These Boots Are Made for Walking


I bought my first pair of cowboy boots in the seventh grade. It was 1980, the year “Urban Cowboy” was released, and western boots were a must for any budding fashionista. I saved for weeks to buy those boots, hoarding my allowance and babysitting, which I hated, to earn extra cash. My stepmother said I had champagne taste and a beer budget. Being only 12, I didn’t understand what that meant. All I knew was that the fawn-colored pigskin suede boots with white leather flowers cost $75, and I had to have them.

Thirty some years later, I still remember how proud I was when I plucked those boots off the shelf at the Scott Colburn western store in Livonia, Michigan, and handed my money to the cashier. They were a symbol of my individuality and confidence, and I wore the hell out of them. I wore them with leg warmers and prairie skirts; I tucked my jeans into them. I wore them till they needed new soles and were beyond out of style. And then one day I packed them away on a closet shelf and forgot them.

The Southern road trip my family took last week made me remember those long-lost boots and the strong, self-assured girl who wore them. After a lengthy monologue in which I ruminated over situations I cannot control, my husband set me straight in the lobby bar of the Peabody Hotel. “It’s a big world,” he said. “If you don’t like who’s in that corner of it, move to a different one.” What we don’t want to hear is often what needs to be said most. He was right: It was time to dust off my self-confidence and stop being a victim.

As we wandered down Broadway in Nashville a few afternoons later, I found myself as drawn to the western stores as the honky-tonks. I tried on boot after boot, but the perfect pair eluded me. The next day, an hour before we left town, I headed back to the first store we had visited to try on the boots I liked most. The fit wasn’t right, and the toes were too square. Disappointed, I looked for a larger size and noticed a pair I hadn’t seen the day before. They were exactly what I wanted: black, distressed leather with low heels and sharply pointed toes. They fit perfectly.

I wore my new boots out of the store and on the drive home from Nashville, and I have been wearing them ever since — to a party, to the grocery store, even in the carpool line at school. When I look down at them, I feel a wave of pleasure and pride. Like the flowered pair I bought in seventh grade, my new boots are a symbol of my individuality and confidence. But more important, they remind me of the much-needed earful I got in Memphis and my decision to leave my blues there, where they belong.

We’re Turning One

Tomorrow is this blog’s first birthday, and I’m celebrating a little early due to the impending weekend insanity of my son’s confirmation, my husband’s band gig and St. Patrick’s Day. What better way to commemorate one whole year of getting my blog on than to recognize some of the incredible folks I have met along the way?

Thanks to my talented buddy Bee over at Living Off Script, who surprised me with a One Lovely Blog Award last month, I get to name five blogging lovelies of my own. Here they are:


Enjoy, ladies. I respect and admire each one of you and always look forward to reading your work. I am so happy to have found you and all the other talented folks over at Yeah Write just a few months after starting this blog. I have learned so much from reading your blogs during the past year, and your feedback on my own writing has been invaluable. Thanks to all of you, and to Bee, for making this weird and wacky online universe a whole lot lovelier.

In addition to recognizing five other bloggers, I am also supposed to list 15 random facts about myself as part of receiving the One Lovely Blog Award. Here goes:

  1. I am a terrible driver. I mean, really god awful. The local body shop created a frequent crasher card in my honor. (That last part may be an exaggeration.)
  2. I am not ashamed to admit that I cry at schmaltzy Hallmark commercials. But I am a little embarrassed by the fact that my children tease me about it.
  3. I didn’t receive my first real kiss till I was 15. No one in my high school ever asked me out. Not a single person. The only high school boys I dated (there were two) went to other schools.
  4. I was the first person in my family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. I love school and hope to go back for a master’s and doctorate someday. I’ll be the annoying old woman in the back of the class who constantly raises her hand and always turns her papers in early.
  5. I won the fifth grade spelling bee but lost the overall school contest on the word “guard.” The memory makes me cringe. And so does the fact that I still have to stop to think before I type it.
  6. I once took a personality test that revealed I am an introverted extrovert. I guess that’s why the whole blogging thing makes sense for me.
  7. My first trip to Europe was to Ireland in my 20s. For a freckly brunet like me who has been teased pretty much my whole life about being so pale, stepping off that plane into an ocean of people who looked like me was both eerie and comforting.
  8. If I could have one wish it would be to have a single memory of my mom. She died when I was 2½, and I can’t remember a thing about her.
  9. If I could have two wishes, I would also hope to stick around long enough to be a grandparent someday because, well, I think it would be fun.
  10. This is probably the most random fact of all, but I hate white gym shoes. When I started dating my husband, he not only owned a pair but also thought it was OK to wear them in public — when he wasn’t exercising. I corrected this fashion faux pas immediately.
  11. When I am done with someone or something, it’s forever. No second chances. No retakes. I’m basically a kind, fair person, but I’m also stubborn.
  12. I want to learn to ride a motorcycle. My husband, who knows what a klutz I am, thinks this is a terrible idea.
  13. Autumn is my favorite season. I love the fall colors, the cool temperatures and the smell of burning leaves. Halloween is my favorite holiday. Oh, and my birthday just happens to be Oct. 28.
  14. I was raised by a family of spiritualists. My grandfather and aunt were both psychics. (Man, why have I not blogged about this yet?)
  15. I was terrified to start this blog a year ago, absolutely terrified. I am super proud of myself for getting past the fear and taking a chance. It’s been a great year, and I’m looking forward to the next one. Thanks to all (nine) of you who keep coming back each week, reading and leaving your wonderfully supportive comments. I love you guys. And, yes, sappy old me is all choked up right now.

