My final post — Drive fast and take chances while you can

I’m retiring this blog as of this post. While I enjoy writing, this is no longer the forum I choose. I am setting up a private travel/family blog that I will use to post photos of our trips and special occasions. Now and then, I’ll write updates on my life and learning as well. The new blog is mostly for my mom who is not on Facebook. It’s also for me to have an outlet to write about things that matter to me.

I’m out of energy for being angry at/saddened by/disappointed by/frustrated with/confused about/overwhelmed by the medical community. It’s become clear to me that each person has to be their own advocate. And seek information for themselves, like I have. With the internet being what it is, there’s little excuse for being uninformed.

Remember to ask questions. Inform yourself. Seek options. Be open. Know that thoughts are more powerful than anything. Find the joy. Believe that love conquers all.

The Untethered Soul

The larger reason for me discontinuing this blog is that I am letting it go. All of it. I’m done trying to figure out if I’m “safe.” Who IS?? Right now, I’m healthy and happy. And that’s all any of us have — the present moment. I’m moving forward. It’s possible to move on without being completely done with something. I still have to have check ups. And I am still helping my body do its magical, wonderful thing. And I’m done feeling like this time is a continuation of my treatment.

So I just decided — I’m done. I’ve come up with a new wording to explain to my new medical professionals that I went through treatment and what my current status is. And that wording does not involve the word “cancer.”

“Cancer free.” Ugh. Would you ever say that when your new dentist asks how you are now? Hell no. And neither will I. It’s an awful thing to drag around. So I’m not. I’m setting it down. And moving on. Free of the worry. Free of the burden.

As my friend Josh recently reminded me, it’s time to drive fast and take chances while I can. Thank you for everything, Josh. I hope they find a cannon big enough.

Free your mind, and the rest will follow

Before I sign off, I’d like to talk for a minute about my recent Craniosacral therapy treatment. I won’t go into detail about what that is. I’ll just say that people who are in my shoes should definitely check it out. It’s been life changing.

During my first treatment she drained my liver and kidneys. She helped rid my body of the remaining anesthesia. She released the heat of radiation. She cleaned out the brain fog.

Since that treatment, I’ve slept. I won’t go in to reasons why I wasn’t sleeping, but the symptoms are gone. Not just better — gone. I no longer get headaches after long sessions of studying German. It wasn’t because German is hard (it is), it was because my brain was still repairing from the cognitive impairment caused by chemo and anesthesia. Gone. Shoulder pain? Gone. Muscle weakness? Gone. Restriction? Gone.

Know what else is gone? Feeling like it’s my job to convince people around me that it’s not voodoo, hogwash or witchcraft. It’s all there. You just have to open your mind.

I may be a late adopter of technology, social media, television shows and more. But I’m the first to adopt ideas. Possibilities. Opportunities. The things that matter.

Tschüss and Auf Wiedersehen!

Goodluck and Godspeed!

Drive fast and take chances while you can.

I’m gonna let you go now.

Namaste.

Guten Rutsch!

Our German friends use this phrase to wish each other a happy new year. It literally translates as “good slide” — as in, sliding into the new year.

And slide we did!

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Yep, that’s a beer! 🙂 

I love fresh starts. And the new year gives us a great opportunity for one. I am not a fan of resolutions (you’ve heard me complain about that before), but I have recommitted to my positive, healthy lifestyle. I’m committed to a practice of self care, exercise, clean eating, education (German and spiritual) and yoga, both on and off the mat.

Every year, I like to do something new. This year, my main new thing involves travel. I’m exploring three new destinations: Charleston, SC, in February; Cuba in May; and Germany in June/July.

Also new on this year’s line up is college, starting in August. Been there, done that. But this time will be so different — and exciting.

I’ll also be experiencing salsa dancing for the first time. As part of my yoga retreat to Cuba, I will be taking part in a cultural exchange which will include dancing, art and storytelling.

My mantra for 2017 is: I am impeccable with my word. I take nothing personally. I make no assumptions. I always do my best.

This mantra is patterned after The Four Agreements, which I read years ago and am currently re-reading as the subject of our yoga book club at Be Yoga. I love the positive support and encouragement that I’m getting from my fellow yogis.

