Archive of ‘Familia’ category

Charlotte Visits

By Natalie

The Lawrence’s made it down for my birthday!! How sweet is that? We did alot of exploring around town and had some tasty Carolina BBQ. What more could you ask for?

imageimageimageSeriously she is a brunette Pebbles Flinstone in the flesh.

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The Peters’ came out for a visit, so I could snuggle my little Maceo man. He loves to be entertained. He’ll coo, and smile, but he’ll make you work for it. That provides the best memories after all. He seeks connection, he’s not going to throw his affection out to just anybody willy nilly. This little boy is intentional.

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My sister as a mom. It still gets me. Though you could never tell, she’s twelve years older than I am. For years I was her baby and now she has her very own.

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Jenny B came for a visit, and we head over to the Needtobreathe, Matt Kearney, and John Mark McMillan concert. We nestled in the lawn, begging Brandon to go grab us some King of Pops.

Not too long ago we house sat Jenny’s home while she was on a missions trip for the summer. When she came home we were housemates for another few months before Brandon and I bought our house in Fredericksburg. Many nights Jenny and I  would sit on the couch together talking about our days. Some nights we’d decide we deserved ice cream, and we’d both give Brandon those pleading eyes. “Brandon!” We’d yell. “Whatcha up to? We’re in our jammies, could you pretty please be the best guy ever and get us some hot fudge sundaes?” That Brandon. You know he caved, and totally enabled us.

imageimageimageWe love our Jenny. She’s been there for us, before we were us. It’s always special to have that kind of old friend around. Jenny has poured an incredible amount of love into me. She’s prayed over me. Supported me in every stage since I was 16. She is essentially another big sister to look up to, and I love her for it.

Ready to schedule your next visit to see us yet??


Goodbyes

By Natalie

imageMan goodbyes are the hardest.
I took the train up to Fredericksburg this past weekend for my sister’s baby shower. Friday morning Brandon dropped me off at the train station. When I finally realized which line I was supposed to be in it was already half gone. I pointed and said to B “This is me.” And he smiled and said “K. Have fun. Bye. Love you.” There was only time for a quick goodbye kiss, and I headed for the platform.
My aunt waited to pick me up in Fredericksburg, and took me straight home to feed me the food of my childhood. I settled in, just as if I had never left.
Nem’s shower was a sea of faces to catch up with. A place full of people who have met my sister somewhere along the way, and ecstatic to be celebrating the baby she and Sean are expecting. After saying our until next times to the last of the guests, I hopped in the back seat of the Lawrence’s car. I looked over as I buckled my seatbelt, and Norah turned her head toward me, and smiled.
“Oh she loves it when someone rides back there with her.” Nadir said.
We get to the Lawrence’s and I snuggle in there. Nadir and I catch up, and we laugh together at reruns of our favorite sitcom. Norah downed a bottle, and nuzzled right into me when she finished. Being the second center of attention at a party is exhausting for a little one.imageThe next morning I walked into Norah’s room to get her up. I peeked into her crib, and she lay there peacefully.
“Good morning Norah.” I said as I brushed my fingertips down her arm. She wriggled, and stretched her arm up, resting the back of her forearm on her forehead.
“You are just a snoozer.” I said as I reached my hands under her arms and pulled her close. She blinked her eyes open to meet my gaze.
“Hi, sweet pea.”
I laid her on the changing table to get her in a fresh diaper. She smiled at me, stretching her legs. “Yea are you in a good mood today?”
I took a second to admire her, since she is growing so fast and I thought about little Grant. How one day I was gently settling him into his bassinet and now I find myself walking into the nursery of a bouncing toddler in his crib. The two of us laughing, as I swoosh him out.
I get Norah ready and Nadir drives me to meet up with the Poes. I kissed Norah goodbye and gave my sister a grateful hug. Not allowing it to last too long, cause if it did, we’d both be in tears.
I spent Sunday morning with my in laws, which seems too detached of a word. They’re Mom. They’re Dad and Laura. Ryan, Ashley and my wild nephews Mason and Everett, still in the peak of their childhood.
Their home, it feels like home, and I love being back there.
Mom, Dad, and Laura took me to the train station and waited on the platform with me. The train pulled in and the hugs were too short. I found my seat, threw my suitcase up top and sat. I looked out the window and saw Mom and Laura walking up and down the length of the car I stepped into, looking for me. I knocked on the window, and then noticed the girl in front of me was asleep, resting her head on the window. I waved, but they didn’t see me. I watched them still searching, as the train pulled away, and my heart sank. “Goodbye.” I said to myself as I watched Fredericksburg slip away into the trees.

