An Open Letter to My Children 2017

Wow…what a year we have had.  It has been one year since I wrote the original An Open Letter to my Children 2016 and we’ve seen great joy and unbelievable hardships.  We’ve succeeded and failed….we’ve grown together.  I find myself in a new year (that isn’t so new anymore…already) with an eight- and five-year old, and again, I don’t know where the time went.  I try earnestly to tell my children exactly what they mean to me, exactly how I feel, every single day.  But I know these words fall flat on their tiny little ears, because there is no way they can yet understand the joy of being a parent.  Someday when they have children of their own, they will truly know.  Until then, I will continue to write to them, so when they gain perspective, they can look back and remember who they were at this point in time, who they were in the world and who they were to me.

To Jace:

Jace, you are eight years old today.  What an amazing eight-year old you are!  You are growing into yourself more and more every day.  You are learning what you love, what you don’t, and how to maneuver everything in between.  I was having a bad day last week.  I was struggling completing a school assignment and you noticed.  You didn’t have to notice, but you did.  That is who you are…you see people.   I had to leave the house to complete my assignment and dreaded coming home to dinner dishes.  I walked into the kitchen and there you were….standing in the center, wash rag in your hand.  The dishes were washed, dried and put away.  The counter tops were cleaned.  You did it all by yourself without anyone asking.  In that moment, you shined.  The kindness in your heart radiated.  You brought me joy….immense joy that I have a son who is so caring, kind, dedicated and hardworking.  You make me so proud.  Over the past year, you have changed in some ways but you’re still the same in others.  Scary movies are still your favorite.  You still love steak although I’m trying my best to convert you to a vegetarian.  The look on your face when I mention the word “cabbage” is priceless but you eat everything I cook.  You’re figuring out friendship.  Girls still get on your last nerve (thank God).  You love baseball…LOVE BASEBALL.  You won the baseball tourney this year and you were so happy.  You love to swim and run.  You have started speaking for yourself with more confidence.  You have your own style and opinions.  You went to Disney this year and loved all of the thrill rides, always questing the fastest and most exhilarating experience possible.  You love dirt bikes and classic cars.  You don’t love to read but you do it to appease me.  You helped me build and plant our garden this year, and you loved every moment of it.  You just a cool kid.  The best.  You’re a great friend.  You’re an awesome son.  Thank you for all of the love, joy and beauty you brought into my life over the last year.

To Jera:

Oh Jera, child, you are a tornado.  You leave a path behind you, and you are memorable in the most beautiful way.  We can never (and I mean NEVER) see your bedroom floor.  You leave a path in the bathroom…in the living room…on the front porch…you are constant movement and thinking.  You have fallen in love with art this year.  You have three or four drawings waiting for me each day that I pick you up from the sitter.  You love to draw our family and on each drawing you write “To Mom, Jera”.  You love music, and your dad and I smile when we hear your little voice carrying through the house from your bedroom as you play, from the bathroom as you bathe, and even from the toilet…you sing ALL the time.  You love Trolls and Moana.   We took you to Disney this summer and you refused to ride a single ride because you are afraid of anything fast, dark or high.  ‘It’s a Small World’ was a thrill ride for you. You love animals of all kinds.  You have a special tenderness with animals, and I see something special in the way you handle them.  You are incredibly smart, and I cannot wait to see what Kindergarten brings for you.  You love your family and don’t like to be away from us for any length of time…which should also make Kindergarten interesting.  You still give the best hugs….and kisses.  You are the most loving child.  You love tea parties and playing with your various little dolls.  You love using your imagination.  Your favorite food is beans, which makes me laugh.  You have gotten into the habit of whining when things don’t go your way…and I am anxiously awaiting for that phase to end.  You have started using the word “literally” in nearly every sentence, and when I hear it fall out of my mouth as well, I know where it comes from and it makes me smile.  You are kind. You are so beautiful, on the inside and outside.  You have so much energy and potential.  Everyday with you is an adventure.  Thank you for keeping life interesting.  For always being ready with the unexpected.  For keeping me on my toes.  Thank you for your love.

