Sunday, February 8, 2015


It still astounds me how one thing can effect everything.  There's a scene in the Disney movie Pocahontas (bear with me here - I watch a lot of Disney movies) with the Grandmother Willow Tree.  She's explaining to John Smith and Pocahontas how their actions can have a far reaching effect.  She does so by touching one of her vines gently to the water.  She tells them to watch the ripples.  They start out so small... but eventually touch every part of the lake.  One thing can effect everything.

It's been a little over 3 months since my Dad passed away.  It already seems like a lifetime.  And it has touched every part of my life.  In the 60's, my Dad was a professional baseball player.  He played in the San Diego Padres farm organization.  My son worshipped his Pop for many reasons, not the smallest of which was the fact that his grandfather played pro ball.  2 days after Dad died, we took my son to his baseball game.  As soon as we came over he rise and set eyes on the field, I burst into tears.  My Dad had never been able to see his very talented grandson play in person.  I will never watch one of Connor's games the same way again.

A week after he died, I tried to do something "normal".  I went to one of my favorite classes at my gym, a 75 minute killer class.  Thinking I could just loose myself in the sweat and difficulty and forget for just a few minutes.  Instead, I wound up fighting to hold it together half way through the class.  It was almost 2 months before I went back.

I'll hear a song on the radio and tear up.  Look at a particularly beautiful sunset.  Walk past the place where my husband asked Dad for permission to marry me.  Find an old voicemail, wishing me a happy birthday.  Realize that I will never have another birthday with a Daddy.  The opportunities to rip open the wound again are many, and usually quite unexpected.  I'm told all of that is a "normal" part of the grieving process.  Like that makes it suck any less spectacularly.

But these ripples touch even more places.  Almost 2 years ago now, I completed a life-changing weight loss journey.  I lost almost 80 pounds, going from 215 pounds to 138.  And I kept it off, continuing to fluctuate around the 140 mark, and I was thrilled with the me I had become.  Dad died October 23rd, 2014.  Enter grief, the holidays, grief, some traveling, and a little more grief.  I have always been an emotional eater.  Happy, sad, frustrated, tired, bored, excited - all reasons to eat.  I thought I tackled and defeated that monster during the loss of all that weight.  I was very wrong.  I got on the scale this morning and weighed 160 pounds.  Twenty pounds in just over 3 months.  Ripples.

I could chalk it up to the crap.  I lost 3 significant members of my family in 2014.  That alone would drive anyone to find comfort.  Some would say it's great that it didn't drive me to drink.  For me... food is my drug of choice.  So the fact that I didn't drown my grief in a bottle is no consolation.  But it's not just that.  We decided to move 300 miles away, to where we know next to no one.  We're selling our house.  We're moving my kids to where they have no friends (yet).  We're spending a buttload of money to get our house ready for someone else to fall in love with.  We don't have a house to move into, yet.  My husband doesn't even have a job where we're going.  He will before we move, or we won't move out of our area, but still.  All major stressors.  All "reasons" for that 20 pounds.  But none of that makes me feel any better, or any less fearful that I'm on a slippery slope back to 215 pounds.  My BFF told me that she wasn't worried.  That she knew this was just temporary... a coping mechanism.  And that when I was ready, I'd drop it without a problem, because that's how strong she knows I am.  Today, looking at 160 pounds on that scale, I don't feel that strong.  I feel... weak.  A little defeated.  Lost.

All I can hope, today, is that I can make it through today, faking being strong, so that I can wake up tomorrow and be a little closer to actually being strong.  You know...  "Fake it 'till you make it!"  Right?

Friday, January 30, 2015


Why are fear and excitement so closely intertwined?  It's as if, for certain things in life, we have to be afraid in order find it exciting.  Like there won't be an adrenaline rush in the absence of fear.  I love roller coasters.  I am scared every. single. time. I ride one.  Until we take the first big drop, then I'm just getting bugs in my teeth from smiling so hard.  And, I know this.  I know I have nothing to be afraid of, but it's still there.

