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Thank you, Mrs. Hogan

Next year, Henry starts Kindergarten and it has caused me to be reminiscent and reflect on my elementary school days. They were truly some of the best school years of my life. I went to a great school (go Templeton Tigers!) and from 4-6th grade I was blessed with the best teacher, Mrs. Hogan.

I’m not just throwing the word “best” in there lightly, she truly was the best. She treated us as family, not as students. There were several times she drove me home (knowing we didn’t own a car) if I missed the bus or a couple times just because she sensed I needed to talk. If you’re a teacher, NEVER underestimate the impact you can have on your students.  I am sure, at times it feels like you are just drudging through. But hear me: You truly can change their lives and make a forever impact. I’ve been thinking of Mrs. Hogan and her support and love and I wanted to share just how special she was.

My life, from 4th-6th grade was often times full of turmoil at home, the situation between my brother and mom could at times become volatile. I did a lot of growing up during this time, not because I was eager to, but the circumstances of my life caused me to. I couldn’t ignore the reality I was facing every day at home.  Eventually my brother left (when he was 16-17 years old) and we didn’t know where he was, if he was safe or alive. And at the time, that was so scary for me. I didn’t understand why any of this was happening.

And then one day, my grandma told us she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This, was obviously devastating news. This was a time before some of the more modern advances, we were unsure if she could or would beat it. I remember the evening we found out. My mom and I sat on the couch and she cried. I was 12 at the time. I sat and comforted her. I was terrified I would lose Grandma, but I didn’t let much emotion out. I just sat and told my mom it would be okay.

The next morning, I felt numb. I went to school and I sat at my seat and didn’t engage in any before class shenanigans as usual (begging Mrs. Hogan to play the newest N’sync CD, reading the newest Harry Potter, etc). I just sat there and stared at the table. If anyone reading this remembers me then (or knows me now), I am rarely quiet, I loved to be in the thick of things. Mrs. Hogan immediately recognized something was troubling me. She came over and sat next to me and asked what was up, she knew what home life was like for me, she probably assumed it was related to that. I told her my grandma (who she knew, most people in Bloomington knew her), had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Mrs. Hogan comforted me and asked if I would like to share it with the class.

When school started for the day she had everyone sit in a circle on the floor and she let me share with the class the news, it was quiet, I cried, but I felt such a release and relief to not be carrying that news alone. And this moment of sharing would start what would come to be known as “Lean on Me Thursdays”.

Every week, Mrs. Hogan had everyone sit on the floor in a circle and we would take turns sharing whatever was on our hearts. Sometimes it was that a pet was sick and dying, other times it was family life at home. One day, a girl who’s brother was friends with my brother, started crying. She turned to me and apologized. She knew that I didn’t know where my brother, as he had ran away from home several months prior, but she knew where he was. She felt that she had been lying/keeping it from me. We both cried and hugged. And we started to heal.

This space that Mrs. Hogan gave us, allowed everyone to be heard, loved and supported. We were able to feel whatever we needed to and we weren’t alone. Mrs. Hogan created a safe place for us. I can’t even express what this meant to me at the time. I knew that I wasn’t alone.  That special group of kids and Mrs. Hogan helped me through the toughest time in my life. Were we all best friends? No. But we all knew that we would be heard and supported by each other. Mrs. Hogan also shared with us heartbreaks from her own life too. This created such a trusting environment for us.

I think about this short time in my life often, how it shapes me, even today. It is just one of those things that will leave a lasting impression on me. It made me more compassionate towards everyone, not just the people I was closest to. Today, I know that in times of darkness or fear, that I’m never truly alone. That there is always someone who would be there if I needed them. I think that is often times hard to see when we get to certain places in our lives. But we are never truly alone in our struggles, there is always someone who we can lean on, who will hear us. And if you ever doubt that, then know, that you can always lean on me.

Thank you Mrs. Hogan. Thank you  for hearing me cry out in silence. Thank you for seeing and hearing all of us, thank you for not just sticking to your curriculum. Thank you for seeing us little humans and understanding that life was coming at us so fast and we needed you and needed each other. You changed my life in more ways than just this. You didn’t see my socioeconomic status, you saw the funny, silly and caring girl who had potential even if many others would look the other way. Thank you for those 3 years in my life. They were the best. You were the best.

Short Thoughts on Books 19-32 of 2017

Well, as you can see, these “reviews” aren’t pretty, with no external links added, etc. But I just finished reading book 60 and I really don’t have time to make this posts pretty. Maybe in 2018 I will do a better job of keeping up (don’t count on it).  I would really like to blog more and will make a better effort and not just about books. Maybe I’ll even blog about something that pisses someone off (like my thoughts on kneeling during the National Anthem! Woooo-weee, things could get heated!).

