I saw a post the other day about an international program that sends shoeboxes of gifts to little children across the globe.
Operation Christmas Child, started by Samaritan’s Purse, “a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.”
The person who posted the information on Facebook is a good friend of mine through a little more research, found out the collection would take place next week, Nov. 14-21.
So, wanting to teach my grandchildren a lesson about helping others, I picked them up and we set out to buy a few toys for a little girl, who lived on the other side of the world.
I expected a barrage of questions such as, “Why do we have to buy presents for someone we don’t know?” or “Why can’t I have a present?”
Instead they asked questions about where it might go and who might receive it, and concentrated on picking out gifts that a little girl might like. We couldn’t send chocolate, or perfume, or nail polish (all the things Lily wanted), but she decided on a Barbie doll, a puzzle, some gum, colored pencils, and a notebook.
“She might like to have this, too,” she told me, holding up a little white bear.
“Do you really think she’d like something like that?” I asked, teasing her.
She laughed and handed me the little bear. “Yes, I think it’s something she could sleep with, so she doesn’t have bad dreams.”
We added a few notecards to the box, as well as Lily’s name and address, in case the little girl wanted to write her.
It will be interesting to see where the shoebox ends up. I just hope it brings as much joy to the little girl who receives it, as it did to the little girl who put it together.
My twin granddaughters turned 5 Oct. 25. Their mother and I had taken the other kids to the trick or treat at Ushers Ferry, where Holly, 9 months pregnant, walked the yard for nearly two hours. I think she was tired of being pregnant and want to get the delivery process going. It must have worked, because she went into labor that night, and had the twins the next day by C-section, only 3 weeks earlier than her anticipated due date.
The twins were conceived in a peculiar way, and I love telling the story, because no one I’ve talked to has ever heard of it before:
After suffering 4 miscarriages following her last baby, Holly was given an injection of steroids that doctors hoped would help prevent another miscarriage. The first ultrasound just a few weeks later determined she was carrying two babies. One of them was smaller, which led the doctor to believe the smaller one was conceived three days after the other.
After a fairly normal pregnancy, Holly gave birth to Gianna, who was born first and weighed nearly 6 pounds; Natalie weighed almost a whole pound less. But it didn’t take long for her to catch up to Gianna. By their first year, they were close to being the same size. (They are fraternal, but I still have a hard time telling them apart.)
From the beginning, their personalities were totally different; Gianna was standoffish and moody, while Natalie was quiet and cuddly. (Not a lot has changed, though Natalie has become quite an instigator-partners in crime, if you will.)
The twins spent much of the first 6 months of their lives at home. Holly and Jason were busy adjusting to being the parents of twins, and it being close to winter, it was just a great time to stay home. Period.
I visited them often, offering to help any way I could, but I could tell the constant diaper changing, feeding, and coping were getting to Holly. She had taken time off work to get the twins on a schedule, but being with them 24/7 wasn’t healthy for her, either. Isabelle was 5 and was old enough to help Holly with the little things, but she couldn’t help with the feeding or changing yet.
“I don’t think I will ever get a good night’s sleep again,” Holly mused wearily, as she laid the twins down for a nap.
“You need to rest when you can, but honestly, no, you won’t ever get another good night’s sleep until after they move out. And even then, that’s questionable.”
I smiled to let her know I was being fictitious, but I wasn’t far from the truth. Once you have kids, they are yours for life.
“You’ll get through this, I told her. “Five years from now you’ll look back and wish they were babies again.”
She nodded, and heaving a big sigh, laid down on the sofa for a short nap.
They made it through the first year without too many problems, but when they started to walk, it was a whole new story.
“I always thought it would be a lot of fun having twins,” Holly told me one day while I was visiting. She was attempting a simple thing like putting on pajamas, but as we have found out, not so simple when you’re fighting two at once.
Natalie wiggled to get away, and Holly reached out and grabbed Gianna before she could get away.
Without skipping a beat, she added, “I love them so much, I can’t imagine life without them. But I also didn’t think it would be this hard.”
I remembered back to Isabelle, who was a very cranky baby, and cried so much that I cringed every time Holly asked me to watch her. (She has since passed that stage.)
“Maybe God gave you Isabelle to prepare you for the twins,” I told her with a smile. “And gave you twins to make up for the miscarriages.”
