It All Comes Full Circle

plans 4Life is about changes. And plans. And changing those plans. It’s about stages. Adapting. Or not. Some people live spontaneously. On the edge. Others plan. I am a planner. I like routine. As a teen, I planned out my life. Special ed teacher. Check. Married at 21. Check.  First child at 25. Check. Three to five children. Check. Physical issues stopped me at three (along with Gregger’s objections). I would have gone for five! What I didn’t prepare for were the unexpected bumps along the way. I planned. I prepped. I prepared. I never thought about the curve balls thrown along the way. I’d have to be ready to swing, catch, strike out, or hit a home run. I never knew what life was going to throw my way.

  • It certainly wasn’t in my “plan” to encounter major difficulties getting pregnant. But life happened. We were dealt a hard blow that resulted in an emotional roller coaster of sadness, fear, disappointment, anger, frustration, more sadness, more disappointment. I blamed myself. The stress was apparent. And then a miracle happened. A true blessed miracle.
  • And baby makes three! Life was thrown topsy-turvy. Sleepless nights. Out of routine. Making time. But I loved it. I was a stay-at-home mom and embraced every moment. I never questioned my decision. I’d never trade my role. Gregger and I made special time for “us.” Saturday night. Date night. It started out weekly and soon we cut it to every other. We loved being with Adam. We were becoming homebodies. None of our friends had kids. We didn’t care. We were happy with our family. Happy to be the three of us.  plans 5
  • After all the trouble I had getting pregnant, I figured whatever happened was meant to be. 18 months later and #2 came along. If one baby hadn’t changed our lives enough, two was certainly going to make an impact. Two babies. Two in diapers. Two napping. Two demanding A LOT of attention. Gregger and I had less and less time for each other. Early bedtime for the kids. Time for us. And we were too exhausted to barely hold a conversation.
  • Busy lives. Busy kids. Trying to keep it together. Tough. And then a huge curve ball. Miscarriage. One minute you’re on top of the world. The next, your world is falling apart. But you don’t have time for that. There are two kids to care for. A husband. And life goes on. But I was grieving. I wanted that baby. I was so sad. A tough time to go through with two babies still in tow. But another life hurdle. We climbed. We crawled. We made it through.
  • One year later. Another miracle. I was pregnant. So cautious. So nervous. But 9 months later princess Ashley was born. I opened and closed that diaper more times than I can remember. I couldn’t believe it was really a girl! The third time was a little different. I was more relaxed. Both boys were in school. We moved into a rental when Ashley was three months. A bit stressful. Moved again when our new house was built. Yikes. A lot of moving with three little ones. But we managed. Happy in our new digs. Great family neighborhood. Fun place to raise the little ones.
  • The growing years. The busy years. The “no time for each other” years. Running from school to activities. Homework. Birthday parties. All while Gregger was building a business. Sunday funday was family day. Bike rides. Train park. Swimming. Whatever we could fit in. Just being together. Gregger wanted perfection. It was his only day to be together. The kids would fight. We would argue. There is no such thing as perfection. Not with family. Not with three kids. We learned the hard way. But we eventually learned. Keeping it together was a great day. As close to perfection as we would ever come.
  • High School. Kids driving. Worrying. Waiting up to make sure they made it home safely. Busy. It was a time of independence. Yet still dependent. Needing us for guidance and reassurance. Would we say and do the right things? Would we guide them in the right direction? We did the best we could. We made the best decisions with the information we had. Would I change anything? I can’t go back. If I had the chance. Well, maybe. Gregger and I hung on. It was tough. Stressful times. One leaving for college. One going away to tennis academy. One at home. Life was changing. Life was different.
  • Empty Nesters. We took a deep breath. We learned to enjoy each other again. We talked. We took time to really BE together. We thought we would be so sad. We missed the kids. We loved having them come home. But we LOVED being together. We loved being BEST friends. We loved just BEING. We traveled. We shared. We did nothing. We were just the two of us. And it was AWESOME. plans 2

    Our kids had their own lives. Girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, husbands, jobs, social lives. Sometimes it was hard. Sometimes we wanted them home again. But we respected their lives. We wanted them to choose to be with us. We wished it was more. In my life plan, my family was full of family dinners, get togethers. But that wasn’t the way it worked. A different plan. We accepted the time we had. And we continued to enjoy each other. Life had come full circle. We were back to OUR beginning. And we were embracing those special times.

    Back to Single. This is the one I never expected. I thought my circle was complete. I liked that circle. I liked being back to two. Now the circle is broken. I will create my own circle. My own beginning. I will see where this circle takes me and where I end up. The journey may never give me answers, but I hope to find peace. I will learn to enjoy the ride. Because life itself is completely uncontrollable.

plans 3

A Letter to Myself…Lessons I’ve Learned

Dear 19-year-old Mikki,

DSC_0215You have been knocked down. Flat face. You will feel like you can you never put two feet on the ground and run again. But you can. And you will. Faster than you’ve ever run before. Alone. Terrifying. Intimidating. Daunting. You will pack your bags and head to California. San Diego. And it will work.

