what makes a hero?

Recently I entered into a facebook dialogue about fathers. Specifically the sort of father who isn’t much of an active father at all, rejecting and abandoning their children. What made me truly sad, within the context of this discussion, was the number of people who share that very story. I know that this idea is not exclusive to fathers, but it does seem pretty common all the same.

Some time ago I read a letter my daughter meant for another. Within it she talked a lot of negative untruth about me, but the part that really pushed my emotion over the edge was her writing about her dad, my husband. She spoke about her dad abandoning her and how she had all of these daddy issues because her dad had neglected and rejected her throughout her life. The reasons she was going into such fictitious detail, in page after page was actually to deflect her own responsibilities from decisions she’d made, but that isn’t the point. The point is that this child has grown up being tucked in and prayed with, by her dad, every night that he was not away on business. She has lived through hundreds, if not thousands of movie nights snuggled into her dad’s embrace. She has maintained the second part of inside jokes and daddy/daughter dates, coloring, puzzles, projects, games, shopping, road trips, piggy back rides, video games, bedtime stories, amusement parks, etc. He has never not been present for a birthday, and Thanksgiving or a Christmas. Her dad is 100% all in…

When we think of heroes, we imagine brave individuals, swooping in to save lives, villages or entire planets. These are the things which books and movies are made of. This has, perhaps distorted our view of heroism. Men who stay home and own their responsibility- is this not courageous? My hero is my dad. My dad met me when I was twelve and placed in the house which he and his wife were foster parents. He was not my father (whom I had never met) nor the first person I called dad. I did not like or trust men (thanks, first person I called dad) and so it was an awkward and tough process. Dad can be a title, but it is intended to be so much more. Over the following decades of my life, this man would teach me so much about myself, accepting others, empathy,  and unconditional love. He would meet and embrace my boyfriend/eventual husband in the very way a father should. He would give me a pet name, be at my wedding, repair things in my life that needed fixed, lead Thanksgiving dinner grace in my marriage home, be the only person by my side during an emergency hysterectomy and be such a rock for me as I navigated adulthood through various difficult stages. This man is not my hero because he became my dad, but because I was not alone here. This man has a large number of children who knew him as dad, whose lives he helped shape. Whose lives (in my case, and a few others I know, anyway) he saved in various ways of meaning. When I think of a brave man, I think of him. Some of the kids he sheltered had dads, but many didn’t, and this man bravely stepped in to do what others either could not, or did not. I look at him and I know, without a doubt, this world is a far better place because of him and how he’s chosen to live his life.

The question I was challenged to write about was someone heroic that I admire, who embodied sacrifice and courage. I know a hundred soldiers, all of whom I admire immensely (my son tops the list) and I did not want to deflect from their sacrifice and heroism. On my heart though, were the dads. The men, like my husband and my dad, who love beyond themselves and open up their hearts to parent the unparented and abandoned as if they were their own, signing on for the whole of their lives… I was asked to choose someone I would stand up for. Regarding these two men- (and, my son. :) ) in a heartbeat, time and time again…

Partnering with the release of the up and coming film The Promise, starring Christian Bale, (you can watch the trailer here) I would like to offer a small giveaway. The promise is a story of sacrifice and love. It is about two heroes, one who stands up for truth and injustice and the other who is willing to pay the ultimate cost for what is right.  I would like to give a $25 Fandango gift card to one winner. To enter for a chance to win, please leave a comment on here, or our facebook page, talking about your own hero- and why. (if you share this on twitter, please leave a link in the comments for an extra chance to win.)

intent & loving…

Happy Friday!

Things have been fairly quiet around here. Turning 41 and having my youngest turn 18 has been serious business. Add to that my 23rd wedding anniversary and WOW, busy busy. Plus the fact that I spent the upwards of twenty days with an upper respiratory infection. Thankfully Gen contracted whatever nasty virus I had, but in her it seemed to only live a day or two. Chw, thus far, is in stellar health. Minus being a little sleep deprived from sweet Mr. Knightley, we are doing pretty grand.

