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...