For My Mom

This Mothers’ Day is extra special to me. Several months ago, I nearly lost my mom to complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Since Mom’s return home on November 6, 2020, I have tried very hard to realize every moment with her as a gift. We should all do this every day, but life’s tasks get in the way. We get busy with many things that really don’t matter that much. We think there will always be a tomorrow with those we love.

Until something happens that alters us. And that’s where I am today. While my mom has lived with Parkinson’s disease for nearly eight years, I didn’t fully begin to appreciate the depth of this diagnosis until about two years ago. And I didn’t fully make Parkinson’s disease a part of my daily thoughts until August 2020.

Parkinson’s has now become my part time job and volunteer activity, all rolled into one. While I help with Mom’s care here and there, I have felt a pull to do more.

And that is why for Mothers’ Day this year, I am raising money for Parkinson’s research – so others do not have to live with this terrible disease.

Will you donate to help us find a cure for my mom and the millions of others battling Parkinson’s disease? Your donation in any amount will make a huge difference: https://foxtrot.michaeljfox.org/spring/ForMyMom

100% of your donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) will go toward research to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. I chose this specific charity because MJFF has very high ratings when it comes to financial integrity and organizational strength.

Thank you for your continued support for me, my family, and especially my mom. Please consider donating to MJFF at the link above, and give your mom a big hug for me.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

Five Years in Five Months

The last time I wrote a blog post, I was ten days away from moving from Des Moines to Davenport. And finally, nearly 90 days after moving, I have progressed enough with my life’s tasks to be making time to blog once again.

This was a pretty fast move. I had a move to the Quad Cities area in my sites for late 2021 or even 2022, but you know what they say about plans…..

My reason for moving back to the Quad Cities area was family, and specifically my mom. Her Parkinson’s has been progressing more rapidly since the summer of 2019, but with so many things, we always think we have more time.

Me and my mom enjoying an afternoon together, just one week before she was rushed to the ER in Davenport.

Then she aspirated while eating a donut on Friday, August 28, 2020, and ended up in the Genesis ER in Davenport, soon to be transported to the ICU at St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois. It was the closest ICU bed open. (So yeah, those Covid-19 news briefings telling us that we had plenty of open hospital beds in Iowa at that time…..)

I went to Peoria the next day and stayed there for two nights even though I was not allowed into the hospital due to Covid restrictions. I went to support my dad, who was the only one allowed in to see my mom. I was his chauffeur and tour guide, selecting spots for outdoor fresh air relief and good meals.

During that Sunday in Peoria, I attended mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, and that is when I was hit with a wave of “You need to move NOW.” OK, God. 10-4. Moving. ASAP.

So the next two months were a blur with rearranging my life and preparing for a move. Things seemed messy, but I knew they would work out. God told me they would. And they did, even better than I could have ever imagined.

While Mom was in Peoria, we were riding a roller coaster. She was better, and then she was sedated. She had g-tube surgery. And then a tracheotomy. She was also on a ventilator for a few weeks.

Mom was finally transferred to Select Specialty Hospital in Davenport and then to acute rehab at St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids. While in Davenport and Cedar Rapids, I was able to visit her once a week. She was released to go home TWO DAYS after I moved to Davenport. Chills.

Pedi time!

Since moving, I have been able to continue to work from home and visit my parents an average of two times per week to help with Mom’s care. She has five g-tube feedings every day that include a combination of Parkinson’s medication and her liquid food, and Mom tells me I am a pro during my feeding shifts. She requires daily and monthly trach maintenance, and I have helped with some of that. I have also helped her shower, given some pretty awesome manis and pedis if I do say so, played solitaire, lost at UNO, colored, and baked with her.

My mom is a fighter. And she shows so much gratitude toward me every time I help her with something. I tell her that it is my privilege to be able to help her. I recently heard the term tragic privilege, and that sums up how I feel on the inside.

I am thankful that my mom is able to safely live at home, and that my dad is such a rockstar with shouldering 99% of the workload to care for her. I have a newfound admiration for caregivers and those living with Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.

I feel like the past five months have actually been five years, based upon the emotional and spiritual journey I have embarked upon. This lady is not the same one who woke up on Friday morning, August 28, 2020.

