mornings.

Morning is definitely my time.  It’s the time of day I’m most creative and productive; my mind is the most open to receiving ideas and making plans.  My mom has forever gotten up before the sun and had her morning coffee, in the dark, and called it her quiet time.  It’s a chance to think all the thoughts that need thinking, to organize her day, to consider the days and tasks to come.  I love the idea of quiet time but the execution is where I falter.  It’s truly a shame that I love sleep too much to actually take advantage of it before heading in to start my actual job at 7:30 am.

Nevertheless, I start every day feeling like Gwyneth Paltrow.  Why GP?  To me, she is the pinnacle of all the things: mother, entrepreneur, brand, woman.  Some people choose Beyonce – who is also incredibly fierce – GP just aligns more with things I could actually accomplish (my dance moves are outdated and I’m not really the Queen of anything).  In the morning, I feel like there really is nothing I can’t do.  Write a cookbook?  Okay.  Three?  Sure.  Workout for two hours?  Easy.  Organize my home and life?  Done.  Start a successful business and brand?  Pssshhh…I got this.

I’m writing this blog because of the things that happen the rest of the day.  Throughout the reminder of the day I’m met with little obstacles meant to diminish my GP-ness.  These are things as simple as doughnuts in the next cube and as complex as laziness or lack of motivation.  Each obstacle I meet, I make the active decision to let it defeat me or not.  Though, until now, I didn’t really think of it in those terms because I didn’t really think of it at all.  Now it’s all I think about.

I’m going to try to work with the potential and promise I feel in the mornings because it seems a shame to waste it.  Even now, there are sticky notes all over my desk; lists I’ve made in my Moleskine (with sticky notes on those lists); there are blog ideas and lofty dreams being dreamed in my head; there are mental vacations being planned and dinner ideas floating around.  I think that’s how my creative side works: ideas will meander in my brain, waiting to be found and focused on. Waiting to be brought to fruition.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even start waking up earlier to make my lists over some coffee?

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a dog story.

Hey guys!  A lot of you who follow me on Insta and FB will likely know some of this story already – but for the rest of you, I was inspired this morning to share some happenings in my little family.

I’ve already mentioned on a couple occasions that I love animals.  I take after my dad in that regard; it’s in my DNA to *always* live in a house where I’m outnumbered by animals.  When I came into the picture, Dave already had two dogs (Jack and Charlie) and then we Brady-Bunched together with my two cats and added one more for good measure (Marty).

In mid-February, sweet Charlie was diagnosed with lymphoma.  The diagnosis to decline was too rapid.  His little lymph nodes were huge and he went from being the Charlie we knew to being completely disinterested in food or firetrucks – two things that previously excited him.  We did everything we could to adjust and prepare for his struggle ahead.  There were quite a few good days we were lucky enough to share with our friend, but unfortunately the disease was more accelerated than we anticipated and we lost him early last month.  It was so much harder than I’d anticipated and anyone who has lost a furry family member knows what I mean.  We had less than ZERO plans to add to the pack since the loss hit us so hard.

Like all good things in life, what happened next was not planned.

A good friend of Dave’s is affiliated with/works for an animal shelter in Elgin, IL.  He had posted on FB about some dogs they went to retrieve from a shelter in Oklahoma.  One thing led to another and we got talking about one of the dogs.  She had such a heartbreaking story but a strong spirit and a very hopeful future since she’d been rescued.  Once we heard her story, there was no way she couldn’t be ours.  In her very short 9 months on this Earth, she’d been through the unspeakable.  Despite that, she still had a lot of love and sweetness in her heart – a testament to the resilience of dogs.  We realized we were able and ready to give her the life and love she deserves.  She joined our family last week.

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First time on Iowa soil

With Jack and Marty we have something that works well.  They get along with one another and the cats, we are able to leave them alone during the day without incident, they are trustworthy in the yard – so naturally I fretted about whether or not new dog would fit in with our dynamic.  I realized that I worried the same way when we got Marty and that all worked out well.  It just takes time, training, consistency and patience.

She’s fit in so well already that I can’t imagine not having her around.  The boys are still adjusting, as are the cats.  She’s so good-natured that she approaches them playfully with no aggression whatsoever.  I truly believe that rescues make the best dogs.  As we’ve heard more than once about her, she truly is the definition of a rescue and I’m so glad she’s a member of our family.

