Make It Happen

be proud this year

I’m just now winding down from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. It was great, with lots of wonderful time spent with family and friends, tons of delicious food, and so much joy.

As I wrote that — so much joy — my thoughts went to the families of the mass shooting victims killed in a country bar in my city. And those who lost their homes in the fires here. My heart aches for them, and for so many others in this world, who did not have a joyful Christmas season.

There were countless times I thought about them over the past month. It felt like it grounded me, a painful reminder of what truly is important in life.

It’s been a rough beginning to the new year. My husband came down with the flu on New Year’s Eve and it’s totally knocked him out. We’re hopeful he’ll feel better this week.

With the beginning of the new year, I’m (somewhat) refreshed and ready to tackle new projects and opportunities. Even though I don’t make New Year’s resolutions — instead, I make goals throughout the year — it’s a perfect time to reflect on what I want to continue doing and what I want to improve on.

I’m focusing on being more mindful, soaking in and cherishing all the good times and difficult times too. To really be present and savor each precious moment. And, even if it’s on a small scale, I want to make a difference in this world. Practice and use the gifts I have and share them with others. This may mean as a wife, mother, friend, or mental health advocate.

I want to make things happen.

you have the power

For instance, instead of saying to a friend, “One day we should get together/have lunch/coffee/go for a hike, a movie/etc.,” I want to initiate it, take action and DO it. Not just leave it at “we should.

Last year, I started to work on that very thing — to make an honest effort to connect more with family and friends.

My parents live close by and I see them often. My husband and I have them over for dinner most Sunday nights, and I treasure our conversations and laughter. My mom is 82 and my dad is 90.

I don’t want to regret not doing something with them that I’ve been wanting to do. I’m happy to say I took action on one of those things this past holiday season.

My dad’s mom was Polish. One of my favorite childhood memories is eating her cookies that my sisters and I called “twisters.” They’re light and airy, sprinkled with powdered sugar. The real name for them is Kruschicki. They’re also called Bow Tie Cookies or Angel Wings.

For at least the past ten years, I’ve thought of making Kruschicki at Christmastime. I wanted my dad to have another taste of his mother’s cooking and I yearned to bring a lost family tradition back to life. But I was intimidated.

I love to bake, but couldn’t imagine how Grandma made them, it always seemed complicated to me. Heck, I didn’t even remember what they were called. I only knew them by “twisters.” Grandma made her own dough, cut each cookie into a fancy shape, and fried them. It made me nervous to think about duplicating such a delicate dessert.

Until this past year. I finally did it!

It wasn’t that easy. I threw out the first batch because they were too dense. I had to go back to the store for more ingredients and watch a YouTube video to learn what I did wrong (worked the dough too much).

I worried I wouldn’t get it right. More than anything, I wanted my twisters to taste like Grandma’s. I’d settle for pretty close.

I turned the dough like the video instructed, cut and “tied” the cookies, fried them, and topped them off with a dusting of powdered sugar.

My persistence paid off.

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I’ll never forget the smile on my dad’s face when he walked in and saw the platter of special treats. He couldn’t believe it. It made me so happy to see him so happy.

The verdict from Dad? Delicious. And almost as good as Grandma’s!

When my husband and I walked my parents out to their car, Dad thanked me again for making the Kruschicki. My 90-year-old father said, “Tasting those made me feel like a little boy again.”

Wow. His sweet comment made me feel incredible. I realized I had just given him the best gift I ever could have.

So that’s what I’m striving for this year. To not wait for someday. Make things happen.

Today.

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Up, Up, and Away

Of all the books in the world,

I’m super excited because later this week, my husband, two daughters, and I are heading out to explore parts of the world we’ve never seen before. We’ll be visiting several European countries.

I feel blessed, and can’t wait to immerse myself in these other cultures. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and tasting each country’s delicious cuisine.

As happy as I am, this trip has been overwhelming to plan, and for the past few months, I’ve been nervous and anxious about so many things. It’s stressful for me to be thousands of miles away from friends and family, our business, and well… the familiar.

But when I sit on the plane, I’ll take a deep breath, knowing we’ve taken care of as much as we could, and it’ll all be fine. I’m going to be mindful and treasure every minute, because I know this grand adventure will pass much too quickly.

These upcoming experiences will become a part of me, and a part of our family. Special memories that will enrich our lives forever.

I can’t wait to share my travel stories with you, when I return in a few weeks.

