A Letter to My Daughter (Part 6)

Dear Anna,

I am over a week late writing this, but that seems to be the norm right now.  :(

Last week you turned 6.  SIX!  It is hard to believe how big you have gotten and how fast 6 years has gone by.  You have gone from my tiny 6 pound, 12 ounce black haired baby, to my articulate, silly, smart little blond girl.  In just six years.  You finished Kindergarten about a month ago, and I think you loved every minute of it.  I can’t believe you’ll be off to first grade in just over a month!

Life is crazy right now.  For all of us.  You and your brother just changed daycares from the one you were at for almost 5 years to a new one.  You have made friends quickly, and I was so proud of you for how well you handled the change.  You are helping your brother adjust as well.  He has made friends too, but the transition has not been quite as easy for him.

Your Grandma is going through chemo, and you have fascinated me (and stumped me, on occasion) with your questions about cancer.  But you have been kind and concerned and super, super positive, which helps me so, so much.  Your curiosity is one of my favorite things about you, and I kind of love that you are interested to know the details of your grandmother’s illness – at just 6 years old.  But you’ve always been an old soul, and I am amazed at what you seem to really understand at such a young age.

I have been busy with work.  Very busy with work – to the point that it makes me feel like I am missing much more of your childhood than I would like.  I also just started a program to get my Master’s degree.  It’s too much, and I know it is, but it is only a year.  In the end, I hope you understand why I took this on.  It is to better myself, to further my education, and to hopefully benefit all of us.  I also want you to remember that I did this.  That when you were six years old I went to work everyday, worked on a degree at night and on the weekends, and I was a mother too.  I want you to know that you can do anything.  You can be a mom, and have a career.  You can get a good education and invest in yourself.  I would never tell you that doing all of that at once is easy, but it can be done.  I also want you to remember that your Daddy helped.  He stepped up and cooked dinner, cleaned the house, and took care of you and your brother while I did all of this.  Remember that.  I hope when you get married, you find a husband that will do those things for you…that will help you when you need help.

At six years old you are incredibly bright and articulate.  We never know what is going to come out of your mouth.  :)  You have one wobbly tooth in the front on the bottom.  You love My Little Pony.  You still love frogs just as you always have.  You sleep with your precious Lovey Bunny every night, and I dread the day you stop doing that.  You love to draw and color.  You are learning to read better all the time.  You are a bit bossy, but I have a feeling I know where you got that trait.  :)  Your giggle is infectious, and you are absolutely beautiful – inside and out.  Just as I did 6 years ago, sometimes I look at you and marvel at how beautiful and smart you are, and I just can’t believe you are mine.  But you are!  There is no doubt about that!

You got your first bike for your birthday.  You got a unicorn helmet to go with it and you made a special request for knee and elbow pads.  Here you are modeling your gear:

Anna modeling

 

And here is your sweet face:

6 years old

 

Just like I say every year, I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!  I love you Anna Banana!  Don’t ever stop being the feisty, sassy, silly girl that you are!

Love,

Mama

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The Year in Review

It’s 2014.  2013 came and went so fast!  I just went back and read last year’s New Year’s post and oh my, so much has changed!  2013 was so full of growth and change; loss and sadness; challenges and discovery.  Where to start?

At the beginning, right?  I started my new job on January 7, 2013.  Little did I know…Ha!  What started as a quiet (and often mind-numbingly boring) copy-editing job turned into, well frankly, exactly what I wanted – a challenge.  I spent 2 months holed up in my (very nice!) little office proofreading, editing, trying to acclimate myself to a new company and the new processes that came along with it.  I don’t like to talk about work on my blog – it’s just too public of a forum.  But this job – this gamble I took –  has been in a category all its own and the way it has challenged me, changed me and stretched me in ways I could not have thought of is nothing short of amazing.  It deserves to be mentioned here – in vague detail at least.  Continuing…2 months in, everything changed.  I got a promotion, then another.  I was tasked with running a department.  I succeeded, I failed.  I gave up, I found my courage.  I kept going, I kept going, I kept going.  I surpassed what I thought I was capable of.  I am taking my actual job performance out of the equation – I have no idea what my employer would write here.  This is pure self-evaluation.  :)  I just know that when it was handed to me, I had no idea what to do with it.  I walked around in a fog of “I don’t know” for a day or 2.  Then something clicked in my head and I found the answers to get started.  Since then I have done things I didn’t know I could do. I found skills, that while they seem to have been inherent, I had no idea I had.  I gained confidence in myself and lost it, then found it again.  All in all, I am really proud of myself.  Really proud.  Looking back, I see plenty of failures, but I see plenty of good moves too.  I see things that I need to work on in 2014, but I’m ready.  I have LOVED my job and hated it, then been ambivalent, then loved it again. It has been a wild ride.

