Ten Years Later, We Will #NeverForget

“…But for those of us who lived through these events, the only marker we’ll ever need is the tick of a clock at the 46th minute of the eighth hour of the 11th day. We will remember where we were and how we felt.” – George W. Bush

I woke up yesterday morning and knew I wanted to write a blog post in relation to the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, but yet somehow I couldn’t even find 140 “characters” to put into a tweet, let alone write a post. It’s so hard for me to even find words to express the sympathy and sadness for a day like that in our history. For two hours I sat on my computer viewing images, watching news footage and reading numerous stories from 9/11, so painful to relive that morning. I recently read the featured story in People Magazine which profiled ten, 9 year old children who lost their fathers that day – whom they never had the opportunity to even meet, literally started crying in line at Kroger. So tragic and so sad, especially when the mothers told of how they explained to their kids, the story behind their father’s heroic deaths.

I think everyone remembers exactly where they were and how they reacted to the news coverage that morning. It was 7th grade for me, class had just ended and I vividly remember the terror and fear in all my classmates eyes as I walked the hallway to my next class. I remember seeing my math teacher in tears as we watched it on TV – I wasn’t completely aware of the Twin Towers – but halfway through the morning I knew that we had faced a horrible, horrible tragedy that day. When I arrived home from school that afternoon I walked into the living room where my dad was crying in disbelief, head in his hands, just sitting in front of our TV. The days, weeks and months that followed consisted nothing of depressing news coverage and continuous mourning over the loss of so many innocent lives. September 11, 2001 truly changed our lives forever. However, on a positive note, I believe it brought us, as a country together and gave us strength, something we’ve always struggled with. It’s unfortunate it took such a tragic event to make this happen but I think the relationships that people have with their neighbors and strangers are forever changed, in a much better way than they were before. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected that day and the days following. We will never forget.

“Reflecting Absence” two reflecting pools in place of where the Twin Towers once stood.

3,000 names around the perimeter of the water falls

Incredible skyline

New York Post tweeted this amazing photo of Ground Zero’s reflecting pools lit up at night

Standing next to the reflecting pools is the Freedom Tower, (still undergoing construction) stunning to look at.

How Did You Spend Your Day?

Short, Sweet & Simple Morning

Regardless of the fact that I haven’t started my new position yet, and I’m back home visiting for a week – I still would have taken on the task I did today on any other day off. Most people would either dread it or look at it as a chore – but to me it’s a stress reliever and a relaxing job. I spent 2 1/2 hours bright and early this morning – power washing the barn! It only gets done about once a year – and coincidentally happens to be during the few days I go back home to visit – how nice of you Momma 😉

All clean!

Happy Gals

Buttt I plan on being right back out there tomorrow to clean stalls – which my mom admitted to actually putting off for a few days because she knew I’d be home – and she says its great “physical activity.” However, it looks like its been more like a week and half since she’s last cleaned those poor horse’s ‘bedrooms.’ That, and the tack room looks horrendous, like it hasn’t been entered in years. I’ve never been so ashamed to show off ribbons and trophies I’ve won than I am now – full of cob webs – not okay Mom!

Spending time out in that barn doesn’t bother me one bit. I’d spend all day out there if I could. It’s honestly therapeutic for me, being around my 3 gals out there, while at the same time reminiscing about all the memories wrapped up in the barn itself. After having the entire summer off, I think I can safely say that today was the most relaxing one I’ve had – I spent it in my happy place with my happy girls 🙂

Unforgettable

This past weekend some of my closest girl friends came down to Chicago for a visit, and to celebrate Kate’s birthday. Hands down, one of the best weekends of my life. I knew I was lucky when I lived at State with 10 girls, but I can definitely say I’m one of the luckiest girls alive to have such a close knit group of girls that love each other for each of our unique and individual traits. Kate: you’re my beautiful bestie and always will be, I can’t even begin to fathom my life without you, it’s hard enough living 200 miles apart – best part about you, you never judge (me) and you embrace my quirky embarrassing self 😉 Kelly: your giggle gets me every time, you’re a joy to be around and always seem to lighten the mood. Anddd you danced this weekend, you know Kellis is having a good time when she actually busts out a move. Lauren: Wouldn’t have wanted to spend 6 days with anyone else but you! So glad I could house you here, you’re WILD. End of story, and your spontaneity allowed you to  hit it off with Danny Devito 😉 jealous. Ashmac: I could totally quote you on a few things here, but I’ll keep it private to protect your classyness – damn hangovers will get you hah. Please move to this city, so I have a little bit of EL with me. Amanda: I love you, I could end it right there… you throw out some amazing one-liners from God knows where and you definitely added the Zing to our weekend. We definitely defined Jack-O-Lanterns on Friday night 😉 Can’t wait to see how our video with Wayne comes together. If it’s not to raunchy maybe it’ll have a special place on my blog 🙂 Lynsey: to my bestie in Chicago, what would I do without you? Literally. (I can’t imagine my life without McFaddens). I’m so glad to have rekindled an amazing friendship with a beautiful, bright and loving person. I miss you girls already, and if it was my choice we’d all be living under the same roof. It’s sad to think I’ll never live with 11 people again, but yet it’s nice to know I’ll always have amazing visitors to look forward to 😉

