Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year


Christmas. In my humble opinion, the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

My Christmas memories as a child are those of making treks to Sandusky, to see my Grandma and Grandpa and my aunts, uncles and cousins on my mother's side. Laying in the back of my parent's van (long before seat belts and car seats were required) and watching the Christmas lights as we travelled through town. Baking cookies with my mom and sisters, and listening to an Avon Christmas cassette that is still my favorite Christmas music in the world.

I had a good childhood. Christmas was always filled with love, family, togetherness.

When we don't live across an ocean, we are
always in Ohio for Christmas. Well, maybe not Christmas Day, but always part of Christmas week. Making that drive from wherever-to-Ohio, usually in the snow and very cold weather. That's the Christmas memories I have collected as an adult.

The past couple of Christmases have been different. We're far from home, and with Jon's work travels, my job insecurity, and 3 kids and all their gear made it just too hard to get home to Ohio.

We're lucky that we have formed an extensive 'second family' here in Hawaii.

I've mentioned it many times in posts in the past. These folks mean such a great deal to us. These families that have come into our lives and hearts. They are families that we won't live near forever, but will forever live in my heart (and hopefully in our lives, even if it's long-distance!)

I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have these families in my life. I know that God knew I would need to meet them, and that's why our Hawaii trip in 2006 fell through and we ended up moving here instead. It was so we could meet these people, invite them into our hearts, and share wonderful experiences that will be my children's childhood Christmas memories.

We're creating memories that my girls may not fully appreciate now, but they will treasure in the years to come.

It feels strange to have a sunburn on Christmas week (as I do), to wear shorts and tank tops when Christmas shopping with the hubby, to sit out on the lawn pulling weeds in December as I bond with a good friend and her new baby. It's a weird feeling to hear my Facebook friends talk about snow shovels and school delays while I tie my shoes and put on my iPod to go jog in the 80-degree heat. This is a surreal life, to live in "'Paradise", even for a short time, and be cut off from things that are normal to us - snowfalls, freeways, Applebee's for goodness sake! (As an aside, I am convinced that McDonald's is considered "fine dining out" here, unless you're in Waikiki.)

But the memories we've made, and will make for the rest of our stay here, are worth it. It stinks to be far from home, far from the people we love the most, and far from the daily events of their lives. But the Army has given us something wonderful to help make up for it:

ADVENTURE.

And lots of it. We've gone places, seen things, that I would never have dreamed I'd experience. I snorkeled with an eel this past Friday, if you can believe that!

As we prepare for our new adventure, sometime in 2010 (God willing, of course), I take this blessed Christmas season to reflect on the memories we've made here in Hawaii. The friends we've found, the adventures we've taken, the challenges (both good and bad).

It's all part of the adventure.

To all of you, from the Heffners, our best wishes for a blessed Christmas and a fabulous 2010!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Where I've Been...

Truthfully, I just took the last few weeks off.

Too much going on. Jon left on extended TDY, my sister came to visit with her husband and new baby boy, and work has got me working overtime, all the time.

Pardon me for a moment while I vent about this job-thing...again. If you decide to stop reading, I won't be offended. But writing it helps me cope.

They now want me to join 4:30 am daily meetings where I can hear (with the other remote folks) how important we are to getting the new people up to speed so that they can be successful at doing our jobs. And, every Thursday (including Thanksgiving), I get paged at 10:30 at night for servers that are spitting out false-positive alerts. That I haven't been able to get fixed, because of the holidays and the red-tape that is required to get a simple task executed.

Yay!

I secretly find myself being ok with this job-ending-thing. Not the being unemployed part. Not the way that the company has done it (forcing people to move or give up their jobs at the company's convenience). But the idea that I won't give my all anymore for a company that just continues to want more, and more often, and for less.

Yes, I work at home. It has been an insane blessing the last 5+ years. That piece I love, and hope and pray that I don't have to give up.

But it gives the company more and more of my time, for free. And I do it, because I am a loyal, hard-worker who likes/liked the company I work for and wanted to give them my best.

It seems like I never turn the computer off. I work, and work, and work. There is always another task that needs to be done right now. I can't even take days off, as there is no one to cover for me. (So many people have already been let go...) When Laurie was here, I worked half days and checked my email every night after her family went to bed.

All that being said, I actually find myself hoping for 2 things:
  1. That this company will do the stand-up thing and find positions for those of us who are sticking around until the end. Especially those of us that can't move, even if we wanted to, because we have spouses serving our country and can't/won't separate the family for the sake of a job. (I know this is a dream and too good to be true, but I still hold out hope.)

  2. That, if #1 doesn't happen, that I can at least stay with said company until summer 2010, when I anticipate a move to a new part of the US, where I can go back to contracting, or maybe take a college course or 2, and take my career sights in a new direction.
I hate feeling this way. I have never lost a job before - never been fired, let go, laid off, any of that. It sucks. The insane amount of control that I don't have. That's what gets me the most.

I would have stayed with this company for years and years if they'd let me, until retirement. I would have been loyal until the end. I don't know if I will get that chance.

I have tried giving it to God. Believe me, I try. Every day. I know that God wants me to be patient, that he wants me to let Him help me. I believe whole-heartedly, that He has another plan for me and that He will help me with the job situation because I have asked.

Believe me, I pray everyday. Sometimes several times a day. It's just about all I think about these days. I am wondering if God is sick of hearing my prayer yet. It's like it's been on an endless loop for months.

I don't know what He wants me to do. It's like I can't hear what He's trying to say to me, what He wants me to do to help myself with this situation. I have applied for a few other jobs at this employer, but I can't get past the stupid computer-screening process.

