To My Daughter on her Thirteenth Birthday

You changed my life on a snowy February night in Cleveland, Ohio.

After a precipitous labor and emergency delivery, I spent the first five minutes of your life praying. I begged God to let you live as the neonatal team resuscitated you. When you stabilized, a kind nurse wrapped you up and brought you to my bedside so that I could see you before they whisked you away for surveillance. With china-doll features and eyelashes that touched your cheeks, you were the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.

I flew by the seat of my pants in those early months, following my instincts (and always second guessing myself) and always in haze of sleep deprivation. The toddler and preschool years were a different challenge as you grew into a headstrong and defiant child. While you were a sweet and kind-hearted soul, you were also fiercely independent. You taught me to pick my battles, balancing between helicoptering and giving you the space you needed to learn and grow.

When you started school, you blossomed academically and socially. You are smart and have always excelled with high grades. That makes me proud. Kind, gentle and accepting, you were always a child that teachers would pair with a child who needed a friend. That makes me even prouder. You have even navigated the perils of middle school with grace. So far. I worry, of course. I am waiting for the first broken heart or the first betrayal by a friend – seemingly inevitable pitfalls of the early teen years.

So here you are… an official teenager. You may be a bit too fond of your phone and your tablet but you are a pretty amazing kid. You are polite and respectful. You love animals and they are drawn to you. You are good with children. You have a servant’s heart. You love the service projects that we do in scouts and you joyfully give your time and talents to others. You are a gifted musician, though I wish I could convince you to put your heart into it. While you have many interests, you have yet to find something that lights a fire in your soul. I pity anyone who tries to stand in your way once you do find that something.

You are not perfect. You need to be kinder to your sister. I know she’s a bit younger than you and sometimes you find her annoying. But she’s your sister. She will always be your sister and I hope that someday she will be your best friend. She balances you and I wish that you would appreciate what she brings to the table. You can also be hard on yourself. I understand that. Believe me, you come by that honestly. My advice is to loosen the reigns and learn to let some things go –  the things you can’t control. Spinning your wheels with stress and anxiety only hurts you. It has taken me a long time to learn that and I expect that it will be the same for you.

My dear daughter, happy 13th birthday. I love you more than you will ever know. You have brought immeasurable joy into my life. I am proud of the young lady that you have become and I am excited to see what the future holds for you. You are my heart. Always.





Booze: the savior of family holiday gatherings.

I kid, I kid. Seriously, I am blessed and have so much to be thankful for.

I may snark about my family in an attempt at humor, but I love them. Even my in-laws, who are a helping of dysfunction with a side of crazy. I am so glad that they made the trip to share Thanksgiving with us this year.

While my kids may drive me to partake in the sweet nectar that is Crown Royal from time to time, I love them more than words can adequately express. They are my heart.

And my husband, who I probably snark about the most, has been my best friend through thick and thin for 16 years. He puts up with my crazy which I know isn’t always easy.

Even though I have more aches and pains than I used to, I have good health. This is something I never take for granted.

My job may feel like it is slowly stealing my sanity, but it stimulates my mind and feeds my soul. I love helping people.

I have a nice home in a safe place. I have food and clean water.

I have faith and freedom.

I am rich beyond belief (and I’m not talking about money).

I think this sums it up quite well:


(This isn’t mine. I saw it on facebook. I do not have a source for attribution).

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Eat much and make memories. Love and laugh. Be blessed.

The night before…

It’s the night before Thanksgiving and all through the house…

We have out of town guests

They are my husband’s parents and he has been working all afternoon. Fun times.

My seven year-old, the social butterfly, has been talking non-stop since they arrived.

The cat is wiggy because we have extra people in the house. The dog is in heaven because more people = more hands = more belly rubs.

We have been to Walmart three times today and I still forgot to buy more paper towels (but I think we are finally good for food for tomorrow).

We had takeout pizza today because I didn’t want to cook two days in a row.

My kids are excited because they are going to camp out in the playroom on air mattresses so my inlaws can sleep in my daughter’s room.

I have been watching hallmark channel Christmas movies most of the day. Not by choice.

I had forgotten what it was like to spend so much time with someone with a head injury and memory loss issues (my mother-in-law).

I am kind of excited about getting up and cooking all morning. I plan to eat a LOT tomorrow.

I am thankful for so many things. But that is a topic (and post) for another day… Thanksgiving!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, everyone!

One Year Later

July 31, 2014

I remember that day well. It was a sunny, beautiful day and I was at work when I got the call. When I saw my husband’s name on my cell’s caller ID, I assumed he was calling to say hello or ask what I wanted for dinner. I was not prepared for what I heard when I answered the phone.

“My mom was in a really bad car accident. I don’t think she’s going to make it.”

His voice was shaky, but clear and I could tell that he was trying to hold it together, trying not to panic. As my brain slowly processed the information I started to ask the usual… what, where, how?

