Friday, December 31, 2010

...and there she goes...

It seems as if 2010 just started and then here we are...done with yet another year. Twelve months...another calendar down....another year gone.

So like many others I have been reflecting a bit on what 2010 meant to me and what I'd like to do differently in 2011. And as such, this post was born.....

The year of 2010 saw much change in not only my physical health, but my emotional health as well. I lost 65 pounds and with those pounds, an immeasurable amount of emotional baggage. I worked through issues from the deaths of Schuyler and my Mom. I discovered that I have more inner strength than I had ever imagined. I developed a closer relationship to many members in my family, especially my niece and my Dad. The loss of so much shifted my perspective on things and helped me to see what things are truly important in my life.

One thing that I have realized is that a "HAPPY" life doesn't mean a life without sadness. I have a "HAPPY" life. I really do. I am happy with where my life has taken me, even if some of those trips have been dark, sad days that I never want to re-live. Those sad times and the happy times have shaped me to who I am today. And I am happy with that person. I see people who talk about the mundane "pains" of their day and it makes me sad. They stress out at the silliest of things. I hate that all I can think of is that if they knew TRUE SADNESS and SORROW then these small things would not be such an inconvenience in their life. Unfortunately it is a lesson that will probably have to be hard learned.

The new year bring the promise of many things for different people, but for me, the new year means much of the same.... times spent with the people I love the most, my family and dear friends
...focus on my physical and emotional health spent on meaningful things, instead of worrying about stuff that worrying won't change

Yeah, I have specific 2011 goals (resolutions of sorts, you might say) but those I tend to keep more to myself until I have honed the details.

I hope that 2011 is a year where you can gain perspective on the things that are really important in your own life and find a place where you are honestly at peace with who you are.

Happy New Year ~

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Several times over the past few months I have found myself teary eyed over the strangest things. These weren't times when one would expect to get teary eyed, like someone mentioning my Mom or Schuyler, or even seeing a soldier on the street.

These were times when I was, quite honestly, overcome with happiness. And as strange as it seems, it's been happening more and more. I wonder if maybe going through such a dark and sad place and knowing what that feels like makes the moments of sheer bliss even more dramatic, but nevertheless, I've been crying in public.

The most recent time was Sunday as we sat in the darkened theater watching the live production of The Nutcracker ballet. I looked to my right and saw Drake watching intently...then I looked to my left and saw Avery...completely mesmerized and fascinated at the activity on the stage.

...and my eyes started filling up...

So many seemingly ordinary moments, but yet, so very significant. I'm so thankful that I have these beautiful children, eventhough at times I want to hang them from their toes! I'm so thankful that I have a supportive and understanding husband who always gives me the leeway that I need, but knows when I need him to reel things in and have some family time. I'm thankful for our life...I know it's so-not-politically-correct to be thankful for the STUFF, but I am. I'm thankful that we've been able to work hard and have the home that we have, the wonderful neighbors and friends that we have, and the opportunities that our work has provided to us. Granted, I also think that if we were living somewhere else I would be happy as well, but I'm thankful that life has led us right here....right now.

There's your fair warning...if you see me on the street and see me dabbing at my eyes, I very well may not be crying tears of sadness, but tears of joy, because I am HAPPY....right here....right now.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Soup in a jar!

I posted on Facebook about my "Soups in a Jar" gifts that I had done. We tested both recipes and are PLEASED with the yummy results. People asked, so I am sharing the recipes.

Here is the recipe for the JAR for Italian Tomato and Pasta Soup. The recipe card that you attach to the jar for preparation is after!

The recipe that you attach to the jar is:

1 jar Italian Tomato and Pasta Soup Mix
5 cups water
1 can (28) oz. diced tomatoes
1/2 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed
4-6 slices crisp-cooked bacon, crumbled

1. Remove cheese packet from jar; set aside.

2. Combine water and remaining contents of jar into sauce pan. Bring to a boil and boil 10-12 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, spinach, and bacon. Reduce heat and simmer 10-12 minutes or until pasta is tender. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Makes 4-5 servings

For a variation, use fresh spinach. I didn't use the bacon, and it was still awesome! As you can see, I also used Penne pasta, and it was great!

The finished product!

Jar #2! Home-Style Chicken and Rice Soup Mix:

For the JAR:

The recipe that you attach TO the jar:

1 jar Home-Style Chicken & Rice Soup Mix
6-7 cups water
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
salt and pepper

1. Combine contents of jar, water and tomato sauce in Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover; reduce heat and simmer 1 hour or until rice is tender.

2. Stir in chicken. Cook over low heat 10-15 minutes or until chicken is heated through. Remove and discard bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 10 - 12 servings.

My only caution on the Chicken and Rice uses a PINT jar instead of a QUART jar! I had my quart jars all lined up and was tossing ingredients in like a mad woman and then when I finished I couldn't figure out why the chicken and rice soup jars were not full, and the other was was to the top. DUH...pint jar, blondie! So, I had to get some pint jars and transfer, and it's all good.

Have I said, we tried both soups and I was really impressed at the flavor with both of them. Jeff liked the chicken and rice soup a lot. He isn't a big fan of pasta or spinach, so he didn't even taste that one, but I REALLY liked it!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Favorite Things

I figured if Oprah can have her "Favorite Things" then why can't I? Well, for one, me naming a Favorite Thing won't cause the stock to jump or thousands of people to run out and buy it, but still....

Here are a few of my favorite things this holiday season!

1. Coffee Mugs

I found these re-usable travel coffee mugs at Wal-Mart for $5. Now, I'm sure some of you are thinking "Big's a coffee mug". But, seriously folks, I LOVE THESE! The seal in them is such that you don't end up spilling. The seal is just awesome. That's really all I can say. LOVE LOVE LOVE these! I went back, bought a bunch more for gifts and a few more for me!

2. Christmas light card holder

A wonderful friend made this for me after I commented on loving it after seeing it on her daughter-in-law's blog. (did you follow that...) The felt Christmas light bulbs have a clothes pin on the back. You hang your Christmas cards by attaching the clothes pin to the jute twine that you have strung from point to point. Sadly, I am stalking the mailman daily so that I can get more cards to hang on my card holder! I absolutely LOVE it! Such a creative thing, and Susan didn't scrimp when she made this baby. Each bulb is sewn to a green back, and it's sewn in the color thread that corresponds to the Christmas bulb. She added her own touch of silver glitter paint as an accent, which just makes my eyes twinkle! Did I mention that I LOVE this card holder? Thank you Susan....I am smitten!

3. Cookie Exchanges. I have a cookie exchange planned for Tuesday, so I have no photo to represent this favorite thing, but I can tell you all about it. If you host a cookie exchange you pick the amount of cookies and then coordinate to make sure all guests are bringing a different cookie. So, each guest brings say 3 or 4 dozen of the SAME type of cookie. Everyone mixes and mingles and you take all of the cookies brought and divide them up into plates. Each guest then is able to take home a plate with the 3 (or 4) dozen cookies, but they cookies are assorted. Everyone goes home with a beautiful plate of Christmas cookie goodness! I have added a couple of twists to mine this year. First of all, I have asked all guests to e-mail me the recipe for their cookie. I will put those recipes into Word and then print off a mini cookie book with all recipes for everyone that attends. Then, since the exchange is the week of Christmas and all the kids are home from school, I made this a "Mom's Cookie Exchange" and hired my very favorite babysitter in the entire world to come and supervise all of the kids in the basement while the Moms are upstairs! I have printed off coloring and activity pages from the Internet and bought a few inexpensive craft kits for the kids to do. The toy room is ready for lots of fun! The kids will have their own "party" downstairs while us Moms party upstairs! I am hoping this is a huge success and that it will become a "revised" tradition for our friends and family.

I was going to close this post, but just remembered that I have some new website newsletters that I want to share with you.

First of all, Parent's Magazine has their "100 Days of Holidays". I think I got my first one in 2010 around September 24th. I never have time to look through them immediately, so I created a "Holiday Ideas" folder in my e-mail in-box and drop them all in there. Then, when I need a craft, recipe, or decorating idea, I go to that folder and ALWAYS find something awesome! To sign up, go to and find the "100 Days of Holidays" box and click "Sign Up".

My next web newsletter is a new discovery. A Pre-K Mom told me about it and I've gotten some GREAT deals. The newsletter itself is called The Screaming Penny. You can sign up at . Some days the deals they have are better than others, but I have bought 2 Christmas gifts on there that I would've never found had I not gotten the newsletter. Today, for example, I was able to pick up the ENTIRE Seinfeld series on DVD for

under $90, shipped. Jeff and I love watching those Seinfeld episodes, so I thought that might really be something fun to get him as a surprise. (but if he actually reads this blog, which I totally doubt, then the jig is up Momma!) This wasn't on my gift giving list, but at that price, I know it's something he'll like so I got it. The list price is $250.95. I paid $84.99 which was listed as 66% off.