In April, towards the beginning of the wild career ride, I went to Vegas for a convention.  The trip itself was unremarkable, I suppose.  Helpful in some ways, but that’s not what is important here.  While I was gone – early in the morning of the day I flew back home – my grandmother passed away.  No one called to tell me. My parents couldn’t get in touch with Mark (they didn’t have his new cell number).  My sister went around the world to finally get in contact with Mark.  Then, still unbeknownst to me, Mark went to see my HR Director, he packed up the kids (and my clothes) to meet me in Bowling Green.  My dad picked me (and 2 co-workers up at the airport) late that night – just after dropping my co-workers off, he told me.  I will never forget it – that feeling of being punched in the stomach.  Shock.  She was sick, but it was still sudden.  Apparently my family was worried that I would be upset that no one called. I wasn’t and I’m not.  It is kind of sweet how much trouble they went through to make sure I wasn’t upset before they could be with me.  That consideration actually meant a lot to me.
The funeral was a blur.  It seemed unreal and all-too-real at the same time.  I’ve gone through the whole story here on my blog before, I won’t repeat it.  It was a devastating loss to me, but at the same time, strangely, I’m ok.  I am sad and I miss her.  But I’m ok.  I never feel like she’s far away.  I think of her all the time and I draw strength from the fact that part of me is a little piece of her.  In those last months she taught me so much that she probably had no idea she taught me.  Even facing what she faced toward the end, she was the very definition of grace.  The missing her hurts so, so much, but remembering her makes me smile.  She was a tough, practical, talented, warm, wonderful lady.  I was lucky to be her granddaughter.

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At the end of May, we had our annual family Memorial Day weekend on the farm.  It was one of the best ones yet.  The kids all had a huge time.  They played hard and went fishing with Mark and my brother-in-law.  We ate and spent lots of time just lounging outside.  It was one of the most comfortable Memorial Day’s I can remember!  Not nearly as sweltering as the one before!

In June, Anna turned 5. Then in July we got even MORE family time as we all met up in Seagrove Beach, FL for a week.  It was stressful, but still wonderful.  The beach was so amazing to the kids.  Anna learned how to swim.  I soaked up the salty air – it had been 6 years since we had been to the beach.  That trip was craziness with a few moments of bliss sprinkled in.

In August Anna started Kindergarten.  It was emotional for me, exciting for her and really tough for her little brother!  Mark was probably a mixture of all of those feelings.  She has done really well in school, so far.  She is learning to read (she CAN read, she doesn’t always want to show us she can, though!).  She loves music class (that’s my girl!) and she is still quite the little artist!  I can’t believe how “big” she is getting!  :(

In September, Mark and I celebrated 8 years of marriage.  I use the word “celebrate” very loosely.  There was not much celebration this year! :)  We DID finally have our anniversary date last week – just a couple months late!

In November I turned 37.  We don’t really need to talk about that any further.  :)

In December Mark turned 46 and 2 days later William turned 4 (see the last post).  Then Christmas got here entirely too soon.  I thought I had it under control until I realized I only had a week left!  Mark and I both had the full week of Christmas off, so we were able to spend lots of time with the kids and each other as well as a few days at my parents’ house with my sisters, niece and nephews.

That was our 2013 in a nutshell.  Ups and downs.  Challenges.  Sadness and loss.  Stress.  A lot of just day-to-day stuff.  The word that really sums it up, though, is growth.  2013 has been about growth and perspective.  I can only hope to be as fortunate in 2014. Happy New Year!

