Sunday, February 26, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

Tonight, as my girls & I were sitting down to dinner at our local Denny's, we noticed that a older gentleman came in & sat down behind us. This gentleman was about my father's age (60ish) and came in carrying a cardboard sign, a backpack and a duffel bag. He was dressed in several layers and looked so very weary. As my family went about ordering our meal, I felt compelled to make sure that this gentleman also had a warm and filling meal. I made my way to the hostess station to ask that a Grand Slam be added to my meal and that they not let the gentleman know who had purchased it for him. When the waitress brought over his tray full of food, I watched his face as it changed from shock and disbelief to pure thankfulness. He had tears streaming down his cheeks and he rubbed his tired eyes. Then, I watched as he crossed himself and said a prayer with his head bowed. I would like to believe that I helped to make his evening a bit brighter and let him know that kindness still exists in the world.

Over the years, I (either single-handedly or with my little family) have attempted to pay it forward or do random acts of kindness on several occasions. I really feel that I am blessed and that it is part of my obligation to help out those who may not be equally blessed just as others have helped me in times when I was struggling or hurting. I have purchased food for a homeless family, donated children's clothes & toys to a charter school for teen moms, helped local children have a gift to open on Christmas morning and many other things. I don't do it for the recognition, rather, I do it because it's the right thing to do and it makes me feel like I'm making a small difference in the life of someone who could use some happiness or good fortune.

The act of giving, of charity and of paying it forward is something that I am trying hard to pass on to my children. Hopefully, they are beginning to understand how blessed they really are to have the things that they do and the people in their lives who love them and take care of them. Coming home from dinner tonight, as I was explaining my actions to my oldest, I told her that it was my sincerest hope that she followed in my footsteps and helped other people out in any way that she good. Wouldn't you know...she asked if we could donate some of her toys and clothes to boys & girls who could use them. Bless her sweet little heart.

The world would be such of a wonderful place if everyone would just do something nice for a stranger, no matter how big or small. Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes and you never know how much of an impact that small gesture may have on that person's life. It's time to show the world that goodwill, empathy and charity still exists.

Monday, January 30, 2012

In A Nutshell

My first post for the new year and it's going to be a hodge podge of things...sorry about that...but I have a lot of things to talk about.

For starters, it's officially been a year since my divorce was finalized. Wow, I cannot believe it's been that long and in other ways, it seems like it's been 10 times as long. I remember, back in mid-2010, contemplating whether or not ending my almost 10 year marriage was what I really wanted, deep down inside. While cleaning today, I even found my "journal" that I used one snowy day in early 2010, to collect my thoughts in an attempt to decide on a direction for my life and my girls' lives.

Now, one year later, I know, in my heart of hearts, that I did the right thing even though, a lot of days, I have many doubts.

When I made the decision to end my marriage, my children and I left behind our life in suburban Denver for the small town living of the Western Slope. We truly got a fresh start. New town (though I "grew up" here and have lived here once before as an adult), new apartment, new schools, new job. I was (and still am) forging ahead, across totally foreign terrain, as a single parent. I remember, in the beginning, that it was all about survival, making it from one day to the next. Quality of life got pushed to the sidelines for awhile as we got our feet planted on the ground and comfortable, new routines established.

Soon, we will mark two years in our current apartment, two years of me working at a sub-par job, two years since our fresh start. I am proud of the progress that the girls & I have made, how far we've come. Our apartment is definitely home and while my current job is no where near what one would call a career, it pays the bills and gives me something to occupy my mind 4 days a week.

To say that I am "settling" for my current position would be a granduois understatement. When I graduated from college after working my tail end off for 4.5 years (including numerous internships and a wonderful work/study at the campus library), never did I envision myself, 10 some-odd-years later, working in a field totally not related to either my degree or my experience. My first job out of college had nothing (well, maybe remotely) to do with my freshly obtained degree in sociology but, it did utilize my 3 years of experience in the library realm. I loved that job and said job helped to begin my "career" in libraries. I went on to work in a prison (*gasp*, I know) library for a few years, further expanding my library knowledge and infacuation. When the decision was made for me to stay home full-time after Cara's birth, it was my every intention to return to library land once Cara was in Kindergarten.

