Today would have been my Grandma’s 86th birthday.  Tomorrow is my 26th birthday.  We always shared our birthdays; it was like a special little bond between us–though we had many.

I don’t think there’s been a day in the almost 2 years since she’s been gone that I haven’t had a fleeting thought about her or missed her.  We all have amazingly important people in our lives, and she was mine.  She was the one person who always made me feel special, the one person who never asked more than I could give.  I think the mention of her will always cause me to tear up–I will always miss her immeasurably.

But, I think this month has been especially hard not having her here.  So much has happened, so many big, important things that I always dreamed she’d be here for.  Just the mention of her at the wedding sent me running for the bathroom to hide the crying.  When she first got sick and then passed away, I was afraid I would forget or the pain would fade away.  But, it hasn’t.  It’s still here every day and can’t help wishing she could be here.  I suppose it will always be that way.  And I would rather feel that pain and cry those tears, than lose and forget everything she was to me.

I’ll always look at the sun setting, and think of sitting next to her on the couch, looking out her window, commenting on the colors of the sky.


I should be an old pro at moving.  During my childhood, my parents moved from place to place quite frequently.  They’ve been in one place for over 12 years now, but after 5 I trotted out towards college life–and haven’t stayed put anywhere for more than my current 13 month record.

The story of my life is intertwined with the loss, change, and adaptation of moving.  The goodbyes, the fresh starts, the cleaning, the empty space.  I doubt this is unique.  In today’s society of upward mobility the family that stays put in one place is the abnormality.  30 years in a home–let alone a job, is a thing of the past.

Still, my sincerest wish has always been to stay put in one place–one job, one home.  To grow roots so thick and deep that moving them would be torture.  And yet, I look at this new home that is solely MINE and my husbands–and I wonder if I will really want to be there for 30 years.  Perhaps my dreams of country life outweigh my dreams of stability.

It’s been busy around here.  Too busy to ponder one’s future when one’s present is so full.  Yet, my mind is beginning to wander down the path of those future years.  Is stability a reality?  Is the pioneer spirit, is Pa Ingalls, ingrained upon our genetic makeup and staying still would end the adventure?  Has my past directly decided my future?  Is moving in my blood?  Will growing roots ever satisfy?

Usually, I don’t like uncertainty.  But, in this case, this far down the road… I like the not knowing.  It is the journey, after all, not just the ending destination.  So much of my life has been spent waiting for the next thing to happen–to graduate, to get married, to have a career, and so on and so on.  I feel like I’m finally at a point where I can sit back and enjoy the here, the now.  I’m excited for the future, for a family–but I’m not rushing it, I’m not pining after it.  I’m living one day at a time–I never thought that would be fulfilling, but with my future stretched out before me–it finally feels satisfying.

April has always been a special month for me.  Growing up around people who gardened and loved flowers, I have always felt that anticipation for the cool, wet month of April when things start to grow.  My perfect day would be April, in the woods, wet ground slipping beneath my feet exploring the early wildflowers–Spring Beauties, Dutchman’s Britches, Violets.

April also, at times, meant spring break or Easter. It’s always meant my birthday, which was always made even more special by the fact that my Grandmother’s birthday was the day before mine.  This usually meant a trip to Iowa and a walk with Grandma through the slippery woods in search of those wildflowers to pick and put in small jars that would soon litter Grandma’s fireplace mantle and window sills.

The past few April’s lost their glitter with the illness and eventual passing of my Grandma, but I feel like it’s back this April.  It seems only appropriate that two of the biggest events in my life are going to take place this April–the month that has always had a special place in my heart.

I’m getting married in less than two weeks, surrounded by woods.  I don’t know what the weather will be like, but the way it’s going the ground will be slick.  I just hope the sun comes out long enough to encourage some of those early rising wildflowers.

Three days after that, we’ll close on the house and begin the moving in process.  A moving in that will (God-willing) stick more than the 13 month record I currently hold for staying in one place since I turned 18.

I’m ready for those roots to stretch and grow.  I’m ready for the beginning of a new road and a blossoming of family.  And, even though that means adulthood and all it’s messiness, this April is giving me the boldness to think I can do it.

Today I woke up thinking about my 20th birthday.  I was a sophomore in college, living in the dorms.  I woke up that day nervous because I was the queen of birthday celebrations.  I was the one who decorated doors and bought little treats.  So, if it was MY birthday–who would take this over for me?  Still, I hoped.  I felt butterflies as I climbed down my bunk ladder.  My roommate was dead to the world and I decided to peak out the door expecting some streamers or a balloon or even a sign.


The rest of my friends began to wake up and we started our little stroll over the dining hall.  My heart was in my throat.  They had forgotten.  Or maybe, there was a surprise waiting for me later on that day?  No, they had just forgotten.