Our planned trip to the Cubs game turned into more of a bar crawl.

Take Me Back.

Numerous memories that we all walked away with this weekend, wish we could rewind and do it all again, in precisely the exact same way 😉

We finally met a Kevin, and we even met a Wayne. We danced until our feet were blistered and sore. Swamp ass was brought up far too much (especially in the Jersey accent). Future plans for our Advertising agency were discussed. Mr Saxobeat was never overplayed. Slumber parties were at their finest here, especially considering that each one of us had a “cuddle buddy” ha. I think everyone experienced my case of crazy legs – Kate you know you like them, and you miss spooning with me, don’t you lie. Authentic Mexican Food may or may not have been the worst decision Sunday, besides the lovin’ we threw on Taylor Lautner. 48 videos taken on the flip-cam already has me nervous to see the published results from Mandy…

By far the weekend’s theme song – Mr. Saxobeat.

Nothing Wrong With a Little Spontaneity

I felt like I was literally kidnapped today when friends Evan and Mauricio told me to meet me on the corner of Addison and Lakeshore. I was just enjoying myself and reading Chelsea Handler’s book when I got an unexpected call from them saying I had to join them on their trip – they didn’t really give me much of a choice. We drove up to Northwestern’s Campus, a campus I have never visited before. We attempted to check out the SigEp house, but had no such luck except for Mauricio’s attempt to slide open the front window, pull back the curtains and take a look. Not creepy or anything. Although it’s a gorgeous campus, it still doesn’t compare to that of State’s. We couldn’t seem to find streets similar to MSU’s popular M.A.C or Albert, and had a hard time finding out where the nearest bars (mainly a Rick’s type joint) were. Clearly this was not a top pick school for us 😉

Driving around a little more we found ourselves in an extremely beautiful area of Evanston, indescribable houses on the marina and along the lake shore. Big, beautiful and dreamlike – but not as much as what we came across next.

For some reason, editing my pictures in Instagram makes them look so much more amazing.

We stopped at this Baha’i Temple, an absolutely stunning building. The one question we never found the answer to is, “Sooo who paid/pays for this?” Regardless, it truly is an amazing piece of architecture, and is presently only one of the seven in the world. Beautiful landscaping, gardens and fountains surround the temple – which were only tempting us to take a swim 🙂 Sidenote: Evan thought he was about to be the first one to toss a penny into the fountain, little did he know he just couldn’t see the hundreds of others that were resting on the bottom. Not that cool dude. And to make matters funnier, as we were walking out Mauricio thought he saw sparkles atop of some flowers, naturally he thought it was a sign from God?? and went down to touch it. I looked at him, like are you serious? That’s a spider web with water molecules resting on it. I’m still laughing about it, and how quickly he pulled his hand back away from the web. Haha 🙂 Oh and last but not least, we made sure to check out some brush to see if we could find any rabbits… because apparently they hang out all around the temple (says Mauricio, we never actually saw any). Overall, great afternoon – definitely didn’t expect my little silent day of reading by the water to turn into the adventure it did.

The fountain which was about to contain Evan’s penny, and his penny only.

If you’re ever in the area make a trip a few miles north and you’ll come across this temple, it’s worth even if it’s just for the amazing photography opportunity 🙂

Winnie The Pooh

I’ve been seeing the Winnie the Pooh trailer for the past few months and couldn’t wait to go see it in theaters when it finally came out. I think the song (Somewhere Only We Know by Keane) they chose to go with it does adds even more sentimental value to Pooh than there already is.

