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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Becoming Mrs. Ritter

In September, Michael and I will have been married for three years.

Three years. I can't believe it.
Life is going by SO. FAST.

I don't know about you other married ladies out there, but sometimes the whole name change thing still freaks me out.

I was Dana Brown for almost 30 years.
Right after we got married, I started a new job, so everyone there has only ever known me as Dana Ritter.
Except me.

Sometimes my work email handle seems strange to me.
I guess I will eventually get used to it, at some point.

I was thinking about this last week, and I even posted on Facebook about it.
Then, I went to a luncheon at the National Press Club, where I was lucky enough to sit at the head table.  And this happened.
Crazy, right?

Every now and then, in my life, I have these moments where I have to pinch myself.
The cab ride over to this luncheon was one of those times.
Because for years, Dana Brown dreamed of being a member of the National Press Club.
She dreamed of working in Washington, DC.
She would envision working at a network, and covering the White House, as she drifted off to sleep.
Not even in Dana Brown's biggest dreams did she ever think she'd be asked to sit at the head table as Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill of PBS talked about covering a presidential election.
As if Dana Brown could ever actually be considered a colleague of THEIRS.
You've got to be kidding me, right?

Well. 
It happened.
The photographer at the National Press Club was really sweet and he took this picture of me and then told me I was very photogenic. Bless his heart! I was having a really flat hair day, so I needed that pick-me-up.
I ate PBS, just so you know. I think my husband (the biggest PBS fanatic I know) would be proud.

This isn't even the first time I've done something like this. Remember the time I sat at the head table for Tom Brokaw? Too bad I was totally upstaged by Walter Cronkite IV, but whatever.

I'm so thankful for these opportunities.
Dana Brown's professional dreams are coming true, all the time.
Dana Ritter worries sometimes when she's in the company of serious intellectual newsies like Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill that she's going to be found out. Like she doesn't really deserve to be there. She's not as smart, she's just playing along.

I guess part of me will always just feel like a little 20 year old news intern who just hopes, some day, to make it.
And maybe part of me will always feel like Downtown Dana Brown.
And that's okay with me! 

If you're super nerdy, like me and my husband (I'm not throwing him under the bus, he fully admits to this) you can watch the luncheon here:


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Allume Sponsorship Opportunity

Hello, friends.
You know you're my friends, right?
I honestly don't know what I would do without you.
This blog is therapy for me.
And it's created some of the best opportunities - for real friendships with other women who are in a similar situation as me.
I pray for each of you, every day.
I feel like we are close.

Which is why I'm letting you in on a little something.
For a while, I've been wanting to go to a blog conference, so that I can connect with other Christian women who also blog, and learn from them.

Because for me, this is all about community.  And I have big dreams for this little blog.
A place for all of us to connect, to share our experiences, to learn from each other, to vent, to encourage, and to write all of our stories. I want to write a book, and organize a conference myself - a yearly event where WE can all get together!
Because all of our stories need to be told, and heard.

Thanks to a friend who pointed me in the right direction, I think I've found the perfect conference for me.

I want to go to the Allume Social Conference in Harrisburg, PA.  It's October 25-27, 2012.
What I am looking for is to partner with individuals and companies to partner with that share our goal of strengthening marriages, dealing with disability, and inspiring others. 

I've put together several packages you can choose from:

The Big Fat Blessing ($650)
-An announcement blog post about your sponsorship, another post about your company while I am at the conference, and a follow-up thank you post, all will link back to your website
-Six months of advertising on Love Like This Life with your company's button on the right hand side of our blog
-Promotion of your company on Facebook and Twitter, including a giveaway if you are interested in promoting a particular product
-A guest post for you to share information about yourself and your company on our blog
-Your company's info included on my business card to be circulated at the conference

The Big Hug ($350)
-An announcement blog post about your sponsorship, another post about your company while I am at the conference, and a follow-up thank you post, all will link back to your website
-Three months of advertising on Love Like This Life with your company's button on the right hand side of our blog
-Promotion of your company on Facebook and Twitter, including a giveaway if you are interested in promoting a particular product

The High Five ($100)
-An announcement blog post about your sponsorship, another post about your company while I am at the conference, and a follow-up thank you post, all will link back to your website
-One month of advertising on Love Like This Life with your company's button on the right hand side of our blog
-Promotion of your company on Facebook and Twitter

Funds from sponsorships will be used for:
1. Registration for the Allume Social Conference
2. Travel expenses (gas) to the conference
2. Lodging during the conference


I work hard to consistently provide content that is written from the heart, that is transparent, and real. I also work hard to form relationships with my readers and help them get through this life juggling love and disability, which isn't easy - but is easier when we do it together!  Our blog has a consistent following of more than 10,000 pageviews per month. The blog's Facebook page has close to 650 fans, many of whom are well connected in the spinal cord injury/wheelchair/caregiving universe. Our readers don't all have a connection to paralysis, though. Most are Christian women, between the ages of 18 and 60. I share posts from this blog on my own Facebook page as well, which has a reach of more than 1,450 friends. And Twitter, where I have more than 500 followers. I currently have a Klout score of 64.