Holly laughed. “Yep, I guess you gotta be careful what you pray for,” she said, letting go of Natalie, while wrestling with Gianna to put on her sleeper.
But we both knew it was exactly what she had prayed for, and what we are very grateful for. Two beautiful little girls who have added so much love and joy to our lives.
Double the crying, double the problems, but double the love.
I spent the past two weeks preparing for a Halloween party for my grandchildren. It was going to be our first “real” holiday party, and I wanted it to be special. I threw parties for my kids all the time when they were little. But this time was different. This time I had the internet to help, and I turned to Facebook and Pinterest for ideas about how I could make this the best Halloween party ever.
I printed off recipes and photos of all the cool things I wanted to do. I bought all the necessary ingredients and props, and I worked diligently to make sure it went off without a hitch.
But as we wanna-be perfectionists already know, it all sounds good in theory.
I imagined that everything would go as planned; the food would be perfect, the decorations, the music, and the activities would run themselves. But with 6 energetic children ranging from 5-11 years old running around, each going their own way, it was chaos.
After years of trying to throw the perfect party, I should have know better. And even with my party planner in hand, there were still a few mishaps. (For those who do party planning for a living, I salute you!)
The cake balls turned to mush, because I added too much frosting (and you can’t “Undo” something like that.) The spiders on the cookies didn’t get their legs piped on, because I ran out of time. And the “Pop the Pumpkin” game was scrubbed because I couldn’t get it stuck to the wall.(It was difficult to make,anyway.) And I forgot all about “Stick the Spider on the Web” game until after the party was over.
The banana ghosts and apple mouths were okay, but didn’t turn out like the picture. I scurried to get the mummy hotdogs out of the oven and get the meat eyeballs in before the guests started to arrive. Lack of time became an issue, and I found myself getting stressed out.
Next year I will take an entire day to get ready, instead of just a few hours.
So why was this party important to me? For the same reason I had a lot of parties for my kids when they were little. Kids aren’t little for very long, but these memories will last a lifetime.
I still hear from my adult children, “Remember when …?” And the smiles and laughter that follow tells me I did a good thing.
And when Lori laughed and asked me if I had ever seen the pictures of “Pinterest Fails,” I smiled, because I knew it was true. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. Otherwise, it’s no fun.
The ruined cake pops and the other mishaps didn’t matter. No one ever knew I had forgotten a few things and there was plenty to eat and everyone had a lot of fun.
I created a good memory for my grandchildren. They know I’m not perfect but love me anyway. I can’t ask for much more than that.
“Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.”
I’m not a fan of Pinterest. I think it’s a great resource, but I don’t really participate. Every once ina while I’ll venture onto a certain page and see what’s there.
But I do use Facebook every day, and that’s where I get a lot of ideas for recipes and crafts. I love doing crafts with my grandkids. Not only does it bring out their creative side, but it seems to calm them down. The other day, seated around a group of ladies I barely knew, I noticed the positive upbeat vibes that surrounded us, as we worked together on a window display forCreate Exchangein Czech Village. We talked and laughed and eveyone had a great time, even though I normally have social anxiety in situations like that.
Though it was the first time I noticed the effect crafting had on people, I delightfully surmised from that point on that people who craft are happier people.
But I wasn’t always crafty. I was in First Grade when it became apparent that I was not a natural talent when it came to cutting and pasting. I held my scissors upside-down and made a mess of my paste, smearing it all over the paper instead of where it was supposed to go.
And when my kids were growing up, coloring with them was about the extent of my craftiness. BUT ….
People change and I discovered that I love getting crafty. Just like my recipes, I love taking something and making it my own.
A recent project with my granddaughters developed into a great way to bond and share ideas for future projects. “Wishful Thinking” boards are fairly simple and inexpensive to make, too. (The name comes from making a wish and then creating it on your board to hang in your room or wherever you want.)
I started with boards from a discarded wooden pallet. I used a Sawzall to cut out the planks between the nails, sanded the boards to get rid of the rouch edges, drilled holes for the cords, and stained the boards (which can also be painted).
After we let them dry, we took a board and made it into whatever we wanted. The girls all wanted their boards to be personalized, so instead of messing around with stencils, which I am not very good at, I took wooden letters, painted them, and then hot-glued them to the boards.
