An Open Letter to my Kids 2021

It’s late on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in September. The sun is shining, we’ve been to a cross country invitational, made tacos, I got in a run, and we squeezed in a movie as a family. What else is left to do but write? In past years, I’ve written this open letter in July, but here we are in September, and I’m finding the months just flying by. So here I am, a little late, but determined to leave behind these memories for me, for my children, for our family, and for whoever else enjoys sharing in our story.

I wrote my first open letter to my children in 2016. Jace was seven, Jera was was four, and Jema wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye. Our world has changed since then, and then changed again. We experienced life changing losses, met educational and professional goals, we fell apart a few times and rebuilt something stronger and more genuine each step of the way. We have survived a pandemic and are still battling through the environment created in that chaos. Through it all, I have realized that I have the most blessed life, one in which God has given me what my heart needs and desires most: a relationship with Him, a marriage with my soul mate, and the three best kids in the world. So five years after I first began, I can’t wait to capture the special moments over the past year and what makes every day imperfectly perfect in our lives.

For Jace, my son:

You are twelve years old today, but not for long. It’s difficult to believe we are on the cusp of having a teenage son. In the same breath, you are so mature, responsible, and wise beyond your years, that it also makes perfect sense. Funny how life can be set at such a juxtaposition, too fast and too slow, all at the same time. The past year has been a blast with you as you started middle school sports. You participate in cross country and wrestling, and your dad and I love to watch you compete. You work hard and push yourself, but you also value sportsmanship. You’re the first to be proud of your friends for their good finishes and matches. That makes me proud of you. Just last week, you ran in your first half marathon with a relay team and brought home second place. While the recognition was nice, seeing you accomplish something so monumental was simply unbelievable. You encouraged your teammates, cheered for them, and shared in the spirit of the sport.

You also excel in your school work. You put in the work and bring home good grades. I don’t have to check in on you to make sure you do your homework or study for exams, because you set high standards for yourself. You make this parenting thing too easy for your dad and me. We are so thankful for your work ethic. And speaking of work ethic, you’re still bringing in the cash mowing yard after yard in the neighborhood. You talk with our neighbors as you work with them, making sure their lawns are the right height, that you’re mowing on the days they prefer, and that they’re happy with your service. They often tell me what a good boy you are, and I couldn’t agree with them more. You are outstanding in so many ways, and I’m not sure why I was so blessed to be your mother, but I’m grateful.

Some of your favorite things are running, wrestling, steak, takis, Shameless, fishing, and riding your bike. You are still a type A kid and keep your room pretty neat and tidy. You’re independent and helpful, but best of all, you have a big caring heart. This year you began attending The Well at Redemption Church. This was a big change for you, and I’m so proud of the ways that you’ve made choices for your faith to bring you closer to God. I see you share your faith with your friends and family, and that makes me so incredibly proud of you. You don’t shy away from difficult conversations and express yourself in such a respectful way. I see in you a tolerance and understanding for others. You are an old soul.

Jace, you are a wonderful son, a strong and faithful young man, determined and strong-willed. Thank you for being you, and for all of the joy you bring into my life.

For Jera, my daughter:

Jera, you are nine years old today. I sometimes forget that you are so much younger than your brother and cousins, because you can run with the big kids without missing a step. Your humor and reserved nature sometimes make you seem tougher than you are, but then I see your sweet feelings hurt, and I am reminded just how tender and sensitive you are. That hidden softness, the quiet shyness that you keep tucked away, makes me love you even more (if that is possible). Over the past year you have continued to excel in academics. You make excellent grades and just tried out for the spell bowl team. You have continued to play piano and take singing lessons, and you bring me to tears as you share your songs with others in church. You have such a sweet and beautiful voice and getting to watch you use your talent is a special joy in my life. You ran in Girls on the Run for the first time this year. I was so grateful to get to be your coach and run in the celebration 5k with you. I will carry those memories with me for the rest of my life.

You are also the most amazing big sister. Jema absolutely adores you and mimics your every move (and word). Patience can be difficult for you, but not when it comes to Jema. I see you share with her, encourage her, laugh with her, show her grace and kindness…I see you blooming into a wonderful, sweet young woman, and you’re so beautiful. Your thoughtfulness is one of my favorite of your attributes. You will write notes to your dad, bring me a snack, plan surprises for those you love. You look forward to birthdays and holidays, planning what presents you will get for others to make their day special. You shine in giving to others, and it’s an honor to see this wonderful part of your soul.

You have continued your love for cooking, and you’ve recently been blowing my mind with your culinary treats. You’re creative when you cook, whipping up everything from specialty coffees to fancy pasta dishes. You like to cook on your own, but don’t mind me being your sous-chef and helping with some chopping and, of course, the dishes. I also get to be a taste tester…every job has it’s perks.

In this moment you love Harry Potter, fidget toys, everything Halloween, slime, your stuffed animals, pillows and blankets, Toca Boca, and scary movies. I’ve seen you grow in responsibility, remembering to do your chores most of the time and sticking to your budget when we school shopped this year. It made me so proud of you to see you pick and choose what you wanted most as you learned the value of money and just how quickly it goes. You picked some of the cutest things for the school year, and it was a joy to watch your fashion show when we got home. I love that you find joy in small treasures, like the tiny crocheted pumpkins you found at the “junk store” which are now proudly displayed on your vanity. You are also always the first to volunteer to lead our family in prayer. Your willingness to pray and trust in God is inspiring, and I appreciate that so much about you.

