Giving Thanks

TurkeyhandThanksgiving is here to celebrate!

It’s not about the Turkey on your plate,

It’s not about watching football,

Or a late night shopping trip to the mall,

Thanksgiving is time to appreciate,

Be thankful and know life is great.

From Inspired Living we send,

Wishes for happy times with family and friends.

 

Since I am lacking in skill in the kitchen, Parker and I worked on a crafty project in preparation for Thanksgiving.  We painted her hands and printed cards for her family and a few friends.  Shepic&sig wrote out her name (in her sweet four year old print) on hearts and we pasted the turkeys, hearts, pictures and a simple poem onto cards.  Parker stickered up the envelopes while I printed out the addresses and sent them across town and across the country.

Parker and I talked about her cousins and her family, she was excited knowing her thoughtful piece of mail would make them smile.  As Thanksgiving seems less and less about being thankful, and more and more about consumerism and holiday shopping – I want to ensure she knows the holiday is dedicated to family time.  I want her to spend time appreciating the people around us who help make our life wonderful.

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Happily Ever After In The Present

Sam Smith’s song “Stay With Me,” will forever be my anthem for the summer of 2014.  Despite my belting out I’m on my knees only to realize much later the actual lyrics are You’re all I need.  The month of August came and went blasting me into new perspectives and refreshed determination.  I started securely and ended with so much uncertainty.  I lost my job and I thought my marriage was over.

Through the last two months I have been blessed with compassion and understanding from so many connections.  My appreciation for friends, family and colleagues who reached out, both in direct and subtle ways, can never be explained.  I am truly honored for all of the people in my life, those who are still present and those whose paths crossed at opportune times.  The lessons I have learned through stressful times and challenges difficult to overcome, have been invaluable.

Thank you to my family for unconditional love and support. For encouraging me when I was down, for special unexpected deliveries, for sharing your own personal stories of heartache, for offering reading material, opening your home to me and for being a faithful ear. I am so thankful for an incredibly unique cast of characters I get to call my family.

Thank you to my friends who are like family.  Attending a stress relieving happy hour, receiving a letter or phone call, and meeting up for a meal has been powerful tools in helping me maintain sanity.  I know in the last year I have lost my emphasis at staying connected to friends as my energy has been devoted elsewhere. I am touched to have so many friends who intentionally make themselves available for me.

Thank you to former colleagues in my recent position. I have regrets with how things unraveled and I didn’t have the closure I wanted with the team members, residents and families I had grown so attached to. I appreciate hearing there is no animosity directed towards me, only understanding it couldn’t have been any different, so I will continue trying to make peace with it.  The connections I made there, my advocacy for the team and their hard work was all genuine.  My hope is some of the progress we had made will stick beyond my employment.

Thank you to my daughter for tolerating the uncertainty in our lives in stride.  She was during this time and continues to be my everlasting joy.

And thank to my husband for clearing the muddy waters, for recommitting to why we are together and the future we will develop successfully.  If there is anything we have learned in our six loooooonnnnggg years of marriage, it’s that it takes work.  I know we are prepared to put in the overtime necessary to get life back on track and we are already well on our way.

Life happens for a reason and the challenges we are presented with have purpose.  I know this to be true and in the midst of crisis, this reminder came from my friends and family.  Because of the love I felt during the hard times, August was the both the best and the worst month, and I felt so much happiness despite my life’s circumstances.

Live Happily Ever After Now

My Sister and My Friend

You know the old cliché about being born sisters and choosing to be friends? I am fortunate to have this be true in my relationship with my sister. She was born a little over two years after me and I cannot remember a time before she was in my life. In childhood we varied from the best playmates to typical sibling rivalry. There were times, being the older sibling, I used to get so irritated having a tag along sister invading my time with friends. And there were times I was overjoyed to have her to team up against our older brother, only to have it later being the two of them teaming up against me. As teenagers, it became more difficult to get along consistently. Both of us exercising independence and unique interests, it became easy to judge and criticize each other unfairly. As we matured and both moved past high school our relationship strengthened again. It became clear while each of us had our own great friends we are really best friends. Friends who laugh at nonsense, finish each others song lyrics, work to repair arguments, travel to see each other anywhere in the world the other may be, and friends who are honest, supportive and do their best to help each other. My sister and I are mirrors in so many ways and complete opposites at the same time.

My sister has been an inspiration to me for a long time and especially in the last year as it seems everything she touches turns to gold. She is emotional, yet passionate. She is impossible to wake up, yet never late. She loves people, though maybe animals more. And she is dedicated and hard-working even when it doesn’t come easy. My sister is talented, creative, popular and fun. She is exactly the kind of person I would choose as a friend.

