It’s getting a lot brighter around here!

I just spent a few minutes looking through my drafts (my almost posts), and there are plenty of them!  And boy am I sure glad I didn’t finish and publish most of them!  Whew!  I know I’ve gotten deep and dark, and downright whiny in a lot of these posts, but they got nothin on some of the stuff I almost let loose.  A lot of it was venting, and it was good to get it out of my heart, but it also made me a little sad to see how sad, frustrated, and well, depressed I was.  Don’t get me wrong, depression is not an ugly word, but it can certainly make you feel that way.  I used to wince whenever I heard it (when someone was referring to me, of course), and hearing it didn’t make me feel any less depressed – it just made me feel weaker and more miserable than I already was.  Looking back, I was depressed, damaged, heart-broken, and a lot more adjectives I could throw in there.  However, I wasn’t weak.  And I wasn’t the miserable human being I thought myself to be.  It’s taken a long, long time to realize that, but I have, and dare I say, I think I’m actually pretty darn close to happy now!  I owe this to my wonderful family, friends, and ME!  I was so busy being caught up in worry, stress, anxiety, and all kinds of negative stuff that was doing nothing but tearing me down – it just took awhile to realize it.

As I’ve mentioned, I joined a Bible study with my mom (to which my attendance has not been terribly stellar), as well as a Grief Share group.  Both classes are somewhat difficult with our weekend schedules, but I’ve done the best I can.  These have both helped a bit, and they both helped me gather the courage to step outside of my comfort zone and join another.  Mind you, I have NEVER been in a Bible study in my life, and now I’m in three?!  Well, this third group is a little easier to attend, as it’s during the middle of the week in the morning.  A woman that I met not long after we moved here, and one who I absolutely ADORE, posted on Facebook that she was interested in hosting a group in her home and asked who might be interested.  As I began to see the number of women posting comments with interest in joining, my courage began to melt.  Mind you, quite a bit of my recent damage was caused here in this community by a person who is friends with some of these women.  And that person was someone I had, for awhile, considered a friend.  You can’t blame me for being a little gun shy.  Back to the Bible study.  I’m not typically one who is comfortable “sharing” unless I’m, well, comfortable.  The hostess wanted to do a Beth Moore Bible study, and I had heard a lot about this amazing woman, but had yet to read one of her books.  Ultimately, I decided to take the plunge and say “what the heck?”  I was so nervous about going to the first meeting, I didn’t really pay attention to the book we were reading until I grabbed one from her dining room table.  The title:

So Long, Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend to Us

Seriously?  I don’t think I could have stumbled onto a better group, or better food for my soul!  I’ve been to two meeting so far, and I’m still not entirely comfortable sharing, and I might not ever get there.  However, this woman, Beth Moore, is AMAZING!  I just wish I would have found her a long time ago!  Not sure if I would have read it, so I guess I wish someone would’ve hit me over the head with this book a long time ago 😉   As I said, this is a Bible study.  I am a Christian, and always have been.  Not the best Christian, mind you, but I’ve always kept my faith.  I’ve never really been an evangelistic type of Christian.  I’m not knocking those who are – I’m just pretty private in my faith.  I think out of respect for friends and family with different beliefs, I have never tried to push mine onto them, or make them uncomfortable.  Personally, I find pushy religious fanatics (ie:  we’re right, you’re wrong) kinda offensive, and I tend to steer clear of them.  Enough of that soap box!  I guess what I’m trying to say is that, of course Beth Moore refers to scripture in her writing, but most of her writing comes from her heart, and she’s a person (pretty amazing person, albeit), just like you and me.  She writes about real-life situations, and is very humble when writing about her own experiences and uncomfortable situations.  I have devoured half of the book in just a couple of sittings.  It touches on some pretty heavy stuff, but some pretty heavy stuff I needed to touch on.  I probably could have read it in it’s entirety in just a few hours, but since it’s a little deeper than my usual murder mystery (and my ADD only allows every third sentence to sink in), I decided to take my time, highlight what I needed to go back to, and do the workbook along with it.  Wow!  It is pretty powerful stuff!  Yes, I do feel a little like Bridget Jones with all of the self-help books on my night stand 😉  Jokes aside, this route seems to be working a little better than the pool of denial I’ve been swimming in for nearly a decade.

If you know me well, you are all too aware of how much I DWELL upon just about everything.  It’s exhausting!  I’m not quite sure when I fell into this pattern or if I’ve always been this way.  However, this characteristic has become almost debilitating to me, and extremely annoying to those around me.  My nerve endings finally became so raw that I became perhaps the most insecure person I can imagine.  Insecure.  It wasn’t a word that I would have chosen to describe myself (although it’s apparently been flashing day and night from the neon sign that floats above my head).  Nope.  Here are a few I would’ve chosen:  grief-stricken, sad, stressed, anxiety-ridden, pissed, and yep, even depressed.  Insecure – never even occurred to me (that came along with the denial package I ordered).  Gosh, that word, “insecure”, might have bothered me more than “depressed” at one time!  Now, it really doesn’t bother me much at all.  Perhaps, because an entire roomful of pretty amazing women came together to “share” their insecurities and try to help themselves as well as the rest of us.  Also, a pretty awesome woman devoted an entire book (as well as a chunk of her life) to researching and trying to figure out how we can rid ourselves of this nasty demon.  Mostly, I guess because I know I’m not alone in this.  I guess I’ve felt pretty darn alone for quite some time.  Alone in my grief, lonely because I’m missing my friends and family back home, alone in my anger, lonely in my pity party for one.  This book has opened a big, bright, beautiful door for me – I know that I’m not alone.  And yes, I know that I’ve never been alone, but I have certainly isolated myself from many, including those who love me the most.  This book, along with the Grief Group and other Bible Study (Dealing with Damaged Emotions) have certainly pointed out to me that I am not at all alone.  I’ve certainly become more open to God and his healing, and I truly think that He has helped me because I’ve finally let Him in.  However, knowing that so many of us struggle on a daily basis with some of the same issues, and perhaps we can help one another overcome those issues, is so incredibly inspiring to me!  I love that this book addresses a lot of issues I have kept to myself for fear of someone throwing a straight jacket on me if I ever let it out!  I am so comforted in the fact that a lot of the emotions I have had are actually normal 😉   This book has helped me come to peace with myself and my choices, and I’m happy to say that I haven’t really found myself fretting over a conversation, decision, relationship, etc. in weeks!  That might sound small, but to someone whose life has been controlled by worry and second-guessing, this is absolutely monumental!!

