Lent Letter #5

Dear Justin,

I’ve been thinking of you often lately, and finally seeing you this weekend, brief as it was, has brought you to the front of my mind. So you get to be next. What can I say to you, old friend? I’ve known you for about 13 years, but it feels like forever. Sometimes I forget that we didn’t know each other in high school. It seems like we’ve always been friends.

Sometimes it’s funny that we’re so connected, it’s pretty rare between a girl and a guy, I think. But we make it work. We are just meant to be friends. In the time we’ve known each other, we worked together then you moved away. A couple years later, I moved away. We lived on opposite sides of the country and still we stayed in touch. Still, we stayed friends. Then, in a stroke of coincidence we both moved back in with our parents within a couple months of each other.

We’ve bought houses, watched our siblings marry, celebrated nieces and nephews, talked each other through friendships and dating, job changes and life challenges. We’ve done triumphs and tragedies and we’ve always been there for one another. It’s amazing really. Even if we get busy and don’t talk as much as we should, I know that I can pick up the phone and say that I need you and you’ll be there. And I know you know the same about me. This past year you’ve endured more than your fair share of tragedy and you know that I am here. Whatever you need.

Mostly, just for those hugs. You gotta admit, we’re pretty excellent at hugging. If there were a hugging Olympics, you and I would have gold medals in the pairs competition. No doubt about it.

Just the other day, I was thinking about how you taught me to drink. I don’t know that many people realize that you are fully responsible for the way I drink. Remember when we met and I was a newly minted 21 and all I drank was Rolling Rock? And then, one night, you said that I was going to learn how to drink properly. And every night, after work, you’d make me try a different drink. Martinis, Manhattans, Old Fashioned, Margarita, every kind of beer we had, rum and coke, whiskey sour, a Salty dog, the list goes on and on and on. I tried each and every one, everything you know how to make (which, let’s face it, is a damn big list) and then we’d talk about what I like and don’t like until I knew, beyond a doubt what I enjoy drinking. You helped me learn to like wine (that came in handy) and encouraged me to be brave in trying new things. While I may be a bit snobby and stick to my favorites these days, I know how to drink and how to order and what I can tolerate and how much–all because of you. It’s a skill, certainly, and one that I am glad I possess and one that always makes me think of you. Considering you are one of my favorite people in the world, thinking of you is something I really can’t get enough of.

I could go on an on, but the purpose is to let you know what you mean to me and that I am grateful for your part in my life. You know these things, we talk about it, we talk about everything. But I will say it again; you are one of my best friends and I love you like crazy. My life is so much better just because you are my friend. You make me a better person (probably because you don’t let me get away with ANYTHING) and a better friend by being those things to me.

I know you don’t read my blog that often, so I don’t actually know if you’ve seen this. I’m going to link to a post I wrote about you. If you’ve ever had doubts, though I’m sure you haven’t, but these two posts should assure you that we’re the best of friends and it is staying that way.

Love you.

Thank you for being part of my life,

Liv

(to see why I am doing this, read here)

Much Too Young

Yesterday, my friend Justin lost his mother to cancer.

Today, my heart breaks for him and for his family. It’s so hard to say goodbye to the people we love. Justin told me a week ago that since she’s been sick for so long, they’ve had time to prepare, to talk about arrangements, to say their goodbyes. That’s very fortunate, of course, but it doesn’t really help. When the end comes, there is no amount of preparedness that can stop your heart from hurting.

Justin is the most loving and giving of all of my friends. He loves with his whole heart and isn’t shy about it. He gets that from his mother. Jackie was amazing, the life of every party she was at. Good at conversation, happy and fun to be around, a good listener, with a big heart. Like her son. They are a lot of like, Jackie and Justin, and they were very close. I know that this is hard on him especially.

Also for Justin’s dad, Kevin, who lost his love and the mother of his children. And for Tara, Justin’s sister, who lost her mother, while pregnant, no less. For everyone in their family, for Tiegen, who is so young he likely won’t remember his grandmother, and for everyone who knew Jackie, I’m so sorry. I feel your pain and know your loss. I knew her, too. I loved her and will miss her laughter and her sense of humor.