Love,

Your mom

If you haven’t, take a moment to reflect on your family today.  Write it down.  It will be gone tomorrow, and the moments you think you’ll always remember will fade away into new, exciting growth and development.  Live in the moment.  Don’t think about tomorrow.  Focus on your family.  Love too much today.  Happy Sunday!

Just Say No

Good, great and beautiful Sunday morning! I love mornings in general, but Sunday mornings? There is just something about those precious few peaceful hours that makes all the world right.

Life continues to be absolutely crazy. A week ago, I finished my fifth MBA course marking my half way point in the program. Then Monday, I rolled right into my sixth class with Computer Information Systems…no rest for the wicked they say. I’ve taken on some new professional challenges, determined to continue growing and move forward with my skill set and work experience. 

We’ve had golf camp, art camp, VBS, baseball and Cub Scouts. After a sedentary year of adjusting to being back in school, I’ve started running again with my sister (see the photo below…I made her run in the rain and then take a makeup free picture 😲…she thinks I’m trying to kill her but she’ll thank me later!). And finally, I’ve started reading again (for fun!). I’ve decided to go back through the classics that I “cliff noted” my way through in high school and to try to actually appreciate them this time. I just finished Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (absolutely fantastic) and am now reading To Kill a Mockingbird.


I feel a shift within myself. There are no more hours in the day today than there were a year ago. But today I feel more productive and happier and thankful for the energy to do all of the things I’m passionate for. This change, these happy moments with my children, with my husband, in my career, in my schoolwork, they haven’t been without a cost.

I have learned little by little to start saying no. Let me clue you in to the fact that I hate saying no. I want to do it all. Be involved, support all good causes, be a strong leader in my community, church and work… But in order to be happy, in order to be content, in order to be the Christian, wife, and mom that I am designed to be, I have learned that I have to pick and choose where I am spending my time very wisely. 

Sometimes the no’s are obvious and sometimes they’re painfully difficult. Some of my no’s were easier than I imagined. I say no to TV today. I say no to social media. The truth is that I  have better places to spend my time, and when I’m focused on television or social media, I losing time on something I find more precious. You may be reading this blog via a Facebook link thinking “what a hypocrite, ” but let me tell you that these are not hard no’s. If my day is done, and my husband has settled into bed to watch a good murder mystery, you better believe I am by his side. If my child has done something adorable (as children often do), I will make a post on Facebook to share with my friends and family. But gone are the days of spending an afternoon on a Netflix binge or blindly scrolling through a Facebook feed while sitting with my family. I’ve turned off all notifications to my cell phone and try to leave my phone put away any time that I know my focus should be on my family, work and/or school. So of all my no’s, this was an easy one. This no has brought me many moments of great joy and peace.

However, there have been other no’s that hurt my heart. I had to resign from some volunteer work; volunteer work that I know is important, that is vital even. But I saw myself swimming…drowning in commitments that I could not follow through. My joy in life was slipping. I was missing out on too many tuck-ins with my kids, too many opportunities to grow mentally, emotionally and/or physically. Right now, at this point in my life, I have to make difficult choices. I am happier today for the no’s I’ve forced myself to say. I am a better wife and mom. I can feel God’s joy in my heart because I am taking moments to just sit in his peace. I can share that joy with my family and friends. That is my number one responsibility in this life. 


When was the last time you had a moment to sit in God’s peace and love? Are you making quiet time to just be? It’s difficult. It’s one of the hardest things in life for me. I also believe it’s one of the most important. Saying no isn’t always easy, but the rewards are exponential. Make today a joyous day. Say no to the things that aren’t on your priority list (and if you don’t have a priority list, make one). Say yes instead, to the things that bring you peace and joy. Here is a list of my “insteads” since I’ve started to say no: a walk with my kids, a bike ride, a run, planting a garden, reading a great book, listening to my favorite podcast, dancing with my children, coloring a page with my daughter, washing my dishes, sitting on the front porch with my husband…the list will continue to grow. I am so thankful. I’m wishing you the best of days over this holiday weekend. Happy 4th of July from my family to yours! 

Am I Raising A Cheapskate???

