I really wish I was better at giving gifts. I would love to be one of those people who always has the unexpected but perfectly matched gift for each big occasion or celebration. Every once in awhile, things come together for me and I manage to come up with a great idea. More often, though, I rack my brain for weeks trying to think of the perfect present and get so frustrated that I end up doing nothing. Then throw in the fact that I’m halfway across the globe from most of my family and friends and it turns into a giant joke. Three of my most fabulous, hilarious and influential girlfriends just celebrated milestone birthdays and since I pooped the bed and managed to send not a single gift or card on time, this is my simultaneous apology and birthday offering. I may need to break this up into a few posts as I have a lot of great and embarrassing things to say about these women.
First up is my cousin, Liv. She’s eight years my senior which meant I pretty much idolized her growing up. For the first eleven years of my life, she was my only girl cousin and treated me like her little sister/human baby doll. From what I’ve been told, she wouldn’t allow anyone else to hold me or play with me if she was around and spent many nights with my parents so my mom could have a bit of a break. As a result, a bond was formed that has proven unbreakable over the years. I even named my daughter after Liv, choosing a variation of her middle name, Eline, for Lena’s first name. We both know that anything we talk about (even if seemingly unimportant) will be taken to the grave unless the other grants permission to speak about it. This annoys our moms to no end.
Liv has always had her own fashion sense mixing chunky jewelry, funky hats and amazing shoes to create a style that’s all her own. She has the arms, abs and butt that most people kill themselves in the gym to attain (don’t even try to dispute this, Liv) plus gorgeous green eyes and hair that looks beautiful in any color. If you notice in these photos, I took many fashion cues from my cooler, older sister… notably rocking matching perms in the family photo and the always-classy backwards ball cap with extra large button-up shirt.
Once I reached middle school, Liv was in college and the absolute peak of coolness in my eyes. She lived on her own in an awesomely decorated house, had weird and crazy roommates and spent her time (as far as I knew) going to Farmer’s Markets, ethnic restaurants (what was the name of that Greek place?) and going on all sorts of outdoor adventures from skydiving to rock climbing. The only thing that could possibly make her more of a legend in my mind was that she let me in on the fun. She always made time for me to visit her, sometimes even driving several hours just to pick me up in her speedy little Acura Integra while rocking out to Dave Matthew’s Band. Seriously, people. She was practically a 90’s icon. As a side note, she ended up giving me the Acura Integra FOR FREE when I was in college because I didn’t have a car of my own. Such a class act. Back to my middle school days, I still felt the need to show my love and infatuation by dressing as twins in khakis, white Jack Purcell’s and some super trendy sunshades. Liv, you’re a saint.
Once I reached college age, the playing field leveled a bit and the age gap didn’t seem so extreme. Our grandparents lived a short drive from my university so one weekend, Liv came up to stay and took me up on an offer to hang out for the weekend. After cracking up with our grandparents over some hilarious and surprisingly scandalous stories of their youth, Grandma Eva sent us off with a twenty dollar bill for “food.” We decided we weren’t that hungry and the money would be better spent on Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream. Before you judge, just know that our Grandma survived primarily on Scotch with a dash of water. She had also ended our visit with a story about how she and my grandpa broke a bed when they were first married. In other words, she was kind of a badass. While we swore one another to secrecy about using our Grandma’s money for booze, I think we can share it in honor of your 40th, Liv. Don’t kill me!
I could probably dedicate an entire to blog to all the ways my cousin has influenced and inspired me to become the person I am today. She’s a gifted educator, a compassionate friend and an insanely creative and talented woman. I’m regularly teased for being “Little Liv” by the rest of the family and while it’s meant to get under my skin, I take it as a massive compliment.
Liv excels at pretty much everything she puts her mind to as she has a dogged determination to succeed. However, in my eyes, her biggest success story is still being written in the form of three rowdy, handsome little boys. Not only did she survive growing up with three younger brothers including the most sarcastic twins ever to walk the planet, she is now a mama to a singlet and twins. All born within three years of one another. Liv is and always has been the model of the type of mom I want to be. She speaks to her children with a seemingly unending supply of patience and kindness while still being authoritative and empathetic. It’s astounding. Her kids are smart and well adjusted. And also, they’re ridiculously cute which doesn’t hurt either. She’s always mindful of the bigger picture and constantly searching out the best way to grow her little guys into compassionate young men.
Liv, I adore and admire you so much. Thank you for always making me feel valued, smart and important. You are the best big sister I could have ever asked for and I love you so very much. Happy 40th Birthday to you!