Remembering Granddad

Earlier this week marked the fourth anniversary of my grandfather’s death. For those close to him, he was best remembered for how deeply he loved my grandmother, D’Ann,  how dedicated he was to his work, and his passionate fire for the Texas A&M Aggies.

He was anything but the warm and fuzzy type. He cursed like a sailor and never apologized for his temper. For most of his life, he maintained a strict exercise regimen. Like clockwork, he was up by 5:00 a.m. and out the door for his daily morning walk. Rain or shine, he ventured out; often bragging that he was “airborne.”

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My grandfather smoked like a chimney for most of his life. Most of my childhood memories include him puffing on a cigarette alongside my grandmother. When she became deathly ill with a lung infection though, he quit smoking cold turkey. A habit I can’t imagine was easy to do. There were few things my grandfather wouldn’t do for his beautiful, D’Ann. Married for over 50 years, they shared a love of traveling, tall Cuba Libres, and brown pelicans.

Hard work paved the way for a very successful career. It started first working on the railroads with his father and brother and later traveling further south to pursue a profession in the shrimping industry. My grandmother was anything but pleased about moving away from San Antonio to the quiet town of Port Isabel, but my grandfather soon made her realize the opportunities were plentiful on the coast. The two of them settled into life in South Texas with my father and uncle. Working at the docks meant long days in humid and hot conditions, especially when the season opened and closed or an imminent hurricane was in the Gulf.  His work ethic instilled in me the importance of working hard for the things that matter most in life- your family and career.

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Since my grandfather passed, the fall seems a lot quieter than I remember. He never missed a Texas Aggie football game on television. He’d hoop and holler at the screen cheering on his alma mater with the gusto of a yell leader. If the game turned south, however, he often had very vocal and profane words he’d direct at his beloved team. This usually meant a lot of “G D’s” as I often referred to them when I was younger. Being a member of the Corps of Cadets brought him great pride. He carried the spirit of Aggieland in his heart until the very end.

In reflecting on his life as a son, husband, father, grandfather, friend, and Aggie, I’m grateful for the moments we shared. For him, my accolades as a runner brought him great pride. I loved calling him after a race and sharing my accomplishments with him. How I wish Sean, Liam, and Atticus could have met him! I know he’s smiling down on me from a comfortable chair in Heaven. His feet are propped up and he’s enjoying the view from above!

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In my Head

As a counselor, I spend a significant amount of energy encouraging others to approach life with optimism. Our heads and hearts benefit from positive thinking that builds us up and allows us to grow. When we allow negative thinking to permeate our thoughts, it clouds our perspective and ultimately brings us down.

a negative mind will never

But just like everyone else, I am human too. I think and feel deeply about the things I am most passionate about. When my personal emotions set it, oftentimes rational thinking is the first thing to fall apart at the seams.

if you realized

A situation at work today with a parent undoubtedly rattled my chains to the core. Behind closed doors, anger gave way to frustration which quickly gave way to tears. As a counselor, there is nothing I value more than my professional integrity and unconditional positive regard for the students, parents, and colleagues I work with. When someone tries to diminish my character or invalidate my intentions, I find it unsettling, degrading, and hurtful.

overthinking

Because this situation occurred at the very end of the day, I composed myself enough to open the door to my office and sneak out of the back entrance.   On my drive home, I hoped loud, upbeat music would allow my negative feelings to subside. In situations like this, however, the counselor in me goes right out the window. I fixate on the negative, let it marinate for far too long, and eventually find myself completely unable to avoid the thoughts in my head.

the mind is everything

Tonight even after my five mile run underneath a blanket of beautiful stars, I still couldn’t shake the negativity I was carrying. Because I still have to confront this issue again tomorrow, it’s highly unlikely the dust will settle overnight. Going against all of the guidance and insight I offer my students, I’m wallowing in negative thinking and letting it get the best of me.

your mind is a positive

It’s time to kick this pity party to the curve. This Mama Bear may be down, but she’s not broken. I will do my best to tuck away these negative feelings until tomorrow because quite frankly they’ve taken up enough of my afternoon and evening. Perhaps some meditation over the following quotes will help put things in perspective for me. “Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s trouble, [but] it [certainly took] away today’s peace.” Here’s to a new day, the power of positive thinking, and the silver linings in life that bring radiance and light in those darker moments!

