Fun new toys and family time at the lake house

Poppi hard at work on another project

Paddleboating on the lakeThe lake house is one of my favorite places on earth. My parents bought it many, many years ago. I remember the day when we went to check it out back in the early 80’s. We were all loaded up in mom’s wood-paneled conversion fan with the awesome couch that folded down into a bed and a refrigerator! Man, if vans didn’t have such a child-molestery, gas guzzley vibe these days I could really go for one of those. But I digress (as usual).

We pulled up to the lake house on our recon mission and there was a big fence with a sign that said “Beware of Dog”. The gate was locked so my dad hopped the fence to go check out the property while we watched from the van. I waited in abject fear for my dad to be viciously mauled by a large, rabid dog. Much to my great relief, there was no actual dog, just a warning sign. I probably shouldn’t have watched Cujo at such an impressionable age. Continue reading

Round 2 ear piercing attempt a roaring success!

Freshly pierced ears!

I took Callie for our 2nd try at getting her ears pierced last weekend. I wrote about the first try here. That attempt ended with her tearfully accusing me of lying to her about how much it might hurt and refusing to go through with it, while I went home with a brand new cartilage piercing that I got to show her how easy and pain free it would be. Backfire.

I wasn’t about to bring up the ear piercing subject again any time soon. But last week, with some encouragement from her grandmother, she decided she was ready to try it again. She psyched herself up all week and put her game face on and I prepared myself to somehow be blamed for whatever happened. Not complaining, I’m just discovering that is often the mom role. I can handle it.

One last look at Callie's unpierced ear.

One last look at Callie’s unpierced ear.

Callie and her Granny picked out her starter earrings, Sapphires, her birthstone. She was giddy with nervous excitement. I was cautiously optimistic that some piercing was actually going to go down this time. The piercer (piercist?) gave her a teddy bear to squeeze and Callie kept a brave smile on her face and only squinted her eyes at the pain as both ears were quickly pierced.

It's a well-known fact that holding a teddy bear boosts bravery.

It’s a well-known fact that holding a teddy bear boosts bravery by at least 75%.

When she realized it was already over, tears started streaming out of her eyes and she said, with just the slightest tinge of hysteria, “These are tears of joy!”

Freshly pierced ears!

Freshly pierced ears!

I have to admit, a few “tears of joy” slipped out of my eyes, too. I was so proud of her. Not for getting her ears pierced, I didn’t really care whether she did that or not. But because I was caught off guard by the glimpse of her strength of character. She faced her fear and did it with a smile. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

A fun day full of friends and coincidences

Have you ever had a day so full of unexpected coincidences that it seems almost surreal? I had one of those the other day.

I went to a paddleboard (SUP) race on Saturday with my good friend Courtney in Treasure Island. Courtney is the friend that I did paddleboard yoga with about a month ago. We’re big enthusiasts of all things involving paddleboarding. I’m not such a big fan that I actually made it there in time for the race or anything crazy like that, but I did manage to hang out on the beach afterwards.

My other friend, Jose, joined us at the beach. I had figured that Jose and Courtney would have some stuff to talk about because he was born in Guatemala and she taught English over there for a year. And they did. At least 3 full sentences worth. 😉

Courtney and I went to junior high and high school together, she’s one of my oldest friends and such a gem! I’ve known Jose for a few years but never realized until we were talking at the beach that he had gone to our high school, too. He went there the year after we graduated so our paths never crossed back then. We all had a nice time hunkering down under the beach umbrella and occasionally venturing into the water to create some warm spots.

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A miracle of communication for an Autistic girl–Carly Fleischmann’s story

Can you imagine having an eleven-year-old child that you thought was unable to communicate at all and then all of the sudden you learn that they can not only communicate through typing but that their words are quite eloquent? Amazing.

My good friend Heath shared a video on Facebook called Autistic Girl Expresses Unimaginable Intelligence about an eleven-year-old girl who was severely Austistic and completely unable to communicate with her family who one day suddenly ran to a computer and typed words on a keyboard. They were words that no one had specifically taught her.

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The last of our generation of West spawn has been born!

Max and a proud Aunt Fifi (that's my aunt name, it was easier to say than Stephanie)

My new nephew’s name is Maxwell Matthew Bray. Right now he kind of looks like a puffy, red, smooshed-up burrito and I haven’t seen his eyes open yet but I can still tell that he’s going to be a cute one! If his brother and sister are any indication, he’s going to be doing just fine in the looks department.

Maxwell Matthew Bray Born April 30, 2013

Maxwell Matthew Bray
Born April 30, 2013

The last week-and-a-half have been fun family time as we’ve all been chipping in a little to help out with the other two kids in anticipation of his birth. My sister had one false-alarm trip to the hospital last week in which we excitedly gathered and babysat and then Susie and Matt got sent home after a couple of hours. I can’t imagine how disappointing that was!

By the end of my pregnancy I was so ready to have Callie that I was downright ornery. The night I went into labor I yelled at my brother for some offense that I can’t even remember now and cursed my sister-in-law’s name because she had dared to offer her opinion that I wouldn’t have the baby for two more weeks. So I would have pitied the unlucky nurse who tried to turn me away at the hospital.

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Think about others and my life will take care of itself?

What a concept!

You know how you can hear the same thing over and over and over again and then one time you hear it and suddenly you really hear it? You understand it? That happened to me today.

Someone made the point that if they stop focusing on themselves and instead focus on doing the best they can to help other people around them then they will be taken care of without even having to worry about it. Thunderstrike!

