Welcome, Fall! Here’s What I’ve Been Up to Lately

Dear Friends,

Hello again! As much as I enjoy organization, structure and planning, now that Get Healthy Month is over I admit it is really nice to have a whole month ahead of me with nothing specific planned for the blog. The one thing missing from the month of sharing health and diet information was the details from my personal life that I usually include in all of my blog posts, and I can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to at my house over the last few weeks!

Just before the start of Get Healthy Month, and just before the start of the new school year, Michael and I celebrated the end of our summer with a special date night. I got to do the planning and surprise him, which I loved doing. He had to make the seven hour drive to take his daughter home, so while he was gone I set to work shopping, preparing some yummy food, and decorating his back porch. He had just done a lot of work cleaning it up, washing furniture and cushions, and installing carpet squares. So I picked up some string lights and candles to make it cozy.

I borrowed his staple gun and hung, re-hung, then re-hung the lights one more time, until I had them perfect. I brought over a patio cart from my house, then made us some charcuterie, a caprese salad, homemade salsa and tortilla chips, and chocolate covered strawberries. I also put together a fruity sparkling water drink that was pretty darn delicious!

On August 31st, I took my boys to St Louis where Hunter participated in an event called Paint Louis. Artists from across the US and Canada come to paint murals and graffiti on a mile-long stretch of the downtown river wall, and Hunter got to design and paint a mural…with a little help from Logan and me as well! It turned out wonderful, and someone who saw his work on social media reached out to me to hire him to do a mural for an arcade room at her house, which made Hunter feel super proud! He will get to work on that project in November.

Next up was a short weekend getaway for Michael and me on the last kid-free weekend we would have until October 19th, which came the weekend after Labor Day. We drove up to Chicago on Friday night, dropping my boys off with their dad on the way. Michael’s brother lives in the suburbs outside of the city, so we stayed Friday night with him, then went into the city on Saturday. We hit the aquarium, walked back up to the Magnificent Mile and saw the infamous Bean and Buckingham Fountain on the way, had dinner at Purple Pig, then a drink at the 360 bar on top of the Hancock building with views for miles. We had a hotel right downtown on Michigan Avenue, so we went back to our room for some downtime to ourselves, with a window seat looking out over the commotion down below. The next morning we met his brother and sister-in-law for breakfast before making the trek back home.

Since then, things have pretty well been chaos! We’ve had at least one of our kids, even on the weekends that were supposed to be kid-free (this coming up weekend included, as Hunter has to stay home from his dad’s for his very first high school Homecoming). The weekend after Chicago my boys and I had a camping and hiking weekend. The next weekend Mia, Michael’s daughter, came to town for a visit and joined my friend Erica and I at the theater to see Downton Abbey. Then last weekend we had a family day at the St Louis Zoo. Mia didn’t get to come but we had all of the boys…I was definitely outnumbered!

It took a three week wait after we got home from Chicago, but Michael and I finally got to squeeze in a date night (we normally have them once a week!) this past Sunday night at Top of the Marq for a glass of wine and some one-on-one time. It was so nice to get a little dressed up and have some uninterrupted time to talk, flirt, and focus only on each other in a beautiful historic building with a rooftop bar and restaurant.

And now here we are, back in the midst of a work-week. Michael usually has his son every other week, but he has him this week since his mom is out of town for work, which means we’re each operating on a full house for the second week in a row. My mom is also in town visiting and staying with the boys and me tonight. Tomorrow night Hunter has his confirmation at St Vincent de Paul. Thursday night Hunter gets his hair cut and I get my six-week color — which is actually at eight weeks because my stylist was all booked up and it is desperately in need of a touch-up!

Then Friday is Michael’s birthday (and also our six month anniversary), but Logan has to go to his dad’s for the weekend so I’ll be traveling to meet his dad and won’t see Michael until 9. But Hunter and I will stay the night with him and I’ll get to celebrate his birthday with him on Saturday. Hunter will be home for his homecoming dance, but while he’s at the dance I’ll make dinner for Michael — he requested crab legs, so I’m doing a seafood boil with crab legs, shrimp, red potatoes and corn on the cob — and a birthday cake.

