Luke Bryan

I’ve been noticeably absent from the blog for a while. And, as the author, I’m just assuming my absence is notable. At any rate, I want to share this cute story with you.

Last night, I was out with my brother Zack for his birthday. Now, it was way later than I usually stay out and I just wanted to go home, but it was his birthday, so I manned up and decided to go have another drink with him. He chose Demoris. Fine. Haven’t been there in YEARS, but fine by me.

Let’s pause to go back to this weekend. Saturday, I am catching up on email. I get a newsletter from K102 with country updates. I don’t always read it, but this time it said Luke Bryan in the subject line. I love Luke Bryan. Love him out loud. I’ve been saying for a couple years that I’d go see him the next time he came here. Of course, I somehow missed when the tickets went on sale, even though I had it marked on my calendar, and the concert sold out. So I don’t get to see him. Disappointed, but I’ll live.

Anyway, this newsletter was about the upcoming concert. Evidently they’ve partnered up with Miller to do a promotion called Luke-ing for Luke. They’ve put cardboard cutouts of Luke Bryan all over the Twin Cities. If you find one, you take a selfie with it and Tweet it to K102 and then you’re entered in a drawing to win tickets. Now, the newsletter made it sound mysterious, like you had to hunt for these cutouts. I immediately thought it was a cute idea and about 10 years ago, I’d have called up Kelly and we’d have spent a Saturday driving around town hunting down these cutouts. But I don’t do that now.

Back to last night. Zack and I head into Demoris, which is a nondescript sort of place in Oakdale of all cities. We sit at the bar, I just settle on my stool, when I see, across the room, a lifesize cutout of Luke Bryan!

I jumped (okay, not really, the boot doesn’t allow jumping, but I mentally jumped) off my barstool and grabbed Zack’s arm and said “come with me”. I dragged my brother across the bar and gave him my phone and made him take a pic of me with the cutout. “I don’t do that now” apparently doesn’t hold up when I’m faced with the reality of Luke Bryan’s handsome cardboard face.


So I explained this to Zack and he said, “so of all the places in the Twin Cities they put one of these at Demoris?” See? We both thought it was weird. I said I guess so and then proceeded to tell the bartender who also had no idea why we were taking pics with a cutout.

Today, I looked up the rules, in order to Tweet it, which I did, and as of this posting, my Tweet is featured on the page (this link here) explaining the rules. I imagine that will be true until someone else Tweets with that hashtag. Turns out that on the website they give a list of all the places you can find a cutout, which was not in the newsletter. I thought it was way more of a contest. But still. If you see one, take your pic with it and Tweet it in. And please take me to the concert if you win.

And that right there is why it is worth it to sometimes say yes when you actually want to say no.


This morning I woke up with a dream in my brain. I was dreaming of a better life for someone I love. It sounds so nice to think of it like that. However, the problem is, the better life is what *I* want for this person not what he wants for himself. He’s never wanted things from life that I have wanted for him. He makes choices I don’t understand and decisions that mystify me. His life is not my own. It is his.

I think the hardest part of loving someone is realizing that you don’t get to make the choices. You don’t get to decide. You have to understand that they will choose what they choose. You can advise, you can suggest, you can help, but you cannot make someone be someone they are not.

All you really can do is love someone for who they are, bad decisions and all. You have to love them even when you don’t agree with them. You have to love them even when they scare you. You have to love them, even when they are at their most unlovable.

That is what it means to love. That is what it means to be a family.

It might have been a good dream, but that is all it will ever be. I need to let go and remember that I am not in control of this situation. I don’t get to decide what happens. All I can do is be there, for whatever comes next. All I need to do is keep on loving, because that is what he needs me for, right now.

I need to work on not letting my dreams get in the way.

Lent Letter #16

Dear Zack,

Hey little brother. I didn’t get to post a letter yesterday, because I was with you, so I think it is only fitting that this letter is to you. Right now is a tough time for our family. For you. You’re going through a pretty hard time right now, you don’t even seem to realize it. I’m sorry that you’re hurting. I’m sorry that you think we hurt you. We didn’t. We are trying to help. We love you and want the best for you; I know that you know that, even if you can’t see it right now.

