Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Break It Down

I haven't run since Thursday, though I hiked on Saturday and went to a pilates class last night. So I was pleasantly surprised at my improvement on the treadmill today.

I hit the treadmill during my lunch hour and ended up running 9.5 minutes out of just over 15 minutes total -- making the average a 13.3-minute mile. This is amazing! I am only 1 minute and 30 seconds shy of doing what I could never do in school -- run a 12-minute-mile.

That isn't my goal right now, of course. My goal right now is just to run the entire mile, so the time doesn't necessarily matter at this point. Plus, I always walk at the beginning and end of my runs to warm up and cool down, so my numbers always reflect that. But WOW what a boost to my motivation to see that change today.

I have always subscribed to the belief that it is healthy to take breaks between workouts. So I rarely do the same workout two days in a row, and I always take at least two days off a week. And this has always worked for me -- I have always seen improvement with this method. With the exception of running.

I have experienced a mentality shift with running, though. So I really believe that my improvement is psychologically-driven. I'm no longer running just to be a runner, or even to accomplish a 5k, but I'm working to run an entire mile without stopping to walk. It's a tiny little goal. A very focused little goal. And it has made all the difference in the world.

The human brain is a miraculous thing, and in combination with our soul consciousness, nothing is impossible for it. Time and time again throughout my life, I have tested myself, pushed myself, and accomplished something -- and after each accomplishment, I know without a doubt I am capable.

I wrote an entire novel in 30 days -- so I can certainly finish this new one by winter. I lost 40lbs in 6 months in my late twenties -- so I can certainly maintain a healthy weight throughout my life. I successfully pushed my body to achieve difficult yoga poses over the last several years -- so running a mile is certainly achievable. Some of these were big goals, and some are small. But they still work together to convince my mind that they are possible.

We as human beings can achieve one great thing after another, simply by setting small goals and completing them.

We writers are told things like, write every day, or set a word count for each day, or set a page count for the week. And these methods work not only to get the writing done, but also to improve technique. So I am overly familiar with goal-setting. But I don't think writers are the only ones who can benefit from this.

Think of a big goal you've had for a while. For a moment, push aside all those discouraging thoughts about how you don't have time, you're too old, you're not talented enough. Break that goal down into smaller chunks, or into steps.

Each of those steps is a goal in and of itself. List them out and pick one to focus on. Then let that little goal be it for you for right now. Just accomplish that little goal. When you've done that, move onto the next one. Eventually your big goal will not only seem less impossible, but you will be well on your way to accomplishing it.

What big goals do you have that you could break down into smaller ones?

Monday, July 30, 2012

I Want More Hand-Prints

Our wonderful friends Matt and Katie drove up from Colorado Springs yesterday for a visit. We went to our local Vietnamese restaurant for lunch, then hung out at our house for the rest of the afternoon.

Their little baby, Janey, is just beginning to crawl and pull herself up on things. I was sitting on the floor with her, and she pulled herself up against the glass front of our gas fireplace (fireplace NOT on, obviously). She stared at her reflection and began slapping the glass excitedly. At that moment I noticed the hand-prints to the right of where Janey was hitting the glass. Scarlett's hand-prints.

I have written before how I will never clean Scarlett's hand-prints. And I still feel that way. They will be on that glass, on the windows, on the mirrors, until they fade away on their own. And in that moment where Janey was adding her hand-prints to the mix, I got this feeling in my heart. This ache.

But it wasn't because she was ruining anything. It was because she was adding something. She was adding her baby hand-prints to Scarlett's. And in that moment, I was so happy at the idea of more hand-prints in this house.

More hand-prints. More laughter. More diapers. More spilled milk. More bedtimes. More midnight hugs. More. More. More.

I want to fill this house with a gaggle of our own happy, giggling children.

I can thank Scarlett for that. Before her, I was never 100% positive about having kids. I wanted kids, but I thought if I didn't have any, I'd be okay. And then when I had Scarlett, the absolute perfect child, I thought I'd be happy if she was my only child -- if I couldn't have any more children after her, she was enough. She was all I needed.

Now that she's gone, I feel very clear about having children. I want many more. I want to keep having babies until my body can't do it anymore.

Many people's first response when they find out we're working with a fertility doctor is, "What if you have twins? Or triplets?" My answer is always, Bring it on. The more the merrier.

There are baby hand-prints on the glass front of our gas fireplace. And I plan on seeing Scarlett's siblings add many more sets to it.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rattlesnake

Josey and I met near Castle Rock early Saturday morning. We headed out for our hike through Castlewood Canyon before the sun got too high in the sky. It was a beautiful day.

We hiked down the steep switchback from the rim to the bottom of the canyon. The creek at the bottom was crystal clear. We crossed a little wooden bridge, gabbing along the way. We were so busy enjoying the scenery and talking, we almost didn't see this...



Yes, that is a 3-ft-long rattlesnake stretched across the trail. It didn't move. It didn't rattle. It didn't give any indication that it was there. There is no reason I should have seen it.

Have you ever felt like someone or something was looking out for you? I sure felt that way on Saturday. In all my years of hiking, I have come across only two other rattlesnakes. They were both coiled up in the middle of a trail, rattling their tails -- making sure I knew it was there.

This one even blended in with the trail. When I saw it, I stopped mid-stride and told Josey to back up slowly. As we retreated, the snake slowly swung its head toward us, tasting the air with its tongue. We got a good view of its rattle and diamond-shaped head -- no doubt in the world it was a rattlesnake.

We stood back for several minutes, willing it to move. Then we clapped at it, stomped at it, even yelled at it. It was perfectly happy where it was.

Eventually it started moving slowly off the trail -- only to circle around and come right back.

We only had one option. We turned back the way we came, climbed back up the side of the canyon and picked another trail.

I keep reflecting on that morning, thinking there was no reason I should have seen that snake before I was right on top of it. I could have just stepped right on it. Something made me look ahead on the trail at the right moment.

Have you ever had a moment like that, where you felt like something was keeping you from danger?

Here are a few more pics from our hike. No more rattlesnakes, but we did encounter a garter snake and quite a few chipmunks.





Saturday, July 28, 2012

Power of a Pastor's Words

There was one person whose words got through to me at a time when I was inconsolable. One person, whom I had never met prior, that knew exactly what I needed to hear at a time when I was deaf to comforting words.

Jeremy and I were not church-going people before Scarlett died (and Jeremy still isn't), so we didn't have anyone to call when we needed someone to conduct Scarlett's funeral. Swan Law Funeral Home in Colorado Springs asked us if we would like to meet a pastor that often works with them, and we said absolutely yes. So Pastor Jim met with us the day we chose Scarlett's cemetery plot.

I had never met Pastor Jim before. In fact, I'm not sure if I had ever met ANY pastor before. But from the moment I shook his hand, I knew he was the right person to speak at our daughter's funeral.

In the days that followed, we talked to Pastor Jim about our preferences for the tone, the music and the sequence of the memorial service and the burial. And I took the opportunity to open up to him about my concerns and fears. He said so many things that made me feel better, some of which included reassuring me that Scarlett was in heaven -- that there was no doubt that she was there, that she was a pure spirit never tainted by sin, with a golden ticket through the pearly gates.