On Sunday I will finally get a day of rest, then next week will be mostly back to normal for me — no more weeknight events on the calendar at least! But next Saturday Michael’s sister gets married, and Michael and both of his kids are in the wedding so it’ll be lots of dressing up and running around all day, followed by dinner, drinks and dancing all evening. The night after that Michael and I will get our next date night, and our schedule will finally go back to normal. That following weekend, October 19th, will be our first kid-free weekend since September 7th, and neither of us have any obligations, which means we have some time to ourselves to enjoy life for a couple of days and for that, we cannot wait!

Are you exhausted from reading this?! I think I got a little exhausted just from writing it! Life has been very full lately, and while I’m definitely ready for some downtime, I also have to admit that I’ve been enjoying the heck out of all of it. It’s finally October, my favorite month of the year, and I’m ready for the cooler temps (90’s still today, but 70’s finally coming this weekend!), the pumpkin patches and orchard visits, the baking and apple cider, and playing dress-up at the end of the month. This will be the first time ever that I’ve been able to do a couples costume and I’m pretty pumped about it! Michael and I already have our costumes picked out and ready to go!

After that comes the holidays and it warms my heart just thinking about it. I can’t wait to share so many things with you over the last few months of 2019. I wish all of you well, and will write again soon!



Our Day Trip to Columbia, MO + My Thoughts on Relationships After Divorce

Dear Friends,

On the 4th of July, Michael and I celebrated three months together. Nearly a month ago we took our first little one-day getaway trip together, and things have been so busy that it’s taken me this long to get a blog post up about it! While reflecting on the trip, I’ve thought a lot about our relationship as well. Both of us have been married and divorced — my divorce being over 10 years ago now and his just at the end of last year. For me, this relationship has been a very long time coming. For him, however, it came much more quickly than he was anticipating. But regardless of the timing, we both have entered this relationship with an entirely different mindset than we had in past relationships.

A positive that comes from divorce is that, if faced and handled properly, it teaches you all of the important lessons about relationships that you didn’t know before. Every failure in life doubles as a teachable moment, and few are more teachable than divorce. We learn that relationships are more than just warm and fuzzy feelings; more than physical attraction and fun; more than dreams of wedding days and playing house and having kids (which are a lot more work and a lot more stress than most people realize before they become parents, and can wreak havoc on a marriage…just a reality that people don’t talk about enough). There are very important, fundamental parts of a relationship that make up the foundation upon which all of those things are built. And in my experience, it is so often not until divorce, or at least not until a relationship is deep in the throes of troubled waters, that we start to realize what those things are.

In the next relationship, first and foremost, we are able to choose a partner who is better suited for us, because we now know what we need in a relationship for it to last the long haul, as well as what our personal needs and our deal breakers are. You can choose a better partner for the right reasons, and you can enter that relationship with your eyes open and have realistic expectations of what’s to come. The feelings of infatuation are going to fade, that’s just the psychology of love whether we like it or not. What matters for the long term is the foundation you’ve built, the understanding that a relationship absolutely will take work by both people, and your commitment and dedication to the relationship.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that love and relationships require some amount of selflessness. A lot of selflessness, actually. Both people in the relationship have to be willing to give as much as they receive. They have to be willing to communicate openly, listen without criticizing, and give understanding without resentment and anger. Each person needs to feel safe sharing their needs and concerns, without fear of a hostile or disinterested reaction. For me, at least, that is true.

That is where I feel so incredibly blessed to have found Michael. I told him early on when I met him that I wanted a real partner. Someone who will communicate, make equal effort in sustaining the relationship, and share the responsibilities of taking care of a home in the long term since I work full time. I explained that in my last relationship I had to do it all when we lived together and it felt like I had a third child rather than a partner, and that isn’t a role I want to be in again. I also lived in a hostile, short-tempered environment in the past, where I felt that I was constantly in “self defense mode”. That is something I am not experiencing with Michael, whose personality is incredibly patient, empathetic, and slow to anger.

Not only have we done well at sharing responsibilities and meeting each others’ needs so far, but we have been proactive about the future. With both of us having been married and divorced, we understand that the new relationship warm and fuzzies won’t last forever, and we’ve been preparing ourselves for how to handle things long term. We talked about our love languages (we both share a close second-place with physical touch, but my number one is quality time and his is words of affirmation), and he even requested a list of things that I consider quality time so that he can fulfill my needs since that is not his love language and he wanted specifics about what I need so he can get it right.

