Thursday, August 28, 2008


I sent some of you my essay for the Real Simple contest, but I thought I'd post what I think is going to be my final product. I am satisfied with it. I believe writing this was a long time coming, even if nothing comes from it. This contest inspired me to write about a woman who meant so much to me and so many others. This is just a small tribute to such a huge life!
So... here it is... let me know what you think. :-) Enjoy! (Also, I'm not totally set on this title. I'm open to suggestions.) Thanks for reading!
“Following Her Lead”

“It took me years to sort things out in my own mind, to get over the feeling of being an alien in a strange land… Finally after much soul-searching I realized that… I am worth a great deal. I am convinced that He has a purpose for my life and that many things have happened to enable me to achieve that purpose.” - “Letters to Erin” by Anne Tarlton (a.k.a. MawMaw) - 1981

There was a knock on my door. I looked at the neon-yellow numbers of the digital clock on my stove and realized it was before 9am on a Friday. Who would be knocking at this hour? This morning I was not alone. I had a little one, no more than four, sitting at my table munching on Cheerios. I was babysitting overnight for a friend from work. As the little girl stared up at me wide-eyed in curiosity, I could have never known at that moment that her innocence would be such a symbol of what I would lose that day. I smiled at her and went to answer the door.

There he was, standing in the doorway. A man I had known my entire life, but who looked so strange and distant now. I could hardly recognize him, the lines around his eyes seemed more pronounced and his clothes, unusually disheveled.
“Erin, I need to tell you something,” my father spoke with a somber, shaky voice. “You may want to sit down.”
“Okay,” I said hesitantly, backing away and inviting him in. We both looked over to see the little girl standing in the doorway of the kitchen.
“You’re still babysitting. She hasn’t left yet?” he asked cautiously.
“Well, can you take her home? You’ll need to come over to the house. We need to leave for Salisbury as soon as possible today.” I stared at him, confused, still trying to read his cryptic language, as he hesitated in telling me what was to be the end of this life, as I knew it. “It’s your MawMaw. Your Uncle Tim called us last night. A police officer came to the house to tell him that she…well, she died in a car accident last night. Erin, she was killed by a drunk driver.”
My heart sank into my stomach. I could hardly breathe. It felt as though I had just been held under water and I was struggling to come up for air. I sobbed uncontrollably as he continued on. “She’s been at a conference with Jean. They were driving back to their hotel. You know those mountain roads? It was raining and there was another car coming in the opposite direction. It hit them head on. Her car went over the embankment, but they believe she died on impact. Jean miraculously survived. She’s in the hospital now with severe injuries.” I sobbed, now on the floor, screaming, utterly inconsolable. I yelled at him. “Why did you wait? Why didn’t you tell me immediately when you found out? How could this be? I just talked to her two days ago! I was supposed to go pick her up this weekend to go to the beach. We’re going to the beach. She was so excited! I didn’t even get to say good-bye! How could this happen? It can’t be true!” He picked me up off the floor and held me in his arms, though I remained limp. I hadn’t the energy to hug him back. I needed to be held. I needed to be reminded that this life was still worth living, as fleeting as it may be.
After a few minutes, my sobbing had turned into steady tears. The little girl, clearly confused by the situation before her, came over to hug me and my brain snapped back into present reality. I needed to figure out where she would go. I called her mom and told her a brief synopsis of what had happened, and she hurried over to pick up her little one.
After everyone had left, I showered and cried more than I knew I could. I stood against the shower wall, screaming at God, questioning everything I ever believed was true and real. I packed my things in a daze, thinking that this was not the trip I should be packing for.
When I reached my parent’s house, my mother was in worse condition than I. Her face was red and her eyes were puffy from the tears that I knew had been continuous since the night before when she found out that her mother had died. I hugged her long and hard. She was my best friend, but she had lost hers. How could she bear to keep on living? How could I?
Our trip to my hometown of Salisbury, North Carolina was strange. There was a stillness in the June air that made me daydream of a life with her still in our presence. My grandmother, the most amazing woman I have ever known, was gone. I was strong, as I knew she would have been. I saw everyone in a raw state of being that only sudden death could bring. We talked and remembered. We cried and laughed. We hugged and gave each other space.
The funeral was full of many whose lives she had touched throughout her incredible life as a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, writer, educator, churchgoer, and minister. Her life was lived in love and truth. She never claimed to be perfect, but to many she stood on a pedestal that was higher than most could ever reach. She loved to teach and inspire others. She was the woman many people only dreamed that they could be. She was the woman I dreamed to be. She taught me many things: the love of reading, the importance of family, and the thrill of stepping out independently into an unknown world of miraculous discoveries. She taught me the joy of succeeding and the acceptance of failure. She taught me purpose and respect for life. She taught me how to enjoy the simple things that make life so special. She taught me the overwhelmingly selfless act of unconditional love. She taught me what it means to be a family. She, even in her death, taught me to stand for what you believe in through your final day on this earth.

