Thursday, November 8, 2012


Every year, right on schedule, tons of people start the month of November with their daily "Thankful" post.  Each day during the month they post what they're thankful for.  Some days you'll see the "big" things, like being thankful for their spouse, kids, family, health, etc., while other days it's more "trivial" things like hot coffee or heated seats in their car.

I've never really gotten on the "Thankful post" bandwagon, but reading these daily has made me reflective.  During different moments of the day I find my mind wandering to different things that I'm thankful for.  Instead of posting on Facebook I've decided to blog about some of the things, both big and trivial, that I'm thankful for.

These are in no particular order, so the 5th thing I list is not more important to me than the 10th...I'm just typing them!

1.  My husband, Jeff.  I can't even begin to start to list the reasons and ways that I'm thankful for him.  We have been married over 17 years.  Yes, there have been bad times in our marriage, but the good times outweigh the bad, easily.  Marriage isn't easy.  You have to work at it, and even after 17 years you need to remind yourself that it is work, and it's such worthy work.  I take him for granted, but lately I've been reminded that all relationships require some effort, so even if it's a simple kind gesture or word, you need to remind that person how deeply important they are to you.

2.  My kids, Drake and Avery.  From the time I was a young girl I knew I wanted to be a Mom someday, and I'm so glad that I have Drake and Avery in my life.  They amaze me and help me look at the world differently.  When things seem complicated or difficult, those kids and their actions remind me that sometimes you need to slow down, simplify, and focus on the things that are in front of you.  Watching them grow and helping them learn has honestly been a privilege.  I know the troublesome teenage years are coming, and I know we'll have conflict, but I hope they both know that even when we disagree, I love them with everything that I am.

3.  My life.  Yesterday I was reminded that I had been "self-employed" for the last 8 years.  I can't even believe it's been more than 8 years since I left my career at the university.  As I reflected on that time and what's changed in my life I had to take a moment to let it sink in how thankful I am for having that time.  I have been lucky to have a flexible work schedule that allowed me to devote a lot of time to my children, my husband, and myself.  I have been able to do volunteer work at the school, participate in field trips, and not worry if someone is sick and needs Mom to stay home with them.  As I type, a feverish Drake is laying on the couch, and I'm not concerned about having to turn in a sick day or worry about what plans will have to be made for tomorrow.  I can spend summers with my kids and work at the same time.  I have taken this for granted, but as I reflect on those 8 years, I am immensely grateful for the freedom that I have with my work schedule.

4.  My family.  The entire year of 2009 was so difficult, with losing Schuyler in Afghanistan in February and then my Mom passing away a few months later in July. difficult and upsetting as that entire year was, we were there for each other as a family.  And, I would say, we've come through those experiences even tighter-knit than before.  My Dad, brothers, niece, and cousins are all people that I feel incredibly close to and know I could turn to them in hard times, and I hope they all know that it works both ways.

5.  My friends.  First of all, I have a wonderful neighborhood.  If it truly "takes a village" then I'm so happy to live in the best village around!  We rely on one another and help each other out.  We look out for each others kids and even husbands when need be!  The thought of NOT living in this 'hood makes me very sad.  If the house burned down tonight, I think we'd be happier staying here in a tent than moving somewhere else.  Luckily, I am not only blessed with these wonderful "Wisteria Lane" gals, but I also have an amazing network of INCREDIBLE friends.  There's the gals I worked with at SIU...we may not see each other often, but when we do it is like no time at all has passed.  They are TRUE everlasting friends and I'm so thankful for them.  There's the Bunco Belles...what an amazing group of women these ladies are.  We get together monthly and laugh, eat, drink, and have a great time, which is a much-needed respite in the midst of all of our crazy lives.  There are the people I've met through True Adventures who have now become great friends...There are people I've met through my involvement with the school and school board...There are parents of my children's friends that I now count as a friend...There are "old friends" from my high school and college days.  Talk about TRUE everlasting friends!  Some of those ladies have seen me through some really rough days, and yet (most) don't hesitate to pick up the phone when they see my number on caller ID!  A sage bit of advice I will be sure to not only model but also voice to my own children is to surround yourself with GOOD, TRUE, EVERLASTING friends.  You will never be sorry at having too many TRUE friends.