So I wait, and stress. Every day. Waiting for the ball to drop. For them to say they don't need me anymore.

It sucks. That's all there is to it.

But I will continue to pray. I will ask everyday for help. And maybe, God's time will come and I will see the answer that I've been looking for.

If you see it, let me know.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank a Veteran (or their spouse) today


Veteran's Day has a new meaning for me this year. Rebecca lost her husband just over 2 weeks ago. It makes the sacrifice our troops make that much more real.

My heart aches for her. I worry about her every day. I wonder how she finds the strength everyday to just get out of bed (if she even sleeps.) Rebecca is a strong lady, very independent. But there is no way to prepare for losing your spouse unexpectedly. I mean, you can make up wills, buy life insurance, talk about the "what-ifs".

But you can't prepare for the feelings that come with losing the person that you love most in the entire world.

Veteran's Day is a day to honor those who have and currently do serve our country, risking their life everyday for our way of life.

We all saw the commercials a few years back, during the Superbowl, I think. The one with the servicemen walking in line in the airport. People stopped to clap for them, and they all smiled a faint smile. How wonderful to know that you are risking your life everyday, your marriage, time with your family, and that someone else is grateful for that?? That your country believes the same things that you do, and appreciates that you stand up for the beliefs of many!

And at my friend's funeral last week, hundreds of people lined the streets of his hometown, waving American flags proudly as his body made way to its final resting place.

Please take time to thank a veteran, a military spouse, or a widow/er for the sacrifices they make for us. A simple "thank you" means more that you can ever imagine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This blog has done wonders for me...

I don't know about you readers, but having this blog for almost 2 years really has been a blessing for me. To be able to share my thoughts, stories and photographs is wonderful.

The blog really started as a way to keep in touch with our extended families when we moved to Hawaii. I know that they miss seeing the kids as often as they used to, and this gives us a way to share our Hawaii adventures and keep them involved in the kids' lives.

But it became more than that. It was also a way for me to vent. To share my frustrations. Not to bring people into my issues, but just to put them on paper, so that I could see them and decide what to do about them.

You all know that my job is a great source of concern right now. Blogging about it has given me some peace. While I know that things are going to change, whether I like it or not, having a way to talk about these things helps me get through them.

And losing our friend in Iraq late last month. I struggled with that for days, trying to sort it out in my head. I still struggle with it. Everyday I pray for my friend - that she will have the strength to get through this sadness and the changes that will happen in her life. I worry about her. I know what everyone says - that there's a reason, that God needed him, that there's a plan bigger than our understanding.

Sometimes those explanations aren't enough.

And, since I couldn't reach Jon when it happened, I hoped that he would at least be able to see the blog and know that someone we knew personally and cared about gave their life for our country.

Thanks, readers. I know there aren't many of you. But thank you for listening. When you are far from home like I am, sometimes the blog can be your best friend.

Please continue to bear with me. The next few months will be crazy with Jon's travel, visitors, the holidays, and then the plan to move.

Thanks for being there.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Days of Old...

Alissa's working on a project about herself for school. As an aside, I don't understand why 10th graders are doing projects on themselves. What are they supposed to be learning - how to scrapbook? How to color, cut, paste? I don't think it's a worthwhile project, I think it's a waste of a 10th grader's time. (Another reason for us to move this summer, the high school here is just ridiculous.)

Anyway, for this project, Alissa needed pictures of herself from the past. Thankfully, we didn't leave our pictures in storage in Tennessee. The girls and I dragged out 8 boxes of photographs and proceeded to pour through them.

Boy did the memories pile in! Pictures I really hadn't looked at in years. Memories that were still in my heart and mind, but that hadn't been visited in a long time. Pictures of Alex and Alissa as babies. It's hard for me to remember some of those times, but seeing them in print brings the memories flooding back.

And wait until you see this picture of Alex. Abby was convinced that it was her - especially since she just wore that same dress last week! If I didn't know better, as their mother, I would easily mistake it for Abby as well. (I'll post some more of the old pictures later today...)

The major differences are Alex's bangs and the fact that Alex and Abby have different eyes. As a smaller child, Alex always had those dark circles under her eyes that Abby never had. (They seemed to have gone away as Alex has gotten older...)

I say this in practically every post, I guess because I am just dumbfounded. I don't feel any older, but my children are growing and blossoming before my eyes.

Too quickly.

I don't feel ready. I'm not ready for them to be young ladies. I'm not ready for them to not need me as much anymore.

I'm not ready for Alissa to be a grown-up. That happens in just 3 short years.

It's selfish. And I'm dealing with that. I will be as ready as I can be when the time comes.

Seeing these pictures makes me grateful for the family I have. Jon, the girls, and our extended families.

Family is everything. I'm so glad that I have never forgotten that, no matter what else has come our way.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Death Sucks!

Our friend's death earlier this week has hit hard. I have been in a slump all week.

I think it hits harder because I also have a soldier in my life. And I never truly think about what life would be like without him. He travels a lot, and he has been to war. But all the times he's gone, I really never let myself think about the "what-ifs". We have all our paperwork in order, like any other family would, and we've talked before about what one should do if something happened to the other. I'm sure all couples do that, especially if there are children involved.

But I never really let it in - that something could happen. I'm sure my friend didn't really, either. Her soldier had already been deployed several times before this. I'm sure that, while still being totally crappy, this deployment was "old hat". She is an excellent mother, and on top of the family's dynamic. She is the epitome of a military wife - independent, strong and in-control. You watch your soldier leave, and while you miss them terribly and worry about their safety, you go on with the "normal" part of your life, counting the days until he returns home.