Here are some short thoughts:

Legend series by Marie Lu

4/5 stars

This young adult series could be lumped in with The Hunger Games. It has all the adventure and heartbreak that you’ll need and you’ll want to read the next one.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
3.5 stars/5

This book would appeal to anyone who loved Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, you don’t get to see the whole picture until the end of the book and you’re guessing along the way about what really happened, who is to blame for the little girl who goes missing disappearance. I remember not loving any of the characters, they were all pretty self absorbed. But it sure did keep me reading.

 

Mother Teresa of Calcutta: A Personal Portrait by Leo Maasburg
10/5 Stars

Honestly, I could write an entire post about this book. Any and everyone should read this book. Don’t let the religion aspect get in the way of how it can help you become a better person. Mother Teresa, was funny, so human and loved everyone she met. “If I’m busy judging people, I wont have time to love them” (probably not a perfect quote, but you get the idea). If we could all adopt many of her ways of life, the world would be better. We just have to get past self.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
2.5/5 stars

I had to go read what this was about because I kind of forgot, but I knew when I looked up the cover that I didn’t love it. The characters were unlikable, the story felt disjointed and all over the place. I expected more from this book because it had fairly high ratings but I was never able to make a great connection with it.

Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms by Tami Kiser
3.5 /5 stars

This is not a book you read straight through, like it’s title suggests it’s a guide, you come back and read portions of it as you need ideas (for cleaning/organization/dinner plans, etc). Unlike it’s title suggested, it’s not really Catholic. She threw some Catholic words/ideas in after the fact (at least that’s what it felt like). Ex. “Rotate toys, so your children don’t have too many to play with, also pray a rosary”. I made the mistake of trying to read it through and that probably led to me not loving it. I think as the years progress I will find times that I can refer to it more.

 

Still Life by Louise Penny
3/5 stars

This is a mystery, which generally I love, but i felt this was lacking. It felt like nothing happened and then all of a sudden we knew who killed who and why. It took me forever to get interested and I can’t say that I was ever really vested in it. When it was over, I was glad and I didn’t want to read the rest of the very long series.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
3.5/5 stars

This is the second book by Whitehead that I’ve read. Well, the first (Sag Harbor), I never actually finished. But I had higher hopes for this book because it had great reviews. I don’t think I loved it as much as others did. It was written from different character’s POVs over a span of years, which sometimes made it hard to remember what happened when and why. But I’ve always been so interested in The Underground Railroad, so the history of it kept me interested.
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
3/5 stars

OH MY GOSH. I think this may be the longest book I’ve ever read, it took me like a month to finish it. And I didn’t love it. Like some of the other later books in the Game of Thrones series, I found some parts hard to follow, sometimes a new character would just be thrown in and I wasn’t sure how they fit in or what I was suppose to follow with their story. However, the parts I did understand were good. But boy it’s hard to get through such  an intense novel. I often times had to google to make sure I understood what I had just read/what had happened. Partly because I may have fallen asleep during parts of the book! Joke. Kinda. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the next book, but I will read it…..if it ever gets published.

The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn
3.5/5 stars

This is the 2nd time I’ve read this book. And I could read it again and still not absorb half of it. It touches on the book of revelation and how that relates to the Catholic mass. It illustrates the how and whys of the  mass and how it’s pulled directly from the Bible. It’s not for the faint of heart, you must really focus while reading it and have a Bible handy for reference.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
4/5 stars

A book that I’ve started several times, but never completed…until now. The story centers on Esther, who is a smart woman, going through a very intense mental breakdown. It illustrates well, that mental illness knows no bounds and can/does effect people from all walks of life.

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica
3/5 stars

I generally love thrillers/can’t figure outers, but this wasn’t my favorite. Written from several POVs, with very little information/context given, it made it too uninteresting to follow. I didn’t like having to infer SO much. One of my early notes on this book was, “IDK this book is weird.” Enough said.


Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
3/5 stars

Apparently I’m too much in a hurry even for this book. It was like in school when I read some material and had to reread it 8 times before it sunk in, except sometimes it never actually did. Yeah, that was this book for me. There were some parts I really enjoyed and it kept my attention but I think I need more quiet and less hurry in my life to absorb it. That being said, I think a lot of people who are into this type of stuff would love this book and it does a good job of breaking things down. The cover is beautiful and gets a 5/5.

 

 

 

Books 6-18 of 2017

Blogging (and reviewing books) is clearly not my strong suit this year. I never take the time to sit at the computer and even think and the following reviews are pretty sparse but at this point I’m just scrambling to catch up (for the 1-2 of you that may want to read about these books). I’ve read a total of 27 books this year, here are books 6-18 (with 2 of them being rereads).

Pottermore Presents: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous HobbiesShort stories from HOgwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists and Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by JK Rowling

4/5 stars (as a whole)

Nice little short E-books that provided extra information on some key characters (Lupin for one!) and other tid bits about Hogwarts. Honestly I felt like if you’ve read the books and a lot of other back story elsewhere from Rowling than you have already learned most of it. But I will never say no to anything about Harry Potter written by Rowling. These are easily read in an hour or so.

