The Unknown Bucket List Item

Sometimes an opportunity presents itself that you never knew was a bucket list item… not until you have an opportunity to do it, then realization hits…. THIS is a bucket list item.

In years past when the National Anthem was performed prior to kick-off of a football game, I would watch and wonder what it would be like to be one of those on the field holding up the HUGE American flag, the super flag. 

I NEVER thought an opportunity would present itself and I would ACTUALLY be one of those people, on the field before the game kicked off, holding up a football field sized flag while someone sang the National Anthem.

New Year’s Day 2019, my husband and I were among the over 200 volunteers to do just that at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. 

It was a few weeks earlier, that my husband had received an email offering him the chance to volunteer to hold the “super” flag at the Fiesta Bowl here in Arizona.  He told me about the email and asked what I thought, would I want to do it with him? 

He had to ask? 

Of course, I would do it with him. 

Luckily, he could bring guests.  So, he applied to hold the flag and added me as his guest.

A few weeks later, he got the email that we were chosen to hold the American Flag.  Yes!!  That was going to be cool!  The anticipation grew as the day got closer.

More emails followed giving us more details.  It would be an early morning on New Years Day with us needing to be at the stadium to practice by 8 am. 

Finally, January 1st arrived, and we were up very early and on the road by 6:40 am to make sure we would arrive in time for the practice.  It was a COLD morning for Arizona, with temps in the 30’s and we were layered up and had our gloves and hand-warmers. 

We arrived at the field along with the others there for the practice and of course, the many who would be tailgating before the game. 

I was so excited!  This was going to be great!  A bucket-list item that I didn’t know was a bucket-list item, until now. 

Once we all were gathered on the practice field, the instructions began. 

There is a lot more that goes into holding the American Flag on the football field than I ever imagined.  It wasn’t just show up, hold the flag and then you are done.  Nope!

The process and roles were explained.  We would practice on the practice field, then we would line up and walk together down into the “pit” and process through security.  Then we would line up again in the pit, remove the rolled up flag from the van and hold it until it was time to move inside.  Once inside we would be staged near the entrance to the field…still holding the rolled up flag.  Then we would walk out onto the field with the flag and would have a few minutes when we would be able to take pictures while carrying and holding the rolled up flag.  And then, finally, it would be “showtime” and we would then quickly leave the field and take the flag back outside to load it into the van.  A lot more than I thought went into it. 

Once directions were given we were then divided up into our roles…. Holders, Runners, Pullers, Side people.  My husband and I chose to be holders, at the top of the flag where we would hold the flag tight while the pullers would pull it open, covering the field.  That also meant we would be carrying and holding the rolled up flag for about 45 minutes.  No setting it down to rest our weary arms.  This super flag was HEAVY (around 2000 lbs!). 

When I heard how long we would be holding he flag, I had a fleeting moment where I thought, what if?  What if I CAN”T hold it?  What if I can’t carry my share of the load?  No way!  This sounds really difficult.  But that was only a fleeting thought!  I knew I would be able to do it!  If only because it was that unknown bucket list item, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.

I have always been a patriotic girl, from a very young age.  And the flag has always held a very emotional meaning for me.  So, this was an opportunity I would not let pass by.  I was going to do this no matter how difficult or how heavy!  What an honor to be on that football field, holding this American Flag, while listening to the Star-Spangled Banner being sung.  And to do it standing next to my husband was the icing on the cake.  I was getting pretty emotional standing there waiting to enter onto the field.

Then it was time! 

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We carried that flag out onto the field and stood holding it while the LSU Marching band finished their pre-game performance and left the field.  There were a couple more presentations and then a moment to honor our military.  And then it was time.  They introduced the National Anthem performer, Retired Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Wilson….

The first note sounded and off went the pullers.  I held tight to my end of the flag, raising it up to keep it from touching the field and holding it as the pullers stretched the flag across the field.  The runners ran in between us and under the flag, their job was to keep the flag from touching the ground. 

Fiesta Bowl 2019 Super Flag
Fiesta Bowl 2019 Super Flag

The emotions ran through me.  My pride swelled.  This was my country, my National Anthem and my flag.  Wow!  I cannot even describe all that I was feeling standing there, tightly holding this super flag.