6.  My iPhone.  Yeah, that's right...I said it.  I love that thing.  And Siri....ahhhh....we could be stranded on a desert island together and I think we'd be just fine.  You know, as long as the desert island had power so I could charge it up!  Seriously though, I do want to point out I am honestly thankful for that device.  I'm not just thankful for the BIG things in my life.  Sometimes it's the little things that help keep me organized, focused, and let me have a little fun that matter too!

That's not all I'm thankful for, but all I have time for right now.  Stay tuned for other items that I'm thankful for during the month of November.

Friday, February 24, 2012

...and then everything changed.

I think that everyone, at some point in their life, will remember a defining moment; that moment in time where everything changed, and from then on you thought of things in terms of "before" and "after" that defining moment.  This week (the irony of the timing is NOT lost on me) I watched as someone walked from "before" to "after" and I couldn't help but feel a pang of sadness and regret for him as I watched the exact moment happen.

Imagine, if you will, the moment JUST BEFORE you find out someone dear to your life has died.  You are happy, carefree, enjoying the day...just as you should be.  With a smile on your face, you get into the car, only to notice the anguish on your Mom's face.  It is there, in that moment that the car door closes and you notice her face, that you change from "before" to "after".  Then you hear the words that your Dad has died.  Your Dad, who you gave a cheerful "Goodbye" to just hours before as you headed off for school...and now, he's gone.

..."before" has become "after"...

I watched this moment unravel and felt a knot in my stomach.  In my mind, I could see my messy, cluttered home office.  I could see my scattered desk, and the screens attached to my computer.  I could hear the phone ring, and then Amber's voice choking out the words telling me that there had been an accident in Afghanistan and Schuyler was dead.

..."before" has become "after"...

I watched the car drive away, with passengers that were formerly wife and son, but who now were also widow and the kid whose Dad died too young.

..."before" has become "after"...

In my mind I then saw myself on our front steps...outside of the house so that my urge to scream didn't escape and wake a sleeping baby.  Guttural...that is the first time that word ever crossed my mind to describe a scream, but that is the kind of scream that welled up inside of me, fighting to escape.  The phone rang again and caller ID showed me that it was my Mom.  I hit the button to answer and tried to choke out "Hello" but something else came out.  I think it was part of the guttural scream lurking inside, but I quickly reined it in.  "You know....someone called" she said, through her own sobs.  Somehow I said that yes, I knew, and Jeff was on his way home, and I'd call her later.  We hung up and I lost it.

The pain of "after" seemed like it would never end, never lessen.  But, healing does happen, even in the most horrific of circumstances.  I have seen that and experienced that, so when someone close to my faces a loss, I tell them that it WILL get easier, and it WILL become less raw.  You WILL get to a place that talking about your person doesn't make you cry, and you can laugh about the great times you shared.  You can get there.  Now, that's not to say that there aren't times that you want to cry, or even scream.  You will, but the day-to-day perspective that you carry on the tragedy can make a world of difference in your healing.  

I don't "go" to that day, or the days that followed, often.  I prefer to go to the days on the beach, at the cabin, sitting around a fire pit and drinking a few beers.  I prefer to remember the smiles, not the tears.  I prefer to keep you a part of my life today and always, and to remember your smile, your dedication, your bravery, and your mischievousness.  I love to tell people about you could charm the habit off of a nun (or the skirt off of the Bud-Light girl), how you loved to joke but were a very serious, very brave soldier.  I love to tell people how you LOVED always said "Love you" when you ended a phone call or visit, and gave HUGE hugs.  I will never question that you loved your family or that you had any doubt how we felt about you.  You were here too short of a time, but the time we had was simply grand.

Today I share some of my favorite photos...enjoy!

Amber, Me, Schuyler - my graduation from Grad School
Schuyler fishing at a young age!