 

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Happy Birthday, Sweet William (Part 4)

Today my sweet little boy turns 4.  As is my tradition – here is his birthday letter.  :)

Dear William,

Today is your 4th birthday.  You have been so excited all day that it is your special day!  You asked for a toy tool-bench for your birthday…and asked, and asked, and asked…You really wanted that one particular toy and, of course, you got it!  I feel fortunate that we are able to give you exactly what you asked for and you were so happy to get it.
At just 4 years old you are a handful (and a half!).  You are bright, very energetic, tenacious, funny, imaginative, and often generous with your sister.  The 2 of you fight, but you love to make her smile too.  You let her help you open your big present this morning so she wouldn’t be upset.  It made me smile…as difficult as you can be sometimes, deep down you really are kind and sweet.  You love doing things your Daddy does (thus the tool-bench), you love Spiderman, trucks, cars, rockets, tractors and I still say you give the best hugs and kisses ever.  I fell asleep on the couch (a rare event!) the other night and you snuggled up with me and kissed my face.  I was feeling crabby, but it still me smile.
Over the last few days I have thought a lot about the day you were born and about how you were as a baby.  I could recite all the usual memories – and I guess I will – It’s was rainy and cold.  We drove to the hospital in Jackson before the sun came up.  It was a quiet and peaceful drive most of the way.  I was nervous and your sister had no idea what was about to happen!  :)  She sat quietly in her car seat in the back and ate Cheerios most of the way there.  I remember looking at all the Christmas lights as we drove through towns between here and there.  I remember being very ready to meet you.  I remember hearing one certain version of Silver Bells playing in the operating room and one of the nurses commenting on how I will probably always remember the song that was playing when you were born.  She was right, I will never forget it – I still tear up when I hear it.  I remember seeing you for the first time – one of nurses held you up for me to see.  You were so, so tiny and had some pretty big feet for a newborn!  You had lots of dark hair, just like your sister had when she was born.  I was surprised by the dimple on your chin.  I thought you were an amazingly beautiful baby.  Absolutely perfect.
I remember your first year as the very best year I have had as a mother so far.  I’m sure it wasn’t all wonderful – your sister was still so little and it was tough having a toddler and an infant, but I was so happy to have you both.  You were a happy baby and you loved your mama so much.  You were so curious (still are!) and active (still are!) and impossibly cute (still are!).  You and your sister bring me so much joy.
In the last few months I have really begun to see exactly how bright and perceptive you are.  It is so amazing how different you are from your sister (although this shouldn’t be a surprise to me – I feel the same about my own sisters), but you are both so bright and imaginative and wonderful in your own special ways.  I am so, so lucky to be your mom.  I know (now from experience) that the next year or so will bring with it a lot of changes in you.  I can’t wait to see how you grow and what you learn.  You really are a special boy.  I hope your Daddy and I can help you direct all your energy in the right directions and help you grow and develop all of your own special talents in just the right way.  You are one of my biggest challenges, but you are also my greatest reward.  And, of course, you will always, always be my most favorite surprise. Happy Birthday, William!  I love you!

Love,

Mama

William's 4th Birthday collage copy

 

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Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

We just got back from our first vacation in 6 years.  There is so much I could write about it.  It was quite possibly the least relaxing vacation ever (thanks, kids!), but we did find those relaxing minutes here and there.  One thing is for sure – relaxing or not, I needed that vacation more than I realized.  And that’s saying something, because I knew I needed a break!

The last time we went on vacation – which, incidentally, was to the same exact beach house – we were childless.  We were in the midst of infertility hell, in fact.  This time we brought our 2 kids.  My daughter slept in the same bed Mark and I did 6 years ago – back when I was really beginning to think we never would have kids.  I remember being really sad on that trip for that very reason.  That’s the sweet, romanticized version…how life turned around and we got to bring our 2 precious children with us this time.   That’s what I kept thinking of before we left and even some while we were there.  Such a lot has changed in 6 years.  And while that is reality…while I do feel lucky to have my babies…there’s a more hard reality there too.  They were over-tired, over-excited, over-everything for the entire week.  They. Were. Crazy. That made the rest of us crazy.  And by the rest of us I mean the other 14 people in the house.  My whole family was there, minus my brother-in-law-to-be.  All of my nephews and my niece, my 3 sisters, my brother-in-law and my parents.  By the way, don’t EVER tell a seriously over-tired 5 year old that she’s rude.  Just ask my sister…she found this out the hard way!

Observations from our trip:

