Twenty Eight

Happy Birthday, Kelly Jo. No suspense here, this one’s for you. I started out with a grand plan to make you a video, I even got up early this morning to do it. I did several takes and finally got it right. Then as I stood up, I dropped the phone and somehow, in the picking it up, I deleted the freshly completed video. Which is how my celebration of your day started out with a giant Fuck You to the universe. Man, oh man, that made me crabby. I didn’t have time to re-record the video because I’d done more than one take to try and get it perfect.

Then I spent the entire day stewing over it, because I was annoyed my plan had failed. I had every intention of heading home tonight and doing it again, except that it is dark when I get home now and the lighting in my house is terrible and I knew it would look better in natural light.

Then it hit me. Kelly likes words. Specifically, she likes it when *I* write words for her (feels like there is more than one meaning to that sentence!) And in days gone by I used to write sonnets to our friendship or post montages of photos glorifying our BFF status and post them to my blog. I don’t use the blog much anymore, at least not for things like that.

But I could.

I did.

I am.

I’ve spent all day thinking of you. I was in a meeting this morning (that I was NOT late for, despite my tech snafu, thank you very much) at the University of MN and the woman was talking about the children’s picture book digital art collection and I thought of you and how you’d be able to use that for your art unit.

I thought about you in the parking ramp when the person in the next spot parked so close to me that I could not fit between our cars and that was the driver side. And I ended up climbing in the passenger seat and over the console and contorting my body to squeeze into my driver’s seat. And even though it pissed me off, as I drove away I thought how funny it was and wished you were there because we’d laugh about that craziness for YEARS to come.

I stopped at Subway and thought of you and how much you enjoy Subway and how much you enjoy eating out, and that time you called me on the phone to tell me that Subway started offering breakfast and it was awesome.

I drove past Peppers & Fries and thought fondly of our lunches there, with and without your children. Then I thought of all the other lunches we’ve had and how much you enjoy going out to lunch. More than anyone I know.

All day today, every little thing I do, my mind has found a way to relate it back to you. Given the two very different lives we lead, this should seem a difficult task. But it isn’t. I can connect almost anything to you. And the reason is that we’ve been friends for twenty-eight years. 28. Our friendship is old enough to vote, buy cigarettes, lose money at a casino, drink alcohol and rent a car.

The Civil War lasted four years. World War I lasted four years. World War II lasted six years. The Korean War lasted three years. The Great Depression lasted ten years.

Our friendship outlasted all of these major events….added together. We have been friends longer than it would have taken to fight in four major wars and survive the greatest economic hardship our country has endured. With a year to spare.

I’ve spoken many times on my blog about you and our friendship. I’ve listed those if you wish to reread my words about you.

25 Birthdays


Lent Letter

Brecken’s Ultrasound

The Wonder (I think this is my all-time favorite Kelly post)

Chicago Trip (Although this is a close contender, still makes me LOL, literally)

The Right Stuff


First Sleepover

One of these posts contains a different list of posts about Kelly (there are a LOT to choose from) and in that one I put four and mention specifically that I stop at four just for Kelly. In this one I stopped at nine. It killed me to do it, but I did. Only nine lovable posts about my BFF. Because she likes lists that don’t conform. It’s me who doesn’t.

But here’s the crux of the thing. I love you, Kelly Jo. I’ve been loving you forever since 1989 and fully plan on that being the case forever. It’s a remarkable thing to know someone that long. Outside of blood relatives, there is no one I’ve known longer, and I know it is the same for you.

When we met, we didn’t have boobs. We didn’t shave our legs, we’d never gotten our first periods. We’d never kissed a boy. Our lives were small and sweet and innocent, as a child’s should be. The size of the world has grown immeasurably since we met, but it is in keeping with our friendship. More succinctly, the older we get, the better friends we become.

