Accept the Flowers

Almost 20 years ago I lost my husband Steve, my best friend and partner in many crimes. May was the month his illness showed up, reared its ugly head and changed our lives forever. Within a period of 24 hours he looked fine and then he didn’t…

Within the two days following his first doctor’s appointment, came the terminal diagnosis. We followed the nurse, carrying a box of tissues in her hand, into the doctor’s small back consultation room and that quick our world started spinning wildly out of control.

By the end of the month of June 1999, Steve lay in critical condition in a hospital bed, eyes closed, belly distended, waiting for a transplant. This well built slender and otherwise healthy man was rendered unconscious and unable to communicate with us anymore. I never thought I would get to speak with him again and make everything alright.

The weekend of July fourth provided us with not one, but two livers, as the first one didn’t function once transplanted. He was 41 and I, 33. We had four kids whose ages ranged from one to seventeen.

The thought that two people had to die to give him a chance at life was humbling for all of us, including Steve, who waited nervously to see if his body would reject the new organ.

Long story short, we were gifted four more months together before God sent the angels back again to walk him home. 

I was stunned and paralyzed by grief. He would never get to raise his children or see the dreams we had for ourselves come to fruition. For months I drove my car up and down the highway for hours in the middle of the night blasting music on the radio and at times screaming to the top of my lungs. The music and screaming would take away my thoughts and pain temporarily before I came home to face another day with my kids, sans Daddy. I traveled constantly to see family and take myself out of the environment that reminded me of him every single minute of every single day.

I began trying to mend the large and permanent hole in the fabric that bound us as a family, I started to heal but the process was slow and I was impatient. I was starting to find small gifts in the tragedies that had riddled my every day existence and I began to see signs of the presence of love that was much greater than my love for Steve and my family. Divine love. There were signs of his presence constantly appearing in my path that comforted me and gave me the strength to forge on and live the life we had planned as best I could.

About six months after his death, I could no longer stand being in a house that surrounded me with memories. The four walls that were now closing in on me harbored the dreams we had, arguments that were never quite healed, and regrets that were now left in a large bag for me to carry around every day. The pressure to survive this and still care for our children was like being locked in a tight dark box with no breathing room. At that point I decided to take the kids and get away for a while. 

Getting to a new environment in another place without daily reminders of my present life, which now felt like it had fully collapsed, had to be better. My sister, who has always been my protector and second mother, welcomed us into her home for as long as we needed to be there…turns out two weeks was the limit, the hole in my heart was just growing bigger…it was time to return and face the healing process that was mine and mine alone.

The 8-hour journey back home was spent convincing myself “I could survive this” while also telling myself, “not without him”.

It was dusk when I pulled onto our street. It looked and felt different coming home this time. From a short distance I could see the edge of my lawn where Steve and I created a flower bed around the tree at the top of the driveway the previous year right before he got sick. We had intended to fill it when summer came but never had the chance.

I couldn’t make out what I was seeing very clearly from a distance. It appeared that someone planted a mass of beautiful light pink flowers in the bed. My neighbors were my home base angels through Steve’s illness and death and I assumed they struck again with their kindness.

Evening Primrose, night blooming beauties

I parked in the driveway and got out of the car to take a tour of the garden, both kids still sleeping in their car seats. These flowers were not planted by my neighbors. They were Evening Primrose, a night blooming beauty, and by the pattern in which they grew I could tell they had grown from seed right there in the garden bed.

I scanned neighboring yards to see where the seed had taken flight. Where had these come from?

I got back in my car and slowly cruised up and down the street for hidden gardens containing the same flowers other people might have that were not clearly visible. I found none.

I parked in front of the house just staring in awe at the large masses of delicately beautiful flowers wafting in the night air. These flowers appeared out of nowhere exactly one year from that date we walked into the doctor’s office and were given unfathomable news and they opened at a time when darkness descended upon me.

Right before my eyes I witnessed love so great that it greeted me and walked me onto the path of healing. I felt Steve’s presence through a divine love that wrapped its arms around me and gave me flowers.

In the year that followed we planted a memorial “Daddy Garden” where the kids made and reverently placed stepping stones to honor his memory. As they grew, we experienced the pain of his presence and memory slowly fading away. The crushing heartache of “not remembering daddy’s voice anymore” was almost to much to bear coming from our four year old son.

Every year the evening primrose flowers bloomed and eventually thinned to just a handful. We had started to not notice they still bloomed every year.

Stones from the “Daddy Garden”

Fast forward twenty years…

I came home from work and pulled into the driveway last night at about 7:30 p.m. feeling down in the dumps, sick and pretty worn out. Life has been heavy for a while now and recent situations have been weighing on me like a lead weight. I’ve been feeling like I’m back in the dark box unable to breath again.

It was still light outside and the sun was below the horizon, the transformation to dusk was taking over. I sat back in the seat of my car resting before opening the car door and going into the house. I saw the familiar burst of soft pink on the front side of the garden. Before getting my briefcase, lunch bag, and other miscellaneous items out of the car I wandered around to visit my latest dwindling patch of evening primrose. It was so beautifully lit in the dim light of the sun setting.  A few of the flowers smiled up at me reminding me that even after twenty years I am still loved. I survived, but not without drastically changing who I am and who I intended to be.

Everything in life has such deep meaning to me now… the signs and synchronicities, my actions and reactions, the words I say, and the words said back to me. It impacts me deeply, I love hard while I may not show it at times due to a tightly armored exterior. In days of late that armor is slowly melting allowing the changed me to emerge. Its a painful process…

We are always choosing a path on which to walk whether its right or wrong, these paths always teach us something. Perhaps to take a huge risk and learn to love again, to do something unthinkable by another person’s standards, or to NOT take the risks that bring us to a better, more loving place where we can feel love more deeply and thrive there.

One thing for sure, when the path is right, it will eventually bring us to where we were supposed to be all along. This part is hard for me because I’ve always protected and insured a safe environment for myself and my kids but haven’t always felt I chose the right path out of fear. I rarely take the risks I should to make life more beautiful, perfect and right for me, a right and obligation we all have to ourselves.

