I was never really a person to believe in signs. I’m still not. I think I try to pull for straws though when it comes to signs and my mom.
I pick up pennies whenever I see them and call them “pennies from heaven” and consider them my mom’s way to say hi. Usually I see them when I’m rushing or when I somehow seem to need them.
This morning I had my Sunday school class Christmas party. Still funny thinking that I’m the teacher in charge of 11 little kindergarteners. We had a fun little craft while listening to iTunes Radio Kids Christmas. We talked about the real meaning of Christmas, Jesus’s birthday. Also we talked about giving–not getting presents. I was a proud mama hen when they all told me their ideas. One of my favorites was my kiddo who said, “it’s like when you get socks and you don’t really want them but you say thank you anyway.” Sometimes they’re pretty funny.
We talked about giving without buying because Christmas is about showing how much you care for others, even without spending a dime.
Then we sang “happy birthday” to Jesus before I gave them each a little book and a cross necklace. I’m a book girl. It was a little thing but I somehow felt full, like my mom was there. It seemed like something she would’ve done for her kids.
Tonight, after a long exhausting week of travel, after school stuff and fun weekend activities, I started picking up Allie’s room while she played in the tub. Let’s listen to some fun kids’ Christmas music. “Dominic the Donkey” came on. Alright then.
Then this came on. Far, far from a Christmas song. Far, far from a kids’ artist. But there it was: “Be Not Afraid.” The song that I always associate with my mom. Absolutely no reason for it to be on iTunes Kids’ Christmas radio.
I used to hate her music growing up. My brother and I used to protest listening to it in the car. But as she got older and after she was gone, I appreciated it. It was the comfort of her being there.
Christmas isn’t my favorite time of year. I don’t like the commercialism. I miss my mom.
But then there are signs like this to remind me she’s here and how much she loved the season for what it stands for, So I allow myself the tears as I sing along and for a minute after, and I’m thankful that I had my mom while I did–because there’s no one like your mom.
Nine years ago I was in law school. Finishing up my last semester and getting ready to graduate. I had never really thought about having kids, I was never one of those girls who romanticized the idea of being a mom and having kids. But something hit me and I knew. After three years of being married, it was time to add a third to to our home.
When I got pregnant, I was graduating and getting ready for the bar exam. I remember going home for Mother’s Day (appropriately) and surprising our parents with the news. I still remember the squeal from my mom when she found out, and how she knew Ava was a girl. Little did I know Ava would be the safety blanket and comfort I needed through the sickness and loss of my mom.
When I was looking for baby names, I found a cool little online forum (message board) where women could go to talk about all things pregnancy, names, and babies. It was there I met a group of ladies and we were all having kids in December. That’s where the December Mommies was born.
That board was a lifesaver since we all figured out the whole pregnancy thing as first time moms together. I didn’t have other friends around who were pregnant, so being able to ask random questions about common and crazy things helped out. I think it helped us all.
We welcomed all of our babies with sweet Ella, came a bit early, in late November. The babies then came all through December until just after Christmas.
My Ava was born on December the 9th and we welcomed her with love. J and I were in awe and I suddenly couldn’t imagine how life was before her. I was lucky enough to be home with her and not have to work to she was older and I soaked up all the time I had with her as I watched that amazing little creature grow.
The years have come and gone, and we’ve grown apart as life sometimes happens, but thanks to technology and Facebook, we’re able to watch the kids grow up and turn nine together. We’ve been together as we’ve lost my mom and my dear friend Maribel’s mom to cancer. We’ve been together for the births of more babies. No matter what, we are here.
We’re an amazing group of women and I’m incredibly grateful to say that I’ve made friendships that have stood the test of time– nearly 10 years and counting. Through my tough times I’ve had support from these ladies cheering me on. Today, I’ve got one of the best friends in the world that I’ve yet to meet in person. She’s with me through the blahs and the happy and we text about it all along the way. Someday, I’ll hug her. Someday I will.
I have all of these friendships because this beautiful baby girl came into our lives and changed my world forever. She makes me better. She inspires me everyday.
She’s got the biggest heart and is incredibly smart–and that’s not just a biased mama talking. She’s witty, she’s well spoken, she’s creative and well read. Ava is one of the kindest souls you will ever know. She’s got an intuitiveness about her that seeks out anyone that is in need of caring and offers all that she has.
