# tis the season (or not)

Halloween is today. I get it. I really do. And Thanksgiving is a month away still. Yep – I got that too.

I had good intentions for Halloween. We wanted to carve pumpkins. There was going to be something pumpkin-flavored baking away right now. But gigs, doggie procedures, work and life got in the way.

And like your local CVS store, I’ve got Christmas on my mind anyway.

Ornament Earrings
Circa 2007, P.L. (Pre-Lily)

It’s a sickness. I start thinking about Christmas earlier and earlier each year. I crave the music, the merriment, the food…I just can’t be patient.

Joe and I have many conversations about family traditions—what we did as children during holidays and what we want to do as our own little family. There are so many wonderful traditions that started in my childhood that I’ve adopted in adulthood. I think it came from spending a few holidays away from family that made me insistent to make the familiar tastes, smells and actions part of my Christmas, no matter where I am.

We have culinary traditions: mom’s homemade cinnamon rolls, sugar cookies, cranberry orange cookies, ebelskivers, paninis, peppermint bark, oh my! #drool

Cinnamon Rolls

We have verbal traditions: the annual race to say “Christmas Eve Gift” first

We also have decorating traditions.

My family has always gone big when it comes to decorating for Christmas. As a child, my parents collected nutcrackers and nativity scenes. We kids were each given an ornament every year. My mom and Mimi also handmade our stockings using the popular Bucilla kits.

My dad now collects ornaments from trips and schools that hold special meaning. My aunt has a stunning array of decorations and puts together a mean Christmas dining room table. Memaw has a Christmas village complete with fake snow. My sister has the most beautiful array of ornaments.

Christmas Decor

This is where I have fallen behind in my Christmas-loving spirit. We have a wreath and a tree, which we decorate with a set of the original soft ornaments that I had a child (which I adore), but that’s about the extent of it. Joe and I don’t even have stockings, though the dog does thanks to my sister. And now that we’re past our apartment days and Christmases at home are more and more likely now that he works for a Division I school (thanks, Bowl Games), I want to make it look like Christmas as much as possible.

I’ve started thinking about what Christmas is to me, what does it look like? It’s home. It’s bright. It’s merry. It’s special. It’s whimsical. It’s from the heart. Then I started thinking about what decorations embody those ideas and I came up with two pursuits:

1. Stockings

As much as I like the stitched stockings of Pottery Barn and Garnet Hill, they would never capture Christmas for me like the original handmade stockings of my childhood. I couldn’t strip my Mom’s or Mimi’s mantles, so I began searching for Bucilla stocking kits online. And then my mom announced she is no longer in the stocking-making biz. #sadtrombone But, have no fear, Christmasholics! I realized you can buy them pre-made on Etsy and have them customized. Perfect. I’ve already found one and it’s on its way! Can’t wait to have it hanging…in just a few short weeks! (ha!) Joe opted for a traditional stocking…no whimsy needed, thankyouverymuch.

2. A collection of some sort

After ogling my great aunt’s, aunt’s and sister’s santas, snowmen and elves for years, I feel ready to start a collection for me and Joe. Unfortunately, a lot of the companies that made the decorations my family has been collecting are now out of business. I’ve had to look for a new line that fit the bill of bright and whimsical and I think I’ve found it in Jim Shore. Ironically, my sister started collecting him a few years ago, but she’s willing to share her addiction and I’m thankful. Just look at these beauties!



There are so many we like. I love the nod to quilting patterns and bold colors. They also have a line of Santas from around the world and Santas that depict popular carols. Too cute! I thought Joe and I could buy one piece a year, or something like that. I’m not looking to go crazy, just something to start together that’s “us” and “Christmas” all in one. And to brighten up the joint. To start, we chose the Irish Santa as a nod to our dual Celtic roots.

Irish Santa

We’re well on our way. Just call me Marci Stewart.

What do you think? What are your traditions, new or old? Any Christmas decorations you think I should consider? What is Christmas to you? Or can you even talk about it yet? Oh, okay, fine…Trick or Treat! Please excuse the demon eyes.



Shelf Life: Fall Reading

It’s been three months since my Summer Reading recap, so I figured we were due for another installment. Maybe I’ll make this a three-month tradition, although I’ll still be the throes of Winter when February rolls around.