Jera, I love your sweet heart, your style, and all of the ways you surprise me and bring me joy every single day. I am so proud of you and thankful to call you my daughter.

To Jema, my baby:

Jema Mae, you are two years old today. You may be the baby, but my child, you are also the queen. You are a mix of sassy and sweet that often keeps us guessing, but also completely melts our hearts. There is nothing greater in this life than when you hold my hand, when you crawl into my lap, or ask me to rock you. Our nighttime routine these days includes rocking in your room, singing Amazing Grace, and then you promptly asking to be tucked in. You still have your entire family at your beck and call, with your dad and me, your brother and your sister waiting for your next new word, funny face, silly dance move, or whatever your energetic little self musters up. You love to jump off the furniture, down the steps, and run down the hallway at your absolute fastest. You are happy, joyous and free, and you bring such a bright light to our lives.

While you can be quite commanding when it comes to the remote control and which of your shows we are going to watch, you are also ridiculously laid back. You get carted around to piano lessons and cross country meets, to wrestling matches and camping trips, and you go with the flow each step of the way. You enjoy our many adventures and like seeing new people and places. You are such a good child in fact, that your dad and I revel in the fact that we got so lucky three times.

Your favorite things today are Monster House, dinosaurs, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, going for walks and to the park, Booba, and hanging with your big sister. You also love your brother, although you seem to enjoy giving him a hard time. You love coloring and make me laugh each and every time that you point out and tell me that you’ve colored the animal’s ‘butt’. You attend speech therapy weekly and of all the words you’ve learned, I get a kick out of fact that ‘butt’ is one you use often. You love your sessions with your speech therapist and always look forward to playing with her. We are amazed at the growth and many new words and phrases you’ve learned in the past few months. You are my sidekick and especially enjoy helping me to water the plants. You are a great little helper. You have such a cool little personality and getting to know you is an unexpected blessing for which I will be forever grateful.

Jema, the Jem, Jem-Bim, your dad and I love you so very much. Thank you for the many precious moments, the laughs, and for reminding us that God’s plan is so perfect. You are the last piece of our family puzzle, and you make us complete.

I can’t imagine what the next year will bring our family, and I choose not to spend too much energy thinking about that. Instead, I will keep my focus on today. On the sweet little dumpling sitting next to me, snacking on her graham cracker and asserting very clearly to me that the snack is “mine” and she will not be sharing. On the funny and gentle girl in her room redesigning her Toca Boca house for the ump-teenth time. On the young man kicking back relaxing downstairs after running his heart out this morning. And perhaps most importantly, on the man who made this life possible, my loving and kind husband. For today, everything is just right, and for that I thank God. If you took the time to read about my family today, I hope you will also take the time to tell yours just how special they are. When we have each other, we truly have everything.

Letting Go

Happy 2019, Folks.  I pitifully spent much of my evening last night watching everyone’s celebrations from the comfort of my cozy bed in my pajamas.  I also sat and timed contractions for 36 minutes that were around seven minutes apart and lasted for 45 seconds at a time.  I waited anxiously for the contractions to get closer together, more painful or last longer…but to no avail.  At 40 weeks and five days pregnant, I am truly beginning to feel like round, uncomfortable and tired is my new permanent state of being.  I’ve actually googled to see if there is a possibility that I will never go into labor.  The internet says no, but I’m having my doubts.

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I’ve spent the last few days trying to get a handle on the past year, and what this particular new year means to me.  I have always been a big fan of the new year season with all of its potential and promise, but this year, I’ve had a difficult time coming to terms with what the previous year meant to me and what I want the coming year to be.  For me 2018 is a bit of a blur with both tremendous moments and terrible heartache.  Such is life.

When I focus on the good, I see that I graduated with my Master’s Degree, I made a career move that I’m ecstatic about, and I made a human being (who is currently stubbornly refusing to be born).  These are big moments which I should be excited and proud of….and I am, but I find that I feel a little detached from these accomplishments, as though they  happened to someone else.

Maybe that is the true value of reflection.  We work incredibly hard to reach our goals, and then when all of that work translates to the end goal, we’re done.  It’s over.  We move on to the next thing and the past months or years of focus and dedication fade quickly to the background as life’s next dilemma or joy takes over.