That's not ALL of my favorite things, but for now it's enough. I hope you enjoy time with your families and friends this holiday season. Don't stress out...enjoy the time with people you love!


PS...I don't have blog sponsors or anything, so please don't think that I'm mentioning these products or services in exchange for sponsorship!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Being Thankful

There is just so much to be thankful for in my life that I hate to even start trying to make a list. I mean, there's the biggies, like health, a loving husband, my family, a home, etc. And then there's simple, obvious stuff that we take for granted, right, like electricity and music on the radio, etc.

So that leaves me kinda unsure of where to start. I guess I'll just make a list, and you must know this list is so totally non-inclusive. If something is absent from the list, but present in my life, please don't think this list is some declaration of my unthankfulness of said item!

Here goes.....I am thankful FOR:
  • my husband, Jeff
  • my kids, Drake and Avery
  • my brothers, their spouses and children
  • my niece (little sister) Amber...she gets a line of her own
  • my Dad and the way our relationship has evolved since my Mom died
  • my girlfriends
  • my neighborhood...Spring Arbor PRIVATE baby!
  • my home and my yard
  • my swagger wagon
  • my health
  • my commitment to a healthier me, and the results that I've seen thus far
  • compliments (very closely related to above item!)
  • jeans that fit....I mean REALLY fit
  • technology...I LOVE me some technology kids
  • being able to cook a good meal
  • compliments (very closely related to above item!)
  • being able to help others
  • blogging and readers who leave comments about my blog
  • photographs
  • comfort and stability
  • chaos and insanity
  • a warm house and a warm bed
  • a fridge full of food in the house and another one full of booze in the garage
  • feeling comfortable enough with who I am to be able to say what I mean and mean what I say
  • being able to talk to a friend and vent or complain and feel better when I'm done
  • snuggling with my kids
  • our new dog, Polly
  • my cell phone...means my family can reach me anytime, anywhere if they need me
  • old friends that have been there throughout the years
  • new friends that are so incredible you forget they haven't been around for years
  • sarcasm
  • comedy
  • live theater
  • wine
  • my treadmill
  • honest people
  • perspective...although, as in most life lessons, perspective was one gained the hard way, but that lesson has given me such clarity that I am happy to have learned it this early in my life
  • my life
  • the end of this list

Again, while not all encompassing of the things I'm thankful for, that list represents the top-of-mind-awareness that I could type out in those few minutes. I guess the easiest way to describe it is simply, I am thankful.

I sincerely hope that anyone reading this has a wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by good food, great friends, and much laughter.

Enjoy your day....

Be Thankful.....I am......

Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom...wherever you are...

Today should be my Mom's 78th birthday. I should've called her today and explained that I'm saving her gift to give her in person when her and Dad come next week for Christmas, only to rush out the day of their arrival to get something...I SHOULD have, but unfortunately, I can't do that any longer.

My Mom died on July 4, 2009, so this is the second time that her birthday has come and no such phone call was made. No last minute flowers were "sorry your card is a little late" "we have appointments at the spa for next week"...nothing.

Last year I was really, really sad on this day. Before anyone misinterprets, please know that today was difficult, and filled with moments of sadness, but today was not like last year. Last year I was sucked down in a hole of depression and sadness that I was unsure if I would ever come out of. Last year was simply bad.

But, this year is better....better than I would have dared imagine it could be. This year is more reflective than despairing. This year I can focus on all of the wonderful things, and how I appreciate them instead of yearning for nothing more than to have those things back. I understand now that the pain is part of the journey, and sometimes without the pain you are unable to see the beauty in the every day.

Losing so much has helped me see that beauty in every day.

So today, as every day, I have thought much of my Mom. I find myself looking at my kids and thinking how much she would get a kick out of them at this stage, and yet at the same time, thankful that she was able to see what she saw of their lives.

I learned so much from her...and so many of those traits that drove me nuts are the traits I see coming out in my own personality, and suddenly they're not so irritating! She taught (by example, of course) that making people feel welcome and warm in your home is such a wonderful gift to give your friends. I love having people over, and find that I am honestly happiest when the house is full and the party is in full swing...I look around and see smiles, hear laughs, and that is a feeling of complete joy that I know she felt on many an occasion.

She is missed by so many, and not a day goes by that I don't think about her. As a teenager I swore to NEVER be like her, and now, as an adult, I hope that some day my own children look back at me as their Mom and have similar feelings as I do for mine...her death left a void in my life that can never be filled, but her presence in my life was a gift that can never be taken away from me.

Happy Birthday Mom...I love you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Time To Be Thankful

November is here...I'm pretty sure it creeped up on me when I was busy doing other things. Weren't we just loading up the wagon and heading to the beach a few days ago? Wow...anyway...Fall is here.

November is many things, but it is the month of Thanksgiving.

Thanks Giving

Giving Thanks

So, thinking about this month got me to this post...since this is a time to give thanks, my blog this month will be focused on those things that I am thankful for. Here I will Give Thanks to the things that I am grateful for.

First, I have to say I am thankful for my family and friends. I can't just talk about family or friends, independent from each other. See, to me, many of my friends are like family, so these terms go hand-in-hand.

My "household" family would be Jeff, Drake, Avery, and our new pup Polly...and for them, I am extremely thankful.

Jeff and I have been married for 15 years, and even though I'm way too bitchy at times he loves me. Many times I reflect back on a day and think of all the times I could've been a little nicer. I hope that after being together for this long he never doubts that I would do anything for him, and I consider our marriage a true partnership in which we each support the other (and all of our crazy ideas) totally and completely.

My kids make my life worth living. They drive me nuts at times, but I love them more and more each day. I love seeing them grow and learn new things. I love seeing their relationship as brother and sister develop. They are so sweet and wonderful, even when they're testing my patience to the n'th degree! I can't imagine my life without them.

Polly is such a sweet dog, and having her in the house reminds me how much we all loved Albus, and of all the gifts he gave to us. Polly has quickly endeared herself to the entire household.

I am thankful for my awesome dad, Dan, and for all of the amazing things he's taught me over the years. After my Mom died, Jeff predicted that Dad and I would become even closer, which, at the time, seemed impossible to me. But, as is often true, Jeff's prediction was correct, and my Dad and I have an even stronger relationship now than before my Mom died. I hope she is able to look down on us and smile that we're all sticking together and getting through this as a family.

I'm thankful for my brothers: Dave, Jeff, and John. Regardless of the age gap they've always been awesome brothers and friends. I love them dearly.

I'm thankful for all those additional family members...nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, etc. Each of them have played a special part in who I am today, and I treasure the friendship that has grown over the years.

Now, on to my friends...this is more difficult to explain than the family! I have such GREAT friends. My close girlfriends are a treasure worth more than the Crown Jewels. These gals have been there for me through some really rough times and I appreciate their love and friendship more than anyone can imagine. The only way I can ever repay them is simply by being a good friend back. I strive to be that friend every day. Some of these friends I have known since grade school, while some are new to my life in the past few years. Regardless of the timeline, they all have made a mark on my heart. Knowing that you can call up a girlfriend and she's got your back is one of the greatest gifts we can have. There's simply NOTHING like a great girlfriend!

So, that's it for today...I'm showing my thanks for my friends and family. Had I REALLY expressed my feelings...well, the post would be too long! I could list countless examples of how these people have enriched my life, but you'll just have to take my word for friends and family are simply awesome and I'm so very thankful to have them in my life.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don't Ask....Don't Tell

I'm a big supporter of "Don't Ask....Don't Tell". Really....I am....but the version I believe in has a little spin to it.

My version of "Don't Ask....Don't Tell" is this. I'm not going to ask you if you hate someone because of their sexual orientation, and you had better not tell me that you do, 'cause if you do....well, you're outta my troop.

Seriously. I find it really sad that right now, in 2010, there are people STILL being discriminated against for being gay. REALLY? REALLY? We're hating...still? Haven't we seen that there is no room for hating one another?

I have a lot of friends and a large family. And I love 'em all. I really do...I'm from one of those "Let's hug it out, bitch" families...we're all out there with our feelings for each other. And so, I am that kind of friend (or at least I hope I am!). If I have a friend in need, I'm there. And, thankfully, I have friends that treat me the same way. (Do unto others as you'd have done to you....) And guess what? Some of those friends and family are gay and some are lesbian.

And you know what else? It doesn't matter to me at ALL who my friends and/or family sleep with, marry, live with, date, etc. doesn't. All I care about is that my friends and family (gay, straight, or somewhere in the middle) are HAPPY. I want them to be HAPPY. That's it.

