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Guest Writing: The Life Enthusiast

As many of you know, I occasionally guest write for my friends. 

This month, my friend Britt asked if I would contribute to her blog series, The Life  Enthusiast Chronicles. As this is one of my favorite things on the Internet, I was thrilled to be asked, and immediately agreed to be a part of it.

Each month, Britt asks a different writer she knows to answer the same question: what makes you enthusiastic about life?

So, head on over and check out my answer to the question. 

While you’re there, be sure to browse through the other posts and if you love Britt’s work as much as I do, buy one of her awesome novels! My personal favorite is Nola Fran Evie if you need a starting point. ☺️

You can buy her books on Amazon

Ringing in the positive

While at dinner with my father and sister and brother in-law last night my husband leaned over to me and very quietly said ‘I would like the next three sentences out of your mouth to be positive.’

Naturally, my immediate reaction was to go on the offense and my husband knew I would and told me ‘I know you’re trying to be funny. I don’t think you realize it’s negative. I was just making you aware.’

Funny thing is, he was right. (Don’t tell him I said that). I was trying to be funny and I didn’t realize I was being so negative.

And like it or not, I think this is something that I do often without even realizing it. Another example?

During a recent conversation about movies and actors I stated that I do not like Jennifer Lawrence. Everyone asked me why and I don’t really have a good reason. She just bugs me. But while I was having the same conversation with my best friend via text message, I said the reason I don’t like her is because everyone praises her for lashing out at the Hollywood bullies and ridiculousness of the industry name calling and the meanness of it all but she’s doing the same thing. She’s just attacking the the attackers. Just because you’re being mean to the meanies doesn’t mean you’re not being mean.

And then my best friend said ‘btw that’s you!’

Man. I suck.

I don’t want to be mean. And I don’t want to be negative. I’m the kid who tattooed the phrase ‘kindness can change the world’ on her wrist. The person who brought home an entire litter of flea infested puppies that were dumped on the road because I was afraid they were going to get run over. Or eaten by coyotes. I’m the nice person.

But recently I’ve been made aware that I’m not. I’m the mean person. And Humanity, I owe you a giant apology.

So, in 2014 I’m going to focus on the positive, pay more attention to my attitude, and make each day a reason to be thankful. Having just come off my favorite season, I think I need to do a better job at giving thanks all year instead of from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Here’s to 2014 and positivity!

Reasons to be thankful…

Thanksgiving has come and gone once again.  I can’t believe the end of the year is already upon us – honestly, where does the time go?

This is my most favorite time of the year and Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the entire year, though the last seven years it’s always been bittersweet.

Seven years ago, on Thanksgiving day, I was notified that a former boyfriend had died as the result of a car accident.  It was a slap in the face and I didn’t know what else to do other than collapse into a puddle of tears, heartbreak, and sadness.  With the exception of my grandparents’ deaths it was the saddest I had ever been in my life, so every Thanksgiving I pause and reflect on the things that I am most thankful for, since I failed to take the opportunity at previous times in my life.

This Thanksgiving, I have been flooding my friends’ Facebook timelines with ’30 days of thankfulness’ so I wanted to take a moment to list 30 things I’m thankful for:

Day One: At a time when many are out of work, I am thankful for a job that I enjoy.

Day Two: I’m thankful to have a home of my own during a time when many people have lost theirs.

Day Three: I am thankful for the unfaltering generosity of the people in my life

Day Four: I am thankful for friendliness and laughter.

Day Five: I am thankful for the great company of awesome women who genuinely like being together.

Day Six: I am thankful for suffragettes. I am thankful for civil rights fighters. And I am thankful for our military.

Day Seven: I am thankful for comfortable beds, warm houses, and the arms of a loved one.

Day Eight: I am thankful for my sisters and brother. The biological ones and the ones that married them. They all drive me crazy sometimes, but I love them.

Day Nine:  I am thankful beautiful fall days filled with sunshine and the rustling of leaves.

Day Ten: I am thankful for kind neighbors who know what being neighborly is.

Day 11: I am thankful that today I can light candles in honor of my brother instead of in memory of him. I am thankful for all of our veterans, but specifically Poland RonDesira Poland, and Ron Poland. Thank you for your sacrifices in honor our nation.

Day 12: I am thankful for seasons and living in a state where I get to enjoy all four of them.

Day 13: I am thankful for unlimited text message, data usage and Pintrest’s humor board. I’m also thankful for family and friends who don’t yell at me for clogging up their inbox with hilariousness.

Day 14: I am thankful for kind coworkers who host delicious food competitions. Especially when said competition’s theme is pumpkin!