We’ve talked about the importance of communication, and feeling safe to speak up.  We’ve talked about budgets and finances. We’ve shared dreams and talked about our personal values and future goals. We’ve talked about responsibilities and sharing the load. “Teamwork, baby”, is something I’ve been saying often. I just finished reading a book about relationships that a counselor recommended a while back called The Truth About Love: The Highs, The Lows, and How You Can Make it Last Forever (I definitely recommend it, by the way). He has a book at home of his own that he’s been reading as well.

Even though we are still in the early stages of our relationship, because we’ve both had the experience of failed relationships, we are being proactive so we can make sure this one survives the challenges that we know will eventually come — because they do in every relationship. He is exactly the man I have been looking for in character and values, and have spent years holding out for in my refusal to settle. He has all of the qualities I needed in a partner, and none of the qualities that I consider deal breakers.

I’ve never been treated so kindly, so thoughtfully, or with so much respect as I am with him. He is a great fit for me. And because of that I  am both committed, and dedicated to our relationship. As independent as I am, I have gladly handed over some of that independence in order for us to work as a unit. Because that is really what a relationship is — the union of two people. A relationship is essentially a separate entity that you create together, and it needs nurturing and care to grow, much like a child or a pet.

Commitment seems to have lost its meaning in dating these days, but for a relationship to stand the tests of time, you have to be fully committed to working at it rather than bailing at the first sign of trouble or change (because people change over time, that is just a fact of life). It isn’t about a feeling, it’s about making a choice to be together and put the relationship and your partner first, and making that choice over and over again for years to come. Feelings come and go, but commitment will breed longevity. As for making that commitment after divorce — it’s all the more important after having first-hand experience with how relationships fail.

Now, on to our Columbia adventure!

The second week of June I took my vacation from work. That weekend Michael had to pick up his daughter for the next two-week visit with him. So he took the day off on Friday, we booked a hotel room for that night, and we made the trip to Columbia a day early so we could have a day away to spend together. We got a room with a Jacuzzi tub, I packed the bottle of wine my friends Zach and Jenny brought back to me from Italy for pet-sitting while they were gone, and we left without any other plans beyond doing some hiking.

We left Friday morning and made it to Columbia in early afternoon…just in time for a rain shower…imagine that this summer in Missouri! So we put hiking plans on the back burner and stopped at Starbucks to grab some coffee and so Michael could login to his work computer and send something a coworker was needing. Then we decided to grab a late lunch at Shakespeare’s Pizza, a classic staple in Columbia that I always hear about but have never been to…and it was pretty darn good!

By the time we left there the rain had passed, so we decided to go get checked in at the hotel a little early, then do some hiking. In the meantime he had asked Mia’s mom for some suggestions for dinner places, so I checked out her recommendations while he drove us to the hotel. We picked a place for dinner, we took our bags to our room, then went out for some hiking at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. It was getting late in the day thanks to the rain hijacking our plans, so we chose a short and easy trail that included a really cool cave.



That was right during the prime of when I was having tightness in a muscle in my hip/butt, and while I was bent over walking through a low spot in the cave, it cramped up on me. I got a straight Charlie horse to the butt, and Michael didn’t miss the opportunity to snap this gem of a photo (what he doesn’t know is that I retaliated by getting a video yesterday morning of him snoring!):


After the hike he drove me around a little and showed me where he lived while he was there for college. Then we went back to the hotel and changed clothes for dinner. We went to 44 Stone for dinner, where the food was delicious and surprisingly inexpensive! We each had a meal, a drink, and shared an appetizer and a salad all for $45!


After dinner we made a quick trip to Mia’s house so she could show me her room, since we were meeting her, her mom and her stepdad for lunch the next day so I wouldn’t get to see her room. Then we made a stop for a couple of bath bombs and headed back to the hotel to soak in the jacuzzi and drink some delicious Italian wine. I wish we could end every day in that same fashion, but time just isn’t that forgiving back in the real world!

The next morning we had breakfast downstairs — and the breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn, if you’ve never had it, is really yummy! We had a smorgasbord of just about any breakfast staple you could’ve asked for, plus we shared a custom-made omelette with spinach, bacon, cheese and jalapenos in it. Of course my favorite part was the biscuits and gravy…one of the least healthy breakfast foods around, but my favorite nonetheless.

