Monday, December 30, 2013

My Prayer for 2014

I've written and re-written a New Years post at least 3 times now.

I have so much I want to say about all the good that happened last year and all that I hope will happen next year.  I have loosely formed resolution that include running another half marathon, getting involved with volunteer activities again and making smarter financial decisions.

But hanging over my head is a cloud that I can't shake. It's a realization that life is so fleeting and 2014 will bring happiness and sadness, just like 2013 did. There will be things that will happen in 2014 that we will not anticipate. We didn't expect to lose my father-in-law this year, but we did. There will be times when we will be thrown for a loop and will have to adjust our lives and carry on.

The fact is, life is short. And we don't know how long any of us have here. I often wonder, if I were gone tomorrow what kind of mark would I leave? Would people know I loved God and I loved them? What would they say about the legacy I left?

I'm not trying to put a morbid twist on celebrationg a wonderful start to a New Year, but rather I'm taking a deep look at the life I'm living and how I can live it better.

So, I'm going to welcome 2014 with a prayer: 

I pray that 2014 will be a year that I live my life the way God would have me live it. That it be less about me and more about Him. I pray that my marriage matures because I have completely devoted myself to making it stronger than ever. I pray that my daughter and stepsons continue to grow happy and healthy because I have poured myself into ensuring they are cared for and fully loved. I pray that I bring nothing but positivity, happiness and joy to everyone I meet. I pray that I keep the insignificant things in this life just that and that I acknowledge daily what truly is important. I pray that I continue growing in a healthy lifestyle: mentally, emotionally, spitirutally and physically. I pray for guidance and wisdom in all that I do. I pray for God to show me the way to share the blessings I've received and the talents He has given me with others, especially those in need.  I pray that 2014 is the year I flourish because I am being everything I have been created to be. I pray that I find peace in the bittersweet memories of 2013. I am thankful for all I was given and taught this past year.  I welcome 2014 with arms wide open, ready to learn, ready to serve, ready to give.

Thank you God for my many, many blessings. 



Monday, December 16, 2013

Francesca Battistelli - Heaven Everywhere

It's a little hard to believe that Christmas is next week! The shopping is done (at least I hope so!), the house is decorated, and the holiday festivities are in full swing. I'm looking forward to some time off to spend with Randy, Emily, and extended family. We took Emily riding around the neighborhood last night to admire the  Christmas lights. She was all "ooohs" and "ahhhs." Seeing this time of year through the eyes of a child is so magical!

In addition to the lights, Emily loves Christmas music (well, pretty much all music). We have an ornament of a snow covered church that lights up and plays "Silent Night." She carries that thing all over the house pressing the button. :)

Like Emily, I love Christmas music and have the radio in my office and car tuned to a local station that is playing holiday music 24/7.  Today, I heard one of my all time favorite songs that was just released last year. I think it perfectly captures this time of year, what it is and what it should be.

I hope you enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Papa Ralph

Today we said goodbye to my father-in-law, Papa Ralph.  After receiving a new pacemaker at the end of September we learned that he had several lesions in his brain. The doctors told us that radiation was an option but even then we might only have six months left with him. Sadly, they were right. Despite a round of radiation the tumors grew and Ralph peacefully entered Heaven early this morning.

My heart breaks knowing that Janet has lost her husband of almost 8 years, my husband and siblings-in-law have lost a stepfather (also after losing their dad to cancer), Emily and Reagan have lost a fantastic grandfather and Ralph's kids, grandkids and great grandkids have lost the patriarch of their family.

We spent the first part of the day at the hospital with Janet and then home with her in the afternoon. I have to say, our family rallies like no other. We have been through some of the worst times with each other and consistently pull together to take care of each other. We cook, clean, hug, laugh and cry together. I think we do an amazing job in this most awful of situations.

I picked Emily up early from daycare and took her over to see everyone. She walked in and to the empty backroom where Ralph usually sits in his recliner. She peeked her little head around the corner and said "hi" and waved her hand. She did it twice. I knew she was expecting to hear him say "hey baby" and it just broke my heart knowing that she would never hear that again.  In true, sweet Emily fashion she then proceeded to hug pretty much everyone there (most people she has never met before). That little girl is something else and she has one proud mommy.