We used a variety of different media (purchased fromCreate Exchangeand other inexpensive stores) to decorate the boards including embroidered patches, paper, stickers, wooden shapes, and even buttons.
The boards were a hit! The boards are simple to make and so much fun, too! We talked about what other things we can use to create new boards, and they are already planning gifts for Christmas.
I guess I know what I will be getting them this year. 🙂
Emerson Lee Zirtzman is scheduled to come into this world a little after 9 am Tuesday, March 8. He will be the first child for Sean and Ashley Zirtzman; the 10th grandchild for me; the first for Sean’s dad and Ashley’s parents.
Ashley did not have an easy pregnancy. She has had to deal with a variety of pregnancy-related maladies,and they decided that a c-section would be best.
I hope Emerson will have a good life, but I don’t think it will be easy. His mother and father are mildly autistic, which will be challenging in itself. He does have one thing one his side, though; the devotion of dozens of people who will do their best to see that his life is the best it can be.
I have been working on my family tree, mostly for myself, but I see how it can benefit generations to come. I started with the obvious names and found branches that led to interesting ancestors that date back to 1015 England.
Lambert Jocelinus was known as Joseli de Aldon (from my mother’s mother (Shoemaker). He was a knight, who married the granddaughter of Louis IV of France, Gerberga. Their only child known is Geoffelin. Lambert was slain in Battle Sept. 10, 1015.
Later on, his great- great-great-great-great-great-great grandson Thomas, sailed from London to New England April 17, 1635 on the Increase to Scituate.
Maybe the easiest way to log the relationship of my ancestors is to use exponents. Lambert would have been my grandfather to about the 18th power. I have an ancestor who was a sea captain, too, who died on a voyage to England in 1634, from my Grandpa Myers lineage.
The internet has made the search for our ancestors so much easier, and though many sites charge for their services, you can still find the information if you know where to look. It’s a little time-consuming, but I believe it is worth it.
Not only do we get a glimpse of what life was like during our ancestors’ lifetimes, but it reinforces the fact that though we may not be here forever, our family’s lineage will continue on.
And maybe by recording our own history, we can offer a little insight to those who will come after us, so they can connect to the past, too.
Thomas Patrick Meis was born Dec. 9, 1925 in the upstairs bedroom of a little white house on Court Street in Marengo, Iowa.
The title of my blog might suggest that I don’t believe in death. That’s not the case.
I know death is inevitable. But most people think that death is the end of person who has passed away. To me, that’s just not true.
Memories keep those we love alive.
My dad lived a pretty good life. He had good parents who taught him well. His dad, Herman, was a grocer, and his mother, Margaret, stayed home and took care of nine children they procreated.
Tom had an older sister, Mary Margaret, and in time, they greeted seven other siblings; Bertha, Francis, Herman, Jr., Therese, John, Otto, and Virginia.
The family moved to Beloit, Wisc. when Dad was 2, and then to Cedar Rapids a year later.
Tom attended Immaculate Conception Catholic School until he graduated and made plans to attend Loras College in Dubuque. The US Armed Forces had other plans for him and he joined the US Navy.
He was lucky; World War II had just ended and he and his fellow sailors toured the Pacific in peacetime, and made their presence known, just in case there were enemy stragglers who didn’t know the war was over.
Dad returned home and attended college, majoring in English, with a minor in journalism. He married Gloria and they had two children; Tim and Robert.
Tom and Gloria had a tumultuous marriage and it ended after only a few years. They decided to split the two boys up, so Dad took Tim, and Gloria took Robert, the baby.
Dad and Tim moved in with his folks and got a job as a copywriter at Ambro Ad Agency in Cedar Rapids. That’s where he met a pretty, young, single mother named Betty Myers. Betty was a receptionist and Tom was smitten with her right away.
Betty was divorced, with three children, (Stephen, Patrick, and Susan) and lived with her mom and dad on Daniels Street.
Dad’s most famous pickup line?
“Do you like music? If you have a record player, I could bring over my Jackie Gleason records.”
It must have worked, because he and Betty were married five years later.
Tom and Betty went on to have five more children; James, Julia, Kristine, Cynthia and Thomas Michael. With nine children to feed, Tom worked a couple jobs, while Betty took a job at Collins Radio.