If you would like to partner with me to be able to attend this conference, please email me at danabrownritter@gmail.com.  I'm interested in partnering with individuals, companies, other blogs and Etsy shops. Please pass this along to anyone you know who you believe would support the work I'm doing here. God bless you!




Guest Post: Even Superman Wasn't Always Able to be Superman

This is a Guest Post from my friend, Gentrie.  Gentrie *really* helped me through the transition to having home health aides come into our lives. Now, she can drop some knowledge on you!

It's ok to know your limits. You are not and should not try to be superspouse or superkid to your disabled family member. Practically speaking, it's not doable. Your disabled loved one needs to be as independent as possible, which means not relying on you unnecessarily. Family members, you will be needed at inopportune times regardless... so save yourself for those middle of the night colostomy bag/flat wheelchair tire/cath/clothes changes, meal/travel/hospital stay/birthday party/Christmas dinner preps, and of course the endless picking up of the remote/cellphone/forks/brushes/keys/water bottles/toothpaste/meds/towels.

Your loved one doesn't need to be solely reliant on you. You are in denial if you think otherwise and you are cheating yourself out of a husband-wife or parent-child relationship. If that doesn't convince you, try reading Matthew 6. Sometimes people do things for the sake of others noticing and praising them or so others will pity them or envy them. Guess what? If you are human, you are guilty of all of those one time or another. The Bible says doing things with such motives and receiving those reactions from others is your only reward. And you risk being at least part,y responsible for stifling your mate, harming your marriage, and stealing your own joy. And you may not even be aware of this self sabotage. Before you go all self-righteous on me and if I haven't offended you yet; give me time. I probably will. To clarify, that is NOT my intent. My intent is to help you make your own situation better. I promise. You are gonna make plenty of your own mistakes; no sense in repeating mine.

I speak from both sides of this coin. I have tried to be superhuman, Miss 'do-it-all' because 1) no one can do it better, 2) if I don't, who will?, 3) I am physically capable, 4) geographically desirable, 5) schedule available, 5) it is my responsibility, 6) felt guilty for sleeping instead, working out instead, watch tv instead, getting myself ready instead, 7) it's too expensive, 8) he needs me and I can't let him down, 9) I'm just naturally a caregiver, 10)I want to...you get the point. Guess what? Those were all lies I told myself to continue a codependent relationship with this third wheel in my relationship called Disability. I found myself 1)exhausted, 2)resentful, 3) sleep deprived, 4)damaging my marriage, career, body, other relationships, 5) and moving from role as mate to nurse/attendant/cook/maid/employee.

Once I accepted my limits and set boundaries, which I most often crossed, and LET GO...we found help, found the money (even when I was laid off), found our mutual independence, found our romantic spark, found our free time...again, you get the point.

To give you a little history, Matt broke his neck in '92 and we became a 'we' a little over 4 years ago. Matt relied on his mother mostly, a mentally challenged uncle, 2 sisters, several good friends, a few bad friends, and a handful of attendants along the way.

After about 3 months of doing it all on my own, I told my boss I needed to office from home 3 mornings a week to which he reluctantly agreed (I can help you present this option to an employer) and eventually quit 10 months later. I took a position working from home, we hired an attendant, and things were so much better! Until they weren't. The attendant developed an attitude and quit doing things he was paid to do and I got laid off. Through prayer and faith; things turned around and I got another job making...30% less and added a second job (work from home) 3 months later. With the money back on track, we interviewed and hired an attendant...who no showed, one who quit 2 weeks in, and another who disappeared leaving Matt stranded in bed...and weeded out a few more.

Finally, we hired a good one who is still with us. Praise God. This time around, Matt and I analyzed what went wrong with the others and realized: 1) there can only be one boss, Matt, not me. Otherwise, it's confusing for attendant when he receives conflicting duties, priorities, or too much to do in a given time. 2) we needed to manage the attendant's expectations PRIOR to the interview and maintain what exactly those would be., 3) encourage him and Matt to discuss little nuisances and nuances as they come up instead of letting them build-that was awkward for them both at first but now 13 months in and a couple 'issues' later...all is good and mutually beneficial:)

Here's how we find 'em:

We post an ad on the web, screen out anyone without experience, anyone with a questionable resume, email address, or outgoing voicemail, etc. I email the remaining applicants for further info (elaborate on experience, pay range, hours available, and so forth. If I get a bad vibe or their answers are not what I am looking for, they are out.) Once I weed through and find the 'good ones', I print them out for Matt and he pulls the ones he likes. He will call them. If they sound unprofessional or shady on their voicemail or during the phone interview, they are out. Matt doesn't tell them they are being interviewed on the phone. The ones that make it through, Matt confirms that they live within 15 minutes (any further than that, after a while the drive/gas deters them from wanting to work for just a few hours per day) and that they have transportation. Matt meets them, without me (I tend to try to takeover) at a nearby fast food place. He brings with him a copy of the ad, a list of attendant duties and their frequency, a list of medical duties/frequency, and a list of personal attendant duties/frequency. He asks for a copy of their DL, references (which we actually call), writes down their license plate number, and a copy of their SS card. We pay 20 bucks and do a background check. These steps are each crucial. This job is intimate, important, and can be the greatest thing for all involved if the expectations are set up right from the start. Remember, it never gets better than the interview. If something doesn't add up, don't let them in your home, in your life...it never works out.

Here is a sample ad we use. It's ok to be blunt. Don't beat around the bush regarding what you need and expect. We do private pay and don't go through agencies as they are too expensive.

MALES ONLY APPLY--NO EXCEPTIONS Please

Experienced Attendant/Assistant Care for C-5 quadriplegic male- I'm able to drive and quite independent.

Duties:

Transferring to shower, from bed to wheelchair, dressing, meal prep, range of motion exercises, continence care. Chores around the house-laundry, sweeping, making bed, general cleaning, light yard work, errands as needed. Essentially, I need you to be MY hands and let me give the direction. ex: If I ask you to help me cook; I want to be involved so let me lead and you follow. On the other hand, if I ask you to cook FOR, do it however you want as long as it comes out the way I want.

Send resume via email.

I want to manage the expectations hence this blunt ad though I am very laid back.

Experience required.

Be able to lift 110 lbs.

Days and hours are flexible. Part time position. You must live within 15 minutes of SW Arlington-NO EXCEPTIONS please

Due to the nature of this job, you also need to be flexible but RELIABLE.

REFERENCES will be checked.

If you do not meet the above criteria PLEASE do not apply as this is always a waste of time for each party;)

3-6 days per week. 2-4 hours per day. Depending on your needs and mine. I prefer mornings, however.

Thank you in advance!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Morning Post: Some Time Alone


Good morning from the O’Callaghan Hotel in downtown Annapolis, MD.
I woke up early this morning.
And I made coffee.
And now I’ve propped myself up in the bed, and I’m drinking my coffee at my own pace.
I’m not taking anyone outside, or feeding anyone, or doing anyone’s laundry, or getting anyone’s pills or getting anyone else up and dressed.

I poured my own coffee.
And here, I am.
Alone.

Breathing.
Taking it all in.
This, is awesome.

I know there are people who don’t understand this.
That I need to get away.
They think something is wrong with our marriage, or that I’m selfish, or extreme, or they say they could never do that.

I wish I was more like my husband (in many ways, not just this one!), because he told me, “Who cares what people think? You know what you need.”

Or in the brilliant words of Bristol Palin, “The haters are going to hate.”

So, I guess you can hate all you want.
I came here with my husband’s blessing.
I think his words as I left yesterday morning were, “Don’t hurry back.”

He hung out with a friend last night.
A good friend who helped him get into the bed.
His home health aide will be there to get him up this morning.
I’ll be home this afternoon.

Just because I take a break for myself does not mean I am a horrible wife. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my husband. It doesn’t mean I am a bad, selfish caregiver.

Exactly the opposite, actually.
For the last week, I have been a crabby, impatient, easily annoyed you-know-what. Especially to my husband. Bless HIS heart!

I was burned out, stressed out, and exhausted.

I needed a break.
So, here I am, on my break.
About an hour from home.
But, it’s perfect, because it feels hundreds of miles away from my routine and my responsibilities and the many stresses and demands of my life at work and at home.

I need this space to clear my mind.
I need this space to exhale, to feel, and to seek the Lord.
So, don’t hate.

We Are...

*This Post is dedicated to the special friends I have made because of this blog. You know who you are. I'm so thankful for you.
We are the wives of quads.
We may have taken the biggest risk of our lives, much to the dismay or hesitance of our family and friends.
Or, we may have survived the scariest thing of our lives – almost losing the men we love, but getting them back this way.

We prop legs up on pillows, turn them, stretch them, and straighten them out in our sleep.
We may or may not also put our hot or cold feet on those hot or cold legs in order to warm up, or cool off.
We pull our husbands around on pads in the bed.
We snuggle up in their armpits and rest our heads on their chest.
We love to hear their hearts beating.
We may or may not put our husbands arms around ourselves, if we have to.
So we can be held.
Because the very beginning of the day, and the very end of the day, that’s the only chance we have to be really close.
Without any titanium or rubber or aluminum between us.
Without getting run over by little wheels or big wheels or power wheels.