Speaking of seasons, let’s give a last hurrah for Fall. This is what it looks like around here. Leaf mania.

Fall 0

Although Joe and I drove around this afternoon and I found a few trees holding on and shining bright.

Fall 1  Fall 2

Fall 3  Fall 4

These happened to be right outside our front door, an entry we never use, so in turn hardly ever see. Ha!

Fall 5

Then this little one joined me outside on this gorgeous day. She makes me so happy, this little fur baby. I think she’s pretty stoked to have me home.

Bella in leaves 1  Bella in leaves

Back to my list: The Logan Library has done an amazing job swarming me with books. On my last list I included books I wanted to read and they’ve quickly provided every single one. I think only J.K. Rowling’s book holds my last reserve request. Not bad, not bad. So here are the books I’ve read this Fall, and (bonus!) you get 7 instead of 5!

6 & 7. Sharp Objects & Dark Places, Gillian Flynn

I mentioned how amazing I thought Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was, so I was anxious to read her two other novels. I read them back-to-back, I decision I question now, because it just felt like too much time in her warped brain. It left me in a dark place (pun not intended), but I recognize her amazing ability to turn a story on a dime. I really admire her writing.

5. The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer

This story of summer camp friends starts in the tee-pee where they meet and follows them through adulthood. I. Loved. It. As someone whose closest friendships were formed at summer camps/band camps, I related to these characters a lot. Highly recommend this one, especially to those that have lifelong friendships.

4. Reconstructing Amelia, Kimberly McCreight

Buzzfeed—my favorite internet pastime—had a list of books you should read before their movie version was released. This title caught my eye. I had read a few reviews over the summer and thought I’d give it a go. It was pretty depressing. More depressing than the thriller the reviews painted it, at least. I’ll be curious how HBO goes about adapting the screenplay.

3. Life After Life, Kate Atkinson

This was the summer book list rage, hailed as “the next Gone Girl.” Uh…wrong. Gone Girl this is not. But! It was good in its own way. A very interesting concept that at times you have to muscle through, but its message is poignant and leaves you thinking – which is what every author wants, I imagine.

2. The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

Here’s my non-fiction pick of the season. It was an interesting look at the habits of individuals, organizations and communities and what happens when those habits shift. I am a total creature of habit. I eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch, I perform the same morning and bedtime routine, the list goes on. I could stand to change a few of my vicious cycles and this book showed me how. Now it’s just a matter of doing it.

1. The Last Runaway, Tracy Chevalier

My mother-in-law and I share many of our favorite authors and when she visited she told me that two of them had new releases. How did I not know this?! Tracy Chevalier has been one of my favorites since China, when I read her Girl with the Pearl Earring. I was mesmerized and quickly read everything else she’d ever written. This title was just as phenomenal. I actually read it in a day…Monday, in fact. I think I needed the mental break after returning home and her world of Quakers and slaves in 19th-century Ohio was the perfect escape. I’d recommend anything and everything she writes.

Currently reading: Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, Jennifer Chiaverini

One of the other authors my mother-in-law told me about was Jennifer Chiaverini, who I also started reading while in China. She wrote an extensive series about quilters in Pennsylvania, which was more exciting than it sounds. But now she’s shifted her focus to historical novels. I hope I enjoy them as much as I did her Elm Creek series.

Still in the queue:

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars
Jennifer Chiaverini’s Sonoma Rose
J.K. Rowling’s The Cuckoo’s Calling
Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina
Veronica Roth’s Divergent Triology
Jennifer Chiaverini’s The Spymistress
Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success

Suggestions? What are you loving these days? What are your favorite authors?

# nautical baby shower for Booh

In all of my hometown excitement, I wrapped up my visit by throwing my sister, Booh, a baby shower. She’s due with her first son next month. Older sister, Lily, picked the “Bump Name” and—in a stroke of pure genius, or pure five-year-old—she picked “Geometry.” So we’ve been calling him “Baby Geo” ever since.

