Thankful for Traditions

This is our fourth Christmas in our house (which is hard to believe), and when I think about our Christmas Traditions it’s usually in the context of, “When we have a family, every Christmas we should…”

What I fail to realize when I look to the future instead of focusing on the present, is that organically over the past four years we’ve started some family traditions of our own. Like how at the end of every year we SWEAR we’re going to get rid of our worn out, dog attacked artificial tree and get a new one. But every year that tree ends up back in storage only to make another appearance next Christmas. And every year we put it up, decorate the hell out of it, and sit on our couch to proudly admire our handy work proclaiming that, “Ya know, that tree isn’t so bad after all.”

And when it comes to our outside lights, well that’s a whole other production. Every year it seems our tradition involves Joey picking the coldest night of the season to date, and heading out to the shed in an outfit that’s entirely inappropriate for the weather and/or yard work to rummage around for last year’s lights only to determine that several strands don’t work anymore. What follows is a late night trip to Ace Hardware, a dinner that will need to be reheated later, and me laughing as I sit on the couch watching girly tv shows while the dogs run from the downstairs windows to the upstairs ones desperately trying to figure out what Daddy’s doing outside. A couple of hours later, Joey comes in with a proud look on his face, I fake annoyance at having to bundle up for a trip outside when I’m perfectly content (and warm) inside, and then I get walked borderline execution style down our front path to the street where I count to three before turning around for a Clark Griswald style reveal.

Naturally, our outdoor lights end up looking awesomely ridiculous, we declare ourselves the unofficial blue ribbon winners of the non-existent neighborhood light competition, and then we call it a night.

I do love our little traditions.

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Whole30: One Week Down, Three to Go

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High-five to week one of our Whole30 being complete (if you’re not sure what the Whole30 is, read more here)! And I can happily report that we haven’t touched any grains, dairy, processed sugar or alcohol — so far, so good! Since we’re already generally healthy people, I will say that it wasn’t as hard as some of the things I read claimed it would be. Honestly, the only thing I’ve been craving is Pop Tarts, which is especially weird given I very rarely eat a Pop Tart, so that was just my sugar habit talking. Other than that, I don’t feel deprived at all. I do think Joey is missing his pasta and rice though!

I’ve learned that the key is to be prepared! As in, stock the kitchen with tons of healthy options, hit up the blogosphere for Whole30 approved recipes and know that you will be spending a lot more time cleaning pots and pans. I put up this little chalkboard menu in our kitchen on Monday to help plan our dinners for the week, and it was a huge hit.  It keeps us both on the same page with what the expect and helped us plan for a variety of meals/flavors so things don’t get boring.

It also helps that Joey and I are doing this together. And we’re both so competitive that we would LOVE to see the other person be the first to break the Whole30 and drink a beer, or eat a noodle :). I just realized that sounds like we have no interest in the other person succeeding, which isn’t entirely true. However, we have been known to make the Dentist determine whose cavity is worse than the others in order to win some hygiene-bragging-rights. (Mine was wider, his was deeper, Dentist said that meant it was a tie. I think it means I win.)

So how am I feeling? I would say after 7 days I don’t feel like I can jump tall buildings in a single bound or anything, but I also haven’t gotten any, what I’ve long suspected are dairy related, stomach aches. I do feel a sense of confidence though that we’ll be able to make it through the 30 days. Stay tuned!

Guest Post # 5: Jackie on Making the Moments Count

Today’s guest post comes from my cousin, Jackie. If you need a refresher on who this fabulous lady is you can find one here, here or here. Jackie’s also a whip-smart superstar dietitian, who currently works with cancer patients, which is no easy field to work in. So as she continues to balance the demands of her job with life as a 20-something newlywed, I think it’s lovely how she is finding the silver lining in otherwise very grim situations and letting the lessons guide her in other aspects of her life. 

We all have so much to be thankful for, and often we forget, or don’t take time to enjoy, life’s simple pleasures.

This week, one of my 21-year-old cancer patients, whom I have gotten to know closely over the past six months, was told that there are no treatment options left to treat her cancer and multi-organ failure from the chemotherapy. The hardest part for her is knowing she will leave behind her close family, friends and boyfriend. But despite all she has been through, and knowing that her time on earth is coming to an end, she remains positive, brave, and full of love.

Over the past several months, she has taught me the power of kindness. To be thankful for what I have and appreciate life’s little gifts. To spend time with the people I love, even if it means skipping a workout to go to happy hour with friends :). To focus on what is positive and good in life rather than what I don’t have.  To not hold grudges, because you can never get back the time you spent being angry. And most importantly to find little joys in every day, because life is beautiful.

