Saturday, November 30, 2013

Duck and Cover! Video Blog!

Completely unedited... so... I apologize in advance for Clydas snoring through the background. (My antics no longer phase or impress him.)
If you haven't seen Frozen yet, it's probably the best Disney movie in a VERY long time. Brave, while pretty, didn't impress me. Frozen, based on an old folk tale, proves that 'love conquers all'... but it almost never conquers in a way we expect it to. Two things I firmly believe in. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Missing Peices on Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I'll be celebrating it with My Sailor! It's also something of a special anniversary for us, and it's (finally) safe to say that this year, we'll get it right. (Because someone else is doing the cooking. ;) )
He's not sure if he'll have Friday off, but I'll take Thursday and run with it!

My Brother and Dad

As the holiday approaches, I'm excited and a saddened too. I find myself listening to classical music and talk radio more than usual.


Because Dad used to listen to them while he worked from home.

Lately, I've been drinking my coffee black (the only healthy way to drink it anyway).


Dad, Me, Mom
 Sometimes I get paranoid that I won't be able to remember the sound of his voice.

Then My Sailor reminds me that I just need to relax about it.

Because the truth is, I'll never forget.

My Dad was far from perfect. It's easy to make someone who's past away seem only angelic in hindsight. But no matter his flaws, he was My Dad. And no matter our flaws, he loved his family. I keenly remember the feeling of love in the house as the fear ran rampant during Dad's final weeks. The love seemed to outweigh the pain and the fear. It was nearly a palpable haze that filtered through each room of the house.
Dad and His Brother
 These first holidays without him are odd. There is a certain strangeness to knowing that I don't need to call him to talk to him.

Because Dad used to.

I have so many wonderful memories of holidays spent with my family, even if Thanksgiving was probably my least favorite. 'Feasting' has never really been my thing. Last year, my family had an early Thanksgiving together (where most of the above photos are from). This year, we're scattered throughout the country. My brother is working in California (group homes don't shut down just because it's a holiday - someone has to be there for the kids and that someone is usually my brother). My mom is headed to the house of friends in Arizona. My Sailor and I are staying local to our Washington region, especially since we didn't know if he'd have the day off until last night, and we still don't know if he'll have the day after off.

When we make a trip back to California in December, I know I'll be visiting Dad's grave marker and his memorial stone at the San Deigo Public Library. (Dad was really excited about the library, but never got to see it completed. He was a big reader. He has a memorial stone there now.)

I'm truly did win the Parent Lottery. Both of my parents have been amazing examples of what it's like to claim someone as family, not because they look like you or sound like you,
but just because they are who they are.
And that makes you a family.
It's made this whole journey into adoption a lot less scary.
It makes it a little easier for me to tap into that faith that our kids are out there.
It makes it easier to believe that we (My Sailor, our future kiddoes, and me) are a family; we just don't know it yet.

So, in honoring the experience of missing Dad, and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I'll close this blog with a link to something I wrote back in April, because it just seems fitting.

Dear Dad, Thank You

Take some time to hug your family and friends a little closer this Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Choose Wisely- Navy Edition

It's almost noon and My Sailor is still in bed. He's gotten more sleep than I have today, but that's pretty rare. It doesn't happen all that often.

I see lots of 'jokes' online about military spouses/girlfriends. Some are legitamately funny, but I really hate how so many of them seem to de-value the lives of those who aren't in the military lifestyle. Take this little gem for example:

Source - Anonymous facebook page


I guess I'm a weirdo, but I really don't find this funny - or things that demean the civilian experience by attempting to compare it to the military experience.

Might as well compare a fry cook to a truck driver. Both are essential peices of the puzzle of society with their own unique lifestyle challenges. They really are two different worlds, and we (military spouses) don't bridge that gap by "my life is harder than yours" contests.

So, Military wives/Girlfriends/boyfriends - this is for you.

 Don't compare your journey to anyone elses. No good can come of it. Your journey and your pain is unique, beautiful, and heart--wrenching. Just as the journey of any civilian is beautiful and unique, beautiful, and heart wrenching in its own way.

It's perfectly valid for people to miss their spouse/lover after a few hours or a day or so. By invalidating their emotions, you make it easier for them invalidate yours as well with statements like, "Well, you signed up for it." We military spouses can either build a bridge, or perpuate a stereotype. The choice is yours. Choose wisely, for my sake.