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She’s soooo good in the car.

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That bed makes her look small but she’s actually the size of a mini-horse.

 

thoughts on caucusing, etc.

Guys.  A long, long time ago, in high school Civics class we learned about voting.  Mr. Marozzi could not have been more clear that it was important as an 18 year old to go to the polls and cast your vote.  It was effectively step number one to becoming an adult and claiming my place in the world.  It was with passion that I happily declared my chosen candidate to anyone with ears.  That first year, I went to my polling location not knowing much beyond what my parents had told me and proudly made it official.

I’m not sure I’ve voted since then.  Somehow, for me, politics became something I didn’t want to shout about from the rooftops.  Over the years, it had morphed into something that I identified with being a free American to something that I should keep secret and be ashamed about.  People – strangers even – are apt to point fingers that if you voted for so-and-so you’re part of the country’s problem.  No choice ever seemed good enough when the truth of the matter is, aren’t we all just choosing the best that we can?

Things began to change this year for me when I *finally* took the last step toward Iowa residency by actually getting an Iowa driver’s license (I held onto that Ohio license as long as I possibly could – as a sort of bastion of my former Ohio-ness preferring to live in that fluid visitor status.  I took pride pointing out my dates of birth every time I was carded because the cashier didn’t know how to read my pretty pink foreign license, and I relished in the “Oh, you’re from Ohio?” question.  Now I’m just another Iowan. Blending in.)  When I was filling out my licensing paperwork, I was asked if I wanted to be registered to vote.  Despite the drawback of jury duty, it was something I realized I wanted to do.  It is more than simply my civic duty, casting my vote in this election is something I want to be part of.

Before moving to Iowa, I don’t really know if I knew what the caucus was.  Dave told me I would see what it was all about in 2016 – how media from all over the United States converge on our tiny little city in our flyover state.  And now here we are, in 2016, and I am EMBRACING this caucus business.  He wasn’t kidding.  The Today show was broadcasting live from West End Salvage this morning; Tom Brokaw was at Scenic Route this week (the very location I’m blogging from today); there are candidates and staffers all over this city; there are motorcades and blocked off roads and people outside hotels holding up signs for their candidate.  This is nothing short of inspiring.  All these young people with hope for change in our country, paying attention to our tax dollars and healthcare and government spending and military budgets and treatment for Vets.  It’s suddenly become the thing to do – to vote.  And here in Des Moines, in the lovely state of Iowa, it’s all around me.

The decision of who to caucus for feels overwhelming.  Like it’s the most important decision I have made in a while.  It’s not even a real vote yet, Ryan.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman, or I’m a tax-payer, or an American citizen but I’m taking this quite seriously.  I implore you, dear reader, to go and cast your vote when it’s time.  It’s one of the most important things we can do.  Yes, the outcome isn’t always what we imagined it to be but it’s worth it to go declare your name and declare your decision on who will effectively have the most influence over our lives for the next four years (if not more).

33

I’ve been 33 for a few days now and – as expected – it doesn’t feel a lot different than 32. The thing that does feel different though? My mom & sister came to DSM to spend my birthday with me this year. It’s been a long time since the three of us were actually together on my actual birthday and this year felt pretty special.

They got in on Friday early afternoon and we immediately commenced shopping and eating our way through the city. Some highlights include shopping in the East Village, eating at Tacopocalypse, shopping at Raygun, mom’s homemade scallops and alfredo, the gallon jar of pickled eggs mom & Rach made just for me, birthday dinner at Lurra Cocina, lunch at Exile, WEST.END.SALVAGE and coffee, coffee and more coffee.

Come Monday morning, I wasn’t ready for them to head back. I’m so grateful I’m so close with my family and I’m so grateful that they didn’t think twice about hopping in the car and coming out to be with me on a day that usually includes a bit of tears.

My beautiful mother

My beautiful mother

 

listen: manchego cheesecake

listen: manchego cheesecake

 

charcuterie plate with mom's homemade hummus

charcuterie plate with mom’s homemade hummus

 

Sunday.roast.

Sunday.roast.

 

anyone want to get me this Herman Miller Eames lounger?

anyone want to get me this Herman Miller Eames lounger? at west end salvage.

