An Open Letter to my Kids 2020

Another year has passed since I last wrote my annual letter to my kiddos to capture all of the beauty that they are in this moment in time. The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 have, without a doubt, been the most difficult and strangest times in our lives, but there has also been laughter, hope, love and as with all difficult things, immeasurable growth. Over the past year, we have faced the loss of my mother-in-law after her battle with cancer. That loss was devastating to our family and as we coped, we found ourselves at ground floor, trying to figure out what this next phase of life would look like for us. We fell hard, facing trials I had never dreamed of, but we found our way and are stronger, more sincere, authentic, and humbled in this life because of the trials.

In the midst of these changes, the world changed too. Covid-19 entered our lives and changed just about everything. The kids were e-learning, I was working from home, our baby never left the house and the busyness of life came to a sudden halt. There in the silence, in the calm, in the void, I found my little family…Phil, Jace, Jera and Jema…and as different as the world was and is, we’re still the same. We share the same love, the giggles are the same, and the screaming and yelling matches between Jace and Jera…those are the same too.

When everything else in life seemed to fail us, we still had every single thing we needed in each other, and for that, I am forever grateful. So today, I sit on my front porch on a very hot and humid July day. Birds are chirping, someone is weedeating, there’s a pesky fly making his presence known. Life moves forward at a steady pace. Tomorrow is uncertain…what will school look like, what will work look like, will we get sick, will we have the groceries, the medicine, the household goods that we’re used to? These are the things that I don’t know. So I’ll write on what I do know…my three wonderful, beautiful, amazing children. Here goes my open letter 2020…

Jace –

My son, you are 11 years old today. You, my dear, are quite simply one of my favorite people in the entire world. You are my sidekick in so many things since we share many interests and often think the same way about things. Whether it’s going on a run together, challenging ourselves with a long bike ride, walking the dogs, or watching a favorite show together, time with you is easy. You are an unbelievable comfort in this life. I’m so thankful for you.

Last year you joined travel wrestling. You are a late entrant into the sport, starting for the first time in the school’s league in the fourth grade. You did well and were excited to compete at the club level. It was a tough year for you, wrestling boys who had built technique and skills over several years, but you persevered tourney after tourney, pulling out a few wins. Even in the losses, you always gave your best effort. That made me so proud of you. What your dad and I saw was growth, physical growth as the sport packed muscle on your body where there was once none, and mental strength as you learned to compete and dig deep for motivation. You faced some difficult things in your life over the past year, and what I learned about you is that you’re such a strong person, clear in your convictions, kind and forgiving, but always willing to stand up for what you believe is right. I can see already that this will be an area of great strength for you as you grow into an adult.

Some of the things that you love right now are Fort Nite, remote control cars, and working to make money. You can be stubborn and hard-headed, but you can also be thoughtful and reasonable. You love your animals (Rusty, Tony and Chip). You still love to fight and argue with your sister, Jera. I find it hard not to intervene in your play fights since I know they often end in tears, but I’ve also found that what looks like torture to mom just happens to be fun to the two of you. You love to play with your baby sister, Jema, and you’re so responsible with with her. That makes me very proud of you.

It is a great joy to be your parent. You are in fact so responsible, that I have to sometimes remind you just to be a kid, not to worry about adult things, and to enjoy this special time in your life. Thank you for always being such a cool kid, for your humor, for your deep and loving soul, for all of the wonderful things that make you Jace, my number one son.

Jera –

You are eight years old today. My child – you are still the beautiful tornado that I’ve written of in years passed. This past year has again brought so many changes from you. The little girl I saw a year ago has grown into a young lady. Sometimes you are hyper-aware of this growth, fiddling with hair and makeup perhaps a little too advanced for your age…and other times, it takes a moment for you to remember how much you’ve grown. I smile to myself when I see you holding on to little girl ways. It’s a blessing to snag those moments when I can.

You, my girl, are so silly. You still love tickle time and insist that I drop everything regardless of what I have going and tickle you until you can’t take it anymore. Your laugh and smile are contagious and even when I go into these tickle sessions tired or weighted down from life, I find myself getting lost in your joy. You bring out the kid in me and I appreciate that so much. That is a gift in my life. I’ve see a few phases pass you by this year, from Disney’s Descendants to Zombies to your latest obsession, Miraculous Lady Bug. You also love Boy Meets World and have watched all seasons from beginning to end. This year you’ve tackled gymnastics, voice lessons and piano. It’s fun to watch you challenge yourself and grow.

You are smart and quick-witted. I think you get your sense of humor from your dad, and I absolutely love that. His humor is what I’ve always loved most about him, and to see that grow in you, is a blessing in my life. You’re fast with the unexpected…I never quite fully have you figured out. I’ve found a pattern where if I say black, you say white. This part of our relationship teaches me patience and to always keep an open mind. I love the way you think about life, the things that are important to you, the parts that you share with others, and the parts that you tuck away. You are a special, joyous and free soul, and I’m thankful to walk beside you in this life…even if I often feel like I have to run to keep up with you.

You love picking on your brother, starting arguments and biting off more than you can chew. You love, absolutely love your baby sister. You are so good with her and often selfless in your relationship with her that it warms my heart. You share your most prized positions with her and you don’t think twice about it. Your generosity with others makes me so proud of you.