A few weeks after her death, I was delivered boxes of books that had crowded her closets and bookshelves in her tiny mountain trailer, but a manila folder lay on top that caught my attention immediately. My mother told me, “These were to you. She wrote you letters when you were a baby. She wanted to publish them, but the time was never right, I guess.”
I sat in the blue oversized chair in my living room and read for hours. She wrote to me of the woman I knew so well. I cried over stories of her search for identity and her acceptance found truly in Jesus Christ. I laughed over the letter of her smoking addiction and her inability to “kick” the habit once and for all. Her writing was so vivid that I could almost hear her voice telling me the stories of her incredible life. These letters brought her back to me. They made her real once again, even if for only a moment. I felt honored that she wrote to me when I had spent only minutes on this earth, and she had spent a lifetime. Here I was, with her lifetime over and mine just beginning.

It has been 6 years since her death, but I feel her presence in my life every day. I think of her each morning when I see my daughter’s sparkling blue eyes that remind me so much of the great-grandmother she will never meet. With every new book I read, I think of her and how she would enjoy just one more good story. I think of her in Autumn when the leaves change to beautiful shades of orange, red and yellow, but most of all, I think of her each day when I speak to my mother. She gave me many gifts in my life, but this particular gift of the amazing woman I am honored to call “mom” could not have been more perfect.
Though we live four hours away, I talk to my mother every day. As our relationship grows, I am reminded that this life is fleeting. We are never promised tomorrow and my grandmother’s sudden death was a harsh reminder of that reality. Every day my heart overflows with profound thankfulness that I have been blessed with such amazing women in my life. I pray every day that my own daughter will understand the priceless effect of having a mother who is also a best friend and that I will be able live up to the footprints that have lined my path to this place called "motherhood".

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ending the summer with cheese steak and romance!

The first day back to school was today.  6am HURTS!  I woke up every hour on the hour from about 1am to 6am.  BOO!  It totally sucks.  But such is life.  I will get used to it once again.  My baby was so groggy when I woke her this morning at 6:45.  Poor dear.  She was a good girl though.  She was thrilled to see Becky, and according to her she had a decent day for the first day back.  She had a couple of moments, but who didn't?  I know I did.  

So, I made it through... the rest of this week shouldn't be too bad, but we'll see what tune I'm singing next week when the kids return.  Agh! 

Now without further delay, I know everyone is dying to see pictures of our Philadelphia trip.  ;-)  I'll show you a few because I'm not in the mood to upload a gazillion pictures tonight.  We did have a fantastic time!  It was perfect! (Except for Andrew stressing about our GPS messing up for a bit... and the parking.  What is it with men and driving that stresses them so much?)  Anyway... other than that it was perfect!  I love him!  :-)  Like you didn't know.  

We started with a cheese steak from Pat's. Such a fun experience! We were going to do Geno's in the same day, but it didn't happen.  We were stuffed!

We saw lots and lots of sites after our lunch and I have pictures, but you would just be bored... so, I'll continue on with our food...  

On South Street we stopped in for a refreshing treat from this AWESOME yogurt place!  Georgia Peach was what I had and Andrew had Snickerdoodle.  AMAZING! See the row of choices behind me!?  There were like 30 different soft serve yogurts to choose from!  And they were all fat free!  yay

Saturday we hit a few more places... but on the top of Andrew's list was running up the Rocky stairs!   It made me laugh.  I was amused at just how many people were there to do the same exact thing.  hilarious.  That poor art museum is probably totally pissed that people just come there because of Rocky.  

And now... the ONLY picture of us together from our trip.  Aren't we cute?! :-) 

And of course we ended the trip with a cheese steak from Geno's.  Andrew and I both agreed this was our favorite.  We liked the bread, the meat and the service better!  But if you haven't been you should still eat at both! :-) 

So, that's our trip in a nutshell.  It was a fun time but now it's back to reality.  

When oh when will I be a SAHM like all the other mommy bloggers I read?!  What are your secrets?  Those of you who are WAHM, how did you get your gig?  I need some suggestions and maybe one day I can stay home too.  A girl can dream! :-)  

Don't expect much in the way of blogging for a while.  I'll do my best, but I can't make promises of frequent updates with school and such coming upon me.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Happy 2 Year Anniversary!