As I move into 2019, I will take the time here to reflect not only on my successes, but also on what those successes taught me:

  • Finishing my MBA taught me that I have a unique kind of perseverance that allows me to stay the course when things become especially difficult.  I learned that I truly love to learn, and without a learning process of some sort in my life, I feel stale and stagnated.  I learned that to succeed, I need the support of my friends and family.  I learned that even when it feels impossible to do, I have to make my children and family my number one priority.
  • Moving into the Recruiting/Human Resource Field taught me the importance of living for the experience, not the final outcome.  I experienced some bumps and bruises along the path to my current position.  There were moments that I felt angry and bitter about the process, and I could have allowed myself to sit in that moment.  Instead, I chose to value what each experience taught me and move forward with that sentiment in mind.  Although I couldn’t see how things would work out, I had faith that they would.  That faith carried me through to the place where I am today, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to start a new professional adventure this year.
  • I made a human, ya’ll. 2018 has brought the unexpected, and the greatest of all of my 33 years of life’s surprises has to be the blessing of my third child. This pregnancy has taught me that my plans don’t matter.  Talk about a humbling experience.  My 2018 plans included maintaining a healthy, vegan diet, completing a half marathon, and focusing 100% on my career.  My 2018 reality included pregnancy food aversions so severe and pregnancy induced anemia which made me so sick, that I became desperate enough to eat anything my body would tolerate, including meat, dairy and eggs.  The year included fifty pounds of weight gain that have made walking to the refrigerator a challenge, let alone the thought of running anywhere.  2018 brought the realization that my career will never, and should never, be the center of my focus.  I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend.  My career is important to me, but none of that success matters if I’m not the person I need to be at home.

Even as I write this, I am coming to terms with an epiphany that what this year has really taught me is that I need to appreciate the moments in life and spend less energy in a future that isn’t promised.  That for all it’s worth and although I will always be a “planner”, this life is not a planned event.  That I have no control over what is next or what 2019 will bring (although I’m hoping that the most immediate arrival for the new year will be this baby!).  And that while this life is difficult and beautiful at the same time, the very best thing I can do is to get down on my knees and put it all in God’s hands.

I need to appreciate the moments in life and spend less energy in a future that isn’t promised

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For the New Year, for 2019, my resolution will be to trust, to pray every day to let go and let God, to focus on the moment and enjoy each second for what it is.  I hope to get back into shape, to put some energy into my art work, continue to write and journal, continue to find those parts of myself that have taken a back seat while I’ve worked to build a career and family over the past decade…but most importantly, I hope to remember and be thankful for the fact that I am not in control.  I certainly lost sight of this in 2018, and it is liberating to let it go in 2019.

I hope to remember and be thankful for the fact that I am not in control

I am wishing my readers a blessed year full of love and all of life’s happiness.  I hope that faith and family carry you through the difficult times ahead, and that you are present and engaged for all of the joyous miracles that are in store for you.  Take the time to reflect today on what has been, and how it has changed you.  Every experience holds a lesson for us.  My hope for you is that you take those lessons and spend a moment in thankfulness for them.  Happy New Year!

I leave you with some of my happiest 2018 moments:

Best Mom Ever Status????

Something has occurred in my household numerous times over the last….well, I’m not even sure how long…as long as I remember, I guess.  I’ll be snuggling my children on the couch, or at bedtime, or we’ll be sitting down to supper, or we’ll be doing nothing in particular, and my children, my son or my daughter, will look at me and declare, “You’re the best mom ever.”  The statement throws me off every single time.  I usually respond with, “Well I do love you with all of my heart.”  I don’t say thank you, I don’t own that title, I don’t feel deserving…instead, I feel a kind of guilt sweep over me, thinking “No, no I’m the not the best mom ever. I could be so much better.”

Have you ever felt that?  That feeling that you’re being credited with something that just isn’t yours to own…and by the person/people that you love more than anything else on this planet.  Those people that you owe everything to because they bring you the most happiness, the most contentment, the most joy.  A feeling of shame because you can’t or won’t do more for them.  That feeling, that shameful, guilty feeling is the one that sweeps over me, when my beautiful children look to me, thinking that I am someone that I am just not.

That feeling, that shameful, guilty feeling is the one that sweeps over me, when my beautiful children look to me, thinking that I am someone that I am just not.

Here are the things that keep me from owning that “Best Mom” status…these are the things that make me feel guilty and less than:

  1. I don’t listen.  I don’t listen to my children.  I started a tradition a long time ago with my children for them to tell me each day about their high and low moment.  I did this out of fear that they would grow up and not talk to me about their lives, so I thought I would open the communication channels early.  Let me tell you, talking is not a problem in my house.  My children talk all the time, non-stop, every moment…about sports cars, YouTube videos, music, video games, friends, teachers, cell phones, animals…you get the idea.  And some times, more times than I care to admit, I nod my head without listening, because I can’t take it all in…knowing full and well a day will come when their chatter won’t fill every moment of my life.  Knowing I shouldn’t take this for granted, but still, I don’t listen.
  2. I feed them crap.  Not literal crap, but you know…poptarts, cereal, Beefaroni, Ramen Noodles, lunchables.  I know these are not healthy choices…far from organic or natural…definitely not fresh or nutritious.  My children deserve healthy, wholesome, nutritious food, and I try to get those things to them them regularly.  But I also just settle for feeding them the instant, easy junk because, well because…it’s instant and easy.  No other excuses.  Along these same lines, I also don’t fix my kids’ lunch for school.  No fancy, pretty bento lunches for the Hafele children.  My daughter actually asked to bring lunch to school the other day, and I just said “No” for no other reason than I don’t want to fix my kids’ school lunch every single evening…or ever.
  3. I haven’t exercised with my kids for a long time.  In the past, I have had great parenting moments where my kids and I ride bikes,go for runs, walk to the park and do all of these great active things together.  But I’ve not had one of those moments for a long time.  For a while because I was finishing my MBA, and now because I’m pregnant and out of shape, but they deserve to have a mom who gets down and plays with them on their level.  The fact that I can’t and haven’t done that, makes me feel nothing short of horrible.
  4. I love to go to work.  I love my job and my career and working.  Even if I had the option to stay home with my children financially, I don’t think that I would.  I love spending time with my children, but my career is fulfilling for me as an unique human being.  I feel challenged by and excited for my career  in a way that is 100% my own, and I’m not willing to give that up.  I grew up in a household where my mother stayed home from work to raise me, so this is a tough one for me.  Don’t my children deserve that same focus and dedication?  Does it make me a bad mom that I’m not willing to sacrifice my professional aspirations to be a full time mom?
  5. I don’t remind them to brush their teeth every single night, I forget to give my daughter her allergy medicine some mornings, I don’t always remember to clean their ears or trim their nails, my daughter’s finger nails aren’t painted, she doesn’t have ear rings in, I don’t watch my son practice ball in our yard, I don’t craft them homemade items, I don’t scrapbook for them, I never finished either of their baby books, I fail at turning in their paperwork 5/10 times, I watch movies with them that other parents would think are too mature for them, I listen to music with them that has cuss words in it, I feel irritated when I have to stop my podcast in the morning because my bathroom has been overrun by my children, sometimes I just want a break and then I miss them like crazy when they’re gone, some days I don’t want to do tuck-ins at bedtime, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility, and 100,000,000 other things I that do wrong or at least not perfectly.

