READING BETWEEN THE PINES

If life's about the journey, does it matter how many bathroom breaks you take along the way?

Long before I understood if I would, should or could have children, I knew that my firstborn daughter would be named Grace. And so she was. Prior to that, before my husband and I had yet to lay eyes on each other, I further knew that “Amazing Grace” would be the cornerstone song on our wedding day. And so it was. For as long as I can remember I’ve been infatuated with the word and its underlying meaning, yet only as I’ve grown older am I beginning to understand the elemental reasons why.

Grace

The concept of grace is rooted in forgiveness, not because you have to, but because you feel compelled to for the greater good. It’s centered on extending a helping hand in equal proportion to a stranger as a friend when intuition tells you it’s needed most.

Grace is elegant. It’s refined. It’s a knowing nod instead of a harsh word…silence in lieu of “I told you so”.

It’s a compromise in a world of growing contrasts.

Grace is personal. It grows from the strongest place in each of our individual hearts and is grounded in benevolence, compassion and love.

Grace is all about smiling and shaking your head in the grocery store line or parking lot when someone cuts you off. It’s laser-focused on giving others the benefit of the doubt when they’re behaving badly, because perhaps they live between layers of hurt that openly present as pain.

Grace is courteous. It’s is a promise of tolerance, understanding and in many cases, leniency.

Grace is often underserved and can be counted as one of life’s great gifts.

heartMaybe the root of my lifelong infatuation with grace springs from a fundamental knowledge that as a human being I can do better, be better, forgive more and judge less. Perhaps that one tiny word is the key to a life well-lived – an easy mark with monumental consequences.

I want to help create and exist in a world of tolerance. Of acceptance. Of peace. The path to all of these places is deeply personal. And it starts with grace.

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Art created by Tsjisse Talsma

On any given day, people all over the world do extraordinary things. Halfway through my journey on this earth, my question is…why?

When I was 39, my fast-approaching “big 4-0” loomed large, hovering over me like a lingering cough. There was nothing about aging up into a new decade that I looked forward to, in fact, I sprinted away from this unwanted milestone with all the speed and force I could find.

For me, turning 40 felt like I’d won the creepy virus of the year award.

A decade before, I’d traded a full time career to be a full time mom. Yet over the years, I somehow got lost in the tunnels of a world I’d built for all the right reasons, and I didn’t know how to find my way back. To me.

Even though the reflection of life that I presented to the world looked enviable, my internal composition wasn’t reconciled to the image I wanted people to see. So after some pretty spectacular wrong turns, I realized that I’d lost the passion behind my purpose, and I needed a personal definition beyond the words wife and mom. Admitting this feels selfish, but as my children grew up and away, my why started to change because I was changing too.

For me, with age has come insomnia, hot flashes, and weird moles that have pretty much put my dermatologist’s kids through college. And maybe a little wisdom.

I’m the byproduct of a long line of workers. My mother, who tried to retire decades ago, is still at it. Her father built a company out of nothing and changed his family’s lives. The list goes on. And then there’s me.

Cindy Crawford’s gotten a lot further in life with her moles than I have.

My re-entry into the workforce started with writing, morphed to a part-time job, then transitioned into a full-fledged real estate career. And now, at my busiest and craziest, I’ve never been happier. My “why” is to help provide for the wants and needs of my family, and the sense of dedication I feel when I help others permeates just about everything I do. Where I once felt lost I now feel lucky, in part because my self-definition of necessary rests in a more well-rounded place than before. I’m a better wife and mom because I’m a happier person, and I’m a happier person because I’m figuring out my why.

I believe that the most grounded and fulfilled people I’ve ever encountered feel a passion about their purpose. One of the many beauties of this world is that we’re all different, tailor made to be completely individual and unique. So, I have a question. What’s your why?

These amazing people will always be at the core of my why.

For some people, Valentine’s Day is all about expensive jewelry, overpriced lamb shanks, and a big box of 20,000 calories.

For me, however, what resonates on this Hallmark-created holiday is a romantic nine-letter word that’s easy to say, and for some men, hard to do. I’m talking about choreplay.

Choreplay involves completing household tasks in return for something men have wanted since the day they turned 13. Is it a controversial concept? Yes. Do I care? Not really. What matters to me is making my list of things to do that everyone else in the house ignores shorter.

