Tis the season!

Wrapping up one year and looking forward to the next. What an interesting process. I remember many years where I couldn’t wait for the fresh start that a new year would bring. Funny how optimistic I always am at this time of year considering I live in Wisconsin and the new year just means 4 more months of cold weather. 

This year however I am just truly thankful and blessed to have experienced all the days in this year so far. I’ve experienced so much growth in so many areas. 

This year marked 5 years of togetherness with my husband and 2 years of marriage. It has seriously flown by.  I’m so thankful for us and hope we continue to share many more trips around the sun together. 

I attended a life and business coaching group for 9 months out of the year that totally changed my perspective on many areas of my life. It’s helped me declutter, repriorotize, rediscover and challenge my thoughts and beliefs. 

I enjoyed my 2nd full year of consulting on my own. It’s been such a rewarding experience and opportunity to work on different projects with different people. Definitely a different kind of education. I’ve really started to appreciate and acknowledge what I can add to a team and project. Being my own cheerleader has been such a blessing. 

My step-son turned 14 and watching him grow and discover himself is something I’m thankful to be a part of every day. He’s such a blessing and gives me perspective and many learning experiences. 

We spent the year focusing on our finances and now find ourselves debt free (except for our home). This is such a freeing accomplishment and it takes so much pressure of our career choices and really allows us to enjoy our 9-5’s more since we don’t feel trapped by them. 

I was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease in August. An inner ear disorder that causes ear ringing, vertigo and nausea. By cutting out caffeine and sodium I’ve managed to control the symptoms (and my anxiety around the sparadic nature of the episodes). So, yay. 

I traveled to Napa (CA), Orlando (FL), Mexico, Lake Placid (NY), Door County (WI), Rockville (MD) and of course Cleveland and Cincinnati for work. I enjoyed every trip and was lucky enough to spend time with great people and make wonderful memories at each location. Not to mention some good food too. 

We took down a wall (thanks HGTV for the words “open concept”, repainted most of the main level, filled a dumpster of crap to declutter the house, and put in new vinyl wood planks instead of the old carpet. 

I started and cancelled a wine club. I started and cancelled a fitness subscription. I gave up giving up Nutella. 

And so many other wonderful things… with wonderful people. 

With only two weeks left in this year, I have nothing but gratitude and love for 2016 and can only imagine what 2017 will bring… and I look forward to finding out. 

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A little levity for your Wednesday

Yesterday I went to the local chiropractor.  I was inspired to do this because a dear friend (and chiropractor) at a recent Cancun retreat was kind enough to adjust my neck several times while on vacation.  If you’ve never seen a neck being adjusted – imagine any zombie movie you know when the hero/heroin grabs the zombie by the face and snaps their neck.  Then insert yourself as the zombie and the chiropractor as the hero… but in a happy turn of events you survive the neck adjustment… and feel amazing on top of it.

Anyways, I wanted to continue getting adjusted (physically) and decided to seek out the local chiro in my area.  She adjusted my neck in a different manner, using a syringe looking thing with a pencil eraser on the end of it that just made this cute little popping sound.  This… is less impressive than the neck snap maneuver so I was totally not sure it would do anything.  While she was at it she adjusted my lower back mentioning that it was a little out and that it could be having an impact on my digestion… again using the magic popping pencil eraser.

Fast forward to a few hours later in the evening, my neck was SO tender and sore and my stomach was very upset.  I can’t say for sure that it was totally due to the magic pencil eraser tool or not, but regardless it was very uncomfortable.  So after taking Tylenol… and ibuprofen… I went to bed hoping that sleep would take away my aches.  I also might have farted when I got into bed.  When my husband got into bed I smelled what I am SURE was the aroma of a dead animal.  I proceeded to scold him for the next 10 minutes about not “cutting it off” before he got into bed.  He kept swearing it wasn’t his fart, but mine.  Which was NOT possible.  That kind of smell does not come out of my body.

Fast forward again to a bit later when I am in the kitchen getting some more water and tums for my belly… and I fart again… and then it occurs to me (aka hits me in the olfactory) that it WAS in fact the smell of death coming out of my very own body.  I was mortified and equally in awe that my body could make anything that smelled like that.  I did finally tell my husband that it was in fact my butt that was the offender, not his… and he graciously accepted my apology for so adamantly accusing him of the crime.  Then I told him it wasn’t my fault at all, but definitely the adjustment from the chiropractor.  It must have stirred something up.  Again, I can’t prove that for a fact, but it makes me more comfortable than any other explanation of how my body produced something so offensive.