Day 15: I am thankful to work for a company that appreciates its employees so much that they throw us a pizza party for doing our jobs well.

Day 16: I am thankful for good food, fantastic fellowship, and funny nieces.

Day 17:  I am thankful to have not one family but two families who love me. I am also thankful that those two families blend well and can enjoy each other’s company.

Day 18: I am thankful for my dad. Everyone thinks their dad is the best, but mine really is. We don’t see each other as often as I’d like, and we don’t talk on the phone as often as we used to, but I am truly the luckiest girl to have a dad that loves me so much. He supports me in all of my decisions even if he disagrees with my decisions. He is strong enough to let me fail but gentle enough to pick me up when I do. He doesn’t say ‘I told you so,’ instead he asks ‘what did you learn?’ He makes me laugh and makes me think. He is always my dad first, but I am proud to say he is also my friend. Thanks Dad, for putting up with tiny little baby clothes, toddler tantrums, teenaged moodiness, and twenty-something know-it-all-ness. Looking forward to taking a walk down the aisle with you by my side!

Day 19: I am thankful laughter and humor.

Day 20: I am thankful for great coworkers.

Day 21: I am thankful for my brother. I am thankful that he serves his country with honor and that he treats his wife and daughters with respect. I am thankful that he and his family drove to Kansas to celebrate my favorite holiday with me.

Day 22:  I am thankful for family. I am thankful for the ability to host our first holiday dinner in our new home. And I am thankful that we were all together.

Day 23: I am thankful for a successful dinner hosting and that everyone who came to dinner arrived safely and returned to their homes safely.

Day 24: I am thankful for the years spent in past relationships.  They helped me figure out what I do and do not want in a partner.  Every past relationship was a blessing and I have held them all close my heart.  On this day seven years ago my perception of my previous relationships changed and I took a hard look at myself and what I brought to a relationship.  It wasn’t all awesome.  I did some soul searching and found what I was looking for in a partner.  More importantly, I found the partner I wanted to be and hope that I do a good job on a daily basis.

Day 25: I am thankful for sunshine and laughter

Day 26: I am thankful for my sisters.   I am thankful that I have three, when some people don’t have any.  I am thankful that even though we fight, and argue, and make each other cry, it doesn’t divide us.  At the end of the day it brings us together.  My sisters drive me nuts sometimes, but my world would be a sad place without them.

Day 27: I am thankful for the world’s greatest (future) in-laws.  They have been such a part of my life for so many years.  They welcomed me into their lives during times of extreme turmoil for them all.  I remember thinking to myself ‘how brave these people are to wear their grief so outwardly but be so welcoming at the same time.’  I very much look forward to officially joining the family in August 2013.

Day 28: I am thankful for great friends.

Day 29: I am thankful for my Mom.  I am thankful for her craziness, her humor, her smiles.  She drives me crazy sometimes, and we definitely don’t always see eye to eye, but she’s my Mom and I love her.  I don’t have to agree with her, but I will always love her.

Day 30: I am thankful for an amazing partner.  For six years I called him my boyfriend.  As of August 17th (our six year ‘anniversary’) I get to call him my fiancee.  And on August 17th, 2013 I will get to call him my husband.  I am truly one lucky lady.  He makes me laugh.  He makes me smile.  He makes me think and pushes me to do better at everything.  He encourages me to live my best life.  He lifts me up when I am down and celebrates my successes.  Spending the rest of my life with this amazing man will be nothing short of incredible; and that is truly something to be thankful for!

I notice a theme in the things I am thankful for.  Namely that they aren’t “things.”  I am thankful for people.  For feelings.  For opportunities.  And I truly am.  I have an incredible family.  Wonderful future in-laws.  Amazing friends.  A rewarding career at a great company.  I have been through tough times and survived them.  I am stronger than I ever thought possible.

These are things I am thankful for every single day, but Thanksgiving definitely gives me a reason to really stop and reflect on how fortunate and blessed I really am.  I try not to take that for granted and hope that I am doing a good job.

So, what are you thankful for?  How did you spend your Thanksgiving?  With family?  Friends?  Alone?  Feel free to leave comments and be sure to check back throughout the next few days for the updates on days 26-30.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye….(UPDATED)

Last week was truly the highest of highs and the lowest of lows for our family.  When I say ‘our family’ I’m not referring to our vast and extensive extended family, but rather the family unit that Brett and I consist of.  We are a family of three; Brett, myself and Bogey, our dog.  Bogey is absolutely our family.  He is our fur-kid.  And he is beyond spoiled.  We (read I) go paparazzi nuts with the camera, in fact I have an entire Facebook album dedicated to pictures of Bogey.