You are such a terrific guy. Sometimes I wonder if you truly understand that. You are kind and thoughtful, funny and so very smart. You and I are so much alike. We’ve always connected and been close. Right now, I’m not going to lie, that scares me. It’s also perhaps why I was the last one to see that you needed help. Maybe I didn’t want to see it or maybe I just couldn’t, but I was convinced you were just finding your way.

I wasn’t wrong, though. You are lost and you do need to find your way, you just needed help, instead of just time. Please just know that I am here for you. Your family is here for you. Know that I need you in my life. You. My brother, the one who can always makes me laugh. The one who stares in stupefaction at the theatrics that always accompany our other siblings. The one who loves trivia as much as I do. The one who sits for hours and discovers new music with me. The one who gets me to laugh at myself. The one who remembers everything. The one who listens and pays attention and remembers little things about me that everyone else has forgotten.

You are a huge and integral part of my life Zack. You need to be okay. But I need you to be okay, too. Please don’t forget that.  And that you promised me you’d never make me cry. And don’t forget that I love you.

Thank you for being part of my life,


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

Don’t Tie Me Down

What do you know about helium balloons?

Me, not much. They float. I enjoy them. Mylar lasts longer than latex. Frank used to (maybe still does?) have a helium tank and we borrowed it for every one of our graduation parties (including my college graduation party) and Emily’s wedding reception.

Kelly left me a bunch of balloons at my house for my birthday:

See them all?

Check out the one tied to my light. “It’s Your Day!

Here’s why:

That’s the same balloon. Right? Right.

Okay, well, earlier this week (Sunday? Monday?) it was extremely windy outside. EXTREMELY. And that balloon was blowing all over my house, trailing its string. This is not the first time it has happened, that balloon and I have been roommates for a very long time. But, on whichever day it was, I came home to find the string tangled on the stem of my bamboo plant, which is in a glass vase, filled with water, on the shelf that sits above my kitchen. The cut-out opening, I guess. I was worried (and slightly relieved it hadn’t happened already) that another gust of wind would blow the balloon and it would take the plant with it, resulting in a huge mess.

So, I climbed up there and took it down. I put it back on the porch, where it had been housed.

Moments, sincerely seconds later, it danced its way back through the doorway into my house and floated around. I didn’t want to shut the patio door, because that is where all the breeze comes from and it gets hot inside if I do.

I removed the balloon, again, this time placing it in the furthest corner from the door. It followed me back into the house. There is clearly a wind corridor in that room and the balloon would not stay. Finally, my solution was to tie the balloon to the cord that operates the shades. Brilliant! It stayed put.

Anyone wondering why I didn’t just throw it out?

Because,  on Monday (or whatever), that I tied it down, that balloon was still floating upright. Filled with helium. Seriously. All the other balloons I got for my birthday have died…and besides the others Kelly left (in the above photo) I got one at work and my mom gave me one, it was like six in total…but this balloon has survived.

For three months.

Check that. My birthday is March 15. Today is June 14.

Three months.

I googled helium balloons to figure out how long they are supposed to last. 4-6 weeks. That one balloon has lasted 12 weeks. I can’t believe it. As I kept tossing the others, he was still happily floating. I almost, almost cut him open and tossed him when the last of the others went down, but he was still full and thriving and I decided he wasn’t hurting anything and it would be fun to see how long he lasted. That was two months ago.

Even on Monday he was surviving.

Then, I tied him down so he could no longer roam free. This morning, I happened to notice that picture above. He finally passed on. Went to that great balloon heaven in the sky. Is in a better place. I was, truly, a bit sad. It’s just a damn balloon, but he lasted me for three months! Every time I looked at him, I thought of my birthday, and I think we all know how happy that makes me.

