Saturday, January 13, 2018

Maybe Time Running Out is a Gift

I've faced my shared of difficult decisions in life, but nothing prepared me for deciding to become a parent.  "Deciding to become a parent" carries a different meaning for most, but I had an actual answer I had to provide the state as to whether or not I wanted to move from foster parent to pre-adoptive parent.  And in a relatively short time, compared to most cases.  

The phenomena of being a single, adoptive parent - and in my case, having to decide to leap into that category - is one that there is no instruction manual for.  There are a lot of resources for foster and adoptive families, but every single situation is different, and mine was even more unique.  

Those who know me know that I don't half-ass anything I do.  "All In" happens to be the motto of my crossfit home, but it also describes my personal philosophy.  Why waste any valuable time of this precious life doing something that you're not 110% committed to!? 

I'm also a very analytical person, and because I take my commitments very seriously, I like to have a nice dose of certainty with my decisions.  So I tried every perspective I could to try and "figure out" how to know for sure that adopting my girls was the right decision.  For purposes of my daughters' privacy, I won't go into the details of their case, but I will say that the process of deciding to pursue adoption came very quickly.  Many people who foster would consider this a dream scenario because it was a fast-track adoption of 2 fantastically wonderful little girls who were ready to be loved.  

Not me.

I was scared to death.  I signed up to foster because I thought I wanted to be a parent but was too afraid to take the leap straight to adoption, so I tried fostering first to even see if I could do it.  I was still in my "trial period" in my mind, and now I was being asked only a few months into knowing these beautiful children if I was ready to commit to a lifetime of not just meeting their basic needs, but being a 110% (single) parent, role model, teacher of important values, and all of the hard stuff.  The short time that I'd already been a foster parent was an awakening for me of how beautiful and how challenging it can be to have kids.  

And so, I needed certainty.  I needed an equation or a graph that perfectly laid out the answer of why I should or shouldn't do this.  Obviously, I loved these girls and imagined us together as a family, but I had so much doubt:

  • Was I doing them a disservice by bringing them into a single-parent family?  Could another traditional family give them something better than I could? 
  • Could I walk my talk?  I'm a very outspoken person about what I believe in, and it's easy to have values "on paper", but would I be able to live my values for my children?
  • Was I ready to give up my self-driven lifestyle?  I don't think I was a super selfish person before kids were around, but I liked to go a lot and do my own things without answering to others expectations or schedules.  Obviously, single-parenting would change that dramatically.
  • Among many other doubts that I can't even put into words.

Certainty didn't come in the way I wanted and thought I needed, but it came.  Eventually it was a "say yes to forever" or "say goodbye and never know what happens to these 2 children who I loved as my own already" decision. And though I didn't go into the adoption with all of the answers to my doubts and questions, in 2015 we became a forever family because I knew without a doubt that I couldn't say goodbye to these girls.  

I will likely spend the rest of my life struggling with doubts, but I also know it will only make me work harder to be the kick-ass parent my kids deserve.  

I will also not be afraid to acknowledge how messy and frustrating parenthood can be to those around me, and I refuse to set unrealistic expectations for what my kids really need just because of what society tells me.  The more parents (people!?) can be honest and open about the ugly side of life so that we're not competing with each other, the more we can appreciate and enjoy all of the beautiful stuff in life that passes us by because we're too worried about what the world expects of us.

There was a while in my life that I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a parent because I was scared to take the leap as a single/divorced person.  And while being a parent certainly isn't for everyone, living your life without fear of "what if" is for every single person out there.  

Deciding to be a parent was the scariest ones I've ever made, but it taught me one of the most important lessons I've had:  life is beautiful but short, time is precious, and those resources should be used wisely.