Red Lipstick

My older sister said our mother never left the house without lipstick. Before she carried the garbage to the curb or hung the laundry out to dry in the backyard, she painted her lips a glamorous red and wound her blond curls into a tidy upsweep. My father said when she walked into a room, everyone stopped to look at her. She was a talented seamstress who could spot a dress in a department store and recreate it at home without a pattern. My aunt said she kept an immaculate house and dressed herself and her children impeccably. She was a homebody who had few friends, and she seemed to prefer it that way.

I don’t remember my mother, but from other people’s stories and memories, I have woven together an image of her, and it has profoundly affected the way I navigate my life and relationships. I compare myself against the image. I decide which parts of her I wish to embrace and imitate: the confidence, the independence, the self-assuredness. I recognize the ways I am like her and accept the ways I am not.

The part of the picture that puzzles and intrigues me most is that she didn’t have a lot of friends. Was that by choice or default? I wonder who taught my mother how to read the subtleties of female behavior, to avoid being sucked into the vacuum of cliques, to spot real friendship in the sea of selfishness and phoniness. Did her mother teach her those lessons, or was their relationship the reason she didn’t like or trust other women?

My relationships with my stepmother and the aunt who raised me had a major impact on the type of women I choose to befriend. From my charming, popular stepmother, I learned that those who follow the crowd often do so because they neither know nor love themselves. From my aunt, I learned that strong, confident women make the best friends because they don’t want or need anything other than your companionship. Neither of them ever told me how to interact with other women; they showed me.

I think of my own daughter as I watch her unravel the inner workings of middle school friendships. I wonder what effect I have on which girls she chooses to befriend. Like my mother, I don’t have lots of female friends, but the ones I do have are loyal and true. Like my aunt, I speak my mind and do as I please. Unlike my stepmother, I will never be popular and am fine with that.

I hope my daughter will learn to be herself and not succumb to the bullying and peer pressure that happen even in adulthood. I hope she will ignore the static and forge her own path. I hope she will wear red lipstick when she takes out the garbage and not give a damn what the neighbors think. I hope she will be a little like the grandmother she never knew.

Jeanne Marie (RIP 3/26/27 - 4/28/70)

Jeanne Marie (RIP 3/26/27 – 4/28/70)

Wake-Up Call

Our morning dance begins with my calm, cool attempt to rouse my seemingly comatose teenage son. “It’s time to get up,” I say, tapping him gently on the shoulder. No response. “Get out of bed, please,” I continue, my voice gaining volume and force. I shake his shoulder, not violently, but with intent. No response. My cheerfulness spent, I break out the mom-means-business voice: “We are going to be late. Get. Out. Of. Bed. Now!

We do this wake-up dance every day, my son and I. Yesterday was no different. Once I safely delivered him and his sister to school, I nestled into my home office chair with a second cup of coffee and started sifting through the weekend’s accumulation of email. When the phone rang and I saw the middle school’s number on the caller ID, I sighed with exasperation, wondering which of the kids had forgotten a gym uniform or lunchbox.

But no one had forgotten anything. My son was horsing around with a friend during band practice, the woman from the school office told me. He fell off a countertop and hit his head on the floor. “He seems a little out of it,” she said. “Do you want to pick him up, or should we wait and have the nurse look at him when she gets here?”