Justin, I’m so sorry for your loss. You know, I know you know, that I am here for you. Whatever, whenever, however.

Please, if you can, take a moment and say a prayer for this family today as they learn to navigate this world without their center. Jackie, you were much too young to leave this world and we are poorer today for the loss of you.

Date Night

This post is a couple weeks behind (which is nothing, I’ve got three posts from last SUMMER I’ve not done yet) but Elena has commented on the pics in the new header, so I figured I better get to it.

Elena and I had our date night on Feb. 18th I think. She picked me up and we went to a movie. We saw The Vow. Which was pretty much all-around bad. I was sad about it because I was in the mood for a good, heart-wrenching, movie. Not so much. Plus, I adore Rachel McAdams and I really like Channing Tatum, but together….pfft.

Afterward, we went to Ray Js. I haven’t been there in AGES. She and I grabbed seats at the bar and had a drink. Then two because the manager bought us one. We ordered apps and noshed. She started playing with my phone, which is fine with me, but then she was texting people. I have no problem with this in principle, until:

*PHONE RINGS*

It’s Justin. I’m a little surprised, but not overly. I run into the lobby to answer (it’s loud in there) and as I say hello, he said “and a big kiss right back at you” Hmm, I thought, that’s pretty weird. “Thank you, why are you giving me metaphorical kisses?”

No lie, that is how our conversation started.

Eventually, it came out that I text him something resembling a kissing noise. Hold on, I’m checking the phone to replicate this exactly. “Mwah!” that’s what it said. I figured it out and, laughing, explained to him that Elena was the one sending him kisses, not me. Finding out that we were out on the town, he said he’d love to stop for a beer. He was on his way home and about to drive right past us.

Less than 10 minutes later, our date night was suddenly a three-way. (That sounds WAY dirtier than it was). We drank and hung out. Justin’s parents are vacationing in Hawaii and he is house/dog sitting for them. It is funny, because it is HIS dog. But when he moved back from Colorado, he lived with his parents and Corona did, too. When he bought his house, it had no fence (still doesn’t) so he couldn’t take her, plus his mom got super attached, so Corona lives with them permanently. So Justin was dog sitting his own dog. But, when he and I first met, we used to hang out at his folks house, so it was nostalgic when he invited us over at bar close. Elena drove us over and we hung out. We reaffirmed that Corona does NOT like me. I am one of only two people she has ever nipped at.

Elena, however, made a new best friend.
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The cat, who actually does like me, is Sammy, and was jealous over all the attention Corona was getting.

While hanging out, we went total high school and dug into the ‘rents liquor cabinet. We pulled out every weird thing we could find and mixed up some concoctions. Actually, I think Justin made a White Russian. We also had a an Irish Whiskey blind tasting. Dorks. But then, Justin brought in a gift he got at work. An amplifier/sound machine thingy. Clearly, I’m up on the lingo. But you can plug an iPhone into it and play music then use the microphone to sing along. Man do I need one of these at my house! I sing into my hairbrush and water bottles all the time, not the same effect at all. Give me a microphone!

I was just drunk enough to actually sing. We were picking songs and singing like maniacs. Duets. Trios. Rounds. You name it. We really rocked some. Of course, I can’t actually remember which ones. I think we did “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” I vaguely recall. I’m also pretty sure Justin had me singing the Foo Fighters at one point, but I’m actively trying to forget that.
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Then, in one of those weird turns only super-fun nights can take, Elena picked up Justin’s tie off the counter and was playing with it. She put it around her neck and then it came out that she has no idea how to tie a tie. I told her my grandpa Conway (my mom’s dad) taught me how when I was a girl. I can’t remember why, but I was staying at his house overnight and it came up and he said I should know how. So he taught me, I never forgot, and it has come in handy more times than I can count. Including the 8th grade when I went through a weird phase and wore ties all the time (because I’m Diane Keaton?).

