Monday, November 25, 2013

My Nieces and Nephews

I know I'm a little biased, but I'm pretty sure I have the sweetest and cutest nieces and nephews around. They live only about 15-20 minutes away from me, so I get to seem them pretty often, and for that, I'm very thankful.

I don't have my own children, and I'm not sure I even ever want to be a mom, however, I like being an aunt a whole lot, and I think I'm really good at it. I get to spoil kids I love, then give them back at the end of the day/weekend. Pretty ideal situation.

Quinton and Braden are the best big brothers. For almost eight years, it was just them, and then, the sassiest little lady who ever did sass, Miss Avia, came along.

Avia is three and we are two peas in a pod, except, she's way sassier than me. Every time I'm with her, I have to paint her nails. It's become our ritual, so I'm always sure to have a few on hand so she can feel like the color choice is hers. She also loves to pick out her own outfits and go shopping. Her parents are in for a world of trouble.

As you can see, Avia is a champ at taking selfies with me, so we are always taking pictures after our nails are done.

A year ago, my brother and his wife welcomed their fourth and fifth children into the world. That's right, two sets of twins. Quinton and Braden were conceived through fertility, but the girls were au naturale.

Vaila and Vieira are the littlest sweethearts, who adore their big brothers and sister so much. Babies tend to freak me out a bit, but I like them a lot.

Yesterday was their first birthday, which I cannot believe. I'm amazed at just how fast this year has gone. I feel like we were just at my sister-in-law's baby shower when my brother came in and announced that they had been born. Yep, they arrived on their shower day, and since Pitbull said "don't stop the party," their brothers and sister opened all of the gifts.

I can never get Vaila to take pictures with me because she's squirming all of the place. Vieira is a little better, but, her selfie game still needs some work.

As I was helping to carry things out to the car when the party was over, Braden held the door for me like a little gentleman. I asked him if my brother had taught him to do that, and he shrugged and said, "No, it's just manners." I felt my heart swell with pride. I then told him that it's important to always hold doors for people, especially ladies. It was in that moment that it hit me just how lucky I am to have these amazing kids look up to me. I don't want to ever take that for granted.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lots of Thankfulness - Part II

1) Veterinary medicine
Both of my cats have a cold. Yes, you read that right. Both cats. I will post about my new addition, Rosie, very soon. I took them to the vet yesterday and they were both given antibiotics, and Miikka got a shot of medicine. My poor baby Miikka had a fever! Man, I don't know how parents deal with sick kids. I felt so bad for my little kitty; a human would be gut-wrenching. Thankfully, the vet was able to get us in the same day I called, so my furry friends are on their way to a full recovery. They are both still eating well and playing together as much as ever, so I'm hopeful they'll be as good as new in no time.

2) Seasonal beverages at Starbucks
I really love seasonal things. They help me get in the mood for whatever time of year it is, especially the holidays. What I'm about to say will probably disgust you, and very well may change your opinion of me, but, I think pumpkin spice lattes should come out later. It's still warm in early September, so it doesn't quite feel like fall yet. I almost always get a pumpkin spiced latte within days of them being available, though. It seems like the hype starts as soon as we flip our calendars to September, but I think I would be able to enjoy them just a little bit more if the thermometer read a few degrees cooler.

The seasonal drinks at Starbucks always put in the holiday spirit. For the almost five years I worked retail, getting in the holiday spirit was sometimes very difficult,as I was constantly surrounded by capitalism and disgusting displays of consumerism. I'm not going to turn this into a religious soapbox, but I do believe we all tend to forget "the reason for the season." Christ (if you believe in Him), family, and the things we do have, seem to go by the wayside.

As I get older, the holidays become less and less about material things, and more about friends, family, and sharing love with people. I equate holiday drinks to spa treatments for my insides. As silly as it sounds, enjoying a Starbucks holiday drink reminds me to take a moment to appreciate the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the season, to really appreciate what this time of year is all about: Appreciating the love and joy you have in your life, and spread it to others whenever possible.

3) Hockey
This sport has had such a huge impact on my life, especially in the last few years. I have met some of my closest friends, simply because they were hockey fans, too. I've gone on hockey vacations with friends, and the love for hockey my friends and I have even took us to the Olympics. Some of my favorite memories with my friends are our hockey road trips.

I have even had other hockey fans send me things from out-of-town teams that I am a fan of, without having met me, or knowing me well enough to know that I wouldn't screw them over on the money. The hockey community that I've found, for the most part, really does look out for one another. Sports really do bring people together.

4) A job I feel good about
I have worked for non-profits all of my adult life (I cannot believe I'm considered an adult, but that's a post for another day), and have never really felt connected to the mission, until now. I am truly lucky to be a part of the American Red Cross, and all of the wonderful things this organization does for people. Every morning while I'm getting ready for work, I hear about another fire on the news and how the organization I work for helped people in need.

My job is to plan events that raise money, and sometimes as fundraisers, my co-workers and I can get too focused on sponsors and donors and dollar amounts. However, seeing our hard work benefit others, in what is most often times the worst time of their life, is so rewarding. What I do every day makes someone's life better, and that is truly priceless.