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Image compliments of Health magazine because, you know, a husband who vacuums under the sofa is good for your heart.

Like laundry. Recently, I conducted an unofficial survey of full and part-time domestic goddesses, and discovered that we aren’t supposed to match socks. Ever. Domestic goddesses take conference calls, lounge around the house in togas, watch really bad reality T.V., close some deals, and then forget to pick up the kids at school. Since I absolutely hate absorbent footwear, doing laundry would be a great place to start.

Socks

Nothing says “love you sweetie” like blowing off poker night to match the 200 socks I found under our daughter’s bed.

Also, that stand-up thingy that we bathe in is neither a wading pool nor a medieval moat designed to keep the neighbors out of our yard. It’s a shower, and as much as I like to pretend the water that pools around my ankles every time I use it is a series of waves lapping my feet in Bora Bora, it’s not landing.

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A shower that doubles as a watering trough for the horse we don’t own is =(.

And another thing. Crap at the bottom of the stairs goes up. Crap at the top of the stairs goes down. Repeat. Crap at the bottom of the stairs goes up. Crap at the top of the stairs goes down. It’s impressive that you can long jump 20 feet in an attempt to avoid what you don’t want to see. Yet if we’re really gonna celebrate Valentine’s Day, delivering that pile of laundry that no one wants to fold to one of the kids’ rooms that no one wants to clean would be super.

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Those aren’t my stairs. OK maybe they are my stairs but that’s not my crap or my Crocs.

If we can agree on the execution of the choreplay that works for me, I don’t care if Valentine’s Day consists of a half dead bunch of carnations and Doordash-delivered Moons Over My Hammy for dinner. I’ll be happy to focus on the things I’d have to write about under an alias in a different kind of blog. Just please, walk the dog and hang up some towels on the way to our room. ♥

From a very early age, my parents taught me to be kind. To everyone. And I am, sometimes to a fault and so much so that with the best of intentions I get myself into trouble.

I love connecting and helping others. It’s how I chose my career and why I like to volunteer. Simply said, giving makes me happy. I’m pretty sure the first word that trickled out of my mouth wasn’t “mama” or “dada”. It was “yes”. Yes, I’ll run the school charter committee, yes I’ll run the monthly meeting, yes I’ll run you to the airport. Yes, yes and yes again.

YES

YES, I too was thinking that to carry a Sears and Roebuck photo shoot, a full-on snow suit and fuzzy head pom would add just the right touch.

Saying yes feels great. Until the day comes that it doesn’t. 

Have you ever been in a situation where, already overcommitted, you say yes to the evite that pops up on your screen only to find that on the day of the party you can’t fit in what you already knew you couldn’t do? Or yes to chairing the Mom Prom committee when all you really want is to squeeze into that 1988 peach sequined gown, tease your hair to gravity-defying heights, grab a bottle of Mad Dog, and hang out in the corner of the gym?

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YES, I would love to still have my mom’s circa 1975 flowered sofa featured in the background of this pic. But the matching prom gown and shoes? Not so much.

When you realize that time isn’t as elastic as those $100 yoga pants that are supposed to fit for life (and don’t), and you can’t magically gain the hours you need to honor your commitments, something’s gotta give.

In saying yes when your heart says you shouldn’t, you end up hurting a relationship you’re trying to nurture, because a last-minute change of plans stings a lot more than an honest and front-loaded no.

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This stargazing, Bartles & Jaymes sipping, burnt bangs girl used to have a hard time saying no.

Following my parents’ well-intended advice into adulthood, I thought the word “no” was inconsiderate until the moment, passed out on top of my laminator with a glue gun stuck to one hand and a pair of needle-nosed pliers in the other, I realized it actually protects my relationships. Saying no is all about balance, because if you don’t safeguard your time, everything else is compromised.  

So now, when my desire to give to others comes into conflict with my need to take care of myself, I pull back. I try my best not to overcommit. I wish that time were endless, but the reality is there are a finite number of hours in any day and a limited amount of energy to give away.

With the right perspective and a sincere delivery, saying no isn’t impolite. It’s actually a gift – to yourself and to the people you care about, so that on the occasions that you choose to say yes, your heart, mind and intentions and are completely aligned.

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YES!!!!