Take care!

Jenny

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Girl… or Boy?

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No, no, no, I’m not pregnant. My niece is! She and her husband are expecting their first child next March.

Last weekend they had a “gender reveal” party, and it was super exciting. I’d seen reveals online, like when balloons are popped and pink or blue confetti flows out, or when a cake is sliced, there’s either pink or blue cake inside. But I’d never personally been to a reveal. I know they’re popular now, especially among millennials.

My parents had absolutely NO idea what their granddaughter was talking about when she sent out the Facebook invite. My 90-year-old dad had a hard time grasping the concept. “What in the world is a gender reveal party? Why do they have a party for that? That’s just for women to go to, right?”

“No, Dad. It’s for all of us. It’ll be fun to share in the excitement with Kady and Dylan.”

I wasn’t sure how the reveal party worked. I thought the parents-to-be found out the sex of their baby, and that they were the ones to orchestrate the revealing. I found out this isn’t the case, or at least, it wasn’t here.

A few weeks ago, Kady had a blood test to determine the gender. The doctor’s office put the result in an envelope, sealed it tightly, and gave it to Kady, who gave it to one of her friends. (No, Kady did NOT peek!) Her friend was the only one entrusted with the secret. She ordered the pink or blue theme for the revealing.

About 30 of us gathered at my sister’s house for the “unveiling.” It was suggested we wear pink or blue, depending on what our vote was. I wore blue jeans and a light pink t-shirt. That way, I had it covered. There was a sea of different shades of blue and pink, with slightly more people sporting blue.

We put stickers on, either “Team Blue” or “Team Pink.” Banners and balloons decorated the kitchen. There were blue and pink frosted cupcakes and pink lemonade and blue tropical punch.

Kady was glowing and Dylan was the proud papa-to-be. They couldn’t wait to find out if they’d be welcoming a girl or boy into their lives.

Finally it was time to head out to the front yard. We all stood on the lawn, anticipating what was about to happen. Dylan said some beautiful words about how it takes a village to raise a child, and he and Kady are blessed to have all of us in their lives.

Then they each held a long white cylinder stick (a smoke powder cannon), and the countdown began. THREE…TWO…ONE!

They twisted the canisters and out exploded…

Huge plumes of bright blue smoke!

Everyone clapped and cheered until the blue cloud disappeared. The look of joy on Kady and Dylan’s faces was beyond priceless. They gave each other a tight hug, as they laughed and shed tears of happiness.

In six months, I’ll get to meet my sweet, great nephew.

And my niece and her husband will hold their precious son for the very first time.

"A grand adventure is about to begin..."  -Winnie the Pooh

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A Birthday to Remember

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A couple of weeks ago, my sister called to finalize details for our dad’s 90th birthday party. We had been trying to come up with something extra special.

My sister (I’ll call her Claire) wanted to run an idea by me. “How about if each of us talk about a special memory of Dad, or tell why he’s important to us… And I’ll videotape it.”

Videotape it? I’m not sure if everyone will be up for that.

Claire said that whoever wanted to participate could, no pressure for those who don’t want to.

So I agreed. And started to think about what I’d say.  Where do I begin?

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The anticipated big day was arriving quickly. My other sister (I’ll call her Tara), who lives out of state, flew in for the festivities. It meant the world to Dad that she came.

All of us gathered last weekend to celebrate the birth and wonderful life of our patriarch. Dad, Grandpa, Great-Grandpa.

We had a barbeque with his favorite meal — hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and a donut cake. I can’t tell you how many pictures we have of him blowing out candles, perched on a stack of donuts. But this one was momentous. Two candles, one the number 9, one the number 0, stood proudly on top of the donut tower.

There were 16 of us, so we started the video tribute sessions early, before dinner. Dad sat in the living room where it was quiet, as most people were outside eating appetizers and playing games of cornhole.

One by one, we sat on the sofa next to him. No one opted out. Every single one of us spoke.

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My sisters and I went first. Tara talked about how she used to love going out with Dad every year, just the two of them, to find the perfect “Charlie Brown Christmas tree.” Claire reminded Dad of the times they’d lie on the backyard lounge chairs at night and stare at the stars, trying to find constellations.

I told Dad how much I loved my pretty bedroom he decorated for me when I was a little girl. He painted it pink, with flower wallpaper, and a canopy bed. He made me feel like a princess. I talked about how I treasure the times that he and my mom come over to our house for Sunday dinner. And that I love how our conversations usually lead to sheer laughter. Those moments spent together are priceless.

