Dear January,

I realize that we’ve had a love-hate relationship for the past few years, and I wanted to let you know that I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt in 2014. Truth be told, I’ve never really liked you, partly because when you come around, I start feeling guilty about all the stuff I had planned to do since the last time I saw you. Seeing your name is a reminder (as if the mirror and closet weren’t reminders enough) of the weight that I know I need to lose. Your name is a reminder of the hamster wheel that my career seems to be stuck in. The picturesque pages in each new calendar remind me of the places I want to visit, the things I want to do, the adventures I’d like to take.

But there is another big reason why I don’t like you. After making it through another Thanksgiving and another Christmas in this new normal (if such a state even exists), you show up in my life unbidden and remind me in no uncertain terms just how long it has been since my brother died. January 23. It’s as if Jan. 1-22 needn’t bother; I’d just as soon skip to the 24th and start the year there. The first twenty-two days only lead up to the day when I want to crawl under the covers and wake up 24 hours later, anyway, so let’s just fast-forward and pretend the day never happened. And yet, every year like clockwork, it rolls around. And every year, I wake up and go through the motions of another day. This will be year five.

You know what, January? I’m tired of dreading you. I’m tired of letting you dictate how I feel about myself and my circumstances. I have some important things to do while you are around this year, and I’m not going to let grief or guilt stop me from accomplishing them. So, feel free to stick around for 31 days again this year. Just don’t expect me to slow down and wait for you to leave.

Of birthdays and memories

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My best friend has a milestone birthday tomorrow. As I was thinking about something funny or meaningful to post on her Facebook wall (I decided on this photo for now, LOL >>), I started reminiscing about so many things that we have been through together in our almost-30-year friendship.

We competed on the neighborhood swim team together for a few summers. We went to middle school and one semester of high school together. We attended each other’s graduations and weddings. We commiserated during pregnancies. I even had the once-in-a-lifetime privilege of attending one of her C-sections because her husband was unable to be in the operating room with her.

She also met me at the hospital the night my brother died. She drove all the way across Houston — literally, from the south side to the north side — to meet me in response to my frantic phone call. She took my youngest son, barely age 4 at the time, home with her for the night (or was it the weekend? the whole timeline is a blur). Good friends will be there for you in a time of need, but her willingness to drop everything and go above and beyond the call of duty on the worst night of my life will forever warm my heart.

We’ve been thinking about planning a girls-only vacation for the past few years — something nicer than just a weekend get-away … perhaps a cruise! We actually started talking about it before our “25th anniversary” (when a waiter overheard our conversation and thought we were a couple-couple). We still laugh about that night!

It’ll be a while before we can seriously plan our fun in the sun, however. I have my dissertation to finish before I can really let my hair down, but that’s relatively minor compared to what she has on her plate these days. Please pray for my sweet friend’s husband, as he undergoes treatment for stage 3 rectal cancer. She’s a strong, independent woman, and I know it’s hard to accept help, much less reach out and let others know of your need. So, I’m sharing this information because I know many of you are prayer warriors, and I ask you – first and foremost – to pray. If you feel so compelled, please also consider giving at the site linked above.

Here’s to old memories and new adventures!

Happy Birthday, Nathan!

My little brother would be 35 today. I don’t remember exactly how the tradition started, but I think my mom wanted to do something special on the first birthday after his passing, so we made brownies and put birthday candles in them. Since then, we’ve celebrated his birthday with a special dessert and sharing stories and memories. This year, the boys and I decided to go all-out and fix a German-themed dinner, since Nathan was born in Germany (while our dad was in the Army), and he always loved German food. Here’s a photo recap of our special dinner:

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I promise I’m not a pyromaniac, but I do love watching the flame on a grill. It’s so pretty, and it smells wonderful!

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2 beers to marinate the brats & 1 beer for the cook to enjoy! 😉

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The age-old privilege of helping to bake: getting to lick the beaters! 🙂

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My sous chef grill master, helping with the brats.

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I wish this was a scratch-and-sniff photo, because mmm, mmm, mmm — they smelled amazing!

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Bratwurst, sauerkraut & homemade German potato salad!

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German Chocolate cupcakes for dessert, to round out the themed dinner. They turned out a bit flat, but they were scrumptious, anyway. 🙂