In addition to the multitude of things that inspire me to write, I’m a contributor to our local community paper, The Castle Pines Connection. Come check out the neighborhood and people who make it meaningful at www.castlepinesconnection.com.

 

 

 

 

 

As parents, my husband and I expect our three teenage children to pull their relative weight in the family. Grades are important, chores mandatory, and the economics of a burgeoning life on their own are discussed and debated in a way that often puts five distinct personalities on close to the same page.

When it comes to Christmas though, all rules go out the window. Christmas is big in our house, just as it was in my parents’ when I was a kid. Piles of presents sit stuffed in traditionally unused corners of the family room. Artists from Frank Sinatra to the Backstreet Boys fill the halls with festive fa-la-las. With lights strung and 20-pound fruitcakes made and consumed, the month of December flies by in a perpetual blur of door-to-door friends and family fun.  I’ve always loved the holiday season. Until the day came that I didn’t.

Did you know that this photo was the genesis of the 1996 retail phenomenon better know as The Snuggie? Just kidding. It was actually the genesis of the Backstreet Boys’ meteoric drop on the charts.

December 25, 2012 started off well – early as always because Christmas Day anticipation trumps sleep quality 100 to one. Yet, as our children ripped through present after present, hardly slowing down to see what they got or who it was from, I found myself feeling increasingly frustrated, so much so that I ended up storming out of the gift-gilded universe I’d created and locking myself in our room.

That’s me in a holiday hormone-inspired meltdown.

As I sat, curled up in a hormone-infused puddle of tears, I realized that in all my attempts to create the perfect Christmas, I’d forgotten the most important parts – selflessness, charity, consideration, and the giving spirit just to name a few.

So on December 26, 2012, I began my search for a holiday tradition with deeper meaning and, through the advice of a wise friend, eventually found it in an outreach effort on Christmas Day where hundreds of volunteers gather to feed, clothe and serve an equal number of the homeless population in Denver.

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The true meaning of Christmas is all about giving.

The first year we volunteered was a little uncomfortable for everyone. It was freezing that morning, and shivering through her coat, hat and gloves, my youngest looked up as we unloaded our donations and simply said “I’m cold.” As I gazed across the landscape, her eyes followed mine to find hundreds of people huddled together as they waited for gifts that were considered givens in our everyday lives. A flash of recognition flickered in her eyes, and, speechless, she nodded as we all got to work.

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Nothing warms a cold Christmas day than hundreds of people coming out to serve…hundreds of people. 

As our holiday volunteering has grown over the years, so too has its significance in our family’s life. Christmas will always be the biggest holiday in our house, but what we do outside the warmth of our walls has grown to become even bigger.

Guys Smile

Our favorite family tradition.

 If you’re a local Denver resident and would like to find out more about how to donate to and/or volunteer for Christmas in the Park 2020, please contact me at schadwick@livsothebysrealty.com. We always have an amazing group of friends and neighbors who join us on Christmas Day, and would love for you to come too!

In addition to the multitude of things that inspire me to write, I’m a contributor to our local community paper, The Castle Pines Connection. Come check out the neighborhood and people who make it meaningful at www.castlepinesconnection.com.

 

 

When I was a senior in high school, I applied to two colleges. The first was the school I was destined to attend. The second? An afterthought, just in case the world’s largest sink hole, triggered by a flying unicorn tethered to an alien spacecraft piloted by Tom Cruise, happened to swallow my destiny college whole.

That didn’t happen. Instead I was wait-listed, which for me, was the equivalent of learning that big hair wasn’t a thing anymore. In other words? Devastating. After getting the news, I became sullen and unmoored, sequestering myself in my closet with Erasure’s Oh L’Amour pounding through the headphones of my Sony Mega Bass Sports Walkman.

Remember Erasure? That’s OK, neither does anybody else.

After a few days of intense suffering, dad told me to shower, scrape the caked drool off my face, and put on some clean clothes. It was time for a road trip.

Floating down the highway at a cool 64 mph in his Ford Thunderbird (better known as The Gray Ghost), we somehow ended up at my destiny college. Before I could throw a hormone-inspired fit and demand to be returned home, I found myself face-to-face with the Dean of Admissions, better known as The Dream Crusher. As I sat, immobilized by fear, my dad listed virtues I didn’t even know I had in his pitch to get me a spot in the incoming freshman class. This wonderful man, who’d never raised his voice against me in my eighteen years on earth, now raised it for me, loud and proud.