While I wish my mom did not have a horrible disease that was robbing her of the life she once knew, I am thankful for how this experience has strengthened relationships, humbled me, and begun to transform me into a better person.

And if you are facing a really tough moment in your life, consider going to mass. You may sob the entire time and feel immensely vulnerable like I did, but you might also be quiet long enough to hear God telling you something important. 😉

The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception – August 30, 2020

Seester Sunday: Flashback to February

This Seester Sunday occurred on February 23, 2020. I am writing this post in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic and realizing just how much I took for granted just two months ago. My seester Sarah has been super busy homeschooling four of her five kids, while also caring for the fifth and getting ready to give birth to a sixth child in July! I am posting this without her, as she may or may not add her piece later. 😉

Mel:

I enjoyed this last pre-quarantine, in person Seester Sunday surrounded by family. I stayed overnight with Mom and Dad in Durant, since we celebrated Dad’s birthday on that Saturday night.

We kids were also surprised with a set of DVDs for each of us with old family movies on them! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Dad cooked me an awesome ham, egg, and cheese sandwich on King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls for breakfast. So good.

Then I attended mass with my sister and her family at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Wilton. This was a special Sunday, as it was nephew Gabriel’s first time as altar server. Of course this godmother had to take a few pictures. 😉

We stuck around for donuts after mass while the kids had Sunday School. Niece Amelia also took a few photos for me.

And Kateri was on the move during the entire time. This girl is growing so fast!

After the pups and I went back to Durant and lounged with my parents for a bit, we were off to Bennett to take my nephew Gabriel and two oldest nieces Lucy and Amelia to a birthday party in Tipton.

Once the birthday party was over, we dropped the kiddos back at home in Bennett and then headed home ourselves.

Such a fun day!

Seester Sunday: Chili, Books, and Rest!

This edition of Seester Sunday occurred on February 9, 2020. Sarah posted it on time; alas, I did not (per usual).

Mel:

Today was truly a Sunday Funday! I was busy with a few awesome activities today.

After mass, I attended our Basilica’s Knights of Columbus 10th Annual Chili Cook Off. I had a blast trying four out of the seven chilis. I would have tried more, but I was stuffed and did not want to be miserable for the rest of the day.

Today I wore one of my “winterized ensembles.” This full outfit is from Target. I started with a sundress, and then added a cami, cardigan, tights, and boots. I was careful with the color selections for each of my additions, as I did not want to over power the floral print with too much black, and I also did not want to look out of place and washed out with too much white.

I really enjoy pulling colors out of prints to complete an outfit. I wore my favorite blue Silpada earrings that I wore last week. And this week I added my necklace with Saint Agnes (my confirmation patron saint) and Miraculous medals.


After all of that chili eating, I was ready to relax with the pups. The only thing better than reading books is reading books while snuggling with dogs. It’s simply the best.

I finished my day with an evening shift working at Barnes and Noble. I made a few book recommendations tonight and splurged on some cheesecake during my break.

Hope you have a great week!

Sarah:

Well my Sunday was much less exciting than Mel’s, but still good!

We have been battling the plague for the entire past week 6 weeks at our house. Jeremiah was hit HARD on Mon/Tues and really didn’t emerge from the trenches until Friday evening. Gabriel was home from school for 3 days this week. By Sunday morning, Jeremiah still wasn’t feeling great, and offered to stay home with Kateri. I jumped on that idea, because ‘Me/4 kids in Mass alone’ sounds a lot better than ‘Me/5 kids in Mass alone’!

I quickly got myself ready while the older 4 got dressed and we were off. Ruth was naughty during church (what’s new?) but everyone else was fine and well behaved. I shared with Jeremiah awhile ago that I know one of the specific reasons God gave me Ruth was to keep me HUMBLE. And that she does, very well, almost daily. After Mass, the kids ate doughnuts while I chatted with a friend, then we all went to our respective Sunday School classes. Gabriel’s class played Bible Jeopardy for part of their session, how fun! My 1st grade class talked about Baptism and Sacraments.