Thank you for keeping things interesting, for being so loving and fun, for never letting the world weigh you down. You are like a spark…bright, beautiful, fast and forever lighting up my life.

Jema –

You are a year and a half old today, and life is never boring with you around. You are still in a time of so many firsts, and each one is so amazing and exciting. You have the art of waving goodbye down, and you do it in the most special and adorable way, waving both hands around in the air, all five fingers stretched out. Oh gosh, and your hellos…your hellos are everything in the world that my heart desires. When I arrive at the end of the work day to pick you up, you’re standing in the doorway both hands raised, waving away and then you run into my arms. That moment, each and every time it happens is a God-given gift.

You love your baby dolls, which tickles me. Each one seems special to you, and you will take time to deliver every single one from place to place throughout the house. You also like cars and music. Your favorite show is Blippi, and your dad and I are amazed that you sit and watch it at full attention. You also love Mickey Mouse, Blues Clues and Bluey. Your brother, sister and I get the biggest kick out of watching you dance to the music in the car. We giggle each and every time you bounce in your seat, kicking your feet and banging your head. You’ve got moves. You can say many words…mama, dada, bubba, Jera, kitty cat…but you prefer to point and usually have an army awaiting your next request. Between your brother, sister, cousins and grandparents, I wonder if you’ll ever want for anything. I don’t think that you will.

Your dad and I often marvel over your serious nature. You have a wonderful laugh, which is usually brought on by chasing the cat or dogs around the house, but many times we find you thinking about the world around you. You can’t tell us yet, but it seems to us that you’re figuring it all out. You babble endlessly in your own language, and I know, if I could understand, you’d be telling me you have the world’s worries all figured out, or maybe you’d be telling me you just tried some dog food and it wasn’t half bad…because we’ve caught you doing just that.

I’m sure you’ll continue to find that being the baby comes with it’s perks, namely being that we don’t sweat the small stuff with you. In the summer, you seldom have shoes on, and some days we’re lucky if you’re clothed. We didn’t push learning to crawl or walk or sit around with flash cards trying to get you to speak. No, for us, we find joy in seeing you content, feeling the grass between your toes, moving through life at your own pace, and experiencing every single moment as it comes to you and no sooner. You, my Jem-the-Bem-the-Boom-Boom-Bang, have the longest nickname for one, but also have joined me in life and made my priorities very clear. Thank you for bringing into focus what a gift each moment of this life really is, helping me to see how quickly it all passes, and teaching me that joy is found in the ordinary moments.

As I reflect on my children over the past year, I can’t help but think about the year to come. What I’ve found is that there is no way we could possible know what’s in store for us. So I will be thankful for this day, for this moment, for the love and joy I can bring to the lives around me. The rest…the rest I will put in God’s hands.

Soul Mates?

My husband and I will celebrate 13 years of marriage in a few days. It’s strange that there are ways in which it feels a lot longer than that…like can I even remember what life was like without this man by my side? Then there are different ways where these 13 years feel like the blink of an eye…and I’m still 17 and just excited to be cruising gravel roads with this good-looking guy riding shotgun in my Camaro. Gosh, even that thought, that picture of us fresh-faced in my mind’s eye, makes me blush and smile. Those really were the days…

I was talking with a friend, and we were chatting about if relationships, life partners if you will, are predetermined. Do you have a soul mate or could you have ended up with someone else and still be happy in marriage? Are you happy with your partner because it was predetermined that you belong with them…or could you have made a happy life with anyone?

For my readers, I’m sure it’s not hard to guess which side I fell on. I believe we are made with a soul mate in mind for us, someone you belong with. My friend, who is also in a happy marriage, thinks that we can make a happy life with other people, as long as you and your partner would be devoted to doing just that.

Who knows which one of us may be right, but what I have found over the course of my relationship is that a happy marriage comes from the choice. Even with the right person, the wrong choices can lead you to some very difficult places. So happiness in relationship comes from the recognition that you have the choice to stay or to go…to love or leave…to encourage or to break down your partner. A happy marriage comes from choosing to show up and bring your best to your relationship every single day.

There are points in every marriage where circumstances and problems cause spouses to review their marriage. Challenges come without fail. There are tough times. We can find ourselves wondering what life would be like on our own. We may try to figure out if we could do it on our own. Could we survive…financially, emotionally? If we make that determination in the midst of a tough season in our marriage it may bring us comfort that we could do it on our own, but I think that that very thought is the crux of every downfallen relationship. Thoughts become things, so we have to guard our thoughts bravely and fiercely when it comes to our relationships.

For me as an individual and in my marriage, I know that I’m a strong person. I know I am capable of hard work and that I’m even tougher than I realize. But I also see that my life would look so drastically different on my own and without my marriage, that I never want to “make it” on my own. I never want to wake up and face this life without my husband.

Everyday is not perfect. Every moment is not easy. But every day I choose my husband all over again, and he chooses me. Part of what makes that choice easier, better and more fulfilling, even on the hard days, is that I have come to learn, believe, and know that he, just like I, wants what is best for both of us and for our family. This knowledge…the knowledge that we want what is best for one another and for our family…it allows me to always see the best in him. Paired with my ability to choose to show up in my marriage, I am left with hope, happiness and fulfillment.