"If we were vampires and death was a joke
We'd go out on the sidewalk and smoke
And laugh at all the lovers and their plans
I wouldn't feel the need to hold your hand

Maybe time running out is a gift
I'll work hard 'til the end of my shift
And give you every second I can find
And hope it isn't me who's left behind"

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The First Time

When I finally became approved to be a (single) foster parent, I was surprised when the phone didn't immediately start ringing with placement needs.  In fact, I didn't get the first call until almost a week later, when I had to turn down a request to foster a teenage boy.  Another call followed, this time for 1-year old twins who had no English language exposure.  Having to say no to these requests was disheartening, because helping children was my objective, but I'd had fellow foster parents advise me to stick to what I was comfortable with so that I could best provide for the child. 

Having spent extensive time with my niece as she grew up in addition to a school-age "career" in babysitting, I had a surplus of experience with children of all ages.  Based on my capabilities at the time, I'd decided that I wouldn't take a child under age 2 and preferred a child that wasn't in grade school yet (note that I said 'a' child, as in singular).  I had no preference of gender, race/nationality, or other factors.  I communicated these preferences to my caseworker at DCFS and reiterated that I was trying to ensure that I didn't scare my own self off from fostering by taking a placement I wasn't comfortable with.  Meanwhile, I desperately wanted to have a child in my home.  I'd been going through the certification process for months, with a notable delay in the process due to me dealing with my own grief of losing my first "child", my dog Moby, during that time.

After having to say no to another placement that wasn't a good fit, my caseworker called with a request for two weeks of respite care for a 2-year old girl.  While it was only a temporary placement while another foster family had a to go out of town, I was thrilled to be able to say yes.  The date was set for me to pick her up, and though I had almost no information about the child, I was out-of-this-world excited.

The foster family she was with was unable to meet me with her, so I was instructed to pick her up at daycare.  I recall shuddering with nervous energy on the drive to pick her up, hoping that she wouldn't be scared and wondering about every detail of her story. 

I remember the teacher calling her name and she came running over grinning, a seemingly happy child.  She willingly went with me as I packed her stuff into my car and attempted to hide the fear in my voice as I explained to her that she would be staying with me for a few days.  She didn't seem excited or scared about that, rather she seemed indifferent.  I recall the lump in my throat the entire drive home as I imagined what she'd been through to not be scared of a strange person picking her up and taking her home.  She was only 2.

Those 2 weeks were an emotional roller coaster, because I fell in love with this child almost immediately.  She was extremely easy going and smiled all the time.  I had growing confidence that I could "do this."  However, I had no information on her (other than her name and birthday) and couldn't stop wondering what circumstances she came from.  That information came to me gut-punch-style, when the foster parent she lived with called to check in a few days before I was due to return her.

She was thrilled to hear that Archer and I were getting along so well because, she said, there was a very good chance that she would need to be "rehomed" soon due to circumstances at the foster home and that I might be a good option (YES!!!)…….but that she would need to be moved to a home along with her 3-month old sister.  My heart sank.  At the time, I had no expectations of knowing Archer beyond those 2 weeks, but in the instant she mentioned the potential of placing her in my home, my heart was saying yes.  So hearing that Archer had a 3-month old sister felt like I was saying goodbye to her already.  I applaud the efforts the state takes to keep siblings together (as they should), but at the time I absolutely hated that rule because I just wanted her and a baby was deal-breaker status in my head.

The remainder of our time together before she returned was spent laughing and loving and me thinking about saying goodbye.  Knowing that the state might be looking for a new home for these children, I was considering whether I could be that home, though it mostly seemed unfathomable due to the baby.  I'd carefully arrived at my decision to not take a child younger than 2 because of the total dependence of the child and the fact that babies get placed into homes easily (everyone wanted the babies, except me apparently).  But here I was, facing the reality that: 1) the state wouldn’t have to separate these siblings because there would be dozens lined up behind me to take them and 2) if I told them I wasn't interested, I would never see Archer again nor know of how she was.

At some point, my fear of never seeing her again outgrew my doubt in my ability to care for a tiny baby (who I'd not met at this point) and I indicated my interest in being a foster parent to both of these children. 