Baby Shower 2

I let Booh pick the theme and since she’s decorating the nursery in a pirate theme, she decided on a nautical-themed shower. Which is perfect, because Pinterest is booming with nautical ideas. So much so, I almost couldn’t keep up. (How did people plan parties before Pinterest? How do people feel good about themselves while planning a party post-Pinterest? Discuss.)

Baby Shower 3

And, if this is the shower that Pinterest built, well…these photos are the pictures that Photoshop built. There was a lot going on that day, that week, and I completely forgot to change my camera settings before the shower or check them as I went. #photofail So, yeah…my apologies to you and my thanks to RAW camera formats.

Back to the fun!

My aunt graciously let me host the par-tay at her house, which is perfect for entertaining.

Baby Shower 1

Most of the decorations were around the food table, including the life preservers that I made out of styrofoam wreath molds and red duct tape. These were not Pinterest-inspired, but they were one of my favorite things at the shower.

The food itself was all homemade and sea-themed. We had Cake Ball Boats and Sand Dollar Cookies, which you can see in the photo above.

Baby Shower 12

As well as this octopus that guarded my favorite spicy “Boom Boom Dip” for veggies and chips. A big shout-out to my brother for making the octopus and making him stay in the dip. Not as easy as it looks, people. And by people, I mean Pinterest

Baby Shower 11

For activities, other than present-opening ooh-ing and aah-ing, we had these “Whale Wishes” that guests could leave the baby.

Baby Shower 5

We also had blank bibs on hand for everyone to decorate. Lily got that part of the party started early.

Baby Shower 6

Booh opened her sweet gifts in front of this clothesline full of nautical onesies that I collected from Carters, Target and Walmart. I especially like the pirate onesie I found in the Halloween section recently. I sense a photoshoot coming on with that baby…I mean, outfit…I mean, baby in the outfit.

Baby Shower 10

Baby Shower 9

Baby Shower 8

The shower favors were little mason jars filled of homemade brown sugar coconut shower scrub that my mom helped me make. From Our Shower to Yours…is what I said as I handed them out at the door. Doesn’t sound freaky at all, does it?

Baby Shower 7

The photos aren’t perfect, but the shower itself pretty much was! We had a great time showering Booh and Geo with love, gifts and yummy food. Hurry, hurry, Baby Geo! Your Aunt NoNo can’t wait to hold you…and dress you up like a pirate.

Baby Shower 4

Shower Shout-Outs

Whale and Chevron “Ahoy! It’s a Boy!” Invitations

Whale Wishes Note Cards

Brown Sugar Coconut Shower Scrub

Cake Ball Boats

Boom Boom Dip

Sand Dollar Cookies

# saying goodbye

My head and heart have been a constant jumble of thoughts and memories for the last two weeks. I’m ready to unravel them a bit, though, if you’re up for joining me.

On the sea

My grandmother once jokingly told me, “I can’t wait until I’m dead. Then I’ll finally be perfect.” Even though it was funny and meant to be a fleeting thought, I have held on to it knowing there was a lot of truth behind it.

My Pops was not a perfect man, but he was perfect for me…for a lot of people, actually, as evidenced at his lovely service last week. And isn’t that what everyone should receive in death? The gift of leaving a positive influence and legacy, while previous transgressions are buried and forgotten?

One of the best parts about loving someone, and this is especially true as a child becomes an adult alongside his/her parents and grandparents, is that you can strip away someone’s cape and realize they’re still your hero, weakness or faults and all. And Pops will always be a Super Hero to me.

marci sesame street sunglasses

He was truly larger than life – in physique, in voice, in wisdom, in love. He gave the best hugs, wrapping you in his strong arms allowing you to bury your head in a sea of Old Spice and whiskers.

As a child, I have happy memories of following him to work, drawing on his insurance company’s stationery, watching fishing and hunting shows and lots of baseball. I remember him taking me to watch the Astros, explaining the game as we went while eating ice cream out of little batting hats. I remember him slicing watermelon at the kitchen bar and joining us for popsicles on the patio. He and Memaw once took me to tour Houston’s sugar plant in the sweltering heat, and also let us join the audience for one of the morning shows at the TV station behind their house. It was a lifetime ago. And it was yesterday.

I have waves of memories crashing against me at all times, way too many for one post or even one blog. But there are a few thoughts I’d love to share.