In the last year she has had so many successes and reasons for celebration. Sometimes the success and celebration comes with heartache, well it does for me anyway. As I write, she is riding across the country to New York City where she and her fiance will make their home, or shoe box as it is in NYC. She left early this morning, on my birthday no less, for the start of the next chapter. And while I am thrilled for her adventure, living it big in the city, I can’t help but be sad. No more spontaneous meeting up for dinner, drinks or frozen yogurt and it will be a long time between hugs. She just left and I already miss her.

Rainbows After The Storm

This week started out with heavy storms, both literally and figuratively.  Last Saturday I woke up with a horrific headache and no pain medication in the house to take besides some heavy post-operative pharmaceuticals I didn’t think my ailment called for.  With my husband gone to an appointment I did my best to prepare a suitable breakfast for Parker and then sit as still as possible at the table while she ate.  It seemed any movement would send a shooting pain and bending over was agony.  I rushed my daughter, as much as a two-year old can be rushed, to hurry her eating so that I could get back to bed.  I sadly denied her requests to be picked up or to sit on my lap because it hurt too much.  She cooperated with my ailment, as children mysteriously do in times of need.  We finished in the kitchen and retreated to my bed where she sat quietly watching Elmo while I lay, eyes closed hoping my husband would be home soon.  The throbbing got to be too much at one point and I rushed to the bathroom to get sick, Parker calling on the other side of the door to see if Mommy was okay.  I crawled back to bed and text Reggie to get home as soon as possible.

I didn’t leave my bed much during the weekend, hurting and frustrated at having to cancel all of our weekend plans.  The anger I felt from the wasted time of having to lay there, when I had so many things on my to-do list not getting accomplished, probably made my head even worse.  By the time my migraine was subsiding on Sunday afternoon my body was achy and weak.  Despite having to suffer through the weekend the bright side was it happened on the weekend and would have been more difficult to interfere with Reggie’s schedule during the week to have to take care of Parker.  He did do a great job taking care of Parker too, even utilizing ‘phone a friend’ to find out how to take the day old french braid out of her hair.

With the week starting out so rough I didn’t have high expectations there would be much happening this week.  I was pleasantly surprised to have three big rainbows after the storm.

On Monday, back in touch with life and people, I learned my cousin had passed her test to begin an instructorship path recognized by the Thai Boxing Association of the USA.  She first told me of this test back in December painting a picture of a long examination of strikes, kicks and grappling lasting hours.  Had I been present to observe, the violence would have left me cowering in a corner rocking with my head between my knees.  Surrounded by peers, valued instructors and  the founder/director of Thai Boxing Association she was honored with the title of Khru meaning teacher.  I am so proud of her for this achievement, not only because she honestly has the strength in her tiny frame to kick ass, this accomplishment means so much more about her endurance to overcome obstacles she has in her life.  Truly amazing!

My second rainbow came from a friend sharing some bun in the oven news.  She and her husband are expecting and I have been trusted in her closest circle to hear before it’s made public (so shh, this is a secret.)  I’m ecstatic for her to begin the adventure into parenthood and to help her as much as I can (with advice from long distance) dealing with the pregnancy ailments.  Feeling sick , feeling tired, back pain, side pain, urgency to pee, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, increase in appetite, swelling, sweating, being easily irritated and no glass of wine to fix it – I don’t know how women can love it!?  The enjoyment I found in being pregnant came with the movement, first just tiny flutters, then kicks, somersaults and finally and obvious cramped space where neither of us could move much.  Although I wasn’t a woman who loved being pregnant, I wasn’t in a rush to deliver her because I knew for that time only she was all mine before I would have to share her with the world.

heather&kyleAnd finally the third rainbow came last night in the form of a proposal.  My little sister, Heather, and her long-time boyfriend, Kyle, are officially getting hitched.  I happened to be at my parent’s house when she called to share the news.  When my mom began shouting into the phone “Really?  Really?”  I immediately assumed my brother had hit it big calling from Vegas.  She put it on speaker phone and we all celebrated with cheers and tears.  When my mom continued the jumping and cheering after the phone call Parker looked at her shaking her head “Silly Nana,” she said before joining in with “Hooray” and dancing.

Ironically I had just been thinking of Kyle earlier in the day counting my brothers and sisters.  Biologically I only have 2 siblings, all together I calculated six wonderful brothers and five beautiful sisters I recognize as my family.  Kyle has been my brother already for years, it never mattered what their legal status was.  We always knew they would live a happily ever after together, now there will just be a party to celebrate it.

