“Youuuu can’t caaaatch meeeee!” six-year-old me challenged my Dad as he quickly side-stepped toys and lunged in an effort to swat my behind. I was in trouble. Again.
Then there was the flat screen TV incident a year later, when I intricately carved my older sister’s initials into the upper right-hand corner of our brand new, 50-inch television.
“DAMN IT, KELLI!” my Dad yelled frequently… including the night I snuck a kitten home from my babysitter’s house in my backpack.
But that wasn’t quite as bad as the day I tossed lit matches from a moving golf cart and set an entire corn field on fire at the same sitter’s house.
Or the time I got kicked out of Girl Scouts for spitting on the troop leader’s daughter. Turns out being the top cookie seller five years in a row wasn’t even enough to save me from that one.
How about when I slammed a stapler on my babysitter’s hand because she wouldn’t let me play with my mom’s make up?
Or the time my neighbor and I somehow shot homemade, lime green icing on the kitchen ceiling, then didn’t tell my parents until much later, when the frosting was rock hard.
Then there was that Sunday 10-year-old me tried to mow but couldn’t figure out how to get dad’s big ass Ford tractor out of gear. So I intentionally rammed it into the side of our house to stop the forward motion. That went over well.
The list goes on… high school me vomiting all over the kitchen floor and my mom, in front of several friends who thought I was fake-drunk. (Oh hello there, low tolerance for alcohol.)
Frequent 3am drunk dials to my parents in college – including the time I got kicked out of a bar (and almost murdered with a high heel) for throwing beer on a bartender.
Can’t forget calling hysterical as I literally drove a news car toward a tornado during my first TV job in college.
You get the idea.
I pushed limits.
Never asked for permission.
Refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.
I was what you might refer to as a “challenging” child.
So my parents said it. Often. Sometimes angrily. Sometimes laughing. But looking back, I have a feeling they always meant it: “I hope you have a daughter just like you.”
I had no idea what I was in for.
Fast forward to June 11, 2015.
My water broke at work.
Seven hours later, after the easiest labor and delivery in the history of ever, her seven-pound, ten-ounce body slid out of my womb and into the world and I had a brand-new baby girl in my arms.
“Wow!” my mom said when she saw Lyla in person the next day, “She looks so much like you!”
“You think?” I asked.
But also, I should have known.
No, really… Should. Have. Known… I was suddenly face-to-face with the biggest challenge of my life.
She was such a needy baby – much more so than her two older brothers. And she only wanted her mama.
As a newborn, Lyla screamed in the car the entire five-hour road trip to visit my family. And again the next year, and the next.
At 18 months old, she screamed the entire flight to Florida. It was torture.
As an infant, she rejected naps, which made her an overtired mess all the time.
As a 2-year-old, she begged to nap, causing her to be so well-rested that she woke up in the middle of the night and binge watched cartoons on the couch for hours. Unsupervised.
I would find her passed out with the TV blaring when I woke up to get ready for work. That went on a good year-and-a-half.
And she was so damn sassy.
Her favorite word? “NO!” with a smile, as if it were a viable option.
She’s now six.
And undeniably just like me.
I have a video of her dancing and singing to Fireball by Pitbull. Naked. In front of a mirror. Not a damn care in the world.
She can fall asleep anywhere, at any time. And she does. But good luck waking her up – she just might kill you.
Lyla once got so mad at her BFF during their first sleepover that she refused to talk to or even look at her. It was so much drama that the mom texted me, asking how to handle the situation.
At dance class, my girl flat out told her teacher “no,” then cried at the end of class when she didn’t get candy.
A few months ago, the school bus driver wrote her up… because after asking Lyla to stop pulling down out of her coat and sprinkling it on the kids around her, my mini locked eyes with the driver and continued to do it anyway.
Holy. Fucking. Defiance.
Discipline rarely phases Lyla and she’s tough enough to go straight at her older brothers in a wrestling match.
