Blank Canvas

Rise and shine…it’s 2020.  We have officially started a new decade, wait…what?  Where did the year go?  As I told a friend last night, think of it as a clean slate.  As always, a new year presents us with an opportunity to get things right.  Not all of life, let’s be realistic.  Maybe money, relationships, work, a new skill….whatever it may be that’s been nagging you.  For me, it’s….well we’re not talking about me.  This is just a general reminder that even if the past few months (or year) have been stressful or not what we’d hoped, this is January 1, 2020….a blank canvas if you will.  This is our chance to get a new set of paintbrushes (still with the metaphor) and have at it.  

I’ve been blessed to be off for the past two weeks and therefore have embraced the chances to rest, relax and recharge.  I’ve had full cups of coffee and enjoyed every sip of them; I’ve gone from room to room making my list of projects/wish list items for my house.  I’ve slept in….though I was sure the day was half over when I got up at 8:30 once.

Since we just finished the holidays (even though Christmas technically doesn’t end until January 6th), one activity that I can never tire of is watching Christmas movies.  I shook my head at the comments I read regarding “too many Christmas movies” on Hallmark channel.  Those poor people….who could tire of sweet stories where everyone is happy, not stressed, there’s snow, hot chocolate and more?  Do I watch them all year long…no….but it’s still the holidays in my mind, so all bets are off.

happy new year text

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

A recent movie I watched, Christmas in Mississippi, starring Faith Ford as one of the characters had a line that stuck with me, “There’s nothing silly about having faith that hard times are going to get better.”  I couldn’t help but smile as we all need a little reminder sometimes to keep believing and having faith.  

So as we continue on the first day of the New Year…take charge of the little moments.  Embrace them….live with no regrets.  Taking the advice of someone I respect, “Make it count” (thank you, Fr. Carlos).  

Happy New Year to all!

All hope is not lost

The other day I took some friends’ kids out for a photo shoot as a surprise gift for their Mom.  Mind you, these kids are on their Thanksgiving break and here I am, pulling them away from their basketball court, devices (though I caved and let those come along for the ride) and their couch.  The fact that they not only complied, but had a genuinely good attitude about my request is a testament to the way they are being raised.  In a typical teenager fashion, after the first stop, one of them asked what was next and how long it’ll take to get there.  The question popped up again after our last stop.  I smiled and said, “Actually…we’re headed home” which resulted in a “oh we are….okay, cool.”  Though he acted as if we had been driving for hours, the same teen spoke up to say “oh, I know where we are….we should be home in like 10 minutes.”  As we looked at the jam-packed sea of cars in front of us, his older brother and I laughed saying it might be longer than that.  

Multiple times during the car ride home, the kids thanked me for doing this for their Mom and like their genuine attitude at the beginning, they really meant these words.  It would be easy to say that was planned, their mother told them to say that….but I didn’t care—I’m a sucker for good manners and hearing nice things.  Truth be told, their parents have raised them to be respectful, use their manners and be genuinely nice.  

Once I returned the kids safety to their house, their Mom and I sat down to visit.  She played along with my surprise by not asking any questions and even saying, “I don’t know…she won’t tell me” when her husband called during our visit.  When she walked me to my car, I told her how good the kids were, how fun it was to see them get along and that she’s doing a good job.  She thanked me before we hugged good-bye and I went on my way.

Even though I don’t have any kids of my own…just a niece and nephews I adore, I know this for sure: Parenting is not easy.  It is not for the faint of heart.  I see that with my friends who are parents (such as the friend I mentioned earlier), my sister who is a mom of 5, my mom, etc….Parenting requires being the adult and setting the tone.  Parenting requires being firm, not one’s friend.  Children will get mad at you, say they hate you, threaten to run away, etc.  They will hopefully realize later on that you were only being tough for their own good.  Mind you, they may not say “thank you” outright…but in their own way, they will say it.