Fast forward to August of last year where, try as I might, I could not find a library-related job in the small town that we live in. Heck, I couldn't find any job that would make use of my degree or experience. Thus, settling for the position that I now's a paycheck and that's about it. I regularly check the classified ads for our small town only to discouraged at the lack of openings. I also religiously check a site that posts library positions throughout the state of Colorado. I have stumbled across several position that I wish I could apply for only to realize, for all intent and purposes, I am stuck in this town, as wonderful as it has been, for several reasons.

1. I really do not want to move the girls, again, just when we have finally established a sense of normalcy here.
2. If we were to move where the majority of these jobs are (Denver Metro area), the girls & I will be on our own and, to be honest, that prospect scares me as, right now, we are so thankful to have my parents close by for moral support, babysitting and so many other things.
3. The costs associated with moving are just too great at this point. The actual move (renting a van, gas for said van) would kill me financially not to mention the costs of finding a new home and establishing child care.

All things considered, for better or worse, we are "stuck" here for awhile. There are good things about being stuck--great, supportive school for the girls, having my parents nearby, the actual town itself--so it's not a total bummer. I have, however, decided that someway, somehow, I have to get unstuck and to move ahead, instead of just subsisting. Even...if that means completely changing things up in terms of what I thought I wanted to do with the rest of my life (be a librarian) and investigate new avenues that spark my interest. Now, I'm still considering my masters in library science because that's still where I feel the strongest pull but, at the same time, I am thinking about what else might be a good match for me. More and more, I am becoming drawn to special education and therapy because of Cara and all that we've been through with her education. I have began to look into requirements for a special education teacher license and find it quite intriguing. I suppose, the possibilities are endless for a new career direction. Who knows what will come of it. In addition to discovering new avenues, I have also decided to being seriously studying for the GRE so that I will have one admission requirement complete if and when I decide to persue a master's degree. Baby steps are what I'm taking but it feels good to be going move forward.

Okay, I think that's enough for one post. More to come as I continue to collect my thoughts. :o)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's An Obsession

Have you checked out Pinterest yet? Please tell me that you have! It may just be the most addicting site ever to come to the internet--seriously! Think of it as on virtual cork board divided up into as many clever catergories as you can imagine. At first, I will admit to not understanding what all of the fuss & craze was about. But, as one after another of my friends posted about the marvels and gobs of time they'd seen fly by while day-dreaming away on Pinterest, I knew I had to check it out. I, not so patiently, waited for an invite to arrive in my inbox, and once it did, I took off running, setting up boards, pinning things right, left, and center. What would I pin, you wonder? Oh gosh, everything! I have a board for delicious recipes I've found (did I mention that I've rediscovered the magic of my crock pot?), one for things that I would love to have in my house, another for places I dream of visiting and yet another filled with photography inspiration. I'm telling you, the possibilities are endless and I could so-ooo-ooo easily see myself spending an entire day clicking through pages & pages of pins. How fun to have a way to organize not only practical things but also one's dreams. I like to think that Pinterest is making me a better person, or, at least for now, a better cook. (haha) Pinterest is also almost like a form of therapy as you come across something that just warms your heart, makes you smile or brings back memories of yesteryear. I came across a random strangers board of all things 1980's and found myself reliving memories of Saturday morning cartoons, charm bracelets, gummy shoes and the like. One of my favorite things to look for are new books to read. I have an impossibly long like of books that I'd like to read but, even so, my eyes just light up when I come across what looks to be another wonderful recommendation. One can never read too many books, right?
Oh, and did I mention that you can pin just about anything, from anywhere?! So, say you're browsing around on the 'net and come across something that just perks your can pin it and save it for all eternity if you want. Too cool!'s almost an instant "pick-me-up" when someone either starts following you (as long as you know the person, at least for me anyway) or re-pins one of your pins (meaning they agree that your pin is cool). I know, I know, I shouldn't have this crazy need for validation of my coolness. (haha)
There are times when things get stressful or overwhelming and curling up with my laptop and the latest "finds" on Pinterest sounds just the thing to make everything better. Hey, it sure beats other forms of self-medicating! So, if you haven't discovered the addicting joy of Pinterest, go check it out! You can find me here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Jolly Holidays