This was AMAZING! 

And then it was over, and we quickly moved toward the middle of the flag, pulling and gathering this beautiful flag against us, until we met the pullers in the middle.  My arms ached.  We were almost done.  We carried the gathered and rolled up flag, quickly off the field and back outside to the pit, where we would load it into the van. 

And then we were done.

Opportunities come to us, expected and unexpected.  I could have said no.  It was New Year’s Day and I had lots of things that needed to be done.  It would be an early morning and we would have to drive a while to get there.  I could have said no, and let my husband go alone. 

But I said yes.  Sometimes things happen and we don’t realize just how much it will mean to us or that it is a bucket list item until that opportunity is presented. 

THIS was one of those events.  A bucket-list item I never knew was a bucket list item.

Sometimes we just have to take the leap…. Say yes and enjoy!  Oh, the riches those opportunities bring! 

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Tough love to me is……

(This is long. I apologize for that.  But I couldn’t write this without the length.  This is what I have learned about tough love and what has worked for me.  Each of us has to find what works for us and define what “tough love” means to us.)

I have been asked a lot of questions over the years about what I have done when it comes to my son and how I did it.  And I have been given a lot of advice about how to handle everything….from advice that we should send our son to a military school when he was very young to recent advice that we should have no contact with my son at all…you know “tough love”.

And I have learned a lot about myself over the past few years and about my family.  I have had to question the things I believed about mental health illnesses and addiction.  I have had to challenge my beliefs about family and tough love.  I have had to adjust my thoughts and have had to really look inside me to see what is behind my decisions and actions, what really drives them.  I have learned that tough love can come in many forms.  It is not black and white…..there is gray area there too.   And I have learned that what works for one person, may not work for another.  And that means finding what works for me and for my family, while making adjustments to actions, thoughts and beliefs along the way.  Tough love to me, still means loving my child, unconditionally.  It means letting love and compassion rule, instead of anger.

It has taken me a long time to get here to this place of understanding and compassion.  Am I perfect at it? NO.  I continue to learn.  I continue to challenge myself to see things differently, to understand differently and to be compassionate toward my son, my family, strangers and myself.

So, how did I get here to where I am today?

A lot of soul-searching!  A lot of research!  A lot of talking to my husband and to myself!  And a lot of listening!

I started to question my thoughts and beliefs surrounding tough love and began searching for answers within me when my husband and I attended a parent support group for addicts one night in the midst of our son’s active addiction.  Our son was missing and had been gone for some time and I was looking for support from those who “got it” and would not judge.

This meeting was filled with parents from all walks of life and led by a man who lost his son to an overdose.  They would understand.  We were all their because we had a child, an adult child for most of us, who was an addict.  And tough love was the topic discussed most that night. Each parent took a turn sharing a little of their story and where they were at the moment.   We listened to the others share and listened to the advice the experienced parents had for those new to the group.  Every single parent there that night said that tough love was the only way…. Even after their kids entered treatment.  They told us how they refused calls and letters from their sons in jail, telling the kids that they were on their own to deal with their consequences and would not accept any communication from them.  Not ANY! And many would not accept communication from them even when they were out of jail and through treatment, telling their kids that they would not talk to them until they were succeeding in their own life.  Then they told us that they would not help their sons or daughters who were in treatment.  When it came time for their kids to transition out of in-patient treatment, the parents told us that they would not let the kids come home, instead they had to figure out where to live on their own.  The parents encouraged each other in their tough love and encouraged the newer parents to cut off ties with their addict children and to set boundaries that the kids had to follow, with no middle ground.  I got it.  We were there, having asked our son to move out of our house and not giving him any help while he was actively using….. yes, I got it!

I heard their words and the emotions behind them.  And what I heard from these parents was anger.  Anger with their child for becoming an addict.  Anger that their kids did this to them.  And they told a new mom to stop accepting calls from her daughter who was living on the streets and using drugs.  They told her to stop letting her come home to shower and stop buying her meals now and again.  They said that doing those things would keep her daughter in active addiction… the mother cried.  I cried.