My household has been rolling through some changes. As time moves forward, as I spend more time in the workforce, as we buy nicer cars, clothes and homes, I’ve truly come to realize the value of a dollar. I have never been and am not naturally frugal, and unfortunately probably wouldn’t even qualify as frugal today (although I’m trying!). However, my goals and concerns are changing. 

Everyone likes nice things, but I must say those nice things just aren’t as important to me anymore. As I grow and make realizations about money and budgeting, I try to share this cost-conscious mind-set with my children. 

My daughter is five and, for her, “money ain’t a thing.” (Hope you enjoy that Jay-Z reference…I’m a child of the 00’s 😏). She was excitedly talking about the next enormous, ridiculous thing she wanted…it’s hard to recall if it was a horse, helicopter, or mansion. She thinks big. What I do remember very vividly is my son looking at her skeptically and saying, “Do you know how much that costs?!”

 

That was a moment for me. Is it okay that my eight-year-old is thinking about the cost of something instead of dreaming of the biggest and best? I wasn’t sure if I should be proud or a little sad. There are times I wish we didn’t have to worry about budgets and discounts. Times I wish we were in a position to give our children everything they want.

 

But in that moment, and as I reflect now, I choose to be proud. I talk candidly with both my children about money, about spending money and saving money. They earn money for “work” they do. When they choose to spend, I make them put an equal amount of cash into their savings accounts. I’ve even had them begin to choose between big birthday parties or big birthday presents, we don’t do both. I want them to realize the value of not only the tangible things in life, but also the value of experiences. 

My kids don’t suffer for much. We’re extremely fortunate in the fact that they don’t always have what they want, but they do have what they need. I don’t take that lightly and am very grateful for that. I also talk with my kids about this fact. There are people, there are even children, who do not have what they need. We are fortunate to live the life we do.


Today, as I continue to learn about how to make the most of this life, financially and otherwise, I will continue to talk to my children in an honest and frank way about the important money choices we make. I’m interested to hear from my readers if this is something you work on with your kids. What have you found that works? Do you talk about money with your children? 

Also, let’s talk budgets and savings!!!  What works for your family? My family has recently gone sans-satellite and cable and switched to streaming tv only (saving $70 every month). We’ve read and studied Dave Ramsey and are fans of the cash envelope system.  Where else can we improve? I’d love to hear all of your money-saving tips and tricks!

I’m wishing everyone a wonderful Sunday!

MIA Thanks to an MBA

I’m not sure what I thought getting my MBA would be like. Whatever I thought, I’m certain in this moment that the reality of working toward my graduate degree, while working full time and being a mom and wife, Cub Scout leader and Sunday school teacher…is actually much, MUCH worse than I imagined.

I wore Betty Boop Christmas socks to work today. In public. Sure did. My son wore the same pair of pants to school two days this week, unwashed. (Don’t tell him…he doesn’t know.) I’m fairly certain I hear my son coughing down the hall right now, but I would have no idea if he’s sick because I literally haven’t seen him in four days. There are dirty dishes on my counter. 

Today I worked 9 hours. I studied and did my homework for an hour while on my lunch break. I studied for two and a half hours after work….and then took a three hour quiz. I came home with everyone asleep, ate dinner alone, took a shower and now I lie here, exhausted but entirely unable to sleep. My mind is still racing, thinking about alpha and standard deviations and variances. Ugh. 


And this is an ordinary day these days. 

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Five more weeks of Statistics 601 and then one summer session and then…finally, a summer break. I’m thinking baseball, beaches and camping. Sun on my skin. My children’s voices in my ear and their hands in mine. I’m thinking of my husband’s handsome face and seeing him with his eyes open and conscious…that’ll be nice. 

I don’t share to complain. This is my choice, my privilege. My hope is that this work will benefit my family. That my children will learn what grit and determination look like. That I will grow in knowledge and capabilities. That I will learn exactly what I’m made of. This journey is difficult and I truly couldn’t be doing it on my own. My husband, parents, in-laws…without them, an MBA would be impossible for me. 

