Archive for December, 2009

A Week of 2009: Favorites

Posted on December 30, 2009. Filed under: Extras! | Tags: , , , , , , |

Of course, some things remain constant over the years.  My favorite person will always be my son.  My favorite food will always be pasta.  But most things change as time goes by and I have new experiences and interests.  Today, I’m listing my favorites of 2009 – things that are new to me this year, and likely to change again in the future.

Place to be:  In my home.  I’m not a homebody (I don’t think) but I am just so happy to have this wonderful, cozy, beautiful new home that it is my favorite place to be – to relax, to hang with others, to play with Braden, to eat, drink and be merry!

New possession:  I guess I’m a bit of an indecisive person – that, or I just appreciate A LOT – because I’m having a hard time deciding between my iPhone, my Canon PowerShot camera, and my new Dell laptop (that I’ve only spent a total of an hour on thus far).  I’m going with the Dell.  My justification is this: the camera is a replacement for a broken Canon PowerShot, so not really new for 2009, and [spoiler] the iPhone will find itself a home elsewhere on this favorites list.

Quote:  “A parent should love their children more than they hate their ex.”

Wine:  Oak Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.  There’s a story here.  At a restaurant I love, I always order the House Cabernet.  The first time I tried it, I was trying to choose the cheapest glass of wine because my friends were buying.  But one sip and I was in love.  IN LOVE.  It is so smooth with not a hint of sweet.  And it comes in monstrous glasses at this particular restaurant.  After about my third visit since my discovery of the House Cab, I decided to ask what it is, so I could enjoy it at home as well.  The waiter gave me the name and when I got home, I began my quest to find this wine.  I started at the usual places I pick up my wine: the grocery store, Target, the liquor store down the street.  No luck.  I searched online and found that the wine is carried at Binny’s.  Binny’s is about 20 minutes from my house, so Doug and I made a trip out there one Saturday.  I made a mental note of how much I would allow myself to spend on a bottle of this wine: $30.00.  I usually buy $10.00 bottles of wine, or Trader Joe’s’ infamous Charles Shaw for $2.99 — so this was going to be a treat.  I search the aisles, but to no avail.  I asked the guy at the wine counter if they carried Oak Vineyards.  He pointed us to the front of the store.  And there it was!!!  (Imagine clouds parting, sun shining down, and church music playing.)  Stacked by the case, I had trouble locating the price.  Once I found it on the back of the display I nearly dropped dead.  $3.99.  My entire world changed at that very moment.  I felt as though I had been very, very, very good and God was rewarding me.  I bought a case.  One for me, one for my friend, one for Doug’s sister-in-law. 

Restaurant:  Reality Bites. This great little place with a trendy atmosphere and amazing menu of tapas and regular meals.  They have great food, friendly wait staff, sexy ambiance and flights of beer and wine.

Pastime: Blogging

Bands:  Train, Zac Brown Band, Nickelback, Three Doors Down, Kings of Leon

Singers:  Rob Thomas, Jamey Johnson

Songs:  Need You Now by Lady Antebellum, Save the Day by Train, Her Diamonds by Rob Thomas, Closer to Love by Mat Kearney, Whatever It Is by Zac Brown Band, Dreamgirl by Dave Matthews Band

Indoor entertainment: ROCK BAND!

Two Things Braden Says: “I’mashowya” ~and~ “You’re the best mom in the whooooollllle world.  I love you sixty hundred.”

Thing I don’t have anymore:  Sirius Radio.  After a year and a half of being spoiled with a huge selection of commercial-free music at my fingertips (in my car, on my computer, on my iPhone), my subscription ran out and I’ve decided not to renew for now.  Damn practical decisions.

Beer:  Bud Light Harvest Wheat.  Yummmm.  So much flavor!  I used to drink Bud Light when I drank beer.  Then they introduced Bud Light Lime, which replaced Bud Light for me in the warm months.  Now this Bud Light Harvest Wheat is replacing Bud Light for me in the cooler months.  Bye Bye, Bud Light!

Fashion trend: Long baggy sweaters/shirts, leggings, chunky boots, leg warmers.  Yes, all worn together.  I was going to include brightly colored jelly bracelets, but I’m afraid you might come kick me back into the 80s, and I have no desire to re-live grade school what-so-ever.

Color: Teal.  Okay, come and get me.  I deserve it.