 

 

A Balancing Act

Dr. Seuss put it best with, “So be sure you step, step with great care and tact. And remember that life’s a great balancing act.” (excerpt from Oh the Places You’ll Go). These simple yet poignant words encompass all the hats we Mama Bears wear as wives, mothers, professionals, and dreamers. Finding time to give your spouse the support and love he deserves, showering your children with positive affirmations and hugs, fulfilling your professional obligations with fidelity, and squeezing in tidbits of time for self care prove day in and day out to require incredible time management skills and an uncanny ability to multi task.

In the course of day, what we set out to do is nothing short of superhuman. Getting up before the sun rises, getting ourselves and our children dressed, packing lunches and backpacks, inhaling breakfast and downing coffee, dropping the kiddos off at daycare, and zipping off to work and it’s only 7:00 a.m.

The work day kicks off to a running start at 7:30 a.m., and it’s parent meetings, guidance lessons, individual student counseling sessions, lunch duty, academic team meetings, 8th grade tours, college rep visits, and a slew of emails and phone calls are all in a days work. Somewhere in the midst of all of this I manage to pump twice, usually while I’m returning phone calls or emails as I also try to eat lunch.

When 4:00 rolls around, I’m out the door and making a bee line to daycare to pick up the baby bears who I absolutely cannot wait to see. It’s hugs, homework, sharing the best parts of our day, and some playtime all before dinner. During the week, it’s leftovers or low key dinners that simplify life. Then it’s bath time, which is one of my favorite parts of the day because it’s relaxed, there’s lot of laughing, and the splashing and smiles are perfect too.

Then it’s books and bedtime for the boys, and it’s time for a role reversal. I change hats from a mama bear to a runner and head out the door for some sweat, solitude, and reflection. After pounding out a few miles, the hat changes again, and I step into my role as a wife. Sometimes we catch up over a glass of wine or enjoy one of our favorite shows. By this time in the evening, it’s been an incredibly long day for us. Papa Bears, after all,  walk their own tight rope every day too.

Through it all, their love keeps me pushing forward. Making the best of every moment, even the less ideal ones. This week, for example, sweet Atticus is contending with a sinus infection and has been feverish. I’ve had to leave work early for the last two days to give him a little extra TLC. Such is the life of a Mama Bear though, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To all of you Mama Bears out there, balancing your load with beauty and grace, pat yourselves on the back for all of the things you accomplish daily in life. You are a force to be reckoned with. You are a doer, a lover, a mother, and so much more. Take it one day at a time, life each day to the fullest, and remember the words of dear old Dr. Seuss, “life’s a great balancing act.”

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

This week has been a whirlwind of illness, work, soccer, dinner, snacks, and a whole lot in the middle of all of that. There have been high points and low points; good days and better days. Through it all, it’s the little things that have stopped me in my tracks, brought a smile to my face, and joy to my heart.

Life is a collage of beautiful moments. Some are incredibly simple and others are far more monumental. These moments are the stories that define us as wives, mothers, daughters, friends, and professionals. Because time gets away from us, these little moments can so quickly fade into the background like everything else in our day.

They say a picture is a worth a thousand words, so I’ll let my favorite images from the week do all the talking!

  1. Bath time with the boys is one of my favorite evening rituals is bath time. It’s a symphony of giggles, baby screams, and splashing water. Atticus feeds off of his older brother’s antics, and I delight in seeing the two of them playing together so happily. Image-1 (53)
  2. My little monkey- Liam has been in gymnastics for a little over a year now. He’s become incredibly fearless and climbs effortlessly up climbing structures with ease. I fondly call him my little monkey because he’s often climbing, swinging, or hanging around like a primate.
  3. Coffee- There is truly no better way to start your morning than with a steeping hot cup of coffee. When you’re weekly coffee shop indulgence doubles as a work of art, it truly is the perfect marriage of beauty and flavor. coffee love
  4. Baby selfies- Sometimes he’s a camera hound and other times he’s much too busy to pose for selfie. In the first selfie, Atticus embraced the camera and gave me one of his beautiful pearly whites. I think the term counts even if you only have two teeth. In the second selfie, playing the piano was far more enticing than saying, “cheese!”
  5. Winding down- After his bath, I like to carve out a few extra minutes of playtime before bed. One night this week, Atticus couldn’t get enough of his Ironman teddy. Like his big brother in so many ways, he was mesmerized by the shiny blue repulsor blasts. ironman
  6. Soccer match- Today marked the first soccer match of the season. I think Liam enjoyed the snacks more than the game. When his nerves subsided however, he did wow me with his speed across the field.
  7. Dessert- Liam looks forward to dessert every night after dinner. Most nights it’s something easy like a frozen fruit bar or a piece of candy. From time to time, I like to up the ante and offer something a little more special. Tonight, I took an H-E-B Neapolitan ice cream sandwich and rimmed the edges with rainbow sprinkles. It was incredibly simple, but the wow factor put Liam on Cloud 9. ice cream sandwich
  8. Little brother- Spectating your first soccer match was the highlight of the morning for this little eleven month old. He skipped out on his morning nap and took in the sights and sounds of YMCA soccer instead. After all, safeguarding your big brother’s soccer ball is an important job! want to be like brother
  9. “Luke, I am your father!”- This afternoon, Liam picked out his Halloween costume at Target. He absolutely loved trying it on and pretending to be the infamous villain with Atticus. He may need to work on his role as Darth Vader though, his brother seemed anything but intimidated. darth vader
  10. Pulling up- At the playground, crawling and pulling up are Atticus’s two favorite things. High on the list would also be laughing at your brother when he gets in your face and makes funny noises. love bugs
  11. Throwback Thursday- This week was Homecoming Week at St. John XXIII. I decided to partake in some Throwback Thursday fun with an homage to one of my favorite television shows from the 90’s… Saved by the Bell.