I am incredibly thankful that Emily did have special moments to spend with him, even if they were too short. When we had to switch day cares, I was stressed about what to do with Emily for the few weeks until we could get her into a new one. Janet and Ralph took care of her during most of that time. Ralph would play her the harmonica, read with her and Janet would find them asleep together on the recliner. Ralph was one of the few people that Emily would sit still with for an extended period of time. And when she was first starting to walk, she would always find her way over to him (ignoring the rest of us). That put a smile on his face like no other.  There's no doubt that they had a special connection and that will never go away.

I'm so thankful for the time and memories and look forward to seeing him again in Heaven. We love you, Papa Ralph!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Giving Thanks and Giving Back

"I love this time of year"- pretty much everyone everywhere.

But seriously. I. LOVE. THIS. TIME. OF. YEAR!

The weather, the trees, the football, the friends and family, the parties, the FOOD, the decorations, the music. All of it! I wish the whole year consisted of Halloween to New Years on repeat.

My Facebook timeline is blowing up right now with people posting daily what they are most thankful for.   Which is awesome. But, as I was reminded by a friend recently, where is all of this thanks the rest of the year?! Good point. Maybe we could spread more of the gratitude and less of the crazy rants and snarkiness? Just a thought, guys. Just a thought.

Last year, I compiled 30 days of thanks into one blog post. Looking back on it now, I am equally, if not more so, thankful for the things I listed then.

Last month, I attempted (twice) to launch a 21 days of happy. What I ended up with was maybe not what it could have been, but I got some great perspective out of it all. It was reminded of the the importance of being present, enjoying the moment and giving back whenever and wherever you can. I think we sometimes have this idea that we must do big, grand gestures to create happiness for ourselves and others.

But we don't.

Mother Teresa said "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."

Jesus said in Mathew 25:33-40 "I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was alone and away from home, and you invited me into your home. I was without clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me..... I tell you the truth. Anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me."

So, let me share with you how you can do something so power and so special for someone and it only takes 5 minutes, a card and a stamp. More Love Letters is a movement like I have never seen before. I discovered them around the time of 21 Days and I have been hooked since. From their website:

In October 2010, Hannah Brencher began writing & leaving love letters all over New York City to ward off the loneliness and depression that ambushed her after graduating from college. Knee-deep in student loans and desperate to know her “place in this world,” Brencher’s letter writing efforts grew a platform on her blog after she made a promise to the internet: If you emailed her a snail mail address, she would write you a love letter. No questions asked.

What I love the most about More Love Letters is that there are real people, in really tough situations that need encouragement that we can simply give through a simple letter.  MLL staff receive and update on their site requests from people all over the country. In a time where most everything is electronic, love letter bundles of actual, REAL letters are created and distributed weekly. I have bookmarked the page and visit frequently to find stories that speak to me. Then I just write what my heart says. Yes, it feels a little awkward at first because you don't know these people and you don't know what to say and you are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Just stop, take a deep breath and ask yourself "if this were me, what would I want someone to say to me to make me feel better?"

In this time of joy and thanksgiving, I hope you will consider joining me in lifting up people who need more of both in their lives.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Running at the Happiest Place on Earth to Fight Pediatric Cancer

It's hard to believe just over a week ago Randy and I completed our second half marathon at Disney World! And let me just say, Disney knows how to put together a race. I was so impressed with the check in, the runners expo (we met Jeff Galloway!), the transportation to the race, the pre-race entertainment and the race itself! 14,000 runners participated in the Wine and Dine Half Marathon and it was incredible. The race started at 10pm so we got the special honor of running through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot at night. The parks were all lit up (including the newly unveiled Christmas lights) and there were tons of Disney cast members and volunteers to fuel us with water and cheer us along the way. The best part about the race is that we finished with a new PR and we got to meet Minnie!

Emily would be so jealous.