If I’ve told you I love you, I really do, I don’t take that lightly. I love with all my heart and I am still always caught off guard when someone truly loves me back.

As strong as I may seem to the people around me, I am risk averse which gets in the way of finding true happiness and peace. I have yet to learn to be vulnerable with my heart and life but I am learning…slowly.

The divine has offered me flowers on more than a few occasions and I have turned them down or ignored them completely. I can’t un-spill a glass or un-ring a bell but I can open my heart wider and learn to receive the gifts, take the chances and weigh the risks differently in order to love myself better. Regret of a bypassed opportunity is surely a living hell.

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”

Sydney J. Harris

No matter who the offerer, always accept the flowers you are given they are a gift and sign from the divine, whether they be a single white rose that bears the memory of a path you could or should have taken, or an evening primrose that lights the way through your present darkness and puts you back on the path to healing your heart and remembering you are loved.

To all of you with broken, grieving and fearful hearts, the signs are always there if you open your heart and receive them with open arms and a willingness to trust love. TAKE THE RISK, YOU ARE WORTH IT.

“Remember to treat your family like friends and your friends like family”. 

Side note: I came into the house emotionally drawn after the stroll in the garden to find my sister-in-law had posted these pictures of Steve online…I will assume the divine allowed him to make several visits to the people who love and miss him and let us know he is still with us.

In loving memory of Steve W. McCay ~ 5-28-1958 to 12-5-1999

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Shrimp Taco’s

I work downtown and we have some of the best restaurants around.  One of my favorite things to do is replicate favorite dishes from these restaurants at home.

Taco’s are Taco’s are Taco’s but this version marinates the shrimp in a Michelada sauce and finishes with a sprinkle of bacon bits taking it right over the top as far as freshness and taste. The following is my recipe. I can’t have beer because I follow a gluten free diet so I adjusted it slightly.

I have also included a link to a recipe for the real Michelada cocktail. If I were you, I would experiment a little based on your likes by adding some of the ingredients in the drink recipe that I could not include in mine. The best way to do this is start with a small amount of the ingredients that you like and adjust from there after tasting.

Here is my recipe and links to the original drink so you can adjust your recipe when you make it. Have fun, Happy Cinco de Mayo and as always “Treat your family like friends and your friends like family”.

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Shrimp Taco’s with Michelada Sauce

18 jumbo shrimp

1 cup Clamato juice (found with Tomato juice in the grocery store. If you can’t find it make your own with Tomato juice and clam juice, adjusted to your taste)

2 tblsp butter

1/2 tsp tabasco sauce or your favorite pepper sauce

Corn tortilla’s

Diced fresh avocado

Diced fresh tomato’s

Chop fresh iceberg or romaine lettuce

Fresh bacon bits

Remember to go organic as much as you can on all ingredients.

You can also add the following: Soy sauce, worchestshire sauce, beer.

Start by removing the shells from the shrimp. In a mixing bowl place shrimp, clamato juice, tabasco sauce and a twist of ground pepper if you like. Toss shrimp thoroughly and set aside.

Preheat a frying pan and add 1-2 tablespoons of butter and melt. Add about 6-8 shrimp at a time  cooking for about 2-3 minutes each side. If the pan gets dry add some of the marinade and a little water. This will steam cook them as well. Remove from pan and place in another bowl.

Once all shrimp are cook and cooled enough, chop into about 4 pieces each.

Pour the remaining sauce/marinade into the frying pan and heat on high until it bubbles. Pour over the shrimp pieces and toss.

Dice all of the other ingredients (tomato’s, avocado’s, bacon and lettuce)

Steam your corn tortilla’s by placing them on a plate and covering with a damp paper towel in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Some people do not like corn tortilla’s and flour tortilla’s just take something away from the overall taste. There are several ways to serve this recipe, as a soft taco or a salad.

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Since our family is divided on the tortilla issue, I put all ingredients in separate bowls/platters and let them decide. If you want to adjust this to make appetizers, use samll clear dessert dishes and layer the ingredients using the corn tortilla as a garnish.

ENJOY!

Below is the link to the original cocktail inspiration:

http://mexicanfood.about.com/od/bebidasdrinks/r/michelada.htm

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Concetta Conseula de Mexico ~ Drink of the Dioses

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SO if I’m hearing this correctly, the 5th of May is just another day in most of Mexico. It’s primarily celebrated in the United States. Leave it to America to create not only a national holiday for another country, but one whose main purpose is to drink. A word of warning…Try not to drink so much that you wrap yourself around a May pole or something.

Anyway, I figure if that’s the way the game is played I am playing to win this year. It’s like a big ole game of Bullsh**when you make something up and try to convince other’s its in fact real and true. Whoever has the most believers in the end is the champ.

In an effort to create my own version of a Marguerita I raided the liquor cabinet and got busy playing chemist. I was quickly schooled by my “resident bartender”, who stated I incorrectly added certain ingredients…WHAT? I am not on Food Network here dude, I was in the kitchen having a drunken ball until you, the bar nazi, came in and harshed my happy Mexican mellow…’nough said!

Besides we’re not giving awards for best bartender tonight, however I do believe that more people will appreciate a simple recipe for a lime flavored fiesta with easy to follow directions so they can spend less time in the kitchen and more time battering colorful tissue covered animals with a stick for a few meager pieces of candy!

I think it’s pretty cool that the good ole US of A recognized another reason to celebrate something, anything and moved forward (probably under the direction of the Hallmark people) to create an opportunity for feeding the economy with increased alcohol and paper goods sales.

Keeping the American spirit of making much ado about nothing I have renamed my Marguerita the Concetta Conseula de Mexico, which literally translates to Connie Connie of Mexico. Hey why not? I love my neighbor Connie, she is Italian but on the 5th of May an honorary Mexican like the rest of us and since there is no current holiday honoring her presently that I know of, hey why not, she deserves it!