But there was one thing he said to me that struck me in the heart and cauterized my wound like nothing had before or since. He said, "There is no time in heaven. Scarlett doesn't know she's apart from you. She will blink and you will be there."

And I believed Pastor Jim with all my heart and soul. I knew she wasn't sitting in heaven waiting on me. I knew she wasn't watching me from a white puffy cloud somewhere. When my spirit joins hers, neither of us will know time has passed. We'll just be together again.

Pastor Jim's words are one of the big reasons I was drawn back to church. You'll remember I only went one time before Scarlett passed away, and the main reason was to give Scarlett a community of other children to play with. I had no reason to go back, other than the power of the words from that pastor. I thought if a pastor could tell me things to heal my heart, if he could pull scripture from the Bible that made me smile during my deepest time of suffering, then maybe church is where I needed to be. Maybe I needed that community more than I ever realized.

I never spoke to Pastor Jim again after Scarlett was laid to rest. I don't even know what church he's working with, and I'm not sure if I even still have his card. But that man changed my life. At a time when people's words of comfort were like salt in a wound, his words healed me.

So thank you, Pastor Jim. Wherever you are. I hope you know you've done more good for this lost soul than anyone would believe.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Kindred Spirits Part 2

I am incredibly lucky to have the day job I do. And even more lucky to work with the people I do. Long and complicated story short, other than a year that I worked for a catalog company, I have worked within the same organization at this computer corporation since I graduated from college in 2000. My position has changed (I was a consultant until 2007, when I was then hired directly by this company), and the organization has changed, but for the most part I work with a lot of the same people I started with. We're like a family. I consider most of my colleagues friends as much as coworkers.

And given that we all work on the web, and we all work virtually (in layman's terms, we all work out of our homes at least part time), when I get a phone call from a colleague, I know it's personal and not business.

Since February, I have dreaded picking up the phone. My colleagues have all been caring, sympathetic and loving on a level I am constantly surprised by -- but since Scarlett died, those calls always get very emotional. And in the middle of my work day, that can be especially difficult for me. I want to let the tears flow, and my colleagues want to be that shoulder for me to cry on -- but it is an effort to maintain my serenity, and once those floodgates open, it takes me time to get back to a level emotional place.

So you can imagine how I felt on July 20, Scarlett's birthday, when I got a call from a colleague I have known for 12 years. I literally braced myself when I picked up the phone. This was the first I had talked to her since my daughter died. And indeed, she started with condolences. But from there, the conversation took a very different turn.

She explained to me that her niece had lost her first child to SIDS three years ago. And the more she spoke, the more commonalities emerged. Her niece not only shares this experience with me, she shares my name, my location, even my birthday. She went on to tell me about the Angel Walk that she does with her niece and her family every year, and emailed me information on it. And she concluded by asking me if I'd like to meet her niece.

Now, I have had similar offers from a few people. They want me to meet someone they know who has been through the loss of a child. But I couldn't do it. I couldn't listen to someone else's story when mine was still so fresh. I'm extremely empathetic, and the idea of taking on someone else's pain in addition to my own -- well, I was afraid it might kill me.

But this time it was different. I don't know if it was the timing, as it had been 5 months since Scarlett died. I don't know if it was all the similarities between this girl and myself. I don't know if it was remembering the relief I felt when I met my new friend in Mexico and she talked about going through this same loss. I don't know if it was God whispering to me. But I knew this was a girl I had to meet.

So I met Jessica for coffee during my lunch hour today. And wow. We were friends immediately. And it felt so GOOD to talk to someone who had gone through this, who shared my experiences and many of my opinions. She's the only person I have met that went on to have more children after losing her first, so I picked her brain a bit. I have so many fears about having more kids, but I'm not letting that stop me -- and it made me feel better to know that the fears are natural and I WILL be able to deal with them.

I'm still not ready to join a group of women that have lost children. And I'm still not ready for my friends to hand out my phone number to people they know who have lost children. Heck, I've never been a phone person anyway. But the two women I have met recently have given me such a sense of hope. I feel very blessed to have met them, and they both came my way at just the right time.

These little bits of healing are happening inch by inch. And I feel myself being rebuilt from the ground up. The Bible talks about shedding your former self and becoming a new and better person, and I can really relate to that. I was never a bad person -- but I'm a much better person since that little angel entered my life and showed me the way to heaven. Scarlett carved a path for me, and it got rocky -- but the path is still there, and it's still pointing in the direction of good things to come.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

More Than Enough to Beat Discouragement

This morning I tried something different. I headed out the door at 7am, walked down to the track that runs around the multipurpose field, and ran the track. The distance to the track and back is one mile, and the distance around the track is one mile -- so even without my MapMyRun app, I have a good sense of how far I'm going.

It pretty much sucked. At 7am, the sun was already high and hot, and this track has no shade. Plus running outside is much harder than running on a treadmill (why is that?). And finally, by the time I got home, poured my coffee and let it cool, it was 8am -- workout plus no coffee equals fatigue hitting fast and hard -- so I sat in front of my computer trying to talk myself out of going back to bed.

Essentially, I think I'm going to stick with the treadmill for a while. I have a bad habit of pushing myself too far, too fast, and getting discouraged -- and I don't want that to happen with running. Again, that is. So I'm going to go easy on myself.

I believe minor discouragements like this are the only thing stopping some people from achieving their goals in life. You get excited, you push too far, too fast, and BAM -- something goes wrong, or you can't do what you thought you should be able to do. And instead of backing off and starting smaller, or taking a break to recover, or changing your plan incrementally to work around or bust through a blockage, you just give up.

I'm guilty of this. It would take more than a single blog post to list all the things I've started and given up on. But as I've gotten older, I've come to realize that for me to reach my goals, I have to not only push forward through discouragement, but I also have to pick my goals carefully.

That became especially apparent to me after Scarlett was born. Knitting, hiking, yoga, pilates, writing, spiritual groups, coffee with friends, travel, reading, photography, painting -- I couldn't do it all anymore. And I certainly couldn't dedicate myself to improving in a lot of those pastimes. I had to pick a few, with the knowledge that my daughter wouldn't be a baby forever, and maybe later on I could take up those pastimes again.

That was my first lesson in paring down and focusing. I feel good about the choices I made, and the time I spent (mostly when Scarlett was sleeping, or I took her with me -- though there were plenty of times Jeremy kept an eye on her so I could do something).

Now I'm childless again. But those lessons stuck. I am no longer interested in being all over the map -- I am focused on a few pastimes, a few goals. And I tell you, it's a lot easier to manage discouragement this way.

This morning's run wasn't great. But tomorrow morning, I'll get back on that treadmill and I will run my tooshie off for one mile. And sometime soon, I will run that whole mile.

I got hung up on the new manuscript this week. Without going into too much detail, I was battling pretty severe fatigue. So when I wasn't working, I was resting. But I got almost 8,200 words written in the span of about 10 days, and that is nothing to sneeze at. (For you non-writers, Animal Farm was around 50,000 words). I will keep going with it. I'm not going to kill myself over it, like I did with my first novel. But I will keep chipping away and I WILL finish the first draft of this new novel before winter.