My outfit was an oldie, but a goodie. My shirt was thrifted a long time ago and is super long. I like to tie it in a little knot to give it a little something and so it’s not shapeless. This shirt is so wonderful because I have worn it when I am trying to hide a post-baby pudgey belly, when I’m not pregnant, AND when I am pregnant, and I think it looks decent in all situations and is very forgiving–my favorite types of clothes!! My leggings are maternity from Old Navy and I basically live in them when they’re not in the washer. I wore tall boots and forgot to put earrings in. I did nothing with my hair other than a ponytail because that’s how I roll a lot of days and Kateri pulls on it all day anyways. 😉 This pic was taken right before bed, so yes, I look a bit tired and my glasses are on. haha!

Photo cred to Ruth(?)

After that we all headed home on icy roads and had lunch. The rest of the day consisted of me getting 100 pages into a new book (“A Woman is No Man” by Etaf Rum–VERY GOOD), watching an episode of “Flip Wars” on Prime, helping Gabriel with a pile of makeup homework (–see couch), making all people take a nap (they all were quiet for 2 hours!!! WIN!), planning our week in my planner, keeping Kateri from climbing on me too much, doing laundry, watching the kids go crazy (anyone else’s people have cabin fever?!) and ordering dinner in from the bar/grille in town. A good, restful Sunday, but I am happy to see and feel the sun today!!

Seester Sunday: Groundhog Day

Melissa:

Well, so much for posting again “next week.” Ha ha. (See our last post from A MONTH ago!) Life happens, I guess. 

This Sunday is a big day for a lot of people. Not only is it Super Bowl Sunday, but in Iowa, it is Caucus Eve!

I worked at Barnes and Noble during the day today and afterward took Percy and Gemma for a nice, long walk around Gray’s Lake.

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Then we stayed in and watched the Super Bowl. I can’t remember the last time we had a night in. With holding a final 50-50 in 2020 three day candidate training for women running for office, wrapping up the 50-50 in 2020 organization as a whole, lining up new clients to begin work for on February 1st and after, attending caucus events, and dating (Yes, the first date at Centro has turned into several dates now!) during the past three weeks, this lady has been on the go a lot. 

Today I wore a sweater, tank, and Pixie pants from Old Navy. This was the perfect outfit for today: practical and comfortable for work, and something I could keep on for the rest of the day at the lake and at home. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it a million times yet or not, but I like to get dressed once for the day and call it good. 

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I accessorized with my main thing: earrings. These I bought from a Lia Sophia consultant eons ago:

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I wore my tall brown boots to Barnes and Noble and then switched to my waterproof ankle boots for lake time. Both pairs of boots are from – you guessed it – Target! 

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While life has been crazy lately, I have continued to stock up on books for the slower days ahead. Today’s Barnes and Noble purchase:

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Hope you enjoyed the Super Bowl, and if you live in Iowa, please caucus tomorrow! I recommend caucusing for Amy Klobuchar. 🙂

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Sarah:

Happy Candelmas/Feast of the Presentation, Eve of Jeremiah’s birthday, Superbowl Sunday, Groundhog Day, National Tator Tot Day, and the first global palindrome day in 909 years. How’s that for a great setup for the day?!

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Today’s outfit consisted of a white maternity tshirt, jean jacket and thrifted black maxi skirt with black Old Navy leggings underneath. I wore boots as well. I also, like my sister, like to get dressed ONCE for the day, and I hate changing during the day, so this is what I wore for everything! My legs were warm and I like having the option to remove my jacket as I tend to get quite *warm* these days! I wore this outfit for church, brunch, walking to the library, folding laundry, making food, soothing a fussy toddler, photographing handstands, delegating jobs, loading the dishwasher, overeating Superbowl food and visiting at my parent’s house. Gabriel was a gift bearer at church today and Lucy read half of the prayers of the faithful as it was 3rd and 4th grade Mass ministries today. It was a good day!

We will hopefully be back again soon with another installment of Seester Sunday!

Seester Sunday: Happy New Year!

I am continuing to catch up with posting our Seester Sunday updates. This post should finally bring us up to date. 😉

Sarah:

After a bit of an absence with Seester Sunday, we’ve decided to (try) to get back into the habit. This week followed a snowy Saturday that left us cooped up in the house most of the day. The kids were a bit antsy and honestly we didn’t do much. I spent a good majority of the day on the couch and J even cooked dinner (spaghetti-his trademark 😉  ).