Besides I can’t be reprimanded for mixing up a drink incorrectly that I concocted on my own. I do want to note that if you are not a mixed drink fan then you may want to try a “Bebida de no memoria” (literal translation ~ “Drink of no memory”) otherwise known as  TEQUILA!

I hope you take time to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this weekend or any other made up holiday! Laughter and good company are great medicines. And as always remember “Treat your family like friends and your friends like family”.

I have written this recipe in “parts” so you can reduce or enlarge for whatever size crowd you are entertaining. In addition, under the recipe I shot a close up of the garnish I used, a chili pepper frozen into an ice cube so when you place it on top of the contents in the glass it stays in postion and doesn’t sink to the bottom. A batch of these can be made well ahead of time for dropping in at the last minute.

Concetta Conseula de Mexico

Fill a glass 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full of ice cubes and pour the following over top

2 parts Tequila (I used a golden to pay respect to honorary Mexican’s everywhere)

1 or 2 parts Lime Juice (I used 2 because I like limes, you can start with one and taste, then add the second if you think it needs it)

1 part Lemoncello (In celebration of Connie’s Italian heritage, now pinch all your finger tips together and say “AAAAA” or “eyyy” using the long letter “A” sound while threatening the pinata…”You lucky I’m just hittin’ you widda stick and not fittin’ you widda new pair of cement shoes”…its really fun try it!)

Top off with lemon lime soda and garnish with something fancy like the pepper ice cubes below:

Freeze some peppers into your ice cubes for garnish.

Freeze some peppers into your ice cubes for garnish.

Freezing flavored soda or fresh juices helps keep drinks full of flavor when the ice starts to melt.

Freezing flavored soda or fresh juices helps keep drinks full of flavor when the ice starts to melt.

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Date Night Turns Couple into Tapas Bar Host’s

So about a week or two ago Joe and I went on a date night to McCormick and Schmick’s.  It was probably one of the best, if not THE best night out, we have had in a long time.  From the food to the cocktails to the company, it was top notch for sure.  The cocktails were so delicious we found ourselves in the grocery store at 11 p.m. buying grapes, citrus fruits and mixers so we could keep the party going when we got home.

First things first we pumped up the music on the Bose and got crackin’ in the kitchen making awesome cocktails while we danced to 70’s and 80’s music (Yep, we ARE just that hip!) and well, that’s all we managed to accomplish, tee hee….at 2:30 a.m. we crawled upstairs laughing and giggling like two school children sneaking notes under the desk…all the while raving about the great time we had that night…

We woke up the next day still on a high from the night before, it was just what the doctor ordered (actually he might have ordered a few less cocktails).

We kept talking about the food and drinks all day on Sunday, evaluating the ingredients and techniques the chef probably used (the food critics that we are) and how we could replicate them.  We had an appetizer that left us wanting more…Bacon Wrapped Shrimp stuffed with drippy Pepper Jack Cheese. If there is a heaven I would imagine these would be served there.

Since then I have mastered the Grape Refresher cocktail we had and even whipped up a few for my oldest daughter a few days later (kind of a bribe so she would bring my Grand Goddess Daughter over, LOL).

She took the picture below and titled it #shitsgoingdownatmommomshouse and then proceeded to post it on facebook 🙂 If you know me then you know, its ALWAYS going down at Mom Mom’s…especially in the kitchen

Tonight I had enough of just dreaming about the shrimp and made my own version.  Honestly, mine turned out even better! Instead of deep frying like the restaurant version, I fried mine in bacon grease (using organic bacon of course). Although not healthy by any stretch), my theory is enjoy life when you can even if it’s a weeknight and you have work the next day. I skipped a formal dinner and ate 6 of these puppies.

Perhaps this weekend you can have another couple, or just a few friends, over and enjoy cocktails and appetizers of the God’s. You won’t be sorry!

Just remember “Treat your family like friends and your friends like family”.

shitsgoingdownatmommoms

shitsgoingdownatmommoms

GRAPE REFRESHER COCKTAIL

10 grapes (use organic ONLY!!!), 3 mint leaves (fresh basil is nice too) muddled (nice way of saying smashed up!) in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Squeeze 1 1/2 oranges and a 1/2 of a lemon into the cocktail shaker, add 3 ice cubes and the magic bullet…a shot of gin. Shake hard until someone writes that shits going down at your house on facebook then strain into a martini glass, top off with a tad bit of sprite or simple syrup and garnish with a mint leaf. Voila! Remember to repeat…

Next up on deck…these beauties…

Heaven on a plate!

Heaven on a plate!

BACON WRAPPED SHRIMP STUFFED WITH PEPPER JACK CHEESE

8-12 Jumbo or Colossal Shrimp

4-6 pieces of thinly sliced bacon

8-12 slices of pepper jack cheese 1/16-1/8 inch thick

Peel the shrimp but leave about 1/4 inch of shell and tail on, dry thoroughly. Place 1 piece of cheese on the side of each shrimp. Starting at the top wrap the bacon around each piece of shrimp/cheese and tuck the end of the bacon under itself to somewhat seal. This helps it not unravel when you are frying it.

I started off by cooking some bacon in the cast iron skillet and keeping it for use at another time.  This rendered enough fat in the pan to kind of deep fry the wrapped shrimp.  You could probably use oil if you didn’t want to fry bacon first but honestly it was worth it in taste AND calories!

I fried the bacon wrapped shrimp for 3-4 minutes on each side and in the end tipped them on their back for a minute or two to brown that as well. The cheese will start to ooze into the fat in the pan but will provide a divine fried tidbit that sticks to the end result (scrap it out of the pan and plop on top if you have to). This adds to the over all flavor. Drain on a paper towel and serve immediately.  Awesomeness is ALWAYS bacon wrapped.

You can thank me later…

Heaven on a plate!

Heaven on a plate!

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Lessons Learned from a Walk in the Park

There is nothing like a walk in silence to set you straight. The kind you take on a whim to clear your head. The one that by the end of it, if nothing else happens, you just feel better than you did when you started. That happened to me the other day. The weather was beautiful, the first of such days here in the south. I was a bit antsy and honestly, as usual, my head was bursting from too many thoughts and too much negative internal talk. I decided to escape it all and take a cruise around the grounds of our states capital and just BREATH.