Leaving Fredericksburg is like leaving home. But when the train pulled into Charlotte I felt at home too. I love it here. I love our life here. I want to build a future here. Goodbyes will always be difficult. But without goodbyes there’s no anxious and excited hellos. As easy as it would be to give into the sadness of a goodbye, I must remember the path that God has laid for us and the direction he is leading us. That makes the goodbyes easier, because in fact they’re not goodbyes at all. They’re simply a see you soon. 
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Gone Camping

By Natalie

imageI am not in the business of leading you to believe that the events which take place in our lives are absolutely golden. Because just like everybody else, that is not always the case.imageWe went camping this past weekend and we did have quite a bit of fun, but I also managed to forget batteries for the lantern, misplaced Bingley’s long leash, and very last minute we decided we were in need of a sleeping bag.

Saturday morning we shoved most everything in our tent to meet Sara and Dave for an apple festival. After meandering around, wasting fourteen dollars on tickets, and wondering what all the fuss was about, we realized we were in the wrong place. Parking at a family farm full of kiddie swings, and hay mazes rather than an apple orchard.

Naturally Brandon was all “What’s the name of the place we’re supposed to be?” And when I responded he said, “Yea, that’s not where we are.” And he pointed to the sign out front that read Peach Farm. Copilot fail on my part for the umpteenth time in our marriage.

Because I consider myself such a planner… such an organized freak, these things just get my goat. Trickling their way in to ruin things. I give myself the hardest time. I don’t like it one bit, but I do send myself into these whirlwinds of self shaming, and I’m exhausted from it. This time it was forgetting things, and getting us wrong directions. Weeks ago it was accidentally demolishing a souvenir shot glass from Sacramento in the garbage disposal. Weeks before that it was having made a dinner without 2 important ingredients that made all the difference. And so on…

I can’t stand for it. Not when it’s only simple honest mistakes. Not when I remembered everything else on our trip including Wet Wipes that I excitedly whipped out like some kind of magician when Brandon plainly mentioned he wished to rinse his hands after his S’more Friday night.
imageimageimageBack at the campsite I sat to chop peppers, steak, and onion for our kabobs. B went out to grab batteries for the lantern, and I wanted to sit there feeling terrible that it was my fault he was needing to run out. But just before the thoughts could take hold of my mind I heard a bunch of children playing behind me shouting “Daddy this, and Dad that.” All while this father set up their camp. I thought to myself as I often do, “What will it be like to camp years from now and hear those words escape the mouths of our own little ones?”

Brandon came back and I totally had to apologize for my behavior. Then we moved on, and got to skewering our kabobs.imageimageimage

Swooooon.

