Tuesday, July 10, 2018

1 Family x 12 (July)

Our first time seeing real fireworks as a family since we had kids.  The girls are finally old enough to stay out late enough to see them and not be total grumps for days afterwards.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Ellyn McGrath

There is no easy way to say this, other than to just say it.  So, here goes nothing.  On June 28th the world lost one very special person, my mother-in-law, Ellyn McGrath and our world will never quite be the same without her.  At just 66 years old it’s easy to wonder just why we didn’t have more time with her and why this was the moment we had to say goodbye.  It’s been a long road over the last year and a half or so, and we’ve all had some time to prepare but nothing can quite prepare you for the feeling of loss in that instant.  She was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2017 and while we knew the odds were slim that she could beat it, there was a lot of hope. 

2017 was not an easy year for our family and while I do not usually dwell on the bad here in this space, there are some moments that just can’t be willed away.  This is our life, the good, the bad and the sad included.  Many of you know that I print out these blog posts each year to serve as a “diary” of sorts for our family and for the kids.  It’s a way to document all that we’ve done and where we’ve been and while this is not an easy topic to write about, my 2018 book would not be complete without this post.

As we’ve each searched for our own answers to “why this has happened” I began to understand that this was put in my path to help to teach me some things.  I had things to learn and this experience has taught me a lot.  Over the last year and a half I’d reflect on “why this” or “why now” and I started to document the lessons I’ve learn through this experience.  I know that these will stick with me and will help to shape the person I am and the interactions I have.  While this post is not intended to be about me, I want to convey all of the things this strong, amazing, kind, thoughtful, loving amazing woman taught me through her journey. 

Tomorrow is not a guarantee – It seems so simple, and so clear but it’s easy to forget and to begin to feel “entitled” to tomorrow.  But, if I had to pick just ONE lesson learned through all of this, THIS would be the one.  Tomorrow is not a guarantee.  You need to make the most of each day, be as positive as you can be and to try and see through all the crud for the good in there.  Because there is good.  There is good in each day…it’s just sometimes hard to see.  And, finding that good, recognizing it, and embracing it makes it easier to appreciate the day for what it is and to be thankful in that moment. 

We spend our entire working lives saving for retirement, enjoying our few weeks of vacation and slowly slogging through until the next event or to that glorious day when we can retire and finally “live life”.  Well, Ellyn was diagnosed just a few short weeks after her 65th birthday.  She’d worked her whole life, saving for retirement and dreaming of the things she and Dan would do…and here we are, less than a year and a half later.  Tomorrow is not a guarantee.

The Importance of Just Showing Up – This fits together well with the first lesson.  There may not be a tomorrow to “table” it to.  Say “I Love You” more, say “Yes” more, make more plans, make more memories and be there when you’re needed.  The laundry will wait….the cleaning will wait…but the people, the family, those are the most important things.  Do whatever you can to make sure you live each day to its fullest and when your head finally hits the pillow at night, know that you did your best that day.

I used to be selfish with my time.  As an introvert I value “alone time” very much.  It’s when I recharge…it’s when I prepare for what’s next and when I let my brain run its course until it finally calms.  But, Ryan is the opposite.  He’s a go-er.  He’s always ready and willing to do the next thing and to say yes to the next suggestion.  Sometimes that exhausts me, but over this past year I’ve realized that while I STILL need those alone moments…those moments of quiet….that’s not where memories are made.  Looking back, when I think about events I originally thought we’d skip, never once have I been sad that we went…that we did…that we saw.  Not once.  And, to further that, there isn’t a single night I sat on the couch doing nothing that I truly remember as a memory.  Sure, not every moment can be the best moment of the day…and we all need time to rest.  But I’m trying to say “Yes” more and trying to make sure we make the most of the moments we do have.  Because, tomorrow is not a guarantee.

Strength and Unwavering Faith - Ellyn was far more religious than Ryan and I have been in the past few years.  She had a strong faith and when she was diagnosed and when things got tough she had her faith to lean on. In those early days as she was navigating the treatments and options and likely also dealing with diagnosis and it’s meaning on her life she talked often of her faith and the strength it gave her.  I don’t think any of us would know how we’d react in the same situation but I can only hope that I’d turn to it just as she did.  I think having that as a basis, as a constant, helped her tremendously and I hope that Ryan and I will start to prioritize going to church and nurturing that piece of our lives as well. 

Compassion and the True Meaning of “For Better or Worse” - I didn’t just learn from Ellyn in all of this.  I learned from Ryan and Erin, about what it might mean to lose my mom.  And, I also learned from Dan.  Nearly 8 years ago when Ryan and I stood on the alter and exchanged vows we said the traditional things like “for better or worse”, “in sickness and in health”, “til death do us part”, I knew these words had weight and heft.  But I saw these words exemplified in real life, in Dan.  Dan stood by Ellyn’s side through literally every single moment of this.  It was almost as if they had a co-diagnosis.  He attended every appointment, held her hand at every minute and helped her through this disease until the very end. 