Today all my systems seem to be functioning as expected so I’m assuming that the worst has passed.  I do have another appointment on Friday and I’m equal parts interested and terrified about what will come out of that visit.  Literally.

So, in between all the enlightenment and growth that I try to let in to each of my days… sometimes normal old flatulence gets in there too… and makes for a good story.

Moral of the story: Careful what all your physical and emotional adjustments stir up… you might be surprised!!

Post Holiday Wish List

New cordless keyboard.  – Now that I’ve been working from home more, I’ve really started to value a nice keyboard.  One that is quiet.  The keyboard I have now makes me feel like a monkey that is just slapping away at the keys.  Even when I try to be quiet.  My husband and stepson picked me up a new cordless mouse for Christmas.  It puts my old keyboard to shame!

North Face Agave Shirt.  – I saw this shirt/sweater a couple months ago, and it has not left my radar. That is the sign of something that should eventually find its way into my closet.  I’m promising it to myself in January when I get paid.

Hoping Zumba puts out some new DVD’s soon.  They have some new stepper DVD’s, but I’d be a happy camper with a whole new Zumba suite of DVD’s.  Maybe Zumbalicious 2015 or something!  Fingers crossed.

Pinterest.  All of it.  It is basically the devil and gives me more outfits to drool over, visions of kitchens and bathrooms dancing in my head, and the misguided notion that I can cook some of those things on there!

I haven’t decided if I’ll actually have any resolutions in 2015.  I find that I am constantly evaluating where I am in this journey and making adjustments on the fly.  Resolutions are made with the assumption that life won’t throw you a couple curve balls over the next 12 months that won’t make your original resolutions seem more like bad prequels to the real life events unfolding.

However, I’m not against making an effort to try and figure out what is important to me right now.  As a married woman (6 months and 2 days in) for the first time in my life my long term plans aren’t exclusive to me.  They include a man, a boy, 2 huskies, and a small village of fish.

Our future is bright (yup, sometimes we even have to wear shades)!

Life is not sucky.

Bridal party run-down

Maid of Honor: Alexandra Kremer {bride’s younger sister}

Best Man: Matt Feldman {friend of the groom}

Ladies:

Alexandra Kremer {Bride’s Sister}

My sister and I :)

My sister and I :)

Kelly Noel {Bride’s friend, they met playing soccer about 10 years ago}

Kelly and I right after I asked her to be my bridesmaid at Olive Garden.

Kelly and I right after I asked her to be my bridesmaid at Olive Garden.

Terrisa Mulder {Bride’s friend, they met at Cardinal Stritch University about 8 years ago}

Terrisa and I at my 32nd birthday party

Terrisa and I at my 32nd birthday party

Laura Reissman {Bride’s friend, they met at their current place of employment 2 years ago}

Laura and I at an impromptu brewer game date night courtesy of Dad's extra tickets (summer 2012).

Laura and I at an impromptu brewer game date night courtesy of Dad’s extra tickets (summer 2012).

Amy Fite-Widstrand {Bride’s friend, they also met at their current place of employment 2 years ago}

Amy and I at one of our themed dinner nights at her house.

Amy and I at one of our themed dinner nights at her house.

Sarah Schmidt {Couple’s friend, a close friend of the Groom’s for quite some time and a friend of the bride’s now also}

Sarah and I at my 32nd birthday party in the Dells.

Sarah and I at my 32nd birthday party in the Dells.

Groomsmen:

Jason Wright {Groom’s friend}

Jason and Jason at our Engagement Party at Hookers Resort.

Jason and Jason at our Engagement Party at Hookers Resort.

Troy Hornback {Groom’s friend}

Troy (furry head) and bridesmaid Sarah.

Troy (furry head) and bridesmaid Sarah.

Matt Feldman {Groom’s friend}

Matt and Jason planting a tree for a friend that passed away.

Matt and Jason planting a tree for a friend that passed away.

Eric (Ed) Kernan {Groom’s friend}

Jason, Ed and Jason - throw back photo due to lack of a more recent one.