This week's events have made me wake up, out of the fog, and feel the reality. What it feels like to have someone you know die at war.

Wednesday, more than 24 hours later, I was still crying from the news. I laid in my bed Wednesday afternoon, sobbing. It hit harder than any death I've heard about in many years.

There are many reasons for my sadness. He was too young, he was such a cool guy, a great dad, someone fun to hang out with. He was a great soldier with many years left to lead. But I really think that the reason I was so upset was the shock of it all.

All I can think, admittedly selfishly, is that I know that her experience is one that I could be exposed to at anytime. Receiving that knock on the door, as a man in uniform comes to tell you the worst news you could ever want to hear.
As I mentioned in a previous post, he is the first fallen soldier that I have actually had human interaction with. And not just interaction, but friendship.

It sucks. And though I have gotten the sobbing under control, the sadness lingers on. And it will for some time.

I guess I just needed to talk about it. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When you lose a hero...

I received some extremely troubling news yesterday. A good friend of ours lost her soldier husband in Iraq yesterday.

These are friends we've known for over 10 years. We met them in Germany and were very close. Over the years since, our Army travels have taken us to different places, but we have stayed in close contact with them. Many good times were shared.

I don't know the details of his death - when, how, and of course we'll never know why. (If I knew, I doubt that I would post such troubling personal details.)

I haven't seen this solider in probably 4 years. But his death hit me hard.

I have to admit that I do not know anyone personally that has lost a servicemember to the war.

Not until yesterday, that is.

I don't know exactly how to handle the news. First and foremost, I wanted Jon to get the sudden urge to call me. (He's out of town this week...) I needed to hear his voice. Alas, I have no way to contact him, so I haven't been able to talk to him since I heard the news.

Then I just cried. And cried. And cried. I cried for my friend, who will have to move on without the person she loves most in the world.

I cried for her children, who love their father more than life and won't understand the reasons he gave his life for his country, at least not for many years.

And mostly I cried because I just don't understand. I mean, I'm not a fool. I know that sending our men and women in uniform to war (regardless of whether the President calls it a war) means that some of them won't come home. It's a sad reality.

But the reason that this soldier was called Home to be with God - it just doesn't compute. He was so young (35), a great officer, a personable, caring human being, and a family man. He was so funny, laughing all the time and making people feel warm and welcome.

My heart hurts today. I mean, I feel physical pain in my body. I haven't lost someone so close to me, so I don't know if that's what happens at a time like this. I feel helpless. There's nothing that I can do for my friend except to pray, and to tell her that I am here for her.

Somehow I know that's not enough. There's nothing that can make this loss easier for her.

I know she is a Christian, and that God will help her through. It won't be easy, or fast, but He will guide her. And she has a strong family that is probably already by her side.

I struggle to make sense of it, and then I realize that there is no sense. It just is.

We're not always meant to understand why things happen. We're just meant to trust that there is a reason why, and that God will guide us through the hardship that it might create.

It is a powerful lesson for me, and it brings my ridiculous job issues into focus. There are so many MUCH more important things than a job.

Now if Jon would only call, so I could hear the sound of his voice and be comforted by the person that I love the most in the world. It's selfish, in light of my friend's recent devastation, but I think it's normal to feel this way.

Please pray for my friend as she is forced to deal with what I am sure is the hardest thing she's ever had to face. Please ask God to help her navigate this territory and give her the strength she needs to get through the emotions, the Army paperwork, the sadness, the weeks of uncertainty to come.

Fallen soldier, the Heffners are thinking of you and your family today. Thank you for your selfless service to our country.

A grateful nation humbly appreciates the ultimate sacrifice you made.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Alissa's new hair...

Alissa had her hair dyed yesterday. I must say, I think it's really, really pretty. (I am biased, I know...)

She loves it, it makes her feel less "white" here among all her Island friends. Her friends don't treat her differently because she's from the Mainland, but they comment all the time that her hair is blonde. (It isn't, but when your friends all have jet black hair, I guess light brown can pass for blonde.) I guess this bothers her, and she is constantly looking for fairly innocent ways to shake up her life a little bit.

Anyway, she wanted to dye her hair dark. She is a free spirit, constantly re-inventing herself. (Most of you are aware of her off-again, on-again vegetarianism...) I convinced her not to go too dark, but darker than what she currently had.

I figure that if dyeing her hair is the most rebellious thing she's into right now, I really can't say no. (Besides, I used to bleach my hair when I was her age, so I would be calling the kettle black.)

She got a semi-permanent dye, so it will wash out in 4-6 weeks. Our neighbor, and good friend, Kim, who dyes her own hair, came over to perform the procedure. (I offered, but Alissa didn't fully trust me, I don't think. And, since Kim dyes her own hair she had me in the experience department.) If Alissa likes the color she has, she can go more permanent next time...

Judge for yourself. If you like it, send her an email and let her know. She'd love to hear it!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sometimes I forget how beautiful it is here...

So, I haven't been jogging in 2 weeks. I lost all my motivation. Well, most of it. I felt a pang of guilt for not being out there, but not enough for me to get up off the couch and stop watching movies with Alissa or whatever else I could find to distract me.

Yesterday I decided, things had to change. I put my sports bra on when I woke up. Determined to get back out there. And I did, but not until 2:00 pm. The younger girls are out of school this week, and they probably would be fine if I went for a jog for an hour, but they've been bickering and I didn't want to risk it.

