Day 113 – Stevie and his cats

Whoever decided to prank my husband by attaching this lovely decal to the back of his car absolutely won the day.

He admitted that he must have looked like a fool, walking out into the parking lot and having to stop and stare at his own car for a few minutes wondering why someone else with that ridiculous cat family sticker was in the spot where he swore he remembered parking that morning. And then it dawned on him that it was HIS car and someone at work decided to play a little joke.

The part that cracked me up was that his co-workers were probably watching him out the office windows and cracking up at his confusion.

So next time you see Stevie out driving around, make sure you compliment him on his adorable cats. šŸ™‚

Let it in, and let it go

I’m starting to wonder if the only way I’m ever going to be allowed to take a break is just to go ahead and schedule some sort of breakdown. I honestly don’t see how I’m going to have time for it otherwise.

It’s been a helluva new year so far. I can’t really go into detail, but there are some really heavy things weighing on us, and we’ve been doing the best we can to manage them. And maybe if it was just one or two things hitting us, we might have been able to escape unscathed. Instead, Stevie and I are feeling crushed beneath the weight of everything hitting us all at once and it’s just about all we can do to hold onto each other and our sanity out here in the middle of the shit storm.

But even with all the stress and the issues and the obstacles, there are still work events and obligations, Cadence’s school and swim and soccer lessons, Henry’s next feeding and nap and diaper change. There is still dinner to make, laundry to do, toys to put away. There are still friends and family coming over, bills to pay, performances to attend, and miles to go before we sleep.

And miles to go before we sleep.

In the brief moments of clarity–somewhere beneath the sleep-deprivation and the oppressive weight of the recent stress–I wonder how I’ve managed to keep going. I imagine it’s only because through the years I’ve developed the ability to compartmentalize. I set aside what I need to set aside–if only for a moment–so I can keep moving forward, keep crossing items off this infinite to-do list. I keep going because I have to. I keep going because I need to.

My work trip to San Diego this past week and the weeks of prep leading up to it was, in some strange way, exactly what I needed to keep going. It gave my mind a whole lot to keep it occupied so I couldn’t dwell on some of the other things that were happening. Instead I’ve been dealing with all of the crises in short bursts. Like a pot on the hot stove just beginning to boil, I’ve been giving them just enough of my attention to keep them from boiling over, stirring away the bubbles and foam and managing to turn the heat down just a tick before shifting my attention away again.

But even if I’ve managed to keep it all from erupting into flames, I haven’t really managed to keep myself from getting burned. There have been a few mini meltdowns and tears and I’ve definitely been a bit more on edge these past few weeks, but still I keep going, keep moving, keep believing that I’m going to make it through all of this, just like I’ve made it through every other hardship life has thrown my way.

It can’t rain all the time. Even when the forecast is this dismal.

My work schedule was packed so full this past week, I didn’t have a chance to sit down at all to write, and that probably didn’t help. I tend to do much better dealing with the hard stuff when I’m able to put pen to paper.

You’ve got to let it in and let it go.

Stevie got that advice from his sister-in-law this past week, and that’s precisely the philosophy I try to live by, the philosophy that has helped keep me sane and keep me going, even through the tough times like these.

Let it in, and let it go.

And then keep going, keep moving, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.

Untitled-1

Hello San Diego

With everything going on in our lives lately, and all the issues H-Man has had sleeping lately, I’ve really been torn about this trip.

On the one hand, I love my job, and I get a bit of a rush out of seeing all of our hard work pay off at one of our events. Plus, I get to visit some really cool places, and I work with some seriously cool people, so even these work events and all the craziness and stress leading up to them ends up being totally worth it.

On the other hand, life has been sort of ridiculous lately, and between all the stress and our hectic schedules coupled with the fact that H-Man has been sleeping HORRIBLY the past few weeks, well, I’ve been feeling lately like I’m just about the end of my proverbial rope.

I was running around like a little bit of a lunatic lately, trying to get everything done, trying to remember to pack everything, checking and rechecking my bags, trying to figure out how to make everything fit and still be able to haul my 6-month-old through the airport. And then this morning I accidentally turned off my alarm instead of hitting snooze, so I woke up in a bit of a panic, scrambling to get showered and changed and throw the last minute items into my suitcase before grabbing H-Man out of his crib and hustling out the door to catch my plane.