“She had Bria and a couple of her friends with her. They are saying someone died on scene but nobody knows who yet. I’m really scared that it’s Bria.”

Bria is our niece (my husband’s sister’s daughter) and she was 14 years old at the time of the accident. Bria was born just a few weeks after our wedding, the first grandchild for my in-laws.

We started to make plans. I was at work, an hour away from my husband. And the accident happened in Charleston, South Carolina which was a 14 hour drive from our home. I left work immediately and phoned my parents to make arrangements for our kids. We debated on whether to take them with us in case there wound up being a funeral, but we decided to leave them at home with my parents since we had no idea what was going on in South Carolina. My sister-in-law was in Columbia, South Carolina, two hours away from the accident. So by the time I got home from work, she still hadn’t made it to the hospital to learn her daughter’s fate.

My husband and I packed hurriedly and started driving south. I found a news report of the accident online and they were calling it a fatal crash. I read the comments under the article trying to glean any information. There were actually some comments from someone who witnessed the accident. There were also some hurtful comments – remember family members do read those.

We were in contact with my father-in-law and sister-in-law and information slowly filtered in. My mother-in-law had a significant brain bleed and underwent emergency surgery upon arrival at the hospital. Our niece, Bria, was alive and stable. She had several injuries but none were life-threatening. Bria had two friends with her in the back seat. One was also stable with multiple non-life-threatening injuries. The other friend, Hannah, died at the scene. My mother-in-law had been driving the kids around town in a convertible with the top down. She had lost control of the vehicle and drove into oncoming traffic and was t-boned by a minivan.

After surgery, my mother-in-law did stabilize. My husband decided to take me home to stay with the kids even though we were several hours into the trip. He went to South Carolina alone and spent his days with his dad at his mom’s bedside in the ICU and his nights in a hotel (my in-laws also live in Columbia so they had nowhere to stay in Charleston). The neurologist warned the family that with the amount of cerebral hemorrhage that the MRI’s did not look good. They gave her a very poor prognosis and slim to no chance of recovery. She was in a coma for weeks. As often happens, the family disagreed over what to do. Some wanted to honor her living will and let her go. Others wanted to wait and see and give her a chance.

When she did finally wake weeks later, progress was extremely slow. It was not immediately clear what her prognosis was. The accident had left her with no sight in one eye and limited sight in the other. Her hearing was affected. She had multiple physical injuries. The most significant, though, was the impact of the brain injury. Her brain was swollen and damaged which made everything difficult. She had some intact long-term memory but her short term memory was non-existent.

She learned of Hannah’s death. This may have been harder than overcoming her own injuries. She also had to be told multiple times because her memory wouldn’t let her store the information long. Bria healed physically but struggled emotionally with the loss of her close friend.

As months went by, my mother-in-law slowly improved. She learned to walk again. Her speech improved more slowly but it did improve. Her sight remained limited. Overcoming the effects of the brain injury proved to be her biggest obstacle. She was plagued with headaches and dizziness and she could retain new information for a very short time. My father-in-law retired to care for her at home. She couldn’t be left alone so they hired a part-time homecare nurse to help.

It became clear that their lives had permanently changed. We realized that she would never work again. Prior to the accident she was a vibrant 62 year-old who was a consultant for Alzheimer/dementia patients and their families. She was always on the go. My father-in-law worked two jobs before the accident even though he was retired from the military. Now he was fully retired and caring for his wife who was completely dependent and had many medical needs and was also dealing with grief and guilt issues. The last half of 2014 was tumultuous to say the least.

A lot of emotional healing has happened in this family – for my mother-in-law and between her and her husband, her daughter, her granddaughter and Hannah’s family (who remain their close friends). Right after the accident, the stress of her coma and prognosis caused fractures in the family. These are fractures that have also had to be reopened and healed.

Today, my mother-in-law still walks with a walker. She has regained some of the vision in her better eye. She still has partial hearing loss. She still has some headache and dizziness issues. Her short term memory has improved slightly, but remains a significant setback. Her speech is clear, though slower than it used to be (even slower when she’s tired). She only occasionally stumbles or has to search for words. She still misses Hannah, though she has made peace with Hannah’s family. Overall, she is thankful for a second chance.

Why am I sharing this story? This has obviously changed our family greatly, even more than I can adequately express here. My message is simple. Life can change in a split second. It takes a fraction of a moment to alter the future that we have planned for ourselves. Loved ones can be taken away in a heartbeat. Cherish life. Tell your loved ones what they mean to you. Love and don’t let go.


It was a Friday night after a long week, a long day at work and a long drive home. I walked into my house to find an uninvited, unwanted guest. Well, he was uninvited and unwanted to me. My husband had brought home a houseguest without consulting me at all. And this houseguest was not temporary, he was to become a permanent part of our household. His name is Rusty and he is a three year-old brittany spaniel.