Jason, Ed and Jason – throw back photo due to lack of a more recent one.

Jimmy Kilen {Groom’s friend}

Jimmy, Matt and Jason at the tree planting

Jimmy, Matt and Jason at the tree planting

Ushers:

Andy Widstrand {Groom & Bride’s friend}

Jason and Andy (and can thank me later for NOT making this a picture of him and the bear...)

Jason and Andy (and can thank me later for NOT making this a picture of him and the bear…)

Mike Zitski {Groom’s friend}

Mike, Andy and Jason at my 32nd birthday party in the Dells

Mike, Andy and Jason at my 32nd birthday party in the Dells

1-9-12 = E-Day

I’m engaged.

I got engaged about 6:20ish on Wednesday, January 9th.  At Biaggi’s off Old Sauk Road in Madison, WI.  Settle in… here’s the story… 

Just another Wednesday:

It was a normal Wednesday.  I had to work and then had a doctor’s appointment right afterwards.  Normally Jason and I have a dinner/date night on Thursday night.  On this week however, Jason was getting his wisdom teeth removed on Thursday and I had the thought that we would be able to do our normal dinner.  This was key because when Jason suggested we go out for dinner Wednesday night, it was right along with what I was thinking so I didn’t think it was odd at all.

He suggested that we meet after my doctor’s appointment and change it up by going to dinner in Madison somewhere.  That sounded fine to me. I was starting a cold and was a little indifferent and tired.  As long as he was there and food was served, I was going to be happy.

Once my appointment was over and we made meeting arrangement (Kwik trip on Highway 19 by the interstate)… very clandestine. I sat in the car and patiently waited.  I listened to the radio and watched cars come and go.  Normally a very impatient person, I was completely content to sit and wait for Jason.  He mentioned he was just getting on the interstate so I assumed he had just come from home.

Once he met me there we decided to leave my car and ride together.  When I hopped in his car, I noticed he was clean-shaved, had a button down shirt on and smelled pretty darn good.  I was teasing him and thinking how nice he looked.  Jason likes to look nice when we go out to dinner, especially somewhere new… so I wasn’t at all suspicious or excited at this point.  Just tired and happy.  We rode most of the way to dinner in either silence, or me rambling on about work and my day, etc.  He was pretty calm (looking back and knowing what I know now).

I asked where we were going and he said, “The west side”.  This was surprising since we didn’t eat on the West Side of Madison very often.  So I asked if he had a plan… he replied, “Of course I have a plan!”.  A little stronger response than I was expecting so I just laughed and went along with it.  It was clear he was trying to be clever and surprise me so I didn’t ask any questions and just enjoyed the ride.  He ends up taking the Old Sauk exit which leads to a couple different restaurants and finally pulls into Portofino Place.

Location/setting the stage:

We show up at the restaurant and have to park way in the back.  Jason seems a little flummoxed and declares that he should have dropped me off and then parked.  I told him that was nonsense because I liked to walk.  We walked hand in hand past panera bread, which he pretended was where we were going for a minute (it wasn’t very convincing because he doesn’t really like to eat there anyways).  Then we continued to make our way around to Biaggi’s front entrance. 

He swung the door open for me and the hostess looked very happy to see us.  She asked if we had reservations, I just shrugged and looked at Jason.  The restaurant looked half empty so it didn’t occur to me that we would have one (or that Jason even would have thought to make one since I didn’t even know he knew this restaurant existed!).  Jason declared that we did and she found him on a list and promptly crossed him off.

We went around the hostess area and started off through the maze of tables in the dining area. Most of the inner tables were empty, however most of the booths were taken.  There was one lone booth in the far corner that was empty, except a giant vase of pretty flowers.  I had a suspicion that might be our table but quickly swatted it away… UNTIL that is exactly where the hostess took us!  Now, everyone has asked if THAT was the moment I knew something was going to happen. 

Not. At. All. 