And you know what? It worked.

Who can argue with one of the most prolific poets the world has ever known? Not me.

If you ask, he’ll tell you what he did was no big deal, and that all he really wanted was to create some distance between his Barcalounger my constant feed of synthesizer-heavy, sappy love songs. But now, a lot older and a little more wise, I understand that his actions were extraordinary. He spoke for me at a time when I hadn’t yet found my voice, and taught me that when you want something to change, the first thing you have to do is ask.

Still have my synthesizer-heavy mix tapes and Sony Mega Bass Walkman (plus a back-up in case my go-to gets stolen).

On that day, I learned huge lessons on a short road trip that got me into the school of my dreams, which altered the course of my life. And for that? Thanks Dad.

In addition to the multitude of things that inspire me to write, I’m a contributor to our local community paper, The Castle Pines Connection. Come check out the neighborhood and people who make it meaningful at www.castlepinesconnection.com.

As fall break kicks into high gear, Gemini Girl is back with a guide to parenting. And cocktailing. But not necessarily in that order.

The Newborn Stage

There’s nothing quite like the joy of birthing your first child until you peer down at the area formerly known as your waist to find a post-delivery fat roll that looks a lot like a Yugo’s spare tire. So what’s the alcohol antidote to this unexpected surprise? A $5.99 box of wine. It’s cheap (those 529 plans don’t fund themselves), takes minor hand-eye coordination to open, and based on your inability to get anywhere other than the pediatrician’s office, is the perfect solution to a long afternoon of burps and blowouts. Plus, if you down a couple of Sunset Blush spritzers and crash into that three-hour block of quasi-sleep you get the satisfying reward of waking up to pump and dump and start the cycle all over again.

 

Carrying a spare tire on your belly is a great way to maximize trunk space and store nuts for the winter at the same time.

The Toddler Years

Toddlers are super-fun but way more intense than newborns because they move in every direction except those that make sense. I suggest ditching alcohol altogether at this stage because it’s just too dangerous to drink. Letting your child plunge face-first into the dog’s water bowl while you’re mixing a 17-ingredient Bloody Mary isn’t cool, so if you have to pop the top off something, take it easy and go for a light beer. Drinking is more about hydration than libation at this point, yet it still feels like you’ve earned a prestigious award for enduring your kid’s journey through the gerbil tunnel at Chuck E Cheese.

 

Fossilized feces, a possible strain of an as-yet unidentified disease, and a creepy mouse = family fun!

The Elementary School Years

At this point your children are gaining independence but aren’t old enough to steal your car and take it for a pre-license spin to Smoothie King because their health app says they’re kimchi-deficient. This is your house party stage where exotic drinks like Elderflower Margaritas can flow like water. Take advantage of this time, because life’s about to change.

 

The Middle School Years

Now your budding teenagers know everything and you know nothing. Since they could care less what you’re doing unless it involves cruising by the ATM, take cocktailing to a new level and build a vodka luge in your back yard. Your kids already think you’re crazy, and really? Who cares about the neighbors. Life’s only getting shorter.

 

Just joking. Nothing about a vodka luge says “Parent of the Year”. It does say “Perp Alert of the Day” on nextdoor.com so that’s kind of fun.

The High School Years

With teenagers come fun issues like driving, independence, social media, and blown curfews. It’s a great time for new family games like “Lock the Liquor Cabinet” and the teen version better known as “Roll the House to Find the Key.” At this point you have three cocktail goals: quick, cheap and strong. Go straight to doing shots.

As your kids grow up and away, consider this advice a road map to your next life phase – the Empty Nester Years. Now you can once again do what you when you want, and day drinking becomes a thing. Just do me a favor and don’t drink and drive. You’re way smarter than your kids think you are, plus there’s no Elderflower Margarita in jail.

PSA – Gemini Girl eats breakfast for dinner, thinks crosswalks are dumb, and uses humor to fuel a burgeoning 14 hour workday. Don’t take what she says seriously and please don’t follow her advice because she’s 100% not qualified to offer any. She’s all about the lighter side of life, her PEZ dispenser collection, and TikTok. 