As I turned the 3rd corner on my usual route, and started to pass the open air of the Kapolei Golf Course, I saw it.

To most it looks like a golf course view with a pretty fountain and some palm trees.

For me, it was a visual reminder of the beauty that Hawaii offers. And the inspiration I needed to just stop whining and start moving again.

Look, I still eat too much junk and I won't become a size 2 by jogging. But jogging has given me something else. It's given me something for Tiffany.

My job keeps me confined at home. While I LOVE that, working here, and don't want to jinx it, it also means that there are many, many days when I don't leave the house at all except to shuttle kids to and from school.

So jogging gets me out of the house. And with the volume that I set my iPod to, all my thoughts are drowned out. (There's no room for worries or stress when Chris Daughtry is serenading me at full volume.)

Hawaii is, in some ways, just like any other place we've ever lived. There is work and school and laundry and traffic.

But there is a majestic beauty here. (Not in all neighborhoods, but we're lucky because Kapolei is still so beautiful and clean.) It is sometimes forgotten as I sit day after day in front of this computer, wondering if I will have a job in 6 months.

It felt great when I got back. Some of my neighbors were outside, and they knew I hadn't been out in a couple weeks. What encouragement I felt when they waved and smiled. I was dripping from sweat - it's stinking hot here at 2:00! But it was a great feeling.

A feeling that I didn't even realize that I'd been missing.

And, we got the flyer for the Great Aloha Run - they've assigned a date. So now I gotta get back out there! No excuses.

I'm back.

Happy Weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The holidays are coming...

Alissa hanging the lights over the garage...

It's that time of year. A holiday every month. My favorite time of year.

I think because there is so much to celebrate.

Yesterday Alissa put up Halloween lights outside. Yes, I said Alissa. She is the official "light hanger" in the family. Last year she put up the Christmas lights both inside and outside. She had a ball doing it, and they looked fantastic.

This year we decided to put out lights for Halloween. Alissa, the brave soul, got on the ladder and hung them over the garage. Then we had the bright idea to hang some on the 2nd level. Alissa readily offered to climb up onto the roof.

(I remember doing that as a kid, at the old house, but now as an adult I would be simply terrified.)

She got up there, but the lights weren't cooperating. About that time, our neighbor came over and suggested that maybe we hang them inside, on the 2nd floor windows, because the wind is unpredictable this time of year. So, the upstairs lights went inside the house. The house looks cool all lit up - I'll see if I can get a decent picture tonight. We have more elaborate decorations, but we'll put them out on Trick-or-Treat day (so they don't get swiped). I'll post pictures after Trick-or-Treat...

Halloween is a holiday that all 5 Heffners enjoy. The costumes will be complete this weekend (I'm making 2 of them), and we're planning a party with our Hawaii Ohana. It'll be a blast!

After Halloween comes Thanksgiving, of course. Jon will be away again, so it's up to the girls and me to devise a plan for what we want to do that day. You'll recall that the plan for last year was to spend it at the beach, which we did. I'm thinking that that plan will hold for this year as well. It won't be exactly the same - Jay and Lucie won't be here, and there's no potluck - but we'll pack a cooler and make our own day.

And then there's Christmas. My favorite holiday, for so many reasons. (More posts on this in the near future...)

Enjoy these photos of Alissa's light-hanging skills. Happy Wednesday!

Alissa on the roof

Too scary for Mom to do...


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Random Thoughts for a Wednesday...

Haven't posted in a week. Jon's away TDY, so I haven't been sleeping well. I never do when he's gone. I hear every little noise at night, and the room seems so empty with him not here. You'd think after 15+ years of living in the same house and sleeping in the same bed, and having him gone for 1/3 of that, that I would be used to it. I should be welcoming the opportunity to:
  • choose what channel the TV is on;
  • get to sleep on more than 1/5 of the bed;
  • turn the air conditioner a little warmer at night...
I'm telling ya folks, it never gets easier to watch the person that you love most in the world board a plane. I don't care where he's going or for how long, it stinks every single time. I didn't cry this time, so at least that's something.

Guess I'd better get used to it - he'll be gone off and on for the better part of the next 4-5 months...

Anyway, the kids and I take the opportunity when Jon's gone to do some of the things that he never seems to be interested in. They're all on break from school this week, and since our trip to the Mainland fell through (don't get me started...), I decided to take a couple of days off anyway and spend some time with them. It is too apparent to me that these kids are growing way too fast and I want to make some more Hawaii memories with them.

On Saturday, I took them to the Hale Koa in town. (Hale Koa is the really nice military hotel downtown.) If you're a DoD ID card-holder, there are many amenities that you can take advantage of. One advantage is the pool.

Yes, we live by the ocean and lots of amazing beaches. But as I mentioned in a previous post, I am totally over vacuuming sand out of the van every week and stepping on sand in the laundry room and feeling the sand in my scalp and other (unmentionable) places, even after 3 days worth of showers.

The pool at the Hale Koa isn't remarkable, except for the fact that it is: (1) pretty large for a hotel pool, (2) extremely kid-friendly, (3) usually not cold, even in "winter", and (4) almost never crowded. We went last Saturday for 5 hours, and most of that time there were less than 20 families there. (That's nothing for a pool of that size.)