There were delays, of course, and in the meantime, I took in another placement of a 2 year old boy who was precious and joyful and had a traumatic story.  During that time, I was also keeping Archer and Alice on weekends to maintain the bonds Archer and I'd made while affirming that I could in fact care for a (very) tiny baby.  My mom was there every single weekend helping me, and I doubt now that I would have my children today if it weren't for her help and reassurance.

Seven months passed between the time I first picked Archer up and when they officially moved in with me, though they spent almost every weekend between with me.  Each Sunday evening when we turned into the neighborhood of her previous foster home, Archer would get tears in her eyes and the sobbing would grow as we got closer.  I thought I was going to die each and every time, as I never really knew that I would see her again.  As long as I live, I will never forget those times because all I wanted to do was to assure her that I would see her soon, but I didn't have any assurance myself.  Though I thought I was the only one with the memory, Archer recently revealed to me that she remembers me taking her back there and how she would cry, and it still hurts me to think that she had to wonder if I was coming back for her.

But I did, again and again.  And eventually circumstances changed with the 2 year old boy I had (who had to be moved into a home with his 8 and 10 year old sisters, who I couldn't take) and with Archer/Alice's placement, and my precious girls moved in with me.  At the time, I had no preconceived notions of them being with me forever, as their case was complicated and I was still living day to day wondering if I could be a (single) mom to 2 kids under 2.  It was a lot, but I had a lot of help.

I often think back to those seven months and wonder how we survived.  Don't get me wrong, they were well taken care of and were happy children.  But I still felt incompetent to raise these kids alone and sometimes pondered when the state would come and take them away due to the lack of faith I had in myself.  I've since been told that most new parents feel this way, but being in the situation I was in, my fear was immense and I felt like a fraud.  I had dreams of losing them to a traditional, nuclear family.  I criticized myself for thinking I could "do this" and how I'd now set them and myself up to be hurt because there's no way they would end up with me.  I had so many doubts and so much fear, and had no assurances of anything.

But I had love, and as it turns out, it's really the only thing I needed to keep going.  One day at a time, which turned into weeks, which turned into months, and eventually I was presented with the most important decision of my life:  do you want to adopt these children?

To Be Continued……

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Forever starts now!

As usual, it has been a long time since my last post.  But considering that 1) my last blog post was less than a week before Moby's death and 2) nothing of significance has occurred in my life since then, it is justified that I've not been very active in my posting.  On a positive note, I've had some really great things going on recently, and I'm here to share a significant change in my life.

Early last year, I was dealing with the end-stage "stuff" of my oldest dog/child, Moby.  To the extent that you can, I was trying to prepare myself mentally for his death and trying to let him enjoy every moment he had left.  This post is not intended to rehash Moby's death, but it is important to understand how much Moby loved and adored me.  Here's why:  he was the closest thing to a child that I've ever had.  I often felt like there was a little boy trapped in there that wanted nothing more than to be as close to his mom as he could and to see me smile.  I know without a doubt that he wanted me to be happy.  And he directly influenced a big lifepath change that I was about to make.

One day in late spring/early summer last year, I was on a walk in the neighborhood with Moby and Sydney - in fact, probably one of Moby's last neighborhood walks.  We walked past a neighbor who was in her front yard refinishing a piece of furniture, and I complimented her work and we started chatting.  One of her two daughters ran into the yard, and soon she (the mother, Edie) was telling me about how she adopted two siblings.  A few minutes into the conversation, I remembered that Edie and I met about a year earlier while we both were getting an oil change and sitting in the waiting room where she told me her adoption story.  Edie's daughters are absolutely gorgeous - faces that you just don't forget.  So as soon as I remembered that we met, I mentioned it to her and she remembered as well.  How ironic that we'd met at a Firestone place where she told me her adoption story, then a year later, I happen to run into her again (she lives in my neighborhood!) and she was telling me her story again - neither of us remembering that we'd met and had this conversation already!  I'd told her before that I was somewhat interested in adoption, but I told her on this day that, as a single person, I just didn't know how to get to that point of being "ready" to take the leap of adoption.  This was when she made a suggestion that probably changed the course of my life from that point forward.  She asked if I'd thought about fostering as a way to see if I really was interested in adoption.  While I'd definitely thought about adoption, I'd never thought about fostering - and I honestly didn't think single people could foster.  Edie told me about a local non-profit that was established by a group of churches in Little Rock - The Call, which acts as a liaison between prospective foster/adoptive families and the State of Arkansas.  They help with training and generally expediting the whole process.  Before I left Edie's house, we'd gone inside and she signed me up for an informational meeting, which is the first step in becoming a foster or adoptive home.