Book: Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Make-my-life-easier item:  Hands down, my iPhone.  Phone, camera, calculator, Internet, email, maps, directions, Google (voice activated search, translator, reader), weather, music,  alarm clock, voice recorder, photo album, video player, address book, calendar, handheld game, time-passer, babysitter… ALL IN ONE!

Blog Post (mine):  So hard to say, they’re all so good!  So I’ve “narrowed it down” to seven.  Obscure Injury, I don’t remember God., Old LaurenThe Perfect DateAn Awesome Little Team, In the Face of Fear and You Can Have the Blender, I’ll Keep the Friends

Blog Post (other):  Yesterday and today, as I mentally prepared this post, I was debating between a couple of favorite posts I’ve read on other blogs.  Which one will make the list?  And then today I read a post that trumps all other posts I’ve read this year.  Penelope at Single Mom Adventures wrapped up the month of December with this beautiful post of gratitude. 

These are the topics that come to mind now.  I think it will be fun to compare this list with the same list for 2010. 

What are your favorites this year?

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A Week of 2009: Memories Made

Posted on December 29, 2009. Filed under: Stories | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This has been a fun-filled year!  This post may be a little bit more for me than for you — but I hope that it will at least inspire you to reminisce about your good times had during 2009.


I’m pretty sure nothing memorable happened in January.  In fact, I’m positive nothing memorable happened — or I’d remember it.  So I’ll skip to February…


This is the month I met the rest of Doug’s family.  You can read about that in yesterday’s post


My favorite weekend of the year was the one when Doug and I went with another couple to St. Louis to watch the Redbirds play in the Missouri Valley Conference.  Oh my God, did we have a blast!  The games were awesome and the weather was amazing.  It was the beginning of March and it was 70 degrees.  We ate and drank outside and just had more fun than I did the rest of the year!

My mom started an email exchange of family memories.  For about a week we were all just sending emails with lists of new memories that popped into our heads.  It was such a nice long distance bonding experience.  I didn’t want to lose them, so I compiled them all into one and posted them as a note on Facebook.  (I think I’ll go read it again after I’m done with this post.)

Nothing memorable in April…


I went to three Cubs games in May, which means it was a great month!  I should mention that I have four favorite things to do in the summer:  1. spend the day at the race track (horses)  2. listen to live music outside  3. go camping  4. go to Cubs games!  One of these games was particularly special because it was Braden’s first game!  He was sooooo excited to “go at the Cubs” with Mommy, Doug and Mimi.  He actually paid attention to the game — for about 5 minutes.  And then he took to crushing peanut shells.  First ours, and then any that he could find.  We ultimately resorted to brushing them off the ledge of the next section up onto the ground so he could crush some more.  Also of note, after about four trips to the concession stand and/or bathroom, he was pretty confident that he knew the way.  So the next time he had to go to the bathroom, he told me he was going to go by himself because “I know how to go there.”  I was like – “yeah right!” but he climbed over the seat to head off.  I followed him, about three feet behind.  He didn’t know I was there.  It was so cute watching his little three-year-old body from behind, manuever around people and make his way to the lind for the men’s room.  I was actually pretty surprised that he found his way and politely got in line.  Then, of course, I stood there with him. 

Doug, Braden and I went on vacation to visit my parents in Florida.  We go to Florida two or three times a year, so this is no novel event – it’s just always so nice to do!


Months of preparation came to a head one awesome Friday in June.  Doug moved into his house in June of 2008.  He has been making improvements to the interior of his home since day one.  However, the exterior left a little something to be desired.  There is a wonderful front porch that was going to waste and as a lover of the outdoors, home decor and spending money, I just couldn’t let it go on for one summer longer!  So week by week I gathered items and stored them at his parents house.  Then I took a day off work on a Friday and my crew (his mom, sister-in-law and my friend) and I got a 5:30 a.m. start.  We spray painted white wicker furniture to a luscious brown and donned them with beautiful cushions, hung ferns, painted the rail, painted the old wood rocker cream, layed a rug and a door mat, spray painted all metal things bronze, hung a clock and thermometer and a decorative ledge, potted plants to set on the new plant stands, filled the galvanized tub with ice and beer, played a playlist of Doug’s favorite music and awaited his arrival from work.  His surprise when he stepped foot on that porch was worth every penny and hour spent!  And then, because his porch was so beautiful, we decided we had to paint the rest of the house…


Braden and I spent independence day alone together.  It was an AWESOME DAY!  We laid out a blanket the night before so that we could have a front row seat at the parade.  Doing the things that I did as a kid with my son is such a rewarding experience.  I just love experiencing childhood through his eyes.  We spent the rest of the day doing fun stuff.  We walked to the festival downtown, we ate bratwurst and then we watched the fireworks.  He fell asleep in my arms during the finale.  It was the perfect day.