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Fall Camping Essentials

As told by Natalie Poe for her kind of Camping

Leisure 

  • Tent
  • Camping Chairs
  • Sleeping Bag (as a top layer for warmth)
  • Air Mattress (lightly blown up to provide support for gravel sites)
  • Pillows
  • Flannel & or fleece blankets
  • Lantern
  • Book

Food Supplies

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  • Tablecloth
  • Cast Iron Skillet
  • Pot Holder
  • Grilling Tongs & Spatula
  • French Press or Percolator
  • Thermos (one for drinking water, one for coffee)
  • Scissors
  • Plastic Egg Carton
  • Salt & Pepper + Other Condiments
  • Camping Utensils
  • Plates
  • Paper Towel Roll
  • Wet Wipes
  • Long Skewers (for hot dogs & mallows!)
  • Pot for Water (to make coffee in the morning!)
  • Thermal bag (to keep the non refrigerated stuff from freezing, or melting)
  • Cooler
  • Ice packs
  • Camping Stove (this is what we heat out water up on.)
  • Firewood
  • Fire Starter (bricks or gel)
  • DIY Firestarter
  • Reusable Bags

Puppy

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  • Food & Water
  • Food & Water Bowl
  • Long Leash
  • Doggie Bags
  • Treats
  • Sweater (if you’ve got a small short haired pup who needs it)
  • Glow in the Dark Collar!

Clothing

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  • Layers, Layers, Layers! (especially when it’s warm during the day, and cool when the sun sets.)
  • Wigwam Socks (to keep your little piggies toasty)
  • Warm Sneakers, Boots, or Moccasins.
  • I like to wear athletic pants that I can pull fleece pj pants over for extra warmth
  • Hoodie
  • Long & Short Sleeve Tees
  • Hat (sadly not everyone has an awesome sister in law to knit them a warm hat like we do. So you will have to settle for some other ho hum hat.)
  • Fingerless Gloves
  • And of course, flannel!

Giving a Voice to an Invisible Illness: Part 2

By Natalie

You can read part 1 to this post here. You can also read similar posts here, and here.

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Do you ever feel scared? If so, what about specifically?

It’s scary when I hear about Lupus sufferers experiencing damage to major organs as a result of a flare. Chemotherapy treatments for severe symptoms, the reality of this incurable disease becoming fatal and the risks involved with pregnancy. Would I have complications? Would I be able to handle the inevitable exhaustion of caring for a newborn? I worry about my husband having to take care of me more than he already does and a baby. Will I have to reevaluate my career in teaching and eventually leave the profession because the responsibilities and stress take a toll on my body?

 What do you want people to know about you, and your illness?

She sighs

Good mornings may turn into rough afternoons, and evenings as symptoms are sometimes unpredictable. I’m healthiest when I choose activities carefully and pace myself.
It’s sometimes lonely because I feel people just don’t understand what Lupus is or what it’s like to live with this chronic illness. I don’t get to live my life the way that I want to.

I wish people could validate what I’m going through and knew that I’m fighting harder than they realize. It’s hard for me to articulate what I feel or need because I know I usually look fine on the outside. They have no idea that I go home after a long workday completely drained of energy and utterly exhausted. I’m often unable to enjoy life after work or on the weekends because my body needs rest.

I don’t get to live my life the way that I want to.

Lupus sometimes forces me out of social events. I have to explain to people that I can’t take part in a party or celebration. Having to reject requests to spend time with others due to my health always brings along some sadness and guilt. I don’t want people to get offended or annoyed, but I get tired of explaining my issues to others. However, I’ve also learned that if I am to expect a broader understanding from those around me, it’s important to honestly vocalize what I’m going through so others can empathize.
I also don’t want to burden people. I feel bad and push myself because I don’t want people to think I’m taking advantage of them. For example, after Nadir’s baby showerHosted a baby shower for our sister my foot was hurting really bad and I was feeling fatigued. Sean asked, “What would you do if you could get up right now?” I appreciated his willingness to help, but felt obligated to limp across the room and start cleaning. I struggle with not wanting to feel useless. It’s important for me to still feel useful. I need to feel like I’m still serving a purpose.

How can people be most helpful?

Encouraging words. If there’s something physically to be done while they’re around. Motions around the home.
It’s easy for people to forget because I try to look good on the outside.

How does having lupus affect your future?