Weihnachtsferien (Christmas Holiday)

In the course of 9 days: Aspen came home; Kerrianne flew down; Megan drove up; we visited with Cheryl, Brian and family; we spent a day with Rick and Ann in Asheville — and when I was done blinking, it was over!

I am leaving my trees up for a little while longer. After all, they’ve been up for only 41 days. But who’s counting? I just love my trees.

Even after taking down the decorations, I will continue to be so grateful for the wonderful memories and amazing gifts I’m left with.

There are three special gifts I’ll call out. The first is a Shutterfly photo book from Aspen. It is thoughtful and tear producing. The second is an Ancestry DNA kit from Michael. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while. In a short 6-8 weeks, I’ll get my results. I’m anticipating lots of German. Maybe some British? Irish? Norweigian? Time will tell! The third is a silk and camel hair wrap from Kazakhstan from Kerrianne and Aaron. It’s a vibrant pink, and I can’t wait to wear it.

Das Neue Jahr

For the first time in a long time, Michael and I were empty nesters for five whole days. Zachary flew to Colorado with Aspen at the end of her Christmas visit. He was so excited to see his friends and celebrate the new year with them.

Michael and I took this opportunity and ran with it!

We had fun doing a little of this and a little of that: going to movies, eating out, shopping. Then we spent the weekend in Asheville at Biltmore. We stayed at the beautiful new Village Hotel on the estate and had a blast at the New Year’s Eve party. We had two days to duck into some shops, tour the Biltmore House, dine at three of the restaurants, tour the winery, enjoy some estate-made ice cream, fawn over the animals in the barnyard, take some naps, eat, drink and be merry!

It was a fantastic weekend. So much so that we bought an annual pass. I’m interested in seeing the house and gardens during other seasons as well as taking in a concert or two.

 

Zach came home Monday night and returned to school yesterday. It was a whirlwind for us all. And a great one!

 

Rocky Mountain High

Later this month, we’re flying to Breckenridge to ski and spend Aspen’s 19th birthday with her. I’m hoping to see some friends while I’m  there. I’m looking forward to snowshoeing and spending time together in our mountain retreat.

I continue to feel well and receive gifts of healing on my journey. Thanks to Ann, I believe I’ve found a local Cranio-Sacral and lymphatic drainage therapist. I’m continuing with my rehab exercises to isolate and strengthen my triceps, techniques to relax my sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscles and restore flexibility to my cervical spine. I’m at the point in my recovery now where I’m dealing in nuances, targeting specific areas.

I am grateful for my health, my abundance and my prosperity. May 2017 bring health and good luck to each of you!

Viel Glück und Gesundheit im 2017!

Girls just wanna have fun!

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Sometimes my fun includes a Hornets Nest at OMB and some sausages. And my baby. 

This is a big month for me.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the 3rd marked the date of my cancer diagnosis. And this week holds two important dates.

Monday, the 12th, was the 6-month anniversary of our move to Charlotte. So much has happened in that time.

I feel like it’s been a roller coaster. At first, I was excited and ready. And then once the reality set in, I felt lonely. Aspen is in Colorado. Zach is at school every day. And for the first time in about 15 years, Michael is working in an office again. I got really used to having him home all the time, if he wasn’t traveling. It was awesome. He could come to school functions that happened during school time. We could have breakfast and lunch together. He could put in a “Full Half-Day Friday” to go to the movies, shopping or out to lunch.

So there’s been a lot of adjustment.

Additionally, I didn’t have any of my Colorado friends here. I know only one person here. And while he’s an amazing friend, I can’t count on him for my entire social life. (No offense, Aaron, but I think you knew this about me when you signed up.)

Plus my job was all done from the comfort of home so I didn’t even have to leave home for that.

Luckily, that phase was short lived!

I have quit my job (with a heavy heart) so that I can pursue my German language degree. I have a weekly class right now (that I love) where I’m one of only two students! We are taught by a great teacher who was born in the Netherlands and speaks Dutch, German, English and some French. I have a new yoga studio, with lots of great teachers and students. I have a book club that I enjoy. I found some favorite places. I know where I’m going without the GPS.

It’s not really the places, it’s the people. I’m feeling connected again. I’ve met some amazing people who have popped up out of nowhere and changed my life. I’ve always felt that there are no coincidences, and that belief has been reaffirmed for me recently.

I believe it’s better to go forward than back. I had to relearn that in these past six months.