I highly recommend this book to ANYONE, but especially to the women in my life!  I think we all have insecurities of some type, and they do nothing but hold us back!  If anyone is interested, here’s the info!  Have a wonderful weekend!

 

http://www.lifeway.com/Product/so-long-insecurity-youve-been-a-bad-friend-to-us-P005262199

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On with the healing

I started this on Sunday night, and haven’t had time to finish it – so here it is!

Tonight, my mom and I went to our first Grief Share meeting.  It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure.  I wish Brian could have joined us, but, like most days, there is something that needs to be done!  Sunday afternoons:  Riley’s baseball practice.  So, like the wonderful, giving, supportive husband he is, he took the kiddos for most of the day, and let us do this.

Mom and I are also attending another group, and the topic of discussion is “Healing Your Damaged Emotions”.  Fitting?  Yes, that was rhetorical 😉  We have attended that group twice now, and I’m still a little on the fence.  Yes, I know that both of these groups will help me in much-needed ways.  I have a lot of layers to peel (I’ve heard that onion analogy more than just a handful of times over the past few weeks).  More so, I think it’s going to take a mighty big pumice stone to get through the heavy calluses within those layers.  I’m diving in though – no turning back now.  I’m at the point that I have no choice.  This grief I have been carrying with me for so very long (and has invited lots more grief to keep it company) has harmed me.  Well, not the grief itself.  Everyone will experience it if they haven’t already.  The way I have handled the grief, or better yet, stuffed and stuffed it until my ForceFlex of a soul is actually weakening to the point it might tear, is certainly not the “right way”.  I’m learning that it’s unhealthy to hold it in (Duh).  No, I already knew that.  What I am going to have to learn, however, is how to overcome those obstacles that have gotten in the way – mostly in the form of people – of me trying to let it out.

Clearly, I’ve had many opportunities present themselves to me over the past 9+ years to join groups, seek counseling, etc.  Yes, I’ve tried here and there, but I guess I wasn’t really ready until now.  I’m still a little frightened of the volcano of emotions that may erupt from me, and what it will do to me.  But, I know that I have to see this through.  It’s only 13 weeks.  Mom and I were told about the Grief Share at our Bible study.  I’ve been told about a lot of grief groups, which I promptly forgot about.  However, that day (last Friday), I came home, pulled up Facebook, and the first post I saw was from my sweet neighbor who lost her husband almost 2 years ago to pancreatic cancer.  We have talked a lot, but we’ve both been stuck a lot too.  I didn’t realize she participated in a Grief Share group, and the first post I saw was from her, announcing that she was leading this one.  Wow.  If that’s not a sign, I’m not sure what is.  I talked to my mom immediately, and we both agreed to sign up.  I told my friend how proud of her I am and that we would come.  She wouldn’t let me forget – after a few text reminders, I signed us up 😉  Tonight, we had to go around the table and introduce ourselves and give a little benign fact, which was fine.  Then, we went around again, with our name and who we lost.  At this point, I feel kinda ridiculous – like I’m reading off of a list as long as a wish list to Santa.  And, of course, I was last.  My mom did great – I was proud of her.  When it came to me, I was no stranger to the list I needed to rattle off.  It has come of of my mouth so many times, it was almost automatic.  However, in this environment, I was so overcome with emotion, I could hardly get it out.  I don’t really think anyone could understand me, but I told them that I had lost my baby boy, my dad, my cousin, my last grandmother, my cousin’s wife, 2 uncles, 2 amazing friends from college, my father-in-law, another cousin, and most recently, the closest friend I’ve ever had.  I did it.  In retrospect, I’ve never spouted off that list like that – I’ve chosen to answer any questions as briefly and clinically as possible.  This is the first time I actually felt my losses with my answer.  My entire body was shaking for the next 30 minutes or so.  But I made it through it, and I’m okay.  I saw the faces in that room who have already done this, and that it has helped them.  I’m ready to feel better and to move forward.

If you know me or have read some of my especially anger-filled posts, you know that I’ve struggled with my relationship with God.  I still am.  This has made it difficult to embrace a church, any church, and a lot of the time, Brian takes the kids by himself.  I truly appreciate that he does this, without judgment.  He knows how much I’ve struggled, and will struggle for awhile, and despite the fact that he has to feel a lot of the same pain that I do, he supports me any way he can.  Back to my beef with God.  I was raised in a Christian church with Christian values.  I made the choice to be baptized when I was 12, and loved and cherish all of the wonderful things I experienced in that church and with my youth ministry.  I teetered off a bit in college – partially, because I was too busy having fun; partially, because I didn’t have Mom there asking me to go with her; and partially because I was probably not self-confident enough to go out on my own and find a church.  One of my closest friends and roommates did, and I respected her for it – I just wish I would’ve gone with her.  When Brian and I started dating, I went to church with him here and there; however, as he is Catholic, it was quite different for me, and I never quite felt “at home”.  However, I continued to attend Catholic churches with him, as his Catholic faith is very strong.  We’ve attended several in the different places we have lived.  I LOVED our priest at our church in Indiana – can’t say enough wonderful things about him!  He was the sole reason I considered becoming a Catholic.  The priest at our first Catholic church in Texas – not so much.  We have since moved to a smaller Catholic church, more for Religious Ed than anything, and feel much more at home.  We also attend “Olivia’s Church” (the church where she attended preschool) – it is a Methodist church, and is a bit foreign to both myself and Brian.  The pastor is amazing, and I’m always so happy that I went after I hear one of his sermons.  He has a very dynamic personality, and does a wonderful job of getting his message across.  When I look at why I like and why I do not like different churches, it all boils down to people.  And when I realized this, I had to wonder how my experience with different people should impact my relationship with God.  Well, the obvious answer – it shouldn’t.  And, it really doesn’t.