At any rate, I tried showing her, but I was drunk-ish and it was not coming out clear, at all. So Justin stepped in. Because he was so sober. At any rate, it was so cute, him showing her, I took a picture.
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Here he is explaining something. I don’t know, but not really showing yet, just explaining something about ties.

Then, into the bathroom, to really learn.
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I know you can’t see the tie, but, trust me, that is what they are doing. How cute is that? Is it cuter if I tell you it was about 5 am when this was going down? Maybe not.

Then, we had to get going, because I needed sleep for my delirium and Elena still had to drive me home before she got to go beddibye. Before the night ended, though, I wanted a date night photo.
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Isn’t that adorable? Like a Justin sandwich. So cute.

Then, Elena grabbed my phone and said she wanted one of us. Fine by me, I’m always up for pics with my friends.
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How fantastic is that? My new favorite pic of him and I. Mostly because we match. And because I know it is the countertop I’m hanging onto and Justin that are keeping me upright. And it was after 5am and he still has a beer, because he’s a rockstar. And that is one of the new pics on my blog header, if it looks familiar. I wish I had thought (like thinking was an option) to get one of me and Lane. Next time. Next date. Also on my birthday, which is exactly 10 days away (still plenty of time for gift shopping!)

All in all, it was a terrifantastic date night. One for the record books. Thanks, friends!

Spontaneity

I’ve noticed, as I approach “mid-thirties” my friends have a habit of considering us “old”. I’m not old. Neither are they, but for some reason, that word keeps on creeping up in more conversations.

I’ve noticed that our habits are changing. We’re now more apt for an evening in than a night on the town. But, that could be due more to owning homes and being broke than age…I’m just sayin’.

Recently, my best buddy, Justin, turned 33. October 22 if you’re curious. At any rate, I text him that morning to say Happy Birthday and to try and establish contact. We’d been dancing around each other for days. I heard back from him that afternoon only to learn he was planless for the evening. I immediately invited him over to my house to hang with me and Lane. Our grand Saturday night plan was to assemble my new bookshelves in the basement. And, of course, I saw the benefit of having a man around for that.

Justin was on the fence…due to his raucous Friday night, but eventually succumbed to my charms and the lure of manual labor. He and Elena came over and we chatted and had a beer and put together one of three bookshelves.

Somehow, our conversation took an interesting turn and Justin said he’d love to go to the casino. I’ve never been a casino person (unless I’m going for a concert) but it was his birthday. So I said, “let’s go”. He waffled. Elena whimsically decreed she was up for anything. I ran upstairs to change (I was in sweats).

In a matter of minutes after this offhand mention, we were on our way. I made Justin drive because he has the nicest car (only marginally over Elena’s…and I drive a Cadillac!). Can I just mention it was 9pm and we were leaving the house? I might be aging just a bit, because I actually thought, “who goes out this late?” and it wasn’t all that long ago that would have been early¬†for me to go out. Ah, good times.

We drove to Treasure Island, just because it was closest. We had a fun chat on the drive down and when we arrived we headed in to have some serious fun. We weren’t in the door but five minutes and Justin had won $20 at video poker. Then, Elena was hunting for a blackjack table and Justin said he was going to find a slot machine. No kidding, he was away from us for maybe 90 seconds, including walking time, and he came back with a winning voucher for $200! He dropped a $20 in a random machine and won that on the first pull! Wow, clearly birthday karma at its finest.

Then, he joined us at the blackjack table. I hadn’t wanted to play, but Elena was a little intimidated to sit down by herself. I get that, so I sat. I figured $40 on blackjack and we’ll see. I lost that in about 15 minutes. Clearly not my night. Elena was up and down, but holding steady overall. Justin turned his $40 into about $150 in about 20 minutes.

Finally, J cashed out, I was out of money and E was still having fun. We split up and went to do our things. I ended up meeting with Justin and we went to the bar to play some video poker, drink and talk. I lost some more. By this point, I was down about $80 and I really don’t have a spare $80 to lose, so I decided to quit. I was just hanging with them, talking and having fun. Justin was finally losing some money…it was after midnight by then…and Elena finally tapped out on blackjack. We started wandering aimlessly, while those two would randomly drop money into machines as we passed them. Sometimes winning, sometimes losing.