I GOT their anger.  I felt that way too.  I was so angry with my son… and heartbroken… and scared….. and maybe this version of tough love worked for them and for their families…. But I couldn’t help but worry that anger controlling my choices was not the way to help my son….. that there had to be a middle ground that included love and compassion.  I realized much of how I reacted to my son was out of anger and I was tired of reacting in anger.

Though glad we went to the meeting and grateful for my new awareness, I knew as we left that this was not the support group I was looking for.

I started to realize some things at this point—

—that tough love means still loving my son while not actively participating in his addiction.  It means helping when I can and doing everything I possibly can to help him to be sober without abandonment and it means walking away without anger when I need to.

–that tough love also means that I am not responsible for my son’s addiction or his sobriety, something very hard for me to face and accept….but I was getting there.  Tough love means letting him be responsible but supporting and helping when I am needed.

–And it meant letting go of the anger.  Separating the anger from our support and love was important in our ability to help our son.

I was asked many times from well meaning “friends” and “family” why we would accept calls from our son when he was arrested and why we would pick him up from jail or even bail him out of jail.  Well, to set the record straight, most of the time when he was arrested he was released on his own, no bail needed.  And the majority of his arrests, we were never called.  He found his own way.  Some of his arrests we did not know about until the charges were filed and he was notified of those charges… talk about a shock to this mother’s heart!

But the two times we did post bond, I would do it again if I had to go back in time.  The first bond we posted was the last time he was arrested and the time that turned it all around for him and got him into treatment.  What if we had left him in jail?  What if we had told him he was on his own and refused calls from him?  What if we let anger continue to build and let the anger rule our actions?  I am not sure we would be where we are today.  We bailed him out on condition he seek treatment and he knew that if he were to use heroin or meth again, he would not be living in our home.  We had already made him move out and he had been living in his car at the time of his arrest.  So, I knew we could be tough.  We loved him unconditionally but we would not participate in his active addiction any longer.

The second time we bailed him out was after he had self-surrendered on a probation violation and his meds were withheld from him.  It was a decision we did not make lightly and one we would do again because it was his life that was at risk.  And he was clean at the time.  Why wouldn’t we continue what had been working and get him back home to continue treatment?

So yes, we bailed him out twice.  And yes I accepted calls from him when he was arrested.  I had to do everything in my power to help him get his life in control…. Because the guilt if I didn’t and we lost him would have been too great to bear.

You see, my son had a friend who was with him for months, living in my son’s car and staying with my son on couches when and wherever they could.  They were together when my son had been arrested in Yavapai county.  His friend was the one who answered my sons phone and told me he had been arrested and then released in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.  (I wrote about that experience here.)  When we finally made it north to pick up our son at the hospital, he asked if we could give this friend of his, a ride back too.  During the 2-hour drive back home, we talked with this young man.  He was a son, a brother and a father.  He grew up in another state and ended up out here with his ex-wife and kids.  He told us about his kids and how he hadn’t seen them in a while.  He told us that his parents would not accept calls from him, only letters.  And because he was homeless, they could not write to him. He hadn’t spoken to them in a couple of years.  He had gotten out of jail not too long before this.  And having no place to go, he was back living on the streets and back to drugs.  My heart broke for him and for his family as he told us his story.  He was such a sweet young man.

And I say was because 3 months after giving him a ride back here, he was found in an alley, dead from an overdose.

My son at the time was clean and getting help for his addiction.  And they had not seen each other since we had given him the ride back and dropped him off.  They had spoken a few times on the phone with my son encouraging him to get into treatment.  This young man even sent me and my husband a thank you message through Facebook.  He thanked us for our kindness and for loving Josh and helping him.  And he thanked us for giving Josh the hope of a life without drugs, just by being there for him, a hope he didn’t have.  My heart broke for him.

This young man’s death sent my son reeling….and me too.  This could have been my son….. And his friends death led my son into a relapse that eventually had him living in his car and the final arrests that would finally get him some help.