Small goals. But they're enough for me right now. I turn 33 in a month and a half, and I am damn proud of all I've accomplished. I let go of that feeling of not doing enough, not being enough, a long time ago. I'm a writer. I'm a health nut. I'm a wife. And I'm a mother. That's more than enough -- that's a superstar.

What have you stopped doing out of discouragement that you wish you hadn't given up on? What's stopping you?


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting

I got up a half hour earlier this morning so I could do a run. I made record time -- a 14 minute mile. Stop laughing.

Never in my entire life have I ever been able to run an entire mile. Even when I was a kid. Remember in school you were expected to be able to run a mile in 12 minutes? In fact, it was a requirement to pass some of my physical education classes. And I still could never do it.

I had exercise-induced asthma when I was a kid. Add to that moving from sea level (CA) to a mile above sea level (CO), and I did a lot of walking around that track at school.

But I've been living in Colorado for 18 of the last 20 years of my life, and I outgrew the asthma in my late twenties. So what the HECK is holding me up from being able to run a freaking mile?

You'll remember I started working with a personal trainer three months ago. My entire goal in those three months was to be able to run a mile. But the gym jerked me around, moving me from trainer to trainer, and while I adored the girl I've been working with for the last 6 weeks, and she did a great job of trying to build my back body strength, I was not able to accomplish the goal I had set.

Rather than get upset about it, I thought logically. I have been running once or twice a week for the last three months, and then doing strength training, yoga and pilates for the rest of my workouts.

I'd have to be a moron not to see the problem.

If I want to be able to run a mile... I've got to RUN more.

So that's what I'm doing. As often as I can, I'm getting on my treadmill and simply going a mile. One mile. I'm running as much as I can, and walking the rest, but I'm not going beyond that mile until I can RUN THAT ENTIRE MILE. My record so far has been a 14 minute mile. (Stop laughing, you marathoners. I can put my ankle behind my head -- can you?)

So the sermon I listened to this morning about "waiting on God" really hit home. The point of it was that waiting on God doesn't mean sitting on your rear end, waiting for him to accomplish things in your life. It means working with what you've been given, and trusting him to pick up where your strength leaves off.

I've never been much for waiting. Heck, I even earned my bachelor's degree a year early -- I was 20 years old when I graduated from college -- simply because I didn't want to take summers off. I wanted to keep going, keep moving forward, so the extra classes added up to an early graduation.

I always chalked this up to being a control freak. And maybe that's where it stemmed from, but as an adult that inability to wait has served me well as a motivational tool. Instead of sitting back and waiting for something to happen, I take steps to make it happen.

What could you accomplish in your life if you stopped waiting around and made an effort?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fresh Paint

Scarlett's room was painted pink and yellow when we moved into this house. With a butterfly/flower wallpaper border around the middle of the room. We didn't change a thing in there, because we thought it was perfect for her.

The room is now a stark white. With her crib and dresser sitting in the middle of the floor, draped in plastic.

I knew we had to paint that room. I knew it before our grief counselor suggested it. But neither Jeremy or I could bring ourselves to do it. We are incredibly thankful for Janet and Jennifer, who drove all the way up from Colorado Springs yesterday to paint that room for us.

I still don't know how I feel about it. Nothing in our lives feels right since Scarlett died, and that room is no exception. I was hoping a change in the paint would make the room feel... some way. Make me feel... something. I was hoping it would just hit me like lightning -- and I would know what to do with that room. I would know it needed to be a guest room. Or I would know it would still be a good child's room. But no. Nothing.

You know what it feels like when I walk in there? Like we're preparing a nursery. Like we're readying our house for a new baby.

I hope that means something.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weekend

The weekend started out on a positive note. My mom came up from Castle Pines on Saturday morning and us girls headed into Boulder for the day.

We started with brunch at Leaf, where we shared a baked brie. My meal was lavender waffles with green tea whipped cream and blueberries. Insanely good. Then we wandered through the Open Arts Fest and then through the Farmers Market. It was unbelievably hot that day, so we also grabbed some frozen yogurt from Smooch. And Where the Buffalo Roam was having a great sale, so I got a new CU football t-shirt while we were on Pearl Street.

Sunday night, Jeremy and I attended a candlelight vigil at Crossroads Church. (Yes, Jeremy sat in a church and didn't fidget once. Though there were a few yawns.) The event was touching, and much more mellow than I anticipated. Pastor Kim can be very enthusiastic, and the congregation often catches that enthusiasm like a cold.

The worship band played some great music -- some uplifting, some soft -- and people came up and spoke beautiful prayers for the victims and their families, for the first responders, and for the shooter's family. The church also put large sheets of white paper on the walls and set out pens so we could all write out our prayers, thoughts or questions.

On the way home, I read on Facebook that WBC was indeed attending the large vigil in Aurora. But this morning I read that protests were blocked and the event was peaceful. I was glad to hear that. This world doesn't need any more hatred, but it does need a lot more people coming together in peace.

My mother-in-law and one of my sisters-in-law are coming up today to paint Scarlett's room. Our grief counselor strongly suggested we paint the walls to help us move forward. But Jeremy and I can't spend that much time in that room without coming apart at the seams. Thankfully we have family and friends that continually step up to help us with these things.

Jeremy will be babysitting our niece, 9-month-old Mariah, while the ladies paint today. So while I'm working, Jeremy will be playing with a chubby-cheeked little sweetie. Lucky man!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Love Triumphs Sickos

Jeremy and I are going to a local candlelight vigil tonight to support those affected by the shooting in Aurora. I've been looking forward to putting my energy, love and prayers together with others' during this difficult time.

Jeremy just read that WBC (not spelling out their name OR linking to their site, rather linking to Wikipedia because hell if I'm going to give those jerks any web traffic) is rumored to be attending a vigil being held near the scene of the crime in Aurora tonight. There have been posts on Facebook asking for people to help build a human wall, akin to what Texas A&M students did recently for a soldier's funeral.

This turns my stomach. Not only that there are broken human beings that can commit a crime like this in the first place, not only that there are sick people that can protest a freaking candlelight vigil in honor of the victims, but because these sickos do it in the name of a loving god. A loving god.

God asks one thing from us. One thing only. Love. Love Him, love each other.

Some people (obviously) refuse to do that. And that is humanity's free will at work. So Jeremy and I will be going to a vigil to send our love into this world, and I pray that our love is strong enough to wipe out the negative energy those sickos put into our precious state tonight.

Personally I feel that the love in my marriage can move mountains. So look out, world, it's coming your way tonight via Northglenn, Colorado.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Celebration

Abby's art show on Friday night was really something special. There was beautiful art, great snacks and drinks, but most of all there was a lot of love.

Jeremy and I weren't sure how long we were going to stay. Frankly we thought it would be too painful to be there while visitors attempted to console us for our loss. But it wasn't like that at all. It was a great celebration, and I couldn't ask for a better birthday party for our beloved angel.

Scarlett's birthday should be a celebration. I kept telling this to myself on the days approaching July 20. But I'll admit I couldn't convince myself to celebrate. It hurt too bad that our daughter was gone. I was angry that I was planning a trip to her grave rather than her second birthday party. The week leading up to her birthday was extremely emotionally difficult.