That said, the results from the latest Advancement Test is out! And we're not advancing. Again.

 Now, this is the first time in my life I've ever relied on someone else's income to make ends meet. Before we bought the house, I've always been able to CYA with my own income, so relying on someone else's income as well makes me a bit nervous. It's something I'm working on.

With neither of us seeing raises in over a year, and our expenses about to increase significantly (raising kids isn't inexpensive), 2014 is bound to be interesting. But we're rearranging some things, so we'll see how it goes. We've been great at keeping our credit card debt down, and our last trip-without-kids is going to be a pretty big bash, but we already have plans in motion to pay that off immediately.

Finally - we still don't know about Thanksgiving, so we'll see how things go. We have heard he has Friday off, which I do too, so we'll see how things pan out. We'll have to pick and choose how much work vs fun to have with whatever time we have.

In the end, civilian or military, isn't that all any of us can really do?

Friday, November 22, 2013

References for Parenting Permits and Thanksgiving in a Can

My Sailor has been really hammering his side of the adoption paperwork pyramid, which is awesome. It's nice to feel like we're actually making progress as our first home visit is 19 days away. I'm more excited about the visit than nervous, which is suprising. Most adoptive parents talk about being scared or nervous, but so far, it just feels like a step in the right direction and it fills me with hope.
As part of this whole adoption thing - we sent out our reference letters to friends and family for the adoption. Last night, I heard back from one of them that also read the Cure to Over Population blog. Her reply? "I read your blog about everyone having to go through a vetting process before becoming a parent - with questions like this, if that were true... Man would the world be a different place!"

In case you're wondering, the questions are likely something only a marriage counselor would know. I can't think of a single friend or family member that could answer all of them adequately.

Here are the questions our friends and family are being asked about us.

1. How long and well have you known this couple and what kinds of activities do you share?

2. Please describe in detail your impression of both applicant 1 and applicant 2. Tell us about each applicant's personality, strengths, weaknesses, ability to handle crisis and frustration, and interests.

3. What is your impression of their relationship? What adjustments have they had to make? How do they make decisions, and how do they settle disagreements? What is the greatest strength of their relationship and the greatest weakness? Who do they turn to for support?

4.Are you aware of a loss that either person has suffered? If so, how did they handle the loss?

5. Have you observed this couple around children?  If so, what age of children, and in what situations? How have they reacted to children (for example, their ability to talk with children, set limits, type of discipline used, the way they dealth with disabled children or children of a different race)?

6.  How do you feel this couple will meet the demands of parenthood? How will the addition of an adopted child affect their relationship and family life? What will be the greatest change they will need to make?

7. Do you have any additional information you feel would be important to share?

Now, I don't know about you, but most of those questions our friends and family will struggle to answer. Not because we haven't spent time around kids, but because we're rarely together in the same place long enough for people to really intimately get to know both of us. Even family. Go figure.

If you've followed this blog for over a year, you probably know that My Sailor and I aren't good at Thanksgiving. We're okay at other holidays, but honestly, we just haven't had that many holidays where both of us are in the same state (or on land), to really hit our strides yet. I've never been big on 'feasting' anyway, so it's okay by me. Our first Thanksgiving included Ramen noodles (which has now become a lunch time tradition). Our second included a deployment, and the third included over cooked goat.

This year, determined to celebrate in style, I booked an Argosy Thanksgiving Dinner Cruise since My Sailor wasn't supposed to be working this holiday.

Well, I learned last night that that may change. It's not set in stone yet, but it's 50/50 right now.

I also learned that the $255 dinner celebratation tickets are non-refundable, but they are transferable. So if I opt not to use them, or My Sailor can't make it and I can't find a "date", someone will be getting a pretty awesome early Christmas present...

But that said, it's sort of my fault. I usually make sure the tickets are completely refundable before I buy them, but, since My Sailor is supposed to be in 'off crew' (meaning he's not supposed to be doing more than working a regular day shift - though he's been taking required night classes and, starting next week, when he's not doing that, he'll be working an early morning shift).

There has been a lot of chatter on the Navy wives facebook pages that encourage spouses not to have expectations.

I refuse to believe that.

