A Letter to My Dad

Dear Dad:

Tomorrow marks 3 years ago that you moved on to a much greater place than this earth. I pray and hope that you are happier than you imagined possible and that you know true peace. I am so proud and grateful to you for fighting the brave fight. You were always the strongest person I knew (as long as you had your coffee - haha), but your strength in this process blew my mind. As much as it broke my heart to lose you, I was so relieved and happy for you after such a battle with cancer, but OH how we miss you with all of our hearts.

Dad, I have to believe that you know just how loved you were by so many. It was heartwarming to know that people from your work "family" visited you almost daily. And how our extended family was there every step of the way with us, means the world to me.

One of my favorite stories is about you, Steve and a piece of carrot cake. Towards the end of your journey, it had become difficult for you to do some things like handle silverware. Steve had come to visit you just after lunch time. You didn't have too much of an appetite, but he noticed you eyeing this piece of carrot cake on the tray. He offered to feed it to you, but you refused...at first. After some bantering back and forth you allowed him to feed you that cake. What I wouldn't give to see that exchange – two of the most manly farmer guys that I know. My heart expands every time I think of it.

So much has happened in the last three years. You're a grandfather again! Graeme Robert (named after you) is just about to turn one already. When he was around three months old, I feel like I grieved for you all over again as it has been hard to accept that you two won't be able to experience the typical grandfather/grandson relationship. I see SO much of you in him - he has your long torso and as I look at pictures we see your expressions in his face. I look forward to see what other characteristics of yours he develops.

I know what a worrywart you were, but Mom is doing really well. She misses you like nobody's business, but she is thriving. She has created such a great community in making cards and hosting a club.  Don't worry, I think she only has about 10,000 stamps by now. (Just kidding, Mom) The Snells, Ouarts and friends are always looking out for her, she is surrounded by great care and love. We have the pleasure of her visiting a few times a year. She has become such a techie too! Sometimes I have to call her to ask for help with my iPhone. Who knew, you would be super impressed!

Bob and family are doing well, the kids are all growing into such lovely young people. You would be so proud. Seth has served in the Army, Asa is serving his church on a mission, Joy has just started her first semester of college at UTM Martin. And that most adorable Mary Kate? She is rocking the 8th grade and the piano.

On a beautiful day like today I find myself wishing I could take a ride with you in your truck in the country. Every time I smell freshly mowed grass I think of you and how therapeutic it was for you to mow the lawn. I picture you happy, free and surrounded by your beloved family and pets who have gone before you.

As you always used to say.....

Love always and forever,


Dear Graeme//Month 11

Dear Graeme:

Happy 11 months my sweet boy!

Out of all the books we've read about parenthood, YOU have been our best teacher Graeme, Yes, YOU! You have taught us what really matters about being parents (to us.) Being present (putting the phone down) and seeing the magic in your eyes at new discoveries. Last month you had your first swing ride. There was so much joy to experience - so many laughs and squeals. I took enough photos to fill an entire Shutterfly book.

You know something else I really love about you right now? You smell like strawberries and Cheerios everyday. Besides the top of your head it is one of the best smells ever. I want to bottle it up to have forever.

You and I are in a great groove right now. We eat breakfast together, I love that I am making oatmeal for 3 these days. Food is fun part of our day, you are quite the enthusiastic eater. When you 've had enough you do the windshield wiper thing and Maisy is always waiting patiently to benefit. Sweet potatoes, strawberries, raspberries and meatballs of all kinds are current favorites. You are napping really well twice a day and I think (knock on wood) that you are starting to enjoy child watch at the gym. Those gals truly adore you.

Sitting still is just not an option for you right now unless you are sleeping of course. One of your favorite games is chase. You crawl super fast and then sit up to make sure I am coming after you and then you squeal and take off again. You love the thrill of the chase. You are also obsessed with turning on the tub faucet (cold) and trying to run your hands through the water. You definitely keep your mama on her toes.

Daddy is your number one person these days. As soon as he comes home you squeal, bounce and wave your arms wildly about. Just as it should be (I sigh a little bit as I type this sentence.)

