Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Pretty Good American

I'm sitting at home this morning, watching through the window as the snow falls incredibly quickly, more than an inch an hour, with up to fifteen inches expected by the end of the day. And how better to spend an unexpected snow day than writing about the latest lovely book from Blogher's Book Club?

This month's selection is A Good American by Alex George, and it happens to be set in the same state that I'm sitting in right now, Missouri, though about 100 years have passed since the opening of the book and my snowstorm. I love reading books set in my home state. And George did an excellent job of capturing a small town at the turn of the century. There were so many things I enjoyed about this book. (And though I was compensated for this review, the opinions in here are completely mine, and would you have it any other way?)

The book follows the Meisenheimer family from the first budding love of Frederick and Jette in Germany, their flight from disapproving parents to the United States, up through New Orleans, and finally settling in Beatrice, Missouri. We watch as Frederick and Jette begin their married lives together as immigrants settling in Missouri, learning English, new customs and culture and figuring out their place in the community. World War I comes, children and with that comes all the tragedy, love, and trials of a young American family. Some of the pieces I enjoyed the most were the chapters about the small tavern and then restaurant that the family owns. Descriptions of generous, solid German food, then into the Cajun and Creole recipes that the fabulous jazz musician Lomax teaches Jette to cook. The writing in this book is lovely and warm and slowly paced, just like a fine meal served at the Meisenheimer's cafe. The characters are compelling and feel very real. I thought the first half of the novel was stronger than the second half, if only because I felt more connected to the parents in the book than the children. The need to wrap up the novel with a few twists and then mysteries solved seemed a little too tidy for me, but this is a graceful and unhurried travel through a century of the Meisenheimer's of Missouri, a good American family.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Five: They're All Going to Laugh At You

I love this list of questions from the Friday Five. They are hard for me to answer. I'm going to have to ponder them all day and come back tonight and give some kind of cohesive response, because with criticism I go immediately on the defensive. It's a negative trait that I'm hyper aware of, and its usually when close friends or loved ones give me critique that I respond most defensively. I hate being wrong. I hate making mistakes. I'm my own worst critic. And yet, I've always learned the most from my failures. So here we go...

How well do you receive criticism?

Initially not well. I turn red, I feel self conscious and like I need to defend and explain myself. But I take a deep breath, I push down that initial reflex response and I try to listen. It certainly depends on the method and tone of the critique as well. If it's a personal attack or not well communicated, then I'm probably going to ignore it. And if you get nasty with me, conversation's over.


When did someone else’s criticism of you result in growth?

God, lots of times. Any decent boss I've ever had, my best teachers, any good friend, or carefully judgemental loved one, constructive criticism from these folks has been life changing. If the critique comes from a place of concern or love or desire to help me improve my writing or work, then it promotes growth. It might be hard to swallow, but it's usually worth it. Yeah, but I'm still going to turn bright red.

What do you think of film critics?

One of my favorite websites is Pajiba. Film and tv and book critics who are witty and erudite and hilarious and usually spot on. I might disagree with their reviews now and then, but they're usually pretty right. I like to make up my own mind, but again Pajiba is usually right.

What’s something you’d like to make a critical statement about right now?

I'm going to be critical of the whole fertility treatment process today. It sucks. You have very little control over any of it and it's deeply frustrating. That is all

Who’s the most critical person you know?

I think my father is one of the most critical people I know, but in a positive way. He can analyze and assess a business or process or personal situation and immediately decide how it could be managed more efficiently or productively, or give thoughtful, insightful advice. But he's a critic. A lovable critic.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy ValenBirthday, Dear

Joe's birthday is today, Valentine's Day. Celebrations were in order. Cards were exchanged. Possibly a little tongue. And since we hate going to fancy restaurants on amateur night, we went low key: a delicious romantic dinner at Five Guys (where he had full permission to check Facebook on his phone, it is his birthday after all and I'm not an ogre) and a quick trip to Target for supplies for his fancy home-cooked birthday date night dinner tomorrow night. We even listened to a Dan Savage podcast on the drive home, also romantic and plenty racy for V-Day. Then as we pulled into the driveway, I casually mentioned that I needed to write a quick blog post when we got home, and it might be about him. Joe looked over at me and started shaking his head and laughing, "Now don't go all out. I'm good. I feel loved. You don't have to write about how awesome I am again. You've done that so much it's almost gratuitous. Almost."


