Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Made of Honor, Nervousness, and a Couple of Zingers...

Brought to you by one year of non-blogging by way of focusing on writing this one single speech... here it is, my matron of honor toast from my sister, Colleen's wedding.... Enjoy!.... and then, enjoy again!

The Baby Bride, Colleen a.k.a. "Weener" 

Hi everyone....(nervous).... I'm scared of heights but not as much as I am scared of public speaking. So I thought by convincing Greg (the best man) of being up so high in the rafters (we tried to do the speech from the second story balcony but the microphone wouldn't work) that would make this public speaking thing a bit easier..... (more nervous...worried that my logic doesn't make sense and starting to sense the crowd's empathetic fear for me... gte it together...stop shaking....)

First off, I would like to thank all the friends and family for being here today.... 

Thanks to our mom and dad, Mary Ellen and Paul, and to Mike's parents, Lynn and Dennis, for bringing these two wonderful people into our world. And especially thank you, Colleen, for honoring me as your matron of honor tonight.

In case you couldn't tell I am Colleen's sister. We often get mistaken for twins or confused for each other since people say we look alike... so I made sure to wear a different color dress tonight so that at least Mike and Trevor wouldn't get confused which one is their wife... (Mike-yours is in the sparkly white dress / long hair ; and Trevor - pale pink dress, shorter hair;)

Yes, the Erickson girls all look similar, we laugh similarly, we're about the same height, about the same weight and about the same foot size (changes to "shoooooe size" in actual speech). At face value it's hard to tell a difference, but at our core we each have very unique personality traits that set us apart.

From left to right: Jamie (friendship tattoo friend); Rosalie (other friendship tattoo friend); Lauren (new sister in-law who not-so-surprisingly (fellow oldest sister) seems to possess the angelic behavior and stunning looks of our older sister Bridget; both of whom can easily be mistaken for Princess Kate; the Baby Bride Weener, myself (the weird sister), Nancy (the competitive sister), Bridget (the "angel" child sister), and Adalyn (the next generation "Erickson" girl) 

There's Bridget.... with the angelic behavior who always seemed to have our parents wrapped around her finger and some how manages to make life-long friends everywhere she goes.

Then there's Nancy.... who has a reputation for competitiveness, taking on an insane amount of challenges with her work and family life, constantly busy but always seeming to have control (ad lib line about her children crying during the ceremony...).

There's me, the quirky one, who prides myself on thrift store purchases and trying to make people laugh, and often walking slightly off the beaten path....

... and then there's Colleen....the BABY... who like Bridget has an extra special place in our parents' heart. And like Bridget has made and held on to all the good friends she's come in contact with from St Benedict's, Hazlet Recreation, Allied Health, Rutgers, rugby, Hoboken, Macy's, Lucky Vitamin, and Philadelphia.

Like Nancy, Colleen has a super competitive and fearless nature as evident in her selection of rugby as her sport of choice and her taking on a leadership role in the group.

Like me she enjoys a good flea market purchase and always seems to feel secure in her own skin (semi-sarcastically).

Colleen seems to possess the best of each of us and she also brings out the best in all of us... and not just her sisters.

Assuming you know Colleen you know what I am talking about. I could rattle off her accomplishments to try to illustrate her impressiveness. But the most impressive thing about her is the way she makes you feel about yourself (in semi-sarcastic/semi-uncomfortable tone while being semi-sentimental)... when she's around I always feel a little less stressed, a little more happier, a little more funnier.

Now since Colleen and Mike have set their wedding date in early November on this historical election year... I thought it would be especially appropriate to draw some parallels between some of the obstacles Colleen and Mike will face in marriage, and some of the political obstacles we have been exposed to in the Clinton-Trump debates. Imagine for a minute that Colleen is Hillary Clinton and Mike is Donald Trump....

Just kidding...

Marriage advice number 1: always leave politics out of large family gatherings.... especially when there's an abundance of free alcohol involved.

Back to how I first met Colleen....