August 19, 2006, I married the love of my life! 

 Excuse me, while I gush a little bit.  

My dear Andrew is the most amazing man I have ever met.  From the moment we first met, I knew he was something special.  Just one night after our first date, we had one of those all night conversations that made me know that he was most likely going to be "it" for me.  He won me over and I fell hard and fast in love with him.  And what a blessing he has been in my life!  

Then, at my cousin's wedding a couple of months later, he really showed me how perfect he is for me.  While I was performing my maid-of-honor duties, he went off with my dad to run errands. (i.e.-picking up food (hot wings) for the reception)  On the way into the reception hall hot wing juice leaked all over his shirt/suit/tie.  My dad flipped, but Andrew kept his cool the entire time.  He laughed it off and his natural calming ability, helped my dad feel at ease about the whole situation.  They ran over to Marshall's to pick up a new shirt and tie, while Andrew cracked up at the ridiculousness of the entire situation.  I knew none of this until a few minutes before the wedding when everyone was being fishy and not telling me where Andrew had gone off to.  I finally found out the news and flipped out. (Exactly why they didn't tell me.)  I thought for sure he was going to break up with me after this fiasco of meeting my ENTIRE family in one weekend, plus spilling wing juice on his suit, plus I figured my dad had been a crazy person in front of him... I assumed he would be running for the door as quickly as possible.  But I couldn't have been more wrong!  When I found him he was cool as a cucumber.  If he was upset, he did not show it one bit.  I was amazed!  And frankly, so was everyone else.  I knew, if he had the patience to deal with all of this, that he could deal with me and my often irrational behavior for the rest of my life.  That was it... I knew he was the one I wanted to spend my life with.  And I could not have been more right!

Through everything he has been incredible!  We have had our ups and downs these last two years.  We have had moments at the bottom and moments at the top, but no matter what, his love for me and mine for him is consistently strong and continuing to grow every single day.
The birth of Caroline only brought us closer!  Seeing him as a father is wonderful!  

He is such a great daddy!  

He has taught me so much in this time together.  He has taught me what true love really means. He has taught me how to exhibit patience, when I have none.  He has taught me confidence, when I have little.  He has showed me that I am beautiful in so many ways, and even when I feel so disgusting, he assures me that I am the most beautiful woman he has ever laid eyes on.  Bless him and thank you God for giving him to me!  
Happy two years, my dear Andrew!  I love you with all my heart!  You rock!!!!  I can't wait for our romantic get-away this weekend!  wah hoo!!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Beach baby!

Hi all!  We've been back from the beach since Saturday afternoon and I still have not gotten settled yet.  Unpacking is the worst!  Oh well, it's the price we pay for a great vacation!  

So, the beach was fantastic and SO relaxing!  It was just what we needed.  We stayed in a great condo on the 11th floor, which made for some amazing views!  Caroline enjoyed the beach for the most part, until she wanted to suck her thumb.  Poor thing.  She learned the consequences of sucking a sandy thumb later in the week and easily tired of the sandy beach.  By Friday she was all beached out and we spent most of the day indoors hanging out and relaxing.   :-)
Now, because I'm a crazy mom who loves her kid and needed to capture every single moment of Caroline's first beach trip, I took about 200 plus pictures.  These pictures can be found on my flickr.  :-)  (This link has been edited for those who can't seem to figure out how to navigate flickr.  The link will now take you to the actual page where you can view a slideshow of ALL the pictures.)  :-) 

I thought I'd just share a few of my favorite on here!  Enjoy!  :-)  

Early morning view from the balcony!

Sea Terrace.  Our home away from home for the week.

My cutie!

Caroline's favorite beach activity was chasing the seagulls!

Caroline having fun at the beach!



Taking a break from the beach to run in the park!

Family picture at the park!

Caroline loves the ocean!

Our family at the beach!

Snapshots of the Bay Bridge on the way home!  Caroline kept saying "Bye beach!"  So cute!

Bye beach, indeed!  It was nice to go, but nice to come home.  Tomorrow is my 2 year anniversary!  AMAZING!  Stay tuned for more on that subject! The parents come on Thursday to take care of C while Andrew and I have a romantic getaway in Philly! Cheesesteaks are so romantic, don't ya think?  :-) Yay!   

Don't forget to check out the flickr, if you didn't get enough Caroline pictures here.  :-) 

Friday, August 8, 2008

Day at the park!

Yesterday, Caroline and I braved the heat for a while to make a trip to one of our playgrounds in the neighborhood.  She was loving it, but we were both sweating like crazy!  