I know this is your first birthday since losing your dad and I know how hard that has been, and still is, on you. I think of you every day hoping, praying, that today will be a better day than yesterday. Also, I think of him, his warmth and his laughter and how very, very, very much he loved you. He is responsible for us, he moved you from Woodbury to St. Paul, and if he hadn’t done that, in 1989, you and I would never have met, never become friends, and what an immense loss that would have been. Nearly as awful as losing your dad. I hope that brings you comfort. Of all the things he’s given you, and Heaven knows that is a lot of things, he helped give you my friendship. And I’m still here, always.

Sometimes, Kel, sometimes it is hard to write to you because there is literally nothing I don’t say to you. I love that about us, our openness, even on the rare occasions that we fight, we always communicate our every thought. So many times I’ve set pen to paper (okay, fine, fingers to keyboard, but whatever, pen to paper is more poetic, and alliterative) to talk about you, about friendship and about how incredible it is that we are still forever friends.

Or BFF. As you like to say.

You are never far from my thoughts, and today, well, you are my favorite thought.

Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy birthday.

39 happys. Really. Count them.

Love you always, BFF.


P.S. even though I never specifically mention NKOTB, I do reference them in the post. And because it felt weird to write to you, on your birthday and NOT mention them, I felt compelled to at this postscript to point that out, thus sneaking in a mention of your favorite band. I’m clever like that. Happy Birthday #1 Fan!

Hey, Hey, It’s My Birthday


It’s the normal human body temperature…in Celsius

It’s the number of plays written by William Shakespeare

It’s the number of weeks Michael Jackson’s album, Thriller, spent at #1 (coincidentally, also the first album I ever owned)

It’s the number of vertebrae of a Tyrannosaurus Rex

It’s the most commonly chosen number between 1-100

If you choose any single digit (1-9) and write it out three times. Say 3. 333, then add the sum of those numbers 3+3+3=9 and take the three digit number 333 and divide by the sum 9 and you get 37. Works for any single digit number.

It’s the age deemed officially too old to work for the FBI (and Homeland Security, and Treasury and the CIA)

It’s the year Amelia Earhart disappeared (1937)

Richard Nixon was the 37th president

Rubidium is the 37th element on the periodic table

It’s the television channel reserved for radio astronomy

In roman numerals it is XXXVII

It is also my age for the next 365 days. Now that my future no longer contains the option of becoming a profiler and working for Hotch, I shall strive to find a way to go on. But so far, 37 hasn’t treated me too poorly. I got a call from about 20 8-year-olds (and one 37-year-old) who sang me happy birthday. It’s not really your birthday until you hear all those tiny voices singing confidently….until they reach your name! But it was a terrific way to start my morning.

In the manner of technicalities, I’m not actually 37 until 5:00pm today. At that exact time, my mother and I will be watching a movie, it starts precisely at 5:00pm. And no birthday of mine is complete without a handsome man, which is why I chose London has Fallen with Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart. (Okay, that was mostly because there is nothing else out I’d want to see but I do want popcorn on my birthday). Of course, my favorite handsome man, Christian Kane, has been singing to me since I woke up this morning. Literally my fave CK playlist has been on repeat, nothing better than hearing his voice on my day.

Lastly, I’m treating myself to Jimmy Johns for lunch today. Seems a good way to celebrate. I’m also leaving work early, another good way to celebrate.

Happy Birthday to me, and thank you to all of you who reached out to me on this day.


(gratuitous photo, just because it makes me happy and it’s my day. Also, this was now FIVE years ago)

Mom’s 60th Bash

Not much of a bash, as we were all gearing up for surgery, but we managed to sneak in some fun. Just sharing some of the amazing photos.


Reading the card with Grandma


I couldn’t love this any more. Simon was taking photos and he took this.


And this is one of my new all-time faves. Uncle Chad is beloved by the kids, but this? This is too cute. Someone will be getting this for a birthday gift.

Like I said, Simon was taking photos.

Uncle Nick stopped by for a visit. He’s pretty fond of Cam.

And this, he’s playing dead on her lap and she’s just letting him. Then he’ll get bored or she’ll say, “Simon, you’re too heavy” and he’ll move. They are so funny together.

Now Arionna has the camera and Simon darted away, he was playing my guitar next to me on the couch but wouldn’t be in the picture.