 

... and we walked around with wine

… and we walked around with wine

 

west end salvage is amazing. I want all the things.

west end salvage is amazing. I want all the things.

 

 

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birthday shenanigans!

birthday shenanigans!

 

birthday dinner!

birthday dinner!

 

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gorgeous carrots that became an accompaniment to Sunday roast

gorgeous carrots that became an accompaniment to Sunday roast

 

directive : look perplexed

directive : look perplexed

 

mom & me exploring the farmer's market

mom & me exploring the farmer’s market

 

 

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not faking

I think the thing that’s most true about me is that I’m not a faker.  It also happens to be the thing that keeps me from getting stuff filed away in the DONE pile.

Let me explain.  Even though I’ve been away from this space for much longer than I’d hoped, it’s not because I haven’t been thinking of being here – cause I think about it a lot.  It’s actually because I’m not a faker.  When things in my non-blogging life are slow, my blog life becomes increasingly spotty.  I’m going to focus on spending more time talking about those little things that happen in my life.  That way I don’t spend time trying to conjure up the most epic post ever and then fall down the sneaky guilt spiral of neglecting this space.

So here’s a hodgepodge of what I’ve been up to:

1. I worked a bar tent during a festival here in DSM recently.  I officially poured my first beer from a tap (I exclude all prior college-party kegs because those were for me) and then proceeded to do that all.night.long and you know what?  It was so much fun.  St. Lucia was there, Weezer was there, Wilco was there – it was awesome.

2. I started official training for the DSM Half in October.  I’m so pleased that there’s about four weeks of running ahead of me that consistently includes 2 miles because with the heat (okay, humidity) we’ve been enjoying lately, it’s been so hard to keep motivated.

3. I am almost finished with a 21 Day Fix (shoutout to my sister who is doing it too and she’s pretty much owning me).  I’ve been working out consistently and have fallen in mad-love with Shakeology.  I’d drink it for every meal.

4. I’ve been listening to a lot of Pond (just Medicine Hat, really), Cold War Kids, Father John Misty (and Fleet Foxes, by extension), Lord Huron and how did I just now discover The Decemberists?!

5. I’ve been pretty wiped after work lately but with the bounty of squash from the garden, there have been some delicious squash recipes coming out of the kitch.  My most favorite and one that I recommend to everyone is Summer Squash Gratin by Smitten Kitchen.  It’s incredibly easy, very forgiving and I’ve made a lot of changes to suit my own tastes and laziness.  Personally, I sub Fontina for Gruyere (yuck), add a dollop of goat cheese after it’s served up and always leave out the anchovies from the salsa verde.  Not because I’m afraid of anchovies or anything… but because they’re never on hand.

6. After my summer trip home, I need to save some coin for this little gem.  I’ve been eyeing it for about a year now and I think it’s finally time to make it mine.

Thank you guys for sticking through my inconsistency and my desire to always bring something true here.

giving thanks

I’m sitting here in the room I created as my “office”; my little sanctuary space filled with all the things I love: photos, music, books and lots of natural light.  This space is designed just for me so that I feel inspired to write.  Today, I don’t have to reach too far for inspiration.  It’s looking out on the snow-covered yard and the naked trees.  It’s knowing I’m safe and warm inside my home with the smells of a home-made dinner mingling with the Autumn scented candles.  It’s feeling close at heart to my family who are all ten hours away celebrating this same day.

I have an obscene amount to be thankful for.  I try every day to embrace that attitude.  I do my best to stay mindful of that and give thanks for each blessing.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, dear ones, I hope you all have a day full of love and laughter surrounded by family and friends; a belly full of food and a thankful heart.

Sending love to you.

stuff i love: fall edition (aka back to school)

We’re in what my dad referred to as ‘the dog days of summer’.  I knew that was a phrase, I just didn’t realize it was one people actually used in the course of conversation.

It’s HOT here—and I don’t just mean the temps are hot—it’s sticky.  The days are shorter and it’s positively miserable to be outside.  I’ve stopped wearing 90% of my makeup because it just runs down my face the moment I step outside.  And after my lunch time workout it’s pointless.  I am so excited for the days to get cooler, the nights to get even cooler and for all things fall to begin.  I think Des Moines is probably doing this to me on purpose (like how I said “me” right there?!).  It’s getting me primed for my favorite season, which also happens to be the shortest.  In the back-to-school vein, I thought I’d post a couple of my favorite internet finds here.  I am known (mostly to myself) as a queen of the internets so I thought I’d share some with you guys.  Let’s get ready for fall!