I think it was not being able to fly that finally did him in. Without free reign of the house, he was confined and probably slipped into a deep depression and just gave up. He had no more reason to live.

But, when I get home tonight and untie him and toss him in the trash, I’ll be a little nostalgic for the days when he’d bop around my house and I’d think, “how on earth can that balloon still be floating?”


Writing this silliness (true story, but silly nonetheless) reminded me of two other balloon related stories I’d like to share.

One is about my sister. When she was in the second grade (third? I think it was 2nd…) there was this girl in her class named Jessica. Jessica was a little heavyset. She made my sister mad and Emily retaliated by writing down, during their writing lesson, “Jessica is a fat balone” which is how she spelled balloon whilst in the second grade. Emily was sent to the principal’s office for being mean. And I love that story about her.

The other is about my brother Zack. When he was a boy, maybe 13? 14? we went out to dinner one night and were given balloons. I don’t remember why. But during the drive home, Zack and I started talking about those stories you’ve heard of people who find deflated balloons with messages attached. Zack thought it would be cool to try. I said that people probably wouldn’t ever write back. So, we got home, Zack took this balloon, I think it was red, and tied to it a note. It said something like “My name is Zack and I live at {insert our home address} if you find this balloon and write back to me, I will send you $5”.

And we took it into the front yard and he let it go. We stood there watching to make sure it would clear all the trees in my parents yard and pretty soon it was out of sight. Weeks later…weeks, a letter came for Zack in the mail. It was from this nice old lady who found the balloon and the note. She sent back a letter and “I love Jesus” pamphlets just for Zack. My mom made him send the $5, even though the lady said he didn’t have to. I can’t remember where she lived…my mom might know…or Zack will probably remember, his memory is ridiculous.

There you go, those are now my three favorite balone related stories.

Happy Thursday!

Happy Birthday Mom!

I’ve got birthday on the brain today, probably because it is the first of March, my favorite month of the year. My birthday (for those of you playing the home game) is exactly two weeks from today. The plans are set, the details are finalized, the new outfit has been bought (thanks Lanie!) and I am raring to go.

But, before we cruise toward my favorite day of the year, we need to pause for a moment and look back. Let’s talk about the fabulous birthday of my mother, February 25.

This could be a very long story, but I will try to tone it down. In order to honor mom on her day, my sister and I came up with a plan to cook dinner for the family at mom’s house. Relaxed, at home, no work for mom.

I decided to go get Simon and bring him along. THAT did not go as planned. He was overtired and out of sorts and did not want to go anywhere with me. After a fierce battle that left him frustrated and me upset, we were on our way. We were an hour behind schedule. We did not get to stop and do the surprises I had planned. (Not telling, I will save them for next year). We arrived at my mother’s house and he calmed down. I couldn’t sit and visit, I had to cook. I wasn’t there when one of her surprises came in. I had arranged for the band, Train, whom she likes, to call and sing her Happy Birthday. I’m sad I wasn’t there to witness it.

But then, things started to improve. We got the dinner underway. I made an Herb Rubbed Pork Loin and Parmesan Garlic Roasted potatoes. My sister did the veg, asparagus (my whole family loves it) and bought many desserts. Seriously, we had birthday cupcakes, M&M cookies, Birthday cake Oreos, and a cheesecake sampler. I was nervous about the food, because I had the main dishes and I had never made either of these recipes.  Plus, I rarely cook for other people. However, they were both outstanding! The pork was juicy, tender, and incredibly flavorful. The website (my favorite cooking website) said, “Okay, if you haven’t quite honed your kitchen skills yet but you still need a recipe to impress, this is the recipe for you! This recipe is super easy and pretty much fool proof.” as its opening lines introducing the food.  It was easy and it was fool proof. The only real prep is chopping up the spices, which was so easy I let Simon do it, so he helped cook, too! Arionna helped by hollering at me from the living room because she wanted me to come and play.  The potatoes were chosen because my mom is a parmesan nut. She’ll buy shredded parmesan and eat it out of the container with a spoon. They were awesome, great flavor.