If you are looking for a fun race with a little vacation tied in, you have to check out Disney. Throughout the year they host marathons, half marathons, relays, 10 milers, 5ks and family fun runs. In addition to all the fun at the parks, there are tons of activities for the whole family. We loved spending time at the Expo and spent the rest of our time at Downtown Disney.  Check out Run Disney to find your next race! I can't wait to do Wine and Dine again!

This amazing adventure would not have  possible without the amazing staff at the Rally Foundation. We originally singed up to run the Disneyland half  back in September. With a surprise baby in July, our training plans got a bit derailed. They worked with us and allowed us to transfer over our fundraising efforts to participate in the Wine and Dine. They took care of the registration and kept us in the loop ever step of the way. We ran 13.1 miles and raised more than $2,000 to fight pediatirc cancer. Doing good never felt so rewarding! Consider joining us as Rally Athletes and we will hope to see you at our next race. 

Until then, keep calm and run on! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Making Adoption Day a Special Day

One year ago today, we adopted Emily. Hard to believe it's been a year! It certainly seems like a lifetime ago that I sat in court with a three month old in my arms, raised my right hand and promised I would take care of her forever.

Adoption day is a very special day and families find lots of ways to celebrate those moments. I think adoption day should be celebrated, however you choose. I've been thinking about how I want to celebrate this day today and forever. I want to make it special. I know parts of it will be bittersweet. We can't celebrate her life in this family without acknowledging the lives of the people in her other family. I want Emily to know and understand that adoption is a special thing. It's not obvious to anyone that she is not biologically my child. We look remarkably alike. But I find myself wanting to tell people sometimes that we adopted her. (And not that she is adopted because the word "adoption" should be used to define or describe her. But that we adopted her. As an action, a verb. Something that took place at a point in the past. It's very important for me to make that distinction as well.)

I somehow have to tie up all of those feelings and hopes and package them into one day. Not an easy task, huh? I realize I'm putting too much pressure on myself and emphasis on this one day. It's not like we don't have 364 other days to celebrate or talk about adoption. So I acknowledge I need to take a step (or 15) back. Today is not about all my mixed up emotions. Today will be special because it's about Emily and Emily is special.

Today on this one year anniversary, we will read "Happy Adoption Day" and we will tell her the story of Emily. I will buy her a present and we will eat cake or chocolate pudding (a new favorite). In the years to come, we will find other ways to celebrate. As Emily gets older, I'd like for her to decide what she'd like to do on her special day. Maybe she will want ice cream for breakfast. Or maybe she will want to stay home from school and take a family adventure somewhere fun. Maybe she will want to read the letter her birthmom wrote her the day we left the hospital. Maybe she won't want to do anything.

Whatever this day is or isn't, it will always be Emily's day. So, here's to you Emily! Amazing, sweet, and wonderful Emily. Happy Adoption Day! 


Sunday, October 20, 2013

15 Months

We have a toddler living in our house. A real walking, talking, funny, kinda sassy, a little opinionated 15 month old.

It's so clique but I'm going to say it anyways: "I cannot believe she's gotten so big! Where has the time gone?!" I just dropped $50+ bucks on baby proofing stuff at Wal-Mart and all her clothes have an "18 months" tag in them. Wha?!?

Gone are the baby days of eating, crying, sleeping, and repeat. Oh no, my friends. We are on a whole other level now.

 We pick apples and pose for pictures.

 We "help" with chores.

 We love to play with playdoh and color.

 We act silly and try to be like Daddy.

Having a toddler is kind of like being on a nonstop roller coaster ride. We are cruising along having a good 'ole time and WHAM! 90 foot drop at 60 mph. We go from giggles to collapsing in tears within 30 seconds. And don't' get me started on Emily....

But seriously, I get it. I. get. it. It's tough being a toddler! I mean, seriously. Think about it from their perspective: Every moment of your day (basically life) depends on someone else. Someone else that you can't communicate with. It starts from the moment you wake up. You have to wait for someone to come get you out of your crib, feed you, change your diaper and clothes....and so on until the end of the day when they finally decide to take you back to your crib to sleep. 