Then my mom sat next to her husband of 60 years. She told him that he’s the best man she could ever have hoped for. What she said, and how they looked at each other, is etched in my mind forever.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of my sweet parents. I hadn’t planned on taking pictures, as it all was being videotaped. But I wanted to capture as much as I possibly could.

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The moments were tender and beautiful. It’s hard to describe the look on each person’s face, and my dad’s, while reminiscing. It was like Dad was staring into each family member’s eyes, wanting to soak it all in.

Like when one of my nephews talked about the cross necklace my dad gave him years ago. He treasures that cross, like nothing else he’s ever owned.

Or when my sister-in-law broke down crying, because she’s blessed and grateful to be part of our family. My dad held her hand and hugged her.

Or when my newly-pregnant niece teared up, telling him that he’s always made her feel special. She grew up with four older brothers, and reveled in the fact that she was unique, as my parents lovingly referred to her as “our first granddaughter.” My dad touched my niece’s pregnant belly with both hands, and it was more than precious.

Mackenzie, my oldest daughter, said how much she loves to hear Grandpa tell stories about his life. My youngest daughter, Talee, told him how happy she is that she’s carrying on the tradition of working at the place where he and Grandma met and fell in love.

All of the other memories and acknowledgments were equally as beautiful. Some serious, some lighthearted. But the one thing they had in common: it was clear to my dad how much he is admired, respected, and loved.

I think those tributes were as important to all of us, as much as they were to him.

When the party ended, Mom and Dad looked exhausted.

The next day, I saw Dad, and asked him if he’d recovered from the big celebration.

He said, “No.”

“Oh no, really, you haven’t?”

“No,” he said. A big smile spread on his face. “I’m still on cloud nine.”

Perfect.

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Beauty Within

when he wanted to take her picture,

I saw this quote on a friend’s Instagram post and loved it. It feels amazing when someone we care for brings out the best in us.

That true happiness and pure contentment which brings us joy, radiates outward. The inside beauty shines through in acts of kindness, compassion, and love for each other.

When I know I don’t look so great, in fact, I’m a total mess — my hair frizzy and out of control, no makeup on, my face sweaty and grimy with dirt from working in the garden —  my husband, Alex, will say, “You’re still beautiful to me.”

I might roll my eyes and blurt out, “Oh, yeah, right!” But he always makes me smile. He makes me laugh. And I know that deep down, I am beautiful to him, no matter what.

When our oldest daughter, Mackenzie, was one year old, Alex and I took her to a department store photo studio to get her picture taken. She wore a white, ruffly dress. A small satin bow held wisps of her hair. I took off her patent leather shoes and let her go barefoot. She sat on a platform, covered with a white fur rug. Her chubby feet with little pink toes looked so cute. She was adorable.

But Mackenzie was not impressed. She would NOT smile.

The photographer tried everything. She made funny faces, talked in silly voices, squeaked toys. Nothing worked. Mackenzie was on the verge of tears.

That is, until Alex picked up her favorite stuffed toy, a small Big Bird.  He threw it in the air, saying “Whee!” and caught it. She smiled. He did it again and she giggled. He threw Big Bird high in the air one more time, and Mackenzie let out a hearty laugh. The photographer got some great shots.

Now, every time I glance at that framed photo in the hallway, I smile, as I remember that day and why our little girl had that joyous look on her face.

The love for her daddy started within and beamed outward, for everyone to see.

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Next to Normal

I don't need a life that's normal,

Last month a friend asked if I wanted to go with her to see the musical, Next to Normal. I knew nothing about it. She said it was a play about mental illness, and as a mental health advocate, it peaked my curiosity. I thought it’d be fun to go and a nice way to start off Mental Health Awareness Month, which is in May.

Wow. I had no idea what I was in for. I mean that in a good (but really emotional and powerful) way.

This past weekend my friend and I saw the production with our husbands. Not exactly a typical couples date night. It wasn’t what I’d call a feel-good show. It was intense, turbulent, and volatile. Yet filled with beautiful singing and amazing acting.

I wasn’t prepared to be so deeply moved.

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The 2008 play centers around Diana, a woman living with bipolar disorder. As her condition worsens, her suburban family becomes more and more dysfunctional. Diana meets with doctors and psychiatrists who prescribe medication that has terrible side effects.