There’s something about the little bear and his friends that takes me right back to my childhood. My mom even teared up while watching the trailer, and said the same thing, it takes her back to when I was just a little girl. I went to go see this with a couple girlfriends while I was back home for the weekend, and adored it, although I wish it would have been longer than just an hour 😦 And I’m not sure if it’s just me or what, but I never remember Winnie the Pooh being a show I laughed at, but I can promise you us 6 girls laughed at nearly every line in this movie. Especially the words that come out of Pooh’s mouth, so much personality and character that comes from the tubby little bear. Loved it! And might I add, I think some of the best quotes come from Winnie the Pooh.

Take Me Back

Chicago summers are amazing, but LA’s are indescribable… having withdrawals.

Take Me Back

“Hollywood is an extraordinary kind of temporary place.”

“Hollywood is where if you don’t have happiness you send out for it here.”


“Los Angeles is just New York lying down”

“Hollywood is HYPE, New York is talk, Chicago is work.”

“Southern California, where the American dream comes true.”

“I love In-N-Out.  I love that people on the Eastcoast are missing out.

“In Los Angeles, everyone is a star.” – Denzel Washington

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

What Is it About a Funeral?

Why is that funerals always lead to some of the best family reunions? Sadly, I think it’s because many of us don’t make time to spend with family members unless it’s literally forced – like a funeral – it’s just something you must attend. I’m just as guilty as many others for not making and taking the time to go on vacations and visit with family. My past 4 years in college seemed to be selfishly all about me – and if I could go back and make changes, I sure would.  This past week on July 4th, I lost my grandpa, 84 years old – a witty, happy, smiley old man – who I loved dearly. Not only was it his death that affected me so much but I think it was the fact that one more piece of my own dad had been taken away from me, again – 8 years later. Besides that point, I got to actually spend some quality time with my grandma, cousins, aunts and uncles. And twenty-two years later I finally take the time to get to know a side of PopPop I didn’t know about. The fact that he swept my grandma off her feet (while she was engaged to another man who was in the war oversees) is something I would have never imagined him doing! Nana and PopPop met on New Years Eve and a mutual friends party at age 18 and became happily married just a few short years later. It’s simple details like these that I wish I would of learned more about while he was still around.

Nana and PopPop in their prime 🙂

Death is never an easy thing for anyone, and I feel like so many questions tend to follow. Especially losing a dad at 14, I was constantly wondering “why me?” “why now” “why so early?” “why can’t he see me graduate?” “who’s going to walk me down the aisle?” endless questions, with no answers. I think a lot of people have mixed emotions, anger, sadness, emptiness and many times depression. I struggled with a lot of this – however, I knew it was time for my grandpa to go, especially with his recent condition. The first thing everyone in my family said was that PopPop couldn’t be more ecstatic and happy to be up there in Heaven, back with his son (my dad), sippin’ on scotch on the rocks and casting a line out for some deep sea fishing. I’ve been told by many of my friends that I deal with death really well. I don’t know that I deal with it well, I think it’s just that I convince myself that they are in a better place, I’ve gained a few extra guardian angels to look down on me and there’s something to look forward to after my time here, seeing my dad and grandpa again, happy and healthy.

PopPop and my Dad (or for those of you who are familiar with The Hangover it could very well be Zach Galifianakis for all I know)

Anyways, the idea of writing this post was triggered after my friend passed on a story to me – a story full of words that have brought more comfort to me than I’ve ever felt in the past 8 years. I believe the words are actually from a book called 90 Minutes in Heaven, which I’ve yet to read. For those of you still struggling with a recent death – or even if you love an inspirational read – take the time to read some of the portions of the book that my friend passed along to me. I know it’s long but I guarantee you’ll walk away with a new feeling of comfort and happiness – and I think a lot of questions can be reassured and possibly even answered for you 🙂

“I died on January 18, 1989. Paramedics reached the scene of the accident within minutes. They found no pulse and declared me dead. They covered me with a tarp so that onlookers wouldn’t stare at me while they attended to the injuries of the others. I was completely unaware of the paramedics or anyone else around me. Immediately after I died, I went straight to heaven. While I was in heaven, a Baptist preacher came on the accident scene. Even though he knew I was dead, he rushed to my lifeless body and prayed for me. Despite the scoffing of the Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), he refused to stop praying. At least ninety minutes after the EMTs pronounced me dead, I returned to earth.”

“When I died, I didn’t flow through a long, dark tunnel. I had no sense of fading away or of coming back.” “Simultaneous with my last recollection of seeing the bridge and the rain, a light enveloped me, with a brilliance beyond earthly comprehension or description.”

“In my next moment of awareness, I was standing in heaven.”