You will find a small place. Safe. Venture out into comfort zones. Meet people slowly. You will be overwhelmed by the warmth. Kindness. Compassion. You feel welcome. In a short time, it feels like home. And you will grow. Life becomes real. You will write. A lot. You will write about life before. And after. You will write about lessons. All that you’ve learned. You will write about hubby. This will be your way to carry out his legacy. It’s a good thing. Carry that in your heart.

1. The big things aren’t so big anymore. You will be blessed with graciousness and hurt with inhumanity. You will hold on to those who love you and let go of others.  life is unpredictable
2. It’s okay to take care of yourself. Even before you take care of others. If you don’t, you won’t be around either.  take care of yourself (1)
3.Life is unpredictable. You think you can plan. It doesn’t always work out the way you want. Be prepared.
4.Life is short. Live it. There are no second chances. No do-overs. You will wish there were. Don’t look back. Keep your eyes forward.
5. There is no timetable for grief. No conventional way to mourn. No normal.
6. Life will never be the same. You may never have the same kind of happiness. The same kind of love. But you can create a new normal. A new happy.
7. There will be an ending. And a beginning. You will deal with both. Embrace them.
8. Be patient. With yourself. Your family. Friends. Everyone grieves in their own way. It is a journey that only you can take to arrive at a place of peace and acceptance.  life is short 3 (1)
9. You will have to make decisions you never thought you would have to make. You will take over. Roles. “Things.” You will become mother and father. Accountant. Handyman. Do it all. You can do it. And you will.

“The road of life twists and turns and no two
directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”

A Letter to Myself…Life Changes

Dear 19-year-old Mikki,


Your life will change in the blink of an eye. One minute you will be living the dream. Happily married. Loving life. The next you will be standing on a beach. With your kids. But you will be alone. For the first time in your life. You will be surrounded by strangers. You will be confused. You will not know what to do. Where to turn. You will cry. You will scream. You will be numb. And then you will be strong. For your kids. They need you. More than ever.

You will move slowly. An out of body experience. You will think it is a dream. A nightmare. It’s not. It’s reality. And you must figure it out. You will have to do things. Things you don’t understand. Phone calls. You will not be able to get the words out. They are words you will not be able to comprehend. But they will come to you. Tearfully. Your heart will hurt. It will hurt so bad. A stranger will comfort you and the kids. He will stay with you. He will answer questions for which there are no answers. Listen to him. He is a smart man. It won’t make sense at the time. It may never make sense. But try to believe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou and the kids will choose to stay in Hawaii. You will feel closer to hubby. It will be a good decision for all of you. You will have time to be together. To talk. To cry. To share. You will spend time at the ocean. You will see, hear, and feel so many signs. Clouds. Rainbows. Songs. Miracles. You will never want to leave. But you must. You and the kids will leave messages. Everlasting messages of love. Buried deep in the ocean. They will find their way to hubby. He will see them. Feel them. Know you are always with him. And he is always with you. Believe this.


Flying home will be hard. It’s not the way you were supposed to leave. Alone. You don’t understand. You will feel afraid. Afraid to walk into the house you’ve lived in together for over 20 years. Afraid to face people. Afraid to just be something you don’t believe you ever wanted to be. A widow. But you will be able to do it. You will find strength. You will be stronger than you ever believed you could be. You don’t know how. But you will. Just believe.

Your brother will be waiting for you. At the garage. He will not let you walk into the house alone. You will be forever grateful. Family and friends will come. And then they will go. This will be tough. You will break down. Literally. Fall to the floor. Sob uncontrollably at the star filled skies. Let it come. Let it go. Cry. Scream. Just let it out. This will not be the first time. Nor will it be the last. Remember that.

IMG_1974You will plan a memorial. It’s going to be huge. Why wouldn’t it be? Hubby is a beloved man. Not just to his family and friends, but the community at large. Kind, generous, compassionate, beloved. You and your children will honor his memory. He will be proud.

You will understand the events of the past year. Life will make sense. Changes hubby made. Working at the store. Teaching you things you did not want to learn. But you did. Now you know. You have to step into the business. You will have no choice. You have been preparing. You just didn’t know it. You will hold onto the business for as long as you can. But you are not hubby. He was the best of the best. You will sell. It will be hard. But it is the best for you. Be okay with it. He told you it was okay. All. The. Time. Remember. He told you what to do. Just in case. Listen to him. He will leave you messages. Everywhere. Look for them. You will find them. Little by little. They will bring you comfort. And peace.

You will memorialize hubby in a big way. Something solely devoted to him. One of your greatest accomplishments. A dream. And you will do it. Donations to charities. His favorites. Overwhelming. Heartwarming.  IMG_1572

You will go through the motions. Day by day. One day blends into the next. You will have to deal with undesirable crap. That’s what it will feel like. Crap. B.S. But you will have to deal. Put your big girl panties on and deal. You will be able to do it. And you will grow. And learn. And feel awesome about it. Again, hubby has been preparing you for this. He put all his ducks in a row. Pretty much. You are lucky. You always knew how much he loved you. Now you know even more. And you will wish every day you could thank him. Tell him how much you love him. You can. And you do. While you are driving. Sitting. Walking. You will talk to him. And he will hear you.

You will make a lot of changes. Changes you never thought you would be making alone. But you are. Put the house on the market. You love the house. But it’s empty. You cannot live there. You feel the urge to leave. And you will. Off to California. A new beginning. Not for good yet. A trial run. But you will grow. You will learn. About yourself. About life. About being alone.