 

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
3.5/5 stars

This book took me around 2 months to read/listen to. It constantly lost my interest and I had to resort to online summaries sometimes. A lot of the main characters are missing (because they’re all dead. Seriously everyone dies). I felt like this book was just one to  be trudged through, a kind of bridge from one book to the next (that is to be foreseen as I haven’t made it very far into the next book).

 

Saint John Paul the Great by Jason Evert
5/5 stars

I absolutely loved this book and I am not a huge non-fiction/biography lover. The first part of this book outlines JPII’s beginnings, of which are so harrowing you would think they were made up. You can clearly see how his sorrowful childhood and risky (due to the Nazis and Soviet Union) teen years shaped the man he became. I don’t think it matters if you’re Catholic or not, this book is really meant for anyone. The story progresses to JPII’s years as Pope, all of his valuable contributions to the world, devotion to his faith and complete selfless nature. I could devote an entire blog (and I may) to parts of this novel that truly resonated with me (about forgiveness). Men (and women) like JPII are rare.

 

Beautiful Mercy by Pope Francis (and others)
3/5 Stars

A quick, easy and just okay read. Each short chapter is by a different Catholic scholar (priest, nun, author, etc). I wasn’t overly moved by their stories and felt they were missing some depth, that’s not to say they don’t matter, they just didn’t hold my attention.

 

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
5/5 Stars

I love books I don’t want to put down, books I don’t want to end. This novel needs read by everyone in 2017. It could open so many doors, start so many conversations about the differences between races. It specifically speaks to Caucasian vs. African American misconceptions/misunderstandings/racial tension. Ruth (African American), a labor and delivery nurse heads in to check on a newborn baby (Caucasian), a boy who is the child of 2 white supremacists. They ask that she is removed from their case. The infant unfortunately passes away in the course of the next day and Ruth is taken to trial for his murder. A novel that had me questioning what I need to learn/change in order to just be a better human being. I think that there are conversations among all races that could be had if we had the courage to step outside of our comfort zones and ask the questions so that we can better understand one another.

 

You Can’t Eat your Chicken Pox Amber Brown by Paula Danziger
4/5 stars

I read this to reminiscence about days past ;-). This was one of my favorite series as a kiddo and I happened to have it on my shelf.  A cute little book following a spunky girl on summer vacation. The book does bring up divorce, as her parents have separated, so it could be good for a child struggling with separated parents. Good for beginning readers.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
2.5 /5 stars

I was initially just interested in this because I have a friend named gRegor and I love The Hunger Games series (also written by Collins). However I couldn’t wait to finish this book. I force fed myself this book. It’s about a boy who falls down a hole with his baby sister and is trapped in an underworld and his long last dad happens to be there too. I like fantasy novels but this one just rubbed me in all the wrong ways. Pass.

 

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
4.5/5 stars

Lily, the main character meets Ryle who has never been able to commit to a relationship. However, the spark they have develops into love and Ryle and Lily fall hard. Lily, recently opening her own flower shop, grew up with an abusive father and a dear friend, Atlas who helped her escape rockets back into her life. All of these lives are colliding, leaving everyone questioning what to do. Ryle battles his own demons, demons that Lily has already faced in her childhood, ones she is not sure she can live with forever. A great book that opens the dialogue on abuse, touching on mental illness and knowing your limit, when you should walk away.

 

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard
4/5 stars

The 3rd installment in the Red Queen series finds Mare in captivity of King Maven, wondering if she will ever see her family and friends again (or if they are even alive). The war rages on and loyalties are constantly called into question and in the end she will even question the one she loves most. Will he stay or go? This is hard to review without a hundred spoilers. I did find it just a tad slow at at times but overall it kept my interest. The epilogue was really just the next chapter in the book, it wasn’t in the future as epilogues tend to be and I didn’t like the ending (and not just because it was cliff hanger). I am looking forward to the next one (write, write, write Aveyard!).

Also reread: Red Queen and Glass Sword

Books 6-18 of 2017

January Book Reviews

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A Game of ThronesA Clash of KingsA Storm of Swords By George R.R. Martin

5/5 Stars (all)

This is another series to add to my “favorite series” shelf (along with Harry Potter and Hunger Games). It’s epic. EPIC. It has everything a good (and very, very long) story should have; betrayal, heroes, good vs bad, lessons to be had, sex, triumph and defeat. It would take me days to truly explain all of the characters, from my favorites: Tyrion (known often and to his dismay as the Imp), Jon Snow (the bastard), Dany (the Dragon Queen and Arya (who is basically me as a little girl!) to my least favorites: Cersei (power hungry and selfish), Lord Tywin (Jerk) and my least favorite of all Joffery! And the one who always grows on you later in the series: Jamie (give him time!). They are all playing their part in the game of thrones, quite literally. I warn you though, try not to get too attached to anyone. If you want to get sucked in to another world, into characters you will love and hate and love to hate, it’s a great series to get swept up in. There is an accompanying series on HBO. Some people say you should read and then watch, or watch and then read. I always read and then watch and so far it’s been a good thing for Josh, as he has watched (but not read) along with me. I have had to explain a lot to him to help me understand the show because so much is left out and there are so many characters! I’m excited to read the next to and I’m hoping Martin comes out with the next book sooner than later.

