Beautiful Ride

The somewhat self-indulgent rantings about the beautiful ride that is my life!

We’re All Stories in the End… April 29, 2014

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Home,Married Life — beautifulride @ 3:00 pm
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Once-Upon-a-Time-photoDo you have favorite story, one that you would read over and over and over again?  One with characters and a plot and a message that speak to your very soul. I know I do. My favorite story, like so many stories, begins with “once upon a time.” It’s an adventure tale, for sure…full of drama, laced with comedy. It’s set in a few exotic locations, it has quite the cast of supporting characters, and even has a few chapters that I would have liked to skip over…sometimes boring, sometimes sad. But at it’s core, it’s a love story…about a boy and girl…who met and fell in love and got married and built a life. A crazy, wonderful, beautiful, amazing life. And even though it’s not finished yet,  I can tell you how it ends. It ends like so many of my favorite love stories. How do I know? I know because it’s our story, mine and Rick’s. It’s the story of us. And today is a special milestone in our story…a milestone that shines like silver in the sunlight…a milestone 25 years in the making.

It’s hard to believe that it was 25 years ago today…almost to this very minute…that we stood there in that church, in the presence of everyone who loved us the most, and promised to do just that. Love each other the most. For 25 years, he has been my rock. My best friend. My heart and my soul. For 25 years he has given me the greatest gifts I’ll ever receive. And I don’t mean diamonds and pearls and vacations to faraway places. Yes, I’ve been given a diamond or two. Yes, I’ve been given a strand of pearls. Yes, I’ve been whisked away on an adventure now and again. But I would take those pages out of my book in a heartbeat, because while they are fun and shiny and very much appreciated, they aren’t really the things that make a great love story great.

What makes a great love story great are the quiet moments between the big events. The way he laughs when you can’t tie your shoes because your pregnant belly is in the way…and then he gets down and ties them for you. The way he reaches for your hand during the Christmas Eve service because he knows that every year you are weepy with the ghosts of Christmas past. The way he brushes the hair from your face and brings you a cold beer when you’ve been working in the garden all day. The way he wipes the tears from your eyes when your babies leave home, and quietly reminds you that you’ve done a good job, but it’s time to let them go. The way he’s willing to work with you, and for you…and the way he smiles at you and says, “all I need to be happy is to know that you are happy….”

Twenty-five years is a long time. And yes, there have been dark days and raised voices. Moments when I shake my head in disbelief that he still hasn’t mastered the laundry and can’t quite remember the kid’s schedules. And I’m sure days when he winces at the passive-aggressive way I handle anger and disappointment, and days when he wishes I loved cooking breakfast or maybe even wonders if I’m ever really going to cook anything again. It would be crazy to believe that in 25 years there hasn’t been hurt and anger and frustration. Every good novel has conflict and resolution…but what makes our story a great story is that somehow, through all the crazy ups and downs and challenges that we’ve encountered, we’re still here. Still filling in the pages. Still writing new chapters. Standing together, hand in hand, just like we were in that church 25 years ago. A little older. A little wiser. Still crazy in love with each other. Still promising to love each other the most. I knew after 25 seconds that I wanted to be a part of his story, and I’m beyond blessed to know that after 25 years, he still wants me to be the leading lady in his story. And if I could live 25 lifetimes…or 50…or a million…I would still want this story to be our story. Good times and bad, challenges and successes. Laughter and tears. And love. So much love.

This is our story. And even though it’s still being written, I’ll let you in on a little secret. If you skip ahead to the ending, it goes something like this….”and they lived happily ever after. The end.”

 

 

Pistol Annies ~  I Hope You’re the End of  My Story

I hope you’re the end of my story

I hope you’re as far as it goes

I hope you’re the last word I ever utter

It’s never your time to go

Sometimes this road that we travel

Feels like it’s leading us on

Spinning our wheels just stirs up the gravel

Before you know it, it’s gone.

I hope you’re the end of my story

I hope you’re as far as it goes

I hope you’re the last word I ever utter

It’s never your time to go

I’ll keep on turning the pages

Oh what a story to tell

You’ll still be my sweetheart when everything ages,

We’ll be the last book on the shelf

I hope you’re the end of my story

I hope you’re as far as it goes

I hope you’re the last word I ever utter

It’s never your time to go

I hope you’re the last word I ever utter

It’s never your time to go

.