To be continued…


A Letter to Myself…Celebrations and Endings

Dear 19-year-old Mikki,

2013. Your story continues. You will have a momentous year. A year of celebrations. Milestones. Surprises. Lots of surprises. “Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.” That’s what you do. You are preparing. You don’t know it. But you are. You are packing the year with joyous occasions. Love. Happy times. Family. Your heart will be overflowing. Bursting. Cherish that feeling. Embrace it. EVERY. Moment. You have. You will know why soon enough.

IMG_0370You will surprise hubby for his 60th birthday. The first big surprise in 40 years of togetherness. And you accomplish this huge task straight from your hospital bed. He won’t have a clue. This is more important to you than anything you’ve ever done for him. Forget how you feel. Forget the pain. Focus on the joy of the celebration. You succeed. And it is the happiest night of hubby’s life. He ranks it with your wedding, the birth of your children, and your daughter’s wedding. You pull it off without a glitch! “Life should not only be lived. It should be celebrated.” And so you do. You will dance. You will sing. Like it’s the last time you’ll celebrate. Life is funny that way. Not really.

Six months later. Your hubby will do the same for you. In a BIG way. You will feel overwhelmed. Don’t. He loves giving. You must learn to take. Treasure the celebration. Surprises. Joy. Embrace your family. Blessings. You see them everywhere. Your birthday is just a number. Your life feels better than ever. And you believe it can only go up from there. Little do you know…  DSC_0453

It’s a wild and crazy year. Hubby is running himself into the ground. You worry about him. More than usual. You will tell him to take care of himself. Sleep more. Eat better. Relax. He doesn’t. He is going at breakneck speed. Sleeping four hours a night. Running the business. Traveling. Being a dad. A husband. Trying to be superman. Do it all. Nobody can. But you can’t tell him. You try.

IMG_1255Vacation. Finally arrives. Family time. Hubby time. It’s been a long time. But he will bring work. He can’t break away. You say you understand. But your heart breaks. For him. You know he is struggling. His heart is one place. His mind is another. You wonder. You wish. But you can’t change him. Almost 40 years. He is who he is and you love him. That’s the best part. So you give him space. For four days. You will want him with you every minute. But he’s not. And days later, you’ll realize it was for nothing. You and the kids spend time at the beach. He will spend time in the house working. He will meet you in the afternoon. At night. It’s not the dream vacation. Yet. And then the work is done. You will have time. Or maybe not.


You will plan a perfect day together. A fun-filled family day. Load up the mini-van. A beach day. Sun. Sand. Snorkeling. Someone has told hubby about a beach on the other side of the island. He will insist you explore. It’s finally his day. You concede. You will drive for what seems like forever. You will get annoyed. You will be disappointed. You will decide to leave and go back to the original plan. Probably a good decision. Always listen to your gut. Your intuition is 99% right. Go with it. If you would have stayed put, well…let’s not think about it. You will settle on the beach. Finally. Hubby looks happy. But he will have some business to attend to. Personal. Calling his sister. It’s the 10th anniversary of his mom’s passing. He always talks to his sis on that date. She will not answer. He will be disappointed, but he is ready to enjoy the sun, sand, and surf. Snorkel with his boys. You and your girl are going to chill in the sand. He will hug you tight. You will snap it for memory sake. Good decision. He will tell you he loves you. You will tell him you love him too. He will do the same with his little girl. And then he will run off. Snorkel in hand. Grinning ear to ear. You will have butterflies. You want him to have a vest. They won’t be giving them out that day. He will insist that he is okay.DSC_0059

And then you will hear the sounds. “Help. Call 911.” You will not know where they are coming from. You will not realize what you are hearing. But then you will. You will panic. You will run. You will race to the water’s edge. And you will see. Something you never want to see. Hubby’s bathing suit. His face. And something not right. In one moment in time, your life will change. You will scream. Strangers will hug you. Hold you tight. You will not know what is happening. But soon you will. And life will never be the same again.

To be continued…


letter to myself

A Letter To Me…And the story goes on…

Dear 19-year-old Mikki,

DSC_0684After many years of building your family, business, and lives together, you and hubby start reclaiming your lives. Your kids will move on. They will move away. Across the U.S. One on the east coast. One on the west coast. One stays put. It won’t always be easy. You’ll want to visit. They’ll be busy. You’ll have grandkids. You won’t get to see them as often as you’d like. Not the fairy tale you dreamed about. They have their own agenda. You wish things could be different. But they aren’t. Someday. You will wait. But your heart will hurt. Be patient. “All things are difficult before they become easy.” They may never become easy, but they will become better. Once again, it’s about expectations. None. So whatever happens, is good. Sometimes great.