But on her birthday, our friends and family once again saved the day. Words of love and celebration came pouring in. Gifts and flowers arrived on our doorstep. And when we went to Scarlett's grave, we found evidence of recent visitors. It was all a reminder that Scarlett was loved by so many people -- not just us. We weren't the only ones who wanted to recognize the day of her birth in a celebratory way.

So by the time we arrived at the art show, around 6:30, we were already feeling better. And the love that poured into us from all the people who attended just made us feel that much stronger.

I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout. People I never expected to make the trek to Denver showed up and oohed and aahed at the art. Friends I haven't seen in literally years showed up. And there was even a jaw-droppingly beautiful rose bouquet sent from my dear friend Allison from Austin, TX.



So a big thank you to everyone for not only your support and love, but your celebration of our daughter's life. I wish words could do justice to how it makes us feel.

Aurora Theater Massacre

I actually wrote this post yesterday and scheduled it for today. Call it a selfish moment, but I wanted to make yesterday about Scarlett.

I'm sure all of you have heard the tragic news of the massacre at the theater in Aurora. Details are still coming in, but at least 12 have died and 50 are injured. The suspect was caught, and when the police went to search his apartment they found it to be booby-trapped.

I have two siblings, both brothers, and both live in Aurora. My first thought when I heard about the shooting was, "I hope my brothers didn't go to that movie!" I was able to get a hold of both of them by 9am, though, and they are both fine.

I write a lot about appreciating what you have, and appreciating who you have. And I feel like I practice what I preach. But it's in these moments, where the thought of losing another loved one is all too real, I realize how truly, crazy blessed I am by the people in my life.

My brothers are the best siblings anyone could ask for. Sure, we had our disagreements growing up. I wasn't the best big sister in the world. But as adults, I consider them two of my best friends. I know I could call them for any reason, at any time, and they'd come running.

The day Scarlett died, both of my brothers left work and came running to my house. They, along with my parents, consoled me while Jeremy made his way home from Utah. My brothers even went to the airport -- one drove Jeremy home (I didn't want Jeremy driving) and the other drove Jeremy's 4Runner back to our house.

The thought of losing either one of them... well, it rips my heart apart. I love them and I appreciate them, and THANK YOU GOD for not calling them to you just yet.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, Scarlett

Today is Scarlett's birthday. She would have turned 2.

It's hard to even type this. I don't know what to say. It just hurts. And "hurts" seems like it's not a strong enough word. This isn't like stubbing my toe.

To go through 40 weeks of carrying a child within my body, and 19 months of enjoying her presence once she was born, only to have her die so suddenly... well, saying it's not fair isn't strong enough either.

Heart-wrenching. Body-crushing. Searing. Hellish. Atrocious. Monstrous. Horrendous. Those words fit a little better.

Sometimes when I'm in a quiet moment, driving my car or lying in bed, I am momentarily shocked that I am still breathing. I don't know how I'm still breathing.

I just know that I have to keep on doing it.

One year ago, we had Scarlett's first birthday party in our new home in Northglenn. It was wonderful, but overwhelming, how many people attended. And I am so happy so many people were there. Who knew it would be her one and only birthday party?



I told Erin the other day that I don't have many regrets in life. But I regret not putting up a Christmas tree last year. Who knew that would be Scarlett's last Christmas?

People, these events, these moments, they matter. More than I can express to you. If you could put your hand over my heart and feel what I am feeling, it would change your life. You'd stop hating your alarm clock. You'd stop arguing with your spouse. You'd laugh at the crayon marks on the wall. You would appreciate every damn moment.

I tell people I wouldn't wish this experience on my worst enemy. I don't want anyone to know firsthand how this feels. And I stand by that -- but if I could just shake you all alive, I would. My house is filled with hand-prints and crayon marks and unused sippy cups -- and I love every single one of them because it means Scarlett was here.

You are here. Your spouse is here. Your mom is here. Your child is here. Your loved one is here.

Write that on a damn sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror. Do whatever it takes to never, ever take your loved ones for granted again. You never know when the angels will come calling.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Kicking Depression's Butt and Happy Birthday Peg

It's 6pm on Thursday. I logged off of the day job an hour ago. And despite the crippling grief I have been feeling the last two days, I am so damn proud of myself.

In addition to my full-time day job, since Sunday I have accomplished one yoga class, one pilates class, two runs, editing a new post for GlobalWrites, two coffee dates with girlfriends, one date night with Jeremy, and writing 6,100 words in a new fiction manuscript.

TAKE THAT, DEPRESSION!

It is also my late aunt Peg's birthday today. She had a special place in my life, and maintains a special place in my heart. I actually secretly hoped Scarlett would be born on the due date the doctors gave me, so she would have shared a birthday with Peg. I had to settle for going into labor on that day. Peg went to heaven five weeks after Scarlett was born, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

So this post is a reminder to my future self not only that YOU KICK @$$, GIRL, KEEP IT UP, but that Scarlett is being taken care of in heaven by one of my favorite people.


Dyskinesia and My Fixer Nature

Any of you who have spent any time with a personal trainer or gone to any kind of workout class has probably heard enough about keeping proper form to last you a lifetime. Proper form in exercise is the absolute number one priority, not only so you get a good workout, but so you don't injure yourself.

I'm good at maintaining proper form when I exercise. However I'm not perfect. About five years ago, I dislocated my shoulder in a yoga class because I didn't keep my shoulderblades tight down my back going from side plank to straight plank. My shoulder popped right back into place, but it hurt like hell -- and it has given me trouble ever since.

My doctor didn't want to do an x-ray unless I was losing mobility, and my mobility is just fine thanks to regular stretching. But the pain has been annoying me long enough, so I finally went to a physical therapist last week. He was able to identify my specific problem: scapular dyskinesis.

Essentially the muscles that tie my scapula to my spine are not getting along with my rotator cuff.

So I looked up some exercises to start doing at home because I just don't want to invest the time and money into physical therapy just yet. I may have to at some point, but I want to see if I can fix it at home.

Finally putting a name to my problem was such a relief. Years of knowing I had a bad shoulder led to a lot of frustration -- but being able to say, I've got dyskinesia in my left shoulder, means I can actually start researching the problem and understanding it.

How many times have you been frustrated knowing there is a problem but not being able to put your finger on it? It happens to me all the time, and this shoulder thing is just one example. Being able to identify an issue is the first step in solving it.

However sometimes you can't identify an issue. Sometimes that person just gives you a bad vibe. Sometimes you just dislike a job and can't figure out specifically why. And those are the times I used to get so focused on figuring it out, I would drive myself insane coming up with theories.

One of the things I'm learning lately is how to just understand there's a problem and not drive myself crazy identifying it. If there's something specific I can do about a problem, I know God will help me identify it if I just keep my eyes and ears open. Until then, there's nothing I can do about it and I have to put it on the back burner and go on with my life.

Learning how to just admit that I feel wrong about something, and being okay with that general feeling, has been a struggle. I'm a fixer by nature. One of the lessons I'm learning at this very moment is that I can't fix everything. And the other is learning to identify when I don't have peace about something (i.e. I should pay attention to ill feelings and not move forward) versus when I'm just frustrated about not being able to identify and fix a problem.