As I get older, I find myself fearing different things.  When I was little, I was afraid of the bear in the attic.  Yes, I wholeheartedly believed there was a bear in my attic.  And my evil mom and step-father fostered that belief on every sleepover party I had.  But that's a post for another day.  I was afraid of getting lost.  I was afraid of falling overboard while we were under sail.  Kid things.  Things that were a big deal then, but seem almost silly now.  As an adult, my fears are different.  Bigger and badder.  Something happening to my kids.  To my husband.  Given the track record of my past year, loosing more loved ones ranks pretty damn high on my list of "grown-up" fears.  Change.

Most people that know me well would be surprised that "change" makes my short list.  But change is something almost everyone fears on some level, even if they don't like to admit it.  We get comfortable.  We like our lives, our personal routines.  Even those of us that live what seems like a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of life can count on the consistency of their inconsistency.  Some of us struggle with even small change.  Yeesh, you should have heard the muttering when my son's Elementary school got a new Principal.  Others of us only pause when the change is huge, even when - or maybe especially when - the change is our own choice.

Because of the way I had lived my professional life for many many years, I pretty much isolated myself from forming many friendships.  I worked a million hours a week, and I worked by a policy that we didn't befriend our clients.  So, my friends were my co-workers.  One of whom was my husband.  There were a whopping 4 others.  Makes for a pretty small circle, right?  So, when I switched gears and, at the age of 34, became a Stay at Home Mom, I pretty much left my friends behind.

Most people also believe it's a cakewalk for me to make friends.  And that is certainly the case, sometimes.  I make acquaintances very easily.  But good friends?  The kind you can tell all of your stuff to?  The kind you can call or text at 1am for whatever crazy reason, and they're ok with that?  I gotta tell you...  That wasn't the easiest task at 34.  Everyone already has those friends.  They're not interviewing for another.  Don't get me wrong, I still had them...  they were just 1,500 miles away.  So, it took me a while, but I made them again.  I have friends that rise to that level here.  Several, actually.  And one, in particular, which pretty much falls in line with the norm, I'd guess.
So why would I want to go and choose major change into my life...  again?

I think my husband wonders that, too, God bless him.  But, it seems that, every so often in my life, I want that level of change.  I need that level of change.  So, here I go again...  A big change.  A new place, new people...  This time, I'll be in a "strange" town, and I won't be 34...  I'll be 40.  6 more years my peers have had to establish and solidify existing friendships.  That much older to be "interviewing" for new friends.  All while hoping I don't loose the old ones.  Which will happen with some - is already starting - because, like I said... people don't like change.

I hope Southern hospitality is all it's cracked up to be.  It would be nice to be welcomed with open arms and hearts.  It's getting rare these days.  And I fear this change.  Yup, even at (almost) 40, I'm afraid of not making friends.  I guess that "silly childhood fear" never goes away, does it?  But I suppose this level of change is like a roller coaster for me...  I know I have nothing to be afraid of, but it's still there.

It's said that bravery is not action in the absence of fear... but in spite of it.  So, I suppose moving 300 miles to a place where I know one person from the home I've known for over a decade makes me brave.  Here's hoping I can act it, too.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Me and my Daddy

On October 23rd, at approximately 8:30am, my life changed.  At 10:49pm, it changed again.

A girl identifies herself differently at different points in her life.  A dancer, an athlete, a brainiac, a gymnast, an actress, an honor student, a girlfriend, a college student, a business woman, a wife, a mother.... the list is infinite.  But from the very moment we come into this world, we are all one thing - a daughter.  To someone, somewhere, present or not, traditional or not, we are daughters.  And in the backs of our minds, we always define ourselves, in part, as Mommy and/or Daddy's Little Girl.  On October 23rd, at approximately 8:30am, while I was in a car on my way to see him... I ceased to be Daddy's Little Girl, because my Daddy left this world for a better one.

It's been a rough couple of years for my family.  In 2013, My Mom's brother, my Uncle George, was diagnosed with throat cancer.  Then, my Dad's sister, my Aunt Kathleen, was diagnosed with leukemia.  And the final blow of the year was my Dad being diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor.  They all underwent treatment.  Some more aggressive than others.  But they all refused to go silently into that good night.  We all had high hopes that 2014 would be a year to slay the dragon that is Cancer.