“Joy pulsated through me as I looked around, and at that moment I became aware of a large crowd of people. They stood in front of a brilliant, ornate gate. I have no idea how far away they were; such things as distance didn’t matter. As the crowd rushed toward me, I didn’t see Jesus, but I did see people I had known. As they surged toward me, I knew instantly that all of them had died during my lifetime. Their presence seemed absolutely natural. They rushed toward me, and every person was smiling, shouting, and praising God. Although no one said so, intuitively I knew they were my celestial welcoming committee. It was as if they had all gathered just outside heaven’s gate, waiting for me. The first person I recognized was Joe Kullbeth, my grandfather. He looked exactly as I remembered him, with his shock of white hair and what I called a big banana nose. He stopped momentarily and stood in front of me. A grin covered his face. I may have called his name, but I’m not sure. “Donnie!” (That’s what my grandfather always called me.) His eyes lit up, and he held out his arms as he took the last steps toward me. He embraced me, holding me tightly. He was once again the robust, strong grandfather I had remembered as a child. I’d been with him when he suffered a heart attack at home and had ridden with him in the ambulance. I had been standing just outside the emergency room at the hospital when the doctor walked out and faced me. He shook his head and said softly, “We did everything we could. My grandfather released me, and as I stared into his face, an ecstatic bliss overwhelmed me. I didn’t think about his heart attack or his death, because I couldn’t get past the joy of our reunion. How either of us reached heaven seemed irrelevant. I have no idea why my grandfather was the first person I saw. Perhaps it had something to do with my being there when he died. He wasn’t one of the great spiritual guides of my life, although he certainly influenced me positively in that way. After being hugged by my grandfather, I don’t remember who was second or third. The crowd surrounded me. Some hugged me and a few kissed my cheek, while others pumped my hand. Never had I felt more loved.

“One person in that greeting committee was Mike Wood, my childhood friend. Mike was special because he invited me to Sunday school and was influential in my becoming a Christian I knew…”

“…Never had I seen Mike smile so brightly. I still didn’t know why, but the joyousness of the place wiped away any questions. Everything felt blissful. Perfect.

“More and more people reached for me and called me by name. I felt overwhelmed by the number of people who had come to welcome me to heaven. There were so many of them, and I had never imagined anyone being as happy as they all were. Their faces radiated a serenity I had never seen on earth. All were full of life and expressed radiant joy.”

“Time had no meaning. However, for clarity, I’ll relate this experience in terms that refer to time.”

“I say my great-grandfather, heard his voice, and felt his embrace as he told me how excited he was that I had come to join them. I saw Barry Wilson, Who had been my classmate in high school but later drowned in a lake. Barry hugged me, and his smile radiated a happiness I didn’t know was possible. He and everyone that followed praised God and told me how excited they were to see me and to welcome me to heaven and to the fellowship they enjoyed.

Just then, I spotted two teachers who had loved me and often talked to me about Jesus Christ. As I walked among them, I became aware of the wide variety of ages—old and young and every age in-between. Many of them hadn’t know each other on earth, but each had influenced my life in some way. Even though they hadn’t met on earth, they seemed to know each other now.”

“As I try to explain this, my words seem weak and hardly adequate, because I have to use earthly terms to refer to unimaginable joy, excitement, warmth, and total happiness. Everyone continually embraced me, touched me, spoke to me, laughed, and praised God. This seemed to go on for a long time, but I didn’t tire of it.”

“…greatest family reunion of all.”

“Everything I experienced was like a first-class buffet for the senses. I had never felt such powerful embraces or feasted my eyes on such beauty. Heaven’s light and texture defy earthly eyes or explanation. Warm, radiant light engulfed me. As I looked around, I could hardly grasp the vivid, dazzling colors. Every hue and tone surpassed anything I had ever seen.”

“With all the heighted awareness of my senses, I felt as if I had never seen, heard, or felt anything so real before.”

“…that I felt as if I were in another dimension. Never, even in my happiest moments, had I ever felt so fully alive. I stood speechless in front of the crowd of loved ones, still trying to take in everything.”

“…no sense of time passing. I gazed at all the faces again as I realized that they all had contributed to my becoming a Christian or had encouraged me in my growth as a beliver. Each one had affected me positively. Each had.“ I wasn’t conscious of anything I’d left behind and felt no regrets about leaving family or possessions. It was as if God had removed anything negative or worrisome from my consciousness, and I could only rejoice at being together with these wonderful people.They looked exactly as I once knew them—although they were more radiant and joyful than they’d ever been on earth. My great-grandmother, Hattie Mann, was Native American. As a child I saw her only after she had developed osteoporosis. Her head and shoulders were bent forward, giving her a humped appearance. I especially remember her extremely wrinkled face. The other thing that stands out in my memory is that she had false teeth—which she didn’t wear often. Yet when she smiled at me in heaven, her teeth sparkled. I knew they were her own, and when she smiled, it was the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. Then I noticed something else—she wasn’t slumped over. She stood strong and upright, and the wrinkles had been erased from her face. I have no idea what age she was, and I didn’t even think about that. As I stared at her beaming face, I sensed that age has no meaning in heaven.

