grounded but grateful: the mysterious way we got stuck in santa fe

grandma's hand in hospital

This vacation photo may not be of a sunset or a pool or a beautiful meal, but I can guarantee it captures one of the most memorable moments of our girls’ weekend in Santa Fe. That’s right; we spent part of it in the hospital. Still can’t even believe it.

God works in mysterious ways - doodle artYou might have read here that I met my Mom and Nana in Santa Fe later than planned, after my little guy got super sick last week. Despite the rocky start, we’ve had a magical and meaningful time together. In fact, yesterday morning, some of you saw me post this image on Facebook; I was sitting on the hotel balcony with Nana, doodling one of her favorite sayings – God works in mysterious ways – as we chatted.

Not long after, we headed to the historic La Fonda hotel and restaurant for a beautiful breakfast…

Breakfast at La Fonda in Santa Fe

There she is…my 89-year-old Nana enjoying a latte, looking pretty darn happy and healthy. We’d already checked out of our hotel, so after breakfast, we decided to stroll around The Plaza – an open-air square with shops and a long sidewalk where local Native Americans sell their gorgeous, handmade jewelry. Nana wanted to buy me something for my upcoming birthday, so we all moved from one artist to the next, looking at their wares. She must have said a dozen times as we walked that she’d been having such a wonderful time, she didn’t want to go home.

But her back started to hurt, so she sat down on a cement block about the height of a bench and leaned up against a pole, saying she’d be fine. I brought over a turquoise ring to show her, holding out my hand, and noticed she couldn’t seem to see the ring on my finger. She put her hand on her head, said she just wasn’t feeling well and – boom! – she slumped over into my arms, suddenly slurring words, drooling and staring into space, then passed out. I yelled for my mom, a nearby policewoman called for help and I whispered into Nana’s ear: “Stay with me. Hold on. I love you.” Friends, I really thought we were going to lose her then and there.

I’m sure it took a short minute, but it felt like an eternity for the paramedics to arrive. One said it looked like she was having a stroke as they loaded her onto a gurney. But by the time we rolled away in the ambulance, Nana was answering questions and regaining some strength. Not long after getting hooked up to monitors and an IV at the hospital, she was joking with the nurses. A few hours later – after an exam, blood tests and x-rays – she was free to go (in a cab, I might add, since we all arrived by ambulance!).

Turns out it wasn’t a stroke (thank heavens), but likely caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure. We don’t know how or why yet, but we do know we feel so, so lucky. For the swift and kind work of paramedics and hospital staff. For our hotel – which is almost always sold out – extending our stay by a night. For the airline finding us three seats on a new flight today at no extra cost. Meanwhile, my hubby’s home for the boys, including taking Tru to his first day of preschool.

As we sat by Nana’s bed in the ER yesterday afternoon, we noted that our missed flight was taking off that moment and that we’d likely have to stay in Santa Fe another day – just as she’d wished. Without skipping a beat and with a twinkle in her eye, she said, “God works in mysterious ways.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Road Trip! Snapshots of Our Family Fun…

Ummm…I’ve changed my mind. Yesterday, I shared five {slightly offbeat} tips for enjoying Chicago with kiddos. I said I’d give you more tips today.

What the heck was I thinking?

I don’t have time to write up a “fun travel” tutorial each day of vacation; nor am I even qualified, given that I spent the first hour of today growling at my kids for waking up too early and making more noise than a herd of elephants! That definitely qualifies as not fun. I’ll leave the rest of the travel advice to the experts.

But here’s our travel journal thus far – in pictures. To my amazement, these have all been taken with my new Samsung Galaxy S3. I have my heavy-duty camera along, but I’ve wound up using the phone way more often {it has 8.0 megapixels and no lag time on the shutter}. I’m finding the photos to be really vivid. And that panoramic shot of the Chicago skyline? It took that, too. So, here’s a peek at where we’ve been, what we’ve done and what’s made us smile…

By the way…I’m part of the Verizon Wireless Midwest Savvy Moms program, which means they gave me a fancy pants phone, six months of service, and the freedom to honestly share my thoughts about the device with you. So far, soooo good!


How To Have Fun in Chicago with Kids: Part 1

We’re already on Day 4 of our family vacation to the Windy City! I grew up LOVING our family trips to this place. Now, it’s totally surreal to visit with my own kiddos {and wonderful to see the city through their eyes}. There are lots of tutorials available for “how to have fun with kids in Chicago.” Here’s the beginning of MY slightly offbeat list in hopes it helps you all enjoy Chi-town someday.

STEP 1: Force your kids to have screen time. We didn’t initially want two screens in the silver bullet; in fact, we asked to have it priced without the screens and were shocked to learn it would have been more expensive! But holy smokes – I’m so glad we caved. When two kids, ages 4 and 9, can watch and hear their own movies during an eight hour ride? It may just be the key to world peace.

STEP 2: Add at least an hour cushion to every time estimate, due to unforeseen circumstances. For instance, how could we have guessed Tru would spill a smoothie all over his car seat moments before we planned to pull out of the driveway?