 Fast forward a couple of months, and I'd attended the informational meeting and completed "PRIDE training", which is the training component of certification required to be a foster or adoptive parent.  The training was held in July.  Moby passed on August 2, and he was in such bad shape the weekends of the PRIDE training, my mom actually came over and stayed with him while I attended training.  So it was all very emotional, obviously.  After I attended the training, in my head I thought I was ready to be a foster parent right away.  Then Moby passed away and my heart was broken.  My world was upside down.  For 2 solid months, I sort of "checked out" and fostering unintentionally took a back burner while I grieved.  From the time Moby passed until early January this year, I'd made no progress on my fostering certification.  I did, however, use that time to do a LOT of self-evaluation, focused grieving, praying, and dealing with a very strong feeling that being a foster parent is something I am destined to do.  And as I moved through the grief stages and was able to focus on the happy "stuff" with Moby, I had really strong feelings that Moby would've wanted me to do this.  He would've absolutely loved having children around, and he would want me to be happy - not sad.  

And all of a sudden, I was READY (mentally).  I got all my documentation together, made the accommodations in my house that I'd been advised on previously, and I submitted my packet to the State of Arkansas.  They reviewed my packet, did a home study, and officially opened my home as a foster home this week.  Now, I'm just waiting on the phone to ring.

Getting to the point of being ready has been a very emotional process, especially as I still have a lot of grief related to my loss of Moby.  I have been overwhelmed at the support I have of my family, friends, and co-workers.  I've also tapped into a support group meeting hosted by The Call, which has been a great resource for all of my questions.

It's still hard for me to imagine that as soon as I get the first call, my life will be forever changed.  And I will have the opportunity to forever change a child's life.  I know it is going to be extremely challenging, but I also know it's going to be incredibly rewarding, in many ways.  I know that being a foster parent is most likely going to be the most profound thing I've ever done.  I've found several "single foster mom" blogs that have already been very helpful to me, so I really am going to try and do some consistent blogging to help others going through the same experience.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.  I am most definitely going to need them.  I just returned from vacation in the Dominican Republic (Panic en la Playa), which is my last planned thing I had on the books (I will be blogging about PELP very soon).  Effective immediately, my first priority is the foster children.  Life changing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fur-ever Love: My Moby

"You can hear it coming like a train out of control.........."

This song has always had a special meaning to me.  And though the meaning has evolved through the years, the intensity of it only grows stronger.

The train that I hear coming - it's moving fast and gaining speed.  There is not a thing I can do to stop it except prepare for the disaster it will leave after it blows through my life and leaves me in pieces.  Knowing it is coming doesn't make preparing for the aftermath any easier.  In fact, I wonder if it makes it harder.

Though I've been saying for a while that the end is near, I have no choice but to deal with the reality that my best friend is living on borrowed time.  Precious, borrowed time.  And though I thought I was ready for it, I know that there is no way to prepare yourself for the loss of a loved one. He may be furry and he walks on four legs, but he is my best friend.....the most unconditional love that I've ever experienced.