Take a look at the fun time C had!  

Swings are her obsession!

Can you tell? 

I LOVE the look on her face in this next one!

Hi beautiful!  Having fun?

That's what I thought! :-)

Look at that perfect curl!  I want to eat it up!

Loving the slide! 

Hey, Mom!  It's bright out here! 

And then it was time to go!  

Tomorrow is the beach!!!  Sorry to disappoint, but there is no internet at our condo.  So... you'll have to live without Caroline pictures for a whole week!  Can you make it?! (Mom?) Hopefully this post will tide you over! Alrighty... see you in a week!!!  Wah hoo! 

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Let's Read!

So, I've been in reading mode this summer, which has been so wonderful!  I've been able to read without interruption (well, during Caroline's nap and when Andrew comes home and wants to play video games).  So, I've been able to read some good books this summer and I thought I'd share what I've read... 

1.  A Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult  - I enjoyed this one, but not as much as Nineteen Minutes, which is a book of hers that I read previously.  I highly recommend that one, but be prepared to cry your eyes out!  A Change of Heart is a novel about loss and redemption, about making mistakes in life, even the biggest ones of all, and somehow coming out on the other side.  Picoult is one of those author's that writes page-turners.  You literally can't put the book down.  All of her books (or so I hear and from what I know of the two I've read) focus on legal and social issues.  I enjoy that she's great at keeping you yearning for what will happen next, and though A Change of Heart still upheld the page-turner description, I just felt it strayed a little too far from reality.  I enjoyed some of the religious aspects of the book, but I couldn't get past the idea of this man on death row being compared to Jesus.  It just struck a cord in me that was a little off.  It was good, but not the best.  I definitely think I need to read other books of hers to stay the fan I became after reading Nineteen Minutes.  

2.  Twilight by Stephanie Meyer -  I feel like I shouldn't even get started on this book, because there may be some die hard fans who are reading this post.  Put away your wooden stakes and listen up.  Seriously, I picked up this book because of the hype.  I picked it up because I had heard Meyer being compared to Rowling.  I swear, that could not be further from the truth!  Just because she writes a story that's a little different, in NO WAY compares her to the genius that is J.K. Rowling.  Seriously.  What are people thinking?  
Okay... I'll step down off my soap-box now.  What I want to say about this book is that it's just not all it's cracked up to be.  It's about a girl falling in love with a boy, and guess what? That boy is a vampire.  oooh.  It's decent.  It's not the worst thing I've ever read, and I might (if I have a lot of time on my hands sometime in the future) finish reading the series.  (If you're clueless about this series, there are three more books after Twilight. The most recent and final book was just released last week.)  But it's just, well, boring.  I was highly frustrated with Bella, who just went on and on and lingered over her feelings for Edward.  I just wanted to yell at her to get on with the story already.  I mean, I guess in that sense, she captured how teenage girls really feel.  I remember lingering over boys and going over and over how I felt about them.  So, maybe I'm just past that and that's why it annoyed me.  Who knows.  Either way, I think if you're above the age of about 18 or 19, this book is just kinda blah, which is unfortunate and SO unlike Rowling's novels which appeal to audiences of ALL ages (and genders, for that matter).  Thank you.  :-) 

3.  She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb - OH MY GOSH!  I have had this book sitting on my shelf for at least three years now.  I remember picking it up years ago thinking that it sounded amazing and hearing all of the incredible reviews it had gotten.  I had good intentions of reading it, but you know some books just don't get read.  I have a few more that are like that... The Kite Runner is a perfect example.  Anyway, I picked up this book a few weeks ago and I could not put it down.  There are three main elements that make this book astounding to me: 1. It focuses on the life of a woman, Delores, from age 4 to age 40, but the author is a man.  How on earth he wrote so truthfully from the female perspective, I will never understand.  You have to stop and question sometimes if it's actually fiction.  It feels like reading a memoir.  2.  Even through all of the main character's struggles with life, there is still this underlying hilarious element.  I found myself cracking up at things that I knew I probably shouldn't find amusing.  3.  There were so many things that the main character struggled with that I think many women can relate to, but the author never skirted around the issues.  They were real and sometimes ugly and right out devastating, but that was the kicker.  It was over-the-top at moments and you want to yell and scream at Delores and tell her what an idiot she's being, but I know we have all been there before.  I think most people have moments in their life when they look back and say "what an idiot I was", but we realize, as does Delores, that it's those moments that make us who we are today.  This book was honest, heart-breaking, hilarious and brilliant!  I highly recommend it if you are looking for that kind of raw emotion.  and finally... 