TPWFThe Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout

3.5/5 Stars

After going heavy into GOT I had to find some easy reads, so I turned to the YA (young adult) section. This book definitely had a feel like most YA novels do, it felt typically…immature but still interesting. And for the most part it did follow the pattern of most YA novels I’ve read from the past 5 years. The characters, Mallory and Rider are pretty lovable though. They grew up together in a horrible foster home and find each other years later, as Mallory starts her senior year of high school at a new school. She has since been adopted while Rider is in a new (and much better) foster family. It speaks of the bond you make when going through the most troubling of times and how time doesn’t always change everything (or anything) and that distance does make the heart go fonder. Growing up, Rider had always been Mallory’s protector, her savior. But as time has changed and made her stronger, it hasn’t completely changed Rider. He has yet to see his true worth and how he is capable of a great future. It shows that sometimes we need someone else to help us find our own true self, to pick us up and carry us through the muck of life.

A couple quotes that rung true for me:

“Forever was something we all took for granted, but the problem with forever was that it didn’t really exist”

“Forever wasn’t real.”

Don’t count on forever, it’s not anyone’s reality. Count on today, right now. Don’t wait, to let time slip by.

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

3.99/4 stars

I waiver back and forth about how I feel about this book. It too is a YA novel but it certainly never felt like one. It had some mature content (but not too mature for a teenager) but it was really the syntax and overall feel to the novel that made it feel more like an adult fiction book. It’s set back in WWII as refugees are rushing to escape the war, both the Germans and the Russians, neither side very kind or generous and it’s based around true events (although not based on a true story itself).  A ship called  The Wilhelm Gustloff, existed and sunk and basically no one has ever heard about it despite it being a larger time maritime disaster (approximately 9,400 people died) than the Titanic (approx 1500 deaths). The story follows several characters (each chapter is from a different characters perspective) as they rush to the harbor in hopes of boarding a ship to take them away from the war and destruction. If you’re looking for a book of rainbows and sunshine, this isn’t it.

January total: 5

Indianapolis Date Night Ideas

For Christmas (2015), I gave Josh 12 envelopes, containing an idea for 1 date a month. We did not make it out on every every date, some months we were simply too busy and other months we had something else come up and we subbed in the new option. I thought I would share the ideas I came up with in case you’re looking for some new adventures/ideas.

 

Dave and Busters

If you’re looking for a fun (competitive) night, Dave and Buster’s won’t disappoint. I felt like a kid again (and we were kinda sore the next day). It’s a big arcade/restaurant/bar (all ages welcome except at the bar). They have a pretty large variety of games to choose from (basketball, air hockey, old school bowling, shooting, driving, etc). It was fun to be just let loose and be a kid again. The food was pretty good too, we ate off the appetizer menu because we weren’t starving and we had a couple of adult beverages. I would go back, but I wouldn’t make it an every month kind of thing.

Dave & BusterÕs will open a new 45,000 square foot flagship location on Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 9450 North Central Expressway in Dallas. Shot on Thursday, November 29, 2012. (David Woo/The Dallas Morning News)

 

Starbucks

I realize everyone goes to Starbucks all the time. I love to go to coffee shops and just relax (without a Henry or Peyton needing me to do something). The plan for this date was to take some games (quieter ones, played one on one) and relax with some drinks. Josh and I play games together a lot (obviously, Dave and Busters was a good choice for us). If you need some game ideas for 2 players check out: Qwirkle, Rummikub and Pandemic.

Explore the Downtown Monuments

I’ve lived in Indy for 10 years now and the only monument I’ve ever been in/explored is the Soldiers and Sailors on the circle. It’s embarrassing! There are so many to look at and in my opinion kind of a shame not to go check them out.  Indy has more acreage for monutments than any other city in the U.S. (aside from Washington D.C. ).  Be sure to check out: Indiana World War Memorial, University Park, American Legion Mall and the Vietnam and Korean Memorials. There are more, to see a full list go here. If you need ideas for places to eat, I would suggest Bru Burger (delicious burgers!) or The Eagle (delicious fried chicken and southern style cooking) on Mass Ave.

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Duckpin Bowling in Fountain Square

Fountain Square is a cool area that seems to keep getting better. They offer Duckpin Bowling at The Fountain Square Theater Building, which is basically miniature bowling.  There are also a couple good restaurants to check out. We love Siam Square (Thai) and there is a yummy diner called Peppy’s Grill.