It was pure luck that on an early spring day in 1999, my best friend/roommate and I made an impromptu decision to get a dog.  No research, no looking around to find the "right breed".....we wanted the first dog we could find.  Our search of the classified ads led us to an old lady's home in Guy, Arkansas.  Her german shepard had gotten knocked up by the neighbors collie, and she was pissed.  She wanted to get rid of these dogs as soon as possible and told us to take as many as she wanted - she was sending them to the pound that weekend.  She lived on a farm and all the puppies were living under an old pickup truck propped up on cinder blocks.  As we knelt down to peek at the litter, all the puppies scattered away from us.  Except one.  His ears were twice the size of his head, and he was uncoordinated and awkward.  He came running towards us, tripping and rolling on the way, as puppies usually do.  There was no denying, this was our dog.  We loaded him up in the car and took him home as fast as we could.  He went for at least a week without a name.  He was too special for any regular dog name, so we thought about it harder than any decision made by most college sophomores.  No less than a week later, we decided on Moby Dick.  Not after the literary character but after the Led Zeppelin song - a drum solo, specifically - "because there are no words to describe".

And ever since that day in '99, Moby has been my man, my one true love, my furry soulmate.  There have been good times, and there have been bad - and Moby has been by my side through all of it.  He always had this innate sense of my feelings.  He would crawl in my lap and cuddle with me when I needed it the most.  Or when I was crying my eyes out, he would join and howl at the top of his lungs with me.  How he always knew exactly how to take care of me is beyond anything I will ever understand.  

Now it's my turn - to take care of him.  There is so much that he can no longer do, and the list gets longer every day.  It breaks my heart - not only because I know the end is getting closer, but because of the many things he can't do.  He used to be so active and capable of doing everything and anything.  Now, going down a step into the backyard is a challenge, to say the least.  My goal for every day is to get him to eat, and some days I fail.

After all this boy has done for me, I need to know that I've done everything in my power to keep him around as long as he should be.  "Should be" is a very grey area, unfortunately.  I am terrified of having to make the decision to put him to sleep, but I am equally terrified of keeping him around longer than he should be for my own selfish reasons.  He is not suffering.  If he was, I wouldn't be so torn about making the decision.  But he is so pitiful and often helpless.  Not the dog he used to be, and certainly not the dog he would want me to remember.  

Anyone who met or knew Moby recognized how special he was.  Everyone has a Moby-story.  Mostly funny, and many of them involving me chasing him and yelling at him.  But everyone loved him.  And he loved everyone.  Most of all, me.  Up until the last few weeks, his place was ALWAYS at my feet.  He would sit for hours on end wherever I happened to be sitting, standing, dancing, cleaning, exercising, biking, walking.  How lucky I've been to have someone who wants to be around me no matter how happy, sad, pissed, tired, grumpy, nervous, or excited I was.  I know that I will never have the kind of unconditional love I've had with Moby.

I can't imagine my life without Moby.  I've had him for almost half of my life, which is so crazy to think about.  I would rather lose a limb than lose him.  I feel like I could function better without a leg than I could without him.  I have tried to "prepare" myself for his expiration day, but how do you do that?  I've been thinking about it for months now, but in the last few weeks it has consumed me completely.  And I still don't know the answer.  Every morning, I wake up and the first thing I do is to check and see if he's breathing.  When I walk in the door from work, I wonder if today is the day I'll find him non-responsive.  

Unfortunately, my reality is that at a moment soon-to-arrive, he will either go on his own or I will have to make a decision to put him to sleep.  I despise both of these bullshit options, but I know for sure that I don't want to have to make the decision.  So as awful as it sounds (and it is so terribly awful), I hope that he will go on his own.  Soon, before I have to make the horrible dreadful decision.  

In the last couple of days, I've spent several hours laying on his bed with him.  Looking him in his eyes and telling him "it's okay baby boy, you can go now.  I will be okay.  I love you so much.  Please just let go."