My relationship with God has been tumultuous over the past decade, to say the least.  My faith hasn’t waivered.  That’s the difference between me and a lot of people I know.  Or maybe not.  I have never stopped believing that God exists, and I know with all of my heart that he sent his son to die on the cross so that we can all be saved.  The fact that my heart has been broken over and over again has caused me anger and disappointment in Him, and I know that this is normal.  Like I’ve said in the past, I don’t find comfort in messages like, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” – when I have felt such deep pain I never thought possible, I have wondered why it is necessary to test us this way.  But once again, I have had to realize that these messages have come from people, not God.  I am pretty private with my faith and when it comes to my relationship with God.  Some people are very open, and pushy at times.  Everyone has their own “comfort zone” when it comes to spirituality.  Mine tends to stay within me for the most part, and I think that’s okay.  I’m also okay with exposing my kids to God in lots of different ways.  I don’t feel that we need to be confined by the walls or rules of a specific organized religion in order to find peace and “be saved”.  I want my children to find their “comfort zone” and peace – and will support them in where ever they may find it.  I did push for them to complete Religious Ed up until First Communion (and confirmation, if they choose to) – ironically, I’m not the Catholic part of this equation 😉  My husband was okay just going to another church – where ever we were all comfortable, despite the fact that he is a strong Catholic.  I love that he is so willing to compromise 🙂  I’m very lucky that way!  And I love that they are experiencing a lot more than some other kids their age.

I see God in people and experiences, not necessarily just while I’m sitting in a church.  And if I’m sitting in a church where people are judgmental and rude, it’s sometimes hard to see Him peaking through all of the noise.   These are some of the strongest impressions of God and peace I have felt:

  • My sweet dog, Cherokee’s eyes – I got him as a puppy, and had him until he died, peacefully, in our back yard.  His eye’s were so peaceful and beautiful – his soul was very old and wise;
  • My Dad’s hands – he had the strongest, most capable, but most gentle hands.  He picked himself up with those hands, he made things for those he loved, and he hugged me tight.  Strangely, I can still remember exactly what my dad’s hands look like (and I wear his wedding ring every day);
  • The sunrise and sunset;
  • The way the sun streams between the clouds in beams of light;
  • Balloons.  That may seem kinda weird, but balloons represent Heaven to me – almost as much as my kids, I believe that when I release a balloon to Heaven, my recipient (Colin, my dad, Mary, etc) will get it.  When I was sitting in my room after Colin died, I was sitting in the chair we had purchased to rock them in, and I looked up to see a “Baby Boy” balloon bobbing up and down right in front of me.  That balloon was in the nursery, tied to the crib.  It had gone under the door frame, traveled in a straight line down the hall (passing 2 more doorways), gone under my door frame, and stopped directly in front of me (my bedroom ceiling was 24′ high).  It wasn’t deflated or losing helium – it was just bobbing up and down right in front of me.  I certainly found some comfort in that.
  • The ocean.  I could sit on a quiet beach for hours and hours listening to the ocean and feel so much closer to Him than if I were in church.
  • My Mom’s heart – she, like me, would do anything for anyone, all the while sacrificing her own needs.  We are working on that together now.  She has one of the biggest and most generous hearts I know.  She takes such good care of us, and we get to experience a little bit of Heaven every time she makes us a wonderful meal!
  • My husband’s kind soul.  Despite his Catholic upbringing, I think he also sees God in many places besides a specific church.  His positive and kind nature are such a wonderful legacy to our children, and I’m so lucky to have him.
  • The young priest I happened to meet in the lobby of our church when I was 8 months pregnant – it was by chance – Brian dropped me off and parked, and we were late.  He just sat down on the bench I was sitting on, and struck up a conversation.  Unlike both us, I realized – he was pretty shy.  He is the one who helped guide us through Colin’s unexpected illness and then death.  Without him, I’m not sure I could have made it through.  We really never saw him again, after the funeral.  But, I believe, without a doubt, that I met him so that he could help us.
  • My best friend ever – Mary.  She was not a religious person, but her spirit was amazing.  Don’t get me wrong – the girl wasn’t a saint (which is another reason I love her!).  She was funny, and crazy, and you definitely didn’t want to cross her!  She was an amazing friend, daughter, wife, and nurse.  She was probably the best nurse I have ever seen (I shadowed her at work several times while I was deciding on whether to apply to nursing school).  She had the most amazing bedside manner, and brought light to all of her patients.  She was not outwardly spiritual, but she spread love and kindness, especially to those who really needed it.  If that isn’t God working, I don’t know what is.
  • Children – pure innocence is a beautiful thing – I so wish we could keep them that way forever!  My precious Riley thought a friend was in need – he went upstairs and gather up money I didn’t even know he had and tried to give her $51.  My sweet Sami , even though she was aggravated with her, quickly ran to her sister’s side when she was crying (because someone else was mean to her), stroked her hair, hugged her tight, and sang to her.  My baby girl Olivia, despite her fierce independence, has a heart of gold and doesn’t forget anything.  When we talked about what to put on her 100 day shirt (for the 100th day of school), she said she’d like to share that day with Makayla (her friend who died last year) – this choked me up immediately, but I quickly searched for butterflies and found some beads.  Liv and I designed the shirt together, and I gladly stayed up til 3:00am sewing all of those butterflies on for her.  My kids are certainly not innocent anymore, but they still see the beauty in so many things that we have forgotten about.
  • Kindness from:  the drive-through employee, the gas station attendant, the grocery store clerk, etc.  I see God in exchanges of kindness between complete strangers.  Sadly, this type of exchange is the exception, not the norm these days.  I find that giving someone a smile and asking them to have a nice day can completely change their demeanor, and I love to see it!  My friend Candace is exceptional at this.  There are a few places around town where I have completely given up on people (our local Hobby Lobby, for one).  She has a special knack of saying just the right thing, and you see the other person completely relax – even where I have failed and given up.  It’s a gift, and it is certainly God working through her.

I certainly didn’t start writing this with the intention of preaching about how great God is.  Yes, I do love God, and I have to let him back into my heart for my own peace.  I have taught my children about God’s love, and encourage them to learn (even when I’ve been pretty pissed at Him).  However, I am not a preachy person.  My spiritual relationship with Him is very private and personal.  I also know that some people don’t feel comfortable hearing someone else preach – I for one, am one of those.  I tend to see a lot of hypocrisy (at times) mixed in with the preaching.  But like I said, those are people, not God.