Expectations are healthy! The trick is to set realistic expectations. I don't expect My Sailor to be at home all the time, or ever, come to think of it.
If I buy tickets to an event, I familiarize myself with their refund policy. I also am prepared to either fly solo to said event, sell the tickets and do something else, or invite a friend instead.
If he's available to come, great!
If he can't, that's okay. He's not doing it 'on purpose' so it's completely counter productive to resent him for that disappointment.
Besides - if I'm looking forward to several different options (spending time w/ friends, flying solo, or having some extra cash in my pocket) I don't really lose.

So no matter what happens this Thanksgiving - I'm covered.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Breaking out the Bikini - PROGRESS PHOTOS!

December 2012 - The "Before" Photo
I remember taking my first "before" picture. My self esteem in the gutter, but I knew I had two choices.

Do something to change that


Decide I wasn't worth it and give up.

Well, I've never been very good at giving up. 

Even though I've had nearly every single reason a woman can have for 'giving up'.

Go back and check out previous blog entries if you're curious, but they range from medical conditions to deployments and death. It's been a remarkably tough year.

But I'm very quickly recognizing that, well, I'm tougher.

This Thanksgiving (which will continue to be grain free for me) finds me especially grateful for all those people who inspire me every day, and support me in this journey and all the other crazy places this life takes me. From Facebook buddies, to intimate friends and family, to people that are somewhere between, it's been a fun and crazy ride that I'm glad to take with ya'll.  I don't have photos with all of you, but here are a few inspirational moments on my list.

My Fellow Strong Sisters

400lb tire flip tie breaker and fellow Lady of Lifting
My Sailor and friends accomplishing a Zombie 5k - where I set a new 5k Personal Record (30:31) 
Working out in Disneyland Hotel - Proving That Awesome Doesnt' Need A Vacation
Here's some of November's progress!

Are you ready for the craziest bit of all? 
I've Only Lost FOUR POUNDS since I started Training 3x/week!
The scale is only one small tool in my arsenal.
When I started, I couldn't run a mile. 
Now, most of my miles 10 minutes. In fact, I ran a 50 second 200m sprint yesterday.
When I started, the 45lb bar was 'heavy'. Now, I back squat and deadlift over 200lbs.

And something tells me I'm not done yet...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Big Push

I should have known. 

As recently as Veteran's Day, I was reminded that no mountain is climbed overnight, but with support and some creative thinking, anything really is possible. And 'nearly impossible' doesn't mean completely impossible. 

With some creative thinking and flexibility from good friends and social workers, we were able to come up with a plan that might just get this thing rolling and done by December. 

Very little in life can be accomplished without an amazing support crew, and I couldn't be more grateful for mine. SuperMom continues to inspire me with the way she fights her family, and encourages me never to give up. She reminds me that the kids are out there, somewhere, counting on us, so it's worth every effort we can make. That fact can get clouded when the mountainous 'to-do' list seems overwhelming.  One of my fellow StrongSisters who has already 'been there done that' lined up with some creative solutions and helped me stay objective about the 'to do' list.

And My Sailor has been very supportive as well. This hasn't been easy on him either, and I'm sure he's feeling the pressure as well. He has a great support crew too. His Chief has armed him with the support he needs to get his arsenal of weight loss on. 

So we've got the plan. We've got the help. We've got the support. Now all we need to do is stick to it! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"The Vacant Space" Chapter ???

Don't Compare Your Chapter 1 to Someone Else's Chapter 20.
Where exactly is 'Chapter 1'?

I think, in some cases, it's easier to pinpoint than others.

Did my 'Chapter 1' in fitness begin when I signed up with Trainer Guy? Or did it start when I started doing Zumba 5 days a week in 2012? Maybe it started when My Sailor was deployed and I started running every day and picking up a spinning class? Did it start in 2004 when I started my second low calorie nearly-completely-liquid diet? Or did it start in 2009 when I jumped back on that plan and added in 'Bike n' Brunch Sundays' into my week?

Did it start when I played rec sports as a kid?

Or the first time someone called me fat?

I can't possibly pinpoint it. I can say that 'Chapter 1' of my 'screw the scale' adventure started this year, for sure. Getting stronger and fitter has changed the power I used to give the scale. Now, when it's in my favor I celebrate a little. When it isn't it isn't a big deal.

For other things, 'Chapter 1' is pretty cut and dry. 'Chapter 1' of my adventure as a military wife began when I married My Sailor. 'Chapter 1' of my adventure as a homeowner clearly started with this house (the condo didn't count).