Recently, Bogey’s health had taken a turn south, so we did what any parents would do, we rushed him to the ER.  When we got to the hospital, Bogey was weak, dehydrated and his color was off, he looked pale.  We were freaking out.  We didn’t know what was wrong.  I have to say, Blue Pearl in Overland Park, KS is the nicest, most compassionate place I’ve ever been.  They were so incredible helping us through a very tough couple of nights.  After two nights at the hospital, Bogey came home!  Diagnosis? Bleeding ulcers.  Bummer.  But, they were totally treatable, and he would be okay.  Hooray!  Medicine and a bland diet for a week and he seemed to be alright.

But, while we were at the ER the first night, the doctor came in and told us that Bogey had a perianal tumor (which is what they originally thought the problem was).  After lots of tests, they decided that wasn’t the cause of his emergency visit, but that we should still take him to his regular doctor and have that tumor looked at.

We scheduled an appointment and had some samples of the tumor sent off for a cytology report, which came back inconclusive.  Meaning, it might not be cancer, but it might be cancer.  But, it needed to come out.  So, we scheduled the surgery.

Bogey had surgery at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 7th.  He was scared, but okay.  I was there with him, and told him how great he was doing.  He didn’t even squirm, which was great because that meant no full anesthesia!  Local anesthesia is all he needed, which, given his age (15!) was a great thing.  Tumor was removed and he was stitched up and, after a couple of hours at the doctor for post-op observation, we were on our way home.  His tumor was sent off to get biopsied and we’re just awaiting results to find out if it was cancerous or not, so we can start forming a treatment plan for our Dude.

Thursday night was a rough night for everyone.  Bogey hated his Elizabethan collar, which everyone knows as ‘the cone of shame.’ He freaked out and started running in to things trying to rip the collar off.  I hated seeing him panic, so I took it off of him.  Then he started throwing up, which, if I had just recovered from bleeding ulcers, and then had surgery and then freaked out, would probably throw up, too.  Brett stayed up with him until about 3:30 a.m.  That’s when Bogey finally decided to lay down and go to sleep.  On Friday, he seemed okay.  Great!  Our Dude just hated his collar and basically threw the equivalent of a screaming, kicking, crying-until-you-throw-up tantrum.  He didn’t really eat much Friday, so I made him some chicken (I told you, he’s spoiled).  He chowed it down and everything seemed good.  Friday night, more vomiting.  But, not as bad as Thursday night.  So, maybe the food upset his stomach.  He probably ate too fast.  But, his breathing seemed off, and his behavior was off too.  But he did just have surgery 24 hours ago and now has stitches in his hiney….

Saturday, he was walking around the basement in the morning.  We gave him head pats, and rubbed his ears.  Like the concerned fur-mom I am, I still thought his breathing didn’t sound right, but he seemed alright, just tired (which is understandable since he’d spent two nights throwing up).  We decided to leave him downstairs (with his favorite red blanket) to get some rest and went  to check on him every hour to see if he wanted to go outside.  He was laying at the foot of the stairs, and would look up at us when we came down, but wasn’t interested in going outside.  So, we would rub his head and belly, and give him kisses and tell him how much we loved him.

At 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 9th, Bogey was no longer breathing.  It was heartbreaking.  I got Brett and told him that Bogey wasn’t breathing anymore and we sat there and hugged our Dude and cried together.  My heart broke more.  Brett’s Mom came down and cried with us, too.  And his sister came down, cried with us, and we all said a prayer to St. Francis asking him to watch our Boy until we got home.

As much as losing our Dude sucks (and it is the big time suck) I learned a lot over the last few days and weeks.  I learned that Brett and I are an amazing team, even in super sucky, super awful situations.  We connect to form a strength that is stronger than either of us individually.  I learned there are awesome people who care about our Dude as much as we do.  I learned about Blue Pearl Emergency Pet Services and their incredible staff.  And I learned that we have the most quality people in our lives.  Our families and friends are truly some of the best people on Earth and we are so incredibly blessed to have them.

Having to say goodbye to Bogey sucked.  It still sucks.  Every time I walk downstairs I expect to see his fluffy little face look up from his bed.  I expect to see his red blanket laying on his bed.  I look at the clock and realize that Bogey probably needs to go to the bathroom.  I still look around for him.  And while the emptiness sucks and has left a hole in my heart, I find a small amount of joy knowing that our Boy isn’t hurting anymore.  That whatever pain he was feeling, he’s free from it.  He’s running, and jumping, and chasing squirrels and snoozing in the sunshine.  I find comfort in knowing that St. Francis welcomed our Boy with open and loving arms, and I’m sure he gave him his favorite snack, Cheese-Its, when he got there.