  1. A good in-car DVD system is a lifesaver.
  2. Snacks are a must.
  3. Surprise car activity books were a good idea!  (Yay me!)
  4. I had no idea a hotel stay (overnight in Birmingham) could be so exciting for 2 young children.
  5. Suite hotels are THE best!  The kids love a sofa-bed.  Mark and I love a separate room!
  6. Traveling with a smartphone is a total game-changer.  This was our first big trip with one and I used it a ton!  I booked our hotel room in Birmingham about 30 minutes before we got there from my phone.  I used it to navigate.  I used it to find the best gas prices & locate gas stations.  I used it to check traffic issues.  I used it to check the weather radar.  I used it to take pictures.  I used it to post to Facebook (essential, right?).
  7. A 5 year old who has just learned to swim can make an amazing amount of swimming progress when she has access to a pool for a whole week.
  8. Saltwater is so soothing (as long as it doesn’t get in your nose).
  9. Sand infiltrates everything.  I don’t think I will ever get rid of all the sand in the van.
  10. Fish tacos are delicious!
  11. But nothing beats boiled (fresh!) shrimp.
  12. Jimmy Buffet makes some good points.
  13. My kids LOVED the ocean.
  14. I love that my kids loved the ocean.  I LOVE the ocean.
  15. My son does not sleep well away from home.
  16. Eventually I DO miss home.
  17. My bed is tiny compared to the one we slept in on vacation.
  18. I still couldn’t wait to sleep in MY bed.
  19. I missed our well water (here on the farm).  I mean SERIOUSLY!  Isn’t that weird?
  20. I no longer fear taking trips with the kids – even if they were crazy on this one.

And now for some pictures in chronological-ish order:

Just after we left…I love their headphones!

car ride

Trying to get them to go to sleep in the (oh-so-exciting) hotel (blurry cellphone pic in a dark room):

photo 1

The kids seeing the beach for the very first time.  This was an AMAZING experience for me, even though I had been super-aggravated (to put it mildly)  just minutes before:

photo 2

photo 3

My family has this annoying (to Mark) habit of taking beach pictures (ok, ok…pictures in general).  Frankly, it’s a pain in the ass…there are just SO many of us!  I’m always glad I have the pictures later, though.  First up, my parents:

Mommy & Daddy

Next, my sister Laura & her 4 boys:

Bratchers

Then Jennifer and her family (don’t they look sunny!):

Jen

My sister Katie, my niece and my daughter (these 2 are going to be her flower girls!):

Katie & girls

My own little family.  I should title this “A Day in the Life”.  See that smile…that far-away look on my face?  I’m trying to find my happy place.

Epitome

Ok, no..for real this time:

Family pic

My mom, my sisters and me:

Girls

My (only slightly uncooperative) kiddos…I LOVE William’s squint and Anna’s hair looks so beachy to me!:

Will Anna copy Anna & Will

Jennifer & her husband Dan:

DSC_0298

My husband (Mark) and I.  I really love having an updated picture of just the 2 of us!

Mark & Steph

 

 

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A letter to my daughter – 5th birthday edition

Dear Anna,

Today you are 5 years old.  These past 5 years have been the best and hardest years of my life, and they have gone so fast!  Once again I’m blown away by how my tiny little black-haired baby has turned into this beautiful, blonde little girl.  You are such a special girl.  I always have a hard time finding the right words to describe you.  You’re just Anna…very much one-of-a-kind.  You have an amazing sweet, quirky, independent personality.  You’re very smart, perceptive and (I strongly suspect) intuitive.  One day I’ll tell you all about the intuitive women you get that from…you get that from my side of the family!  :)  Lately I catch glimpses of myself in you all the time and it’s amazing to see.  It’s so neat to see myself mirrored in you…those traits always look better on you!

Right now you’re really into girly things…we just had a tutus and tiara party with 3 of your friends from daycare.  You loved it!  You requested a big cookie cake for your party on Saturday, then I made you strawberry cupcakes for daycare today.  You wanted “flowers made from icing” on them.  This morning you told me they were “perfect”.  The other night when I was working on your tutus after you went to bed, you called from your room to ask me what I was doing.  When I told you I was making tutus for your party, you said, “Oh!  Thank you, mom!”  You melt my heart at random times with your sweetness.  You act so grown up sometimes and it’s precious to see, but I wish you’d just slow down!  You’re getting big too fast!  I love seeing you learn and grow and become a little (big) girl, but I still miss my baby!

This year…in about a month and a half, you will start Kindergarten.  I know in this next year you will change in ways I can’t predict and that I’m probably not ready for.  It makes me tear up just thinking about it.  I can’t wait to see you learn new things and make new friends, though.  Although I think the discipline of school will be good for you, I hope you never lose your Anna-ness.  Your uniqueness is so wonderful!  Your quirks make you so special.  I hope you always keep your headstrong, independent spirit.  You are an amazing little girl…sometime I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be your mom.  Happy, happy 5th birthday, sweet girl!