In these weeks following “The Break-Up of 2013” I’ve been fairly extremely self-focused. Somewhat necessarily so, since I’m suddenly searching for a new job. Every day I’m extolling my own virtues in cover letters to prospective employers. Enthusiastic! and Fast learnerMad skills! I’m awesome…I swear! 

But–less necessary–I do catch myself trapped in thoughts like:

“What is the plan for me?”

“WillI I be able to get a good job so I can support Callie?”

“Am I going to be alone forever?”

“Haven’t I had enough of the life lessons for crissake?” (For real though, Universe/God/Higher Power. I get it. I’m humbled. Please move on to someone else.)

Thankfully I have good friends and my own personal spiritual path that I can lean on to keep me on the positive side of things and looking forward. That’s all good.

But today I really started thinking about how sweet life would be if I just put my energy into being the best I can be for everyone I come into contact with.

If I do everything I can to make Callie feel loved and taken care of and even disciplined–which I do a pretty good job of, I think–then I’ve done my job and I don’t need to guilt-out about her being an “Only Child of Divorced Parents” or wonder if I’m doing it all right. It’ll be fine.

If I work as hard as I can for my employer–whoever that turns out to be–and focus on making their business as successful as possible, then my career will naturally advance the way I want it to.

If I think of what my sister or brother might need, or how I can help my parents, or see how my friends are doing, I forget to think about myself. And I’m much happier as a sweet little side-effect.

I heard business advice from someone once. (Okay, I probably heard it way more than once, but one time it stuck.) It was: “Try not to talk about yourself at all for a whole day and see how that goes.” I’m going to try that today. As long as I don’t have a job interview. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t go over too well. But it would be memorable!

P.S. Is it ironic that I just wrote an entire blog post about me not thinking about myself?
HA! I might still have some more work to do…


Stand-up paddleboard yoga class

You really can do yoga on a paddleboard. It definitely tests your balance and when the wind is blowing, like it was on Sunday, you and your fellow class members drift apart fairly often. In that case, you just pause the posing for a minute to paddle back together. There were also a plethora of anchored sailboats that we had to avoid floating into, but I looked at them as just another way of keeping us on our toes.

Urban Kai SUP yoga class on Davis Islands

That’s me back-bending on the far left!
Photo credit: Urban Kai

Even though my “yoga mat” seemed determined to carry me out to sea, I still found it relaxing and an interesting challenge. And at the end of practice, lying back on the board and being rocked by the gentle waves in savasana–or “corpse pose”–I looked up at the cobalt blue sky and clouds racing by and felt true peace for the first time in weeks.

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Biggest Baddest Bucket List Interview

Skydiving as usual!

Lesley Carter. Skydiving as usual!

This woman has no fear. And she dreams big. Much like the esteemed honey badger, Lesley Carter of Bucket List Publications just don’t give a sh#%. If you give her a plane, she’s going to jump out of it. Show her a shark, she’ll swim with it. She’s got just this one life and she’s going to cram every bit of adventure into it that she possibly can.

She’s in the process of achieving her latest, most outrageous bucket list experience ever and she needs just a tiny bit of our help in the form of votes to get there. Lesley has entered the Biggest Baddest Bucket List contest, in which the winner gets a six month, six continent bucket list vacation to document as they go and they’ll receive $50,000 to boot. Not too shabby.

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Fun at Tampa’s Gasparilla Music Festival

Gasparilla Music Festival
Gasparilla Music Festival

The main stage early in the day

Saturday was the second annual Gasparilla Music Festival. Such a good time! This festival is a great addition for the hip cultural relevance of Tampa. I think it really gives us some street cred. Suck it St. Pete! (Just kidding.) 😉

The day itself couldn’t have been more perfect. It was the kind of weather that makes all the northerners who come for vacation never go home.

The venue was Curtis Hixon Park, a great place to hang even without a music festival and which has itself boosted downtown Tampa’s cool factor. It’s a little green oasis on the Hillsborough River nestled in between the tall buildings and it beautifully highlights the juxtaposition of old and new between the modern Tampa Museum of Art and the University of Tampa across the river with it’s classically distinctive minarets. It just might be the most picturesque spot in all of Tampa.

Curtis Hixon Park

Curtis Hixon Park facing downtown

From Curtis Hixon Park facing the University of Tampa

Curtis Hixon Park facing the University of Tampa

A volunteer I chatted with told me excitedly that in the very spot where Curtis Hixon Park now stands used to be Curtis Hixon Hall, which I actually knew because I had been there when I was younger and because–ahem, name-dropping about to happen–I am actually related to Curtis Hixon. Growing up I always felt slightly (unfoundedly) proprietary about the Curtis Hixon name. Curtis was the mayor of Tampa at the end of World War II, but since I wasn’t even born until 20 years after he died we didn’t have an especially close relationship.

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My first hockey game in 9 years

Tampa Bay Lightning

Jeb’s friend gave us tickets to go see the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game last week and it was a surprisingly good time. Not surprising because I expected it to be awful, but because I don’t really follow sports—other than Callie’s soccer games and I barely know what’s going on there—so I thought I might be a little lost (bored) during the game.

But I figured at the very least I could get some popcorn and enjoy people-watching. Which I did.

And sitting there with Callie in my lap—which she’s quickly getting too big for because I can’t see over her head anymore—the game actually brought back nice memories of when I was pregnant with her nine years ago, when she was still inside my lap, so to speak. That was the last time I watched a hockey game.

My lap sitter is almost as big as me.

My lap sitter is almost as big as me.

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