Jason has been known, on several occasions, to really shine with romantic flair, unknown to many closest to him… he really has a romantic zeal about him when he puts his mind to it.  The thought that he might have called ahead and confirmed or arranged some kind of sweet-heart dinner deal was not that far-fetched and that is what I decided must have happened.

image

Our waiter came up to our table and asked what the occasion was.  Jason replied that it was just a nice dinner out for both of us.  I thought that was very sweet and the waiter promptly went off and fetched a candle to amp-up our lovely dinner atmosphere. After twisting our arms (not) to up our drink from glasses of wine to a bottle, and watching us eat our bread like rabid wildebeests, he suggested some food options for us.  Here is a summation of those details…

Food/Drink:

We enjoyed a bottle of this wine (Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera 2010) because it came highly recommended by the waiter due to our love of Pinot Noirs and also because it was made in Italy… similar to Jason… And is was amazing!

My main course: BUTTERNUT SQUASH RAVIOLI
Roasted butternut squash-filled ravioli tossed in
a sage-brown-butter sauce with toasted walnuts,
diced butternut squash and Parmesan cheese.

Jason’s main course: CHICKEN PARMESAN
Breast of chicken delicately breaded, lightly fried and baked
with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Served with
spaghetti tossed in our light tomato cream sauce.

“On the House” dessert we shared: TORTA CIOCCOLATA
A chocolate lover’s dream – dense chocolate
cake with a rich chocolate-walnut icing.
Served warm with vanilla ice cream.

“The” Moment:

It was after we had ordered our main courses and while licking our fingers clean of our first bread basket that Jason started to get exceedingly twitchy.  He was looking around the restaurant so much I started to become curious that maybe we were meeting someone there and that was the surprise. I asked why he kept looking like he was looking for someone?  AND… why was he being so twitchy!  He assured me he was just hungry.  I do weird things when I get hungry, so this was a plausible explanation.

Suddenly he turns to me, hold my knee and says, “I hope this is a surprise!”…

Awkward Pause…

Me: “What is a surprise?” — smiling at my odd boyfriend.

Jason: “Will you marry me?”

Me: “Yes!” — still thinking… “haven’t we been over this before, of course I’ll marry you someday”.

THEN… DUN DUN DUN {that’s my dramatic music notes)

He pulls out the most amazing and gorgeous ring… ever.  And tries to hand it to me… NOW I’m excited!  I demand that he place the ring on my finger, because that is definitely how it is supposed to be done.  Then I proceed to giggle, hysterically.  We kissed, a lot.  More giggling happened.  Repeat, repeat.

He told me he wanted to say so much more, but it just didn’t work out (how cute).  I said that was fine, he could tell me another time.  Then he admitted the reason he had been so distracted was because he wanted to get down on one knee but just couldn’t figure out the logistics with the way the booth was set up and all the waiters milling about.  It was okay with me.  I think it ended up perfect and perfectly us!

The waiter comes up to check on our wine/bread situation and I very demurely shout at him, “I JUST GOT ENGAGED!!!!!”… Accompanied with dramatic gestures to my ring and a huge smile.  Yup, my waiter was the first person I told. 

I immediately turned to Jason and said, “Don’t tell my Mom that I told a waiter before her!”.

The waiter was so excited for us! He had a waiter-in-training as his side kick that evening and he was also so very excited for us!  They even gave us free dessert!  They took our picture for us, which is wild because they had to offer… normally I’m quick with the camera and not shy to ask for photo-assistance… I was not firing on all photo-cylinders… obviously!

image

Spreading the word & revelations:

I called my Mom, Dad and Sister immediately and filled them in.  After talking with my Dad is when Jason let me in on another secret.  He had called and asked my Dad for permission to marry his daughter!  THAT… made me so happy.  It was so special that he included my Dad and they had this special secret and moment that is just there’s.  How special is that?  It makes me love him that much more!

He also revealed at this time that he had come to the restaurant earlier and HAND DELIVERED the bouquet of flowers that he had picked out himself earlier that evening!  How’s that for planning and thoughtfulness?  I’m falling in love with the evening all over again just retelling it!  <3

I found out that he had hand-picked the center diamond of the solitaire and then picked the setting to go with it.  He told me all about the cut, color and quality of the diamond.  It all went right over my head since I had absolutely ZERO input to his searching, deciding or buying my ring.  He was adamant that it was his special secret and decision to make.  He did darn good! 

On our way home, between staring at my sparkly ring and calling each other “fiance” randomly, I also let a couple of friends know because I was so excited.  I did rush in and change my status after a few people mentioned the exciting news on Facebook.  Changing from “in a relationship” to “engaged” for all my friends and family to see (all over the continent) and be congratulated on the same day… was pretty special!