So tonight, rather than complaining that my house is chaos, my laundry is undone, that I’m utterly drained….I will be thankful. Thankful for my family who are helping me to achieve my goals, thankful for my friends who encourage me every single day, thankful for the capacity and drive to learn. Thankful for technology and education. Thankful that tomorrow is a rare occasion that I get to curl up with my family and relax for our weekly Hafele Family Movie Night. Thankful for another day in this crazy world living this crazy life.

By the way, I’m down to only my fuzzy, penguin striped socks…so when you see me wearing them tomorrow, don’t judge me. 

I hope everyone has a great weekend. Enjoy the time you have with those that mean the most and don’t take a moment for granted!

Getting to Know Him

Valentines Day is quickly approaching and with it comes the high (or low…depending on your relationship!) expectations for the so-called holiday. This will be my 14th V-Day with my husband. This special day has me thinking about our relationship. I’m thinking of the ways he’s changed through the years. I love my husband; I’ve always been thankful for him and of course, I think he’s pretty spectacular. There were a few years in the beginning when I genuinely thought the man could do no wrong. I remember standing in my mother’s kitchen, butterflies in my stomach and stars in my eyes, telling my family that I couldn’t even imagine him ever being in a bad mood….he’s so funny and sweet. So…we’ve moved past that. I’ve certainly experienced all of his moods. And he’s experienced allllllllll of mine.

You see, we know each other now.

I know that he leaves his laundry on the side of the bed every single day instead of walking two feet to the laundry basket. I know that he drinks milk overnight and leaves his dirty cup on the nightstand when he heads out the next morning. I know he hates doing the dishes. I know he doesn’t fold laundry. I know he isn’t a morning person and until about 11:00 a.m. I’m on my own. I know crowds stress him out and he doesn’t enjoy social events like I do. I know he’ll never love running or exercising with me unless I learn to play basketball. I know he’s completely unable to finish an entire movie without losing interest or getting up to walk around. I know he’s going to stop my DVR recordings to watch a rerun of Family Guy. I know he will insist on turning to the game even though I have zero interest in sports of any kind. I know a lot about all of his weird and annoying habits. I know a lot about him.

There’s something amazing that happens in long relationships. You get to know each other. You realize that that perfect person you fell in love with is a product of your imagination, and behind that image that you’ve created is a real, imperfect human being. Here’s the amazing part. If you allow it…if you choose to not pick your partner apart for those idiosyncrasies, something amazing happens. You get to know the person you love…you get to know him in a way that no one else in this entire world will ever know him.

Today, I KNOW my husband. I’ve learned that he is a man who loves me, unconditionally, all the time, even when he doesn’t necessarily show it. He’s proved to me that in a good mood or bad, he’s still always going to be here by my side. I’ve learned that he’s someone who will make me a bubble bath, put on soft music and pour me a glass of wine when life becomes too much for me to bear. He will support me in all of my ventures whether it’s running a half marathon or my latest moment of insanity…deciding to get my masters degree. He will take time off work to stay with our sick kids so I can attend an important meeting. He will bring home surprises for our little ones just to see them smile. He will plant fake bugs in places I don’t expect them, just to see me jump (yes, I find this endearing…we were certainly made for each other). He will rub my back every single night, even if he lets out a sigh when I ask. He will make supper. He will tidy the house. He will take out the trash every single day of our lives and never ask me to do it…not once. He will surprise me with a home office space when he sees me struggling to concentrate on my studies in the chaos of our kitchen. He will take care of me. He will love our children. He will support our family. He will be my partner in this crazy life come hell or high water. He will accept me, love me, champion me, forgive me. He will overlook all of my flaws and see me for who I am…a woman who loves him very much.

He is the most perfect partner I could ask for in this life. Not perfect, but perfect for me. We have a choice in relationships. We can let the little things go. We can let them go so we can be given a chance to see the big things. When we allow the person we love to be just who they were made to be, a new world opens up. A world where  we don’t have to be perfect and neither does he. A world where love really is everything. Every day when I’m bending down to grab that pile of laundry by my husband’s bed side, instead of griping, I choose to be thankful. Thankful that he’s in my life and for all of the ways he makes every day wonderful.

I’m wishing everyone a happy Valentine’s Day this year. I hope it’s all that you expect, but more importantly, I hope you are loved and that you choose to love in return.