These thoughts allow me to stop and recognize the beautiful quiet moments. The moments when he helps our daughter to shower and brush her hair. The moments when he picks up our son and takes him to a car show on a whim or when he dresses our little baby daughter in her pjs and gets her ready for bed. It’s in the moments when he washes the dishes, takes out the trash, picks me flowers, makes our bed, stops me in the kitchen and just gives me a hug that I see the best in my husband. I see my life’s happiness and it fills my heart to the brim…so much so, that the thought of living without all of those little, but big, things…even the thought of living without that…is too much to bear.

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong about this soul mate thing. What I do know is that my heart feels so woven into who this man is, who we are together, and what we have that I never want to face this world without him. I know that if he was not by my side, I would feel as though I lost a part of myself, my heart no longer whole. As we celebrate 13 years, as we work to raise these three beautiful children together, as we continue to grow as individuals and as a couple, I will choose my husband in every single moment, to see the very best in him, and to be thankful that, predetermined or not, he is mine.

Clean Those Filthy Lenses, My Friend

Wow, this life is good…this feeling is hitting me especially hard today while reflecting on the week that is ending.  There are challenging days and moments in my rear view, but my heart is so full, and I’m left with a feeling of pride and hope.  I didn’t get a pay raise or promotion.  I didn’t achieve a lifelong goal.  I wasn’t given an extravagant gift or compliment.  Instead my wonderful life-view this week was the accumulation of the ordinary extraordinary moments.

I have weeks like this past week all of the time, as I’m sure you do as well.  I experience these extraordinary moments every day, but the difference in my life experience is actually not life at all; it is me.  The difference is that many times my lens is out of focus….or more likely covered in dirt and fingerprints….or truly, covered in my worries, heartaches and anxieties.  Have you been there?  Are you there right now, unable to see the beauty before you because you can’t see past your challenges?

the difference in my life experience is actually not life at all; it is me.

For me and my family, the hard times were there this week.  The sadness of illness, the pure exhaustion of working, keeping a household and having a million kids (okay, maybe we have two kids but it often feels like a million), and the injustices and unfair things that sneaked their way into my world daily.  What is different for me today is that when I look back on this  week, I am looking through a clean lens, a lens of gratitude.

I am looking through a clean lens, a lens of gratitude.

So how do we get there, to the clean lens?  How do we maintain the gratitude that helps us to appreciate the good and to weather the not-so-good?  Here is a simple recipe:

  1. Ask for help when you need it.  Ask with clear, direct requests for the specific things that you need.  Don’t be a martyr or a victim of your situation.  Figure it out and be honest with those around you about how they can help.
  2. Read something that you’re interested in and invest in your own personal growth.  If you’re one that just doesn’t enjoy reading, I get it….but there’s this wonderful thing called Audible.  Download it.  Today.  Make the most of your time driving or bathing or washing the dishes…and put new and wonderful ideas into your mind and soul.
  3. Listen to music and podcasts that make your heart happy and inspired.
  4. Exercise, whatever that means to you.  It may be a five mile run, or it may be a ten minute walk, but move your body and treat it like a temple…it’s the only one you’ll ever have.
  5. Do nothing. No dishes. No laundry.  No cleaning or planning.  When your body and soul tells you that you need to do nothing, just do nothing and be okay with that.
  6. Say yes.  When your son asks you to play cars.  When your daughter asks you to go on a bike ride.  When your spouse begins a conversation, say yes and tune in.  When real joy is offered to you, say yes.
  7. Spend time physically close to your spouse…intimacy is so important and healthy for your relationship and for you as an individual.  We all need to feel physically connected to the person we love.  Hold hands.  Give hugs.  Look them in eye.  Connect.
  8. Be honest about your feelings.  When you’re disappointed, be honest about it.  When you’re struggling, be honest about it.  When you’re mad, be honest about it.  Putting all of those feelings out into the open allows you to deal with them and move on, and then, when the happiness comes, there is clear open space to let the good vibes in.
  9. Eat well.  Think about what you put into your body and treat your food as fuel most of the time…with the occasional mocha muffin splurge now and then.
  10. Don’t hold yourself to all of these things at one time.  Don’t strive for perfection.  Choose progress instead.  One step into the right direction.  One moment at a time.  Being better today than yesterday.  Living in this very moment.

For me this week, my extraordinary moments through my lens of gratitude looked like this:

  • My husband and I met with our children’s teachers for parent-teacher conferences, and got to see our children through their teachers’ eyes.
  • I spent one evening just curled up on the couch with my husband (not so easy at seven months pregnant…the two of us trying to fit on the couch together looks more like like an assault on my furniture than cuddle time, but we took time to make that happen and my soul is happier for it).
  • I saw my son set academic goals for himself and then put in the work to meet those goals.
  • I read my daughter’s latest book where she chronicled our back-to-school shopping adventure, and my heart melted in knowing that time together meant as much to her as it did to me.
  • I watched my son pitch, play first and second base, and get some good hits in at his ballgame.
  • I found my children snuggled up in my son’s bed this morning sleeping like angels, and came across one of those rare moments in between all of the sibling arguments where their love for one another shone through.
  • I went on a bike ride.
  • I had my 27 week OB appointment, heard my baby’s heartbeat again, and felt her move countless times.
  • I had lunch with a good friend, talked about hard things, and also laughed a lot.
  • I had a meal with my parents, sister, niece, nephew and my children.
  • I started reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and am loving it.
  • I listened to the Rise Together Podcast by Rachel and Dave Hollis and found myself so inspired that I was in tears.