It's so easy to just say, I don't feel right about that, and use that as an excuse for inaction. Sometimes, however, we're supposed to move forward even when we don't feel good about something. Prayer and meditation help me walk that line.

So readers, how do you know when you're using ill feelings as an excuse or when they actually mean something?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Power of Non-Negotiation

There is immense power in assigning something the title, "non-negotiable."

I knew this innately when I was a child. School was non-negotiable. I got up in the morning and went to school, and I came home and did my homework. There was no question about this. It never crossed my mind to question it.

In my family, college was the same scenario. Everyone goes to college. Non-negotiable. No one ever asked me if I wanted to go, and yet the idea was never forced down my throat either. It was just assumed. My grandparents went to college, my parents went to college, I was going to college.

It wasn't until I was a young adult that I started questioning certain things. Or rather, I started negotiating with myself. I knew eating Cheez-Itz and M&Ms for dinner wasn't good, but I wanted that -- so I talked myself out of eating something healthier. I knew I should finish my MBA, but my employer transferred me to Houston and I really didn't enjoy business school anyway. Only two semesters shy, I never did go back to graduate school and get that degree. On the weekends, I talked myself into thinking it was okay to sleep until noon -- which screwed up my sleep schedule so badly during the weekdays, but I still couldn't understand why I was so tired all the time.

I could list a dozen more examples, easily. I'm one of those give me an inch and I'll take a mile people when it comes to my own life.

It was probably around age 26 when I started living my life differently and learning the power of non-negotiating. I was living with Jeremy, though we weren't married yet. And I'm pretty sure it started with becoming a pescaterian (vegetarian that still eats fish). I stopped eating meat, and overnight I started feeling better. Over time, I knew I could never go back to those terrible stomach aches I used to get when I ate meat -- so not eating meat became non-negotiable. There was no thought in it. I just didn't eat meat.

Then came my high cholesterol diagnosis. And I knew it was time to lose the weight I had put on with all those dinners of Cheez-Itz and M&Ms. I joined Weight Watchers and learned how to eat right -- and eating right became non-negotiable. Then I joined the YMCA and started taking workout classes -- and working out became non-negotiable.

Again, over the years, I could point out dozens of examples of things I made non-negotiable. Recently it's my sleep schedule, Bible study and going to church. They are non-negotiable. I schedule other things around those things -- there is no question about me doing them.

I don't allow myself the luxury of questioning a good habit or decision.

I know myself well enough to know if I allow the smallest bit of doubt into my mind -- if I tell myself I'll sleep just five more minutes in the morning, or I'm feeling down today so I don't feel like I should go to church -- that good habit or decision will be gone for good.

We had a dog like that once. Some of you long-time readers may remember Loki. You could never allow her to break the rules one time, or she would always think she could get away with that behavior. Let her misbehave ONE TIME, and you would never be able to re-train her.

I'm like that dog in that way. I can't allow myself an inch of doubt, or an inch of questioning.

Maybe some of you are like me in this way. In which case, congratulations! You have the ability to accomplish great things. You just can't question it.

So I'm telling you right here and right now, you can do what you want to do. You can own that business, you can change that bad habit, you can buy that house, you can get that job. Don't question it. Just do it.

Right now (well not this instant), I'm writing a new novel. It will be done by winter. No question in my mind.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Energy and Soul Suckers

Every morning, my routine is the same. I feed the cat. I let the dog out. I start the coffee. And then I listen to a spiritual speaker. Every morning, even weekends, this is what I do.

Starting the day listening to something spiritual has made a huge difference in my life. Getting into a spiritual mindset sets me on the right path for the day. It makes me more patient, more loving, calmer, and more able to handle the ups and downs of life.

I wish I had done this years ago. What you do first thing in the morning determines so much about how your day goes.

This morning I watched Steven Furtick's sermon, Suck Proof Soul. I know some of you guys aren't Bible readers, but you would probably still enjoy it. He talks about how we can't avoid draining people or draining situations, but we can prepare ourselves to deal with them.

One of Furtick's points was to make more "deposits" than "withdrawals" -- spend time with people or in situations that replenish your energy. That way, when you encounter energy suckers, they don't cause an energy overdraft.

His other important point was to rest between energy-sucking situations. Take a break, withdraw, replenish your energy before dealing with difficult people.

This advice is fantastic. Because it's true, we can't avoid difficult people or situations. But if we're in the right mindset, with the right energy in us, we can deal with them appropriately.

Starting my day listening to spiritual speakers does this for me. It makes a "positive energy deposit" into my soul, and it gives me a little energetic rest before I deal with any other person.

But personally, I like to end my day in a similar manner. I have always read a book before bed. Always. No matter how tired I am, I have to read a few pages of something to end my day. But since February, I have been on a reading plan to finish the Bible in a year, so I go to bed with enough time to read something fun and then do my Bible reading for the night before going to sleep. I find that putting spiritual information into my brain before I go to sleep helps me sleep better. My dreams, when they come, are sweeter. I awake more refreshed. I'm not sure the mechanics of how this works, but it works.

Ultimately, I've found I have to manage my own energy. I can't just give it away willy nilly, and I can't let others take it as they please. Sometimes I have to give it to people who will waste it -- but if I am actively managing it, that won't tax me.

What do you do to manage your energy levels every day?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Whadya Want From Me?

This! This is what I want to do with my life! Right here, this girl who refused to live her life as a victim, who instead pushed onward and determined to be a positive example -- this is it.

>> Bethany Hamilton's biography

Obviously I'm not a surfer. I live in a landlocked (though insanely beautiful) state. And my ability to balance on a board in the water is limited to stand-up paddle-boarding on a perfectly still lake. But the essence of my life direction is right there on that page.

Reading that biography was like a smack on the head.

No, I have no idea how to become such a large voice in the world. I'm a simple writer -- and while some writers make big names for themselves, most don't.

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I'm a writer and a web manager. Because that's what I do. But that doesn't really tell a story, does it? Specifically, I write copy -- mostly for the web. Catalogs, promotions, articles, website content, widget copy, and blog posts are my bread and butter. I write novel-length fiction (and occasionally non-fiction) for fun.

You're thinking, "Why don't you just write a book?", right? Yeah. Well, since Scarlett died, I seem to have lost the ability to write that type of thing. I'm trying to get back there, but I know it's just going to take some time.

Also, I have no idea what I want to say. In this blog, I write whatever comes to mind. You guys get a firsthand look into my brain. But a book is a different beast. For a non-fiction book, you have to have an overall point you're trying to make. For fiction, you need a plot with a solid story arc.

As a writer, the way I can impact the world in a similar way to Bethany Hamilton is to write. Right? I mean, that's my skill. That's where I rise above. That's where I shine.

So I guess I'll start there. And I need your help.

What have you been most affected by in this blog? What have you enjoyed most, and what would you want more of? If I were to write a book, what would be the secret you wanted spilled in its pages?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Soul Surfer and Survival

I watched Soul Surfer for the first time the other day, and the movie struck my heart like a hammer.

If you don't know anything about the movie, it's a true story of a young girl surfer whose arm was bitten off by a shark -- but the bulk of the movie is actually about how she handles it. The girl maintains a positive attitude, and doesn't let the loss of her limb stop her from living the life she wants to live.