This list could go on forever.  But the truth is that I love my children deeply and wildly.  I thank God for them every single day, even when I’m tired and overwhelmed.  And for all of my faults, I truly do the best that I can.  My logical side tells me that God made these children just for me, He is all-knowing, and He would never put them in my hands if I wasn’t the best mom for them.

My logical side tells me that God made these children just for me, He is all-knowing, and He would never put them in my hands if I wasn’t the best mom for them.

So certainly, I am not perfect, and the older I get the less I try for perfection.  But maybe through the laughter we share, through the hugs and the kisses, through the silly faces and dances, through the homecooked meals and dinners at the table that I do get accomplished, through setting an example for them of what hard work and passion looks like, through dedication and devotion to their father, through forgiveness and understanding, through real conversations about the joyous and hard things in life, through moments in the garden, through movie nights on the couch, through family fun days…maybe through these moments, I deserve the best mom status.  Best for them, my children, my gift, my greatest accomplishment.  Maybe next time I hear those words, I can feel pride and not shame.  Maybe I can say thank you, smile, and let them know they are the best children too.

Maybe I can say thank you, smile, and let them know they are the best children too.

Maybe we all can do just that…and take pride that our children see us as we actually are, not in the flawed ways that we see ourselves.

Full Circle

Parallel lines…two lines traveling side by side, having the same distance between them. Tonight I’m thinking of all of the parallels in my life. There are so many that I know there is more to this life than chance.

I think of the moments. The moment at 17 when I was falling madly in love with the man that I now call my husband, and we were dating only a few weeks when we realized we didn’t yet have a song. We were in his truck, a tan and brown Chevy S-10. I have no doubt that there was some type of rap playing in the background, and for no particular reason, we both decided that “Time After Time” by Cindy Lauper would be our song. I think about that conversation and that decision, what made us arrive at that song choice, a song that was every bit of 15 years old at the time. I know it’s what we wanted, for one another to be that person, to be there for one another, to pick each other up when we fall, to ground one another for a lifetime. And by some miracle of fate, that is what we got. But in that moment, there is no way we could know what that song would come to mean to us.

Some nine years later, we rushed to an emergency room. I had been carrying a high risk pregnancy, and I was miscarrying. There was no doubt. We arrived, we went through the motions, we sat in a waiting room for a doctor, and the world went silent. And then, over a small radio left playing in the room, Cindy Lauper came on the line, and she sang to us, “If you fall, I will catch you. I’ll be waiting time after time. If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me, time after time.” In that moment of tragedy and simultaneous comfort, I knew we would be okay.

In that moment of tragedy and simultaneous comfort, I knew we would be okay.

Then there are other, lighter moments. Like the moment when my husband and I were still in the “getting to know you” stage, and again we were cruising around in my 1994, forest green Camaro (we both lived with our parents and therefore spent a tremendous amount of time in our cars!). I had Prince’s “Kiss” blasting, and was quietly amused that my sweet boyfriend wasn’t turning the song or horrified by my off-key singing. When we began to enter the city limits, he leaned ever so casually forward and very inconspicuously adjusted the volume down. I smiled to myself. I’m not sure exactly what it is about that moment that made me fall more in love with him, but it did, and that memory is still extremely vivid for me.

Today, 16 years later, as I drive my kids to school every day, my 5-year old daughter picks out a song choice and then begs me to “turn it up how she likes it!” Which I of course oblige. And then, as we make a left onto my son’s school’s road, he so quietly leans forward and adjusts the volume down. I smile to myself. I look to my passenger-side seat, and I see his father there, some 16 years ago, and I love them both, my boy and his dad, just for being who they are. It melts my heart.