As we are a day from Thanksgiving, I want to express how grateful I am to my parents who always pushed me to do the right thing….who had high expectations for me and my sisters and who made the tough decisions.  I like to think they paid off.  

Enjoy the family time, the little moments, and the friends who feel like family, and find time to laugh….a lot!  Happy Thanksgiving and remember, calories don’t count on holidays….

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Reflecting on 2018

As 2018 winds down, I figured this was a good time to reflect on the past year.  Time and time again, I believe God sends me messages, through people that come into my life, intended to remind me to appreciate every moment and also, perhaps, take me in a different direction.  The following is just a taste of my look back on 2018. 

This year has brought me the random stranger I met who shared with me that his wife just received news that her cancer was back for the third time 3 days before Christmas.  When I touched his arm to express my care and promised to say a prayer for them, for a brief moment, he was no longer a stranger.  2018 brought me a connection and friendship with a new parent to our school whom I am so blessed to know.  She has made me a better person, friend and frankly made me put more depth into my job.  

2018 started off where I was enjoying a Happy Hour with friends celebrating my belated birthday only to have our world turned upside down the next day.  We learned that one of our students was fighting for his life in the hospital with a brain tumor.  In the short time that followed, our community grew even closer which, looking back now, was probably the student’s doing.  Just a few days after he lost his fight, his parents came by school “to check on the kids” meaning his classmates.  Spend just a few minutes with his parents and you can’t help but have a sense of peace come over you.  They are two of the most grounded, faith-filled individuals I’ve ever met and are simply amazing examples to others.  This tragedy taught me a lesson and brought me a renewed sense of faith and reminded us all how important it is to “just get along.”  

April 2018, I explored the Pacific Northwest with my sister for a quick getaway to Port Orchard, WA (shout out to you Debbie Macomber).  We stayed in a beautiful B & B that overlooked the quaint, coastal town and enjoyed shopping and local wineries.  Both my older sisters and I try to take full advantage of what was instilled in us by our parents….the joy of travel! 

In August, I attended a 40th birthday party of one of my dearest and closest friends.  Guests were not allowed to know who was invited which was pretty cool and unique. I got to witness how all of the people invited knew the guest of honor and I was (and still am) no doubt blessed to be counted among her friends.  She reminds me every day to see the best in life, to laugh and shows me how important it is to stay connected and build community.  Just a mere few days ago brought me my own 40th birthday bash, where I celebrated with friends and family and couldn’t have had a better night (even if my actual birthday came two days later…I’ve already decided I’m celebrating all year long).

While most of us go into a new year with “resolutions” to get organized, be more fiscally responsible, etc…. I’m going to try a different approach.  Granted, I’m probably going to still try to be more fiscally responsible and organized, but I also want to never lose sight of the relationships in my life and enjoy all the little moments.  As cliche as that sounds, it still bears repeating.  We can’t get those moments back so make the most of them and when you have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, do it.  I’ve also been reminded about the power of prayer…..how much writing a note to someone matters….sending a text to say you’ll get through this…..and to trust in God’s plan and his path for all of us.  

Cheers to 2019!

Grateful. Thankful. Blessed.

Those three words are a on shirt that a friend and co-worker made recently so we could wear them at our annual school-wide Thanksgiving luncheon. You’re bound to have seen it on Pinterest at least a zillion times. These words describe how I feel during this Thanksgiving season. Appropriate, right? I am grateful, thankful and blessed for my family, friends, health and unwavering faith. We shouldn’t need reminders of how fragile life is but boy have we gotten them loud and clear recently. The tragedies in Las Vegas, Europe, Sutherland Springs brought it all back home for us. What else will it take for us to appreciate the people around us, our health and our opportunities to live another day?

I am blessed that I work with a great bunch of people and most closely with two girls that crack me up, encourage me to have fun, and not let the little things overwhelm me. I am also fortunate to consider them close friends too.  Everyone needs people like that, right?