I hope he hears me, and more than anything, I hope he knows how much I love him.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Grown Up Christmas List

I've been overwhelmed lately with the typical seasonal worries:  what to buy my loved ones (how to pay for all of it) and gift ideas to give my family for myself (when I don't need a thing).  This afternoon, as I was sitting here stressing about all of this, I was also listening to my entire music on shuffle on shuffle - thousands of songs that could have been selected.  This song played, and I was reminded of how much I really love it (and needed it hear it).  I think it means more to me this year than it ever has, as I am so fortunate to have everything in the world that I could possibly need (and then some).  Additionally, I know many people who have lost loved ones this year, and my heart absolutely breaks for them.  I know several families whose lives have been torn apart by either a job loss or a disaster, and my heart aches for them.

So as we all find ourselves getting lost in the bustle of the holidays, regardless of what you believe, please remember that all of the toys, gifts, and disposable things are meaningless in the grand scheme of life.  Friends, family, peace, love, and happiness are what it's all about - and the disposables don't provide those things.

Please remember those who are hurting this year, and do something kind for a stranger.  It will make you feel so good.

Amy Grant - Grown Up Christmas List

Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies.

Well, I'm all grown-up now,
And still need help somehow
I'm not a child, but my heart still can dream.

So here's my lifelong wish,
My grown-up Christmas list.
Not for myself, but for a world in need.

No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas list.

As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely wrapped beneath our tree
Well heaven surely knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal a hurting human soul.

No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas list.

What is this illusion called the innocence of youth?
Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth.

No more lives torn apart,
That wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts.
And everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas list.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bringin' the ROCK to Little Rock

Everyone who knows me knows that I.LOVE.MUSIC.  Specifically, live music.  It is very close to the center of my world - right next to my family.  So my favorite band is on hiatus - that doesn't mean that I'm on hiatus.  I've always squeezed in some different "flavors" of music between my Panic shows.  This year, I've committed to seeing even more of the different flavors that make the live music world go round.

I've been in Little Rock for 13 years and have been a live music buff since before I arrived.  I've also been fortunate to almost always have great options of live music going on in my now-hometown to choose from.  This is no-doubt in LARGE part to the tremendous efforts of the awesome Chris King and Suzon Awbrey.  They not only provide 2 of the greatest establishments Little Rock has to offer (Sticky Fingerz and Rev Room), but they recognize so many different types of music that Little Rockers love.  I personally lean more toward the jamband flavor, and they always have great gigs in that arena.

I am super pumped about seeing Hayes Carll tonight at Rev Room.  Though he's now I worldwide sensation, I had the fortune of meeting and hearing him play at college gatherings my freshman year at Hendrix.  As it turned out, he was friends with some of the new friends I was making and I remember the first freshman party I attended (read White House) - he was playing some Bob Dylan on guitar and a few folks were gathered around singing along.  In high school, one of my best friends Sarah Hughes played routinely like this at our get-togethers, so I was drawn in to listening to Hayes et al.  This would not be the last time of my freshman year that I got to witness Hayes on guitar.  Hayes graduated Hendrix that year and I attended one more year before transferring to UALR (oh the regrets.........another blog).

Years later, and I'm talking probably 13 years later, I can't remember how I heard it (this was pre-Facebook and other social media) but I heard that Hayes Carll had just put out his first album in the previous year and its' reception was great!  I couldn't believe it!  I remember ordering 4 of the cds online and waiting anxiously for them to arrive.  I gave the other 3 cds away, as I wanted to get the word out about this great artist.  As luck would have it, Hayes was also playing at Sticky Fingerz for (I believe) the first time.  I gathered a few of my closest friends and we went.  Me and a couple of friends were instantly drawn in.  This guy has the most clever yet poetic lyrics and all of his tunes are catchy.  And the voice, oh the voice.........The best of all worlds.  I would venture to say that he is in my all time top 5 favorite artists.  That's a huge statement for me.

I have Hayes-brain today because he's playing tonight, but I listen to his music regularly.  He has released 4 albums, all of which are great.  Each album has a variety of tunes - something for everyone.  Hayes has a special love for Arkansas - even naming one of his albums Little Rock.  I am fairly certain that Arkansas is the home state of his lovely kick ass bride (who happens to be one of the many awesome friends I made during my Hendrix years).  Hayes usually plays in Little Rock twice a year.  Once during the spring and once around Thanksgiving.  I try my best to make each show, as it is always the best of times.  And often a mini-Hendrix reunion.  Awe.

