Tag Archives: birthday

Chicago’s a beautiful place to celebrate a birthday


Hello, 30.

It seems like just yesterday that slap bracelets and Teddy Ruxpin and my favorite fictitious rock star Jem were the things about which I cared the most. Was that really the 80s and early 90s?

Then there was flannel and grunge and American Eagle ripped jeans. And the 90s felt as safe and comfy as one of those flannel shirts or pairs of well-worn jeans. We were all so unscathed.

I went to high school before Macbooks and iPods and iPhones – when AOL was cool, and we’d stay up late instant messaging each other from our sparkly new screen names. One by one, we started getting our first cell phones. Back then, they were a handy tool that made us feel safe. We still talked to one another – really talked to one another; we still lived for the moments we were face to face. Our lives weren’t consumed by technology.

I graduated from high school in 2001, the first class of the new millennium (despite those graduates from 2000 trying to steal our thunder.) And while I was in college, that September, everything changed. Our world was rocked. As we walked around campus in a daze, we all grow up so quickly.

I love that I knew a world before that terrible September. When people trusted one another just a little bit more. I love that I knew a world where making plans was essential, because we didn’t have cell phones glued to our bodies. I love that I knew a world with Teddy Ruxpin and slap bracelets.

I’m so thankful for this crazy life. Even the parts that aren’t so shiny. These have been an incredible 30 years.

Turning 30

I’m going to turn 30 soon. It feels like it took forever and yet no time at all to get here. My life is everything and nothing like I pictured it would be when I was a little girl with long, stringy hair, climbing trees and watching sunsets, knowing there was so much more to life than my small town and excited to try to reveal all of life’s little secrets.

Sometimes I feel like I haven’t done near enough to show for 30 years of living, that I’ve left too much undone. But, when I really take a closer look, I realize that’s not true.

I celebrated my 10th birthday in the Netherlands.
I’ve stood in awe inside the jaw-dropping Roman Colosseum.
I’ve seen Reba McEntire and Metallica and Aerosmith and Elton John and Bon Jovi in concert.
I’ve crowd surfed.
I attended the inauguration of Barack Obama.
I ran across the gorgeous river that separates Mt. Pleasant from Charleston in the Cooper River Bridge Run.
I’ve seen the changing of the royal guard in London.
I’ve interviewed Chris Daughtry and Johnny Weir.
I’ve also interviewed incredible people no one has ever heard of, like an elderly man who was a Golden Gloves boxing sensation in his younger days who then spent his elderly years digging graves by hand.
I’ve baked chocolate chip cookies, from the same recipe my mother passed down to me. I’ve done this so many times I have the recipe memorized.
I traveled to England for a month-long trip with four strangers. 
I’ve given a speech to a crowd of hundreds.
I’ve dipped into the chilly waters of the Italian Mediterranean.
I’ve driven across the Golden Gate Bridge.
I’ve had a pint of Guinness in Dublin.
I’ve been in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day where the river glows green.
I’ve walked the streets of Charleston and Savannah and Madison and Philadelphia.
I’ve kept in touch with my best friend from second grade.
I’ve hiked up a mountain so steep, each step was a combination of effort from my arms and legs, pulling and heaving myself forward till I reached the top.
I’ve gazed at Monets and Picassos until my eyes were blurry and I was breathless from awe.
I’ve played on sandy beaches and in the snow.
I took a chance on my 26th birthday and talked all night to the stranger who caught my attention. It paid off because that man became my husband.

I’m so thankful for this incredible life I’ve been given the chance to live. I can’t wait to see what the next 30 years will hold.

Knocking on 30’s door. Feeling sentimental.


Too mute cuteness.

Too much cuteness.

MaryPics 5

Yes, that's a laser beam background. Yes, you are jealous.

Yes, that’s a laser beam background. Yes, you are jealous.

I remember climbing trees and skinning knees. Late ’80s/early ’90s neon, paint-splattered glory. Madonna and Bon Jovi and Paula Abdul. Slap bracelets and acid washed jeans. Trapper Keepers full of wide-ruled notebook paper. Lisa Frank stickers and pencils and folders. Barbie dolls and Matchbox cars. Picnics in the park. My first bike. Tumbling face-first after barreling downhill on my first bike. Getting back on my first bike. Mom reading to me. Dad writing me notes. Wishing I were a character in the Babysitter’s Club books. Or Nancy Drew.


Teenage years. Awkward for everyone. But hey, check out the awesome multi-colored blanket behind me.

Teenage years. Awkward for everyone. But hey, check out the awesome multi-colored blanket behind me.

Prom-ing it up.

Prom-ing it up.

Oh you know. Just the first time I was ever behind the wheel of a car. In a Sam's Wholesale Club parking log. Unbeknownst to my mother...

Oh you know. Just the first time I was ever behind the wheel of a car. In a Sam’s Wholesale Club parking lot. Unbeknownst to my mother…

I remember Blockbuster on Friday nights, renting movies to last the whole weekend long. Surge and Pringles. Shirts from American Eagle. Calvin Klein short shorts. Instant messaging. AOL, chat rooms and screen names. Falling hard for the bad boy with the bad attitude. Concerts. So many concerts. Rocking out to “alternative” radio because I couldn’t get enough Matchbox 20, Foo Fighters, Blink 182, Oasis, Tonic and Better Than Ezra. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being myself. Rides in cars with boys. Getting home too late. Wishing I could just grow up.

Mary Old Pics 1 4

One of my first legally-purchased adult beverages. A margarita at Margaritaville in Key West. Booyah.

One of my first legally-purchased adult beverages. A margarita at Margaritaville in Key West. Booyah.

I could legally drink! Can you tell by my shmoozy face?

I could legally drink! Can you tell by my shmoozy face?

I remember lugging my gigantic, unwieldy gray eMachine computer up five flights of stairs in my freshman dorm. Chatting online with friends down the hall and putting up away messages, informing everyone what cool things we were doing. Staying out late just because we could. Skipping class when the sun beckoned us way from lectures. Frequenting the quickie Japanese restaurant, because if you just ordered the rice plate, you only had to fork over about three bucks.

I remember the night I celebrated my 26th birthday and met the man I would marry. Friendships shape shifting like shadow puppets, some getting bigger and brighter, others fading away. Moving and then moving again. Choosing a life course and feeling scared out of my mind. Reading books, so many books. Taking pictures. Experimenting in the kitchen. Realizing my mother is the best chef I’ve ever known and wishing I’d known it as a kid. Deciding I still need to go to concerts. Realizing I’ve gotten too old for some things but not others. Shouldering responsibilities and making tough decisions. Bills. Body aches that didn’t used to be there. Automobiles breaking down. Sanity breaking down. Realizing I’ve still got a long way to go.