The fisherman

Mario has always been more interested in the outdoors than Maria. It is funny because Maria grew up going to the farm and loves being there. However, she could probably stay inside her grandparents’ house all day baking, coloring, watching Netflix, and playing games, without any inkling to go outside and take a hike in the woods. Mario grew up with Grandma and Grandpa Ionno. They didn’t have woods to play in but they did have a big backyard and a pond at their condo. I remember Patty calling me to tell me that she and Mario went fishing in her pond, and how much he loved it. Mario also grew up fishing with Jon at big Mario’s house when they traveled there on the weekends.

Recently, Mario has been fascinated with living off the land. He informed me on one of our car rides together that he wishes he could just take a month and go somewhere remote in order to survive by himself. Fifth grade camp did a doozy on him. There was a survivalist session during camp; Mario loved it. He made fire with flint and stone. His primitive soul ignited.

The other weekend, he researched good places to fish near our home. He found a place a few miles away near downtown – Scioto Audubon. Jon and I had wanted to get yard work done but when Mario begged me to take him fishing, I could not resist. He got his fishing pole and his lures together as well as a couple of chairs for us to sit. It was precious. We found the fishing dock; it was pretty busy with people that had clearly been there for a few hours. We were able to cozy our way to a little bank of the river and Mario placed a lure on his pole. A couple next to us started hollering. The woman had caught a tiny fish. It was hysterical.

I watched him cast his line and stare out into the water as he slowly reeled the line in. He’d get a bite here and there and tug up on his pole. I’d lean into him to watch him work it. He’d bring the line in and lament how the fish just nibbled and wouldn’t latch. He’d begin the process again. Watching Mario cast his line and focus all of his attention on that line out in the water reminded me of a podcast I listened to a while back where the speaker talked about prayer as being “absolute unmixed attention.” Here we were at the shores of the Scioto amidst fishing strangers, praying.

Mario, Ri and I traveled to my parents’ farm this past weekend. Mario was excited to fish. Peepaw had agreed they could fish from kayaks. Mario saw a couple of guys in kayaks when we went to the Scioto and mentioned that he thought it would be fun to fish in one. Leave it to Peepaw to agree. They left for Seneca Lake and we’re gone for nearly four hours. I was heading down the grassy hill from a hike with Rocco when I saw Mario standing next to the shed.

“Mom, come here!”

I walked over and he showed off his catch – a huge catfish. It had to weigh three pounds. He had also caught a saugeye and a blue gill but released them. He was so charged up. I stood with him as Peepaw taught him how to cut and filet the fish. Watching my dad teach him and watching Mario soak it in made me smile.

We grilled up the catfish to add to the chicken and veggies that had been planned for the evening. Everyone told Mario the fish tasted delicious. He agreed, and begged to go back out after dinner.

Pain is your professor

Sometimes it just sucks being a mom.

Maria decided to go out for class president. She has been working on her speech and answering questions as to why she would want to be president for two weeks. A few evenings ago, she found out that the speeches were being made the next morning and that the four other classmates she was running against were bringing in donuts and candy. We made a last minute run to Big Lots to get Ziploc bags, tons of cookies, laffy taffy, and bubblegum.

Earlier in the evening, she printed out the names of all of the people in her class and made a tally of (1) who would vote for her; (2) who may vote for her but may vote for another classmate; and (3) who would not vote for her and would vote for another classmate. She chatted about her tally sheet with Jon the entire way to her PT appointment. He was impressed with her polling skills.

She also spoke to some of the girls in her class and determined that they would actually listen to the speeches and vote for the candidate who who would represent them the best. As for the boys, she determined that they would simply vote for whoever bribed them with the best treats. Hence, why she overloaded ziploc bags with cookies, laffy taffy, and gum.

We sat in the kitchen stuffing the bags while reviewing her speech and making tweaks to it. Her theme earlier in the week had been to ensure everyone felt safe at school. However, she changed her theme last minute because another girl had the same theme. I’m not sure if that girl had the theme long before Maria or Maria had it first but no matter what, I knew it was too late in the game to question her decision to change. Her new theme was that everyone should have a voice at school. She promised if she became president, she would make sure to listen to everyone and work on implementing classmates’ ideas to improve the school. She also talked about wanting their freshman year to be a lot of fun (because she has so much fun at school and wants to spread the joy). She only had under a minute to make her speech so she couldn’t get into too much detail. After numerous tweaks, she felt comfortable with it and rehearsed it several times to make sure it was under one minute. She ended her speech with a slogan she created while walking through Big Lots earlier in the evening: “Vote Maria, its a great idea!”

