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“He would have loved you.”

We lost my grandpa suddenly, five years ago today. My husband James never met him.

“He would have loved you.”

I tell him that sometimes. When we’re watching baseball, when he’s curled up quietly reading a book, when he starts singing made-up songs, when he peels open a banana, when he falls asleep in the armchair watching something he really loves.

I tell him that because it’s easier than saying, “I wish he had had the chance. I wish he had known you. I wish he had just one shared moment with you in my mom’s dimmed kitchen after dinner, hands wrapped around mugs on the table, quietly conversing about the world.”

My husband, he doesn’t know what he missed. How can you love someone you never met? If he’d come into my life a year earlier, he would’ve maybe had the chance. Maybe.

And so I look at it with a grateful heart. Less than 9 months after my grandpa died, this blonde-haired blue-eyed Italian-Irish boy parked outside the Cheesecake Factory and walked me inside. He reminded me about the love of baseball, the agony of 9 innings, of hard years and sticking with your team. He taught me that quiet can mean thoughtful. That words can be measured.

My grandfather lived three blocks from my aunt’s house. He showed up every day. In his actions and on their doorstep. He taught me what it means to give yourself to your family. And then, something changed, and he didn’t anymore. But we don’t remember him that way. We remember how he was for most of his life, how he loved his grandkids, the simple man he was.

I remember that cold first day of December, sitting on my knees with the kids, looking up at that video playing. Photo after photo. Song after song. When you’re the first grandkid, you see yourself over and over in those eulogy videos.

I cried the loudest in that room packed with people I hadn’t seen in years. In those photos, I could see all the time I’d had with him, all the things we’d done together, and how in the end it never felt like enough. You’re never ready for it to be over.

And so my husband shows me that sometimes God knows you’re hurting and He hands you a little piece of someone else. You catch yourself looking at your husband and remembering with sweetness what you once had, aching at the same time because you know they would’ve shared something special together.

You remember that quiet small actions matter. Love matters. Family matters. Showing up matters. On your doorstep or in your phone logs. However you can. However they need.

Sweatpants Moments On My Kitchen Table

mac-sweats-cheetahpants

All the voices in my life, pouring through car radio speakers and ear buds and screens and pages and phone lines, all of them have told me that love comes when it wants to. It sneaks up on you, taps you on the back, and whispers something sweet in your ear. You might be shucking corn over the kitchen trashcan or painting your toenails or joining a pair of socks when it happens. Whenever it happens, it isn’t because you sat quietly on the other end of the computer and waited for it to find you. It isn’t because you went online, and made yourself into a profile of a human, and pursed your lips together and closed the computer and paced your living room and wondered what the hell you’d done.

I committed myself to it, this online dating thing. I mean really gosh darn wholeheartedly. And it took a few weeks, but one night last August, I stopped midway through my barefoot kitchen floor dance to WHAT I WOULDN’T DO by A Fine Frenzy, and said, “God I am so in trouble. God, am I in trouble.”

Because in my head, I knew this was it. I was kicking those people and ideas and movies and books in the butt and saying, “You can find love online. You can make a profile, and be proud of it. And you don’t have to wait until you’re 35 or 57. You can do it now. Now. Now. Now. Now, you can do it.”

And God, that’s a terrifying thing to jump into. But I’ve learned, over the last year plus, that it’s worth it.

Last August, I had a feeling. I had a feeling about a boy with blonde hair + blue eyes + a big smile. The kind that crinkles your eyes when it means something. I had a feeling he was somebody important in my life, though I can’t tell you why, except that I could tell, in the span of a few days of messages and texts back and forth, that he was sweet. For the first few weeks, when people asked me about him, I’d say that: He’s like, really, really nice. Really sweet. And that seemed odd, because it felt like the most generic thing to say about a guy – except that it wasn’t generic at all. It was the truest thing. It still is.

