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Adieu, 2016.

31 Dec

Can you believe we are here again already…New Year’s Eve. Honestly, where has the time gone? I hear people say all the time the older you get the faster the days fly, but this is the first year I am noticing just how quickly they are passing.

2016 was a year that many people won’t forget, but oh so many wish they could. We started off the year with elevated lead levels in Flint, Michigan’s water, the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, then we witnessed an attack on an airport in Brussels, the Zika outbreak, the Transgender bathroom use debate, mid-year brought the Orlando nightclub shooting, a gator attack at Walt Disney World, an attack on police in Dallas, TX, and Baton Rouge, LA, a devastating earthquake in Italy, Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, while the end of the year ushered in an EpiPen price surge, a California tour bus crash, the election of Donald Trump as the next American President, a countrywide clown scare, Hurricane Matthew, and a Berlin terror attack on a Christmas market.

We said goodbye to numerous, beloved celebrities including Alan Rickman (Professor Snape from the Harry Potter saga), Joe Alaskey (portrayed Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck  and other Looney Tunes characters), Nancy Reagan (former First Lady), Doris Roberts (mother on TV sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond), Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), Ron Glass (from the sci-fi TV show Firefly), John Glenn (first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth), Alan Thicke (Growing Pains), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in Star Wars) and Debbie Reynolds (Singin’ in the Rain, and Disney Channel’s Halloweentown movies).

However, 2016 did have some high points that we shouldn’t forget about… the Chicago Cubs broke their World Series curse (although I personally was pulling for the Indians!), the Mannequin Challenge provided some laughs, Billy Gilman came out of hiding and competed on The Voice, another Harry Potter book was released, Simon Biles dominated during the Summer Olympics, the Cleveland Browns actually won a football game, and Leonardo DiCaprio Won His First Oscar!

For me, personally, 2016 was a year of change, firsts and learning to grow. Here are some of my favorite highlights from the year!

1. Scott moved to Ohio.

2. After being at my job less than 6 months, I planned and executed the largest event my company held. In addition, I secured $20,000 in sponsorships.

3. Scott and I moved into our own apartment.

4. We traveled to see Scott’s family three times, one of those being to attend his sister, Abbey’s wedding this past summer. I was so honored she asked me to do her hair for the big day!

5. I applied for and was accepted to graduate school.

6. Cleveland Cavs won the NBA championship.

7. Attended concerts for Rascal Flatts and Newsboys.

8. Completed my first semester in grad school with two A’s!

9.  Participated in a 5K run with both of my sisters at church.

10. Grew my faith and became even closer in my relationship to God.

To ring in the New Year, Scott and I have joined my parents and sister, Macayla, for a night of card games, Pie in the Face, sparklers, pizza and homemade guacamole!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Oh Come Let Us Adore

24 Dec

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax. Repeat.

How often do we let ourselves do that during the busy holiday season? I would bet most of us are too busy racing around for the perfect gift, creating a Pinterest worthy holiday dinner or just trying to keep it all together on the outside while we slowly fall apart on the inside.

Often, I fall into the latter category. Holidays are proving to be hard for me this year being out on my own, I saw that last month with Thanksving. There will be some who don’t understand this struggle, and that’s okay. It’s just that had I known last Christmas would be the last Christmas morning I woke up in my childhood bedroom, if I’d known last Christmas was the last time I would wait for my family to all go to bed before I snuck my gifts downstairs and sat looking at our tree in the quiet for an hour, I would have appreciated it so much more. I have been so focused on everything I’m going to miss – late night holiday baking, Santa’s footprints, my parent’s house at Christmas, when I really should have been focused on the reason for the season.

Thank goodness earlier this month we had a meeting at The Well, the women’s ministry that meets each month at church. The theme – Oh Come Let Us Adore. Perfect! Before we entered the sanctuary, we were reminded of the symbols of Jesus in the holiday decorations – the red to represent the blood Christ shed on the cross to pay for our sins; green, specifically in evergreens, to signify everlasting life; the pointy leaves of the poinsettia plant to remind us of the thorns that adorn Christ’s head. Hearing this was a wake up call…Christmas is all about the cross. (Oddly enough, I just found a song by that same title a few days ago by The Ball Brothers, trust me, you’ll need tissues!) And then they let us into the sanctuary as the worship band softly sang “Oh Come Let Us Adore.”

