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Moose Getting Married

Dear Moose,

I can’t quite believe you’ll be married by this time tomorrow. Even though you said from day one that Stephanie was your future wife, my brain is just now processing that your marriage begins in less than 24 hours.

Nearly all of my childhood memories — as happy as seeing you earn Eagle Scout and as sad as Dad’s stroke — revolve around us being a dynamic duo.

From fights so bad our family questioned us ever being friends to you and Steph taking me in post-college, we’ve managed every level of friendship. We were each others’ most bitter enemies and then the only thing each other had — all within the span of a couple decades.

There’s no doubt in my mind that yours is a marriage that will last a lifetime. The love and respect you two have for each other is admirable, and I know it will only grow as this next chapter begins.

Picture of a Picture = Classy

You’ve been there for every milestone in my life, and I’m so thrilled to celebrate this monumental day with you.

With love –Mouse

Happy Birthday, Magz

Today is my favorite mom’s birthday — a big one at that, though I won’t say which. Since I can’t be there to celebrate in person, it’s only fitting that I dedicate a virtual present to the best mom I’ve ever had.

We’ll celebrate big time when she and Slick Rick are in town next weekend for Brother’s birthday and his fiancée’s bridal shower. Till then, wishing Magz a fabulous and unforgettable day!

Olan Mills Photography at its very best.

Several years later, our girls-only cruise allowed us a stop in Atlantis.

The fake tat was a hit at my sorority’s Rock Star social.

And then we got the real deal for my 22nd birthday.

An annual pic in front of the tree. Love you more than words can express!

WO: Weekly Obsessions

First and foremost, please assist me in wishing my favorite Mom a very happy birthday. Love you much, Magz! Cheers to another year of health and happiness. And without further ado, this week’s pretty little things:

“Maggie May”: Confession: I am slightly biased in this choice, as it reminds me of my momma. But whether it’s the connection to my mom or the easy beat that keeps me relaxed, all I can say is that I simply adore this jam.

Cobalt Blue: This particular shade of blue is absolutely gorgeous and a regular staple in my wardrobe. With dark hair and fair skin, I can always rely on cobalt to make my features work for me. Lucky enough, the wedding I’m in this weekend showcases cobalt bridesmaid dresses that are to die for — and avoid the dreaded “27 Dresses” moment.

Margaritaville: This wedding promises to bring together good friends, good drinks and of course, good music. The bride and groom are avid Buffett fans, and I’ve been enjoying summer sips and music in preparation for a long night of dancing and, did I mention drinks? Wasting away again, indeed. Salud, Charlie and Jen!

Long Weekends: Between Chicago last week and the Labor Day + wedding combo, I’ve had back-to-back shortened workweeks. While I don’t love cramming all of my to-do lists and responsibilities into an abbreviated timeframe, it feels incredible to have five days off in a row (for the first time in more than three years)! I. Dig. It.

This marks my 10th Weekly Obsession post — and the longest commitment to a relationship I’ve made in a long time. Some changes are coming to the WOs shortly, but in the meantime, I hope you’re all enjoying ’em.

Sweet 16

There are a lot of exciting things that a 16th year brings. Wealthy parents may shower their teens with an outlandish party, sometimes documented on MTV’s sickening show. Other kids receive a license and unleash hell on the local roads. But today, 16 marks a personal anniversary that isn’t so sweet.

I woke up to sirens the morning of Aug. 15, 1995. Mom sat at our dining-room table, head in her hands and crying softly. “Daddy’s had a stroke,” she said, and though my 8-year-old mind had no idea what that entailed, seeing a parent weep signals a sudden simultaneous sense of insecurity and understanding.

It was the morning of my third-grade orientation — at a new school, no less — and Grammy would take me to meet my teacher, Mom explained. I don’t remember if I cried then, but I do remember an overwhelming numbness. When adults talk to you, rather than around you, it often forces you to grow up yourself.

Gram took me to the hospital that afternoon. I held Brother’s hand and walked tentatively into the room. I will never forget what I saw and heard: Dad hooked up to beeping machines, doctors giving Mom information about local funeral homes, and Brother telling me that Daddy might not know who we are. Even now, it brings over a wave of emotion that I can’t quite control.