I love my gay brother and his partner of over 30 years, but I do worry about them. I worry that hate will touch them in some way and they'll think that everyone is like that. I hate haters.

I love my gay cousins, I love my gay friends....male, female, doesn't matter to me. I love 'em all. I love them if they're flaming gay or butch. 'Cause I don't care who you're sleeping with...this is NOT a factor in the qualities that make us friends. I love them because they bring something to my life, just like the straight friends and family that I also love!

Hating someone in the name of Christianity is just WRONG. Whatever happened to "God loves all of His children"? Or was it supposed to read "God loves all of His children....except the gay ones"??? So please, please, please do not tell me that you hate homosexuals in the name of Christianity. Don't Ask....Don't Tell. 'Cause if you tell me that, I'm done with you.

My views are intolerant, which is kinda hypocritical, given the post, right? Well, that's fine with me. I am intolerant of hate, and I'm intolerant of kids being bullied because they're gay....bullied to the point that they take their own lives. What's wrong with us?

So there you have it. I love my friends...all of them. But, I have no room in my life for haters, so if you fall into that category, I promise that I Won't Ask...if you promise you Won't Tell, because if you tell, I'm done.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Think Outside of the Box...

Ugh...this post has been brewing inside for a while. First of all, let me say that I really enjoyed the book "Freakonomics" and it opened my eyes to how much we take what we read, see on TV, or hear in the media as gospel.

I saw this on TV, so it MUST be true........right? They had statistics to back it up.

If you haven't read "Freakonomics" grab a copy and read may change the way you think!

Anyway, at some point in my life between living with a pessimist who believes NOTHING he reads or hears and reading "Freakonomics" I started thinking a little differently about what I see on TV, read in the paper, or hear on the radio.

Which brings me to this post. I had the Brazilian Blowout on my hair a couple of weeks ago. Before going in, I did a little Internet research because I was a bit nervous about my hair's reaction to a chemical treatment. I had a perm (ironic, right....perm and now straighten) in the early 1990's and my hair burned so badly that it just broke off in chunks. I wasn't wanting that to happen again (obviously) so I got on the good old Internet and started researching this Brazilian Blowout.

Wow...there was a LOT of information! And a vast majority of that information was on the whole "does BB have formaldehyde or not" discussion. I'm not going to site sources or provide links, 'cause we're all smart enough to go find it all on our own. BUT, here's what I DID find, and not necessarily in this order, but this makes the most sense.

OSHA in Oregon received an anonymous sample of product that was labeled "Brazilian Blowout" and was asked to test it for formaldehyde. OSHA tested this sample and then published findings that the product does contain high levels of formaldehyde.

Hmmmm....OSHA, right? A government agency couldn't have messed something up, could they? Dig a little more. Many people did not like the whole "anonymous sample" so then I find that a woman steps forward (a salon owner) and says that she was the one who sent the product in. Here's where it gets interesting.

Brazilian Blowout searched their customer files and they don't have this woman or her salon on file as someone they have shipped product to. See, BB is doing something different in the Health and Beauty industry. Most product is sold directly to a distributor, and their sales people visit salons and sell the product to the salon. BB decided to cut the middle man out of the equation and ONLY SELL TO SALONS DIRECTLY. (Hmmm...that didn't piss someone off, did it???) So, since the only way you get the BB product is from BB themselves, they would know if they had sold to this woman or her salon. So where exactly did her sample come from? At this point....we don't know.

So this leads me to the point where I need to make a BB is the day AFTER I have found all of this information. According to the BB website, they are willing to directly provide samples to OSHA or any other independent tester because they believe their product is formaldehyde free and stand by that claim. I read about testing that was done by BB and they find "trace elements of formaldehyde at a level of less than .0002%" which, quite frankly, could be found in common household items. Clients complain about burning eyes. Um, OK, I've had perms and my eyes burned, and even had some burning of my eyes while getting my hair cut if someone else in the salon is having their nails done. So, based on all of this, I keep the appointment. I determine that FOR ME, this risk is less than going out and eating a Big Mac, so I'm gonna do it.

I go in on 10/8 and have my BB. Yes, my eyes burned a bit during the flat iron stage, just like the stylist warned me it may. Again, not too worried here 'cause I've had the same thing before. I leave, looking quite amazing if I do say so myself, and am totally a believer in the beauty of the Blowout! I can't wait to wash, dry, and fix my hair on my own to see if it really is as easy as she made it look. I anticipate the dust building up on my Chi iron, as it sits, unused in the bathroom drawer!

I happen to get online later that day, and guess what? More information discrediting Oregon OSHA's claims. Now we find that their testing methods were proven faulty. Long story short, a scientist claims that OSHA's testing was measuring "Methylene Glycol" and they just called it formaldehyde. MG is apparently a key ingredient in many salon hair straightening treatments. Also pointed out is that formaldehyde is a gas, and as such, it cannot be added to cosmetics. It may exist in trace amounts, but find me a house that doesn't have lots of products that contain TRACE amounts of it. MG contains TRACE amounts of formaldehyde, a reported 0.05%.

Now, the Freakonomist in me wonders who is bankrolling this scientist that has made these claims, but looks pretty convincing. Still, it is better to keep an open mind, right?

Fast forward to a few days ago. News on BB's site states that an air monitoring study has been done at a salon that offers the BB and the exposure levels are more than six times lower than OSHA's standard for air quality safety.

There seems (TO ME) to be compelling evidence that due to the shift from the norm in Brazilian Blowout's business practices there may be a bit of a grudge to bear. That to me, is motive enough, for someone to send in an "anonymous" sample, tainted with formaldehyde, to get the BB company some negative press. Lord knows that with the Internet and social media like it is, that stuff goes "viral" in no time at all.

It also seems that what we're reading is only PART of the story. Each company can hire "experts" to push through their agenda with statistics. That happens every day in trials all over this country.

However, for me, the most compelling evidence that I have as to the formaldehyde/no formaldehyde controversy is this....

A personal friend of mine had the Brazilian Blowout 4-6 weeks before I had mine. She has a SERIOUS allergy to formaldehyde. This allergy is no joke. This is a "hit her with the epi pen and call 911" kind of allergy.

Before her Brazilian Blowout the stylist called the BB company not once, but twice, and was reassured BOTH times that the company felt confident in their product being formaldehyde free. The stylist and my friend decided to proceed.

My lovely friend had NO reaction to the BB. She didn't even have the stinging of her eyes. epi pen required. She was fine, and her hair looks amazing!

So, there you have it $0.02 worth of opinion on the Brazilian Blowout. We take health risks every day. Some choose to vaccinate; some decide against it. Some eat processed foods; some stick to organic. Some smoke, drink, or drive too fast. Some eat enough fat in fast food to clog your arteries by next week. Some get their nails done...some lay in a tanning bed...the list can go on and on. But the point is, that we all make those calculated risks based on the knowledge that we have about that risk. Sometimes our knowledge base is low, and sometimes we research and dig deeper and know a little more. But whatever you choose to do, please accept the responsibility of YOUR CHOICE. If you burn yourself on your hot coffee, or if you get skin cancer after tanning for 20 years, that was YOUR CHOICE. It's not someone else's responsibility to pay for the mistakes that we make. We've turned into an insanely litigious society and lack of personal responsibility and accountability is a large reason why.

....I shall get off of my soap box.......for now!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Time Marches On...Are You Marching or Standing Still?

This is a blog post I wrote for my weight loss blog, Bloggin The Bugg. However, I have decided to cross post this on this blog, as it's not just a story about weight loss, but about life. I hope you enjoy.....

A year ago I was, quite frankly, a mess. I was a complete wreck...physically and emotionally. Everything came to a head one night after hitting the wine trail with some friends. A great old friend...had come along as my "date". After departing the drunk bus, we headed to McDonald's for some grub before heading home. She was staying the night to avoid the drive home, so we knew we'd have some good "girlfriend gab" time. It was just what I needed.

See, I think you have some friends that are surface friends. They see what's on the surface and don't dig any deeper. If you say you're fine...then you're fine and everyone moves on. Then there are those "below the surface" friends. Those are the ones that hear "I'm a friggin mess" when you say "I'm fine" and they DIG...they dig deep baby, 'cause that's the kind of friend they are, and they WANT to help.

Debbie is a "below the surface" friend. We've seen each other through job changes, births, marriage troubles, family troubles, death, and just about any other miserable thing one can endure. Let me say...for the record...Debbie isn't my only "below the surface" friend. I am blessed to have several. But, she was there that night, and she did the digging that led to my return to life.

We started talking about the past 8-9 months. So much had happened in my life...Schuyler (my nephew) was killed in Mom died unexpectedly...physically I was a mess on a whole other level. My weight had increased to probably the highest it had ever been. I was severaly depressed but hadn't admitted it to myself. But Debbie asked...she asked how I was.