John, Sky, Amber, and I ~ all looking thrilled!

Looking happier this time, but look how much Amber looks like Avery now!

My awesome brother John, and Schuyler

Sky and Amber, dancing at Amber and Brandon's wedding

Ha ha ~ fishing at an older age!

Sky, me, and John on Mission Beach ~ San Diego

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The last a 30-something

This is the last week in my 30's.  On Saturday, February 11, I turn 40.



And you know what?  I'm totally ready for forty.  I'm comfortable with WHO I am, WHERE I am, and HOW I live.  So forty doesn't bother me.  I think Feisty and Forty describes me well!

I love my life.  Yeah, I wish I was 50 pounds lighter.  A convertible in the driveway, next to my minivan would be nice.  A beach house would be awesome.

But, right here, right now...I'm good with that too!  I have great friends and great family.  I wouldn't trade those folks for anything.  I know what makes me happy, and when I can spend time doing those things that make me happy that is wonderful.  Sometimes it seems like we're all just striving for that next thing that will make us happy.  I think you have to look around...there's plenty to be happy about right here, right now.

A blogger I follow wrote this the other day, and I think this is going to be my personal motto for my 40's...and quite possibly the rest of my life.

There is reason for everyone to be unhappy.  There is reason for everyone to be happy.  What's your focus?

I.  Love.  That.

If you're out there, randomly stumbled upon my blog, and happen to be thinking my life is all unicorns and rainbows...well, don't.  Read some of my posts from 2009.  I have seen plenty of sadness in my life.  But the real trick to a happy life is the perspective you give to not only the GOOD, but also the BAD in your life.  Your perspective on these instances in life can (and WILL, if you let them) define you.

My focus...I'm honing in on all of those reasons to be happy.

Choose happiness...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Will YOU Leave?

I went to a funeral yesterday. A funeral for a beautiful woman, both inside and out. She was probably one of the most decent and genuinely GOOD people I had ever met. She cared about people and it showed.

One of the things that was read at her funeral were excerpts from an autobiography that she had written as part of her admission into a ministry program at her church. As I listened to her own words describing her I was just amazed.

How many of us are comfortable enough in our own skin to write about ourselves? many? Not many, and for those that would, would they REALLY do themselves justice?

She wrote honestly, and she wasn't boastful, but she also didn't downplay her accomplishments in life. And it was simply beautiful.

We heard an excerpt yesterday, but her 5 children have the document in its entirety.

...and what a gift THAT is...

It made me think. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have an autobiography on my own Mom? That is something that I would honestly treasure. But, I know it is something that I can never have. Instead, perhaps it is something that I can GIVE. I can give my own kids that treasure. I can explain who I am to them, and as the years go on I can add to it. I can add to the story as my life progresses on.

I hope there are lots of chapters in the story of my life and I hope that at the end of my life my kids treasure those words as much as I know my friend treasures the tale of her own mother.

So think about it...what will YOU leave? We're all going to depart this world, and many people will leave many material possessions. But long after you're gone, what meaningful trail of your life is left behind? Is it in the art you created or the words you wrote? I know it seems silly to many to sit down and write about your own life, but give it a try.

Sit down and write about YOU. Tell people about what you've done and what you are like. Leave behind a meaningful account of your life, as you saw it.

Someone, someday will say "I'm so glad that we have this now".


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moms and Daughters

Sometimes when the thoughts are swirling around my head in mad chaos, the only way I can make sense of them is to type. So here I go.

Last evening, my dear friend Mickey lost her mom Mary to cancer. Mary was cool. She was just one of those Moms that you meet and secretly wish you had grown up in her house, if only for a short while. I wouldn't have traded my own childhood for all the tea in China, but you just knew that even a week in that house would've given you memories that would last a life time.

Like I said, Mary was cool. Even in typing that it just makes me smile. She was fun to be around. I loved it that she would attend our "Girls Weekend" and get right in there, drinking, eating, laughing, and sharing funny stories with the rest of us. It never failed...we could get her telling stories about any (and sometimes all) of her 6 kids. I really loved those stories...not just the stories, but the WAY she told them. I could just see these mischievious little stinkers getting into all of these crazy predicaments. I loved it when she told those stories.