How I was so lucky to end up with such an amazing child is beyond me. But I’m thankful everyday for how special and wonderful she is and that she’s ours.
And now she is 9.
Ok it’s been a while since I told you about new music. I’ve not had much going on since I told you about how awesome Mary Lambert was and how I loved Colbie Caillat’s song “Try.”
So I’ve got 2 new albums for you and a couple of singles.
Ok so let’s start with The Voice. Yes, the show. So there’s this one singer named Taylor John Williams. I’ve never really watched the show before this season so I’m a newbie to the process of how it works, but anyway he did a great remake of the song “Royals” by Lorde. Buy it. Get it. You won’t be sorry.
Then there’s Damien (also from the Voice). He did a killer remake of “Someone Like You,” by Adele. He’s amazing live because he has such an emotional connection to music and watching him makes you really feel the music. I’m a live music nerd, so maybe it’s just me.
Both of those are on the iTunes charts, that’s how awesome they are! Pretty impressive from dudes on a singing show, if you ask me.
I participated in the Idina Menzel Holiday Wishes album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.
Idina Menzel. The queen of the world. Well, her alter ego, Elsa is anyway. She’s got a Christmas album, Holiday Wishes, out and it’s pretty good. We listened to it during the baking binge while getting ready for Friendsgiving. It’s not quite the holiday season unless you’re listening to Christmas music.
I was really looking forward to this one because, duh, it’s Elsa! I still love her second “For the First Time in Forever” song that she sings with Anna when she’s in the ice castle. Oh wait, squirrel! Ok. So anyway, I’d seen her remake of “Baby it’s cold outside,” with Michael Buble and it was really good. The video was odd because it was made with kids and not adults, but the song was great.
Being a lover of all things Disney, I loved “When you wish upon a Star.” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “December Prayer,” and “River,” are my favorites. Pretty much all of them except “All I Want for Christmas is You” because that belongs to Mariah Carey. And Justin Bieber (don’t ask)–so no one can really remake that one in my eyes.
The album was beautiful. It’s one of those relaxing sit by the fire and listen on repeat type of albums.
If you want a sneak peek of the songs on the album, check out this trailer. It’s pretty awesome and you won’t be disappointed. She’s really great. And I challenge you to try to not picture Elsa in some of them.
This is an album that I’d have happily bought and added to my Christmas collection. You should too!
* iTunes : http://bit.ly/IMHolidayWishes
* Amazon: http://bit.ly/IDINAHOLIDAY
I participated in the Mary J Blige The London Sessions album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.
Then there’s Mary J. Blige’s new album, The London Sessions. She’s looking pretty damn good. The woman doesn’t age. But the album…unfortunately, I really have nothing to say about it other than it was highly disappointing. It just wasn’t what I was expecting from her. NOTHING like her album, The Breakthrough, which was great.
“Doubt” which is an anthem about believing in yourself starts off the album so I had high hopes, even though it doesn’t actually sound that great, it has a good message. There’s a song called “Not Loving You,” where she basically says that if you’re not loving yourself, there’s only so much she can do. Ummm, ok.
This is clearly an album by a woman coming out of a relationship and finding herself. Rock on. That’s awesome. ”Therapy” is one of those songs that is an example of that. Check it out. This is one of the catchier songs on the album and I like the beat.
I listened song by song and I really wanted to like the album. I did, that’s why I signed up for the review because I was excited about new music from Mary J., but I just didn’t love it.
This wasn’t my style but maybe it’s yours. If it is, you can find it on iTunes and Amazon:
* iTunes : http://bit.ly/MJBLondon
* Amazon: http://bit.ly/MJBLS
Ava will be 9 in just 2 weeks. I’m not even sure how, but she will.
I’m fighting an uphill battle to ensure she still believes in Santa. She’s already put me on notice that lots of kids at her school do not believe in Santa. We discussed it on the way home one day. My stomach did a lurch and I asked her what she thought. They just don’t know, but “I believe,” she said, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
It’s not about what you see or what people say, I told her.
It’s about what you truly believe in your heart.
And I believe in his magic of giving.