We have toe calluses. And amazingly quick feet, like the feet of running backs when those wheels take a turn towards our toes.

We slip forks and spoons into straps so our husbands can feed themselves.
We feed them sometimes to be sweet, or to just hurry things along.
We may or may not occasionally bend up restaurant silverware.
Or, maybe we travel with our own bent-up silverware in our purses.

Our purses.
Oh, our purses.
Yes, they hold our keys, our wallets, and our iPhones.
But our purses are like a stash of secret weapons.

Mothers – sorry to tell you this, but your diaper bags – they have nothing on our purses.
We have straps and straws and pills and catheters.
And bottles of water and sanitary wipes and allen wrenches.
We have our husbands’ wallets, phones, and sunglasses.

We don’t always have to carry those purses, though.
We almost always have a handlebar to hang those on.

Or a lap to sit them on.
Oh, that lap.
That is our favorite place.
We have a built in seat when we are waiting in line at a restaurant or at a concert or waiting for the train.
Did you know that that lap is dancing headquarters?
No, not in that kind of lap-dance kind of way.
Well, maybe sometimes.
That’s the best place for a lot of things.

We don’t get to walk hand in hand with our husbands on the beach.
Or sit on their shoulders in the pool.
Some of us don’t even get to ride beside them in the car.

Sometimes we cry.
We are held.
Sometimes we hold our husbands while they cry.

Sometimes we laugh so hard our stomachs hurt. 
Because if we didn’t, we’d just cry again.

We are weightlifters.
We lift grown men into beds and wheelchairs, onto chairs and couches , into and out of pools, and into cars and SUVs.
We lift them over curbs, push them up hills, brace them down hills, and we can even lift them on to those really tall examination tables at doctor’s offices.
Why are those so tall?
Geez!

We are masters at dressing.
Anyone can dress themselves.
They may or may not do that well, that’s on them.
But, we can dress a body that is not our own, that has almost no control of itself, and make it look good.
We put jeans and khakis and shorts on man, all while he is laying down. We push and pull that body side to side and tuck pockets in and make sure leg bags are straight (and closed!) and button buttons and snap snaps, and buckle belts and tuck things in and pull them out just enough so that it’s comfortable and doesn’t cause a pressure sore.
We do this with impeccable strength and grace day in and day out and we nail it.
It is a science.
It is not easy.
Because if you screw up, your man can end up looking like a saggy bag of potatoes in a cart.
But if you tug and push and pull, and align those jeans and that shirt just the right way, he is comfortable, and he looks good and he has that confidence that he looks good.
And we like that confidence.
So, no matter how tired we are, or how much our backs already hurt, we do this dressing dance every morning. Then, we make the bed and make breakfast. And probably lunch. And eventually, dinner.

We can clean up any type of bodily produce imaginable.
Without breathing.
We do more laundry than anyone else you know.

We multitask.

We are landscapers, maids, and mechanics.
We are drivers and nurses and wheelchair repairmen.

In fact, we can drive, talk on the phone, eat fast food and feed french fries to our passengers, simultaneously. That “mom hand” that goes out when you’re braking hard, so that your passenger doesn’t end up on the dash board? We have that. We use it all the time. Even when we’re told we don’t need to.

We have strange encounters with strangers.
We’re either stared at or ignored, or looked like someone is saying with their eyes, “bless her heart.”
We roll our eyes. We smile with forgiveness.

Because we are taken care of too.
We are deeply loved.
We get massages with pointy elbows and soft, warm hands.
We get the BEST kissers in the world.
We are appreciated.
We are honored.

We are a part of a team.
We are bonded to our husbands in such a deep, intimate way.  
And sometimes, despite the hard work and frustrations, we are thankful that we are forced to love this way, because we are also loved this way.
Just as fiercely. 
Just as consistently.
Just as sacrificially.
We are.



Monday, July 23, 2012

Fresh Summer Pasta to Drool Over

Can we talk about basil, for a second?
I sure hope so.
Because I just uploaded a big, fat picture of the basil in my tiny little herb garden on our back porch.

It grows fast.
It smells wonderful.
It tastes amazing.

And I am loving playing with it in the kitchen this summer.
The most recent recipe I made with fresh basil was this Avodado Basil Pasta. I blame Instagram. A friend (shout out, Reba!) made this and took a picture of it and I couldn't get it out of my mind, so I had to make it, too.  Only, I didn't have any bacon in the house (I know, the horror!), so I made it with ham instead.