But… my bougie little girl loves sparkles, dogs, unicorns, pretty dresses and all of the LOL Surprises.
She’ll often get my attention with a, “Hey Mommy? I wuv you. So much.”
She loves baking and crafting.
She loves when we wear matching outfits and hairstyles.
She loves to wear make-up and work out and run with me.
She puts on nice clothes, grabs a purse and gives me a big hug before pretending to leave for work.
And I melt.
I want my daughter to know life is beautiful and she can truly make it whatever she wants it to be. I want to tell her time and experience will teach her to channel her drive and determination in ways that help her succeed beyond what she ever imagined.
I so desperately want to tell my little girl to stay bold because the path of least resistance is not always the best one. I want to tell her being dubbed “aggressive” or “too much” by someone else is not her problem and not necessarily a bad thing.
I want to warn my daughter there are people in this world who will do whatever it takes to try and dull her shine... simply because she shines so bright.
I want her to know life – at some point – will inevitably bring her to her knees… she will feel lost, broken and alone. I want to tell her when that darkness comes, the only way out is to keep pushing forward.
But those are awfully grown-up conversations for a six-year-old.
So for now, I try not to lose my shit on the daily. I wrap her in hugs and tell her the most important thing she can do is treat others with kindness, love and respect. I also tell her it’s never OK to be dishonest or step on someone else to get what she wants. But when she does make a mistake, the very best way to get past it is to own it and apologize to anyone she hurt.
At bedtime, I ask all three of my kids about the best part of their day and what maybe could have gone a little better. I sometimes ask if there’s anything on their mind or heart. I tell them they can always talk to me or ask me anything… without judgement.
A few weeks ago after a particularly rough Saturday filled with defiance and plenty of time outs, Lyla and I snuggled into her bed, exhausted. The weight of the day hit me. Did I yell too much? Am I too hard on her? Did I show her the kindness, love and respect I drill into her every single day?
DID I SCREW UP MY KID???
“Hey Mommy?” she asked sweetly, breaking me away from my own thought monsters.
“When I grow up, I can’t wait to be a mom… Just like you.”
And I exhaled.
It’s a scene played out in so many of my favorite childhood movies – Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, Notting Hill (I had a slight obsession with Julia Roberts in the 90s, OK? Don’t judge me).
Girl likes guy.
Guy likes girl.
Sometimes it works out and they live happily ever after. Sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, girl is fabulous and free and happy. She figures it out. In the movies.
It took me all of 36 years to figure out I, too, am a runner. In every sense of the word. But my life is definitely not a movie.
It started in junior high, to exercise and blow off steam. I dabbled in running throughout high school and college, then logged a few miles here and there in my 20s.
After popping out a third kid in 2015, I RAMPED. IT. UP. – training for and completing a few dozen 5K, 10K and half-marathon races. Shit, I even did a half Ironman two years ago. I told myself all those miles kept me in decent physical shape while saving my sanity.
In 2017, when I broke the news of my divorce to my parents, My dad said, "You know, all this time I've kind of wondered who or what you were running away from." At the time, I shrugged, because I hadn’t really thought about it that way and didn’t have an answer for him.
Fast forward to pandemic. When my gym closed in March, I resolved to run 50 miles a month. No races. No training plans. And that’s how I coped with the unknown… I ran. For 14 months straight.
I kept telling myself I was moving forward, even if the rest of the world was on pause in lockdown.
Somewhere along the way though, I discovered I was pretty OK at running on pavement and a damn pro at running away from what’s uncomfortable and hard.
It was my M.O. in friendships, in dating and yes, in my marriage.
A friendship gets weird? I’d prefer to ghost that person rather than spend time and energy trying to save it.
A conflict or argument with a guy I’m dating reveals flaws a few months in? NEXT!
Let me be clear. I don’t shy away from the actual conflict or confrontation. I can almost always face that stuff head-on and acknowledge why I’m upset. But when it comes to fixing a struggle with another person, I tend to light shit on fire and head for the hills. It’s just… easier.
