Magical Moments

Magical Moments

Our morning was filled with magical moments as we joined Santa to deliver gifts to the beautiful kids at ARC Broward.  This is my second year leading the initiative with my incredible partner in crime MK.  Consequently, it was also my second time attending the gift delivery.  Last year,  the event blew my away.  When I left last year’s event my heart was full after watching these kids and their parents relish their moment with Santa and their gifts.  I couldn’t wait to go back!

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This year ARC Broward’s preschool is under new leadership, so we’ve been working with new people.  Can I just tell you how amazing these people are?  They do an incredible job educating, advocating and creating futures for people with disabilities.  When we first arrived,  Shawn ushered us into a room where ARC’s Culinary program had catered in breakfast.  Their culinary program provides post high school education via a certificate to adults with disabilities.  The food was absolutely amazing!

As we finished our amazing breakfast, ARC’s high school class came into the room to visit us.  They performed a couple of songs and posed for pictures with all of us and Santa.  It was magical.  These high schoolers had incredible energy and were filled with joy. ARC’s commitment to these teens and young adults is to give them the skillset to find a job they want in the community.  Indeed, it’s all about creating opportunities for these students to excel.

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Afterwards we headed over to the preschool to start handing out the gifts. I struggle to words that adequately describe how beautiful and amazing it is to watch these kids receive their gifts and see Santa.  While some were afraid to sit on Santa’s lap, many were excited beyond belief.  They bounded with joy to get their presents and see Santa.  Their innocence, excitement, happiness and gratitude were overwhelming. It’s hard to watch without getting misty.

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I was so excited to buy for my angels after having met them both last year.  These two girls are incredibly sweet and full of energy.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to give one of my angels her gift today.   Moreover, I was able to meet her mom (who’s incredible) and chat with her for a bit.  Many times we donate to charities or toy drives and don’t have the luxury of getting to witness the child receiving the gift. I can tell you that there is nothing better than watching a child receive that gift.

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It’s no wonder that we left today’s event with a full heart and complete joy.  There’s something beyond gratifying in making someone’s world a little better.  As we go on our journey around the sun, it is easy for us to get stuck in the rat race.  We don’t have to be stuck!  We can live our legend, even if we’re punching the clock at a 9 to 5.  Sure we’re not crossing the Sahara looking for an alechemist, but we can find ways to fee our soul.  For me, it’s paying it forward via Angel Tree or raising funds an awareness for pancreatic cancer research.  It doesn’t have to be grandiose to be magical.  It would be a small, purple pony that you give to a little sister who didn’t think she’d be getting a gift.  Sometimes it’s all about the small things.

Tonight’s song performed by U2 is “Christmas.”

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Riches of Inheritance

Riches of Inheritance

Oh the riches of inheritance! I know that many people get caught up in will, estates and tax planning, but the real gems of inheritance aren’t always subject to estate taxes.  As a matter of fact, one of our most prized inherited items is in the featured photo.  My hubby received my mother-in-law’s Suomi hockey jersey bearing the number 24 and her maiden name Ketola shortly after her passing. I’ve had the honor of wearing it to games and during parent kid games.  It gives me great pride and a feeling of connection when any of us wear it.

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As a child, my favorite Christmas memories were making cookies with my mom, brothers and grandma.  My mom always made molasses cookies with us, which is a recipe passed down from her dad’s family.  Now that I have kids of my own, we make these treasured molasses Christmas every year.  Truthfully, I think the kids prefer to bake them with Grandma Dawn, but I’ll gladly take second place to my mom.

Sometimes it’s not a treasured item or recipe that we inherit, sometime’s it’s pride in one’s heritage.  Both of my grandfather’s families immigrated to the United States from Norway.  Additionally, My grandfathers were  very proud of their Norwegian heritage.  This pride is definitely my brothers and I inherited from my mom, my dad and my grandparents.  Consequently, our trip as a family to  Norway where we saw our family farms and land was of monumental importance to all of us.  It was a true connection to our heritage, our ancestors and to each other as a family.

My mother-in-law was 100% Finnish whose parents immigrated to the US from Finland.  She was, as evidenced by the Suomi jersey, extremely proud of her Finnish heritage.  My boys are very proud of their Finnish and Norwegian heritage.  We’ve already been to Norway to see my family’s origin.  Our plan is to explore Finland to see where my MIL’s family came from.  Incidentally,  if my kid’s spend a year studying abroad in Norway or Finland, I wouldn’t be surprised.