I think it made four servings.
Which the two of us handled in one meal.
Yums.
Try it.
Let me know what you think of it!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Paraplegic Contestant on The Biggest Loser?

If you follow us on Facebook, you've seen me blowing up the internet about this YouTube video.

I would apologize, except for the fact that I'm not sorry!

I admire Jamie so much! She is brave to want to do this, and to make this video.
Jamie's husband, Will, produced this video, and I think he hit it out of the park!

This video is good enough to air on The Biggest Loser, as-is, if you ask me.
And I am a TV producer, you know.
So, I can say that.

Please join us in supporting Jamie by watching and SHARING her video! Jamie said she just has to wait and see if she is picked by the casting producers.

We sure hope she is, but know that even if she's not, Jamie can still succeed!

You can follow Jamie's blog, Holy Rollin, online. 

Guest Post: A Daughter's Perspective


This is a guest post from Brittany Martin. Brittany is a co-founder of SPINALpedia.

My only concern when my dad was first injured was whether or not he would live. I was told pretty early that he had broken his neck, but I had no idea what that really meant. In my 12 year old mind, my interpretation was that one day I would help my dad walk again, but once I learned what paralysis really meant that image was shattered.

Having lost my only brother in the accident, I was left to figure a lot of it out on my own. I remember cleaning the screws from the halo bolted into my dad’s skull.  I learned how to use a hoyer lift to help him get into bed. I even took shifts waking up at 2am to help turn him at night to avoid pressure sores. Transfers, cervical vertebrae, catheters and spasms became a part of my normal vocabulary.

My dad and step-mom were transitioning too—learning the ins and outs of life with paralysis. My step-mom connected with other spouses of quadriplegics, and my dad toiled daily in all kinds of therapy. One day he was struggling with a Velcro sleeve to hold an eating utensil, when another quadriplegic rolled up and said simply, “try this.” My dad watched him weave the fork through his immobile fingers, and it is how my dad has eaten ever since.  

I watched these things happen and saw how the power of connection and mentoring made such a difference in our lives and how much it expedited the adaptation process. However, I began to wonder, what would have happened if we lived far away from a big city? What if there were no mentoring programs or no one with similar mobility for my dad? I quickly came to realize how many people weren’t as lucky as we were, and I couldn’t accept that. Something needed to bring the entire community together—that something is now SPINALpedia!

SPINALpedia is a growing online community of people affected by paralysis—those paralyzed as well as the able-bodied supporters--- who share their experiences to help others learn to adapt their lives more quickly and realize their potential. Searches are efficient—members specify details of their mobility and situation to filter relevant videos and members. Whether you’re a paraplegic aiming to transfer in and out of your car or a ventilator dependent quadriplegic hoping to use a computer again, you can filter content and find exactly what you are looking for. No more sorting through millions of YouTube videos and no more reading pages of text-based information which may or may not be useful. You can even search by your relation to paralysis, helping spouses find other spouses, parents find other parents, and friends find other friends. We have created a living, breathing, dynamic manual of life affected by paralysis, completely customizable to your needs.

Our mission is to give people the tools they need to redefine their lives and to free up precious time. As we help more people cut the number of years it takes to learn certain tasks and reduce the number of people unaware of their potential, we will slowly change the negative, condescending perceptions of paralysis, as more and more people are out, active and happy in society. 

We don’t have a say in the challenges we face in our lives, but we do have a say in how we move forward. Join SPINALpedia, learn from others, share your own triumphs and together we will redefine life in a wheelchair. 

Praying for Colorado


My heart joins with everyone else in mourning over this tragic shooting in Colorado.
It's hard to process what has happened. I'm praying for all of the victims and their families, the survivors, the shooter and their families, and the community of Aurora. Prayers for comfort, peace, and healing. Such deep sadness.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Our Soon To Be New Wheels!!!

I have to take a deep breath before I write this.
Because if I don't, I will just cry and cry and none of this will ever get written.

We have been blessed with an incredible gift.
That is a van.
That is going to be OUR van. Very soon.
It doesn't even feel real.

This van has a ramp, so that Michael can get into the vehicle himself.
It has a place for him to sit in his wheelchair, and ride UP FRONT, beside me.

After our Summer vacation - when we drove half way across the country and back - we decided to finally start looking for a wheelchair van.  My back aches from all of the lifting.

Michael has had a couple of wheelchair vans in the past. He had a giant red wheelchair van when we were dating that I HATED. It was so huge, it felt like a sailboat in the wind on the highway.  And he had to ride in the back, and I would be driving in the front. This made me feel like a taxi driver and it was so AWFUL.