Colleen was my first best friend, the first person I have felt personally responsible for, my one and only baby sister... I was very happy when she was born as I now had someone I could dote on, and play with, and teach things....and that I now had an ally in the sibling rivalry with my older sisters Bridget and Nancy .. My first favorite year of life was when both Bridget and Nancy had to go away to school and Colleen and I would play by ourselves in their room breaking their toys and trying on their clothes.

Colleen and I were always close...We shared a room together with bunk beds for a long time... when we got older we started sleeping on the couches together in the playroom watching tv or staying up late talking about life and hiding secrets from mom.

While our older sisters Bridget and Nancy were off exhibiting model citizens behavior with their straight-laced honor roll report cards, student council elections, key club memberships, and prom queen crowns, I took Colleen under my wing.... and encouraged her to listen to Marilyn Manson, dye her hair crazy colors, nearly shave her head, pierce her lip and nose, and start drinking a little earlier than legally allowed.... But as a testament to her wonderful multi-faceted personality and demeanor... she still got into the honor high school... and also went on to be homecoming and prom queen just like her oldest straight-laced sisters...

So although I tried my best to corrupt her, and in many ways I succeeded, Collleen still managed to maintain the role model behavior of Bridget and Nancy... and arguably turned into the most well rounded out of all of us.

And for that I couldn't have been more proud....

I myself never got to be prom queen... but I went to a much larger public school... so there was a lot more competition.... and ya know I didn't even really want to be prom queen anyway...

Growing up I felt a personal responsibility to teach Colleen everything I learned although it was often at the unintentional expense of causing her premature emotional distress... I told her Elvis was dead... I told her Santa Claus was fictional... and I told her that when she grows up and turns into a woman in a few short years she was going to start bleeding out of her butt...

So I believe she developed into a much more realistic understanding of the world because of me.

Colleen has always lived up to the stereotypical youngest child baby personality

1) Youngest children resent not being taken seriously....
Even as a toddler she'd be sucking on her white wrinkled little thumb and snuggling her blankly and mom would say something to her in a baby voice and she'd cowl back "Duh!! Don't you think I don't know that?!"

2) Youngest children are the stereotypical "free spirit" types...
Colleen freely embraced the nickname "WEENER" from childhood into adulthood....
She went and got friendship tattoos with her buddies...
And she has a reputation of being very loose with planning ...As I compared notes with other bridesmaids and family members for this wedding, there was a common theme of "ok so you don't really know what's going on either". And it's not in a sense of neglect or intentional lack of communication... it's just details around planning that just aren't necessary or important to her. She has a lot of faith in things working out as they often do for her.

Even with having to move the ceremony indoors it still was absolutely breathtaking 

3) Parents are often less cautious with the youngest child...
For instance one of Colleen's first word was stuck... she was a baby and couldn't say much but when she'd wake up from a nap and she'd often yell "stuck"!...meaning "help mom my leg is trapped in the crib come get me out cause I know you are ignoring the baby monitor..."

I also have fond memories of feeding Colleen cookie-shaped dog food. You may think that makes me a horrible sister, but don't worry, I was eating them right there with her.

I was also right there with her when I coaxed her into sticking beads up her nose ...resulting in a causal emergency room visit....stuck....

4) Youngest children are the charmers and are naturally entertaining...

Colleen was always good at impressions growing up and always knew how to make us laugh... she always did a good Elvis impersonation... "Bebe" (said in Elvis accent).... she also had a good mother Theresa impression where she'd wrap her blanket around her head and say (in an old, squeeky high pitched voice)..."I, Mother Theresa, must save the children of Calcutta"... She also had an impression of mom which she must have picked up shortly after tax season...picking up a receipt of mom's and exclaiming "what the hell is this?!" (in mean mom voice)

When me and Bridget and Nancy grew up and moved on to college, Colleen still managed to entertain herself ... when she had no one to play with, she somehow managed to train the dog how to play hide and seek with her.

7) Parents are typically less rule oriented with the youngest...

When I got grounded I would have no phone, no TV, and no friends until the original agreed-to time had expired. When Colleen got grounded she would give mom the silent treatment and within a day or two had somehow guilted Mom to take her out shopping to buy her things...