I saw so much of myself in that girl. That's the biggest reason the movie hit me so hard.

I am often told that I am "handling Scarlett's death so well." People tell me they could only hope they would handle a similar situation in such a way. They are amazed that I am able to keep a positive attitude -- and even more amazed that I am able to talk about it.

But I don't have any pride in this. It doesn't stroke my ego to hear how great I'm handling something so terrible. Ultimately, my positive attitude isn't about acting appropriately or following some guidebook on the proper way to mourn. It's about survival.

If I believed my daughter was taken from me rather than given to me, if I thought I would never see her again, if I didn't keep pushing through to live the life I want to live, if I couldn't talk about that amazing little girl with all the love I feel for her -- I simply wouldn't survive.

What do I say when someone tells me they are impressed by my attitude? It's usually something along the lines of, "Thank you, but it's not really a choice. It's the only way I can survive this." But what I'm feeling is more along the lines of, My positive attitude is the outward appearance of my internal struggle to keep breathing.


I need to stay alive. Plain and simple. I am needed here. Jeremy needs me. My family and friends need me. And I believe God has a special plan for my life that I am needed here on earth to fulfill.

Sure, people can survive with a bad attitude. I see examples all the time. But is it really living when they hate the world around them? Or when they can't pry themselves out of bed half of the time? Or when they drink themselves to sleep every night, or can't have a conversation without crying or getting angry?

I don't call that living, or survival. I call that hell.

As long as I am here in this world, I want to be a blessing to those around me. I want to pass along good energy. I want to give my husband more children, I want to give my family and friends more words of encouragement. What is the point of being alive if you're not making the world a better place?

So thank you for being impressed by my positive attitude -- but with all due respect, it ain't about what you think. It's about surviving while I'm healing, and trying to make this world a little better while I'm at it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

My Unneeded But Absolutely Necessary Skill

We're having Internet problems, so I'm writing this from my phone. I can fix a lot of computer problems, but my networking knowledge is limited to what I've learned from past issues. This issue is new and I'm feeling quite helpless.

Thank God for smartphones.

My brother is a genius when it comes to networking. So I'm sitting here with my coffee, waiting for him to wake up and call me back. Gotta love free tech support.

My brother, Drew, is one of those people who just innately understands how to fix things. Whether it's my home networking not working, my car leaking oil, or a home improvement project I have no idea how to start, Drew is the first person I call for advice.

Other skill-sets in our family and circle of close friends include plumbing, home renovation, culinary, art and illustration, tire expertise, real estate, and even political expertise. Sometimes I feel a little useless as a writer, to be honest. When people donate their skills to help Jeremy and me, I want to return the favor. And other than the occasional proof-reading or help with a resume or cover letter, most of our friends/family don't need my writing skills.

So when I start to get down on myself about the freaking blessing I was given, being born a writer, I remember the healing power that comes through these words.

My mother told me the other day that she was amazed that I hadn't had a breakdown since February. I answered, "Me breaking down doesn't do anyone any good." But it got me thinking how I have been able to keep myself out of the breakdown zone. And do you know what the answer was? Writing.

Whether writing here or writing to friends and family, writing about my feelings and my life has kept me healthy.

And if the response of my readers is any indication, my writing has helped others look at life differently too.

So I might not be able to fix our Internet problem. Or make gourmet lollipops. Or know what size tires you need just by the model of your car. But I can heal through words.

Thank you God.



Friday, July 13, 2012

Obsessing Over the Why and How

My need to understand why and how things work the way they do is starting to get the better of me. Sometimes it comes in handy -- I can figure out computers pretty easily, I learn languages quickly by breaking them down into their parts, and history is like a blueprint to me. But other times it keeps me up at night.

Atrocities committed around the world -- mutilation of women, genocide, rape, child labor -- and incidents right here at home make me wonder how people could do these awful things to each other. When nature can be furious, when accidents happen, why do some people feel compelled to purposefully hurt others?

When I saw the cover of Time magazine with a nose-less Afghani girl, my first thought wasn't poor thing. It was why would someone want to do that to her? Nothing in the world could compel me to hurt another human being like that, so I just can't wrap my head around how someone could think that was okay.

Same goes for stories of girls being raped right here at home. Many news stories present the victim as guilty -- wearing provocative clothing or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't understand how someone could want to hurt a girl like that in the first place, but then to go on and blame her in the media... WHY?

Jeremy and I talked about Michael Vick last night after watching a recent episode of The Haunted Collector where they found evidence of a dog fighting ring. Neither one of us could understand not only how a person could do that to an innocent animal, but how the NFL could let Vick back into the league after serving his time. The man was just plain broken.

Again I go back to being fascinated by the human brain. Some people just seem to be born broken. Like the part of the brain that controls morality and sympathy/empathy is just not functional. And I wonder if that is something scientists could identify in a person. And maybe even fix.

There are a lot of gray areas in life -- but some things are black and white. So why is it that some people can so easily do things that are just plain wrong?

One of those esoteric self-help questions I really like is, If you had unlimited funds, what would you do? I would go to school for neuroscience. I honestly think I could save the world by figuring out the part of the brain where some people are broken -- and at least help identify those people, and treat them, if not fix them.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

History of Work

Traveling is exhausting, yes, but I am still glad we had a week of no responsibilities in Mexico before THIS week happened.

This week is insane.  Work-wise.

I'm backing up a coworker, which is normally no big deal. But of course this week a big, demanding customer came along and when the sales reps said "jump," I had to say "How high, how quickly, and when would you like me to land, Master?" Oh, and did I mention my network access broke and IT broke one of my web tools as well? So it was like jumping on crutches. In jello.

As you all know, I have a day job -- one that I have been at for going on 6 years (that's not counting the 6 years of consulting for the same company). Plus I work a lot of freelance projects during my evenings and weekends. People often ask me how I juggle it all and still have time to watch back-to-back episodes of Chuck on DVD. So here is my secret...

I get efficient at whatever I do.

Over the years, I learned I have a pattern in my work process -- and when I realized that, I was able to let go of the stress and just go with the pattern.

The pattern starts with ramp-up. This is the time where I am learning how to do something new, or working with a new client, or (as in this week's case) doing something I rarely do so the skills aren't fresh. This is the most stressful time of any project or job. BUT, it's also a very short time.

The second part of the pattern is recognizing efficiencies. This is where I start seeing shortcuts -- I save time if I do this before that, or I can re-use that old project as a template and just edit it rather than re-creating this all from scratch, or while I'm in this tool I can knock out three customer requests.

And the third part is getting into a groove. The efficiencies I found in part 2 help me create a method for completing similar projects, and now all I have to do is complete the work. This is where I become a machine.

When I was younger, I used to get so stressed out in the ramp-up phase. For some reason, when I was in that phase, I couldn't see ahead of me. My brain went into it's going to be like this FOREVER mode, and every new project that got put on my plate would practically give me a heart attack.

But that's the great thing about age. You get perspective. I can look back at the hundreds of projects I've worked on, and see that it didn't take me very long to ramp up on ANY of them. So now, when I'm in ramp-up phase, I can say to myself, I'll understand this in no time and get really efficient at it. Because historically, that's what always happens.