And lastly, Grandma with her Grandsons. How darling and perfect. And they were tired, this was the end of the night.

It was a lovely family day and I hope Mom enjoyed it as much as I did.

The Second Year of Cam

I honestly don’t think I ever blogged his first birthday. It’s cool. But I wanted, not to recap the whole Curious George party, but just to post a couple of the photos, to remember.

Big sister, and Cousin Layla

A smattering of guests

A birthday party? And so no one will yell at us or tell us to stop banging on the piano!?!

Family unwrapping station

He started to cry when they took the cake away to cut it. I really think he thought it was all for him!.

Oh, much happier now. And who needs cake AND pudding?


Last, but not least, my darling little nephew, all happy to be 2 and delighted by Curious George. Happy Birthday, Cam, Auntie Livi loves you bunches and bunches!

Best Mom Ever Turns 60

Happiest of happy birthdays to my favorite mom.


Today, she turns 60 years wise. Without even trying I could name 60 reasons I love her. Or 60 things she’s taught me. Or tell you 60 wonderful stories about her. But I don’t need to, because at the end of the day, it all comes down to one simple thing.


She. Is. The. Very. Best.


25 Birthdays

I had a great idea for a birthday post that I began prepping weeks ago. Then life got the best of me and it didn’t come together. So I will save it for next year. That’s the nice thing about birthdays, they come around year after year. It’s also the annoying thing about aging, it happens year after year. And so, this is my backup plan.

Today is the birthday of my friend Kelly. Anyone who reads this blog knows Kelly, she is a regular here at Changelivlife. Kelly and I first met in 1989, during the 5th grade. We were 10 years old. The origins of our story are blog fodder, she says I was the first person to be nice to her, I say I complimented her fingernails. Today, I’m still nice to her and she still has great fingernails. Life doesn’t change much.

But then, we are much older. Education and family and marriage and children and jobs and homes and sadness and pain and laughter and tears and photographs and beer and so many things have happened that in many ways, everything has changed.

It is a fact of life that things change, but somehow, after 25 years, we are still friends. It boggles the mind to think that a friendship could outlast the changes it has endured, but somehow, we have defied the odds.

In 1989, the first birthday we celebrated was Kelly’s 11th. I think it was at her house on Fremont, though I could be mixing it up with other birthdays, there’ve been 25 of them in total. It was the first birthday we celebrated together. Today, we gather to celebrate her 36th. Back then, if you had asked me, I would have giggled and said we’d be so OLD then, 25 years in the future. I would have invented stories for us. Kelly would have become a teacher (even at the age of 10, she knew what she wanted to do) and I would have created a story for myself. A lawyer or a circus performer or a traveling gypsy (even today I still don’t know what I want – or perhaps I want too much) and we would have argued over which of us would be married to Jordan Knight (she can have him) or Tom Cruise (I doubt either of us would take him now) and how many children we would have.

I know that neither of us would have doubted for a moment that we’d still be friends in 25 years. Children have a blindness to them. They don’t fully grasp the mysteries of time, the savageness of life, how things can change and people can change and life can turn you inside out. Children don’t understand. They live life by faith and happiness. My friend makes me happy, therefore we will always be friends. That kind of simplistic thinking is beautiful in its way. Most of the time it is unrealistic, but beautiful nonetheless.

When I think like that, it is rather remarkable that we are still friends, after all these years. We very nearly did not make it. We lost time. But we found our way back to one another and are close once again. Today we celebrate her birthday for the 25th time since we met.

Today, I wish I could go back and tell those little girls. “Don’t ever stop believing in the power of friendship. You will see others fail. You will be challenged. Life will get hard at times. But for every hard moment is a moment of joy with a best friend that can never be replaced. Don’t ever give up on each other, you will make it. You will stay forever friends. Those jagged heart necklaces are truth. When you are older than you can imagine, you will still always be friends.”

But I can’t talk to those girls, they are long gone, just memories in our hearts. But I can talk to us today. To Kelly, to myself and I can say this.