Our hostesses gave us two gifts that night – first, a time to relax and worship; and second, prayer. On our seats were little cards that said “Adore” and during the service they asked us to write down what we needed prayers for. We didn’t have to add our names, just what was on our heart, and then drop that card into the basket. At the end of the service, we each drew one card and were asked to pray for that sister in Christ, for whatever she had written on her card.

Lord, I lift this sister up to you. I don’t know her name or the extent of her struggles, but you do. I ask that you enfold her in peace, comfort, and strength. Help her to remove her worries and troubles from the basket she carries daily and place them in your hands. Lord, help her to see others as you see them. Help her to choose her words and actions wisely, and to be conscious of other’s feelings, thoughts and desires. Let her know that she is never alone – she can turn to you at any time, day or night and you will be there to listen to her. Help her to know your unending, unconditional, all-encompassing love, the kind of love a daughter can only receive from her Heavenly Father. Lord, help her to be wise and strong, and to know that surrendering to you is not a weakness but an act of unwavering faith. Lord, be with her tonight. If there is anger, hurt or resentment in her spirit, I ask that it be removed and replaced with openness, kindness, acceptance and understanding. Help her feel peace and joy at home. Be with this sister, reminding her that You are the Light of the World, the reason for the season,  the Greatest Gift of All.

That night was exactly what my troubled heart needed, and I too, have felt the prayers of a sister in Christ as she prayed over my card. I am so blessed to have this church family to help me grow in my faith. And it was even more wonderful that I was able to spend this amazing evening with my extended family and that we could all be blessed and strengthened together.

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There’s always something to be thankful for

25 Nov

Today much of the country participated in Thanksgiving, a day dedicated to sharing and acknowledging the many ways we have been blessed. Many families woke up this morning and started their festivities with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, followed by a dinner of turkey and all the fixings. The number of people sharing in the festivities isn’t important, but rather it is who is there that is important. 

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember, probably because I am blessed to be part of a family that is extremely close, not just in distance from each other, but in our relationships. It is not uncommon for my family to get-together as a large group multiple times a year. We just love being together – there’s laughter, joy, stories and fun. WIth open arms we accept and adopt friends, neighbors and anyone who needs to be loved, which if you think a about it – that’s everyone. And that extends to our Thanksgiving table as well. Over the years there have been any number of new faces who have joined our celebration and we embraced them as only my family can!

This year, I will admit I struggled with Thanksgiving. It’s the first major holiday we’ve celebrated since Scott and I moved into our apartment (for the purpose of this blog, Forth of July and Halloween aren’t major holidays). Last night, there was no smell of pumpkin pies, pumpkin logs or mincemeat pie baking in the oven. I woke up this morning and there was no parade to be watched (we only have Netflix) and there was no arguing with my sisters over who would get to use the bathroom first to get ready. It felt like any other day of the week to me. Scott and I got ready and drove out to meet my family. I hoped that once we were all together, I would find whatever was missing this year. 

Once at the church (there are just too many at our Thanksgiving dinner to fit in a house, we counted 42 this year!), even the setup was different. For my entire life, we have all sat at one table and passed the dished around. This year, it was buffet style. Honestly, my first reaction was that the tradition was ruined. But in the end, it ended up allowing everyone to sample a little bit of everything (in years’ past, there were dishes that never quite made it all the way to the other end of the table) and everyone was eating much sooner. 

    

One tradition that remained is the olive finger photo – my sisters, cousin and now her son, and my aunt, always put black olives on our fingers and take silly photos during dinner. This has happened ever since I was a small child.


The other tradition that remained firmly in place was that of going around the table and one-by-one sharing the things we are most thankful for. Listening to everyone always fills my heart with joy as I hear their touching words – some spoke about challenges with health, car accidents, the loss of loved ones, but what they all ended with was the strength of this family that has continued to pull them through. 

While I started the day feeling as if today were nothing special, I end the night reminded of what is most important – faith, family, friends and memories. It was not easy letting go of tradition, but today is truly about creating a new tradition and memory every year. 

This was the first Thanksgiving Scott has gotten to spend with me and my family. He has been such a blessing to me as we made the transition to living together away from our families, and continues to be my rock as I have gone back to school to get my master’s degree. He has embraced my family and they him. I could not be surrounded by a better group of people – just check out the photos!