The steps that I am taking over the next few months to try and heal my damaged heart will include Him, and I am doing my best to embrace that.  I will continue to grow and learn to cope, and try to be the best person I can be.  I will do my best to be kind and supportive, and lend a hand to those in need.  I will not preach – that’s not me.  And I will never, ever judge.  It’s not my place.  I have many friends and family members who have both very strong views/beliefs, and some who don’t believe at all.  But I see God in all of them.  I don’t believe that because I was raised Christian, my husband a Catholic, a lot of my family Morman, Jewish friends, and a lot who don’t practice (and some who may not believe at all), that any of us are going to be separated in death.  My dad never went to church with us, until he was retired.  He made a decision to be baptized just a few years before his death, which was wonderful.  However, do I believe that it would have made a difference when it came to his salvation had he not?  Absolutely not!  My dad, despite his faults (which we all have), was a wonderful man who never caused anyone intentional pain.  I do believe that there is something wonderful out there for all of us after we leave this Earth, and as long as we choose to be good people, we will all see each other again.  I have to believe that I will hold my son, hug my dad, laugh with my friend – I don’t see any other option.  And for that, I have to trust in God’s plan.  I’m guessing he’s expecting a difficult conversation upon my arrival, though 😉

So, I am choosing to embrace Him and allow Him to help me through this journey of healing, as I have chosen to attend Christian-based support groups.  I’ll keep you posted . . .

 

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What a difference a year makes

I’m a little late on starting to summarize my 2013, but I’m always late, so that’s nothing new!  This past year FLEW by!  Lots of good, which I wasn’t so good about writing about, because I always seemed to find myself consumed with anxiety and stress caused by the negative stuff.  This year, I’m happy to say, is getting off to a much better start.  I’ve learned a lot about myself, and the people I have chosen to surround myself with, all on my own over the past year.  I’ve also found a therapist I feel comfortable enough to talk to.  That’s been a journey, to say the least.  I’ve probably been my own worst enemy when it came to finding a therapist – sure, I’ve certainly found some duds, but I don’t think I was quite ready to give anyone a fair chance until now.  Today marks my 6th visit, and that’s quite an achievement in my book!  No doubt that I’ve needed to work through my grief for quite some time now (8.5 years is really too long to try to handle it myself).  And postponing it only made every other part of my life so much harder.  Hindsight is 20/20.  I don’t regret choices I’ve made, people I’ve chosen to spend my time with, etc, but I have certainly learned from my experiences.

Diagnosis #1 – within the first 10 minutes with the therapist, actually, he confirmed that I’m a “pleaser”.  When you think about it, what’s wrong with wanting to do things for people?  What’s wrong with wanting to help people?  Nothing, until those people start to take you for granted, and take advantage of it.  Bingo.  I never felt like a pushover, until this year.  Until I felt completely trampled on by some of the people I thought were my friends.  People that I made an active choice to surround myself with.  Well, the saying goes, “when the going gets tough . . .”  Out they went.  It feels pretty rotten when you’ve been there for someone(s) whenever they needed you, but couldn’t expect the same in return.  It was kinda hard to swallow when my therapist told me he wasn’t surprised that those were the type of people I attracted as friends.  For quite some time, I’ve gotten in the habit of putting everyone else first, at the expense of my own and my family’s happiness.  I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing until recently, but I can certainly see it now.  And I’ve certainly learned from it.

I started the school year with a whole heaping lot on my plate.  That’s what I do (or did) – apparently, I’m not so great with time management either 😉  As I’ve mentioned, I volunteered to coach my daughter’s cheer squad.  Honestly, one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done!  I LOVED every minute I spent with those kiddos!  However, as the season went on, the more stressful it got for me.  The people surrounding me thought it was just because I took on too much.  Nope.  It was the people I had surrounded myself with.  My friends.  I spent a ridiculous amount of emotional energy trying to “please” and make sure I took everyone’s opinions, feelings, etc. into consideration.  What I learned, was that no one was willing to reciprocate.  I had a lot of personal challenges, including some family health scares, lots of trouble with meds, and other things going on at the same time.  When I tried to explain some of what I was going through, I got a speech on following through with commitments.  Really?  Never said I was giving up, just that I needed help.  I finally got to the point that I had had enough.  I realized that no amount of communication, apologizing for the person I am (which I should never have to do to a “friend”), or olive branches would make the situation what I really, really wanted it to be.  So I finally shut down.  I know that I am a loyal, true friend, and I’ve never set out to intentionally harm anyone.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the same respect.  Quite frankly, I felt like I was in high school.  The unsolicited feedback I got from other people about how loyal my “friends” were was very disheartening.  Eventually, I got to the point that I stopped explaining myself and my actions,  always thinking, “If you were my friend, you’d know.”  I know that my actions, lack thereof, and words were misinterpreted, but I got tired of talking to people who clearly weren’t listing.  Although it was really, really tough to get through, I did, and I made it out on the other side a better version of me.  My biggest regret is the impact it is having on my kiddos. It hurts me when they ask if they’re friends (children of these women) can come over and play, and I really don’t know how to respond.  I don’t want my kids to suffer because of a situation that has nothing to do with them.  However, I got to the point that changes in my life had to be made, drastic changes, or my health (due to the stress and anxiety) was going to suffer, along with many other pieces of my life and my family’s lives.  And sadly, my stress level came down almost immediately once these changes were made.  Sadly, I say, because I realized that people I thought were my friends, good friends, were not.  They were judgmental, hyper-critical, and not supportive, especially when I really needed it.  And loyal?  Not even on the radar.  Quite the opposite, actually. I don’t know why it always surprises me to discover that  “friends” who talk badly about their other friends to me, do the same to me.  I guess I’m just truly disappointed in the fact that I invest so much of myself into some people who truly don’t appreciate it, nor do they deserve it.

Now, that was the bad part.  Looking back, it was really only a few months.  But a very, very long few months.  Hopefully, the further I get away from it, the absolute joy I got from working with those sweet little girls overshadows the stupid high school crap that stressed me out every day.  It will, I know it.  Am I angry?  No, not so much anymore.  If anything, maybe just a little bit sad.  But also, very grateful for the good and positive influences in my life, and so much more aware of what’s really important in my life.