The growing family blended well together, until Tom was in a horrible accident in 1967 that nearly claimed his life. He hit a truck head-on and took the steering wheel in his chest, breaking all his ribs. He broke his leg and it was so damaged, he walked with a limp the rest of his life.
Tom was off work for a year and had a hard time finding a job when he was finally able. He took a job as a meat cutter at Daniel Food, where he stayed for a number of years. The family struggled financially until Tom got his big break and was hired at Quaker Oats as a security guard.
Tom retired from Quaker in 1988, the same year his mother went to join his dad, who died in 1970. (And the same year Betty’s son, Pat died in a car accident in California.)
Tom enjoyed retirement, but enjoyed it even more when Betty retired. The couple took trips they had always dreamed of; a cruise to the Bahamas and a trip to Hawaii with their friends, trips to see their many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Tom’s health began to fade after the death of his son, Tim, in 2004. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and had to be on oxygen. He passed away at home Sept. 6, 2008.
His death was hard on the entire family, but particularly Betty, who commented they would have celebrated their 50 year anniversary in 2009.
It’s hard to describe my dad because I didn’t get to know him until after he died. I found the life story he wrote a few years after he died, in a box in Mom’s storage room, and as I read it, I realized that he may have been my dad, but I never got to know the man.
He was kind and caring and generous, to a fault. He taught me that kindness matters, and to take pride in everything I do.
He wasn’t perfect, though I think I expected him to be. It took me a long time to see that he was only human.
Could I have seen that while he was alive? Probably not. Everything happens for a reason. I’m just glad I was able to finally get to know him.
My brother Steve, died a few weeks ago from cancer. He was diagnosed one week and died the next. I prayed, as many of us did, that God would spare his life, but I added a little footnote; if God had to take him, please make it quick.
I’ve learned that God has his own plans for us, and all we can do is appreciate the time we have. I have so many wonderful memories of my brother, he will always be with us.
Steve, who leaves behind his wife, Mary, 3 sons, and a daughter, would have been 66 on Nov. 3 this year.
He started his own a surveying business in Colorado a while back, where he has lived for past 48 years. Steve fell in love with the mountains while he was stationed at the Air Force base in Colorado Springs, and stayed after his time with them was done.
Steve was someone I looked up to my entire life, literally. At 6 foot 8 inches, he was the tallest guy I had ever known. The Air Force had to order special shoes for him; size 13, extra narrow.
I learned a lot from him, including not to trust anyone who hands you a $20 for no reason (he snatched it back, laughing his head off. Are you kidding? he told me. What did I know … I was 4), or listen to someone who dares you to do something you know you shouldn’t.
Steve saved my brother, Jamie, and I from drowning when we were little. Our family was visiting Steve in Colorado Springs and spent a few days at a little motel outside of Manitou Springs. I was a novice swimmer, being 7 and all, and Jamie, who was three years older, already had lessons.
I saw Jamie swimming in the deep end and he convinced me that he could teach me how to swim in one lesson.
“Come on! Jump in! I’ll catch you. You’ll be swimming like a pro in no time!”
I should have listened to my gut when it told me (or screamed), “No, don’t! You’ll be sorry!”
I looked around. We were the only ones there. I could have backed out, but Jamie was my hero. I didn’t want him to let him down. So I jumped in … right on top of him!
This happened 45 years ago, but I still remember how it felt as the water tried to drag me down, the struggle to hang onto my brother, the taste of the chlorinated water as I sucked it into my lungs.
I was terrified, and though I knew I was taking Jamie down with me, I couldn’t help myself. I swear I saw my entire 7 years fly by.
But then an angel appeared. Steve saw us struggling and dove in to save us. He led us to the side of the pool, me coughing, and Jamie already screaming at me, something about trying to kill him.
If it weren’t for Steve, we might have drowned.
I don’t think Steve and I ever talked about it, but I know if I had brought it up, he wouldn’t have taken credit for it. Most likely he would have waved it away, like it was no big deal.
But it was to Jamie and I.
It’s funny how life works. If Steve hadn’t been there, Jamie and I would have most likely drowned. Maybe he was put here for us, maybe us for him. Who knows? I just know that my life is much better because Steve was in it.