Love,

Mama

5th birthday copy Anna & WIll copy Lashes copy Little lady copy Little Steph copy

 

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It’s Been Awhile

So, yeah, I haven’t so much as logged into by blog in awhile.  I just looked at the date of the last entry, and yup…it makes sense.  The beginning of April was the beginning of the whirlwind that now seems to have become the new norm for my life.  Where to start?  It largely has to do with work, but I don’t really want to blog about that.  B-O-R-I-N-G!  Suffice it to say that taking this job in January felt like a huge gamble, and it was.  Thankfully, it seems to be paying off nicely.  I enjoy it most of the time, and I have been given the chance to do things I have always wanted to do – things I always felt I could do.  The job isn’t all that’s happened, though.  In mid-April we lost my grandmother.  Oh, the blog I could write about this if I could only bring myself to do it!  One day…but not today.  I just simply don’t think I can.  I miss her so, so much.  Losing her has affected me in ways I did not foresee and in some ways I just can’t explain.  I think of her every day.  Every. Single. Day.  The most unexpected things remind me of her.  Sometimes I remind me of her – as in my behavior, or my reaction to this or that.  I was thinking yesterday that maybe I didn’t think of her this much before she was gone, but then I thought, yes…I probably did.  I just didn’t notice it because it didn’t hurt.  Now it hurts.  Just a little twinge of pain here and there, sometimes worse than others, but I sure notice it.  Although it hurts, I often smile when I think of her.  She was so special, and I’m glad I had a chance to tell her that.  Ok.  Must move on…

The kids are growing up…A couple weekends ago, while Mark was on a camping trip (why did I wait until he was gone for this?), I decided it was time for William to be done with Pull-ups.  William was all for it!  So, that Saturday morning, we made the switch.  There were accidents here and there, but not really that many.  He has done so well!  I still had him in Pull-ups at night, but this past Friday, he decided he’d had enough of that – so far it hasn’t been a problem.  Yay William!  I really am so proud of him!  He’s proud of himself too!

Last weekend we had the whole family (minus 4, I think) here at the farm for our (mostly) annual Memorial Day get-together.  While it wore me out (seriously!), it was one of the best ones I can remember.  The kids had SO much fun…We ate, we talked, the kids ran and played, the boys did some successful fishing.  It was nice…even with the annual snake sightings.  Seriously, there were MULTIPLE snakes this time.  Pretty much all at once.  There is always at least ONE snake incident when my family is here, but this one was crazy!  Wouldn’t you know it, we haven’t seen one since everyone left!  Weird.  The downside this year – I took almost no pictures.  :(

This month Anna turns 5.  Five!!  Yes, she’s a mess, but I catch myself watching her sometimes and thinking how freaking BEAUTIFUL she is.  I can’t believe she’s mine!  I took her shopping today – just the 2 of us.  It wasn’t meant to be much of a shopping trip.  I actually just went to get some fabric swatches, but she needed shorts and Old Navy was right there.  So we got some shorts for her, and a few shirts…then we looked at bathing suits for me, then I found dresses (also for me) on clearance.  Ooooh!  This was probably the first time she’s ever done this kind of shopping.  She was seriously fun in the dressing room.  She didn’t need to try anything on, but once I started trying things on, she wanted to do the same, so she did.  Everything I put on, she’d say, “Oh, mom, that’s cute!” or “I LOVE that one!” or “That’s GORGEOUS!” or something like that.  Even the swimsuit!  So she will be swimsuit shopping with me from here on out…I need that vote of confidence!  :)  She giggled and danced around in her new clothes.  Such fun!  So, yeah, we bought more than I intended, but it was worth it for that experience alone.  By the end of our trip, she was obviously tired, but she made sure that William got a “prize” because he didn’t get to come.  I made sure she got a pink cake pop from Starbucks (which she thought was awesome!).  She slept pretty much the whole way home.  She starts Kindergarten in August, so there is another shopping trip for the 2 of us in the not so distant future.  I’m not sure I’m ready for that one.  :/

So, yeah, I suddenly feel busy.  A lot.  All the time.  I keep making comparisons to last year in my head.  Things feel so different.  It’s good and bad, but mostly good.  Mark’s job, my job, the kids, our family and friends…they are all suddenly keeping us busier than normal.  I feel myself struggling to find a balance sometimes, it’s been difficult to maintain.  All in all, though, I’m just so proud of us!  Mark and the kids and myself…all of us!  It’s been a big year for all of us!