She snap chatted with her two girlfriends (heaven forbid they call each other) to confirm they would pass out bags with her during the morning before school.

I think she believed she would win. She seemed confident in the morning when she was making her breakfast. I told her she would do an amazing job and to just make sure she looked up from her paper and made eye contact with people. Jon and I both thought she had a good chance of winning as well.

I got a call from her an hour and a half later. I thought she was calling to tell me that she made it through her speech since the night before she had told Jon and I that she would not get the results until the day after her speech). When I clicked over from my other call to talk to her, all I heard were sobs.

My heart sank.

I thought she was going to tell me that she made a horrible speech but instead, she told me that she did not get the presidency. She could barely get out any other words to me. I tried to soothe her. I reiterated how proud her dad and I were for her running for the presidency and how this will make her stronger in the long run. I told her to be gracious to the winner. I reiterated again how proud we were of her throwing her hat in the ring. I did not want her to stop taking risks based on this loss.

I heard some girls’ voices in the background as I continued talking to her and realized she was standing in the bathroom stall. I asked if her friends were around her. She affirmed they were. I advised that she lean on them for support through the school day. She agreed. We both said “love you” and she hung up.

OK, my first instinct: slap all the kids who did not vote for her. Second instinct: tell her all the kids that did not vote for her are idiots. Third instinct: ask for a revote.

Fourth instinct: take a chill pill. Replay the Glennon Doyle podcast in your head.

Pain is your professor.

She will grow from this incident. It will make her more resilient and wise. There is conflict between the desire to protect your little one from pain and the desire to have your little one takes leaps and bounds while on this earth. But it is impossible to protect from pain so my role is to help her understand that pain is growth. Pain is not a bad thing. Pain is her professor.

Jon called me later in the day and told me that he had called Maria at lunchtime. Of course, I had tried to call her several times and she did not answer the phone. But when her dad calls…. She told him that she ended up in second place and that she would still be a representative on Council. He said that she sounded much better.

Of course she did. She is building that resilience.

Happy 14th birthday Ri!

I thought 13 would kill me. I was wrong. 14 is taking me down. How has this munch been on this planet for 14 years?

This year has brought 8th grade and a continued desire for school to last all year-round. She loves it. Her favorite thing about Summer is back-to-school shopping. She’s a freak, as Mario points out. She loves being with her friends throughout the day; she loves the structure and routine; and she loves her teachers. What’s that I heard about the math teacher? He’s mean? Not in Maria’s eyes-she thinks he’s the bomb.com. There is nothing she she complains about when it comes to school.

This year brought basketball. It also brought soccer and softball but I mention basketball because she swore she would never play the sport again. But when friends call, she can’t help but answer. They needed one more person for the team, and she agreed even though she readily declares her hatred for the sport (she did manage to score a few baskets this year) It is clear that her main drive for being on a sports team is not to actually develop in the sport and become elite, but rather, to embolden her relationships with her girlfriends. I will never forget her response to a teammate who scored a soccer goal after Ri came out of the game. She jumped up and down and hugged her when she came in for water. She was genuinely happy for her and could care less that it was not her who scored. She’s a team player to the nth degree. Coaches love her for it and rely on her to keep the other girls in line (right or wrong). She’s the mother hen of the bunch in every sport.

She gets along with everyone. She sees the good in all of her classmates, and is always ready to stand up for them if someone questions them. She is able to hang out with a wide range of gals, and still prefers being with a big group rather than one friend. She wants to be the host with the most when she has friends over – an abundance of snacks and drinks and an assurance that each friend has a snack she enjoys. She will undoubtedly host some sweet parties. Being with friends was the only reason she walked to school every day!

She fell madly in love with Blake Shelton (she still adores Patrick Swayze but he got pushed to the side a bit). She only asked for VIP tickets to the Blake Shelton concert in Pittsburgh in February. She got more than she could imagine when he dedicated a song to her and threw her his guitar pick. That could have been not only a Christmas present but a birthday present, Easter present, and Fourth of July present!

She experienced Washington DC with her eighth-grade class. I will never forget her walking through the back door after Jon picked her up from the school at 10 PM at night. She was bawling and I ran towards the door to ask her what was wrong. She struggled to get out the words:

“I miss my friends so much. I just want to be back in DC. We will never have that time back again. I just want to be back there!”