Then, finally, Justin found an open slot machine that he’d been looking for. I don’t remember what it was called, but it was one of those crazy ones with hundreds of lines. I hate those. But this one gave you opportunities for free spins and bonus games. I didn’t fully understand it but it looked like so much fun. I decided ‘what the hell’ and dropped my last $20 into the machine. I started winning and winning and winning. Did I mention this was a penny slot?

I’ll spare you the details, except to say the three of us ended up playing here for an hour and we were chanting at the machine trying to win more bonuses. Addicting. And, best of all, I walked out of there only $20 light! It was terrific. I won back most of my money. I could have probably kept going, but I am a “safe” gambler.

Elena lost quite a bit, she didn’t say, but I’d guess over a hundred. Justin, our birthday boy, ended up leaving $100 richer AND quite happy he randomly decided to spend his birthday with me and Lane. It was such an impromptu trip and ended up being a fantastically fun evening.

I did snap this photo as we were leaving, to commemorate our night, but we were laughing so hard it is a bit blurry:
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However, we all look so happy in it that I love it anyway.

Happy Birthday Justin! I hope you had as much fun as I did.

Justin

I’m a lucky girl, to have a friend like him.

He’s one of the very best. We get busy and we don’t always talk as much as we should. But, we always talk. We don’t hold back, we don’t keep secrets, we tell each other the truth.

He’s open, he’s giving, I can trust him.

He’s busy, we are all busy, but his is a different kind of busy. Aside from the 2-3 jobs he works, he’s got a house, a girlfriend, and a family. His mother is sick; cancer. He looks out for them, for his parents. He worries about his sister. He takes care of the family dog when his mom is in the hospital. He doesn’t work bankers hours, so he’s always doing something.

Then, I call him.

I say: I need a friend, a hug, and a drink, not necessarily in that order.

He said: I can’t today, but I will make it work tomorrow.

He did.

He started his day at 6:30 am. He got off work after 9:00 pm. He drove straight to my house and hugged me in the driveway. I wanted to cry, I was so happy to see him.

We sat on the back porch, we drank beers and he let me vent. I told him the whole story. I told him everything. He said, “you’re right, that absolutely sucks.”

He’s one of those rare men who can listen to a problem and not need to try and fix it. He just…listened. Sympathized. Supported.

He told me not to worry. He said I’d be okay. He said I’m strong enough to take anything that comes my way. He said I’ll be stronger still when I get through this.

He’s right.

We let the mosquitoes chase us indoors and we sat on my 3-season porch. To this day he remains the only person with whom I’ve ever used that stupid room. We’ve sat out there twice.

We talked about him. We talked about how he’s so strong for everyone else. I reassured him that if HE needs someone, I’m always here. He smiled at me and said he knows that.

I thought about how comfortable it is. Him and me. We’re never awkward. There’s never a silence to fill. We just talk. He’s like the very best girlfriend in the world, but he’s a boy.

We were talking in the kitchen. He looked around and said, “really, Liv, do your dishes.” I laughed. My house is a disaster. I didn’t even care. He didn’t either, he just likes poking fun at me. (I’ll do them, tonight. I promise.)

Then, he hugged me again. Just because he knew I needed it. He started to pull back and I hugged him tighter and said, “nope, I’m not done”. He chuckled and just kept hugging me. No one in the world hugs like him. He’s the very best at it. And of all the things he does well, it’s the thing he does best.

He stayed way too late and we drank way too much for a random Tuesday night. But, for the first time in weeks, when I woke up this morning, I felt good. Hungover and exhausted, but good.

I’m not myself yet. I’m not yet okay. But I’m better. An evening with one of my very best friends can do that.

Trivia Wednesday Fridays

Last night, Justin and I were going to go get a beer. Then, he said he’d rather bring a bottle of wine over to my house and hang out. He had a wine class until 7pm and was coming over right after.