I am so grateful for the days of our friendship. I am grateful that we survived our breakup to become stronger friends. I love that I can call you for any reason or no reason at all. I love that we are each other’s family and can count on one another no matter what comes. I am happy when I am with you and happy knowing you are in my corner when we are apart. We laugh together, we tell stories, we keep secrets, we take pictures, and we are, as we have always been, the very best of friends. I never want to forget or take us for granted. We are so lucky to have each other.

Happy birthday, Kelly. Let’s get started on the next 25 years.

Green Bay and Door County

As previously mentioned…road trip to GB. In truth, I was not impressed with GB. The city was kind of lame. Not much nightlife, few tourist attractions, just kind of boring. After the Jake Owen concert, we wanted to grab some food and some beer. We were out at just before 11pm and, seriously, everything was closed. We did find this awesome sign….

And eventually found a place open to midnight. We were the ONLY customers. We ate and got the hell out so the guy could close up and go home. It was fairly lame.

Friday morning, we got up and Elena and I headed out to Lambeau Field. It’s iconic. One of those things. Neither of us are huge football fans, but it seemed like something you should see. So off we went. Kind of a long story about bad signage, security who don’t know anything, and Lane and I ended up hopping fences and breaking in to Lambeau. Okay, we didn’t really break in, but it felt like it.

Once we got inside and into the line, it was cool. We were going to do the tour then meet up with Nance and Ryan for lunch. Then when we got up there….turns out the tours were FULL. The next free tour was 3.5 hours away. No way. I mean, it would have been fine, but I am not waiting that long to tour a football stadium. Unless Tom Brady is giving the tour, but I doubted that was the case. So instead, we walked around and took pictures of ourselves AT the stadium. It was fine. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, that’s good enough, right? (Probably for everyone in the world except my Aunt Kate, right Sara?)

See? I was there.

We regrouped and decided that GB was lame enough we were going to drive up to Door County. We headed north and ended up in Sturgeon Bay. We had a nice lunch and then walked all over the cute little town, ducking into different shops and just hanging out. The town was so cute. Bought a few nice gifts…then we found a wine and olive oil shop. Um, awesome? Oh yes. They had free samples of everything. Olive oil. Cheese. Snacks. Wine. You could sample any of their wines, for free. Then they had a distillery sampler. I did this. For $5 you got to sample three distilled alcohols and you got a free shot glass. Seemed more than worth it to me. I tried cherry brandy, single malt whiskey, and cherry/orange bitters. Then I mixed the bitters with the whiskey for a down and dirty manhattan. It was good. Potent. After slugging those shots, I think I was a little tipsy. Good thing I wasn’t driving.

Sturgeon Bay is proud of its heritage and there were fish (presumably sturgeon) sculptures all over this town. Finally I decided we had to have a pic of at least one, so here is Nancy and the sturgeon.

No one really had a plan, so I said, we couldn’t come all the was to GB without, you know, actually seeing Green Bay, and since Door County is an isthmus that sits between the bay and Lake Michigan, I said we should see both.

First stop….Lake Michigan.

Of course since it is the end of July, it should be cloudy and about 68 degrees….yeah, it was cold. We were all in jackets. Crazy weather. But it was still amazing. Beautiful.


I wanted a nice picture of all of us. Luckily Ryan has crazy long arms, so he did a nice selfie with the camera.
On the shores of Lake Michigan.

And then Nancy grabbed my camera and took this.
Wow! I love this so much. My new favorite photo of us.

My toes in Lake Michigan. That one’s for Kelly.

Please note the choppy water and crashing waves. I was wearing knee length capris, but the waves were crashing so hard it was splashing up to my thighs. I was wet by the time we left the beach.

Next stop….Green Bay.
It was just about sunset, so we got there just in time. Note how calm the water is. The bay is protected, so the water was super calm, even though we were only about 10 miles from the Lake on the other side. Weather was the same, but the water was very different.

These photos were taken in Egg Harbor. At the Egg Harbor Marina. Do you see those big rocks? Well, they were perfect for climbing and seeing the bay, but they also housed giant nests of oversized SPIDERS. Freaked me the fuck out. No kidding. I almost had a meltdown. Surrounded by thousands of giant spiders. Not cool. I was not enjoying this at all.

