A Heart Shaped Weekend

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valentines day 2016 dinner party

I spent Thursday through Sunday in Michigan with my family. My sweet grandmother is making her transition to heaven after a pretty incredible almost 99 years on this planet. She never likes to miss a party so she has hung on through several days of storytelling and gatherings. At one point, there were 9 past and present staff members of her assisted living center in her bedroom; apparently there is a Hazel text message chain compromised of these kind women alerting each other to her condition and to come say goodbye. Time laughing and sharing and toasting was not in short supply and it was pretty damn special.

One of Hazel’s core values is hosting and with a Valentine’s Day dinner party planned at my house in Chicago, my mom insisted that my grandmother would have insisted I go home so I hit the road early and headed West. Several hours spent passing spaghetti and meatballs and pie around our table and really great conversation as we all curled up in front of the fire, nibbling on heart-shaped Rice Krispie treats and M&M’s as snow continued to fall outside was just the ticket. Having people in my life that I love as much as I do is my greatest blessing and an entire weekend, as all over the place emotionally and geographically as it was, to spend just loving them up…well, that is Valentine’s Day.

And I think Luna Bell was happy to host a heart-shaped party too.

Luna Bell Valentine's Day 2016

Pure Michigan

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Grand Haven Pier November 2015

This morning I woke up in Michigan and threw on warm clothes and ran out the door to meet my parents for a walk. A stop for coffee at a place that my best friend and I used to go to every Friday morning before our summer jobs (Traverse City Cherry coffee for the win) and we were on the water, walking, talking, having those conversations that just don’t happen on the phone. I don’t know if it was the coffee, our brisk pace (strollers our family is not!) or the unexpectedly warm-ish day but layers came off and we took a longer way back to the car because it was so enjoyable, being outside and being together.

And then I stopped to see my 98 year old grandmother who was in the beauty parlor in her assisted living home having her nails done. #priorities

And then I had lunch with my mom at a diner that still has the best chicken rice soup around.

And then I drove home to Chicago, belting out every song from Hamilton 1.5 times because the trip takes longer than the musical does but you don’t have to twist my arm to rap battle Cabinet meetings multiple times.

It was a really good day. Family can happen anywhere and today it happened in my hometown and I really loved it.

Grand Haven Lighthouse

Little Miss Sunshine | Dancing to the Finish Line

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Remember that scene in Little Miss Sunshine when the pageant officials are trying to prevent Olive from finishing her (slightly questionable) dance routine? And when faced with the choice of potentially shaming their daughter in order to keep the outdated, conforming peace that was the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, the entire family jumps onstage and joins her in dance to the timeless classic “Super Freak“?

It’s such a good scene. I caught it last night and couldn’t stop smiling. Because I think we have all had that- you’re in the middle of what could be considered a train-wreck but you’re being your authentic self so instead of making a fuss, your people dance you to the finish line.

And then you push the van to get it to start and run to jump in. Together. Because vans break down and Grandpas teach weird dances and you travel that road together.

So. Many. Analogies in this movie. So good.

On Broadway and Babies

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My best friend had a baby yesterday. !!!!!

When I got the word that I was an auntie and saw the little nugget’s perfect face, I promptly burst into tears and in a mix of emotion over how much I love my friend and how much I already love her daughter, I thought about who I will be for this brand new person on the planet.

The usual: Unconditional love. A devoted cheerleader. Travel itinerary consultant. Deep dish pizza provider.

And musical theater educator.

My mom raised me on a steady diet of the classics; one of my first memories was at our local theater belting out “O-K-LA-HO-MA” as a touring troupe performed and movies at home were almost exclusively Broadway musicals; who needs Disney when you have Camelot, The Music Man, Cats and Phantom of the Opera?! Musicals made me feel alive and inspired and like playing full out.

In college, there was a fall when new baby girl’s mom and I would sing the entire score of Wicked in the car when coming and going from our hometown. We would each take a part and just sing our little hearts out. Excessive hand motions and/or car choreography included. In a conversation last week with colleagues about what our “pump up” playlist was, well, let’s just say I was the only one to offer up her Spotify playlist full of selections from musicals. I can’t sing worth a damn, as hard as I try, but this music is one of those things I don’t have to be good at to love with all my heart. Which is something I have to remind myself: being good, achieving isn’t always the point; sometimes the point is loving something (or someone) with your whole heart.

So, sweet baby girl, your parents are going to adore you within an inch of your teeny little being and I will come bearing deep dish, high fives and Broadway showtunes. 3 Wise Men in one, if you will. And the one thing I can promise is your entire home team, your family and all who come with it, are going to love you with their whole, whole hearts. We’ve got you.