  • Some new spectacles for fall. I’ve loved Warby Parker since I learned about them five or so years ago. Reasonably priced stylish glasses?! Yes, please. I’m surprised I’ve held out so long but I’ve been searching for the PERFECT crystal frame. I think these are them.
  • With the nights getting cooler in the fall, it’s the perfect time for bonfires! Since DSM has been beating us down with heat since about May, it’s made fire-lit evenings few and far between. What else goes better with fire than s’mores?! I submit for your snacks this recipe, and this one, and this one (cause I obviously have one thing on my mind).
  • I recently made my way back to Ohio for my summer trip home to spend time with my family (read: AVERY) and while I was home, I ate some amazing food. One was a dish that my mother made. We had a cookout for Avery’s dedication and my mom made panzanella and guys… this is a tried and true success for grilling family get-togethers. Also, *I* cooked one of the nights (what, what). Rach and I went to stay with my mom and I suggested this dish which I could pretty much eat every night for dinner. I’ve made some modifications of my own to fit it to my tastes and it’s a very forgiving dish. I aim to impress and mission: accomplished. There were also A&W root beer floats consumed that same evening…. and my mom beat us both at Phase10 but then what else is new.
  • I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of creating the perfect inspirational home office. These pretty things could go a long way toward creating that space.
  • THIS APP!  Guys, I am an app snob and pretty set in my ways…that is till Mailbox came along. I actually deactivated my Apple Mail apps on my phone and desktop in order to use this. It’s pretty much organized the chaos that is my mailbox at all times. You can snooze messages to come back, archive, delete and sort all with one swipe. Through the generosity of RDB and through my own usage, I have 4 bit coins available to anyone who wants Mailbox Beta for their desktop OS (it’s still in beta but I’ll hook you up)—otherwise you can download the app and start using it for FREE on your iPhone (or other smartphone).
  • Currently reading: this, this, and I’ve kind of been meaning to start this. The Goldfinch is amazing. How authors can basically take the everydays of life and make them so emotional and engaging is beyond me. I’m definitely feeling all the feels in this book. I had to take a small break cause I’m at that point where I want to kind of draw it out because I want to be able to be a part of that world just a little longer.

Oh, and this year I joined a Fantasy Football league at work. I think it’s going to change the way I watch football this year and I’m pretty excited about that. I hope you guys liked this post of some of my favorite finds.

a modern question

Guys.  I’m going to ask you a question that isn’t original at all.

“Why is it so expensive to eat healthy?”

Let me start backward and work forward.  When I was thinking about what to write this week, I actually considered writing about my struggle to determine if I should become a vegetarian again.  But then I thought more big picture.  You see, I was driving down the highway this week, like I do, and (I promise I’m not going to get all soap-boxy on you and I’m most certainly not going to get graphic) I passed a pickup truck pulling a trailer of pigs.  These pigs looked pretty jammed in there and normally I like to play ignorant and look away from livestock trailers but I saw their little pig noses poking out, so I looked.  This is something that I’m entirely too soft to handle—this “seeing” where my food comes from.  In my own personal protest about the pigs (who I liked to imagine were going to a farm…) I pulled the sausage off my breakfast sandwich and threw it away.  But that doesn’t mean there’s one less pig to sacrifice for my sausage.  For this reason, I was a vegetarian for five years; I believe in animal rights.  Not crazy PETA style but I don’t believe the way we get our meat isn’t the way we’re meant to get our meat.  I bought from Whole Foods, my friends and family bought only farm-raised holiday meats and I bought local where I could when I was transitioning out of my vegetarianism.  That became costly for everyone and eventually I just turned a blind eye and began consuming restaurant burgers and steaks.  Flash forward to present day—I live in the midwest; the breadbasket of America; the Pork capital of the world; Omaha Steaks are my neighbor.  If there’s anywhere I could be a locavore, it’s here.