Like I said, she loves big groups of people. She thrives in that atmosphere.

She got chosen to be on the student council this year and is applying to be student council president next year as a freshman. She sets her goals high. I love that she is not fearful of the risk of disappointment. She just dives in and goes for it. She certainly does not have any fear of getting up in front of her classmates.

She got asked to be a junior bridesmaid for my cousin’s wedding in July. If we weren’t convinced that she loves a good party with s Tom of people, we are now. She soaked in the frivolity of the two evening affair and fit in just perfectly with the 20 somethings (yikes!). She rode from the church to the reception hall in the party limousine with the wedding party, even:) She didn’t want Jon or I anywhere in site. This was her evening to shine and my god, she did!

This is the year that she has retreated down to the basement. She loves to sit on the gray couch with her computer on her lap and watch Grey’s Anatomy or the latest YouTube tutorial. She has taken to sleeping down there, and we are close to agreeing it can be her bedroom. She loves the privacy. We have a shower down there so she can get herself ready to go in the mornings without seeing any of us! She gets up before the crack of dawn unlike any of the rest of us and likes the hour and a half of time to do her thing. We still aren’t quite sure what “her thing” is that she does besides straightening her hair at times, hopefully doing her ankle exercises, getting clothes together for practice, and eating her bowl of cereal. And, of course, staring at her phone.

She is still smitten with her cousin, Elena. She will do anything for that girl, including taking a long walk because she wants to ride her bike to the pancake restaurant. She won’t do that for anybody else. Their relationship is as sweet as can be with Elena still calling Maria “Meemaw” and enbracing her fiercely when they see each other. Elena still has moments of frustration with Meemaw and Ri has times where she wishes she was back at home in her basement by herself, but inevitably, every time we leave her, Maria misses that little girl immensely.

Ri is heading to high school next year. How is that at all possible? I remember back to when she was 9 months old and clinging to me. All I could think was “one day she will be able to do things on her own, feed herself, get dressed…and I can have some time to myself.” Shit, what was I thinking? I want that 9 month-old back so badly just to be able to feel her cling, and smell her skin, and kiss all over her head and toes. However, I also want this teenage girl who is finding her voice and navigating her way through this crazy life.

She only has four more years with us and then she’s off to college (she has made it very clear she will be off to college) and I will not only miss her clinging but I will simply miss her face. It’s really hard to think about not seeing her every day. But, I’m jumping ahead. I need to absorb all things Maria while I have her here. And there is so much to absorb.

If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

Maria, Mario, and I took advantage of the 70° weather by throwing on our baseball mitts and tossing the ball in the front yard. We have enough space to stand 30 feet apart – enough distance for a decent throw but not so much that you can’t converse.

Maria talked about her birthday party – the hotel she wants to book, the restaurant she wants to eat at, the presents she’d love to get. Mario interrupted frequently asking her important questions like “what friends are you inviting” and “what day is your birthday?”

When Maria finished with her birthday party ideas, Mario began in on fifth grade camp. He was bummed he didn’t get a camp counselor he wanted but excited he got to be with his best friend, Owen. Maria gave him insight on activities he’d love and ones he’d hate. At first he didn’t want to hear them but then he got intrigued.

We laughed as Mario ran into a branch on our magnolia tree.

These are the moments I so love, and what I crave after a day at work. The connection lifts me up and energizes me. It’s such a simple act – tossing the ball from one glove to the next and chatting about our lives – that it doesn’t seem to correlate with the immense feeling of joy that overcomes me. It’s taken hard work and years of reflection to soak in those ordinary moments and feel the joy I do in them. I recently discovered a quote that I want to use for moments like these that will serve to further seal the joy in my heart. Kurt Vonnegut writes in one of his essays, quoting his uncle: “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

Armpits

One person’s sweat stains are another person’s armpit hair. Huh?

This is going to be my new idiom if someone confides in me about being embarrassed in a situation. My 14-year-old self came back in full force on Monday night when I attended Maria’s last dance club session. It all started with the parents being called out to the cafeteria floor to dance with their kids. The first dance involved some type of shuffle moving eight pieces to the right and then eight paces to the left and then kicking your legs and then swirling your hips. I, of course, got all into it (but without being over-the-top – sometimes I hoot and holler as I’m dancing). We ended the dance with a couple of fortnight dance moves, which the dance instructor found hilarious watching the parents perform. Something came over me and I was able to crank out the orange justice like a master. When the music stopped, the dance instructor spoke into his microphone:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this mom here in the green sweatshirt has done the best orange justice moves I have ever seen!”