You will turn your focus on your hubby. He is flourishing in the world. You are so proud of him. His accomplishments. His passion. You will stand by him. Support him. It’s a challenge at times. You want him to choose you. Everytime. He is so torn. He wants to spend time with you. But the business is booming. He knows he needs to be there. He doesn’t know how to let go. You can’t push him. He has to figure it out himself. But you figure it out. You will learn that support is mutual. The more you give, the more you get. It really works both ways.

yoga (4)You will find yourself in yoga. You become more present. More grateful. You recognize the blessings. Focus on the positive. Let go of what you can’t control. Let go of fear. You break down walls. Your relationships become stronger. Deeper. With family. Friends. And most of all, hubby. Priorities change. You love nice things. But you realize “things” don’t bring happiness. You finally realize it’s not, “once you do or get this, things will be perfect.” It’s living in the moment. It’s recognizing what’s in front of you. That’s when you discover peace. Happiness. And life is preparing you. You just don’t know it yet.

0839Ashley_TylerYour little girl is going to get married. To one great guy. You will be ecstatic after waiting seven long years. It is going to be one of the most joyous occasions of your life. For so many reasons. A fairy tale from beginning to end. You will cherish every second you spend planning together. And the celebration will be overflowing with love, joy, family, and friends. Lots and lots of family and friends. So grateful. A weekend blending two families into one. Another blessing. Not just for the moment, but for years to come.

You will travel more with hubby. And then you will choose not to. Some of these choices will be because you shy away from the social situations. That’s okay. But you will look back one day and wish you had made different choices. Don’t look back. Be okay with the choices you made. Those were the best choices for you at the time. You need to accept that. You were supporting him. You were pushing him to be better. But being uncomfortable was not part of the deal. Your choices were okay. He missed you. You missed him. And when you came back together, things were better than ever.  MR Magazine

Life is going to throw you a major curveball. Something you clearly don’t see coming. After a near perfect year, you will be knocked out. Dealbreaker. It’s a setup. Allowing you to deal with adversity. Become stronger. Back surgery. Nerve damage. In and out of hospitals. Not sure if you’ll ever be the same. Ever be able to walk right again. Sit. Move. But somehow you deal. You realize it could be so much worse. Your life drastically changes. But you see the blessing. More time with hubby. He’s always by your side. Holding your hand. Comforting. More time with friends. You start working at the store. You learn new things. You make the most of a bad situation. And, as with all things in life, there is a reason. God is preparing you. You are learning things you never knew. Because in a few months, you will HAVE to know. You just don’t know it yet.

You will have some incredible trips together. All in the course of one year. Sweden. Paris. New York. Mexico. San Diego. Boston. St. Louis. And one more. Your dream trip. A family trip. Cherish those moments. Every. Single. One of them. They may be the best moments you will ever have together. Hold on tight. You will know why soon enough.

To be continued…


letter to myself

A Letter to Myself

I read a letter that Pete Sampras wrote to his “16-year-old younger self” the other day. He talks about how his life is just beginning, the difficulties he’s going to face, the triumphs, the defeats, the rewards, and the appreciation of the journey. He reminds himself to “play hard but stay true to himself.”  Reading this made me think about what I would say to myself as an innocent 19-year-old.

19 years oldDear 19-year-old Mikki,
You think you are heading to Washington University in the fall. Occupational Therapy program. Excited to be accepted. Anxious to start a new path. This is the right school. Third time’s a charm! U of A. Bust! University of Missouri-St. Louis. UGH! Washington University. Here we come! Not. You go to say goodbye to your good buddy, Jeff. Little do you know that he will put thoughts in your head about leaving St. Louis. You can’t sleep that night. You wake up in the morning. Anxious. Distracted. You HAVE to approach your parents. They will think you’re nuts. But if you don’t try, you’ll never know. And if you don’t do this, your WHOLE life will be different. You HAVE to do it. You tell your mom. You want to go back to ASU. “NO WAY!” You tell your dad. “If you can make it work. Go ahead.” Now you’re confused. But something is pulling you. You have to make it happen. You call Jeff. He sets things up for you. And several days later, you are off. Your life is totally about to change. FOR THE BETTER!

You live in the fraternity house for a week. Interesting. And then fate steps in. You spot some guy at a pool party. He has no idea. But you do. You tell your roommate. “I’m going to marry that guy.” One week later. First date. Three months later. Engaged. One year later. MARRIED. Fate. Reality. Love. Set. Match.

You think life will be roses and lollipops. But you are still in school. He will graduate early. He must get a job. Jobs are scarce. Little pay. So you move. Back to the midwest. Back to his hometown. And you change schools AGAIN. He will work for his dad. You think this is for the best. It is for a while. But your hearts are elsewhere. In the west. Tugging you back. So you will pack your bags and return. No place to live. No jobs. Life will be tough. He will take the bus to work. You will be a substitute teacher until something better comes along. You make it work. He thinks he wants to go back to school. Become an accountant. He gives it a shot. But nature stops him. He can’t cross the bridge. Rain. Floods. He misses classes. This is a good thing. Fate. Again. He was meant to be where he is. You will find this out later. Much later. It’s worth the wait. So he’s back in retail. Long hours. Hard work. But it’s his calling. His passion. He just doesn’t realize it yet. You finally get work as a special ed teacher. You will love working with the children. But it is short lived. You miraculously get pregnant, after being told it is impossible. You work through the pregnancy. But, lucky for you, you get to be a stay at home mom. And so your fleeting career is over.