So if any of you Little Rockers are reading this and don't have good plans for your St Patty's Day Saturday night, I implore you - go to Rev Room!  You will NOT regret it.

A hundred million thanks to Chris and Suzon, who make such great music and fun times available to central Arkansas.  You are appreciated, my friends.  Keep on rockin.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

21 random things I love

Per the topic, these are all random, goes-without-saying things (in no particular order) that I love.  Though it goes without saying, I must mention that I will assume that those who know me know that inherently, my family, friends, dogs, and Widespread Panic are at the top of this list.  Because they are not random, however, they are not on this list.

  1. Intervention and Hoarders (reality TV shows on A&E):  I like Intervention a whole lot more than Hoarders, but I think it's safe to say that a large part of me enjoys these shows because watching these poor people who are in various stages of awfulness in their lives make me feel better about my own.  Is that bad!?
  2. 80's hits:  I will always have a special place in my heart for the music hits of the 80s.  My girlfriends and I had many a dance routine to everything from Bobby Brown to Debbie Gibson.  Some of my greatest memories come flooding back to me when I hear such a song from my past and can recall every word to most songs from the 80s.
  3. Quotes:  I try to read at least one new (new-to-me) quote a day.  And some days, I even write them on the wipe-off board at work to share the wisdom or humor that is worthy of repeating.
  4. Fake tattoos:  Though I have a few real tats, I really love wearing a fake tattoo that is exceptionally large or noticeable - especially when I'm going to WP shows, music festivals, etc.  The great things about them is that they aren't a permanent mark but they are a great expression of yourself.  They give you that little surge of rockstar-feeling, and I would wear one every day if I could.
  5. Helping people:  Whether it be volunteering for a worthy cause or simply paying a stranger a nice compliment, I honestly get pleasure from putting a smile on someone's face.  You never know what kind of day a person is having, what thoughts are crossing their mind, or what terrible fate may await them in their near future.  Sometimes something as simple as kind words in an elevator can change a person's day and remind them that they are important.
  6. Toe socks:  yes, the silly ones that are basically gloves for your feet.  While they take some getting used to, I thoroughly enjoy wearing them - especially because they allow me to wear my Chacos (sandals) even when it's cold outside.
  7. Fall season:  while I like summer and winter, I LOVE the fall and the spring.  Basically, I love the milder seasons.  Extreme heat and extreme cold get old fast, but unfortunately, those extreme seasons seem to last longer every year.
  8. In accordance with #7, I simply adore camping.  Whether it's light-weight backpack camping or full-on-bring-all-the-amenities camping, I love to be in the woods, surrounded by nature and hearing the sounds of wildlife and the trees blowing in the wind.  The icing on the cake - the crackle of a campfire.  Just talking/writing about it makes me want to go now!
  9. DVR:  I despise commercials, so I have officially eliminated them from my life through the use of a DVR.  Aside from the obvious of not having to be at home at a particular time to catch your favorite show, it's absolutely great to be able to hit the fast-forward button when that annoying Aflac duck invades my nightly news.
  10. Cups with lids/straws:  I remember as an early elementary age student, I loved to still drink from "sippy cups."  There was just something about being able to lay in bed with your cup turned sideways/upside down without spilling and being able to drink from a 'nozzle.'  Now, as an adult, I am in love with my Tervis Tumbler/s, complete with lid and straw.  I can't explain the pleasure I get from it, but I can just say that it makes me happy.  That's why I have over 8 Tervis Tumblers, I suppose.
  11. My car:  I have a 2006 green Subaru Outback wagon that I got in mid-2005.  It has over 125,000 miles on it, but I still love it just as much (if not more) than I did when I first got it.  The beauty of a wagon is that it has the perks of an SUV (extra storage space, seats fold down for the doggies) but it gets the gas mileage of a car.  Plus, my model has a sunroof that is half the length of my car.  I can't imagine ever having another car (and I plan to drive this one until it dies), but if I do have another car, it will either be a new Outback or another wagon (Volvo Cross-Country, if I'm lucky).
