Monday, June 16, 2014

Our Summer Trip

  In keeping with my goals to continue living life to the fullest and seeing my loved ones as much as possible, we still took our annual summer trip to the East Coast. My family has been doing our famous family reunions (seriously, we were in the paper!) for 26 years! Yes, for 26 summers now, all 20+ of us have all traveled to a summer spot, usually on the East Coast, where we are from. We spend a long weekend catching up, celebrating birthdays and other accomplishments, having a few beers, and dipping our toes in the Atlantic. I was nervous to take my 2 girls on my own, seeing as they're only 1 and 2 years old and I've never traveled with them alone. I seriously considered not going. But that isn't me. I have never missed a summer trip. And I would love to tell you about what a supermom I am and that it was a breeze. But I'm going to keep it real with you... There were tears. Mine and theirs. It was hard. It was a lot of hard, but we managed to find happy moments. 

Lila was great on the plane! She was so excited! 
Wonderful travel buddy.

Harper didn't share Lila's enthusiasm for air travel. At all. She screamed and thrashed for the last hour of the flight. I was THAT mom. I ask you to please not hate mothers with crying children on airplanes. I PROMISE they hate it more than you do. 

Luckily, my brother, his wife and baby traveled on the same plane with us, so I could at least get through the airport ok.  My brother carried the heavy stuff.

Once on the island, Lila wanted to go to the beach ASAP! She absolutely loved it. She is definitely my daughter. I have always loved the South Carolina beaches, where I was born. My favorite part of any of my trips is when I hop off the golf cart, make the sandy trek down the pier and I catch that first glimpse of the water peeking over the horizon. The soft sand under my feet, the salty water smell, the chirps of seagulls and the waves crashing into each other do so much for me. A sensory treat to rejuvenate my soul. A little peace after a long trip. There isn't much I enjoy more than sitting at the beach, watching waves kiss the shore and then roll back out to sea. 
It reminds me of how small we all are.

This is the same beach we scattered my mom's ashes into 2 years ago. 

However, Harper didn't share mine and Lila's enthusiasm for the beach either... 

But she was cute anyway! 

They meet again.

This kid can run with a ball! I sense I have an athlete on my hands. She chased it all the way down the beach, so far that she became a tiny yellow speckle. I had a small heart attack. Then she jumped on it and ran back. Her feet didn't even touch the sand! 

Lila walked my uncle's dog. She usually is afraid of dogs (except our own). So that's new! The storm kicked us off the beach after this picture. We had been there only 20 minutes after an hour of getting sunscreened, suited, packed and making the trek on the golf cart.

Lila fed some deer! Did you know deer like pretzels?

Then she burned her finger on the grill. I was so mad at myself. I had kept her away from it for hours. Then just as we were heading to the beach for an evening walk, she touched it. Luckily it didn't keep her down long. Harper took over the crying for Lila.

During our stay, I had to share a room and bed with them. That wasn't fun. Never again. No lie. But mornings were still adorable. 

We spent a night at my grandpa's house. My whole life, I have always loved staring out their kitchen window at the moss hanging off of the huge trees. Something special about being at "Grandpa's house."

I sat in that same hammock on the back porch when I was Lila's age! I want to have a screened in back porch one day. 

Harper was not in love with a lot of our activities (airplane, car rides, strange condos, humidity, beaches, barbecues, lots of new family in her face, etc), including the pool at my aunt's house. Sigh. So she took a nap. 

Our flight home was delayed. Of course. My sister-in-law and brother helped me entertain the girls. About now is when I could feel the stress of a non-stop crying baby for the last 5 days and 4 nights wearing me down. I started to enter an emotional state, combined with flight anxiety I have anyway, and the dread I was harboring about the trip home being as bad as the trip out, it was surely a recipe for the disaster that ensued once we stepped on the tiny plane home. 