All that to say we were slow getting up and about on Sunday morning and were LATE to church after de-icing the van and driving on slick roads. Kateri was the only one who got her hair fixed and Ruth wore her snow boots. We were even short one kid as Lucy was at a sleepover. We walked in and Ruth took off in Ruth-fashion running up the center aisle to where we usually sit…..except we weren’t sitting there because, as I mentioned, we were LATE and had to sit elsewhere. Ahem. Anyways, here’s what I wore:

 Who’s that handsome teenager standing next to me? Oh, that’s only my man-child, Gabriel. I somehow convinced him to get in a pic with me. In case you’re interested, he now can wear man-sized jeans, I buy his shoes from the men’s section and he no longer needs a booster in the car. {tears**}

My dress/tunic/long shirt thing is thrifted and old and some brand I’ve never heard of. I love it. It’s comfy and forgiving. It’s short enough that I don’t wear it in the summer but feel comfortable putting it with leggings. I can bend over and wrangle Ruth kids without my hiney showing. My leggings are run-of-the-mill from Old Navy and are much warmer than they look! Boots are my favorite grey ones from Famous Footwear that I’ve had for 2 years.   And that’s that!

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Melissa:

So, the reason this Seester Sunday post is a day late is because yours truly did not get her act together in time for a Sunday post. While I do not ANY human children, nor do I have a husband, my life seems to keep me busy with other things.

I spent my snowy Saturday working at Barnes and Noble. What began as a part time seasonal job has become a permanent part time job that I absolutely LOVE. Hopefully I can continue to balance my bookselling job with everything else going on in my increasingly crazy life!

On Saturday night, I had an amazing first date at Centro, my favorite restaurant in downtown Des Moines. Then, I was invited to join this great guy for a second breakfast date on Sunday morning before mass. While I was home by 11:00 p.m. on Saturday night, I barely slept! Glad I still woke up early on Sunday though, because breakfast was awesome.

After breakfast on Sunday, I attended 10:30 a.m. mass at the Basilica of St. John. Then I came home for some office time. My client 50-50 in 2020, whom I currently serve as Executive Director for, has A LOT going on during these next two weeks! By mid-afternoon, I was off to Barnes and Noble for the rest of the day and evening.

I also wore a thrift store gem during this past Sunday. I found this dress at Phase 2 Consignments in Grinnell, just over a year ago. This photo is not from Sunday, because, as we have established previously, I did not have my act together this week:

This photo is from the Women Lead Change Dubuque Conference in November 2019, where I exhibited on behalf of 50-50 in 2020. Paired with my dress then and this Sunday were Silpada earrings, and brown tights and boots from Target. I do not wear a lot of jewelry, and earrings are my go-to accessory – in addition to my glasses!

Another note on my dress: I love cowl necks and things that flow openly. Nothing is worse than a form-fitting dress when you are having a day when you feel bloated or fat. Yes, we must be self confident, but we all have those days because we are human.

We look forward to posting together again next week!

Seester Sunday: Happy Halloween!

This “Seester Sunday” article is being posted a full three months after the fact, as I have been busy with all things 50-50 in 2020 and caucus related! Thanks for your patience as I catch up on posts!

Sarah:

Happy Halloween! This week’s Seester Sunday is a little different as we were together all weekend! YAY! Mel arrived to our house Thursday evening and we got to do all kinds of fun things together until Sunday night! We had close to 6 inches of snow on Halloween so our trick or treating was postponed until Sunday evening, which ended up being a beautiful day. It worked out well. We got to go shopping, paint pumpkins, watch movies, celebrate a birthday, rake leaves, hike, eat a lot of yummy food, go to Mass (twice!) and trick or treat! Mel is a much better historian than me, so I’m sure she can fill in the details of the rest of the weekend in pictures, if she wishes 😉 . We got to go to Mass together on Sunday morning, and here we are afterwards, ready to eat brunch!