In this moment I am GRATEFUL.  Just completely grateful.

The Good

Thursday was a bad day.  The bad mojo actually started on Wednesday evening, when I made the unwise decision to binge watch Bachelor in Paradise instead of going to sleep at a decent hour.  I’m six months pregnant and sleep is my very best of friends, so I have no idea why I thought it would work out to stay up until 11:30 to see who got a rose.  Temporary insanity…wait, scratch that…Bachelor insanity.  I swear, those producers know what they are doing!

So I woke up groggy on Thursday morning, wishing I had thought more about my wellness than my reality television addiction.  And while I set with my coffee trying to readjust my attitude, my husband woke for the day, also in a very foul mood.  We’ve been married for a while now (just celebrated 12 years of marriage).  But even prior to marriage, we had discovered that morning is just not a good time for us.  I know other couples wake together, roll over and look lovingly into one another’s eyes, but that just isn’t us.  We have an understanding in the morning that we just don’t speak to each other.  He gives me my time to adjust to the world, and I give him his.  It works out perfectly for us.  This Thursday however, my husband dearest decided on his own to break our sacred agreement, and he unloaded his frustrations to me at 5:30 in the morning.  Ugh.  Not to sound like the worst wife ever, but I don’t even want to think about my own frustrations at that hour.  He realized his folly and apologized before giving me my morning kiss goodbye and heading out the door for the day.

I began the day’s routine, waking up my son.  Then off to my daughter’s room.  Sitting on the edge of her bed, I kiss her forehead and immediately feel the heat radiating from her tiny body.  Fever…there’s no mistaking it.  She wakes, telling me her throat hurts and sure enough, the thermometer confirms what my ther-MOM-meter already detected: 101.2 degrees.  What to do now?

My mom-planning starts to spin.  I begin to make phone calls and send texts.  I need to talk to my boss, arrange for someone to cover my responsibilities for the work day, find someone to stay with my daughter for an hour while I go to a scheduled OB appointment, write my son a note so that he can walk home from school instead of taking the bus to the sitters, call the school and let them know my daughter will be absent today, message my husband and ask him to request a vacation day for tomorrow just in case there isn’t a quick recovery this go-around.  These are the things that parents go through when life throws a curve ball, the thinking-on-our-feet, the quick reactions to make sure everything in life just keeps on moving along smoothly…we never miss a beat.

I saw my son off to school and snuggled my daughter, and I let the frustration of the unplanned, unscheduled day go.  I let it roll off my shoulders and I focused on my daughter…my puny, sore-throated, coughing, feverish, precious, little daughter.  That is the moment that my phone dinged.  A message, I had a message.  My husband messages me “I’m coming home at 9.  My machine is down today.  You can go to work today.  My work issue should be better tomorrow.”

What?!

Wait….what?!

To be clear, I am an administrative assistant.  I have to communicate with a minimum of five different people to be out for one day.  I had sent all of the messages.  I had made all of the calls.  I had everything lined out to be off of work on Thursday and back to work on Friday.  And now, that was all for nothing.  My mom-mind was spinning….if the husband was off today, then he couldn’t be off tomorrow, then I need to be off tomorrow, so I need to go in today, so I need to call my father-in-law and let him know I don’t need a sitter for my doctor’s appointment, I need to send five more text messages and….ugh, I need to take off my fuzzy pants and shower and brush my teeth, and make the switch yet again from mommy-mode to professional-work-Melissa-mode.  Again, my day turned upside down, and I felt like I was just along for the ride.

I sucked it up.  I showered.  I dressed.  I gave my husband a frosty welcome home.  I was sad, unhappy, frustrated.  There are other things brewing in our life as well.  And to be honest, while all of these circumstantial life events may have shaded my and my husband’s mood for this day, the real culprit…the real, gut-wrenching, terrifying, hard thing in our lives in this moment, in this season, has nothing to do with the happenings of Thursday.

My mother-in-law has been battling renal cell carcinoma for two and half years now.  She has faced brain surgeries, kidney surgeries, radiation treatments, and recently we had moved on to immunotherapy treatments.  I write “we”, but that is a lie.  She has faced these horrible things.  She has been the strong one.  She has endured.  She has survived these ugly things, and we have only been here to support, love and pray for her.  Because that is all there is that we can do.  The immunotherapy was supposed to be the saving grace, the magical medicine that would keep the cancer at bay so she can continue to enjoy this life with us.  We got the news a few days prior that the immunotherapy did not work.

I hesitate to share this at all, because this is not my story.  This is her story, but if I’m going to be completely honest with my readers, this is such a raw, close and intense part of our life, that I have to share.  I have to give you the full picture of the good and the scary parts of our lives.  We are not at the end of this story.  My mother-in-law has an appointment with MD Anderson this month.  She is strong and amazing, and all of the wonderful things that the rest of us can only hope that we have inside of ourselves.  She is truly a rock for us many times, although that is so backwards…we should be a rock for her.  But that’s not the truth.  This is our reality.  She is the strong one.