G, I worry sometimes that I am not teaching you enough about the world. But what I DO know is that you are a happy, healthy and adventurous little boy. However, I must confess that I had to Google how to Patty Cake.

Love Forever,


Have You Ever?

Have you even been in that place where you REALLY want to take a leap with an idea, but you've done EXTENSIVE research and based on that you still feel unsure about going for it?  What to do....what to DO?! I feel like there is a funky area between all of the gathering of information (number crunching) and being willing to take a risk.

I have been in that place as of late. I have approached this in a completely different way than I usually do, which is to totally fly by the seat of my pants. There has been pausing, percolating and waiting followed by little bursts of action. And then repeat. After a while of having no ideas and lacking inspiration, it is delightful to run with an idea and explore all of the possibilities. I have felt a new energy that I didn't know could exist with caring for my little one.

But I also believe that if it isn't the right time act on one idea, there will be more where that came from. Maybe not instantly, but ideas and dreams can absolutely be the spark of the next right thing. It can be so hard to let go though, to wait and make room to be inspired for the next dream.

At this time I stay at home full-time with our son Graeme (who is almost 11 months), which is SUCH a privilege and honor for me. I honestly never thought this would have been possible. When I was 7 months pregnant, the advertising agency I worked for closed it's doors, and we made the decision to just see how things played out after having Graeme. It has been wonderful, sweet, scary, isolating and beautiful as a whole. I am so grateful to be given this time.

However, I do find myself seeking something that can fit into my life that fuels my creative spirit, provides something for my family and allows for flexibility as I want to continue to be at home with my sweet boy most of the time. Sometimes I think I am asking for too much, but my wiser self assures me otherwise. I want to shake things up a little bit.

More to be revealed here for me!


Eating well inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow

My dear friend Kari Maxwell over at Create Everyday writes these wonderful book reports. I absolutely love reading the some of the "golden nuggets" from the books as well as her wise insights and perspectives. I particularly liked this "report."

Lately I have been feeling that my creativity is shifting into the kitchen, which has been great fun and I am grateful to be able to express myself somewhere, if not in the studio. It is a delightful time for us as Graeme is starting to eat a lot of the same foods we eat. It is so much fun to watch him try new things and see his reactions. I have always enjoyed creating good food at our house that is artful, yet delicious. A few years ago I perused My Father's Daughter, by Gwyneth Paltrow and I loved the relationship between meals, cooking and her children that were genuinely inspired by her relationship with her father. I recently picked it back up again and am happy to have this in my library. I rarely purchase cookbooks, but once in a while I treat myself.

Some of my favorite words:

"And he instilled in me the idea that a meal made for your family is an expression of love, a source of pleasure — not only in the visceral enjoyment of the food, but also in the magic that is created when you imbue food with energy and nurturing."

 I believe this to the core. Just like any artist can try to (re)create an existing piece of art, it almost always seems to really come their original piece because of their own energy and nurturing. There is a pasta dish that I make that is an absolute favorite EVERY time, and it tastes a little different EVERY time even though the ingredients are the same.

I regularly think of some parenting advice my father gave on occasion. His theory was that children positively respond to being trusted with something that they don't expect you to trust them with. And when they are trusted and complete something successfully, not only is their self-esteem buoyed but so is the connection between parent and child.

I really want to keep this in mind as Graeme gets older. I suspect my nature will be to act over cautious in the kitchen but I want to allow for him to explore his curiosities  if he is interested. And this definitely applies outside of the kitchen!

There are some great recipes. I prefer to keep things very simple and there are some ingredients in this book that seem out of the ordinary to me, but she is great about offering alternative ingredients.

I hope to try more recipes soon, but I love her recipe for Slow Roasted Tomatoes, Kale Chips, and the French Fries, yum!

One thing I keep wondering: Do people REALLY make their own chicken or vegetable stock? I never have and keep thinking I am missing out on something big.


Thankful Thursday and Happy 4th!