One of the most poignant parts to me was when she refused to take her pills because she didn’t feel like herself. She didn’t know who that person was anymore. Diana was clearly conflicted and in the depths of turmoil and despair. She sang, “I Miss The Mountains.”

But I miss the mountains

I miss the dizzy heights

All the manic magic days

And the dark depressing nights

I miss the mountains

I miss the highs and lows

All the climbing, all the falling

All the while the wild wind blows

Stinging you with snow

And soaking you with rain

I miss the mountains

I miss the pain

The play delves into difficult topics such as suicide, drug abuse, and grief. The audience was on an emotional roller coaster, along with the characters.

It struck me how realistic it was. It felt like a living story, a real-life blog of someone trying to deal with crisis and mental illness.

It was a snapshot of a typical family doing their best to grapple with their tumultuous journey, which they certainly didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. Each character goes through heartache and confusion, which stems directly from Diana’s illness.

The play demonstrates how stigma can force families to hide their personal challenges behind closed doors. Act like everything is okay but it’s far from okay.

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On the way home, my husband and I talked about how good the show was.  It didn’t  surprise us to hear that Next to Normal has won three Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

But it’s not for everyone. It tackles subjects which many people aren’t comfortable with. And for those struggling with any type of mental health condition, it may be triggering or too hard to watch.

But this award-winning play is a testament to the fact that people are beginning to acknowledge and speak out about mental illness. The conversation — on this once taboo subject — is open and must continue.

Bravo to Next to Normal for bringing mental illness front and center.

And yes. They got a standing ovation.

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Time to Connect

New Year,-1

Ah, it feels nice to sit here at my computer and write a blog post again. I took time off of social media during the holidays. The past few weeks have been filled with family, friends, food (too much, of course), and special moments.

I spent time with family I usually see just once a year because we’re scattered throughout the world. I met my 10-month-old great nephew for the first time and couldn’t get enough of him. My husband Alex and I spent lots of time with our daughters, who live away from home. It was awesome to re-connect.

But the holidays weren’t all magic and sparkle. There was anxiety too, which has a way of creeping in between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I couldn’t keep track of the times I told myself to take a deep breath and relax.

To add to the stress, we started a major remodel on our business the week after Thanksgiving. I know… not great timing.

Life is calming down a bit now — sort of. It felt good to box up our holiday decorations and declutter. The house looks a little bare, but fresh.

January is a clean slate.It's a new year and a fresh start! Make 2015 be your best year yet and do things that make you happy! Live for you!! Happy New Year!

Yesterday Alex asked what my New Year’s resolutions are. I don’t like to make them, it’s too much pressure. I prefer to set goals throughout the year, instead of a long list in early January. But his question got me thinking: is there anything I’d really like to change? Some area in my life I want to improve?

Like many people, I want to eat healthy, exercise, and lose five pounds. I want to read more and carve out time to meditate, do yoga, and work on the puzzles and mindfulness coloring book my mom and dad gave me for my birthday last fall.

But there’s something else I want to work on, a different type of resolution for me.

Connections.

A few months ago, I had coffee with a friend (I’ll call her Teresa). She talked about the importance of finding and maintaining connections. I was intrigued because this is one area in my life I’d like to improve.

Life is all about connecting with others and being vulnerable enough to let them into our lives. Friends to laugh with, cry with, learn from, share experiences with, to support, to love.

I  have a close group of friends and wonderful family relationships. But I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great at taking the initiative to keep in contact or arrange time to get together. Building and nurturing friendships takes effort, for both sides.

Pinning on this board...It helps me in my own journey and I hope it helps in yours. Thanks for being there, Pinterest people.

Teresa told me about author and motivational speaker, Brene Brown, Ph.D., and  suggested I read Brene’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” Alex bought it for me for Christmas and so far I’ve read the first couple of chapters.

I relate to much of what Brene talks about, and I love this quote:

“I define connections as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

It’s giving and receiving with an open heart. And despite the fear of rejection, putting yourself out there to connect on a personal or professional level. Maybe it’s asking a friend to go to lunch, joining a club, taking a class, or calling a business contact to further your career.

Connect.

So that’s my resolution: to nourish the relationships I have and create new ones, even if it means stepping out of my comfort zone.

I’m excited to see what bonds will forge this next year.