Luckily, my co-workers are pretty amazing, and between the three of us we managed to arrive here in San Diego in one piece and still relatively sane. (My boss even changed Henry’s dirty diaper in record time before our connecting flight left Phoenix. How’s that for teamwork?)

So now, here we are. And it’s time to get a little sleep because tomorrow the fun begins.

Come on, Henry. Let’s make Momma proud and do that thing where you sleep through the night. (Please please please please please).

IMG_4535

IMG_4538

IMG_4539

Out With the Girls

Even in the darkest days of my life–the days when I questioned my life, my faith, my purpose, my very existence–I always managed to hold onto a thin thread of belief that the things that happen in our lives happen for a reason. The situations and circumstances we experience teach us important lessons, and the people we encounter along the way help our souls grow and evolve, either from the hard lessons they teach us or from the love and support they bring to our lives.

Every day, at least once a day, I stop in my tracks and marvel at how blessed I am. I’ve got some amazing people in my life.

I mean, some seriously amazing people.

And it makes me chuckle sometimes to think that a whole group of these folks came from what may have, quite possibly, been the most dysfunctional and hellish work experience of my entire life. No joke, folks, this place was like some twisted real-life mash-up of the movies Office Space, Glengarry Glen Ross, and the factory where Tom Hanks’ character Joe works at the beginning of Joe vs. the Volcano.

But that is another story (or rather, a whole series of stories) for another time.

I’m pretty sure the only reason I stayed sane the year I worked there was because the Universe somehow managed to pull a group of seriously fabulous people together under that leaky roof. We all may have walked in alone, but what we’ve been able to take with us has been worth every ounce of frustration we endured.

And nights like tonight, when Sam Bates and Beebe and Katiana and Ashley and Cayla and Morgan and Steven take my daughter out on a special birthday dinner date, treating her to pizza and ice cream and a trip to the bookstore for a few new books and an impromptu performance with a local musician, my heart swells so big with love for these beautiful women that I think for a moment it just might explode. Cadence came home with her belly full and her eyes shining and she couldn’t wait to tell me and her daddy about her amazing night “out with the girls” (and Steven). And I sit here now in my quiet house with Cadence and Henry tucked into their beds and I thank God again for blessing me with these friends who fill our lives with so much joy.

Thank you all for another great night and another great memory. We love you!

1915286_10154382271037119_5750698749160930810_n

12592437_10154382270997119_5621305698956560618_n

12644741_10154382274317119_2309334497961474858_n

12647218_10154382270867119_6253184489158164206_n

Caught in the Chaos

I’m beginning to think I wouldn’t really know how to handle my life ifĀ  suddenly slowed down and took a turn toward the mundane. Just when we think we’re starting to get a handle on things, get into some sort of a routine, we round another corner and realize we’re only halfway up the hill, and we’ve hit another fork in the road, and somewhere along the way we managed to misplace our map and our compass, and we may have even forgotten to make a pit stop to fill up on gas.

At least our lives aren’t dull, right?

Today marks a month at my new job, and I am absolutely loving it. I’m challenged, but not overworked. I’m learning, but I don’t feel overwhelmed. I’m meeting some wonderful people.Ā I’mĀ fitting in well with my new colleagues. And I’m finally feeling (for the first time in a long time) like I’m inĀ a place where I can stay and grow and be happy.

They even pranked me on my very first day. Yeah, this is definitely the right place for me…

gcbaa1

gcbaa2

Barely a week into my new job, Stevie’s car decided to official shit the bed on us. Can’t say we were surprised. We’ve basically been biding our time, watching the odometer climb as the car slowly deteriorated. It finally got to the point where I refused to drive it because every time I did, something fell off.

No joke.

First the armrest. Then the plastic casing beneath the steering wheel that holds all the wiring in place. I can’t say I was sorry to see the ol’ Lumina go.

After some research, some test drives, a whole lot of discussion and a little help from Mom and Dad, we settled on a new ride and kissed the Lumina goodbye.

Goodbye, Lumina. Hello, Buick Enclave.

So far, we’re loving the new car, and we hope to get as many years (and miles) out of it as we did the Lumina and the van.