I often think about this friend of my sons and how things might have been different if he had had someone he could have turned to, someone who could have given him the chance at a sober life.  I saw messages his family posted on his Facebook page and each message had me in tears…. They expressed their guilt over not communicating with him and their guilt for not being there, just one time for him.  And they shared the anger that kept them from talking to him or helping him.  My heart broke for them.  I could feel through their messages how heartbroken they were and the regrets they had.  I KNEW I needed to do everything I could to help my son.

This young man’s story and tragic ending of his life, led my husband and I to be there that last arrest and post that bond.  Because we needed to know that we did EVERYTHING we possibly could do to help our son get better, to give him that chance at a sober life and then if he went back to the streets and if we lost him, at least we would know we did our best…. we tried everything…..

I have learned a lot about how I participated over the years in my son’s addiction, the excuses made, the reactions out of fear…. he was a master at finding the right words, the ones that would guilt me into doing what he wanted.  And how turning a blind eye and ignoring the signs, hoping against all hope that I was wrong in what I was seeing and making excuses for his behavior, only added to his ability to continue his active addiction.  And I realized that the buttons I pushed in him, through my anger and the reactions it created, were also ways I participated in his addiction and helped to keep him stuck, giving him the excuse he needed to continue his self-destructive behaviors.  Realizing my role helped me to challenge and change those thoughts and beliefs so that I could stop aiding his addiction and begin to help him recover.

I began to realize just what tough love was to me….

To me tough love doesn’t mean reacting in anger. 

To me tough love doesn’t mean punishing the addict. 

To me tough love doesn’t seek revenge. 

To me tough love simply means loving my son but not participating in his self-destructive behaviors. 

To me tough love means loving him unconditionally, but also loving myself enough to not let the addiction control me as well. 

To me tough love means setting boundaries that keep me from participating in his addiction, while still giving me the room in my heart for forgiveness and compassion.   

Tough love to me means reacting out of love and compassion rather than anger.

It took me a long time to get to this point.  I was far from perfect and still am far from perfect.  Sometimes turning a blind eye was easier than facing the truth.  And anger did rule things at times for me. Anger with my son for the lies and so much more.  Anger made some of my decisions when it came to dealing with my son.

But love and compassion took control.

Love and compassion was the driving force when we asked our son to leave our house and told him he could not live here until he was ready to get treatment.  Love and compassion led when he called wanting to come home to pick up some things and take a shower and we said he could.  Love and compassion ruled when after the shower and a hot home-cooked meal, we told him he could not stay the night, not unless he was ready to get into treatment.  Love and compassion took over and kept us from running after him as we watched our son leave in his car, not knowing when or if we would see him again.  And when he was finally ready to get help, love and compassion drove me as I searched for treatment options for him.  Love and compassion drive me now, as I continue to help him travel this recovery road, as I take him to all of his appointments, and as I work through the anger I still have.

Being a parent is NOT easy.  Being a parent with an addict son is NOT easy.  Being a parent and loving my child has NOT always been easy, but it IS easier today.

Unconditional love is the key.

My mom taught me to love unconditionally.  And I know that she is with me as I walk this walk and travel this unknown road.  And I know that God is with me, every step of the way.

This journey is still difficult.  This walk is not perfect.  I am not perfect.  And it is not about a one-size-fits-all way of dealing with our addicted loved ones.  We each need to find what works for us, define tough love for ourselves.  I am still learning and discovering and challenging my beliefs as I continue to become the best version of me that I can be and as I help my son, rather than hinder him, in becoming the best version of himself that he can be!

This journey has required quite the leap…. A leap of trust…. And a leap of faith.

The Great American Eclipse Trip Part 2

We were off on our adventure…. The eclipse our goal—full totality. But for us, well, we like to pack as much as we can into the little time we have and this trip would be no different.

As I wrote in part one, my husband was already planning on traveling to the path of totality for the solar eclipse a year out. My husband likes to plan trips. He likes to explore. So, I knew when he said we were headed to Idaho that it would be an adventure….. and he made sure it was!

We left home Saturday morning and flew to Salt Lake City on a flight filled with others migrating north for the eclipse.

We arrived in Salt Lake City in the afternoon and headed straight to the rental car agency. We needed to be on the road as quickly as we could….there was lots to do and see on our drive north to Idaho.