She also managed to stay on Mom's car insurance and have Mom pay her phone bill way longer than the rest of us.. Although Mom just yesterday informed me that now Mom is on Colleen's phone plan... so Congratulations Mary Ellen!

And then there's Mike.....

We didn't know what to think of Mike at first.... We weren't sure how he would fit in... Judging by the rest the Erickson girls' choice of mate.... about 6 feet tall ... (insert crowd laughs)....and ever so slightly receding hairline... (zing!),.... Mike didn't exactly fit the physical mold..... Because Mike is what? just about 5'11 and three quarters? (he is not) and WOW that hair!! (Mike has awesome, jealous-able hair)

Note the beautiful hairline... 

Mike is a fellow middle child, like me. And us "middles" often get a bad rap for being the overshadowed, jealous, "that's not fair," black sheep types...But not Mike ( and not me either).

We have all the positive personality perks of middle children types, without the bad stuff...

1) Middle children are the social butterflies of the family

People are constantly at Mike's house and I feel like every time we go there we meet a new set of friends and leave thinking.. "wow those are really good, fun people." (should have thought of better adjectives... "good" and "fun" are understatements...) And he also maintains these life-long friends from all stages of life.

2) Middle children are team players

And with Mike it's not just on soccer field. When Mike started coming around to family gatherings he would always be pitching in, making a point to bring extra cigars for the guys, showing up at Thanksgiving with a deep fryer and cooking the turkey, showing up at Carstens' slip and slide baby's shower and breaking out the soap... ya know to make the slip and slide extra slippery....

3) Middle children have a lot of patience

We are used to having to wait our turn... and from a fellow middle child who also married a youngest child I can tell you this virtue comes in handy as these youngest child types are prone to losing keys, forgetting their phone or wallet, and generally running late to everything. Patience, my dear, patience....

4) Middle children are also very adventurous, and risk-taking.

Now what is more adventurous then marrying into a family full of women?!

Or buying a brand new house in the ghetto?

Or planning a wedding with a family full of women at the exact same time as buying a house in the ghetto all while adopting a pit bull puppy with an eating disorder?!

There he is... note: that couch no longer exists.... he ate it 

Now I'd like to offer Colleen and Mike some advice for your marriage based on your birth order (compliments of

For Colleen...

As the baby in a relationship, your youngest child personality offers all sorts of fun and excitement. Throughout your marriage, Mike can always count on you to find spontaneous, unexpected ways to amp up the excitement. Always use your social skills for good; and be careful not to abuse your powers (i.e. do not take advantage of your middle child husband).

For Mike....

As a middle child you are well on your way to being a very good partner. Since middle children are the least likely to have been spoiled in any way, you are likely more willing to work hard to create a happy and meaningful relationship. Having experienced your share of conflict growing up in the middle, you may tend to steer clear of it at all costs but be sure to strike a balance and speak up when It matters.

Welcome to the family my new baby brother and fellow middle child, Mike!!  With this last wedding you complete the Erickson girls who are now officially off the market.

To my baby sister Colleen, I love you with all my heart and you are my greatest confidant. With your marriage to Mike you have officially made everyone in our family feel very old....

Now everyone please raise your glasses....

To many many years of health and happiness and may you always remember the fun and excitement of today as long as you live!! To the Tavani's!

Now that you read it... you can hear it and judge my performance ;) If anyone did not run out of phone storage and has the second half of the speech, send it my way!

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Modern Day Fable

This past summer we were in Philly for a weekend trip to attend a wedding and to look at houses to buy when my sister offered to give us my mom's old car which she had previously inherited and subsequently used up the majority of its functioning life.

But, hey, it is a free car.  She might have a couple solid years left in her.  And we are car-less... And after we sign up for this mortgage, we will be money-less too.  We could use the charity... My sister's boyfriend's mother could use the driveway space....So we will take it!!