And that's what happened yesterday. Backing up my coworker, I was doing things I hadn't done in a long time (ramp up phase).  When this urgent project popped up, I started stressing out -- but that lasted all of 2 hours. After that, I was in a groove and knocking out one website change after another with a smile on my face.

And as for my broken tools, after my initial ARE YOU KIDDING ME reaction, I just stepped back and realized there was nothing I could do about it. IT was working to fix it. Sure, I don't like it when people get mad at me for not being able to do something -- but I knew it wasn't my fault. It wasn't a reflection on my ability to do my job.

So how do I juggle so many projects and responsibilities? I look at my history and realize there is nothing I can't learn how to do, and nothing I won't get efficient at, quickly. My work history is a kind, wise old man, and my present is a young upstart who is terrified of failing -- I just have to get them talking.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Art Show and Lollipops

I know I say this all the time, but it bears repeating. I have the most amazing people in my life.

My friend Abby is putting together an art show to be held in Scarlett's honor. She emailed me several weeks back and asked me if it was okay. She said she had such fond memories from her last art show, walking around with our daughter in her arms, showing Scarlett all the artwork, that she felt this would be a good way to honor that bright young life.

Abby has scheduled it for the evening of Scarlett's birthday. She's pulled together several local artists, including my brother Drew, and Ambrosia Candy Company has lovingly designed lollipops for the event.



My dear friend Della, owner of Ambrosia, was visiting Colorado this last week. She and her family moved to Arizona several months ago, but her family and many of her friends are still here in Colorado, so we are blessed by her visits every so often. She brought samples of the lollipops she designed for the show.

I ate one last night, and it was absolutely divine. Flavored with rose water, it tasted like a sugared rose. She also left some other samples for us -- a salted caramel moon, a cinnamon star, and a cheesecake flower. I've always thought Della was a culinary genius, but she seriously goes above and beyond with her candy.

It has been 4 1/2 months since our daughter died. And other people's lives are going back to normal after the shock. But for Jeremy and I, we still live inside this process of pain and healing every minute of every day. It is going to take us years to recover -- and we will never fully recover. It warms my heart to know that our friends understand this, and continue to love and support us in any way they can. They know that we have been changed, and rather than slink away, they continue to step forward.

Tragedy melts a life and re-forms it -- and in the process life is also clarified, impurities scoured from the substance of creation. Our friends stand strong, lighting our way as we are reformed. And no words will ever be able to capture the thanks I have in my heart.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Family Planning

This is one of those personal, possibly over-sharing posts. So if you don't care to get the details of our family planning, feel free to skip this post!

I'm confessing something today. This is probably not a surprise to most of you, as I have hinted at this from time to time. But here it is in black and white.

We are working with a fertility specialist right now.

I was so anxious at our first appointment. I'd heard such horror stories, and I just didn't know what to expect. But the doctor was amazing. He was kind, he listened, he understood our situation, and he gave us a fertility plan we could live with.

I started on Letrozole the week before we left for Mexico. Though the drug itself has been around a while, this particular purpose for it is new. It has less side effects than Chlomid, but it does the same thing -- it increases our odds. We have had a successful pregnancy in the past, and all of the diagnostic tests they did on both Jeremy and myself came back without issues, so the doctor felt that it was just a numbers game for us. We just needed a little boost in the odds.

So this is the first step in our fertility plan. We're trying this for a few months before moving on to step 2. Though the doctor felt (and I feel in my heart) we won't need a step 2, here. All I can say at this point is, continue to pray for us.

I have written before about my frustration at how people speak to me about having more children. Having children is such an emotionally charged thing to begin with, but if you add fertility treatments to the mix, you get even MORE hurtful responses from people.

I don't think people mean to be hurtful. I know I'm sensitive about this issue. And I know I've probably given some of these responses to other people going through similar things. But I wanted to take this opportunity to answer people's most common responses to us having difficulty conceiving.

You will have a child when the time is right.
We wholeheartedly agree. But we also have to take the right steps to get pregnant. I'm not the Virgin Mary, here, and I'm not 18 years old. I have a 32-year-old body, our first child took over a year to conceive, and so for me a little more effort is required than just sitting back and saying "Oh, God will take care of it."

You're still young! You've got plenty of time.
Do you not understand how the whole pregnancy/childbirth/child-rearing thing works? Pregnancy is 40 weeks (around 10 months). A woman's body isn't ready to have another child for about a year after that. We want MULTIPLE CHILDREN. Also, after age 35, doctors consider you "high risk" and prenatal care costs more -- we are not rich. If we have to have IVF, or if we have to adopt, these things take even MORE time and money. And finally, I prefer not to be 75 years old at my child's high school graduation. If that's the way it works out, fine, but if I can help it, I'd like to conceive young enough to enjoy my children as adults.

Maybe you just need more time to heal.
We started trying to get pregnant when Scarlett was a year old. This is not a new idea. This has nothing to do with healing from her death. This is us continuing on our original family plan.

But you might have twins! Or triplets!
Yup. And they will be as much of a blessing as a single child. We welcome whatever number we are blessed with.

So there you have it. The most common responses, and what I like to say in return -- though most of the time I get so flustered that people would even question us having another child, my words are not as concise as that.

And for the record, the best response when someone tells you they are struggling to conceive is something along the lines of, I'll think good thoughts for you, or I'll pray for you. When in doubt, think good thoughts.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Found Bag, God Spark and Relaxing

AirTran found my bag. Supposedly it was stuck on the conveyor belt heading up to the carousel, so it's been in Denver this whole time. I say supposedly because it's hard to believe no one noticed a HUGE bag stuck on the conveyor belt for 24 hours. But, my bag was delivered to our doorstep in the wee hours of the morning, so the story has a happy ending.

I went to Base Camp yesterday morning, followed by the 11:15 service at Crossroads Church. It felt good to be back. In class, we talked about the Holy Spirit, which is fascinating to me. It's such a mysterious part of the Trinity, and I really enjoyed the way the pastors at Crossroads explained it -- how it's the piece of God inside all of us, and we can choose to "dial it up" and let it move us, or "dial it down" and ignore this conduit to God. I like the idea of walking around with a spark of God glowing in my center.

Other than church yesterday, I just sat around the house with Jeremy, trying to unwind from our trip. We LOVE to travel, and we do it as often as we can, but travel is not relaxing for us. Being at home with our routines and our creature comforts is relaxing. Traveling is exciting -- and exhausting.

We have also found that returning from our travels is emotionally exhausting since our daughter passed. Coming home is like a knock upside the head that reminds us what happened here, and it takes us a bit of time to readjust to living inside the healing going on here. But there IS healing going on here. I cry a little less with each return home.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Mexico, July 2012

Jeremy's parents own a timeshare in Mexico, so they head down there about twice a year. We join them when we can. This year, a TON of people joined them. Our group consisted of 34 people! The Hacienda Tres Rios resort hardly knew what to do with us.

We flew into Cancun last Saturday and spent the remainder of that day and Sunday exploring the property and hanging out at the pool. Heat and mosquitoes aside, this area of Mexico (between Playa del Carmen and Cancun) is paradise.

Gotta hand it to Tres Rios -- there was never a fight for an open lounge chair.

One of the many pools.