Nem: I don’t know if we’re ever going to start a family. I’m getting older, and to change the dynamic of our family is scary. Would Sean end up caring for our child? The new normal requires that I keep up with medications, and pace myself. I’m not supposed to overexert myself.. I need to get enough sleep. It definitey restricts me.

Sean: You know, it’s kind of a lose, lose situation. Either we don’t have kids and later regret it, or we have kids and risk Nem’s health. It’s why for so long we keep avoiding the subject.

What have you learned?

I have so much more compassion and understanding for people living with a chronic illness or other health issues. I don’t always feel strong and courageous, but I hope to inspire others with my story. Raising awareness and knowledge empowers me and gives me a voice!
I’ve always been pretty self sufficient, so it’s been hard, but I’m learning that it’s ok to accept love and compassion from those who care enough to ask me how I’m doing. I deserve the support, sympathy and help that others offer without feeling any guilt.

I’ve become more educated about the illness and I’m learning to listen to my body so I guess you could say I’ve found a new normal which reduces some of my fears. My quality of life has drastically changed because of Lupus, but it’s all about perspective! Although I have physical limitations at times, I will probably always have to take a bunch of medications, and experience emotional ups and downs.

I’ve learned to value the blessings in my life so much more now! My faith and the incredible support system I have in my family and friends, keeps me going and I’m so grateful! God still has a plan and purpose for me and it is good! I try to embrace life one day at a time and not let setbacks hinder me from dreaming and setting goals. Faith has always been my life’s anchor and I know that God is STILL in control, even when I feel like my body and circumstances are out of control.

Summer So Far

By Natalie

Laura came to Charlotte for a week. Which meant we essentially had the opportunity to have a mini staycation while we showed her all around town.

Wednesday

We went to a Knights game, where we ate our fill of peanuts and cracker jacks.

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After the game we ran across the street to Romare Bearden Park, cause I had been wanting to visit. And the lights out there were just too magnificent to pass up. imageWe tromped around through the grass, past a black lab chasing after a light up ball. Past some guys doing a little meditation, and past the color changing waterfall. Silly things happened at Romare Bearden. Some very silly things. image

Thursday

Carowinds is essentially in our back yard, so we decided to spend the day there. And it was hot hot hot. Which is why logically we stood in line for a good 30-40 minutes for this white water rapids ride. Oh yes, we did. It’s part of the experience.

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imageFriday

How lucky was I to have a buddy spend the day with me on my birthday??

We ran a few errands before heading to breakfast at my favorite brunch spot uptown (where I succesfully parked on the street! Go me!!), only to realize they only serve brunch on the weekends. Womp womp.

After peeking at the lunch menu we decided to stick around for the chicken salad sandwiches, and run to Amelie’s after for our coffee fix… and we had a couple macaroons there too, not gonna lie. After a long totally soul satisfying girly chat on life, and futures we ran over to Freedom Park, to show Laura some of Charlotte’s green.

Once B came home we all got ready to go to my birthday dinner at Fahrenheit. Which was not only a delectable dinner and dessert seated on the 21st floor, but right outside was this spectacular view.
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Saturday

We hit up Mama’s Coffeehouse for breakfast so Brandon could nail this pano of us behind every door. And so Laura could leave her mark in Charlotte. imageimage

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How sweet is that? ↑


Pause for these little cuties.

We went on a much too long, so long I may have developed blisters on my feet walk along the greenway.

You see, the thing about this greenway is that it doesn’t loop, So I keep walking, and walking, not wanting to turn back too soon. And that’s how we ended up strolling for 3 miles. But deep down I really don’t mind it, because there is something about the sippy cups in the back pocket, swaying next to the baby wipes. Something about a morning stroll through the trees that really makes me feel like a true nanny.  image


The Thursday after Laura flew home my sisters came for a visit, which was a bit of a surprise since I was originally expecting Nem, and our mom. Mom stayed behind (Don’t worry, she’s here now!) so that Nadir, and Norah could suprise me for the best ever belated birthday present.