The line at the rental car agency was long! I was surprised, despite the warnings, that so many people were doing the same thing as us….off on the great adventure to see a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Okay, so maybe the hype wasn’t too far off…. maybe we really did need to be prepared for anything! With hundreds of thousands heading toward totality, maybe the media hype and the dire warnings warranted paying attention to.

Finally, we were in our car and headed to our first stop, the store. We needed to stock up on water and snacks and get a gas can, just in case the predictions came true and gas stations ran out of gas. After all, we did need to make it back to Salt Lake City in two days to catch our flight home.

With supplies purchased and lunch eaten, we were finally on the road, driving north toward Burley, ID, where we were staying.

But first a slight detour on the way….

Yes, my husband likes to explore and often finds off-the-beaten-path, out-of-the-way, you-REALLY-want-to-go-there places to see. And I LOVE that about him. It makes our life interesting, traveling adventurous and gives us views of the world, specifically this wonderful country we live in, that we would not otherwise see. (Thankfully this trip did not involve any river fords!!)

We left the interstate before crossing into Idaho and headed west on a 2-lane highway. We were now amongst fields….ranches….farmland……all dotted with tiny towns that had no stores, no gas stations and no stop lights. We were in rural America and we loved the beauty and serenity.

As we drove down the road we wondered what life was like for these families, wishing we could just sit and talk and learn about this life that was so vastly different than where we lived… our life where there is a store or gas station on almost every corner, and restaurants to satisfy any desire. Out here, in the middle of fields and mountains there were homes that were surrounded by trees, islands in the midst of enormous fields and the nearest neighbor miles away. Strange to me to imagine life this way, yet the beauty and peace of this wide-open space invited me in. This life so foreign to me was just as strange and foreign as my life in a city was to those who lived here.

We enjoyed the drive, taking in the scenery and talking. And then we noticed a historical marker on the side of the road, causing us to make an impromptu stop…. History draws us both in, fascinated by the stories of life all across this great country. Here we learned that the road we were traveling and the valley along it were part of the California Trail, once traveled by pioneers and wagon trains….ahhhh….a happy place for me! I love the old west, the stories of the pioneers, the stories of traveling across the country in a wagon—setting out on a new adventure and traveling to a new place, unknown to them. I have longed thought I was born in the wrong century and often dreamt about living in the 1800’s and traveling in a wagon….life on the prairie…..life of a pioneer and explorer. It would have been so cool!

Now as we continued on to our destination, I began to wonder what it was like for those early pioneers, how strange this world must have seemed to them and how BRAVE they were!

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And then just a few miles short of our next stop we saw a Visitors Center, with wagons in the field, replicas of those used to travel the California Trail.

Heaven!

Now I could see the wagon in person and visualize what it must have been like traveling in that wagon across the rugged land.

Then I looked in the back of the wagon…….boy, those wagons looked much bigger inside when I saw t2hem on old westerns, or on Little House on the Prairie, or imagined them as I read books about the old west….hmmm….

I looked into the back of the wagon, looked at my husband and told him- “No! It’s too small. I wouldn’t have made it!”

He laughed!

 

I am so happy I could entertain him.

And then we continued on to our planned stop, City of Rocks National Reserve, a place you really HAVE to want to go to.

City of Rocks National Reserve is now a mecca for rock climbers….a place filled with massive rocks jutting up out of the ground. Beautiful. Huge. A paradise for those who seek the thrill of climbing….of heights. We enjoyed the drive through the reserve, stopping to take photos, explore and to watch those brave souls high on the rocks.

But City of Rocks National Reserve also has a history. Here the California Trail crossed and in the valley those early pioneers rested, setting up camp and carving their names in what is now known as Camp Rock. I stood with my husband overlooking the vast valley, dotted with huge boulders and surrounded by massive rock formations now used for climbing and wondered what it was like to travel this route in that wagon, the visual of the size now fading….I was once again transported to a time I had longed to live. After traveling across the flat plains, what did those travelers think about this rugged land? Did they fall in love with the beauty or did they fear what was ahead and the dangers of the ruggedness? Oh, how I wanted to sit there in that valley and be a part of those days…..