The day that Ellyn had her surgery Ryan, Erin and Dan and I were all in the room when she woke up. We of course already knew the outcome of the surgery at that point and the news was not what any of us had hoped.  As Ellyn opened her eyes and started to come out of the anesthesia she wanted answers and without a doctor there to defer to, Dan fearlessly, compassionately, lovingly took the job of telling her the news that she did not want to hear.  I watched her heart break in that moment and while it is probably one of the hardest moments I’ve ever been a part of I realized that, yet again, I was there to learn so that I could grow and be prepared to handle those hard conversations in the way he did so effortlessly and compassionately.  I can only hope that I can handle life with such grace, unselfishness and love as Dan did each and every day with Ellyn.  He’s a great man, and a great example for me, for Ryan and for the girls.

These lessons will live with me forever, and in this way, she’ll live with me forever.  They help shape who I am, and I hope I will help to shape my girls and those around me….letting the influence of her life live on through me.  There are so many other things that I want to say now but the words are hard and slow to come.  It’s so hard to say goodbye and it’s so hard to wake up knowing that the world is a little less bright without her in it.  Ellyn McGrath, you will be forever missed.

May you be dancing just like this in heaven....

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Another Quilt for Another Baby

I remember back in 2014, I nicknamed it "the year of the baby".  For some reason we had SO many friends having babies and I was making/quilting/knitting like crazy to keep up.  Well, it seems like 2018 might be the rival year for the "year of the baby".  Luckily, so far, I'm keeping up.

This sweet baby quilt is for my dear friend's Lauren and Brian who are welcoming their second little one in just a few weeks here.  They didn't find out the sex, so I went gender neutral (which is always a little harder for me!).  I came across this cute little fabric panel and I knew it would be perfect for this new little addition.

You'll remember earlier this year I shared that I tried hand quilting for the first time and absolutely loved it.  It seems so much faster than piecing and entire quilt top, then doing the quilting on top of it.   These are simple, low stress projects for me, which, these days, is just how I like it.

I don't know, sometimes I get in a funk where I rarely make anything at all, then other times I pumping stuff out like it's my day job (trust me, it is not!).  Right now, I'm sort of in one of those funks but these hand quilting projects are helping me along.  Who knows, maybe my next one will be a hand quilting panel too!  We'll see.  What I do know, is there are more babies in the hopper for 2018....so there will be more quilts coming!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

1 Family x 12 (May)

A few weeks ago we had our annul spring camping trip with the Brackemyer's.  This year we went to Devils Lake, Wisconsin and let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint.  The weather was great, the camping was great and the hiking was great.  I'll do a full blog post on it later once I can get the photos from Jamie, but for now, I wanted to share our family picture for May (before May turns to June and I'm behind *smile).

Friday, April 13, 2018


Oh gosh...somehow I forgot to post these pictures from Easter. 

We hosted Easter at our house this year which was fun, and also a lot of work.  We had a total of 14 people here including Joey/Andy and the kids, my parents, Dan/Ellyn and Erin and her new BF, Will.  It was wild and crazy but oh SO much fun!!

We ate lots of food, drank many drinks, played cards, laughed and generally had a great time.  It was so fun to have everyone out here to spend the holidays with us.  We have such a good space for entertaining (though...we DO need a new dining room set to fit everyone).  We're so thankful for a full house and family that loves us.

Maybe the best part of hosting Easter was that we did it on Saturday instead of Sunday meaning I decided we were going out to breakfast on Easter Sunday and a nap was mandatory for me, and the kiddos, a perfect Sunday, right?

A New Baby, A New Quilt

There are quite a few babies lined up for 2018 so I started early to try and get a head start.  This quilt is for my very best friend Dan's new baby daughter.  She's due in April and I was slow getting her big brother's knit blanket done a few years back so I knew I needed to do better this time around.

I have been wanting to give hand quilting a try, so when I saw this super fun panel from Cotton and Steel, I knew it was finally time to figure out how it worked and give it a try.  It's hard to see in these two pictures but at the end, there is a closeup of the quilting.  The nice part about this quilt is that it came together pretty quickly.  Since I wasn't piecing the blocks together the process started with quilting the three layers together (top, batting and back).

I used embroidery thread and a pretty big needle to just and stitch around each of the little characters on the front.  I used a sewing hoop and did this almost completely from the couch while watching TV.  I could watch all of my guilty pleasure crap TV and be productive at the same time, win win!

After finishing the quilting I made the binding and machine quilted it to the front...then hand stitched it to the back.  This is how I bind all of my quilts and I've been really happy with the results.  I added a little label to the back so she'll always know where it came from, grabbed a few pictures and packed it up to be mailed.  I can't wait to meet this sweet baby girl when she gets here!