So, dear, I love you. Happy birthday. Here's to the next 38. You work on being less awesome, and I'll try not to gush so much.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Double Trouble

NaBloPoMo Prompts:

Monday, February 11, 2013 - What is your ideal Valentine's Day celebration?

Ideal is anything that will make Joe happy. Because birthdays trump Valentine's Day, and that just happens to be Joe's birthday. Oh, he makes sure I'm not neglected. I get flowers or candy, dinner out, something sweet and thoughtful. Last year he surprised with tickets to a special viewing of my favorite movie, Amelie, at the Screenland, complete with the Valentine's package of fancy chocolate and beer and old school cinema charm. In fact, that night was my ideal. Dinner at Lidia's, followed by a totally surprise romantic movie. It was perfect. And I'm pretty sure it made Joe happy too. Everyone likes Amelie and pasta. Everyone.

Wow, this candy heart tastes nasty! Happy V Day! #febphotoaday #heart

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - What is your favorite Valentine's Day candy?

Chocolates, preferably dark, or with peanut butter or caramel or toffee. I have a mega sweet tooth and like some old fashioned fancy lady wearing a corset and hat with a silky feather in it, sorry Downton Abbey gets in my head, I love the thrill of picking one chocolate at a time out of a fancy box, except not without a map, it's a crap shoot unless there's a chocolate map, I love a candy box map. Otherwise it's a nougat nightmare or something disgustingly maple. But with a candy box map, you can make sure someone who actually likes coconut can save you from disaster. Genius.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

City Market Sunday

Joe had a serious assignment today. Take a photo of a stranger. And not with a long paparazzi lens. Up close, personal, with the full knowledge of his subject. He's taking an online commercial photography class, and the first assignment was a doozy. And everyone knows that ranking just below any airport, farmer's markets are the second best place to people watch. And they have much better food than airports. I tagged along and we drove down to Kansas City's only year round farmer's market, City Market.

We arrived around 10am, when the rainy crappy morning had blossomed into this perfect spring Sunday, in February. It was sunny and crisp, though insanely windy. After scoping out the stalls, we parted ways. Joe headed out to find the perfect stranger, ignore how weird that sounds, and I headed out to find coffee and look at unusual stuff for sale.

The winter market is less populated than the spring and summer market, fewer vendors and shoppers, but the permanent shops, stalls and restaurants are always there and usually open. And sometimes it's more fun to shop when you don't have to push an old lady out of your way as she fondles all the tomatoes. Old ladies love fondling produce.

I bought a spicy mocha from City Market Coffee, because cayenne pepper and chocolate and coffee make a delightful trio. The barista called me "sweetie" which always makes me laugh when it comes from someone at least ten years younger than me. I took my coffee and meandered. I bought some postcards for a young lady doing a school project on the 50 States, picked up some Wizard of Oz swag for my Oz addicted mother-in-law, and then wandered slowly through Sunday's Community Yard Sale booths. People have some strange crap. Some strange overpriced crap, with the occasional cool old thing thrown in just to mix it up and grab your attention.


After some time on my own, I went off to find a husband, mine specifically. He was hanging out with Jose and taking some glamour shots of produce and the very amenable Jose. We bought a pineapple, some berries, potatoes, and very bright yellow bananas. Down the way from Jose at Global Produce, we stopped at spice stalls and hummus peddlers, wandered into the Al-habashi market and bought some strange and delicious coated peanuts. We contemplated Bulgarian feta, something intriguingly called "picnic cheese", racks of pickled veggies, and shelves and shelves of freshly baked naan and pita.

Then to Italy, or the Carollo's Italian Market, where we found all of the treats that took us back to our trip to Rome and Florence what seems like ages ago. Blood orange soda and peach tea, gnocchi, pastries, Bacci candy, fabulous cans of olive oil. We bought a couple of things. You know, just to support local businesses. Then it was lunch time.


But before lunch, this happened. I never knew there was a whole line of gay merman ornament/figurines, any ethnicity, any job that involves a uniform. I stood in front of these gaudy, amazingly fit gentlemen for about 5 minutes with my mouth hanging open. Yes. Genius. My new favorite mythical sea creature collectible wearing various haberdashery and glittery fins. Oh, thank you, City Market, thank you.

Now for lunch. Joe was seduced by the enormous and fragrant grilled meats and I was seduced, as always, by Bloom Bakery. I sampled an almond croissant that was so buttery, sweet and flaky that I wanted to share it with everyone walking by because they needed to know how good it was, and my first French macaron cookie, which seem to be all the rage, taking over the cupcake mantle as trendiest baked good. They were good, really good.