Fun fact: I am one heck of an “and another thing” girl in arguments. Upset me about one thing and I will absolutely rattle off five more reasons why I’m mad.
I am also the worst at goodbyes.
When colleagues leave for a new job, when friends move away, at funerals, when my kids and I leave my parent’s house at Christmas and just about anything else in life that involves saying ‘See ya!’, I struggle hard. So I avoid it. I dodge the negative emotions and I run.
Irish Goodbyes happen to be my specialty.
Let’s just say I’m a work in progress in the relationship department.
I could hypothesize my instinct to bolt is a product my perception of how my parents fought from time to time when I was growing up.
I could blame my tendency to peace out at the first sign of trouble on the fact that movies romanticize it.
But the truth?
No one ever taught me how to stay.
When I got married, I thought a fight was silent treatment and passive aggressive comments.
No one had shown me the value of sitting down and talking through a tough situation with empathy and compassion.
I did not know working through uncomfortable feelings was also a path for growth… both as an individual and in relationships.
No one told me disappointment, hurt and anger are normal; and it is possible to forge a deeper relationship with another person when we communicate openly about those difficult feelings.
No one explained to me it would be impossible to outrun my own mistakes until I owned them and faced my demons head-on.
So I spent the past 36 years building strong, high walls to protect my heart. I broke off relationships and shut people out before they could do it to me first. I made it impossible for anyone to hurt me. Yes, part of those actions was me refusing to settle for anything less than what I felt I deserved. Another part was simply a bad cycle I didn’t know how to break.
And guess what?
It still hurt.
But ready or not, it is truly amazing the way time works its magic… often in unexpected ways and through the most unexpected people.
All I've ever needed is someone to truly understand me. All I've ever wanted is a reason to stop running.
I saw this quote the other day and read it over and over as the words sank into my soul:
And after everything, I’m finally figuring out how to stay.
I got my dad the most inappropriate gift for Christmas last year. I won’t elaborate other than saying my 7 and 9-year-old boys (who are obsessed with male anatomy – including the words nuts, balls or sack) thought it was hysterical. I giggled when I ordered it. Laughed when we wrapped it. Snickered as he unwrapped it.
“Kelli!” my Dad said, half-embarrassed, half trying not to laugh as he figured out what it was. “Wait until I show this to my good friend. He already thinks you’re crazy.”
“What? Why?” I asked, still laughing.
“You know, dating a new guy every six or eight months, posting pictures about it on Facebook. He asked what’s going on with you and I told him I stay out of it,” Dad replied.
WELL JEEZE… TELL ME HOW YA REALLY FEEL!
In the moment, I let his comment go because Christmas present opening is not the time to start a debate (or a defense) about Kelli’s dating life. But it just so happens that side bar came about a week after I ended yet another post-divorce relationship.
I’ve thought about my dad’s words a lot in the weeks that followed. To be clear, he was not trying to be vindictive, critical or mean. It was literally an in-the-moment comment about how spontaneous I am. I get that spontaneity honestly, by the way.
But also, I’ve shared TWO relationships on social media… in three-and-a-half years.
Is that a lot?
Do I fall too hard, too fast?
Do I let people in too easily?
Do I put too much out there for everyone else to see?
My best friend would answer yes to all those questions about me. She’s more reserved, more cautious and much more careful with her heart.
“You definitely go zero to sixty pretty fast,” she said, referring to those past two relationships, which lasted a whopping four months and eight months, respectively.
My favorite mentor said the same.
“Slow down, Kel. You don’t need to go all in at the very beginning. You barely know him,” she said over lunch a couple years ago as I gushed about the Uber driver I’d connected with a month earlier and was dating at the time. ”You have time to figure this out.”
Both of them were right.
I’m 36. My career, my finances and my physical and mental health have never been better.