Aunt Kathleen fought like the tiger she was.  From the moment she was diagnosed, she made appointments and phone calls and did research.  She went to the best hospital available to her - even though it was an almost 2 hour drive from her house.  But in the end, her body gave out on her, and she left us on June 5th.

My Uncle Georgie stopped his treatment in pretty short order.  It destroyed his quality of life, and the payoff was maybe an extra year.  He decided it wasn't worth it.  We can only assume he was right.  He made it about a year past the end of his treatment before he left us, at complete peace with the end of his life, which came on October 11th.

Both of those losses were hard.  I loved my Aunt and Uncle to the ends of the Earth and back again. I think about them all the time, and know that they are both looking over us.  I know that they are both healthy and whole and happy.  That they are with our amazing loved ones who have gone before them.  That my Grandparents were likely waiting for them with open arms.  That they are with God.  And, although all of that is a comfort, being left on this Earth without them is still hard.   But, really, I had no idea...

I got a phone call on Wednesday morning, October 22nd.  We were at my daughter's riding lesson.  I saw the caller ID, and my heart dropped.  It had been several weeks since I'd directly spoken to my Dad.  I knew what the phone call was.  I briefly thought of ignoring it, but, of course, ignoring something doesn't make it go away.  Oh, how I wish it did!  I would have ignored it forever.  I was told that my Dad was failing.  That if I wanted to say goodbye, I should get my butt to New Jersey.  That I shouldn't wait.  Even until tomorrow.  So, I made phone calls.  I called my stepmother, who said Dad was best in the mornings, and why don't I come around 9am?  I made arrangements... my husband left work early, took Thursday off, I packed, accepted my Aunt's offer to spend the night with her, gassed up, and off I went.  It's a 3 and a half hour drive from my house to my Aunt's.  Longest three hours of my life.

We woke early, my Aunt and I.  It was an hour drive to my Dad's from her house.  I showered and dressed up a little.  I even put on makeup.  I wanted to look nice for my Daddy.  We stopped for breakfast.  Half way to his house, we got the phone call that we were too late.  Or he was too early.  But either way, God had called him home.

The rest of the day is already a little hazy.  I'm not sure how I made the 3.5 hour drive back home that afternoon.  There were tears, certainly, but I didn't really loose it until I was home, the kids were in bed, and I was alone in the dark with my husband.  Then, I sobbed like a little kid.  Like the Daddy's Little Girl I no longer was.  And then I got the text.  It was 11:10pm.

"7 lbs. 8 oz.  Don't have length yet....born at 10:49.  She pushed 4 times and that's it.  She did amazing!!"

One of my best friend's daughter's... she was 8 days overdue with a son.  They decided to induce her that morning.  And Colton arrived an hour before midnight... the moment my life changed again.

Thursday, October 23rd started with one of the most significant men in my life leaving this world... and it ended with a new man coming into it.  It's only right, I suppose.  If God was going to take my Daddy that day, that He give me a reminder of life's miracles.  That, against all my thoughts to the contrary, life goes on.  That happiness is still possible.  That it's ok to smile... and even to laugh.  And that this hole in my heart and in my life won't ever go away... but I will learn to go on in spite if it.  In some ways, because of it.  Because I know that my Dad would want those of us he left behind to find our happiness again.

I love you, Daddy...

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Things We Do....

I saw something once, a saying about how we, as parents, feel about our kids.  Something along the lines of, "Our children are our hearts beating outside of our bodies."  I thought that was true when my kids were babies.  I would have protected them with everything I have, and then some.  I'd give my last breath for my babies.  And as they grow, I'm learning the broader meaning of that saying.

To keep our hearts beating, we will do a whole nature of things that go well beyond physical protection.  Sure, we feed them, clothe them, make them brush their teeth and try to keep them basically healthy.  That's kind of a no-brainer.  But what else is there?  Now that I have one that's almost double digits (holy. crap.), I'm really learning the extents to which I will go, the mountains I will climb, to raise the little people I made into the best adults they can be.