Elena finally found me a spot that was spider free. So she said. I’m guessing it wasn’t, but she said it was and I chose to believe her. There was no beach so you had to climb down the rocks to get to the water and I wanted to dip my toes into the bay.
Notice my hand resting on the rock? I’m barely bending. Those rocks were HUGE. It was an effort to climb up and down them to get to the water, but I’ve officially dipped my toes in Green Bay, so I’m happy. And no spiders came near me.

Then, as we’re walking back, Ryan kicks a spider web. On purpose, “just to see what would happen”. Freaking boys. Of course the spiders freak out and start running madly all over the place. AT ME. I was screaming and running. Not cool, Ryan. Elena finally had to tell him to knock it off, because I was not enjoying this trip to spiderville.

Our group shot in front of the bay.

Before we left, a woman was fishing and caught a little fish. She said what kind but I can’t remember. She told us she was going to feed it to the gulls.
So she tosses this fish on the sidewalk. This giant seagull lands and the poor fish is flopping desperately, then:


He picked him up…and swallowed him whole. It was crazy. Impressive, even. Circle of life, I guess.
Here’s the victor, digesting his meal.

We left spiderville and drove the hour and a halfish back to GB. At some point, I forced everyone to stop at an historical marker. I love these things. I always stop on road trips to see things you never expect. We stopped at a cool cemetery and learned that Door County has a strong Belgian population, but that was not as cool as this.


That’s right, we literally drove halfway to Santa’s house. Take that. Incredibly awesome if you ask me. I wished it weren’t cloudy so we might have seen the North Star at a 45º angle, but alas, that’s what happens when you’re just rolling with it.

When we got back, we rapid-changed and ended up cabbing all over town, in order to end up at a karaoke bar walking distance from the hotel. Whoops.

But karaoke was the point. Elena had it on her bucket list. Somewhere in the mess of my photos, there is a video of her singing but I am not uploading it for many reasons (I can’t find it, it’s long, I need to upload it on YouTube first, I don’t have her permission) take your pick. But if you want to see it, just ask, it is on my phone.

I also got Nancy to sing, she and I did a duet of Wrong Song by Rayna James and Juliette Barnes (from the TV series Nashville). I was Rayna (the amazing Connie Britton, who I might actually like to be) and it was fun. She almost chickened out, but she had to go up. I couldn’t sing both parts. I physically dragged her on the stage. There is also a video of that somewhere. Ask Lane. And I was wearing a dress. True story.

Mostly we just drank, hung out with the locals, and made fun of Jesus. Oh, did I forget to mention that Jesus was there? A young, dark haired man, was at the bar, wearing a caftan and birkenstocks. Couldn’t have looked more like Christ…well, unless he had a beard. Maybe it’s true and he’s come back. Not sure why he’d choose karaoke at Mikey’s bar in Green Bay, WI, but who am I to judge our Lord and Savior? Which is exactly why, at the end of the night, when we were about to walk back to the hotel, when he came outside and asked me to dance, I accepted. (No one thought to take a picture, but this happened). Somehow we drifted into the road. And that is the story of how I danced in the street with Jesus Christ. Because one day I want to get into Heaven and I figure St. Peter will appreciate this story.


Elena grabbed this gem just before we were leaving, mere minutes before my dance with Christ. (That gets funnier every time I say it).

The next day it was up and at ’em as we headed for home. We had long since planned the long route home, in order to detour past the Mouse House Cheese House. My stories about this place are always at the end of super long blogs, but oh well. That link will take you to my last visit there. This visit was similar and no less awesome. That may well be my favorite place in all Wisconsin. The food, the cheese, the fudge, the cheese. It’s heaven in Windsor, WI.

That’s a lot of religious references in this decidedly secular trip. All in all, it was a fun couple of days and good to go away.

I first started writing this post about a month ago (Ha! Exactly one month ago, August 18 is when I started this draft), and hope I didn’t forget anything essential. My life has gone a bit sideways since then, but that makes it all the more important to get this published. When I look back on the summer of 2014, I will probably think of my mom and her illness. But I don’t want to forget Elena turning 35 and our fun getaway to Green Bay.