For a while, I was busy trying to create a new life in all the ways I could think of. Some of those things worked out well, some did not. And once I realized that I was doing a whole lot of trying, I decided to stop trying so hard. It’s been since then that tremendous things have happened for me.

I had to let go in order to receive. You see, if you keep holding on to the old stuff, there’s no room for the new. And that new stuff is the good stuff, the surprising stuff, the stuff you didn’t even know to ask for.

The second important date this week is Saturday, the 17th. It’s the first anniversary of the end of my cancer treatment. In all, the medical treatments lasted a year — from diagnosis to chemotherapy to surgery to radiation. This is a big milestone to call to mind as I continue to regain strength and cardiovascular fitness and balance.

The balance is key. It’s been missing in my body and in my life. So that’s what I practice both on the mat and off. Yoga practice is nothing more (and nothing less) than a big ol’ metaphor for life.

Now that my pendulum has swung far in one direction and swung back the other way, it’s finally beginning to rest in the center, with mild rocking and always coming back to center.

What am I going to do to celebrate? I’m going to be mindfully joyful. (That’s my new version of saying I’m going to party like it’s 1999). I’m not going to plan anything. Just take life as it comes. And enjoy every second with gratitude in my heart.

That’s hard to do as “The Mom,” particularly in December. I’ve been shopping and driving and planning and booking and cooking and decorating and ordering and calling and wrapping and all the “ings” you can imagine.

This morning I set the intention to stop.

I’m done with errands. I’m done with plans. I’m just going to have fun. That’s what girls wanna do, after all! I’m going to have a merry Christmas! I’m going to have a joyful holiday! I’m going to have a happy new year!

I’m going to accept invitations. I’m going to attend dinner parties. I’m going to watch my favorite Christmas movies (Love Actually, Elf and Grinch). I’m going to color. I’m going to ring in the new year. There is a lot to do this time of year, but while I am involved in those things, I will be mindful to be … happy, joyful, merry and grateful. Many of us get stressed out over time, money, commitments and we forget the important stuff — our family, our friends, our abundance. That’s where the true joy is.

Frohe Weihnachten für alle und für alle eine gute Nacht!


 

I am pissed.

And I am sad. I need to get this off my chest.

When I went through cancer treatment, the cancer medical community was on top of it with cutting edge chemotherapy drugs, state-of-the-art surgical techniques and the latest findings in dosimetry. But, sadly, that’s where it stops in Western medicine.

Before I get into this, let me say that I am so freaking happy to be here that I find words inadequate. However . . .

What has me in such a lather today is my yoga therapy work that I just started. I love it. I found a real gem in my therapist, and I’m happy beyond measure to have stumbled upon this yoga studio and therefore, Sybil. This kind of therapy is far beyond the reaches of the physical therapy I received in Colorado. While Layna was masterful at completely eliminating any effects of my lymph node removal and kept my upper left quadrant movable and flexible throughout radiation, the insurance company severely limited her scope of treatment.

What happens is that the insurance company requires a diagnosis. When the doctor says that I need therapy on my left shoulder after a breast cancer diagnosis, then that is what Layna is allowed to treat. And only that. She’d sometimes spend about five minutes on my right side but it was not equal. I don’t fault her. It’s the way it’s all set up.

She’d give me exercises to do at home. And I took part in the yoga classes that the clinic offered to recovering patients. But it’s not the same.

Why is Sybil different? Because she can work with my entire body. She can look at the way I walk and stand, how I move not only my shoulders and chest but also my pelvis and hips. She has given me exercises that have had a greater impact on my mobility in three short days than anything I was doing in the past 18 months combined.

SO WHY DOESN’T EVERY WOMAN WHO’S GONE THROUGH BREAST CANCER KNOW ABOUT THIS???

And that’s why I’m sad and mad.

Why doesn’t the cancer medical community treat the whole patient?

I remember at the very beginning of treatment getting a call from the American Cancer Society. The woman asked me if I had any concerns, needed resources, financial help, etc. This conversation happened in December of 2014 — before I’d had even one dose of chemotherapy. At the time, I felt fine. Like perfectly fine. So questions like this were not only fruitless they didn’t make sense to me.

I had no idea what I was in for. No one does. How can you possibly know? Everyone is different. Everyone has their own experience. And you can’t possibly guess what you need before you know. I needed this call months later from someone equipped to provide wholistic care. (I chose this spelling carefully, BTW).