So the professional photographer enjoyed his Polish sausage for lunch and his tagalong wife sat next to him in an almond and butter and sugar induced coma of bliss. And it wasn't even quite noon yet. Joe kept saying, "Why have you never made me come down here before? I blame you." And rightly so. I've lived in Kansas City most of my life and we've lived here as a couple for over a decade, and we'd never been here together. It's fifteen minutes from our house. It's filled with local businesses and local produce, and strange delights. I think we'll be back very soon, very very soon.

Someone loves grilled meats.

Most photos by that smiling, professional photographer, Joe Sands. 

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Dusty Saturday

Today was one of those days. I stayed in my pajamas until much too late in the afternoon to admit. We watched several episodes of the heinous Buckwild on MTV. I laid on the couch like a slug and drank a lot of coffee. Joe took a nap. And then all the sluggish, indulgent laziness got overridden by my excessive coffee consumption. And I cleaned, and cleaned and cleaned the house. All the boring, unpleasant cleaning tasks that I like to put off in favor of general tidiness  Dusting blinds and ceiling fans and corner cobwebs, mopping floors, wiping down kitchen cabinets, restoring order to the pantry and fridge, general sucky yet satisfying cleaning.

The cast of 30 Rock and I are baking my dad a birthday cake. #fmsphotoaday #tv #tinafeyisfab

Because there's nothing I like better during the weekend than spending a few hours cleaning, then taking a shower, getting dolled up, going out with friends, and then returning late from a great night out to my tidy, warm, cozy and orderly house. It makes me feel like I've got a little control during the rest of the crazy work week. I'm a cleaning nerd. I like it. I admit it. Now laundry on the other hand, God, I hate laundry.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Friday Five: Frosted Mini Post

I'm taking a break from the sweet, romantic, borderline corny prompts for NaBloPoMo, and going with the amusing gang at Friday Five instead. And all of a sudden I'm craving ice cold milk poured over Rice Chex.

1. What was your favorite breakfast cereal when you were a kid?

Captain Crunch or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but our mom was one of those mean moms who made us eat Shredded Mini Wheats or Cracklin Oat Bran or Kix or Chex most of the time. Darn you, Mom, depriving of us sugar. The Captain was a rare treat.

2. What’s your favorite breakfast cereal now?

Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but I rarely buy it because it makes me want to eat the whole box in one sitting.  So I stick to Kashi Go Lean Crunch with berries or Honey Nut Cheerios if I'm feeling wild.

3. Where does cereal rank on your list of favorite breakfasts?

Third or fourth on the list. First lately would be a green smoothie since I'm trying to eat more fruits and veggies, second anything with bacon or sausage or donuts which are very rare in our house but highly desirable, and most common is a toasted English muffin with peanut butter and a clementine and a string cheese or Chobani. We get in breakfast ruts. And now I want a donut. Can you tell it's dinner time?

4. What serial novels or films have you most recently enjoyed?

Have I raved enough to you about Homeland? Or Downton Abbey? Or the Flavia de Luce mysteries? Those are my current beloved serials right now.

5. What recently surreal experience have you gone through?

I can't think of a good surreal experience lately, except for Sunday morning last weekend. I woke up for no good reason at about 3am and couldn't fall back asleep. I laid there for a few minutes, then finally got up and went to the bathroom, just by the light of a small night light. And I think I fell asleep while sitting there in the near dark. For like 30 seconds. I woke up and couldn't figure out where I was or what had happened for a brief moment. It was weird. And kind of embarrassing. Why do you guys make me tell you embarrassing stories like that? Why?

Now quick, make me feel better, tell me one of yours!

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Touch and Go: Kidnapped My Sunday

It's a cold and gray Sunday afternoon in the Midwest. There is hot African Rooibos tea in a red mug, a fluffy tassled blanket draped on the couch and a thick hardcover book with a line like this to open it: Pain has a flavor. Lisa Gardner's latest thrilled, Touch & Go, stole my Sunday afternoon. She kidnapped it right out from under me, just like the Denbe family is at the center of this wild thriller. Except I got to stay on my couch, reading all afternoon, while they get locked away with viscious kidnappers in an empty maximum security prison. Intrigued?

