Life is a massive jigsaw puzzle.

You are constantly trying to find where you belong, the perfect fit: a friend, a teacher, a class, a major, a job, a spouse… the list goes on.

Sometimes the pieces fit. It is perfect and seamless and you know all is right.

Other times you smash the piece in place, where it doesn’t belong, and you fight to make the fit work, even when you know it should be moved.

Sometimes the puzzle ages and you throw it away rather than try to repair it.

Sometimes it is lost.

As a child, I wanted to belong. I’m an extrovert. I wanted people to like me. I found friends in my neighborhood and we fit.

Then one day another girl moved into our neighborhood and altered the puzzle. Suddenly, I didn’t fit anymore.

A few years later I was tossed away, useless, and no other puzzles had room for me.

I did not belong anywhere.

You don’t forget that feeling. Ever. It becomes a part of you, the hurt, the pain, the ache of being less than worthless.

Eventually it made me stronger, but it took time. Four years would pass before I’d find a new puzzle where I was the perfect fit.

I’m the one with the perm on the top left. These were my people, where I belonged in high school (with bonus appearances by by sister (far right) and cousin (lower right). Yes, most of my high school friends were guys, much to my parents’ dismay. I also cannot remember what we were trying to do with our fingers in this photo.

Twenty-five years later, when a friend does something even remotely resembling this situation, where I am not allowed to belong, even for a small event, the hurt comes back.

I know it is not logical.

I know the world does not revolve around me.

I know feeling this way comes off as selfish to those who do not understand.

But the smack of the bat slamming into you, knocking you out of where you thought you belonged, is no less powerful in my imagination than in reality.

My brain cannot tell my gut how to feel.

I will get over it, as the pain fades and logic takes over, because in most cases, the bat is in my thoughts, not in the real world. I have chosen my friends well.

Then I watch my daughter, the child who will befriend another in five seconds at a playground. I see her joy when a child accepts her invite to play.

My daughter befriended the much older daughter of an old friend and she was thrilled. They were intertwined for for the entire visit.

I witness her tears when another says no.

I wonder how I can teach her about shyness or mean girls, without having her go through the pain I did.

Because she is so much like me.

We want to belong.

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Cinnamon Memories

Dear G-pa,

I miss you. Young at heart

Sometimes I forget that you’re gone, aided by the distance between Texas and Iowa. It’s easy to pretend you’re still 900 miles away, waiting for my family to descend so you have an excuse to go down the curly slide, cane and all.

Then I do something crazy, like bake, and the events of last November come flooding back.

Sunday it was banana walnut muffins. I had black bananas to use and figured, “Why not?”

Then I pulled out the cinnamon. Nothing beats fresh cinnamon.

The plastic jar is still labeled in your handwriting, listing the type and the date the cinnamon was made. My favorite, the Batavia Cinnamon, tells me you tested it on July  16th, exactly nine years ago.

I remember for years I had to reduce the cinnamon in recipes if I used it because it was so strong. Even now, NINE YEARS LATER, it is eons better than any I can get at the store.

I don’t think I will ever be able to smell cinnamon and not think of you.

It makes me smile, even as tears spring into my eyes.

I can never forget you.

I miss you, G-pa. 



P.S. The kids loved the muffins.

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Traveling Tales Part 1: The Toothache, Food Poisoning, Severe Weather, & the Middle of Nowhere

I am cursed blessed to be a stay at home parent. This means my children drive me crazy are my employers. The vacation time and sick days are nonexistent but we spend lots of quality time together.

The monetary pay is also lousy. 

This means when it comes time to visit family in Iowa, unless a miraculous deal materializes from an airline, we drive.

June 2013 - Iowa Trip

Why we do the drive…

While there are about 1,235,937 things I would rather do than be driving across the country, I have to admit—my children are normally decent travelers.

This is aided greatly by The Built-in DVD Player.

Okay, I’m lying. This is BECAUSE of the DVD player. My children can handle about two hours (a day) of sitting in car seats, looking out the windows, and reading books. After that, all bets are off.

When half of your trip is seven hours, the DVD player is a vital necessity.

But there are some things a DVD player cannot help with….

Travel Tale Part 1: The Toothache

It was Thursday, the day before we planned to drive from Iowa to Kansas City to visit and stay with most my awesome friend from college, Katie. We’d just taken Lil Diva on a boat ride with my father-in-law and followed it with lunch.

Lil Diva approved of the boat ride. Note pictured: my husband creatively cursing when he jumped into the cold water to ski.

All I did was swish some lukewarm water in my mouth while taking a drink.

And then…. AGONY.

A pain unlike any other hit me and tears welled in my eyes.

From this point on, my tooth would constantly have a dull throb, punctuated with stabbing pain.

Pain that would increase each day.

I was 930 miles from my dentist, so there was little I could do other than pop Advil like candy.

All I remember on the drive from Iowa to Kansas City was my tooth hurt.

We stayed with Katie on Friday and Saturday night. Both nights I awoke in pain, my tooth throbbing. I increased my Advil intake but it only took the edge off.

Saturday fun with Katie’s children.

Our plan was to leave Sunday morning. Early.

Only that isn’t what happened… Continue reading

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