How bad could a fall from a countertop be? I thought. I am not a pessimist; I don’t always expect the worst. In fact, I figured my dramatic firstborn child was playing up the injury so he could miss a day of school. “Let’s wait for the nurse,” I said.

The nurse called me 10 minutes later with a laundry list of symptoms: nausea, fatigue, light sensitivity, sluggishness. She suggested a trip to the pediatrician’s office for an examination, so we went. But even after the pediatrician confirmed that my son had a concussion and would need a CT scan to rule out internal bleeding, I assumed she was just being overly cautious.

Thankfully, I was right. He did have a concussion, but the results of the CT scan were clear. The doctor said he could return to school the next day but would have to miss gym class for a week. Considering how much he loathed his gym teacher, I knew the latter part wouldn’t be a problem.

On the drive home from the hospital, he talked about his latest favorite video game, but I only half listened. I kept picturing him on the CT scanner table covered in a royal blue lead blanket, moving slowly into the spinning, humming machine. We had made it through almost 14 years without him breaking a bone or suffering a serious illness. We had always been lucky; I had no reason to expect the worst to happen. But in that moment, watching my suddenly small, fragile child on that table, I knew it could.

Our morning dance began as usual today, with my son feigning sleep, despite my best and continued efforts to wake him. “But, Mom,” he finally whined. “I have a concussion.”

“Yes,” I said. “Now get out of bed.” Even I didn’t buy my mom-means-business voice. We do this wake-up dance every day, my son and I. But this morning it was different.

The Ride

Source: WPClipart

Source: WPClipart

We planned to spend the afternoon studying, but the warm spring sunshine lured us outside. My friend and her boyfriend searched for a Frisbee, while I foraged for beer in the fridge. We were college kids enjoying a Saturday, and the hours passed easily. Unfortunately for me, the unwitting third wheel, the more we drank, the cozier my friend and her boyfriend became.

“I’m outta here,” I finally said, trying to seem casual as I made my hasty exit. My friend mumbled goodbye, barely noticing as I wandered into her house and out the front door. It was then that I realized a slight problem: I had no car. My friend had driven me to her house, but I had no way home.

Shit, I thought. Now what? There was no way I was going back inside to interrupt their love fest. Another friend and I were supposed to meet up a few hours later at our favorite Irish bar, which was only a couple of miles away. If I walked there, he would drive me home.

Walking might have made sense in a college town where it was safe and practical, but we were commuter students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The bar was just off the Southfield Freeway in Detroit, across from a drug- and crime-plagued housing project. My dad, a retired Detroit cop, constantly warned me about how dangerous the Herman Gardens area was, but I shrugged it off.

What did he know anyway? Nothing bad ever happened to me.

I headed toward the expressway, counting the blocks as I walked. I tried to remember how many blocks were in a mile. Was it eight or 12? I knew the sun set in the west. Was the bar west or east of here? My sense of direction wasn’t too keen, even without alcohol.

I didn’t notice the car pull up to the curb next to me until I heard the driver call out, “Are you lost?” Startled, I looked up and saw a man with graying hair and glasses smiling at me. “You really shouldn’t be walking alone around here. It’s getting dark. Do you need a ride somewhere?”

“OK,” I said. He seemed harmless, fatherly in fact, and my book bag was getting heavy. I got in the car, and he asked where I was going. “The Tipperary Pub,” I said. “Do you know where it is?”

“It’s that Irish bar off the Southfield, right?” he asked. I nodded, and we drove the mile or so to the pub in silence. When he pulled into the parking lot, I reached for the car door handle. “Hang on a second,” he said. “Do you know why I picked you up tonight?” His tone was stern, and the smile from before was gone.


“I have a daughter about your age, and the thought of her walking around in a bad neighborhood after dark…Do you know how lucky you are that I am the one who picked you up? Do you know what could have happened to you?”

“Yeah…ummm…thanks for the ride,” I said, unable to make eye contact. “I gotta go.” I grabbed my book bag and climbed out of the car, my face flushed with the shame only a father’s scolding can elicit. I opened the door of the loud, smoky barroom and didn’t glance back as I escaped inside.

When my friend showed up an hour or so later, I was on my third beer. I laughed carelessly as I recounted my hitchhiking adventure. The lesson somebody else’s dad had tried to teach me was already just another story to tell.