"Fine...doing ok."

"No, are you DOING?" (this is digging deeper)

I thought about that and ended up breaking down completely. I lost it. I was not fine and it was time to face that.

Debbie and I talked at length that night. Maybe it was having a trusted friend...maybe it was the wine...maybe it was just time...or maybe it was a combination of all of these. But this would end up being the night that changed everything. Debbie encouraged me to talk to someone about medication. She got me to admit that I was depressed...really, really depressed. And she got me to realize that it wasn't getting any better as time went on, but actually getting progressively worse. She helped me realize that I needed help in getting out of the fog.

So, I ended up taking Lexapro to help me deal with the depression. Thankfully that worked really well for me and helped me climb out of the hole that I was stuck in. I made it through the holidays...those first holidays without Schuyler and Mom. I made it to January 2010...a new year and hopefully a happier year.

And what a happier year it's been. Life isn't without sadness...nobody should expect that. But, I have found that HOW you deal with those disappointing or sad times makes a world of difference. I'm not the eternal optimist, but I do try to see something good even in the most difficult of situations. I am trying to look at the simple things in my life that bring me happiness. The year after Schuyler and Mom died there was a LOT of family time...LOTS and LOTS....and those were really happy, really comforting times. The 6 hour drive to visit "home" isn't such a "task" anymore, but a destination where fun times and memories are being made.

Mid-January I decided that my mental health was on the right track so it was time to get my physical heath in check as well. I started this "Fit By Forty" journey, and honestly, I would NEVER have imagined I would be where I am today. In January I weighed 265 pounds. I was wearing a 22/24 and XXL shirt. I THOUGHT I felt pretty good. Then I started losing the weight. Initially I set small 265 my goal was to be in the 250's. At 259, my goal was to be in the 240's...and so on.

Here I am...the end of September and beating down the door to under 200! I am at 203 as of this morning. I am wearing a 16 jean comfortably, and a 14 is button-able and zippable, but not comfortable! YET. I buy Large shirts. My shoe size has even gotten smaller! From a 9.5 EE to a 8.5 B.

But, the best thing about all this isn't the numbers. It is how I FEEL. I feel energized. I want to go DO something...not just lay low. I am active...I am happy...I am fit.

Life is good.

So, this brings me to the title..."Time Marches On...Are You Marching or Standing Still?".

I was totally standing still in 2009. But 2010? Oh, in 2010 I'm Marching...I'm leading-the-band marching....and it feels GREAT.

Life is hard...nobody should expect it not to be. But how you deal with those curve balls you're thrown will make a HUGE difference in whether or not you march or stand still.

Maybe life is like living in the jungle...the weak, injured animal that stays still is going to be the one to get eaten by the mighty lion. It's OK to be weak and injured, just don't stay still for too long so that the lion has to go elsewhere for his dinner.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Reason...A Season...A Lifetime...

Maybe you've seen the e-mail hundreds of times, and maybe you've even stopped to read it. The passage is trying to explain why people come into your lives and what you get out of it. Everyone comes for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

I want to talk tonight about someone who was in my life for a reason. The passage says that when someone comes into your life for a reason, it's usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Then, without any wrong doing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die.

Albus Dumbledog was in my life for a reason...let me tell you about him.

The odds were stacked against Albus from the get go. Someone dumped him on the side of the road....quite possibly along with his litter mates. Somehow, against odds, he made his way to the side of the JUST the right time. He made it there just before my beautiful friend Carolyn drove by.

And against even more odds, Carolyn managed to notice him. And Carolyn, being Carolyn stopped and picked up his tiny, dehydrated, seed tick infested body.....and took him home. There she spent many hours picking the seed ticks off of him and nursing him back to health. But, staying with Carolyn was not in the plan for Albus. Albus had another job.

Now, it also just happens that the first day of PreK for my Avery falls at this time. Avery attends PreK with Jack, Carolyn's son. So it is decided that since Carolyn may have some issues leaving her youngest at PreK, I will take her out to breakfast where we will manage to leave our babes for that 2 hours and 45 minutes until we pick them up!

Carolyn and I head to Panera where we drink coffee and talk about things to keep our minds off of having just left the kids at the big kid school! The discussion moves to how Carolyn's hubby isn't too happy with her, as she's picked up a stray and he thinks they are over their pet quota. Well, being a good friend I ask to see a picture of the new pup...Carolyn in her infinite wisdom tells me this is probably not a good idea, because she's pretty sure one look and I'll be hooked.

THAT is how Albus Dumbledog came to be adopted by the Martin family. That was approximately one year ago. Albus came to us at a very difficult time in my life. I had suffered the loss of my nephew, Schuyler in Afghanistan in February. Then on July 4 my Mom suddenly passed away. Depression was weighing heavy on me and I was generally a mess. I probably needed to add a puppy to the mix like I needed a hole in my head....but really, I DID.

Albus needed someone to get up and take him out in the morning. He didn't care if I'd rather sleep until noon...he had to pee. So, it's get your lazy ass outta bed or I'm gonna pee on your shoe.

I usually got up.

Albus needed to be played with. He didn't care if I was depressed and feeling bad. He needed to play. And who, seriously WHO, can not find even a small amount of joy when tossing a ball over and over and over for a faithful dog that keeps bringing it back and seems as excited the 38th time as he was the first time you tossed it?

So, as Albus aged, I got better. And so begins the "here for a reason" explaination. The depression cloud lifted little by little. I couldn't allow myself the luxury of going back to bed every day...I had to get up and keep going. I started working out again...I started getting healthier. I kept feeling better and better.

Before Schuyler was killed we would "talk" on instant messenger. He would ask me about my workout progress and joke about how we could go for a run when he was home on leave. At that point I wouldn't have been able to run to the freezer for ice cream, let alone go for a run with someone. But, Schuyler being Schuyler would bring it up every time we IM'ed. So, after losing him and losing my Mom and then finally getting back on track with exercising, I tried running. It's not pretty, but I do enjoy it.

I think about them a lot when I run, and I think about what their reaction would be to the changes in me. Because of his influence in my exercise I decided that I would register for the 4 mile run in our hometown of Kewanee over Labor Day weekend. To me, that was kinda like coming full circle...

.....I would do that run in Kewanee, where I would've run with Schuyler

.....I feel like my grief process has come full circle and I am finally able to deal with the situation on my own, without any medication to help keep me from getting sucked down into the hole of depression; my final pills would be taken the week before the race

So I went to the race with one goal in mind...finish the race in under an hour. I finished in 46 minutes and some odd seconds. I did it...I ran with Schuyler in Kewanee. I had come full circle and not let that depression take me out of the game.

That was Saturday. On Sunday, I got the phone call.

Albus had gotten loose and gotten hit by a car.

He was gone.

Suddenly, coming full circle was so clear to truly was full circle, and the thing that came into my life to assist me through a difficulty, to aid me physically and emotionally, was gone. Albus had fulfilled his reason.

And just like that...he was gone.

So now begins another grieving process for my family. I miss that lil' bugger like crazy. I miss the wet kiss to the face at 6 am when he wanted to go out and pee. I miss the way he'd lay with the kids until they were asleep and then follow me around room to room waiting for me to go to bed...then...and only then would he go to sleep. I miss the way he "talked" to us. I miss looking out my kitchen window and seeing him running wild, playing with his friends in the neighbor's fenced in yard. I miss so many things about him, and yet I am not sad when I think of him.

I cannot be sad.

I am so thankful that Albus was in my life for that reason. He totally and completely fulfilled his duties. I'm sure he was entitled to a few extra treats upon his arrival home. He brought joy and laughter to our house in a time that I wondered if we'd ever really laugh again. He helped us see the beauty in surviving.

He was a great of the best, and I will miss him every day, but I will not be sad...I will only be thankful and grateful for having such a wonderful dog come into my life and do such an important duty. Thank you, Albus were a wonderful dog and I'll never forget you. Lassie's got nothing on you, little man.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


A friend recently asked me for my favorite quote for a project she's working on. I mulled it over and realized that I don't have a favorite quote. So, like any modern-age woman, I went to google, in search of quotes that spoke to me. Here are the ones I liked and following each is a brief description of why I chose that one.


"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
John Lennon

Why do I like this one? Well, because it's so damned true. Seriously...THIS defines my life! I make plans and then they get all screwed up because while I was making those plans all kinds of other stuff happened. And you know what? That's OK...because that's my life and it's a good one, so if my plans get foiled along the way due to life, well, that's how it goes!

"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."
Sir Winston Churchill

I have to confess...I had not heard this one until I went on my google quest for a good quote. But, I like it...I like it a lot. I believe in this. I think it's important to give in order to receive. I'm not trying to get all philosophical or theological here on you, but I really do think you have to give. I'm not saying you have to give money. You can give can give of yourself. Just give something and see what happens. You know the whole "it's better to give than to receive" thing? Totally true...and I think you appreciate receiving more when you're used to giving.

