Looking Back on 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, I thought this was a good time to reflect and look back on an eventful year.  One of the many “highs” of the year was my trip to Hawaii in early February to cheer on the OU Softball team in their first games of the season.  From the team starting off with many wins, to learning (read: attempting) to snorkel, to stopping multiple times along coastline to take breathtaking photos, soaking up history at Pearl Harbor…the trip was a blast and one I’d repeat in a heartbeat.

hawaii 2015

View from room at Hilton Hawaiian Village

While that was only the beginning of 2015, the year seemed to go by fast and with a monumental event like losing a parent, you realize just how fast life can go.  From early spring, we knew my Dad’s days were numbered and saw this as an opportunity to start preparing ourselves (not everyone has this chance and we were grateful for the time).  Dad started to go downhill and throughout the whole ordeal of being on hospice, he maintained a great attitude, still having the energy to roll his eyes and yell at the TV for some political comment made on Fox News.  Dad passed peacefully on June 6th and with no regrets.  We were so touched by all the phone calls, notes and people showing up at the various services to be there for us.  My sisters and I were once again able to see just how many lives our parents have touched.

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” (San Antonio) increased my interest 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 a former teacher (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.

While we knew it would be hard, we also made this past Thanksgiving an inspirational and productive one.  For a while now, my middle sister Kathy wanted to do something to honor our Dad.  After bouncing a few ideas around, putting them on paper and getting the green light from her very practical husband, our new venture of Live.Simple was born.  I would love for you all to read “Our Story” about how it all began.candle

I’ve been told that all of the “firsts” are hard…holidays, birthdays and various events without those people we’ve lost.  The tears Continue reading

12.12.12

Dear Readers:

Dates are funny things.  There’s the day you took that first step, day you broke up with what’s his name, day you graduate.  They are figures embedded in our heads, maybe for life or just temporarily.  Maybe they are dates that make you laugh, smile, cry or ones you wish to forget.  So when I heard the various newscasters and radio personalities discussing today’s date, 12.12.12, I figured I would go a different route.  While today’s date is significant, I feel more inclined to remember and share 12 memories, events or just dates in general that are memorable to me.  Here they are in no particular order:

The day I….

  1.  Drove from San Antonio to Norman, OK (with brief stop in Dallas) for graduate school.  6 years later, I’m now a resident of Oklahoma.
  2. Learned I would be an aunt….got to repeat that day 5 times (thank you Kathy and Jay for giving us Ryan, Patrick, Jimmy, Garrett and Meagan).
  3. Threw out my first (and probably last) pitch at a softball game.  Oh, thankfully I can laugh at it now as I don’t remember seeing any media.
  4. Had a student come up to me and say “If I hadn’t come seen you or gotten help from this office, I wouldn’t have gotten this internship.”
  5. Recently had to be hundreds of miles away while a good friend who is only two years older than me received her first chemo treatment (where’s that private plane when you need it?)
  6. Signed the papers on my first house and car.
  7. Shook the hands of former CEO for Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher and Vice Presidential nominee, Gov. Sarah Palin (crikey it was cold that night….but worth it)….oh and if you’re ever at Dallas Love Field, keep your eye out for Mr. Kelleher-great guy!
  8. Went out to take pictures of snow and wasn’t sure if I’d make it home when my car tires kept spinning….but got some darn good pictures as a result.
  9. Skied the expert slopes with my cousin when I was about 6 or 7.  Funny how the smile on my face did not match my parents…their expression said, “You were where???”
  10. Had to kick off my sandals and run after my nephew on cold grass …in a non-fenced backyard…through sprawling yards of complete strangers with friends and family in attendance and probably laughing at me…along with my nephew who was laughing and running quite fast.
  11. Attended a mass in presence of the late Pope John Paul in 1997.
  12. Along with my sisters, gave our parents a surprise anniversary  party celebrating 35 years of marriage… and seeing the look of pure surprise on their faces (13 years ago, wow time flies).

I hope this day of 12.12.12 is a good one for you but my advice to you: make your own memories and don’t forget to grab the camera!

Sincerely,
Mary

The Power of Music

I don’t know about you but whenever I need a boost to my mood or a jolt of energy, I turn to music.  No matter what, I’m never let down.  Whenever I need to clean, before I reach for the vacuum, I make sure my iPod is turned on and ready to go. Like so many, I was saddened to hear about the death of Whitney Houston.  She had such an amazing voice…so unmistakable.  In the wake of this tragedy, there is a positive: we will always have her music. 