I got to share one of my favorite summer activities – going to the racetrack – with my boyfriend in August.  He had never been to the horse races.  I was so pleased that he loved it as much as I do!  We didn’t really win any money — but then, that’s not what I go there for anyway.


Doug and I took a road trip to Panama City Beach with another couple.  We had a two bedroom condo with a big balcony that overlooked the beautiful ocean and white sandy beach.  It was my first real vacation (not visiting family, no kid in tow) in seven years.  Let’s just say it was hard to get on the return flight…

I started My Life, Incomplete in September, which is step one of chasing a dream of mine.  It’s a small step, but I have to start somewhere.  I’ve said this before, but I’ve gotten so much more out of this experience than I bargained for.  I’m looking forward to watching it grow and reaching my goals!

Braden and I moved into our new home, which is a life event symbolic of planting roots.  After two years of up-in-the-air, we have a home of our own — which has become a peaceful sanctuary to me.  We deserve this!


I attended the wedding of a dear old friend and was moved by this perfect union.

My uncle took Braden and I to the zoo to see the dinosaur exhibit.  It was such a nice day spent together.  Braden was hilarious in that he wanted nothing to do with the dinosaurs.  At first he cried and begged us not to make him go.  So we went to see some animals instead.  By about an hour into the day, he was begging to go see the dinos.  He actually really enjoyed it and talked about those dinosaurs for weeks to come. 

My cousin came to visit from Colorado.  He is eight years younger than me.  We have not had the opportunity to spend much time together at all.  In fact, I was in my early twenties the first time I met him and his two younger brothers.  (They are actually the sons of my cousin, whom I do not know.)  We spent six days together and had a great time getting to know each other better, visiting the city (amazing how much more you see when visiting as a tourist rather than a suburbanite!), hanging out with my friends, killing it on Rock Band and eating lots of pizza.

November – What a packed-full month! 

A historic event happened in November.  I had dinner with Ex-Husband’s Girlfriend.  There was no reason for this dinner date other than to get to know each other.  We shared a bottle of wine, stories, laughter and tears over our three-hour sitting at WildFire.  It was a perfect night!  The waitress thought we were crazy, we’re sure.  There began a much-needed connection and friendship between us. 

I had the pleasure of packing food with my coworkers at Feed My Starving Children.  The experience propelled me into action and I am now committed to giving more of myself than just my pocketbook to those in need.  I look forward to a year of giving in 2010!

Doug’s family came to my house for a birthday party for Braden.  I live two hours from them and they had never been to my home.  I was so thrilled to have them as my guests.  It was amusing, packing that large family plus my mom, my son and me into my tiny townhouse – but a wonderful day that Braden and I will always remember. 

Thanksgiving.  Too many personal details would be necessary to explain this day.  Let’s just say it was both good and bad.  But the best part was that Braden had the experience of sharing a nice holiday meal with his mom, dad and dad’s girlfriend.  And that was something to be thankful for. 

December – Another busy, busy month!

So many fun events took place this month, but I’ll just mention the monumental ones here.

I had the pleasure of attending two of Doug’s sons’ high school basketball games for the first time.  Watching them play, I could see their dad in them.  They are awesome athletes and adorable boys.  It was an honor to see them play in person, and definitely worth the three and half hour trip!

I got news that I will be published in print for the first time in my life!  This is definitely the most exciting news I got all year!  Keep your eye out.  I’ll be sure to let you know when my essay runs in Chicago Parent Magazine during the first quarter of 2010!!

Braden and I had the most lovely Christmas, spent with Doug’s family at his parents’ house.  Braden was thrilled — I think he had his best Christmas yet!  We don’t have any other little ones on my side of the family and his cousins on his dad’s side live in another state.  So he had a blast playing with the other kids and sharing their new toys.  I was filled with joy, witnessing him experience the holiday as a part of a big, happy family — something my ex and I can’t give him.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my year.  Now, tell me about yours!

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A Week of 2009: New Relationships

Posted on December 28, 2009. Filed under: Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

The days are numbered, indeed.  2009 is on its way out and I thought it a good time to pay it some respect and due credit.  So this week on MLI will be a week of 2009. 