We picked up my sister's car at her future mother-in-law's house on what was easily the hottest day of the year. My sister and future brother-in-law then head back to Philly and we follow them in our new car which we soon find out does not have functioning air conditioning.  We roll down the windows which is arguably hotter having the scorching air blown right onto your sizzling skin.  We rotate rolling down the windows and attempting a breeze, to closing them back up until we at so hot and stuffy we want to barf.  The steering wheel is too hot to touch.  The hot plastic seats are searing through our bottoms; it is so hot we have goosebumps.  

Then my phone dies from over heat. Then Trevor's phone overheats and also dies.  All is not lost though.  Although we do not know where we are going, my sister and her boyfriend do.  We just have to follow their luxurious subaru whose AC works and is not threatening to shut off their iphone lifeline. We continue to follow my sister and her boyfriend back to Philly.  Just in case Trevor is holding his phone out the window to attempt to cool it off in the breeze and see if he can turn it back on.  It's on for a second then dies again. I try not to lose my sister.  We cannot call them to tell him to slow down... We cannot call them to tell them we do not have GPS anymore. We cannot call them to tell them not to go through the ez pass lane because we do not have ez pass and will surely lose them at the bridge ... And that's exactly what we do.  We are so hot. So angry. So lost.  But at least we have a car!!

We eventually get off the highway in the general direction of the neighborhood bar.  Soaked in sweat. Hungry, thirsty. We cool off our phones long enough to get a signal, find their bar, only have time to order one drink, chug it down and grab some food to go before we have to get  home, showerm, ans spiffy-up for a wedding.

The day after the wedding we have a grueling day lined up to see eight or so houses.  I am terrified by the AC situation.  We stock up on waters. Keep our phones out of the sun.  I cannot even remember any of the houses we saw. I was too miserable for my brain to function

Our last task before we drive back up to our tiny apartment in Cambridge is to get the car inspected.

We sit through the long hot line at the DMV inspection center.  Choosing between suffering in the stifle of windows up or choking in the car exhaust with windows down.  Those are our options.  Finally it is our turn.  We hand the man my mom's registration card since my sister never registered it in her name. The garage man keeps it and says he will return it after the inspection.

We get out of the car and wait in a dirty hallway. Thirty minutes later we are waved out to our car.  The inspection fails.  But we have a document saying we have 30 days to fix it, so we are slightly better off than at the start of the day.

Let's just head to a coffee shop so I can get a couple hours of work in and fully charge the laptop before we hit the road.  But first let's put that registration card away.  What registration card?  The registration card I have to the man when we got here... He said he would give it back when they gave us back the car. Did he give it to you?  No.  Did he give it to you? No!   Excuse me Mr. DMV man can we please have our registration card back?  I left it on the driver seat in the car!  Oh let me check.  No, it is not there.  Proceed for the next 20 min to rip apart the car, the floor mats, the beach chairs in the trunk, the empty water bottles in the back seat.  Where is this damn registration card?!

Meanwhile I now have to take a work call from the curb of a classy NJ DMV inspection center curb on highway 202 in Flemington and it is not even one I can stay on mute for...

Trevor goes back to argue with the man about the location of this registration card.  The garage man gives Trevor some new paper work and tells him to go into the main office and they can get him a new card.  He is in the office for the full hour while I'm on the curb trying to stifle the auto garage noises from my coworker.

I get off the phone an hour later and Trevor eventually returns.

You got the new registration card?

The registration card is in your mom's name. They would not give me one. They need your mom to be here.

Defeated.  Well let's get the hell out of here before things get worse.  We finally find a coffee shop which does not serve food and is closing in an hour.  But I have to get some work done and I need their wifi.  So I work for a bit while Trevor finds some granola bars at a convenient store.  

We finally pack up from the New Jersey coffee shop and are ready to hit the five hour road back to Cambridge, MA.  I start collecting my things and.. oh.... what this little piece of paper I have in my purse?! .......The damn registration card!!!!

I am fuming mad at how much of a moron I am that I start crying.  Rational Trevor points out that it is arguably better that we found the registration card now, then not find it at all.  It is ok.  You were stressed.  You were overheated.  And the guys we were harassing back at the garage do not need to know about his.

