Officially a Mom to a Teenage Boy.

My only offspring is now a teenager and as expected, it kinda hurts my mama heart. His voice is lower than I’m comfortable with, he’s as tall as I am, and his friends are “dating” (but not him, so he says). We don’t hold hands anymore, but he still kisses my cheek before leaving the house so I will consider that a win.

Never could I have imagined 13 years would pass so fast. And what am I doing? Looking through old pictures finding it impossible to remember my man-child being so small and cuddly.

This day 13 years ago, I was clueless. I had no idea what the hell I was doing: I overfed him his first week home and watched him projectile vomit in his crib. I’d never cried with a newborn in the bathtub at 3AM before, brand spanking new experiences. Later that week, I dropped him. They say babies are less fragile than they appear, and he proved that to be true.

PSA: Don’t fall asleep while you’re holding your baby in a chair – they’ll barrel roll all the way to the ground.

His first word was, Hi! And it didn’t stop until it was almost unbearable.

Hi. Hi. Hiiiiii. Hi! HI! hi. -Bennett

Ya know the song Rumor Has It, By Adele? When it finished, he asked: What do you think Umar has? When he picked our brains about shooting stars he said: I’d give my wish to mom.

Now that we’ve begun the teenage adventures I’m grateful that he’s still a sweet boy, just now a little more stinky and way more annoyed. Thankfully, proper documentation is not a problem for when I’m feeling sentimental, sad, proud, and weirded out – all at the same time.

There was the Elmo phase, his first real obsession. Middle of August, it’s hot and humid and like a diamond in the rough he spots an Elmo costume at a rummage sale. Kid could care less how sweaty he was, lived in the thing all summer.

When they’re toddlers, you can’t look away for more than a second, but on the other hand, you don’t even want to. You just stare at them like,”you crazy little person, what the f*** are you even saying? Why are you so adorable? I can’t believe I made this little monster who’s destroying everything“.

and it’s kinda magical.

When he was four my dad snapped my favorite picture of us, oh, and this was also the first year he was able to write out requests to the Easter Bunny.

Dear Easter Bunny, Please bring me tattoos.

He stole the show on our wedding day. From the moment he crept up on me while taking pictures, his robot dance moves, and genuine silliness…he made our day over and over.

He began showing initiative to save money by jumping in a ride with a stranger instead of using his own coins at Chuck E. Cheese, that was a proud moment. Another personal favorite? He insisted, swore up and down that he would love tomato juice. Why? Because red was his favorite color…and tomato juice is red. Life is actually that simple when you’re five years old.

He also declared his like for big butts, and couldn’t lie about it.

…and I busted him taking his first selfie.

There was the time we pulled a pretty stellar April Fools joke on him…

His voice on that video is so small, and he hasn’t grown into his teeth yet, but if you listen close to the beginning: “I love you guys.” He’s always been one to randomly throw out an I love you and I assume that means he’ll make a pretty great husband someday (to the girl I’ll try my best to like).

And just like that, he’s a big kid. There was always a preconceived notion in my brain saying little kids are harder to parent. My big kid likes to sleep in, and so do I. The challenges don’t get easier, they just change.

I’m not scared of the teenage years, not even intimidated. I know him. Is he going to give me an attitude when I don’t deserve it? Yes. Is he going to do half the shit I did when I was a teenager? I really really hope not.

A Widower Walks into a Bar

People eat at restaurants all by their lonesome for a variety of reasons: People watching, grabbing a quick bite between point A and point B, maybe they needed to get that all-you-can-eat shrimp at Red Lobster before it’s gone and everyone else is busy. Career waitresses often have the ability to figure these people out.

One particular evening a single gentleman was sitting on the cocktail deck, parallel to the bar of the quaint Wisconsin supper club I sling food and beverage at. He ordered a Whiskey Old Fashioned, nothing obviously telling as to why he was a single table of one. While approaching to take his order roughly 4, no more than 5 minutes after dropping his beverage, it was gone. We shared a good laugh: there must’ve been a hole in the glass and I’d be sure to bring him another without a leak next time. Once he was on his 3rd he shared with me his reasoning for being there alone.