 

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A Season in Time October 23, 2013

Filed under: beautiful ride,Cowgirl,Family — beautifulride @ 3:23 pm
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imagesCAGPS4SFChilly nights, clear days, crunching leaves and color…everywhere color. One plus of life in the Northeast is the beautiful season of autumn…the fiery reds, the brilliant yellows, the glowing oranges…all set against a backdrop of the bluest skies and the sunniest days. Sometimes it feels like a little trick of nature though…a season so beautiful that you forget what’s coming next…the cold, dark winter. You know what I mean…kind of the same way that nature tricks us with the sweet cuteness of new babies, never quite revealing the “joys” of the teen years that are right around the corner (yes, true words from a Mom of several teenagers….). But right in the middle of the challenging years of parenting a teen, you will get a glimpse of that young adult they will become sooner than you’d like to admit…and it makes your heart swell. And in the middle of the coldest, darkest winter, you might wake up and find your world covered in a blanket of the purest, whitest, most shimmering snow. That’s just the way it is with seasons….seasons of the year, seasons of our lives, seasons of time. Each one reveal beauty, each one presenting challenges.

Today I’m quietly celebrating my own little season in time. Today is an anniversary for me. A three-month anniversary. A quarter of a year ~ and by my calculations, that equals a season. It was exactly three months ago today that I opened the door and welcomed the public into my own little space…revealing a dream that I had been holding in my heart and soul for quite some time. In my first “season” here in the boutique, I have packed up some light and airy summer items and moved in the warmer colors and decorations of autumn. I’ve restocked and rearranged, added new merchandise and considered discontinuing some old. I’ve grown comfortable behind my little counter, and confident in my merchandising skills; and yes, I still get as giddy as a little one on Christmas morning when I put the key in the lock every morning, and as happy as I can possibly be when a customer likes something so much that they decide to take it home with them.

Beyond the happenings inside of my four sand-colored walls, I’ve learned a great deal as well. I’ve memorized my train schedule and my family has learned to fend for themselves just a little bit more than they used to, because they know how important it is for me to be tending to the store right now. My wonderful husband has taken over cleaning duties, my boys are getting themselves to their after-school activities, and we are all learning to cope with the “catch as catch can” dinner scenarios and the sometimes challenging” cash flow” issues that are all part of starting an adventure such as this. Are they thrilled every single minute? Probably not. But when push comes to shove and I’m melting down over a few bad days in a row, they are the first to step up and remind me how important it is to chase your dreams, and that they will stand beside me while we figure out how to make this all work. They seem to already know that even in the most successful companies, there are still “seasonal” challenges to overcome in business as well. Good days and bad; profitable ones and some that are not so profitable; smart business decisions and decisions you wish you could take back almost immediately.  And that each season is just that…a season. Beautiful in most ways, a little dreary in a few, but an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.

It has been a joy and a privilege to meet the people of Summit, NJ and the surrounding communities who have taken the time to come inside during my first season and see what “Cowgirl in the Sand” is all about. And it has been a blessing and an honor to receive such strong support from my close friends and family and the online community that has followed me through my social media and website posts. Your encouragement has been strong and unwavering. And I hope you will stick around for the next season of Cowgirl in the Sand ~ I know it will be challenging and exciting and absolutely a dream come true. And many years from now, we can all look back and say, “Wow, remember when…remember those early days…the good old days…when you were just finding your way and learning the rope…wasn’t that first season a great little season in time.”

 

carousel_image_bd972dafe0630709949f_photo-64Me and Mayor Ellen Dickson cutting the turquoise ribbon on opening day!

*Photo courtesy of The Alterative Press

If you are new to “Cowgirl in the Sand,” I invite you to read the local article regarding our opening, which took place just three short months ago!

http://thealternativepress.com/articles/cowgirl-in-the-sand-new-boutique-opens-in-summi

 

Independence Day July 5, 2013

Filed under: beautiful ride,Cowgirl,Faith,Family,Friendship,Holidays — beautifulride @ 11:18 am

fireworksYesterday was a holiday, and I did, for the most part, take an actual day off. After getting my youngest son up and around and off to a dance convention and workshop…at 5:30 a.m., no less…I settled myself back down on the sofa with a steaming cup of coffee in my hands, the early news on the television, and the promise of a peaceful morning on my mind. Just as a thought I might close my eyes and steal a few more moments of sleep before the rest of the house came to life, I remembered exactly what day it was. It was the Fourth of July. America’s birthday. Independence Day.