"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances"
Martha Washington

Can I get a "Hell Yeah" on that one? I'm pretty sure when Martha got lemons she added some sugar and made some lemonade. How insanely true is this quote? Even in the face of huge sadness and adversity you can still CHOOSE to be happy. All of us can. We have the power to choose how we're going to feel. We teach our kids that they make CHOICES and those choices determine the outcome. If you choose to ignore the homework, then that was your choice, but you also will pay the consequence. Well, if you CHOOSE to be happy and cheerful then maybe the misery is less and the happiness is greater.

"He that can have patience can have what he will"
Benjamin Franklin

Patience is hard...I think patience is way harder than choosing happiness. But, you've got to be patient...and if you can do so, then you can have what you will. That's what Ben said! In all seriousness, I think this quote is so fitting of a lesson for our current times. We have become a society of "instant gratification". We want it and we want it NOW! Patience fades into the distant memory of a simpler time...the good old days! Ben's words ring true today...we just have forgotten that not all things need to be instant...good old patience is still necessary.

"It's not that some people have willpower and some don't. It's that some people are ready to change and others are not."
James Gordon, M.D.

I like this one for obvious reasons! In my whole "Fit By Forty" adventure I have gotten lots of comments on how great I'm doing and how people wish they could do it too. Well, you can. I'm not doing some magic solution to cure obesity. I'm burning more calories than I consume, and that's the only way anyone can lose weight. It's not about my willpower. I just got tired of being fat, so I was ready to change. Some days I lose sight of wanting that change, and I slip. But, keeping that change in sight helps me get back on track and focus on the end goal.

"I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."
Christopher Reeve

Hmmmm...the more I read that one, the more I like it. I hate it when pop stars and athletes are heralded as a hero. Ugh...I am sorry, but being effective at a 3-point shot or singing the chart-topper does NOT make you a hero. There are heroes all around us. They're ordinary people that found that strength to not only survive, but thrive in the face of tough times. That's a hero. There are military heroes. That's what jumps in my mind when I first hear "hero". But there are also those everyday heroes that do what they do and most of the time nobody even notices. The people that fit Christopher Reeve's definition of a hero are truly the heroes that we should look up to. I love the whole "ordinary individual" part of makes being a hero something within the grasp of each of us. You don't have to do something don't have to save 10 people from a burning building to be considered a hero. Each of us have it within ourselves...we're all ordinary individuals, and we each have the power to choose our actions. Maybe one of those actions that you choose will make you a hero to someone...and you may not even know it! Maybe you're someones hero already...

So, those are my quotes for this blog post. I enjoyed reading through the quotes and finding ones that really clicked with me. I might do it again and just choose 5 or so and explain why I liked them. I hope you enjoyed the quotes and maybe even found one that inspires you today!

So, go forth, blog readers...make some plans and see what happens...choose happiness and give of yourself to patient and some day you'll be ready to change...don't worry if you're too, can be a hero!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

...the hardest thing ever...

Normally when I sit down and write a blog post I type in the title and then start hammering out the text. I have no clue what I'm going to type so at this time, there is no title.

Several things have entered my mind...

...the hardest thing ever...

...happy with life...

I guess I'm gonna go with the first one, because in all honesty, that has been on my mind a lot lately, and saying it out loud recently (totally by mistake) has made me think about the hardest thing ever a LOT.

So....the hardest thing ever....

I was VERY close to my Mom. We talked on the phone so much (and usually about so little!) that Jeff and my Dad just finally both stopped asking what we talked about. They knew the answer was gonna be "not much". Both men were confused how these two women would talk for literally hours about "not much".

Close...we were really close. So close, in fact, that many times I would wonder how the hell I would survive losing my Mom when that time came. I really expected to fall completely apart and maybe even end up in the hospital...that loss would be so incredibly great...the hardest thing ever, in fact...that it might just drive me over the edge.

Losing Schuyler was really hard. I know he was in Afghanistan, and I know at least some part of you has to worry about it...but I honestly did NOT expect it. Things like that don't happen to my family. Plus, he went once, came home fine, so this tour would be no exception. loss was HARD. Really hard. He was the first person that I was really close to to die...the first person whose loss profoundly affected every single person in my family, from my parents, to my siblings, to my own husband and children. Every single one of us was affected and felt the loss in a big way. All of us were changed after that loss...nothing will ever be the same.

Then my Mom suddenly died, and I'm pretty sure one of the first thing my husband worried about was me...he probably expected me to lose my mind, and honestly, the thought crossed my mind more than once. I wanted to lose myself in that grief, and I wanted to curl up in a ball and seep down under the darkness. But, there were things to take care of, and details to be seen to. Plans had to be made, and life, ultimately, had to go on.

And you know what? It did. Life did go on. And there were hard days. There were good days, and there were insanely bad days. But, life went on...not life as we formerly knew it, but a different life. A life in which her things had to be gone through, divided up, and then given away...a life in which Dad needed a bit of help...a life which had to go on.

So the hardest thing ever happened...and I made it through. I didn't make it through the same, but I made it through. I did not come through that journey of 2009 the same person who started it, but I came through. I came through a different person, one with the taste of grief still bitter in my mouth, but also with a taste of the sweetness that life can bring.

And then, somewhere in the midst of the grief, the sadness, the missing of them, came a new goal...a new goal to get myself healthier and better physically. And in that process, I think I came through that tunnel of grief even more, and I kept getting better. Now, this leads me back to the comment I referenced in the beginning...I recently said this and had one of those "ah-ha" moments. I said to someone that I thought losing my Mom would be the hardest thing ever, and once I made it through that, I kinda wondered if I could possibly do anything. Weight loss and getting healthier was pretty high up there on the "hardest thing ever" list, so maybe...just maybe that wasn't impossible either.

It's hard to believe that facing sadness and struggle would actually make me up for more challenge, but I really thing that it did. I made it through the hardest thing ever, so there's really nothing that I shouldn't be able to do. I hope that wherever Schuyler and my Mom are now that they can see us at times...I hope they see that we're getting better...that we miss them fiercely, but that we're living. I really feel a presence when I run, and I can't help but think that's Schuyler in some form. He joked with me about getting fit a lot, and often said we'd run together when he was home for leave...sounds great, I'd say, but I don't run. He'd just laugh and make some smart comment. I think he runs with me sometimes. I hope my Mom can see me and that she's proud of us for living...and proud of me for getting healthier so that I can be around for my kids for a long time. I want to be a grandma someday so that I can spoil my grand kids and squeeze out as much joy as I can from them, like she did with hers!

We'll all face our own "hardest thing ever" and really it's all about choices...are you going to choose to face it, work through it, and live beyond it, or will it be the thing that defines you're decline? Life's too precious to not enjoy, so face the tough stuff and know that it's within each of us to rise above and persevere.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

...and time marches on...

One year ago this weekend I made an impromptu trip to visit my parents. My brother and his family ended up joining niece and her family came too. It was a house full of craziness...there was laughter, stories, a few tears of remembrance, but lots of fun. Lots of fun.

Towards the end of that weekend Mom wasn't feeling well. She said that she was getting a bladder infection and would call her doctor Monday. We had a great weekend with lots of fun, but we all knew she wasn't feeling great as the weekend wound down. She didn't want us to leave early and let her rest, as most of us figured the house full of people plus 4 kids under the age of 8 was probably wearing thin on her nerves. She would hear none of it...nobody was leaving early...she was fine.

Well, in less than a week...she was gone.

I wonder if maybe she knew that her time was near. Maybe she knew so she wanted us to stay so that she could squeeze the last bit of time together out into some wonderful memories. Maybe she had been feeling bad for a while and knew that it was getting worse and that she didn't have much time left. Hard to say Mom was a tough gal and if she said her pain was a "5" that would probably have been more like a "10" for you and I.

There are things about that weekend I cannot change. I can't change that I didn't go a day earlier or stay a day longer. I can wish that I would've, but I can't change it. I was there when I was there.

I can't change that I didn't stick around and try to convince her to go to the doctor Monday instead of waiting a few days. And, the fact is, maybe I would've TRIED, but my Mom was pretty stubborn, so if she called the doc and felt that was enough, that would've been the end of that discussion. Then instead of regret maybe I'd be feeling anger at her for not going in to see him instead of calling.

I wish I would've hugged her a little longer when we said our "Goodbyes" as the kids and I prepared to head south. I know I hugged her, and I know I told her that I loved her. I remember watching her and Dad as we pulled away and worrying about Dad. He hadn't been the best that weekend and I was worried about him. Little did I know that the glimpse back at the two of them was the last time I'd see her alive.