This Thanksgiving was also special because we got to spend part of it with my cousin, Erin, who will be enlisting in the Air Force in just a few days! We are so very proud of her and will miss having her around, but know she will be where she needs to be, following in the footsteps of others in our family who were absent from the table this year, but who are always with us in heart and mind.  

Things I’ve learned about moms

8 May

Have you ever thought about moms? Really sat there silently and thought about these women? Mom has been there from the very beginning, long before any of us knew what the word mom meant. She gave up sleep for late night feedings or to soothe away troubled dreams. She helped with spelling and math at the kitchen table. She made us special dinner for our birthdays.

Mom was there when we were learning all of our firsts, from words, to walking to that first spin behind the wheel. She knew when we had our first crush, and more so when we had our first heartbreak. She held on tight when we cried because of a fight with dad and when those pre-teen years kicked our self-confidence to the curb.

Mom always knew when to listen and when to share some motherly advice. She showed us, more often than telling us, how to be good, faithful, kind and loving human beings. From her I learned to value education and what a loving and lasting relationship looks like. She may not have noticed, but I was always watching her, hoping to be just like her one day. 

There were times we disappointed her, and broke her heart with our choices and decisions, but she had to let us learn and grow. She helped us find our wings and learn to soar on the wind. She had faith in us when we did not. And cheered us on when we were uncertain of life’s path. 

My mom is more than my mom – she is my best friend, my confidant, my safe harbor, my cheerleader and my greaterst supporter. Her opinions and thoughts I seek out whenever I am presented with big or small choices or life-altering decisions. Her knowledge surpasses my own and I have learned to see that as a blessing that I should utilize. 

In my 27 years, here are a few things I’ve learned about my mom:

  1. She loves the Lord with all of her heart and has a strong faith.
  2. Her family – parents, siblings, husband, daughters, extended aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews,  cousins- mean the world to her. Family is not defined by blood, it is by the bonds we build and strengthen everyday. 
  3. Her favorite color is purple.
  4. She would do anything for the kids she teaches at school and on more than one occassion I have seen her fight for children when she recognizes they need to be loved and pushed to excel. 
  5. Someday she would love to see the top of The Statue of Libery. 
  6. She enjoys reading and has no problem spending all day with a new (or familiar) book.
  7. Sappy Hallmark movies make her cry.
  8. She bakes when she’s stressed.
  9. She is technology challenged and loves when we help her sort it all out.
  10. She has a smile that brightens the room and a laugh that fills your soul with joy. And once she starts laughing, you can’t help but join in! 

Happy Mother’s Day to the most loving woman I know. Thank you for being there through all of life’s ups and downs, for being my constant in an ever changing world. 


Mom with The Statue of Liberty in New York City

Bridal Shower, Wedding Prep and the Chicago Skyline

12 Mar

Last weekend, Scott and I had the chance to spend two and a half days with his family in Chicago celebrating the upcoming wedding of his younger sister, Abbey.

After a six and a half hour drive through two states that started at 6:45 a.m. Friday morning, and a (terrifying, for me) journey on the Chicago Skyway, we’d arrived. Thankfully Scott was driving when we hit the city because 1. They are crazy drivers coming at you from every which way and 2. It was necessary that I take as many photos as the bumpy road would allow since the only other time I had been to Chicago, I’d flown, and it was an overcast day, which blocked the beauty of the skyline.

But before seeing family, being the hungry-driven travelers we were, we made a quick stop for food at Portillo’s. This was only my second time eating there, and it was just as delicious as I remembered. You MUST try the beef and cheddar croissant… as Scott once told me, it’s something you cannot visit chicago without trying.

Portillos food in Chicaog

Once our bellies were full, there was no rest for the weary! After quick hugs and hellos, we were put to work, the reason for this trip after all!

I had the honor of being asked to do Abbey’s hair for the wedding, along with the bridesmaids, so we started practicing all the different styles she’s sent me over the last few weeks. We tried two different updos and a half updo with curls. All three were beautiful on her, but as we were putting in the last style, I just kept telling her how it was going to be my favorite, and as it turned out, her favorite, too! But I’m not telling what it is until her wedding day, even though her fiancée, Dan, saw her Friday night with the style in. (He approved, too!)