There are so many parallels from the past to the present. The way my daughter consistently puts the emphasis on the wrong syllable when she speaks, and her brother can’t help but giggle and point it out (much to her astonishment, as she is certain that she is correct, and he in fact, is wrong), much the same way that I had not the slightest clue that I wasn’t saying the words Tylenol, elephant and volume wrong, until I met their father, and he couldn’t help but grin every time those words came out of my mouth.

There are so many small moments that are of little significance at the time, but then later, I find myself coming full circle. It is truly amazing. Albert Einstein’s said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Smart guy…)

I see miracles every single day. I see them in the most ordinary moments, in the moments that a stranger would be completely blind to, because I have the gift of history. I can see how every moment in my life brought me to this day, to these every day little miracles. The parallels between who I once was and who I am now, between the small moments then that are playing back into beautiful moments today, the parallels in what I once was blind to, but today have the gift of sight. I’m blessed to see so many things come full circle in this life, and it is a miracle each and every time.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

– Albert Einstein

I hope you see a miracle today, in your life, in yourself, your partner, your children. I hope you can open your eyes to see that this life is a beautiful thing.

5 Things I’m just so OVER in my 30s

It’s my BIRTHDAY!  Woot woot!  That’s right, I’m celebrating my own birthday…and I’m not sorry.  I turn 33 today, and I have planned a massage, lunch with my two favorite people in the world (my mom and #1 sister….she’s my only sister but still my favorite), and some shopping for ME!  I took the day off work, which I have never done before, and decided to just enjoy my special day.  I’ve always loved birthdays, and I’ve put countless amounts of time and energy into celebrating those people around me.  However, I have never felt comfortable doing the same for myself.  But this year is different.  I’m totally and completely thankful for another birthday, for another year of this life, and I’m going to celebrate my life and all of the time I’ve been given.

My birthday, and all of this free time this morning, got me to thinking about how much I’ve changed since my teens and 20’s.  Inwardly, I’m the same bubbly, obnoxiously positive, and reserved person.  But outwardly, my habits and lifestyle have changed.   I’m thinking about all of the things that I’m just so OVER (and glad to be over) in my 30’s.  Here are my top 5:

  1. Late nights – Am I the only one who loves crawling into bed at 9:00….errrr, 8:30…..errrr, 8:00…..errrr, okay, okay, as soon as I possibly can?????  Late nights just aren’t gratifying when a five year old is staring at you at 6:00 a.m. waiting for her chocolate milk.  And mornings…I seriously love mornings.  All of the potential of a new day waiting for me.  The calmness of a sleepy world.  Why stay up late and miss out on the fabulousness of morning?  In my 30’s I am so OVER late nights.
  2. Cheeseburgers – And french fries, and deep fried oreos, and chicken strips…shall I go on?  In my 30’s, I eat healthy (aside from the cheesecake I indulged in last night).  But seriously, I make healthier choices, not because I have to, but because I want to.  I’m not trying to stay skinny.  I’m not trying to follow a fad.  I truly care about my health and quality of life.  In my 30’s I’ve found that when I eat better I feel better, and I’m so thankful for that revelation and the desire to make better choices for myself.  This is coming from the former “Queen of the Thickburger” (sorry Hardee’s), and I never thought the day would come, but I’m so OVER cheeseburgers.
  3. Needy People – I’ve had a lot of great people in my life over the years, and I’m thankful for each experience and how it’s shaped who I am and the life I’ve had.  However, in my younger years, I was drawn to people that I wanted to help/fix.  I had many wonderful friendships, but some relationships were draining.  I learned a lot, but friendship for me, in my 30’s, has changed.  Today I’m drawn to friends who challenge me to be a better, stronger, more mature and kinder me.  I want friends who challenge me to think differently, to try new and exciting experiences, and who want a reciprocal relationship in which we both grow together, learning and vibing off one another.  In my 30’s, I’m not interested in fixing anyone.  I’m interested in laughing and learning with my friends, and I’m thankful I have some amazing people in my life fill that space in my heart/mind/soul.
  4. Trends – Trendy clothes, trendy diets, trendy social media, blah, blah, blah.  In my 30’s trends make me tired.  I’ve become a fan of the tried and true.  I want my clothes to be classy, I want my food to be healthy, and I want my communication to be real life.  I value my time and energy.  In my 30’s I’m not interested in being cool or hip.  I’m interested in being me.  Doing the things I love, the way I love to do them.  I’m so OVER trends.
  5. Birthday modesty – As you’ve seen above, I’m pumped it’s my birthday, and I’m okay with that.  I’m so over birthday modesty.  And this why…the fact that we were born….that we were created should be celebrated.  We need to celebrate the fact that our existence isn’t random, we are not accidental, we are not the result of chaos.  Instead, our creator took the care, thoughtfulness, humor and creative effort to design each strength and weakness that we possess.  He did this all in an effort to prepare us for the path that He has made for us.  How can we not celebrate our special day, the day we were born and began this amazing journey?  I’m so OVER birthday modesty….I could not be more grateful for my birthday today.

I received a birthday card yesterday from my co-workers, and it truly touched my heart.  It says:

Celebrating you. On birthdays, we honor our beginnings and remember that in God’s eyes, we have a place in this world no one else has.  Your birthday is a reminder that God put you here for a purpose.