So with the start of the week wrecked, I am ending it with a smile.  Life is beautiful.

Gallery

Quieting the Travel Bug

This gallery contains 10 photos.

I hate to set goals with deadlines for myself, I tend to miss deadlines, so by avoiding setting deadlines I can prevent the disappointment of not meeting them.  Still, I broke my rule and set a goal to achieve by … Continue reading

Lost the Fiesta and I’m Not Cursed

So many sports fanatics can relate to the roller coaster of emotions which come with cheering for players, sports and your team. The first time I declared myself to a team was with the Minnesota Vikings, most of it had to do with being oppositional about moving to Kansas City. Prior to this I had only seen football as a slow-paced game where huge men hog piled over a ball. Luckily as my knowledge of the positions, plays and players grew I came to respect the game and love watching the sport.

My real true passion for cheering a team came as a freshman at K-State in the fall of 2000. It would have been near impossible not to get drawn into the sport with the majority of the campus and community clad in purple every Saturday. I remember eagerly turning to the sports page of the university newspaper to measure the rise and fall of our ranking each week dependent upon the game before. And the very first and only game I attended during the season happened to be one of the most memorable games I have ever gotten to witness. K-State played a rival team Nebraska for their last home game, by the end in heavy snow conditions. I stood with my brother, sister-in-law and their friends with heated pouches in my mittens and boots to watch Nebraska get defeated. In my very first game not only did I finally get to participate in the Wabash, I got to storm the field with several thousand other deliriously chilled K-Staters.

I was hooked, college football was cemented into my college experience.

k-state tickets

It wasn’t until my senior year when I finally bought my first set of season tickets. My roommate, Sheila, and I attended every game and dedicated ourselves to standing, yelling, high-fiving and absorbing every second of every play. We enjoyed the football as much as our own pre-football festivities with a Game-Day CD blasting our Saturday tailgating anthems. Sheila and I were so invested in the games I remember standing near tears devastated at the loss to Marshall, holding onto hope until the very last second ran off the clock. I picture it raining that afternoon as we stood shocked looking at the scoreboard, maybe that is just how my memory puts me during that crummy emotional state. kstate

Despite the loss to Marshall, K-State went on to have a great season and was invited to play in the Fiesta Bowl. Being an irresponsible new graduate I hopped in with Sheila and a group of friends to road trip to Tempe, Arizona for the game. The whole trip was an adventure from the walkie-talkie game of “Would You Rather” I am happy there is no record of, to the hotel suite way too many of us shared, to the dangerously ingenious ride back after celebrating New Years in the downtown area. The spontaneous trip would have all been worth it, had it not been for the bowl game. K-State entered the stadium with odds against them, a fresh accusation against our prized quarterback overshadowed their ability on the field. K-State lost to Ohio, and I haven’t been able to smile at a Buckeye since.

Fast forward to this year, even a few hours away from Manhappiness, I continue to be a dedicated football fan eagerly anticipating every Saturday with more and more purple added to my wardrobe every year. My friend Crystal and I had decided to abandon mommy duty and drive to visit our friend, JoJo, in Texas. Simultaneously as K-State won games week after week and worked their way higher in the rankings we heard from JoJo, our mini-vaca happened to be the same weekend K-State would be coming to town and she could get us tickets. BEST NEWS EVER!

K-State continued their season undefeated and was finally placed at number 1 in the rankings as we made our way to Waco. JoJo showed us around Waco, introduced us to her favorite places to eat, drink and karaoke, she took us hiking, to the farmers market and to the Baylor campus where she is employed. We merrily enjoyed our freedom from changing diapers and wiping up slobber to have adult conversations for hours on end. And then Saturday evening rolled around, we walked the entire loop around the Baylor stadium and I was amazed at the personally labeled parking spaces and the high-end tailgating equipment sported by the alums. I was used to seeing cornhole, washers and ladder golf at tailgates, not high-definition flat screen TVs.

Fortunately we ran into a familiar sound and crowd finding ourselves at the K-State band playing in the parking lot just before going in. JoJo had gotten us tickets in the visitors section and I was pleased to see so many football fans in purple ready to cheer on the undefeated season. In front of us stood a group of K-State frat boys in button up shirts, khaki shorts and top-sider deck shoes – kind of laughable – yet they were for the good team so it was okay.

Baylor began playing better than K-State from the very beginning and I wasn’t worried. I had faith all of the excitement I had leading up to this game, driving all the way from Kansas City to Waco wouldn’t be for nothing. And then the game just kept getting worse. The refs made some horrible calls where the entire purple crowd cursed and screamed to the field. One of the frat boys in front of me appeared so infuriated, his face matched his shirt when he barely took a breath in his yelling commentary. I almost felt the need to stop my attacks on the ref to comfort the kid and prevent an early heart attack.