I find comfort in the Christmas holiday season, in traditions old and new, in decking the halls and in trimming the tree. I love to get out the boxes of decorations and ornaments....retelling, once more, the stories behind each & every ornament. Carefully hanging the treasured stockings from their hooks, cuddling while reading or watching favorite holiday tales, placing vinyl clings on windows, strolling down Main Street to take in window displays, joining our quaint community for caroling and tree lighting, and participating in the annual Parade of Lights. It's activities like these that fill my heart with the spirit of the season.

This year, not only have the girls & I revisited some of our favorite activities and traditions, we have also started some new ones. One of those was to try our hand at glass ornament painting. While it took a few bulbs to develop our technique, we had a wonderful time and created hand-made gifts sure to be enjoyed by friends & family alike. The girls will be giving a couple as gifts to girls in the Girl Scout troop while the majority will be traveling the friendly skies to be given as presents to their aunts, uncle & grandmother in Michigan.

One of my goals for this year was to help the girls to understand how fortunate they really are. So, one of the things that we did was give to two of my favorite charities--Operation Christmas Child & Toys For Tots. For Operation Christmas Child, we filled a large shoe box with simple items and a few treats for a girl in need. I think it was a wake-up call to Caitlin that some children do not have such basic items as a toothbrush or a box of crayons. Toys For Tots in our town tries to fill up a school bus with toys for children in our local community who would otherwise not receive a gift (or not many) on Christmas. I took both girls shopping where we selected a gift for a little girl--picking out a very cute doll. Then we drove to where the big bus was parked and Caitlin presented our donation. She saw the volunteer put it on the bus and remarked that while they had come a long way towards filling the bus, that there was still quite a ways to go and that she hoped many other people would help. I made a point of telling her approximately how many children in our county would, most likely, not have a Christmas like the one she would. I really think it's important for children to understand how fortunate they are and to really embrace the true meaning of Christmas--love, humility, charity, thankfulness, togetherness, giving and so much more. Hopefully, Caitlin does understand that Christmas is about more than gifts under the tree. When Cara is older and can understand, I will be teaching her these same lessons. In the meantime, she can just tag along and hopefully absorb what is being said and done.

We also have plans to make an actual gingerbread house (well, it's a kit least it's real gingerbread), visit Santa @ his cabin and make treats to hang in the trees for birds and other woodland creatures. I am really looking forward to making memories and creating new traditions with the girls.

This year, the girls will be making precious memories with their father & his side of the family as they are to spend a week, right around Christmas, with him in Michigan. Stockings are to be decorated and hung from the mantle and new traditions started for them there. No doubt, they will have a wonderful time and be spoiled both with gifts and love. The girls are very excited to see their aunts, uncle, little cousin and grandma. While I will miss them terribly, I cannot wait to hear the stories they were surely tell of the magical time they had in Michigan.

The girls & I will be having our intimate Christmas here in our cozy apartment next weekend prior to their departure for the midwest. I cannot wait to see their eyes light up when they see the carefully-selected, and brightly wrapped, presents under the tree. Christmas really does live in the heart of children in so many ways.