I left for my OB appointment with all of the weight of the world sitting squarely on my shoulders.  I felt heavy, sad…I felt like I was failing…at life.  My heart hurt.  My soul ached.  I sat in the waiting room.  This was my 23 week appointment.  At my 19 week appointment, we had an anatomy scan in which the doctor was able to clear everything for our little growing bud, except for her heart.  She was still just too small to get a clear picture of her heart structure.  So here I was at my 23 week appointment, heading to get another ultrasound, so that we could clear her heart, showing four beautiful chambers, working just the way they should.  I laid on the table with the lights dimmed, the tech placed the scanner on my belly, and on the screen appeared my baby, my third child, my second daughter, my beautiful blessing.  She had grown over the four weeks and her heart was bright and clear, pumping away, beating like the most beautiful drum.  And then I got to see her face, her perfect sweet little chin, her upturned nose (just like her sister’s), the sweet curve of her cheeks…and I realized, that this moment, this moment was good.

this moment was good

And isn’t that how life is?  The quote popped into my mind, “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”  There is so much that is hard in life, so much that drains us and breaks us.  There are moments we want to give up.  There are moments that we cry, and scream, and times that we hate the things we are going through.  But even on the worst days, we are given these beautiful moments.  Even on the worst days, I can look at my son, at my daughter, at my baby bump, at my silly dogs, at my sweet husband, I can look to my parents, my siblings, my in-laws, our family, the cousins.  I can pull back to the memories, the trips, the beaches, the rides in a teacup, the hugs from a princess.  We can feel the breeze on our face, the sun on our skin, the floor beneath our feet.  We can find the good in the worst of times.  That ability is what makes us as humans so very unique, so resilient, so incredible.  The ability to find the good is truly our gift, and it is what makes this life possible.

The ability to find the good is truly our gift, and it is what makes this life possible.

Wherever you are today, whatever life has thrown your way, whatever difficult, unfair thing, I challenge you to find the good.  Hug the good, kiss the good, absorb it into your being, absolutely squish it into yourself until you feel it inside, and you are no longer observing it, but feeling the good.  And if you can’t seem to find the good, I challenge you to be it.  Be the good because I guarantee those around you are in need of it.  We are capable.  We are survivors.  We are strong.  We are the good.

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.

Making This Year’s Resolution Just For You

This is the time of year that we all start to look back and reflect.  Although we know that time is continuous, it is hard not to feel like one door is closing and a new, bright, shiny door is opening. I have been thinking about 2017 over the past few weeks, trying to recall what I have accomplished, where I have grown, what made me smile and how I spent my time.

The single, over-powering memory that crowds my thoughts is the hours upon hours of studying.  I completed six MBA courses in 2017…and it was hard.  It took most of my free time, and the focus and dedication it required, stole some of my happiness.  While I am proud of my accomplishment, a particular sadness hovers over the fact that school is my most vibrant and lasting memory of the entire year.

I woke up this morning and began to look back at my pictures, blogs and FB statuses in order to see where else I spent my time.  I saw pictures and blogs from early 2017 when we were worried that Jera, my then 4-year old, may have cancer due to an asymmetric enlarged tonsil.  It brought back the memories of her tonsillectomy and waiting for test results that followed.  I thought about how grateful we were when those results came back cancer-free.  I am thankful to have a healthy and vibrant 5-year old today.

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I saw Facebook status updates on my mother-in-law’s surgery to remove her second brain tumor.  I thought about the journey she has been on, and our journey with her, as she has dealt so bravely with renal cell carcinoma (and when I say dealt so bravely, I mean kicked a**).  Pardon my language, but it is what it is.  I think about her recent test results that showed no new tumors and how truly thankful we are to have her in our lives every day.

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I thought about losing my grandfather, Linus Knebel, and in doing so, watching my father lose his father.  I thought about how brave my grandpa was the last time I saw him and how strong my dad was in letting him go to be with God.  And in thinking of these milestones, I thought about how grateful I am for my own parents.  How truly blessed I am to have them in my life, in my children’s lives, every single day.

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I saw pictures of happier times too.  Jera’s preschool graduation, which feels like a lifetime ago, but was only months ago in reality.  My son, Jace’s, first day of third grade and Jera’s first day of Kindergarten.  I saw our family vacation to Kentucky and all of the joy we felt being cooped up in a cabin together.  I saw a trip to California to see my sister-in-law’s new home.  I saw pictures of taking my children to Disneyland, venturing to Santa Monica Pier and swimming in the ocean, traveling down to Laguna Beach and watching Jace jump into the waves.  I saw three great friends fly into LAX to meet me (in Christmas sweaters IN JULY!) and then make the drive up Highway One to San Francisco.  I saw a gum wall in San Luis Obispo, an ultra-windy/hilarious boat ride to Alcatraz, and a breathtaking (figuratively and literally) hike through the Redwood Forest.

As I sit here and recall all of these absolutely amazing moments, I am shocked to feel like they happened to someone else.  I am sad to think that the memory that sticks with me is the struggle to balance, the exhaustion, the feeling that I haven’t been good enough, done well enough.  How can that be?  How after so many life changing experiences can I be left with only memories of feeling defeated?