Once again, I have the pleasure of reviewing this book for the Blogher Book Club. And while I was compensated for this review, all the kooky opinions in here are mine. Though Touch & Go wasn't my favorite book, it was jam packed with strong female characters, twisty plot points and plenty of action. It was fun.

The main characters were well drawn and sympathetic, and while the story line was a little ridiculous, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. This isn't high brow literature, but I have different expectations and needs with different types of books. This book is pure diversion and escape. This book is frozen pizza and beer, not Lobster Thermidor and Dom Perignon. But sometimes that's exactly what we crave as readers. And I was happy to give up part of my Sunday for this skillful thriller.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Let's Just Be Friends

Today's NaBloPoMo Prompt: Do you remain friends with ex-boyfriends/girlfriends after you break up?

It totally depends. One, I'm in a closed monogamous lovey-dovey relationship, so if I have boyfriends or girlfriends at this point, Joe's going to be pretty irritated and probably make me break up with and then forever stop talking to these fictional boyfriends or girlfriends. But previous to my married state, it depends. It depends on what you consider "friends." It depends on who did the breaking up. It depends on whether looking at the face or hearing the voice of that ex would make me physically ill or wish a weeping pox upon that person. So it depends.

Sometimes, if I didn't want them to suffer an ugly, violent "just a flesh wound" demise, then maybe I'd consider staying friends. I think that happened once or twice. I've dated mostly decent people who I still wish well, even if they crushed my heart. I even ended up marrying one of them. But can anyone really be good friends with an ex if you were dumped by that ex? Am I the only wounded, vindictive woman who likes a solid, scorched earth, "you're dead to me" policy? It just seems healthier somehow. Or after decades have passed, the modern equivalent, which is being Facebook or Twitter friends that I hide every couple of weeks when they irritate me. Or the kind that I read their occasional moronic status updates out loud to my husband in a goofy voice and we laugh a shared laugh that says, "lady, you dodged a bullet with that one." That's just a step up from waving at someone when you run into each other at a farmer's market. It hardly counts. It's not a true friendship.

And anyway, how do you heal if you're constantly hanging out with your ex still? How do you get over that person and find someone new? And isn't the "let's just be friends" a complete cop-out anyway? It just means "I'm bored with you and interested in sleeping with other people, but I don't want to feel guilty about this feeling, so let's be awkward platonic friends until you grow so weary of me banging your former roommate/friend/bartender that you'll stop talking to me, and I won't have to feel guilty or pretend to be your friend."

I have friends. I have plenty of friends. And if you don't want to date me or be with me, then we're done. But it depends. If I've done the breaking up, then let's have coffee next week, ok? My treat. I know you love a peppermint mocha, and one of those scones, you've gotta have one of those scones you like. My treat.

How about you? Still friends with everyone you've ever dated? Come on, really?

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Amazing and Heinous

Today's NaBloPoMo Prompt: - How old were you the first time you fell in love?

Like 90% of the population, I was in high school when I first fell in love. Sixteen years old. Hormonal, both miserable and joyfully giddy all within the same day, hell, the same 90 minute period. It was a confusing, delightful, embarrassing and strange time. It's burned into my brain like I've got Home Ec first period tomorrow morning. That's not an uncommon feeling. In fact it's not a feeling at all. It's not even romantic, it's scientific.

I stumbled upon this riveting article from New York Magazine that delves into recent social science research that proves it, teenage brains are primed for drama, poor decision making and deeply permanent memories and emotional responses that can follow us into adulthood. In adolescence, self image and identity are forming. Our primordial teenage brain is actually that, not yet fully developed, so that the emotional parts of the brain are in charge. Everything is more dramatic. It feels more dramatic and we react more dramatically than we would as mature adults. Well, if you can even call some of us adults "mature." And we remember these times in more detail, because of this developing brain chemistry and activity.  But don't take my word for it, go read the article. It's a long article, but absolutely worth your time. Here's my favorite quote:

"In adolescence, the brain is also buzzing with more dopamine activity than at any other time in the human life cycle, so everything an adolescent does—everything an adolescent feels—is just a little bit more intense. 'And you never get back to that intensity,' says Casey. (The British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips has a slightly different way of saying this: 'Puberty,' he writes, 'is everyone’s first experience of a sentient madness.')"