I do have time. I don’t need to rush. I could play the game – take a breath and wait a week before agreeing to a second or third or fourth date. I could not respond to a text right away. I could hold off when it comes to posting about a new relationship on social media. I could wait a year or more to see if a man truly fits into my life before making a spot for him and introducing him to my kids… but why should I have to do any of that?
A few years ago as I tried to navigate why my marriage failed and why life suddenly felt so difficult, my therapist told me I’m a deep thinker who also loves and feels very deeply. She said when I was ready, I needed to look for a relationship with the same type of person who has similar depth and self-awareness so that person could love and understand me in a way that would truly fulfill my soul.
I remember the sense of relief I had when she said those words because she made me feel so normal. In that moment, she articulated something I had spent a lot of time trying to figure out. And I’ve held on to that while navigating this (mostly shitty but sometimes amazing) world of dating as a single mom.
Just so we’re clear, even though I don’t exactly hold back when I feel a connection with someone, I still refuse to settle.
If something is missing, I’m not afraid to politely say, ‘No thank you’ to a second or third date.
If I’m not getting what I need emotionally, intellectually or otherwise, I make that clear and I end it.
If there’s drama, a toxic baby mama or signs a man has serious work to do on his own mental or emotional well-being, I run. FAST.
And here’s why: I’ve done the work on myself. I know who I am. I know what I want.
Oh, and I don’t need a fourth child.
I’ve also learned it’s OK to be deep. It’s OK to meet someone new and give them the very best version of who I am in that moment. It’s OK to go all-in, to fall hard and fast and let my heart feel all of the things. It’s OK to show my kids life can still be so freaking beautiful even though it is sometimes unpredictable and ugly.
Why would I ever want anything less?
Trust me, I know I’m a lot to handle. I also don’t apologize for that. If I’m too much for someone, that’s that’s OK too. It just means we aren’t meant to be.
To that point, it’s OK if you are the type who burns a bit slower. It’s OK if you are more cautious about giving away your heart. It’s OK if you want to take your time before figuring out whether it’s safe or smart to go all-in. We are not all the same and thank goodness for that.
Oh, and speaking from experience: “cautious” and “zero to sixty” people don’t usually mesh well. We’re talking crash and burn. Big fire. Might scar your ego. But that’s OK too.
When you’re an “all-in” kind of person, you don’t dip your toe in the water before deciding to jump. You literally put your hands over your head, take a deep breath and you dive. And you don’t have time or energy to give a shit what anyone on the surface might think.
The other day at the gym, I ran into a former colleague I’ve always adored and respected. We’re both creatives – big thinkers, big personalities, you get the idea. You know how you vibe on a whole different level with people who get you? That’s how my friendship is with Josh. We worked together some 10 years ago then went separate ways, but stayed connected on social media.
So when I spotted Josh standing in the lobby, it was perfectly natural to run up and squeeze him into a giant hug – masks and all.
“Oh my gosh, hi!” I gushed. “You look so good. Why don’t you age?”
“Girl… look at YOU! Lookin’ awesome,” he replied. “Me? This spot on the top of my head is all you need to prove I’m an old man.”
What is it with men and their hair?
I swear, bald spots, receding hairlines and thinning patches are the biggest not-talked-about (but talked about) insecurity with most men 30 and up. And I don’t get it.
I have so many examples of random, off-handed comments from guys about their locks (or lack thereof) when it was not anywhere CLOSE to the topic at hand.
Here’s one I’ve replayed a time or six: A couple years back at the end of a really great date, a guy in his mid-40s thought he was being funny when he said, “I’m old and practically bald and you’re young and beautiful, so we should probably just end it here.”
What was I supposed to do with that?
Dude. You’re super attractive. Your charisma is off the charts. You have a ridiculously successful career and WE just had a fantastic night. So you make a joke about your bald spot!?
Then there was the billboard guy. I almost feel bad writing about him because I know he’ll read this and he’s also such a gentleman… but also, IT’S JUST HAIR!
Our first of three dates happened in early pandemic – maybe late March? We found an open Starbucks and took a nice long walk one Saturday afternoon. It was kind of chilly and he wore a hat. At that point, I had no opinion about his hair.