 

 

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Happy Happy Joy Joy

Last week was a crazy week.  It was all work-related, so I’ll spare you the details.  Suffice it to say, it was a roller-coaster.  I spent the first half of the week all rolled up in one big ball of anxiety.  I was tired…mentally exhausted and I felt like I was running on adrenaline.  It all came to a head Wednesday night.  I was anxious, I couldn’t sleep and my mind was just running in circles.  After everyone else went to bed, I came in the living room, sat down with my laptop and read through old blog posts.  I cried, I laughed, I cringed at things I had posted.  It took my mind off the anxiety.  I loved reading back through some of those posts…reading about things I had forgotten the kids did or said.  I read some of my deeper posts and they reminded me that things could be (and have been) much, much worse.  This thing that was causing me so much anxiety was actually a good thing!  It is an opportunity!  I almost laughed at myself.  Then I went to bed.  I couldn’t go to sleep, I was still mulling things over in my head.  Then an idea hit me, then another and another.  I did something I never do.  I got out of bed, found a pen and wrote it all down.  It was pure epiphany.  I got myself a glass of tea (decaf, thanks) and stood in the kitchen for a minute, I could practically feel myself setting my resolve, like a switch slowly flipping.  “No more freaking out.  I am going to own this tomorrow.”  And I did.  There is still an undercurrent of uneasiness, fear of the unknown, I’m sure, but I feel much better.  It will work out…or it won’t.  I will do my best to make sure it works out, but I will be fine either way.  I have certainly lived through worse uncertainty than this.

I said all of that to say this:  I mentioned Happify in my last post.  I’ve been pretty religious about working on my Happify activities every day.  I struggle some days more than others, but as simple as these activities are, they are making a difference, as noted above.  I was able to effectively distract myself from my anxiety and calm my mind (by reading through old blog posts) using information and the technique of purposeful distraction that I learned from the site.  Because I try to do these activities every day, these tools and techniques are constantly on my radar.  I find myself rethinking my responses to situations that happen every day.  More and more I catch myself making a “happier” choice, using a technique I picked up over the course of the last few weeks of doing these exercises.  I will admit, I really didn’t think it would have much impact, but slowly but surely, it has!  When I first signed up to be a Happify Pioneer, I was asked to complete a very simple happiness assessment.  Actually, you complete one every 2 weeks just to kind of see where you are.  My initial assessment yielded about the result I expected, I believe the exact words were “You’re getting by”.  That was accurate.  I took my 2nd one not too long ago and it actually showed progress (“You’re getting there”) and you know, that’s accurate too.  The community at Happify has been wonderfully encouraging.  So, at the risk of sounding like an ad (I swear I am not getting paid for this, I just really like the site :) ), I am going to give you another, more discreet opportunity to check it out for yourself.  You don’t even have to contact me for an invite this time!  If you’re curious and would like to check it out, just click here.  You can thank me later!  :)

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The Art (and Science) of Happiness

Happiness is a big deal.

At the lowest of my lows (over 10 years ago) someone asked to me to think back to the last time I felt truly happy.  It was waaaaaaay back.  I thought about it for a long time, and I’ve thought about it a lot since.  I had happy moments here and there, there were times I had fun, but real happiness always seemed so elusive.  I was in my mid-twenties at the time and I thought back years and years into the past.  One memory stuck out.  Nothing was special about the day that I can think of.  I don’t know what day it was or even exactly how old I was, although I would guess about 10 years old.  It was in the Fall I’m pretty sure, but early fall…there were still leaves on the trees.  It was in the afternoon, probably after school, the sun was just starting to set.  The air was crisp, but not cold.  I was riding my bike up and down the hill behind our house.  I was alone. I remember how I loved the way the setting sun was shining on the big wild cherry tree.  I loved the feel of the crisp air. I was content.  I was happy.

So, as I sat there at 24 years old, in a very sad, very bad place in my life, I thought to myself, “That can’t be right.” I thought surely I have been truly happy since then, what about when this happened or that happened?  I can honestly say that, yes, superficially I was happy probably many times in those years.  I was certainly outwardly happy. But then, it’s entirely possible that I didn’t even know what “happy” was. And by entirely possible, I mean probable. It’s even apparent by my line of thinking above…was I happy when this or that happened? It was always about something happening or someone doing something for me. Happiness, I thought, was something that was supposed to happen to me, not something I could just be. As far as I was concerned back then, it wasn’t really up to me. I had no control. So, at 24 years old, already in a really crappy place, I thought, “Wow! This is really not good!”.  Of course, nothing was particularly good at the time, but I never stopped to think how deeply rooted the problem might be. There it was, though, perspective.