And dancing with the Son of God.

40 Years of Tom

Today, today is the birthday of one of my very favorite friends. Happy Birthday, Tommy! My good friend Tom, is 40 years today. When I met him, he was just a lad of 25. He’d only just started dating Mindy (they were still keeping it a secret, I can vividly remember when I found out!), he rented an apartment in St. Paul, he had some roommates, and he was my boss.

I remember him as being the nice one, out of the three interviews I had to be a hostess at Awada’s. He is the one who hired me. We were just kids back then. But he always seemed so much older and more responsible. Probably because he is, he might be the most responsible person I know (sorry, Tommy, but it’s true).

frozen dad n lad


That’s the oldest photo I have of him….digitally. I’ve got older in print! That’s Clayton with him, and Clayton is now 10 years old, so that puts this photo about a decade old.

One of my favorite things about Tom is the way he listens. He’s an excellent listener and he pays attention to the things you tell him. I remember when I was in school, he’d ask me what classes I was taking (people always ask that when you’re in college) and then he’d remember. And weeks later he’d ask how specific classes were going, calling them by name. My parents couldn’t remember the classes I was taking (and I never expected them to) but Tom always did. That amazed me about him, then and now. It’s an incredible skill and, from personal experience, I can say that it truly makes you feel as though the other person cares.

He’s also a sneaky listener. Once Mindy and I became good friends, and she and Tom were dating, we’d sit at the bar at the end of shift, and we’d talk. You know, girl talk. And it was in a loud and crowded bar and he’d be working behind the bar, not paying us the slightest attention, but somehow he always knew what we were talking about. I’m still not convinced he didn’t have microphones installed.

At the Bottom

(That’s Tom in front, Mindy in gold, and me with my arms raised. Only people on the giant slide, right before it closed. One of my favorite memories.)

Tom is also one of the handiest people I know. He’s a guy that simply gets things done. I remember one night, working at Awada’s, and I complained that there were no hooks on the bar to hold your purse. Mindy agreed that it was absurd. So I called Tom over and told him we needed hooks. He asked questions to make sure he understood what I was asking (he’s like that, very methodical) and then the next night I came to work and there were hooks. It was incredible. Less than a day. He just got it done, once the problem was brought to his attention. Awada’s no longer exists, but the building and bar are still there…and so are my purse hooks.

I’ve watched him get married, buy a house, become a father – there have been so many changes, but Tom hasn’t changed all that much. He’s kind and steady and just Tom. He doesn’t miss my birthday, ever. He’s a face you’ll always see at my raging parties, or my quieter ones. In fact, one year, he threw a party for me. I was….oh boy, 23? 24? and Mindy was in Europe. Tom decided that because one of my best friends was out of town, he’d throw me a party and he did. I’ve got a million pictures of the night Tom hired out the Awada’s sports shuttle to drive us around, we went to Minneapolis and bar hopped all over the city. I don’t even remember all the bars we went to. But we ended up back at Awada’s and drank after hours until the wee hours. If I didn’t have so many photos, I’d barely remember that night, but I’d always remember how thoughtful it was of him to throw me a party.



(at the State Fair in 2009, to see an OAR concert with Justin and Me).

I don’t often stop to write birthday tributes for everyone I know – mostly because this blog would be nothing but birthday tributes, but this year, for his 40th, I wanted to take some time to celebrate my very special friend.

So let’s talk memories. I’ve mentioned a few. Of course the Trip to Chicago, is a big memory.

Tom and Liv Route 66

He and I standing at the trailhead for Route 66. And the Hot Beef sandwiches, I’ll never forget, and will always associate with Tom. Also how he plotted and schemed to sneak me onto the tourist bus, and succeeded. I never doubted the success, I can’t imagine Tommy fails at much.