Monday we went to the waterpark. Again, maybe not remarkable to those who have been to The Beach in Ohio or to Blizzard Beach in Orlando. But to us it is a fabulous time every time. It's literally right down the street, less than 2 miles. And it's fun. My kids are all old enough that I don't have to worry about them not touching the bottom of the pool, and they are all brave in the water. But they know their limits. Abby LOVES the waves, and she knows exactly how far she can go before it's not safe. The girl amazes me with her intuition. This time we took a picnic lunch and tailgated in the parking lot. As boring as PB&J and juice boxes may sound, it was a memory that I hold dear. We made friends in the parking lot who shared homemade brownies, and we listened to Alissa's iPod with them and enjoyed some company.

Those annual waterpark passes have paid for themselves 10 times over...An investment I'd make again in a heartbeat...

Besides having fun with the kids, not much else is new. No news on the job front, except that it's definitely happening. The timelines keep changing and so I just pray and pray about it. That I can somehow find another position with them that will allow me to work from home a little longer, until Abby's a little older (my first choice), or that I can at least work until next summer when we move. Though I still think about it and pray about it and stress about it, I have truly come to (some) peace. That it will be OK. I like working and contributing to the family, and I have always been blessed to receive God's help when I've asked him to help me find a job. Always. So I continue to remember that. That He will help me - somehow, sometime, some way.

The kids are great. Growing like weeds. Alissa's 15 now. It astounds me. I have a 15-year old! How can that be???? Wasn't I just 15 myself last week?

I have been getting a LOT of questions lately about the next move. Believe me, it's on my mind, too. This will be the hardest move we've ever made, for lots of reasons. The kids are now all old enough to remember this place, and their friends, and their life. They'll be happy to be back on Mainland soil and closer to our Ohio Ohana (because let's face it, anywhere on the Mainland is closer to Ohio than here...) Despite that, they won't be completely happy to go.

And I won't either.

Don't get me wrong. I will be ready to go. After 2 years I am always chomping at the bit to move - it's what Army life does to you. But it will be hard to leave a place where I haven't worn jeans in 2 years and where I can sit outside and feel the ocean breeze any time of day. It will be super hard, maybe a little unbearable, to leave my Paiaha Ohana, who have become new, strong, growing branches on our military family tree. It will be hard to leave this street, where we know almost everyone and they all look out for each other. There are so many things to miss about this place.

Despite all that, it will be time to go.

When and if there is news, I will be sure to let you know. (Maybe not on the blog - depends on how private the news is.) But it's gonna be a while. I know we're all anxious to hear about what our new adventure will be, but it's gonna be at least a few more months. Especially since Jon will be in and out and not available for most of the late fall/early winter.

Happy Wednesday all. Leave me a note - I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Alissa is 15 today!

Happy 15th birthday today to my oldest daughter, Alissa. Fifteen years have flown by.

Fifteen years ago, I remember being a young, scared new mom, with a beautiful new baby and a husband about to move halfway around the world. I remember praying that I would do a good job and wondering if I had what it took to be a good mom, especially so young.

You and I were inseparable for the first 3 years of your life. Dad was gone a lot and it was just you and me. I loved those days. I mean, they were tough. You hated to sleep!

I am so proud of the young lady you are becoming. You are confident, happy, caring, funny, smart and beautiful. You are a great student, a great leader, and a good role model to your 2 younger sisters, who watch your every move and wish they could be a teenager like you.

Your life is full of challenges right now. High school in itself is challenging. Add to that your Class President role, your military brat lifestyle, and our plan to move again this summer (and sending you to your 8th school by the time you reach 11th grade.) You handle life like a champ - taking every challenge, every situation, and you make it yours. There is nothing you can't do!

As you grow, and need Mom less and less on a daily basis, please know that I am always here in the background of your life. Always available to you, always loving you and being there for you.

You (and your sisters) are the greatest joy in my life. My firstborn child, you changed me when you joined my life. You made me something I never thought I would be. Something wonderful.

Your mom. A role I am honored to have.

We have complimented each other over the years. And today I am profoundly proud and blessed to wish you a Blissful 15th Birthday. If you see me cry off and on today, it is not from sadness.

It is because I love you so much. And I guess I never realized how beautiful your life could be. You are blessed, and it fills my heart.

I love you more than I could ever put into words. But you know that.

Have an amazing birthday today!

Monday, September 21, 2009

I got 5K yesterday....


Ok, that's a little deceptive. But I liked the title.

Alissa and I ran a 5K race in downtown Honolulu yesterday. It was the Nike 5K for Kids race. Almost all of Alissa's 10th grade PE peers attended, because they get school credit for it, and the proceeds of their entrance fee went directly back to their school.

Since Alissa had so many friends there, we separated at the very beginning of the race. She preferred to walk it with her friends, and I set out to jog as long as I could.

I crossed the finish line at 7:48, 48 minutes after I started.

It was a grand day, for many reasons:
  1. A race by the ocean, how cool is that?
  2. I ran 3.1 miles in 48 minutes. I was thrilled with the time. Yes, I have room for improvement. But I did it.
  3. I ran about 75% of the race, slowing to a walk for just a couple of short distances.
  4. It was a beautiful day.
  5. I RAN A 5K race!
Those who know me know that I don't exactly have a runner's body. I am a little top-heavy, which has always precluded me from ever even trying to run. But about a year ago I started jogging, little by little. And I have continued it for almost a year now.

Jon has run in many races here in Hawaii. He is an avid runner and loves the feel of being in a race. I planned to run in one, but have always chickened out at the last minute.

Yesterday was an accomplishment for me. Who ever thought I would run in an organized event, ever??

It felt great. But today my thighs burn as I walk down the stairs. I guess maybe I should have started running earlier in life.