Shine a Light for Me

This year is off with a bang…and it’s only January 30th.  As per our usual, this year we’ve seen more than our fair share of medical professionals; we have been enduring a cancer scare with my 4-year old daughter, Jera; I’ve been working through a challenging MBA course…and  all of this has culminated into the ridiculous body of tension that I have become.  This day, Monday, January 30th, was especially overwhelming for me.  I had a quiz due that I have been killing myself studying for…and while that weighed on me heavily, there was more to my stress level today than school.

I have been a total stress case.  Caring for Jera following her tonsillectomy last week, trying to keep her comfortable and happy, working to master my MBA course, Corporate Finance…it has all been…hard.  

I’m not normally a crier, at least not without good reason (I mean, aside from when I watch Marley and Me…but really if you don’t cry during that movie, you’re just stone cold).  In the past two weeks, I’ve found myself in tears more often than I care to admit…trying to sort out my thoughts and feelings…trying to manage myself by myself. Until I just can’t anymore.  My poor family…my mom has received a crying call, my husband has been tearfully dialed, my best friend has gotten sad text messages.   While I’ve worked hard to hold it together, the stress and worry have taken a toll on me and my soul is drained.

The surgeon told me I could call his office in a week to check on Jera’s biopsy results.  Today, five days following the surgery, I couldn’t wait anymore.  I dialed the office mid-morning and left a message with the nurse, hoping that Jera’s biopsy results would be in.  When lunch came and went and I didn’t receive a returned call, I figured the results hadn’t arrived and I would have to wait.  I went online and took another dreaded Corporate Finance quiz (what kind of quiz takes 90 minutes FOR SIX QUESTIONS?!!!)  I was relieved to score better than I had expected.  But still, in my heart was a heaviness.  I decided to take Jera for ice cream and we pigged out.  There’s nothing like soft serve to soothe the soul.


Then, as I was making dinner, my phone rang.  It was the ENT’s nurse.  She was calling to tell me that Jera’s biopsy results are in and the biopsy was NORMAL.  That’s right folks, Jera is CANCER-FREE!!!  She’s just my little fruitcake of a daughter with a former set of goofy (AKA asymmetric) tonsils.  I thanked the nurse for calling and hung up the phone.  I can’t describe to you the feelings that moved through my mind, body and soul in that moment.  Relief, joy, gratitude, exhilaration…there aren’t enough adjectives on this Earth to describe the happiness that call delivered.

There are people whose calls are different than the one I received.  There are people who aren’t  relieved of their worrisome burden with a phone call delivering normal biopsy results.  People I love have received devastating news instead.  I’ve watched those I love wither away with cancer and pass on in the most painful, devastating way.  I’ve also watched others I love fight bravely, becoming the very essence of strength and beauty and beating the fearsome beast.  Today, I am so thankful.  I am so thankful that my sweet daughter doesn’t have to face that fight.  So thankful that she will continue to be her bright, funny, reserved, goofy, girly, wonderfully-made self.


There are no words to repay the prayers that have gone up for us.  There are so many who don’t believe in the power of prayer.  I do.  While prayer may not always change test results, it certainly can lift you up and carry you through difficult times.  Prayer lets us know we are not alone.  Prayer is love.  You cannot pray for someone without loving them.  In praying for your neighbor, you strengthen not only your neighbor, but you grow love in your own heart as well.  And even more importantly, in praying for yourself, you invite God in and allow Him to help. I have been stressed.  I have cried.  I have been short and snapped and laid awake wondering.  But through prayer and the support, prayers and love of our friends and family, we have made it through this trial and we are ready to move on to brighter days.  The start of this year has been difficult, but after the good news we received today, it has also been awesome.  God is good.

I’ll end this blog with the lyrics of a song I heard for the first time yesterday by Brad Randall. I had never heard of him or his music…I was listening to a “popular” music station, not a Christian station…but this song came across my speakers at the exact moment I needed it and I know it was a God-thing. 