Funny how things work out. I say “OK big guy, I’m putting all of this in your hands like you tell me to, now PLEASE show me a sign that you’re hearing me” and within minutes, he did.

It was on my third lap around the capitol building observing all the people enjoying the sunshine, soaking up their recommended daily allowance of happiness . I watched the groundsman mow the grass, already a thick emerald carpet of perfect striping created by every pass of his mower. I began to feel that “tuning in to the moment” thing as I passed by each happy face, making a mental note to look every person in the eye (something I try to do every time I walk). I was starting to feel connected.

As I rounded the corner I saw a spark of red in the grass about 15 feet ahead of me. I walked up closer to inspect. This perfect little gem was sitting in a hollow of grass.

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Initially I thought it was growing right there in that spot, some kind of double petal tulip that burst through the ground at the first sight and warm breeze of spring. I knelt down to inspect its beauty and realized that someone had just dropped it there. It was a peony that was plucked from a nearby bush. I held it in my hand pondering the idea of taking it back to the office and keeping it on my desk.

Instead I just knelt there thinking about what finding this flower meant. It created instant joy for me. I wondered about the person that picked it from it’s home and dropped it here. Did they intend to take it back to their desk? Did they too need a sign? A bright spot in their day? It had me thinking…when I leave this spot, what have I left behind for someone else? I’ve been a bear lately, wallowing in self pity.

While not paying attention I have been burdening other’s with my negativity, adding to their own sadness and woes. What chains have I bound my life with so tightly that have had an effect on others? What good around me have I been missing when I decide to go inside and listen to the naysayers that live in my head?

How many of us do this unknowingly?

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This was the sign I asked for…once again he came through for me in a most unusual and perfect way. This flower, this bright flare in a sea of green called me to its side to remind me that I was not alone and I never have been…

I decided to leave it right where I found it with the hope that someone who walked in my path would also find some form of beauty and joy that I had intentionally left for them. My heart sings at the thought that I may have done just that for another.

We are all connected by a universal love that in today’s world has been forgotten. We are locked and loaded and ready to shoot rather than trying to understand what might be going on in another person’s life causing their poor choices that effect us.

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We forget to reach out to people and let them reach up…for our hand and our heart, never asking for anything in return. A simple gesture that might actually heal what ails our broken souls.

I walked back to work and returned a few minutes later with my camera to capture the image of this divinely crafted miracle. As I walked I said a prayer of gratitude for allowing me to open my heavy heart and receive the message. Through my own sorrow I saw a light shine, one that was left on by the angels that walk with me to guide me out of the darkness that can quickly overcome any one of us, at any time, if we let it.

My final walk back was interesting, I was focusing more clearly on the little details of every thing around me. I began to think of the reason I took the walk in the first place. How could I have let things get to me the way they had? Why did I let the other stuff bother me? Some things we experience in life are really sad, I’ve lived a lifetime full of that already. These ARE NOT the things that define me. For all the sadness I have had, I have had just as much happiness…because I chose to.

I have the right to choose which path I am taking and I have always loved the expression “other peoples opinions of me are NONE of my business” but somehow I still find myself driven by it, fractured by experiences I refuse to let go of from the past and or present and recently, cracking under the self induced pressure.

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By not choosing to move forward with things and and continuing to hang on to them rather than letting go and letting God, we hold ourselves back from what is really best for us. We keep a death grip on something that no longer serves us. In doing so we hold up the process, the intended plan for us.

We have been conditioned to treat our pasts like the enemy letting it stalk us, rather than the good stern parent that has taught us lessons we will use for a lifetime. We attach ourselves to what “was” and let it define who we presently are, especially when what was (or what we thought it was) is no longer there.

It is impossible for your past to hold you from your future, live in the present!

It is impossible for your past to hold you from your future, live in the present!

One of my favorite inspirational speakers, Dr. Wayne Dyer says to look off the back of a boat and ask this question. Does the wake you see have the energy to push the boat forward? No, of course not, it is simply the trail that is left behind, and just like memories of hard times, it holds no power over your move forward. Yet, if we focus forward on the horizon there is a new calm view that we approach…a gorgeous beautiful peace that is filled with possibility and fresh beginnings. Our pain is our fuel, it moves us forward whether we believe it or not…have faith.

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Change is a hard thing…a damaging blow from someone we love, a bad experience in a job or the loss of something or someone in our lives is so painful, it’s excruciating to just open the grip and let it fall away. If only we realized that our connection to each other was the most crucial part of navigating our way through this life,  we would know when our purpose has been served and move on to the next wonderful place to begin something new and better. As Dr. Dyer states , “Stay connected to everything but attached to nothing”.

To my dear friends who are suffering through very tough times right now, remember these few things…

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There will ALWAYS be rocky roads. Without them we will never know the feeling of joy when we meet it face to face in the simple things.

When harm is done remember that it is the other person’s Karma not yours so stop beating yourself up.

Through your pain react with love instead of anxiety, fear and anger.

As Mahatma Gandhi said so perfectly “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Wonderful things start to happen for you when you do.

You must CHOOSE happiness. Stop hunting it down in others actions or opinions towards you. It resides within you. TRUST THE PLAN.

And as always, “Treat your family like friends and your friends like family”.

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Repost of ~ A “Sign” from Mr.Ike A much needed recap of our behavior

This is a repost of something from two years ago that I felt was appropriate for anyone who reads…To pass judgement is a horrible thing, one that should be left for the big guy upstairs.  You just never know what the next guy is experiencing that makes him act as he does.  We are all different and handle things differently, its what makes us unique. Next time someone upsets you, say a small prayer that God will handle and take the job of  judgement off your plate.