That brings me to my bigger picture.  While there’s an outstanding farmer’s market on Saturday, I can only buy so much produce to avoid it rotting on my counters.  As much as I try to shame it, the convenience factor still gets me from time to time.  I just don’t have the energy to make food for the week or even every night.  And, as it turns out, eating pre-made stuff or take-out… not all that healthy.  Unfortunately, the reality of this amazing world we live in is that it’s more cost effective to get a Quarter Pounder w/Cheese, french fries and a large Coke than it is to go out, buy fresh ingredients, and make a meal at home.  I think Mark Bittman (disclosure: love him) said it best: just eat real food.  I guess that means, for the everyman, more trips to the grocery, more planning ahead of time, more skipping of the convenience factor.

That’s probably the *only* thing keeping me off the vegetarian bandwagon.  While I’m passionate about what happens to those sweet pigs, it’s crazy expensive right now to buy the meat I want to buy to ease my conscience.  Simply removing it from my plate means more pasta and that’s no good for my waistline.  Should I resign myself to the fact that even a simple diet of fruits and veggies are going to cost me?

I’m still working out this vegetarian thing and I’m still trying to do the best I can to eat healthy on a budget.  That’ll probably be the case until I can afford to grow my own food or buy half a humanely-raised cow or pig.  It’s all a work in progress, as am I, but it’s hard when society as a whole makes it easier to eat food with poor nutrition quality (I’m looking at you Hostess Fruit Pies for breakfast) vs. the healthy stuff (oatmeal, eggs) that keeps me going throughout the day.  Finally, as Mark Bittman implores, I’ll do my best to “eat real food”.

ioway

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look at that sky – majesty

 

There are a lot of things that Ohio and Iowa have in common.  For example: four seasons in both states, the landscape isn’t vastly different (vastly being the keyword), we’re both considered Midwestern states (which I didn’t know till I moved here); in a nutshell, it’s not a total culture shock to move from Ohio to Iowa.

Back in another blogging life, before I left my home state, I wrote a little homage to Ohio which some of you may remember.  I wasn’t sure what to expect moving to Iowa but here I am.  I am happy to confess that all my preconceived notions were totally wrong.  Turns out there is more here than pigs and cows and corn; there is a great little music scene if you’re patient enough to wait for it to come; there are wonderful places to roam and big cities within driving distance.  My job has blessed me immeasurably by indulging my traveling heart so I think I’m now qualified enough to write a post about the differences between Iowa and Ohio.

The first and most obvious difference is how kind people are here.  It was a lesson I learned after one of my first trips to Hy-Vee.  Everyone there said hello, made eye contact, smiled… it was really weird.  I chalked it up to the liberation of being completely anonymous but it persisted everywhere I went: at the gas station, at Target, driving down the road (people wave a lot in rural Iowa)—Iowa kindness was rampant and it changed me.  I became Iowa Ryan and Iowa Ryan is personable and will ask you about your 150 head of cattle, your dog, your sister’s dog, your daughter’s goats and I like that people are willing to share their stories with me.

There was also a learning curve with some minor things.  Here, instead of asking “would you like a bag for that?” people ask “you want a sack?”  Sack.  At first I replied, “yeah, I’ll take a bag” but it wore off when I realized “sack” is much more fun.  Plus, I blend in when I use the local lingo.  Another word that was met with a quizzical brow was my usage of “expressway”.  I don’t know if that’s a Ryan-thing or an Ohio-thing but in my house/family/network of peeps we always called all the highways “expressway” whether it was 76, 480, 71 or even 80 (“the turnpike” sometimes).  Here, Iowans use the correct highway, “I was eastbound on I-235…”.  Speaking of, people here use cardinal directions.  It seems like everyone has an inner GPS and they know what’s the north side of the street or the east building so it forced me to learn pretty quickly that my former method of taking directions just wouldn’t suffice.

While there are still pretty much all the same landscape elements in Ohio and Iowa, there are far fewer trees here.  I remember my old commute to the office when I lived in Ohio, both sides of the expressway were lined with forests of trees.  Here, it’s fields as far as your eye can see.  It’s almost like the sky touches the grass.  There are rolling hills, more corn fields than you could ask for, farm animals and wind turbines for miles.  The landscape here truly is something special.  Last week I was lucky enough to find my version (so far) of heaven on Earth.  It’s called Corning, Iowa.  There was dirt road after dirt road where no one would pass by and when I watched some calves run and play along the banks of a pond I knew in my heart that being here has been so right.  I never anticipated running away from home and ending up so far away but I am convinced that this is my kind of place.