Yesterday makes me want to run again, and even more seriously this time. I will look for another short race or 2, to prepare me for the Great Aloha Run in February. That one I am definitely enrolling in.

It was a fantastic day. I'm proud of both of us.

Happy Monday!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Crib quilts, babies, Park Day and fun

Last Friday we had our weekly Park Day. There's a gated park at the end of my street that has a couple of play areas and a ton of grass (for frisbees, football or kite-flying).

When I first moved here, there was a group of women who met there with their kids on Fridays after school to hang out and talk (while the kids played and ran around). They called it "Park Day". The gal who sort of organized the whole thing (we'll call her "Q") was an uber-homemaker who baked something every day, so she always brought cookies or something. The women brought lawn chairs and juice boxes and scooters, and a fun afternoon was had by all.

Well, "Q" moved last June (2008) and as new people came to the neighborhood, I encouraged them to come to Park Day. I was welcomed there, and it was fun. However, when "Q" moved, Park Day changed. The ladies who had always been there weren't as welcoming as "Q" had been, and they openly showed their disdain for the newcomers. (To this day I'm not sure that I was ever really welcomed, I believe that those ladies probably said some mean things about me when I wasn't around...) They made the new folks visibly uncomfortable. So, Park Day disbanded - unofficially.

About a month or so ago, my Paiaha Ohana suggested resurrecting Park Day - but with a new twist. This would be much more casual, more friendly and welcoming to whomever wanted to come. All you needed was a chair, a smile, and some sunglasses (because the sun shines brighter in the park, I think). We gathered in the Park for that first new Park Day, and fun was had by all.

So, the tradition continues!

And last Friday was the best of all (so far). We had 8 families represented,which was fantastic. Many of the dads also came. (That was rare with the old Park Day - too much gossip...) In addition to normal laughter, there was a small birthday party for one of the kids. To see her face light up while blowing out candles with her Ohana around, it was precious.

We decided to bring dinner-type foods, too. As we've been staying at the park until dark, the kids were too tired to eat a proper dinner (and so their Friday night dinners had consisted of cookies and cheese puffs and whatever else the moms had grabbed on the way out the door...) I don't think dinner will be a weekly event, but it sure was fun. The kids ate a little better, and moms didn't worry what they'd do about dinner when Park Day was over...

Two of the moms are expecting babies before the end of the year (one is expecting a boy, the other a girl). One mom invited Alissa and I to feel her tummy. It's been a LONG time since I've felt a baby bump. It was sweet and precious and so wonderful. To be so close to this mom that she'd share that with us was priceless. And we felt the baby's head!! It was so cool.

These are memories that I want to hold onto forever. To keep in my heart to remember our days here in Hawaii. How the folks we met became a part of our life and grew to be very special to us. I document them here so I will have them many years from now, to remind me of those people, their generosity. Of Penny's super-funny stories and how I look forward to them. Of the baby bumps (and the new babies that will soon join our weekly festivities). Of the Thursdays every week and how I can't wait for one more day, for Friday, because I know what's coming. Stories and laughter and hugs from all the kids, not just the ones that belong to you. A group of more than just neighbors - a group of true friends.

Ohana who read this, you all mean so much to me. I have never lived anywhere where neighbors meant this much. Where all 100 of our kids could play together, and run together, and be together. Hawaii has a whole new meaning for me because you are part of that experience.

Thank you!

So, for the 2 moms-to-be, I made baby blankets. You may remember the one I made for my sister back in July. I fell in love with it. It wasn't perfect, but it sure turned out pretty cool in my opinion.

I gave them the blankets on Friday at Park Day:

for the girl baby, whose nursery is pink and chocolate:

for the boy baby, whose nursery is shades of blue:
Now I just need an excuse to make another one. I love doing it. I am really working up to making one for my own bed. But I need a few smaller ones under my belt first. And they're so stinking cute!


Happy Tuesday, everyone! Leave me a note. And if you know anyone who might like a baby blanket....

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Brady

He is 11 days old today. This picture is a couple of days old, but you can see how sweet he is. What a blessing, a new life in the family.

I remember once, several years (and grandchildren) ago, my dad made a statement that he wanted to have 10 grandchildren. I don't know if he remembers saying this, and he'd probably deny it, but that statement stuck with me for some reason. There might have been 6 grandchildren in the family then...I can't remember, but I'm fairly certain it was before Abby was born, so that would have been sometime before 2003. Ten seemed like a large number back then, because I certainly wasn't planning to have any more kids. (Thankfully God disagreed with me...)

Anway, Brady makes #10 of the Diamond grandchildren. And he is such a welcome addition to the clan. I am overjoyed that my sister has a son. (And I can't wait to meet him!)

Enjoy...




Monday, August 31, 2009

It's almost September...


Man, 2009 has gone by really quickly. Seems that just yesterday my sister told me she was expecting, and now little Brady is over 1 week old! Jay and Lucie have been back in Canada for 3 months now. We've been in this house for almost a year! Alissa will be 15(!!) in just a few short weeks, and it's almost the end of the first grading period already.

I am amazed at the speed that 2009 picked up. I guess it's all that wishing on my part for 2010 to get here so we can PCS already.

Don't get me wrong. Hawaii is fine. Great, even. I enjoy the beach and the warm sunshine, and the green grass and beautiful flowers, and I LOVE wearing a tank top and shorts everyday. (I hate wearing jeans!) I've actually turned into an outdoor-person - I look for reasons to be outside. I even like mowing the lawn and pulling weeds, because it means I can be outside.