I loved City of Rocks National Reserve and our time exploring. My husband knows how to make our travels an adventure. I also enjoyed my time imagining a life long ago, one I could only dream about, a world I wished I had been born into….

And then the next day on our trip I had an opportunity to learn more about those early pioneers, their life and to see a part of the Oregon trail. And I learned that the reality of those wagon trains was VERY different than I had imagined….those wagons were more for the supplies and those very BRAVE souls WALKED….they didn’t ride….they WALKED most of the time. And a woman’s work was never done…at the end of a long day of travel, she would cook the dinner, clean, do laundry, take care of the chores and then go to bed, long after the rest of her family…..hmmm….walking long days and then long hours of chores…..hmmmm

I again looked at my husband, who was smiling at me as I read the information and I said “THAT would have been REALLY difficult! Nope! I wouldn’t have made it..”

He laughed even harder!

How I admire the strength and courage of those pioneers paving the way for those who would come after them. And I will continue to read the stories and dream of that life and what it was like for them, what it would have been like for me had I been born in that era.

And though, today, in this moment in my life…one filled with comfort and conveniences, I know that I would not have been able to live the way they did in the 1800’s, I also realize that this realization is not about me, but about what I know today. When I look back in time with the knowledge and context of 2017, of course I wouldn’t be able to live the way the pioneers did! I know different. I live different. So, with this context, no, I couldn’t have done it….

But….

Had I been born in that time it would have been different. In looking back on history it really is about context, the knowledge and the world at THAT time. Realizing that I needed to put it into the context of those days, that time, the knowledge and way of life then, well, THAT changed things. By looking at the past in the context of the past, the knowledge and the way of life, it changed my belief in my ability to do it. This epiphany meant that had I been born in the 1800’s, then those wagon trains, the traveling, the hard work would have been normal, it would have been doable. By putting it into the right context, I realized that I WOULD have been able to DO IT! Despite my doubts in my abilities, I am strong and brave and what gets me through my days now….my family, my friends, my faith….ALL would have gotten me through those days, those travels, those times.

As I shared this new thought process with my husband, he smiled and laughed.

And I once again began to dream about living in the 1800’s and traveling by wagon.

If I had been born in the 1800’s, I have NO DOUBT that I would have taken the leap……and trusted as I set out with my family to travel the unknown in search of a new life!

 

 

The Great American Eclipse Trip Part 1

I thought my husband was just slightly crazy when he told me over a year ago that we WERE going to go to Oregon or Idaho to be in the path of totality for the Eclipse. He was excited. He explained it was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and he didn’t want us to miss it….

Except, it wasn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime event…. I was in the 8th grade in Portland, OR, in 1979 and my science class was preparing to view the total eclipse that would be happening right there in Portland on February 26th. I was excited back then. We built our boxes and prepared to see what we were told would be the only time in our lives we would get to see the phenomenon.

The morning of February 26 1979 arrived and……. the darkness I was told to expect did not arrive……I was not impressed……and so when my husband told me about this next eclipse and his plans, well, I wasn’t sure it would be worth it. I figured it would just be all hype with no substance.

I should let you know that on the morning of February 26th, 1979, I was missing my mom and we were preparing for her funeral, having lost her just 2 days prior……perhaps that was the real reason the eclipse that day did not impress me. I really don’t remember much about that morning other than we did not plunge into sudden darkness. (though in my research looking back on it, Portland did experience 2 minutes of totality and darkness on that morning, I just didn’t notice).

So to be fair, I decided to go along for the ride with my husband, thrilled at seeing his excitement.

He planned the trip.

He chose where we would see it.

And then he planned more for us to do in the quick 2-night trip.

My husband was in heaven planning this trip to see the total eclipse.

The day arrived and we left Arizona bound for Idaho. The eclipse was the last day of our trip and then we would drive back to Salt Lake City to catch our evening flight home……making the flight concerned us because of the hundreds of thousands said to be flocking to the area of totality….and the warnings to have extra water, cash, gas, emergency rations, just in case we lost cell service and gas stations ran out of gas…. hmmm…. the hype was making it sound as if the apocalypse was coming.