Something happens to us when we grow up. We forget what it’s like to be a child, because we don’t see life the same way we once did. The wonder of a new world is lost. We may gain wisdom and experience as we age, but we lose the magical perspective we had when we were little.
Everything changes; it’s the natural order. But wouldn’t it be nice to go back in time and look at the world through the eyes of a child?
We push through the growing pains and awkward moments of childhood, and emerge a more mature version of ourselves. We hit the ground running as we enter adulthood, a little fearful, but determined to make a name for ourselves. We work hard to pay the bills and put food on the table while we raise our families. The older we get, the faster time passes. We lose track of the years, but then the kids finally move out and start families of their own, and we can finally breathe again.
About midlife, we start to think about the past; life didn’t always go the way we planned, so what do we do now? Maybe we feel a little sorry for ourselves, but if we’re lucky, all that dissipates when we have grandchildren.
We love our kids dearly but being a grandparent is so much better (sorry kids). Maybe it is because we don’t have the responsibilities and pressures we did when we were parents, or maybe grandchildren are God’s reward for a job well-done.
We get to spoil our grandchildren, have fun and eat junk food that isn’t normally allowed, and then send them home to mom and dad. And it’s all acceptable because we are Grandparents.
I have 9 grandchildren, with another on the way, and I adore every single one of them. And they love me just because I’m Grandma, which is pretty awesome.
My granddaughter, Isabelle, is an extraordinary child. She was a colicky baby and a naughty toddler, but she has blossomed into a beautiful young lady, with a soul to match. She is thoughtful and caring, and helps me out even when I don’t ask, which is a lot to expect from a 9 year-old.
Isabelle is not perfect. She picks on her little sisters and has an over-whelming amount of energy. She is impulsive and easily distracted, and doesn’t always listen. But Isabelle has the kindest, most generous, heart of anyone I know. She loves animals and wants to be a zookeeper when she grows up. She loves to climb trees and spending time outside. She loves to create anything, which is something we share. In fact, we have a lot in common. When I look at Isabelle, it’s like looking in a mirror. How can I not adore her?
This little girl is giving me a wonderful gift; she is helping me remember what it’s like to be 9 again.
When I was 9, I felt invincible. I wasn’t afraid to take chances. I didn’t second guess anything, because to me, nothing was impossible.
But as we grow up we forget that. But maybe, if we’re lucky, we might get a second chance to see the world like we did when we were 9.
I’m not sure I would want to go back and relive my entire childhood, but it’s nice being able to spend time with your friend; remembering what it’s like being 9.
I did it. I survived my son’s wedding. It was touch and go a few days before, but my sanity was kept intact … for the most part.
Their story began a year ago in June. They met online and after only two months, Sean asked Ashley to marry him. She said yes, and though I had my doubts they would actually go through with it, I stood in front of guests at the reception and told them I truly believed the two are meant for each other.
Those who know Sean, nodded and smiled. They know his story. Those on the outside may not understand how far this young man has come, but on Aug. 15, I realized my little boy had grown up.
He asked me to dance to the song, “I Hope You Dance,” by Lee Ann Womack, and my first thought was, “Sean can dance?” But he proved he could, and very well.
As we twirled around the dance floor I told him I was proud of him, but I wonder if he even understood how much.
Sean was 6 years old when he was diagnosed with ADHD, along with a list of disorders, which would prevent him from learning the traditional way. In fact, he still has problems today, which has hindered his ability to keep a job for very long.
He has struggled his whole life socially and emotionally, and people don’t always understand where he’s coming from. Carrying a conversation with him is sometimes difficult because his brain is constantly working overtime. He switches from one subject to the next without even taking a breath.
But Saturday, I saw that none of that matters to Ashley, who accepts Sean just as he is. She knows he has limits but loves him anyway. That’s true love.
Two weeks before the wedding, he asked me to help him write his vows:
Me: So what do you want to say to her?
Sean: I love her.
Me: Okay, but what else?
Sean: I’ll be there for her.
Me: Do you know what a marriage means, Sean? (I wanted to make sure he knew.) Because it’s more than just loving someone.
Sean: Yes, it means helping her up when she falls, and being there for her. Being her best friend. It means being nice, and caring, even when I’m mad at her. It means taking care of her and wiping her tears when she’s sad…
Me: It means you’re committed to her.
Sean: I thought I said that.