4.  Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos - This book came to me fairly quickly, without a lot of thought put into my purchase.  I was perusing the isles of Costco with the toddler in tow knowing that I needed something new to read and this one just sort of stuck out. So, I picked it up without a second thought and brought it home and boy am I glad I did.  
This is a story of love.  Unconventional, unexpected love.  It's not so much a romance novel as it is a novel about self-discovery and finding purpose in life.  The chapters in the story alternate between Cornelia and Clare.  I normally don't mind this duel perspective in novels, but this one in particular bugged me for one main reason.  Cornelia's chapters were all written in first person, which I prefer but Clare's chapters were written in third person, which I don't like at all.  It just felt disjointed at times and I think it would have been better suited with them both written in first person or all from Cornelia's point-of-view.  The other thing I wasn't too keen on was the first half of the novel.  Frankly, it was a little boring, but I pushed through and I'm
 SO glad I did.  The second half of the novel totally redeemed itself and I read it all in a matter of hours!   The love that Cornelia and Clare find in their lives and with each other is beautiful.  It makes me think of myself and how much love has walked into my life.  How I wouldn't be the same without meeting some of the people I've met along the way.  How certain people just walk in and shake up your world, turn it upside down, but leave you on the other side a better person.  It was beautiful, really.  And this one, I whole heartedly recommend, despite its flaws.  

Next on the must read list...  

And anything else you recommend.  I hope to get those two finished before school starts up again, but we'll see how it goes.  Our beach trip next week will hopefully provide many hours of uninterrupted reading.  :-) 

So, what have you read lately?  

And because I know my mom will be mad if I don't post at least one picture of Caroline... I'll leave you with Caroline's latest favorite activity... puzzles!  :-)  She's so good at this new one we got!  She's even learned how to say circle, oval and diamond.  Brilliant, I tell ya!  

Monday, August 4, 2008

It's fun to be a tourist!

I can hardly believe sometimes that I've lived in the Washington, DC area for three and a half years now.  That's just crazy!  It seems like just yesterday that I moved here from NYC with my car full of stuff and absolutely no direction in mind.  I was honestly clueless when I came to the nation's capital and I never in a million years thought this would be the place I would settle and start a family.  Amazing.  

But the funny thing is that when we live somewhere, no matter how fantastic it is, we just take it for granted.  I remember being bored so many days while living in NYC when there were a million things I could have done. Even since I've been in this area, the same thing has taken place.  I've driven by the Washington Monument a million times and I just forget sometimes how lucky I am to live here and be surrounded by such incredible history.  So, when I have visitors who have never really been to DC it just makes me stop and take a look at what I have been surrounded by for so many years now.  And let me tell you, it was breathtaking!  Truthfully, I got a little teary just taking in my surroundings, while I walked around this beautiful city with my aunt and cousin.  

Take a look at some of the things we saw... 

U.S. Capitol  (I had my very first Capitol tour...finally!)
Entrance to the Capitol building.

Inside the rotunda of the Capitol.

The White House.

T-Rex at the Natural History Museum.

The Hope Diamond at The Natural History Museum. 

The Washington Monument. 

Vietnam Memorial.  This was really special this time because my Aunt Donna was able to get a rubbing of the name of her neighbor's father who died in Vietnam.  It was very moving.

The WWII Memorial. (With the Washington Monument in the background)

The Lincoln Memorial.

After the Lincoln Memorial we went to The Holocaust Museum.
If you have never been, you must go on your next visit to DC.  It is, in my opinion, one of the best museums here.  My Aunt Donna lived in Germany for 10 years while my uncle was in the Army and my cousin Erika was born there.  Donna had a chance to visit the site of the Dachau concentration camp while she lived in Germany, so she had her reservations about visiting this museum.  But we were all so moved by the things we saw and the information we learned.  I would recommend going at a different time of year though, because it was incredibly crowded, which I think took a little away from the experience.  

After we left the museum we had to take the metro home. We got SOAKED!   There was a downpour on our way from the museum to the metro and we only had one umbrella!  All three of us crowded under my little green umbrella.  It was hilarious and we had many stares!  haha We laughed the whole way!

And finally... my little girl.  Her Aunt Donna brought her a lovely hat!  haha  She thought it was so funny!

And her latest obsession... her "nap" - a.k.a. her blanket.  :-)  So sweet!  

It was such a fun time visiting with my family!  I can't wait until we all live close by and can see each other more than once or twice a year! 

This week is time to prepare for our beach trip next week!  Woo hoo!  More to come.  :-)