With all that knowledge, I find peace with the emptiness.

The last three weeks of Bogey’s life were not the best, I’m sure.  He spent too many hours at doctor’s offices. But, he also spent a lot of time at the playground, laying in sunshine, lounging next to us, giving us hugs and kisses, and bringing us smiles and joy.  So, I’m grateful for that.

Bogey lived a really long, great life.  In dog years he was 15, which makes him 105 in human years.  105!  What a great life.  He had lots of adventures, and even got to spend a few years of his life as a Texas dog (which automatically makes him one of the coolest dogs in Heaven). He spent his final days at home, with his family.  Surrounded by love and laughter. What a life.

So, this part is for our Dude: Rest in peace, Bogey.  We love you forever and we’ll see you when we get home.  Until then, listen to St. Francis, don’t just eat your vitamins, you cannot have all his french fries, you do NOT eat Raisinets (even though you think you do), I’ll pretend I don’t know you’re eating way too many Cheese-Its, and because you are one spoiled kiddo, I won’t even yell at you if you’re laying on our bed when we get home (just please don’t have muddy feet). Love Forever, Mom and Dad.

Thank you everyone who said a prayer, had us in their thoughts, sent good vibes, asked how Bogey was, sent us messages, gave us hugs or sat and cried with us.  You are the best people.  We are so, so grateful.  The love and support our family has been given over the last three weeks has been amazing, and has truly helped us make it through this big pile of suck. So once again, THANK YOU!

Here are some of my favorite pictures of Captain Bogey P. VonFluffenstein the 14th

As a matter of fact, I would LOVE some Cheese-Its!

Captain Bogey P. VonFluffenstein, Protector of the Universe.

I’m BatDog.

Yeah. I pop my collar. And?

My two boys, watching the X-Files.

I hear everything. I’m BatDog.

Sun Snoozin’

Just Mom & Bogs

Dear Lord, please open your gates
and call St. Francis
to come escort this beloved companion
across the Rainbow Bridge.

Assign him to a place of honor,
for he has been a faithful servant
and has always done his best to please me.

Bless the hands that send him to you,
for they are doing so in love and compassion,
freeing him from pain and suffering.

Grant me the strength not to dwell on my loss.
Help me remember the details of his life
with the love he has shown me.
And grant me the courage to honor him
by sharing those memories with others.

Let him remember me as well
and let him know that I will always love him.
And when it’s my time to pass over into your paradise,
please allow him to accompany those
who will bring me home.

Thank you, Lord,
for the gift of his companionship
and for the time we’ve had together.

And thank you, Lord,
for granting me the strength
to give him to you now.

Amen.

*******(UPDATE: I called Bogey’s doctor on Monday to let him know what happened and to ask him to call us with the results of the biopsy anyway.  I received a phone call a few minutes later and learned that the tumor was NOT cancerous.  So I guess that’s good news, though it doesn’t ease our pain or sadness.)*******

Happy Memorial Day?

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Yesterday was Memorial Day. And while I certainly enjoyed my time with family and friends who were enjoying a three day weekend, I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about what this day is really about.

I heard numerous times on television the phrase ” Happy Memorial Day!” I read the same sentiments across multiple social media forums, online newspapers, and even on radio ads. And every time I heard it it made me really stop and think.

Is this day really happy?

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I don’t really think so. I think this day is a bit of a conundrum (and I think a lot of people misunderstand what this day is really “celebrating”). For me, Memorial Day isn’t as much about a celebration, though we do spend the weekend at the lake eating good food and taking boat rides, as it is about pausing to remember the more than 600,000 soldiers who have given their lives serving this nation. Sacrificed their existence so we are safe and free to continue ours.

When I think about the families of those we are honoring on this day, my heart explodes with compassion and gratitude. For many forget that those left behind continue to pay the price of their soldier’s sacrifice everyday. They must continue to “soldier on” in the face of grief, sorrow, anger, resent, hopelessness and fear everyday.

So while yes, I did indeed have a happy weekend, I never stopped remembering why yesterday was such an important day.

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And with that, I say one final thing;

Thank you to every soldier who sacrificed their life so that I could continue to live mine freely. Thank you to every soldier who never made it home. Thank you to every soldier whose family is one member less. And thank you to the families of those who fell, for your sacrifice is worth the same gratitude.

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Operation: Graduate (Mission Complete!)