We took our little party down to the Thirsty Moose (bar on the lake by our house) where we basked in our little glory a while longer.  Finally tired, a little sickly and still full from dinner we crawled into bed and spent our first night together as an engaged couple.

The next morning:

I did have a moment of panic through the middle of the night where I realized I was agreeing to forever, that moment quickly passed followed by just a comforting sense of “agreeing to forever”.  Jason called Vince on his way to work (and Vince’s way to school) and told him the good news.  For a 10 year old who just found out his Dad was getting re-married… and sitting next to his Mom… he handled it really well.  He just said, “that’s cool” and told his Mom.  She wished us the best and that was the last really important chain of communication we needed to close.  It was nice to have everyone knowing and celebrating with us.

We have Vince this weekend so I can’t wait to see if he has extra questions or wedding input (he has turned out to be quite the little wedding planner when he gets ideas in his head).  The last time I asked him what he wanted to be “IF” (now WHEN!) his dad and I got married… he replied, “Security”.  That makes me smile every time I think of it.  I picture a t-shirt with a tux on the front and “event security” on the back. 

I have told most of my coworkers and still have moments of giddiness when I think about being engaged.  How exciting.  I’m looking forward to all the things that the next year or so have to bring and planning our big day.  I have no date in mind yet, no details ironed out.  I just now I’m getting married to the love of my life, my best friend and the kindest man I’ve ever known.  That’s enough.  More than enough.

Humorous side note:

On Tuesday (the night before) I had let my impatience get the best of me and had declared to Jason that I just KNEW that he wasn’t even trying to save, probably hadn’t even looked at rings, and wasn’t taking our possible future engagement seriously.  I was so upset and he kinda chuckled at me.  At that moment I envisioned ripping his arms off and beating him senseless. 

Now… I’m glad I didn’t.

Funny how things work out sometimes :)

A letter to parents…

More specifically, the parents who unfortunately did not stay together after bringing another life into this world.

Not only is divorce a sad reality of the world we live in today, but it also makes the already monumental task of parenting a child that much harder.

Do I have kids?  No. 

Do I devote numerous of hours a day to the academic, behavioral, emotional and social development of someone else’s child?  Yes. 

When I started dating my significant other, we talked about how impactful it would be on our relationship that they had a child from a previous relationship.  I decided I was up to the challenge.  Admittedly it has turned out to be far more emotionally, financially, physically and mentally draining than I had ever imagined it would be.  Conversely it has also been the most rewarding, worthwhile and impactful thing I have ever done.

One of the hardest things to wrap my head around and accept is that all the parenting and work on my end, does not a parent make.  I am considered at times the enemy by the original parent in my relationship.  I’m the replacement ref that was brought on the field to fill a role and although I am doing the best I can, there are a stadium of critics surrounding me.  Being in a “step” role (whether you’re married to the parent, in a long term relationship, etc) is not glamorous. They don’t say “ugly step parent wart” for nothing.  {Don’t worry, I’ve been examined by a dermatologist and I’m currently not sporting any step warts…}

All this I’m sure is not news to anyone.  What might be news however, is that in filling this role of parent/guardian, my goal is in fact to assist in the development of a child.  Not to undermine another parent.  It is also not my role to outshine, outdo, outsmart, outparent someone else. My role has nothing to do with someone else.  In fact, my end goal has more to do with myself than even with the child.  I want to look at myself in the mirror every single day and know that I have done the absolute best job I could do that day.  I made the right decisions, I did not cave to puppy dog eyes, I gave high fives, hugs and discipline when necessary.  I want to never feel like I gave less than am capable of giving. {Obviously I make mistakes somedays, like every other wart-toting authority figure does}

Why write this?  Because you, the parent need to know that.  Wouldn’t you rather know that when you aren’t around someone is there for your child in times of crisis, joy and learning? That someone is there to comfort, intervene or praise when necessary?  And wouldn’t you be so thankful that someone else did this because they WANTED to.  Not because they had to, were paid to, employed to or guilted into it.  Is there a better person to have around your child than someone who wakes up every day and aligns their day to give their best, so your child can benefit from that? 