As I'm sure you've noticed, my boy child has an affinity for baseball.  Just a little.  I suppose I shouldn't be so surprised - it's in his DNA.  My Dad played ball for the Padres organization in the 60's.  My Popop (on the other side of the family, my Mom's Dad) was pursued by the Yankees in the 30's-ish (the YANKEES!  In the golden era of baseball!!).  Neither of them played past their late teens/early twenties.  My Dad because there wasn't a whole lot of money in baseball in the 60's, unless you were a superstar, and he was already married with a son, and my Grandfather because he came from a "good" family, and you just didn't ignore your "real life" to "play a game".  But the fact is that my son has a baseball rich heritage.  Who knows, maybe he's got the spirit of my Pop in him, urging him along so he can give it another go.

But whether it's because if all that or in spite of it, my son loves this game.  He watches the games, follows the stats - both Minor AND Major League, plays every chance he can get...  He eats, sleeps and breathes this sport.  He's got a passion for it that's rare in 9 year old boys.  So we foster it.  We feed it.  We play with him.  We have fun with him.  We get him lessons.  We send him to camps and clinics.  We try not to think about the expense, and we simply find a way.  A way to help our heart not just keep beating, but grow and thrive.  And that's how I came to be writing this today, from a Starbucks 50 miles from my house.

We signed Connor up for summer camp with the Washington Nationals, his favorite baseball team.  It was quite the expense, and it's not close.  It not only required financial output for the camp itself, but a 50 mile drive - each way, every day, sometimes twice a day for me, for 5 days.  Through morning rush hour in DC traffic.  Which can be (and has been, on a couple of occasions), nightmarish.  But the look on his face when I told him he was going was amazing.  The experience he's had this week was worth. every. damn. penny.  Every minute on the highway.  Every gallon of gas and mile on my beloved car.  Every whine from my 3 year old, who had to make the afternoon drive with me 3 times.  All to keep my heart beating strongly.

And today?  Today is Friday.  The last day of Nats Camp.  Possibly probably definitely the best day ever.  Today, he gets to go to Nationals Park.  He gets to play on the field.  Did you know that when you take a tour of any given ballpark, you're allowed on the warning track (that dirt area between the grass and the wall that circles the field), but you're not even allowed to touch the grass?  And they're not kidding.  They'll escort you right out of the ballpark.  But my kid gets to play out there today.  Like the big boys.  I told him to roll in the outfield grass for me, so I can smell him later.

But that's not even all.  He gets to meet one of the players.  And not some Minor Leaguer who's name no one knows, yet.  He gets to meet a regular.  An active 25-man roster guy.  He gets to meet Nate McLouth, who my son knows and respects.  He gets to talk to him, ask him questions, and get an autograph.

He gets to touch the dream today.  And that's worth all the exhaustion, all the time, all the money in the world.  Because I will do all of that and more... because my heart deserves every bit of it.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Raising an Athlete

Be careful what you wish for... You just might get it.

From the time I realized I wanted kids, I imagined what they would be like.  I know what I wanted, of course.  The same thing we all want: a happy, healthy, well-rounded, smart, good at everything, liked by everyone, successful in life offspring.  Barring all that, which pretty much takes a small miracle, we secretly pick.  Part of my secret wish for my firstborn was that he be a good athlete.  It does, after all, run in the family, so it wasn't like that particular wish wasn't do-able.  I just had no idea how it could come around to bite me in the butt.

We've tried several sports.  Gymnastics, swimming, cross country, baseball...  If he wants to give it a shot, we're willing.  He was good at them all.  He's small, fast and strong.  He runs a mile in 6:22 (freakish, I know.  I don't think I can ride my bike that fast).  But baseball...  he fell in love with baseball.  I didn't start him until he was 6, because I thought he might be bored.  Let's face it, America's pastime isn't necessarily the most exciting or fast paced game in the world.  And since baseball runs in the DNA, I wanted him to like it.  So, we waited.  He had a really cool T-Ball Coach that he loved.  He was one of the first to be able to hit a coach-pitched ball.  Later that fall, he started playing Machine Pitch.  Bigger kids, faster balls, more rules.  He loved it.  He picked less daisies in the outfield.  The next Spring, he played as a 7-year-old, one of the younger kids at the Machine Pitch level.  He learned to catch.  He was really good at it.  He was the only one that didn't shy away from the ball coming at him at 35mph.  We took him to his first Washington Nationals game.  We stayed until the bitter end, by his choice.  He declared Bryce Harper to be his favorite player, and the Nats his favorite team.  He decided he would play for them when he got older.