I got dressed before I got Lucy out of bed, and she decided we needed to be twins after she got up. I do enjoy this, as I’m pretty sure she won’t want to match me so much in a few short years! So I’m wearing a navy/white dress **with pockets** from HERE.  I also put on fleece lined tights from Target (so cozy!), a thrifted jean jacket and brown boots that I’ve had forever. Lucy’s entire outfit is thrifted, all from Once Upon a Child consignment stores (striped dress, jean jacket and boots), tights are from Walmart. Lucy’s always so adorable. The pic turned out good, but our first take looked like this:

Classic. Aunt and Mom fussing over Lucy’s hair to get it out of her face. Lucy’s cute regardless!

Brunch at our house was not complete today without Sunday Mimosas! Kateri was eyeing these pretty hard!

Later that night we went trick or treating. We had quite the crew!

Costume contest winners Snoopy with Charlie Brown and Sally; Anna from Frozen; a mermaid; a blue man; Tinkerbell; Waldo; a strawberry; Snow White. We now have way more candy than any family should ever own! 

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Melissa:

Yes, Happy Halloween! I have been thrilled to be able to dress up with my favorite little people and trick or treat with them for the past six years! This weekend marked year seven. You can check out our previous costumes at https://melissagesing.wordpress.com/2019/10/31/halloween-costume-history/.

In addition to our Halloween tradition, I try to attend mass with my sister’s family a few times a year outside of holidays. As a godparent to all of her kids, I think it’s important to partake in the sacraments with them, visit their parish, and try to be a spiritual role model – or at least a sounding board – as they get older. 

This Sunday I wore a new sweater and skirt outfit by A New Day at Target. My tights and boots are also from Target – surprise, I know! 😉 

Spending time with my sister’s family is truly a blessing. Here are a few more photos from our HalloWeekend:

Lunch with Amelia at Chick-fil-A!

 

Gabriel reading and snuggling with my pups. ❤️

Lucy painting her pumpkin.

Playing in the leaves with Ruth!

Finding Kateri playing in a box.

Happy Sunday Funday, everyone!

For All of the Dads Who Chose Their Daughters

This Fathers’ Day is bittersweet for me. As a girl with two dads – one biological and one stepdad – Fathers’ Day has often been a balancing act. Whenever it became difficult, I reminded myself that I was fortunate to have the problem of two dads to honor.

My relationship with my biological father has often been strained, with long periods of time not speaking with him. While my parents divorced when I was a young three year old girl, and thus I have few memories of that time, the negative fallout over the years has been a struggle. As I have grown older and pieced more things together, I have realized that my mom had incredible courage to leave my biological dad and forge a better path ahead for us both.

I have strived to find a healthy way to have my biological father in my life during my adult years, and through many ups and downs – trying to figure out frequency of contact that would keep things positive and not destructive, celebrating when I thought I had a successful visit with my dad, apologizing for things I should not have apologized for, calling my father on Christmas Eve/Day to wish him a Merry Christmas during the past two years and then crying because he berated me on the phone, sitting silently by while he spoke ill of my family, trekking up to far Northeast Iowa multiple years to visit him when he never once left his farm to visit me or even meet me anywhere as an adult – I have determined that in an emotionally abusive relationship, there is no healthy balance. And so, with the turn of the calendar to 2019, I was done. I could no longer carry all of this on my shoulders.

Of course I will always love my biological father. That goes without saying, even if I cannot have a healthy relationship with him. He has good traits that were passed on to me, and I wish it was possible to have him in my life. At this point, it is not.

But wait, I led with the sad part of the story. The happy part is on its way!

After my mom divorced my biological dad, she met a wonderful guy named Dave and married him. At that point, Dave was my dad too. He never treated me as anything less than his daughter. Same with his family: I was their niece, granddaughter, cousin, etc. My stepdad even attempted to adopt me, but my biological father said that would never happen. So rather than go through a big battle, my last name remained Gesing. But to my stepdad’s family, I was a Schulz anyway. I didn’t need a document saying it.

As I have grown older, I have come to appreciate just how much strength and love it took for my stepdad – whom I call Dad – Dave to not only accept me, but to love me wholeheartedly, as part of a package deal when he married my mom. And when they had two kids, Sarah and Mitch, they were immediately my full sister and brother. We are all close, and I love it.