After hair and a yummy dinner, it was on to cutting purple tulle and decorative ribbon to decorate balloons at Saturday’s bridal shower, followed by folding invitations while Abbey and her mom addressed the envelopes. With three of us folding (Dan, Scott and myself) it took no time at all! And not long after that it was thankfully time to hit the hay, I mean pillow!

Saturday morning started with Scott and his mom arranging a sweet photo collage of Abbey and Dan that included baby photos and pictures of the happy couple through the years! I loved seeing all the old photos! Then it was off to Party City to pick up some special balloons and then off we went to the church to decorate!

The room turned out lovely decked out in purple and silver, the wedding colors, and Abbey’s mom did an amazing job arranging cupcakes to look like a wedding dress!

The shower was a blast – she received many lovely gifts and we all had a wonderful time laughing and talking. I felt so at ease and at home and comfortable with these people, which was so special for me as it was only the second time I’ve been around Scott’s family, and he wasn’t even with me at the shower, because, ahh-hem, no men allowed, minus the groom of course.

Scott’s family is a lot like mine, on more than one occasion there were those no-so-subtle comments about when he and I would tie the knot such as “maybe we’ll be celebrating you and Scott next” or “have you thought about what colors you’d like for your wedding?”

Before we go any farther, yes, we have talked about it, yes, it will happen someday, no, I don’t know when that will be, no, we aren’t already secretly engaged, and yes, I have thought about what that special day will look like, what girl hasn’t?!

Now that we have that out in the open, I love knowing that his relatives are excited about me joining their family one day! And to answer one of their questions, I have thought about it, a lot actually, over the years, and it’s entertaining to me to see how my mental picture of that day has changed since I was a little girl.

As we’ve kept it no secret, Scott and I met while working at Walt Disney World in 2010, so naturally, people expect us to have an EPIC Disney wedding. Take a quick look at my Pinterest album, and you’ll see all the parts and pieces of a fairy tale wedding are there waiting to come to life!

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Bet you can’t tell what my favorite Disney movie and Princess is….anyways, the Disney ideas are endless! There’s the overall Disney wedding, the themed attraction wedding, or limiting it to the specific locations we’ve worked, or limiting it still to Disney’s Animal Kingdom since that’s were we met! The cake could even be “dino themed” since we were working at Dinoland all those years ago! Or maybe, we recreate our first date and do an EPCOT themed wedding with all the countries represented! How fun would that be!  Of course there would be hidden Mickey’s everywhere and how about Dole Whips for everyone, one of our favorite Disney treats!

And thank goodness there are sites like Paperless Post that provide dozens of invitation ideas – browsing quickly I found these two which screamed Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast! And of course, they also offer the option to create a style using your own photos, what’s not to love about that?!

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As you can see, so many fun ideas out there should we decide to go the Disney route when it’s our turn to plan a wedding. The only thing I know for sure that I want Scott to be the one standing at the end of the aisle waiting for me to get to his side. Nothing else matters, not the month, colors, theme or the cake. Just the two of us madly in love ready to start living our own happily ever after.

 

Thank you to Paperless Post for suggesting I dream about my future wedding for this post. I was not compensated in any way. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

 

A Lover’s Holiday

16 Feb

Congratulations reader! You’ve made it through another February 14th. That day has so many names – Valentine’s Day, Singles Awareness Day, Chocolate-Lovers Day, this year it was Sunday (lol).

I will be the first to admit that in that past, I have dreaded this particular holiday…but when you find someone one special, and I mean REALLY SPECIAL, that all changes!

For our last few Valentine’s Days, Scott and I have celebrated long-distance style with texts, packages and video chats. But not this year because TWO WEEKS AGO SCOTT MOVED TO MY STATE!!

  

For the FIRST time in our entire relationship, we live in the same state, town, and house! That in and of itself was enough to make this the absolute best Valentine’s Day! Just getting to see him everyday is what I have wanted for so long now, and sometimes I find myself still fearing I’ll wake from this fantastic dream to be rudely awaken by reality. BUT IT’S NOT A DREAM!

The Valentine celebrations actually started a few days early at this house this year. On Thursday evening, mom was preparing to leave for a long scrapbooking weekend and was making heart-shaped sugar cookies for the scrapbooking ladies with their names in icing. With the extras, she made cookie valentines for all of us at home and let us decorate a few as well!

