Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Graduation :: Let Me Tell You How Fast Time Goes By

Want to know how fast 13 years of school for your oldest child will feel?

Probably about as fast as you can flip through these pictures.

Seriously, it's THAT fast. CRY!

Advice for You :: I thought that waiting a week after graduation would take the sting out of writing this post, but I was wrong.

Something horrible has happened - I blinked and my sweet little girl has grown into a beautiful young woman. I feel like I've slept through it - how did this happen already?

Man, I love her!

Well, she did it. All of my denial and begging for her to just spend one more year in high school didn't help - she graduated.

I didn't cry at all leading up to the day. I didn't cry when she left for prom. I didn't cry when she shared her legacy video.

I didn't cry on her last day of school. I didn't cry when we got to graduation and girlfriend bolted before I could get a picture. 

But as soon as they hit play on Pomp and Circumstance the tears started and they haven't stopped. 

I looked down on her from my seat and remembered how I felt during the Fall of her eighth-grade year when the school has us plan the courses she would take in high school to prepare her for college. 

It seems I've lived in a constant state of whiplash since this girl turned five. Always asking, "How did this happen?". 

I am grateful for dear friends who snapped pictures of the Livestream and from their seats on the other side of the stadium because Shelby didn't give her cheering section a single wave of smile {time goes by, but some things never change!}. 

Speaking of cheering section, the actual graduation was much less stressful than I had planned. When 850+ kids graduate at one time it can be chaos, but It was good. We found great seats with an unobstructed view of our graduate. 

The crowd trickled in slowly which made getting my parents to our seats easier. Since my father is now on continuous oxygen he had a separate entry and had to take the elevator instead of the stairs. We were unsure if we would see them during the actual ceremony. 

My ex-husband was also able to find us and sat with us during the ceremony which was really good. Co-parenting {or our version on long distance co-parenting} is not always easy. I am glad he and Shelby's step-mother were able to be there.  

I found myself a little sad thinking about how when we took her to her first day of kindergarten we didn't see what was to come and how the day she graduated we would take separate pictures with her. God had many different plans for our lives and I am pretty happy with God's plan. 

I am pretty stinking proud of my girl! I look forward to seeing what life has planned for her. 

Shelby's final report card slid into my mailbox as I was finishing this post - now that's some mean timing! I'm off to find my box of tissues! 

Monday, June 10, 2019

The End of Another School Year {But this One is Different!}

It feels as if the months have flown, I've blinked and it's now June! The girls' school year end last week just as quickly and busy as it began.


Morgan had such a great kindergarten year! She was able to learn so much and excelled at everything that was placed in front of here. The size of her heart showed as she walked into new friendships. 

Her sticker quote pretty much sums up her year and is so Morgan! I attribute so much of Morgan's success to her AMAZING Kindergarten teacher. We were very lucky this year to have the same Kindergarten teacher that Bekah had last year. She is the best teacher and now if officially part of life forever! I have prayed that she would move into teaching 1st or 2nd grade. 


It was a good school year for Bekah. She did let herself relax {some} and really tried to focus on own learning instead of what others in her class were doing. I am so proud of how hard she works and how much she has learned this year.

Bekah's teacher was amazing, especially for her first year. Bekah adores her and thinks she's just the coolest person in the world.

Okay, so here comes the difference that I don't think I have fully accepted.


Shelby had her last day of school...her very last day {as a non-adult} of school. Senior year was AMAZING and she also excelled while continuing to work. She fell in love with forensic science and now is on the path to enter into the criminal justice field {pray for me}. 

I will have a complete post about graduation and how fast these 12 years have flown by soon. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

10 Years

10 years.

It's hard because my life has changed so much in 10 years. I am no longer lost in shame, self-medicating with Jack Daniels. I am older, wiser and I have quite a few more grey hairs {and lbs - just be honest}.

Yet, I can still remember our last phone call. He was walking across campus and I was cleaning my kitchen. If I think long enough, I still hear his voice. Life was so good at that moment, he was healthy, he was well, he laughed {and loved to make me stress out and then laugh when I worried about him}.

I think back fondly of the impact we had on each others' lives, especially during that last year.  James was my go-to for all questions about the way guys acted. He was always the first to say, "You deserve better". And I was his safe voice {or text} when the nights were hard. Oh, how I wish we would have discovered this in each other 15 years earlier - we would have had a powerhouse friendship and so much less teenage angst. Actually, from what I recall we both always had a level of utmost respect for each other - a characteristic present for most friends whose older siblings were close friends with my older sister. In James' case, it was multiplied by the heartache that rippled across our friend group when George (his brother) passed so young.