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Pop up Art Class

The Indianapolis Art Center offers pop up art classes all of the time. There are different classes (paper weight making, wood working, painting, pottery, etc). You can sign up and show up and you’re in! If it’s warm out, take a walk around outside of the center. There are a lot of great art installations to check out. It’s pretty peaceful too. The center is right near Broad Ripple, lots of great food options! I suggest Thai Cafe or Bazbeaux’s Pizza. Check out BRICS if you need some yummy ice cream for dessert!

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Carb Day

Carb Day is the Friday before the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway . It’s a fun day filled with practices for the big race and smaller races with other drivers. You can also catch a band or two (and  a lot of drunk people)  if you stick around. It’s a fun day that should be experienced at least once.

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Kayak on the White River

We used to take a yearly trip over to Turkey Run State Park to kayak, if you ever get a chance to you should. It’s absolutely beautiful there, you get to go under multiple covered bridges and the trees along the river are stunning. We found a place called White River Canoe Co., where we can kayak closer to home (and there is at least one covered bridge!) We didn’t get to go on this date, but our plan was to go on an hour or two trip and then to hit up an ice cream parlor/diner in Noblesville called Alexander’s on the Square.

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Explore Downtown Indy’s Cultural Trail

Indy’s Cultural Trail is an 8 mile trail for bikes or pedestrians that goes through downtown Indy. Along the trail you’ll get a good glimpse of all Indy has to offer, from local shops and restaurants, to art installations pieces to the great landscapes around downtown. It’s a great way to get outside and explore parts of Indy you may not normally see.

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Comedy Sportz

If you like a good clean laugh, Comedy Sportz is a great place to check out. What makes it even better is it’s improv! So you never know quite what you’ll get. We didn’t make this date but I have been once in the past and I was pleasantly surprised how funny it was! Be careful, you may become part of the show! They have a small menus (burgers, hotdogs, etc) if you need a bite to eat. They offer improv classes too if you’re brave enough to jump in!

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Picnic/Hiking

My husband and I love to be outside! And we love to eat. A simple, cheap date: picnic, walking or hiking. The downtown canal is a great place to walk around. There are a lot of new art pieces to check out and if you want you can take a gondola ride or paddle boat up and down the canal. If you do the gondola ride, be prepared for your driver to serenade you! The canal is also a great place to picnic. If you’re looking for a good hike, you can can check out the trails at Fort Ben,  just to the East of downtown or Eagle Creek to the west of downtown.

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Christmas Carol at the IRT

Every year, when the holiday season hits you can catch a live version of The Christmas Carol at the Indianapolis Repertory Theater. We also didn’t make this date but I have it on good authority that it’s a great show and it really puts you in the Christmas spirit. The IRT offer shows throughout the year. The theater is visually stunning, a great old building in downtown Indy.  If you want to get a great dinner before or after I suggest you check out St. Elmo’s Steakhouse.

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Colts/Pacers/Indians/Indy Eleven Game

You would be remiss to not go on a date to a sporting event, Indy has so many to offer (some I am not even mentioning!). I can attest to how much fun Colts, Pacers and Indian’s games are. Truly a great time. Often times you can find cheap tickets if you know where to look. Each stadium offers a great experience. In the summertime, the Indians offer special nights throughout the week, sometimes there are specials on food or you can meet the players. A newer team to Indy is our soccer team, Indy Eleven. We haven’t been but I’ve heard good things about the experience.

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This isn’t even half of what Indy has to offer, but if you’re looking for a fun night, you don’t have to look far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell 2016!

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It’s hard to believe that 2016 is already over, it was a great year, with some bad sprinkled in, as most years are. I see a lot of people flipping of 2016, but I’m choosing to pull all the good out and saying thank you for the blessings. I remember writing the farewell 2015 post like it was yesterday. I always do a recap and then make resolutions. I know some people don’t think resolutions work, but for me, I think they do, at least for awhile.

2016 Recap:

  • Peyton turned 1! Henry turned 4!
  • Henry played in his first season of T-Ball, he did great and loved it.
  • We lost our sweet pup Bella
  • Henry participated in VBS for the first time, he had so much fun!
  • We visited Michigan again. This year we explored Ft Wayne Zoo, Albion, Sleepy Bear Dune National Lakeshore, Muskegon and Grand Haven. We loved it. Beautiful areas!
  • We visited Turkey Run State Park and stayed in the Inn.
  • We went camping in Brown County, Peyton’s first camping experience.
  • Josh and I celebrated 5 years of marriage!
  • We met Vice President Elect Mike Pence! (This is not a Donald Trump endorsement).
  • I helped deliver my goddaughter Ahkianna in a car!
  • We conceived our 3rd child!