Yes, he was talking about me, and Maria wanted to die. She put her hands against her face and shook her head. After the shuffle, the instructor placed the parents and kids into three big circles. He started the music and called out for a female or male student or female or male parent to go in the center of the circle and dance. He called a few students first and they went in the middle and did random moves that everyone else mimicked. Then he called for a female parent. Somebody pointed at one of the moms who is very timid. She shook her head no over and over again. My one girlfriend who loves to dance as much as I do whispered to me that we should go out and dance with her. Without hesitation, we both ran out to the dance floor and pulled her into the middle. We proceeded to do the Arnold dance moves and the Saturday Night Live move. Then we held our hands high in the sky and did some type of crazy jump step move. The dance instructor called out for a father to go in the middle of the circle so me and my girlfriend skipped back to our places on the outer rim of the circle. Maria winced when I stood next to her.

“What?”

“Mom, you have sweat stains in your arm pits and everyone saw them.”

My heart dropped to my knees. There I was standing at Golf Manor pool with my friends as my mom walked in wearing her string cotton bikini and sporting her 6 inch long armpit hair for all to see.

I left Maria’s side and jetted to the bathroom. Yep, sure enough, there were my big pit stains as I raised my hands overhead. That is what happens after 15 minutes of dancing. Hell, I probably had them after the first minute. I took off my green sweatshirt and wrapped it around my middle. I had a black long sleeve shirt on underneath which did not show the stains. I always come prepared. I left the bathroom and went back to the outer rim of the circle to stand by Maria. She looked appalled. I immediately felt it and left the circle to stand with Jon. After that dance scenario, the instructor told everyone to get ready for one more fast dance sequence. As Maria walked over towards Jon and I, she mouthed “go home.” Her words were a knife stabbing me in the heart. I was both hurt and pissed. Jon was just pissed. I told him we should leave, but he kept a level head and said that we were going to stay (but he was not going to talk to her the whole way home). We stood there glaring at her as she moved with her classmates to the music. She knew she had crossed the boundaries.

The instructor turned on one last piece of music – a slow song to end the night. Maria came over to Jon and I and asked if we would dance. Jon shook his head no. A few of my girlfriends were calling me onto the dance floor and in order to avoid a big scene, I walked over with Maria. We all danced together and made small talk but when music ended, I walked away.

I had told Maria that she would have to walk home with me since she didn’t walk to the dance, and I held her to it even though I was mad at her. She apologized over and over again as we walked towards the house. I didn’t accept her apology or deny it. I just listened to her and walked in silence. I knew I was heavily affected by the exchange based on my own experience with my mom when I was her age. Of course, I was also not happy with her conduct towards us, but I could understand it having once been a 14-year-old girl in a similar situation. I knew she did not intend to be mean spirited; she was just reacting in the moment with all of her friends by her. She has always been one that is quick to embarrassment by her family. I can’t blame her at times with how unfiltered we can be.

We went into our separate rooms once we got home. I turned on some music and folded laundry. About 20 minutes later, Maria peeked her head inside my bedroom. I knew right then and there that I needed to give her a hug. We embraced and I started crying. And crying. Maria sat me on the bed next to her and we talked. We talked about my experience with my mom. We talked about how embarrassed she gets at times over me and Jon. We laughed. We hugged again. Then Mario walked in and said something ridiculous, and we added him to our embrace.

We all walked downstairs to grab a snack before bed. Jon walked in from his office and stood stoic in front of Maria. She apologized for telling him to go home. He gave her some crap for a minute or two but then he apologized, too, for embarrassing her (according to Ri, he had talked with, and jabbed at, the boys in her class for too long of a period of time and ate pizza that was for the kids).

Mario enjoyed the whole show laid out in front of him. However, he will be in the same boat in two years when he does dance club. I’m going to make sure to wear a pastel shirt so that the sweat stains are everywhere.

Tender Mario moves

I woke up the other morning to a horrible cough. This happens to me more often as I get older. I can’t catch my breath and as I try to take a deep inhale, I cough worse. Anyway, my coughing woke Mario up from his sleep (he had had a nightmare earlier in the evening and we allowed him to sleep in our bed). It was a good thing it did because it was 7 AM and a school day. Mario jumped out of bed to head into our bathroom to take a shower. I heard him turn on the water faucet, and opened one eye when I felt him standing next to me a second later. He whispered “here mom, take a drink.” It was such a tender gesture from him. I grabbed the cup and watched him head back into the bathroom.