  12. People who stand up for what they believe in.  Even if it is something that I don't agree with, I have respect for people who aren't afraid to support what they believe - especially when they aren't just "following the crowd".
  13. Hammocks:  I love the old school rope knit hammocks (my mom has a really great one in her huge backyard overlooking the lake that is her backyard), but I was recently gifted with an ENO hammock (double nest, to be exact) and it is absolutely wonderful.  So far, I've only used it on my recent trip to Mexico, but it is outstandingly durable and you can pretty much always find a place to put it up.  I plan on doing some hammock-camping in the upcoming spring and my ENO hammock will be something that remains in my car so that I always have the option to put it up and hang out, read a book, or take a nap wherever I go.
  14. Water:  hot, cold, mild.  Drinking, swimming, bathing.  I love it all.  It makes sense that my sign (Scorpio) is a water sign.  My wish when I die is to have my ashes spread in Greers Ferry Lake, as I grew up on that lake and have many great memories (as well as our family having a current house on that lake) there.
  15. Trashy humor:  I have always had a love for humor (dark, dry, you name it), but I have in the last few years developed an intense appreciation for humor that is borderline (if not over-the-line) offensive.  As long as it is not racist or judgmental to a specific group of people, I'm willing to attempt a laugh.
  16. I love to laugh.  Giggling is good, but the kind of laughing that you just can't stop, the kind that causes your face to hurt from laughing so hard, the kind that makes others laugh even when they don't know what you're laughing at - it's good stuff.  Contagious.
  17. Meeting new people.  Don't get me wrong, I have a great group of friends - many of whom I've been friends with since childhood.  But I think you can never have too many friends.  My lifestyle (specifically traveling to see Widespread Panic) has opened up a world of opportunities to meet new and different people from all over the world.  I can (and have) make conversation with a stranger in a bathroom line and end up being friends with the person because we discovered we had a lot in common.
  18. The feeling I get at around 5:10 on a Friday afternoon.  There is nothing better to me than walking out of the office knowing that I have nothing to do (or just as good, something fun going on that weekend) until Monday.  The cycle of feelings changes throughout the weekend, but at the very end of the workday on Friday, the amount of weekend-time is at an all time high and the possibilities for the weekend are endless.  I live for Fridays.
  19. Being appreciated and showing appreciation.  This tends to make me think primarily of work.  I currently work in a thankless job, and while I don't perform my job duties for recognition or even for thank-yous, it is especially nice to hear from time to time that there is someone out there who appreciates the hard work that I put into my job.  I try to remember the same thing and show appreciation to those who do things that may go unnoticed.  Appreciation goes a long way (and that's a two-way street).
  20. The excitement that my dogs exhibit when I get home from work.  While much of their excitement is directly related to the fact that the know they're about to get food and treats, I like to believe that they are also simply excited that I am home and they are glad to see me.  The love of my dogs is such a wonderful, no-strings-attached, exciting love that it keeps me going at times when I feel like nothing I do is right or appreciated (see #19).  Every single day when I pull into my driveway, I can count on - without a doubt - Moby being in the front bedroom of my house, chin on the windowsill, awaiting my return.  And although he knows it's me, he barks at the front door until I've unlocked the door and made my entrance.  What a great feeling of acceptance.
  21. Singing.  Though I may not have a great singing voice, I've always been a song-lyrics-fanatic and I love to express myself through singing.  Specifically when alone in my car or in the shower.  I have to refrain myself from singing while at work when indulging myself in loud music at my desk.  I know that I think I sound better than I actually do, so I'm doing the world a favor by keeping my singing to myself.  But I'm also doing myself a favor by singing my heart out whenever I can - because it makes me a happy (and a much more tolerable) person.