I am not going to try to pretend that everything clicked and my life got better overnight. And I’m not saying I found the secret of life or even just the secret to happiness. It took several months from that point to even start to get better.  I may have gained that bit of perspective, but I had no idea what it really meant.  It’s an ongoing journey even still.  I kind of look at it as picking up pieces of the puzzle as I go.  That was a big, important piece, but there were still lots more to find before I could put it into place. So, years have passed since that revelation.  I’ve been married, divorced and remarried.  I became a mother.  I became an actual adult.  I became a mother for the second time.  And yes, those things probably happened in that order.  What can I say, I’m a late bloomer.  Somewhere over the years I did finally figure out that other people can’t really make me happy, although I do like it when they try!  Trips, dinners at nice restaurants, flowers and jewelry don’t a happy marriage make. Although, my poor ex-husband did try his best. It took years to work through my unhappiness, a lot of forgiving myself for some horrendous mistakes, a lot of unlearning what I thought I knew about being happy and learning what happiness really is to me.

I still struggle every now and then to just be happy, but you know, I think that’s normal.  I can always use a little help keeping me on track.  So, I was intrigued a few weeks ago when I received a particularly timely invitation from Happify.com to become a Happify Pioneer.  In their words, “Happify is turning the latest innovations in the science of happiness into fun activities and games that help you lead a more fulfilling life. Connect with an uplifting community, learn life-changing habits,and start Happifying today!”.  I am happy to be part of the process of launching Happify.com, I have enjoyed completing the little exercises on my Happify Track and I feel honored to have been asked to be a Pioneer.  It has been interesting to read about the science and habits behind being a happy person, and anything that can help me develop the habits and skills to be happy, I’m all for it!.  Happify is an invitation only site, lucky for you, I have a few invitations to give out!  Shoot me an email (through the Contact link above) if you’re interested!

 

 

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Is this thing on?

I’ve been so out of my routine with posting here that I have just about let it go entirely.  I sometimes forget how much I enjoy writing and how cathartic it is to get words and ideas out of my head.  I could give the usual excuse of having no time, but that wouldn’t be entirely true.  I do have time, I just haven’t chosen to spend it writing in the last 6+ months.  I’ve spent more time reading than I have in a long time, which has sort of recharged my mental batteries and given me new things to think about.  Of course, the bulk of my time, as always, is spent just living life…jobs, kids, bills, housework and the like.  For the last month or so (at least), I will admit I’ve been in a slump.  Probably my usual winter blues/seasonal affective disorder slump.  Some years I’m just more successful at keeping it at bay than others. This year, I’ve felt myself slip into that murkiness more than probably any other year since the kids were born.  Admittedly, I’ve fought it less than I should.  For the last week or so I have tried to shake it off with varying degrees of success.  Spring is coming though…I will dig myself out of this hole.  :)

It’s hard to believe February is more than halfway over.  I have been at my new job for almost 6 weeks now.  This change shook things up for sure.  The dust is settling slowly but surely.  The new challenges have been good for me.  I like that the change coincided nicely with the beginning of the new year.  It made it feel like 2012 was wrapped up nice and neat in a little package before 2013 brought along all this new stuff.  I like a clean slate.  I like nice, neat little packages.

Even with my nice, clean slate, I’ve been in a slump.  This winter (although it hasn’t been all that wintery) has been long.  I’m ready for Spring.  I’m ready to be outside soaking in some vitamin D.  I’m ready for my kids to be able to run around (like the little crazies they have been all winter) in the backyard.  I’m ready to plant my garden and sip some wine under the twinkle lights in the pergola.  Ah…Summer on the farm is the best!  Spring and Fall aren’t too bad either…it’s just the dreary winters that get me!

At least we’re on the downhill side of winter, it won’t be much longer.  We have projects waiting for nicer weather.  Mark is building a swingset/playhouse for the kiddos.  I cannot wait to take my yearly daffodil pictures.  I have flowerbeds to clean out, a garden to plan and then plant.  I have stuff to do!  Come on Mother Nature, cooperate!

 

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…and a Happy New Year!