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Here were my goals for 2016:

 

  • Daily prayer (I definitely prayed a lot more this year! Still not as much as I should be praying, but I’m happy there was prgoress)
  • Set aside anger, lead with love (I feel like there was a lot I was able to let go of. I also decided that I don’t always have to respond/react. This helps with leading with love, instead of reacting with emotion).
  • Read 75 books (I only read 59 books this year, so I didn’t meet my goal. But I am still happy with that progress. That’s a book a week! I feel off the book wagon toward the end of the year, due to exhaustion/being sick).
  • Become organized/less clutter (Still a work in progress. I ended this year with cleaning and organzing  my laundry room and desk. Hoping for  more peaceful and less cluttered home in 2017.)
  • Healthy body, healthy mind (Before the 1st trimester struck, I had been running and/or working out in some other form almost daily. I was finally able to run without feeling like I was dying. That all changed when I hit about the 5th week and was basically couch ridden from week 5 to 9. I need to get back in the habit, I feel like Jabba the Hut).

 

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Here are some goals for 2017:

  • Schedule my days better, in order to be more effective in house work and playtime
  • Organized home (everything has it’s place and at least occasionally finds its home 😉 )
  •  Memorize more prayers/scripture
  • Workout to some degree daily
  • Blog more
  • Learn a solid photo editing program
  • Take photography more seriously
  • Read 60 books
  • Deliver a happy, healthy baby, quickly and safely (PLEASE LORD!)
  • Cuss less, love more

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June-December Book Reviews

I’m behind (6 months behind! Life got so busy (in a great way!).  We’ve been out doing all kinda of fun things, vacation, etc. So these reviews will probably be lacking.

 

breathWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

To be honest, I don’t remember a lot about this book except for the way it made me feel: Get busy living. Kalanithi died while writing book. It’s one of those books you should read because it’s important to hear someone else’s story. Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon, was diagnosed with lung disease just as he was coming off of 10 years of studying. One day he and his wife had a plan and the next day it was forever changed, but his life wasn’t over. He pushed himself to work, to live. He and his wife still decided to have a child, even knowing he probably wouldn’t live very long. This book is a good reminder that all of the little things matter, but that you must do them with great enthusiasm, because life really is short, it’s entirely unpredictable. Find your passions and pursue them, even if it’s just picking up a book and reading all day. Love one another fully, forgive and move on.

everythingEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

2.5/5 stars

If you don’t like depressing books, then don’t read this. This book was hard to stomach because it was so heartbreaking. It follows a Chinese-American family in the 70s, the favorite daughter is found in the local lake, drowned. No one knows what happened or why, but her family completely breaks. Her siblings who were already ignored before, are left even more alone while her parents are reeling from her loss and their own dysfunctions. These books always make me pause and ask myself what kind of parent I am and will be as my kids age. Will I continue to really see them? Hear them? I didn’t love this book, it wasn’t super exciting, nothing really happens. It’s more of a thoughtful book. However, the one thing I did appreciate about this book was the insight on what it means to be Chinese/part Chinese. I’ve never really thought much on this subject, but in the 70s (and I’m sure today) many misconceptions were placed on them and a lot of very racists things were said or enacted toward them. It is a subject I would like to read more on so that I understand the struggles they’ve encountered.

afteryouAfter You by Jojo Moyes

4.5/5 stars

The sequel to Me Before You, continues to follow Lou in the aftermath of Will’s death. Lou is out on her own, new job, new place and new faces. She suffers a severe accident which again changes her path of life. The question that was asked in the first book continues in this one: How can you live life to the fullest? Why are you wasting energy on things that don’t really matter? Good book, not as epic as the first. But still makes you want to change the way you choose to live.

goodgirlThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica

4/5 stars

(I’m writing this in December, I have no idea what this book was about). After rereading the synopsis, I remember how riveting this book was, it was so hard to put down, you just wanted to get ot the end so you understood what was happening and why. I remember my heart breaking at the end of this book, which is a great sign of a great book. It’s hard to go too much into it without giving anything away. It’s a thriller, a woman is kidnapped, held captive, you go into the captors mind, as well as the lead detective. You switch back and forth and get a good picture of what has taken place. Keep reading, there is always more to find out.

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The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simison

5 and 3.5/5 stars

The first book in the Rosie series was definitely better than the second. I felt a lot of angst toward Rosie in the 2nd book, I almost felt like the author kind of just didn’t have a lot more to add to the story so he strung the story along too long. The main character, Don, is Autistic (Asperger), it’s not overtly stated, but it’s clear from other comments throughout the series. He’s got a good personality and is brilliant, he is easily likable, which is probably what makes Rosie easily unlikable when she is impatient with him. It honestly felt like she totally gave up in the 2nd book. I wanted to smack her and ask her, “Um, hello! You know who you married!”