So Young.

I still have gut stabbing grief if I sit too long in the reality of the events that occurred ten years ago today. I drift into the what could have been for James and I mourn the life he could have today. I question God's plan and ask, in anger, why He had to bring us together that last year.

Then I exhale and remember how thankful I am for those moments - those phone calls across miles of land and water.

Ten years doesn't make the reality less. It still leaves me wishing for another course of events for James on that night. It leaves me in tears because I know this was a terrible, terrible mistake that he would take back in a mere second. And I am reminded of his heart, the size and depth of his personality and how I loved that all so much. And I thank God, again, for James' life and Gods' plan to intertwine our paths for goodness.

Click Here to Read All the Posts I've Written about James {10 years worth}

Friday, February 15, 2019

Book Grief, but So Worth It

I took the morning off work {a much needed mental health break} to finish reading The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty and now have some serious book grief happening.

Have you ever experienced Book Grief?

Maybe I should define it as "book blues", the feeling of pure sadness when you read the final page of a really good book. This causes grief because you've gotten so caught up in the characters' lives that you are actually sad that your time with them is now over.

This grief may hit me harder than most because I spent so many years not know that books could do this to your soul. I didn't read as I child. I, honestly, never finished reading a chapter book until I was 30. My mind wouldn't allow me to concentrate long enough to get through a chapter. I always wanted to experience the feeling of being lost in a book and checked out so many novels through my elementary and middle school years, but always returned them unread. Oh, how I wish my diagnosis (Attention Deficit Disorder) had taken place so many years sooner. For many years I used my diagnosis as a crutch thinking that I couldn't read unless I was feeling the full power of my medication, but let me tell you Liane Moriarty has proven that theory so wrong!

The Hypnotist's Love Story is the fourth book for Moriarty's that I have become obsessed over and also the fourth that I have felt such horrible sadness when I read the last page. I know you can read books for a second time, Matt does it all the time, but I don't believe it will be the same. The characters are already fully developed in my mind. If you have read anything by her you know how that happens - she is an amazing writer with an even more amazing ability to tell stories from multiple perspectives.

So, take this post as a definite Friday Favorite and if you've never taken any of my other suggestions seriously, now is the time to start! Seriously! You have to do this favor for yourself.  You have to go {today} and get one of her books!

Now, you could start where I did with Big Little Lies. My friend, Emily, suggested I read it during a discussion about how our other friend marathoned through the HBO show {my mother did the same thing}. I am so glad I chose the read the book first {a lesson I learned from the Harry Potter series - and Hunger Games - and The Help} because, DANG, there is no way I would have read the book after watching the second episode {that I couldn't finish} of the Big Little Lies on HBO. No judgment on anyone who did watch it and loved it, but my inner Church Lady freaked out. I mean, seriously, I knew how Celeste and Perry "made up" in the book.  I have children - I know how that all works, but I seriously was not expecting to see that much of Nicole Kidman. I had to stop watching because I honestly couldn't hear the dialogue over Church Lady's rant about how "they always have to smut up simple loving things. It was perfect in the book, but this is just, well, not appropriate". Pray for Matt, he has to live with Church Lady more than he would like. I try to contain her, but she is a force to be reckoned with.

Back to the books! Now, I read Big Little Lies (486 pages) in the course of a weekend. Then, I ran back to Target (not the most economical place to purchase books) and grabbed The Husband's Secret. That one took a bit more time for character development, but again I got sucked in and mourned HARD afterward. The plot twists in both are AMAZING!

What Alice Forget was quickly purchased to get over my grief of finishing The Husband's Secret and I launched into a book that really did make me think. Of course, I can't find my copy of it - I probably lent it to someone. I hope they are reading it and loving it as much as I did. It's not my intention to ruin the sorry for you, but I have to ask, what would you do if you woke up one morning to realize ten years had passed and everything in your life had changed? It was so thought-provoking and, again, I mourned after that last page was read.

Then, The Hypnotist's Love Story, man, it's good. If you read it {or have read it} you will understand why I had a serious connection to this book and, no, it was not a connection I had to the stalker. Honestly, though, I did ask myself, "does driving by that guy's house every day on my way to college  freshman year count as stalking?" Yikes. Maybe it wasn't EVERY day.

Oh, Moriarty's use of the third-person and first-person perspective for these characters was, well, amazing {I have no other word to describe it - I might need to read a thesaurus next}. I finished the book an hour before writing this post and as I type I am living on the high of the story, but mark my words by this evening I will be so depressed that it's over.

