friends

From One to Ninety (And Beyond)

It was 12:30 p.m. and I was sitting at a table, breaking a cookie into a bite-sized pieces as I sang happy birthday to the man of the hour. With big eyes, he looked out at all of us, not sure what to think or what to do. His mom held a candle in her hand, the small flame flickering in the afternoon breeze, and she and his dad stood in front of him, encouraging him with puffed cheeks to blow. Instead he reached for the candle, noticing when we laughed, and again when his mom blew out the candle for him and we clapped. Then his eyes shifted to the cake before him and he dug in.

At 4:30 p.m. I was sitting on a couch, spooning my way through a hot fudge sundae as I talked baseball with the man of the hour. He donned a Dodger hat, and the rest of us wore jerseys, shirts, and hats to match as we all watched our favorite team play their final game of the regular season. A cool breeze snuck in the back door, making it easy for us to sit close to one another as we whispered stories or shared them with the whole room, the light and easy conversation the kind that Sunday dreams are made of. Then, with timers set and everyone in their place, we took a group picture to commemorate the day.

It was a one-year-old birthday party and a 90-year-old birthday party, back to back. My sister and I attended both, with a minor costume change in between.

As we celebrated Berkley, we watched as he pointed at balloons and curiously poked his bare feet into the grass in the backyard. We told him all the reasons there were to celebrate and looked into his beautiful eyes, excited for all that they were destined to see.

As we celebrated our grandpa, we barbequed Dodger dogs and passed around Cracker Jacks, recreating one home inside another. We glanced from cousin to aunt to sister to parent, thankful for all that my grandma and grandpa have built, and hopeful that it will only continue to grow. We hugged my grandpa, knowing 90 is not nearly as easy as one or 20 or 40 or even 89, and we looked into his beautiful eyes knowing that they’d seen so much.

I myself have had 29 birthday parties. Some have been small, some have been slightly bigger than small. Some years I feel pressure to do something special, something exciting, while other years I’m perfectly content doing absolutely nothing. All that I hope for, all that we can ever hope for, is exactly what I found at both of these birthday parties: love.

For birthdays mark both an end and a beginning, and we want that transition to be shared with people, in places, surrounded by all that we love. Over time, those people, places and things may change, but if we’re lucky, we’ll always have that love. From the time we’re only one year old and we aren’t even sure what love is, to when we’re 90 years old and we know that love is all there is.

So, to you on your birthday (whenever that may be) I wish you love. For your first birthday, Berkley, I offer you love. And for your 90th birthday, grandpa, I thank you for love. For you’ve given it to me, to all of us, and each and every year, we watch it grow.

A Weekend at Spring Training

If you’ve been reading my blog for a little while, you probably know that I’m a big baseball fan. My whole life I’ve grown up watching the Dodgers and two years ago I crossed a major goal off my bucket list by attending my first ever World Series game at Dodger Stadium.

This year, my family and I decided it was time to cross another item off the list: Spring Training! And so this past weekend, we did just that.

On Friday morning, as my normal work alarm went off, I (for once) didn’t hit snooze. I popped out of bed and finished packing my suitcase, ready to be out the door as soon as possible. My sister Natalee and I had a quick flight to Phoenix , so naturally I slept through almost the entire thing, giving me a nap that would come in handy later.

Upon landing, we met up with our friend Cody, whose parents, Darryl and DeeDee, had spent the first half of the week in Arizona with our parents, and Mel, who’d flown in from Utah. While our parents looked relaxed, slightly sunburned and well slept, the four of us all looked a little worn out and so relieved to be on vacation we had no idea where to start. Lucky for us, our vacation didn’t waste any time. Once we were all unpacked at our Airbnb, we grabbed some jackets and headed to our first game of the weekend.

