Every moment of mindfulness changes a moment of conditioning.

I felt horrible for skipping out on a Friday gathering with my girlfriends. They had come up from Cincinnati and gotten a hotel room for two nights in order for all of to hang out together. It’s a once or twice a year event with my four girlfriends from grade school and high school. I knew I’d be tired as hell on Friday evening, and I knew they would not. They would want to head out late and drink wine. I’d want to slip on pjs and decompress. Friday nights are rough for me after a week of work. I need downtime. I made the executive decision to tell them I would meet up with them on Saturday morning.

I felt horrible about it – very guilty that they had come to my city and I was not even going to meet up with them until the next day. This was not out of the ordinary. I live in guilt. Be it that I was raised Catholic, or that I’m the oldest child, I often feel guilt about decisions I make. I fretted about it throughout work on Friday playing each scenario in my head.

“If I go, I will be tired and pissy and will want to go to bed at 10.”

“But if I don’t go, I will feel bad and worry they are mad.”

I took a walk in Tarpy with Rocco as soon as I got home Friday evening. This is my go-to refuge after long workdays. I kept my phone in my pocket so it was easier to resist the urge to look at Facebook as I walked the same trail I walk every day with my pup. I asked myself why I felt guilty. What brought that emotion up in me so strongly. My mind traveled back to childhood, and my need to please. I wanted others to feel good. I remember going to the movies with my dad and not paying much attention to the movie itself. Rather, I focused on glancing over at my dad every few minutes to see if he was laughing and enjoying himself. If I had girlfriends over, I’d make up plans of everything we could do so they’d have fun – even if it wasn’t my idea of fun.

I looked up at the changing leaves on the trees. One hosted leaves colored a dull red on the bottom with yellow on their tips. Rocco rushed by me with a large stick in his mouth. I took a deep breath and let it out. Repeat.

One of my girlfriends texted me when I got home. She sent a picture of all the girls eating cheese and bread and said “can’t wait to see you tomorrow!” I texted them back to tell them I could not wait to meet up. They texted me back some inappropriate responses due to their drinking state…. made me laugh.

I glanced up from looking at my phone. Rocco licked my hand. It soaked in how useless my hours of guilt had been. They were having a raucous time together. They weren’t talking about what a schmuck I was for not coming Friday night. Get out of your thoughts, Mary.

I woke up Saturday morning, took a long run, and ended up having a most fabulous day and evening with my gals.

A good ending

And a happy ending occurred yesterday! After hours of anger, disappointment and frustration, and tons of emails and texts, Ri got into the soccer league. She was charged up – as was her friend Henley as she screamed in delight when she heard the news. One of my mom girlfriends was crucial in keeping me going through it all. She kept texting “WTF” and writing encouraging words in CAPS about not giving up. Love that girlfriend power has a way if pumping you up when you most need it.
I watched Ri practice with a smile on my face the entire time. She ended up in goalie for their scrimmage and did pretty well. She had four saves and two misses. Not bad for her first time.
She walked off the field after practice with a huge smile on her face, and that made the entire day worthwhile.



Friend. Good.

I saw these two words written on a greeting card along with a silhouette of a big dog staring at the silhouette of a puppy. I immediately thought of my Cincy girls.

I’ve known these babes since the womb it feels like; actually it’s more like 1st grade. I’ve had many a crazy experience with them both individually and as a group. Lisa and I used to cheer the Reds on at the old Riverfront Stadium (and had the biggest crush on Dave Parker); Jill and I used to play house at our old kindergarten; Ericka used to catch my fast pitch softballs in high school; and Kathy and I used to get rowdy and break car door windows (actually that was just Kathy on my car window!).
We all are very different at this stage of our lives having pursued different life paths, different cities, different hobbies. But oh doesn’t that make for some fabulous conversation and some hilarious moments.
I took Maria Grace with me on the five and a half hour trek to Midland, Michigan where Kathy resides. She couldn’t wait to babysit Kathy’s kids and hang with her “aunts.” We, of course, had to stop off for some snacks along the way…


And we had to hit the Michigan welcome center…


Ri knew her father would enjoy those pictures. We were the first to arrive at Kathy’s sweet abode. What a magnificent house and location. Ri was excited that Grace was so excited to see her. And she adored Rose from the minute she set eyes on her. Kathy and Andrew were off the hook from feeding her, reading to her, and bathing her as soon as Ri walked in the house.

Lisa arrived a couple hours later with Josh and Emma. Maria was a bit irked at first because she liked having Emma and Rose to herself but she quickly bonded with Ms. Emma and babied Josh so all was good.