I have been thinking, over the past few days, about wanting to blog and connect with you a little bit, but perhaps it’s the combination sleep deprivation, our blustery weather outside and just beginning to feel human again, which had me unsure of what to write. Then, this morning, as I was making a small pot of tea- it hit me…

As of late, I have stumbled upon a few things I am really loving. Some have been at the suggestion of friends, some have been by chance and I wanted to share them with you.

  • I love tea. I have likely always loved tea, but sometimes I just get a little forgetful of how much I truly love tea. Then, I wind up being invited to tea somewhere and my love is rekindled. This past weekend I was introduced to a tea flavor by Harney & Sons named Paris. I have to preface the furthering of this subject with a confession. I pretty much detest bagged tea. I am a loose-leaf girl, all the way, for a variety of reasons. My only exception is Harney & Sons. I went to tea on Saturday and this flavor sounded interesting. (don’t get me started on how caught off guard I was that a tea house used bagged tea, because I will come across as a total tea snob and I really am not. I promise) This flavor is AMAZING! I immediately purchased a tin of Paris because- DIVINE.
  • Last night for dinner, I tried this recipe. While I did a couple of things differently, I have to be honest- it was DELICIOUS!
  • My friend Jen told me about the book Big Girls Do It Running. I really enjoy it because, for the most part, I find the Author’s story and approach really relatable. I am inspired to give carb cycling a try.
  • We really don’t watch a lot of TV. Occasionally Gen and I get caught up watching entire series (Currently it is 90210. The girl has a healthy obsession with the 90’s… I am so proud!) There really isn’t much that all three of us really enjoy together, but this new sitcom on NBC called Trial & Error is one we adore. So funny, we LOVE it.
  • I am not sure how familiar you are with Essential Oils. I Swear by them! Over the past few months my dear friend Debbie has turned me on to a few products (that go a bit beyond Essential Oils) that have literally changed my life. They are both in this brand, the ON Guard line. One is the throat drops. While I was sick, these made an amazing difference! Two is the toothpaste. Listen for a moment, this toothpaste, after just ONE use, became something truly special for the three of us, as well as my older daughter and her family. Amazing does not begin to cover it. (I already loved the hand soap, all-purpose cleaner and oil itself.) I am honestly not trying to sell you, just sharing what I love and am willing to elaborate if asked! :)
  • Word searches… No, I am not joking. a couple of months ago I picked up a pretty little Word Search book at Barnes & Noble. (who knew they could be cute and pretty???) I used to love them, was giving up most phone apps (time wasters) for Lent and decided to use this as a substitution. Talk about rekindling a love! For my birthday I received another pretty Word Search book and my spare moments often include doing a quick WS puzzle.
  • Our pet store (which is awesome) told us about these teething rings. They promised a life saver, and they weren’t kidding. Knightley loves them. (he loves chewing on toes, feet, fingers, chins and any other visible flesh more, but these serve as a good distraction!)
  • I received a bag of this coffee, as a gift. You guys, if you are wanting an indulgent weekend coffee, this is the one for you. It is amazing. It is too decadent to drink every day, but it is absolutely our new weekend treat!
  • Rising well before the sun. Having a chronic illness has made early mornings, over the past few years, a struggle. I won’t pretend something changed, because it hasn’t. Because of Knightley, early mornings are a necessity and I have been using that time in more intentionally positive ways. I make a homemade breakfast for my family, play with the puppy, read a little. Whatever I need to do to think less about how crummy and sore I feel, and more about the people I love. It’s not always that easy, but I have seen it shaping my days/week a little differently.
  • If you pay any attention to me at all, you’ll know that I am a huge fan of face masks and skin care. I stumbled upon this mask, and what I loved about it were the ingredients and the price. I used it this past Monday (while sipping my Godiva coffee) and it was heavenly. Five days later and my skin is still amazing. (plus, you guys, we went to dinner for our anniversary and the entire staff REFUSED to believe that we’d been married 23 years and that our youngest was 18. There is really something to be said about an intentional and healthy skin care regimen!)