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Natalee, Mel, Cody and I had tickets on the outfield grass, so once we got to Camelback Ranch, we just had to pick a plot and roll out our towels. Next, we raided the food court, where we were reminded that hot dogs at a baseball game, no matter where you are, will always be delicious, while Shocktop in a can is not. shrug_emoji-modifier-fitzpatrick-type-4_1f937-1f3fd_1f3fd

Natalee and Mel both brought their gloves with them, and Mel had her eye on getting a ball from one of the players. At the start of every inning, she stood up against the outfield fence, waiting patiently for the outfielders to finish warming up before she waved her glove in the air. This proved to be no easy task however, as each inning she was forced to field off crazed children who were willing to go full Lord of the Flies for these balls, often climbing the chain link, body sliding across the grass, and literally putting their glove inside your glove in order to catch a ball.

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But while most kids went home with nothing more than grass stains and a little bit of shame, Mel persevered, catching a ball from an outfielder on the opposing team (shout out to Heath) causing our entire group to erupt in cheers even though the Dodgers were only a few outs from losing the game.

The next morning, after unexpectedly staying up until two in the morning talking, playing card games, and laughing so hard I woke up with an ab, our group pulled back on our hats and made an early start back to Camelback Ranch.

While the game wasn’t until 1:05 p.m., we wanted to try and see the Dodgers (and the Mariners, Darryl, DeeDee, and Cody are from Seattle) practice before the game. We also wanted to get a chance to fully explore our culinary options. The night before, Mel and I had browsed the Food Map (the best kind of map) provided in the program, and all but drooled when we read about the BBQ Macaroni and Cheese helmets.

Wow.

Even now, just typing it out. Reliving it. What an absolute blessing.

I promise you it was as good as it sounds.

Our group also tried the bacon wrapped sausages from the right field grill, and just about every beer available at the park. My favorite was the Four Peaks Peach Ale.

After the game (which the Dodger’s won smiling-face-with-open-mouth-and-smiling-eyes_1f604) we headed to dinner at Salt. As it happened, the Los Angeles Kings, our favorite hockey team, were in town to play the Arizona Coyotes, and being the sports fans we are, we decided to go FULL SPORTS—this may not be the ideal vacation for some, but for us, it was heaven.

PSA: if you commit to a FULL SPORTS vacation, you may or may not find yourself staying up until three o’clock in the morning dancing, practicing proper diving form, doing yoga and attempting other various athletic feats—be sure to properly stretch.

The next day we had tickets to a Mariners game at the Peoria Sports Complex. And while my loyalty to the Dodgers will never falter, I’ve got to say: Peoria might have a slight edge on Camelback.

DON’T COME FOR ME.

Not only are the food options off the charts (loaded tots, funnel cakes, deep fried Oreos!!) the outfield has tons of kid friendly activities (meaning less Lord of the Flies antics in the outfield), and down the first baseline there is a “Craft Beer Courtyard” (which is actually just a booth) where for $20 you receive four tickets that you can cash in for beer, wine or liquor. Between Mel, Natalee, Cody and I, we bought two entry tickets, giving us eight drinks to split, which was essentially my dream because I got to try a little bit of everything.

As beautiful as the day was however, and as delicious as all the beer we drank and all the food we ate was, we couldn’t quite transfer all that goodness to the Mariners (we were fans for the day against the Indians) who ended up losing the game 16-3. Sorry, M’s.

From the game we headed somewhere completely random, somewhere you’d never expect us to go when you consider the weekend we’d had thus far. That’s right folks, we went to Top Golf, where we added our final explanation point in SPORTS!!!

Pro Tip: order (at least) one of the big sweet drinks in the souvenir cups, it only makes golfing more fun. 

Once we got back home, we did what anyone does when they realize a good trip is coming to an end: we found excuses to stay up late, even though we had early wake up calls, because it seemed like the only way to make the trip last a little bit longer. But even when mine and Natalee’s alarms went off a mere three hours after our heads hit our pillows and we knew we officially had to say goodbye to this one, as we walked down the jet bridge to our plane home, we already started counting down the days until our next one.

Dear Baby,

I know we just met, but I thought I’d go ahead and tell you that I love you.