Long story, but I'll make it as concise as possible. It was hot, the plane was late, the plane is tiny, irritated people were lined up behind me wanting to get to their destination, I could hear them fretting about missing their connecting flights. I wanted to take Harper's car seat on the plane and use an extra seat if one was open, in hopes that the flight would be more pleasant for everybody if she were locked down and tricked into thinking it was a car ride. I was dreading the flight home with her in my arms so much that I actually asked what the cost of another ticket would be for her. The agent at the gate said I could since the flight wasn't full. I stepped on the plane, already sweating from lugging all my things down a hot hallway and into the sun. The flight attendant was clearly not in a good mood, possibly from whatever happened on her last flight, which landed late and ended with firemen and paramedics coming onto the plane when it landed (I was watching with anxiety from the big airport window).
She immediately and curtly demanded I show her the FAA approval on the car seat. I had never heard of this but tried to look for one, knowing my car seat must have this. She bruskly told me to get in the tiny galley on the tiny plane, but I couldn't fit myself, my 2 kids, my 2 huge diaper bags, and car seat there. She continued to yell at me to move so other people could board the plane. Harper started to scream as I was turning her car seat every which way looking for a stamp of FAA approval. I asked her where it would be and she told me that was my job to tell her. She was yelling at the gate agent behind me about not losing her job for letting a possibly unapproved car seat on the plane. People in their seats on the plane had started to stare at her and at me. I could tell they were sympathetic to me and not her, as they all had their "what the hell is her problem" faces on, but it didn't make me feel better. Some men in front offered to help me with my things and it triggered that all-too-familiar lump in my throat. My face got warm and I'm sure I was turning red. With all that was going on, I couldn't stop it. The flood gates opened and I started to cry. In front of all these people.
Then I was pissed she had made me cry. I don't cry a lot. Even with all I have been through. I then yelled back at the flight attendant, no longer caring if they let me fly or not. I yelled that my husband had just died and I was still trying to figure things out. I yelled that I would NEVER travel on a plane again. She stared at me with a little bit of shock. At this time, the gentleman found the FAA approval on the seat and she allowed me to go on. I walked to my seat after everyone else had boarded, tears in my eyes, all-out bawling. On my way back, people were touching me and telling me it was ok and that I was going to be fine and some whispered "God bless you" and other things like that. THAT was embarrassing.
Once we got to crusing altitude and everyone calmed down, the flight attendant apologized to me and bought me a vodka. Forgiven.
I have never been so happy to see the Dallas skyline. Not that I don't think about relocating back to the sea sometimes, but I love Texas. My home.
And in case you're wondering, I was right. Harper was much happier the trip home.

All in all, it was hard to have 2 young children out of their routines and out of their element, doing it mostly myself. I missed out on some things I wanted to do and usually do with family. I didn't get to see sunrise on the beach this year and I didn't have as many adult beverages as I would like (and needed!). I went to bed earlier (and also got out of bed earlier!) than I would like because we shared a room. I did a lot of soothing and shushing. I had to make sacrifices to have the girls happy and comfortable. Eh, that's what moms do. I had my hands more than full. But I am glad I went and made some good memories. Next year, I am taking help with me!

Love and Adventure to all,

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Pursuit of Happy

  Someone recently told me that happiness is a privilege. I couldn't disagree more. Speaking for the mentally healthy individual, happiness is earned. It's a choice. Sometimes you have to invest in it and sometimes you have to sacrifice something for it. Like all good things in life, you get out what you put in. It doesn't work if you don't. 

  Today is our youngest daughter's 1st birthday. 

    (Photo by

I wish Jason was here to cheer with me at those wobbly first steps that she took yesterday. I wish he could see her rapidly changing into a toddler. I wish he could hear her say "bye bye" and laugh as she waves with her sticky little fingers. But he isn't. I gave myself an hour today to be sad about it and then I chose to celebrate what I have. And for the rest of today, I'm celebrating her and our LIFE. 

  All of this sounds like just phony "inspirational" talk, even to me. But it really isn't. I really am walking the walk. I have had to retrace my mental and emotional steps to figure out what got me to this mindset. And here is what I came up with, to the best of my ability to explain it. 

The first few weeks after Jason died, I just got out of bed because of my girls. I had to keep moving because they needed me. To feed them, to dress them, to make sure I could keep the roof over our heads, and dare I say to play with them and make things as close to normal as I possibly could. God prepared me for this. He gave me those reasons. I owe step 1 to God. I didn't do that.
Then somewhere in the midst of going through those motions, I realized that I had to keep this up for the girls. I had two babies who still have a whole life ahead of them! I cannot let them down. I cannot let them "die" with Jason. I mean, I couldn't allow death to rob them of even more of what they deserve. 
Then somewhere in the midst of reconfiguring things for the girls' sake, I started to realize I deserve that, too. I didn't die. I survived. Again. 
Something about life being taken from my family made me want to take as much back from life as I could. I started to see all the helpers around me. I saw how blessed I was. Things started to look brighter. I think they call that "hope". I thought of all of the people in the world who would gladly take my spot, even with all my circumstances, and do more with it than I had been doing. I started thinking of all the ways I could make my life better. All within myself and my own attitude. I woke up wanting to do more than "survive". I wanted to thrive. 

I'm still working on thriving. I look for the positive and try to push negative and ungrateful thoughts from my head. I see people I care about. I take people up on more offers. I laugh. I talk about Jason openly. When I see my friends who still have their moms and their husbands, I may get jealous for a moment. But then I remember that I have a gift, disguised as a curse, that they may never have, or may not have for a very long time. A different perspective. Even though I have lost 2 of the most important people in my life within just 2 years, I have learned some things about life. It wants to be lived. There is nothing broken about me. I can live as fully, love as deeply, and laugh as hard as the best of them. As long as it's what I want to do. 

  You will never see a Facebook status update from me whining about my circumstance. After all, everything is so much better when you worked for it.
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." -Helen Keller

    (Photo by