I am always interested in book, show, music and product recommendations! What are you loving lately??? PLEASE SHARE!

Forty one…

When I was 23 I fell in love with the Dave Matthews Band. As a child and teenager I had often got caught up in the way music felt, and how it made me feel. I was led to believe this was a teen thing, and I’d grow out of it, so I did. In the years between 16 and 23, I followed music trends over content and struggled with the focal point areas of my life, such as marriage and my desperate need to have a baby when all that continued to happen was miscarriage.

Then, I really heard the DMB. Not the first couple of songs that hit the mainstream radio market, because let’s face it- that is NEVER the best tracks a band has to offer. I was given the cd of Crash, by a friend. It sat in my cd rack (that’s taking it WAY back) for months, and then one night I was sitting on the floor amidst my swirling, out-of-control life and I decided to pop the disc in.

It literally changed my life.

Nearly every song reached and then fed a place deep inside of me, which had been dormant for a long, long time. This album would walk beside me through my husband’s affair, through divorce, through an uncomfortable relationship (ie: catfish, BEFORE catfishing was a thing), becoming a mom, reconciliation in my marriage, and so much more. It would see me through the start of beautiful friendships, (it was our mutual love of Dave which first connected my beautiful friend Laura and I, and she is one of my most dear, going on 17 years!) and the necessary end of others. Whenever I still hear the song #41 my heart soars in a way that nothing else can cause. It is fair to say that, since I was 23, this has been my absolute favorite song, above all others. If my life were a movie, or tv show, this song would play a lot. In fact, I would imagine that the instrumental version would be known as Misty’s theme, on the soundtrack. (sidenote: if you have never, ever heard this song, do yourself a favor. Go listen to it. Take a quiet 6 min and 39 seconds and really listen, to the words, the music…) Fun little bunny trail, when I saw DMB the first time, I was so bummed they didn’t do #41, but it was such an awesome show and I had waited to long to finally see them, that the good outweighed the bad. When I saw them the second time, they again didn’t play it, and so I was a little more sad. When I saw them the third time, with my best friend and my husband it was an amazing experience. There I sat between two of my most dear, and DMB played my song. I literally sobbed, it was such a perfect moment. Also: this is the ONLY time I have sobbed at a show.

Yesterday I turned 41. I can say, without any question, that the last few years of the journey to this birthday have been the hardest. Since right before my birthday, 2012, my life has seemed to go downhill a little more with each passing month. For a good bit of those 5 years, I wasn’t really learning or absorbing anything. Instead I found myself praying that it would just get better, that peace could come for at least a little while, and then I simply pretended like everything was ok. My life fell completely apart when I was 39. I found myself in all of the bad places I had feared I would end up (homeless, alone, unwanted and unloveable by the people I desperately wanted to want and love me) and I was ok. I was finding a way that I didn’t know was possible, and though life was not quite what I wanted, i was ok. The bottom wasn’t as unbearable as I had always imagined. (that being said, I do not EVER want to go back to that place)

As a girl who has always struggled with her birthday, the absolute worst was my fortieth. It was a living nightmare and as yesterday came closer, I found myself worrying about it. Then I remembered what last year taught me, (well, one of the trillions of things) it really was up to me to spend my birthday how I wanted. One’s celebration is NOT a reflection of their worth in the eyes of others. Just because I love the birthdays of people I love and celebrate them as thoughtfully as I can, it DOES NOT mean anything if I have to plan my own. So I did.

I bought a birthday cupcake package of the classic illustration of Alice in Wonderland, because I love it so much. I then baked two types of cupcakes (vanilla filled with lemon curd and chocolate filled with blackberry buttercream) and then did not even eat one. Gen had a couple and the rest were delivered to others. I loved it! It was so much fun and something I plan on making an annual tradition! I opted for sparkling moscato with my birthday cake, over the traditional ice cream. I spent the morning having a fun little Twin Peaks inspired breakfast and then retreated to my favorite coffee place, with a book. In the afternoon Gen and I caught a movie (which turned out to be the very best movie for yesterday, The Last Word ) After that, I took Chw as my plus one, to a press screening in Detroit and we had a really great evening. Met some really cool people, were forced to interact with an unsavory few and had an amazing dinner of Indian food. All in all, it was a perfect day. It was busy, but simple, which was perfect! Honestly it may have been my best birthday ever and this was completely because of me.