My mind immediately wandered back to precious memories of past July 4th celebrations. When I was very young, we would start the day by walking up to the fireworks table at the corner gas station just a few blocks from home. My brother and two sisters and I would  have about $5.00 each and we could spend it on whatever combination of cap guns and snake bombs and sparklers we wanted. We’d go home and play with our Independence Day treasures; and Dad would set off this little table top cannon that he had, to the delight of all the neighborhood kids! The we would head over to my Grandma and Grandpa Hessert’s house for a picnic where there was always potato salad, cake and homemade ice cream! After dinner, my Mom would take our hands and a blanket, and my Dad would grab some lawn chairs, and we would start the 10-minute walk to the Market Street Bridge, where we would find the perfect spot to watch the fireworks over the Susquehanna River. Except for one of my younger sisters. She would always say she didn’t like the smell of the fireworks, but we always knew she was afraid of the loud noise. And every year, my Grandpa would say he really didn’t like the smell either, and was kind of tired, so maybe she could keep him company on the front porch so he wouldn’t have to be alone. The older I get, the sweeter that gesture seems to me.

As we got a little older, we would travel to Harrisburg to spend the 4th with my Nanny Moore, and my Aunt, Uncle and cousins. Red, white and blue sundresses, burgers and dogs, punk sticks, popsicles and sparklers. And if the weather was good, we would pile in the station wagon and drive downtown to sit along the banks of the river once again, and watch the capital city’s fireworks extravaganza.

Before I knew it, I was grabbing the hands of my own children and watching the party in the sky through their big-wide eyes. In the days before the kids outnumbered the parents, we would spend the day at Point State Park in Pittsburgh, still the best fireworks show I’ve ever seen, right there where the three rivers meet. As the kid count grew, we opted for less crowded venues–the 2nd floor deck of our neighbors gave a great view of the fireworks at Kennywood Park, or perhaps the parking lot of a local strip mall where sleeping babies could stay in carseats while older siblings could sit on the hood of the car. And sometimes we’d travel to Longs Park in Lancaster, where Grammy and Aunts and Uncles could all pitch in to help wrangle our kids and their cousins.

And then I started thinking about our time here in Maplewood, NJ. By a stroke of luck, we managed to buy a home across the street from Town Hall and Memorial Park, where all the Fourth of July festivities happen. The first few years, we would walk over to the park for the circus and camel rides, ice cream and music. Now, they are older and the days are full of the things teenage boys do ~ but at the end of the day, they still come across the street with us, sit on the blanket and look up at the celebration in the night sky. As we sat there last night, with the fireworks exploding in the patch of sky between a beautiful tree and the American flag waving in the breeze from the top of the flagpole on the lawn, it struck me. Not only was this day an Independence Day celebration for our country, but it was an Independence Day celebration for me. You see, on July 3rd, I said farewell to a full-time job that I have held for the last 7 years. With tears in my eyes for all that I had learned, and for all that I had grown, and for all of the wonderful people that had become so much more than just coworkers to me, I turned in my key and I stepped out the door. And in that moment, I not only stepped away from the security and the dependence of that job, but all the jobs that I’ve held in the past. And even though I’ve been working at my own business for the last three years, it has been secondary. I have nurtured it and tended to it and poured my heart and soul into into it, but from the sidelines…on my own time, I had an obligation to the company I was representing, and a responsibility to give them my full attention and my best work. And I believe that I did just that. But more and more, my heart was screaming out to reach higher, dream bigger, and embrace my own dream. So on July 4th, 2013, I celebrated my first Independence Day ~ my first day of being a full-time, self-employed, small business owner ~ in a land where dreams like mine can still come true, I don’t know what’s in store for me or my Cowgirl in the Sand boutique, and I know that I can’t take this opportunity lightly. With the freedom to start my own business, there is also a responsibility to make the very most of the chance I’ve been given.

And to my friends who have supported me and to my family that believes in me, I want to say thank you. Your faith in me gives me the courage to embrace my dreams and reach for the stars. And I hope you will stick around for awhile, because I think this whole adventure is going to be a beautiful, beautiful ride!