There is no doubt in my mind...the world was a better place for having her here, and today the world is a bit sadder at her absence. But she left her mark on the world, and the awesome parts of her live on in her grown children.

Yesterday as I thought about Mickey and Mary and what their family was going through, I kept flashing back to the day my own Mom died. Losing your Mom is a sad, sad day indeed. A day that you can never forget, and a day that your entire world changes. I feel like we're way too young to be women without Moms. And sadly, more and more friends are joining those ranks. You often hear people comment that we're "getting to THAT age"...sometimes it seems applicable, but I don't feel like you're ever THAT age to be ready to lose your parent, especially your Mom.

I think as women we go through this strange thing, where even when we're the adult, there's still someone higher on the pecking order...your Mom. You know that you can ask for advice (even if half the time you ignore it) or always fall back on "well, Mom said....". I have participated in adulthood for many years now. I received 2 college married at 23....had a couple of kids....bought and sold a couple of houses....and even started retirement accounts and bought life insurance. But nothing, and I really mean nothing, makes you feel like a full fledged adult like losing your Mom.

...and I don't mean that in a good way...

I'd much rather have Joan at the top of the ladder, ready to look down and give an opinion or offer a hand. But, she's gone, and so now I must truly be the adult.

So, to Mary I say, Thank You....I'm so glad our paths in life happened to cross and that I got to know you. You were cool (I'm smiling again). You were fun. You were hilarious. And most of all, you were a great wife, mother, grandmother and role model for those of us that knew you. I promise to help Mickey out as much as I can and I will tell Katrina and Clay funny stories about you. I won't keep those stories to myself, but will share them, because even though death leaves a heartache that no one can heal, love leaves memories that no one can steal. You will live on in those memories.

Godspeed, were a great one.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

As A Parent....

Last weekend tragedy stuck a local family. A 16 year old boy took his life, only 5 days before his 17th birthday. Let me be clear...I did NOT know this young man.

But his death has struck a chord within me and I can't seem to get him off my mind.

His step-mother and I share the same first and last name, and often have people get the two of us confused. I recently was introduced to her at the gym and we laughed about how people are always getting us mixed up. That introduction and the same name are my ONLY tie to this family.

And yet I can't get him off my mind.

This blog post is not intended to cast blame or responsibility on ANYONE. It is simply me getting my thoughts out.

Because of the same name, I received a few texts on Saturday morning. People were trying to determine if it was MY family that was dealing with the loss of a child. That's really when I started thinking.

I started thinking about how it scares the crap out of me that I am going to have a teenager in a few years....and how I realize how very quickly those "few" years are going to fly by. I then thought about how I was as a teen. And that's when it became clear to me....

As a teen, the things you experience and go through are VERY SIGNIFICANT to you. And as an adult, we often look at these teen problems and think "Oh, kid...if you only knew what REAL problems are". We forget that to them, at that point in their life, their problems are VERY real and VERY serious.

I think we get busy with our jobs, raising kids, making mortgage payment, helping ailing parents, and the rest of adult "life" that we forget how significant those teen problems/issues are when you're a teen. I thought back to the things that just completely set me off as a teenager....

They were really big and dramatic things to me at the breaking up with a boyfriend....getting singled out from the group of friends and feeling like NOBODY cared....not having some material object that EVERYONE else had, and without it, my social life was surely over.....etc.

In my almost-40-year-old hindsight, those issues are so insignificant. But as parents, we HAVE to remember how incredibly significant and devistating they felt to US as a teen. Only then will we be better able to help our own children. I know I have downplayed problems that my own children have had, because as an ADULT I know that in a few days this issue or that problem will blow over and they'll be on to something else. BUT...I think that it is so very important to remember that downplaying our kids problems is not always the answer. We have to keep perspective that to them, at that point in their life, these problems are EVERYTHING.