What did he know anyway? Nothing bad ever happened to me.

The Evil Queen

Evil Queen

She made me go with her to the mall that day. I didn’t want to go shopping. I didn’t want to go anywhere with her. She acted like my best friend when we were in public, and it made me cringe. I may have only been 11 years old, but I knew she was a big phony and I hated her more than anything.

I never wanted a stepmother. She wasn’t part of the happily ever after I envisioned with the father I barely knew but adored. When he visited my aunt’s house, where I lived after my mom died when I was a toddler, he talked about the home he would buy for us someday. He said we would live there together as a family. He never mentioned a new wife.

When he started dating my stepmother, she and I enjoyed a brief honeymoon phase. She was attractive, fun and vivacious, charming me with shopping trips, movie dates and sleepovers. My aunt and older cousin had concerns. She was too young. She had no children. What did she know about being a mother? But I couldn’t wait to move in with her and my dad after their wedding.

Everything changed once we were living in the same house. It started with her wanting me to call her mom. I couldn’t. I already had two mothers, my real mom and my aunt. She tried to appear understanding, but I felt her resentment. My dad didn’t want any more kids. She was stuck with me and my 21-year-old brother, who was rarely home and wanted nothing to do with her.

As the months passed, the distance between us grew. When my father was around, we managed to be civil. But on the days he worked afternoons, she and I sat silently at the dinner table. Afterward, she shut herself off in their bedroom, leaving me to fend for myself. I escaped to my room, seeking comfort in books or music but feeling as if I had nothing and no one. The longer I lived in that house, the lonelier I became and the more I hated her.

Despite the tension between us, my stepmother showed off a happy mother-daughter relationship whenever other people were around. At the mall that day, while I skimmed racks of neon-colored tops, she engaged in giggly, bubbly chatter with the saleswoman.

“Are you two sisters?” I heard the saleswoman ask.

“No, she’s my daughter,” my stepmother said, laughing and shaking her head with false modesty.

“Oh, you look way too young to be her mom,” the saleswoman fawned. I seethed with anger as I watched my stepmom bask in the compliment.

We walked out of the store together, neither of us speaking. “You’re not my mother,” I said under my breath, as we entered the noisy mall.

“What did you say?” she asked, oozing venom through clenched teeth.

“I said,” speaking louder this time, so she would hear me, “You’re not my mother. I hate you!”

This time her fury trumped any concern about appearances, and she backhanded me across the mouth. I stood there in the middle of the mall, stunned by the taste of blood in my mouth and the sting of her hand on my face. I looked around and saw a few people watching us. I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go, so I turned and ran. I knew I was in trouble, I knew running would make it worse, but I didn’t care.

I found the nearest payphone and called my brother for a ride home.

Class of 2017

I opened the envelope in the driveway, shivering as the January wind ripped through my pink flannel pajamas. I scanned the letter quickly, finding everything I hoped to see. My son, a soon-to-be high school freshman, had earned honors placements in all his classes, a clean scholastic sweep. My first thought was to call my father, my own academic drill sergeant. The tears stung my freezing cheeks as I imagined his voice, knowing I could no longer hear it, but relishing the sound of it in my head.

As a parent of two, I am no stranger to the bittersweet thrill of watching my children reach milestones. As a woman who lost her parents at various stages in life, I also know the haunting emptiness of experiencing my own firsts without them. What I did not fully recognize until I opened that letter last week is how much more I ache over my children’s milestones now that all three of my parents are gone.

I brushed away my tears as I headed inside to tell my husband, wanting to escape the cold and my melancholy. I watched his anxious anticipation as he took in the vision of me in his office doorway, still shivering in my pink flannel pajamas, eyes wet and red, clutching a mysterious letter. I stumbled tearfully over the words, and somehow he managed to surmise that, in fact, no one had died and the letter contained positive news.

“I don’t think I can do this,” I told him, sobbing as he read it. “This high school thing — it’s not gonna work for me.”

I can only imagine what he was thinking as he patiently consoled me, but I’m sure it was something along the lines of: “Oh, boy. Here we go again.”

You see, I am not like those other mothers who healthily anticipate change and eagerly prepare themselves and their children for it. I was anxious, borderline neurotic, for weeks before my oldest child’s first days of elementary, intermediate and middle school. Now every time he or anyone else says “Class of 2017,” I catch my breath. In a year and a half, he will be driving, and I will be forced into the passenger seat. I will be able to suggest alternate routes, different turns, safer speeds, but he will control the wheel. How will I let go and allow him to venture into the unknown world of adult disappointments and heartbreak?