Mumford and Sons (current chalkboard message)

My amazing, brave, warrior  friend Gail writes these gratitude filled posts called Thankful Thursdays. I am always inspired by how big her heart is and it's completely filled with gratitude.

Last night I took a walk on our block with our pup Maisy at around 9. I can't remember the last time I took a walk at that magical evening time, there was still some light, the fireflies were were glowing and the smell of a campfire along with lots of chatter from a little boys camp out.

I felt such a deep gratitude for my neighborhood last night. We have lived here just over three years, but I feel like I am just getting to know some of our neighbors – and it's so much fun. The children are delightful, there are always kids running through our yard playing cops and robbers, etc.

We have had 4 families move in over the last year, it is fun to have their energy and I have also been chatting with our senior resident Mr. Green, who has lived on this street for MANY years. There is such a great balance of life happening here. My heart is FULL.


Mama Brain?

Last week I found myself all in a tizzy because I couldn't find my iPhone anywhere. I had taken Graeme to swimming lessons and I thought I had simply left it in the car. Still no phone! So I went home and when I couldn't find it there I used the app that will locate it for you. The little green dot was right at my address, I was SO relieved. But WHERE?

To figure out if it was just wedged somewhere inside my car I drove my car up the block to see if the green dot would move and sure enough it did. My friend Gail pulled up as I was frantically searching and she helped by dialing my number. After 6 calls and much confusion of hearing the vibrating and it just not being there, Gail found it...on the roof (buries head!) Since then I have counted my lucky stars many times that it somehow didn't fall off in my travels. Serious miracle. I immediately told Gail, I have the worst case of mama brain! I have been pondering a lot about that term, is it a label? Insensitive or condescending? Is it ok as long as label myself?

I have had other moments too, where I keep washing my face with the foot scrub (ouch), show up to the dentist without brushing my teeth, and frequently I saunter in to the mens family locker room at the Y.

Do I have Mama Brain? I remember when I was pregnant, any goof I made was excused because of pregnancy brain. Who knows...maybe I do, maybe I am just trying to make it out there as my best self - laughing along the way. Here is what I do know, I am 8 months in to this mamahood journey and I am so thankful for grace, humor and gentleness. This is the most rewarding job I have every experienced, but also the hardest. I am so much stronger than I thought I was. And my husband, just when I think I know the depth of his patience and love - it expands again and again.


Tales from Mamahood

Graeme and his Auntie Dawn

This past week we experienced our first big fever and cold situation with Graeme, the timing was a bummer as Shawn's sister came into town to visit at the onset of it all. The good news is that she's a pediatric nurse and it was such a comfort to have her here. Not only did she act as nurse/auntie, but she just whizzed around our house helping out with everything and anything possible. I think I may have underestimated the value of help and support.

Lucky for me, my husband is a super star at showing up for us – but in the meantime I may have been holding onto the idea that we have to be strong or have it "going on" (what does that even mean) in the parenthood department. It sure SEEMED to me like everyone else does! I sometimes get it in my head that all the other mamas know the "rules" about everything and I am the only one totally winging it. I tell myself, you should have read more baby books while you were pregnant! The only book I read in it's entirety was Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions. I paged through What to Expect When You Are Expecting, but days before giving birth, I was (re)reading May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude. I think I may have broken a rule or two there, May is absolutely worth it and so am I.

Graeme had his first swimming lesson a few weeks ago. I felt concerned about getting him bathed right away afterwards because of the chlorine, that there must be a "process" that I didn't know about. I texted a friend who has a 1 year old and she was so casual about it (I was SO relieved!). She said something like, "We usually just give her a bath at the end of the day and that's fine with us. We are all winging it, just like you."

I have many mama heroes that I am SO grateful for - their wisdom, courage in being vulnerable and sense of humor have helped me so much in my journey as a new mama. One of those women is the amazing Andrea Scher over at Superhero Life. She keeps it real, she empowers others to follow the fun, and she recently wrote this beautiful article for Postpartum Progress on Needing More Help Than You Think Deserve. Really, really good.