A Tough Act to Follow

God blesses us with infinite opportunities in life to selflessly give our time to others. My high school cross-country and track coach modeled this selflessness with the grace of an angel. She dedicated countless hours away from her husband and family to lead workouts, call splits, and encourage her athletes to reach their full potential. When I reflect back on this time, my heart swells with joy as I think of how incredibly blessed I was to have her in my life as a coach, teacher, and mentor.

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This year marked my first year as a high school track coach. Armed with a stopwatch, a composition notebook full of workouts, and the wisdom of many years of running, I stepped into Coach Torres’s shoes to impart a love of running and the importance of sportsmanship, hard work, and dedication. My field of runners brought so much light to my afternoons as together we ticked away lap after lap around the track pushing each other along to greatness.

All season long one of my freshman boys continued to impress me with his raw talent and competitive spirit. Every week he shaved seconds off of his mile time and ended his final lap with the speed and tenacity of a runner far beyond his years. Last week at the district meet, he went into the meet seeded 5th place overall. In the final lap, he executed a flawless kick that allowed him to surpass enough runners in the field to garner a 3rd place finish. I welled with pride as he crossed the finish line and beamed from ear-to-ear knowing we had another week and a half of practice to prepare for regionals.

On Thursday afternoon, under a cloudless, bright blue sky, he toed the line with eight other competitors. Going in to the race, he was ranked fourth. We’d spent all week strategizing how this race needed to play out with him finishing in the top three to secure his spot to compete at state. In the final moments before the gun went off, I did the sign of the cross and offered the race up to the Lord. My prayer was simple, “Lord please bless Harrison today. We’ve done everything possible to get him ready for today. Let your will be done. Amen.”

With my stomach in knots, the gun went off and the runners set out on a mission. The race played out like a movie in slow motion. He led for most of the first lap, rounded out the second lap in last place, and then in typical Harrison fashion, he put it all on the line in the final lap and put every last ounce of his energy into the last 150 meters of the race. With his head tucked down, his arms pumping with determination, and his crimson red singlet swaying in the wind, he was poetry in motion in the final straightaway of the 1600. Cheering him on at the top of my lungs, my heart swelled with pride as he sprinted past two runners to secure his place as the 3rd place finisher. His finish earns him the opportunity to compete next week at the TAPPS 6A State Track Meet in Waco next Saturday.

In that moment when he crossed the finish line, I wished with all of my heart that I could pick up the phone and share my victory with you, Coach Torres. In that moment, it all came full circle for me. I remembered how overjoyed I was the first time I qualified to the state track meet. I vividly remember the joy I saw in Coach Torres’s eyes as she recognized what my second place regional finish meant for both of us.

Coach Torres, you are an incredibly tough act to follow, but I have tried my absolute best to lead by example just like you did at every single practice and meet. Next week at the state track meet, I know you’ll be watching us from your front row bleacher seat in Heaven. A great coach motivates, inspires, and brings out the best in their athletes. Thank you, Coach Torres, for bringing out the best in me. Your leadership and selflessness are a shining example of the kind of high school track coach I aspire to be!

Quiet Moments for Introspection

Sometimes in our incredibly busy lives we must find ways to carve out time for introspection. Without these quiet moments to reflect and assess, how can we expect to achieve personal growth. While many will argue about how life changing technology has been for us as a society, it has also made it more difficult for us to feel comfortable with solitude.

Being more mindful, acknowledging our weaknesses, and giving ourselves permission to learn from our missteps, starts with a willingness to love ourselves. Most of us, as women, are incredibly hard on ourselves. We scrutinize, nit pick, and harp on ourselves, when we really should appreciate, own, and celebrate our strengths. Love yourself for who you are.