The following months and years brought fresh feelings of frustration and questioning. From walking to writing, and eventually driving, Dad had to relearn every basic function. As the sole southpaw in the family, I was tasked with helping him learn to do things with his now dominant left hand.

He still walks with a limp, and there are days when mobility is not its best. And, I am still selfish at times — worrying how he will walk me down the aisle or complete a father-daughter dance. We aren’t perfect in our relationship, and I don’t know that we’ll ever go back to what I perceived as the idyllic “Daddy & Me” situation.

But, I love him. I’ve learned from him. I respect him for the man he’s become. And I raise a glass to him this evening, 16 years into the new life that was thrust upon him.

I’ll always be your Mouse, no matter what this world brings upon us. 143

At my college graduation … Dad now volunteers at the hospital that saved him, as well as for the local Boy Scouts and elections committee.

Born a Star-Spangled Sucker

Let’s pretend you were born on a holiday … say, the 4th of July? OK, so you grow up thinking all the hoopla is for you. For weeks, you can’t wait to celebrate YOU with the rest of the country. See how you might be confused when you discover it isn’t?

I am an Independence Day baby. As a result, I’ve worn an embarrassing amount of patriotic outfits and witnessed my fair share of firework shows. I’ve had more than 20 red, white and blue birthday cakes. I’ve proclaimed my love for Uncle Sam being only slightly stronger than my love for me.

When I found out — admittedly, well into my childhood — that everyone’s excitement around the 4th had basically nothing to do with me, I was crushed. The barbecues, the parades, the screwed-up National Anthem performances — all of it’s for the USA? Not what I signed up for, people.

I was further punished with a few years of canceled fireworks. From wildfires to Florida rain, Mother Nature can be a real birthday bitch. The summer date meant I never carried balloons at school or had a classroom party. Celebrations with friends were moved around the holiday weekend, so everyone could spend time with their families — the nerve!

The day isn’t all bad, though. I’ve never had tests, like my friends with school-year birthdays. I’ve never been scheduled to work. I’ve hosted a bar crawl the past few years, and it’s been a shitshow perfectly fit for the nation’s (and my) birthday.

So, enjoy the festivities as you celebrate America and Amanda this weekend. Cheers to another 235 years of kicking ass and taking names!

Slick Rick and I in the county paper on my 1st birthday

Cake-faced already at age 2, with Magz and Brother

The Spaghetti Shirt

As a wee little Wittyburg, I grew up as one of the most clumsy, awkward kids you’d have known. Not much has changed, as I’m still lacking grace, but I did outgrow one tradition: The Spaghetti Shirt.

We regularly had pasta for dinner, and my mom realized when I was probably 3 or 4 years old that I still hadn’t quite managed to figure out how to work a fork. With more pasta and sauce on my face and hands, plus the table, The Spaghetti Shirt was introduced.

Every time we ate pasta, Brother and I would don crummy old T-shirts to ensure our “nice” clothes were out of harm’s way. Mine was white, naturally, and it became so stained and disgusting over the years that it took on a life of its own. The marinara splotches formed an ink-blot test that would stump even the most beautiful mind.

I was out to lunch with co-workers recently, and I spilled down the front of my shirt — not something new for this crew to witness, mind you. Not even a bit surprised at my clumsiness, I sighed that I should have just worn The Spaghetti Shirt. It’s too bad mine was retired years ago; it’d have been a hit at Maggiano’s.

 Spaghetti BabyOh, baby … this kid could use some help.

Gift Guide for Dad’s Day

Father’s Day is right around the corner, and if your dad is anything like mine, buying a gift for him proves more challenging with each passing year. Fret not, dear friends: Here are some guy-friendly gifts that will please your papa.

Tech Toys

  • Apple iPad or other tablet
  • GPS for his ride
  • nook, Kindle or other eReader

Sports Stuff

  • Jersey and framed magazine from his favorite team’s big win
  • Autographed memorabilia from an online auction
  • Tailgating snacks, face paint and tickets for the next home game

Outdoorsy Options

  • Gear for his next big hike
  • Supplies for the campsite, such as a new tent
  • Map an unexplored destination where he can go rappelling or white-water rafting

Home-Improvement Hotshots

  • Personalized tool kit
  • Gift card to home-improvement store and subscription to “This Old House
  • A season or two of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” on DVD

All-American Alternatives

If your dad doesn’t fall within just one of the hard-defined categories, try mixing a few of the items above to create something truly unique.