That’s right. My niece’s first road trip was to see her Titi!The auntie version of Tia, if you don’t already know.

And we had some beautiful sister time that I had been craving… which p.s. how odd is it that now we have this fourth member to add to our girl clan? Norah!! You have Rodriguez girl in you.

imageAnd yep.. we like to bring our guests here. It’s our fave coffee spot, can you tell?

We met up with Mandy and little G so all my family could meet eachother. And it was perfect. imageimageYou’re about to find out that I have a thing for babies wrapped in blankets. Perhaps I should have my baby in the winter..imageimageNorah went to the mall with us!!! And she did amazing! Even when her Titi’s took too long in the dressing rooms. She just went along for the stroll, happy to be a part of our very first foursome shopping spree.

imageNorah wrapped in the blankey I made her. ↓ My first time sewing with satin binding. Not too shabby eh?

When I rocked this sweet girl to sleep I couldn’t help but stare at those sleepy little eyelids of hers. Thinking to myself how innocent and pure she is. How small she is. How she has no idea how many people love her so much. And all I could do as we rocked was pray for her. For her precious mind to be guarded, and her innocence to keep. For her to feel the love around her, and to give her parents the strength, and patience to raise her.

Sleeping babies, they really get you thinking.

imageWhen Norah’s not power napping she’s working out those cheek muscles and giving out smiles to those who are worthy. Go on Norah take us out with a smile!

GOOD-NESS My heart is melting. image

Giving a Voice to an Invisible Illness

By Natalie

Since my sister Nem’s diagnosis with Lupus I’ve been wanting to chat with her about her daily struggles, in order to share her words to give friends and family a better understanding of what she is going through.

During a recent trip to Fredericksburg we finally had a free moment to talk over breakfast about her life with Lupus, and what she so simply descibes as her new normal.

This woman I spoke to, she’s another version of the sister I grew up with. In some ways I’m reminded she’s the same, but mostly she’s different. She’s tough, she’s disciplined, she’s faithful, and she isn’t going to let any old illness take control over her life no matter how extreme it attacks her body. No matter how invisible.

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When were you diagnosed with Lupus, and what was your immediate reaction?

On September 24th 2012 I was diagnosed with Lupus as a primary disease, & Sjogren’s Syndrome as a secondary disease. The doctor told me on the phone that I had a positive ANA test which meant that I had autoimmune activity going on in my body. I went to a Rheumatologist for more blood work, and she told me I had Lupus and Sjogren’s.

I immediately started taking PlaquenilA common Lupus medication. My initial reaction after the diagnosis was shock. Sean called while I was in the pharmacy waiting on my prescription. He asked how the visit went. It wasn’t until that moment that it hit me, and I just started crying when I told him I was diagnosed with lupus.

What are typical daily tasks that you find yourself unable to do?

I have good days and bad days. After 2.5 years on medication, several detox diets, and learning to listen to my body, it’s gotten better. At first, I wasn’t able to complete my Saturday morning routines of running errands and cleaning my home, I had to discontinue rigorous exercise, and I often wasn’t able to make it through a work day. 
My new “normal” requires that I actively listen to my body and rest when needed so I don’t wear myself out. I need to get plenty of sleep and reduce stress as much as possible. If I don’t, my body will go in shut down mode, leaving me unable to do anything. I’m always reminded that Lupus is there even when I pretend it isn’t. Whenever I push myself, I always pay the price.

I was devastated because I’ve always tried to maintain a healthy lifestyle by working out and watching what I eat, but my efforts couldn’t have prevented what was going on in my body. I didn’t do anything to cause this, it just happened and there was nothing I could do about my body attacking itself. I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis after months of not feeling like myself, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional distress that it caused. I soon became depressed and continually grieved for my old life. I would see people on social media living their lives (fun outings, working out, etc…) and I made myself miserable by comparing myself to others. People were doing what they wanted to do while I felt helpless and unable to live my life fully because my body simply wouldn’t allow me.