It was his wedding anniversary, except his wife passed away in March of this year and my place of employment was his lady’s favorite place. He cracked another joke, he liked it there too, but it was the only place she ever suggested.

Based on personal assessment, to him, it was the right place to be. Flushed with emotion, I thanked him for coming out to celebrate his marriage with us.

I realized now, there will be instances when you meet other human beings who have experienced sorrow in ways you’re unable to comprehend, and just being present can give immense comfort. I listened to every word he shared as if there’d be a quiz later. It was his first anniversary without his wife, and I imagine that in itself is a very unique kind of heartache. These are the kind of moments that force reflection on your own life.

Just 15 minutes before we were strangers and suddenly his words of an experience he endured shaped my own thoughts, putting a number of things into perspective. Tomorrow will come, but not for all of us. The big picture we all strive to look at can dramatically transform into a nightmare without warning. Anything is possible, good or bad. When it happens, how will we cope and manage day-to-day life? I’ll tell ya what, I want to do it like the man at my table.

After careful thought, I ordered him the complimentary (homemade, super tasty) cupcake we gift out for celebrations and telling the whole story to a friend at work who made a stellar point: How do you even know he likes cupcakes? Not that this is much concern for the average Joe coming in for their birthday, I was trying to bring this man who lost his wife any form of happiness.

The overall goal was for him to get home and realize he made the right decision, to come to his late wife’s most favorite restaurant on their wedding anniversary, without her.

How easy would it have been for this man to stay home feeling sad? He deserved any dessert he wanted. I handed over a dessert menu and instructed him to pick out any dessert he wanted, on me. I wish I could find the words to describe the look in his eyes but I can’t. It was a look of the purest appreciation I’ve ever seen.

The owner of the restaurant I work for likes to say, we aren’t in the food business, we’re in the people business serving food, and that night it couldn’t have rung truer. I dropped off his choice of Creme Brulee and he asked if he could give me a hug, which turned out to be the most real hug I’ve ever shared with a near-stranger. I hope to see him again, and I hope he’s well and at peace. Me? I’ll just be over here mulling over the memory, reminding myself that life can change in an instant, and not taking tomorrow for granted.

Thanks, I got it for $3.00

I don’t remember when my perception of thrift stores changed. My mom would pull up to Value Village and I’d sink in my chair, praying that no one would see me walking in that gross, smelly place. To my preteen self, shopping at the thrift shop meant we were poor. Nowadays, I frequent about five of them on the regular, one being my favorite.

It’s quaint, run by nice old folks who I assume all attend the same church. Probably nondenominational because they don’t judge me when I come in with yesterdays makeup and sweats. Why would I go there like that? Do I have no self-respect? Typically I do, I think… either way, it’s across the street from my house obviously giving me a free pass.

Everyday isn’t Christmas. I don’t find adorable Banana Republic 3/4 sleeve pale pink classy sweatshirts for $2.50 everyday, but that doesn’t stop me from looking. If your norm is buying new shirts with fresh, crispy edges and a tag for $45, you do you, but it hurts my soul. Handing over money for something brand spankin’ new makes me feel like a failure, I didn’t try hard enough.

If you have the patience and time, you can find anything you need for under $15.

It’s not all about the bargain though, there’s some curious nature behind it too. Who wore this? Who owned this? Where has it been? How much was spent on it originally? Was it given away out of pure lack of room, ill fit, or maybe even a bad memory prompted the donation. I don’t know. But there is something intriguing about something new to you, but not necessarily new at all.

Assuming there are thrifting gods, I’ve appeased them. How do I know? Because when I need a certain piece of attire, more often than not I stroll in and voilà, there it is.

Christmas party for work. Nothing in my closet was appealing, it’s the day of and instead of going to the mall, I walk into a local thrift shop. I found myself a red dress, black tights (brand new – because I have standards), and a pair of tall black heels. My entire holiday outfit was assembled for under $10.00.

I’m on the left. That dress, those tights, and those shoes for under $10. I’m impressed, if you’re not – you’re clearly wealthy, and that’s okay too. I’m not hear to judge, but if you need any good thrifting tips or tricks…

I’m your girl.