She does too.
This is my hardest Christmas yet because I know it’ll probably be my last where they both believe. Luckily, she’s the most amazing big sister and she’ll keep Allie believing for years to come.
I don’t even remember how old I was when I stopped believing, but I do remember the one Christmas we were all ecstatic when Santa came while we were at church. SURELY it couldn’t have been my parents. That was probably one of the last years that I believed–but it worked.
So how am I doing it?
*~Ava gets a yearly card from Santa. He talks to her about things only she would know–like references from her Christmas card or things like her report card. It has a picture of him, and this year, her card even had a picture of his reindeer. That look of excitement there? That is real. Sheer awe and not staged even a little. I was so happy.
Ava got her first card too. She colored all over it, in true Allie style, but that’s what she does and that’s ok, too.
*~Gingerbread, our Elf on the Shelf, got here early last night. Normally she comes the morning after Thanksgiving. Last night, she was waiting for us when we got back from Friendsgiving. She was in the tiny bed Ava had set out for her and was fast asleep. Surely no one could have touched her or set her out (not that I think she thinks we move her, or at least I’m not sure she does), so this was extra magical.
*~Then there’s the texts to Santa. Oh my Santa. It’s awesome having awesome friends with awesome husbands that you obviously don’t text often. Except when you change their names to Santa Claus and narc on your kid for bad behavior. And then they respond with the most perfectly perfect response and your heart grows 10 sizes because you’re so grateful that amazing people like that are in your life.
*~I’ve gotta admit. I took a sneak peek at Ava’s list to Santa before I “sent it out.” She put a tall order in there and I made sure it happened. There were a few things on there and they were very specific. Who knows if she’ll even remember what they were when Christmas morning comes, but I will.
*~We’ll be seeing the big man on Sunday for pictures. Of course not the REAL Santa. Because, obviously. That would be impossible. He can’t be at every mall in the world because he’s busy and has things to do and can’t be in 100000 places at once. These are visitor Santas and that’s ok too. Cute pictures to come, I’m sure.
I know Christmas is about CHRIST. I’m the first person to tell you that. That’s how I was brought up. You’ll never find me writing or typing X-mas. I hate that. I still don’t love all the pressure of gifts, but I do enjoy it when people truly appreciate and enjoy the gifts that you give them. And I love the excitement of my girls’ faces on Christmas morning. I also love that my girls both know that Christmas is Jesus’s birthday–that’s why we celebrate. He is the Reason for the Season.
So we’ve got a big job ahead of us. But we’re ready for the task.
It’s that time again. Time to get together with friends (and family) to celebrate and give thanks for all of our blessings. My favorite holiday of the year. For us, we celebrate “Friendsgiving” because we don’t have family in town. Neither do our friends. So a group of families and our kids all get together to deep fry turkeys, play, have fun, watch football and enjoy each others’ time and company. It’s not blood family, but it’s a nice substitute for home.
This year we beat the turkey and got our Christmas tree up the weekend before Thanksgiving, despite our tradition of doing it the weekend after. Maybe it was the hours of rain and thunderstorms on Saturday that put us in the mood, but it went up (whining and crying aside), and it was awesome. It looks beautiful.
For me, Thanksgiving isn’t just food and friends, it is a reminder of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come…
Three years ago (wow) was the beginning of my PPA/depression/anxiety journey. It all started with the need for the perfect family picture. Then being so worn that I couldn’t do anything but buy pies for Friendsgiving with our friends. If you know the overachiever that I am, that was a major defeat and a huge concession. Sounds trite, but when you’re trying to get by, you do what you can.
Then there was the next year. I was feeling good and baked. It was a little victory and I was thankful I wasn’t in the place I’d been. Funny way to measure progress. It worked.
Last year I was hanging on.
But, here we are today. And I’m kicking ass and taking names. For that I’m thankful.
As I look at all of the fixings for the 3 pies and loads of cupcakes I’ll make for Friendsgiving with 4 other families, I am thankful for where I’ve been (because I made it through the other side and I’m here speaking up about my struggle). I’m grateful for how far I’ve come.
I’m thankful for my husband and girls.
I’m thankful for my dad and brother.
I’m thankful for my friends–especially my best girls that are my lifeline living in my computer (and phone).