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When you look in the mirror, be proud of the woman staring back at you. Smile, pat yourself on the back, and remind yourself that, “you’ve got this!” Too often we undervalue our talents, strengths, and abilities. Embrace them wholeheartedly! I’ll borrow powerful words from a powerful woman who has inspired many with her beautiful prose. As per Maya Angelou, “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”

Fixating on our flaws, dwelling on the negative, and wallowing in self-pity rarely propels us forward. Our happiness comes from our own desire to persevere through the difficult times, high five ourselves when we overcome adversity, and offer gratitude for the beautiful moments that touch our lives. We are the author’s of our own story. Appreciate the importance of the pencil as you write, it allows you the opportunity to revise, edit, erase, and rewrite the negative parts of your story; infusing your rewrite with radiance, light, and positivity.

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We only have one chance at this life we live. Dream big, love fiercely, sprinkle in spontaneity, and celebrate your accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to let your hair down, ruffle some feathers every now and then, and give yourself permission to go off script from time to time. While structure and regimentation often play a critical role in overall success, we have to appreciate and even laugh at the flawed parts of ourselves that make us who we are. Find time to let go sometimes and take life as it comes!

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When we allow ourselves quiet moments in our busy lives to pause even for the briefest moments, we open our hearts and minds to personal insight, reflection, and honesty. There are countless ways to find solace in our solitude whether through prayer, mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, or quiet contemplation. Slow down and hit the pause button from time to time. You just might surprise yourself with what you discover!

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Be your best self and know that every day is a new opportunity for self-improvement, self-love, and self-acceptance.

 

With a Grateful Heart

On Friday, the boys and I drove down to the Valley for a long weekend with my parents. The main purpose of our trip was to participate in the Mega Memorial 5K in Harlingen, a memorial run for a dear friend and former training partner, Meg Jorn. For a woman who dedicated most of her life to distance running, it was a touching tribute to a life tragically cut short. Family, friends, former competitors, and training partners all rallied together for a 5K race in her honor.

Race participants released purple balloons in her honor and her best friend, Dayna, read a beautiful poem and released twenty-six monarch butterflies into the clear blue sky. Moving speeches by both her husband and Dayna brought all of us to tears as we celebrated the incredible life she lived and how she had such a profound impact on her family, friends, and community.

Meg lived a “mega” life. She pushed herself professionally and athletically inspiring so many along the way. Her spirit will live on for years to come, but it does not make her loss any easier to bear. A quote on her Facebook page truly sheds light on the kind of life Meg tackled with gusto and strength, “Life is precious…..let us try not to waste it!”

Meg lived by an exceptional mantra. Life truly is an incredibly precious gift. The threads that make up the tapestry of our lives give us so much to be grateful for. In life, we never know how much time we have with the ones we love. Living each day to the fullest surrounded by the ones we love is such an amazing blessing.

Coming home this weekend allowed me the opportunity to bid adieu to a woman who taught me so much as we shared the road and miles and miles of words of encouragement, laughter, and joy sharing something we both loved- the pursuit of athleticism achieved through training and achieving PR’s. It also reminded me how important the little things truly are. Happiness is seeing your grandparents light up when they see their great-grandsons, catching up with your godmother and clinking glasses as we sip on prosecco, and witnessing the powerful love a big brother shares with his baby brother through a simple kiss and a hug.

My mother made an incredible Thanksgiving spread for us while we were home this weekend. Savory, comforting, and truly delectable, she put all of her love into the preparation and presentation. My mom is my rock, and a woman I derive so much strength and inspiration from. Who I am today is a tribute to the amazing things she has done for me all of my life to help me grow. I am truly grateful for the love, kindness, and grace she encourages me with daily, and I don’t know where I would be without her unconditional love and friendship.

Thanksgiving offers us an opportunity to pause and reflect on the profound blessings God has graced us with. Our health, happiness, family, friends, and all of the other infinitely beautiful blessings we call our own. Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with delicious food and family and friends around your table. Even after tomorrow, let us remember that we have the opportunity to start each and every day with a grateful heart!

The Road to Motherhood

The road to motherhood is not always a linear path. Sometimes a road less travelled leads us towards something our heart could have never expected. My journey started three and a half years ago when I crossed paths with a handsome widower’s online dating profile. I soon found myself falling in love with two incredibly special and unique individuals. One was a strong, motivated father who put his son’s needs ahead of his and opened his heart to the possibilities a relationship with me could bring. The other was a precocious toddler with beautiful eyes as blue as the sky and a smile that melted my heart every time his lips parted in joy. I could have never imagined my role as a mother would first start as a stepmother of a three year old, but I also can’t envision my life being any different because having Liam in my life has been an absolute blessing.