Post from June 2011

Sorry this took so long to post, I wrestled with the possible heaviness of my words but after a short internal battle, my heart won. So here it is…read it, weep, maybe learn a lesson then invite some people over for a FridayNightFamily celebration and take a chill pill. Hug your kids and sleep well tonight. Here goes…

I’m on the run, work, home, kids, bills…an endless list of responsibilities. I’m tired and burned out. I promised myself I would do something for me (writing this blog is therapy, I should be paying you!).  I feel like the energizer bunny only I have no energy… and I’m a little cranky.

I was driving to work this morning thinking about the fact that I should have uploaded my next blog entry already. Writer’s block and lack of clear insight about what to write next was resting on my head. The anxiety of the daily grind began to sink in and I found myself asking the “Big One” for some help to inspire me so I would write something from the heart, words  that had meaning, words that could maybe create one small change in our somewhat self-absorbed society…world. There are so many great things to write about but nothing felt right the last few days.  Just then I was snapped back into reality by the buzzing of my cell phone in the center console. Who could be calling me this early?

At the stop light I checked and there was a text from my oldest daughter Jackie.  I pulled over to see what she had to say and her message read “Good Morning Mom Mom, I slept from 9 to 8!” with a picture of my granddaughter polishing off her morning breakfast bottle. I immediately felt connected to what was really important…anxiety began to wane as I said a small prayer of gratitude for the very clear message I received.  A “sign” that once again I know I’m not alone.

Signs are all around us, sometimes we see them and sometimes we don’t. What things do we look past and dismiss as mere coincidence? How often does it happen? How many of them do we misread and go in the wrong direction?

Hear this… a common theme in my blogs will always be “NOTHING is by chance”. If you learn to believe this early, you will never be bored with my writing. HA! I’ve written about this before as well as the need to “connect to something bigger… each other”. This is really why I am doing this.

There is something else I forgot to talk about which happens to be the most important of all, connecting to ourselves, our own person deep inside.  A good look inside tells us much about what really makes us happy. I was anxious about all the external  things I can’t control, silly me I forgot to take my own advice (a recurring theme)and look inside.

I went about my morning and decided at lunchtime I needed to go pick something up from an establishment I recently did business with.  Over a week ago I paid over the phone for service they performed for me and last night got a message from them that they still needed to close out my account.  I called back and left a message that I had given my debit card information over the phone to Mr. Ike.  What happened to it I wondered?  I started to worry, BIG TIME!

When I showed up at lunch to settle my bill I started to stress my concern about the lost card information.  What if someone else got their hands on it, I pay my mortgage out of that account. Only a few words were out of my mouth when Mr. Ike, with shaking hands, snapped “No you didn’t! You never gave me that information over the phone!” and went about explaining his method for securing collected personal information. I started to come back with the exact details of the call hoping to jog his memory but was abruptly cut off.  I was furious to say the least. The other cashiers stared as Mr. Ike’s voice resonated through the front office and then without missing a beat, he completely changed his tone and politely said “Let me get you to the cashier who can handle this for you dear”….”I hope things are going well for you, I haven’t seen you in a while”… He was back to the Mr. Ike I’ve dealt with for the ten years I had done business with this company.  Very strange behavior, but I was still boiling over inside, how dare he treat me this way, a customer of ten years? Doesn’t he realize someone could use this information and possibly destroy my credit?

We walked through one area to another where I could be checked out, the whole time I was walking, actually charging, in front of him. I was hoping to lose him in the dust so I wouldn’t have an outburst. As we approached the counter he very politely said to the cashier, “here is her paperwork” and turned to me and said “have a good day” almost too genuine and certainly dismissing my concerns. Once again I seethed with anger.  When he left the area I asked to see the manager.

Within a minute or so a younger man appeared and introduced himself as the manager of Mr. Ike’s department. I went about explaining the incident that had just occurred saying it was bad enough Mr. Ike  lost a piece of paper with my account and personal information on it but to handle it like he did was unacceptable by any standard. THIS I could not wrap my head around.  I tried to keep my cool as he listened quietly to me voicing my complaint. Repeating every detail of the first phone conversation verbatim and describing how defensive he was when he spoke to me up at the front counter. The manager’s silence and concerned look told me EVERYTHING I needed to know…This was not the first time something like this has happened.

The manager remained very quiet as I finished my verbal assault on Mr. Ike’s bizarre, ill and unwarranted behavior. Again a “sign“…a sign of a very good manager (more likely an Angel), not an argumentative fool that would defend these actions or brush them off as if I was making a big deal of nothing.

Then he started. “Mrs. McCay, how long have you been a customer of ours?”, “Ten years” I told him. “Have you ever dealt with Mr. Ike before in the past?” he continued. “Yes” I said, “as a matter of fact he has been the only person I have ever really dealt with here.” This was the very reason my ego was insulted to begin with, after ten years I should be pulling some rank, right? He’s seen me here and did business with me all this time and still treated me this way?  Something tugged at me. The end of my conversation with Mr. Ike today was more like the way he used to treat me, a sweet polite man eager to help me. I always came back here for that reason.

The manager looked me. Only this time I could see what appeared to be sadness in his eyes.  “Mrs. McCay” he began,” most of our customer’s come in only a few times a year if that”. I nodded in agreement as I hadn’t been in myself, since the fall. “I am not making excuses for what happened and I will try to make it right, but Mr. Ike just returned to work after his second stroke. He held up the stack of paperwork created from my service, a disheveled mess held together by a single staple in the corner. “I am very particular about our billing system here…I get all over the guys for things like this” he said as he dangled the papers before me. He smiled, “they don’t fit in the file cabinet very well this way”. Another broad but gentle smile crossed his face. “These were assembled by Ike”…. I hope you understand I am really not discounting your frustration and I am going to put a $100.00 credit on your account for your troubles. I hope the next time you come back and see us you’ll use it…..

No lie, I felt like I had been walloped upside the head with a baseball bat.  Had life gotten to me so much that I scolded an old man who had given his life to this business I enjoyed dealing with for ten years? …and pretty much because of his good service? Woman you need to take a chill pill was all I could think.

As I walked past the front desk area I wished everyone a good day, hoping to take the obvious worry off Mr. Ike’s face.