At breakfast, they chatted and ate and I choked down some cereal.  I tried to think about anything but the fact that no one seemed to remember it was my birthday.   We started the walk back to our dorms and one of my friends turned around to me and said, “Oh, hey, isn’t it your birthday?”

I nodded.

“Oh, we’re sorry.”  The apology seemed sincere, I couldn’t fault them that.  But, it hurt.  And maybe it shouldn’t have.  It is such a small thing to have people wish you a happy birthday–to want to celebrate, but perhaps that is what hurt so much–they couldn’t even do such a small thing for me.

I hadn’t decorated doors and celebrated birthdays in the past to get the same treatment returned to me.  I did all that because it was fun, because birthdays and holidays in my home had always been a big deal and I wanted to keep that up.   But, I suppose I took for granted the idea that no one one would feel obligated to return the effort to me.

I cried that day when I was alone in the bathroom.  I got a belated sign on my door and e-cards, but it all felt hollow.  I knew I was being melodramatic, but I couldn’t help it.  I had wanted to be remembered, not pitied.

I never told them how upset I was.  Or how upset I was that on my 22nd birthday a similar scene was replayed–only this time no one “forgot” they simply hadn’t “awakened” yet.  I ended up having a fantastic birthday that year, so I always try to talk myself out of the bitterness, but the fact of the matter is, I’m always afraid to be excited about anything that involves me relying on other people.

I was almost afraid to have this wedding in the beginning because I was afraid those I love would fail me in some way.  And, I knew, it would be my own fault because I can’t seem to ask people for the things I most want.  I don’t know how to ask people to show me they care–because then that takes the meaning out of it if I’ve asked for it.  I tell myself I’m being ridiculous, twisted, and hanging on to expectations way outside what I should or even what I deserve.  But, as all this pre-wedding hoopla starts, the knot in my stomach is forming.  I’m afraid to be disappointed, afraid to yet again feel (irrationally) like no one cares.  After everything my parents, R, and R’s family has done for me, I want to wish these feelings away–because they’ve all shown in huge ways that they care.

But, I suppose part of me is still that teenage girl, awkward and silent.  Somewhere deep down I’m still hoping for someone to take notice, to care, to give me some sort of sense of recognition as being important.

In the weeks and months after that 20th birthday, I promised myself I would never let my self-worth be determined by my friends–because I would never be happy with the outcome.  But, right now, I’m failing.

I think I’ve mentioned many times that when I was a little girl I spent a lot of weeks at my Grandmother’s house in rural Iowa.  It was my favorite place in the world and sometimes those memories are still so real and visceral it’s hard to come back to this place where she’s no longer here and so much of that magic is lost.

I can still remember each part of the day clearly, but one of my favorites was morning.  Grandma would be in the kitchen making herself breakfast or cleaning, she’d have the AM radio on low listening to news show and politics show.  Now, I’m not sure if she so much listened as was comforted by the sounds of voices in a somewhat lonely house.  The sounds were all muffled and muted, but they were there and they were always comforting.

Today, we’re being pelted by freezing rain and my school had not yet canceled (now we’re working on an early release, but I am the only teacher that is here presently).  I was under the WRONG impression that local AM radio stations would give out the school closings, not say, “hey, go look at our website.”  Hard to do when DRIVING.

Anyway, they get through with the local news and up next is Paul Harvey.  I’m not going to lie, I cried a little here.  That’s probably not the reaction most have to Paul Harvey and his old, gravelly voice, but it was so much a part of those mornings at Grandma’s.  Her old radio, occasionally bursting with static, Paul Harvey and Rush Limbaugh’s craggly voices bellowing through the room as pots and pans clinked together, cabinets softly banged closed.  I could smell the rain on a spring day and hear a fan whirring quietly up the basement stairs.  It was so quick, so poignant, to be back in that place that had been my ultimate refuge and it literally hurt to not be there–and know that being there would never be an option again.

For some reason, February typically marks the time in the year when I start to become socially conscious.  Last year, I was beginning to think, talk, and research local eating and sustainability.  By July I had kind of given up on all that.  Not because I didn’t believe it, more because I wasn’t in a very good place and when it is a struggle to see the purpose and meaning in my life, the pathetic attempts I was making to live a more eco-friendly life just depressed me even more.

This February, I’m back thinking about sustainability.  In my mind, I’ve been planting my container garden in the new house and virtually recycling! Hell, I put pots on my wedding registry.  I’m getting out my Barbara Kinsgolver and sharpening my desire to live simply.  (Simply with a laptop, of course).

I’ve been thinking about my writing.  About how badly I want to tell a story that means something–and how I continuously fail at that beyond the romance novel medium.  For the first time in my writing life, I am thinking I want to attempt literary fiction.