I don't always love my job, but I feel really blessed that I get to do something that matters, and I do love that feeling.

I'm gearing up for a small, high-end donor event tomorrow, so that's all I have time for at the moment. I hope you're having a great week so far!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Social Media

For anyone who doesn't use social media, or is only exposed to Facebook, listing social media as something I am thankful for probably sounds very shallow. However, social media has brought so many amazing people into my life that I would never have met without blogs and Twitter.

I can honestly say that I have met women that will be my bridesmaids as a result of social media. I cannot imagine my life without these ladies. I feel like I found my own Sex and the City-esque group of gals. We've traveled together, been there for each other between lost jobs and new jobs, moves, sadness and triumphs. I know any one of these girls would bail me out of jail or help me hide a body, no questions asked.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I am truly thankful for these amazing women and the social media that brought us together. I am friends with amazing women that are old enough to be my mother, and some who were still in middle school when I graduated from college. These women make my life so much more beautiful. I love you guys so much. <3<3<3

I've also met some really awesome people through this group of friends. It's kind of amazing what social media can do. Hanging out with a group of friends and their friends, who they have also met through social media is kind of incredible.

Sit back and think about the people you have gotten to know via social media and how much your life has been enriched by them. Kind of mind-blowing, huh?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lots of Thankfulness - Part I

I told you I would get caught up on my thankfulness posts, and I don't like to break promises.
So, without further ado and in no particular order:

1) Coffee and tea
We all joke about needing our caffeine fix, but I can actually feel myself become nicer and happier in the morning when I have coffee or tea on the way to work. I like to Google things, and found that caffeine does, in fact, have anti-depressant qualities for some people, so there you have it.

2) Good brakes
I was nearly in an accident this morning on Route 28 because a school van failed to check his/her side mirrors and attempted to merge into the right lane. I am so thankful that I saw the van in time and was able to slam on my brakes. If I hadn't, there most definitely would have been an accident. I am also thankful for the brakes on the car behind me, because I was inches away from being rear-ended. It seemed like traffic stopped for a split second while the van merged as planned and I got my bearings. Not exactly the way I would ever want to start a morning, but I'm so thankful I'm okay, aside from still being a little shaken.

3) Glee covers
Glee is a show people either love or hate. Although, I'm about a season or so behind, I love it. I also love the covers the characters do every week. They are so great for belting out in the car as you speed down the highway. I love to sing, and have found that belting out a few songs is almost as effective of a stress-reliever as a good, hard workout.

4) Wine
It's no secret that I love wine. Good wine, cheap wine, red wine, white wine. I just love wine. During grad school, I went to the liquor store every week and bought the bottle of white zinfandel that was on sale. I would come home from working study tables (university-mandated study time for student athletes), and depending on how much crap they gave me or how hard my thesis adviser ripped into me, I would have a glass of wine....or three. Sometimes, I would work on my thesis into the wee hours of the morning and find myself accidentally drunk because I had been drinking wine the whole time.

Sometimes a glass of wine is necessary after a rough day. Yesterday was one of those days, and I was so thankful to have wine in the refrigerator, so that I could get a glass as soon as I got home. I found myself thinking too much and being overly emotional yesterday, so that glass of wine was just what I needed to relax my mind.

What are you especially thankful for today?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Mixed CDs

My brother is working night shift this week, so we switched cars yesterday and he took mine to get it inspected for me. On my commute home last night, I started scrolling through the music in his car and found a mixed CD in the changer that I had made him while I was in college. I must preface this by saying my brother has never like rap. I'm fairly certain the CD was only in there because his new car has a changer and he wanted to fill it up. I would be absolutely stunned if he actually listened to it. Let's just say, I was crying from laughter as I sped up the highway towards home. This CD is full of all of the rap songs I loved and drank to in college.

I started to really crave all of my "old" music, so in preparation for my road trip to Ann Arbor tomorrow, I've dug out the mixed CDs I still have so I have plenty of good music to keep me entertained on the trip. I also have a couple of audiobooks ready to go, but sometimes I get restless on the 300-mile trip.

Mixed CDs are like a time capsule or time machine. I can pop in an old mixed CD and know in a track or two what year I made it, what was going on in my life, and what sort of state my heart was in at the time. It is so much fun being able to reminisce with music like this, and I am very thankful that I've kept so many of them. When I listen to my old mixed CDs, I can be taken right back to Allegheny College, which means the world to me. Man, do I ever miss college.

The best mix I ever made was in the summer of 2003 and was for B., entitled "Non-Rap Mix". Back in those days, I listened to mostly rap and R&B, with a little country, and some pop mixed in. At that time, I was terrified of telling him how I felt, so I figured I'd let music do it for me. I pored over the tracklist for days until I got it just right; the message had to be very clear. I'm so glad I burned myself a copy of that mix, because some of my favorite songs are on it.