Wishing you all a healthy and happy 2018!

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Cyber Stress

Image result for images of christmas salesFeeling anxious at this time of year is nothing new for me. I start getting nervous by the end of November. Every holiday season, I promise myself I’ll make it simpler. For the most part, I have. We’ve cut back on our gift list and social obligations. But still… I want to help make Christmas extra-special for my family and friends.

Part of doing that is finding just the right presents. It makes me feel good to give, it brings me joy. The problem is there’s added pressure, not to mention time and money.

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This is the first year I’ve done the bulk of my shopping online. I’m happy to avoid the crowded malls and packed parking lots. But I wouldn’t say buying items online is completely stress-free.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday. Lots and lots of online deals. My email account has been flooded, absolutely inundated with ads.

The sales have an urgency to them. “Final hours,” “Last day,” “Only through midnight.” I rush to buy so they don’t sell out, I don’t want to miss the deal of the year. The next morning I check my emails, and it turns out the extra 20% off and free shipping has been extended another day or two.

But many of the deals don’t last more than a few hours. Items sell out and frustration sets in. My husband and I experienced that last week.

We both need new phones, he wants an iPhone 8 and I want the 8 Plus. Several of the big box stores offered great deals on Black Friday. But… you had to get there early.

And we didn’t. FOMO (fear of missing out) became real. It’s a bad feeling to know that hundreds of others were successful, and we weren’t.

For those of you who have FOMO (fear of missing out). "The Good Life . . . without missing out!"

No worries, we moved on, hoping for another opportunity on Cyber Monday. We got another chance on a different deal. We spent almost two hours on the phone with AT&T. It was sorted out, our new phones would be shipped in a few days.  All was merry and bright, right? Wrong.

The next day we called AT&T again to check our order. After another 45 minutes on the phone, we found out the plan wasn’t good for us, it wasn’t going to work out. We hung up, feeling like we wasted a lot of time.

But it happens. That’s life. Disappointments come our way. It’s how we react that matters. This positive print is the perfect way to keep your vibe high all day long! Its created with watercolor and glitter graphics and printed in crisp archival inks on a sturdy acid-free specialty paper designed to make colors really pop. Would you like it framed? Click on this link to purchase: https://www.etsy.com/listing/276881236/8x10-gold-frame-11x14-gold-frame-thin Turn-around time is only 3 days before your print is on its way to you! Your print will be carefully...It’s not even December yet. I decided I need to find ways to maintain a low stress level, in order to enjoy this beautiful season.

Take a deep breath. Go for a walk in the mountains. It’ll be okay. 

Honestly, it’s not about finding the perfect gifts. It’s about enjoying time with family and friends.

What’s important to me is relaxing with my family by the fireplace, decorating the house and Christmas tree. Baking cookies. Sitting in a coffee shop with my husband and daughters, enjoying  peppermint mochas and conversation. Driving around looking at Christmas lights, singing carols. Volunteering with an organization to help make someone else’s Christmas special. Donating a gift to church for a family in need.

I’ve got things in the right perspective.

But now it’s time to search online for the glittery liquid eye shadow my 22-year-old daughter Talee wants. I talked to her on the phone last night and told her it’s sold out everywhere. Her response? “I believe in you, Mom. You’ll find it. That’s the magic of Christmas.”

All I could do was smile and laugh.

Believe

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Kindness Has No Borders

Our gardener is one of the kindest and hardest working men I know. Every Friday morning, he arrives in his old pickup truck with rakes, shovels, and tools piled in the back. Sometimes he has a helper but usually not. His tattered jeans, long-sleeved plaid shirt with a missing a button or two, and his worn-out work boots, reflect a man who isn’t interested in outward appearances. He’s content with his simple life and takes pride in working hard to make a living.

Our family calls him Papa. He reminds us of my dad, who we call Papa, except that our gardener happens to be Hispanic. Gardener Papa’s gentle voice, big smile that exposes some missing teeth, hearty laugh, and round belly make him seem jolly. His dark, loose curls bounce as he walks back and forth pushing the lawnmower. I don’t know how old he is, but I’d guess late 60s.

We originally hired his son, who I’ll call Ricky. But it’s a family business, and we are one of Papa’s accounts.

Papa doesn’t speak much English, and we don’t speak much Spanish, so communicating is a challenge. But we all make an attempt and don’t mind when the other doesn’t understand. Papa loves to talk, and my husband Alex and I enjoy our somewhat stilted conversations with him. He tells us about his family and mentions what a beautiful day it is, no matter if it’s 100 degrees or if it’s cold and drizzly.