So, as I reflect on the one year mark of seeing my Mom for the last time, I remember her and all that she taught me. I hope that I can teach Avery & Drake lessons that Mom passed on to me. I hope that wherever she is she knows that I think about her every day. This family reunion is not going to be the same without her there. She will be all around us in spirit, but her physical presence will be missed greatly.

I am healing...I am grieving. I am not done with either, but I am better. I think of her every day and don't always shed a tear. I miss her horribly and realize now that those feelings are part of my daily reality. I will never have a day that I don't miss her, but it is OK to miss her and remember her with happiness. The happiness of having her with me for those years...there is sadness that our time wasn't longer, but I am trying to focus on being happy for the time we DID have and not dwell on the time we didn't.

I miss you Mom, and I'll love you always.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Going Home....

Thursday I packed up the kids and the dog and headed was time for a visit to Dad's place. I hadn't seen him since March when he stopped here on his way back home after "wintering" in California. I hadn't been here to his house since October.

Over 1/2 of a year since I had been here....

Walking in the door it hit me...Mom isn't here and she's not going to be. But...she's everywhere here. I'm not sure if that is comforting or uncomfortable, honestly.

Some moments it's comforting...I see her things, the stuff she bought to decorate this house...she's here. The familiar-ness of it is comforting. Sometimes.

Then there's the uncomfortable moments. Her things...her decor. It's uncomfortable because she's not here and those things are a constant reminder that she is not coming back. Doing the things that we did with her...taking a golf cart ride, treating the kids to ice cream, going to the old button factory to look for shells with the button popped out....those things again remind me that she's gone. Gone.

Then I see the changes in the house. Nothing huge, but small changes that my Dad has made since losing his mate on 7/4/09. Her closets are empty...her things are gone from underneath the sink. The deck boxes have flowers, but every time I glance at them I know she's up there bitching about how pitiful they look! The baskets around the yard are the same...planted, but so sparsely that I'm sure she's disgusted.

Then I see the changes in my Dad. In a little over 2 weeks he's going to be 80 years old. He normally gets around pretty well and can do most things for himself.

This time it's different. His leg is bothering him...he's been seeing a chiro, but nothing is really working. It seems to be a muscular issue, but the treatments aren't helping and he's sitting more and more. Even sitting is painful. Watching that is painful.

Dad loves being on the water. But now Dad can't get down to the beach to take his boat out. And, if he CAN get down there, he can't tilt the motor up and out of the water once he gets back to shore. My brother found a guy that can put an automatic trim on the motor to lift it out. I think we've talked Dad into getting that done so that he can enjoy his boat again...that is, on the days that his leg isn't bothering him too bad to get down there.

I want to go home. I like being blissfully ignorant and talking to him and thinking everything is A-OK. I don't like coming here and feeling the emptiness of the house and seeing him struggle. I wonder at this point if he's just struggling to stay alive to spare John, Jeff, Dave, and I anymore loss so soon.

And then, in the midst of all of this, it is Memorial Day weekend. A time to remember those who are no longer here, and especially those who served and lost their lives in combat. I haven't seen John since December. Being here reminded me once again how painfully broken he is. He has Schuyler's stuff (medals, awards, etc) in one spot now. The room is a beautiful tribute, but also a harsh reminder of that loss. Seeing everything and seeing the pain in John's eyes pulls up memories and snips of time during those days and weeks after Schuyler's death. I watch Amber struggle to keep Sky's memory alive and make sure nobody in Kewanee forgets. I see John tear up as he sees the flags, medals, pins, and countless other military memorabilia.

I went to the cemetery while I was in Kewanee. It was just Avery and I. We went and I sat on Sky's bench. It's still a shrine of sorts...people leave all kinds of stuff there...there were sunglasses, quarters, fishing lures, etc. I wonder what he'd be like now...would he be thinking about going back for a 3rd tour, or would he be settling into some semblance of a normal life?


That's what I feel on this visit.


I love my family and I'm so glad that I can come and visit, but this one has been difficult. I feel the losses so more acutely when I'm here, surrounded by the constant reminders. I feel the losses daily at home, but the feelings are so much more intense and the memories flashing through my mind so much more vivid being here.

This trip has reaffirmed what I've thought all along since Schuyler died...

...nothing will ever be the same...

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I should be at the gym working out....

I should be doing some laundry or cleaning the house....

I should be doing something productive....

But instead, I'm sitting on the deck, just-finished coffee cup at my side, enjoying the calm.

It's so incredibly beautiful back here. The sunbeams are peeking through the branches, the blue sky is a beautiful contrast to the green leaves. I can hear birds chirping and squirrels playing in the trees. A light breeze shimmers through and rustles the foliage. The flowers back here are vibrant...pinks, greens, purple, white...

It's CALM.

I wish a photo could capture how beautiful it looks back here with the sun peeking through the breaks in the trees. But for now I will just ignore life and sit here and enjoy the calm. There will be time for laundry, errands, household chores and LIFE later...right now if a tiny piece of calm in the sea of chaos, so I'm going to enjoy it while I can!

When a moment of calm sneaks up on you this weekend, go with it...enjoy that calm. There's plenty of time for chaos later....

Enjoy the calm.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Leading up to and including today I have been a bit quiet. I've been quiet because internally I've been trying to figure out how to have Mother's Day since I don't have a mother any longer. My Mom, Joan, died suddenly on July 4, 2009. I have been reflecting on our relationship and mostly thinking about all the ways I didn't treat her right. I've been thinking about regrets and missed opportunities...about how unconditional love means accepting the good AND bad points of someone...about how I'd really like just one more more half day tell her how much I love her and how much I looked up to her, even when I was criticizing her or rolling my eyes at her in that "Oh, there goes Mom again" way.

Don't get me wrong...I did not have a BAD relationship with my Mom. We talked almost every day on the phone. Man, I miss that! She listened to everything, no matter how trivial the issue was...she listened. She knew I needed to get it off my chest. Blogging has somewhat filled that void for me. I can sit down and type it out. Toss in a little of my snarky humor and suddenly I feel a little better...not as good as talking to Mom for an hour, but therapeutic nonetheless.

My Mom was there for me when I had Drake and again when I delivered Avery. She was so awesome, especially when I had Drake. I worried that she'd be too know, taking the baby from me, telling me what to do, offering advice whether I wanted it or not. As it turned out, taking my Mom home to Dad was upsetting for BOTH Jeff and I! She was awesome and we wanted to keep her forever! She cooked, cleaned, did laundry. She offered help with the baby only when asked...hell, sometimes I had to BEG her to weigh in with her opinion of what I should or should not do! It was so uncharacteristically her...but she stood back, helped with the household tasks, and let me learn how to be a Mom all on my own. Looking back on those few weeks today I think about Avery becoming a Mom someday. I hope and pray that I can be as absolutely invaluable to Avery as my Mom was to me upon the birth of my first child. She was simply awesome.

My Mom and I had a pretty typical relationship I think. We had some seriously rocky times. Teenage years were no fun for her, I can only imagine. I was a little bitch and I took out my frustration on her so many times. Thank God she never punched me in the mouth...when in fact I'm sure she wanted to and I would've totally deserved it! In my 20's I started to realize that she really wasn't all that bad! She actually knew a thing or two and wasn't horrible to hang out with. She talked me through some cooking disasters and helped me out with recipes over the phone on several occasions. She taught so much by example. It makes me wonder what my kids are picking up from me...ugh...probably better to NOT think about that right now!

My family is a verbal family...we're also huggers. We always say "I Love You". I really hope she knew how much I loved her. The past year had been a bit rocky. I had been pretty vocal about my lack of love for her love of vodka. She was pretty vocal about not really caring for my opinion on the topic. That disagreement hung over us like a black cloud for many months. At the time I felt like I loved her enough to draw my line in the sand and that she loved me enough to stop and come on over to my side again. Unfortunately it didn't work out that way and from then on every time I saw her have even one drink I got stressed out. Looking back now I feel like it was silly for me to waste so much time on something I should've KNOWN I would have no control over. Control what YOU can control, I heard recently. So very true. I couldn't control whether or not she had another drink, but I sure could've controlled my reaction to her drinking. Hindsight is 20/20. I hope she knew that I loved her way more than a silly argument and that I'd give anything to have her back, even if just for one more day.

I think about my kids and her and so many emotions stir around. Drake will remember her, without a doubt. She loved both of my kids like mad, but Drake was special for her...she loved him from the minute Jeff and I called to say we were having a baby! He will remember her and remember specific things they did. That's a great thing. Avery, on the other hand, I'm afraid will forget her. Just the other day Avery said to me "Hey Mom, remember the grandma that used to be at Patch's house....what happened to her?". Aves calls my Dad "Patch". Her question about broke my heart....she remembers her now, but what about as time passes....will she remember? Maybe not. That makes me so sad. I'll have to do what I can to keep her memory alive in Avery and Drake. I want them to remember how incredibly much she loved them and how much happiness they brought to her life.