Last year, we had to make our first difficult athletic decision for him.  Move him up to the next level (Kid Pitch Minors), or keep him in Machine for one more season?  The average age progression for these kids is as follows:  T-Ball, 4-7; Machine Pitch, 8-9; Minors, 9-11; Majors, 11-12.  He was 7 playing Machine.  Should we move him up to Minors at 8, or leave him down another year?  Based on Coach feedback (and Connor's begging), we moved him up.  I was nervous about him playing with older, bigger boys, but it turns out it was for nothing (mostly).  He rose to the occasion and did a fantastic job.  His team even made it to the City Championships (which they lost), and he played 2nd base most of the way.  I just won't tell you about some of the new... ah... interesting terminology he picked up while sharing a dugout with 11 year olds.

By the end of that 2013 season, my son had really hit his stride.  He did a couple of camps over the summer, practiced all the time, took private lessons, hit the batting cages, clinics, you name it.  He started switch hitting.  Well.  Like, line drives and grounders 75-80% of the time off a 40mph machine well.  He's 9!  I swear, if you asked the child if he would rather breathe or play ball, he'd pick baseball every time.  My Dad and my husband bought him some practice equipment for the yard.  He didn't care if there was snow on the ground, he wanted to play.  And it sure showed at his Spring Evaluations last week.  Turns out he did so well that all the Coaches were - still are - talking about him.  Even though we had expressed that we were leaning toward keeping him in Minors this season, talk of moving him up surfaced.  Once he got wind of it, the begging started again.  "Pleeeeeaaaasssseeee let me play Majors!  PLEASE?"

Did I mention that there are 12-year-old boys in Majors?  That's Middle School.  That's hormones.  That's some kids that are bigger than my husband.  Seriously.

But...  he's a really good ball player.

But... he's my baby.

When did "I hope my son is a good athlete" turn into a bunch of grown-ups vying to have him on their team?  Seriously, apparently one of the Coaches offered up two other players of he could get my kid on his team.  Makes a Mama proud.  And makes a decision that should be easy that much harder.

I have to balance challenging him vs. overwhelming him.  Keeping him excited about the game vs. boring the crap out of him.  Play more vs. ride the bench more.  Play with boys his own age vs. older boys.  The list goes on.

Where's my kid manual???  You know, the one with the answers to all the tough stuff??

So, yeah...  having an excellent athlete isn't all cheering and proud Mama moments.  It's stressful and nerve-wracking, too.  And let's not even talk about expensive.  And you never get to win the Mother of the Year Award in years where you disappoint your own kid.  Because he's playing Minors again...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Born Again Athlete

This morning, when I was at the gym taking a group class, the instructor said something really cool.

"Everyone is on a personal fitness journey.  Maybe today, you're just trying to get through this class.  Maybe you're past that, and today you're trying to SLAM this class."

She doesn't care which one it is... she's just glad we're there.

Two years ago, I wouldn't have gone this morning.  Two years ago, I wasn't even a member of a gym.  Two years ago, I was proud of myself for walking a couple of times a week around my neighborhood, pushing a stroller.  Two years ago, I was still working on fixing what was broken inside, so I could be happy with the outside.  Today was my 5th workout this week.  Today, even though I'm tired, and the kids are already frazzled with Christmas glee, and I have a million other things I could have done, I did not do what I would have done two years ago.  Today, I got my ass in gear, got the kids up and ready, fed everyone, made my son's lunch, got him out the door to school - with his trombone! - packed myself and my daughter up, and went to the gym for my hardest class of the week.  Why?  Because today, I'm a different person.  My innards have morphed right along with my outtards.

My journey isn't over.  I've learned that it probably never will be.  I will constantly fight an inner battle with my relationship with food.  But here's the thing: two years later, I've won the war.  I got this.  There will still be skirmishes.  There will still be days where food wins, and that's even okay.  But I will never again be obese.  Because it's not who I am anymore.