Christmas has come and gone.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t glad it’s over, but I did enjoy it at least.  Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year…it’s always had a magical quality about it, as long as I can remember.  I don’t if it was my parents that instilled that quality or if it just inherently has that quality, but my best childhood memories…and some of my clearest memories…are centered around Christmas.  It wasn’t just Santa Claus, or the gifts he brought either.  In fact, I really only distinctly remember a few of those gifts.  I struggle to really describe it, and I think I’ve tried to explain it to Mark a little this year.  My descriptions fall short of what I’m trying to convey…because it isn’t a tangible thing, it’s a feeling.  The only word that comes close to summing it up, other than the very vague “magical”, is peaceful.  Christmas was always peaceful for me.  I’m sure to my parents it was tiring and messy and probably loud, but to me it was magical and peaceful.  I want nothing more than to make it that way for my kids too.  I have no idea how to do it, so I just do it pretty much how I do everything else…by feel…and I hope for the best.  I plan their gift lists carefully.  I buy.  I wrap.  I make hot chocolate for them and watch Christmas movies with them.  We sing Christmas songs while we get ready for school/work in the mornings.  I sing Silent Night to them at bedtime.  Our Elf on the Shelf moves every night.  They look for him each morning.  I make sure the Christmas tree is lit up each night.  I read Christmas books to them.  We look for the Christmas lights on the way home each night.  Little things.  I’m not sure they really get it yet.  I’m not sure if that’s because I’m doing it wrong or if they’re too young.  I see some of the magic in their eyes here & there.  I see the excitement, but I don’t know if they’re really feeling what I hope they are feeling.

I’m pretty confident that my overwhelming desire to make Christmas this way for our kids drives Mark nuts.  That’s why I made an attempt at one point to explain it to him, but, like I said, my descriptions fall short.  Me insisting on listening to the Bing Crosby Holiday channel on Pandora while I wrap presents just makes him roll his eyes.  (Roll on, buddy, this is how I do it!)  :)  Me insisting on listening to Christmas music in the car on the way to my grandmother’s house makes him grumpy.  Or maybe it’s just because it’s a 3 hour drive and we have to leave before it’s even light outside…could be either one…or both.  Still, there’s a reason I do those things.  We always listened to Christmas music on the radio on the way to my grandmother’s house on Christmas morning.  We left early back then too – we go there for breakfast – but probably not nearly as early as we have to now.  I’m sure it’s just an attempt to recapture a little, happy piece of my childhood.  So, I say, let me have that!  It’s just a little thing.  Yes, it may be annoying, but it’s one morning a year.  Surely that’s not too much to ask.  Rant over (and I didn’t even realize I was ranting).

Whether they “get it” or not, I think my kids had a pretty fabulous Christmas this year.  Santa came to our house a day early to accommodate our travel plans.  My mother-in-law came to watch them open gifts and have breakfast with us.  She got here at 7am.  We thought surely the kids would be up by then, but nooooo…any other morning, but not THAT morning.

Once we got them out of bed, William went straight to his Gran’s lap…He’s only cuddly when he first wakes up!

Once Anna was awake, it’s was time to open presents from Santa!  I thought they would tear into them this year, but they’d open one, then want to play with it.  We had to encourage them to keep going and get through them all!

It took quite a while to get through them all!  Below is William trying out his new remote control tractor:

Anna in the aftermath (with her kitty-cat flashlight):

After we open all the presents (and there were many), we had breakfast with Gran, then just barely enough time to get ready for Christmas with the rest of Mark’s family.  I didn’t take a single picture there (and I should have), but we all had a good time.  We left with 2 very tired kiddos and a haul of toys nearly equivalent in number to the ones they had opened from Santa just that morning!  We’re going to have to re-evaluate toy storage!

The next morning, very, very early, we loaded up and drove 3 hours to my grandmother’s house.  I was so, so tired and not totally willing to be up at the hour we had to get up, but I wouldn’t miss Christmas at my grandmother’s for the world.  So off we went, grumpy husband, tired kids and all…

William posing:

Anna with my mother:

My sister, Laura…isn’t she pretty?

My nephew Rhett, sleeping like a baby:

My cousin turned my daughter into a Christmas tree (Anna’s words):

My kids wearing my late grandfather’s hat…these are some of my favorite pictures of the day:

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Now here we are a couple days after Christmas.  The year is almost over, the New Year is right around the corner.  I love new beginnings.  2012 was not terrible for us.  It doesn’t take much to realize that my little family is lucky in so many ways.  We have been fortunate this year, and I am so thankful for that.  This year the New Year comes with changes already built in!  Just after the first of the year, I will begin a new job, complete with a new set of challenges.  I’m excited, and a little nervous, of course (I wouldn’t be me if there was some neurosis involved)!  I’m optimistic about what 2013 will bring, and I’m ready to get started.  Happy New Year!

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