Last year at this time our region suffered a horrible storm. After spending one night with no power Jeff and I decided to load up the kids and drive up to see my folks...we figured we would be without power for a while so we'd just take off. We got up there Saturday of Mother's Day weekend. My brother John and his family were there, as was Amber and her crew. We spent a fun weekend, but after getting the call from a neighbor that our power was back on, Jeff and I decided that we'd head home on Sunday and begin the cleanup. My Mom was so bummed...she was counting on us staying for half of the week at least! She was so sad, yet the only thing I could think of was to get back home and start cleaning up. How stupid! One more day wouldn't have made much difference with the house, but it would've been one more day with her. There I go with that awesome hindsight again.

We went for breakfast at the fire station. That's what she wanted to do, so we went there. We drove separately so that we could get on the road right after eating. I remember how sad her face was that morning as we stood on the sidewalk saying our "Goodbyes". I remember being a little irritated with her for trying to guilt us into staying. Didn't she know how busy we were going to be...we NEEDED to get home. I hope she knew that we weren't rushing away from her but rushing back to a big mess that had to be dealt with. If given the chance now I'd stay Sunday...and probably even Monday and Tuesday too.

I wish I would've gotten there on July 4th before she slipped away. I wish I could've looked her in the eyes one more time and tell her THANKS. Tell her that even when I was mad at her, I still loved her....tell her that I learned so much from her and that now when I do something and it reminds me of her I smile...because a part of her is living on in me. I miss her so much and there is a huge hole in my heart. At 37 I was too young to lose my Mom, but then I think I'd probably say the same at 47, 57, and even 67!

To anyone reading this, if your Mom is alive, please take a minute to tell her that you love her and tell her that even if you don't agree on everything it doesn't mean that you love her any less. Tell her the things she's taught you and tell her how even some stuff that you thought irritating now make you smile when you find yourself doing the same thing! Tell her that you love her and that you're sorry for hurting her in the past.

I hope there's really a Heaven, and I hope that my Mom meets up with Schuyler on occasion and looks in on us. I hope they both know that they are missed and loved each and every day. I hope they can see that we're all doing the best we can, which some days isn't really all that good. I hope they can see us, even stand by us at times. I hope they see the happy days and the bad days...not to make them sad, but to remind them that their absence has left an irreparable hole in our family fabric. I hope she knows that she left behind 4 "kids" that think of her every day and think that she did a pretty damned good job of being our Mom.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bits & Pieces of Me.....III


Ah, Spring, how I love thee! I am currently sitting in the back yard, in the sun, kids playing on the trampoline, and enjoying the sunshine. I should be cleaning out a flower bed (or two, or three...) but instead I'm just soaking up the moment. The girls are laughing and playing and I'm pretty convinced that it just doesn't get much better than this!


My Dad has left California and is headed back to Illinois. He had a hospital stay while he was out there and that really got me thinking...when Dad dies, that's it. We no longer have parents. Our parents are gone, so WE are the "old" generation. That really freaks me out. I am so thankful that Dad was with Jeff and Jim this winter. It was a long, cold, and dreary winter here (even worse where he lives) and I'm afraid he may have not made it through had he been alone at the house for the duration of winter. I'm worried about him as he travels across the country to here, but I will try to keep my calls to his cell phone to a minimum...only one or two per day! I'm sure he'll be careful and pay attention to his health, but he is after all almost 80, and it's scary knowing he's out there on the road.

Happiness in the Face of Sadness...

Happiness isn't always easy. I have a lot to be happy about, but some days it's really a conscious effort to choose that happiness and not get sucked down by the grief and general anger at how the last 14 months have been. I'm so glad and grateful that I have the people around me that I do...they have helped me choose happiness in the face of sadness. They give me purpose to get up and go for another day.


Jeff and I are talking about taking a vacation this summer. I can't imagine that we can leave the folks are no longer available to be our week-long childcare so that we can sneak away. This year is a biggie....15 year anniversary. For our 10th we went off to kids, no worries. We're trying to figure out what to do, where to go. I think a place that has kids programs that we can utilize would be a great idea. Does anyone have any suggestions? I hate to miss that fun, 15 year anniversary trip, but we're having a hard time coming to a decision.

Quiet Time...

I really enjoy the time at night after the kids go to bed and before I turn in. Usually I'm trying to get some work done that didn't get finished during the day, but sometimes just the quiet is so very enjoyable! It seems that the days are so LOUD here so that quiet time is peaceful and calming. Don't get me wrong...I like the loudness of the kids, the dog, the phone, etc MOST days...but on occasion it just rattles my nerves. (Today is one of those days...nerves rattled) I'm also in the middle of another book on my Kindle. I'm reading "The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societ" or some's an entertaining book and I am enjoying it. Thank God our lives are so different from this. It's nice to sit back and lose myself in a book every now and then.

I find it enjoyable to sit and just be....

Fit By Forty

Many of you are following my progress on this through my "Bloggin The Bugg" blog, but for those who aren''s the down low....I have lost 23 pounds since 1/15/10. I am working out and eating right. I've tried magic beans before and they didn't work too well for me. Things are going really well...I am even getting up a little earlier each morning and taking the dog for an am gets my metabolism going and also prevents me from sacking in! I also work out at a gym and have a trainer that works with me once per week. I feel a great sense of accomplishment and pride in my progress thus far. I'm sure some folks are getting sick of hearing about it, but too bad! I guess you'd better walk away if you're done hearing about it from me! I feel so much better...stronger and healthier. I can't wait to see what the next few months bring. I am going to begin adding in more weight training so the weight may not come off as quickly, but I really need to tone up as I go so that I don't end up a sagging bag of flesh! Muscle weighs more than fat, so as I build muscle and lose fat the scale may not move as quickly, but that's OK. Once I'm done with the Biggest Loser competition at my gym I'm going to phase into more of the weight training with cardio for the long term goals.

Signing off....

Well, that's all of the bits that are rolling off of my head right now. I hope everyone is doing well, staying happy, and getting out to enjoy the sunshine now that it has returned. Go smell the is too short not to!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Back at it...

I'm baaaaaaack. Did anyone miss me? Probably not, but it feels good to get back into all of those "normal" things, so I'm back to blogging. Interestingly enough, blogging was not the first "normal" activity I got back to...going to the gym was. Hmmmm...who am I and what has invaded my body? Ha ha...

OK, so what am I typing about today? I think FUN is a good topic.

So, what has been FUN in my life recently?

Well, the stomach flu was NOT FUN, so we're going to let that dead dog lie.

But, soon after the dreaded stomach flu came NICE SPRING-LIKE weather....oh, yeah...that was FUN people! A few of my favorite things of spring...
  • Seeing the crocus and daffodils peeking through the ground, and finally stretching up to shine their amazingly vibrant colors
  • The smell of fresh mulch...mmmmmmm
  • GREEN grass
  • Flower garden planning...what to plant, what to move, etc!

I love getting outside with the kids...they can play while I work on cleaning out a flower bed. We did a lot of that last week. They play, I cut, dig, and haul off. The pleasant surprise this year is that as I'm working I'm feeling out of breath, let's just go in and lay on the couch feelings for me this spring.

I love finding little garden the pansies that came back and were blooming on the side deck, or the vinca vine that is coming back in the deck boxes.

I love cutting back the rose bushes, knowing that they're going to be filled with beautiful blooms soon and that we'll have months and months to enjoy their beauty.

I love getting the deck cleaned up, deck furniture cleaned up and ready to's almost time for evenings on the deck while the kids play in the of joys!

And, when the weather outside is too spring showery, fun inside will just have to do, right? Lately fun inside has been Wii Just Dance. It's the first game that I've REALLY enjoyed other than Wii Fit/Plus. Avery thinks it's totally cool...Drake isn't sure about it, but Mom knows that his dislike stems from the fact that MOM beats him every time! The kid just can't take a beat-down from his old Mom!

In general I think the anticipation of Spring is fun...there's so much to look forward to. A fun filled summer, flowers and vegetables growing, the return of the Farmer's Market, evenings outside by the fire pit, flashlight tag, neighborhood bbqs, days and nights at the neighborhood beach, planting new things, riding bikes, taking walks after dinner, fun family times, the return of the snowbird grandparents, cool breezes at night, watching the tree canopy in the back return and shut us out from the outside very much to look forward to!

But, alas, 'tis not all fun and games in the real world. There's a mountain of laundry calling my name (or is that one of the kids?)...well, either way, it's time to get back to work so that I can enjoy some more fun later today. Have a great day everyone and an equally wonderful week ahead of you!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Me = MIA

Sorry that I've been MIA for a while...I WILL return! The stomach flu came to visit our house over Spring Break. It was uninvited and unannounced, so we're asking it to leave today.