You'd be a little on edge too, right? So, yeah I'm learning to manage the ups and downs. I'm learning the name of the game is distraction, distraction, distraction. Food, music, toys, dogs, other kids, tv (don't judge)....whatever. You just gotta switch it up to dry up the tears and keep the giggles coming. 

It's clear I'm a professional, top-notch, got-it-all-figured-out parent. Right? That is clear, correct?  Ok, maybe not so much. But what I think is clear is that I'm a grinning-from-ear-to-ear, light-up-my-life, 100% proud mama. This kid says words like "dog, bye, baby, hey, no (I learned that from her day care teacher!), and Mickey Mouse." She loves to climb and explore. She loves to color and put stickers on everything. She waves at everyone she meets (seriously, everyone). She "talks on the phone" with pretty much any toy she puts up to her ear. She walks all over the place and loves it when we "chase" her. She eats everything like a champ. She squeals when I pick her up from daycare and runs from across the room to give me a hug. She gives the best hugs. She still wants me to rock her to sleep even though she's a good at going to sleep on her own. She's basically the most beautiful, all around awesome baby there ever was.

Yeah..... I'd say that's pretty crystal clear.

Here's to fun and fearless 15 months!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

On Pain and Suffering

It wasn't but a moment after I published my last post that I stumbled upon a post from one of my all time favorite people that I don't know in real life (but wish I did because we would be such BFFs), Jen Hatmaker. Not only is she a Southern Christian woman, she is a rock star wife and mom to some pretty awesome sounding kids (two of which were adopted). See? Total BFFs.

When I saw she had written a post a little over a month ago entitled, "Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?" I knew it was meant to be seen by me.

In a nutshell, she acknowledges suffering happens to everyone for a variety of reasons. We can't control it but we can control how we respond to it: how we support others who are suffering and how we rely on God to carry us through it.

Her whole post is just amazing and I promise, you cannot finish it with a dry eye. Go read it right this very moment.

And then go hug or hold a hand of someone who is struggling. Just be present, show love, and let God work the rest out.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On Being Present and Forgiving

Imagine if you could schedule all stressful events ahead of time. Just think about it. You could mark time on your calendar for later in the week or even in several weeks. You would then have the chance to handle bad news or stressful situations with time to prepare. Nothing would ever catch you off guard and you could delay the worst of scenarios. Or in the words of Scarlett O'Hara: "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."

I know, I know. Only in some fantasy world. 

There is no good time for bad news. And it seems like there has been a lot of it in my life recently. Big, scary stuff that will change many things for a long time to come. Not to be cryptic, I just don't have the right words (or enough information) to truly understand and express what's happening.

As it would go, this is all taking place during my 21 Days of Happy quest. Some type of cruel joke or perhaps a hidden life lesson? Ever the optimist, I'm going to take it as a life lesson.

The lesson is this and it's really quite simple:

1) Stay present. Enjoy the moment. If that means deleting your Facebook/Candy Crush/Pinterest app because you are spending too much time on it, then do it. It means being in this moment, whatever that moment may be. Actually interacting (and listening more than talking) to people instead of trying to multitask by checking e-mails or responding to texts. Stop worrying about what's coming next and just focus on what's going on in front of you at this very moment.

2) Forgiveness. At any given second, we are all going through life with some sort of baggage or dark cloud over us. People are going to say and do some really shitty stuff to you without them knowing what you've got going on. In all honesty, part of me wants to scream at them and say "Shut the #($*%! up and act like a *$&@#(! decent human being! I'm going through some &$*@!# right now and I don't have time to deal with your #*$&@!" Whew.  But then I take a breath and a step back. And forgive. Because who the heck knows what they are carrying around. I was just the unfortunate bystander who got the brunt of their hurt and misguided anger. (And let's say-just hypothetically of course- that you did respond the way I really wanted to, then forgive yourself too. You are human and you are hurting.)