“…Even thought some of their features may not have been considered attractive on earth, in heaven every feature was perfect, beautiful, and wonderful to gaze at.”

“…and no matter which direction I looked, I saw someone I had loved and who had loved me. They surrounded me, moving around so that everyone had a chance to welcome me to heaven. I felt loved—more loved than ever before in my life. At some point, I looked around and the sight overwhelmed me. Everything was brilliantly intense. Coming out from the gate—a short distance ahead—was a brilliance that was brighter than the light that surrounded us, utterly luminous. As soon as I stopped gazing at the people’s faces, I realized that everything around me glowed with a dazzling intensity. In trying to describe the scene, words are totally inadequate, because human words can’t express the feelings of awe and wonder at what I beheld.

My Best Friend is a Survivor

Just a quick post but for those of you who don’t know today was National Cancer Survivors’ Day, and I had an amazing opportunity to take part in the 18th Annual Cancer Survivors’ Celebration and Walk here in Chicago, with my best friend and survivor, Mandolynn and her family. It turned out to be a beautiful morning, the rain subsided and the sun quickly shined down on all the beautiful survivors that were out there today. We sported some adorable custom made shirts and walked the 4 miles as a team, and more importantly as a family! 🙂

A Very Small Part of Mandolynn’s Support Group

At the end of the walk, an extremely inspirational woman stepped up to give a brief speech on her battle with cancer. It didn’t take long before she had myself as well as 4,000 others in tears just hearing about her struggles and the frustration she had endured over the past 8 months. Jenna Benn, a 29 year old amazing survivor of a rare Grey Zone Lymphoma cancer gained numerous followers with a blog Kill It In the Butt taking her family, friends and other survivors through her journey with cancer. In the end she quoted her path as “Twisting to Fight Cancer.” So today the one thing she asked of us was to join her on the dance floor and Do the Twist. It was literally the most touching 5 minutes of the day, standing in a field surrounded by some of the strongest people in the world, all cancer survivors ranging in ages from 2 to 80 – dancing and twisting with happiness. I myself was dancing in pure joy that my best friend was now 100% happy, healthy and cured.

Aunt Minny and Rylee

After the dance ended, survivors gathered to take one large group picture, and following that moment is when the family members really expressed their love. Watching mothers embrace their children and spouses holding on to one another the way that they did – just thankful that they came out strong and healthy – was another tipping point for me where I couldn’t even begin to try and hold back some tears. Today was truly a beautiful day, and in many more ways than one.

I love you Mandolynn, you are beautiful, amazing, inspirational, strong and the best big sister I could ever ask for!

Life Was Easier When…

So both Erica and my mom asked me the other day what I wanted for my birthday and I couldn’t even list one thing they could get for me. I’m laughing now because when I was 7 I feel like the list was endless. Of course a new Big Box of 96 Crayons (with the sharpener in the back) was always at the top, along with a package of new clothes and accessories for my barbies. Life was so much easier and more simple then – presents seemed to be so much more exciting. My mom could spend $10 bucks on those two items and I would be the happiest birthday girl in the world. I feel like now I’m just wanting clothes, shoes or accessories for myself all of which cost a great deal more than $10. Mom mentioned the idea of a gift card to Crate & Barrel, hum thanks but no thanks 😉 – I haven’t grown up that much – I’ll be 4o and a homeowner before I get excited for a present like that one. Just kidding, love you mom, but really some clothes, shoes or gift cards would be just fabulous. (By the way for those of you looking to live a healthy lifestyle check out Momma’s new up and coming blog about The B Power Page).

Anyways, I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I will be happy and satisfied with whatever present(s) I may or may not receive on my birthday. The fact that I’m almost 22, supporting myself in what I would consider one of the most amazing cities, living with a wonderful roommate, blessed with an exciting job and enjoying every second of my life is a wonderful birthday present to myself. I may just be taking it all for granted, but I really do have everything that I need and as of now, I’m perfectly content with how things are panning out in my life. So with that, I think I just may be the happiest birthday girl in the world this year 🙂