Second date – we binged Tiger King, ate take out and drank vodka (who didn’t do that in pandemic, by the way?). Super fun night. But while sitting next to him on the couch and chatting, I noticed something about his hair was weird. Couldn’t decide if it was the comb-back or the hairline itself. I mental noted and mentioned it to my best friend the next day,
“Awesome guy, but there’s something off with his hair. More to come.”
Third date – pizza, more vodka and conversation at his place. Somehow we land on the topic of post-divorce self-care and that’s when it alllll came out. His eyes lit up. Then he asked if I had ever seen the Brian Urlacher billboards along the Dan Ryan in Chicago.
“You know, the hair ones,” he added.
“I have…” I replied, suddenly realizing exactly where this conversation was about to go.
“OK, so I did that,” he said, looking super proud.
Oh shit. Don’t laugh. Gotta call BFF and tell her I was right. Now is probably not the right time to call. But oh em gee bite your tongue and Don’t. Freaking. Laugh. in this sweet man’s face.
I kind of had to tune him out for the next minute or so to steel myself. When I zoned back in, he was talking about the doctor who did his procedure.
“…and this is the same guy who actually did Brian Urlacher’s implants. And then he drew on my head with a permanent marker, and then…” this conversation went on for a good 10 minutes. I sat there, soaking it in. Not quite sure how to respond.
Again, super nice guy. Great dad. Incredibly sharp. Stellar career. Yet so concerned about his HAIR LOSS. In the end, the connection wasn’t there for me and I wasn’t about to waste his time or mine. There were no more dates after that fateful night.
Can someone please tell me why men are so fixated on what is happening on top of their heads?
When I ask guy friends about it, they shrug their shoulders and acknowledge it’s simply a sensitive subject. Many of them, by the way, admit they’ve tried or thought about trying pills, creams, shampoos, conditioners, powders, dyes, implants and other methods in an attempt to hide this big secret/not secret insecurity.
When I put my friend Josh on the spot about his unprompted bald spot comment at the gym, he laughed and explained he usually brings it up first because if he’s with a group of guys, that’s one of the first jokes on the table – who has the least amount of hair. He said his in-laws are the same – a bald crack at his expense always flows out of their mouths at family get togethers. So he just gets it out of the way first. I guess it makes sense.
I know what you’re probably thinking. And you’re right. This is absolutely a huge pot/kettle issue because women are constantly obsessing over our physical appearance when it comes to weight, eyebrows, cellulite, stomachs and other parts of our bodies most men ironically love in their natural state.
Now that you’ve read about it though, sit back and wait for it. The next time a man sees a picture of himself and you hear him say, “Ew, you honed in right on my bald spot!” or “This is my good side. It has hair,” you’ll smile. Then hopefully you’ll reassure him about the bald truth… a real woman truly doesn’t care about about a man’s lack of follicular growth. And a woman who does? Well, you don’t want her anyway.
Or just reiterate what my 72-year-old dad (whom I’ve never known WITH a full head of hair) always says: “I’ve never been in a situation where I needed it.”
I don’t know with 100% certainty what’s happening where you are, but it’s getting reaaallll ugly over here.
This place is slowly becoming a graveyard for my shellac mani/pedi… do I say screw it and peel off the rest or just let that shit keep growing?
My 8-year-old just racked his 6-year-old brother squarely in the nuts. So my 6-year-old sought revenge by biting his brother in the ass.
And last night? I tried to call and cancel our 7-day spring break vacation to warm, sunny, beautiful Florida. Except I can’t even do that because the airline phone lines are jammed AF right now.
You guys, this is the weirdest shit most of us have ever experienced in our lifetime.
We’re homeschooling but still working full-time (some of us are still reporting to the office daily). Dogs are barking and babies crying in the middle of conference calls and everyone just has to be OK with it.