The dinner was a rousing success. We had exactly enough (because I’m not good at judging portions) which is nice, no leftovers to put away.

My only screwup? Foil lining the pans I used to roast the potatoes. They got all stuck to it. Whoops.

After dinner, we played and hung out and talked. We had birthday cupcakes. Simon ate all the frosting off the top of his then took his sad, crumpled, soggy cake and reached over and placed it on Uncle Chad’s plate, “that’s for you” he said. How sweet.

It’s possible Arionna enjoyed the cupcakes more than anyone. That little girl has a sweet tooth!

Grandma wanted one single picture of her with her grandkids. I tried. This was the best I got.

Admittedly, it is pretty good, but Arionna is about 2 seconds from crying, I guess it was in the nick of time.

Opening my gift (a gift certificate for a pedicure – for us to go together).

Simon was down with helping. He thinks grandma unwraps too slow.

He and Arionna got her:

finger paint for the bathtub. She opened and said, “I’m sure I’ll use this all the time…”

In my favorite picture of the night. She is opening her cards. Her friend, Kathy, sent her a card–something about jiggly underarms and she cracked up. Laughing until tears. I love it when she laughs.

At this point, Simon borrowed the camera. He sure does love to take pictures. He captured this one of Arionna and me laughing.

He somehow manages to capture my favorite pictures of us. Even though she’s not looking, look how hard she’s laughing. It’s delightful.

He also grabbed a little self portrait:


He also caught this cute photo of Grandma and her girl.

It’s a shade blurry, but oh-so-cute.

Of course, whatever Simon is doing, Arionna wants to be doing. “I want the camera” became her mantra. I tried to let her, but she had her fingers all over the lens in about 2 seconds. Grandma finally went and got her old camera, which has become the children’s camera.

I don’t know if it is the crossed legs or what, but somebody looks very grown up here:

She’s taking a picture of me, taking a picture of her. Hers did not turn out.

Meanwhile, Simon had lost interest and went out in the garage with Pa and Uncle Zack. I went out with Arionna to check on them only to find:

He had given Simon a handsaw and a carboard box. He drew a line on the box and let him sit there and cut it. With a sharp tool. Okay….

But Simon loved it.

Later, after they were both jammied up, they turned to their very favorite pastime, jumping on grandma’s couch. Why she allows this I will never know, but they do it all the time.

I love that I caught them both in motion!

And a cute one!

Once they were off to bed, sleeping together in the same room (yeah, nearly two hours for them both to fall asleep) for the first time in their lives. Actually, the first time in either life that they’ve slept with another person in their room. The adults headed out to the garage for some gaming.

We played Taboo, which was fun for most of us. Emmy didn’t enjoy it–she said, but it seemed like she was into it:

I love candids. Mom’s turn, Em’s on the buzzer and Zack is just watching for the hell of it.

But the one thing I wanted, and managed, was to get a family photo. Mom said, “why did you wait for the kids to be asleep?” Well, because, the kids are not the center of the family, we’ve got tons of pictures of them. Plus, kids make pictures harder. Well, kids and my dad.


Could ya smile, just once? (I’m ignoring Zack who said, “I was smiling” even though that is NOT a smile–smirk at best).

But I do love this little family snapshot. We do not do that often enough.

Happy Birthday to my wonderful mother! You kickoff birthday season and I’m happy that it is here.

If you want to read my past tributes to my mom (I think she is the only person I’ve consistently blogged every birthday)





Mother’s day (that is my favorite post of her, ever, so I wanted to repost it here if you haven’t read it.)

Also, tomorrow is Dr. Seuss’s birthday, another wonderful one to celebrate!

Welcome, birthday season!

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is always a conundrum. For my entire life (up until about 3 years ago) we spent Christmas Eve with my mom’s family. Appetizers and presents. That was tradition. Somehow, things got all mixed up and we stopped doing this. We now see those relatives after Christmas, which works out just fine.