At halftime K-State went to the locker room behind in scoring 17:28, my confidence in the win never wavered. “They are a better second half team,” “Snyder is setting them straight now,” “They can do this.” I audibly reassured myself and anyone else near who was listening. And when the second half started, it didn’t get better. I sensed the desperation of thousands of K-State fans witnessing this on television watching the dreams of a perfect season vanish to a team we were/are better than, except I was watching it in person. In the second half Baylor continued to score while K-State floundered. With each Baylor touchdown the green people celebrated with greater enthusiasm jumping and dancing as the stadium played House of Pain’s “Jump Around.”

Over and over it played until the score reached 24:52. “Pack it up pack it in, let me begin…” I tried my best to sooth the lump in my throat and avoid looking at the Baylor crowd. I could imagine the excitement of being a student in attendance at the game to witness their team crushing the number one team in the country, at the same time already beginning to grieve the loss of the number one spot for my team.

I was so sour and depressed after the game we retired back to JoJo’s and went to bed early. Crystal and I got up before the sun on Sunday morning to flee Waco and return to Wildcat country. “Pack it up, pack it in…” popped onto our XM Radio channel within hours of our drive resulting in both of us lunging to turn it off.

K-State went on to play an outstanding season, never regaining a number one ranking, non-the-less they were invited to once again play in the Fiesta Bowl. Despite the temptation of making the trip to Phoenix, I was beginning to wonder if I carried a curse for away games. Logically I know I don’t have any sort of power to control the outcome by simply attending the game, and still the superstition concerned me.

I was glued to the TV to watch the opening kick-off return to see Oregon score against K-State. Unfortunately for K-State the Ducks took over, and I was reassured to know I’m not cursed.

Bringing in 2013

I love all the year ending lists, the ones that look back on everything from 2012 and rank the best of the year. Top movies, top songs, top sport plays, top storms, top grossing products, top celebrity feuds, top political disasters, top-selling appliances, top exclamations shouted into crowds – you get the idea. It’s bewildering to me to look back on lists and comprehend how so much has fit into the last 365 days, and how did it go by so fast?

2012 was a high-speed chase to catch up with, stay on top of and try to control. Who am I kidding, I just sent out the last of my Christmas presents in the last day of December (sorry nieces and nephews – late though not forgotten.) I wasn’t really on top of anything in the past year. A top list of accomplishments I would create for 2012 would include things like “Was able to continue breathing,” and “Kept child alive.”

The month of December happened to be the craziest whirlwind of the year. With my grandma’s passing, an unplanned trip to Minnesota to go along with it, and almost a full week of celebrating holidays interrupted normalcy for me. I am embracing the new year for a fresh opportunity to maintain a routine and achieve goals. I’d like to be able to look back at the end of 2013 and recognize real accomplishments out of the day-to-day grind.

00On Monday night, New Years Eve, my husband and some friends of ours made plans to bring in the new year bowling. We figured it’s close to home, affordable and a potentially fun and out of the ordinary activity for us. It has probably been years since my last time stepping foot in a bowling alley, though, I like to think bowling is in my blood. My grandpa and all of his brothers were bowling champions. Last month I, along with several cousins and my sister, took a bowling trophy from the home where my grandma passed. I never knew my grandpa so it seemed appropriate for me to keep something that used to be important to him.

bowlOn New Years Eve I naively imagined the trophy might actually bring me luck, that maybe my grandpa could reach down from heaven and help the ball down the lane for strikes and spares. My first game wasn’t too bad, then it got worse. I am guessing my grandpa never tried to play with fake nails, yeah I’m sure those were my only problem.

Losing - Big Time

Losing – Big Time

Or maybe there is a lesson in being the big loser at bowling. In 2013, I need to practice skills regularly, show dedication to my interests and my family, not blame others or objects for my own failures, and continue to find happiness in every moment (winning or not).

Cheers - FREE Champagne at the bowling alley.

Cheers – FREE Champagne at the bowling alley.

Pawnee For Life

In my last semester of college I was coming down to weeks before graduation still wondering what my next step in life would be.  I enjoyed every ounce of the college experience and probably didn’t give enough thought to looking past that.   Lucky for me, a peer in one of my psychology classes told me where and how to apply for a job at the community mental health center, where she had been working.