For me, when I hear certain songs, I’m immediately taken back to a certain place, with a childhood crush, in our suburban on a family trip…or in my own car singing without a care in the world of who can see me.  As a tribute to Whitney, and to all artists out there, I have listed some of my favorite songs and the memory I have of them:

  1. Everything I Do, I Do It For You, Bryan Adams: what I informally dubbed “our song” as it was the song my childhood crush and I danced to in junior high what feels like a lifetime ago…
  2. Roll On, Alabama: played religiously every time we drove from San Antonio to Chicago (or practically every road trip we took as a family…my Dad was a saint for being patient with us as we would barely pull out of the driveway when me or my sister would ask, “Dad, can you put this tape in?”  Yes…I said tape…that small thing you held in your hand…had two holes in it and you could manually rewind.  Good times.
  3. Could I Have This Dance, Anne Murray: my Mom introduced me to her music-great voice and I just love the words in the song…hopeless romantic, yes, afraid so.
  4. You Raise Me Up, Josh Groban: Inspirational….Tear-Jerking…great voice…enough said.
  5. Hold On, Wilson Phillips: birthday parties at the skating rink….more recently though, scene from Bridesmaids….love, love that movie!
  6. I Won’t Let Go, Rascal Flatts: made me cry while playing at my nephew’s 8th grade graduation
  7. The Cowboy Rides Away, George Strait: always plays this last for his encore…seen him in concert few times….never gets old…and boy, does he age well!
  8. Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, Toby Keith: gives me goose bumps every time I hear it…makes me proud to be an American!
  9. If That’s What It Takes, Celine Dion: my sister surprised me with trip to Vegas a few years ago and we saw Celine in concert…she sang this in French…absolutely beautiful…even if I couldn’t understand all of it.
  10.  The Dance, Garth Brooks: great song about enjoying the little things in life
  11. Save the Last Dance For Me, Michael Buble: no memory other than every time I hear this, I can’t help but turn up the song and sing along…and oh that voice!  I know it was in some movie I’ve seen but blank on which one.
  12. The Town I Loved So Well, Phil Coulter: Irish singer whom my parents love…this songs makes my family think of a town we all love-Lake Geneva, Wisconsin where we used to vacation twice a year.
  13. Old Time Rock ‘n Roll, Bob Sieger: wedding receptions come to mind…such a fun song for dancing
  14. You’ve Got a Friend, Carole King: such a classic…and makes me grateful for my friends
  15. Happy Xmas (War is Over), Celine Dion: I start playing this shortly after Thanksgiving-great words but really, it’s Celine…what’s not to love!
  16. Believe, Josh Groban: from the movie The Polar Express….reminds me of Christmas…I watch this movie every year too.
  17. I Gotta Feeling, Black Eyed Peas: another perk to working at OU, got to see this concert for free since I volunteered to work the concert….they performed before another of  my favorites, U2 hit the stage….fun, fun night and memory!
  18. Hello World, Lady Antebellum:  great song with very moving video…each time I watch, can’t help but stop what I’m doing…looking forward to seeing them live with a girlfriend in April.
  19. For Good, Kristen Chenoweth: great song…she sung it live on the tribute to Oprah

And last, but not least…

    20.  Greatest Love of All, Whitney Houston: no specific memory but great song that makes me reflect on being proud of the person I’ve become. 

These are just a few of my favorite songs.  I love that when people hear songs, they have their own unique memory.  Maybe a song makes them cry, laugh, shake their head and think I can’t believe I did that….whatever thoughts run through your head, they’re all thanks to music.  Simple, yet powerful.

Memories

I was e-mailing back and forth with a long-time family friend yesterday.  What began as a response to a Facebook posting of mine turned into some reminiscing for both of us.  The topic of her mother, the late Patsy Rockwood, came up and that brought us both to tears.  She reiterated how much her mom thought of me and that she would be proud of what I’ve done with my life.  I made the mistake of reading her message during some downtime of yesterday’s football game.  As I began reading, I felt my eyes get water, so I quickly exited out of the message.  Knowing what to expect, I opened it back up later.  I smiled at what she wrote and memories of her Mom started flashing through my mind.  I loved her mother like my own-she just had this sweet way about her and we formed a bond.  When I was little, my Mom would take me to church with her.  On the way back from communion, I would spot “Pappa” as I called her, and would sit with her for the rest of mass.  She would stretch out her arm and engulf me in a hug.  Though her name was Patsy, I was too little to use her first name.  So she was, and will always be, Pappa to me.  We lost her too soon to cancer years ago but she will always be with me.

While doing errands today, I was listening to some music via my iPod.  The song “God Gave Me You” by Blake Shelton came on and for some reason, I started thinking about Pappa again.  It didn’t take long before the tears started flowing.  I laughed, saying to myself “hmm, maybe I won’t go to the store just yet.”  So I just kept driving.  I finally pulled over and let the tears come.  After composing myself, I looked toward the sky and said, “Oh Pappa, I hope you know how much I loved you….just show me that you know that.”  On my way back to the store, I’m driving down a side street.  I look up briefly to see a street sign on the right and smile: Rockwood Dr.  I turned around and pulled over by the entrance.  I grabbed my phone and took a picture of the sign.  As corny as it sounds, I couldn’t help but look up to sky and grin.