We get back in the car and I am back on a work meeting.  This one is the kind I can stay on mute for.  We start our drive back to Massachusetts.  On our way home.  The sun is setting and it is starting to cool down.  We are starting to cool down.  We will get home very late and, although that is not ideal, we are looking forward to driving with the windows down at night and avoiding the high heat of the summer's day.

Finally starting to relax.  Cannot wait to get home to air conditioning and take a cold shower!  Listening in on my business meeting I see Trevor starts to tighten up.  He is looking concerned and keeps looking down at the dashboard.  What is it?  Are we out of gas?  Still on the phone I give him the palm up hand, furrowed brow look (universal sign language for "what the hell is wrong")?  He points at the speedometer and waves at his neck, universal sign language for "that is too hot."  (Even though I am on mute I still don't like talking). He whispers that he has to put on the heat full blast in this 90 degree weather to get the heat off the engine.  He does that for a few miles, but it is not helping (me or the car).  I look up out the windshield and the car hood is now smoking.  I elbow him and yank my thumb to the right (universal sign for "Holy shit!!! Pull over!!!!!") 

As luck would have it, (and the only luck we would have this day) we were close to an exit and my work meeting had come to an end.  We pull off the highway and into a hotel parking lot (coincidentally the same hotel where our good friends Matt and Renata were married a few years before).

We grab a beer at the familiar hotel bar and debate if we should stay the night at the hotel or tow the car tonight.  Since we will have to tow the car either way, we decide to save on the hotel fee and get a move on things tonight.  So we call AAA to sign up for a membership and subsequently use the membership instantly to tow the smoking car an hour and a half drive back to my mom's house.

It is after midnight when we arrive. I borrow cash from my mom to tip the driver. First thing the next day we slowly drive the car a couple miles to the auto shop.  It's a $500 fix.  We slowly drive the car back to my mom's house.  Then take an Uber to the closest car rental place. Back at my mom's after she has left to visit my sister in DC, we pack up the rental car with all our belongings. We leave my sister's car keys and the 30-day inspection failure notice for her at my mom's house.  We scour the house for anything we may have left behind.  I do not have a key to my mom's house so if we leave and lock it, we will be locked out.  I think we have everything.  

Lock the house.  Get to car.  Realize ez pass, which we had forgot while driving through Philly, but remembered to put back in the car on the way up to Cambridge, is now locked in my sister's car.  The sister's car keys are now locked in the house.  And we are now locked out.  Start crying again.

We stop for food and unload some cash from the atm.  We drive the toll lanes all the way home. 
As Trevor falls asleep in the car I shed some more tears out of appreciation for how desperately crappy the last couple days have been.  You win life, you broke me...multiple times today, in fact... Then I almost hit a baby raccoon.  Dry my eyes.  Things may still continue to get worse...

We make it home by 2am.  As we try to unlock the apartment door Trevor realizes he must have left his keys at my sister's house in Philly...of course. 

Let's go to bed.

The morale of the story is, as my economist husband likes to say, "there's no such thing as a free lunch (or car)."

My morale of the story is, "do not cry when the first crappy thing goes wrong... cause you never know when sh*t is really about to hit the fan..."

or take Trevor's advice... "there is no need to cry about it."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Yoga 'na shut yo mouth about my style

I have been lazy and out of shape lately, but I finally convinced myself to stop taking pictures of animal tracks in the snow and start working out.  Instead of the hard kind of working out like using the treadmill or weights in the wonderful basement gym that was included in the house purchase, I opted for a beginner yoga video on youtube in the spacious equipment-free loft.

Yoga is so much more relaxing to do at home. You can go to bed immediately afterwards, you can lay down in the middle of class without being judged, you can wear whatever you want, you don't have someone farting it up next to you...