I smiled to myself. Yep. He did say that, in so many words. After talking with him a little bit more, this is what I came up with:
I never thought I would ever meet someone as wonderful as you. You have taught me so much about love and what it means to be in a loving relationship. You accept me for who I am and I am so thankful you said “Yes” when I asked you to be my wife.
I know I’m not perfect and I make mistakes, but I promise that I will do my best to take care of you and give you the life you deserve.
I promise to help you up when you fall, be the shoulder to cry on, and be your best friend in every sense of the word. I promise to love you through good times and bad. And when we disagree, I promise to respect you and to listen to what you have to say, even if it’s sometimes difficult to hear.
Every day I find another reason to fall in love with you. You have made me so happy, and I am going to spend the rest of my life making sure you’re happy, too.
I love you, Ashley, always and forever.
I wasn’t sure how we would be able to make everything come together for the wedding day, but it did, perfectly. It was hotter than blazes, the cake melted, and I forgot the centerpieces, but the Noelridge Gardens backdrop was gorgeous and everyone had the time of their lives.
A great day, to say the least.
“Sometimes in the middle of an ordinary life, love hands you a fairytale.”
My 8th Challenge states I can write about anything I want. So I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about my life.
I am 52 years old and have lived in Cedar Rapids my entire life, except for a couple of months when I visited Colorado and Tennessee to do a little “exploring.”
I have 3 daughters, and a son, my youngest, who has a developmental disability. He is autistic and diagnosed with ADHD, which made it difficult for him to learn how to read or write. The doctors told us at one time that they doubted he would be able to live on his own, but because stubbornness and determination runs in our family, we proved them wrong.
I did my best to teach him how to be responsible and pay his bills and take care of other business, but the rest is up to him. He is so smart about somethings but oblivious to others. His autism makes him socially-awkward, and it takes most people time to warm up to him.
Last year, Sean met Ashley. She is a nice person with a good heart, and I am very happy they found each other. They are getting married Aug. 15, and though it seems as though they are the perfect fit, they will have a lot of challenges to overcome. Sean has a hard time keeping a job because of his disability, and she will just have to either accept it, or not.
My middle daughter, Caryn, just moved to Chesapeake, Virginia, with her husband and 4 children. This is the first time anyone in our little family has moved more than 20 miles from home. I was happy for them when they moved because it’s a chance to finally get ahead, but I miss them.Last night I was able to Skype successfully for the first time, and it made me feel a little closer to them. Caryn is having a tough time being so far from home, but I know once she starts her new job, she will be too busy to miss us.
My other two daughters, Holly and Lori, live in town. I get to see them and my other five grandchildren pretty regularly, which is a wonderful thing because spending time with my family is one of my favorite things to do.
I have three jobs. I work full-time as a receptionist/office administrator at McGrath’s Dodge car dealership. I am a program assistant for Cedar Rapids Main Street (an organization that helps preserve the historical district in CR), and work for Metro Sports Report, an online sports magazine, as a web editor.
I’ve had to cut my night hours back dramatically, which has help my stress level, but I’m still finding that I don’t have time to do everything I want. I guess it’s all about priorities.
I’ve published three books on CreateSpace, a self-publishing company. Between Worlds, my first, is a 3-book teen sci-fi series. I came across CreateSpace by accident and wanted to experience the life of a published author. (It’s quite a thrill to hold your own book in your hands for the first time!)
I am working on my third and final book in the series, which has been more difficult than the first two. I love the way my character, Mya, has developed since I began the book, one of the reasons I want to continue writing books.
I also compiled my family’s recipes in a cookbook, which I gave the title, Homemade in the Heartland.I have always loved to cook, and when my daughters started asking me to write my recipes down, the book took on a life of its own.
I live with my mother, who is homebound. She only leaves the house to go to the doctor. I stay with her because the only other option would be have her go to a nursing home and I don’t want her to have to do that. I want to help make the rest of her life as comfortable as I can, and I think that is by staying with her. If there ever comes a day when a nursing home is the only choice, I think she will already understand that.
I love my life. It’s not perfect, but it wasn’t meant to be. I am grateful and content and live a life where I am at peace, even when the world around me is in chaos. To me, that equals happiness.
The journey I’ve taken to get here wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it. But that’s another story.