We’ve been given a lot of inherited gifts.   It might be tokens and reminders of those who’ve passed, pride in our heritage, character traits, or even family recipes.  Lastly, inheritance isn’t all about money, but rather the intangible gifts passed down from generation to generation.

Tonight’s song is Celine Dion’s amazing rendition of “O Holy Night.”

Breakfast With Santa

Breakfast With Santa

Today was our annual Breakfast with Santa at work.  I know what you may be thinking.  We’re far too old to be eating with Santa, but you’d be wrong!  Importantly, our annual breakfast is the culmination of our Angel Tree drive. In fact, this year we adopted 363 angels for Christmas!

Our Angels come courtesy of ARC Broward, which is an incredible organization that provides people with disabilities and other life challenges the opportunity to fulfill their potential.  Raising children in modern times is incredibly expensive.  Unfortunately, for parents of special needs children, the costs can be exponentially higher, which is where we come in.

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This event started over seven years ago when my CRO and his wife adopted their daughter’s classroom having seen the need first hand.  Thankfully, my CRO shared this opportunity with our military team and we took up the challenge.  Excitedly, this is my second year leading the event with my partner in crime MK.  By comparison to years past, our team is bigger, more diverse and incredible this year.  We made a concerted effort to expand the team outside of our unit, so it would encompass representation from units across the company.

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First, we started off our morning staging the gifts downstairs.  As a result, our employees could get their pictures taken in front of the gifts with Santa.  The sight was beyond impressive with gifts for over 300 people including 20 bikes staged in reception! What struck me as I looked at the gifts, was the amazing generosity of my colleagues.  In that moment, I felt truly blessed and proud.  Blessed and proud to be a part of an organization where community involvement and philanthropy are prized and encouraged.

Importantly, current employee engagement theory has shown that engaged employees happier and more productive.  Since I had the pleasure of taking the pictures with Santa, I got to witness our employees reaction to the event first hand. Without fail, our collective generosity blew away my colleagues.  Time and after time, people made comments about how awesome it is to work with such great people and at a great place.  Undoubtedly, for me, witnessing both their pride and their joy was a profoundly rewarding experience.  As a result, I have no doubt that today’s event was an employee engagement win!

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Afterwards, I headed back up to meetings.  Meanwhile, the team loaded the gifts up for delivery.  I simply cannot wait to go hand out the gifts later this week.  Last year, it was such an amazing, life affirming experience.  Unquestionably, the joy on the children’s face coupled with the gratitude of the teachers and parents is indescribable.  Meanwhile I’m filled with the joy and gratitude for today’s experience.

Tonight’s song performed by  music legends David Bowie and Bing Crosby   is “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.” 

A Sartorial Emergency

A Sartorial Emergency

This morning’s cooler than normal temps, led to a sartorial emergency as I struggled to find my black leggings.  After all, how could I rock a great flannel shirt dress without leggings in these temps?  Admittedly, getting out of bed this morning was tough since it was so cold.  For a moment, it brought me back to when we lived in Minny and would have to get out of bed in the sub zero weather.  I can’t tell you how happy I am to not have to deal with those temperatures on the regular anymore.

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Fortunately, after a hurried and hurricane like search, I found my coveted black leggings.  As a Minnesotan, even though I’ve been in Florida 12 years now, I can’t bring myself to wear a jacket when temps are in the 50s.  Years ago, although not too many, when I was a kid we’d wear shorts as soon as the temperature hit the 40s and 50s again.  Truly, there would be no jacket in sight (sorry mom.)  Now, it’s bitter cold.  Honestly, a jacket would have wrecked the elegance of the outfit anyway. download (10)

In a twist of irony, now that the mercury has dropped into the 50s, the stores here have turned on the heat.  Consequently, you no longer need a sweater or jacket to shop at Target.  Rather, you’re better off shopping in a tank top and shorts.  It was downright balmy in Target tonight.  Unfortunately, the forced air heat does nothing for the skin, but I can’t complain too much since we only have like 5 cold days every year.