Thank you, Jackie, for writing. This is such a reminder of how important it is to live in the here and now because nothing in life is guaranteed. Of course that’s easier said than done, but it’s still an ideal worth striving for. 

Oh, and the picture above is one of those moments of pure happiness — Jackie on her wedding day, throwing it down on the dance floor broken bustle and all. 

Guest Post #3: Dear My Younger Self

This week continues with a post from my mom. Among all the things that make her wonderful, one of them is that she’s a very good writer, so I was excited she wanted to play along this week. Her intro is self explanatory.

My beautiful daughter, Diana, told me she thought it would be cool if I wrote a letter to my 30-year-old self…like advice to myself back then given what you know now. Whew, that was a big order because I started to get confused about me then, me now, and who was to advise who.  So after some thought, I, as my daughter always says, “figured it out” and here is my letter from Loretta61 to Loretta30:

Dear Loretta30:

After traveling around the block a few times, I think I have, somewhat, figured out how to connect the dots of life to draw my picture.   However, it’s important you feel free to connect your own dots to draw your own picture.

  • Dot 1.  Brevity is refreshing – basically get to the point and don’t drag things out.
  • Dot 2.  Be a good listener, which takes some practice.
  • Dot 3.  Work hard and surround yourself with loving family and good friends.
  • Dot 4.  Don’t be afraid to move out of circles that don’t feel right.
  • Dot 5.  When you have your children, just enjoy them, because all you have to do is BLINK, and they are all grown up. You can buy them all the educational toys in the world, and provide fancy vacations, but what they will remember is the time you spent with them, making their lunches, taking them to the park, kissing them goodnight, and telling them they are LOVED.
  • Dot 6.  Marry someone who makes you laugh and most of all, makes you HAPPY.
  • Dot 7.  Avoid the narcissist type personalities, or as I call those personalities, “All About Me”.  They can become a real drag and there is no way you can ever please them.
  • Dot 8.  At some point in your life you will experience true heartache.  When I was your age, I experienced a loss that was out of my control and the loss just ripped through my heart.  If you find yourself in this situation, reach deep into your soul to find the grace you need to ride it out, and stay close to those who understand.
  • Dot 9.  Love your parents and always be there for them because they love you and will always be there for you.   Keep the word “Giving” in your vocabulary, and a sense of accomplishment will always be yours.
  • Dot 10.  Live life to your BEST, and you will never need to apologize

Now, Loretta30, you connect your dots, and form your picture of life.  And while you are forming your picture remember to enjoy each moment and SMILE!!!

Love,

Loretta61

Thank you, Mom, for such a lovely reflection. I’m sure there are a few dots everyone can relate to. I love the message about forming our own picture, because regardless of the advice people want to bestow upon us I think it’s important that somehow we ultimately figure it out for ourselves and connect the dots that make the most sense in our one wild and crazy life. And as we’re all trying to find the balance, and forge a path, I think Dot 10 could compete to be the new Golden Rule. 

Project 52: Mothers

This week’s theme is “Mothers” and I couldn’t help but use this photo I took of my own Mom last Sunday on Mother’s Day. She was acting goofy for this picture, but I just love how happy and vibrant she looks. And if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, then you know we celebrated my Mom’s 60th birthday a little while back, so can I just say that this lady gives true meaning to the phrase, “Age is just a number.” Or maybe it’s “You’re only as old as you act.”

I think both work ;).

If you’ve been following the news lately, then you’ve probably seen the controversy around Time Magazine’s Cover and “Are you Mom Enough?” headline. While I have 0% first hand knowledge of what it’s like to be a mom, I feel I’m more attuned with the demands of parenting now that I’m watching my friends journey into motherhood, and I have several colleagues who are hard working moms. What I find hard to understand is how “judgy” people tend to be about motherhood and parenting in general.

I have no idea what ‘method’ of parenting my mom used, but I’d put money on the fact it wasn’t anything with a fancy study behind it or some random researchers name attached to it. I have no idea how long I was breastfed. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if I was (but judging from my cheeks, the answer’s probably yes). And I’m sure 28 years ago there were far less fancy gadgets/items/videos/etc to sooth, swaddle, engage, and turn baby into Einstein.

What I do remember is that we were loved. Like, big time picnics-in-the-living-room, bedtime-stories, trips-to-the-zoo, constant-hugs-and-kisses kind of loved. And whether that love comes from a Mom, a Dad, a step-parent, a grandparent or WHOEVER, in my humble opinion I believe that’s the key to it all.

Less worry, less judging and more love.