The Bitches

I come from a dog-lovin’ family. Seriously. No one loves dogs like we do and my grandparents had several over the years. When Pops suffered his stroke in 1998, he struggled with memory and speech, always laughing when he’d call something the wrong name – knowing it was incorrect, even if he couldn’t remember what was right. Once when my family was in Houston he called my sister “Bootsie,” the name of his beloved childhood dog. In jest, someone said “What are we, Pops? Just a bunch of bitches to you?” And there we were born: Pops’ Bitches.

b shirt fronts

b shirt backs

We each were given one of their dog’s names to share and wore our monikers with pride. Pops was The Boss (of course) and we were Ginger, Phronsie, Phrenzie, Bootsie and Princess. We planned “Bitches Weekends” where we’d converge in Houston for a long girl’s weekend full of Mexican food, makeup, nail polish, laughter and love. It was the best nourishment and, most of all, he absolutely loved it… Funny, irreverent and perfect. A true circle of support that I know we’ll rely on now more than ever.


At the heart of Pops’ Bitches, at the heart of this family, is my Memaw. You don’t have a Pops without a Memaw. Their love and commitment is by far the greatest gift, lesson or wisdom either has ever bestowed. It is one that embodies phrases like “unconditional,” “better or worse,” “sickness and in health” and “forever.” She spent the last 15 years next to his side throughout every struggle and joy, much like she did throughout their entire 63 years of marriage. Except she was carrying the burdens of two, without complaint or a second guess. “It’s what I do” she would tell you. And she did it well. Exceedingly well. And we love her even more for it. She kept him happy. She kept him healthy. She kept him laughing and smiling. There will never be enough “thank you”s to be said for the sacrifice she made to take care of him, the sacrifice she made to ensure we had as much time with him as possible.

Memaw and Pops in New Orleans

Perrin Family 70s

Memaw and Pops 1

Memaw and Pops 3

The End

Pops was surrounded by his Bitches in his final days, just the way I know he would have wanted it. We sat, cried, laughed and sang together for almost five days – making the most of what we knew was the end of an amazing era. I spoke already about the waiting and how painful it was at the time, but really…what a privilege to have had that opportunity.

And even after all that time, the end seemed to pass by in an instant. An instant where we were all around him, me holding his hand in mine. An instant full of prayers, tears and “I love you”s. And, at the very end, Memaw leaned over, promised she would join him as soon as she could, and sang their song, the song she had been singing to him every night for years.

I’ll be loving you, Always
With a love that’s true, Always.
When the things you’ve planned
Need a helping hand,
I will understand, Always.


Days may not be fair, Always,
That’s when I’ll be there, Always.
Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But Always.

There was a fat tear that escaped his right eye—one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen—and then he was gone.

That tear was an incredible gift to us. It was the proof we desperately sought that he had been listening to us laugh, cry and tell stories for those five days. Proof that he didn’t want to leave us as much as we didn’t want to leave him. Proof that he held on as long as he could. A final, precious goodbye without words.

I will never forget those last moments. As painful as they are, sometimes I just sit and relive them over and over again. And, you know what? It was so peaceful. I’m not sure what I thought would happen, but it exceeded all expectations surrounding the hope of a tranquil passing.

After…it’s all “after,” now…we were asked to leave his room for a few minutes and right as we turned the corner, Simone – the facility’s therapy dog, greeted us wearing a kerchief around her neck that was made with fabric from one of Pops’ old shirts. We all burst into tears again as we hugged the dog. There would be many tears to come, but these were happy tears at such a serendipitous moment.


Pops died the week of National Bosses Day, leaving no question that he was always the Boss, even in death.

The Funeral

We had a wonderful celebration of Pops’ life, held in his hometown at the church where he and Memaw were married. Days before he passed my grandmother pulled me aside and asked if I’d speak at the service. Initially, the thought paralyzed me with fear, but it didn’t take long for me to recognize the honor that it was and feel grateful for the opportunity. Who cares if my voice cracked (it did) or if tears streamed down my face (they did)? We were surrounded by friends and family that love Pops and each other. I had nothing to fear.