Comfortable - John Mayer
Let's Get It On (cover) - Gavin DeGraw
The Beauty of Who You Are - Marc Broussard
True - Ryan Cabrera
Follow Through - Gavin DeGraw
Everything - Fefe Dobson
Memory - Sugarcult
Over-Rated - Gavin DeGraw
On the Way Down - Ryan Cabrera
Amazing - Josh Kelley
I Could Not Ask For More - Edwin McCain
Dreams - Gavin DeGraw
Where You Are - Marc Broussard
Thankful - Kelly Clarkson
Everything - Lifehouse
Meaning (acoustic) - Gavin DeGraw
This Year's Love - David Gray
You & I Both - Jason Mraz

I have to wonder how he kept talking to me after that CD. He told me he "really liked it" and that the music "was really growing on" him. I'd end up off on a huge tangent if I got into it, but I have no idea how you listen to a tracklist like that, clearly hear what a person is trying to say, and just keep on like nothing has changed. That's a post for another day.

Mixed CDs were [still should be] such a great way to tell someone you loved them. I would make mixes for my friends who were off on road trips to big games, who needed to be cheered up, or just to show them how much they meant to me. Playlists just aren't the same. There's something special about having that disc that just means more, at least to me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I'm already behind on several posts. I've been thinking about what I want to write, so I will get caught up, I promise.

It's Election Day and I'm working at the polls for the fifth straight year. Go vote!

I am so very thankful for the technology that keeps us all connected. I am still amazed that it's possible to talk to people halfway around the world in real time.

A few years ago, one of my best friends was in Israel for almost six months. I missed her like crazy, but it was comforting to know we could talk via WhatsApp anytime we wanted. It made the time she was away pass that much faster, but also strengthened our friendship.

I'm now using WhatsApp again, because I never deleted it and B. found me. It's not like I was hiding, but I deleted his number three summers ago in an attempt to move on, so I had no idea he had it. He, apparently had not deleted my number, and saw that I was a user, so of course, he had to message me.

Although I know it's terrible for the state of my heart, talking to him regularly makes me happy. After not talking for several weeks (I'd link you to the appropriate posts, but I'm writing this on my phone. Yay, technology!), we've been chatting every few days.

I am so very thankful for this technology, not just because we can talk while he's deployed, but I know he's okay. Even if we don't chat on a given day, I can see him online, or the last time he logged into WhatsApp, and know he's alive. I try not to think about it, but the truth is, he's in Afghanistan, so the threat of danger is very real.

I can't imagine having had a deployed loved one before this technology existed. Waiting, sometimes weeks, for a letter to arrive or those scarce few phone calls had to have been torture.

I've always had a special place in my heart for our Armed Forces, especially because both of my grandfathers, several uncles, and my dad all served in the Army. However, they all served before I was born, so I've never had to live through a deployment.

I have a new-found respect for military families. I honestly have no idea how they do it. I can't imagine being the pregnant wife or girlfriend of a deployed serviceman. I can't imagine a husband being at home with his kids while his wife is deployed. I can't imagine being a mother or father having a child deployed. I just can't imagine how hard it is.

It's hard enough for me to deal with missing B. and worrying about him every day while he's deployed, and we have a screwed up, undefinable relationship. I can't focus too much on how much I miss him, because I just break down. Missing someone and not knowing when you'll see them again is Hell. I should look into acting, because I'm pretty good at crying on command. ;)

Bless those families that live through every deployment and support their soldier from home. Thank you for everything you do for our country. You are truly inspiring and real American Heroes.

Thank you, smart people, for creating the technology that allows us to stay connected. It really is a beautiful thing.

Friday, November 1, 2013

30 Days of Thankfulness

Can you believe it's November already?! I cannot. Why, when you're little, does time seem to c r e e p by, but when you're adult, you blink, and a year has come and gone?

If we're being honest, it really scares me how quickly time goes. I don't want to be someone who just goes through the motions and lets days, weeks, and months go by without being present and doing meaningful things. Sometimes Friday rolls around and I can't tell you one distinct thing about my week. I certainly don't want to waste my days not being thankful and appreciative of little things.

In an effort to blog more and be appreciative of even the littlest things, I'm going to write every day this month about at least one thing that I am thankful for.


The View From the Veteran's Bridge

Pittsburgh is known to have a beautiful skyline, and the most popular seems to be the view from Mount Washington or the one coming out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel. While I completely agree that both are breathtaking, my favorite is the view you get while crossing the Veteran's Bridge, especially in the early morning hours.

I tend to arrive at work between 7 and 7:30, so lately, the sun is just starting to come up. The buildings are lit up as if it were nighttime, but, the vibrant colors of sunrise are beginning to dance along the horizon. The colors from the buildings are reflected on the Allegheny River. Coming across the bridge, the buildings look so beautiful against the sky, and it seems like you're so close to them, you could just reach out and touch them. It's such a stunning sight.

Even on my grumpiest mornings, I am so thankful to work in (and live near) such a beautiful city that I love so much. Even though I have to fight traffic most days, I truly enjoy working downtown.

I couldn't find a view from the Veteran's Bridge, so the next time I'm stuck in traffic, I'll take one and share it.

Weekend posts may be delayed, depending on what I have going on, but, I promise, you'll get 30 posts on what I'm thankful for.

What are you thankful for today?