I came home from work a few days ago and Mario popped up from the downstairs. He gave me a big hug and told me he did the dishes. I looked in the sink and sure enough, they were all washed and placed haphazardly in the plastic drainer on the left side of the sink. After Mario washes bowls, he places them right side up so the water remains in them. It drives me crazy but I won’t complain since he took the initiative to do the dishes in the first place.

We finally got to Dick’s Sporting Goods this weekend to get Mario a new pair of gym shoes. He is definitely his mother’s child when it comes to his love for gym shoes. His Adidas were completely worn down with a hole in the toe and huge rip in the heel lining. He eyed quite a few basketball shoes before he chose his black and gold LeBrons (he knew I could not say no to anything LeBron-related). After he got his shoes from the salesman, he led me over to the women’s running shoe area. He was set on getting me a pair as well. I told him that I was good to go and we were just there to get him shoes. But, he was adamant that he wanted me to be able to experience the joy of getting a new pair of shoes as well.

On Saturday morning, I was lifting weights at the gym when I saw Mario’s number pop up. I answered the phone and he asked where I was. I told him I was at the gym, and he told me that he would walk to Stauf’s with me when I got home. The offer to walk to Stauf’s with me is equivalent to an offer to give me $25K. I would take the walk and time at Stauf’s over cash any day.

Mario and I walked to school together last week. I dropped him off to the basketball game. We talked about his favorite songs and about his plan to watch a movie a week this Summer with his buddies. As we talked and walked, he reached for my hand and held as we continued our stroll down the street. No big gesture on his part – just a gentle embrace of his left hand with my right as he continued his conversation with me.

We were eating dinner the other night – Jon and Mario and I (Maria was at dance club) – and out of nowhere Mario blurted out “I have the best mom – she plays basketball with me and always has fun.” Then he continued to eat his pasta and talk about roller skating in gym class.

Blake Shelton!

We got VIP tickets to the Blake Shelton concert for Maria for Christmas. It is all she wanted – she made it very clear that she could care less if she got any other present from any other family member other than these tickets. She wanted everyone to chip in so that we could buy the “VIP experience” with the singer she has adored for over a year. Jon and I are still at a loss as to how she enjoys country music so much. Neither one of us listen to it. It must be our two former babysitters from years ago. They both listened to country music as they drove Maria around town and that genre must have seeped deep down in her blood.

Maria counted down the days remaining before she got to see Blake in Pittsburgh. I could hav really cared less about seeing Blake but was excited to spend some quality mother/daughter time. We had to drive three hours to Pittsburgh, and another three hours back home to Columbus (I knew we wouldn’t get much alone time while in Pittsburgh because we were watching my sweet niece when we weren’t at the concert).

I kept reminding myself not to place any expectations on the mother/daughter time with Ri. I repeated the mantra “just enjoy her presence.”. I knew better than to expect her to give me insight into her friendships or boys or thoughts about her changing body. Any conversation like that would have made her recoil and clam up. So, we talked about random, and fairly insubstantial things such as what we would do with Elena, what Mario and dad were probably doing on a Saturday afternoon, when our cousin would have her baby….. We also found a good car trivia site and answered questions about countries, polar animals and presidents (she knows I love to get some education in on car trips).

Sarah and Elena dropped us off at PPG Arena at 4 PM. The line was already 30 people deep when we got there. We stood out in the chilly weather for about 25 minutes before they let us enter. We had a slight scare with me not being able to find our tickets on my phone right away but I came through. We retrieved our VIP lanyards and travel mug, andstood in line waiting to be escorted back to the lounge.

Maria stood twirling her lanyard anxious to head back. After what seemed like forever, they began to escort us through the hallways to the lounge. When we arrived at the lounge, there were escalators to the left. The guides were escorting fans down the escalator to get merchandise. However, when we got to the bottom, people were going back up to the lounge. I knew we had to be one of the first to enter the lounge or we would not get close to the stage. So, Ri and I left the merchandise counter (the next day I realized we got one free item with the VIP package that we lost out on) and squeezed in the line to enter the lounge. We saw the Voice chair as we walked in, and a small stage over to the right with a wood fence in front of it. There was already a group of older women and men who had placed seats against the fence to create a front row. Maria and I darted directly in back of the seats. People were starting to move over towards the area and we knew that if we left our position somebody would grab it. Maria and I quickly realized that we would be standing in the same spot for the next 2 1/2 hours.