I will never forget the FREEDOM and JOY I felt the day I realized I could pick Michael up and put him in the front seat of my SUV.  It meant we could go places, just us, NOT in the giant red taxi bus. We got rid of that thing so fast.  Not that it wasn't great. It was, when Michael was single.  All men learn that the world becomes a different place when you get married, right? Pretty much everything from your former life is replaced.
For the last three years, every time we have gone somewhere together (not counting a couple of times friends or his brother lifted him), I literally did a deep squat, picked my husband up, put him in the front seat of our SUV, then put his wheelchair (which weighs more than 60 lbs.) in the back.  It was fine, at first.  Over the last year, we have HARDLY ever gone to church because of this situation.  My back began to hurt.  Transfers are harder when we have to park at a curb, or on a hill. I am proud to report that I have only fallen once, and no, I did not drop him!! The big lifting makes me sweaty and gross, and well after doing it for two and a half years, I was ready to get over my pride and I finally realized that a van with a wheelchair ramp was not going to create any more of a scene than a 5'2" woman lifting a grown man into an SUV.

Several weeks ago, I was in my hotel room in Salt Lake City.  I was traveling for work.  Derek McConnell called me.  He told me that he and his fiancee, Krystina, were going to be getting a new wheelchair van, and they wanted to give us the van they have been using.  They received this van as a gift from someone in their community, and they wanted to pass it along as a gift to US!

We were the first people that came to mind, they said. Mind blowing.

Derek was wounded by an IED blast in Afghanistan almost exactly one year ago.  He lost both of his legs, and nearly lost his right arm.  He is a friend of my brother's.  I will never forget the day my brother told me about what happened.  I will never forget the day my brother was home on leave, and my family went with him to the hospital to visit Derek.

It changed me.

Over the last year, we have had the pleasure of getting to know Derek, Krystina, and Derek's mom, Siobhan.  Together, they make "Team Derek."
They will be our friends, for life. I know it. Just knowing them has been a gift.
Now, they're blessing us with this amazing, life-changing gift.

I can't believe this is really happening.  I've already cried about it once. So has my sister. So has my mom.  And I think my brother even teared up when I called to tell him about it.

I never in a million years would have thought I'd be SO EXCITED to get behind the wheel of a minivan!
But I am!
Oh, I so am.

Derek and Krystina, THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES OVER.  Thank you to your parents, for raising incredibly giving young adults. Thank you to the person who originally donated this van to Derek.  We are so grateful.  We will use this for good things, I promise!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Life is Good

Look at this one hydrangea bloom. It is full of life. Still hanging on in the summer heat, even though all the others have dried out an died.

I walk by this when I'm walking the dogs in the morning. Yesterday, on our way home from the pool, I finally stopped to take a picture.  I took a picture of this same bush when it was fully in bloom with lots of living flowers - blue and pink.  And that was really beautiful.

But this one is beautiful too, in kind of a different way - but kind of the same, standard kind of beautiful way, too.

I promise not to get all symbolic on you now that I'm on this writing journey. At least, not all the time anyway.

But you know what? I can relate to that hydrangea. It's surrounded by scorching heat. It's all alone.  But, somehow, it's still making it.

I read this in my devotional this morning:
"Your only hope is to look up and see the Light of My Presence shining down on you. Though the Light looks dim from your perspective, deep in the pit, those rays of hope can reach you at any depth."


Oh, do I remember that pit.
Oh, do I remember looking all around me, and feeling so alone, feeling so different, feeling so overwhelmed.  Feeling so mad at God.  The smallest little thing could make me cry. I couldn't get through a day without crying. Then, it got a little better - I could go a day but not a week without crying.

Some of you were there, then.
Some of you were reading along as I took those first steps out of the pit.

I'm out now! I'm free! His promises are true, even when they do take time to see, and especially to feel.
There are still times when I look around and see how different our life is from those around us.  But, the self pity isn't there, so it doesn't sting as much.

And, I can see that all of this is being used for good.
That makes all the difference in the world.

If the smallest things make you cry, go ahead and cry. Cry out. He is there. He can handle your doubt, your anger, your fear.  Just keep being real. Because I think if you're real, the light and the water can still get to you.

And who knows - maybe next summer you will be the one shining and growing and alive, even if you are the only one standing.

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.


He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD."
-PSALM 40:2-3


I highly recommend "Jesus Calling," especially if you're like me and peace is not your autopilot mode.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Not-So-Secret "Secret" is Out

Hi.
I'm going to let you in on a little something that has been swirling around in my head and my heart for a while.

I want to write a book.
I'm still formulating exactly what it will be about.
I still need a lot of direction - but I'm starting to feel some ideas take shape.
It's exciting!
It's scary.
It's overwhelming.

But, I believe it's something I need to do.
I know it's something I want to do.

Who knows how long this will take.
Who knows if anyone will ever read it.

Never the less, let the journey begin!

