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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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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Mars Meets Venus: When Worlds Collide

Posted on December 20, 2009. Filed under: Mars vs. Venus | Tags: , , , |

This is the third of a series of posts in which I’ll provide my female perspective on selected topics, while fellow blogger, Jamey Stegmaier, provides his male perspective. We’ll link and post before reading what each other wrote.  Topics we will be discussing will be ones that may be better understood or further examined once considering the perspective of each gender. Note that Mars is a single guy, while Venus is in a long-term committed relationship – not that that would impact our opinions or anything…

Here in the U.S., PlentyofFish and Match.com have the market cornered.  Online dating sites have become the most popular way for singles to meet each other over the past decade.  Approximately 20 million people are active on these sites every month.  While I have never sought love online, I’m sure the process goes something like this:  you decide you’re ready to be someone’s other half, you’re tired of the same ol’ scene, you know of friends who have done it — maybe even been successful — so you register for an account.  You stress over what photo to use; you want one where you look great, but not so great that you set your potential mate up for disappointment.  You try to summarize yourself in a way that will sound intriguing to the type of person you are trying to attract.  You browse the merchandise and wait for the inquiries to start rolling in. 

If I were on the hunt, this may be a viable option for meeting a mate — if it weren’t for one thing.  The whole meeting the mate part.  The idea of getting to know someone online, and developing a romantic relationship before ever meeting them in person would scare the bejesus out of me!  Online, we have the opportunity to craft our words.  To think about the impression we are making.  To backspace.  So when an online relationship crosses the line into real life, there is the potential that the connection will be lost in the conversion.  That’s the kind of build-up that would make me too nervous to enjoy myself (absent some liquid courage – which would probably make the wrong impression).  Therefore, I doubt that online dating would ever be an option for me.

But little did I know that I would be embarking upon a similar experience when starting My Life, Incomplete. 

A little background for those of you who haven’t been reading since inception:  I started this blog in September 2009 and in early October, I stumbled across Jamey Stegmaier’s blog in a tag surf.  We started by commenting on each other’s blogs, as we had an appreciation for each other’s writing and humor.  But from there, an online friendship developed.  We’ve exchanged stories, advice, laughs and support.  We started the Mars vs. Venus series.  I never imagined that we’d meet in person. 

This weekend, my boyfriend, Doug, and I went to St. Louis for a get-away weekend.  We’ve frequented this beautiful city throughout our relationship, and have made it a tradition to spend my birthday weekend there.  Jamey and I made arrangements in advance for the three of us to meet up for a drink on Saturday.  I wasn’t exactly nervous, but not knowing what to expect created a little pre-meet jitters.  I joked to Jamey in email, “what if we’re totally awkward with each other when we meet?  What if we connect here online, but in person you’re a tool?”  His response: “It could happen.  A tool doesn’t know he’s a tool, does he?” 

Turns out, he isn’t a tool at all.  We met at a quiet little bar with about eight bar stools (Jamey’s recommendation).  Doug and I arrived first.  For a second, we thought we might be in the wrong place.  It was us and the bartender.  Then Jamey walked through the door.  Looking just like his signature red-background picture (you know the one). 

Walking from the car to the door, I said to Doug “what do I do when we meet?  I mean, what’s the acceptable and expected greeting?  Do I shake his hand?”  Doug said, “you’ll hug him.”  I didn’t.  He walked in and extended his hand, first to Doug, then to me.  We ordered our drinks and headed downstairs.  Ahhh…  there’s a downstairs!  Very cool wine-cellar-meets-dark-lounge ambiance.  We chatted for nearly three hours. 

Jamey was pretty much exactly what I expected — put together, friendly, a great conversationalist and a perfect gentleman.  Aside from being a blubbering idiot, I’m pretty sure I was what Jamey expected as well.  If you recall, I mentioned I would need a little liquid courage in a situation such as this.  So I had a few beers.  Four, to be specific.  And halfway through number three, I had a lot of liquid courage.  I was all over the board, conversationally.   But I was myself. 

I think the big take-away here, if there has to be one, is that blogging is likely a better foundation for building online relationships than dating sites.  I didn’t choose my picture based on any pretense of meeting someone.  While I do craft my writing to be what I consider a good representation of my writing skills — I’m not doing it to shape someone’s opinion of who I am as a person.  And I believe the same is true for other bloggers, Jamey included.  So when we met, we got what we expected.  The same person we got to know online. 

Or so I think.  Let’s find out if Jamey agrees…

Related posts on MLI:

Here’s where it began…

Mars vs. Venus: What Does Tiger Woods Owe the Public?