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because this is a time that brings us closer to family, reminds us of what is of most importance and let’s face facts, the food we get to eat is pretty darn good too.

On Tuesday, I was in charge of watching a class for a few hours. Since the students were done with their assigned work, they asked if they could write on the board. “Sure, but do it quietly” I replied. I walked around the room a bit and then looked up and caught the eye of one student as she was writing a message on the board. Keep in mind, there was no direction at all….so I wasn’t sure how creative they would get or  how much they’d push this “free writing time.” Her message caught my eye: “Happy Thanksgiving, everyone and God bless you and your family!” Almost every single student who chose to have a place at the board had wrote something about Thanksgiving. As we wound down the day and the students started to get their backpacks, they asked if they should erase the board. “No, let’s leave it like that.”  I chose to let the messages stay up so they could come back to see them after the break.  Ahh to look at life through the eyes of a child really tugs at one’s heart sometimes.

This is the time of year we could easily get wrapped up in “Black Friday” nonsense and feel we have to hurry up and eat so we can go to our favorite 15 retail places and stand in line with a million of our closes friends. Seriously? I challenge you to slow down and let the shopping wait and put family first. Put your differences aside, let go of whatever happened the past week and enjoy the moment. Give thanks for what you have, who you have in your life and let God know you appreciate all that he has given you.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Book Review: Head First, a crash course in positivity

 

Steve Lawton is the type of guy that seconds after meeting him, you feel as if you’ve known him for years. He just makes you feel comfortable. I first met Steve about 20 years in 1996, when my sister and brother-in-law got married.  Steve is a fellow Aggie, like my brother-in-law Jay. Throughout the years, I would see Steve at various functions. A few years ago, my sister shared that Steve had been in a really bad skiing accident in Colorado and that Jay and another friend drove an RV out to bring him back to Texas. After hearing details of the accident, it is truly amazing how Steve survived. Just a few short years after the accident, Steve has shareIMG_5097d his story of positivity, resilience and determination in an appropriately titled book Head First: A Crash Course in Positivity. After finishing it, I can truly say what an inspirational book it was to read. I was reminded of how fast life can change and the role one’s attitude plays toward dealing with life’s surprises. Steve gives the reader 8 principles of how to maintain positivity when going through something negative or difficult.  His journey reminded me of my Dad’s philosophy: “There are problems and there are inconveniences. Learn the difference.” This is so true as we wall get caught up in dwelling on the little things and deeming our life to be over because we got a flat tire or our cable is out. I urge you to step back and reassess your priorities. When you see that your coffee mug leaked onto your back seat, sure it’s aggravating and makes you want to scream…..but is it a problem or
an inconvenience? Having cancer, an amputation or being stuck on a ski hill because of a fluke crash that cracked your helmet….those are problems. However, if you have the right attitude toward those problems, they can slowly teter toward an inconvenience. If you let it, the disease or problem can ruin your life. Don’t give it that much power.

If you liked the saying referenced above of my Dad’s, you can find out more information here. If you are interested in reading Steve’s book, which I hope all of you are, you can buy it on Amazon.  Follow Steve on Twitter: @stevehlawton.  IMG_3295

Christmas Through the Eyes of Children

For the past 19 years, opening presents has been scheduled around my sister’s family. For me being the youngest of 3, having the opportunity to watch my nephews and niece grow up and embrace their innocence has been one of the best presents. Yesterday was no exception. We decided to open presents before an early dinner and church. We all gathered around the tree with our piles of presents. Meagan, my niece, was in full excitement mode. Her 3 older brothers were on the other side of couch so they could spread out and have space. Their average height is about 6’2 and ages range from 15-19. Once my brother-in-law had his phone ready to record, the green light was given to start opening. My Mom and sister were on either side of me, and we all watched Meagan light up when she started tearing open her packages. Frequently throughout the Christmas season, I would hear my sister Kathy say, “I have to remember she’s only 10…and need to enjoy this time with her.” Whether it was a Bath and Body Works foaming body spray or a fun t-shirt, Meagan was all smiles. After opening a few of her own, she went over to my sister to see her gifts. My Mom and I caught Garrett, who just turned 13, punching his fist in the air out of excitement after opening a book on baseball stadiums.  Occasionally, from the other side of the couch, we would hear a “Thanks Grandma” or “Thanks Aunt Mary” from one of the boys as they unwrapped theirs. I loved turning around to see these large teenage boys, two of which are in college, still smile as they took part in the chaos. They haven’t outgrown any of it. This was evident an hour or so later as we were all gathered as a family in church (taking up almost a whole pew, I might add), when I watched my two 6’3 nephews sing along to the Christmas hymns. A proud aunt….you’re darn right!