From the wayback machine, I can tell you about the time we were working at Awada’s and somehow became the sponsored bar for a large boxing fight in Oakdale. Unbeknownst to us, which meant hundreds of crazed and partially drunk boxing fans pouring in during happy hour. It was chaos. Barely controlled chaos, until it wasn’t. Suddenly a fight broke out – and all hell broke loose. This is not something words can describe. If you weren’t there, you’d never believe this story. But here’s what I remember. Two burly boxers were going at it on the other side of the bar. They were the epicenter of the storm. Tom was in charge, and without hesitation, he levered up and vaulted over the top of the bar. He waded into the fray without hesitation and I lost sight of him in the throng. The next I saw, he was pinned against the wall, feet dangling as the boxer, presumably, threatened to kill him. Tom calmly talked him down until the guy let him go….and just like that, things dispersed. Though I’m fairly sure Tom’s shirt was a casualty of the evening.

I remember how excited and nervous he was about becoming a father. I remember how excited he got to teach Clayton everything he knew….before he was two years old. I’ve watched him settle into being a wonderful father, coaching soccer, and he still teaches his boys everything he can, I think that’s why they’re so wonderful.



To this day, he stars in one of my favorite photos….



Yep, that’s my mom.

When I turned 30, my mom threw me a murder mystery party. Right from the jump, they had to assign someone to be the moderator, to keep things on track. Guess who that was?

Tommy and me

If you guessed Tom, that would be correct. My job was drinking intensely. And I like to think I performed admirably.

You know, if you read this, you’ll see that I describe him as responsible, mature, the kind of guy you can depend on, and all of that is true. But it’s only a snapshot of him personality. He’s also fun, and charming, he’s got a great sense of humor, and sometimes he does dumb guy stuff like camping with guns and booze (a terrific combo). I like him because he’s fun and a good friend, but I admire him for his responsible side.

tommy me

I also think he’s had more hairstyles (if you include facial hair) than anyone I know. It’s a game to figure out what he’ll look like every time I see him.

Sheesh, this is so long. I didn’t intend for it to be this long. I just really love Tom a whole lot and am so grateful for the past 15 years of friendship, and really looking forward to a lifetime’s memories with him and his beautiful family.


Tommy, happiest birthday to you. I know you don’t really read my blog, so I will email this to you. But I just wanted you to know, especially today, that I am so very thrilled that we are friends.


Agree to Disagree

I don’t think there is anyone in the whole world who is as similar to me as they are different from me. We are alike, we are unalike. Yet, somehow, both these differences and these similarities draw us together, bind us as friends.

Today is the 35th birthday of my best friend, Elena. Lane. Today, we are in her car, driving to Green Bay, to see a country music concert. Jake Owen and The Cadillac Three. Just a couple years ago, she wouldn’t have gone to a country concert (excepting when she went with me to see Christian Kane in 2009–that wasn’t for the concert, that was for me). She didn’t like country music. I did. But now she does and it is another thing to draw us together.

I’ve told the story before, of how I did not like her when we met and how I grew to love her for exactly who she is. It’s just an example. The things that separate us, the things we do not share, that is all I could see of her. But once I got to know her, it was the things that we share, love of books, love of reading, love of fiction, love of Dean Winchester, love of good looking men on television, love of movies, love self analysis, love of intellectual thought, love of cheeseburgers–these are the things that connect us, that thread our lives together, that make us best friends.

But then, we will discuss something and disagree, often, and she doesn’t like to argue and debate. I do. And so she says, “let’s just agree to disagree.” It drives me crazy. I don’t WANT to agree to disagree. I want to disagree and loudly until we’ve reached a point where we can agree or kill each other trying. That’s me. That’s not her.

It’s how we’re different.

It’s how we’re alike.

It’s the things about her that make up who she is, those are the things that I love. It’s that she overpacks and takes things too seriously and thinks I’m funnier than her and depends on me to find her books and never remembers what she’s read and still sighs over Dean Winchester’s perfection and puts up with my obsessive need to talk all the time and likes the culture of drinking but doesn’t really like to drink and is super flexible but wholly stubborn and can crack me up like no one else. These are the things of her. The things that make me so damn happy that she is my best friend.