'Chapter 1' of my adventure as an adoptive parent has yet to being...

And though I know I should 'cherish' this intermediate time, the fact is, I'm over it. I like dreams. I like hopes. I like the certainty of taking one little step at a time. And, for the last month or so, it's felt like we're getting closer to the adoption bit by bit.

But yesterday, it felt as if we took a few giant leaps back. See, here was the original plan:

Complete the Home Study by the end of December 2014.
Dive on the waiting referral lead that we had.
Hopefully this would delay My Sailor's upcoming deployment and he'd be able to stay home for paternity leave and bonding time.

But here's the reality of it -
My Sailor's schedule is starting to hit the "crazy making" again. As an example, whether or not he's working on Saturday has changed 3 times between Monday and Tuesday alone. Who knows what today will bring. Most days for us start around 4:30am and end around 11pm, and, while we're told he'll have weekends off, he's also starting into night school soon. We've done night shifts before. It means that he won't have energy for ANYTHING else, aside from the odd movie out every once in a while.

Which means completing things to get our home study and licensing by 2014 has gone from 'going-to-happen-no-matter-what" to a near-impossibility.  That doesn't mean it won't get done. Just not done right now.

But it does mean that I am almost done. Maybe it's because we're still early in this book, but it's taken about 10 years for me to get through Chapter 1 ("Partnership") and into Chapter 2 ("Build a Family") - and this is one emotionally exhausting book. Frankly, I'm getting to the point where I'm almost ready to close this book and put it down, permanently. I know you readers are probably looking for a 'silver lining' kind of post, and there is a silver lining to this.  But I have to say, even I have my limits on the amount of near-constant disappointment and discouragement I can handle. This process has tested and stretched every bit of it. While it's easy for me to see people well into Chapter 20 ("Jr.'s First Speeding Ticket") it's perhaps easier for me to see a different Chapter 20 ("My First Volunteer Vacation to Africa to Build a School"). I can pretty much control the latter one. The former? Well, it's proven that I have little to no control over it what so ever.

So, I'm not comparing my Chapter 20 to anyone else's Chapter 20.

Most of my friends at this point have kids, and that's great. That's their book and their journey, and I'm happy to share it with them. I enjoy spending time with them and their kids.

Before I make this sound 'easy', I've had my own gut wrenching melt down when I discovered that it appears our adoption plans are hitting pause yet again. I sobbed inconsolably and wanted nothing more than to be left alone to moarn the dream and find another one. After all, this relocation has challenged me to let go of dreams I never thought I'd let go of. I haven't been involved in a show for 2 years, though I've patronized a few. I still write, but I have only recently been able to persue it as a career path - and that may be going on the shelf again unless some paying gigs materialize, as the money may soon outweigh the personal fulfillment and the daily responsibilities can't continue to go uncared for. My writing time this morning went towards doing some much neglected cleaning, and the lawn is nearly knee high - again - since I didn't get to finish mowing it last time.  Responsiblities have a way of taking priority over the things I 'want' to do. 'Want' and 'Need' are 2 different things. (Don't worry - the blogging isn't going anywhere, and I'm sure the work outs won't go anywhere either. They are my sanity.) I'm still feeling the ripples of all that and, I won't lie - a lot of fear and uncertainty about this future. This pause could require us to do just about everything over again if we don't get a referal in time, and referals can take years to get. If that happens, we'll have to start over - again.

It took us 2 years to get this far, so if that happens, I'll probably just be done. I'll find some other way to contribute to the world that doesn't involve raising children. Not every person is ment to be a parent - and that's okay.
Maybe the empty room in our house is meant to always be a pet room. Maybe it's meant to be a guest room. Maybe it's meant to be an office. Maybe it's meant to be a kids' room. Maybe it's meant to be a roommate's space?

I can't pretend to have an answer to that. Right now, all of it seems too many pages ahead to flip to.

My journey through life isn't the same as others. My Chapter 20 isn't the same as someone else's. Life isn't a "page to stage" comparison, and and 'should-ing' myself to death certainly won't help anyone.

Truth is -
I'm married to an awesome guy who is part of something less that 1% of 1% of the country is part of.
And it rules about 98% of our lives.