We aren’t technically supposed to go anywhere for another two weeks (other than the grocery store, where people continue to wipe out toilet paper... pun intended). School is out until at least May flipping first and, according to the governor’s order, public playgrounds are also technically closed.
According to my iPhone, my screen time is up to an average of 6 hours per day.
Oh, and my most favorite one yet? Boomers blame “Millennials” for choosing to spend their college spring break getting drunk on the beach during quarantine. Bitch, I’m a Millennial with three children, a career and a mortgage. Those college kids are a good 15 years younger than me. Try again.
Then there’s the whole dating scene. Real dates aren’t even happening because there’s nowhere to go. So consider yourself lucky if you can find an open Starbucks and at least take a walk without getting arrested. Or you can do what a friend of mine recently did… meet someone on Hinge and do a virtual date. They literally FaceTimed each other while simultaneously watching the same movie. I love her. She said it was fun. But I’m not sure if there’s anything worse.
Oh wait, there is.
The gym is closed. My sanity and summer body are gone. I can feel both withering away with each passing day. Yes, I’m doing all of the planks and push-ups and lunges and squats at home. I’m running (a little). I’m trying to hold both the 10lb and 12lb weights in the same hand while praying the resistance band doesn’t slip from underneath my 4-year-old’s foot and smack me in the face. Let’s just say my workouts aren’t quite the same.
How is this even real?
I feel like we could use scenes from our lives right now to make one hell of a music video to the song “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II. Don’t act like you haven’t already watched it 27 times since it came out on Disney Plus two weeks ago.
Oh, and according to my Facebook and Instagram feeds, we are all literally eating and drinking our way through pandemic quarantine 2k20. So that’s cool.
But I also see something else happening.
I see us forced to cancel plans (including my soon-to-be 7 year old's bowling alley birthday party) and clear our calendars to stay home and spend time together… as families. I see people near and dear to my heart buying groceries for the “at risk” category of those who really shouldn’t go to the store right now.
I see business owners fighting to keep their doors open one more day. I see neighbors connecting around bonfires and spring clean up in the yard. I see "Bear Hunts" happening in neighborhoods so kids can safely play outside while connecting with their parents. I see love and kindness and compassion in action every single day.
Life is hard and surreal right now. Many of us are scared or nervous about the unknown that lies ahead. Many others out there (myself included) are exhausted and just about at our breaking point from giving the past two weeks everything we’ve got.
At the same time though, we are also uniting and fighting for the greater good. I challenge you to think about who or what you are fighting for (aside from privacy in the bathroom and pretending you didn't just hear the 1,000th “Hey Mommy” of the day).
We are all fighting to protect our parents, family members, neighbors and friends in that “at risk” group.
We are fighting for those in our communities who are currently out of a job.
We are fighting for the wisdom to show patience and kindness toward each other. Especially the human beings we created who won't stop the steady stream of smart ass comments after everything we say.
I’m fighting for my little human beings, who probably needed a sound lesson in gratitude and the fact that even though we sometimes we don’t get what we want, it’s shockingly NOT the end of the world.
I’m fighting to keep a solid sleep/wake/eat schedule (who knew a 7-year-old boy could eat so much!?) inside our home so we can maintain a tiny sense of normalcy.
Think about the example we are setting for those little eyes and ears that watch and listen to us so intently. Think about the lives we are saving because we know we can make a difference. Think about what truly matters and why.
We will get through this. We will use and then remove our old-school polish and sprint to the closest nail place when it re-opens for shiny new shellac.
We will stop punching each other in the nuts and biting each other in the ass.
We will never look at an ice-cold Corona the same.
And someday, we will become filled with nostalgia as we tell our grand kids about that time we used lots of medicinal wine, vodka and love to survive quarantine during a pandemic that happened to have the same name as a beer.
I'm a mom to 3 beautiful, spirited, elementary school-aged humans, I'm addicted to running + strength training, I have no filter & I work full time in the corporate world. But behind the scenes of all that is where it really gets interesting...