So, I am challenging you to give the “other parent” in your life a little slack.  Know that even the knowledge that their lives would be easier, less complicated, less busy, less structured and their relationship far easier without your child in it, they wake up every morning choosing to “stay the course” and strive to be a constant positive addition to your child’s life.

I do not want to be you.  I do not want to replace you.  I don’t want to wear your skin or other creepy serial-killer-tendencies.  I want to have the best relationship I can have with my forever person, and that includes your child.  In order to have the best relationship I can, I am going to be the best “other parent” I can be.  Every day. For them, for us and for me.

Take comfort in that.  Be reassured by that.  Be thankful for that.

Even dysfunctional families are still families and nothing good ever comes of jealousy, envy, bitterness or spite.

I actually appreciate you, for creating the person I’m with today.  Without you (their history) there would be no us (our future).

Crazy, huh?

Be kinder to an “other parent” in your life today.  (hint: they might like chocolate)

Note: This is my plea, I cannot account for every other parent out there and know that there are cases that go against everything I have written.  I would like to think they are the exception and not the rule, but wanted to let you (the reader) know that I am not naive and disney-enough to believe this is the case for every family unit. But it is for mine.

Another Note: If a “other parent” tries to wear your skin, disregard all of the above and run fast.  Probably scream a lot too.

Keep on rollin…

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, okay maybe months too.  There’s been hockey, football, staining, painting, house-beautification, work, work and something called work.  We’ve been here, there and everywhere in between.  I honestly can’t remember a weekend where we relaxed and were bored.  I might have even forgot how to spell that word, “bored”.

We have spent a lot of time in cars lately… a lot. Although, this usually earns me a kwik trip pumpkin spice coffee… sooooooo… not the worst thing ever.

We’ve been to Milwaukee and back a lot in the last couple weeks.  Jason has been working on upgrading my dad’s kitchen, dining room, foyer, walkway, laundry room and den area from outdated 70’s flooring to beautiful new porcelain tiles.  It has brightened up the rooms so much and Dad is ecstatic about the progress. That makes me happy.

When this project was starting (and still occasionally) I had little mini freak outs.  See, this is my Dad. I know Dad.  He appreciates quality and honest work.  “Quick” weighs very little into his final appraisal of a project.  This was my forever person, working on my forever dad’s house.  If the stars continue to align correctly, they will both be in my life… for the rest of my life.  It was of crucial importance that this budding mutual relationship of testosterone, respect and understanding between Jason and Dad not fail because of 13 square inch porcelain tiles.

I can safely say with the project well under way that everything is going well and my freak outs were hardly necessary, although I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have them now and again.

On the subject of my forever person… his son has decided to take to the idea of us getting married.  He has started to ask me questions about our future.  Like this conversation:

Are we thinking about getting married?  (yes)

When? (well first your dad has to ask me {and i have to say yes}, then there is about a year engagement)…

What?  Why? (well you have to do a lot of planning for a wedding, like finding a place to get married)

We do have a backyard. (now why didn’t I think of that).

It’d be kind of cool if you got married on my birthday, in the backyard. (your birthday is in 2 weeks…)

As far as conversations go with a 9 year old about possibly becoming a member of his immediate family… indefinitely.  I’ll take this kind.  No tears, no anger, no resentment… just factual and conversational.

There were no tears or angry feelings at work today either.  Why?  Because I’m hosting a tasefully simple catalog party and that including bringing in delicious goodies to the office.  Beer bread, chocolate pound cake, warm dips, onion dip and a key lime cheese ball.  The onion dip and the beer bread were my savory favorites.  The chocolate pound cake (I subbed 1 serving of yoplait cherry light yogurt instead of the 1.5 sticks of butter it was asking for) was my sweet favorite.  So delicious!

Classy Chocolate Pound Cake Mix

Luckily, most of it was gone by the end of the day so I was able to bring home a manageable portion of snacks for the family unit after work. We heated up the warm dips again and decided that you just couldn’t recreate a good thing and we sent them to trash can heaven.  We did however eat most of the remaining onion dip and beer bread up.

After indulging in that little snacky time, I threw together my real dinner by following the finger food/snacky theme and having a plate of grapes, turkey slices, white cheddar and cranberry cheese and 2 mini oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  Pretty much the perfect combination of sweet and savory awesomeness.