I'm not complaining. I know I signed up for this, just like he did. Neither of us were exactly clear on what it meant, but we knew it wouldn't be easy. And that's okay. Few things in life worth having are.

He'd hoped it would be 'easier' when he signed up, because he'd be deployed less, but we had no idea the havoc an unpredictable schedule could wreck on things like adoption.

Even if we did, I'm not sure our choices would have been any different.

This is our book. These are our chapters.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Cure To Over Population

You Do Not Want To Hear This...
But I have the Cure to Over Population...

I am convinced that if every person who ever had a baby was required to go through the process to become a licensed Foster Parent prior entering parenthood,
there would be a lot less babies in the world.
Seriously, if there were a way to require people to take these courses, there would be no unwanted children in the world, I'm convinced.

How many people would never put themselves at risk for pregnancy if they had to do a background check on the other biological donor part of that equation?

Now, I know my background. My Sailor knows my background. I know his background.
We're a set of the lucky ones.
Nothing they uncover will result in surprises, tension, or divorce because, well, there's nothing new to uncover.
 But for SO many couples, I'm sure that's not the case.
Secrets are toxic.

Our example:
In his youth, My Sailor had a lead foot when it came to the gas pedal. He's never hit anything or anyone, but he's had his fair share a few speeding tickets.
At one point in his life, he was moving a lot and he got a speeding ticket. Having a lot on his plate, it got lost in the shuffle and he ended up having his license suspended. At that point, it wasn't a big deal because he was taking the bus.
 Well, that got his attention and he paid the ticket. End of drama, right?


Both his job and the licensing board requires documentation of the speeding ticket issue. In fact, he has to write a letter talking about the circumstances ("I was speeding.") , what he's learned from it ("I shouldn't have sped and should have resolved the ticket immediately."), and how the experience will make him a better parent ("I'll teach my kids that if you obey the speed limit, you don't have to worry about getting tickets. If you do get a ticket it, take care of it immediately."). To add insult to injury, the courts in Michigan say it'll take 3-8 weeks to get the paper that says the issue was resolved... We only have 6 weeks where we know he'll be home every day. So once again, time isn't on our side, and we're at the mercy of hard working social workers and an interstate government system.

While I don't have any speeding tickets, I'm sure I'll be explaining my previous marriage to a social worker in detail eventually as well.

These are things we did over 10 years ago that have been put behind us, but still crop up.

I'm pretty convinced that, if these types of background checks were required for having kids - I doubt that many people would produce.

Because of this specific hiccup, we're in danger of not getting our homestudy and foster license done before his next deployment.
If it isn't done before his next deployment, this will be looking like a 3 year process. No, that's not for international adoption. That's for domestic.
While I have faith that everything happens just when it's ment to, and I know that being annoyed isn't going to change what has to happen in order to make this work.

But I think we could seriously cut future population in half (at least) if every parent were required to fill out the mountain of paperwork adoptive parents have to.

(This future adoptive parent rant is brought to you by coffee - and a huge stack of paperwork.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November - Bigger than Christmas?!

See that guy there? He's full of surprises.
Monday night, I sat down to work on my Novel. (In case you didn't know, it's National Novel Writing Month. Click here for more info. Yes, Teyar, Ashta and Sihaya are the staring characters, and Silent will most definately be making an appearance... most likely more than one since you can't tell Ashta's story without him.)  My 2010 Acer kept trying not to crash with every 5th keystroke. Since I have a tendancy to 'make do' and I'm patient, I used the time my computer was taking not to crash to make a few more notes on my homestudy autobiography.  After watching me get about 3 sentences written in roughly 30 minutes, My Sailor benignly asks, "What time is it?" I check the time, "About 8pm. Why?" He stood up, "I can't take it any more. We're going to get you a new laptop. Let's go." And with that, our coats were on and we were out the door. I protested a little, but My Sailor let me know (in January... he's no good with secrets, which is an endearing trait 99% of the time) that he was getting me a MacBook for Christmas. 

Christmas came early and, about an hour later, we were setting up my MacBook pro. Today is the first day I've really had a chance to sit down and write on it since then, and got about 800 words down in under 2 hours, so I'm predicting this 50,000 word novel won't be too much of a slog. It will also effectively fill up all my free time this month.