This morning I woke in the same way I do every single morning. I laid there, grabbed my phone and looked around at various things. As I lay there I questioned if I could go back to sleep, or if I should get up. I really didn’t want to get up. Knightley whined a bit and I groaned. Apparently the first morning at 41 would be exactly like the mornings at 40. Before disappointment crept in I told myself that it didn’t have to be that way, and I got up. I played with the puppy after his breakfast, I broke out my macbook and wrote a little. I drank my coffee and opened a window. It’s chilly out, but a little perfect. I started some laundry and mapped out my day.

What does 41 look like? I don’t know, but it is up to me to decide. I can tell you one thing, #41 sounds even better today than ever before. Here’s to the year of my favorite song!

Her Children Will Rise and Call Her…

Decades ago there was a woman who identified herself as wife and mother. She had a heart for Jesus, and this would come to sustain her more than she may ever have imagined. It is easy, in such a role, to find yourself in the details of sack lunches, ironing shirts and after work embraces, greeting your husband at the end of his day. When her husband found himself unfaithful and interested in a life & family with someone else, leaving her and her four daughters, it may have been hard to imagine herself at all- for a minute…

These days this scenario is almost expected, and there are programs and plans to help. Decades ago, this was not the case. To be the left, carrying the load, well- I can only imagine she endured judgement and bigotry at times, at the hands of others maybe so trapped in their fear. An absent husband/father and the either compassion or disapproval of others will not put food in your daughters’ bellies, so this beautiful woman had no choice.

She rose.

In an era where men were still handed most opportunities, she marched into a bank and offered them herself. She presented herself with such honesty: this would be her first job, she was an abandoned single mom, she knew she would work hard, and she did. Many years later she would retire from that very same bank. Times were so different then that, truthfully, we may have a tough time even understanding how isolating and brave this all had to have been. While her friends were lunching and sharing in each others lives, this beautiful soul would miss class parties and the like, just to keep power on in her very modest apartment. These days single motherhood is such a thing, and working mothers are very common, but this story is more. Even though single motherhood and working motherhood are among the most common elements of todays society, the fact that this woman’s life fell utterly apart and she rose in the morning, rising to give her daughter’s life. Rising to create a life that was so full of something bigger than any dollar could buy.

Rising up and moving past is not something common these days either, but maybe that has never really been on trend…

Beyond that, any of us who have been parents for any point in time know that parenthood is hard. So hard, and going at it alone only multiplies that. This incredible woman raised four incredible women. Women who went on to raise incredible kids. While no one is perfect, these 5 women have set the standard for keeping family at the center of the vitalist of priorities, also in a time when family grows less and less important.

There is not a person out there who could not learn something life affirming from knowing these girls or their mother. These days, most of girls themselves find themselves grandmothers. Their family has seen illness, loss, struggle, death and heartbreak. The tragedy which altered their world at the start of this story did not cripple or eternally victimize these five women, though it could have. It did not create an opportunity for them to settle down and live off of charity. It did not inspire deep, life long rebellion and acting out. Did it devastate them? yes. This woman, whom I admire beyond words, worked hard every day for her family.  In rising above and with such courage, she planted the seeds which would grow what was necessary, in her daughters, to stand throughout the heartaches and struggles they would face. She fought hard, for her family. She prayed hard, for her family. She was in the trenches for these girls, without ceasing. What began as clothes on their bodies and heat in their home continued through dating, marriage, childbirth, some divorce, heartbreak, health problems and even burying one of her own beautiful daughters. She still stands strong for these girls and their children, and their children’s children. Having known this beautiful soul since I was sixteen, I have to believe that if we are earning “jewels in our crown”, in heaven, for the beautiful things we do on this earth, this woman is going to have a castle filled to the brim with jeweled crowns.