I had a lot of wonderful experiences this year!  My hubby started it out by spoiling me rotten for my birthday.  We really, really needed that trip, and I hope we have the opportunity to sneak away together again soon!  Also, this is the first year that all of my kids have been involved in something outside of school.  Holy cow, has it kept us busy!  But it’s been so amazing watching them grow into their personalities!  Riley, so much like his mamma, is having such a hard time coming out of his shell.  But, step by step, he’s getting there!  He played baseball last spring, this fall, and is going to give it another shot this spring (although he’s still terrified of getting hit by one of those “wild” pitches).  Like me, he’s never going to be the life of the party, but he is doing is best to step out of his “comfort zone” here and there, and I’m so proud of him for it!  Sami, my sweet soul, is finding her niche’ in the performing arts.  She’s been attending musical theater and dance classes this past year, and is getting ready to audition for her second play!  I love to watch her, and I am so proud of her achievements!  Olivia, my spunky free spirit, would do 100 things if we let her!  She, of course, cheered this fall, as well as attended dance classes.  She loves the performing arts classes too, and is planning on auditioning for the play with her sister.  In addition, all 3 are in scouts, as well as church activities.  Needless to say, all of this “growing” comes with the price of sheer exhaustion some days!  I am extremely fortunate to have a loving, hands-on husband and my awesome mom to jump into the mix, especially since there are many days we need to be in 3 places at the same time!  I couldn’t do this without them!  Clearly, I am so grateful for my family, and I love them very much.  And I’m putting them first from now on.  It’s certainly not like I ever intentionally put them on the back burner, I just put everyone else’s needs before our own.  I’m pretty self aware now, and I’m learning where to place my boundaries.  I’m just grateful that it’s not too late.

Throughout all of this, I have been fortunate to be able to spend some quality time with wonderful friends – women I’ve been friends with for 30 years!  Oh, how I miss them!  But, I know they’re only a phone call away!  I’ve also allowed myself to leave my “comfort zone” a little bit and cultivate a few other friendships here.  That’s been my saving grace – to spend time with people who care about me and whose roots run a lot deeper.  I would certainly prefer to have a few meaningful friendships than have a roomful of “friends” I can’t trust any farther than I can throw them.  Unfortunately, that’s the culture I fell into here – I can see that now, and I’m going to be true to myself from now on.  Don’t get me wrong – I love to talk to people and get to know them!  I love to socialize, in a positive setting.  However, I get uncomfortable when people show their ugly side (nasty gossip, mean girl crap, etc), and I do my best to step away and not participate.  I’ve even tried to offer solutions, etc, to no avail.  But some people are who they are, and if I continue to let that cause me stress, that’s my problem, not theirs.  It’s amazing what true friends can do for your spirit!  It’s a pretty awesome feeling to be lifted up after being torn down for so long 🙂  I’m so thankful for those people in my life!

Among some awesome experiences this year, we got to go home for a couple of weeks and spend much-needed time with our loved ones!  It’s hard being so far away, but it really makes those times that we do get to spend together quality!  During that visit, we attended my cousin’s wedding, which was a lot of fun!  And it was pretty cool to see such an awesome couple start their lives out together!  Watching them together made me take a long, hard look at my marriage, and vow to try and get back to that place with my husband.  We used to have so much fun together, but life kinda got in the way – well, we let it.  We still have fun together, but sometimes we all forget to slow down and just breathe when there is so much going on.  I think we’re both committed to getting back there.

We also went to Disney, which was wonderful!  At least after the first couple of roadblocks . . .  I sewed for 2 weeks straight making matching clothes for my kiddos.  I knew it was my last chance to get their cooperation, and although I felt like I worked in a sweat shop, it was worth it!  We really had a great time!!  We needed another vacation just for rest when we got home, but I’m so glad we went!

Christmas was a little hectic, as we went to Disney for Thanksgiving break.  We never quite got the house fully decorated, but it was still good!  Although I thought I got a jump start on gifts, etc, I was still scrambling to finish everything, as always 😉  But, it was GOOD!  I only say this because I remember last year all too well.  My stress was unmanageable.  I couldn’t even appreciate my kids playing with their gifts – even the noise was unbearable.  This year was better.  Much better!  Not perfect – I’ll never be perfect, and I’ve got a long way to go to great, but this year, I was able to breathe.  We had a good friend visit over Christmas week, which was awesome!  And my mother-in-law the next week.  It was wonderful for the kids to spend time with her, as they don’t see her often, and I know my hubby truly valued the time he got to spend with his mom.  Sure, my heart still aches for those who aren’t with us.  I should be able to fill Colin’s stocking full of sweets and toys, just like his brother’s and sisters’.  But, I can’t.  That will never change.  My dad should be playing with my kids and all of their new toys.  But, he never will.  I could keep going, but I won’t.  That part still sucks, and always will.  When you have lost someone so integral to your life, there are certain times of the year that are really hard to fully enjoy, especially Christmas.  But, for my own sake, as well as my family’s (including those who aren’t with us anymore), I’m trying so very hard to breathe it all in and appreciate every moment I can with them.  Although Mamma Grinch came out more times than I’d like to admit, I feel a little victorious in that the good definitely outweighed the bad this year.  It’s been a long, long time since I could say that, and I feel confident that it’s only going to get better!

Yep, I have a whole lot to be grateful for this year!

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Watching The Cure with my hot hubby!

Watching The Cure with my hot hubby!

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Another one of those days . . . so what am I going to do with it?

I have started several new posts over the past couple of months, but never seemed to be able to finish.  Mostly, because of time – I’ve been pretty busy with orders and the holidays, which are both good things 🙂  Every post I’ve started has been about something GOOD!  Our trip to Disney, my new therapist, time spent with good friends, etc.  I’m doing my best to stay up in the sunshine, and not slink back into the shadows.  However, I’m sure this post will actually make it.  This blog, on this day, because I’m not terribly happy.

Today, January 10th, marks 9 years since we lost my dad.  I can still go back to that morning like it was yesterday.  I remember feeling like I was literally drowning when my husband called me that morning, twice.  The first time, to tell me that my dad had had a massive heart attack and was in the hospital, 2.5 hours away.  That was approximately 3:00am.  I was alone at home (he was away on a business trip in Florida) with a barely 5 month old Riley and my sweet Cherokee.  I couldn’t breathe as I tore through laundry baskets for clothes for me and Riley and tried to pull “essentials” together to get home as soon as I could.  He called again, I’m not sure how much later, maybe an hour, maybe a little more.  That call was to tell me that my dad had not made it – that he was gone.  I then remember just sitting on my bedroom floor, surrounded by all of the stuff I was trying to pack, not sure what to do.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it – I couldn’t move.  I was drowning.  My poor mom was by herself dealing with this, way too far away from me.  I had to get there, somehow, but I couldn’t seem to move.  My poor husband felt so helpless – he was so far away, and he knew he couldn’t do anything for me.  But, he did.  He helped my mom, when she couldn’t bear to make those calls to me herself.  He helped me by calling a dear friend, at 3:00am, to drive across town and just “be” with me.  He helped me by calling my sweet neighbor, who came over, packed us all up and drove us (me, Riley, and Cherokee) all the way home (2.5 hours) in undesirable weather, just to make sure I got there safely.  He was my rock, my saving grace.  He was the man my dad always wished for me to end up with.