I won't lie. There is a near petrifying anxiety in this foray into the fantasy world I once knew so well. I wonder, "Will it be good enough?" "Will anyone read it?" "What will critics say?" "Will anyone 'get it', or will this just be another bit of entertaining drivel?" "Will these characters mean anything to anyone other than me?" "Will this ever get picked up as more than just a National Novel Writing Month project, like the hundreds (or thousands) of others out there?" It's a pretty intimidating project. I've had a bit of writer's block on Dad's book, so to hammer this one out in a month is very daunting.

So far, I've over come that by taking a deep breath and reminding myself that I've been writing Ashta and Sihaya Shadowcare (my leading characters) since I was a teenager. I know them better than anyone. Their stories are compelling. They are not for the faint of heart (or stomach - these are books my kids won't be reading until they are AT LEAST teenagers). I've already done so much of the work. I just need to tell their story in one place. I just need to put the peices together. I just need to tell the story of these remarkable creatures that live in my imagination.

It's that simple. The story is already there. The characters are already there. It's just a matter of getting it out now.

I used to say, "Writing is like giving your soul ink." Even in fiction, a little bit of every character is a peice of the author.

That said, let's update you on other things. The Contractor is still trying to find a way for us to fund the 2nd story, but I doubt that's going to happen just yet. Maybe in a few more years once we have some extra equity behind the house. For now, we really need to move the water heater into the laundry room and get a stackable washer and dryer. That is pretty much a necessity. Then there are the "His", "Hers", and "Need To Happen Someday But Can Wait" projects.

His: Central heating installation. (Probably off the table due to the expense of adding a unit, closing off all the currently installed baseboard heading and adding vents.)

Hers: Raising the ceiling in the kid(s)'s room. (Might be off the table depending on cost. Recessed lighting adds to the value of a house, but the roof is only about 6'5" high in that room, which might make bunk beds impossible.)

NTHSBCW: (Hey, we're a Navy household. Acryonams fly around so fast it's practically its own language.) Sealing up the extra front door. (Yes, we bought a house with 2 front doors. While we love our quirky little house, it's a tad draftier than it needs to be at times.)

We'll see what's possible soon enough.

One more surprise - I've made the first purchase for the kid(s)'s room! Though I plan on replacing the photo inside it with one of our wedding photos (rather than this photo of our engagement weekend while we were still long distance).

In the meantime, on the work out front, I can feel my Bench Press getting better and better! Yesterday I did about 5 reps of 85lbs. Since my max was 100lbs when I started this, it's exciting to think of where that's going!  Most of all, right now I find the gym comforting. It's something I can control and it's a safe way of building my confidence while I'm learning and growing. It gets the endorphines going while working out the Cortisol (aka stress), effectively keeping things like depression and anxiety well under control. It hasn't been an easy year by far. I mean, we've had a death in the family, stumbled through the adoption process (which sometimes feels nightmarishly challenging), dealt with deployments in the middle of all that, and the usual 'hiccups' that pop up in every life. Committing to my health has made it all managable. It's something I've been able to take with me to hotels when I travel, to restruants when I eat out, and, well, into my everyday life. This is one habit that's here to stay.

And finally, an adoption update! Our homestudy fees are paid and now we're working on the paperwork and, well, checking out the construction side. There are a few hiccups that might prolong the process past December. My Sailor had a license suspended in his teens (pay your speeding tickets people...). Though it's been taken care of YEARS ago, the courts still need records of it being handled, and he has to write a letter of what he's learned from the experience and how it will make him a better parent. We also need to compile a list of all the places we've lived in the last 5 years (which is MUCH harder for him than for me, so a lot of this does fall on My Sailor).  We need to get our reference letters out so people can fill out those forms and return them to us, and we need to continue to get the house ready.

It's going to be a VERY busy month!

As I elluded to earlier - it's still the 'year of firsts' around here. Dad's birthday would have been this month. Then there are days like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, etc... Most of the time I'm great about keeping things in perspective, but it's safe to say that I feel the absence of Dad more acutely this month.

And I'm even more grateful for the time I have with my family. My kids may not know their Grandpa, but I'm sure his legacy of goofy, warm, occasionally embarassing love will live on well through me, my brother, and my mom. While she has her own legacy to share, I believe we are each changed by the people we love, no matter how long they stay in our lives.

The great thing about smashing all that we can into this month is that our vacation at the end of December will feel AMAZING....