Even beyond that, why doesn’t the cancer medical community treat the whole family?

I’m not the only one who suffered during that process. My kids were scared. My husband was run ragged by all of my needs. And my sister took more vacation time than she probably had to be able to come to Denver and help.

The thing is, their scars are acknowledged by the cancer medical community. I heard it all the time, “Cancer is hard on everyone,” they’d say. But that was it. End of discussion. No offer of help or ideas of where to find it.

It’s truly mind boggling that I sought ALL of my complementary treatment on my own and paid for it on my own. While I was going through it all, I was happy to have allies on my side. My whole team was amazing. But the piece that’s missing is that in the cancer medical community, once treatment ceases, care of the patient ceases — and that is wrong.

Our medical system is deficient in so many ways it’s maddening. And it’s now that I’m past the treatment that I have the luxury of fuming. No one should have to suffer during cancer treatment and recovery. Options are available, but the patient has to be aware and able to afford them out of pocket.

In 2015, I spent $17,000 on out of pocket expenses. And that is a lot of money. But if you take, for example, the cost of one chemo treatment it’s a drop in the bucket. One of my treatments cost $60,000. I had six of those. And then 12 more of a single medication. Chemo lasted for a year for me. I had three surgeries. I had a hospital room that cost my insurance company $107,000 for one night. (Not shitting you, I have the bill.) I had biopsies, PET scans, MRIs and mammograms. I had blood work and echocardiograms. I had six weeks of daily radiation. I had weekly physical therapy. And this was all covered by my insurance. My insurance company spent well over a million dollars on my treatment in 2015. So my question is, what’s another $17,000 that would DRAMATICALLY improve a patient’s quality of life?

Don’t fool yourself, it all comes down to the dollars and cents.

They can’t charge $60,000 for yoga therapy. It’s not a profitable business model.

I don’t mean to be cynical but it’s just true. In the cancer medical community, the focus is on treating the disease. Once that is done, further recovery is out of their hands. They may support it, but they don’t provide it or even information on how to get it — or what IT is.

My oncologist used to ask me what I’m doing to stay well and recover. I’d tell him, and he’d say things like, “Well that certainly can’t hurt.” And he was on to the next question.

Throughout the treatment process, I’ve been engaged. I am an educated person who can understand complex things. Not only that, I want to. Apparently, this combination is rare from what I can tell from my doctors’ reactions.

When I recently went to a gynecologist here in Charlotte, she started the visit by asking me questions about my type, grade, stage, genomic risk factors and so on. She was asking them half aloud, half to herself as she’d scan the computer screen for the answer. Once she realized that I had the answers in my head, she stopped scrolling the mouse and turned to look at me.

She said, “Do you have a background in medicine?” I said “No, but I am very engaged in my care and treatment.” After that, the visit was more of a conversation.

I don’t know the answers here, but it seems like more patients need to take the initiative and demand better care. And more doctors need to treat the patients like an ally and not just their job.

If I can offer a some pieces of advice to anyone who is going through treatment they are these:

Take probiotics. Do it now. Twice daily. And do it at least until you finish chemo. Culturelle is great, and you can find it almost everywhere.

Move while you’re in bed. Leg lifts, bicycles, whatever feels good.

Get a wig. It feels better to look like yourself.

Stop eating sugar in all forms, except fresh fruit if you can tolerate fresh fruit.

Walk when you feel good.

Eat when you feel good.

Sit outside in the sun when you feel good.

Get over the disappointment about people in your life who disappear upon hearing the word “cancer.” Focus on the unexpected blessings you get from everyone else.

Get acupuncture.

Do yoga.

Breathe.

Lastly, find the joy. Some days it may be hard. But it’s there. You’ll see it, even if you have to squint.

Yesterday was December 3rd

 

That’s the date in 2014 when I was given the news that I had breast cancer.

But it wasn’t really all that “new.”

I had known for about 6 weeks that something was very wrong. I was the one who found the lump in my breast and under my armpit. I am the one who went to the doctor to say that something was wrong. I was the one who told them. But they confirmed it on December 3, 2014.

So, how did I commemorate the day yesterday? With celebrations, of course!

I celebrate because, first, I can. I’m here, and I can look back at those two years and be grateful for so stinking much.