The kids played while we caught up on life. We chatted about Christmas presents, school, work, hubbies. Ericka and Jill finally arrived and we broke out the wine and snacks and cozied up on the downstairs couch together. Such a quaint setting with a fireplace and wood siding. Ms. Maria hung in with us until 12:30 am contributing quite often to the conversation. There is no doubt she will be engaging on the same all-night conversations with her friends years to come.
I woke up to a winter wonderland on Saturday morning. The neighbors had their snow blowers revved up but they had not cleared any snow yet. I walked in an all white landscape and listened to the ice crackling and the random bird singing. Heaven.
When I returned, Ri was playing away with the other kids. I watched her laughing with Emma and I was taken back to being 8 years old and playing with my girlfriends sitting in the next room. It was pure joy to see my daughter with my girlfriends’ daughters. A new generation beginning life-long friendships.

We got dressed and headed out to lunch in downtown Midland. The kids drew pictures for us in their booth, ate their food, and ran around like maniacs. We talked about our lives, our irritations, our blessings. It was like we had never moved away from one another.



We had to do the funny face picture after our meal. I knew all these gals and kids would participate. Next we headed to the mall. We all did some last minute shopping and let the kids sit on Santa’s lap. I was el cheapo and did not buy a picture. I was pissed at myself when we left because I remembered I had a Buddha picture of Ri when she was seven months old on Santa’s lap and it would have been a hilarious contrast seeing her now on his lap. Next year….
We hit Barnes and Noble to look at books and that was where we experienced the epic Grace meltdown. It was classic. At first, all was well. Ri read to the kids and they were all smiles.

Then I wanted a picture of the moms in the same pose. Kathy sat in Grace’s seat. Oh my. Ms. Grace let us know her anger at that move and went to town on Kathy. All the rest of us could do was laugh our a–es off because we’ve all been there. Kathy packed it up immediately and we all followed her. On the way to the car, Josh had a follow-up meltdown that rivaled Emma’s because he dropped his gum on the floor. There’s one big difference between Lisa and me. I would have brushed it off and popped it right back in his mouth but Lisa promptly discarded it. By the time we all got back to the cars, we were ready for the comforts of home and wine.
We broke out pizza. wine, guacamole and my beloved sheet cake and went to town after singing happy birthday to E.

We decided to head out to a wine bar at 9 pm just like we would have done in our twenties. We still got it. Except we only lasted until 10:45 pm. Ri was so sad for us to leave and all the other kids were going to bed so we let her go with us. She was ecstatic. She played on the iPad the entire time until she passed out on my lap at 10:30 (from exhaustion, not wine).


On Sunday morning, we ate sheet cake for breakfast and packed up our things dreading the ride home both because it was nasty outside and because we wanted a longer stay. These gals are my soul sisters who I can trust to be there for me no matter what. It’s hard to believe we’ve known each other for 35+ years and we still love each other so much! However, there are tines when we are just like an old married couple – committed but on each other’s nerves! But that’s the beauty in a long, thriving relationship – you take each other for who you are. I can’t imagine my world without these gals and I’m awfully glad that Ri got to share in the love with me.

Pumpkins and pizza


The Irons pumpkin patch cured the girlfriend blues. I hadn’t seen my Cincy gals for months due to summer camps, sports events, work functions, vacations, and moves. You name it and one of us was doing it. However, I find that if I don’t get my time with my life-long girlfriends, I start to funk out and get the girlfriend blues. I got my girlfriends in Columbus who I love but these Cincy gals are my life blood. They’ve been with me my entire life through the acne, the break-ups, the homecoming dances, the principal office, the family dramas. They know me – the real me. And damn if they don’t make me laugh and let go of worry every time I see them.

I missed Kathy in the mix – my soul sister moved to Michigan a couple of months ago and just had a baby so she couldn’t make it to our pumpkin patch outing Sunday. She’s the one I count on to talk about what the hell we’re doing in our lives – where we want to be in two years – why we’re not pursuing what we want – how we are gonna make a change! She’s also my fellow lawyer….

Even though we don’t get together every month, I love how our kids always warm up to one another after the initial thirty minute awkward mulling around. Jill’s girls are so polite and sweet, like Jill. Ericka’s daughter is confident and laid-back like Ericka. Lisa’s kids are sassy but loving like Lisa. And mine, well they are crazy and loud, like….





Maria and Mario had to feed the llamas like they do every year (Mario isn’t scared of them even though he was bit two years ago by one and swore he’d never feed one again – distant memory now, thank goodness).