I am trying to get back to normal around here, so Monday...the blogging resumes.

Have a great weekend!


Friday, March 5, 2010


Well, here I go again. I'm reflecting on a year ago. I'm off by a day, but needed to do this today for several reasons.

Almost a year ago, on March 6, 2009 I wrote the following "note" on Facebook. Rereading and posting these notes this year is helping me...helping me reflect, helping me remember, and helping me heal.

A Hero's Homecoming

Thursday was the day we had all been waiting for; the day we got Schuyler back home. Nothing about the day was ordinary...the circumstances, the transportation, the crowds. It was a day I'll never forget and something I hope I'll never experience again in my lifetime.

We loaded into the cars for the drive to Moline. Being together helped...we were there for one another, as my family always is. When we got into Moline we were to stop at the McDonalds just outside of the airport to meet up with the Partiot Guard Riders. My understanding was there'd be some veterans on motorcycles that would help lead the way. When we pulled in there it seemed like a stop-over for a Surgis-bound caravan. They were there for Schuyler.

Then on to the airport. We were early and his plane was running late. The immediate family was taken into a building to wait and shield us from the press. After receiving a briefing on where the press were and how they were going to position us we went out to the tarmac. Small private planes were lined up in the space opposite where we were lined up, creating a line of planes and family that Sky's plane would taxi past. Once we were lined up we all spotted his plane making its final descent into a moment.

The plane landed and taxied to us and stopped. Once the engines were cut the family was told to move forward and line up off the left wing. The preparation here took a few minutes...I'm not really sure how much time passed. Finally the American Flag draped coffin was removed from the plane.

Reality hit us all...we were there because Schuyler is dead.

Through the tears we watch as his coffin is lowered from the plane and into the waiting white-gloved hands of the military pallbearers. Our boy is home.

The slow-motion salute makes my heart ache...why did WE lose HIM?

We get back into our cars for the drive back to Kewanee. As we drive out we pass a line of military uniformed men and women, all who hold their salutes until the last of the family cars is past them...this makes us all cry even harder.

Beyond them is the line of motorcycles...then we are on the road. After the last family car passes, the motorcycle brigade jumps on and passes our cars to take the lead. We are on our way to Kewanee.

I expected people in towns...that was not a huge surprise. However, as we made our first turn onto Route 150, I noticed cars pulled over on the roadside...we passed a semi. Then I saw her...pulled over on the side of the road was an older woman, probably in her 70's. She was sitting there alone in her car, sobbing into her hands. It was at this point that I realized the depth of the ride home and how intensely emotional it was going to be. I thought being inside the safe cocoon of our car would shield me from the grief outside. This obviously was not going to be the case.

After we passed through the towns we were met at each city limit by either fire truck(s), ambulance, police cars, or other official vehicle. The townspeople lined the streets. This I expected.

What I didn't expect is the farmhouse between towns where an entire family stands waving American flags.

What I didn't expect was the bicyclist who stopped and stood with his hand over his heart as we passed by.

What I didn't expect was looking forward to see over a hundred motorcycles and looking back and being unable to see the end of the line of cars.

As we came into Kewanee we saw the massive American flag hanging over the street for us to pass under. I think I said something about the "Hog Days" flag...then we turned the corner and there was another one.

People lined the streets...everywhere you looked you saw flags, red white and blue, people holding signs, people crying...people there to support and honor Schuyler and his family.

As we pulled up to Veteran's Park, our driver told us we could get out or we could stay in the car. It looked like the other 2 cars were unloading, so everyone in our car got out also. Once we were out of the car you got a sense of the number of people there. I could not see the end of the people, regardless of which way I looked. The KHS band started playing patriotic songs. People everywhere were crying, holding one another, and waving flags.

When the band stopped, a lone trumpeter started playing "Taps". I don't know about anyone else, but I lost it at that point. The only thing worse than that was after "Taps" when "Amazing Grace" was played on the bagpipes. I think everyone in our family lost it there...Schuyler loved bagpipes.

After that we got back into our cars for the short ride to the funeral home. The same military pallbearers were there to transport his casket from the car into the funeral home.

Finally, our soldier is home.

No longer do we wonder and wait. No longer do we worry if he'll make it back. You are now home with us for your final journey.

That evening our family gathered at John and Amy's house. We all had a drink and stood outside to watch the amazing sunset. It was a beautiful evening and a most spectacular sunset. Raise your glass to Schuyler, for it's a breathtaking night and we have our boy home.

God Speed Schuyler, We Love YOU.

Reflecting...that's what I'm doing now...reflecting on those days and weeks after his death. Remembering everyones reactions, but honing in on my Mom's. How baffling to think now that only 4 months after going through all of this together she would be gone too. I remember how anxious she was to get on a plane and get here...she was driving everyone nuts! She just wanted us all to be together and be there for John, Amy, Amber, and Seth. She knew that there is strength in numbers, and she knew that by her, Dad, and Jeff getting on a plane, our numbers would be increased by 3, and how powerful those extra 3 would be.

It really stinks that hindsight is always so clear. In the moment we so often fail to see the whole embrace the moment and suck the life out of it. Time spent with family is something that is NEVER a waste...there's never something better to my opinion. I spent a lot of time with my family over the last 38 years, and will continue to do so as long as I'm able. But, even spending all that time, I still long for a few more times....a few more trips....a few more lazy afternoons at the River, grilling out, playing in the water, and helping Mom deadhead flowers in one of the gardens. I long for one more beer, around the fire pit, late....late....late at night. Just one more Aunt Lori....just another 15 minutes of talking and sharing time together.

Enjoy the moment...savor it. Pull all the happiness and joy that you possibly can out of it, because you never know when that moment is the last moment.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Year of Writing.....

A year ago today I sat down and wrote out my feelings for the first time. As many of you know my memory is really bad...I can barely remember what happened last week, let alone a year or more ago. But, I have found that the memories of last year at this time are very sharp.

I remember sitting in my hotel room after everyone had gone to bed and feeling unable to shut my own brain down for some rest. My parents were in the room next to me. I was sitting at the computer reading newspapers, facebook posts, and trying to make some sense of it all.

Here's what I wrote:

The Things He'll Miss

So I just read Schuyler's obituary on the online version of the Kewanee paper. ( The other folks in the section were older people. That made me start thinking about the things he didn't get to in his life.

It makes me sad that Schuyler didn't get to come home, get married, and have babies. I know he wanted to, and that makes it all the sadder. Most guys at 25 aren't ready for that, or even if they are, they're not going to talk about it. Sky talked about it. We talked on IM and he was right out there with it. I know he would've been a great Dad too. He had a good example to follow. I know my brother has made mistakes (gee...who's not in THAT line???) but he's a good Dad. He loves Amber, Sky, and Seth fiercely, and without any reservations he shows them and tells them. That in itself is more than a lot of parents can provide to their kids.

So, tonight as I go to bed, I have to admit that I'm kinda pissed. I'm pissed that Sky didn't have the time that those other folks on the obit page got. I know that life's not fair (that's a Dan Patch original speech, that we've all heard at least once), but I'm still pissed about it. He didn't get to grow old and do all of the things that he should've been able to do.

So, for you, Schuyler, I am going to try and remember this night. I'm going to try very hard to remember how sad and pissed I feel. I'm going to try and LIVE my life like there's no tomorrow. I'm going to love my husband and my kids and be THANKFUL that I got the time in life to have those experiences. I know that time is going to go by and I may have days that I forget what a gift that day is, but for you I am going to TRY to be thankful for each day that I get to have more life opportunities.

Well, a year later, I DO REMEMBER. I remember that night...I remember feeling so angry...and so confused. I remember despair...the despair I felt after each day was done and I was alone and finally being able to let those feelings out a little...that break from being one of the strong ones.

I think I'm different now...a year later. I really do think that I'm trying to live a more grateful life. Not always, but I'm trying...I'm trying to enjoy what it is that I have...these beautiful kids...this wonderful husband...the friends and family that can move mountains with their love. I'm trying to be grateful and live with purpose. I'm trying....

The writing is so helpful for me. I love getting it all out there....I NEED to get it out! A lot of people gave me positive feedback when I first started writing those notes on Facebook a year ago. That fueled me to continue to some degree, but most of all the fuel came from the satisfaction and relief I got after writing. Now the Facebook notes have expanded into a blog. Blogging gives me peace and's also a great outlet for my ramblings! never know what the next 5 minutes of your life holds, let alone tomorrow, next week, or next month. Life is what happens while we're busy making other plans. Get out there, and life a grateful life, full of passion and purpose!

Thanks for teaching me that, Schuyler....I love you.