I’m thankful for our blessings, including a job I enjoy.
I’m thankful for my incredible support network that’s been there all along the way.
On this Thanksgiving, I wish blessings to those that are alone. Those that need peace. Those that need love. Those that are sick and need healing. Those that celebrate holidays after losing loved ones.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, friends. Hope you are truly blessed and have many things to be thankful for this week–and always.
Monday Ava had her first choir concert. She was nervous and excited. Needless to say we all rushed and got our last minute standing room only places after hurrying through the long line of security at the front office.
It was all about the concert when I put it on my calendar. Yes, it was the Veterans Day presentation, but it was Ava’s first choir concert.
Until we got there.
They sang their songs and all the music she’d be singing around the house came together beautifully with all her choirmates.
Then her principal spoke. I love her principal. They have daily assembly before school each day. She always speaks about respect and aiming high at school. She always teaches the kids a great message and I’m so thankful because that was one of the things I was worried about losing when we left Catholic school.
But then she started her message about Veterans Day.
And then she started it “on a kids level” even though, as she told the veterans, “she probably couldn’t do it any justice.” But oh she did, even for this 34 year old who had to fight back tears.
What if your whole family went to Disney World for a month and you had to stand at the gates watching?
What if you couldn’t eat your favorite foods for an entire year and had to eat the same things over and over?
What if you had to sleep on the floor for the rest of the school year?
What if you had to sleep in a room the size of a closet?
What if you couldn’t see anyone you love for an entire year?
I know about the sacrifice that veterans make. The last Christmas my brother and I spent together was the last Christmas we had with my mom-ever- in 2006. I remember being so worried after 9/11 when he had been in the Marines for months. I worried that he was such a newbie that he’d be the first to be carted off to war.
I know what they do. I know how much he was overseas. I know how we waited for his calls. I remember getting them months apart at 3:00 in the morning.
But when she put it like that, I couldn’t help but cry. I couldn’t help but think of him suffering like that. It sounds trite, and things that are first world problems, but who wouldn’t want
those things? But people in the military are tough. They choose to make those sacrifices for us.
I remember him telling me how it was when he was there when people were getting the right to vote. I remember him telling me how it was when they passed out candy and toys.
Ava’s principal had all the veterans present introduce themselves. Dads, grandpas, a mom, the school nurse, a teacher.
She told us that there was nothing we could really could do to show our appreciation that would truly make up for the sacrifices they make. We can pay for a meal without them knowing from a table away if we get a chance. But most importantly, we can say “thank you.” We can walk up to someone in uniform, a retired member proudly wearing a cap commemorating the war he fought in and say “THANK YOU.”
They’d know, she said. They’d know.
They all nodded in agreement.
THANK YOU. Thank you.
Oh what a couple of weeks it’s been. Meetings and school stuff and strep and colds. Gah. So here’s the random stuff I’m so good at. At least, I think I am.
Jess likes food. Consider this a lesson in Texas food. This top pic is how my office does employee appreciation. Pulled pork sandwiches smoked on site for hours in big awesome pits, served with all the fixin’s. Beans. Corn. Banana pudding. Sweet tea.
Next pic is a kolache. Friends, this is egg, cheese and ham (or sausage) wrapped in bready goodness. All the goodness of a breakfast taco subbed with bread.
Then of course there’s queso. Who doesn’t love it? I just happen to make mine in my office at work. I’m the queso girl for parties. Romeo tomatoes, Velveeta, crock pot. Done. Boom.
1. Taylor Swift has a new album. She’s not my favorite. I hadn’t even heard her new hit till this week. Out of choice and stubbornness. Then I saw my friend Heather gave her a go. Sure, ok. Then. This happened. Before I knew it, I had purchased. Not even ashamed. This is one of my faves.
2. Got these in the mail. Whoa. Delicious!!!! So chiplike!!!
3. Google has a new mail app/client. You have to get an invite (remember the days waiting for one to get Gmail?) but not for too long. I dig it and will stick with it on my iDevices, but Gmail on the computer (it doesn’t have chat).
4. Lowe’s already has all of their Christmas stuff set. It’s kind of awesome. Don’t hate. Least I’m not listening to Christmas playlists.