Meijer, Mimosas, and Men’s Vests

Ask anyone, I love Meijer. The aisles are wide, the lights are bright, and now this:

That’s Prosecco, next to orange juice. Not that I think you’re blind, I just have to keep saying it. This quickly prompted a conversation that began with only a picture:

Four things about this:

  1. Operation Find Mimosa Bitch is on. I don’t care if it’s a he or a she, they deserve the title of Mimosa Bitch. I appreciate Lizzy giving me he/she aspect, automatically I assumed it was a female – if it’s a male, I will still call the individual Mimosa Bitch.
  2. It was at the Meijer in Appleton, Wisconsin, and I am more than serious to know who was responsible for this act of brilliance. If you know this person – please get them in contact with me. (JenWritesStuff@outlook.com)
  3. Why is this the first time I’m seeing this sort of marketing prowess? I feel like if Lizzy or I were in charge of product placement in a grocery store, we’d have been on top of it, and I’d be writing about our acceptance into Mensa.
  4. I corrected my type-o as if I thought Lizzy actually might have thought I meant what I typed … we need to stop doing that.

Another thing that happened at Meijer that day? I noticed that every man over 30 was in a vest. Missed the memo that this is now the dress code for the cool dudes. There was the man with the flannel under the vest, the guy whose hat matched the vest, the gut whose hat matched the flannel under the vest. My man asked me why I didn’t get him one for Christmas. He noticed too. 

It would take quite a lot for me to stop shopping at Meijer. I can’t count to the number of vests that would keep me away from making my toilet paper, makeup, and everything else purchases from the place with such perfect marketing of mimosas.

Before leaving I went to the bathroom, and before entering saw this:

Why are there not changing stations for men to use everywhere? Men have babies, too. Why is this even exciting to me? Why does there need to be a sign for this? So many questions. This should be normal, which is just another reason Meijer is the best (with lots of vests).

For real though, someone find me that mimosa bitch.

Where have you been?

I actually meant me… not you. Where have I been? Clearly not here, seeing as my last post was in July and while I sit here pretending to be baffled as to why it went so long, I’m well aware. I know exactly where I’ve been and it includes a few things I’m not super proud of.

I mean, it’s not all television related. I also really love to nap, which is something I have always been very open about.

I like to think of it as going on an adventure, as a vivid dreamer I refuse to downplay my nap as simple sleep.

When the keyboard and I have spent quality time together, we’ve been working on my book that will (fingers crossed) be finished by summer. There’s a constant struggle between thinking the words I’m coming up with are borderline genius or complete garbage. Writing is hard, and I’m not going to say anything else about it because I refuse to make this about promises, guarantees, or anything that is not just throwing some shit out there because it’s been a minute.

If I had not been so lazy, and prioritized my time better, there are a few things I would have maybe written about between July of last year and now – so I’ll run through a condensed version of what I probably would have had to say.

  1. My kid started middle school and the only thing I’ll touch on here is that I always thought this parenting thing would get easier as my child got older and independent. Apparently, his ability to make his own breakfast, and stay home alone does not have anything to do with my fears surrounding every single thing that is now out of my control. With that being said he still tells me I look pretty before I go to work, and I have yet to hear him cuss, which if you know me, that’s a fucking miracle.
  2. The Vikings let me down again.
  3. A dog showed up on our doorstep one day, found out her name was Rudy after I’d lovingly called her Brenda for a few days. An adorable little puggle who scarfed food so fast she choked it back up and then ate it again. We started coming up with stories for her like she traveled all this way because she was clearly starving – when in all reality she lives the next block over, and “that’s just how she eats”. I’ve never reunited a dog with anyone before, but I hope I get to do it again at some point.
  4. I voted in the midterm elections and I hope you did too.
  5. I participated in another Storycatchers event and had all the feels while I was up on the stage again. There really is something indescribable about having all eyes on you and swallowing up every single reaction you’re able to catch a glimpse of while you tell your story into a microphone.
Storycatchers/Theme: Unreliable Narrator

So, it’s January. Hopefully, I’ll find myself here before July 2019. If not, I’m sure I’m working on my book, and not making sure I’ve watched every single episode of Dateline that’s ever aired.