There’s no denying the reality of my firstborn going away to college. Our tribe of five is now a slightly quieter group of four. There are less dishes to clean and laundry to do. I don’t hear “hey ma” as he rolls out of bed when my day’s half done. And I don’t get his teasing pat on the head when I’m at my laptop, working late into the night, and he’s on his way out the door working toward an increasingly independent life.

He’s gone, and the rest of us are here, adjusting to a new family dynamic without the leader our girls have looked up to all their lives. My son has grown up and away, and our tribe will never be the same. It’s a realization that’s sometimes so hard for me to carry that I step back, take a look at it, shake my head, and walk away.

And yet…he’s so happy. I could literally feel his anticipation on the plane ride to school as he metaphorically drummed his fingers on the drop-down table. It’s time to go. It’s time to go. I’ve got to go. Far and away and to an unknown place called Indiana with humid summers, bucolic scenery, and lots of pretty girls. A place where he will no longer live in the long shadow cast by his Type A Mom and will instead start to define himself on his terms: good and bad, right and wrong, moving forward and backward, and sometimes standing still.

When I left his college room more organized than it will ever be from here on out, introductions to parents and new friendships had been made, and I let go from that last hug that lingered a few seconds too long? I felt…surprisingly relieved. I walked away from my only son with lighter steps than I could have ever imagined. Because he’s right where he wants to be. And I’ve done my job.

So with the miles, and the distance, and the infrequent calls that are really more about cash than connecting, I feel alright. The rhythm of our relationship will never be the same, and even though our new cadence and tone are creating sounds I’ve never heard before, I’ve always loved new music. And that’s how I see the future for my son and me. It’s like an exotic dance. Even though I’m no longer choreographing the steps, he’s more than ready to take the lead.

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Advice For My Son

(because this is my blog and I can say whatever I want to even if he won’t listen)

  • As parents, we spend decades preaching and teaching. “Be a good person.” “Make good choices.” “Do good things.” Now it’s your turn to manage our messages and figure out what moves your needle even a fraction off-center. Find, embrace, and act on the things that matter most. To you.

 

  • Be humble. Just about everyone at college knows more than you do about something, in fact, lots of somethings. Accept that you have a lot to learn and embrace the boundless opportunities to expand your mind.

 

  • Be curious. Not only are questions the fasted way to get an answer, they show you care. “How are you?” and “What do you think?” are good places to start.

 

  • Don’t judge. If you can master this concept before you leave school you’ll be light years ahead of your peers. And your parents. O.K. maybe not your parents but definitely some of your parents’ friends.

 

  • Have fun. Does life get better than college? It does, but with caveats and constraints you can’t yet understand.

 

  • Take risks. The only way to see the nighttime beauty of fireflies flitting through the trees is to walk through a dark forest.

 

  • Don’t spend so much time honing your social life that you ultimately find yourself permanently parked in our basement. Coming home on your terms is a lot more rewarding than coming home on ours.

 

  • Persist. In life, a little bit of bad almost always accompanies any amount of good.

 

  • When friendships haven’t gelled yet and schoolwork is tougher than you thought, accept that you’re going to be a little homesick. We miss you too. More than you know.

 

  • Connect with the not-so-obvious. Befriend someone who seems different. Take a class that doesn’t count toward your major. Visit places that feel foreign.

 

  • Being a teenager is about finding your tribe. Becoming an adult is about finding your voice.

 

  • It’s easy to move with the current, but swimming upstream, though harder, yields far more reward. Think twice about taking the easy way out.

 

  • Be still. If you can get comfortable with a little loneliness, some of your biggest moments will rest on the shoulders of solitude.

 

  • Mistakes are inevitable so don’t run from them. Learn from them instead.

 

  • Talk less and listen more – to professors, upperclassmen, people whose opinions you share, and more importantly, to those that you don’t. Listen with your head. Listen with your heart. Just listen.

 

  • Be purposeful because it’s not what you say, it’s what you do that matters.

 

  • Go to college determined to make the world a better place. If you do, you’ll have succeeded far beyond any other measure.

 

In addition to the multitude of things that inspire me to write, I’m a contributor to our local community paper, The Castle Pines Connection. Come check out the neighborhood and people who make it meaningful at www.castlepinesconnection.com.