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Tomorrow we will be back in the low 70s (at least for the day), so dressing won’t be so complicated.  It’s always a sartorial emergency finding an outfit right for both the  indoor and outdoor climates.  Excitingly, we’re having our Breakfast with Santa tomorrow where we thank all of our colleagues that participated in our annual Angel Tree Toy drive.   This event is by far one of my favorite events of the year.  Unquestionably, every year I am blown away by the generosity of my co-workers. They’re truly amazing people.  Lastly, I had hope to share the pictures of Santa with you, but for some reason PetCo doesn’t like my email address.  Hopefully, I can get them before the end of the week!

Tonight’s song is “Happy Xmas (War if Over)” performed by John Lennon.

Wintry Weekend

Wintry Weekend

Our wintry weekend was cool, quick and quite jolly thanks to our hockey family.  Last night, we headed over to Finland’s house for Goalielocks’ team party.  As expected, the party did not disappoint.  All of us had a marvelous and jolly time from start to finish.  Heck, we would have stayed later if the Mayor wasn’t obsessed with getting enough rest for his games today.

Wintry Weekend
Wintry Weekend

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The food was exquisite and unending.  We brought chili cheese dip and a baked brie.  Unfortunately, the hubby worked late, so we were about an hour late.  As I was getting dressed, our dog Maya stole the bake brie out of its pan and devoured it quickly.  Fortunately, she didn’t break my brie pan and it wasn’t cooked yet, so she didn’t burn herself.  As I waited for the Hubby, I headed up to Publix to buy another wheel of brie.

We brought beer, ciroc and LaCRoix as beverages to accompany our food selections. As always, Peach Ciroc mixed with Peach Pear LaCroix was a solid beverage choice.  This drink, which is both low calorie and low carb was truly magnificent.  The best part, however, was the lack of hangover this morning.  I’ll have to buy another bottle before our next party!

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Like I said, we could have stayed at the party all night.  These people are our family and time flies when you’re hanging out with them.  Unfortunately, the Mayor had games this morning, so we had to be somewhat responsible with our night.  I love that my Mayor is so diligent about getting enough sleep before he plays!

This morning’s game was pretty good.  We ended up winning 2-0, but could have easily been much 6-0.  Their goalie was on fire that game!  Unfortunately, as well as the morning game went, the evening game was disastrous.  The sin bin was busy including a visit from the Mayor.  Of course, as he entered the box, he plead his innocence.  Truth be told, the Mayor had the hit of the game.  Unfortunately, there’s no checking at peewee. Doh!

As we left the rink, Air Force One was taxiing off to take off from PBI.   We drove down Southern until we found a spot just North of the road to watch the jet take off.  My kid’s are aviation fanatics, so this a takeoff we simply couldn’t miss.  No sooner had we pulled over when Air Force One started barreling down the runway.  While Hubby and the Mayor videotaped it, I face-timed Goalielocks so he could watch it live.  When I tell you they’re into aviation, I cannot emphasize enough how much they love it.

Air Force One took of into the sunset.  It was a beautiful, resplendent sunset as the world’s most advanced jumbo jet climbed into the sky.  The Mayor was beyond thrilled to have watched the big, beautiful bird leave PBI.  Now we’re home trying to unthaw as we cook fajitas!  The air temperatures are only in the 50s here in South Florida, which by are standards is quite cold.  Consequently, unthawing from a day at the rink is a bit harder tonight!

Finally, I wanted to again share the link for a family that is in dire need of our support during an imaginably difficult time.  If you are able to, please consider helping this family.  Here is the link: Youcaring

Tonight’s song is “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” as performed by Michael Buble.

 

Winter's Arrival

Winter’s Arrival

As I left the gym this morning, it became clear that the morning’s storms were our prelude to winter’s arrival.  When I left my house this morning, the temperature was 78 and it was humid.  No sooner had I parked my car when the cold rain started.  I made my quickly from the parking lot to the gym trying to avoid the rain.  I was moderately successful in this endeavor.

Fortunately, thanks to a heart pounding circuit burn class, I wouldn’t be cold for long.  My heart was soon pumping and the cold rain had given way to sweat.  Amanda’s Circuit Burn class kicked my butt this morning.  Post-class I started getting cold as you could feel the temperature had dropped and I was wet with sweat.  My yoga teacher turned up the heat in the yoga room, which helped immensely.