Well, wine class went until 8pm. We had a couple glasses of wine and I asked him if he was hungry. He was…and so was I. I have almost no food in my house so I ran the list of options past him. He was in the mood for some sort of taco app from TGI Fridays. I said that was fine, but I was changing first. I was already in my pajamas before he got there. (I love having a house and being able to “stay in” and entertain friends in my pjs!).

He gave me a “guy” look and said, “you look fine”. I said, “I am not going to dinner in my pajamas.” He replied, “why not? It’s dark in there, just like in here.”

I’m not really sure what he meant by that, but I found it hilarious. Yes, it was dim in my house, we were sitting on the porch with only the pigs for light. And, yes, it was likely going to be dim in the restaurant, but neither one of those had any thing to do with my wearing pajamas. Is that how guys think?

I changed. We went.

When we got to Fridays, it was probably quarter to 10. That’s so late for me. Really. I couldn’t believe I was changing to go out on a Wednesday at 930 pm. But, I was seriously hungry.

It was slow in there and they announced that they were beginning live trivia. 90s trivia! Justin and I got excited because we were the oldest people in there by several years. I think the others in the place were born in the 90s.

We ordered apps, on Happy Hour (except for the one Justin wanted, naturally) and beers. The first round of trivia was Twins trivia. 90s Twins trivia didn’t sound too good to me, until the guy said, “90s and today, for this round only”.

We got a perfect score. 10/10.

The next round was 90s TV. We got 9/10. We actually had written the right answer to the other one, but we second guessed ourselves and changed it and got it wrong.

At some point, our server came by and said, “I hope you beat them”. I assumed she meant the table full of 12-year-olds we were playing against. She said they come every week and are the reigning champions. Well, duh. There’s 9 of them playing on the team, they all have cell phones, AND, they’re friends with the trivia host. Um, of course they always win. (And let’s be clear, they had drinks in front of them, but if they were actually 21, then they were ONLY 21, making them born in 1990).

But, Justin and I are smart…and determined.

Round 3 was 90s movies. We got an 8/10. We missed a question about an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. I don’t really feel bad about that. I don’t remember the other one we missed, but I know we guessed when we wrote it down. However, the host wasn’t paying attention, and gave us 11 questions, so there was a bonus. Actual score for this round, 9/11.

Round 4 was the final round. It was 90s music. Lucky for me, Justin loves that s**t. In the 90s, I was primarily a country girl. I actually had never heard several of the songs. It was ridiculous. They played a song and we had to write down the artist only. It was fine, we got the first one, no problem. Then I noticed the children we were playing against using their phones on every question. It occurred to me that they were probably Shazaming the answers! Well, screw that, we’re not losing because they are cheating.

So, we Shazamed as well. But, because we’re more honest, I wouldn’t write down the answer until Justin gave me his response. He got all but one right without my help. I seriously only knew two of them. So, we got another perfect score.

That makes our grand total 38/41.

That’s awesome. Especially since, when he was reading off the correct answers, the children were groaning and saying they got it wrong at least five times. We won, I was sure of it.

So, they read out 3rd place. (Apparently, others were playing, but who cared, really?) The host said, “with a score of 33/41…team blahblah”.

Then, he said, “and our 2nd, oh wait we have a tie!” And he never read the scores. Just said that Justin and I TIED with the children. There is no way we tied.

So then, he says there will be a tiebreaker. One member from each team will go up and answer a single question. Justin said I should go. I said we should find out the category first.

Trivia host said, “Movies.”

We sent Justin.

So the question is this, “how much did the movie, The Hangover, gross worldwide?”

And closest wins.

I couldn’t believe it. I would have had no idea. That seemed really hard to me. Justin wrote down an answer and I started Googling.

I’m not going to tell you the answer right now, but I will say that I would not have guessed anywhere in the vicinity.

So Justin and the 14-year-old he’s playing against, put down their answers and turn them in. Trivia host/friend of the children looks at their answers and announces. I’ll read the answer from team OJ first. And Justin guessed 400 million.

The actual answer was 467 million.

I was completely blown away that he was that close, just guessing blind.