As sad as this day is, I’m going to try something new.  Instead of just being sad, I’m going to think about and write about the memories that make me smile.  I am sad that I don’t have my dad.  I’m even more sad that my kids don’t know him, because if anyone was, my dad was BORN to be a grandpa!  So in my scattered, disorganized way, that’s where I’ll start!

  • I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so excited as my dad when he found out we were expecting!  And when we found out that there were 2 pumpkins in there, oh boy, did his wheels start turning!  He had all kinds of plans for them and things to make for them.  First project:  Nascar double stroller.  Yep, he wanted to turn a Nascar toy car into a double stroller – he explained the plans and how he would build a push handle.  Never mind that they wouldn’t be able to sit upright until they were at least 6 months old . . . oh yeah, and that I would need to travel with a body builder to get that thing in and out of the car!  
  • He couldn’t wait to spoil those boys rotten!  Their first gifts from them were Harley rockers (little Harley motorcycles on rails, like a rocking horse), complete with some chrome and leather seats!  They still reside in Riley’s room, and probably always will.
  • Riley’s first Christmas had to be a big one!  He went all out with his Snow Village and train set – it took up an entire room!  He spent hours just holding Riley and watching the train with him.  Those memories are priceless.  We have a picture of Dad holding Riley and watching the train that we put up with the village every year.  Riley grabs that frame and shows anyone, with pride, that pic of him and his papaw.
  • Before we started to try to have a family, Brian announced that he’s always wanted a girl named Sam.  So, every time my dad bought something fun, he would announce that it would be Sami’s.  Although my Sami girl never met her Papaw, he certainly already knew her.
  • Olivia – well, she certainly didn’t get to meet her Papaw either, but there is no doubt that his spirit lives in her!  Her fierce independence, ability to argue anything, and absolute need to have the last word – well, that’s my dad (ok – I can admit, that apple hit me first 😉 ).  He would get such a kick out of her, and I’m sure there are lots of Olivia-induced chuckles in Heaven on a daily basis 🙂

Now, I’m going back to my childhood:

  • My dad had to work a lot while I was growing up.  He wasn’t around as much as other dads, but when he was, boy did we make the most of it!  He had 2 speeds (much like Olivia) – on/full speed, and off.  He loved speed!  We spent a LOT of time at the race track, as well as the lake, and I have a lot of wonderful memories from that!
  • My dad always had a boat – most of the time, when I was small, it wasn’t a practical, family boat – it was a drag boat.  That was my dad!  He had the coolest, loudest, prettiest boat on the lake!  I have to admit, it was kinda cool, as I got a little older, when all of the boys would run over to the beach and drool over it ;).  Apparently, after my first ride in the drag boat, I was asked “how was it?” when I got out – my answer was “That scared the shit out of me!”  I think I was 4.  I’m pretty sure my dad cracked up 😉
  • My dad loved cars, boats, motorcycles, etc.  If you have toys like that, you spend as much time working on them as you do playing with them!  Some of my best memories were just hanging out in my dad’s garage with him while he tinkered with his toys 🙂
  • I’m not sure how old I was, but I think around 4 or 5 – my dad decided it was time for me to have my own motorcycle.  Instead of the “safe” outdoor toys other kids my age were playing with, I spent my weekends tearing around the field next to our house on my Honda 50cc.  I had a blast on that thing!  We took it to an air show with us one time to keep me occupied, I guess (because who wouldn’t rather ride their motorcycle than color?).  Well, my mom decided to try it out, and somehow lost control.  She ran right into a building and the front wheel was going up the side of the building.  Mind you, this was a tiny little motorcycle.  Instead of cutting the engine, or turning the wheel, or even jumping off, she just panicked, and kept yelling while the front wheel was trying to drive up the side of the building 😉  I’ve never seen my dad laugh so hard!  He had an infectious laugh, so everyone around had to laugh too.  I don’t think my mom was laughing, though . . . 😉
  • I was in advanced math, so I found myself in geometry in 4th grade.  Yuk!  However, we had a super cool teacher who came up with all kinds of fun projects!  The one I remember the most was building a boat out of cardboard.  We had to be able to float it in the school pool, row it (while riding in it) across the pool, and whoever kept afloat the longest was the winner.  This was totally up my dad’s alley!  As much as he wanted to just take off with it an do it himself (like I do with my own kids’ school projects), he was patient with me, and we built it together.  He was a great teacher, and was so awesome at building things!  Needless to say, I beat everyone by a long shot!  My boat rocked!
  • My dad was always so sweet to my friends.  I warms my heart to still hear from my old friends how much they liked my dad and their memories of him 🙂
  • My dad was my protector – he would have jumped in front of a moving train for me.  I remember one year when I was small and had pneumonia.  My mom, of course, was taking care of me.  She was my primary caretaker, as my dad had to work so much.  But I distinctly remember my dad pacing outside of my room and coming in often to check on me, and asking my mom, about 100 times per hour, if we should go back to the hospital.  I could feel his love 100 miles away!
  • My dad was always so proud of me, from the activities I was involved in, to my accomplishments in school.  He had a very difficult childhood, and had to learn to take care of himself at a very young age.  He really never got the chance to be a kid.  He always wanted better for me, and always lifted me up.  It always made me feel so awesome when he told me he was proud of me!
  • My dad was a pretty good judge of character.  Although I’m quite certain it was agony for him to see me become interested in boys, he was kind and respectful to the few good choices I made, tolerant of the so-so ones (but I’m pretty sure he made them understand that they were on probation), and I had better sense than to bring the bad choices around 😉  However, I’ve never seen him more happy and at peace than when he realized that Brian would be “the one” for me.  I feels pretty awesome when someone is that supportive and happy for you!
  • The look in my dad’s eyes when I took big steps in my life will forever be ingrained in my memory.  He helped me move into my first apartment, when I commuted to college my first year.  He drove me to ISU when I decided to go away to college.  He moved me to Ft. Wayne with my first big job, 2.5 hours away from home.  Each time, there was a mix of sadness, nostalgia and pride in his beautiful blue eyes.  He knew his baby was growing up, but he was so very proud of me.  I warms my heart to know and realize how much he loved me.  
  • I don’t think my dad could have been more proud than the day I graduated from college.  College wasn’t even on his radar – not because he didn’t want to go – he had to do whatever he could to survive.  He was on his own from the time he was 15.  He was determined to do everything he could for me not to have to struggle as he did.  Sure, I took him and my mom for granted, a lot.  I wish I hadn’t.  They did a lot for me, and gave me a lot.  But the day I graduated, the pride in their eyes made me realize how much they had sacrificed for me to be there.  I will never forget it.
  • My wedding day.  Wow – I don’t think I’d ever felt closer to my dad.  I actually took a beta blocker that day so my chest and neck wouldn’t be all red in my pictures.  However, it didn’t stop the tears once my dad and I saw each other right before that big walk down the aisle.  I think we were holding each other up, and he talked me through every step.  I felt so much love for and from my dad that day, it was almost overwhelming.  He was so incredibly proud and happy that I had found such a wonderful man to share my life with.  He was so overwhelmed with emotion and nervous during our father/daughter dance that he giggled the entire time 🙂  The fact that his pants were falling down didn’t help much – my mom had to take him outside and MacGuyver his pants to his suspenders to keep them up 😉  Despite those little mishaps, it was truly a magical day, and I know that he felt the same.
  • The birth of my boys.  If you’ve read my prior posts, you know that their birth came a little early, unplanned.  My parents lived 2.5 hours away.  When they got the call, they didn’t have much time to get up to Ft. Wayne before I had to go into surgery for delivery.  Mom and Dad didn’t quite make it in time, but almost!  They were so nervous and excited to get there, I am thinking that part of their preparation and arrival might have looked a little bit like a 3 stooges episode 😉  They had to drop their dog off at our house, and my mom, somehow fell/tripped and hit her head.  This was not  funny – I actually had to make her get a CAT scan the next day!  Fortunately, she was okay – just had a nice, big bump on her noggin for awhile.  But this, I think, might illustrate a little how palpable their excitement was!  They were so excited about those babies, they couldn’t get there fast enough!  By the time they got to the hospital, both boys were set up in the NICU, side by side.  The love in my dad’s eyes for my sons and for me just melted my heart.  I’m so lucky to have had a father with so much love.