I am well aware of my character flaws, perfectionism being one of my worst.  I work on this every single day, and every day, it is a battle for me.  I have thought a lot about what my New Year’s Resolution could be for 2018.  Nothing has stood out to me.  Of course, there are plenty of things I could work on, but knowing I’m going back into another MBA course in one week is daunting, and I fear putting additional pressure on myself.  In April I will complete the MBA program, and this very challenging goal will have met its end.  I am sure I will find myself looking for my new normal and things like a clean house, working out and fitness, social events and all of the items I currently view as luxuries that I do not have, will find their way back into my priority list.  But for today I cannot think of those things.

So what can I do for the New Year?  How can I ensure that I don’t come to the end of 2018 and only recall the struggle?  The answer is both ridiculously simple and impossible.  I must work to be happy.  I had a lot of happy moments in 2017.  I am so thankful for this year and all of the blessings that I was given, but I don’t remember this as a happy year.  For my New Year’s resolution, I will focus on my happiness.  I will find time to do the little things that make me happy.  It sounds selfish.  It is an absolute truth that in order to make others happy, you must first make yourself happy.  To be the mother, daughter, father, son, sister, brother and friend that we were designed to be, we have to find our heart’s happiness.

Do you do that?  Do you find time for yourself?  Do you find time to do something that YOU enjoy, on your own.  Not for your family, for your husband or partner, not for your children, church, not for your employer, pet, parents, in-laws, friends, neighbors.  There is so little time and we often feel guilty about what that means to those we love.  So we focus on giving what little time we have left to others, which is fantastic, BUT we must give to ourselves first.

We must give to ourselves first.

For me, happiness is writing.  Writing is what makes me happy now in my life and it is just for me.  Whether it be in my blog, or my newly started journal (throwback to junior-high Melissa and I’m loving it!), I will take time, whether it be five minutes in the morning before the crazy day starts, or an hour on New Years Day while my family buzzes along without me (they’re really all okay, I swear…to my amazement they don’t even miss me when I take an hour to myself).

I hope for this New Year’s resolution, you do something just for you.  Take a moment and think about what makes you feel really good.  Not about the reaction or approval of those around you, not even of the result…but think about what you do for yourself that leaves you feeling calmer, happier, more fulfilled.  Got it?  Okay, now can you put a little bit of that thing into every single day?  Do you think you can do that?  I hope you’ll consider it.  I hope you’ll commit to it.  Most of all, I hope you’ll take time to love and care for yourself in the New Year.  You deserve it.

What do you do for yourself that leaves you feeling calmer, happier, more fulfilled…

Happy New Year to all of my readers, friends and family.  Thank you for taking time out of your day today to share with me.  Much love.

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Have It All Together?

Do you ever feel crazy? Like full on, off your rocker, make me a strong drink, kind of nuts? I seriously surprise myself daily with the range of emotion I can get through in just one day. Being a human is so weird. Just saying.

Anyhow, today was an ordinary day in our household. I woke up, full of energy, feeling like I had plenty of time before our first “appointment” of the day. Wake the kids, find the elves, flip on the cartoons, make the chocolate milk, let the dog out to potty, feed the cat…look at the clock…begin to panic….listen to my husband snoring…begin to rage. 

I see a lot of women who seem to have it all together. They’re on time and they look disapprovingly at me as I sprint across the parking lot dragging my adorable and completely powerless preschooler behind me. Ha! If they only knew how I also snapped at her the entire last 15 minutes of the morning because she needed to brush her teeth, brush her hair, get her backpack, tie her shoes, get her coat, faster faster FASTER! I feel the mom-guilt pang my heart and I want to do better...to be better.

 The very best days of my life begin early. Getting out of bed on time, getting a workout in, waking up my children on time, being relaxed, being on time. I tend to run in spurts with this on-time thing. A couple of months of smooth sailing…followed by a couple of months of hectic chaos. For me, in those weeks of struggling its  so hard to remember how wonderful the day would be if I get out of bed at 5:00 a.m. AT 5:00 A.M.! My logic doesn’t serve me well when I’m snuggled under my blankets (again, husband snoring).

To survive, to love myself in these harder times, I have to find comfort in knowing that I’m doing the best I can. I tell myself that even those “got-it-all-together” moms, aren’t as perfect as they seem. 

I write this tonight because someone actually said to me this week “You’re always so put together.” What? Whaaaat? I looked behind me but no one was standing there…no, for sure, she was definitely referring to me. I have it all together??? I’m late. I’m messy. I’m uptight. I’m stressed. I get lazy, sad, angry, tired…crazy most days. But someone out there thinks I have it all together. This is a crazy life.


My point is that it’s okay. My husband and my kids are so loved. My home is still standing. My dog still loves me. And my cat likes me most of the time. Some moments, hours, days, I feel crazy. But really, I’m okay. I’m just living and sometimes that’s enough. When we feel crazy, maybe we just need to remember that someone out there thinks we’re doing a great job. And maybe, more importantly, we remember that those even closer to us, those we tuck in at night, those we open our eyes to morning after morning, those that mean the most, those people think we’re pretty fantastic. So maybe a little crazy is actually alright. Maybe crazy really is beautiful.