The morning of the eclipse we left our hotel room before the sun came up for the 2-hour drive to Idaho Falls and the city park we had chosen for our viewing spot. We were prepared just in case traffic was as crazy as predicted, giving ourselves plenty of time to arrive before the start of the eclipse.IMG_0302 copy

Once again, my husband’s planning paid off and we arrived at the city park on the south side of Idaho Falls and there were still a few parking spots. Woohoo! We were going to get to see the eclipse.

We walked around the small pond, made small talk with strangers in the line for the bathrooms, and talked with each other to fill the couple of hours before the eclipse would start. Anticipation building as the time grew nearer.

We were ready.20170821_082930 copy

The time arrived for the start of the phenomenon where the moon would come between the sun and the earth and cast us into total darkness……

It was exciting to be standing there with so many others who were just as excited. As the eclipse started and I watched my husband put his special glasses on and look up at the sun, I couldn’t help but smile……he was checking off a bucket list item and he was happy, and THAT made me happy.

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It took some time for the moon to move across the sun and as it moved the light became dimmer, and the air cooler.

 

 

IMG_0306 copyAt one point when the moon covered more than 2/3 of the sun, we noticed that the edges of our shadows were less defined… blurred…. strange…..

We kept watching the moon moving over the sun, amazed at how much light still emanated from the giant star. And then the time came……the moon covered the sun!

 

 

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Totality!

Everyone cheered!

And it WAS dark! We could see some stars! The light emanating from the corona of the sun was like that of a full moon night. Wow!

I was IMPRESSED!

We took our special viewing glasses off and for 1 minute and 48 seconds we could look at the sun without them. This was AMAZING!

And then the edge of the sun began to emerge…. time to put those glasses on again.

The total eclipse was amazing and surreal. Day became night, warmth turned cool, and shadows blurred with undefined edges. The biggest star in our universe was suddenly obscured and we were thrilled!

I couldn’t help but think about all those early pioneers and what they must have thought as day became night for just a brief couple of minutes, how strange that must have been.

And I couldn’t help but think about the 1979 eclipse and how it reflected my life at the time, my own personal darkness had come upon me and made the actual eclipse seem uneventful……

This time, despite the worry and storm for us now, I was able to enjoy this eclipse…to see the awesomeness and beauty created by God! I was able to step back for a time and be present, mindful and aware of the greater universe around me. How mighty God is and how amazing this life is!

The total eclipse gave me a wink from God…. that even on the sunniest days, day can become night, but the day will return and everything will be alright.

I am so thankful for my crazy husband who asked me to take a leap and trust him and his planning. This was AMAZING!

And I am so very happy to have taken the leap into the total eclipse…… (go ahead and sing, you know you want to…. total eclipse of the….)

I Took the Leap, Kept Breathing and I Made It!

I made it!

Today is my 52nd birthday and I am so relieved to have reached this milestone birthday.

A year ago, on my 51st birthday, I woke holding my breath, dreading the year. This morning I woke, thrilled and excited to celebrate my birthday.

I made it to the birthday my mom did not get to see. I miss her every day and today I know she is celebrating with me. Mom made such a big deal over our birthdays, always making the day extra special.

Today I am celebrating my birthday and so much more.

This year has truly been a year of taking the leap and just breathing. And in the process I have experienced things my mother only dreamed about, gone to places I have dreamed about and met people who have truly enriched my life. I have traveled roads I never imagined nor wanted to…..journeys that showed me just how strong I can be.

This year has been a journey of discovery, of really trusting and letting go.

And as I look forward to this next year, I am excited for all that it will bring. I am going to continue to live in the moment, challenge myself and yes, step outside my comfort zone.

Each day, week and month from this moment forward is one my mother didn’t get to experience. And I am going to enjoy each minute……the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult, the joyful and the sad, and those times that challenge me to step outside that box and push myself just a little more…….while sharing all of these life moments with mom.

And I am going to continue to take the leap and just breathe!

Look Mom, we made it!