When I first typed the title of today’s post into my WordPress post editor, I typed “A Week of 2009: Outstanding People in My Life.”  And then I decided that I might offend the fabulous people I know and love who may not have made mention.  So rather, I’d like to share some of the new, rewarding relationships that have blossomed for me this year.

1. Doug’s Family – I met Doug in 2008 because I knew his brother and his sister-in-law.  I did not, however, have the pleasure of getting to know the rest of his family until this year.  I have never known a group of people as warm and inviting as the Xxxxxxs.  The first time I stepped foot in his parents’ house, I was greeted with a hug, a smile, and a face lick (from his mom, his dad and their dog – in that order).  I bonded with his mom and other sister-in-law instantly, and Braden with the children.  I am so blessed to have all three of these women, their husbands and their children in my life.  They are such a fun (and loud) bunch – and I look forward to any time I get to spend with them.  My son and I have been treated like members of the family and we could not be more thrilled to play the part. 

2.  My Work Girls – I started my job at the end of 2008, and over this past year have had the pleasure of making friends with five fabulous women.  I think to make one real friend at work would be noteable, but five!?  My good fortune is evident in this truth.  These are not just eat-lunch-together friends.  These are girls who I laugh and cry with.  We share stories, meals, life events and funny graphics.  These are my friends — and I am so grateful to have them in my life!

3.  My Online Community – This sounds very cheesy to those of you who know me in the flesh, rather than digitally.  But this is where the old cliche “don’t knock it ’til you try it” comes in handy.  When I decided to start this blog in October, I had no idea what to expect.  I thought I would write some stuff in hopes that “the right person” would read it and I’d land some freelance work or something.  What I got instead was this online community of friends: writers, moms, single parents, divorcees, entrepreneurs.  These are not the people I’d go to if I want to get out of the house and have a good time.  They are not the people I call when I need a shoulder to cry on.  But they are people with similar interests as mine, and a supportive nature that helps make chasing my dream seem a little less ridiculous.  I am grateful for the online relationships I’ve formed.  This goes for all of you, but a few in particular who stand out are: Los Angeles Single Mama, Jamey Stegmaier and Tiffany Noth.

4.  Ex-Husband – True, I’ve known him for almost 13 years.  So how does he fall on my list of new relationships formed in 2009?  I have had the pleasure of forming a new relationship with a known entity over the past year.  In the first 10 years, we dated, we married, we became parents, we divorced.  All of those stages were very difinitive.  After the divorce, however, our lives and our relationship took the symbolic form of a big question mark.  2008 was a mess for me, which rendered me unable to, and uninterested in, dealing with defining my relationship with my ex.  Though the road to the present was rocky, the 2009 journey is ending in a good place.  Our relationship, in my opinion, has been redefined.  We are now co-parents, in the truest form.  We are friends by circumstance, who support and respect each other and have vowed to work together as a team to provide the best possible upbringing for our son. 

5.  Ex-Husband’s Girlfriend – There is another woman in my son’s life.  This was hard to absorb and accept at first.  I never doubted my ex’s judgment in who he chose to bring into Braden’s life – that wasn’t the problem.  I just had a hard time accepting that when he wasn’t with me, he was with another woman.  But over time, as I began to repair my relationship with my ex, something interesting happened; I began to develop a relationship with his girlfriend.  Now, I have a new friend and Braden has an ideal child-of-divorce situation.  We are truly an odd, but fortunate group!

6.  Courtney – There is nothing more exciting that reconnecting with old friends.  If you’re like me, you probably duck your head in the neighborhood bar when people from your younger days walk in.  Often, it’s just easier to pretend you don’t see each other than to have to put on the niceties.  But sometimes, there is a gem out there — someone who got lost along the way for no reason other than your paths leading in different directions.  And when they cross again, you couldn’t be happier.  Courtney was one of my best friends in high school.  We lost touch after graduation until Facebook brought us back together 13 years later in April 2009.  We have been friends again ever since.  It’s like we never skipped a beat (well, barring the death of her father, our college education, both of our marriages, my son, her two sons, my divorce, her mother’s marriage, two job losses and her at-home daycare – but who’s keeping track?).  The reunion was meant to be; we get together as often as we can, our kids are the same age and enjoy playing together, her husband is awesome and we both love to write.  I’m so happy to have her back in my life!

2009 has been a great year for relationship building and connecting with others for me.  I can’t wait to see what happens in 2010! 