And, true to our family’s form, there was also so much humor in the service. For one, they played a portion of a photo slideshow I had made years before to start the service. At the point where they started playing the show, I had used one of Pops’ favorite songs as the soundtrack: Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line.” This was the song that was blaring over the speakers as we walked in to say goodbye. I couldn’t help but smile. It felt like a big party. Then the preacher made some comment about that song’s relation to the movie Beetlejuice and I thought my brother and I were going to lose it. In Bryan’s words, “One degree of separation between Pops’ funeral and Michael Keaton. Done.” At the end of the service the preacher said he was going to sing a song requested by my grandmother and warned us that he liked to “crank it up.” He then sang the loudest, liveliest Country version of “I’ll Fly Away” I’ve ever heard. So funny. Pops would have loved every minute of it.

The graveside service followed, where we witnessed his military honors. The presentation of the flag was very meaningful to watch, but what really got me was the playing of Taps. It was just beautiful. Impeccably played and so poignant to experience. It was so still around us, too. All you could hear, other than the trumpeter, was the flag blowing in the wind. It was what had me crying the hardest. I wish I had recorded it.

Afterward, my family gathered at my cousin’s Dairy Queen as the final pit stop before we headed north and south, depending on if you were going to a wedding or a baby shower on Saturday. The circle of life.

Dairy Queen

Right foot, Left foot

And now here we are. Trying to resume our normal lives when they feel so shaken, when “normal” seems so far away. Life has changed and we’re navigating a new path, trying to adjust without losing sight of the old way.

Maybe it’s because when I was born my Dad said I was a “Little Red Pops.”

Marci - day one

Or maybe it’s because Pops and I were both brass players.

band uniform

Or maybe it’s because we both survived living in China – each fighting a war of our own.

army base

Whatever the reasons, Pops and I have always had a very special bond. He made me feel safe while I learned to spread my wings. He made me feel loved whether I was being good or bad. He made me feel like a princess long before it was ever my nickname.




Despite how tiring it was or how short-fused it made me feel, I would not trade those last days with him for anything in the world. And now I’m struggling in my grief. Missing him so much. Wishing I could watch his chest rise and fall again, hum to him, tell him a story, hold his hand. Anything.

My sweet Memaw said it best and speaks for all of us when she said, “I just want to do it all again.”

Memaw and Pops 2

Rest in peace, my precious Pops.

Click here to read Paul S. Perrin’s obituary from The Houston Chronicle.

Thank you for reading and allowing me to share these memories, smiles and grief with you. The support, flowers, cards, brownies and messages have made all the difference in the world and have lifted me up in my darkest hours. I love you guys so, so much.

Friday Five: Coping

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

Is it already Friday again? I’m not quite ready to talk about Pops, and yet, there isn’t anything else for me to talk about right now. I’m still functioning in a sort of fog, like a weird auto-pilot. And when that fog clears? Well, I don’t want to go there yet. The thought of leaving my family on Sunday feels like such a relief, as well as terrifying. On some level I just want to resume some sort of normalcy, but I also don’t want to leave those that love Pops as much as I do. My life is different from when I stepped on that plane to come home.

Needless to say, I’m still navigating through some pretty raw emotions and hoping I can ride on fumes until I get on the plane. Here are the ways I’ve been coping this week:

5. Dogs

Bella might be in Utah, but in the interim I’ve been loving on my aunt’s new dog, Tootsie. Dogs and children are the very best medicine. Poor Tootsie will sleep for a week once we all leave town. I don’t think her paws have touched the ground.

4. Friends

What an incredible outpouring of love and support my family has seen this week. I swear, we all have the best friends in the world. We’ve relished everything from long-time family friends joining us for the service, to phone calls, to emails, to texts, to flowers, to parties. And every bit of it has made such an incredible difference. Thank you…really.

3. Modern Technology

Throughout this entire trip (day 10 tomorrow), my husband has been in Utah. I completely understand, especially the unspoken rules surrounding a new job, but I’m not going to lie — not having him by my side has been very hard. We’ve been able to stay in constant contact, but it’s not the same as a hug or someone to hold my hand, or me. Hope you’re willing to make up for the lost time, J.