My career trajectory over the past 20 years has been long and broad, with years of working full time, staying at home, and everything in between. I’ve learned that all moms are made of the same DNA, so rather than split our differences, I’d like to highlight the things we share.

As moms, we struggle to find the right words for the challenging questions our children ask, especially when we don’t know the answers.

We want our children to trust us. And we want to trust them. But we track them on our phones just in case.

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An ankle monitor might be a step too far for tracking your teen. Then again, maybe not.

We constantly wrestle with universal mom feeling #2 – guilt, which is only surpassed by the comfort of universal mom feeling #1 – love.

Some of us are doctors, lawyers, and professors, yet none of us have figured out how to get our kids to hang towels on the rack. Or to stop stepping over all their crap on the stairs. Or to load the dishwasher in a way that doesn’t give us vertigo.

Because we’re human we make mistakes. Because we’re healers we figure out how to fix them.

When our children’s words sting and their actions hurt, we stick around. And sign up for more. Because even on the toughest days, we love what we do.

We teach lessons in the time we spend with our kids, and time spent away from them.

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What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing. Except maybe the dad’s crazy eyes which probably means he’s high on life vacationing without his kids. Or just high.

We want our kids to spread their wings and soar yet touch back down from time to time.

Some of us are the financial anchors for our families, others are the emotional backbone, and many are both. We’re the daughters of aging parents and the mothers of children with disabilities, and often serve as lifelines to three generations of our family. We’re taxed and we’re tired, yet we’re up for any challenge. Unconditionally.

We’re optimists who want to leave the world a better place for our children than the one we gave them, yet we’re not sure that we can.

At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: happy children who feel unconditionally loved and can consistently pick their dirty laundry up off the floor.

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My youngest enjoys doing laundry almost as much as me.

We love and we lose, are both wise and weary, and sometimes just try to make it through the day. We’ve had a lot more triumphs and teaching moments than fears and failures, and we constantly learn. To be good people, strong women, and the best mothers.

In addition to the multitude of things that inspire me to write, I’m a contributor to our local community paper, The Castle Pines Connection. Come check out the neighborhood and people who make it meaningful at www.castlepinesconnection.com.

 

I’ve always been a glass half full kind of person with a world view that skews toward the brighter side of life. Now, thanks to the northern light-like glow of filters, editing, and effects, that perspective is exponentially enhanced. Sort of.

Too often, we present our perfectly angled poses to the world and broadcast them on a social media stage that allows us to tell our story in our voice to our audience. The beautiful vacation. The accomplished children. The enviable life. And yet, so much of it is fiction.

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What mom doesn’t look like this when she heads out the door to pick up the kids?

So I’m gonna get real.

Last summer, my husband and I took our three children to dinner to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. I was tired, (what brilliant mind paired teenagers with menopause?) and as argumentative voices grew louder from the back seat, my fuse shortened in the front.

As we pulled up to the restaurant, my husband frustrated, me exhausted, and the kids oblivious, I lost it. In a full-on meltdown no filter could fix, I told the kids to walk two blocks to McDonald’s for dinner, and I refused to go into the restaurant. For reasons both inside and outside our car, ones that had everything and nothing to do with its occupants, I completely shut down.

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YOU go have dinner with the creepy clown. I’m doing shots at the bar.

I questioned the decision to bring the kids at all. I mean, they weren’t even there when we got married and really? Why did we feel the need to have so many of them?

As a I cried, my husband began to put the pieces of our celebration back together. He pulled the kids aside and whispered threatening words of wisdom that changed their course. He wiped away my tears and reminded me why, 20 years ago, we decided to start this journey together in the first place. We made our way to the table, started creating memories instead of ruining them, and the night ended on a high note.

And that’s the point in time that I showed the world, via Facebook, the next day. Our best side. The happy family. The ideal minus the real.

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Would you guess I was at DEFCON 5 and in full ugly cry face about an hour before this photo was taken?

No one’s perfect. Not you. Not me. I love meaningful moments, yet I wonder how much deeper life could be if we shared the backstory behind the fairytale ending. If we sometimes connected through our misses, not just our hits, and removed our carefully placed filters to expose our messy and complicated, yet beautiful selves. 

In addition to the multitude of things that inspire me to write, I’m a contributor to our local community paper, The Castle Pines Connection. Come check out the neighborhood and people who make it meaningful at www.castlepinesconnection.com.

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