THEN….after he reads our answer, AFTER seeing BOTH answers, he read the other. They guessed 425 million.

Does anyone know where I am going with this?

I’m 99.9% certain that we got cheated.

I bet you money that Justin’s answer was the closer one and the trivia guy made up a closer answer to give his friends the win. That is assuming, of course, that they even tied us in the first place, which I doubt they did. It was the most bogus game ever. Justin and I played some of the best trivia of our lives and we got screwed over by cheaters and TGI Fridays.

Whatever. I never liked that place anyway.

So, the “friends” won a $50 gift card to Fridays and we won $10. The card we won we weren’t supposed to use that night, but our server “bent” the rules and allowed it. I seriously think she even knew we got screwed and felt bad for us.

And, since we were on HH, our four beers and three appetizers only came to $28. After the gift card, our tab was $18, so it isn’t like I’m complaining. As Justin said, we came in for food and ended up having fun and getting a free $10.

He’s right, of course.

But I still don’t like that place.

Moving Day

I am going to try and do this quickly. I’ve been so busy lately at work my blogging is falling to the wayside. At the new house, I don’t have internet, so no blogging at home. Yikes.

Last Friday 10/29, I spent the day packing. I had previously packed about 8 boxes. The other 8,o00,000 were packed on Friday. I have a lot of stuff! 31 years of living and pack-ratting (that is now an official verb) add up quickly. I trashed as much as possible (to the tune of three lawn and leaf size garbage bags!) but it still ended up being so much. I couldn’t sort a ton because my “movers” were due at 9am Saturday.

The bulk (98%) of the packing was completed by 3:30 am. I slept super-fast and was up by 7:30. Somewhere during my measly four hours, one of my friends text me that he was not showing up to help at 9. My movers had been dropping like flies for weeks. When I woke up it was down to me (with a broken foot), my dad, and Justin.

To my surprise, Kim showed up at 9 to help. Tom and his kids (Clay and Lew) showed up about 11:30 to help us finish. They actually brought the last load. Despite the minimal help, we got it done quickly. We had two pickup trucks and in two loads apiece we got everything from my old house to my new house.

By 12:30 everything was inside my new house and we were all sitting down to lunch. My mom had been at new house finishing the touchups on the bedroom walls so we could move my bed into my freshly (!) painted bedroom. She also made lunch. And cleaned. And helped me unpack some stuff. And organized my living room. And my kitchen. And my dining room. Thus, she was exempt from moving.

Names you might have missed on the list: Emily and Chad. They helped Chad’s parents clean out their garage instead of helping me move. Zack. My idiot younger brother thought it was more important to get wasted on Friday night and be hungover and passed out then to come and help me move. So, yeah, siblings aren’t too high on my list these days.

On a lighter note, my friends are great people to take time out of their lives to help me move. Justin was there bright and early and moved the lion’s share of boxes. He also heavy-lifted furniture with my dad and with Tom so that everything was moved in. I owe him beer. At least. Kim showed up and lugged boxes with the best of them. Sometimes I think the stuff she carried weighed more than she does. Tom came with his sons and helped move. The boys even pitched in. They found my Halloween decorations and starting jazzing up my house. I was fully ready for the holiday by the time they left.

Lastly, we have my parents. They’re just amazing. My mom has done so much for me that it boggles the mind. Every day she is doing something to help ease my transition. Now, she is working on painting my kitchen. My dad took two weeks of vacation to pitch in doing “man things” at my house. He is hanging pictures, fixing a clogged drain, setting up my garage, things of that nature. I leave him lists and he gets them done. How lucky is that?!?!?!?

Saturday night I slept there. At my house. By myself. I am not ashamed to admit, I was scared to do it. I tried to get my mom to spend the night…but she didn’t. If Kelly wasn’t at a Halloween party, I’d have called her. And knowing Kelly, she’d have been there in two seconds. But, in the end, it was probably good that I just put on my big-girl jammies and bucked up. I didn’t sleep well that first night, too many spooky sounds and odd light patterns. A bit of time and it will really start to feel like home.

But, it is done. I am moved. I have a new home. Yay!