This time of year means something different to everyone. To me, it embodies everything good in the world and celebrates the values that I hold dear all while cherishing the birth of a true miracle. What does this season mean to you?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

All Things Fall

Fall is, by far, my favorite time of year. What's not to love about cool nights, brilliant blue skies, crisp air, changing & falling leaves, pumpkins, rich colors, cozy sweaters...I could go on & on. I love all things Fall. The girls & I have taken part in some of my favorite autumn activities--caramel apple making, Fall colors driving tour, a visit to the pumpkin patch--and we are anxiously awaiting Halloween and the fun that this holiday brings (not to mention the sugar rush).
I love that autumn gives us the excuse to cuddle under warm blankets while sipping cocoa and reading some of my all-time favorite children's books. Crockpot meals, soups and comfort foods are always on the menu. I can often be found sitting in my chair wrapped in my down blanket reading a book or a blog. Perfection.

The girls & I have settled into a happy little routine and are savoring each & every moment that we have together. I don't know what it is about Fall that seems to bring families together, but that's exactly what it does for us.

Hope that you all are enjoying autumn and all the wonderful sights, sounds & smells it brings.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back-to-School 2011

Wow, where did the summer go? Seems like it just started and now, both of my girls are back in school!

We were very lucky to have Ben join us for the girls' first week of school. He flew in from Michigan to spend 6 wonderful days with the girls. I know that Caitlin loved having her dad's hand to hold as they entered her 3rd grade classroom. Ben also was able to walk Cara into her classroom for the first time for her Observation Day (unofficial first day). I am so glad that he was able to be here for these memorable occasions.

Caitlin started 3rd grade **gasp** on August 23rd, a bit reluctant at first but now loves her teacher and the promise she made to be sure that Caitlin is challenged this year. She has already written her first essay and is enjoying working on problems in her math workbook. She will be starting her Gifted & Talented pull-out classes in another week. Once again, Caitlin is also busy with Girl Scouts (a Brownie) and is busy working on earning her badges.

Cara started Kindergarten on August 29th! (It is still so hard to believe that my youngest is 5 years old) Originally, Cara was to go to school in the mornings, being released at 11:05am. She would be pulled out of class several times a week for therapy sessions and for special education assistance. A few days before she was to officially start school, I received a call from her special education teacher telling me that they had come up with a great plan for Cara. Instead of pulling her out of her class for therapy & special ed, thus missing a lot of instructional time, her teacher asked me what I thought about having Cara stay in school all day. She would then get to spend the morning in her Kindergarten class and the afternoon in the special education rooms receiving the educational support she needs as well as all of her therapies. Knowing what a great opportunity this would be for Cara, the decision was quickly made and the plan accepted. Cara had terrific first day and didn't seem to mind being in school all day, at all! At pick-up, she was all smiles, anxious to tell me about her day.

You can see more back-to-school pictures by clicking here, here and here.

I can only hope that the rest of the school year goes as well as these first few days have.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Inch by Inch

It's that time of year again! School is soon to be back in session (3rd grade for Caitlin, 1/2 day Kindergarten for Cara) which means it's time to take care of one back-to-school necessity other than shopping...well-child visits. Both girls had their check-ups yesterday! It's amazing to see how much they've grown in a year. I knew they both had growth spurts this summer but, seeing their heights and weights confirmed this.

Caitlin: 8 years old
Height: 4ft 3 in (65th percentile, no surprises there)
Weight: 53 lbs (34th percentile, right where she should be)

Cara: 3 years old
Height: 3ft 5in (20th percentile, kind of surprised it's not higher but she did grow--pants from spring are now capris)
Weight: 39th percentile (45th percentile, one healthy kiddo)

No shots this time for Caitlin, who is caught up for another few years, I think. Cara endured four shots like a champ, only crying very briefly upon injection. Such a brave girl!