Her daughters continue her legacy, rising up and fighting for the ones they love. They are united, kind and supportive and their children have become this as well. Among them is so much success, many geographical locations and, at the core of everything, family.

When I was challenged to write about a woman, a heroine, whom I have known in life who has gone above and beyond, sacrificed and inspired, there was no one else I could imagine. I met this soul when I was sixteen, visiting her tiny apartment with her granddaughter, who was my friend. I had no idea the ways that this woman would be so important in my life. She has stood beside and fought for me more than any one I’ve had. She is tiny in stature and fierce in heart, even so much as going up against my husband 18 years ago for his own adultery and abandonment. There she stood, taking him on and this man of 5′ 11″ towered over this tiny little woman and yet the only thing he was feeling was terrified. She, one of her amazing daughters (who would become my mentor and one of my dearest friends) and her own mother made three of four people who attended my wedding shower, when the world I’d lived in had all but thrown me away. I have recovered from miscarriage in her home, cried on her shoulder, prayed beside her and had so much loving conversation.

Any popular story I hear about people moving great obstacles to accomplish bold things simply does not hold a candle to her, in my book. What she had to do (and really, when she had to do it) combined with how her own daughters turned into loving mothers, fierce advocates for their family, and wild supporters of others- that is everything right there. She is a heroine with an amazing heroic legacy.

There is a film releasing on the 31st called The Zoo Keeper’s Wife. (It is based on the novel of the same title, and you can see the trailer here.) It is the story of Antonina and Jan Żabiński, a Christian couple who save and house hundreds of Jews during WWII. This not only an inspiring and life affirming story of heroism and faithfulness, but in a time such as this, it is a necessary story of humanity tearing down the walls of religion to help others, regardless of theirs. 

The world is scattered with brave souls, their beauty and their stories there for us to learn from and do with. I am so blessed by knowing this beautiful woman who I have shared with you. Who would you have written about? I would love for you to share. On the 31st, at 12:00 a.m., I will choose a winner (at random) to receive a $25 Fandango card… (comment additionally if you tweet or FB share to be granted extra entires.)

Spring is here, and has taken up residence in my face…

Happy Monday morning, to you!

And of course, happy Spring! Hopefully you are fortunate enough to live in an area where Spring is actually Springing. The jury is still out on our little corner of the world, here in Michigan.

I am currently deep within the throws of a sinus infection. After making it through thirteen nearly sleepless, new-puppy nights, and managing no real headaches to speak of (MIRACLE!), I of course have a whopper of one now. We made it to see Beauty and the Beast yesterday, and then I was done. The rest of the day was spent dying on the couch (ha, not really, but you know) while Gen binge-watched 90210. I got to the point where I didn’t even care if the puppy had an accident, which he did not, so that was a win.

I did manage a phone conversation with my husband, who is luckily stuck deep within the mountains in Utah, suffering through a business trip. I say suffering because he gets a hotel life, mountains all around him, a weekend in Park City, mountains, eating at some of our favorite restaurants (that we don’t have), and then there are the mountains. (you are smart, you can likely guess which part of his trip I am the most jealous of.) He’s pretty lucky to make up and drink in the ranges every day, but I am pretty excited for him to be home at the end of the week all the same. Missing that guy, for sure. It has been nice to have my little guy here to assume the role of man of the house in Chw’s absence. Knightley does a good job of keeping us girls in line, I have the bloody scratches and teeth marks to prove it. He’s got me wrapped around his paw, that’s for sure. His adorable little bow-ties do me in, every single time.

How is it almost April? HOW? I have many things to do, this week, including getting a new driver’s license and baking a massive quantity of cupcakes. Alas. my face feels like a rhino is stampeding through my left sinus cavities and the very idea of wrangling a puppy AND being productive feels overwhelmingly impossible. Also, I have a mystery in my life. We have a coupon for Bucca De Beppo which reads “for dine in or carry out only.” As opposed to??? My sinus swollen brain cannot understand this. I need sleep. And a cloth for my face. And a puppy nanny. And a housekeeper.

And the mountains outside my window too.