And, I am so grateful for all the really wonderful friends we've made, who've become our Hawaii 'Ohana and who mean so much to us. It's been a great 20 months. (20 months! Already?)

But, it's crazy expensive here and so far from home.

2009 has been a year full of things happening on the mainland without me - namely, Brady's birth. Oh, how I wanted to be there. I see his adorable pictures and I think to myself - "It will be just like with my other 2 sisters' kids - he won't know us. We'll be strangers." My other sister has an almost-9-year-old, who loves Alex but doesn't really talk to me at all. I think I scare him a little, because he knows my name but he doesn't really know me.

That stinks. As hard as we try, sometimes the distance just gets in the way.

So, I am ready for this move to happen. Whenever it happens.

On other notes, Brady is doing great. He's such a doll. I'll see if I can get permission to post a pic so everyone can see him.

The girls are doing awesome. The school year is going well, and we're all settled into a routine. Abby's ballet starts up again this week, and I am once again trying to get the younger 2 into Girl Scouts. (Getting into Girl Scouts is an ordeal here.)

Jon's got a stress fracture in his leg. He's doing fine, and expects a full recovery, but he's been sidelined by the Army from running for a few weeks.

Otherwise, things are fine. Same old same old. No news on the job front, but I'm maintaining my positive attitude. It'll all be OK one way or another. And surprisingly, I am learning to let it go. It's just a job, right?

I'm working on another quilt - actually 2. I'll post pictures when they're complete. I think I've been hit by the quilting bug. It's actually fun to do, and the finished results are really great. I'm working my way up so that I can make one for my bed. (in shades of green, of course - I've already bought the fabric for it...)

Leave me a message, blog readers! Happy Monday!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I'm going to be an aunt again, any minute now...

My sister Shari called me last night. Seems that my other sister Laurie, 39 weeks pregnant, went into labor around dinner time (East Coast). They went to the hospital last night and she was in active labor.

So, I barely slept. Terri and Shari and Mom and everyone else promised to keep us Hawaii-folk informed. We got a text at 1:30 our time saying that Laurie was dilated to 9 and they were going to push soon. The doctors said that the baby would be born by 10:00 am (which was 3 hours ago).

I didn't hear anything for several more hours, and I woke up every few minutes to make sure that my phone was still turned on.

Just a few minutes ago, I got a text that the baby is face-down and they are trying to turn him.
(Update: he's almost fully turned so hopefully it will be very, very soon.)

I don't understand why the doctors try things for hours and hours before they finally succumb to a c-section. When I was in labor with Abby, I pushed for 3 hours. (BTW, there was no way she was coming that way. Her head was way, way too big...) I started BEGGING them to give me a c-section.

Why isn't the threshold smaller - is it really safe to push so long? I do not claim to know anything about labor and what's safe and for how long, but I have always assumed that pushing for so long isn't healthy. (Maybe it is and I don't understand, but I can't imagine.)

I'm not there with my sister, she's over 6,000 miles from here. But I hear she's a real trooper and that it should be any moment now. She has a gaggle of family there with her, and we are there in spirit and in thought.

He's almost here, almost ready to join the world, to be held by my sister and her husband, and to become a physical part of the family.

I love you, Laurie and Dion, and we are anxiously awaiting your new arrival!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer's Over...


Well,the girls are back settled into school now. They're into their 4th week already! I can't believe it. Some kids (on the mainland) haven't even started back and my kids are halfway through the 1st grading period.

Alex is doing great in middle school. She's really gotten the hang of changing classes and moving from building to building. She's taking "band", which isn't really band in 6th grade, but ukulele lessons. (You can't take real band until 7th grade here, for some strange reason...)

It's cool to hear her play songs on the ukulele. It reminds me that my kids are getting so much more than a mediocre education here. They're getting cultural immersion. They eat rice and li hing mui just like everyone else, they even try Spam! They're creating memories that most people won't get to have in their lifetimes. We're experiencing these things together. Things that I hope will stay with them for years, so they can share the stories with their own children and grandchildren.

Jon is busy, working toward the crazy travel season that is fall and winter. He's already scheduled for at least 3 trips between September and January. It's great for him, great experience and he really enjoys it. But these trips are long trips, and they fall on some really inconvenient dates: namely, Jon's 40th birthday in January. I had some grand ideas - travelling without the kids for a couple days, a great party, something. But he won't be here. Guess I will have to adjust my plans a little bit.

With school in full swing, the house is quiet everyday. I'm still working, but there is no bustle. There is peace, except for the blare of Chris Daughtry on my iPod. I find that the loud music makes me miss the kids just a little less, and it clears my head to concentrate on work tasks.

Alissa has started taking piano lessons with our neighbor (and good friend). She's been in lessons for about a month now, and she's really taken to it. She practices with dedication, and her instructor says she's picking up quickly. She's also busy with her Class President duties. There's a meeting every week, and she's required to take "Leadership" as one of her electives. She's currently designing the Sophomore Class Spirit T-shirt. I'm so proud of her. She's really taken this responsibility and run with it. She's always been confident, but this has given her some real tangible evidence, that she can not only do something well, but enjoy it too.

Last night was the high school open house. As Sophomore Class President, Alissa was required to speak at the opening events.

I was incredibly proud of her. She wasn't nervous at all, as she spoke to over 200 people. She showed enthusiasm about her role, and she looked incredibly cool and confident. She spoke about all the events planned for the year, and how she's tasked with designing a new Class of 2012 t-shirt, and she asked for her fellow classmates to get involved. Her advisor's husband works with Jon, so he and the advisor got talking. She explained how Alissa is a confident, hard-working, smart young lady who will make a difference to the class of 2012, even though we won't be here for 11th and 12th grade.