The important thing, of course, is to spend time with Dad and thinking of him. He likely doesn’t need anything fancy, but it’s nice to show him your appreciation for all that he does.

Slick Rick, Brother, Me

Slick Rick, Brother and I on base: Savannah, Ga.; Christmas 1990

Four-Legged Farewell

My parents granted the gift I’d been relentlessly begging for in December of 2000. I got my very own puppy, whom I named Sandy. She was a mix of Beagle-Boxer-Rhodesian Ridgeback, and I picked her out myself from our local humane society. I was in love.

After more than 10 years of unconditional care, countless toys and thousands of naps together, Sandy was put down yesterday. My heart breaks as I come to terms with saying goodbye, but I know it’s what was best for her. In just one week, she experienced multiple seizures and had zero chance for improved health. It was right to give her peace.

Sandy wasn’t my first dog, and she likely won’t be my last — but we had that human-canine bond that will always remain special. It gives you warmth, no matter how long you’ve been apart. It gives you strength, when longtime friends come and go out of your life. And it gives you hope, that there is such a thing as unedited, pure adoration.

As with any loved one, cherish the moments you have with them now. You never know how quickly they could be taken from you. From “puppy pants” to “baby face,” Sandy girl had a million names. The most important, and one I’ll remember forever, is “mine.”

Sandy BabySandy at Christmas 2009, with one of her favorite toys.

A Wittyburg Thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving holiday essentially consisted of one shitstorm after another. To save you (and me) the trouble of a lengthy recap, allow me to sum up the weekend in the following helpful bullets:


  • Left work at 1 p.m. Helped a stranded co-worker get her car towed, then drove her to Ocala to enjoy her holiday. Got to my house around 8:30 p.m.
  • Drank more 2-4-1s than should be legal at Crapplebee’s with Brother. Played bear-ninja-cowboy and had to get a taxi (van) ride home. The mile-and-a-half trip cost $9 but I gave the guy $20 so he wouldn’t come back to kill us.

Thursday – Turkey Day

  • Did not get to draw a hand turkey. Very upset.
  • Lots of family and friends over for food and drink. Have I mentioned before that my family is insane?
  • Annual pinochle tournament begins. No tears … yet.


  • Massages with my mom, Maggie May. The woman told me I am tense all over and need to work on that. Thanks, lady.
  • Saw “Morning Glory,” that one with Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford. Great afternoon flick to catch.
  • Due for a phone upgrade, I went with the iPhone 4. Working very diligently to refrain from becoming obsessed.
  • Pinochle tournament continues. My grandpa and 16-year-old cousin win and take the trophies home. Tears ensue.
  • “Out” in Daytona: a pub, a gay club ($2 shots!), a lame bar and a strip club. Together again with old friends and a few drinks too many.


  • Lunch with Maggie, a dear friend and her mom. Try to cover two years in two hours of talking.
  • Shopping with Mags at the Mecca, Kohl’s. Spend $50 and save $75. This is the word of the Lord.
  • Attend speaking engagement of grandpa’s. More tears ensue.
  • Reunion at a quaint bar/restaurant with many old friends, including the entire band playing. Lots of drinks and catching up and smiles and hugs.


  • Lunch with cousin and close friend; worst service endured in a very long time. Waitress was shit-for-brains and clearly had no desire to gain a good tip.
  • Packed all too quickly.
  • Pit stop in DeLand for a co-worker; back to Tampa after a roller-coaster weekend.

All in all, I had the best Thanksgiving I’ve experienced in quite some time. Although it got off to a very rocky start, I was so grateful to be home for more than 24 hours. My family is my rock — even when they make me crazy.

Spending time with loved ones rejuvenated my spirit and allowed me to take a break from the rat race, if only for a few days. I hope you each made your own special memories as you celebrated all of life’s blessings.

And if anyone drew a hand turkey, fuck off. No need to be an asshole at a time like this.