When I got in the car this morning, Sirius radio’s best station “On Broadway” (Channel 72) was playing “76 Trombones” from The Music Man (beyond classic) followed by “I Can Do Better Than That” from The Last 5 Years (it breaks my heart so much and it is so great- can’t wait for the movie), followed by “One Song Glory” from RENT (I hate to play favorites but this show has had my heart for years). I could not have wished for a better trifecta of musical gloriousness to start my day. So, for your listening enjoyment, see below.

With love, jazz hands and big hugs for my best friend’s new baby girl.

(and lots of congratulations for my best friend and her darling new family!)



Holiday Bucket Listing

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Processed with VSCOcam with b5 preset

Caroling at Cloudgate, Zoo Lights, impromptu cocktails, shopping…this weekend really took a bite out of my holiday bucket list. My family was in town to celebrate Christmas and it was such a fun mix of old traditions and new. The unseasonably warm temperatures was certainly something new; I am so used to doing our family festiveness while the biting cold hits my face! While I do love how beautiful Michigan Avenue looks covered in snow, being able to get away with wearing a blazer while running out to get one last gift for our celebration was quite a treat. And this city is just begging to be photographed in all of it’s holiday glory which was nice to be do without removing gloves every two seconds.

Still on the holiday deck: “White Christmas” viewing at The Music Box Theatre and somehow find that Santa Train. And maybe bake some cookies. If anyone has a recipe they love, please share!

Pink Clouds

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I was on the phone tonight with my Mom when she mentioned she was looking at the most incredible sunset, a sunset with pink clouds. I ran out into my back porch and told her I saw the same colors. I mean, of course, right? There’s only one sun and, therefore, one sunset but it felt kind of special to be sharing that together, right then.

And they really were pretty pink clouds.

The Time the Cubs Won A Game

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The day before our wedding, we took all of our guests to a Cubs game. Part of why we had such an intimate wedding was so we could do things like that- we love our city and giving our guests a full Chicago experience was high on our priority list!

After a some bloody Mary’s and sangria at our condo, our party o’30 walked over to Wrigley and settled in for what turned out to be an awesome game. Home runs! Bases loaded! Actual points being scored! Cubs win!

It’s safe to say that I have not been to many games like that.

I was going through the last bag of wedding things this evening when I found the above newspaper clipping. My parents saved the paper from our wedding day that had the Cubs score on it. Such a momento, for so many reasons.

Sigh. Family love.

Chicago love.

Cubs love.


An Un-Shower Shower

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I was pretty against having a bridal shower.

Ryan and I aren’t 23 (spoiler alert) and have lived together for almost 3 years; the idea of a party designed to help us “set up house” didn’t feel quite right. And God help me with the shower games. The idea of being quizzed on how well I know Ryan gives me an anxiety attack just thinking about it and being stared at while opening gifts sort of does the same.

But my mom’s friends kept asking her how we were going to celebrate so my mom talked me into a luncheon with no mention of “bridal” on the invite. Celebration luncheon. A champagne celebration luncheon. I could do that. I wanted to do that.

Moral of the story: let the people who love you do nice things for you.

It was the most wonderful day. Women who have been influential in my life came together for bite sized food and mimosas and bellinis. It was so wonderful to see everyone, thank them for the mark they’ve made in my life and acknowledge that I am getting married and that is a really exciting thing.

Oh and guess what? I opened gifts and it was fine. It didn’t make me nervous, probably because I had known everyone in the room since I had a perm and I was so touched by the generosity and thoughtfulness of everyone who came.

Bubbly and dessert with people you love, all before 2pm? It was the best day.

Also- the Garrett’s Popcorn favors were a hit! It makes me happy to think that people enjoyed a bit of Chicago after they left.

Peace, love and desserts with tiny spoons,


Call Your Grandmother

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I called my grandmother a few days ago, just to say hello and tell her I love her. I don’t do it often enough these days; I let my worry over if she can hear me or if she is having a clear day or, to be honest, being busy with my own things get in the way which I realized is entirely bullshit the moment she answered the phone. Just hearing her voice made me cry. Here she is, 96 years old, and asking specifically how my trip to LA was, how Ryan is doing, if we have settled in to the new condo…it is just amazing- I have zero expectation of her remembering anything, she’s 96 for crying out loud.

I think her voice has sounded the same since I was a child. It was so good to hear it. Her voice is something I don’t have to miss yet.

When I hung up the phone, I thanked God for my darling, thoughtful, kind hearted grandmother…and looked up to see this church. Noted: call (and tell!) the people you love if for no other reason than you love them.