    While my hair wasn’t quite as long, I did get the Keds shoes, flannel shirt, and Guess jean skirt right for the part of the girl-next-door, Kelly Kawpowski.

  12. Curiosity- As I’ve said before, I absolutely adore Atticus’s little moments of curiosity. This week’s came when he discovered the dryer for the first time. Watching the clothes spin around and around can easily be summed up in two words, “Mind blown!

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In high school, one of my favorite songs was Could not Ask for More by Sara Evans. Fast forward almost twenty years later, and these lyrics hold even greater meaning now as a wife and a mother. I will continue to savor the sweet little moments as they come and catalog them away in my heart so that I can always keep them close.

These are the moments I thank God that I’m alive
And these are the moments I’ll remember all my life
I’ve found all I’ve waited for
And I could not ask for more

Chorus from Could not Ask for More by Sara Evans

 

Like the Seasons…

This is an open letter to my husband, Sean:

I know most days we find ourselves caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. Most mornings our alarms buzz us out of our dreamlike state and propel us full speed ahead into our day. It’s a blur of brushing teeth, getting ourselves dressed, and then making sure the boys are ready to take on their day too. I’m downing coffee and toast while simultaneously packing up lunch boxes, gathering backpacks, and divvying out vitamins and allergy medicine for Liam. Through all of this there are brief exchanges and pleasantries, but I know I never give you much more than a hug, goodbye kiss, and a salutation to have a wonderful day.

After the boys are safely at daycare, goodbye hugs and kisses sending us all our respective ways, I often find myself reflecting on the way the morning unfolded. Many times, I lose myself in thought replaying certain parts of my morning like a particularly adorable giggle from Atticus or a Liamism that made me laugh out loud. In those moments, I wish I could rewind the day and freeze it long enough to have time to exchange an embrace with you that doesn’t feel like time is working against us. To enjoy more than a brief pleasantry and instead give you something more monumental to hold on to and carry with you throughout your day.

By the time I pull into the parking lot at work, reality sets in and the marathon race begins. It’s a blur of students, parents, emails, and meetings. Each brings a sense of accomplishment, but few opportunities allow me the time to pause in my day and send you a text message telling you I’m thinking about you, am looking forward to seeing you later in the day, or am sending you my love.

By the time 4 o’clock rolls around, the whirlwind of homework, dinner, bath time, and bedtime dictates the direction of our evening only leaving opportunities here and there to exchange pleasantries about our day. Then I’m out the door for a run and you’re often still trying to knock out work after the boys are down. As our own bedtimes quickly encroach on our quality time, I often find myself wishing there was simply more time in our day. More time for the little things like enjoying a glass of wine, duking it out over a game of Scrabble, or cuddling up to watch a great movie.

After we’ve both given our best to everyone else in our day, we often are too exhausted or mentally drained to give our best to one another. I say this not out of spite because in my heart, I know we both have the best of intentions. Between parenthood and demanding professions, it’s a reality we’ve both come to accept.