I will be seeking your input from time to time.  So, if you see random questions posed by me here on the blog, or on Facebook - please take a sec and help me out.

I have no idea what I'm doing.
But I know that I'm doing it from my heart.

I love writing.
I love when pieces of myself pour out of me and onto the screen.
And then you read it.  And it matters to you.
It's amazing.
That's what I want.  More of that.
This is about all of us.
This is our story.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I am the Original Rock-A-Bye Baby

 I am the original Rock-A-Bye Baby.

32 years ago today, my parents opened a little store of their own called Rock-A-Bye Baby.
32 years ago today, my mom - a young, brand new mom, became her own boss.
She still is today.
This store, this family business, is amazing.

That's a baby me, in Rock-A-Bye, up there.
I laid in cribs and was fed bottles behind the counter at Rock-A-Bye.  I test drove walkers and strollers and was held by customers and played with customers' kids in the toy section.

I learned how to talk, and sometimes say inappropriate things to customers - like questions about if they were pregnant, and telling them that my Mommy was in the bathroom, at Rock-A-Bye.

As a little girl, I remember putting like or matching items together - I thought then I was a marketing designer. I realize now that my mom was probably just glad I was entertaining myself for a few minutes so she could work.

I remember watching the Olympics on a TV behind the counter, and imagining that the clothing racks were my uneven bars. I never did get to swing on them.

I remember eating and coloring in the sun in the display window. 

I remember taking my dolls shopping.

I remember how hard my mom worked. I remember her coming home from work, carrying bags of baby clothes to wash at home.  I remember folding baby clothes when I was a kid.

I remember my oldest nephew laying a crib at Rock-A-Bye.

I remember the day Rock-A-Bye in Virginia Beach burned down.  I was in ninth grade, it was the first day of school I missed in my life.

I remember watching my mom come back from the biggest tragedy in our lives.  Her strength was amazing.  Our Christmas presents burned up in that fire, but we still had a Christmas.  I remember our family pulling together, and my mom working at a flea market selling baby stuff until Rock-A-Bye was back - better than ever.

I remember working at Rock-A-Bye as my first job when I was 16.  I remember taking my paycheck straight to Old Navy, which had just opened, and blowing it.  We all worked at Rock-A-Bye at one time or another. Now my sister has her own Rock-A-Bye.

I remember getting good at working at Rock-A-Bye.  I remember sizing clothes, and putting out shipments, and trading items.  

I remember beautiful babies, and stinky babies, and babies who were stinkers, who messed everything up.  I remember beautiful stories from parents and grandparents. I happily rang them up as they spoiled those babies.

I remember tragic stories of people who had real needs for their babies, but couldn't afford to buy the things they needed.  I remember watching my mom give away perfectly good baby equipment to people in need.  

I learned how to have a heart for people, at Rock-A-Bye.

Rock-A-Bye financed my childhood, all of the athletic activities I enjoyed as a teenager.  And then the time came for me to go to college. Rock-A-Bye made that possible, too.

I remember when Rock-A-Bye Baby OBX opened.  I remember introducing ourselves to people on the Outer Banks.  I remember some of those first customers. I remember feeling like a real "local."

I remember renting equipment, making signs for the store, reading baby books myself and getting freaked out.  
I remember knowing how to break down every piece of baby equipment and loading it into every type of vehicle imaginable.

I remember getting countless babysitting opportunities because of Rock-A-Bye.

I remember going to see my mom in Rock-A-Bye days before my wedding.  Sharing lunch with my mom behind the counter.  We were both barefoot, of course.  I remember her constantly making piles, and eating a bite of lunch here and a bite there - because she was always a busy little bee.

I'll never forget the smell of Rock-A-Bye.
Whenever I'm there and I hear that ding of the bell when a customer walks in - it just feels right.

I can't wait for the day I can take my future baby into Rock-A-Bye.  Not only because she will get the ultimate hookup on everything she will need for the first years of her life, but because that's part of the cycle of life in our family. 

That cycle that started 32 years ago today.

Happy Birthday, Rock-A-Bye!  Thank you for everything. 

Saturday Morning Post: A Week in My Life


Well, good morning y'all!
Here I am, on my end of the couch, with a puggle snuggled to my right, and a heating pad under me - ready to start the weekend with all of you!

I feel like this was a bit of a crazy week.  My boss was out, so I had to play boss lady on what happened to be one of the busiest weeks of the Summer at the DC news bureau where I work.

I had sinus issues and hardly slept all week, so I ended up sleeping pretty much all of Friday afternoon.

I saw so many friends this week - new and old and in between.  It was great!

Monday, I met up with my friend Kim for breakfast in DC.  Funny background story: The last time I wore this blue and white dress I was meeting a friend from church for coffee, and I went to the wrong Caribou.  Then I had to hustle around downtown to the right Caribou.  And I ended up all sweaty.