STEP 3: Crash with friends who have kiddos. And if those beloved buddies in the ‘burbs love to cook and have a community pool, even better. Our friends Tracy & Josh were kind enough to have us stay with them and their little munchkins for a couple of nights. Despite the chaos of moving in one week ago, Tracy made a homemade quiche and pancakes with apple compote one morning and Josh grilled the best flank steak and chicken for dinner one night {after literally building his new grill that afternoon}. So grateful. But you’ll have to find your own friends to do this for you.

STEP 4: Read this blog post on being a good house guest {good for any kid old enough to understand it}. Ryder and I read and talked through it before our trip and, about 58% of the time, he remembered to follow the guidelines – which ain’t too shabby.

STEP 5: Despite the good influence of Step 4, be prepared to utter plenty of parent-only lingo, like “don’t you dare do that” or “stop hitting your brother” or “no, you cannot pee in the car.” Pick your battles wisely so you’re not in a constant state of distress.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you where we’re now staying {it’s awesome}, what to take to Navy Pier and how not to swim with dolphins. You’re waiting with bated breath…I just know it.


Why I’m Not Getting Any Work Done!

How’s a girl supposed to get any work done in a place like this? We loaded up the car and drove north on Friday night, to one of our favorite spots in the world – a lake home owned by dear family friends, loaned to us with love for a few days. My mom, grandma and brother met us here, in paradise.

You might have caught it on Facebook: I packed everything a mama can possibly think of – sunscreen, beach toys, bug spray, Band-aids, extra underwear, sippy cups, snacks {you get the idea}. The last thing I put in the car was my laptop, knowing I had sooooo much work to do and hoping I could squeeze in time to get it all done.

But….all of this happened instead…

Oh, heck. Work can wait, right?

Is Heaven Like This…All The Time?

On Saturday, we went to one of our favorite summer spots – Lake Harriet. Within the city of Minneapolis, there are lots of gorgeous lakes with trails wrapped around them, but Harriet is our favorite. We rode the old trolley and then walked down to the bandshell, where Jaspar Lepak was singing folk songs under a clear blue sky.

While Brad took Tru over to see the boats, Ryder and I cozied up on a bench in the audience. We tapped our toes and I rubbed his back, mesmerized by the perfect setting, pretty music, smiling concertgoers, tail-wagging puppies, hand-holding couples, shimmering lake, and quality time with my big boy. This is the life, I thought to myself. A truly blessed life.

When we saw Brad and Tru had returned from boat-watching, we left our sweet park bench and walked over to them. As the boys started monkeying around, Brad leaned over to me and asked, “If life can be this good, do you ever wonder how great Heaven must be? Is it like this – but all the time??”

I love that we both had a sense in that place, in that togetherness, in that evening – was something special, something sacred. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. We both breathed in the fresh blue air, watched our beautiful boys skipping ahead of us, and gave thanks for a glimpse of Heaven on Earth.

Angel in My Corner: My New Favorite Photo

Holy smokes, you guys. I just had to drop in to share this with you – my new favorite picture. I’ve been taking a little break from the blog the past couple of days to focus on some big projects. But tomorrow’s Little Bliss List Day and I planned to share that I’ve been having fun re-discovering some old favorites in my closet, like this cozy cardigan I got for a steal – and forgot about! So, I posed in front of a mirror with my iPhone. I was focusing on making sure I was fully in the frame, not paying attention to anything outside of myself {insert ego joke here – heehee!}.

When I looked at the result, my heart skipped a beat. There’s my dad, hiding out in the corner, seemingly watching me from within that picture frame. It’s the same photo Tru was dancing with the other day. It didn’t make me sad; just the opposite, in fact. Looking at this photo, I feel like my dad was right there, taking the picture with me, letting me know he’s always hanging out in the corner, watching over me with all that love and pride in his eyes, just like always. Picture perfect. Thanks, Dad.



Writing With My Dad

I feel closer to my dad when I see his handwriting, when I can touch the lined legal notepads onto which he poured his heart and soul and survey data. Maybe it sounds crazy, but holding his handwritten words feels a little like holding his hand.


My dad was always making lists, scribbling notes in the margins of book pages, or writing reminders to himself on the palm of his left hand. He rarely went anywhere without a felt-tip pen in his shirt pocket, just in case inspiration struck – whether it was his next great idea or an addition to the grocery list.


All my life, I’ve thought I had inherited my mom’s handwriting – a casual version of her elegant penmanship. But in the four months since my dad’s death, I’ve run across so many post-it notes that I thought were mine, only to realize they were my dad’s. I’ve found myself mindlessly {or mindfully?} tracing over the letters with my finger, surprised at how each stroke and swoop comes so naturally. How did I not notice this before?


We had dreams of writing together, my dad and I. Now, when I put pen to paper, I realize maybe we still will.