I’ve also been cooking up a project for my students getting them to think about apathy.  I’m a pretty apathetic person, but there are certain issues I care deeply about.  There has always been something, ANYTHING that I believed in, felt some passion towards.  Sometimes, honestly, I think my students are blank slates of all sorts of empty.  It may not be true, but I need them to reassure me that there is something there beyond the laissez faire attitudes and utter lack of motivation.

And then there’s my educational research class and my attempt to write a paper on the need for grammar basics to be retaught at the 12th grade level.  I have delusions of grandeur thinking I can make this more than just an assignment.  Thinking I can truly create something revolutionary.

In other words, February is a time for all kinds of crazy.

This is my 100th post.  Woo.  That’s pretty good for a blog that started just over 3 months ago.  Thinking of my 100th post brought to mind kindergarten and how we celebrated the 100th day of school, you know?  Counting 100 Cheerios and marshmallows and doing all sorts of hundredsy things.

So, I tried to come up with something along the same lines.  I thought I could take pictures of things in hundreds (like the hundreds of snowflakes that are supposed to descend in hours—crossing my fingers for a snow day tomorrow—or the hundreds of skittles in the 56 ounce bag my Mom bought me at Costco).  I thought about doing 100 things, or posting 100 times on the 100th day.  Perhaps listening to 100 songs and listing them for you.  I could eat those 100 skittles and blog each bite.  I even thought of giving out one hundred hugs, but I hate to hug, even people I know. So many options—and yet, I settled for the most boring one.

You’re hereby invited to the 100th post edition of 100 things about me!