Two years into motherhood, I found out I was pregnant with Atticus. It was a rollercoaster of hormones, bouts of morning sickness, and a waistline that grew a little more every single day. As a little life grew inside of me, my heart swelled with love as I envisioned what this baby would be like when he made his grand entrance later that year. My life forever changed again when my doctor placed a precious 5 pound 15 ounce newborn in my arms for the very first time.

This last year has challenged me as a wife and a mother. It’s inspired me to be more mindful of the little things that make our lives so rich and meaningful. It has been eye opening, raw, real, beautiful, and unscripted. Life as a mother requires patience, a big heart, compassion, and humor. How else do you get through the messy parts of it like spit up, throw up, exploding diapers, and boogers for days?

Armed with all of this, I circle back to how this blog post started describing how the road to motherhood is not always a linear path. November is National Adoption Month, a month that signifies an important month for many children who find love, support, and happiness with their forever families. This is a month that will soon hold a very special place in this Mama Bear’s heart too as we will welcome a daughter into our lives sometime this year. This is a journey that started with a conversation over a year ago and developed into a more serious dialogue between Sean and I about eight months ago. Then this summer we started attending parenting classes and started the mountain of paperwork required to start this journey.

As public as I have been about my chronicles as a Mama Bear. This next step will be incredibly private. Because we are working with an agency contracted through Child Protective Services, until our adoption is consummated, we cannot post anything on social media about the expansion of our family. Our home study will be completed in the next few weeks and then we will cleared to begin considering little girls who would be an ideal fit for our family. I pray for my daughter every single day. I don’t know her yet but I can’t wait to meet her. I pray that her foster parents are meeting her needs daily and are making her feel safe and loved. Her past will undoubtedly require unconditional love, unwavering patience, and unfailing support to help her overcome and thrive. I know it will challenge me in ways I’ve never expected, but it will also only add to the rawness, realness, and beauty of my story as a mother.

The path to motherhood is rarely a perfectly straight line from Point A to Point B. My path thus far has shaped me into the mother I am today. A mother who loves fiercely, gives it her all every single day, and forgives herself when she falls short sometimes. I am far from perfect, but my heart is open and ready for this next chapter as a Mama Bear.

 

An Open Letter to my Baby Bear

Sweet Atticus,

It’s hard to believe that a year ago today, the doctor placed your tiny body in my arms. I remember vividly holding you close in those first few moments together and whispering in your ear how much I loved you. My world forever changed that day in ways I could have never imagined. Just thinking about all 5 pounds 15 ounces of you makes my eyes well up with tears. You, Baby Bear, are the greatest thing I’ve ever accomplished, and I will worry about you for the rest of my days on this earth.

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So much happened in your first year of life for both of us. I successfully mastered nursing and still find great joy in being able to spend quality time with you every day rocking you in the rocking chair my own mother once rocked and nursed me in. It truly is amazing how things come full circle! Your little hands and feet have grown and so has your length and weight. You’re now just shy of 20 pounds, and my chiseled arms are from lifting and carrying you around with me all through the house.

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There were nights where I wondered if I’d ever sleep through the night again. You would wake up every two to three hours to nurse, and in a zombie like state I would shuffle through the darkness to comfort. But a year later, I can say with gratitude that you my littlest, sleep through the night and for the most part so do I. I find myself waking from time to time if you cough or stir just to check on you as I peer into the monitor. But most nights, that’s just my mommy worry getting the best of me.

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Blank stares gave way to first smiles and baby coos of happiness. Tummy time, something you absolutely loathed initially, turned into playtime before I knew it. Rolling over, sitting up, pulling up, and now trying to walk came on so quickly. Leaving you alone for even a split second isn’t possible anymore. You’re in to everything and always require an incredibly watchful eye.