Then there’s my buy/don’t buy piece (not sponsored).
Colossal mascara? Awesome. Love it. Can’t go wrong and always my go to. Now to the bad guy, because that’s what we’re really here to talk about.
Do NOT NOT NOT buy that hydrofuge mascara. It’s horrendous. Think rubber cement on your eyelashes. It’s irritating, smells, and clumps. It’s impossible to take off. Forget eye makeup remover. I even use Vaseline (trick my mom used to use) and I have to rub a lot on there and it still doesn’t get it all off.
Cancer awareness hits close to home for me. October is the biggest cancer awareness campaign of the year as we go pink for breast cancer awareness.
After my mom died, I was living in Dallas, the headquarters of Susan G. Komen, an organization for breast cancer research, outreach and advocacy, and decided to run the Susan G. Komen Dallas Race for the Cure. Not only did I run the fastest 5k time to date, more importantly I raised over $1,100 in my mom’s name. I’ll never forgot riding the train down to NorthPark with masses of people. That year there were over 30,000 people. Watching all of the families and women in pink. It was touching, heart wrenching, and motivating all at once.
That was how I got my start with running and fundraising.
I like football, and when October comes, I like to see how “pink” teams go for cancer awareness. It makes me happy to see them showing their awareness for cancer awareness. Pink gloves, pink shoes, pink towels. Even the cheerleaders get in on the action. The more pink the team, the more they get my cheers–unless they’re playing against Notre Dame in which case, I’ll still never root for them.
This year, I noticed that the pink was fading and was getting pretty disappointed. How could these teams just be so flaky and not participate? The nerve!
Cincinnati was the first team I noticed, but not the last. Not a single bit of pink during the game. Harumph! The nerve of those Bengals!
But that got me thinking. Does it even matter whether they wear pink? Does the pink campaign matter at all?
The NFL launched “A Crucial Catch” campaign in partnership with the American Cancer Society to raise awareness and importance of annual screenings for women over 40. On October 25, they’ll even be offering breast cancer education and low cost screening in NFL team cities. All the pink you see on the fields is for their breast cancer awareness campaign awareness.
Sounds awesome right? Well the only reason I know any of that is because I trolled and trolled around the NFL’s website to find that information. I’ve watched plenty of NFL football and I haven’t heard any of that.
Ok. So we know why they wear pink, and why they sell pink, let’s if it actually matters.
Here’s what each of the organization’s is doing in their city this month for breast cancer awareness month. (Spoiler alert: read the full list if you want to be amused by how underwhelming
some most of the events are).
I was interested to find out exactly how much of the proceeds from all that pink football gear was actually going to breast cancer awareness/research/etc. The answer? You guessed it. CRAP. That’s how much.
I read this article and was not surprised to find out that it was a disappointing amount. According to the NFL’s website, since 2009 only $7 (SEVEN) million has been donated to American Cancer Society from the sale of all the stuff. The NFL website says that they don’t get any percentage of the profits, but I have to challenge that statement. I find it hard to believe that all of that stuff leaves them with such a low profit margin to be donated. Of allllllllll those sweatshirts, and t-shirts, and caps, and stuffstuffstuff, only $1 million a year TOTAL goes to American Cancer Society. That’s embarrassing.
I’m still all about wearing pink in support of breast cancer awareness month. I’m glad that the teams do it, it’s about raising awareness. I totally get that and I’m good with that. Just don’t buy the NFL’s stuff–or anyone’s stuff just because it’s pink. Give your money directly to the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, MD Anderson Cancer Hospital, or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
- Be Proactive. Don’t be afraid to go to the doctor.
- Schedule yearly women’s exams.
- Take charge of your health.
- Put your money where it counts. Not at Target buying a pink spatula.
Anyway, I’ll pass on NFL’s “A Crucial Catch.”
I love my job. I get to go to the State Fair of Texas every year for work. I get to interact with new people and see new things (and of course eat amazingly delicious food, like the Fried Sweet which is an exceptionally wonderful pie that is 3 pies in one–buttermilk, peach and pecan). I don’t just love my job because it takes me to the motherland of corndogs and fried everything, there’s more to it than that, but that’s another story for another day.