Fingers crossed!

buick3

buick2

buick1

About the time the dust was settling with the new job and the car-buying chaos (which Steven and I both agree is far worse than buying a house), Duane was checking into the hospital in Omaha for surgery. After a laryngectomy a year and a half ago, his doctors found more cancer, so it was back in for another procedure. He spent nearly two weeks in the hospital, slowly recovering and battling an infection. By the time he was released Monday, both he and Mom were exhausted and ready to be home. Luckily, he is doing well and feeling a little better every day.

duane

And now? Now, we’re just waiting for the dust to settle again, looking for a little calm in the midst of the chaos. And we’ll find it, I’m sure, a little respite before the next thing comes along. But whatever that next thing is, I know we can handle it the way we always do, together, and with our own special style…

stevie2

stevie

lori

family

electra

couple

cadence

The Next Chapter

Somehow, even when things are messy and chaotic and stressful, you’re there because that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be.

There’s something you’re supposed to do, something you’re supposed to learn, someone you’re supposed to meet.

It’s not always easy sticking with it. It’s not always easy toughing it out, finding a way to manage it. But you do, and eventually you realize that storm clouds are beginning to break apart and rays of sunshine are starting to shine through and you’re still there, still standing, still smiling.

When I found myself back in an office working full-time after staying home, freelancing, and serving as the primary caregiver for my daughter for the firstĀ three years of her life, I won’t lie…I was anxious. I worried that maybe I’d gotten rusty, that maybe I wasn’t as sharp or talented or capable as I was before I stepped into the world of work-at-home-motherhood. But it didn’t take long before I was back in the groove–making new friends, connecting with clients, writing stories, taking photos, and publishing things that I was proud of.

It felt good to get back in a groove again.

If there is one thing that I am really proud of when it comes to my work, it’s my unquenchable thirst to always do better, to be better. I’ve never been the type who can do just enough to get by. I can’t just meet a standard; I have to exceed it. I can’t take a shortcut if it means compromising quality. I can’t sell myself or anyone else short. I set lofty goals. I have high expectations. I believe that if you can’t look back at the end of the day and truthfully say that you’ve done your absolute best, you’re not doing it right.

Those are values I hold near and dear to my heart, and they are values that I will never compromise…not for anyone.

Tomorrow, I will be wrapping things up at News Link, writing the final words in that short chapter in my life and I will tell you, I am thankful for every moment spent there.

I am thankful for the fact that I got to spend this past year earning a paycheck doing the threeĀ things I love the most–writing, taking photos, and connecting with people.

I am thankful that I got to meet and connect with some of the most hardworking, down-to-earth folks on this earth. To all the men and women I met in the shops, yards, and stretches of railroad tracks across the country, thank you for welcoming me into your lives, teaching me, sharing your stories, and keeping me safe. The folks inĀ the Lincoln Diesel Shop, the UP Track Programs crews, the G&W Pacific Region employees, and all the folks at the Terminal Companies in California, Washington, Oregon, and Kansas now hold a very special place in my life, and I certainly hope our paths will continue to cross in the future.

I am thankful for the adversity I faced, for the people I didn’t see eye to eye with, for the frustrations I dealt with both in the office and on the road. It has made me stronger, wiser, and more confident in myself, my beliefs, and my vision of the future.

And, most of all, I am thankful for the beautiful souls I encountered on this crazy journey. The friendships forgedĀ in the past year are friendships that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, will last far into the future. We’ve laughed together, shared meals together, played sports (badly) together. We’ve shared frustrations, celebrated each other’s successes, and helped pick each other up. We’ve kept each other sane, driven each other a little crazy, and made each other laugh. We’ve pulled pranks, shared secrets, and exchanged quizzical glances when the morning meetings suddenly tookĀ bizarre turns. I love them, and I think I must have needed them, and maybe, just maybe, they needed me too (whether they really care to admit it or not).

I’m ridiculously excited forĀ this new job and the new opportunities stretching out before me. I can’t wait to see where this fork in the road will lead.

All is as it should be. Life is good, and it’s time for the next chapter to begin…

Marceline_Missouri_railroad_Walt_Disney_Hometown_Museum_BNSF_train_IMGP6223