Exploding diapers, runny noses, teething, and drooling all made their mark on numerous occasions. Some of these moments were laughable. Others were downright disgusting and smelly. But even still, I wouldn’t trade a single moment of it for a second.

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You bring so much light to my life- watching you crawl with great curiosity across the hardwood floor or pulling up onto your tippy toes to reach for something you need to know more about. Your smile and belly laugh melt my heart in unimaginable ways. I live for those moments to see you so happy in your father’s arms or underneath your brother’s hug.

The Lord blessed me infinitely when he brought you into my life. I look forward to all of the little and big things your future holds. I ask for continued patience, guidance, and love as I make every effort each and every day to be the absolute best Mama Bear for you and your big brother, Liam.

Happy first birthday, my sweet Atticus. “I will love you forever, love you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby bear you’ll be!”

Cuddles are the Best Medicine

The tubal ear procedure went off without a hitch. When they took him to the OR, my poor baby was in tears about having to part ways with me. I have to admit that I fought back my own tears as I walked back to the waiting room without him. Thankfully the procedure was incredibly quick and my sweet boy was back in my arms in less than twenty minutes.

The anesthesia proved to be the most difficult part of the surgical procedure as it made my little baby bear rather lethargic and groggy for a significant part of the day. Otherwise I cannot say enough positive things about Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. Their staff held by hand through the entire process. They were kind, genuine, and truly experts in their field.

Atticus required extra tender loving care, which I was more than happy to indulge him with. Hugs, kisses, and cuddles undoubtedly proved to be more effective than any other medicine today. By the time dinner rolled around, I decided to err on the side of simplicity. With Sean out of town, I didn’t need to worry about an elaborate meal, so I gathered some of the boy’s favorite foods and voila, dinner was served. For Liam, leftover pizza, cherry tomatoes, sliced mango, and a side of Cheetos and Doritos made for a delicious dinner. Atticus enjoyed peanut butter toast, fresh mango, and mashed potatoes. My dinner included a few samples off of their plates as I prepared dinner. My favorite part was the ice cream sandwich rolled in rainbow sprinkles that I split with Liam.

With the boys tucked in for the night, I’m capitalizing on a husbandless evening of chick flicks coupled with a glass of white wine. With all of the worry and stress I carried around today, this low key evening is exactly what I need.

I would like to extend a special thank you to the family and friends who were kind enough to send me reassuring text messages before his surgery and the follow up calls to see how Atticus was doing. Additionally, faith, prayer, and mindfulness truly played an instrumental role in my well-being today. With Friday on the horizon, I’m looking forward to a wonderful weekend with my family. Wishing you and yours a wonderful one too!

Telling a Mother not to Worry…

Worry is a synonymous term associated with motherhood. From the moment you first realize your pregnant, worry sets in and only continues to grow as your belly does. It starts with the little things like, “Has my baby kicked enough today?” or “Oh no! I forgot to order a decaf latte.”

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The minute your child is placed in your arms immediately after delivery, your heart swells with love and you find yourself fully immersed in a state of worry. Worry comes in all shapes and sizes. Small worries, big worries, and everything in between. Sometimes it’s slight and it passes quickly. Other times it’s enormous, debilitating worry that can be all consuming.

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At almost one year of life, Mama Bear worry continues to follow me around like an obedient dog. My biggest worry right now centers around Atticus’s tubal ear procedure tomorrow. The procedure requires general anesthesia, which is enough to send this Mama Bear into full blown worry wart mode. Although I’ve been advised that it’s a relatively quick procedure, I will be separated from him for at least an hour. An hour that will undoubtedly feel like the longest hour of my life. It will give me plenty of time to pace, fixate, and stress out. Positive thoughts and prayer will undoubtedly be my saving grace.

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Tomorrow is only one thread in the long string of worries that I will continue to carry with me on this road called motherhood. Through it all, faith and love will continue to propel me forward. I will wear my worry, angst, stress, and concern for both of my beautiful boys like a badge of honor. The adage, “telling a mother not to worry about her child is like telling water not to be wet,” appropriately sums up the worry we carry as mothers for the children we love with our whole heart.

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