Last week was a stressful one for me, but knowing I was coming home to Scott helped a lot. He was there to listen and provide suggestions and just give me a hug, kiss and encouraging word that he believed in me. When Friday finally rolled around and I arrived home, this sight was waiting for me in my room!

A dozen red roses, an emoji pillow and a two pound box of chocolates!

A dozen red roses, an emoji pillow and a two-pound box of chocolates!


Beautiful red roses

Beautiful roses!


I was totally shocked. I had only been home for a short while when he said “let’s go upstairs, there’s something we need to talk about.” My heart stared racing – thinking something was wrong or upsetting him. Turns out he wanted to “talk” about his early timing of Valentine’s Day! Isn’t he the sweetest!?

Fast forward to Saturday, Scott had to work later in the evening so we couldn’t spend the day together, but we did go out and enjoy a Mexican Valentine’s dinner when he returned home. It was fun getting dressed up a little for a date night – something we hadn’t really been able to do before! I even tried a dutch braided updo using the banana clip tip I learned from the Twist Me Pretty YouTube channel I follow. Worked perfectly – I love how soft and romantic this style was, and it was extremely easy to put in!

Feeling fancy before our Valentine's Date

Feeling fancy before our Valentine’s Date


Dutch braided updo

Dutch braided updo


Mexican Valentine's Day dinner date

Mexican Valentine’s Day dinner date


What Scott didn’t realize before we went to dinner is that I had “hid” his Valentine’s surprise over with his video games. He found it right before we went to bed Saturday night and decided to wait until after work on Sunday to open it. This year I went the practical route and got him things he’s talked about needing. I think he really liked what I picked.

Scott's Valentine surprise

Scott’s Valentine surprise


And as per tradition in our family, mom and dad had these waiting for us Sunday morning – well mom was away scrapbooking, but dad remembered to put them out with mom’s handwritten notes! I love how they even included the boyfriends! I don’t know how many of my friends ever received Valentine’s from their parents, but it makes me feel loved and special and important and it’s a tradition I can’t wait to pass on to my own children one day!

Mini boxes of chocolate

Mini boxes of chocolate


So, for the first time in forever, not only did I enjoy Valentine’s Day to the fullest, I celebrated for four straight days! There was and is lots of love to be felt and shared. So blessed to have Scott and my family who love me unconditionally not only on Valentine’s Day, but the other 364 days of the year, too!!

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. – Charles M. Schulz

chocolate in heart box

Two pounds of chocolate surprise!

Little steps, good vibes

5 Jan

I will be the first to admit that I have a tendency to turn molehills into mountains. I know I worry about things other people wouldn’t bat an eye at and I know I lock up my troubles and fears until I’m at a breaking point.

This year I want to change that. I want to be more relaxed, to go with the flow, to let go of the little things. I read somewhere a quote about additude, it was about constantly choosing happiness, positivity and to be a positive force of good in the world, so that’s what I’m trying to do.

I figured the best way to change my outlook on the world was to first start with the outlook I have on myself. Good things in, good things out, right?!

Every morning I start my day with a big glass of water with breakfast. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s not worth it to drink my calories and they say that a glass of water first thing in the morning helps to wake you up and jump start your metabolism. Sometimes for fun, I’ll add one drop (you really don’t need a lot!) of peppermint essential oil for a refreshing taste.

My drive to work used to stress me out also; it’s a new drive with more time spent on the expressway. And once at work, it’s trying to learn new processes and procedures, learning the ins and outs of a new work and team environment and trying to find where I fit on the already established team. I had no idea how draining that would leave me feeling at the end of the day. So to counterbalance both of those, I found a local christian raido station. The music fills my soul and recharges my batteries. I feel empowered to take on the world, or at least my little piece of the world that is.

Finally, my sleep schedule has been suffering lately and I realized it’s because I stopped exercising during the busy holiday season. But no more  excuses of being too tired after work, my waistline can’t keep expanding! One of my favorite workouts is the at home walking workouts by Leslie Sansone. I was so excited to find this 5K walk with a power boost on YouTube. I’ve used this workout twice now and it really gets your heart pumping, which for me allows for a more restful night’s sleep, allowing me to wake up in a better mood and more likely to make better choices through the day.

I’m hoping that as the days and weeks progress, these little things will become part of my natural routine and that I’ll be able to add more positive habits into my daily life.

What steps do you take to have a better day, life and outlook on the world? I’m still early on my journey and would love to know what’s worked for you!