We all laid our respective kids in the grass with the leaves surrounding them with the hopes of a Christmas card-ready picture. The other kids gave some sweet, angelic poses but this is as good as I got.


We chowed down at LaRosas after the pumpkin patch. Ri got the spaghetti and meatballs she has loved since shortly after birth and Mario and I got pizza. I wish we could get a LaRosas in Columbus but our waistlines would surely expand. Mario and Josh did their boy thing and wrestled during lunch. They created a little bond by way of throwing each other to the floor. The girls drew and gave their condolences to Ri and Emma for having to deal with those crazy boys. Us ladies chatted about work, motherhood, periods, and other random topics that get interjected in the hour that we have together without kids at our beckon call.

After LaRosas, we doled out our hugs and kisses and headed to the outlet mall for some new gym shoes (my most favorite indulgence!). We met my mom at the mall and found some sweet shoes after testing them out throughout the store.

Mario thinks my mom buys everything when we go to the outlet mall so when we got home he pronounced to Jon “Look at the sweet shoes Grandma Lolo bought me!” We also hit Old Navy for some pants for the kids (Mario wears serious high waters and Maria’s all have holes in the butt). They each scored a bouncey ball from the 25 cent vending machine (I am a sucker for bouncey balls) and some new threads. Good life.

Mom and I got some fries while the kids played at McDonald’s play land and talked about the latest happenings in the family, and Lou, of course. She spoils that dog of hers taking him on 6 walks a day sometimes! Good life!

We gave our hugs and kisses to Grandma and made our way back to Columbus to see Jon who was driving back from his cousin’s house without any deer that he had hoped to shoot over the weekend. Oh well, looks like Chipotle for dinner this week.

Making our way

The kids woke up at the break of dawn again Sunday morning.  Jon and I heard them in Maria’s room talking quietly, probably about superheros or barbies.  Jon got out of bed first and shut the door behind him to allow me to continue dozing.  That is true love. 

When I finally dragged my tired butt out of bed 20 minutes later, I found Maria on my Ipad playing Pet Shop (her favorite game now) and Alana and Mario fighting it out on Wii Table Tennis.  They would take turns rubbing a win in the other’s face and then when the other rubbed it in his or her face, they would cry about it.  They are competitive as heck together – something Maria is not.  Maria wants everyone to win and every time she starts a game, she prefaces it by saying “Let’s just play for fun.”  To the contrary, Mario prefaces it with “I am gonna whoop you up!”  However, he wants a fair fight – he doesn’t just want to whoop you up without a good fight.  So, when I could not figure out how to shoot in basketball Wii, he stopped the game to tutor me so that I could give him a run for his money.  He continued to whoop on me a bit but then I stole the ball from him.  He gave me a look of amazement.  He wanted to congratulate me but he also wanted to win.  So he just shook his head and kept playing. 

Meanwhile, Maria just kept playing Pet Shop.  She bought two new kittens and some pups and a fish.  She arranged them all and proudly showed them off to us.  Then, when she decided to play Wii, and lost badly to Mario, she got angry.  “I hate these games!”  Mario looked at her kindly and explained “Maria, you have to practice a lot to get good. I practice a lot.”  She shook her head at him in disgust.

The girls and I headed to Washington Courthouse to meet up with my Cincy girls for brunch.  We ate at Bob Evans – my new favorite restaurant because of their breakfast food.  I could eat their eggs and hash browns with onions and bacon and multi-grain pancakes everyday.  I choose the multi-grain pancakes because it makes me feel like I am being healthy but after I eat three of them with syrup, I don’t feel too healthy.  In fact, I have learned to make sure to wear sweats when I head to Bob Evans so that I am not uncomfortable after my meal.  Maria takes after her mom – she got chocolate chip pancakes and bacon. Alana did, too, but only ate half of her food.  Maria and I swooped in like vultures and finished it off.  Maria hugged on Grace through  the meal.  Kathy is so good about letting Maria hold her and walk her.  Maria loves it.  She has got the babysitter gene in her body – something I never had.  My girlfriends and I talked for a bit over breakfast but between Gracie grabbing our attention and the quick service, I felt like we didn’t get to talk for too long.  I must still be spoiled from Italy. 

The girls and I headed to the outlet mall after our meal and tried to find clothes for my Cancun trip with Jon next week.  Just shoot me.  Is there any store in that outlet mall that has a mirror that flatters?  Maria and Alana just kept saying “You are having a baby!”  Nothing like that comment to stroke your ego.  I was ready to buy a mumu and call it a day.  I did score some pretty jewelry but no hot dresses.  I should just stick with Target.