Some of the stuff I've learned on this crazy journey:
1.  On day one, you are always ready and raring to go.
2.  On day five, you think you'll never make it.
3.  You will.  Just don't stop.
4.  On day 365, you know you'll make it.
5.  If you don't fix the inside, you will never love the outside, no matter how much you loose.
6.  Yes, spending an hour or two in the gym (or wherever) everyday is absolutely worth the time you spend away from your kids. They would rather have a healthy, fit, happy parent who plays with them, instead of an unhealthy, unhappy, cranky and out-of-shape parent who is physically present but never gets down and dirty with them.
7.  Don't diet. They don't work.
8.  Do find the nutrition/exercise combo that works for you.  I did not loose 80 pounds with tricks.  I worked my butt off.
9.  Don't listen to the critics.  They're everywhere.  I got criticized for being heavy, and I get criticized for being thin.
10.  Once you've retrained it, listen to your body.  After a while, it knows what it's doing better than you do.
11.  Don't beat yourself up for having the occasional crappy meal.  Or doughnut.  Or burger.  Or mac-n-cheese.  Or even half a box of Munchkins (yes, I did that.  Yesterday, actually.  And, seriously...  my body hates me today.  But... yum).  It happens.  Just don't let it happen all the time.
12.  Learn to love food again.  Food is good, and it's meant to be enjoyed.
13.  You have to do it for you.  Until you're ready to do it for yourself, it won't work.
14.  You do have the time.  Get up earlier, go to bed later, just do it.  The time is there, if you want to find it.
15.  Believe.  You can do this.  I know you can.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Friend's Angels

Loss is a part of life.  We loose little things all the time - our keys, cell phones, favorite pair of jeans... but these things are all replaceable.  Our loved ones, when we loose them, are not.  My most painful loss is that of my Nana.  She helped raise me.  She was 92 when she passed 5 years ago, and it still hurts.  But there are losses that we, as spouses and parents, can't bear thinking about.  If I lost my husband, I don't know how I would continue to function.  If I lost a child...  one of my precious babies... well, I just can't even go there.  But I have to.  I have to, just for a second, try to imagine it.  Why would I do that, you ask?  Because I know people, friends, who have lost their babies.  Some to miscarriage, some to still birth, some to tragedy.  And they, without exception, are forever changed.

I haven't had a miscarriage.  I haven't had a still birth.  I haven't lost a child to a fire, a car accident, a drowning, or any other horrible tragedy.  And I can try - so can you - to imagine it, what it feels like, what those parents must go through... but I can't.  I know I won't even come close.  So why bother?  Because I have to remember that as much as I might want to ignore it, to pretend none of that can ever happen, it does.  And my ignoring it does not help my friends.  Talking about it, about the angles taken too soon, about what happened, even...  those are the things that help.  How do I know this?  My friends have told me.  They've told me the best thing we, as supporters, can do is to talk, to remember, to be a shoulder, to listen, to hug... and if we need to shy away, that's ok - they wish they could ignore it, too.  They understand.  But they need people who won't.  They need people who will, on some days, hunker down in the trenches with them as much as they need us to haul them out on others.  Is it hard?  Is it heart-wrenching?  Of course it is.  But what I, as someone who's never gone through the loss of a child, will feel absolutely pales in comparison.

Why am I writing this today?  It seems like there have been a lot of babies leaving us lately...  I attended the funeral of a playmate of my 2 year old daughter recently.  She was only 3 weeks older than Casey.  Just a few days ago, I heard of a 3 year old who was lost.  A local family lost 2 young daughters to a house fire.  Newtown.  And these families, and the countless others like them, need us to support them correctly, and not to just ignore it.  Don't just ignore and offer painful platitudes... help by facing the pain with them.  From what I'm told, it helps more than we can know.

One of my amazing survivor friends told another recent survivor to ignore everyone that kept telling her to "just take one day at a time".  She said that one whole, long, excruciating day was too overwhelming.  She should take one minute at a time, one breath.  That can be handled.  And you just take it from there.  If that doesn't help with our understanding, I don't know what will.

Take a look at this Still Standing Magazine... let these wonderful people help you help others.  Please...  do not ignore or push aside the loss of a baby, whether they were born or unborn when they got their wings.

And then...  go see Return to Zero when it's released.  You will help so many families by breaking the silence.