When you want to share your life, when you want to open yourself up to the world, it’s freaking scary. I watched ONE DAY, the movie adaptation of the book by David Nicholls, the night before I joined the growing community of online daters.

All because that movie wrecked me. For half an hour, I sat cross-legged in sweatpants atop my pub-height kitchen table, ceiling fan whirling above me, and wrote a blog post. It was a promise to myself that someday, somewhere, I would stop apologizing for the person I wasn’t and start loving the person I actually was. It was a promise to let go of waiting, to turn on my computer, and open my heart to the single men in Maryland + DC + Virginia.

It’s been more than a year, and I’ve stopped waiting to apologize. I’m not sorry I don’t have a romantic Barnes & Noble encounter to share. I’m not sorry the Wegmans Self-Checkout didn’t hold within it my future boyfriend. I’m not sorry the stationery aisle at Target didn’t find me bumping into some beautiful boy who needed help locating a Mother’s Day card.

This jumping, and trusting, and putting-myself-out-there thing was worth so much more. God knows I have friends whose hands I’ve never shook, whose driveways I’ve never backed out of. God knows I was built for connection, just not over red grapes and Italian bread.

My favorite story is from last December, our bodies wrapped in light-up Christmas sweaters, cold drinks in hand. His oldest brother leans over and tells me a line that I think will stick with me forever: “They don’t make ‘em like him anymore.” I nod because it’s true. It’s true and it’s true and if you don’t decide to jump outside your comfort zone and cross into new territory, you don’t get those bone chilling true moments, where you lean back and realize this life has been good to you, but only because you let it. Only because you opened up and let it pull you forward.

The Small Moments // My January In Photos

january-in-photosI’d like to start remembering the small moments more. That’s what I discovered recently, when I realized 2013 was a whirlwind of change and I couldn’t pin it down. We focus on the bigness: the things we FINALLY do, the ways we TOTALLY change, the jumps & the leaps & the bounds. But do we ever think about all the tiny steps, the little bits of happiness & patience tucked in the pages before those final chapters? I certainly don’t. So here’s my January in pictures, because looking back, it was a big first month.

booking my hotel for my sister’s graduation trip // attending an awards gala for work // returning to my track days at a high school meet // rebranding the blog // dog sitting this adorable little Gracie girlie // having to walk away from my dream house // deciding to move

What did your January look like?

Weekly Inspiration 04 // Brightly Colored Doors

I have an embarrassing confession to make: when my sister + I were kids, small enough to ride in the backseat but big enough to risk leaning over the center console, distracting my mother, we made fun of my neighbors’ front door for months.

They’d painted it turquoise, the rest of the house a stark white stucco, set back from the road and sheltered by perfectly manicured shrubs and flowers.

Every time we drove past, one of us would lean forward and gawk, open-mouthed, at the obnoxious color choice. Who did they think they were, splashing the very entrance to their world with something so bold?

Now, a decade or so later, I have fallen hard for front doors. The charm of a southern porch screen door, thwacking against the wood frame. The bravery of a golden entryway tucked in the back alley of a city. The fierceness of an auburn storm door blockading an old farmhouse from winter blizzards.

Doors are, after all, the entrances to our true lives. Step inside someone’s house at a moment’s notice and watch as she either scrambles to stack Good Housekeeping back issues on a coffee table and kick matchbox cards under sofa skirts. Or as he leaps over half-finished art projects and dinosaur invasion stagings.

Notice the way it looks to be lived in, unabashedly tainted with the presence of someone else’s whole heart + soul.

That’s what hides behind those brightly colored doors: it’s freedom, it’s honesty, it’s optimism.

When every other house on the street boasts burnt browns and faded taupes, I want to relish in rich mahogany and creamy corals and buzzing kelly greens. I want people to know that the other side of that door holds a mess of happiness + chaos, comfort + warmth.

So today, I’ve rounded up my favorite doors, the ones I’d stop to knock on if ever my kids sell sugar cookie dough + pizza kits for club soccer + art camp.

bright colored front doors