These were the bleak thoughts I wrestled with that day, as I waited for my son to get home from school. I wondered what advice my father, a stoic World War II veteran, would give. When he and I tussled verbally during my tumultuous teenage years, he often said, “You know, if there were classes on parenting back in my day, I would have taken them.” I’m sure he chuckled heartily at my expense over all the parenting books I read years later, knowing that none of them would prepare me for the hard-knock lessons of watching my own children grow up and away from me.

When my almost freshman walked up the driveway that afternoon, I thought of how proud my father, who hadn’t finished high school, had been of me when I graduated an honors student. Although I could not tell him about his grandson’s achievement, I felt his pride right there, next to my own.

I met my son at the door and gave him the letter, watching the relief and satisfaction wash over him as he read it. For a moment, I felt only his joy and none of my dread. “You earned this,” I said, hugging him tightly. “I am so proud of you, so happy.” And I was — tears, pink flannel pajamas and all.

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My soon-to-be high school freshman on his first day of fourth grade.

I Quit

I don’t remember my first time, but by high school I was doing it pretty much daily. I was underage, I knew I could get in trouble, and sometimes I did. But I didn’t care. The risk and danger were part of the appeal. I was a teenage rebel without a clue, and I thought smoking was cool. The ignorance and arrogance of youth excused my behavior. I told myself I’d quit when I was older. It was no big deal because I wouldn’t do it forever.

James Dean made it look so cool.

James Dean made it look so cool.

Yet, here I am, a 45-year-old mother of two justifying inhaling toxins into my body and risking lung cancer by saying “I only do it on the weekends” or “I don’t smoke around my kids.” I know I’m deluding myself. I can’t rationalize shaving years off my life in the name of instant gratification and a nicotine buzz. I no longer have the years to waste.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to cut back or quit over the years. In fact, it was easy to stay smoke-free during both my pregnancies. The smell of smoke nauseated me, and I had my unborn children’s health to protect. But after my babies were born, and only my own health was in question, smoking became my secret vice, my mother’s little helper. I’d sneak a smoke while the kids were napping or slip outside after dinner while my husband was playing with them in the living room. It was my own unhealthy version of “me time,” a twisted yet comforting way of staying attached to my pre-mom self by indulging in an old, familiar vice.

When I started running five years ago, I shifted to more of a social smoker, lighting up only after a few cocktails when I was with friends who smoked. The intense training schedules of long distance races made puffing on a cig less desirable, but I never managed to pack away the ashtray for good.

During stressful times, smoking is like the bad boy I couldn’t stop dating in my twenties: I know it’s wrong for me, but I can’t seem to help myself. I’m addicted to the ritual: lighting the cigarette, inhaling the smoke, even stamping out the butt. Whenever I’m around someone who’s smoking, the urge and nostalgia envelop me. Before I can consider the consequences, I’m doing it again.

I hope things will be different this time, though. After a particularly bleak year, when I started buying packs of cigarettes and smoking more than socially, I think I’m finally ready to end this dysfunctional relationship. In a snap but sober decision on New Year’s Eve day, I signed up for the 2013 Chicago Half Marathon. After wimping out of what would have been my second Chicago Marathon last year, I thought I was done racing. But it’s a new year, and things seem a lot brighter. I think I have at least one more race in me, and I’m excited to get healthy and start training for a new personal best time.

I know I can quit smoking; I did it twice for nine months. But this time I’m doing it for me. Sometimes quitters do win.

Happy New Year, peeps! I missed you over the past two weeks but enjoyed a fun, relaxing holiday break with my family. I hope you did the same.

The ‘I Love You’ Rule

My husband is not a morning person. When our children were babies, I envied his ability to sleep through their crying, something my bionic mommy hearing wouldn’t allow me to do. A decade or so later, long past the years of late-night feedings and baby monitors, he still dozes peacefully through my 6 a.m. alarm until his own clock starts buzzing an hour or so later.

Since their father is rarely up before they leave for school, it surprised and pleased our children to see him heading downstairs at 6:30 yesterday morning. They were already bundled in their coats with backpacks in hand, waiting for their ride to band practice. My husband settled in next to me on the couch, and we all cuddled together for a few minutes.