2. Family

No one makes me laugh as hard as my family and I’m sure it comes as no surprise (to those that know us, at least) that we’ve been making each other laugh through this process. “It’s what we do,” said my grandmother. It’s how we’ve always been. No matter the situation — even death — there is a laugh to be had, a joke to be told. Even in our darkest hours we still are able to throw our heads back and laugh without abandon. I wouldn’t have been able to make it through this without them, or their laughter.

1. The Future

Tomorrow half of my family will gather in Texas for a wedding. The other half will gather in Tulsa for a baby shower. A mere 2 days after burying Pops we will come together to celebrate life in an entirely new way. Sing it, Rafiki. It’s the Circle of Life. And that’s where we have to keep our gaze — on the future and not on the past. We were blessed with wonderful, wonderful years with my grandfather and now we’re passing the torch and welcoming a new baby boy next month. There is a lot to be grateful for…lots and lots and lots.

# peace

with marci 1a

Paul “Pops” Perrin is finally at peace, letting go on his terms as he was surrounded by the ones he loved and that loved him. I know this will get easier, but for now I’m missing this wonderful man and feeling the impact he’s had on my life. I’ll be writing more soon, but I wanted to thank everyone for their support. And to share this photo.

Pops. Baseball. Laughter. These are a few of my favorite things.

I love you, Pops. You’re forever in my heart.

# up and down

I’ve been here three and a half days now and my grandfather is still holding on, despite every diagnosis, every claim to natural order. So we continue to wait. And waiting is hard.

I feel like I’ve been waiting a lifetime, my lifetime in fact, for death. In my 32 years, I’ve lost my childhood dog and a few great-aunts and great-uncles, but no one I was extremely close to. Not very many 30-year-olds have all four of their grandparents and I can assure you I feel extremely blessed, but I have also felt – and this is going to sound weird – at some sort of disservice for never having to deal with this before. The thought of death has always terrified me. This vast unknown – what happens, how do you feel, how are you supposed to feel, how does life go on, how can any goodbye ever be enough? I have felt so ill-equipped at not knowing these things when everyone I know has gone through this. But here I am. Immersed in this process, but so very thankful I have this time to whisper everything that’s on my heart to this wonderful man who continues to surprise us all.

The night I arrived we had a wake-up call at 3:00am saying it was near the end and we needed to come up. My grandmother, mother, aunt and I were there in minutes and in that urgency we held hands, we told stories and laughed so very, very hard. We continued telling stories for hours of what turned out to be a pretty big false alarm, but that was okay. I know Pops could hear that laughter and he became the most alert he had been in a long time. But since then we have grown numb to last-call warnings as he defies each time limit that’s spoken with confidence, medical degrees and experience. It’s a clear reminder that’s he’s the boss. I know he’d like that.

Since that 3am party, we’ve grown weary – in all honesty. I don’t know who wouldn’t in this scenario. I’ve spent the good part of the last two days just watching his chest rise and fall, counting breaths while I hum hymns and the theme from this favorite movie. Up and down. Up and down.

Isn’t that what this process is like, though? Up and down? There are times when my smile stretches across my face remembering something funny, usually small – a tiny moment shared between us. Then the next minute I just want to crumple with the finality of what’s coming.

Up and down.

Something I’ve realized is that there is incredible strength among the people that have been cohabitating this room for the last four days. We’ve rarely allowed ourselves to break down in front of the other, each staying stronger for the next. We have watched a revolving door of nurses and friends come in to say their goodbyes, each of them crying while we thank and comfort them. It wasn’t until a tiny five-foot nurse came in and wrapped me in her arms despite never meeting that I realized how much I needed that. How much I crave crawling into my husband’s lap and just sobbing until I can’t anymore. Like a child. Or, like someone who is so unfamiliar with death. There will be a time for that, but until then we try to stay strong even when the days become so long.

Up and down.

When something this unknown is staring you down, you crave answers. Signs. Anything that could give you a sliver of control in a situation where you feel completely out of it. The first few days we would interrogate each and every nurse that walked in. What are the signs? What should we be looking for? What do you see? And then we stopped. Because no one knows. And God and Pops seem to have this under control. It’s the best kept secret in this family so far.