We, of course, already knew Alissa's ability and that she's a great kid. But hearing it from her teachers is a welcome blessing. It's nice to know that she's showing her good side at school :-).

As we approach the busy last months of 2009, I am reminded of all that I am blessed with - a job (at least for now), 3 incredible kids, a hard-working husband, a life in a warm, sunny place, and friends out there who mean so much to me. When I have a rough day, or worry about my employment, I remember that I have these things. Things that will carry me through if the job turns sour.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A positive attitude...

As you all know, I have been stressed out about this job situation for a while now.

Well, stressing doesn't make the situation better. It only makes my stomach upset, and it makes a lot of people wonder why I am in such a funk...

So, I finally decided that I would put it in God's hands. I read recently on Facebook, someone posted a note that said to be specific when you pray. Maybe I haven't been specific enough.

I figure that, in addition to being always being thankful for what I already have, I would be a little more specific when I prayed the next time.

And, you know, I haven't been stressing about the job so much over the last couple of days. Yes, it is still definitely on my mind. Yes, I am still doing my best to help myself through this situation.

But, I have opened up myself to allow for God's Will to be done. I said I would before, but I don't think I ever really did. I kept control of it, even though I really didn't have any control in the first place. I let it bother me, I let it sit there like a rock in my stomach where it wasn't helping me at all. In fact, it was hurting me. Hurting my family (because I let it rule my emotions...)

I personally believe what a pastor in Germany once stated in his sermon, that God knows what we need/want, and wants to help us. He's just waiting for us to ask. And I also believe that God will help me, in His time, in His way, and even if my prayer is not answered in the way I ask (no matter how specific I ask), that He will help me because I asked. (And because I try my best to walk through life the best way I can - being a good person with morals and compassion and love in my heart.)

I have always believed this. But, I let my fears and stresses get in the way and cloud what I know to be true.

The things I'm worrying about (read: my job and employment future) will turn out OK. Because I have asked for help, I know it will be OK.

And for some strange reason, even though I still don't know what will happen with my job or when, I have some peace inside me that says that it will be OK. There might be some trials to get to "OK", but we'll get there.

I felt the need to post this. Mainly for myself. To remind myself what my former manager used to tell me, that work is work and that it is never as important as the people you love.

Besides the job situation, life is good. The hurricane didn't hit us. (Well, it's raining a little bit now but that's totally OK with me. Lower water bill this month!) I killed yet another phone - 2 in the last 3 months! I sent it to an accidental watery grave...

So I finally bit the bullet last night and upgraded my phone to an iPhone.

(Did you hear that, Jay! I finally have a new phone, and even though it's not the one you wanted me to get, I finally made a choice...)

I have been hem-hawing about this stupid phone for almost 8 months. Last night I just sucked it up and did it.

I am in love. It is a great device. I already knew that because Alissa has had one since December and occasionally she lets me drool over it.

But I waited and waited. I'm not sure what I was waiting for. Waiting for life to go one way or the other. But I should know that waiting for things to change doesn't make them change. Isn't that what today's blog entry is all about??

So, here's to today and the miracle of Tiffany finally deciding that waiting for change won't make anything change. And deciding that things are going to be fine. With God's help, whenever the time is right, things will turn out fine.

Until then, life as normal, but with a little less stress. (Hopefully!)

Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Shower Gift

Well, now that my sister's shower is over, I can post the pictures of the gift that I sent.

It's a crib quilt. That I made. My very first quilt!
Front of quilt

Quilt folded so you can see the front and back at the same time


back of quilt - you can see the quilting lines on the back if you
look closely...

I am super proud of this quilt. It isn't without it flaws, but it was so super cute when it was finished.

My sister is doing the baby's room in camouflage, and her hubby is in the Army National Guard (National Guard? Reserves? I always get them confused.) I don't know if the camouflage actually matches the nursery. I hope it does!

I wanted her to have something personal from me. And a blanket is something that seemed appropriate. I cried when it was finished, because it looked nice and the idea of it just felt right.

And it sort of got me started with the quilting bug. I've already started a second one. Maybe I'll eventually be able to work my way up to grown-up size quilts. :-)

I'll continue to post more pictures as my new hobby flourishes...

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

OH--IO!!



Man, am I missing Ohio lately. I remember being homesick when we first moved to Germany. It didn't feel like this, though. This isn't homesickness, I don't think.

It's more like missing the people in Ohio that I love so much.

Today is a special day for my sister. She's having a baby shower. For her first baby. A baby she wanted so much, and tried for for a long time. He's almost here, and it's time to celebrate!

Everyone in the city's going to be there, it seems. My other sister, who is hosting, said that 60+ people will be there.

I'm sad to miss such a special, wonderful day in her life. I know that with 60 other people there, we wouldn't have gotten much of a chance to talk anyway. She's the center of attention today, as she should be, and everyone's eyes will be on her.

I just wanted so badly to be there. In the same room.

But, 3 kids in their first week back to school, a demanding job (with an uncertain future) and a husband at the whim of the Army prohibit a trip back to the Mainland right now. It just wasn't able to happen.

I am there in spirit. My heart is there. And can't wait to see the photos.

I miss those people. So much! (You can tell from my last 2 or 3 posts, can't you?)

Laurie, I love you so much. Have a wonderful day! We're with you there in spirit for sure, and I am certain that we'll see you sooner than we think. I can feel it.

Big hugs from Hawaii!