We have some follow-up to do for Cara has her nurse practitioner detected a slight heart murmur--this murmur has been detected off and on for the past few years (once during an ultrasound of her heart/abdomen). We were hoping, and still are, that it would correct itself on its own. We are awaiting a call from the practice as to whether or not a referral to a pediatric cardiologist is in our future. I am a bit concerned about the murmur but know that lots of children have them and are perfectly fine. I almost feel that a reassurance from a cardiologist would be just the thing to put my mind at ease. We also learned that Cara needs to see an ENT regarding the ear tubes that were placed back in 2008. It seems that the little buggers do not want to come out, one being lodged pretty deep in her ear canal. We are probably looking at sedation while the ENT removes the microscopic, offending tube.

All things considered, both girls are strong, healthy and growing well. Gone are my babies and in their place are a young lady and a little girl. Time sure has flown!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cait is 8!

Amazing! My oldest daughter is 8 years old today! Two more years until we hit the double digits! The past 8 years have been such of an incredible journey. Filled with laughter, tears, joy, sorrow and lots of memories and milestones. I cannot wait to see what the year ahead brings. Thank you, Caitlin, for allowing me the privilege of being your momma!

Happy Birthday sweet girl, Happy Birthday!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cara Turns 5!

Happy Birthday Cara Lou!

Cara is officially 5 years old, half of a decade of lighting up the world with her contagious smile and sunny personality! She is one very special & loved little girl.

**Year in memorandum to come soon**

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Going Zippity By

Holy smokes, this summer has just been zipping by! I cannot believe that it's July already. We have been filling our days with work (for me), Boys & Girls Club (for Caitlin) and therapy sessions (for Cara) along with as much fun as we can tolerate. Items have been checked off our Bucket List along with many other fun activities.

One day last week, we decided that the walls of our town were caving in around us and that we need an excursion. So, we took off east to the town of Gunnison, CO. We spent the day at the town park enjoying the wonderful play structures, sunshine and cool breezes. It was nice to go for a very pretty drive and enjoy what another town had to offer. Here is an album of pictures from that day out.

We celebrated the 4th of July with my youngest brother and his wife here in town, as I had to work which made making our annual trek to Ouray a bit impossible. We set in my parents' driveway where we were afforded a wonderful view of the town's brilliant and surprisingly, long last display. Off-key voices could be heard singing the national anthem and "American the Beautiful". Good thing the big booms drowned out our voices or I'm sure birds would have fell from the sky and windows would've broken! Click here to view my Facebook album of pictures.

Soon, both of the girls' birthdays will be upon me! I will have an 8 year-old and a 5 year-old in my house! My goodness, where has the time gone? I'm telling you, don't blink! Caitlin is having her first-ever birthday party in which she's invited her friends. In years past, we have just celebrated with family (there are a lot of July & August birthdays in my family). So, undoubtedly, Caitlin is super excited about this birthday. She has invited 10 of her closest friends and everyone will rendezvous at a local paint-your-own-pottery place to hone their artistic skills and have tie dye cupcakes (if my mom & I can pull this off, I will be super proud of us). Cara's birthday celebration included a trip down to Durango, CO for Day Out with Thomas the Tank Engine. We spent the entire weekend in Durango, not only riding Thomas and taking part in all of the associated activities, but in exploring my alma mater and the beautiful town of Durango. Everyone had a blast and I know that Cara will forever remember seeing Thomas coming chugging into the train station. Click here and here for pictures of our mini vacation. In addition to both girls having their special days, we will also be celebrating with my parents immediately following Caitlin's pottery party. Caitlin has selected a local pizza joint as the destination and Cara has picked out Thomas table top decorations for when we blow out candles and officially mark another birthday for both girls. I hope to do my yearly tribute to both girls in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back.

As the summer continues to tick away, we are hoping to fill it with my fun and togetherness. There are still many items to be crossed off of our Bucket List and many more trips to the local library planned (Caitlin has read over 200 hours so far!) as we help the library send food and livestock to those in countries of need. I have thoroughly enjoyed having more time to spend with my daughters and have treasured all the memories that we have made and will continue to make.


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