Disconnect and Discontent

Disconnect. Today I felt disconnected and discontented. I had terrible nightmares last night and woke up with a headache that persisted throughout the day. I lazed around too long, accomplished too little and just couldn’t quite snap out of it. 

The thing is that the kids were really great today. My husband was phenomenal, doing the grocery shopping and running a few errands that needed to be done. The sun was shining. Everything was right with the world but something in my heart was off. My mind said everything was great but my heart couldn’t connect with that thought.

Why is it that we have these days? Being a type-A, perfectionist, it’s hard for me to accept the days when I’m not upbeat. The moments when I’m not my normal, energetic, hopeful self. These are the times I have to step back and cut myself a break. 

I remind myself, it’s okay to be grouchy. It’s okay to be lazy. It’s okay to have an “off” day. We’re human. While I struggled today, I also found some beautiful moments. I grabbed a game of tennis with my kids. I was able to pray with my son and help him through some anxiety. I walked with my kids and watched them play. I took my dog for a walk. I hugged my husband. Somehow he and I even found time to have an uninterrupted conversation today (that never ever happens). 


What’s my point? It happens. We wear down and some days we just don’t feel great, even when everything is right. But even on the “off” days, we can push through, focus on our blessings, and just take the day one moment at a time. I know how fortunate I am. I have everything that matters to me in this life, my husband, my children, my family, our health, our home, a good career, a happy life. But even with so many blessings, I am not perfect. I cannot be perfectly happy and content every day of my life. I am an imperfect, broken, work-in-progress, child of God. And I’m learning that I can cut myself a break and know that it’s okay. Okay to get tired. Okay to feel sad. Okay to take time to reset and refresh. 

The day is done now. I’m ending the evening with jammies and movies with my family. Tomorrow is a new day and after a good night’s rest and with God’s help, in the morning my heart will be lighter. 

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.

My Missing Piece

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Most things I’ve written up to this point have come easily. Something in my mind/heart sparks and the words flow onto the screen before I can hesitate. But today, this topic, this is much more difficult for me. I’ve thought about writing about my miscarriage many times. I’ve spoken about it to others going through the same loss. I’ve posted on my FB wall to share that there is another child in my life that most people don’t know about. But it’s hard to commit to writing it all out. I hesitate because I question what is to be gained. When I lost my child, I was undeniably changed. Broken. What can I say about it that will benefit someone else? I could say that today I’m a happy mother of two; so there is hope but no…that doesn’t quite touch the depth of the true loss. There is no replacing a child. So what can I say?

I’ve decided to write about this because I believe that every pain in life has a purpose. I can’t say why I lost my child, other than that along the way I was able to relate to some very dear people in my life when they suffered the same loss. I was able to take my pain and work with some charities that benefit research that work to prevent miscarriage and early labor. I had some very unique life experiences in the years since my child was taken from me…and had I never miscarried, those experiences wouldn’t belong to me. So maybe that’s why, but I can’t really say I have it figured out yet. This blog may not be witty; its not funny or light-hearted; but it will be honest.

When I learned I was pregnant, I was so excited that I couldn’t even wait for my husband to get home to share the news. I called my mom first…then my sister…then made my way to the ball field where my husband was umpiring a game and proudly hung my positive test from his rear view mirror. I was overjoyed. We told EVERYONE. My husband sent out a blast text to everyone we knew. I shared with my co-workers and customers…I may have even told a stranger on the street if they had made eye contact with me. This would come back to haunt me.

I was completely unsure on what to do next so I made an appointment with my family doctor to verify the good news. It’s odd, the things you forget. I’m not even sure who went to the doctor with me or if I was alone. I remember that I was asked to take a urine test and then a blood test. Then the doctor came in and very matter-of-factly told me that either I was extremely early in my pregnancy (which didn’t make sense with my cycle) or I was miscarrying. I remember feeling shocked and confused. This is not at all what I expected. I actually remember thinking that my mom had healthy pregnancies, so I would too. That we hadn’t had any history of miscarriage in my family so why would it start with me. I had felt immune to the idea of miscarriage. To say that this news hit me like a ton of bricks, is an understatement. I left the office feeling completely lost and confused as to what to do. The doctor had advised me to wait and see…which felt completely ludicrous. Wait and see? What? Wait and see if this life inside of me fades away? How do you wait for that?

After talking with my mom, I decided to call an OBGYN. Actually I called the same OB who delivered me 22 years earlier. I had an appointment three weeks out. It felt like a lifetime. Three weeks later I walked through the door to a very different experience. The same news…but still, a different experience. My blood work wasn’t promising. I was pregnant. But my hormones weren’t quite at the levels they would be expected to be. This doctor explained to me that sometimes this can mean that you will eventually miscarry, but sometimes a woman’s body will turn around and the pregnancy would survive. Again, I was told we would have to wait. I would have to take it easy but I had an appointment to come back in a month to check my progress. This doctor had given me hope. We all know the ending to this story by this point. I never made it to that follow-up appointment. I’m sure it’s easy to wonder why I would be thankful to have been given hope about a child that would eventually die. The reason is that I carried my child for another three weeks from that point. If I had to endure my pregnancy for that period of time with no hope, I’m not sure I would have been able to do it.