After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and went to hit some stores. He was needing a new suit for his sister’s wedding coming up in the fall, so we stopped and picked one out for him. While we were waiting on the stores to open we even made a pit stop at a little pop-up farmer’s market for some produce to take home. There was also a Father’s Day sale going on where I found a couple of new shirts for the boys. Then we went to get some coffee Lakota Coffee while we waited for Mia, Rachel and Trey to meet us for lunch.


We had a little more time to kill, so we stopped next door at Boone Olive Oil Co. Oh my goodness, that has to be my favorite discovery of the weekend! They had every flavor of olive oil and vinegar you could possibly imagine! I love to cook, so it was a special kind of Heaven for me. It was definitely a little pricey — the one small bottle of white balsamic vinegar I got was $14 — but it is so smooth and flavorful, and it was the perfect pairing for the tomato salad I made the next day for Father’s Day.

After that it was time to meet the others for lunch at International Cafe, a little Greek restaurant that was right on the other side of Lakota Coffee Company. The food definitely did not disappoint! Although I admit…while the Spanakopita at International Cafe was the winner, the Greek Salad at Zoi’s back home in Cape Girardeau is still the front runner for side dishes. After lunch we did a little shopping at a couple of boutiques, then it was time to hit the road back to Cape. We were equal parts exhausted and refreshed, and excited to get back and prep for our Father’s Day plans the next day.


It was short, but enjoyable and it left me feeling fulfilled for days afterwards. Memories were definitely made, and I can’t wait to explore more new things with my favorite sidekick. Until our next adventure….


Family Trip to the Lake, My Next Crazy Situation, and…Spider!

Hi Friends!

There are two kinds of spiders in my area that creep me out: the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse. The latter of the two much more than the former, because the Black Widow tends to know its place here in Southeast Missouri–inside hollowed-out logs in the woods! The Brown Recluse, on the other hand, is a first-class trespasser that loves nothing more than dark basements and unused drains. They are resistant to pesticide sprays, and are especially active this time of year because we are right smack in the middle of their mating season…

I sat down on the toilet at work yesterday and a movement from the corner in front of me caught my eye. An eight-legged critter of the flesh-rotting-bite variety was scurrying directly towards my feet. I raised my legs into the air mid-pee, praying to myself that it wouldn’t continue its trek and begin climbing the toilet on which I was sitting. As it positioned itself below my right foot I contemplated bringing my shoe down onto it. Then a terrifying thought stopped me–I was wearing open sandals and one sudden move from the spider as my foot came down could end with her right inside my shoe.

Thankfully movement from my leg raised above startled her and she bolted back to the corner, freeing me from a state of distraught helplessness on my porcelain perch. After washing my hands I went on the hunt for bug spray. I found Lysol and two gallon-size jugs of weed killer, but zero cans of bug spray, and not so much as a fly swatter to smash it from a safe distance. All I could do is wait for a customer to leave, then have someone with closed shoes stop the eight-legged, six-eyed tiny beast from escaping and finding a new home in someone’s office chair or, even worse, under the toilet seat.

I somehow managed to swallow my lunch despite the knot in my stomach that didn’t untie itself until a couple of hours later. Welcome home, right?!

Now that I’ve written 350 words on a spider assault…

My sister graduated from high school Friday! I was 14 when she was born and now she’s all grown up…which puts into terrifying perspective just how quickly the last 15 years since my own high school graduation have passed. She’s 18, has just begun her first serious relationship, and is off to college in the fall. She’s also 5’7, blonde and built like a super model. We share a mom, but she is my stepdad’s daughter…my stepdad, who is 6’5 and skinny as a rail and she’s built just like him, the lucky duck! As hard as it is to believe that she’s legally an adult, I can’t wait to see where life will take her.

To celebrate her graduation, my mom planned a family trip to Branson for a few days, and rented a condo that would fit all eight of us that sat right on the edge of Table Rock Lake. But first, we had to get her graduated!