 

Lending a Hand September 30, 2012

It has been quite some time since I posted a blog…quite some time indeed. No reason other than time, or rather a lack of time. I’ve been busy…busy with the kids, busy with the business, busy with work, busy with life. It’s been a juggling act on a tightrope trying to balance schedules, meals, orders, laundry, etc., etc., etc. I will even admit that while I feel immensely and unbelievably blessed to be doing the things I’m doing (ok, maybe not the laundry), I also sometimes feel like I just cannot take on another thing. With a husband that travels weekly for business and the sons that can drive living in different states, the daily run of dance classes, voice lessons, theatre practice, groceries, doctor’s appointments, etc., etc., etc. has left me feeling a little out of breath!

Facing the daily tasks we have to do, or want to do, can be exhausting, but we generally find a way to tackle the beast and get it done. Until that one time, that one time when we are faced with that one thing that we didn’t plan for … that we don’t want to do … that we just might not have the energy to face …  certainly not alone.

And that’s when your friends step in. And that’s why I’m finding the time to post a blog today. Today, my friends, and my little community of little businesses are working together for one cause. Under the dierction of the dear, sweet Barbara of Shabby Cowgirl, we are lending a hand to a family that just doesn’t have the energy to think about the busy-ness of daily life. A few days ago, Barbara used the power of social media to reach out to a small number of businesses that have been extremely supportive to each other. Although most of us have never met face to face, we have developed real and lasting friendships through our facebook connections. We’ve discussed our businesses, our families, our hopes and dreams and frustrations. We may be forging our friendships over virtual cups of coffee, but it is no less real than if we were sitting together at the kitchen table or at the local cafe. And when one friend falls, we want to do all we can to help pick her back up.

So when Barbara reached out to let me know that our Amy over at  Junk Love and Co. was sitting by the hospital bed of her son who had been injured, along with her father-in-law, in a severe accident, miles and miles from home, I was more than happy to help her in any way. Not because we’ve met, not because my sons have played with her son, but because she was suffering. And afraid. And she needed our help, even if we could only do the smallest of things. We wanted her to know she could lean on us.

Miss Shabby Cowgirl had an idea, that maybe a few of us could donate an item to an online auction, and we could raise just a little money to help with the cost of gas and food while Amy’s son was being treated in the pediatric intensive care unit of a hospital far from their home. Maybe we could just lift the burden a little bit so that they could focus all of their time and love on getting their family well and home. One little idea…the thought of one friend reaching out to a few more friends…has grown into an amazing online auction with well over 30 businesses participating with donations.

So won’t you join us on the facebook page of Shabby Cowgirl today, September 30th. The auction will run from 12 noon until 7 pm, PST. You’ll find the bidding rules and payment instructions, along with the amazing auction items, all listed on her page. Everything from jewelry to baked goods to autographed books and so much more, including a few items from my very own Cowgirl in the Sand shop. If you aren’t able to participate in the auction, maybe you could lend a hand by sharing the Shabby Cowgirl link on your facebook or twitter page. We can all lend a hand, and together, we can do amazing things!

 

To Have and To Hold April 29, 2012

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Home — beautifulride @ 9:11 pm
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Once upon a time, a quarter of a century ago, I ran into a handsome young man in a local parking lot. Circumstances being what they were, we struck up a conversation that seemed oddly comfortable right from the start, like being near each other was something that had always been.

A year later, the handsome young man asked me to be his wife. It was one of the most exciting moments of my life, but oddly enough, it didn’t come as a surprise. Because just like being near him seemed like a comfort and a joy that I had always known, marrying him seemed like a given…a foregone conclusion…the only possible end to the story that started one year before.  Don’t get me wrong here. This is not to say that I took the handsome young man’s proposal for granted. I did not. Even at the tender age of 22, I knew that life was always waiting to throw you a curve ball, to keep you unbalanced in some way so that you might never get too comfortable, never get off your game. But way, way down, in the deepest recesses of my heart I knew. I knew that he was the one for me. The sun, the moon, the stars, and all of the beautiful fairy tales combined. I have always been a believer of “when you know, you know….when it’s right, it’s right.” Not once, not even for a moment, did I have to think about my answer. Not once, not even for a moment, did I have to stop and wonder if I was too young or too secure or financially ready to get married. Not once, not even for a moment, did I have to think about whether or not I was ready to spend the rest of my life with one man…with this man.