You love being a mom. At the beginning it’s like playing with dolls. You love feeding, changing clothes, bathing, walking, even changing diapers. It’s all such a miracle. And then baby #2 comes along. Life will become a little more hectic. But you figure it out. Motherhood becomes you. It’s your dream career, so you aren’t complaining. You will have side jobs. Things to keep your personal identity. This is important for you. You will teach fitness. This will keep you in shape. It will also become an obsession. Not necessarily in a good way. You have that tendency. You just have to know when to curb it. You don’t. Fortunately, life steps in and slows you down. You will write cookbooks. As a ghostwriter. This is kind of a fluke. But it’s all good. Making your own money. Developing an identity outside motherhood. Twelve books. Magazine articles. Food stylist. So outside of your realm. But you learn. And grow. It’s good for you. Confidence builder. And then you burn. Time to move on. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up about it. You gave it a good run. You gave “her” a good run. And it’s time to move on. Time to focus on you. Another of life’s lessons.

You will spend a lot of time with your kids. A LOT of time! You help them with school work. You drive them from one activity to the next. You play the role of mom, teacher, maid, social director, chauffeur, cook, cheerleader, therapist, party planner, referee, and friend. You never know which role on any given time, day, or moment. Be prepared. This will last from birth to adulthood. Your competitive spirit comes out a little bit. You relive through your children what you never got to do. Your boys are tennis players. You cheer them on at every match. You are personally invested. You don’t need to be. They will be fine on their own. Take a step back. Breathe. Let them figure it out. Don’t try to micromanage. If they win, awesome. If they lose, it’s okay. It’s the juniors. It’s part of life. They will survive. When your oldest decides to just play for school, let him. He knows what he’s doing. He will enjoy the game a lot more. His focus is on college, future. Son #2 has a passion. Don’t push. Let him decide his path. It will be hard for you. It’s not in the “box.” But if you take away the dream, he will resent you. Your daughter. Loves her dance. Sometimes you love it more. Pom. Competitions. It won’t be her life. Let her enjoy the moments. Let her dance. Have fun. She’s not going to be on Broadway. Or become a professional dancer. It’s not HER dream. It may be yours. Give it up. Let her follow her dreams. Just let her enjoy.

School. All of the kids will be good students. But don’t push so hard. If they don’t get perfect grades. So what? Let them do the work. You don’t need to make it perfect. But you think you do. Let it go. It’s one of the hardest things you will ever do. Letting your kids just be. Letting them go and becoming their own beings. You can do it. You will be so proud years later. They will prove to you they can do it on their own. But you have to allow them to breathe. Make mistakes. Fall on their faces. Pick themselves up. You can’t always do it for them.

You and hubby will go through many a bumpy road over the years. Financially, emotionally, mentally. But hang in there. Every struggle brings you closer together. At the time, it feels like the world is coming to an end. You think you are the worst mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister. You think everyone would be better off without you. But stick it out. Believe in yourself. Seek out the positive. The blessings. They are hiding behind the darkest clouds. Little by little you filter through. You and hubby always have your foundation. Your love. But instead of taking you back to the beginning, you go someplace better. Someplace stronger. You build. You trust. You share. Life together just gets better every day.

Kids grow up. They leave home. They begin to build their own lives. You are an empty nester. But you are okay. You keep yourself busy. You and hubby travel more. You love spending time together. At home. Away. It doesn’t really matter. You love filling your house with kids. It doesn’t happen as often as you would like. But they are building their own lives. You are trying to accept that. You learn that living without expectations is the best way. No disappointment. It is hard. But you keep on trying. You hope that someday they will want to come home. You try to build traditions. That is important to you. You will try to instill these values so they can pass them down to their families.

You are a homebody. You try to be more social, but it is just not your thing. It is hard for you to go out in big groups. You crawl into a shell sometimes. Try to crawl out. You deserve to be seen. You deserve to be heard. You just don’t always believe it. You have a great person by your side. He supports you. He believes in you. He pushes you to do better. You don’t always see it that way. But those are his greatest intentions. He only wants the best for you. He loves you. He wants you to shine. He wants you to grow. He wants you to believe. And he is somehow preparing you for the future. A future you don’t see coming.

To be continued…

19 years old 2



moms 3Being a mom. The HARDEST job on the planet! While I wouldn’t trade places with the top exec of any Fortune 500 company on the planet, being a mom requires all the grit, drive, motivation, sleep deprivation, and more to get to the top of the game. And just like any job, you start at the bottom and work your way to the top. You falter along the way. You stumble. Make mistakes. You’re rewarded with LOVE. Make more mistakes. More LOVE.

Scan 3 (1)I was 25 years young when I became a mom for the first time. Loved being pregnant. Loved being a mom. My firstborn. A boy. I thought I knew it all. I was going to do everything the way I wanted. Certainly not the way anyone else told me to. Of course, it was the RIGHT way. It was MY right way. My mom told me to do everything on a schedule. Let him cry. Don’t feed him too often. I listened for the first week. Then I did it my way. When he wouldn’t sleep, we circled the dining room table singing “Zip-a-dee doo dah” 500 times until he fell asleep. Or we put him in the car and drove for 30 minutes. We prayed as we carefully carried him inside and tucked him into bed. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. The second time around was different. 18 months apart. If Ryan cried, we knew he’d survive. He learned to rock, swing, sit, and wait. He ate whenever he wanted. By then I didn’t care. I cared about him. I just didn’t care about the “rules.” More laid back. He was a better sleeper. More “go with the flow.” But definitely more active. Two boys. Holy crap! The magic potion was getting them on the same nap schedule. A three-hour nap in mid-morn was the ultimate break. And boy did I need it! Laundry, cleanup, food prep, and maybe a five-minute rest. Scan 43 