I sat in the car for a few minutes. Mom had a stroke a while back. She was not the same for some time. Whether Mr. Ike lost the paperwork, simply misplaced it or gave it to a known criminal to use for fraudulent activity was inconsequential right now. Right or wrong if someone took my mother’s dignity away or mistreated her for any reason at all, I would “throttle them!”, to use her term politely. Surely Mr. Ike had family that might have wanted to “throttle me” had I completely lost control today. The other staffers knew, it’s why they stared as he grappled with his pride. Right now I was throttling me.

I’m grateful I didn’t let things escalate the way I might have in the past. I’m relieved I didn’t take away the small piece of dignity and pride Mr. Ike had left. Being defensive was his only protection. He knew he couldn’t make it right and he tried to recover from his own anxiety by being nice to me with a genuine heart, the one I saw but discounted as arrogance. I was humbled and inspired by this new “sign” that reminded me to remember just how important it is to care for another person. Time is all we have the other stuff can be fixed.

That familiar sign was flashing again… “We are not here to go it alone”. Someday I hope Mr. Ike will know he taught me a lesson today. A lesson I will surely never forget and by the grace of the “Great One” who watches over us, one I have been able to pass on to all of you so it will serve as a reminder to respect and connect with those who are on your path, even those that appear to be in the way.

I’ll say it again, gather your Friday Night Family and take a chill pill…in honor of Mr. Ike.

How appropriate, found these a while back and thought they were cool. I didn’t realize at the time I might actually NEED them…

Happier thoughts will follow…think about these words tonight...love you all. 🙂

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A Special Kind of Genius

I was craving a little snack one day in work and wandered on over to the vending area with a growling tummy and dollar bill in hand. I rounded the corner and stood in amazement viewing this site.

DUH!

DUH!

I am not sure who the first person was or number two for that matter (you can almost reason with their thought  “maybe I’ll be luckier”) but number three? Now THIS takes a special kind of intelligence…

Obviously I saved my dollar…my grumbling stomach wasn’t a problem anymore since the urge to hit the ladies room was so overwhelming at this point, I felt like I was going to wet my pants from laughing so hard. I snapped the shot above on my cell and headed back to my desk.  After discussing this vision of brilliance with a coworker we decided this was in fact proof of the reason we feel like odd man out every day.

I resumed working and by the time lunch rolled around I had completely forgotten the experience. (I try not to hold onto things for too long…even if they are funny)

Again I approach the vending area for a bottled water to go with my lunch and just when you think you have experienced the epitome of intelligence and common sense, there are a select few (I like to think the more competitive types) that will one up the situation…

Names have been removed to protect the...less intelligent?

Names have been removed to protect the…less intelligent?

GO AHEAD AND COUNT THEM! There are 4 more than there were earlier in the day! SERIOUSLY? No I mean SERIOUSLY? (it was worth asking twice)

Notice the amounts?  These totals suggest they tried more than once, they didn’t give up, nuh uh, nope, nodda, NO WAY! Nobody is gonna accuse them of lacking  drive, determination and will. See the blue and orange notes that are side by side? SAME PERSON! AND considering the average price for an item was around .65 cents in this particular machine…YOU DO THE MATH! We have quite the determined crew…

Think Einstein’s famous quote here…

“Insanity is doing the same thing again and again expecting different results.”

I will tell you the funniest thing to me though is that they weren’t embarrassed to post these bits of documented brain farts all over the machine!

If snack machines are any indication of intelligence, you have failed the employment test and as Donald Trump would say…“YOU’RE FIRED!”

As always “Treat your family like friends and your friends like family”...unless of course they exhibit this kind of intelligence….then it’s alright to commit them…

 

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Layin’ Low on the Irish Hype

Sitting here in the kitchen reflecting on the days events…most people probably celebrated  Saint Patrick’s day yesterday in order to be able to sleep in today after drinking like leprechauns well into the wee hours of the morn, probably needing a “real Irish coffee” this morning in order to “bite the dog that bit them” last night.

There is something about this holiday, when it falls on a Sunday that says “DON”T DO IT!” LOL So I didn’t…I laid low today with the family and hung out and we still had fun. After all, Saint Patrick’s job was to drive all the snakes out of Ireland so he got the chance to “walk it off”. Me on the other hand…well I won’t get into it.

So here’s to a “layin’ it low” Saint Patty’s Day and as always, remember to:

“Treat your family like friends and your friends like family”.

A few photo’s from the Day… Saint Patrick’s Day, celebrating PALE skinned Irish people since the 17th century!

Saint Patrick's Day ~ Celebrating PALE since the 17th century!

Saint Patrick’s Day ~ Celebrating PALE since the 17th century!

Photo on 3-17-13 at 9.44 PM

The weapon used to get leprechauns drunk…just add wine!

What happens to Irish Girls that drink wine on this very special day...

What happens to Irish Girls that drink wine on this very special day…

Notice the messy fridge in the back...I took my own advice and didn't straighten up before celebrating...see you can do it too!  Just a little encouragement...

Notice the messy fridge in the back…I took my own advice and didn’t straighten up before celebrating…see you can do it too! Just a little encouragement…

The best part of the day was seeing the Grand Goddess…actually that’s the best part of ANY day!

Here’s how the conversation went:

Charlotte (top pic) “I love you Mom Mom”

Me (pic #2) “I love you too Charley Girl”

Pic three ~ We mutually agree we love each other and celebrating with Family and Friends…on any day!

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Potato Shots at the Bar Saint Patrick Would Be Proud!

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Sunday is Saint Patrick’s Day and so badly I want to bestow upon my children the fun things my parents did for us growing up.  However, dying the mashed potatoes green and hiding a carrot in the middle of the meatloaf and calling it leprechaun’s gold just isn’t cutting it for me.