The 21 days "officially" ends on Monday. I know I'm not going to wake up Monday with some big "aha!" moment and uncover the secret to a life full of happiness. But, as my mom would say, "Lord willing" if I do wake up Monday morning, I will try to stay ever present and constantly forgive, regardless what unscheduled bad news comes by way.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Homemade Playdoh

Being sick sucks. Being sick while caring for a tiny human really sucks.  This weekend I came down with the worst cough/cold combo. I went from feeling fine Saturday morning to having to cancel dinner with family Saturday evening because I literally could not get out of bed.

I was hoping that I would feel better when I woke up Sunday morning but as it often goes, that was not the case. I managed to corral Emily to her room and laid on the floor while she played. Seriously. She eventually grew bored with the 1,000+ toys she has in her room. I made the mistake of "turning her loose" while I attempted to throw some food together in the crockpot to make chili. Next thing I knew, she was in the pantry and had a bag of chocolate chip morsels in her hand. The bag was also open and she had it upside down. Sigh. It was then I saw we had food coloring tucked away on one of the shelves. In my cold medicine induced hazed it suddenly dawned on me, homemade playdoh. She would love it AND she could play with it in her high chair. Contained chaos. GENIUS!

I did a quick Google search and finally came across a few recipes that did not include having to cook it or cream of tartar (whatever the heck that is).

Are you ready for the easiest recipe ever? Here goes...

In bowl, mix together 1 cup of regular flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1 tbsp oil, 1 cup boiling water and food coloring. Kneed it together on a cutting board (once cooled off a bit) to really blend the color together.


When I do it again I will probably mix it all together and then divide up into smaller bowls and then add different colors. This time I put a little bit of red which made it turn pink. I took half of the mixture out of the bowl and added blue which turned the rest into a nice purple.


Emily was a huge fan. She tried to eat a little bit but not a big deal because I knew what was in it and it clear didn't taste good because she spit it out. I have it saved in a plastic bag and will be pulling it out again when I need to keep her contained and busy.

Happy playdoh playing!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Update on 21 Days of Happy

The latest in not-so-surprising-news: I didn't start my 21 Days of Happy on time. Big shocker, I know. It got pushed wayyyyyy down the priority list until it fell off. I had a really crappy start to the day this morning and it hit me: I can't keep putting other things in front of creating happiness for me and others. This has to come first. Because most days I feel like I'm being stretched like a rubber band and I'm about to break. In the crazy  hectic world that is my life, I'm trying to do everything I have to do but feel like I'm doing it all wrong and in a very haphazard way (with mixed results, at best).

That means I'm officially starting it (seriously this time) TODAY! I mean what better time than October 1s. 

If you need a refresher of what this is all about, read my orginal post. But here's the gist of things you need to do every day:

1. Write down three new things you’re grateful for. Your brain learns to hone in on the positives in the world. 
2. Journal about one positive experience. It will feel like you’re reliving it. 
3. Exercise. You teach your brain that your behavior matters. 
4. Meditate. It reduces the noise in your brain and allows you to focus. 
5. Do random acts of kindness.

We can do this, people. We need to do this, for our own good and for others.

Here's to #21daysofhappy,

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"What is it that you do all day?"

I actually had a colleague ask me that recently. While it might sound a bit offensive to some, it really didn't rub me the wrong way because my job is kind of confusing and filled with tons preconceived notions.

I am a lobbyist. I work for a wonderful non-profit and work to make sure children in our state are given ever chance to grow up safe and healthy.

"Lobbyist" is a bit of a dirty word. Partly, because there are some dirty lobbyist out there. But then there are some awesome, hard working, smart and ethical people in this role that do the right thing for the right reason. Can you guess which group I chose to associate myself with?