Four and one-half years later, the princess came along. She was a piece of cake. Either that or I had the motherhood thing so down, that everything ran smoother. Ashley was easy. She ate, slept, went everywhere. We walked. In the stroller, a snuggie, the backpack. She used her “nukkie” for 4 1/2 years until she was afraid my mom would take it away from her. So she hid in the closet and started sucking her thumb. I thought it was cute. Some moms might have said otherwise. I didn’t care. She was my baby. Let her be that way for as long as she wanted. I knew she wouldn’t walk down the aisle with her thumb in her mouth! And she certainly didn’t!

mom 4I tried to be supermom. I aimed for perfection. There is no such thing. No matter how hard I tried, something was going to fall off the tracks. Kids were going to fight. Get sick. Something was bound to go helter-skelter at some point. Keeping it together 100% of the time was a fallacy. So I realized loving, listening, caring, and just being there was the BEST I could do at any given time. Sometimes it was enough. Sometimes it wasn’t. But I NEVER gave up.

I think the most difficult part to digest was when others questioned my integrity. No one had the whole picture. Temper tantrums in public? I was a bad mom.  In their mind. In my mind. They’d roll their eyes, pull their kids away, huff and puff. Bad kids, bad mom. Judgement damages. It took years to walk away. To let go. To know that I was a good mom. My way may not be their way, but that didn’t mean it was the wrong way. My kids were just having a bad day. A bad moment. It happens.

momMy greatest joys and heartaches came and come from being a mom. They say you are as happy as your happiest child. Or you suffer along with their anguish and pain. No words could speak more truth. From babes to adults. There is no time frame. There is no retirement plan. And you can’t quit.

“Motherhood is a wonderful, rewarding, messy, noisy, and sometimes crazy ride, but it’s all worth it.”

  • The joy of “firsts.” First word, first steps, first day of school, first lost tooth, first date, first “drive,” first “win.”
  • The jubilant smiles and laughter that filled the house.
  • Learning patience, understanding, compassion, and the art of listening.
  • Building memories for a lifetime.
  • Creating traditions.
  • Pride in their every accomplishment, big and small.
  • Hugs and kisses.
  • Walking them down the aisle to their beloved and knowing it is the perfect match.
  • Watching them grow from babe to teen to adult with pride. From dependent to independent. And knowing they will be more than okay. They will be GREAT!

Gregger used to joke, “You better not go before me and leave me alone with these kids!” We laughed about it, bantered back and forth. I always thought I’d be first. I bet he would give anything to be here now to watch the rest of his children’s journeys. It still amazes me every day. My kids gave me so many gifts along the way. They reminded me to have fun, taught me to be patient, selfless, and grateful. They helped me realize life is a journey. The road is long and bumpy. But if you open your eyes, open your heart, and open your mind, it can be the most AMAZING journey. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Blessings. motherhood 2

happy birthday

Happy Birthday

60Heads up readers! I am doing my best to keep the positive spirit, head high, and super smile, but this is a TOUGH one! I have been trying to squash some incredible memories. I can’t stop the tears. Happy tears, sad tears, “I miss you so badly” tears. One of the GREATEST weeks of my life. My 60th birthday! A birthday I could barely believe I was celebrating. But leave it to Gregger. He made it over-the-top spectacular, never to be forgotten. As they say in the movies (well kind of), “Thank God we had 60!” One year ago. And in that short time, life changed. I want to go back. I want a redo. I want him here to celebrate.

Gregger had a whirlwind trip in New York to make it home in time for my birthday, so just having him there was enough for me. I thought we were going to spend a quiet day together. A walk. Starbucks. Pedis. Gregger had never had one. He hated people touching his feet. But he was going to do it for MY birthday. I was shocked. Little did I know we’d never make it there. He had far more up his sleeve.

IMG_0014It started on Saturday. I was running errands, catching up before he came home on Monday. My sister-in-law called and said they wanted to stop by with my present as they were going to be away on my actual birthday. No big. Of course. While I was trying to downplay this momentous milestone, everyone else was playing it up BIG! There was no escape! A few minutes later they showed up at my door singing “Happy Birthday.” But standing in the background was my sister, Suzy, from NEW YORK! Surprise #1! We had just texted several hours earlier and were planning to catch up later in the day. I had NO CLUE!

Several weeks prior I had been on the phone with Suzy chatting about the “Move Live On Tour” Show with Julianne and Derek Hough. It was going to be in Phoenix on my birthday. Ticket prices were sky high and with Gregger in NYC it was off my radar. But Surprise #2 was a doozy…my family, along with Gregger, scored front row seats (1 and 2)! Really? This was almost too much and it wasn’t even my birthday yet! Amazing show, fantastic night. The only thing missing was the Gregger beside me to share the energy, the love, the celebration. But he was on his way.