Well, I honestly feel like I don’t have the time/patience to complete the rest of the reviews. That’s what I get for procrastinating for 6 months! But here are the rest of the books I read this year. 58 total (most likely 59 by the end of the year. My goal this year was 75 books. Happy with the progress.

booksHarry Potter and the Cursed Child by John TiffanyThe Last Anniversary by Liane MoriartyA Murder in Time by Julie McElwainTruly Madly Guilty by Liane MoriartyIn His Spirit by Richard J. Hauser S.J.The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth WareThis Is Where It Ends by Marieke NijkampBehind Closed Doors by B.A. ParisBefore the Fall by Noah HawleyThe Widow by Fiona BartonDivine Mercy for Moms by Michele FaehnleThe Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix SweeneyAll the Missing Girls by Megan MirandaTakedown Twenty by Janet EvanovichThree Wishes by Liane Moriarty

TOP 3 for 2016

Red Queen by Victoria AveyardMe Before You by Jojo MoyesReady Player One by Ernest Cline

BOTTOM 3 for 2016

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke NijkampThe Dinner by Herman KochFriendship by Emily Gould

Kayleigh Nichole

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Kayleigh,

Today you turn 27 (just like last year AND next year!), HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I remember the day we decided to be best friends. We were both upset that our current best friends were seriously lacking in their best friend duties, we just wanted someone who was our person, who put us first, who had our back no matter what. And we decided to be that for one another. Did I know that that friendship would still be around (and so much stronger) 15 years later? Probably not, but I knew at the time, that I wanted to make a serious commitment (best friends forever was serious business in 8th grade!) to someone (ha ha!). With that decision you opened a lot of doors to me. You and your mom and dad (and Shadow and Abby) opened your arms and home to me. Your house always felt warm, like home. I was always comfortable and loved (and fed!). You brought me to church, you helped me to Christ. For that, I am forever thankful. I miss the mornings your mom and I would go to church together, before anyone else and set up the doughnut and coffee table. Church was so quiet those mornings and I felt so at peace. You and your family helped me understand what I wanted in life.

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We experienced so many firsts together. We went to prom for the first time (and 2nd and 3rd) time. We drank together for the first time, Mike’s Hard Lemonade upstairs in your bedroom (Sorry Mama Cita, sorry Bob, but we were smart about it, safe and sound!). We experienced our first loves and heart breaks. We graduated high school and went off to college. And somehow we didn’t experience our first real fight or disagreement until well into adulthood. Our friendship was always easy, always light.

You understand friendship better than anyone I’ve met. You know that another person can’t possibly be without fault. And you love me despite my own faults. We have had years when we weren’t as close, because our lives were on separate paths, one’s we had to discover on our own. We’ve made separate friends, separate memories and even had secrets we didn’t share with one another. Yet, we walk into the same room and it’s like we never separated. No one has ever come close to replacing you.

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Over the past couple of years we have become as close as we were in middle and high school. You had Kaidenn (my first Godson), you stood next to me as I married my other best friend and next to me when I had Henry (your Godson) and you have loved both of my children (Peyton too!) as I have loved yours. And now we stand at the edge of your next great adventure, your first daughter (my first Goddaughter) our sweet Ahkianna will be here soon.

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I would venture to say that the past year or two have been some of the most difficult in your life, you have endured heartbreaking things, yet your spirit has never faltered. You have never stopped being the innately good and positive person that you have always been. You’ve never stopped loving others, giving to others and being the sunshine in so many other people’s lives. You are truly remarkable and I know that you are often blind in seeing yourself as the world sees you and Kayleigh, the world needs more people like you.

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I know you are afraid of what is to come with labor, delivery and becoming  a mama to a new baby again. But there is no doubt in my mind that you will conquer your fears and you will achieve exactly what you want to. I can’t wait to stand by your side and watch you do it. And whenever you don’t feel strong enough, I will show you how strong you are.

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You anchor me, you ground me, you remind me that I am worth loving, that I am a good person, friend, mother and wife. Thank you for choosing to love me even when I am unlovable.

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I can’t wait to watch your future unfold, I have a feeling you have a whole lot of happiness and joy coming, a lot, just a month away. 15 years down, 85 more to go. I love you, Wifey.

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PS: I wanted to take more photos for this entry (and include some older ones), but also wanted to get this posted for your birthday. So me and you, future photoshoot.

Find out more information about The Anchor Project.

The Anchor Project

I have talked for sometime about doing some kind of photo/blog project. Earlier this year, a friend died unexpectedly, in the aftermath of his death, social media lit up with laments, photos, eulogizing him. People had so much love and so much to say about him. I know, at least for myself, I was left with regrets…did he know all of this? Did he know he was so important to so many people? Did he know how cherished his life was? This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen reactions like this on social media, it’s become the norm, as it should. We should always do what we feel in our hearts to remember those we’ve lost.

But what about RIGHT NOW? You know, like we often hear, “Before it’s too late.”

I’m naming this project “The Anchor Project,” after the person who in large part also inspired this, one of my anchors, my best friend, Kayleigh (maybe we will end up with those anchor tattoos, Wifey 😉 ). We’ve talked about this project, about how important photos are, about how huge it is to tell someone how they anchor you to this life, because maybe they NEED to hear it.