Again, this blog post is in NO WAY casting the shadow of blame on ANYONE. I do not KNOW the family or what the situation was behind this young man's suicide. I just know that in thinking about the situation I felt like I had to make sure I was more aware of the seriousness of the problems our kids face. No, their problems aren't on the same level as job security, financial hardships, or any of the stressful situations many adults face. a teen, at that point in their life, their problems are as stressful to them as adult problems are to adults. That is part of the way we learn.

We learn to navigate through life by dealing with issues and conflict...from the time we're very young until the day we die. Hopefully the tragedy that this family now faces will somehow help other parents to guide their own children. Hopefully we all will talk to our kids a bit more and listen even harder....hug them every day, and always make sure they know you love them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I started this post before the 11th, but couldn't seem to find the right words to finish it. So, here it is; what I had to say about the anniversary of 9/11.

It seems like you can't go anywhere on the Internet these days without seeing someone's thoughts on 9/11. With the tenth anniversary looming on the horizon, people are talking....people are remembering.

Ten are my thoughts on 9/11 as we approach the 10th anniversary.

Ten years ago I was a new Mom, trying to get some sleep and the phone kept ringing. Honestly, the phone was irritating me. It was my husband and I was irritated because the baby was finally sleeping so I was trying to get some sleep too. You see, the baby was a little over 3 weeks old, so Grandma had gone home and the hubby had gone back to work and I was on my own with the little man.

....and the phone kept ringing....

Argh...I finally figured that he wasn't going to stop calling over and over so I should answer. He said something to the effect of "turn on the have to see this". I relented and turned on the tv. I sat there for hours.

I sat there and held my new baby close and wondered what kind of world we had just brought this baby into. I sat there and watched.

I watched as the 2nd plane hit the 2nd tower. I watched as people jumped from the windows. I watched as people ran from the buildings. And I watched as the buildings crumbled.

I watched in disbelief.

I watched and I wondered...I wondered how this was going to change our world. I thought of that change in very broad terms, never really taking a minute to think that the events of that day would impact me and my family in a very direct way, albeit years later.

See, Schuyler was just a kid then. He had been here to meet his new cousin and do a little back-to-school clothes shopping with Grandma. He was a kid, getting ready to start another year of high attend football games and go cruising with his friends.

And as I watched the events of that horrific day unfold, never did the thought cross my mind than in a little over 7 years, the events of 9/11 would directly impact my life and the lives of my entire family....

September 11th was really just the beginning of everything changing. It was that pivotal moment in history where my life changed. I didn't see the direct impact that day, but years later the direct impact was seen and felt.

Lots of people answered the call of duty on that day, 10 years ago. Firefighters, police, emergency responders, clergy, and many others rushed to help. They heard their own call of duty and went...

...thousands of others heard their call of duty and enlisted. One may have chose Army while his buddy chose Marines, but each heard their own call of duty and answered.

Boys on 9/11/2001 became men and enlisted to do their part to help. I remember a conversation that Schuyler and I had after his first tour was over. He did not have to go on the 2nd tour with his new unit because he had only recently returned. But he was going...he was volunteering to go on that 2nd tour. I couldn't understand why he would do that. We talked about it a lot and he explained that he was volunteering so that maybe another random person....a random person with a spouse and kids at home....might not have to go. He felt like he didn't have heavy responsiblities at home so it was the right thing for him to do to volunteer to go back.

He heard his own call of duty and he answered it.

And I think, in his own way, early in 2009, he knew the danger was getting closer. He knew that not only was it possible, but very probable that he would face that danger head on, and perhaps not live to tell that tale.

I watched coverage yesterday for an hour or so. I watched the children of 9/11....they progressed from infants to 9-10 year olds. Kids that never knew their Daddies. And as I saw them I thought of the two families who also lost a soldier on 2/24/2009, and how one family shares the same burden as those children of 9/11....a child that never knew his Daddy.

A day never goes by that I don't think about Schuyler or the Thompson, Stream, and Bunting families. We are united by a tragedy that none of us wanted to face. We remember and we hope others remember, because within that memory, they all live on.