I lost my child on July 2nd, 2007. I was approximately 8 weeks pregnant. Not even out of my first trimester. The weeks leading up to the miscarriage were tense at best. I truly feel for my husband. I was a mix of hopefulness and dread; of excitedness and being utterly terrified. I wanted so badly to be joyful but something inside of me said “this will not last”. It was early in the morning when I started having severe cramping in my stomach. I sat in a rocking chair in a spare bedroom of our house and held my stomach and cried. I knew. I knew what was happening and I was powerless. I’m not sure if I asked my husband to drive me to the ER or if he asked me to go but somehow we ended up there. I was examined and my husband and I sat in a cold hospital room waiting for the answer.

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One small gift from that day, one thing I will always remember, as we sat waiting, there were no words that could be said. My husband held my hand and we sat in silence. Over the radio came a song, Cindy Lauper’s “Time After Time”. This has been our song since the first few weeks we had dated. The words say “If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me. Time after time. If you fall, I will catch you. I’ll be waiting. Time after time.” We smiled. In that moment of agony, God gave us a brief pause, a relief. He reminded us that we had each other.  The doctor came in soon after that and confirmed our worst fears. Our child was gone. There was nothing to be done. There was no way to change it. My child had died and passed into heaven before I knew if I had a daughter or a son. I remember walking into the ER waiting room to find my parents, my sister and brother. They saw my pain and they wrapped their arms around me and we all just stood there like that…in this big group hug. This was their loss too. I remember the receptionist coming out from behind the doors and hugging me. The moments of kindness stick in my memory almost as much as the pain. And then we went home.

The 4th of July was a couple of days later and we had planned a gathering at our house. Those days that followed my miscarriage are a little foggy. I remember feeling shocked that the sun could rise. Feeling hurt that life just keeps going. I remember the sincere concern from those around me. I remember still feeling alone in my pain.

I was pregnant for 8 weeks. I remember questioning whether I deserved to feel so much loss. I did not birth a child. I did not know if I lost a son or daughter. My child does not have a name. But I was a mother from the time of conception. I loved my child then, and I still love my child today, as much as I love my living children. Boy, that’s a hard one to explain. How do you love someone you’ve never met. I carried this child in my body. This child is a part of my soul. When my child died, a part of my soul went with them. That’s the only way I can explain it.

Life went on. I went back to work. All of the countless people I had shared my exciting news with would come into my work and check in with my pregnancy and every time I had to share with them that I had a miscarriage. I felt bad for them. I could tell they felt bad for me. It was unspeakably painful to relive this news over and over again. I would tell people “It’s God’s plan.” But I did not believe that. I thought it was the right thing to say so I said it…over and over. And then I would get in my car for the 45 minute commute home and I would cry from the time I buckled my seatbelt until the time I walked in my front door. As soon as I was back in the presence of any other person, the veil would come down and I would paste a smile on my face and I was fine. (I was anything but fine.) I went along like this for quite awhile. Smile in public. Agony on my own. Then one day, I have no idea what triggered me, but I couldn’t hold it together anymore. I walked into a back room at my work and I broke down. I started crying and I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop to save myself the embarrassment, I couldn’t  stop to save face, I couldn’t stop to pretend, I couldn’t hide anymore. Again, an angel entered my life at this moment. My boss at the time came in and told me to see a doctor. She told me to take some time. She told me to take care of myself. It was the right advice at the right time. This was about two months after my miscarriage. I went back to my OBGYN who determined that I had slipped into a depression due to the loss of my pregnancy. This was not me. I had never been depressed in my life. I’m an optimist. I see the sunny side of things on the darkest days. But no one is immune to heart break. And my heart did break when I lost my child. My doctor placed me on a mild antidepressant. I stayed on the medication for a month and slowly the darkness rose. I saw light return to my life. It was still hard. It is still hard today. I can’t write this without tears in my eyes. It still hurts. I think it always will.

But I have moved forward with my life. I was blessed with two children. I know how incredibly lucky I am and I am grateful. I saw the child I lost in a dream once. I’m not sure why I feel that’s so important to share but I do want you to know that. A friend of mine was holding my child in my dream (my friend had actually passed just a year earlier). My friend told me that this was his baby now. I felt better because I knew they were together. I knew they were both watching over me. I know today that they’re waiting for me and someday I’ll hold my baby in my arms…but until then, my child is being loved.

After my miscarriage, after the depression had passed, in talking with others that had the same loss, I read somewhere that our children are never really ours. Children belong to God. He puts them in our lives and they teach us and change us but they’re never really ours. He chooses when to call them to heaven. My child was with me for a very short time, but I carry my baby with me every day in my heart. I know when I go to heaven, the first face I want to see is my child’s. It gives me joy to think of what that reunion will be like. For now I’m thankful for all the blessings in my life and I will make the most of it while I can.

I write about this with the hope that someone needs to read it. Someone who is experiencing the same type of loss. Someone whose wife, sister, daughter or friend has miscarried and they’re not exactly sure how to help. Just be there; be attentive; listen to what’s not being said; pray. Let her know you understand. Let her know she will be okay… changed, transformed, and in the end, she will accept the way things are. She will be okay. I know because I’m okay.

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