I allowed her to go back to the Voice chair to get her picture taken. I also had her scour for any food. She returned with a huge chocolate chip cookie. There was nothing more. The time moved slow as we glanced around at the crowd and watched for any movement behind the curtain on the stage.

Maria’s phone was almost ready to die and mine was only at 60% so we did not want to play Crossy Road in order to pass the time away (we played this game while waiting for flights to Oaxaca and during down time with Elena – it’s our go-to). We played a couple of rounds of 20 questions and then the ABC game but we were both struggling to concentrate – Ri because she was so excited to see Blake and me because I was so excited for Maria to see Blake. She had been waiting for months for this moment. My favorite part of the wait was when Ri’s legs got tired and she leaned into me to hold her. The side of her face laid on my shoulder and I rubbed her back as I listened to the rhythm of her breath. I held the same person who, 13 years ago, used to ride in a snuggli on my chest up and down the streets of Grandview. The same girl who had me carry her in the backpack until the age of five, and would rest that same face on my shoulder when she tired of walking the hills.

7 PM arrived and fans were antsy. People started chanting Blake’s name. Maria continuously darted her eyes back-and-forth to each side of the stage to determine whether Blake was behind the curtain or not. Each time a song would end, the crowd silenced with the hope that his stage manager would be introducing him. But then a new song would start up. Finally, at 7:15, the stage manager bounced onto the stage and without much fanfare, introduced Blake Shelton. Maria immediately bawled when she saw him first come out.

He greeted the crowd and immediately went into his first song. Maria stood there with her phone in video mode and tears slowly trickling from her eyes. She was standing right in front of him! I was so happy for her. He finished his song and informed the crowd that he was going to read a couple of questions. He scrolled through the iPad in front of him and picked a question. It was from a random woman in the back of the lounge. He asked her to wave and thanked for her question. This made me want him to pick Maria’s question even more because he would then make eye contact with her to thank for the question. He moved onto another question – it was not Maria.

“Come on” I kept thinking to myself. How could he resist a 13-year-old’s question? Maria was one of two teens in the entire crowd. He finished answering the second question and pronounced he would read one more. He scrolled through and then stated:

“This next question is from Maria in Grandview Heights, Ohio, age 13″…. My stomach dropped. I looked over at Maria. She was sobbing as Blake Shelton stared at her. I guess without knowing it I had begun pointing at her when Blake Shelton started reading her question so he fixed his eyes on her. He noticed her sobbing and asked her why she was crying. She could not respond because her mouth would not open. She was paralyzed with awe. He proceeded to read her question, and expressed to the crowd how confused he was by it. It was hilarious. As she tried to talk through her sobs to explain it, he noticed that there was more to her question so he continued reading it. By the time he got done answering it, she was smiling and he was relieved. It was the sweetest interaction. He then grabbed his guitar and told the crowd that he was going to play another song. What came next was magical for her. He dedicated the next song to Maria. He made a joke about the song being a drinking song and that it was a little odd to dedicate it to a 13-year-old but he was doing it anyway. She stood there trying to videotape him while her shoulders and body shook with pure joy.

He wrapped up his time with a few more questions from the audience and then thanked everybody for coming to see him. As he stood up, he looked right at Maria, smiled, and threw his guitar pic to her. I just could not believe it. She was in complete shock. The crowd beside us all congratulated her when he left the stage. Her eyes were as big as a doe’s eyes in the headlights. She was trembling.

We walked to the back of the room to breathe. Two of his stage hands, two women, approached us with the blue plastic cup we had seen him drinking from earlier. They offered it to Maria. They told her that it was endearing to see her so excited to see Blake Shelton, and they thanked her for being a great fan (I am convinced those two women were the ones that picked Maria’s question for Blake Shelton to read).

Maria remained in a state of shock as we rode the elevators down to the show. She bought a Blake Shelton longsleeve shirt in order to wear it to school on Monday. She snap-chatted with all of her friends to tell them the news. I don’t think she came to her right mind until long after the concert started.

How many times had I dreamt of Andy Gibb or Prince or Michael Jackson looking straight at me from the stage and saying hello?! Her first concert as a teenager and she gets that treatment. It’s all downhill from here, baby doll….:)

There is no doubt that the memory of Blake Shelton looking at her and speaking to her will be seared in her mind. It is definitely seared in my mind. But also seared in my mind is the absolute joy on her face when she saw him walk on stage. I am so grateful for having been in her presence to witness.