This last particular at-home yoga session (day 3 of a 30 part series), I was wearing my typical (work from home) business attire: blue fleece-lined leggings, a leopard print mini skirt, and my little sister's wonderfully over-sized hand me down turtleneck sweater (which her fiance lovingly suggested she give away to charity).  I was very happy to inherit this sweater, because what it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in warmth, comfort and coziness.

I love it so much I wear it all the time.  Not only have I been lazy about working out, but I have also been pretty lazy about doing laundry and paying attention to how things smell....that is until I am in downward facing dog position and the baggy turtle neck part of the sweater is draped across my face and what is that dirty rotten smell?  Take this sweater off!!  Nope too cold...put it back on...different pose....then back to downward facing dog....sweater over face... Yuck! why does it smell  like barf... Take it off!... ... but why is it so damn cold in this house?!....put it back more downward facing dog tonight.....ahhh child's pose.....relaaaaaaaaxxxxxx......should be doing laundryyyyyyyyyyy

I made it through the rest of the 30 minute video and although I was definitely cutting corners due to my stinky sweater and my inability to withstand life without it, I also had to stop the video 5 times to write down all the annoying things that this instructor was saying so I could remember to tell you! She is horrible.  She thinks she is so funny talking about how she should write a book about butt clenching.  News flash! Nobody would read a book about butt clenching, sista!! Then she starts talking about how she was in a car crash and how her body was such a wreck...ummmm HELLO?  Lady?!!  I am trying to relax over here!!  I don't want to hear some horrible story about your back injury, I am trying to calm down and think about nothing, now SHUT UP!  Then she tries to joke about how goofy and unorganized she is trying to do some stupidly easy pose.  Girlfriend, you don't know the first thing about being goofy and unorganized, now shut your trap and do yoga, you fool!  Grrrrrrr!

I will let you know if Jersey Julie survives the remaining 27 sessions...

And I promise to work on my wardrobe situation.   Working from home I "don't get out much" but on the rare occasion I do meet another fellow human, I have managed some pretty strange experiences centered around my wardrobe.  The other day I was grocery store shopping in the eggos aisle when an old man, unprovoked, came right up to me and said "Excuse me, miss, I noticed you in the produce section. I just have to ask, why are you dressed like that?"  For a split second I thought I may have left the house in my robe and slippies and my heart skipped a beat.  I looked down at my clothes to double check. Nope: leggings, pink skirt, sweater with a big orange heart, normal (for me) clothes. Then I slowly looked back up at him, not really knowing what to say.... he jues has to ask?   How weird do I look to him?? 

The delay must have made him realize I was confused and maybe slightly offended because he quickly stuttered out "I mean, do you normally dress so colorfully?...are you eh uh, coming from a special occasion?"  No, these are just the clothes I own and this is what I normally wear grocery shopping.    The man was 85 years old he has two adult children who refuse to get married or have children of their own and this upsets him. He doesn't talk to them very often.  He stopped working full time over 25 years ago after he put his wife through college and then she started working. He thinks marriage really changes people.  He is not convinced I am older than 18 and he thinks my husband is the luckiest man in the world.  He thinks I radiate honesty.  Little does he know I dress like this on purpose just to mess with old people...    I kid.

Then again just last week, I was in the waiting room of the hospital with my mom and my sister's in-laws.  My sister and brother-in-law were busy upstairs having their baby.  Meanwhile the family members downstairs have been snacking, sleeping, waiting in silence, more snacking, having good conversations, followed by some small talk, more texting, then snacking, throw in a couple walks to the bathroom or vending machine... Minding our own business camped out in our circle of waiting room chairs in the hospital lobby when, again, out of nowhere and completely unprovoked, and older woman with oxygen tubes up her nose, urgently walks up to interrupt our circle of a waiting game.  And at first I thought she was going to ask "where's the doctor?!" or "someone help me!" But instead she starts going on and on about how "I've only ever seen children dressed like you.   I have never seen a grown woman dressed like that.  But this look...this look is very becoming on you though..."

Well, thank you my dear old lady.  I actually have been daydreaming to start designing baby clothes for adults (true story!).  Now you have inspired me.  Maybe it is a sign I should start designing baby clothes for old people...