Ten years.  Ten, long, hard, tear filled years, and I have finally graduated.  I am now forever a Broncho!  And while I realize that I have said in previous posts that I am a Jayhawk, my heart filled with so much love and pride for my alma mater, the University of Central Oklahoma.  They were the first school to ask me to call them home.  The first ones to open their doors to me and say “you belong here, with us.  Be a Broncho.”  And I am so grateful for that!  Because now I can say I have an alma mater.  I have a home, a mascot and a school identity that is uniquely my own.  For the last six years, I have shared Brett’s alma mater (KU) and have loved it like it was mine, but now, I have one. And it is so incredible!

Will I continue to cheer for the Jayhawks, absolutely; but now, I’m a Broncho, too.  And while we may not be high profile, division I athletics, we are pretty incredible, too.  As a matter of fact, our softball team is headed to the College World Series!

So, thank you.  Thank you to UCO for letting me call you home.  For being one of the most diverse places I’ve ever been and by helping me make my dream of graduating come true.  Go Bronchos!

Reflection of 2011

We’ve almost completed another year.  Another year filled with memories and moments.  I’m sure we all had high moments and low moments.  Feel free to share yours here, in the comment section.

As I sit here looking back on the year that’s passed, I can’t help but feel so fortunate and realize how truly blessed I am.  I know that there are others less fortunate, so I try not to take anything for granted.  Here are my reflections on the year:

1) This year we were able to support more charities.  Our first event was in February, The Bacchus Foundation’s yearly ball.  I posted about it earlier this year and posted photos from the event.  Then in June (my birthday month!) we went to Jazzoo again.  Instead of presents, this year I asked for donations to the Kansas City Zoo.  They currently don’t have penguins, which are my favorite animals and I think it should be a crime to not have them!  I also posted about this earlier in the year.  I am happy to report, however, that construction for the penguin village has begun and penguins should begin arriving around 2013!  I can’t wait.

Also, this year we went to the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisers (NAIFA) first annual charity gala.  The theme was a throw back to the old days of glitz and glamour and had a casino.  The proceeds of the event went to Operation Breakthrough, a local charity that supports children.  To learn more about their work visit their website. Finally, we also attended NAIFA’s annual Firefighter of the Year banquet; an event held by the Greater Kansas City chapter to show appreciation for the brave men and women who put their lives on the line everyday.  The honorees are amazing people, doing amazing things within their communities and it was awesome to be a part of it.

2) There were some sad moments throughout the year.  My grandmother in Philadelphia passed away in March, and Brett’s uncle   in October.  Throughout everything, we were reminded that we have the best people in our lives.  Thank you to anyone who said a prayer; sent a card, text message, phone call; or just stopped to ask us how we were.  We appreciate you all more than you know.

3) There were some amazing adventures in 2011 as well.  This summer we spent a lot of time at the lake house.  The expansion is complete and it looks amazing!  It’s nice to have a place where the whole family can come together just to be together.  We also got to take a HUGE family vacation to Mexico.  There were 17 of us.  We threw a surprise birthday party for Brett’s aunt.  She has no idea we were all going to be there and was so surprised to see everyone there when she arrived.  It was a wonderful week, full of wonderful memories.  One of the coolest adventures we took this year was going to the freaking World Series!  We went to Game 7 in St. Louis!!!  It was so much fun (even if the Rangers lost) and possibly one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

4) Last year I mentioned that there were lots of weddings, babies and engagements.  Well this year we celebrated those things.  My brother and sister in law welcomed another daughter to the family in August, Scout Marie.  She is adorable and looks like my brother.  My sister Janine got married in August and my cousin Elyse tied the knot in October.  THIS year saw more engagements and next year is going to busy with weddings.  By my count there are six!  Congratulations to all our friends and family that will be wedding within the next year!  We look forward to celebrating with you!

5) I wrote last year that I had started school again and that I was hoping to report that I’d be finished by now.  Well, I’m not finished yet, BUT I believe I will be finished in May!  I couldn’t be more thrilled, so start looking for graduation announcements in the spring (be sure I have your email address, phone number or home address so you can get an announcement).

6) Finally, like last year, my favorite thing from 2011 is that it’s another year Brett and I spent together (number 5!).  I know it’s cheesy, but it’s true.  Each year we spend together just reaffirms what I already know; I love our life.  He makes me happy and was an amazing support when my Grandmom died.  I couldn’t ask for a better partner!

So, that’s my year in a small recap.  I hope your 2011 was everything you dreamed it would be.  And, if it wasn’t, I hope 2012 is the year of YOU!

Happy Holidays and a truly Happy New Year!