Corning, Iowa

Corning, Iowa

I’ve become a better person for being an Iowa transplant.  The other day, my friend Kelly told me that I know Des Moines in my year and a half here better than she does having been here longer.  I learned everything I know from a fella that loves his city and I honestly think that makes all the difference.  I never gave Cleveland that same respect until I left.  This place is just magic to me.  I love and learn from the differences in my two homes.  So when/if you come to Iowa, prepare to go back home just a little bit changed.

avery.

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Tomorrow will be two weeks since my niece, Avery Jo, was born.  I started to write the story of her birth on the plane ride to Cleveland but I decided that it might be better to get it down in cyberspace—after all, the internets are forever.

The Story

From the time my sister found out she was pregnant, I’ve been telling everyone with ears how excited I am about being an auntie.  About a week before the birth, my sister emailed the family their birth plan.  My portion of the birth plan was hard to actually plan for.  The plan was this: my sister wanted to labor as long as possible at home before going to the hospital, so she’d text me when she knew she was in labor.  Hopefully she’d labor long enough for me to get on a plane and get to Cleveland so I could be at the hospital.  It made me really uncomfortable cause this plan hinged on the baby being ready—so she could be on time, early or late… the whole month of February belonged to my sister and the baby.

After a fitful night of sleep on February 4th, I awoke to a text around 5:15 am:

“Morning sister!!!”

“You may want to pack a bag, and look at flights.”

“I’m timing my contractions…”

My response:

“Seriously?!”

Rachel had been having contractions since midnight.

Six hours later, I had a bag packed and was on a flight to Cleveland.  The weather in Des Moines had other plans… we sat on the runway for an extra 30 minutes while the plane was being de-iced.  I had foolishly booked my connecting flight through Chicago O’Hare which I’ve had mixed luck with in the past.  I joked pre-labor about Home Alone-ing it through O’Hare (you guys know, when they overslept and had to sprint through the airport) and all kidding aside, that’s exactly what I had to do.  The 30 minute delay made me miss loading on my connection so I ran through the airport, suitcase behind me.  The gate agent had to open the closed door for me to get on the plane.  I’m so lucky I made it because there was a snowstorm already happening in Des Moines and it was headed to Chicago.  I don’t know if I’d have been able to get another flight if I had missed my connection.

I pulled into Rachel and Adam’s driveway just as they were loading up to go to the hospital.  My mom told me later that Rachel waited for me.  She was 8 cm dilated when we got to the hospital but there was still a long night ahead of us.  This is the part where I have to stop and tell you that my sister was a warrior.  Their birth plan included no “drugs” of any kind, no constant monitoring, and the ability to get up and move around if she wanted to.  She had the birth she wanted and she was incredible.  The whole experience was so special because there was nothing but love in the room.  Rachel was kind, patient, even apologetic at times but most of all she was herself.  She pushed for three hours and never once said she wanted to give up.  She was ready to meet their little girl and she worked hard.

Avery was born at 2 am on February 5th in the middle of a snowstorm to two of the most loving people I’ll ever know.  She made a quiet entrance and had quite the little cone-head.  I know I’m a little biased but she is perfect.  The whole experience, from that first text to seeing Avery’s little body flopped up on my sister’s chest, was so far beyond anything I could have expected.  I never understood the magic of birth and babies but I do now.  There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her; I love her more than I thought I could and all that happened in one breath.

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I stayed for a week.  My mom, sister, brother in law, Avery and I were all holed up in the house together for the first time in ever.  We cooked together, ate together, laughed together and made some new memories as a family.  I got to see my mom as a grandma and my dad as a grandpa (his teary eyed response to holding her was beautiful).  I stayed up with Avery at night so my sister could get rest.  I changed diapers and helped during feeding times.  I sucked in as much of that little girl as I could before I had to leave.  My emotions are still very raw even two weeks later.  I’ve never cried leaving Cleveland but I did when I left them.

I couldn’t really be told what this would mean to me, like all good things in life.  I had expectations but it was nothing short of the biggest moment I’ve been a part of.  More than anything, I feel overwhelmed by the hope and excitement that comes with new life.  It took 9 months and an instant.

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