These little dudes were everywhere. They are called coatis, and they look like a raccoon crossed with a fox.

Jeremy playing soccer. Yes, I about fell off the balcony.


Beds on the beach made for heavenly naps.


Iguana!

A jacuzzi in our room. Bliss times ten.

Monday we went kayaking in the cenotes. I don't have any pictures because they didn't allow us to take anything with us, since it was a nature reserve. I adore kayaking -- but usually I'm by myself. Jeremy and I had to share one this time, and it did not work out well. Besides the kayak itself being so dinged up that it was cutting into Jeremy's back, our weight distribution absolutely sucked, so he was unable to sit upright enough to row. Let's just say he spent most of the time growling while I spent most of the time trying to pry us out of the mangroves. Great workout, though.  LOL

I might be getting my days mixed up, but I think it was Tuesday that Jeremy and I got a couple's massage. It was nice, though not the best massage I've ever had.

Wednesday we went deep sea fishing. I have never been sea-sick, but I took a Dramamine just in case. The pill absolutely knocked me out, and then about 3/4 of the way through the trip, it stopped working. So I was trying to keep my eyes open while trying not to puke off the side of the boat. Not fun. And our group didn't catch anything -- but the Butler family caught several tuna and a sailfish from their boat.

After we went back to the hotel and got cleaned up from being out on the boat, we headed into Cancun for some shopping at La Isla and then dinner at El Mortero. The margaritas at El Mortero are truly deadly -- and wonderful. I had tuna steak there that blew my socks off, too.



Jeremy is not happy here because he was trying to tell us not to take pictures with these guys -- and we ignored him. Then this Mask dude followed us a whole block with his hat out. Ugh.










There was a sports bar at the resort. I honestly can't remember which night this was, but several of us were playing Jenga there, and I toppled the stupid thing. So rules were, I had to take a shot. Kelsey got me a shot of Grey Goose, but it smelled like rubbing alcohol and I refused to drink it -- so I made Jeremy drink it for me. Heehee. Then she got me a shot of Kahlua, which you see me drinking in the pic below.


Thursday, the 8 divers in our group were scheduled to go SCUBA diving in Cozumel. There were also 9 people in our group who were going to do an intro class at a shop there. So several of the girls and I tagged along on the ferry ride over and went shopping while they were all diving.


My silly mother-in-law.


Jody (right) was one hell of a wheeler-dealer. She got us smokin' deals on some cute purses. I'm happy to report I did some haggling myself and was quite successful buying a shirt and a medallion.

Sis-in-law Emily, Shannon and me in the square.

Friday there was talk of going to an adventure park, but Jeremy and I decided we needed one more day of beach time. So we lounged around by the pool and took a blissful afternoon nap.

Friday night, David arranged for a lobster dinner on the rooftop with three private butlers. So all 34 of us watched the sun set in style on our last night there.




We arrived back in Denver Saturday night -- but my bag didn't make it. As of right now, Sunday night, AirTran has no idea where my suitcase is. One hell of a welcome home, huh? Oh well. It's just stuff. We're home safely, and that's the most important thing.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Marital Key

We were in Mexico for the last week, and the Internet connection at our hotel was spotty. So I'll catch up on posting over the next few days. Until then, here is a post I wrote yesterday and was unable to publish until now.


One thing Jeremy and I have noticed over the years is how necessary our couple time is. Moving from Colorado Springs to north of Denver, we got distance from everyone we knew, family and friends, and were forced to spend a lot of time together, just the two of us. Our marriage blossomed.

After Scarlett was born, our couple time got relegated to after Scarlett's bedtime. But again, that time where it was just the two of us was an absolute necessity to a healthy marriage. It didn't take much effort to commit to spending quality time together when the benefit was so incredible.

And we notice when we are spending time with family -- whether visiting or traveling with them -- it is easy to forget our couple time. We get busy, we get distracted, and shortly we begin getting snippy with each other. Most of the time we realize the problem quickly and take the necessary steps to be alone for a bit, but sometimes it gets away from us. Sometimes it turns into a fight.

But always, always, if we get alone in a room together, we are able to resolve things quickly and get back on an even keel.

I'm sure everyone has their "key to a happy marriage" tucked into their back pocket. Ours is quality time with just the two of us. What's yours?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Roman History

Two of my favorite classes in college were The History of the Roman Empire I and II. Rome influenced our modern culture more than any other empire in history. They are responsible for how we design our cities and our roads, how we look at government, even how we treat US territories.

I am listening to an audio class on the history of Jerusalem right now. Rome is featured quite prominently in the history of that city, and it is making me recall those college classes. History in general fascinates me (I have a BA in European History, after all!), but when I see connections between the history of other nations and our own modern culture I get really excited. Like putting a puzzle together, and finding piece after piece that snaps into place -- my brain thrives on understanding how things are put together.

We like to think we are innovators -- and we are, really -- but who we are today stems from thousands of years of human movement, wars, cultural explosions, and discoveries. America is such a young country. We have such a long way to go. I don't think we'll end the way the Roman Empire did, brittle through corruption and collapsed upon the weight of itself, because our modern communication far surpasses those Roman roads. But still, similarities exist. And it will be interesting to see how far those similarities go.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Kindred Spirits

Jeremy and I met this couple from Kansas City on Saturday that we just totally hit it off with. The more we get to know them, the more we find in common. I'm a pretty sociable person, but Jeremy isn't -- so this type of situation doesn't happen often.

Just when I thought our commonalities couldn't get any bigger, last night the girl told me that her 3 1/2 month old son had died of SIDS years ago.

In the short conversation that followed, she reassured me a lot. She said that it took years, but the pain did ease. And she warned me against obsessively visiting Scarlett's graveside (which, in all honesty, I might be tempted to do if the cemetery were closer to our home). She also shared with me her fear that it would happen again -- and this is something I feel as well. Terror, not just fear, that I may lose another child.

I have never met anyone who lost a child this way. It was oddly comforting to know I'm not alone. Sure, I've heard people tell me they know someone who knows someone this happened to. But I've never met someone firsthand who went through what Jeremy and I did. Seeing the peace in her eyes when she talked about her son gave me such a strong sense of hope.

I know deep down I will be okay. I believe the experts when they tell us things will get better. I trust Jeremy when he tells me we will have more children and they will outlive us. But meeting someone who went through it meant more than all of that.

Kindred spirits are such a blessing.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Spotty Posts

I apologize in advance. My blogging is going to be spotty this week.

The fires in Colorado are getting contained. Still burning, but contained. That means that as long as the weather keeps cooperating and we continue to have enough firefighters, the chances of another surge in a largely populated area are pretty slim.

In other news, I just witnessed my husband playing soccer with some family and family friends. If you know anything about my husband, you'll know how completely bizarre that was. After I asked him if he was a pod person, I told him he was actually pretty good. He responded with, "Yeah, honey, I'm actually pretty good at most sports. They just don't keep my interest long enough to commit to a league." One of the many things I love about Jeremy. He always surprises me.

We're spending a lot of time with our twin nephews right now. We love them as if they were our own. They were only 10 months old when Scarlett was born, so the three of them were fast friends. Little David would call her "Darlett," while Anthony called her "Garlett." I hope as the boys grow up, they continue to remember their cousin.