Mom and Mario

When Maria and I got home, we found out Mario was spending the night with Jon’s mom and dad.  He loves spending the night with them because he is spoiled like crazy and he gets out of school.  He cracks them up as much as he cracks us up, too.  Patty took him to the store and they looked through the toy aisle.  He wanted a toy and Patty told him it was too much money.  His response: “Grandma, you need to get a job and earn some money!”  Patty bought him some boots, and he is charged because he can “track animals” now.  I miss my boy like a mad woman.  It is nice to have him visit Patty and Joe – the break with just Maria means a lot to her and us – but after a day or two, I miss his contagious smile and his wild antics and his bear hugs.  I let Maria sleep on the couch while i watched the rest of the movie “The Way” starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez (my old 80’s crush) as father and son (just like real life).  It is a tender film about a father who loses his son while the son is on a pilgrimage to El Camino de Santiago.  The father decides to take the pilgrimage on his behalf and meets up with a few quirky pilgrims who he befriends by the end.  It is a wonderful tale of understanding and opening up and taking a leap.  And it put Maria to sleep in ten minutes. 

Sick girl calling her grandma

Maria was sick today.  She woke not feeling right but we forced her off to school, if only because we had to work, but got the call at 10 am that she was not doing well at school.  I picked her up and brought her home.  I rubbed her back while she watched Toy Story 3.  I made her soup.  I laid with her.  When she got a second wind, I tickled her and laughed with her.  We made “nests” out of the covers on our bed and slept in them.  We stared out the window at the tree cutters.  We cuddled.  Not a bad day at all.  Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and she is trying with all of her might to get better so she can hit her class party.  Mario could care less.  He begged to stay with Patty and Joe.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Girls and Slumber Parties

Only 5 out of 7 girls showed up.  The gods treated me well last night.  

Maria and the girls dancing to Justin B!

Why did I decide to agree to host a slumber party for Maria and six of her kindergarten friends?  Because I am a sucka!  I remember back to the thrill of my b-day parties as a kid and I want Maria to have those same opportunities.  THen again, I think I fantasize about the b-day parties of my childhood.  I believe I had one party in 6th grade where we danced to Barry Manilow and ate cake and I am fairly certain got into a number of spats about who would sit next to who at the table and who would dance with who on the floor.  I remember another at my friend’s house at age 13 when I got teased the entire time about being on my period.  Maybe I have such fond memories of slumber parties because they should be the ultimate girl-bonding experiences.  A flock of young girls together in a room talking about our stories, boys, teachers, parents.  Maybe it is like childbirth where it hurts when you go through it (aka, talk about my period) but then long after the event, you are glad you experienced it.  Who knows.  The bottom line is that I agreed to host this soiree by my lonesome because Jon was smart enough to hit the road with Mario.  

At the craft table

Most moms I spoke to about the event nodded their head side-to-side and sighed invariably thinking “thank god it is not me.”  Amazingly enough, it was fun – a lot of work and refereeing – but fun.  The girls arrived at 5 pm with their mini-sleeping bags and princess covered pillows.  They sported huge smiles but hesitant moves as they stepped into our house for a full night away from their folks.  I had a craft table set up with glue and stickers and puff balls and paper and tiaras for them to create works of art for themselves and their moms since mother’s day was the next day.  A very smart move I learned a half of an hour later when they remained enmeshed in decorating their tiaras and making pictures for their moms.  I looked at my watch and thought “Sweet – a whole half of an hour gone already just with working on crafts!”

Preparing their dance moves.

Maria was the first to get antsy and ran into the living room shouting “Let’s put out our sleeping bags!”  Megan, Maria’s babysitter stopped by at that time and ended up staying for a while (thank god).  She must have had that babysitter antennae pop up and sense I needed assistance.  Sure, I could have handled it on my own but it was a godsend to have another adult body in the house to referee disputes, help with music, prepare barbies’ outfits.  Megan stayed long enough to watch the dance contest (Justin Bieber dancers versus Big Time Rush dancers) and allow me to start some pasta and garlic bread for dinner.

After the dance contest and some intense Barbie playing, the girls came down for dinner.  Everyone ate up the pasta (only one girl complained about the pasta and she got a PB&J sandwich).  I forgot about the garlic bread in the midst of the chaos of trying to referee who got to tell the next Knock Knock joke and woke up this morning to nine pieces of toast hardened in the oven.  The Knock Knock jokes always contained a reference to “boobs” or “butt” or “penis” or “poop” or “fart.”  I thought these words were only used in the boy purview….  They had each other cracking up throughout dinner, and were ready to head outdoors after they finished. 