Mars vs. Venus: What Women Want… Rather, What I Want

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Mommy Jail

Posted on December 10, 2009. Filed under: Stories | Tags: , |

I’m really bad at getting to the grocery store.  I HATE grocery shopping to the extent that I’d probably rather die than shop for groceries.  Therefore, it very easily falls to the bottom of my to-do list on a regular basis.  It’s stupid, I know.  I realize that I end up spending a fortune more than I have to on meals for the week between when I run out of food and when I get to the store.

I even typically drag my son to the store with me.  I could very easily go on the days that he is with his dad, but having him with me makes the dreaded chore slightly more tolerable.  I feel especially guilty when I let the cupboards (are they still called that??) become so bare that I’ve run out of healthy options for Braden.  And it is nothing more than the guilt (not the excessive spending, lack of food in the house, inconvenience of having to pick up dinner every night – none of it) that gets me to the store before we lick the last grain of salt off the shaker.  Well, most of the time anyway.  I’ve been licking salt for three days now.

And so, last night, Braden says to me:  “Mom, can I have some fruit?”

“Sorry honey, we don’t have any food in the house.  We have to go shopping tomorrow.”

“Can I have some apple juice?”

“Nope, none of that either.”

“How ’bout some milk?”

“Milk I can do.  Wait — never mind, it’s gone bad.  Looks like it’s gonna be water.”

This morning Braden comes in my room as I’m getting ready for work and says:  “Mom! I’m hungry for a snack.  Don’t you got some fruit or somefin?”

“No, babe, I don’t.  I told you last night.  We have to go to the store today.”

Today, I picked him up from school and decided it was way too cold to go to the store.  Braden asked for McDonald’s.  To which I replied, “we had McDonald’s last night!  They’ll put me in mommy jail if I take you to McDonald’s again today!”  Ten minutes later I pulled into the McDonald’s drive through.

“NO!  MOM!  What are you doing!?!??  They’re going to take you to mommy jail!  Look! [he points] There’s Burger King! We can go there.”

Good thing they have apples and milk.

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Overheard: Bob is Weird, I am Funny, My Son is my Dad, I am Special

Posted on December 1, 2009. Filed under: Overheard | Tags: , |

The “brady bits” page is where I post the funniest, cutest, smartest and most surprising things my son says (when I remember to post them before they ended up in the bottom of the brain pile).

But I hear/read/say other funny, cute, smart and surprising stuff all the time. (Yes, I said “say.”) And I’m always so tempted to share them. So I’m going to. In this series of posts called, Overheard.

Just a few quickies:

As she walked into my office with a confused look on her face, the intern asked me, “Is Bob weird?”

“Yep, sure is.  But why do you ask?”

She just got off the phone with him; a call I requested her to make.  She was calling this benefits carrier to ask them to grant site access to a new HR staff member.

“Well… I was talking to him, and he said a sentence that just made no sense.  Threw me off my game.”

“Okaaaaay… What’d he say?”

“I asked him what we need to do to get Kristen access, and he said, ‘Somebody on your end is going to have to contact me.'”

Yeeeeaaaaaahhhhhh… that’s why I’m calling.

My uncle has taken an interest in my blog.  It’s nice because it’s given us something we can connect on, and it comes up every time we get together.  Last night he was mentioning some of his favorite posts.  1-800-COMCAST, it’s on my speed dial is on the list – he liked that I had the customer service rep knowing details about my personal life.  Obscure Injury is another favorite of his because the stories are so real (and probably, moreover, that they are poking fun at my dad).  He’s seen my dad through a lot of these mishaps.  In fact, he was the one who was with on the sledding trip.  I was so pleased to hear that he really got a kick out of reading those stories!

When the story sharing and laughing quieted, he paused, looked perplexed and attempted to say something…

“So your mom, er–“

“Well, your dad is, er–“

“Where did you get your sense of humor from?  Which side of the family!?”

Guess he doesn’t think my parents are very funny.  Which I thought was very funny!

I’ve been in touch with a dear old childhood friend of mine over Facebook.  He and I grew up together as family friends.  He sent me a message in response to some recent pictures I had posted of Braden.  “Dude.  Braden looks like someone cut your dad’s head off and put it on a kid.”  This sentence just cracked me up.  a.  He’s right.  b.  He called me dude, which is just like him… 15 years ago.  c.  Gross!

Our office is under construction.  We are having a new conference room built where the mailroom used to be.  My friend is responsible for overseeing the construction.  She walked up to me by the fax machine outside the new room.  “Yay!  The walls are going up!”

“I know!  The column is finished already,” I responded.

“The column was already there.  You’re so special.”

Related posts on MLI:

Click here to read the first of the Overheard series.

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