Finally, I ought to add the disclaimer that if I met you this year and I didn’t mention you here, it’s not because you aren’t important to me, it’s just because I forgot you.  (I shouldn’t have to explain my humor here.)

What new relationships have you formed this year?  Who has come into your life and made an impact?

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My Christmas Gift to You

Posted on December 25, 2009. Filed under: Life Lessons | Tags: , |

Each gift was beautifully, meticulously wrapped.  Thick, expensive paper; craft store ribbon and handmade bows; stationery tags; and an occasional ornament topper.  The print on the paper matched up where the ends met, and double-sided tape held the paper in place, so as not to interfere with the beauty of the presentation.  The gifts looked so magnificent, I wished the recipients didn’t have to tear through my efforts to get to the goods.

I was obsessed with gift wrapping.  Every year, people would comment on the beauty of my gifts.  I even entered a gift wrapping contest and won.  I envied the wrappers at Von Maur who had the good fortune of earning money while wrapping gifts all day.

I was reminiscing about my prideful wrapping days as I hurriedly threw some cheap Wal-Mart paper around the gifts of plenty that I wrapped yesterday.  I ran out of tape half way through, so I improvised — I ran to garage and grabbed the tape gun.  Yes, I wrapped gifts with packing tape.  To give credit where due, I did cut it into small pieces with scissors.

The fact of the matter is, reality set in.  For a handful of years I was a working adult with minimal bills and minimal commitments.  My time and money were in greater supply than demand.  Wrapping gifts was half the fun of the holiday for me at that time.   Today, my recipients are lucky if I remember to stick a cheap, flattened bow from the bag on top.  The look on the faces when I’ve nailed what’s inside has replaced the excitement of a perfect presentation.

Merry Christmas to you.  I hope that when you tear back the messy wrap of the holiday preparation, there is a perfect gift of love and happiness for you to enjoy today.


What is your gift wrapping philosophy?

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Are You Kidding Me!? (Thank You, Allstate)

Posted on December 23, 2009. Filed under: Are You Kidding Me!? | Tags: |

After a nice weekend away and a lot of time on the road, I came home to a large stack of mail.  I love mail at the holiday time — don’t you?

Christmas card, birthday card, flyers, bill, Christmas card, Christmas card, Christmas card, birthday card, bill, bill, birthday card, Wait! What’s this? Check from Allstate for $325.00.  WHAT!?

Dear Ms. MLI:
A payment was processed on this auto policy which terminated on October 28, 2009.  If you have any questions blah, blah, blah…

Okay, don’t panic.  DON’T PANIC! 

YOU don’t panic!  How the hell am I supposed to stay calm?  I’VE BEEN DRIVING WITHOUT AUTO INSURANCE FOR TWO MONTHS!

(Yes, I was conversing with myself.)

When I moved, my mail didn’t quite move with me in a timely manner.  So I missed a payment on my auto insurance.  But I paid double the next month and assumed everything was fine.  I went on driving around the state of Illinois as though I was fully insured and not at all at risk of losing everything should an accident occur.  (And I’m not a very good driver.) 

I had a hard time falling asleep Monday night.  I was reeling through the possibilities.  If I get pulled over – $500.00 fine.  I don’t have an extra $500.00!  If I get in an accident – $500.00 fine plus the cost of all repairs, medical bills, etc.  My wages will be garnished!  I could lose my license and therefore my job and therefore my home and therefore my son.  OH MY GOD!!!!

When I “woke up” Tuesday morning, before I took my first breath, I called my insurance agent.  I left a voicemail: “Roman, this is Lauren.  I just received a refund check for making a payment on a cancelled auto policy.  I need to get this corrected immediately!  I’m scared to death driving around in the winter weather without insurance.  Frankly, I’m more than a bit disappointed that after eight years with you, multiple auto policies, a home owner’s policy, multiple rental policies and a tenant policy, you wouldn’t call me personally before cancelling my auto insurance!”  I mean, c’mon, really!? 

Well, Roman returned my call with the unfortunate news that my six-month rate would be $2000.00 if he were to reinstate me.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? 

I hung up the phone, called Geico, and in a matter of 15 minutes I had a new policy, including roadside assistance, at a rate lower than I was paying with Allstate AND I have that extra $325.00 in my pocket at Christmas time!  Thank you, Allstate – for sucking.

(Besides, Braden loves that stack of money with eyeballs — he laughs at it every time it comes as a mailer insert in my bills.)

Click here to read other “Are You Kidding Me!?” posts on MLI.

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