I think we can all agree the world needs more of it.

P52 with Kent Weakley

Pam’s “Gnome Sweet Gnome” Housewarming Party

It’s a long known fact that Pam101 knows how to throw a party like the best of them. So when the invite showed up in my mailbox, I knew the only place I was going to be on May 12 was Pittsburgh to celebrate this fabulous lady and her next big adventure.

The Gnome themed decor did not disappoint, the food was delicious and I’m pretty sure Pam101 is the only person on this planet who stocks her buffet line with vintage china plates.

Throw in some champagne and bloody marys for the adults, and some gnome themed tattoos for the kiddos (who am I kidding, I left rocking two of them) and I’d say the party was a raging success.

Really though, the best part was spending time with Pam’s amazing circle of friends and getting to meet Mom101, Dad101, Niece101 and Nephew101.

Congratulations again!

Check out more pictures of Pam’s Party here, and some pictures of her amazing home here.

Ode to Mom

When it comes to celebrating moms, I don’t think there’s any such thing as ‘a day late’. Moms should be celebrated every day. I might not have always realized that when I was little, but the older I get, the more responsibilities I have and the more I understand the dynamics of creating a family, the more I am in awe of my mother.

You rock, Mom.

Your beautiful spirit, silly ways and loving personality make me proud to belong to you.

Thank you for all the sacrifices you made to raise three, if I do say so myself, great kids. You are the glue that holds it all together and you should know that not only on Mother’s Day, but every day.

We love you, Zeets!!!

To all the moms, mom-in-laws, new moms, soon-to-be-moms and step-moms, I hope you had a wonderful mother’s day too. You make the world go round.

The Big Fat North Carolina Post

It may be in part because every time I go to North Carolina it’s for vacation, but I truly believe that state has a certain calming quality about it. There’s something about life by the ocean that helps put everything in perspective. Waking up to a light filled room, stepping out onto a private balcony and watching blue herons land in the marsh — a girl could get used to that.

Despite the drama of Moose deciding to go skinny dipping when it was pitch black out (anyone know ways to help with doggie anxiety???), we filled our Cup’O’Life to the freakin’ brim this weekend by way of cocktail cruises and beaching boats on private islands…

Picnic lunches on the beach, dipping toes into warm ocean water and endless games of fetch with four big labs…

And what better way to balance the Beach than with the Barn, so we took a visit to the stables where our friend’s keep their horse. I should have taken a look at their job board while I was there…

We said goodbye with happy hearts and left relaxed, content and with farmer’s tans sun-kissed.

Riggo and Moose on the other hand left comatose…

24+ hours later and they’re still nursing their fun-hangover. Girl could get used to that too 🙂

Scenes from a Saturday: Bayside

As the ancient proverb states, “When in doubt, call your mom.” Ok, you caught me, not an ancient proverb, but definitely a phrase that’s worth putting on a bumper sticker. I had to get my car’s emissions inspected this morning and after I passed the test with flying colors, I realized I had no real plans for the rest of the day and no real desire to head home. So I called my mom, and made a hard left in the direction of the Bay.

On the way there, I did something I haven’t been able to do for the past several years. I turned into our old neighborhood and drove past our old house. It was weird. A little emotional. But I’m glad I did it. Hey NYCathy, I know you recognize this…

More from this beautiful Maryland day…

Found the most perfect housewarming gift for a certain someone at this cute consignment shop. You’ll have to wait and see though!

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

Your Choices Are Half Chance

On our ride up to Pittsburgh the other weekend, Alex and I talked a lot about how we catch ourselves too often getting anxious over future uncertainties and how we need to remember to live in the moment, enjoy and be grateful for the things we have today and take life as it comes. And it’s true, we all need to remember to stop and breathe each day and be thankful, but on the other side of the living in the moment scale is the part where you set goals. The part where you do think about the future, plan for it, figure out what you want and then figure out how to get it.

When Joey and I picture our future, there has always been one common theme…

We want to live by the water. Which is convenient since we live outside of Annapolis and there’s water, water, everywhere. What’s not convenient is the crazy expensive housing market. So we’ve been talking a lot lately about our goals, and how we achieve them. We try and reconcile our desire to have it all, with our understanding that there’s no way in hell we can afford it all you don’t need it all to be happy.

Like everything in life, it’s the balance game. We’re weighing the costs and the benefits of certain things, thinking about reasonable time frames to make some moves while at the same time thinking about how sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet… and all your clothes on.

There’s a quote in the sunscreen song that’s replaying in my mind lately, so tonight I’ll leave you with that…

“What ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.”