One of my favorite songs I play repeatedly this time of year is “The Heart of Christmas” by Matthew West. The words ring so true as to how we should feel and the things we should embrace this time of year. Two verses of the song really say it well:
Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can, cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it
Don’t miss it, the heart of Christmas

Let’s make it feel the way it used to
Let’s find that wonder of a child
You can see the magic all around you
Come on, and open up your eyes

We are all guilty of rushing through the season. I work in a school and there were moments on the last day before our break where I thought, “Seriously, we’re already here?” Of course another part of me was ready to shove everything in my bag and check out for two weeks…but I just couldn’t believe the days had gone by that fast. No kids to see everyday with excitement in their eyes, anxiously waiting Santa and “the magic of Christmas.”

As you spend the day with your family, may you slow down and enjoy every moment.

Merry Christmas!

Returning to where it all started

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the opportunity to return “home” after losing my Dad in June 2015. Here is part of it:

       Once back home in Norman, I dove into work and also into helping to plan the 50th anniversary of my grammar school.  One of my former teachers and I exchanged texts and emails on a daily basis trying to put together what we wanted to be a memorable, fun event.  As with most everything she does, she sets the bar high.  This was no different…and she met those very high expectations quite easily (well-done, Ardie Herring).  The evening was a success filled with alumni ranging graduates of the 1970’s to 2000’s and teachers, both current and former (including one we hadn’t seen in 27 years).  This short weekend “home” (to San Antonio) increased my pull even more to be there on a more permanent basis and I headed back to Norman this time with a determination to do whatever it took to move closer to family.  In late October, I received a text from that same former teacher I helped with the reunion (see how it pays off to keep in touch) about an opening at my old grammar school.  A week later, I interviewed with the committee and a few days after that, I accepted the job of Admissions Director.  Two weeks later, my house was ready to be put on the market and my Mom, middle sister and I drove two cars full of my things down to San Antonio.

I have now been on the job and back home 11 months and am so grateful for the opportunity. My days fly by and I am immersed in many different aspects of the school that gave so much to me a long time ago. People frequently ask me what it’s been like to now work for a school that I once attended. Invariably, I’ll smile and respond with this, “The experience has been really neat. I won’t lie-I do find it weird at times to be back here, on the other side. But I love that the reputation of this school is still strong. My hope is that the kids who come here have the same experience I do.”

Sure, I was one of those girls who “played school” in my room but did I picture myself getting a Masters degree in Higher Education in Oklahoma only to return to my grammar school to use it? Heck no. God has a funny way of planting new opportunities right smack in front of us when we least expect it. I went from working with 18-25 year-olds to working around 3 year-olds to 15 year-olds. My day starts with greeting kids and getting them out of the car to putting them back in the car in the afternoon. My favorite part of the day, as crazy as this sounds (and if you saw it in person, you’d understand the chaos), is when my co-worker and I supervise sibling care…the holding tank if you will. This is the area those kids who have a sibling in middle school wait with us until the bigger kids are dismissed. The grades range from PK3-4th grade. The little ones are adorable. They tell you about their day and are such little innocent sponges.  I love getting hugs from the first and second graders (I’m no longer the new person whom they don’t know-yay!!).