DSC_0528Monday was finally here and Gregger was on his way back from NYC. I was so anxious to see him. He had only been gone a week but it seemed like forever! I hated getting the party started without him. It was time for him to join in the fun. The only thing that would have made my birthday perfect was having Ashley, Tyler, and Bella in tow. Unfortunately (or fortunately for his family) they were celebrating with Jeff (Tyler’s dad) who shares my birthday. It’s only fair that we take turns, so I was more than okay with this plan. I figured next year might be mine. I had spoken to Ashley several times during the day. She was feeling pretty bad. I kept reassuring her she was doing the right thing. My last conversation ended as they were getting ready to have lunch with Jeff to start his celebration. Yeah, Jeff! So after Suzy and I filled our day trying to get my stupid phone replaced (lots of aggravation), I was ready for a happy hour celebration with friends. Fate must have stepped in. I had no cell service. So Suzy was on call. She played me good. She told me Gregger texted her from the air and said his plane was circling. It was going to be late. I thought it was coming in early. Why not believe her? I had no reason not to. Drink on. We finally headed for the airport. Then it was time to sit and wait. Cell phone lot. What the heck? I thought he was in. Guess not. We circled around and saw him heading to the car. YEAH! Time to get this party started! I practically jumped into his arms! I was overcome with joy. Suddenly he said he forgot a package inside. Needed to go back to get it. Greg? He doesn’t forget. Ever. I was baffled. But I waited. And as he walked back out, nothing in hand, a trail of three beautiful figures was behind him. Ashley, Tyler, and Bella. OMG! I screamed. I jumped. I clapped. I was overjoyed. Surprise #3! It couldn’t get better than this!

DSC_0421But it could. We walked into the house and the kitchen was blooming with a bouquet of 60 birthday balloons. Magnificent! How did he pull that one off? Magical. Extraordinary. Gregger. We capped off the night with cheers, laughter, and lots of love. LOTS OF LOVE. Before bed I was instructed: be ready by 9:30. Wear a bathing suit. No questions. Just be ready. Okay. No idea. But I’ll go with it. I was in my happiest place. With my happiest people. My family.

Birthday. Lots of wishes. Phone calls. Texts. Facebook messages. It felt good. I felt good. A dear friend and her daughter stopped by with flowers and gifts. Ryan stopped by. He had to work. He was saving his time off for Hawaii. I begged him to. That was way more important than my birthday. We would celebrate over the weekend together. He was okay with that. Or so I thought. He greeted everyone. Hugged me tight. Suddenly he said, “Oh mom. I think there are some flowers for you by the front door.” Without a thought, I meandered to the door and flung it open. No flowers. But the BEST surprise EVER. My parents. With birthday wish signs in hand. Surprise #4! I cried. I almost fell over. I really couldn’t believe this one. Flying in from St. Louis to celebrate with me. This was just over the top special. This day just couldn’t get any better. But it did.

DSC_0468Surprise #5: Ryan was off for the day. Spending it with all of us. Surprise #6: We loaded up the car and headed out. I had no clue where we were going until we arrived at Talking Stick Casino. Gregger had rented a cabana for the day. What a blast. Our own cabana boy. Food, drinks, TV, and a pool practically to ourselves. Gregger was not a pool or sun lover so this was for me. And boy did we have fun! Just lounging in the pool. Chilling our bodies from a hot AZ day. Nothing could be more perfect than hanging with the people I love. Capped it off with a little gambling. Nothing crazy. I hate throwing Gregger’s hard earned cash away. So home we headed. The celebration was still underway.

DSC_0565Showers. Dress. Present time. Pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. Good thing. Memories captured for a lifetime. And then we were off again. While it was supposed to be a surprise, I was pretty sure I could guess this one. I was right. Ocean Club. Best food in AZ. Best atmosphere. Best night ever. Perfection. No words. Just love, laughter, family, and good old-fashioned FUN. SIXTY never felt better. This one was for the history books. Cloud nine. Reeling for weeks. Don’t ever let me come down.

One year later. No Gregger. No surprises. It will be hard. There’s no way around it. My toughest 1st yet. He just made it that special. He made me feel that special. Sometimes I wish he hadn’t. But I’m lucky. I have an incredible second family. A family to share my birthday with in a big way. So we are off to Utah. Off to celebrate Keena and Jeff. It’s their special year. We’ll celebrate them. I’ll hold onto the memories of last year. I’ll feel Gregger with me. I’ll wait for the sign. And I’ll cherish the love, laughter, and joy of a beautiful family. Grateful for life’s blessings once again.


the givers

The Givers

DSC_0685Gregger and I had a problem. And we fought about it. A lot. It was the silliest of problems, but we just couldn’t seem to get past it. We were both GIVERS. Neither of us knew how to TAKE. So we fought over giving, giving, giving. It wasn’t about giving things. It was about giving of ourselves. We both wanted to DO for the other. We wanted to do for the kids. We wanted to do for other people. We just didn’t know when to stop. So sometimes it got in the way. We needed to take time, stop, and realize that we were TAKING time and energy away from each other by GIVING so much, too much.