It’s funny, love isn’t always an easy thing. Sometimes it’s messy and hard and confusing, but when it comes to you it’s as simple as can be. I thought it would only be this easy when I became a mother. I thought it would take me all those years and then nine more months to finally have that moment when I can love something, someone so instantly, and yet there I was yesterday, holding someone else’s baby, holding you, and I felt it.

I can probably blame your mom for that. I’ve known her a long time. We all have. And by the time you can read this, I hope you’ll know good and well who we are.

We’re a group that’s been through a lot together. Some good times, some bad, but mostly good. We love each other, and now we love you.

I tell you this to let you know now, and to remind you every day here after, that you’re not alone. You have so many people behind you, rooting for you, and admiring you.

We’re a unique tribe. We laugh hard, mostly at our own jokes, and then at the jokes we make off of each other’s jokes and so on and so on. We come in all shapes and sizes, with our own trail of fails and successes behind us. We all try our hardest and we have all been the one needing a shoulder to lean on. But that’s what makes us great. We care. We listen. We love. And just by being here, baby, you’re one of us.

We’re here for you. We are here for you and your mom and your aunt, and everyone else that makes up this big circle of ours that we call a family.

So dive in, baby. Dive into this thing we call life.

We’re so happy to have you in our world, and we can’t wait to see you build yours.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, about the jokes…

At least give us a courtesy laugh.

It would mean a lot.

 

Sometimes Friendship is Gummy Bears

About 3-4 years ago I was going through a period of my life when I genuinely believed I didn’t have very many (see: enough) friends. I considered myself a master of acquaintances, succeeding in keeping most people at arm’s length to ensure that a) I wouldn’t get hurt and b) I wouldn’t disappoint anyone. Some days I told myself I was satisfied, other days I wasn’t so convinced.

Combined with shyness and bouts of social anxiety, I struggled knowing what kind of friend I should be. I read articles and watched how other friendships worked, and though I wasn’t necessarily dissatisfied with my relationships, I constantly worried that other people were. I thought I was too boring, I thought I was too quiet. I was too this or not enough that and I drove myself crazy, making notes on what I could improve on or what I should do differently.

In time, I came to realize that these fears were all linked to the insecurities I felt as a person, rather than the weaknesses I had as a friend. I’m not saying I am or have ever been a perfect friend, however, in not accepting and loving the person I was, I was doing a disservice to both myself and to anyone I tried to start a friendship with.

These days, I consider myself very lucky to have an amazing group of friends. And while I would still consider myself a guarded person, I have a much easier time opening that door because I’m proud of the person I’m introducing on the other side. In light of this however, I still find myself having those doubtful days. With a constant stream of articles, quizzes and social media anecdotes that define what friendship should look like or feel like or sound like, sometimes I’m still left wondering if I’m a good enough/entertaining enough/honest enough/etc. friend.

For example, the other day I read an article that was titled something like, “You Can’t Consider Yourself Best Friends with Someone Unless…” and it went on to list a number of conversations and experiences the author considered defining for a friendship. I clicked on the article in hopes of finding relatable experiences I could share with my friends, however, as I read through it I didn’t recognize myself in a single thing. Does this mean all my friendships are fake? Of course not! Does it mean that we live in a world where friendships are as unique as we are and should be understood accordingly? I’d like to think so!

The way I see it, friendship is what you make it. There is no definable timeline, there are no parameters and there are no “you’re not actually friends unless…” Friendship can be big, it can be small, and it can be shown with words and actions alike.

About a week ago, after having a terrible day and coming home on the verge of tears, my roommate, Rachel, presented me with a small packet of gummy bears. It was the last packet leftover from my sister’s birthday—which featured a taco piñata full of mini alcohol and candy—thus making it precious cargo.

“I just want your day to be better,” she said as she handed them to me. And it genuinely was!

I know it sounds silly and small, but in that moment it made me feel loved and understood, which is really what friendship is all about. It’s not about being a specific this or that or talking about this or experiencing that. Sometimes it’s just someone willing to give up their gummy bears. And when you can find people like that, you stop worrying about whether you have “enough” friends, because having even one friend like that is a far greater gift.