Make a path for me, make it wide for every man to see

Maybe I’ll find it

Shine a light for me, make it pure and hang it from a tree

So bright I’m blinded

If I said I don’t want you to come knockin’ on my door

Then I’d be lying

If for some reason I told you I don’t need you anymore

Then I’d be lying… lying

Enough, hearing voices I can’t stand to hear like thunder from a storm

Where is your lightning

I’m tossing and turning underneath my sheets at night in a room no longer warm

My chest is tightening

If I said that I could get through this without any help

Then I’d be lying
If my lips claim I’m strong enough to take care of myself

Then I’d be lying… lying

I’d be lying

Cover my ears and my heart is broken
Bruise on my knees when the walls start to open
I’m searching through the tunnels of the feelings that are running deep

Wasting time because the answer is right in front of me
Battling an enemy that is standing about five foot ten

Wondering if I’m ever gonna be myself again

Hold me in your arms and take away my worldly fears

Please don’t tell me all the things that I don’t wanna hear
I’m so afraid of what you’re gonna tell me
The fears come but I know you led me

Know the problems that are wearing out my soul inside

It’s the only way that I can make the wrong go right

Make the wrong go right

And I love everything about you

Everything about you 

If I said I don’t want you to come

Knocking on my door

Then I’d be lying… Lying…

Priorities Heal Disappointment 

Can we talk just for a moment about priorities? Today is a day that I need to talk about this…about not only making choices about what is important but accepting the consequences of those choices. The logical part of my mind knows that when we realize our priorities, we inevitably miss out on something else (although that doesn’t ever stop me from trying to have it all). But when the inevitable opportunity cost is paid, when I reach my capacity in one form or another, it just about breaks my heart. Does anyone else struggle with this?

This weekend I made choices that ultimately led to a less than desirable grade on my exam today. I know I could have studied harder; I could have taken more time to prepare. I didn’t do anything wrong. I chose to catch up on rest. I chose to spend time with my husband and friends. I chose not to miss my son’s Boy Scout meeting or church with my children. While none of those choices were bad choices, those are the choices that led me to feel disappointment today.

This is my point. There is too much in this life. Too much to do, too many places to be, too many people to please. I come back to the fact that, not only do I have to have my priorities straight, I also have to be okay with the consequences of those priorities. 

I’m learning that our priorities not only can change throughout the stages of our lives, but that they should change. When we take on new responsibilities our priorities must shift. We must take inventory of our to-do’s and make decisions about what falls where. I’ve recently taken on the responsibility of earning my MBA and it’s radically changed my life (and the lives of those I love). Things that used to be important to me (exercise, rest, fun) have taken a backseat and I’ve reorganized my life to meet this goal. 

For me always, God comes first, then my family, then my job. But now, after those absolutes, comes school. It comes before all other responsibilities, wants and needs. It is hard. It is hard to sacrifice and give up so much. But it is what I signed up for, and it is what I have to do.

Today I feel as though I let myself down. But I know I was not prepared because  I spent my afternoon with my son at his Boy Scout meeting. Because I spent the evening with my husband and best friend feeling like a real, actual person for the first time in weeks. Because I went to church and spent time there. Because I wanted to make it to my son’s basketball practice. These are the choices that led to less study time. While it is so disappointing to not meet my own expectations for school, I have to be okay with the choices I made. I have to be okay with the priorities that I set out for my life. I have no one to blame but myself and I have to learn to roll with the punches, knowing that I’ll find a way to make it work better the next time around.

I share this because we all have too much on our plates. We all have sacrifices and we all make choices. Sometimes the consequences of our choices hurt. Sometimes we are limited in our ability. But those moments of hurt are the moments when we have to look back at our priorities. Sometimes what we had because of those priorities…because of the choices our priorities led to (in my case a pie to the face by 4 Boy Scouts and my stinker of a daughter)….the gifts we were given in place of what we missed are actually worth what is sacrificed. 

I hope that makes sense. 

Sometimes coming to terms about what we can’t do is actually about knowing what we did do instead. At the end of the day, if we look back and can’t feel better after this type of review, maybe it’s time to look at our priorities and realign. When our priorities are in order, we know that what we’ve gained with our choice is so great, that we can be okay with what we’ve lost. Our priorities can actually heal our disappointments. That realization is an amazing gift for me. I hope it is for you too.