It was July 1996 and we were on a road trip from South Dakota to Massachusetts, via a route that took us south to North Carolina and then up the east coast to our destination—my husband’s parents in Massachusetts.

On our way up the east coast, we stopped in Washington DC. This was my first time on the east coast and my first time in our Nation’s capital. I was in the 7th grade, when I first had an opportunity to travel to Washington DC as part of our school trip for spring break. My mom was a working single mom and couldn’t afford the entire trip, but she really wanted me to go so she called my dad, who had not been paying child support for years and asked him to pay half of the cost and she would cover the other half. My dad said no. And I could see the pain in mom’s eyes as she told me I would not be able to go. It was okay, I understood and I let it go.

I never thought I would make it there. And then I did as part of our trip across the U.S. for our move to Turkey.

As I walked the National Mall toward the Lincoln Memorial, in the pouring rain from a tropical storm that followed us up the coast and soaked to the bone, I talked to mom. “Look mom, I’m here….I finally made it!” I know mom was with me that day, smiling and thrilled that I finally made it to one of my “bucket list” places.

Yesterday was THAT kind of day. As my year started on my 51st birthday, I was dreading this year……and scared I wouldn’t live longer than my mom or that I would miss out on all that she had missed. So my husband, my rock and biggest supporter, made plans for us to attend the Rose Parade in Pasadena. He knew the parade was one of the things that my mom and I had dreamed of attending together. What better time to do it than the year I found myself holding my breath….a celebration of not just surviving but thriving this year.

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So, on New Year’s Day, with tickets in hand we drove to Pasadena. I was thrilled and excited. A bucket list item….a HUGE bucket list item was about to be realized and I knew mom was with me.

Yesterday, before the sun was up, we left our hotel room for the parade. It was exhilarating! We parked and with thousands of others, we headed to our viewing spot….in the stands with reserved seats. And we waited for the parade to start, talking with others as the bleachers filled in. The excitement was contagious.

And just before the parade started the seats next to me filled in…….well two of the seats did. The seat next to me was EMPTY…..this was my mom’s seat.

And I felt her sitting there next to me……bouncing to the beat of the marching bands as they played in front of our stands……..oohing and aahing over the floats, amazed at the size and beauty of them. And I could feel her joy at seeing this parade in person……just like we had dreamed of doing.

Yes, mom was there with me….and I whispered to her, “Look mom, we made it! We are here!”

So Long 2016…Welcome 2017!

2016 started with me holding my breath……and as the year went on I found myself experiencing things I had not imagined—

2016 became the year for—

–stepping outside my comfort zone and not allowing fear to hold me back.

–opening up to others outside our family, leaving me feeling vulnerable and exposed….yet being open and sharing the struggles we have faced this year has been rewarding….we are not alone and talking about mental illnesses and addiction is how we start to change the stigma and the broken system.

–discovering just how strong I am when I really need to be.

–learning about myself, through the struggles as well as those times I stepped outside my comfort zone, and discovering just where those long-held fears came from.

–growth, personally……this I am so thankful for.

–finding hope when the world seemed hopeless….when my world was filled with fear, sadness and even anger. Hope is what kept us going. Hope is what gets us out of bed when we just want to hide from the world.

–Taking the leap, breathing and trusting!

I am ready to say “good-bye” to 2016. Saying “good-bye” means I am almost through the year of holding my breath…..almost to my 52nd birthday, the one my mother never got to celebrate. Yes, I am ready to move into the new year.

And as I move into 2017, I am hopeful…..hopeful for the future, hopeful for my family and hopeful that this will be our happiest year yet! No matter what happens, I will always have hope!

I am excited for what 2017 has in store for me and for my family…..there will be celebrations and a wedding, one that I am very much looking forward to! There will be adventures and travels. There will be joy and struggles, I am sure. And there will be more self-growth and discoveries as I continue my journey to be the best version of “me” that I can be!

As I welcome 2017, I am starting the new year off strong……checking some items off my bucket list, stepping outside my comfort zone and challenging myself and celebrating my birthday in the most magical place on earth!

So long 2016—thanks for the many lessons and the memories!

Hello 2017—Let’s get this New Year started!