Anyway, I was so excited to see this sign for the second year at Fair.
It made me laugh last year when I saw it, which was perfect given the fact that it felt like I had such a storm inside the last time I was there. What a difference a year makes…
Daisy Crazy. It’s so her.
Bright. Vibrant. Silly.
Today she’s celebrating 59 years.
It’s hard not to be sad. But instinctively, I know I have to fight those feelings for Ava. I don’t want her growing up scared of losing me (yes, she’s already mentioned it and it’s one of her “bad dreams”). It’s an ugly feeling to have, so I get it. I don’t want her dwelling on the sadness of the Gma she never knew.
So instead of being sad, which is a very easy thing to do (usually it comes on the eve of, and not as much on the day), I decided to do what my mom would do. I don’t remember a time when she was without lipstick. She’d wake up, get her makeup on, including her lipstick, and that’s how she’d start her day. As soon as she finished her meal she had her lipstick on–who needed a mirror? She was always made up.
So here’s me, real smile, rocking my lipstick like her. Looking like her, like I always knew I did. Even when I was a punk teenager and I protested the fact that I did.
Happy birthday mom.
I participated in the Mary Lambert Heart On My Sleeve album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review BUT all opinions are my own. AND THIS GIRL IS SO AWESOME SO WAIT DON’T GO!
So I’d never heard of Mary Lambert before One2One sent out an email asking if I wanted to try out her album. Of course I googled her and played a couple clips before I opted in, because there’s no point downloading music that’s just gonna take up space on my computer when I don’t even want it. I fell in love after the first few words of “Secrets,” and knew I wanted to check out the whole album. I could quote all the entire song here because that’s how much I love it, but I won’t. Here’s a highlight though:
They tell us from the time we’re young / To hide the things we don’t like about ourselves / Inside ourselves /
I’m not the only one / Who spent so long attempting to be someone else /
Well I’m over it / I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are.
Dude, she’s good, she’s real, she’s beautiful. She’s deep and she brings a message, more than just some artists that sing songs that stick in your head. I had no clue she was nominated for 2 Grammys–but she damn well deserves them.
I wanted to learn more about her so I read her bio. She’s all about empowerment. I love that she talks about being vulnerable, and not feeling shame about it because that’s what keeps you from truly living a free life. Vulnerability about your “weaknesses” hits home for me given what I wrote recently about Mental Illness Awareness Week. One of Mary Lambert’s goals is to start a charity that offers free mental health services. She’s bipolar, gay, and not afraid to put herself out there. Gah. She’s awesome. (Not music related, but there’s so much more to an artist than the sounds that they make).
Ok, now back to the music.
Favorites: Secrets, So Far Away, Rib Cage, Chasing the Moon, Monochromatic
She’s got this feel to her that’s a mix of Florence + the Machine, Sara Bareilles, Christina Perri. She’s the perfect melding of awesome.
She really truly is and I’m not even saying that because they sent me this album to try. I don’t know how to describe her. Then there’s this song Rib Cage, it’s got this awesome vibe to it that’s “smokey” and deep. She’s just beautiful. I’m pretty sure this album is going to be on repeat for a while. Wow.
Pretty damn impressive. Her album came out today, October 14. GET IT. Love it. Repeat.
Wanna check Mary out for yourself? You can buy her album: * iTunes: http://bit.ly/MaryHeart * Amazon: http://bit.ly/MaryLHeart
Try- Colbie Calliat
Have you heard this song yet? It’s amazing. It’s a song that EVERY woman needs to pay attention to. Especially for those with little girls. So inspiring.
Everything, everything that we do to make ourselves beautiful, the things that we do to for ourselves on the outside isn’t for us. It’s for everyone else. But why? It shouldn’t be.
At the end of the day, after all the makeup is gone, the expensive clothes, shoes, face is off, the question remains: do you like yourself?
The bottom line is you can’t push yourself until nothing is left–not when it’s all to please others.
The first time I heard this I was almost moved to tears. As a woman, as a mom, it’s inspiring. Why do we do what we do? Who are we acting for? It should be for ourselves, but is that the truth? Anyway, it’s a heavy message but a beautiful one and a great song. fyi, that links to Amazon but it’s not an affiliate link or anything.