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Knowing what we know about the effects of food dye on our health and that my son hates cooked carrots, even if they do taste like they were drenched in beef juices, I had to figure out something new. I feel I am doing my parents a dishonor if I did not teach my kids to have a sense of humor in life and celebrate the “smallidays” like Saint Patrick’s Day. They set a good example for us and I want to do the same for my kids. Essentially holding these little gatherings taught us not to take life so seriously that we forget what’s really important, the people around us.

What we learned from those times spent together was that we were not alone and some thing’s like stress in work has its place and should stay there, not follow us home and interfere with our down time. After an evening connecting with people I always feel better. Besides, stressing and worrying ruins the present, it robs us of possible happy memories we could have had…and all for what?

That being said, I am asking ALL OF YOU, Irish roots or not, to get your green on and use this weekend as another opportunity to tell your friends and family how important they are to you by getting together and using Saint Patrick’s Day as another reason to hang out together. Don’t worry about the messy house, if they care about that they are not your friends. If cooking and doing dishes is your stressor then gather up appetizer size munchies and small plates and be done with it! Below are the pictures of our early celebration. I got all my fun stuff out for the table, seared up a quick London broil, a bag of peas and made a mashed potato bar.

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Under the photos I made a list of possible toppings you could put out, I mean really who doesn’t like potato’s?  They’re not that expensive and you can ask people that want to bring something with them to bring a topping. Even if your not a drinker, there’s nothing like a potato shot from the bar! (Topped with bacon of course)

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At this point I will call upon the leprechauns to snatch your cell phone and computer’s for a few hours so you can spend time connecting with your friends and family. Human voices, hugs and laughter…now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

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If you are the one throwing the gathering this weekend, consider having a big bowl where everyone can turn off their cell phones and toss them in. Then slow the pace down, put on some music and enjoy each other. And as always, remember…

“Treat your family like friends and your friends like family”.

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st pats

Below are a few items you might consider as toppings for your Mashed Potato Bar:

Bacon, ham pieces, cheese, crushed potato chips, crispy fried onions, sour cream, beef gravy, marinated mushrooms (recipe in the May 2011 archive, Waste Not Want Not), green onions, flavored butters and ranch dressing.  If you think of any others you’ve tried, feel free to leave a comment.

A few notes:

For crispy fried onions, take a shallot or sweet onion and shave off thin slices, dredge in flour then fry until crispy.

For very flavorful mashed potato’s, add an 8 oz package of Havarti or Smoked Gouda cheese to your steaming hot potato’s, you won’t be sorry! And for an interesting twist, try a little hot sauce with some blue cheese crumbles on top.

HAPPY SAINT PATRICK”S DAY!

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The Grand Goddess Turns Two!

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There is something very special about turning two…you are no longer an infant, and over a period of 12 months between the age of one and two, the world becomes your oyster and you become the pearl.

My Grand Daughter Charlotte turned two yesterday. What a gem she is and what an exciting year of growth and fun it’s been for the rest of us. Her presence in a room can change the whole energy. Watching her learn new things reminds me of the simplicity of life and not to take it to seriously.

Charlotte

It must be something to be able to show up somewhere and change the way things are…always for the better. She is the charm on my life necklace that gives me the strength and knowledge that life does indeed go on therefore I should live in the moment, because in the next it is gone with only memories left remaining. She is the magical little genie from the bottle that granted all those wishes I never knew I had. Who knew that this pure genuine source of light and love could do all of this?

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February is usually a month that most people view as boring. The holidays are over, the wind down of January is past and we are yearning for signs of new life in everything that spring has to offer. But for me it’s the month I reflect on what is right with the world in the absence of constant motion and how the months of fall bring every year to a close. It is also the month my Charley Girl was born.

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The blessing of her birth gave our family a renewal of spirit. Life begins all over every February because of this little angel. I cannot thank the big guy upstairs enough for this gift. The only way to honor him is by documenting the gratitude I feel and to leave her a message she can go back to when she needs to know how special and loved she really is…I hope you enjoy this look into the past year of her life and somehow  it makes you feel better and renewed as well. Love, Kathy

Remember “Treat your family like friends and your friends like family”

Dear Charlotte,

You are now two years old, my how time flies. You are the sweetest baby girl a grandmother could ask for and a blessing to everyone whose path you cross. From family and friends to people in the grocery store you have the ability to extract a smile from everyone.

We call you by many nick names like Mudgie, Nut and Charley Girl but my favorite is “The Grand Goddess” because that is exactly what you are to me.

You have started to make some friends like Stella and Mia from preschool.

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But your best friend right now is Pumpkin. Together you go on many adventures and pal around with each other every day. Pumpkin keeps guard over you from breakfast (hmmm, I wonder why?) to bed time. You have even been on a picnic under the couch.

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You are still so very affectionate, I carry the feeling of your hugs around my legs, everywhere I go…it makes my heart smile. You are quick to hug and spread your love and light. When asked for a kiss you offer up your cheek and do a little foot pop behind you. You are absolutely adorable.

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This year you started talking to us and telling us what’s going on in your world. You have favorite toys like the Minnie Mouse doll Mommy and Daddy bought you and you refer to her as “Mimmie with a bow”. You have Mommy and Daddy wrapped around your little finger and a slew of other’s in line behind them, indeed a Grand Goddess.

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You love all your penguin toys like the one Grandma Alice and Grandpa Al bought you back from their cruise and the dancing penguin that Doonie bought you when he recognized your love for penguins or as you call them “Nee Nee’s”. You are also so much more active this year and have learned to tell us exactly what you are doing using words like “jump”, “I kick”, “bounce” and “catch”.

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You are funny too! When Aunt Haley was changing your diaper the other day, she asked you “Wew, kiddo! What did you eat?” (more of a rhetorical question of course) and you chimed up “Pizza!” Aunt Haley laughed so hard, you are her favorite person in the world and you make her feel the same way…you call her “He” and smile a mile wide when someone mentions her name.

In the summer (2012) you spent two weeks at the beach. One week with Grandma Alice, Grandpa Al and Daddy’s family and one week with Mom Mom, Doonie, Uncle Ian and Aunt Haley. You were such a good girl on the beach and played in the sand all day. You never complained. You even went on your first boat ride in the ocean and we all loved hearing your little feet pattering on the tile floor in the cottage every morning. You made our vacation complete.