Not ready to abandon my college roommates or completely emerse myself into career minded adulthood across the country somewhere, I submitted my resume.  At the time I wasn’t so sure the interview went well, the boss lady seemed bitterly all about business.  I figured either I missed something good about the interview or there were few applicants for the position when they called me back to offer me the job.

When I went in to sign the initial hiring paperwork, I met a hunk who was hired on the same day.  He later became my husband. And the mean boss lady was a bridesmaid and is one of my best friends.  She told me she hired me because she liked my purse…

In the moment working at the community mental health center was the logical next baby step for me after graduation.  Looking back I understand how this job, the team I worked with and the people we served made a deep impact – much grander than a baby step.  The team consisted of dozens of bright and creative minds, all complimenting and balancing each other out.  We worked with children diagnosed with mental illness and their families, I witnessed growth and change for some kids I would have doubted possible.  In the workplace the team seemed to be synchronized like a grandfather clock, finding strengths and supports within each other to do our jobs well.  Of course our grandfather clock would be wildly colored, with constantly evolving pieces being added and removed, provide laughter every hour on the hour and have a tiny toy rat terrier in place of a cuckoo bird.

Working with kids with emotional issues did get a little cuckoo at times, and not only did we have the support we needed in the workplace we all got along outside of work as well.  All the credit goes to the boss lady for hiring some amazing individuals, with whom, I am happy to call my friends.

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While we did have some great times and continue to maintain friendships, things were not all golden and drama free.  The team consisted of many strong-willed individuals who saw situations from opposite perspectives, though, I have never seen a group be more respectful in figuring out how to work towards solutions.  And I know I may be a little extra persuaded by the experience finding my husband there and all, though I think others share the same insight about the incredible group dynamics.

I worked there for three and a half years following my college graduation and left to further my education in this field.  Few of the staff I worked with are still there since many used the opportunity as a step like I did.  Those years were invaluable to me personally and professionally.  I appreciate everyone I worked with and learned from, unfortunately now my dilemma is being unable to replicate the fun workplace I remember, anywhere else I have worked since.

Let’s just say…  If I were granted a corporation to save the world, I know just the people I would recruit to be a part of the team.

Colorful Fun at The Color Run

The first week of July, Kansas City played host to The Color Run, the self proclaimed “Happiest Run on Earth.”  While I don’t usually equate running with happiness – everyone appeared to be enjoying this colorful 5K.

All participants came dressed with a white t-shirt which was drenched in a different color powder at each kilometer.  Over 30,000 runners of all ages, including tiny ones in strollers and wagons, joyfully made their way through the track around Arrowhead Stadium to one central ending point where the party really took place.  The finish line had a DJ pumping pop hits, engaging participants to dance and cheer for additional color packets for Color Throws.  During Color Throws the crowd launched color packets into the air for clouds of color and perfect photo opportunities.

Laughter and smiles were all around Kansas City following the funnest run on earth…  And to top it off proceeds were donated to The Ronald McDonald House.

What Is There To Say?

Expressing concern for someone’s grief always leaves me wordless…  I am mindful not to deliver the usual cliché condolences as these phrases can instigate more suffering and be invalidating.

“I understand how you feel,” is often used even when it’s not comprehensibly possible to know what someone else is experiencing.

“There is purpose in everything,” ouch – while true – not important to hear about in the midst of grief.

“Things will get better,” not helpful in the present moment when loss is so fresh and suffering is so painful.

Being fearful of saying the wrong thing leads me to say “I’m sorry,” and then stare blankly in the absence of something profound or the necessary empathetic expression which actually may help.

The reason this is on my mind is because of an e-mail I received from a friend last week.  She and I met several years ago in school, we work in the same field several hours away from each other and keep up with each other’s lives sparingly through Facebook, phone conversations and the occasional lunch.  My friend was elated to report of her pregnancy this spring, shared pics of her pregnant belly via Facebook and asked me questions about labor and planning for a newborn.  To say there was no baby daddy drama would be like belittling the Clinton sex scandal.  Regardless of no stable relationship she was glowing with excitement about this growing miracle.  From a distance it appeared her life revolved around preparing, planning and providing for the little one, and her smile in the pictures could not have been any brighter.

Her e-mail indicated she had gone into pre-term labor last week and delivered her baby at only 22 weeks gestation.  The tiny 1lb 1oz girl was too premature to survive and passed with less than an hour in life on earth.  

The thought of what she is experiencing right now takes my own breath away and puts me in a state of grief considering with how devastating the experience would be.  I want to hug my friend, I want to be able provide the explanation she doesn’t have as to how this could have happened, I want to fast forward to the point in life where she can feel some happiness again.  I really want to know what I can say to bring her some comfort because I am without words right now.