Another year later, the handsome young man stood at the front of a beautiful church. He stood there waiting…waiting for me. Waiting for me to walk down the aisle and stand beside him. Waiting for me to join him…to be one with him….to have and to hold from that moment on, always walking together, moving forward together, living our future together.

Has it been hard sometimes? Of course it has. Has it been frustrating sometimes? Of course it has. What I have learned in the past 23 years is that marriage is work. But so is anything worth having, worth nurturing, worth holding on to. I’ve learned that it always requires a 100 percent effort…it’s just that sometimes one has to be willing to give 95 percent and only take 5, and then before you know it you are getting 95 percent when you only have a little to offer back. It is working together, loving together, facing the hard and the ugly and the mundane together. And if the commitment to moving forward together is there, then the rest falls into place and the rewards are so sweet.

Twenty-three years later, the handsome young man is still the sun, the moon, the stars and all of the beautiful fairy tales combined. He may not be as young as he was then, but then neither am I. But he is surely as handsome, maybe more. And he is smart and funny and kind and a great dad. And he has blessed me with four more handsome young men. And I see him in them.  And that makes me so, so happy. And when I look into his face,  I can see worry lines from the times that were tough and smile lines that are the sweet reminders of all the times that we laughed. I look into his eyes and I see my handsome young man, the one who has grown with me and learned with me and loved with me. I fall into his arms and I am home. All of these years later…with my handsome young man.

 

To Love, and to Be Loved February 15, 2012

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Home,Married Life — beautifulride @ 1:42 am
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Remember Valentine’s Day back when you were a young, school-aged child? Staying up the night before to make sure you had all of your cards filled out, ready to be delivered to the little hand-made “mail boxes” of your classmates. Remember the feeling of opening all of the cards, hoping maybe the special someone you had a little crush on would write “love” instead of “from” when they signed their name? How it made your stomach jump just a little, even in the 4th grade?

Remember Valentine’s Day when you were in junior high? Like so much of being a tween, you were never quite sure of how you were feeling, and moods and emotions could change on a dime during those years. On the one hand, you were grateful that you no longer had to pass out cards to everyone in your classroom, that kind of Valentine celebration ~ a party of cupcakes and “Be Mine’s” on 3 x 5 cards printed with super heros, princesses, and Winnie-the Pooh ~ well, to a 7th grader that was definitely beneath you. That was for little kids. But on the other hand, maybe secretly, you hoped that someone would slip a little note into your locker that said “I think you’re sweet, be my Valentine.”

Remember Valentine’s Day in high school? I remember in my high school, you could order flowers for your classmates. White meant “friend,” pink meant “I like you,” and of course, red meant “I love you.” I remember hating that day. It was so stressful, because it was all so public. Would you get a flower, would you get several, would you get none. When you’re in tenth grade, getting that flower means everything. At least in elementary school, you go down the list and you hand a Valentine to everyone in the room. By high school, Valentine’s Day, and the number of “flowers” you were given, could be a very defining event.  Were you the “lucky in love” girl that got many flowers, all reds and pinks; or were you nice girl that got some white ones from your friends; or were you the girl that went home flowerless, convinced that love and romance and that very special boy would never come your way.

For many, what happens on Valentine’s Day is a test. A test of whether or not we are liked…or loved. A test of how much we are liked…or loved. A test of whether or not our significant other loves us enough to remember the flowers, or the candy, or the card. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and a lot of pressure on our loved ones, in the middle of every February. And why? I think it is because, deep down, we are all looking for the same thing. The reassurance that we are special. The promise that we are loved. And I think that we believe this outward expression of love from another to us will put to rest all of the self-doubt that we are worthy of that special love that we all wish for.

When I started this post, I thought I would write about my own Valentine. How special I feel, how loved I feel, how lucky I feel. And, as I started writing, I realized that instead of writing about how wonderful my Valentine’s Day was, I really started to remember how less-than-wonderful many of my past Valentine’s Days were….because a fourth grade boy didn’t sign my card “love”….because a seventh grade boy didn’t slip a note inside my locker…because a tenth grade  boy didn’t send me a pink or a red flower.

I wish I knew then what I know now. That not having a date on Valentine’s Day does not mean I’m not special. That not getting flowers or a card or candy does not constitute a broken promise of love.

I wish I knew then what I know now. That I should treat every day like it’s Valentine’s Day. That I shouldn’t wait for the middle of February to come around to tell my love how I feel about him. That I should be grateful for the smallest gestures ~ the look that says I understand, the steady hand that calms my fears, the warm embrace that brings me comfort, the gentle kiss that promises love.