The simplest way I can answer the question of "what is it that you do all day?" is to compare it to waiting in an airport for a flight. There is a flight you are taking (in this case, it's a bill you are working on passing) and you've been informed its going to "take off" at a certain time. So, you prepare and pack for your trip (or do all your research and fact finding to support your case) and show up at the airport (or State House). Then you sit. And wait for your plane to take off (or your bill to come up in debate in a committee hearing or on the floor). While you wait, you check e-mails and strike up conversations with fellow travelers (or fellow lobbyists). You find out why they are there and often find out that you traveling to the same final destination (or both support the same bills). Suddenly, over the loudspeaker, you hear one of two announcements: your fight has been delayed (your bill is not up for reading or debate today) or you are now boarding (your bill is now up for reading or debate). If you are lucky enough to begin the "boarding process" the next few minutes (or in some cases hours) are filled with excitement, nervousness, and stress. And you don't truly breathe a sigh of relief until you are finally in the air at cruising altitude (or all the votes have been tallied and your bill passes).   But that relief is short lived, because whether you got delayed or off the ground you are going to have to do it all over again when your flight is re-booked or when you make your connection (and your bill will eventually come up for debate or it will then move to the other chamber for the process to start over).

While this is just a snap shot of a day, it really doesn't give justice to the work that goes in to passing laws (on both sides lobbyists to lawmakers).  Or why we  do what we do. I was recently asked by a college student for a class paper to answer some questions about my profession. I found as I was answering the questions, that I'm proud of the work I do and what I have been able to accomplish along side of some fantastic people. Here's a snap shot of my responses:

1. Why did you choose this profession? I went into social work, like many people do, because I was interested in helping others. I chose to focus on a “macro” track in grad school because I wanted to work on “big picture issues” that are addressed at the organization and community level. I have spent the last 8 years working with various nonprofits in South Carolina to improve the health and well-being of women, children and family.

2. How would you describe the responsibilities of your position? I am responsible for tracking state legislation that impacts our mission of preventing child abuse and neglect and unintentional injury. I create a legislative agenda that includes bills our organization will lead, endorse, monitor, or oppose during the session. I work closely with members of the General Assembly and provide them with information (data, reports) that help them make the best decisions for children.  I work closely with our program staff to integrate program and policy work as we build our advocacy network among organizational partners. It’s absolutely critical to have voices from people that work in the field and on the front lines to share their experiences with those making decisions about how funding is spent and programs are run.

3.How would you describe a typical day or week in your position? During the legislative session (January-June) I spend most days at the State House. I listen to bills being discussed in committee meetings and follow debate on the floor of the Senate and House. I talk with legislators and other lobbyists about bills we are trying to pass (or block). I also spend time researching similar legislation that has been introduced in other states and data that supports or discredits current proposed legislation.  When we aren’t in session, I continue to spend time researching legislation that we might consider introducing or supporting in the upcoming session and meeting with other groups who are interested in working with us.  For instance, we are working on update current state law to reflect the most recent recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics on how infants and young children should be restrained in a car. Updating this law is very important because these recommendations provide important new research on how to keep kids safe. The closer our law reflects the newer recommendations, the better it can be enforced and the better the chance children will not be injured or killed because they were not in the right car seat or booster seat for their age. 

4.What major challenges and problems do you face and how do you handle them? Part of the biggest challenge of this job is realizing that every organization or group has something that they are passionate about and are asking legislators to support their work. It’s often easy to get lost in the crowd.  You have to keep pushing information to the front so that the issue you are working on gets noticed. You also need strong supporters that will help you along the way. Of course you will always have to deal with people who disagree or don’t see the importance of the work you are doing. A lot of my job is about education. I’m educating the public about why these issues are important so that they can help me in educating their lawmakers to do something about it.

5.What was your biggest accomplishment in this profession? The biggest thing I am most proud of thus far is being a part of a group effort to pass a law establishing school polices to protect student athletes from concussions. While I was new to the work, this group had been together and working on this issue for many legislative sessions. The bill passed this session and was signed into law by the Governor. I was able to attend the signing and see all the hard work pay off, which was very rewarding!

Concussion law signing with Governor 

We find ourselves living in a time where often politics get in the way of policy. Parties are becoming increasingly divisive.  But ideologies aside, I believe there should always be respect given to those who have been elected to public service.  And I will continue to push to put our issues aside so we can do right by our smallest citizens.