Where Love Really Lives

{me and my love, 2010}

Well, here we go again. Another much-adored, highly-admired Hollywood couple bites the dust. As soon as Heidi Klum and Seal announced their separation last weekend, Facebook and Twitter blew up with exclamations of disappointment, sadness and utter dismay.


“If Heidi Klum and Seal can’t make it,” one friend posted on Facebook, “then what hope do the rest of us have?”


I think she was being sarcastic, but I’m not totally sure. Though it feels foolish to admit, every time a famous couple announces they’re splitting, our own hopes and dreams do get shaken up a bit. The stories of Hollywood’s most romantic couples have become our grown-up fairy tales.


Yes, we’re all old enough to realize Prince Charming isn’t coming with the glass slipper. But tabloid covers and red carpet interviews make modern day fairy tales seem possible in real life: fancy cars and castles, luxury vacations, a gaggle of cute kids, perfect teeth, tiny waists and lasting, heart-thumping romance. As we wash the dishes, change dirty diapers and Swiffer the floors with Entertainment Tonight trumpeting those tales in the background, that life seems almost attainable. After all, those pretty people in their ball gowns and bling are real people, too. Right?


It’s no wonder we feel so stunned and unsettled when another perfect Hollywood romance crumbles. Often without warning, our image of their perfect life is swiftly replaced by rumors of fights and infidelities. Another fairy tale ends badly, another love story fades to black. And we’re left to wonder: if lasting love isn’t possible for two people who could afford any therapist, any nanny, any fantasy getaway – how are we regular folks supposed to make it work?


Perhaps we’re looking for love in all the wrong places.


Love’s true heroes are rarely dressed to the nines or buying mansions in the Hollywood Hills. They don’t rely on bling and spotlights and music videos to proclaim their love. They’re couples whose love and respect for one another have stood the test of time, through highs and lows.


I’m thinking fondly today of one sweet and beautiful couple I know – so frail and fragile that their family has just moved them into a nursing home together. She has Alzheimer’s, he has chronic pain; but they remain so in love and so deeply connected that it’s unimaginable to separate them for even a day. That’s the kind of couple who deserves to be on the covers of magazines, engraved in our hearts as an example of true and lasting love. I bet Heidi and Seal are wishing on stars that they could find that kind of love, too.


Are You Missing From Your Own Pictures?

Last month, as I was skimming my 2011 photo files for great shots to feature in our Christmas card, I noticed something pretty important was missing.


There were plenty of shots of the boys with Brad, with relatives and with friends. But it looked as if I hadn’t bothered to show up for a single birthday party, school function, or family get-together. I was there – I swear! It’s a shame, because each photo tells a story about the time and place and people in it. I love flipping through pictures from my childhood – especially those with my parents included. Each one is like a little gift; a treasure chest of memories. And I want my kids to have that; for them to have evidence that their mama was truly present. But last year, I disappeared from our photos. Time and memories I can’t get back. And there are two reasons why I went missing…

1) I was almost always the person taking the pictures vs. posing for them. 

I think most mamas can relate to #1. We’re so engrossed in getting good shots of our family and friends that we forget {or feel too shy} to ask someone to get good shots of us.

So, despite not being a huge fan of resolutions, I’ve resolved to stick out my neck from behind the lens and ask to be included. On New Year’s Eve, we walked the candlelit trails at a local nature center; I took photographs throughout the evening, trying to capture the sweet outdoor celebration. Just before we left, I asked Brad to take the camera hanging from my neck and snap some pictures of me with the boys.  When he showed me the shots – with all three of us looking so cozy and happy – I squealed with delight. I was so relieved to have proof I was there, ringing in 2012 with my boys, knowing someday they’ll have that photo to remember the night, our bond, our joy.

2) If I was in any pictures, I deleted most of them.   

This is a harder pill to swallow. I love the ease of digital photography, but it also makes it so easy to instantly erase any photo I don’t love. Goodbye bad hair day. Goodbye extra weight. Goodbye zit. I realize, in retrospect, what a disservice I’m doing  – not only to my kids, but to me.

Each time I delete a photo of myself, I’m wiring a message to my brain that I’m not pretty enough, thin enough, radiant enough – not good enough. Even though, years later, I tend to love the photos I once hated. Don’t you look at pictures of yourself from 10 years ago and wonder why in the world you didn’t like the way you looked?

I’m starting to get there with this one: a photo of me and the kids last summer, up at Split Rock lighthouse as a giant storm rolled in. I remember I almost deleted it on the spot, but Brad wouldn’t let me. He LOVED the picture – the happiness on our faces, the wind whipping through our hair, me without makeup. So I kept it, begrudgingly. And now I’m starting to see past the flaws. Now I’m remembering that magical moment up there, watching the distant clouds move across Lake Superior, running through the rain to our car. Thank God I kept the picture, right?

So, part of following my bliss this year will be simply showing up and honoring my own beauty, my own place in this corner of the world. Not seeing past the imperfections, but finding the good in them. Capturing not only the beauty around me, but in me. And giving my kids the gift of knowing – and seeing – that their mom was right there with them, clutching them tightly and so happy to be there.