That is such a perfect description of high school for me, and falling in love for the first time, "sentient madness." And while that "sentient madness" feels heady and sometimes traumatizing, the article captures the science that helps explain why we feel that way. The article makes some sweeping stereotypes about different types of high school kids, predicts their future success, and like any research, makes generalizations that may not feel true for you specifically, but now with social researchers finally focusing some attention on the adolescent stage, it's not surprising to find that science supports the anecdotal feeling of so many of us. High school, particularly for those of us who hated that time period, is seered into our brain and psyche. All the good and the bad, the books and music and friends and memories of high school feel vibrant and close, even though for me it was over almost 20 years ago. I'm not stuck in high school. I'm happy in my adult life, but those high school times have a color and vivid emotional pull unlike any other. We feel like this for so many reasons. Brain chemistry? Falling in love for the first time? Figuring out who we are and who we want to be? Struggling to find our place in the world? Yes, all of it, all the delusion and absurdity and emotion, teenage madness.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Kris with a K

Today's NaBloPoMo Prompt: Tell us about your first crush.

I was born in a small town in Southern Missouri. I remember little about living there, since we moved away when I was two or three years old, but one important thing that I took away from that little town was my first crush. Our mothers were friends and I'd have to check with my mother to find out how they first met, probably church or bowling or something else appropriately 1970's. And though we didn't live there for long, our mothers and our families kept in touch for years afterward. Kris was adorable and sweet, and the few times that he and his family came to visit us in Kansas City, I remember playing and swimming and fighting and one time sneaking a kiss behind our blue plaid sofa. It just seemed right when hanging out with Kris. We clicked.

Even as little six and seven year olds, we had chemistry. He was my friend and I loved him in that pure, possessive way that only kids can. I couldn't remember a time when I wasn't friends with Kris. I was absolutley postive, when I was eight years old, that we would get married and live in a purple house. When his family would come and visit we'd get to have a sleepover, and I vividly remember laying in my white canopy bed just talking and talking until we fell asleep, playing records on my Fisher Price record player, catching lightening bugs with our younger brothers, and one time getting in a fight so nasty at my grandparent's pool that we yelled and screamed and pulled each other's hair and our parents had to separate us.

The visits grew farther and farther apart as we got older, life and miles get in the way, but I always loved my friend. I had the pleasure of spending some time with Kris and his family when I was a freshman in high school and we went back to visit my dad's family. We were different, we were older and hadn't seen each other in ages, but it just felt easy. We watched movies all night and hung out sprawled on the basement floor with our brothers, and it felt like we'd just seen each other a few days before, instead of a few years. There is nothing quite as powerful as those first friendships, when someone else likes you for exactly who you are, when you grow up together, and a sweet boy with a shy smile sneaks a kiss behind the sofa when our moms aren't looking.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Champion of Carnitas

This smelled so good

Joe Sands is the Super Bowl champion of pork carnitas. I don't care about football, but like most humans, I enjoy hanging out with some people I love. I enjoy entertaining and cooking and eating. So I'm all in for national sporting events even when I'm less excited about the actual sport.

Football? Meh. Guacamole and pork carnita tacos? I'm rooting for your team.

Joe made his now famous slow cooker pork carnitas that only seem to get better every time he makes them. Paired with smoked chipotle guacamole and tortilla chips and diet coke jammed with slices of lime, I could watch sports all day. It's kind of fun to think of millions of people all watching the same thing at the same time. Oh, the commercials are kind of sexist and stereotypical, the half time show is usually overblown nonsense (though I love Beyonce and totally enjoyed her tonight) but I just don't give a crap about the actual game. I like the Puppy Bowl. I like looking at beefy men in tight uniforms. I like it when my whole family starts shouting and pointing at the TV, because they look so jovial and riled. And I like it when surprise dessert includes single serving Ben and Jerry's and massive monster cookies.


The power just went out at the Super Dome and my dad is giving the players lots of advice and critiquing the announcers for their mumbling and suits and extra marital affairs. So I'm going to go hang out with my people now and I'll see you tomorrow. We've gotta introduce Jon Sands to the cuddly glory of the Puppy Bowl. My money's on Arlo.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

The Illusive, Flirtatious Flea Market Yeti

It began auspiciously. We walked into Stuffology this morning, and there he was. A gregarious, stocky gentleman, struggling to put on this massive fur coat. He simultaneously chatted up the ladies, while posing for photos. The coat was disgusting. Smelly and massive, but like staring at a real life Yeti, a two legged Snuffleupagus. We couldn't look away.