There are so many, many more good, funny, precious memories of me and my dad!  I’m so lucky to have had him in my life as long as I did!  I have a few friends who lost their dads before they got married, and a few more who lost them when they were young.  Selfishly, I’ll always have moments when I’m resentful that he’s not here, experiencing this life with us.  However, sitting here and reminiscing helped me realize how very, very lucky I am to have had what I did.

 

I love you Dad!

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I’m not you. I’m me. And I like it.

My husband came home last night (well, about 1:00am, actually), after a couple of weeks of non-stop travel.  I’ve missed him!  So, we sat and chatted for a bit.  He’s aware of the struggles I’ve been having, and remembered a note that Olivia wrote last weekend, all on her own, unprompted.  And it made me smile!  I love the innocence and frank honesty of my sweet, spunky, way too independent 6 year old!  And I will fight fiercely for her to stay just the way she is!  Just a couple of days ago, she told me that “mommies and daddies”, and all adults for that matter, need to use their words too.  And now, this:  “I am not you.  I am me and I like it”.  I think I’m learning way more from her than she is from me!  It would be such an awesome place to live if we all took a few lessons from my kid!  Until then, this is my new mantra 🙂

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Moving On

Tonight was our last football game.  Those sweet little guys had so much heart, and it was so sad to see them lose and not move on to the tournament games.  Our girls are in kindergarten and first grade, so I’m not sure that the loss was as crushing to them as it was to the boys 😉  I’m so glad that I volunteered to coach – the experience I’ve had with these sweet girls is priceless!  It was so much fun to get to experience all of their personalities and watch them grow, and I’ve loved having the chance to experience this with my daughter!  That makes this experience coming to an end very bittersweet for me.  However, these last few months have been so incredibly stressful for me, and because of that, I am relieved that it’s over.  This experience has taught me a lot.  For some, I’m grateful, for others, I’m sad.  I’m grateful that I have learned to trust myself a lot more.  I’m sad that I’ve learned that I cannot trust others like I used to.  I have actually been shocked over and over again and how vindictive, deceitful and, well, mean, other adults can be.  Lesson learned.  I have met some exceptional people through this experience, but sadly, I’ll probably go back to keeping people at arms length again like I used to.  It’s easier to remain on the “outside” with a few good friends (who I completely cherish) than open myself up to disappointment over and over again.

It’s way too easy, for me at least, to get caught up in the small stuff.  I let things eat away at me, while trying my best to make everyone happy.  I gotta stop that, I really, really do.  I was actually super calm today (after weeks of crazy high daily anxiety).  Not sure what helped me calm down.  I’ve been busy making my kiddos outfits to wear on our upcoming Disney trip – that has probably helped distract me (and it means I’ve been in my happy place, which is truly my happy place again!).  Whatever the reason, I’m grateful to be back in a place where I can deal with everyday issues as a normal, rational human being.  I certainly don’t get myself worked up on purpose – it really sucks feeling like I’m going to cry/combust/scream (you get the picture)  for days on end.  However, I still seem to get there.  Because I know all too well how that feels, I am so grateful for days like today!  Days where people can be shitty and rude, and for some reason, I doesn’t bother me – a deep breath or 2 is all I need.  I’m either evolving, or, quite possibly, I have stopped caring so much.  Either way, it’s a good thing for me.  

Enough of that!  All negative feelings are being flushed from my system now!  I am ready to spend more quality time with my family – I feel like we’ve all been in a 3 month long relay race!  We’ve been on the go non-stop!  I’m ready to slow down a bit and just enjoy my kiddos!  We are headed to Disney soon, and I. CANNOT. WAIT!  I need some happy!!  🙂  And my babies need their happy mom back.  My husband and mom are probably ready for a better, more relaxed me as well 😉  They have both been so incredibly supportive, and I appreciate them so much!  I certainly could not have accomplished what I have without them!

I’m ready to move on to the next phase now.  I have finally realized that I need to put myself and my family first, because that’s what’s most important.  And to do that, I’ll be tuning out a lot of noise.