It’s her birthday. We’re on our way. Jake Owen better rock our respective worlds.

Happy birthday, Lane. Thanks for being such a wonderful friend.


Birthday Gift

While it is true that Kelly gave me the best gift this year, I’m not entirely sure it tops what I gave myself.

For most of my life, I wished I had a musical ability. I’d love to be a good singer or play an instrument or something. I played the alto saxophone in band in elementary school. I never really liked it. A couple years later my parents offered me actual cash to take piano lessons, and I refused (fyi, I’d totally take that offer NOW, Mom and Dad….). I wish now that I hadn’t refused.

For the past few years I’ve been thinking about the guitar. I’ve never really talked about it much. I mentioned it to Elena. She plays the guitar. I play with hers when it’s out and I’m there. But I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know how. I started to think how it would be cool if I learned to play it. Unlike the piano, guitars are portable. I could take it with me to my parent’s house for Christmas and strum carols. Or whatever. I don’t know. It doesn’t really have a purpose, it is just a skill I’d like to have.

Finally, for my 35th birthday, I decided to do it. No more thinking about it. Thinking doesn’t accomplish anything. Eventually you just have to take action.

I called Elena one Saturday afternoon (March 22, one week after my birthday) and asked her if she’d go with me to buy a guitar. She was shocked, to say the least, but rallied and I headed out to pick her up. We drove down to Capitol Guitars in St. Paul. I had researched online and liked them for lessons and they sold new and used guitars.

A nice young man talked me through some different things, because I had zero idea what I was doing. I know nothing about guitars. I didn’t even know how to hold it, for pete’s sake. But he helped and explained. Then, he looked at me and said, “I think that’s your guitar, I’ve got a good vibe about it.” That very nearly sold me. I love things like that and often trust a good vibe or gut reaction. Then he offered a double blind test. I closed my eyes and held one guitar, then it was switched to a different one. The two I was debating between. I got to use senses other than my eyes to see how the guitar felt to me, how it sounded to me. And I chose.

I blindly chose the guitar that gave him a good vibe. It’s as though it was fated. And it is a used guitar, which makes it cheaper, yes, but also gives it some soul. Someone loved it before me and it was used to making music before I came along.

As I was holding it and getting used to the idea and fully committing myself to this massive purchase, I had Elena take a photo of me.


That is the only photo in existence of me with my guitar, who still needs a name.

While I was doing that, the young man went to his computer to research my guitar. When I came to purchase it, he told me that the mother-of-pearl inlay on the fret board of my guitar is in a pattern called the Tree of Life. If I hadn’t been convinced before, this tipped it. The Tree of Life, it’s so poetic and everlasting and beautiful. As it should be.

Capitol Guitars also threw in one free lesson, some free picks, free stickers, and, in my case, a free guitar case. They didn’t have in stock the one they said they would sell me, so they gave me a different one, for free. Very cool, impressed me, for sure.

Last night, April 1, I went back to CG, for my first lesson. My teacher’s name is Joe, and he was kind enough to tell me he is 25….next week. Damn, I’m taking lessons from a kid. But he’s smart and nice, and he’s been playing guitar since he was 7 years old, teaching since he was 16.

I was incredibly nervous for my first lesson. I haven’t had a lesson since God knows when…and I had no idea what to expect. Joe was prepared for my beginner status and started me off with some very very basics. By the time I left, 30 minutes later, I learned three new chords and a strum pattern to practice. I’m actually learning the intro to Every Rose Has It’s Thorn.

Joe was great about explaining things to me and helping me understand, but also at putting me at ease and encouraging me. I liked him a lot, and it sold me on continuing my lessons with him. I go back next week. In the meantime, it’s practice, practice, practice for me. My fingertips on my left hand are numb. Mostly. Not completely. I wish they would go numb completely so they didn’t bug me so much. Guitaring is hard on your fingertips. That’s something I didn’t know.

But I’m learning. And it feels good. I’m excited to go home and practice tonight. Maybe once I learn a whole song I’ll play for you. Hopefully it won’t be too long.

That’s my gift to myself this year. The gift of music and the gift of learning.