Heading to get yogurt

The rain had slowed down so we got out the umbrellas and headed to the new yogurt shop, Orange Leaf.  I was hesitant to go there because I knew all of the girls would want to fill the humongous paper cups up to the rim and then put 2 tons of toppings on their creations.  I tried my hardest to police the yogurt and topping output but it was a lost cause.  I have been there before – my eyes used to perk open at the dessert bar at Ponderosa so I couldn’t deny them the experience of loading on gummy worms, skittles, brownies, fruit loops and oreos.  Maria, of course, had been talking all week about getting a mile high yogurt since it was her b-day but she went fairly easy on me.  Some of the other girls, not so much.  I walked out with a $30 bill for seven yogurts and with a pound of yogurt left over.  After about five to ten bites, each girl looked at me and pronounced “I am finished, Mary.”  Of course, what does the Grandma Menkedick in me do?  I put all of the yogurts together in two bowls and took them home to eat as leftovers.  I got one out after the girls began watching their movie, and about threw up with the foul combination of fruity pebbles, cherry brownie, mint chips, and skittles mixed in with pineapple yogurt.  What was a I thinking? 

My girlfriend, Amy picked us up in her big ol’ van when we were finished because the rain had moved from a shower to a downpour.  The thought of trying to get the girls home without someone ruining their shoes or getting a cold from the weather led me to agree to just throw them in a van and get ’em home.  Amy brought her son Zach who is in Maria’s class.  He is a fireball of energy and the house felt like I tornado was running through it as soon as all of the kids entered the door.  Poor Amy was ready to lose it.  I amazed her with my calm and my humor in it all.  I told her it comes with the territory when your family is as loud and rambunctious as my family was growing up in Cincy. 

Amy and I with the kiddies

Amy si an artist and she saved me by bringing tile and paint over to the house for the kids to make pictures for their moms.  Of course, they were all pumped up on sugar from the Orange Leaf so what was supposed to be a gentle process of dipping thumbs and fingers into paint to rub on the tiles became whole hands and feet thrown into the paint and smashed onto the tile.  Sans sugar, I think we may have had a less insane process and a more intelligible piece of art for the moms but hey…

After the wash-up, Zach got attacked by the girls for the tenth time but he took it in good spirits; in fact, I think he rather enjoyed it by his begging Amy not to leave.  Maria impressed me with her compromising skills when it came time for the movie.  She had really wanted to watch Barbie or Eloise but none of the girls took to those movies.  A majority of them wanted the Secret Garden – the one movie that I made Maria get from the library against her will.  Maria graciously allowed for that movie to be viewed after I spoke with her about being a host of a party.  She makes her mama proud. 

What a life!

We started the movie at 9:40, popcorn was ready by 9:50 and the girls were snug in their sleeping bags with their kernels of corn by 10 pm.  I wiped my hands clean and thought “Ahh, now to rest.”  Ha! My sweet Maria and her friend Anna were asleep by 10:20 but the remaining gals took advantage of no parents, lots of sweets, and an easy-going chaperone.  They ran around the house, they made more crafts, they ate more food.  11 pm came and went and they begged me to stay up until midnight.  I agreed thinking they would have to be exhausted by then. Midnight came and went.  I decided to clean up the downstairs (why do this with the morning bringing renewed chaos?) and let them stay up longer figuring they did not have much more gas left.  Finally, at 1:15, I made them go to Maria’s bed and close their eyes.  I literally had to stand next to their side to make them not speak to each other.  Finally, at 2 am, they were all asleep.  A miracle.  I slept downstairs on the couch because I was worried about one of them getting up in the night and escaping through the front door.  Can we say neurotic? 

After a restless night of sleep, I was awoken by Maria Grace who sauntered down the steps at 7:15 am.  Alana came

next and then Anna.  The other night owls slept in until 9 am.   We ate donuts and cinnamon rolls for breakfast and watched Barbie Diamond Castle until the moms showed up at 9:30 or so. Overall, I would have to say it was a success.  Maria had a great time with her new girlfriends, her girlfriends enjoyed going somewhere new and playing together, and some moms got to take the night off and relax. 

Amazingly, I didn’t feel too bad the next day.  A little groggy at first but nothing that donuts couldn’t fix.  However, the next slumber party will have a Barry Manilow dance-off.