As I noted earlier, on tours, prospective parents enjoy hearing that I went to school at Holy Spirit. They ask what has changed, what brought me back here and if I would send my own kids here (if I had children). Without a doubt, the answer is yes. When I walk into classrooms and see the way our kidimg_4237s are behaving, the respect they have for adults when they walk into a room makes me very proud. Come to think of it, they make my job easy too.

So as I near my one year anniversary, I am simply grateful for having this opportunity.  Be ready for those unexpected moments-you never know what’s around the bend and are usually glad you turned the corner to find out

 

Product Review: Roku & Sling TV

I don’t know about you, but I am sick of paying an arm and a leg for cable television.  I kept hearing about Sling TV and “cutting the cord.”  At first, I was hesitant because I was pretty spoiled from Direct TV and having so many channels at my finger tips.  What I realized, however, is that between Netflix and the channels Sling offers, I would be just fine.  So as of a week ago, I did indeed “cut the cord.”  I already had a Roku stick so I hooked that up to my tv and signed up for Sling.  Granted, I don’t get all the channels I had before, but they’ll do for now.  My bill will be a flat $40/month and I am just fine with that.

Anyone else cut the cord and happy  with the results?  By the way, Roku products can be ordered here:
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Book Review: Murder on Moonshine Hill

I had the pleasure of reading this book in advance of its publish date.  I would encourage all of you to download it on August 23rd when it is released.  You will thoroughly enjoy the latest from Joan C. Curtis.  Here is my review:

Riveting and engaging from the start, Murder on Moonshine Hill is yet another book of Joan Curtis’ one can’t put down. Thrust back into the never dull life of Jenna Scali, the reader follows her along as Jenna reconnects with an old friend she hasn’t seen in years. Being invited to her wedding after years of being apart has Jenna curious enough to grab her go-to buddy Quentin and head for the mountains of North Carolina. The trip is full of mystery as she arrives at the somewhat secluded hotel for the weekend. What was intended to be a short trip quickly turned into a maze of questions and drama surrounding the surprise murder of someone in the immediate group.  Not one to shy away from a good scoop, Jenna goes into detective mode and grows closer to her friend in ways she didn’t see coming. This book keeps you guessing and glued to the story of friendship, murder, suspense and more. Well done Joan Curtis!

This book can be purchased on Amazon: //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=marystwocents-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B01HWOR4J6&asins=B01HWOR4J6&linkId=2f005fe2004ad270b4c50de872e240cb&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066C0&bg_color=FFFFFF

May Crowning

flowers from May CrowningSo often we go through the motions of life, not really fully appreciating the little moments right in front of us. We’re so anxious to hurry up and get done and move onto the next thing. If we’re not careful, life will pass us by and we’ll be stuck wondering “What just happened?” This past Wednesday at the Holy Spirit School weekly mass, we held the traditional Crowning of the Blessed Mother. I knew vaguely what was going to happen but when I walked into the church to find our middle schoolers gathered in the back by the baptismal fountain with a flower in one hand, and clutching their buddy’s hand, I couldn’t help but smile. The entrance hymn started and the procession began. 8th grade teachers and staff watched with pride as a mix of students walked hand-in-hand with their buddies down the aisle. Cell phones and cameras were raised to capture the moment and parents beamed. I turned to my Mom and said, “I don’t remember doing that when I was here.” Apparently my Mom’s memory and that of my 5th grade teacher’s is better than mine as they both agreed we did in fact participate in May Crowning. Well, regardless, this year’s was absolutely beautiful. Thanks to this job, I have been able to sit back and appreciate all the different ways that our school commemorates events like this. When I saw our 8th graders walk down the aisle, with their buddy looking up at them in awe, I simply smiled. Shortly after returning to my office, I immediately sent out an email to our Middle School Religion teacher (aka my 5th grade teacher) and a few other key individuals telling them congrats on a job well done.

In this thing called life, let’s remember to soak up the little moments….