Confession: I am not a dog person, never have been. Its not that I don’t like dogs, dogs are fine animals. I don’t care for dogs in my house. Most dogs I’ve known in my life have been loud, hyperactive, messy, destructive and smelly. I know, dog people everywhere are throwing things at their screens and calling me names. I understand. Dogs have just never been my cup of tea. I’ve always been a cat person.

Not to mention, I have always felt that taking on a pet is a huge responsibility and not something to do on a whim and most certainly not something to spring on another person without notice or against their wishes. So to say that I was unhappy with this turn of events would have been an understatement.

I kept my eye on Rusty the first couple of days. I was kind and tolerant of him but I didn’t go out of my way to welcome him with open arms.  It was obvious that he favored my husband and stayed by his side whenever possible, laying at his feet or curling up next to him. When my husband came home, Rusty greeted him enthusiastically, his joy at seeing his favorite person evident in his body language. Rusty would follow him from room to room, just wanting to occupy the same space as his best friend.

My kids took to Rusty immediately. They showered him with love so he bonded with them quickly as well. He would lay next to them and watch them play. He was gentle with them, as if he realized that they were smaller and more fragile than my husband. He would lay next to them and put his head in their laps. At night he would go between their two bedrooms, sleeping next to one bed and then the other.  I started to notice that not only did he want to be near them but that he also took a protective stance when he was around them.

Rusty quickly began to win me over. He was a very well-behaved houseguest. He was fully trained, so he did not have any accidents on the carpet. He did not bark or chew. He didn’t even smell that bad. When it was time to go outside, he would sit very patiently and calmly, waiting for the leash to be clipped onto his collar. He had a very calm demeanor, very reserved. He even got along with our cat, Gracie. He was really unlike any other dog that I had known. He liked to be around me, but also seemed to know exactly how much space that I needed. I noticed an intelligence in his eyes, an ability to assess.

One day, he was laying next to me and he gently put his paw on my arm. “What’s he doing?” I asked my husband.

“He does that. He wants you to pet him.”

I looked into his eyes and it was almost like I could see into his gentle soul. I pet his head and he immediately rolled over and exposed his stomach. I gave him a belly rub. And just like that, we were friends.

Rusty has been with us for a couple of months now. We go on walks and runs together. I give him daily hugs and belly rubs. I don’t mind when he curls up next to me or wants to jump in the bed with me. He is a cuddler and absolutely shameless about it. I love watching him with my kids. He so openly and caringly accepts their love (even my 5 year-old who sometimes, in her excitement and exuberance, forgets to be gentle). He shows quiet but fierce loyalty. He has so completely and effectively carved out a place for himself in this family with such grace that it has impressed me.

And he has done what no other dog before him has been able to do. He has made me a dog person.



Day 6 prompt: Today, you’ll write about the most interesting person you’ve met in 2014. In your twist, develop and shape your portrait further in a character study.

Best playground ever

Today we found the best playground ever.


A local family spearheaded this playground in memory of their daughter, Melaina. A statue of her stands at the entrance.


My kids loved the music toys because well… genetics. The wonderful thing about these is that as children play them, the bells and chimes can be heard as background music throughout the park.


Some of the cool toys…







A slide with rollers!


Some of the contributors…


My favorite is “Ride on, little dude. Ride on.”


This truly is a magical place! I forsee many trips there with my kids.

We remember…

Image I’ve always felt very honored to have so many veterans in my immediate and extended family. My father was drafted to go to Vietnam. His orders were changed at the last minute and he was instead sent to Korea. He had cousins, uncles and great-uncles that also served. Our local American Legion Post is named after one of his family members.

My father-in-law was career military, making my husband an “army brat.” He moved countless times and lived all over the world. He saw his father complete multiple tours in the middle east. My brother-in-law briefly served and my husband would have had he not been diagnosed with type I diabetes at age 17.

I grew up in a small town culture that greatly respects veterans and the sacrifices that they and their families make. I grew up observing Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day with parades and ceremonies. I remember standing on the courthouse lawn as a child at the Veteran’s Day ceremony listening to speeches and covering my ears during the gun salute. I remember watching the adults wipe away tears during the speeches. Fast forward 30 some-odd years and I stand on that same courthouse lawn with my own children. They also cover their ears when the shots ring out and they ask me why the speeches make me cry.

Today I spent Memorial Day in the cemetary with my children. We visited the graves of my paternal grandparents, great grandparents, paternal uncle and great-uncle. We saw the American flags planted at the graves of veterans and the military plaques placed on the backs of their headstones. There were many. I explained things to my kids and let them ask questions. They are young – 10 and 5 – but we have to start somewhere. I know they don’t yet understand the importance and sheer selflessness of the sacrifices made by military past and present. They can’t. But they will. Teaching them respect and honor is vital.

So I would like to say thank you to all of our military – past, present, living, deceased, injured. I would like to say thank you to their families. It is not enough… not enough by far. Freedom comes at a high price and I will be forever in their debt.