However, this left a gaping hole on Christmas Eve. My sister sees her in-laws that night, as did Zack, before he and Kim broke up. So, this left my parents and me on our own. Well, that’s not entirely true. You see, many moons ago (about 7 years) I popped in to Tom and Mindy’s apartment on Christmas eve, during Clay’s first Christmas, to drop off a gift for him. Mindy was sick and Clay was sleeping and Tom…was working? It was odd. But, it started a tradition with them that lasts to this day. Before my plan, I always stop off at Tom and Mindy’s to give gifts to the boys.

Last year, they did a family trip to San Diego for Christmas and my mom commented that I seemed bereft. In the midst of my bereftness (that’s definitely not a word), I started a new tradition. Mom, Dad, and I would go to a movie. Then drinks and apps somewhere, then we’d call it a night. Last year, it was an amazing night. This year? We’ll get to that in a minute.

Mindy invited me to join them for Christmas dinner, which was very kind of her. The family Christmas Eve is with Tom’s mom and it is also when they do their family gifts. I feel honored that I’m allowed to take part in these special family traditions. I got to their house and the boys were bouncing off the walls. They had already opened a present (each) because they were driving their parents nuts and they figured it would give them something to do. Thus, upon my arrival, I got bombarded with the story of the brand new Lego semi-truck. It has a bed and a tv in the cab!

We played for a bit and then did presents. I got spoiled this year, with new fuzzy socks in purple, Christmas ornaments that hold the boys school pictures, AND a kickass bookend that you simply must see. I love it! It is exactly the kind of quirky thing that I love in the stores but rarely buy. Mindy said she was done for me, but when she saw it, she said, “that belongs to Olivia” and bought it. She was right, it does belong to me.

Clay got his annual snowglobe, which he liked. He still tells me he’d prefer toys, but then his mom tells me that when it gets time to decorate, he cannot WAIT to get out his snowglobes and wind them up. So, it’s the small victories.

Lew got his annual M & M ornament, which was thoroughly unimpressive to a 4 year old, but he’ll like them someday. He also got a box of Sugar Babies, because I love giving that boy candy and his mother wishes I wouldn’t, which makes it fun. Then, I got the boys a game to share. Operation. They already have the game operation, but this is special. This is Star Wars Operation and you operate on the little robot. Dang it. Hang on while I look up his name. R2D2. Got it. They were very excited and played it almost immediately.


They were going crazy. Mindy and I ended up talking about how much we liked Operation when we were kids. Once the boys abandoned the game, about five minutes after they started it, she and I played a game. We let Clay join us, because he saw what we were doing, and it was fun.For the family gift, I gave them something very special. This fall, I took a class in stained glass. I cut and designed an abstract piece for them and gave it to them with a display stand. I wish you could see it. I wish I had been smart enough to take a picture of it. It was beautiful. I liked it more than the piece I made for myself. Mindy loved it. She was astonished that I made it. Tom didn’t seem surprised at all.After Tom’s mom arrived, we had a wonderful dinner of roast beef and cheesy potatoes. After dinner, it was time for presents again. Normally, this was when I would leave, but my parents had decided against a movie. So, I stayed and hung out some more. Before more presents, we decided to make them work a bit. The boys were directed to plan a Christmas performance (this was my suggestion, to keep them busy so we could finish dinner in peace). Below, you will see the video of their performance. It was pretty adorable for a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old who threw it together in about 2.5 minutes

MOV06937 a video by okmoris on Flickr.

Earlier in the evening, I mentioned something about the NORAD Santa tracker. This was not something they knew about. I was surprised I hadn’t mentioned it before, we’ve been tracking Santa at our house for years. I showed them the website and the boys were enraptured. They couldn’t believe the could watch Santa delivering presents. We watched videos of other cultures and got to talk about how different things are in other countries. Clay wondered why he went to the countries he did and we got to talk about time zones. Lew enjoyed this, but 7 is perfect, I am thinking because Clay was obsessed. He stared at that all night and kept coming up to me and asking where a certain country was. I have a World Map app on my phone, so I kept pulling it up and we’d search for whatever country. The only one we struggled with was the South Sandwich Islands. (Off the southern tip of South America, near Antarctica, if you’re curious).