Alex always gives Papa a drink, either water or Coke. We smile because Papa never opens it right then. He stuffs it in his pocket to save for later.

Even though we don’t perfectly understand each other, we try. And there’s something universal that we always have for each other — a smile.

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Last Friday Papa didn’t show up. We weren’t worried because sometimes he comes on Saturday. I texted Ricky to ask him about extra work we wanted done. Ricky didn’t reply for a few days.

Papa had a stroke.

Today Ricky came by to mow our grass and let us know what happened.

Papa was working the day he had his stroke. He was cutting, mowing, and trimming when his face felt numb. He called his wife and she told him he had to go to the hospital. Papa fought that, saying he was fine and could finish his full day of work.

Ricky tried to reach his dad on his cell but, as usual, he didn’t pick up. Papa had a habit of not answering his phone, so just a few weeks ago, Ricky installed a GPS in his dad’s truck without him knowing. Thank God. Ricky was able to figure out where his dad was, and rushed to help.

Papa was taken to the hospital, where he stayed for four days. He’s now at home, recuperating.

Ricky told me something that melted my heart.

He talked about how hard it is to deal with customers because of cultural differences, especially for his dad. He said some people have been rude and impatient with Papa’s limited English skills.

And then he said this:

“My dad loves working at your house, you’re one of his favorite customers. He likes to talk with you and Alex and he appreciates the time you spend with him. He says both of you always seem happy.  You guys smile a lot and are nice to each other and my dad thinks it’s great and says it’s like you’re teenagers.”

Really? I had no idea that’s how he saw us, and it made me feel so good. With the language barrier, we never really knew how much Papa understood or what he thought about us.

Sometimes we don’t realize how we affect others with our words and actions. Kindness doesn’t take a huge effort. It can show up in small ways — a smile, a conversation, or exhibiting patience and tolerance.

Ricky said his dad can’t wait to get back to work. I pray Papa has a speedy recovery and we can talk and laugh with him again.

I’m glad to know we’ve made a positive impact on his life.

It goes both ways.

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Sharing My Birthday with Our Nation’s Tragedy

On my 37th birthday, I woke up to the horrific news.

My husband’s assistant called us early. She wanted to make sure we were watching TV. We turned it on and couldn’t believe what we saw. An airplane crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. WHAT? How is that possible? And then the second plane.

A friend stopped by to pick up my girls and drive them to school. She was bubbly, wondering how my morning was going. Obviously she hadn’t heard.

The rest of the day is a blur, yet crystal clear.

My husband took me out for my birthday lunch. It was hard to eat. The events unfolding made me feel anxious and sick. The last thing I felt was happy.

It didn’t make sense. Our country, under attack by terrorists. I’d never dreamed that was possible.

I spent the afternoon at my friend’s house with our kids. We watched TV in disbelief. She made me a little cake. I felt like I shouldn’t enjoy it.

This is not a day to celebrate.

My husband, daughters, and I went to my parent’s house for dinner. They tried to make it special. None of us felt festive.

I couldn’t shake the eerie feeling I’d had since that morning. Like someone broke into our home, ripped it to shreds, and took everything that mattered. I felt invaded, shocked, terrorized. Of course, on a far greater level.

9/11. For 36 years, my birthday was simply, 9/11. Now those numbers mean so much more.

When I tell people when my birthday is, some give me a look as if to say, Oh no, I”m so sorry. Someone suggested I celebrate my half birthday instead. I couldn’t do that. September 11 is the day I was born, and I can’t change it.

Now I share my special day with everyone, in remembrance of what we lost. But also the strength of who we are.

Every year on my birthday, the first thing I do is reflect on the events of that heart-wrenching day. I think about the people in those airplanes and buildings, and how terrified they must’ve been. And the first responders who sacrificed their lives  with the hope of saving others. I pray for the thousands of beautiful souls who lost their lives, and for their families who still grieve.

9/11 is not only a reminder of how the world changed for millions of people, here and abroad.

It’s also a reminder that our lives can change in an instant. Treasure our loved ones, hold them a little closer. Celebrate them, and celebrate life.

That’s what I’ll be doing today. Spending time with my family, thanking God for this beautiful, amazing, and precious life.

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