I wish I knew then what I know now. That diamonds and romantic dinners are wonderful gifts, but the most amazing gifts are to love, and to be loved. To love and be loved by our friends. To love and be loved by our families. To love and to be loved by our children. To love and to be loved by our soul mate, our one true Valentine. In the every day, in the quiet, in the messy, in the funny,  in the real. That’s what I wish I knew then. And that is what I know now…what I have now. I love, and I am loved. And that’s what makes every day Valentine’s Day.

 

All Is Calm, All Is Bright December 26, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Holidays,Home — beautifulride @ 12:49 pm
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All is calm, all is bright.

It is the morning after Christmas, and these words couldn’t be more true. As I started my day early this morning, my home was blanketed in the beautiful silence and stillness of the morning that I have grown to love. My family was sound asleep, hopefully still dreaming of sugarplums and Christmas memories. The light of the sun was just beginning to glow, slowly bringing to life another day. The traffic was slow and quiet, as it is on a holiday…no commuters rushing to the train…no school children headed to classes. I started a little laundry, picked up a few dishes that mysteriously appeared after I drifted off last night, took care of my mama chores. I stepped out into the chilly morning to bring in the milk and yogurt and bread dropped off by the milkman, impressed that he had already stopped by and a little disappointed that I didn’t get my empty bottle out for him. And then I poured a fresh, warm cup of coffee and sat in the living room, with the tree lights twinkling in the corner and the remnants of yesterday tucked into tidy little piles of boxes and surprises on the floor.

The piles are a bit smaller than years past…and that’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok. Perhaps it’s because the boys are getting older, and gone are the days of large, brightly colored plastic playthings. Those were great days, and magical mornings, but now they are older and their gifts of choice come in much smaller packages. Perhaps though, it’s because they had much smaller lists this year…more modest, more thoughtful, more practical. Maybe it was all the talk of the economy and it’s downturn this past year. Or maybe it’s that with every passing year, they look more and more toward our family traditions of Christmas and less and less at what’s under the tree. Don’t misunderstand…the surprises under the tree, in their beautiful wrapping and fancy bows, are still a huge part of the anticipation of Christmas morning; but, I’m finding that they are becoming more appreciative of the gifts that we give that speak to who they are…less so with the idea of stuff for the sake of getting stuff.

They would probably say, just about now, that Mom is sappy…just being Mom…and that none of this is true. That they would want to find iPads and laptops and flat screens and whatever is the latest and greatest under the tree attached to a gift tag with their name on it. But from what I saw yesterday, and from the thank you hugs and conversations about what an awesome Christmas it was and what cool stuff they got, I would say that they are more grateful and more grounded than they would want anyone to believe.

It has been a roller coaster ride of a year for our family, both good and bad. We’ve watched those we love struggle with illness and tough times. We’ve felt the beginnings of a shift in our own lives, as one son moved to the other side of a neighboring state, and another got a letter of acceptance that will soon take him north. We’ve been blessed with work, but it has kept us very, very busy…and apart…as Rick travels a great deal for business. We’ve seen my little business grow, but not without the growing pains and time commitment that come along with that. We’ve seen our other sons work hard and find success in the activities that make them so happy, and their willingness and devotion to doing what they do. We’ve experienced an earthquake (slight), a hurricane and an autumn snowstorm that left us with damages we didn’t expect. We have cried and we have worried and we have prayed…and we have lived and we have laughed and we have loved.

One of my favorite images of this holiday season happened this past Friday, as we took our annual train ride into the City to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, the windows at Macy’s, and the crèche at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We were walking down the street, and I was in the back of our little crowd. And I watched them together, brother to brother and father to sons. They were laughing and talking and enjoying their time together. My heart was so full I thought it would burst.

A little later, the very next night, we attended Christmas Eve services together. We sang the words to “Silent Night.” That hymn, sung at that time, in that setting has always made me well up just a little. I become flooded with memories of Christmases past…my grandparents, my parents, my husband and our children as babies…those that are with us still and those that have moved on. And I was reminded that things change. That time does not stand still. But for that one moment, as I looked to my right and saw them all standing there together, singing together and creating a memory that they may share together in a Christmas yet to come, I felt truly happy and truly blessed. And all was calm…and all was bright.