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Afterwards, I headed to my car in the light, cold rain.  The temperature had fallen immensely, which is not something that happens often in Florida.  When I was growing up in Minnesota, it wasn’t unusual to have a wild swing in the temperature (think 15-60 degrees) in short order.  However, in South Florida, it is quite unusual.  I plopped into my car, exhausted from class, turned on the heat noticing the temperature had dropped from 78 to 63.  Full disclosure, a South Floridians definition of cold is much different than most other people’s.  I would also say that being wet from two hours of hard workouts didn’t help keep me warm either.

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Nevertheless, I headed to get coffee and get on with the rest of my day.  Both the Hubby and Jake are working today, so its just me, Goalielocks’ and the Mayor at home.  Consequently, we decided to take our girls (Maya and Athena) to go and see Santa Claus.  Maya, our older dog, is a bit socially awkward when it comes dealing with new dogs, which makes me nervous taking her out.   Athena loves everyone and everything and is very social with people and dogs alike.

Maya, our socially awkward beauty, definitely gave Santa a run for him money.  She didn’t want to sit and face the camera.  Athena would sit nicely for a bit and then a new dog would come in distracting her from the mission at hand.  Thankfully, both dogs and both children behaved beautifully at the store.  There were no meltdowns or accidents on our excursion to PetCo.

On the way back home, I stopped at the Starbucks for a latte, hot chocolate and a couple of puppacinos for the dogs.  This was our dogs first time enjoying a puppacino and enjoy they did.  They made short work of the cups of cream.  We’ll definitely be treating them to those again.  Now its time to get ready for Goalielocks’ team party!

Finally, I wanted to again share the link for a family that is in dire need of our support during an imaginably difficult time.  If you are able to, please consider helping this family.  Here is the link: Youcaring

Tonight’s song is “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin.  Thanks TW for the inspiration!

varnish

Varnish

When I think of varnish, I think of the stains and varnishes that litter my garage.  Fortunately, most are currently closed so the overwhelming odor of varnish isn’t present.  When my Hubby is working the garage with varnish or even outside, the scent is omnipresent and overwhelming.  A good varnish brings out the grains and uniqueness of each piece of wood without covering it up.  The Hubby does an exquisite job picking the right varnish for each project he does.  Consequently, the finished product is amazing.

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Like a fine piece of wood, the more varnish we put on, the more our true nature is highlighted.   I love this quote from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectation, “”No varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself.”  Meaning the you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.  In the end, one cannot hide their true nature indefinitely.  In the end, one’s true nature always reveals itself.

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Usually one’s true nature reveals itself when someone’s back is against the wall.  Conversely, other’s are full monty out in the open with their true nature.  Ebenezer Scrooge, from Dickens’ great novel A Christmas Carol, was unapologetically mean, inconsiderate, and a  scrooge.  He pulled no punches and operated without pretense.  Of course, in the end Ebenezer Scrooge found his heart and a moral compass, but that’s not always how these things work out. The question is, what would more varnish reveal about you?

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As we edge closer to Christmas, I look forward to watching some of my favorite Christmas movies and specials.  Who doesn’t love watching Rudolph and Frosty this time of year?  Of course, there are several great move versions of A Christmas Carol.  One of my favorite versions is A Muppet Christmas Carol.  Whether or not you have kids, this move is enjoyable and well done.  Plus, the Dickens’ quote provided the perfect opportunity to plug a Muppet’s movie that I’ve loved since childhood.  What could be better?

Lastly, I wrote briefly about a mother’s worst nightmare last night.  Tonight this family is in need of our support during an imaginably difficult time.  If you are able to, please consider helping this family.  Here is the link: Youcaring

Tonight’s song is “Christmas Eve/Sarejevo” performed by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

 

 

Gut punch

Gut Punch

Today was one of those days that was akin to a gut punch.  The kind of day that brings you sorrow, angst, sadness, and grief. As if we haven’t already been here enough in 2017… Ugh.  This year has been tough and the last 24 hours indicative of its toughness. Unfortunately, my SIL lost her mother last night.  This is one of those times its tough to be here because we’re not able, as a family, to be there for her, my bro and their kids.  Right now all of us wish we were there with them.

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Meanwhile, in another corner, a mother’s worst nightmare is playing out in a horrific way and we’re all powerless to help.  If anything today has reinforced, the delicate nature of life and its unpredictability.  Life, our days on this earth, are not promised. We can choose to exist, which most do, or we can choose to live.  We can choose to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us regardless of our circumstances.

