied hard and went to class and everyone was so proud of me.  Well, until I went home for Christmas break and tried to do an at-home dye job on my hair and it turned black as tar. At my school you weren't allowed to dye your hair... at all. 

I waltzed right back to school sportin' my freshy fresh so-black-it-was-blue hair and made up an awesome story about how I'd "just had the old highlights removed and this is my natural color, you guys".  No one bought that story and I was stupid to think that they would.  My friend Ben started calling me Lynda Carter (as in the lady who played Wonderwoman because my hair looked like hers. Ben and I liked to deeply layer our jokes). 

Lynda Carter.  Hair so black, it's blue - just like me in 1999.
Ben was the friend who liked to "encourage" me to do crazy things and then I'd get in trouble and he'd disappear somewhere giggling... with good grades and a cappuccino.  Given the chance, I think present day Ben would still do that to me on a larger scale. It's probably best he didn't move to Cincinnati after school or I'd end up in jail, again. 

I taught Ben how to drive a 5-speed (pictured) and he introduced me to Starbucks.

(Current Ben. He's aged very well) Ben: Hannah, do something crazy.  Me: Ok (does something crazy... gets in trouble) Ben: I can't believe you did that! I've just been over here getting good grades and such (and laughing at you).  Freaking Ben.
Upon my shocking return with new hair, one of my teachers actually said to me "Hannah Smith, what have you done to your hairrrr? it just looks... ICKY". Well, I thought her hair looked icky with her amazing hot sticks curls, but I was respectful. I said nothing and most likely just went somewhere and ate a pizza and cried. 

Hot Sticks - for super tight, disgustingly icky curls. 

Truth be told, I think the hair thing was a great distraction for all of the really bad stuff I never got caught doing at Bible College (and I'm quite sure there are others in my class who were grateful for the little things they got caught doing, too.  The breaking of the little rules created a very nice "look-over-here" affect). I was never allowed to sing again and although they didn't technically kick me out, I don't think any of the faculty members were too broken-hearted that I never returned (except for the dean of music, who is still my dear friend).

I learned a lot and took away some amazing life-long friends. Totally worth it.