I’ve even found myself grasping for a sign from anywhere I can find it. Waking up to Paul McCartney’s “That will be day-ay-ay that I die” on the radio (Saturday), seeing a flashing commercial that said “the beginning is at the end” (Friday), feeling him grab my hand (today). I will seek comfort or control wherever I can right now.

Up and down.

For the longest time I’ve hoped, prayed, wished for a miracle for this man. I wished for clarity in the beginning—of memory, speech and mobility—and those wishes have shifted through the years as the stroke took its toll. After wanting him to be better for so long, it feels unnatural to pray for a different miracle now. One that would free him completely, but also one that requires the greatest sacrifice from us. To let go. The battle between my head and my heart is unrelenting right now. It’s selfish to want him with me forever, but I don’t know anything else. And I don’t want anything else. Again, I feel like a child. My head knows this is right, the natural course of events, but I’m not sure when my heart will catch up. Maybe it never has to.

Up and down.

For those that continue to fill my phone and inbox with encouragement and love, thank you. I can’t tell you how much it helps, even when I’m unable to respond. I’m not really sure who, besides my family, is reading this, but please say a prayer for peace. Peace for his precious soul. Peace for our hearts. We will continue to take this one day, one breath at a time, embracing both the ups and the downs.

# one

One year ago today I was in Tampa with best friends Bobbie and Robert awaiting the birth of their daughter, who was currently 11 days past her due date. I had planned my trip to come AFTER the baby was born, so we had hastily filled our days with food, movies, cooking, TV, finger tapping – anything to keep our minds busy. And then the labor pains started and off we went.

One year ago today I watched the incredible process of bringing a baby into the world. Truly the miracle of life. I saw a strong woman become stronger. I saw a loving husband become a smitten daddy. And I saw an amazing friend I met at band camp in 1997 become a mother. It was beyond beautiful.

One year ago today Robert walked into the waiting room and told me about his daughter, a huge smile across his face and relief in his voice. He had borrowed my camera for the birth and, at that moment, realized he had left it in the nursery. I told him to get back to Bobbie and I went running through the hospital to the nursery where I begged to have access so I could get my camera. No, I’m not a family member. (Not by blood at least.) Yes, I know visiting hours are over and, even then, I would need to be accompanied by one of the parents. I remember yelling at a security woman that that camera was MY baby. Turns out they frown upon crazed, out-of-breath women begging access to the newborn babies. But all ended well. Actually, it was the best ending. She was perfect.

I feel so fortunate and honored to have been by their sides in one of the best days of their life. How incredible to share their joy and feel the love and excitement that surrounded that entire day, and finally seeing the precious baby who had filled our hearts, thoughts and conversations long before she arrived.

Abigail. Abby. Abster. Doodlebug. Sweet Baby Girl. You make us all so happy. I wish I could be there today to wish you a very happy birthday and tell you how much your Aunt Marci loves you.

Here’s to the last 12 months (and the first 9 months before we saw your sweet face)! We are all looking forward to many, many more. Click here to watch a video of Abby’s first year, if not showing below.

Friday Five: Life Lessons

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

It’s Friday and I’ve been in Oklahoma for just over 24 hours to say goodbye to my grandfather. After an incredible 14 years after his stroke, he is now transitioning to his next journey and we’ve all corralled to send him off. I’ve spent the last day smiling, crying, laughing, singing, celebrating, but mostly remembering. I will most definitely be writing about my dear Pops and the emotional roller coaster we’ve all been riding for a while now, but for today I offer the top five (among many) life lessons Pops instilled and impacted on us all.

5. Take Risks & Dream Big

Safety was always a concern of Pops’ and I wouldn’t say he was technically risky, but he did believe in calculated risk and he dreamed big. Well, he did everything big, but dreaming was near the top. After years as a successful insurance salesman, he built a fishing and hunting business after noticing a lack of safe equipment. It was never too late to learn, to start over, to fulfill a dream. I admire that so much about him, even though he used my nimble fingers as a child to build some of his early products! Boat whistles or tackle vests, anyone?