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Nonetheless, today left me wanting to do nothing, but gorge on Neuhaus chocolate tonight.  I’m proud to say that instead I went to aerial yoga.  This was definitely the healthier way to work through today’s sadness and grief.  Tonight’s class was a bit difficult as I hurt my hip some how, so I had to be careful with my left side.  Incidentally, the inversions are getting much easier with each class.  Additionally, my alignment in handstand/headstand is much better in my mat classes now.  Aerial yoga is definitely improving my practice.

Tonight’s song is “How Great Thou Art” performed by The Pentatonix.

Saintly Advice

Saintly Advice

Tonight’s blog is full of saintly advice meant to lift the spirit and encourage the reader.  Undoubtedly,  it has been a long, arduous week (although the sinus infection has abated) and it’s only Wednesday.   I’ve written before about getting caught up in life and forgetting to feed our souls.   For me, my yoga practice has been key in re-centering my mindset and my focus.  Here are some wise words to inspire your practice or your day.

“Fortitude is the disposition of soul which enables us to despise all inconveniences and the loss of things not in our power.” –St. Augustine

“Our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.” –St. Teresa of Avila

“A scrap of knowledge about sublime things is worth more than any amount about trivialities.” –St. Thomas Aquinas

“Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls.” 
-Mother Teresa

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”  -Saint Augustine

I love these quotes that focus on perseverance, humility, joy, love and knowledge.  Mother Teresa’s quote is fantastic and easily incorporated into every day life.   Make it a point to make someone smile. It could be through a compliment, a simple smile or a good deed.  I guarantee you making someone’s day brighter will fill you with joy.

I’ve peppered tonight’s blog with pictures of saintly places both natural and man-made from our Norway trip last summer.  I hope you enjoy the photos as much as we enjoyed experiencing the places.

 

Tonight’s song is “Halleluja” performed by Pentatonix.

Christmas in Florida

Christmas in Florida

This year we will celebrate our 13th Christmas in Florida after relocating to the area in 2005.  It seems like just yesterday that we moved South with Jake going into 1st grade and Goalielocks as a toe-headed toddler.  The Mayor was but a twinkle in our eye when we moved South.

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Our first couple of Christmas’ we headed back North to Minny to celebrate with the family.  This only lasted a couple of years because the holiday dinner circuit was exhausting.  It was tough only being in Minny for a couple of weeks because it never felt like we got enough time with everyone.  Inevitable, someone always ended up mad because we hadn’t spent enough time at their house or with their family.  It got old quick.

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While we were stressed, the boys loved the snow and being home with family for Christmas.  At least until Christmas of 2007.  We headed northwards for 2.5 weeks.  The weather when we landed was perfect, but that quickly changed.  In a mere 72 hours, the balmy mid-20 degree weather was gone and the temperature was well below zero. Damn Alberta clipper!  For the remainder of our time in Minny, we were homeward bound.  It was far too cold to take our boys out in the subzero weather.  Consequently, as we prepared to head back to Florida, I informed my parents that we wouldn’t be heading north for Christmas anymore.

Since 2007, we’ve spent Christmas here in Florida.  It’s significantly less stressful for us and more enjoyable.  In 2009, we started sending the boys to Minny for the summer, so they got ample time to spend with our entire family.   We miss seeing our family and the beautiful snow, but the novelty wears off far too quick now.  Plus, we’ve headed Northward for the last 5 years for out of state hockey tournaments.  We’ve had no shortage of winter weather.

Several years ago, we started a tradition of a Christmas brunch with my bro, his wife and friends.  I bake my caramel rolls, while the Hubby makes an amazing cholesterol bake.  Mimosas and presents about and everyone is happy.  In addition, we grew our tradition to include paintball.  Its amazing how much better you feel about all the caramels roll you eat after playing paintball for hours in the heat.  We conclude our Christmas with Chinese food.  Its not the most traditional Christmas, but it’s our Christmas.

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There are a couple of places I would love to celebrate Christmas..  My list of places includes: Norway, Germany (Christmas markets), France with my French family, Hawaii, Iceland and maybe even another Christmas in Minny.  If you could celebrate Christmas anywhere, where would it be?

Tonight’s song is “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlmen” as performed by The Pentatonix.