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We took a trip to the aquarium and you had a blast. We thought you  may be scared since it was a little dark in there, but once in the door you ran around with your fists pumped up in the air and pointing to all the sites. Aunt Haley and Uncle Ian had you jumping in the fake pond to see the water ripple and the fishies move and Doonie held you up so you could put your hands in the water where the sting rays were. You had ice cream at the end of the day that you really enjoyed, begging for more when Mommy or Daddy would pull it away from you. You bought the sunshine to the beach baby girl.

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In October Mommy and Daddy took you to the state fair and you gobbled corn on the cob and other goodies until you were so sugar shocked you started waving furiously at everyone saying “Hiya, Hiya!” Daddy took you on the carousel and you slept like a log on the way home.

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You are such a big girl! You even attended your first walk for charity in honor of Aunt Julianna. We got such a kick out of your cute outfit.

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Mommy made you an adorable owl costume for Halloween and you refused to wear it. Grandma Alice was looking at it one day and you wagged your little finger at her and started chanting “No, no, no!” You made her laugh and when she tells that story I think she loves you even more every time. The funniest part is that you went to a friend’s Super Hero party and wore the cape they made for you the whole time!…and for weeks after.

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On Halloween you went to your toy box and selected a panda hat to wear instead, so Mommy just put on your black jacket and white pants and you enjoyed the night trick or treating with your friends as the cutest Panda ever to celebrate candy collection. You have established that you have a mind of your own and you wear Panda well…we kinda like that.

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In early November you took your first airplane ride with Mommy and Mom Mom to go visit our relatives up North in Philadelphia.

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You got to meet Tootsie and Pop, Doonies parents for the first time. Tootsie loves looking at all of your pictures on facebook every day now…your silly faces make her happy, especially the “stink eye”.

The stink eye

The stink eye

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We stayed at Granny and Pop’s house (Mom Mom’s mommy) and all of Mommy’s cousins and Aunts came to see you. It was a blast, you were the highlight of everybody’s day. When we landed at the airport both times you belly laughed, almost to say “let’s do that again”. You made it a perfect trip.

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During the holidays Mommy and Daddy held a Hanukkah party and you had a blast playing dreidel and winning gelt with your little friend Lance. We sang songs, lit the menorah and opened presents all of which made you clap. Mommy and Daddy made delicious food too. Your sweet light shined brighter than the menorah, you can illuminate a room with your presence and there is no better place to stand than in your light.

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530499_10152319556745532_1716274044_nOn Christmas Eve you came over and spent the evening at Mom Mom and Doones house. You opened presents in the morning and we played all day in our jammies with all of your new toys…you got lots of art supplies including an easel and some cooking utensils that you proceeded to use to prepare foods you said were “hot” and blew on them for us to cool them down. Thank you sweet girl, we really could have burned ourselves. Doonie bought you a giant bear that you referred to as “Poop” for about two months, thank goodness you are calling him “Teddy” now!

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You started preschool this year too and your teacher Samantha just adores you. She says you love to color and draw at the art table and all the other kids just love you because you are sweet and kind to everyone. When anyone mentions Ms. Samantha’s name you say “I pay” meaning you “play” when you are with her. And when your name is mentioned, all the kids run and give you a hug.

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You love shoes and dresses but you also love your Hello Kitty boots, especially when it rains and you get to go puddle jumping with Mommy.

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The very spirit of Charlotte Rose, notice the sun beam from the right shining on her. It is almost to say God is watching and saying "take notice to all of the good I have created."

The very spirit of Charlotte Rose, notice the sun beam from the right shining on her. It is almost to say God is watching and saying “take notice to all of the good I have created.”

You have the best Mommy and Daddy in the world.

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Mommy takes you everywhere, you are her little side kick.

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When it comes to eating you love rice, or as you call it “ice”, beans and berries. You are a great eater and love all your veggies. You even like spicy Thai food…just like Mommy.

When it comes to entertaining you Mommy’s ipad is your favorite toy and boy are you ever good at using it. You call it “pad”.  When we were in synagogue you saw little symbols on the back of the song book and tried to scroll and click on them. This made us all laugh. Grandma Alice thinks its hilarious that every time you see the Target store logo you press it like it’s a game app icon and look at her like, “why is it not working?”

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Although I would like your life to be filled with nothing but happiness there are times when things happen we cannot control. Like when we lose someone we love.

The most important thing we can do is remember them with love and all the great memories that we shared. This year your great grandmother (Daddy’s grandmother) went to heaven. Her name was Paula Scher but you called her “Nana” and what a great Nana she was. Nana was a tiny lady with a beautiful soul just like you and she loved you very much. When you would visit Nana she would sing to you and smile while you were on her lap. This made Nana’s heart very happy! She, like everyone else just adored you.

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This Sunday (the 24th of February 2013) we celebrated your 2nd birthday and threw a tea party for you. Mommy made wonderful chocolate cupcakes with dark cherry icing from scratch and lady bug cherry tomato bites with onion cream on cucumbers and crackers. Mom Mom decorated chocolate brownies with icing flowers and made trays that looked like a flower garden and Aunt Haley made you pink strawberry chocolate chip cookies and her very special strawberry tarts with fresh cream.

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We did add in some healthy food too like fruit salad with honey lime dressing, and the lovely veggie tray that Grandma Alice’s cousin Rachel made. Mom Mom made spicy deviled eggs and Mommy made Chicken salad cups with tart apples…it’s no wonder you like to eat!  Grandma Alice brought in bunches of fresh flowers for her special baby girl and Grandpa Al once again brought the biggest smiles ever…how could he not? You are perfect to us.

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You enjoyed the day with everyone, circulating the room like a little bumble bee pollinating us with your kisses and bringing a whole new life to our hearts. I cannot tell you how much you are loved and how grateful we all feel to be a part of your life.

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Happy, Happy Birthday Sweet Girl.

Love, Mom Mom

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