4. No Whining

I’ve never met someone with such a positive disposition as my Pops. He never allowed himself to waste time in the negative. And throughout this entire almost-15-year battle, no one has ever heard him complain. Not once. How easy would it have been to ask “why me?,” or be frustrated when his speech or memory failed him, but he has always loved life above all and wasn’t going to waste a minute of it feeling sorry for himself. Even if confined to an ailing body. What an inspiring gift.

3. Be Generous

Many a life has been changed forever by Pops’ generosity and compassion. He was generous in his time, money, talent, but most of all, his love. My grandparents love big and they always wanted everyone to know that there is enough love for all…and then some. The result is an incredibly close, loving family that, despite inevitable differences, believes in loving often, hard, openly and freely. That is truly another huge gift.

2. Be a Team Player

Whether it was playing baseball, coaching baseball, watching baseball, or really any group setting, Pops has always believed in the team. Loyal to the core. He had a love of community and camaraderie that would make any pro or pee wee coach jealous. We grew up cheering for the Astros through thick and thin, and even the very thin. He believed in their team. He believed in the idea and essence of a team…unless that team was from Norman, Oklahoma. #gopokes

1. Be the Better Person

If our family had a credo, this would be it. It comes in various forms: “take the high road,” “don’t get down on their level”…but it all was the same. Keep your head and your actions high. Character is of utmost importance, and boy did he have an outstanding one. I don’t know how many times my mother has said “be the better person” to me and I’ve responded “being the better person sucks,” or something poetic to that effect. But, she’s right. Be the person that you (and he) would be proud of. It works every time.

After re-reading this I realize I’m already using past tense. Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism, or the realization that the Pops we know is already on the other side. As we continue to wait, my heart aches for a peaceful transition…for us all. Love you, Pops.

worlds best grandpa

# bear lake, part two

Ready for another fall photo post? Good. Here we go.

On Sunday, Joe and I took his mom to Herm’s for brunch (where I finally tackled the Cinnamon Swirl Pancake!) and then headed north into the Cache Valley National Forest, similar to what we did with my Dad exactly a week prior. The only difference? We had a major freeze last week, so a lot of those gorgeous reds and oranges were no more. Sad, isn’t it? The good news is that the yellow Aspens survived and were looking pretty darn vivid.

Bear Lake 1

Bear Lake 2

I like this view because it looks like the fall colors are rolling in like smoke towards the road.

Bear Lake 3

Look familiar? We’re back at the Bear Lake Overlook!

Bear Lake 4

Bear Lake 5

What’s interesting is that the lake changes colors depending on the weather. You might remember that when we were there last week it was about to storm and the lake looked almost turquoise. Now it was pure sunlight and bright blue. Here’s your Bear Lake weather guide, as per the information desk:

Sunny: Blue
Overcast: Green
Stormy: Aquamarine

And here’s a panorama from the top. #gorgeous (Click to see full-size version.)

Bear Lake Overview Panorama

I went traipsing into the woods behind the overlook, as my Dad had done the week before, to see the Aspens up close. Look what else I found….SNOW!

Bear Lake 6

Bear Lake 7

Bear Lake 8

Instead of driving around the south side of the lake, we decided to continue north where we quickly found the Idaho/Utah border.

Bear Lake 9

Bear Lake 10

We also found that the lake was very, very low and we could even walk out on one of its sand banks. The lake bed was covered in tiny snail-ish shells and things lost to summer boaters. The Idaho hills still had a bit of red to them, but not much compared to last week.

Bear Lake 11

Bear Lake 12

Bear Lake 13

You know what one of my favorite things about Utah/Idaho is? How big, beautiful and blue the sky is.

Bear Lake 14

We couldn’t pass up the famous raspberry shakes on our way out. I really can’t tell you how delicious this is.

Bear Lake 15

On our way home we ran into one last friend. What’s crazy is that we were the first to pull over and then suddenly it was cars everywhere, people running into the field, people standing on their trucks…poor guy got scared off pretty fast. What a sight!

Bear Lake 16

Bear Lake 17

Bear Lake 18

And with that, I think we’ve had our last visitor until next spring/early summer. No one wants to come ski? I mean, I won’t go with you, but I’ll greet you with hot chocolate, soup and blankets when you come back! The door’s always open.