 


Grateful

As this is the month of November, gratitude seems to be a common theme.  It is nice to read about everything my friends are grateful for via their Facebook posts.  I do love that the holidays  promote the spirit of love, generosity and gratitude (in most of us)!  However, I wish, that in our busy lives, we would take a moment to think, really think, about what we are grateful for each and every day.  I wish this for myself as well, as I too am guilty of getting caught up in the crazy, busy life we have all built for ourselves.  I’m guilty of allowing myself to get overwhelmed with too much stuff, too much to do, just TOO MUCH!  I am attempting to slow myself down just a little so that I can really observe and appreciate all the beauty that surrounds me.  Unfortunately, it also allows me to see through a lot of pretty wrapping to the ugly stuff underneath.  Regardless, I’m finding myself becoming a stronger person – a lot like that person I used to know before my anxiety took over.  I’m appreciating the people around me who really, truly deserve it.  The ones who have been taking all of my crap and are still here, still loving me.  I’m ashamed to admit, but I’ve been treating the people closest to me terribly, while wasting my energy on others who don’t appreciate it.  I’m extremely grateful that I finally realized this, before it was too late!  To keep perspective, I have jumped on the “31 Days of Gratitude” bandwagon this month.   My goal is to find something, each and every day, to be grateful for.  Here are some of those things:

This has been one of the busiest weekends I’ve had in quite awhile!  I think I’ve had whiplash since August due to all of the activities my 3 kiddos are involved in!  Whew!  This weekend took the cake, though!  Saturday, we started with a football game (Olivia cheers, and I’m blessed to be their coach!), a 1st birthday party for a sweet little guy, and at the same time, my son had a baseball game.  All the while, I was planning and organizing my son and daughter’s birthday party for Sunday (which I’ve been doing for weeks!).  Sunday started bright and early with a Cheer Off competition for my sweet little squad, and they were awesome!  Then I raced home to finish preparing for the birthday party that afternoon.  As if that wasn’t enough, I decided this week to buy my hubby an early Christmas gift – tickets to the Colts v. Texans game!!!  It was a crazy day – we wrapped up the birthday party at 5:30, ran food inside, ripped the linens off of the tables and jumped in the car!  We made it in plenty of time for kick off, and what started out as a beating turned in to a Colts win!  It really was an AWESOME weekend!  And on the way to the game, I realized that my stress/anxiety level was pretty much ZERO!  As crazy as the weekend was, I was doing things I loved with and for people I love!  So, what has been assumed to have been self-induced stress, a direct result of me simply taking on too much, is apparently stress/anxiety from other parts of my life.  This was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time!

So, I guess I’ll start with cheer!  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with this incredibly sweet group of girls!  We’ve worked them so hard, and they have really accomplished a LOT!  I have to remind me self over and over again that they are only in Kinder and First Grade 😉  They are such and blessing, and I love the time I get to spend with them!   They did such an amazing job at their competition yesterday!  I’m so proud of them!  It warms my heart every time I hear one of them call me “Coach Missy”  🙂

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Now, on to the birthday party!  Let me start by explaining that Samantha has had 2 big birthday parties since we’ve lived in Texas – she has a February birthday, so the weather is actually quite pleasant here for outdoor parties during that time of year.  On the other hand, both Riley and Olivia have August birthdays – it’s hotter than the 5th circle of Hell here in August!  Not to mention, we’ve been on trips back home on Riley’s last 2 birthdays, so he kinda got the shaft!  Last year, we threw a fun Star Wars party for him at his Godparents’s house, who we were staying with.  It was hell for me, but a blast for him, and that’s what really matters!  This past birthday, we did a party at Dave and Busters with friends and family at home, and it was great!  However, my sweet boy really hasn’t had the chance to celebrate his birthday here, in his new home, with his new friends.  Olivia’s birthday is right before school starts.  Last year, she chose to have an American Girl lunch with a few friends in lieu of a big party, and that was great!  This year, the poor girl didn’t have a choice – we were TOO BUSY!  Sports had already started (Riley – baseball, Olivia – cheer), and Samantha was in a play.  We talked to them early on, and explained that we could have a big, fun party if we waited on things to die down a little and for the weather to get a little cooler.  They agreed to have a party together and invite their friends.  There were a few road blocks along the way, but we finally found a day (or a few hours, at least) that would work!  My very fun and creative friend, Candance, helped us a TON – we talked about games, themes, etc., and we all finally settled on a “Survivor” themed party.  It would work for both boys and girls, and the possibilities were endless!

I am grateful for so much relating to this birthday party.  I am grateful for my beautiful kids, who tell me that I’m “the best mommy ever!” because I do things like this for them!  I’m grateful for my hubby, who does whatever I need him to do to help make these things happen!  I’m grateful to my mom, who is a sweet, caring soul and is helpful to a fault.  She’s also a wonderful cook, and makes so many yummy things to serve at these parties!  I am grateful for sweet and supportive friends!  Candace and I had a blast preparing for this party!  We have so much in common and truly enjoy each other’s company – I am so blessed to have found her!  She came over early in the morning (while I was at Cheer Off with my girls) to help my hubby set up for the party.  Oh, and it was her son’s actual birthday.  And, I came home to find her cleaning my bathroom (which was my hubby’s job 😉 ).  Seriously?!?!?  She’s an absolute treasure, and I’m going to do my best to never take her for granted!  The same goes for all of the people in my life who love me, truly love me.  Unfortunately, it seems to be those people, the ones who love us the most, who get to see our ugliness, and we save all of the gloss and polish for people in our lives who don’t really care (or really matter).  I’m making a serious effort to change that!  I’ve already started to make changes in my life, for the better, and I’m feeling stronger every day!

Here are some fun pics from the party!  It was a truly wonderful day!  Despite some of the negative white noise 😉

IMG_3864Kiddos getting ready for the relay!  These two are twin brothers – Riley’s good friends 🙂

IMG_3909 IMG_3885Part of the obstacle course – they had to eat a donut, hands-free, that was hanging on a string.  Thanks Candace!

IMG_3946IMG_3958Everyone loved it when some of the dads decided to join in!

IMG_4009Mayhem on the giant slide!  Yes, that’s Olivia sitting on the side of the slide – danger girl 😉

IMG_3987The Food Challenge – don’t you love the “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout” expression on Olivia’s face when she saw the green smoothie she was supposed to drink?  😉

Photo Booth fun!

IMG_4043Riley making faces with Mr. Shawn 🙂

IMG_3979The real birthday boy that day, SJ – one of the sweetest kids I know!  Love him!

Finally, I am grateful for time spent with my husband (he was pretty excited about the tickets 😉 ) . . . .

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. . . . . and a COLTS WIN!!!!

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