How amazing.  My childhood was magical.  My teens were adventurous and also tumultuous (as everyone’s are).  My 20’s were too much fun and transformational.  And my 30’s….well, so far, my 30’s are just right.

I hope you enjoy your birthday this year (feel free to celebrate yourself…you have my permission).  Every day we are given is a blessing.

 

My Dash

Today marks the first day of my freedom….for approximately 30 days to come.  Yesterday morning I submitted my final paper for MNGT 681 – Strategic and International Management, class number eight of 10 and the capstone of my MBA program.  The past seven weeks have been challenging to say the least.  30+ hours of course work, 40+ hours of “work” work, and of course, family.  I have been tired, stressed, stretched to my limit (and my very supportive, amazing, sweet husband has too).  But life keeps on going, even when you take on too much.  Life moves on, ready or not…as mine certainly did.

In the past seven weeks, we lost Jace’s most beloved pet hamster, Butterscotch.  On a rare night alone, my husband and I decided to go out for a little wine and dinner.  On our way home my husband mentioned he forgot that he had let our pet cat, Molly, inside the house.  You see, Molly was once an inside cat, but after my daughter’s cat allergies arose, and exasperated by Molly’s awful temperament and propensity to pee on our bed when she wasn’t pleased with us, Molly become an outside cat.   So, Phil had let Molly in for old time’s sake and forgot to put her out when we left for dinner.  Arriving home, I bolted for the restroom, which tends to happen after a few glasses of wine.  From upon the porcelain throne, I hear my husband mutter, “OH MY GODDDD.”  From the restroom I shouted, “What???!!” To which he returned, “It’s the worst possible thing you could imagine.”  There, left lovingly by my husband’s bedside as a sweet little gift, was Butterscotch, dead.  Molly was prancing around the house as though she was really something fantastic.  I’m not sure if it was the wine or the thought of telling Jace that Butterscotch was no more, but that night I sat in the kitchen and cried for a while.  Jace took it well, and much to my own amazement, in place of Butterscotch, we now have two hamsters, because little sister needed a hamster too.  Our family continues to grow, fuzzy as it may be, Phil, Melissa, Jace, Jera, Rusty (dog), Molly (cat), Oreo (hamster) and Angel (hamster) keep on moving forward.

In other news, my oldest son, Jace, turned nine years old this week.  As absolutely crazy as it seems that I can have a nine-year old (yes, that is half way to 18), in the same breath it seems so right.  When I look at my son today, I see a boy, not the baby and toddler that I used to see.  I see someone with his own thoughts and opinions, someone who is considerate and kind, someone who is quirky in the best way.  I see someone who is gaining an understanding of this world, both its beauty and its cruelty.  He isn’t the same tiny boy he used to be, which in moments makes me sad, but  also so proud.  I couldn’t be prouder of the young man he is growing into. Time keeps moving forward.

Now Christmas in the Hafele house has begun.  The tree is up, the presents are bought (mostly), the month is filled with Christmas-fun plans.  The elves are back….and they’ve multiplied.  We first began with Zart, the original Elf on the Shelf.  Then in year three, Zart went missing.  We then brought in Millie and Willie, one for Jace and one for Jera, of course.  Then in year four, Zart turned back up and we had Zart, Willie and Millie.  Ater my grandma passed away recently, the kids wanted Great-Grandma’s elves to remember her by, so three more elves came to live with us.  Today we have six, you read that right, SIX elves to stash around the house.  Thankfully, I let Jace in on the little secret this year, and he has had a blast helping us to hide the elves for Jera.  As much as I thought it would be sad to tell him the truth about the Elves on Shelf, he has genuinely enjoyed being the giver of joy this year.  Another sign of what a special boy he is.  And every once in a while, Zart hides somewhere special for Jace to find….just for old time’s sake.

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My next class begins January 8th, and I plan to enjoy each and every second until then.  And then, when I’m back to the 70+ hour work weeks, I will try to enjoy every moment then too.  I look back at the last seven weeks, look back over the past year and a half in the MBA Program, back at the last 10+ years of working full-time, at the past 15 years of my relationship with my husband…I think back to the time of my childhood, of my parents and all of the love we shared, to my siblings and cousins and all of the laughs…I look back and I’m in awe.  I’m in awe to be where I am today with so many blessings.  I’m in awe that so much time has passed and at times it feels like it’s only been an instant.  I’m brought back to my Pastor’s sermon from last week where she recited the poem “The Dash”….if you haven’t read it, the poem talks about how a headstone marks the date of birth and the date of death, but those dates really aren’t important at all.  What is important, what really matters is the ‘dash’.  What are we going to do with our dash?  How will we spend it?  I hope to make the most of my dash.  That is what I strive for every day.  I hope you do too.

Happy holidays and a merry Christmas to all of my readers.  I pray that you are filled with the sacred spirit of this season and that your dash is everything that you were created to be.

Some Days You Just Have to Say WHATEVER

Some days are better than others. Some days grind at your will to stay a sane, practical human being. Today has been a day (and by today, I mostly mean the last three hours of my life) that has made me want to throw my hands up in the air and say “WHATEVER”. You know what kind of “WHATEVER” I mean…for those of us that don’t use four letter words….”WHATEVER” tends to summarize the effect that this mom is D-O-N-E.