Dave was the dad who was there for it all: my first day of kindergarten, when I lost my first tooth, reassuring me when I was terrified to start driving (Crazy, right?! It’s true!), rebuilding my first car – a sweet red 1990 Plymouth Sundance with a sunroof, smiling proudly when I was named valedictorian at my high school graduation, helping me through the process of buying my first new car, patiently listening to my political rants, giving me a hard time so I laugh when perhaps I am taking things a little too seriously, and the list goes on.

So, on this Fathers’ Day, I say thank you to my dad Dave and all of the dads who chose their daughters and sons. Your positive impact in our lives cannot be measured.

This Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day

I am pretty accustomed to being single on Valentine’s Day. Most years I don’t really think much about being single. And then during other Valentine’s Days past I had:

A few years when I was casually seeing someone, found myself to be “miraculously” on my own when Valentine’s Day rolled around, and then became a hot item again a few days later. Remember that book “He’s Just Not That Into You”? Yep. Here’s your sign.

A few bitter years.

A few lonely years.

A few years where I was the “coupled up” girl and received flowers from great guys.

Valentine’s Day 2019 comes after a personally brutal January 2019. It’s been tough to process, let alone put into words.

My brutal month involved removing a few toxic people from my life whom I still love but had to separate myself from for my own mental health and self respect.

Simply reaching these decisions was messy, as I had to come to these conclusions on my own. And I am the person who often has to push the envelope one more time, test my boundaries one more time, to get to that point of saying, “enough.” This naturally had a ripple effect on others outside of the situations.

Thankfully my friends and family who know me best and love me unconditionally were able to give me enough rope, stand just within reach, and trust that I would find my internal strength to do what needed to be done. For that I am eternally grateful.

We often think of Valentine’s Day and love in romantic terms, but I challenge all of us to think of it a little differently. We should also see it in terms of all of those who mean the most to us and stand beside us during thick and thin.

My best friends are my valentines.

My mom and stepdad are my valentines.

My siblings are my valentines.

And my nephew and nieces are most certainly my valentines.

Today my dogs are also my valentines.

This Valentine’s Day, I raise a glass to everyone in love, recovering from heartbreak, navigating through some tough stuff, finding peace in solitude, or anything in between.

You are loved. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Brother Mitch is HOME!

Brother Mitch is HOME!

Unless you never read a thing that I post on Facebook and Twitter, by now you know that my brother Mitch is back in Iowa after being deployed with the U.S. Navy. I went ten months without seeing my baby brother. And I was not alone. His friends and our family, as well as his girlfriend, endured the same length of time without seeing Mitch in person.

baby4A lot can happen in ten months:

  1. My sister Sarah became pregnant with baby number four.
  2. Our dad retired from his sales and marketing job of 19 years.
  3. I crossed off a bucket list item when I appeared on the Today Show on Caucus Day.
  4. Nephew Gabriel and Niece Lucy completed another year of school.
  5. Gabriel, Lucy, and and Niece Amelia all grew a ton. I feel like they grow too much when I haven’t seen them in a couple of weeks. I can’t imagine how different they are after ten months!
  6. Numerous terror attacks took place across the globe.
  7. Iranians fired missiles at my brother’s carrier.
  8. My brother’s carrier was featured on CNN for setting a record number of bombs launched against ISIS.
  9. Mitch’s deployment was extended by one month.
  10. As if I wasn’t emotional enough in my normal state, I now get teary eyed around anything patriotic, having to do with the armed forces, etc.

Mitch Navy ProfileMitch shared some amazing photos and videos with us during this past week. The views were breath taking, and the sleeping quarters were insanely small. They provided a unique glimpse into my brother’s new life as a sailor.

Hannah MitchWe only have a few more days with brother Mitch before he goes back to base. This time he is taking a piece of home with him though – girlfriend Hannah. So, while this big sister is fighting back tears, I will be so excited for the new adventure ahead for the two of them together.

troopsThank you SO MUCH to everyone who has offered words of encouragement, given hugs, and simply let me babble (happy babble, interchanged with the-world-is-going-to-end babble) on and on and on and on. We know there will be another deployment, and I will always need my tribe to talk me off the ledge and then hand me a glass of wine.