I want to do this (and I encourage you to join me, either on my blog or in your own social media space, but you’re welcome to request I come photograph your anchor and you can guest blog about what they mean to you) because I know life is short, I am watching my children grow at such a rapid rate that I can barely keep up. I want to recognize those people in my life that keep me grounded, sane and taken care of.

Look for the first in this series later this week. And let me know if you’d like to join me.

You are somebody’s anchor.

Happy 4th Birthday, Hemy Michael

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Henry, today you are 4 years old, but to me you’re still my sweet newborn baby, who never cried and smiled at every single person you met. You have always had such a sweet spirit about you and I continue to see that grow more and more and in different ways. You are SO full of life, you’re ready to explore and discover everything. I hope we continue to help develop your naturally good character,  I truly believe that you will make a positive difference in this world, that you will help the lives of others (I know because you already do, effortlessly).

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You are such a sweet big brother, everywhere we go, you introduce your sister, Peyton to people, you are proud that she is yours and you are lonely when she’s not around. It amazes me to watch you two play, you both laugh and laugh and she follows you around, she’s your little shadow. When she hurts, you hug her and tell her it’s okay, and she has started to return the affection when you’re hurt. When she cries in the car, you do something to make her laugh and you always, without hesitation share your snacks (with everyone, it brings you joy). I hope your bond always continues to grow and I can’t wait to watch you two have so many adventures together.

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This past year of life was a year of many firsts! You played T-ball for the first time, your team The Dodgers went undefeated (as did every other team in your league!). You did a great job fielding the ball and throwing it to first base. You did a great job up to bat too. I love that you enjoyed it and that we continue to play in the front field after dinner.  It made me so excited for the future, to see what sports or clubs you decide you want to do, and watching you grow and enjoy yourself as you find what you’re most passionate about in life. You slept in a tent, you went to Michigan, you read multiple books from memory, you were in parade and experienced your first death, our sweet dog Bella.

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This year was also your first year of VBS (Vacation Bible School) at our church. You LOVED it. Every night and every morning you asked if we could go back to VBS. You learned new songs (and dance moves), you did crafts, played games and learned more about our faith. You really started to take more of an interest in Jesus and “the priest” and I hope your faith continues to grow as you learn more and more about that great guy named Jesus. Along with this is how you’ve learned to say grace before meals, night and morning prayers and you take great care to genuflect in church, showing Jesus that you care.

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YOU potty trained yourself. Daddy and I decided that potty training was not a battle we wanted to fight. We waited until you seemed to show more interest and within a week or 2 you just got it. There were no fights or tears, but there was lots of cookies and a gift once you had gone accident free for a week. I was just so proud that it was something that you just got, mostly on your own. Earlier in the year we also moved you to your own room. You’re not 100% perfect at staying in your bed, because you still want to cuddle mommy and daddy (which I can’t blame you) but I’m proud of your strides in becoming more independent in other ways too. You dress and undress yourself, you wash your own hands, you help set the table and help put laundry away, you help clean your toys up and sometimes you even listen to us when we say no (ha!).

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You still LOVE to read. You choose to read without being asked to and you have memorized a fair amount of books that I often find you reading to Peyton. I hope that your love of books and reading continues to grow, I think it’s an activity that you and I will have a lot of fun with as you start to learn to read on your own. When I asked you what you wanted for your birthday this year, you said, “A BOOK!” Don’t worry, if this is always a passion of yours, I will help you nurture it. You can write your name (with help) too!

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This next year will be a big one too! In less than a month you will start preschool (2x a week), you’re already asking to go. I am very excited for you because I know you will love it, you’re just the kinda kid (like mama) that LOVED school. You may take swim lessons and give soccer a try too. We can’t wait to see you grow, learn and continue to be an awesome kid. You are not always easy, but you are always worth it, I hope you know that. I hope you know that magnitude that you are loved and I hope you take all of the love into the world and be exactly who you are meant to be. You will always have us behind you, your biggest fans.

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QUESTIONNAIRE GIVEN TO HENRY:

Me: What is your name?
Henry: Hemy Michael

Me: How old are you?
H: 3

Me: Who is your hero?
H: Daddy is a hero and you are hero and Henry is a hero and Peyton is a hero

Me: Who is your best friend?
H: Peyton! And Caleb. And all of my friends.

Me: What’s your favorite food?
H: Hmmm, CAKE!

Me: What’s your favorite color?
H: Jesus
Me: Color, Henry. What’s your favorite color?
H: Jesus

Me: What’s your favorite thing to do?
H: Go to the park

Me: Who do you miss?
H: Caleb and Daddy.

Me: Who do you love the most?
H: Jesus. Jesus is my best friend. Jesus hes a God, Jesus died. Jesus sings a lot. He prays a lot.

Me: What’s your favorite animal?
H: All the animals. Eggs. And I miss Curious George

Me: What’s your favorite thing to do outside?
H: Run. Catch fireflies.

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