1.    My name is Nicole
2.    My birthday is in April, meaning my birthstone is diamond and I am a Taurus.
3.    I live in Missouri
4.    I have lived in 4 states (Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska)
5.    My favorite candy is tropical punch Now & Laters
6.    I do not like potatoes (unless they are French fried)
7.    Clowns scare the bejeezus out of me.
8.    I grow vegetables (tomatoes and peppers last summer)
9.    When I was a baby, I enjoyed baby food carrots and sweet potatoes so much that I began to tint orange.
10.    In my 25 (almost 26) years, I have lived in roughly 20 different houses/apartments.
11.    I like to tell people that.
12.    On my first day of 8th grade in a new school, I had to sit in ISS because my old school did not forward my shot records.  I sat in that empty room, crying and trying to read The Sun Also Rises. My Mom later told me she brought my records at 9am—yet I sat there ALL DAY.  I will never forgive that school.
13.    When R. first asked me out—I was totally clueless and invited all of our coworkers on our “date.”  A mutual friend had to explain to me that he was actually asking me out on a date.
14.    I used to be obsessed with the show Friends.  I wore Central Perk and that picture of them eating ice cream T-shirts.  In high school.  It is no wonder that I never had a date.
15.    My favorite book of all time is Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.  It saved my soul.
16.    Speaking of books, I love romance novels—but only those by Nora Roberts.
17.    Speaking of romance novels, I’ve written four completed romance novels and self-published them.
18.    However, I cannot write a sex scene to save my life.
19.    Therefore, I do not send them in to real publishers.
20.    NaNoWriMo ’02 was the first time I’d actually ever finished one of my novels.
21.    I love chocolate cupcakes.
22.    I wish I could go on Jeopardy (I promise I would not tell a lame story!)
23.    My Friends knowledge severely scares my future in-laws.
24.    When I was in elementary school, I named my bike Lightening and pretended he was a horse as I rode through the neighborhood without a helmet.
25.    I played with Barbies… until 7th grade.
26.    For 2 or 3 months, I came home and watched the animated Anastasia every day after school.  I was in high school.  This may also explain the no-date thing.
27.    My Grandpa owns an airport for antique planes.
28.    He also has a dog cemetery around his house.  (One dog has its own stone).
29.    Violas are my favorite flower.
30.    Sweet Valley High was a large writing influence.
31.    I had the Saved by The Bell board game.  It was as awesome as you might imagine.
32.    I also had the Sweet Valley High board game, also awesome.  I was always Elizabeth.
33.    I once pushed my sister into a wall, causing her to crack part of her head open and required a small amount of stitches.  Oops.
34.    I kind of used to be in love with Harrison Ford.  Luckily, I am over it.
35.    Ditto David Schwimmer.
36.    I could watch Band of Brothers over and over and over and over.
37.    The coolest place I’ve ever been is Hawaii.
38.    I have never left the U.S
39.    I have never broken a bone (knock on wood).
40.    I believe in God.
41.    I do not go to church.
42.    I am letting my Mom plan about 95% of my wedding—because I hate planning things.
43.    I used to sell drunk people beer because I was afraid of their reaction otherwise.
44.    I don’t hate cops.
45.    My senior year of high school I was involved in a club called Youth in Government.  I was a lobbyist and managed to kill a pro-gun bill.
46.    I was then voted most likely to beat up the kid with the pro-gun bill.
47.    I currently (and probably for the majority of my future) live with a gun in the apartment/house.  (Because I live with a cop).
48.    I don’t go 24 hours without a pop.
49.    When I moved to St. Louis, I promised myself I would never call pop soda—I’m about a ½ and ½ -er now.  Sometimes it’s pop—sometimes soda.
50.    I stole 2 books from Truman’s library—I still got my diploma.
51.    When I was in 5th grade, I was determined I would become the first woman major league baseball player—apparently you have to practice a lot and be good, though.
52.    I have a Bo Hart jersey (you are awesome if you know who he is).
53.    I wish I had a Joe McEwing jersey.
54.    I hate Tony Larussa
55.    When I worked at a state park with R. I would bring goldfish everyday in my lunch.  One day, my Mom bought Garfield shaped goldfish.  I took them in my lunch, but didn’t like them.  R. said I was crazy, they were the same thing.  Four years later, R. still brings this up.  I like to think it’s what made me irresistible to him.
56.    When I was in middle school, my sister and I used to watch Oklahoma! Constantly and try to do the “Kansas City” dance.
57.    We also made a “American Gladiator” type obstacle course in our basement and pretended to be on the show.
58.    In 7th grade, I was on the middle school basketball team.  At the end of our season, the morning announcements went through our point stats.  I was last.  Nicole: 1.  Technically, I had made both free throws, but I stepped over the line voiding the second.
59.    My best friend in elementary school and middle school ate grass and sucked on rocks.
60.    She also got me to read Elf Quest (If you know what that is… I’m a little scared).
61.    On my 22nd birthday, a guy followed me and my friends home from the bars and took his pants off in our yard.  He started banging his head on our door and I had to call the cops.  It was the best night ever.
62.    I almost choked to death on a starlight mint… twice.  I coughed it out once in a grocery store parking lot, the other time my aunt had to give me the Heimlich.
63.    For my sixteenth birthday, I asked for (and got) a kerosene lamp.
64.    I would often light it in my room and imagine I was a pioneer.
65.    I used to write historical fiction (romance).
66.    I used to collect unicorns—a collection my Grandma started me on and I haven’t added to since she died.
67.    She also gave me most of her santa collection, which I continue to add to.
68.    My greatest ambition for my future (aside from having kids) is to own a barn.
69.    And grow enough fruits and vegetables to live off of.
70.    As much as I want to go local and organic—I don’t recycle.  (Will in the new house though!)
71.    The most relaxing vacation I ever had was Hilton Head.
72.    I failed my permit test the first time I took it.
73.    I hate hockey.
74.    I hate James Joyce—spawn of Satan
75.    I still hold a grudge against the professor who gave me a B in Contemporary Lit even though I got an A on every assignment.
76.    I have seen every episode of more shows than I can count—Friends, Caroline in the City, Brady Bunch, Petticoat Junction, Hogan’s Heroes, Ed, Early Edition and so on…
77.    I would stalk Kyle Chandler without any qualms.
78.    I own three CDs that are made up solely of Civil War music.
79.    I worked as a waitress for 3 weeks—those were possibly the most miserable 3 weeks ever.
80.    I am a Democrat
81.     If Clinton gets the nod, I’ll vote for her.  It might kill my Grandfather.
82.    In the 2000 election, I originally voted for Al Gore but the ticket thing didn’t work.  I took it as a sign and voted for Ralph Nader.
83.    I hate giving out D’s and F’s—even to students I dislike.
84.    I am always cold.
85.    A perfect Saturday is lying in bed, under the covers, watching bad TV or old movies.
86.    My favorite meal is roast beef and green beans a la my Mom.
87.    My favorite color is purple.
88.    I hate getting my picture taken because the minute a camera is near my neck seems to go into weird convulsions so I look gross.
89.    I haven’t had my hair professionally cut in 2 years.
90.    A teacher, like a parent, is not supposed to have favorites, but I do.  Sometimes I worry I make it very clear.
91.    Overachievers bother the hell out of me.
92.    People who claim to be overachievers bother me even more.
93.    I yell at people when I drive.  And curse.  A lot.
94.    I love Jimmy Stewart.
95.    I am terrible at video games.
96.    I hate calling people on the phone.
97.    Today, I am wearing a sort of brown and black plaid pair of paints and grey striped socks with black shoes.  I look atrocious.  My students laugh
98.    I drive on empty as long as possible because I hate pumping gas.
99.    My favorite alcoholic beverage is a Long Island Iced Tea.
100.    I spent almost my entire lunch break on this.

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