My sister is a 4-H junkie with a room full of ribbons and trophies from showing horses and training dogs, but when it comes to doing hair–she’s definitely not a girly-girl. She asked me if I could curl her hair for her, and I needed to curl my own as well, so I happily agreed to help make her beautiful for her graduation while getting in some sister bonding time. While waiting for our curls to cool so we could break them apart, we had to Snapchat our Shirley Temple look:

With such a large age difference we’ve never been in the same place in our lives. She’s closer in age to my kids than she is to me, and she and my youngest son are as thick as thieves. Now that she’s 18, while there’s still a pretty good gap in where we fall along the adult experience spectrum, we can talk a lot more about grown-up things than we used to. When she was a toddler and I was in high school, I felt more like her second mom than a big sister. Now, for the first time, I’m starting to feel a little more like a big sister than a second mom.



Since my boys, Ashlyn and I rode down in my car, we arrived to our lakeside condo with expansive water views first, and Ashlyn immediately staked claim to the bedroom with a patio door to the balcony and a massive window overlooking the lake. And since I was sharing a bed with her, I sure wasn’t going to argue with her room selection. If I could only wake up to this every day:

As much as I couldn’t wait to take the kayak out on the lake, by the time we unpacked, inflated Logan’s raft and my kayak, it was time to start getting ready for our dinner cruise. Mom bought tickets for us to go to the 8:00 cruise and show on the Branson Belle Riverboat.

We’d gone to bed late the night before, spent the day driving, and were in for a late night again…and I am not a night owl, unlike my mom. By 9:00 I was yawning, and it was nearly 11 before we made it back to the condo. Tired or not, the cruise provided beautiful views of the sunset (despite hair-and-dress-whipping winds), the food was good, and the show was well worth the late evening. During the hour long show they performed songs from 26 different movies in nine minutes, starting with Somewhere Over the Rainbow from Wizard of Oz. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love Judy Garland, so my night was made!

The next day was Sunday, my only full day on the trip since I had to work the next day (we have a branch in Branson where I worked on Monday, before making the four hour drive home that evening), and I was intent on spending as much of it as possible on the lake.

First thing in the morning I got my kayak out on the water. Whoever designed the inflatable kayak deserves a genius award! It’s heavy, sturdy, and glides through the water almost as well as a “real” kayak. I have a vessel for getting myself off of the beach and onto the water at long last–YES!!

I spent the morning on the lake, took a brief hiatus to go get some groceries and supplies for the condo with my mom and grandma before heading to the Titanic Museum (super cool, by the way), and then spent the evening back out on the water while my boys and sister swam, snorkeled and skipped rocks along the rocky shore.

I loved spending time with my family, but I would really love to go back there all by myself! I’m a total recluse (ironic, I know, given how this blog post began) and love having time completely to myself to rejuvenate and do my own thing. A week of hanging solo on the lake with my kayak, hiking shoes, and a book or two sounds like absolute heaven. It must be my introverted nature, because my idea of a vacation is being on a secluded beach somewhere, or a day-hike smack in the middle of the mountains in an area where I won’t see another soul all day.

I made it home late Monday evening, and reality swiftly returned on Tuesday. I came home from work for lunch and went to turn on the soaker hose to give my plants a drink. As I was turning on the water, I noticed a black cable laying in the yard. I followed it and found it stretched across the ground from the electric pole in my front yard to the retaining wall in the back. I’d returned home, and also returned to the never-ending rotten luck that has been my 2018.

My yard was in desperate need of a mowing, since it had rained for the three days prior to me leaving in addition to the four days I had been gone. And now I had a cable stretched across my yard that I couldn’t touch, preventing me from mowing. I called Ameren first, and someone came immediately, before I’d even left to go back to work, and told me it wasn’t an electric cable, but a utility cable likely belonging to Charter or AT&T.

Since I have Charter and not AT&T, I called them first. They said they would send someone out to look at it. By the time I came home at 4:30 they’d already been there and had a note on my door that the cable belonged to AT&T. So I called them up, and the immediate attention the situation had received from both Ameren and Charter, ended with Ameren and Charter. They said they would get a technician out there Thursday–two days later–while my yard continued to grow into a jungle as I waited for them. Certainly not much encouragement to ever switch to AT&T for my internet service…

I guess it could be worse–I could actually be an AT&T customer who had to go two days without service before the problem was addressed. Do you suppose it’s a good sign that I’m still somehow finding the silver linings in all of the weirdness that’s happened the last few months?