Second, I celebrate because, to me, hearing that I had cancer was a green light. It was go time. It was permission to move forward to finding an oncologist and a surgeon. It was time to begin treating the illness. It was time to begin healing.

And so I did — in the only way I know how. As my friend Aaron would say, “It was a very Erika like way.” And I remind him that no one is more Erika than I.

So what did I do to celebrate? Lots.

First I got up early before the rest of my family, and I had quiet space to ease into my day. I readied myself for a Slow Flow class at Be Yoga with Aaron. It was a great class. I often feel that the intention set by the instructor hits the nail on the head in a way so perfect that it feels personal. Personal enough that I wonder for a minute,”Maybe she can hear my thoughts?”

I accept the serendipity, and I devote myself to gratitude in my practice, with my BFF beside me.

Yoga was followed by a yummy breakfast at Cafe Monte and a long and meaningful conversation. And then a terrifying ride home. Because, Aaron drove. (I think the German Hip Hop was an especially nice touch, but apparently not appreciated by all. Ahem.)

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Aaron and me in the afterglow of yoga class. 

I came home to Michael and Zach neck deep in leaves. The leaves, my god, the leaves. What else could I do but leave? So I got ready and headed back out to the Wellness Open House at Be Yoga.

It was a nice event with local artists and vendors, but the piece de resistance? An opportunity to have one-on-one sessions with yoga therapists and Reiki practitioners. Maybe needless to say, but I took the opportunity to have a session.

I talked with Sybil, the yoga therapist about my arm, chest, shoulder issues in the wake of my treatment. She immediately knew what to do. And so she got to work. I immediately felt relief. Simply by having someone who knows what to do and how to help me continue to heal was enough.

She gave me a list of exercises and a mantra to repeat while I do them. I scheduled another appointment with her for tomorrow after my morning yoga. I went to the open house to find Christmas gifts for some ladies in my life and I ended up finding this gift for myself.

Finally, last night, Michael and Zach and I went to Olde Mecklenburg Brewery for dinner and the Weihnachtsmarkt. We had a blast. We shopped, met up with friends and drank beer until last call with our friends and another couple. I think that Zach likes the German lifestyle — community tables, food he loves, plenty of beer and even more conversation and laughter. I think we all do.

 

We crawled into bed around midnight, exhausted from the day but so very thankful for every last minute of it and for the last two years of my life.

Life is good.

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The yin and yang of Christmas.  The room is clean, the tree is glowing, the space is ready. Soon it will be stuffed with my family, wrapping paper, activity, food and general mayhem. 

I am unemployed!

badass

That’s right. For the second time in my life, I have voluntarily given up a job. It’s not the same as losing a job, I realize, but in some ways it’s braver because I did it by choice, both times, to pursue a greater cause.

The first time was in 1999 when Aspen was a year old. I was working in Public Relations at a hospital in Akron, Ohio, when I decided that I didn’t want a full time job. So, I did freelance work in writing and video production and raised my daughter.

Then Zach was born in 2001, and I quit altogether.

That doesn’t mean I was a couch potato. During my SAHM years, I took up running, yoga, kickboxing, I was a tutor with Ohio Reads,  I coached Girls on the Run, I was room parent for many years, I was the school’s fundraising race director and I was all-around home manager (budgeting, bill paying, taxes, vacation planning, family wellness, etc.)

In early 2010, I decided to get my certification as a Wellness Coach. While I enjoyed coaching immensely, the job, ironically, required me to sit at a computer a lot. And so I phased out coaching as I phased in race timing. I started as a weekend helper and over the course of time, I learned how to be a lead timer and I took on more responsibility in the operations side of race planning. Shortly after that, I added in sponsorship sales for the owners of Hal Sports for their business as well as their foundation.

That brings me to this week. On Wednesday, I had my last day as Sponsorship Director for the Fetal Health Foundation. A bittersweet time for sure. I have loved working for this cause (which helps families facing a fetal syndrome). Donate here if you want to. Bill and Melinda Gates will match it.

I know I’m gonna be okay

Now is the time for me to pursue my passion — learning the German language. I am currently enrolled in a Level 3 class at Language Academy of the Carolinas. When this one ends, I’ll take Levels 4, 5 & 6. Then I’m going to Germany for a month in the summer of 2017. Upon my return, I will begin my classroom education at UNC Charlotte.