I have just become a complete junky for her writing and I am actually contemplating which books in my library would get me the most money at Half Priced Books so I can go buy another one. I would have already purchased her newest book, Nine Perfect Strangers, but they didn't have it paperback at Target. That's the other thing about these books, the feel of the paperbacks - the ability to get so engrossed that I roll the pages back in my hand - something else Matt can't stand about the way I read books {he thinks folding corners is horrible and that it's uber sinful for me to write in a book}.

Again, do yourself a favor and take my {over 1,000 word} recommendation seriously. Get yourself one of Liane's book. I promise you will not regret reading any of them!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Talented People and A Special Announcement - Friday Favorites

I haven't done a Friday Favorites in a couple of years, I think, but I have some awesome things to share with you!


Now don't judge me, but I didn't really care for the new Mary Poppins movie. It just took a long time, I felt, to get going and there were two scenes where I wasn't bored.  I love, love, love the original. As you remember I did throw Bekah a Mary Poppins theme party for her 6th birthday.   The littles loved the move and guess that's what counts, right?

I am saying all of this because I love Variety's Actors on Actors YouTube Videos and this one with Emily Blunt and Hugh Jackman is my absolute favorite!


Morgan mastered all her sight words and got into the Sight Words Club one day this week. Then, she mastered her letters and numbers which got her into that club as well.  I am so proud of her! She was so proud of herself, too! 


Now, something I've been excited about since before Christmas, but was unable to share! 

Yes, I was selected to be a contributor for Houston Moms Blog! Taking this step was something that I seriously debated about for maybe four years and this year I got up the nerve to submit my application. 

Make sure you follow Houston Moms Blog because I will be there starting in February!

Also, follow me on Instagram {https://www.instagram.com/danaraeblog/} to see behind the scenes of our photo shoot on Sunday, January 13th! 

And, today, I am linking up this Friday Favorites post with Andrea at Momfessionals, with Ericka at A Little Bit of Everything, and with Narci at Grace and Love

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Highlight of Her Winter Break

During our Christmas break, my family did pretty close to nothing.  My mom came into and we had our Royal love tank filled at the Museum of Fine Arts experiencing the Tudors to Windsor exhibit.

I am so in love with this painting! I hoped they had it in a postcard or print, but they didn't. 

Other than that we put together four puzzles and watched three seasons of the Great British Bake Off. I wish I could say, "it was exactly as I had dreamed", but, honestly, I sat in mom guilt a majority of the time.

I really need traditions. 

Should we go somewhere? Do something? Should I come up with a group craft? 

All they've done is watch tv...I'm a great mom. 

Morgan's teacher gave her a packet of things to complete during the break and one of the assignments was to write about the highlight of her winter break.

I just knew the highlight would be her new bike or her American Girl things from Grammy, so I was shocked when said, "Spending time with my family".  Then, my heart melted.

There we are all festive and Christmas-y {color was added later}. I am cooking behind the kitchen counter.  I am not sure what is happening with Matt {he's the one with the spikey hair in the lower right}. Check out that Christmas tree - she had zero help and did it all in pen!

Then take a look at the girl front and center - that's Morgan!

She's meditating which is something that she is completely into these days. I looked over during church a few weeks ago to see her with her elbows on her knees and her palms up, humming during the sermon like something the pastor {not her grandad} was saying was severely stressing her out. I guess she needed to chill for a moment.

I love this memory. I love her heart. And I kind of really love that she was meditating!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

2019 - Being Present

While 2018 was a year where I really tuned into why I do the things I do, it really brought to light many instances where my coping was creeping into unhealthy grounds. When I walk into a stressful season, either being overwhelmed by my workload or feeling the pressure of expectations that I place on myself, my first instinct is to organize.

If my house wasn’t such a mess then I could feel more in control, but I don’t have time to steam clean my tile floor because, well, I need to plan out the next month of work. I can’t sit and write this email for work because all I am thinking about is the dog hair that is accumulating near my baseboards.

I can’t have coffee with her because I am so overwhelmed with my life. If I miss two hours of work to have lunch with her then I will need to work until 10 pm tonight because, well, I really have to get all this stuff done and it’s not getting done.

If I just run and get the girls from school then they can play Mario Cart while I finish work, then I guess we are having sandwiches for dinner maybe lunchables. I really need to spend time cleaning and organizing to help with this overwhelmed feeling instead of going out with my husband.

Ugh, everyone wants something from me!

The last sentence holds the most truth than any of the others. God showed me this at 3 am while I was up borrowing troubles from tomorrow (something that is so typical of me) in the middle of last month.