Tonight this is what I made for supper. We have switched to a vegetarian diet (nearly vegan when possible), and I put a lot of energy into trying to feed my family something healthy, fresh and delicious. Tonight’s meal was stuffed sweet potatoes…a mix between sweet and savory. It was good, really good. I know because I ate it. My family however reacted as though I had served them poison. “Sweet potatoes?! I HATE SWEET POTATOES!” they say. Who hates sweet potatoes??? Weirdos.
6000 – 3746 ….this is the math problem that brought not only my son, who was performing the work, to tears, but this piece of arthmitic also had my daughter crying. She can’t be in the vicinity of someone having a bad day and not one-up them. I waited through two melt downs as Jace resisted listening because he just needed to play after a long day at school. I stared at my daughter as she squealed in distress because her brother touched her with his toe. 

Tonight I wanted to say “WHATEVER”….don’t eat….go hungry….don’t learn….who needs subtraction. I wanted to run away (fast!). But I didn’t. We got through every grueling bite of sweet potato. I watched as Jace held his nose, tilted his head back, swallowed hard and then chased his putrid potato with his drink. 

Now I will get up and wash the dishes and I will scrape my husband’s full dinner into the trash (he consoled me for his refusal to eat the food I cooked by apologizing to me that he didn’t like my “yam thing”). 

I can’t help to think back to Sunday morning. I sat in church and listened to my Pastor say that we’re all created in God’s own image. She told us to look at the people sitting next to us and we are actually looking at God’s creation, His creation in His own image. I looked over and saw my children. In that moment I knew without a doubt that she was totally and completely right. These crazy, whiny, emotional, picky-eating children. These loving, caring, funny, sweet, little creations of God. 

They were made by God in His own image just for me. They’re all mine. Every day. On the good days. On the not-so-good days. Every single day they are my gift. So I’ll get up and do my dishes, we’ll read bedtime stories, I’ll tuck them in and I’ll be thankful. I’ll be thankful that I didn’t say “WHATEVER”. I’ll remember that they need me to guide them. They are my responsibility, but even more than that, they are my gift. I am incredibly and bountifully blessed. And instead of saying “WHATEVER”, I’ll say “Whatever He asks of me.” That’s the trade. My children are a gift and it’s not supposed to be easy. So even on the bad days, I’ll do whatever I’m called to do….because I get to be called “Mom”.

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! 

Room for Doubt

My faith has become a center for my life.  My marriage, the way I raise my children, my friendships and even my career are heavily shaped by my faith and where I feel I fit into God’s world.  I have talked friends through times of crisis.  I have pushed myself and my family through times of grief all on the back of my sturdy and solid faith.  But I have to share that I’ve had moments where my faith fell.

I hesitate to write on this because it feels a bit taboo as a Christian. Is it okay to say I have moments of doubt? Is it okay to admit that in my life’s darkest moments, I have felt the terror of wondering if I am alone? Does this make me a bad Christian?   

It was nearly a month ago that I found myself in this dark place. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My happy, peaceful little life was turned on its head. My plans were interrupted. The things that had been important the day before, suddenly had no significance. And with this swift turn of events, I felt incredibly weak in my faith.

I struggled in my pain and confusion and I wondered, is my God real? This idea of a soul, is it more than an elaborate, hard-wiring in our brains? Are we nothing more than the most amazing computer that biology ever evolved? The feelings I had in those moments with my thoughts are hard to describe. I don’t think I can find a way to write the emptiness of doubt.

I have heard of people hearing an answer from God. I mean actually hearing. There are Biblical stories and those experiences my friends have shared. But those have always been just stories. Something that happened for someone else, but not me. I have cried out in loss to God and felt resentful at the return of silence. But this time, in the silence of my doubt, I could hear for the first time.

I received an answer.  I heard a clear, calm voice and it told me, 

“No. This life is not it.  You are more than your personality.  You are more than your intelligence. You are more than the way you feel about one another.  There is more to you than the way the world perceives you.  You. Are. More. Than. The. World. Can. See.”  

I was astounded in my heartbreak.  How did I never understand this?  I had thought the soul was so simple. I have explained it to my children time and time again saying, “Our soul makes us who we are…why Jace is funny…why Jera is stubborn…why we feel and cry and think.”

But suddenly I knew with absolute certainty that that isn’t it at all. We can change the way the world sees us.  We can mimic another’s behavior.  We can pretend to be someone we’re not.  We can fool the world. We can make the world love us. We can make the world hate us.  But only God sees who we truly are…only God has access to our souls.  Only God knows us, the deep down, secret parts of us.  The parts that we don’t show our lovers and our friends.  The parts that our family never knows.  The part that we might not even recognize.  The part that is tucked away and is only for God, our Creator.  

This part of us knows only God. Our soul doesn’t create a persona. It doesn’t design an interesting human being.  Our personality is certainly a gift to us. It is a tool that can be used to do God’s work.  And our relationships and the way we relate to one another, again, are separate from our soul. These bonds are again, a way for us to show God’s love to one another in this life.  But our personality and our relationships are not US.  They do not determine who we are and without them, we are still us.  