With that being said, however, I need you to know that I love you with my whole heart. I love seeing your eyes light up when you’re with the boys. I love watching you lost in thought as you pour over your computer. I love clinking glasses with you and enjoying a glass of red wine in your company. I don’t always give myself opportunities to pause and say thank you for how hard you work to provide for our family. I may not always give you the best of me, and I’m sorry for that. Please know that even when I fall short, I have the best of intentions at heart. I find peace in knowing that some of the stresses we carry with us every day  are like the seasons; with time, they will change because our workload will lighten and our role as parents will shift as the boys get older and are more independent.

In the meantime, I’m hopeful an open letter written with love and sincerity will bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart. After all, Papa Bear, I love you to the moon and back!

All my love,

Heidi

New Beginnings

My career as a school counselor began three years ago at Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic School, a small inner city Catholic school in the heart of the Fifth Ward in Houston. It was here that I developed a comprehensive guidance program and built a rapport with my students and their families. I could have never prepared myself for the joy that came from helping others academically, socially, and emotionally. It was a difficult school to walk away from; but when a new opportunity knocked, I answered.

Two years ago, prayerful intentions led me to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School where I continued to grow as a school counselor. With an open heart and an open mind, I found my work incredibly rewarding and very quickly grew to love the faculty, students, and families. My days were brighter because of elementary students’ bright smiles and hugs. My heart was happier because of the joy that came from coaching cheer and track; a position I took very seriously as I suited out for practice just like my athletes and led them in workouts around the track. I challenged myself in many ways professionally- leading accommodations meetings, advocating for students with learning difficulties, and meeting the social and emotional needs of many, including faculty and staff. Professionally, I was happy, fulfilled, and content.

Then on the Friday of my first week back at work, I received a phone call from the Director of Admissions at St. John XXIII College Prepatory High School. They had a school counseling vacancy and expressed interest in having me come by for an interview. I found myself immediately torn. I loved the work I was doing at St. Elizabeth but recognized the tremendous opportunities for growth the new position offered. Despite the conflict I felt, I knew I at least needed to interview for the position because I didn’t want to leave myself carrying around any “what ifs?”. My first interview went well, which led to a callback from the principal, and second interview with him. By midweek, I was offered the position, and knew I had a significant amount of soul searching to do.

After prayerful consideration and several heart-to-heart conversations with my closest family and friends, I decided that this opporunity was too good to pass up. The timing was far from ideal; leaving my current position less than a month into the new year and taking on a new role in a new school later in the game. Nevertheless, I’m eager to embark on this new journey and challenge myself professionally in new ways.

A few weeks ago, my post focused on the adage, “everything happens for a reason.” God put this new opporunity in my lap for a reason. This did not happend by accident. My principal notified the faculty and parents about my new position this afternoon. I’m incredibly grateful for his support and look forward to what the future holds. My last day at St. Elizabeth is this Friday. I will take the next few days to say my goodbyes and prepare for this next phase in my professional life.

So here’s to new beginnings, moving forward, and embracing the adventure that lies ahead. Thank you St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for the tremendous opportunities. You will forever have a place in my heart!

Difficult Decisions

In life, “there are no accidents!” “Everything happens for a reason.” These adages may seem overused and even a little cliche, and yet they can truly be poignant in their own right.

I bring these well-known quotes up today because a very unexpected opportunity recently fell into my lap. I’ll elaborate in more detail in a future post, but I’m not in a position to publicly address this opportunity just yet. Now I find myself discerning over a very important life decision that up until last Friday wasn’t even on my radar. When I find myself face-to-face with a difficult decision, my first instinct is always to leave it in the hands of the Lord. He, after all, put this opportunity in front of me in the first place.

Decision making is something I struggle with even in the simplest of situations. “Should I order the French toast and bacon or the blueberry pancakes and sausage? Hmmm!” The last time I found myself pondering my breakfast options certainly wasn’t going to have life altering ramifications. So now faced with one of the biggest professional decisions, I find myself teetering a tight rope of indecision.

The aforementioned quotes I found on Google images last night encompass a wide array of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that are weighing heavily on my heart. In revisiting this theme of difficult decision making, two quotes resonate the deepest within me and are pushing me to accept how this all fell into my lap in the first place.

“Making a big life change is pretty scary. But, know what’s even scarier? Regret.” I know I have to follow my heart and my intuition on this, but that doesn’t make the decision I need to make any easier.

“Sometimes you have to do what’s best for you and your life, not what’s best for everybody else.” This final quote reverberates loudly all around me because in my work as a counselor, I’m often acting off of what is best for everyone else.

So in the next few days as I discern, pray, and ultimately finalize an incredibly difficult decision, I will continue to circle back to “everything happens for a reason.” I ask that you please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I turn it over to God.