I’m very excited to be pursuing my passion.

But I’m a little scared too. Maybe more than a little, if I’m being totally honest.

It’ll be strange to be back in an undergraduate classroom, with undergraduates. It’ll be humbling to struggle to piece together childlike conversation. It’ll be a challenge to remember what it’s like to do homework again. It’ll be unclear for a while what I do with my degree. Teach? Translate? Lead tours? Write kick ass reviews of local German beer and food for German language publications? Maybe all of the above? I just don’t know right now.

But who cares?

As I’ve matured, one thing I’ve learned for sure is that everyone is afraid of something in their lives — it just depends how honest they want to be with themselves and the world about what that is.

The difference between people who achieve and people who don’t achieve their dreams isn’t fear. It’s courage. Courage is what you feel when you’re scared and you do it anyway. If you’re not scared to begin with, it’s not courageous. And if you let the fear stop you altogether or hold you back so long that you miss out, well that’s just sad.

I’m not afraid to drive my car. So I don’t feel courageous when I make it to my yoga studio on my own. But, let me tell ya, Zach feels extremely courageous having driven on the highway for 15 minutes. And he should!

It’s all about where we are in our lives.

New things are scary — no matter how many times we’ve done other new things in the past. That doesn’t mean we should let the fear stop us. Not at all. Like Liz Gilbert puts it, you just give fear a seat beside you and take it right on with you into whatever you do.

So, buckle up, fear. We’re going for a ride. Face. Everything. And. Rise.

There’s a song I’ve been hearing lately that I just adore. I love Andrew McMahon. Coupled with Lindsey  Stirling, he’s got my spine all tingly these days. Listen and you’ll hear why.

Something Wild

 

Danke schön, Baby!

Here we are in the midst of Thanksgiving week. I am taking a few minutes to enumerate, iterate and codify all the things I’m grateful for (a la Sheldon Cooper). Forgive my sloppy outlining, I never liked it.

I remember hearing once that being thankful without expressing it is like having a gift that is never opened. I’m going to unwrap my gifts, one at a time.

I. My health

A. I’m thankful for a normal alkaline phosphatase (ALK PHOS) level. Yes, you probably won’t hear that one around your dinner table on Thursday. But it’s true.

  • When I started seeing my new primary care doctor in September, she did the usual exam along with blood work and a urinalysis. I’ve been having no symptoms of anything but my lab work turned up an abnormality in my blood. My ALK PHOS level was outside the normal parameters — which is a common occurrence in people but if it happens between annual appointments, we often never know. I followed my doctor’s recommendation to have it tested and then retested for a third time. Upon the final testing, it was back to normal
  • ALK PHOS is produced by bones, liver and colon. Extremely high levels (which I did not have) can be indicative of cancer. Coupled with the issue below, it was best not to chance it. Hence, the importance of retesting and my gratitude for a normal level.

B. I’m thankful for a clear CT scan of my abdomen. At that same doctor’s appointment mentioned above, I had an abnormal urinalysis. There was more than a trace amount of blood found, upon three different tests.

  • I was referred to a Urologist (along with every man over 60 in this city). He said my level was just outside the normal range and didn’t think there was a concern, but did recommend a CT scan of my abdomen to rule out kidney stones and cancer.
  • Bladder cancer is an issue for people who have had strong chemotherapy because the bladder is the last bastion in ridding the body of toxins. The bladder is a holding tank of these toxins. That’s why it’s important to drink a lot of water and pee often, particularly during chemo.
  • Last week, I had the test and got my results about two days later. It is clear. And I am thankful.

C. I am thankful for my physical fitness and ability to return to previously loved activities.

  • I do yoga daily, whether at home or at my new, wonderful, amazing, awesome, perfect, fun, exciting yoga studio. Yoga provides me with body movement and so much more. I’ve met great people, joined book club and have tapped into a network of impressively accomplished teachers and stunningly supportive fellow students.
  • I walk, jog, cycle, kickbox, do strength training and just about anything else that interests me BECAUSE I CAN. And for that, I am thankful.

II. My Family

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A. Aspen is home! She is spending the week with us and is currently sawing logs in her bed. All of my family, back in one spot. For that, I am thankful. For her, I am thankful.