Monday, I was meeting Kim at Luna Grill. Somehow my brain understood that as "Cafe Luna," so I put that in my phone, and walked 0.6 miles to the wrong location, then realized this dress failed me again, and I was at the wrong place. So, eventually, we got together, and I was all sweaty, again.

I think I will just wear that dress around the house, or to the pool, from now on.

Anyway - breakfast with Kimberly was wonderful! Hearing about all of the exciting things going on in her life, and sharing our hopes and dreams together. Kimberly is a special person to me, and I'm pumped to know her!
Tuesday, I spent most of the day in the feed room (that's not a place to eat - it's a place where we record video of various news events) watching various Congressional hearings about the implementation and aftermath of the Supreme Court's ruling on the President's health care plan.

It was fine.  For like three hours.  Then, I found myself wishing I was in Iowa, on the campaign trail.
Tuesday, Michael came in to work with me and worked out of our office for the day (his job is mobile and can be done from anywhere).  After work, we met up with old friends of his from when he was a little boy.
We took the metro over to Union Station to meet them.  More on that, in just a bit.

These weren't just any friends. These were friends that are like family to my husband. He and his brother grew up with their kids.  They are like an aunt, uncle, and cousins to him.  They were visiting DC, on vacation.  We ate at Uno's.
It was a great time of catching up (for Michael), of getting to know each other (for me) and laughing and praying together.

After the fact, I realized that Michael hadn't seen Glen and Paula in 20 years, so that meant he hadn't seen them since before his injury. Holy elephant in the room, right? I didn't even put that together while we were together.  We're all Facebook friends now, and I look forward to keeping in touch with them.

On the way home from dinner, a major storm moved through DC.  We took the metro back to my office (as far as we could get with metro having a couple of elevators down anyway, GRR) and it was POURING rain.  So, we ducked into a CVS for a bit.  Then, looking at the radar, we realized the rain was not going anywhere anytime soon, so we went for it.

Six blocks in the pouring down rain.  Pushing my husband through puddles that were ankle deep for me, all kinds of people looking at us like we were crazy.  So wet we looked like we were taking a shower in our clothes.  We figured we'd just look at it like an adventure, a memory, maybe even a future blog post!

We made it back to the bureau.  At that point, I was just so ready to get home.  So tired. My fingers were pruned, my back hurt and we were both soaking wet.  Then, we had a little bit of a - ahem - marital issue.  You know, the good ol' I-see-it-this-way but you-see-it-that-way so let's get into a little pouty (that's my part) fight in the car about it.

We got through that as well.  I was able to do the transfers soaking wet, lifting a man who was soaking wet and wearing jeans (heavy) and we got home with our marriage still in tact.  We did have an iPhone casualty, though. Bummer on that.

Phew!
What a night!

Wednesday. Are you still with me?
Craziness at work that included some very important people in town.
Followed by dinner with one of my best friends in the world - a girl who was a bridesmaid in my wedding - and has a special ability to make me laugh so hard it hurts, Gretchen.
We were both having a bit of a fat day, so we decided a picture of our cupcakes would suffice as a memory of our time together. Gretchen was in town for just one day for work. We met up for Thai food and then walked around Tyson's Corner and got dessert.  I was laughing so hard I was crying, about 2 minutes after I picked her up from her hotel.

I needed this.  It was so much fun. And, isn't it so great when you meet up with a good friend you haven't seen in a while, and you feel like you were just hanging out yesterday?  

Can't wait to see her again.

Thursday.
Phew. 
Thursday, I worked almost all day at the White House.
I hadn't been there in a few months, so it was nice to go to the briefing, and work in our tiny basement office, alone.

I also saw some old friends! Check this out:
The four of us all used to work together, at a different media organization.  Now, we're all working for different media organizations covering the White House. Well, two of them work for the same network, but whatever.  Here we all are! That's Joe, me (looking a hot mess), Kim (see above) and Wes posing like tourists in the White House Briefing Room.

Shortly after this picture was taken my dear friend Becky came in and asked, "Is this a meeting of Dana's friends?" I love Becky! I need to get together with her soon.

Then, we all saw a mouse running around in the briefing room. A mouse in the White House! This apparently is not a new development.  Great...

Friday.
I had a special assistant join me in the office.
A broadcasting legend - Brokaw.
We shared a Chick Fil A fruit cup on the way in to work.
We made a Starbucks run together.
And there he is under the conference room table during the morning editorial meeting.

Phew! 
See, I told you - a great week of seeing friends!
And a crazy week at work (I leave out intimate work details on purpose).
Now, I'm ready for a relaxing, anti-social weekend, haha!

You wanted a slice of my life - you got it!