Yes, everyone wants something from me. They want me to be present.

1. (of a person) in a particular place.
2. existing or occurring now.

My family, my friends, my Lord doesn’t care about that state of my laundry or that my linen closet door won’t shut. They don’t even care if I am scattered and can’t put two sentences together they just want me to be there. They love me for me, but they want ME!

So, in 2019 I am committing to Being Present.

This will take some organizing and scheduling, but in a good way.

Rabbit Hole: If you are an enneagram freak like I am then you have to follow enneagram & Coffee on Instagram. She (or he, but I am thinking she) posted New Year's Resolutions based on enneagram type. Mine was Create Daily Structure. Now if that is not true and I don’t know what is, I embody everything about being a type 4 (with a 3 wing)

So, what does being present look like for me?

Being Present for My Husband

Being present for Matt means that we take more walks. We have more talks sitting close to each other on the sofa a night. It means having weekly meetings to discuss how we can support each other. We make date night a priority and, if we have to, make out every once in a while.

In order for these things to happen, we have to turn off the computers, put down our phones and step away from the video games. We have to leave the workday behind and not get caught in gripe sessions about our employment.

Being Present for My Girls

Being present for Shelby, Bekah and Morgan means that we play more games (that don’t require a screen). We have more dinners at the kitchen table. It means we read more books together and we say prayers with each other before bed each night. It means that I actively engage in sight word practicing and help Morgan understand that she can’t capitalize every other letter of her name even though it’s super fancy. It’s sitting on Shelby’s bed having conversations about her life, it’s getting the Tea! It means planning what her next year will look like, what her plans after high school will be. It means that I will spend Saturday mornings watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (even if I haven’t finished the book) with Bekah.

In order for these things to happen, I have to commit to a strict work schedule. When the girls are in our house (before 9 am and after 4 pm Monday thru Friday) then I am not at my desk, I am not in scheduled meetings and I am not taking phone calls. If something needs to be handled I will address it after the girls are in bed. I have to break ties with my iphone. That little time sucker will be docked upstairs on my charger and if someone calls my handy dandy watch will let me know. I don’t need to be tempted to check my email or get lost in Instagram Stories. These changes bring changes for my girls as well, they will have to endure the trauma of their screen time being limited. Yep, no more “Can I get on the ipad?” as soon as their backpacks hit the entryway floor.

Time is an evil, evil thing that takes you from having young children to an adult and two teenagers before you can scream, “Slow DOWN!”

Being Present for My Friends.

Being present for my friends means that I say yes more times than I say no to offers for lunch or coffee. It means that I am actually doing the asking for once, initiating the playdate, saying let’s meet. It means that our conversations are more about them, their lives, their struggles and less about me unloading my current drama onto them. It means that Matt and I host more dinners in our home, that we re-engage in a bible community. It means that I cultivate new friendships and nourish my current ones.

In order for these things to happen, I have to believe that the people God has put into my life, my tribe that he’s blessed me with are far more important than my work. These are individuals that have walked with me through my lows and have celebrated the hell out of my highs. I have to let people in (but not for just the drama), I have to allow new friendships to grow and not use “busy” as an excuse.

Being Present with the Lord

No disrespect intended by putting the Lord fourth, but it’s quite apropos seeing as how being present with Him means that I put him first. It means that I start each day with time in prayer. It means that I open my bible and actually read the words. It means that I seek out opportunities to have conversations about my faith and that I express my faith. Without sounding so cliche it mean that I let His light shine through each of my days. I participate in conversations about faith with my children.

In order for these things to happen, I have to spend time in the silence that only happens before my house wakes up. Yep, I need get out of my nice warm bed earlier each day. I have to avoid getting trapped on social media first thing each morning. I pretty much need to form some new habits.

Being Present for Myself

Being present for myself means I do more of what I am doing right now, writing. It doesn’t mean I will finish the manuscript in 2019, but it does mean that I will process my feeling through my writing instead of allowing them to churn inside of me. It means that I will try my best to give myself grace, to speak kindly to myself and attempt to see myself as others see me. It means that I will take the five minutes each night to remove my makeup and wash my face. It means that I will practice healthy stress management, that I will hear positive things about myself louder than the negatives. It means that I will take measures to not be awake at 3 am. It means that I will allow myself the structure of a good plan (I even have a new planner!), but I will take some deep breaths when that plan doesn’t fall into place exactly like I hoped. It means that if I blow all of my goals by February that I will still love myself and see myself as God see me - not a hot mess, but his amazing child.