With Joe's baby brother visiting from Chicago, we had to step up our Kansas City tourist game and leave an impression on Jon. The West Bottoms monthly flea market extravaganza fit the bill. Old warehouse buildings crammed with floors and floors of old furniture, some junk, some gems, old jewelry, your grandma's chiffarobe painted turquoise, signage, bar stools, desks, china, and scores of shoppers looking for their next perfect deal.

We bought a few things, but mostly just reveled in the dirty, the strange, the slightly broken, the historical, the quirky, the beautiful rusty, scratched, loved and saved stuff. We hiked up and down creaky, wooden stairs, we fondled old rugs and ran our hand over amplifiers from the 1970's, and stacks of LP's, bags of discarded lonely beads and brooches. We perused for a few happy hours.

After a few blocks of vintage wandering, we headed around the corner to a small letterpress studio and found some handmade beautiful art, stuffed monsters, copper jewelry, printing presses run on bicycle power. Jon chatted up the adorable ginger haired pixie artists, we made some purchases and decided to head out for some provisions after all of our strenuous browsing. We'd earned it. Or so we claimed.

No Kansas City flea market meandering is complete without lunch at the Westport Flea Market. The best burgers in a 300 mile radius, give or take a few miles. Just a fine burger. Basic perfect beef. Sesame seed bun, curly fries, pitchers of beer, scuzzy tables, tattooed waitresses who could easily refill your Pepsi or kick your ass, the Flea is a winner. Jon seemed to be enjoying himself. But after all the curly fries, we needed some good healthy exercise.

The weather was shockingly lovely today. Chilly but sunny, so we took a long walk on the recently opened stretch of walking trail behind our neighborhood. It was muddy, it was gravely, the dog was coated in detritus and clumps of dirt and little rocks, but it was a good way to walk off a few bites of burger. The men headed back to the house to clean off the dog and I went on for a little run. I  kept my eyes open for any wild yetis, but I think I was pressing my luck. Yeti sightings are rare. But there's always next month. I'll be on the look out.

Most photos by me and Instagram, but a couple, the really good ones, thrown in are from the Joe.

Friday, February 01, 2013

NaBloPoMo: Kick Start My Heart

Hello there, lovely readers. I'm going to write everyday this month. Every single day. It's a promise I'm making to myself and to you. Oh, I know it's more a promise to me, but if I tell you to expect my rambling voice here every day then I feel obligated and that's good. I like feeling obligated to you. Now, I can't guarantee we won't slog through a few baby paragraphs instead of real posts now and then, but I'm doing it, along with all the other NaBloPoMo joiners.

I adore the theme for February, in corny Valentine's Day fashion, it's Love and Sex! Yowza. Some of the prompts are creative and just a little bit sexy, which should make writing every single day feel less painful and more pleasurable. And that's always a good thing. So let's get started. I'll try to keep this PG-13. That allows a little T&A and minimal use of foul language, right? Ok, PG-13, maybe a light R.

Friday, February 1, 2013 - When was the last time you said, "I love you."?

Joe and I are unsurprisingly those nauseating people that say "I love you" every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. I don't believe you can wear those words out. I don't believe you should hold them for special occasions like the good hand-painted rose china my grandmother rarely took out of her dining room cabinet. Love isn't a special occasion phrase. Maybe the first time. Maybe when you've worked up the nerve to say it while looking into the eyeballs of someone who makes your knees weak and your palms sweat.

Us, on water.

Maybe when you've never said it before. Maybe when you can't be sure they feel the same way. But once you've gotten past that first giddy, heady moment, I say, say it. Say it all the times you feel like it. Say it out of the blue. Say it when you hang up the phone with your sweetie on the other end. Say it when you part ways in the morning still half asleep. Say it when you're mad. Say it when you're so mad you grit your teeth through the saying of it. Say it when you're laughing and lighthearted. Say it when everything about your day has gone wrong. Say it. But make sure you mean it before you listen to my advice. You have to mean it. In your core. You shouldn't hold it back as punishment or as leverage. Don't avoid saying it because it terrifies you. Don't avoid those words because your parents rarely or never said it to you. They were wrong. They probably felt it everyday, and they should have told you. Because they did feel it, but maybe it terrified them to say it. Maybe they thought it would make you soft and weak. But that's a myth. It's a falsehood. I say it a lot. I mean it a lot. It makes me a happier, healthier, more open person when I take the risk and say it. Risk it. Say it. I love you.