givingKnowing our birth order, it didn’t always make sense. I was the oldest, Gregger the youngest. He should have been a taker. He should have been the selfish one (no offense to those “babies” out there). Being a first-born, I was stereotypically disciplined (better defined as OCD), cautious (to a fault), controlling (I admit to being “a bit”), organized (again OCD), an achiever (self-competitive), and certainly mothering (wanting to take care of everyone). If Gregger had been the laid back, needing mothering type, maybe things would have been different. But I would never have gone for THAT guy! I loved the guy who was disciplined (also OCD), cautious (not nearly as much as me and more daring), controlling (because he wanted EVERYONE to be happy), organized (slacking off big time in the latter years), an achiever (OVER), and mothering (needing to take care of EVERYONE!).

giving 2Some of our spats were over the silliest things. After a long day at work, the mothering side of me wanted to “take care” of Gregger. I loved to cook (in the earlier years) and never minded the clean up. I would BEG him to relax at the table, catch up on his emails, watch TV, sports, whatever, but he could NOT do it. He refused to allow me to take care of him. He had to get up, clear the dishes, clean the counter, the table. It was “his” job. We seriously would argue over this. I was insulted that he would NOT let me take care of him. We would squabble over running errands, doing laundry, so many silly things. These weren’t fights. They were just squabbles. Inane altercations of who could “give” more.

But Gregger wanted to take care of EVERYONE. He took it upon himself to take care of his family, his employees, people he met on the street. Well, maybe that’s going a bit too far. But he was incredibly over-the-top generous. The word “no” did not exist in his vocabulary. I just wanted him to take care of himself in the same way. He was impossible! He actually gave me the gift of a “physical” for himself one year for Christmas. So even in the “taking” he was still “giving.” You can’t fault someone for being so good. For loving too much. For trying too hard. For being so good. For giving too much. Gregger was just that guy. He broke me at times. I turned into the “taker.” It made him happy. I guess in a lot of ways it made me happy too. I learned it wasn’t worth the argument. I’d rather find peace. Pick my battles. If he really wanted to clear the dishes, wipe the counters, wash his shirts, run his errands, I wasn’t going to battle him any longer. BUT. And it’s a BIG BUT. I did NOT want to hear how much he had to do. I did not want to hear he did not have time in his day. I did NOT want to hear he was overloaded. If he wasn’t going to take, he had to own it. So little by little, he gave it up. Not much. But a little. And I got to GIVE. And we got to SHARE. That was the best part of all. 

40 years together is a long time to learn. Learn to compromise. Learn to listen. Learn to grow together. Learn to give. Learn to take. Learn to share. It wasn’t always easy. But we managed. And we got better and better and better. Gregger would ALWAYS be the better GIVER. It was just part of his soul. That’s why I loved him so very much. “If you continually give, you will continually have.” So we continually had. Despite the battles of giving, we had. Love. Friendship. Trust. Respect. Commitment. Communication. Selflessness. Passion. It worked. I miss it every single day.

giving 3


Happy Anniversary

DSC_0532Tomorrow is my parent’s 54th wedding anniversary. Their marriage was always such an inspiration for me. When Gregger and I were going through some of our toughest times, I would spend time with parents to remind me what I wanted my life to look like in 50 years. It worked. Life wasn’t always easy for them. Is it ever? But they made it work. Five kids. Ten year span. Not a lot of time to be “just two.” But they did. Early bed times. Date nights. And when the nest was empty, they were ready. I watched. I learned. I’d slip, but I knew I’d always come back. We’d always come back. We’d be the ones to make it. Just like my parents did. They laughed. Had fun. Enjoyed being together. And always love. Lots of love. The keys to everlasting.

anniversary 3Gregger and I always enjoyed being with my parents. Laughs. Good times. My dad taught Gregger how to drink Jameson. Got him hooked. I loved watching them together. I loved that the four of us could hang. It was almost a year ago that we were together for the last time. It was that visit that Gregger and I vowed to be together for 75 years. We talked about the longevity of marriages in our family. My grandparents were just shy of 75 years when my grandfather passed. Aunts and uncles well surpassed the 50 and 60 plus year mark, living 90 plus years. Remarkable. And none of those marriages was perfect 100% of the time. But they had foundation. Love. And respect.

We had 38 anniversaries. And for all 38 years, Gregger took the day off. We spent the entire day together. Some years we went away. Most we just stayed home. Doing a lot of nothing. Just being together. After 38 (and long before), I realized it wasn’t the diamonds, roses, or dinners that made it special. It was the two of us. It was being together. We rarely went out. We loved staying in. Sharing the night together. I’d cook. Gregger’d have a Jameson. I’d have a glass of wine. We’d toast. Talk. And just be. That was good enough for me. I just wish we had more time.

We talked about our big 4-0 coming up in 2016. I really wanted to renew our vows. We surprised my parents on their 50th with a renewal ceremony in Vegas. It was awesome! The whole family was there to witness this beautiful occasion. They wrote their own vows. So sweet. So cute. So endearing. I wanted that for us. Not Vegas. But somewhere. Romantic. Ocean breeze. Barefoot. Kids surrounding us to witness our forever love. That won’t happen. Life changes.

DSC_0710But I feel lucky. Lucky to have parents who truly love each other. Lucky to have parents who set an amazing example of how to survive the ups, downs, highs, lows, and bumps along the way. It is never perfect. Love is never perfect. People are never perfect. But if you can love the imperfections, the marriage can be perfect. I believe that’s what my parents have. I believe that’s what we had. Lucky. Blessed. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad! I love you!