As the kids walked out the door, we told them we loved them as we always do when we say goodbye. It’s an unspoken rule in our family to say “I love you” whenever we part ways or end a phone call. I never coached the kids to say it; they just did, and still do.

After they left, I asked my husband why he was up so early. Was he worried, as I was, about them going back to school after what had happened at Sandy Hook Elementary? He said no. In the same way he can sleep through baby monitors and alarm clocks, he can push tragic events to the back of his mind. When he finds it too painful to think about something, he doesn’t. It may have been a coincidence that he was up early, but our kids still received an extra hug, kiss and “I love you” from their father on a day when these things especially mattered.

It was comforting to have my husband take part in our morning goodbyes yesterday, but I don’t mind being the one who gets up with our kids. As they grow older and the world in which we live becomes less certain and more frightening, I embrace the chance to connect with them before they leave the safety of home and family. While they eat breakfast, I help pack their lunches and we talk about their plans for the day. Some mornings they are talkative, others they don’t say much at all. But I am there if they need me, and that makes it easier to watch them go.

My husband may not be a morning person, but he has no problem handling bedtime. He has always been part of the night-time ritual, helping with baths and reading books. As our kids grew older, I eased myself out of the routine, letting him take over the night shift. Even now, at ages 11 and 13, they still ask him to tuck them into bed, and I do it when he isn’t home. Before we leave their rooms, we kiss and hug them goodnight, and we say “I love you.” It doesn’t matter who says it first; one of us always does. We know the rule.

Image source:

What Happens in Vegas

As a little girl, I didn’t dream of walking down the aisle in a white satin dress while Prince Charming waited worshipfully for me at the altar. I didn’t imagine him carrying me off into the sunset on his white steed to a castle where we would live happily ever after. While my Barbie dolls sometimes wore the wedding gown my mother made from her own dress, they preferred the stewardess uniform. My favorite Barbie, a brunette like me, traveled the world with Pilot Ken. They went on dates during layovers in exotic places, but they never discussed marriage. Brunette Barbie had other plans.

When I was a preteen, my plan was to leave Michigan once I turned 18 and relocate to California or maybe New York. Next I would travel to Europe and possibly settle in London. My roadmap grew sketchy after Europe, but I was certain I’d stay single wherever I landed. I didn’t want kids, so there was no point in getting married. I wouldn’t even think about settling down until I was old, like 40 or something, and had seen the world.

At 18, my plan went decidedly south. I wound up living at home with my dad and his wife while I went to the University of Michigan-Dearborn and then moved out and took a job in nearby Birmingham when I graduated. I promised myself I’d only extend the deadline for leaving Detroit by a few years and that I’d be on my way by age 25. Two months before my 26th birthday, I quit my second post-college job, sold my car and moved to Chicago. Six weeks later, I met my future husband.

The prince of Lincoln Park (and later Bucktown) and I lived together for two-and-a-half years before he proposed. I was fine with that, happily focusing on my career and enjoying our big-city lifestyle. Marriage remained the “m” word for me, and the idea of planning a wedding held no appeal. Still, I knew that if I were going to embark on the journey down the aisle and into the unknown, he was the one I wanted beside me.

During a visit to Michigan to celebrate our engagement, my father and his wife tried to sell us on getting married in Livonia. We politely agreed to check out some locations with them, but we never made it past the first generic reception hall or the talk of which of their friends should be on the guest list. The prince wanted a church wedding, but suddenly my crazy idea of eloping to Las Vegas looked good to him. Or at least it looked better than a bunch of my parents’ friends doing the chicken dance under a disco ball.

The prince and I were married in a gazebo at the Island Wedding Chapel of the Tropicana Casino by a minister named “Hap,” which, as he explained, is three-fifths of happy. I had wanted a drive-through wedding performed by an Elvis impersonator, but we compromised. Twenty friends and family members celebrated with us, and a handful of us partied well into the night. I think we rode the rollercoaster at the top of the Stratosphere at 3 o’clock in the morning, but I can’t be sure.

Sometimes what happens in Vegas is only the beginning of the adventure. The prince and I have been to both coasts multiple times in our 16 years of marriage, but we decided the Midwest is where we belong for now. This summer we took the two kids I swore I would never have to Europe for the first time. It seems the plans I made when I was a little girl didn’t change, although the order of them did.

I guess Brunette Barbie just needed to find the right copilot.

The prince and I celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary in November 2011 where our adventure (or at least the marriage part) began: Viva Las Vegas!