B. Zach is keeping me on my toes. I love this kid to the moon and back. I am certain that the universe gifted me with him so that I remain quick witted, adept at problem solving, adaptable to different ways of thinking, and eternally amused. He starts his behind-the-wheel driver’s ed tomorrow, yet another way the universe is testing my inner peace. For all of these things, I am thankful. For him, I am thankful.

C. Michael is happy and excelling in his new position. I am happy for him. And I am thankful for all that he gives to us. For as long as I’ve known Michael, I (and then we) have always come first. Not work, not friends, not even himself. Sometimes I forget that so many years have passed since we met. Twenty-three of them to be exact. We haven’t been without our challenges. Relationships are not meant to be about the fun, easy (not to mention fleeting) feelings of newness and flirting. They’re meant to be about the depth of feeling that can remain even after the worst storms. For all of these things, I am thankful. For him, I am thankful.

III. German

Language Academy of the Carolinas is where I’m currently studying. And let me tell you, it’s not easy. In fact, it’s very challenging.

  • My teacher conducts the class in German and my book is written in German. Sounds right, I know, but it’s tough! I have to look up the instructions before I can do my homework. I have to ask for the teacher to repeat and slow down, a LOT! I know that immersion style teaching is hugely beneficial, but it’s a real challenge. Despite the struggles, I love it. In fact, I absolutely adore it. For LAoC, I’m thankful. For my teacher, I’m thankful. For my ability to learn, I am thankful.
  • I have learned that there are many German speakers in Charlotte. And there are many opportunities for German conversation at local restaurants and cultural centers. When I get the guts, I will go. For all of you German speakers, I am thankful.

IV. Bettering myself

I work every day at being a better version of myself. I sometimes backslide, but that’s how life works. I know for sure that I’m a better mom and wife than I used to be. I’m learning what it means to be me and not just what I mean to other people. For all the ways that I’m discovering myself, I am thankful.

V. Charlotte

Moving here has been a challenge. I miss Colorado. But I believe that I was brought here for a reason. For a while, I was trying to figure out what that reason was. But I realized that that is a fool’s errand. The reason will unfold for me. I don’t have to excavate. It will become clear over time.

  • I am enjoying new restaurants, new breweries, new people, new adventures, new dinner guests, our new home, and even a new car. Technically, it’s Michael’s car but I really like it and am so glad that he decided against a pick up truck. In fact, it’s pretty far from a pick up truck. After nearly 6 months of deciding and finally some test driving, he bought a Lexus — a pretty one. 🙂
  • My friend, Aaron. He’s been pretty awesome and supportive since I moved here. I think he’s convinced that I did it for him. We’ll let him think that. It’ll be our little secret. For him, I am thankful.
  • My German ties have been strengthened since moving here. Michael’s company is based in Hamburg. His CFO and her husband are from Düsseldorf, the owners live in Hamburg, his global marketing manager lives in Hamburg, Michael travels to Hamburg and soon I will too. Since I’ve been learning the language I’ve also been a student of the culture, which I’m discovering has been a part of my life since birth. My parents are German, their parents are German and so on for a while. Therefore, we have a LOT of German traditions, habits and cultural norms that are woven into our lifestyle. I had no idea.
  • (Sidebar: There’s a stereotype that Germans have no sense of humor. My experience couldn’t be further from the truth. First, I’m hilarious. 🙂 Second, ALL of the Germans I’ve met to date are also very, very funny. And not just funny but fun and open and gregarious and generous and warm. And not just the ones who work with Michael, but the waitress in Munich, the barista in Frankfurt, the TSA-equivalents at the German airports, et al. Geez, a country goes through one rough patch, and suddenly you’re humorless.)

VI. Daily gifts

I read once about the idea of imagining waking up tomorrow and having everything that you didn’t give thanks for today be gone. Holy shit. I’m thankful for EVERYTHING!

  • I’m thankful for contact lenses, medicine, hair products, food, farmers, garbage collectors, the sun, vacuum cleaners, electricity, Pinterest, fire, wheels, books, shoes, coats, blankets, pillows, beds, showers, chocolate, wine, the hammer game … you get the point. EVERYTHING. I try to be thankful for things as I use them. It’s easier than trying to list them.
  • Often we let a five minute hassle with our cars ruin our day. And we forget the million things leading up to that that went RIGHT. I’m getting better at focusing on things that go right.

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