Later that night, as I was watching Santa head toward St. Paul, I text Mindy to see if he was still awake and to let her know that Santa was spotted nearby. I got a text back that said, “he fell asleep in front of the computer, tracking Santa”. Adorable!

After entertaining us, they were made to change into nicer clothes for pictures. One nice one with Grandma:

And Mindy said, “I know you want to open presents, but I will make you do this over and over until you don’t have goofy faces or cheesy smiles, so smile nice the first time and we’ll be done faster.” It made me laugh because she was so serious. The boys took it to heart, though, and we got nice pictures.

Next, we did pictures with me.


I have no idea why Lewie felt it was necessary to drape himself across me, but he did. And Clay is clearly not looking. So Mindy made them do it again.

Now Clay isn’t smiling. I’d have been happy with either of these, I don’t have too many pictures of me with both boys. But, Mindy made them do it again. I was actually laughing at this point.

And how perfect is that! I simply love it. As soon I can, I will print that and it will be framed in my house. I’m so glad she was being a stickler, totally worth it!

Then, just to torture the kids some more, we did a family picture.

I said, “just so you know, I will stand here and do this all night, until every one of you is smiling. And that includes your dad!” That cracked everyone up. Tom is notorious for never smiling in pictures. I took a picture of him smiling this summer in Chicago and Mindy loves it so much she included it in their Christmas card–but that’s a story for another blog. Of course, my humor got even Tom to smile.

This was my first attempt, but Lewie was testing me to see if I was as tough as his mom (usually I am not), but I stood my ground and made them do it again.

Now, Lewie looks a bit cheesy, but I think it is cute. And I love Clay’s hands clasped under his face–and Tom, look at that handsome smile. Worth it. I said this could be their Christmas card for next year!

Then, more and more presents awaited.

Things not even fully unwrapped before they move on. Lucky kids.

I love how serious he is. I think he gets nervous about whether he’s going to like it. At 7, he’s a lot more conscious of things like that.

More and more and more!

Next up is one of my favorite Christmas pictures of the year. Lewie, who is the sweetest boy, will always stop to smile if you point a camera at him. I love that about him. But, he decided to organize all his new presents by carrying them across the room–all at once.

It was funny to watch, he’d taken approximately one step when I stopped him for the picture. He took one more and the pile collapsed. He stooped down and restacked everything and started again. Three tries before his mom just took half the pile and helped him out.

Clay and Tom headed downstairs to set up some new toys and I never went to look, so I have no photos of that, but Lew and Mindy were putting Legos together in the dining room.


Legos are a LOT of work. Wowza.

I was teasing Lew about the names of his new Legos and he was laughing at me, he looked so cute I picked up my camera and said, “look at me, Lew”:

Every time! I love that kid.

I left about 8:30 to head to my parents. Things were very low-key there. They were just hanging out. Then when my brother arrived, the four of us played music trivia until the wee hours of the morning. I really mean wee. I didn’t leave there until 4:00am. Then, I still had some presents to wrap when I got home. That was one long night!

But, it was a relaxed, calm and fun Christmas eve, full of family and friends. I sure couldn’t ask for more!

To Your Next 30 Years

The very happiest of birthdays to my baby brother.

He’s 30 years old today.

Somehow he’s gone from this:


(Oh how I wish that wasn’t blurry, but you get the point…)

to this:

Guess you haven’t changed that much after all, Cracker.

You’re a star! (I know it was cheesy, but you liked it. Admit it.)

And besides, Emmy would never blog about you. I win!

Here is my all-time favorite picture of you (not surprising, I’m in it, too):

I hope you enjoy 30. When you’re turning 60, I’m throwing you a damn party, like it or not.

Happy Birthday, Zack!