If tomorrow something happens in this life, my memories are taken from me and you can’t recognize me as the often bubbly, sometimes overly serious, too guilible and always passionate person, wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend that I have always been….God will still know me. He can see past all of the qualities that the world uses to define me. He can see what I’m made of. 

This is my answer. This was my experience. My gift in my time of doubt. I’ve never felt so certain of anything in my life.  In my darkest moment, in my doubt, God was listening and he provided my answer.

I still went to sleep that night with a troubled and heavy heart.  But I knew I was not alone.  Difficult times are not over for my family. Over the past month, God has shown himself to my family and to me…little, undeserving, doubting me…again and again.  I hope to tell the world about God’s work in my life.  It is my greatest responsibility to share it with you. 

I hope you read this and know that if you doubt, it’s okay. We are only human. I never thought I would react with doubt in a time of desperation…but I did. And my faith grew in leaps and bounds from this experience. Our faith can grow from our human experience. It should. I’m starting to realize, that’s the whole point. And when you doubt, God will love you anyway.

Case Closed

I finally returned to work on Wednesday morning. After my son’s tonsillectomy and finding a lump in my breast over the previous seven days, it felt like I had been gone from the office for forever. But it wasn’t forever…it was five business days. Which goes to show you just how quickly life can turn. The morning dragged on and on as I anticipated whether my results would come in from my biopsy the previous day.

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Around 10:30 that morning my phone rang and I immediately recognized the number. It was the hospital! I jumped up from my seat and grabbed my phone heading for a more private setting. I answered to a cheery voice that shared that I would be able to come in that day anytime before 2:30. I asked if noon or 1:00 would work and the voice answered, “I’ll put you in for a biopsy check at 1:00.” Anxiously I asked, “Will I get my results then too?” “Yes, you will” she answered. I had secretly hoped she would just reveal my results over the phone but I’m sure that is outside of protocol…so I silently retreated to the fact that I’d have to wait until my appointment.

While the minutes dragged by, I was surprisingly calm. I realized the woman from the hospital had not suggested that I bring someone with me. That had to be a good sign. I felt very optimistic but tried to hold back. It’s an errie feeling to be so close to the answer but still not know.

1:00 finally rolled around. My sister had planned to come with me already and I was glad to have her there. My pastor met us at the hospital as well. I entered the Women’s Center and didn’t wait more than three minutes before my name was called. The nurse asked me to have a seat in a small office. Her name was Kelly and she had a sweet, friendly demeanor that immediately put me at ease. She removed my bandaging and checked my incision. She asked if I was having pain and I answered that the pain was very mild. Nurse Kelly reported that everything looked good on my incision and I should expect the tape to start to peel away over the next five to seven days as my wound heals. She then took a step back from me and said “Oh, and your results came back fine so you’re good!”

And that was it. I was a little in shock. Thankful. But in shock. It was so simple. Nurse Kelly explained that I had a fibroadenoma (non-cancerous tumor) and it would require no further intervention. I had about a billion questions running through my mind. I asked if the tumor could continue to grow but she was unsure. She gave me an information sheet with some basic information on fibroadenomas and let me know if I had any problems going forward to contact my doctor.

I stepped out of the hospital into a beautiful March day. I was relieved. I was thankful. I was also a little numb. The influx of emotion over the last two days was catching up with me and it would take some time to fully digest that I was okay.

I shared the good news with my friends and family and I went back to work. Back to my normal life. Back to routine. Back to being a normal, regular 31-year old, healthy mom of two.

That evening I visited my uncle who is in his final stages of life. He has battled cancer for the past eight months. He is on his journey to heaven and hospice is telling us that he is down to days. I don’t know my uncle as well as I wish I would have. What I do know about him is that he is a Vietnam vet who fought for our country, he is a fisherman and he loves the outdoors, and most of all he is a kind man. He is sleeping a lot at this point but we were lucky to find him quite alert. He was however in severe pain. When I went to hug him, he winced at my touch…but he still wanted a hug. When I told him that I wished there was something I could do for him, he said I already was doing something for him by just being there. He talked about an eagle he saw from his window in the past few days, told a fisherman’s story and spoke of relatives that have passed on many, many years ago.

As we left, I was sure of one thing…God is with Charlie now as he continues to make his journey. I had told my sister earlier in the day, after we got the good news on my biopsy, that the one thing that resonates with me about the previous 48 hours…the thing that I come back to when I ask why I just went through this…I cannot shake the feeling from that first day, Day One. When I came home from the doctor who had confirmed that there was something growing inside of me that needed further testing, after I had learned that there was a chance that I could have breast cancer, I prayed to God and asked for his help to be strong and I truly felt him surround me. I felt closer to God in that moment than anytime I can remember. So that feeling, that knowledge, that God is closest to us when we need him the most…that he carries us when we’re too weak to carry ourselves…that he is standing beside and carrying the weak, the sick, the poor and broken-hearted…that’s the greatest promise I can imagine.

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I’m back to life as usual…mad-rush around in the morning, work, mad-dash for dinner and bedtime in the evening and then do it all over again the next day. I feel so blessed to be given the grace to continue on and I will try to hold on to the memory of that “Day One Prayer” but I know it will fade as I get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. But I take peace in knowing that when life throws me my next curve, there is nothing I will ever have to face on my own.