What is your body feeling at those times when you’re helpless in need of rest?

One of the big issues of life with lupus is its unpredictable nature, meaning one day I can feel like my old self, and the next I just want to stay curled up in bed all day with extreme fatigue. It’s not like a sleepy or tired fatigue, but one of weakness. Like when you have the flu, and your whole body feels heavy and achy. I also get joint pain in my arms, wrists, hands, and legs accompanied by muscle aches. This discomfort and weakness has left me unable to walk at times. It can make my body feel so tired that I sometimes just want to cry at the thought of doing one more thing, or meeting one more obligation. I’ve also experienced nausea, GI issues, insomnia, and frequent migraines.

A flare can happen at any time and be brought on by a variety of triggers. It could be a busy weekend, eating certain foods, staying up too late too often, stress or long hours of work can eventually trigger a flare. Other times, it seems to happen for no apparent reason at all. It can be mild or severe, and it’s impossible to tell which it’s going to be from the outset of an attack.

As there is no current cure for Lupus how much medication are you required to take daily to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Right now I take 16 pills a day including supplements to keep my immune system up. I take medications to manage joint and muscle pain associated with Lupus flare ups.

About six months after my initial Lupus diagnosis I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I take medication for that as well.

How has your diet changed since your diagnosis?

A stricter diet has significantly added to our grocery bill. I eat raw and organic as much as possible with very limited amounts of processed foods.

How have people treated you since you were diagnosed?

At work, my coworkers have united in supporting me in every way possible. Being an elementary school teacher I have to walk my class to their encore classes, lunch, and recess. Teachers in my grade level have walked my class to and from these places, written sub plans when I couldn’t make it through a day, and my principal has even driven me home a number of times when I felt unable to walk.

I’ve really realized I have such an incredible support system. I know my family prays for me a lot, and checks up on me, and wants to know how I’m doing. Several months after I was diagnosed when you signed us all up for the lupus walk in D.C., that was a really big deal to me.

The love box. (A box full of goodies, homemade creations, and encouraging words Nadir and I put together each month.) Means so much to me.

How has it affected your marriage?

A few months after my diagnosis, Sean and I had the biggest disagreement we’ve ever had. I was frustrated as we discussed the delay in our plans of starting a family due to my illness. I was still processing my feelings and was angry that our plans had to change, but I didn’t realize I was taking it out on Sean until he said “I’m not the enemy here. Whatever you need, I’m here no matter what! We need to take care of you right now and worry about this later.”

He cooks and does a lot more housework since I’m not always physically able to handle it all anymore. He’s understanding, and encouraging when I’m feeling down or thinking it’s going to be this hard forever. He reminds me that “It’s just a bad day. We’re going to get through it and soon we’ll be celebrating a good day.” He also does a good job of communicating with me about my physical and emotional state. Because it’s an invisible illness, he can’t always tell if I’m trying to tough it out and so he always asks how I’m doing. 
He is helpful, often reminds me that he loves and supports me, has a positive attitude and his hobbies serve as an outlet that keeps him balanced which is good for both of us.

How do you feel it has affected your family and coworkers?

I think it’s made my family sad. I think it’s made my family feel helpless. But at the same time I think it’s also given my family the opportunity to love on me.
My coworkers feel helpless also, and it means alot to me when they offer to walk my kids to specials, or lunch. When they ask me how I am. For them to offer their support makes them feel like they can do something. Sometimes I don’t know what to tell my family I need. That’s why the love box is meaningful. Sometimes all I need is an encouraging word. Acknowledging that I look ok on the outside but not on the inside.
I take it one day at a time.


Nem and I also got a chance to chat about what she’s learned with Lupus, her future, and what she wishes people understood about her illness.

Stay tuned for that post coming soon!

On Marrying Young

By Natalie

imageI’m not sure I would reccomend marrying young to just anyone. Because it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s not because I regret marrying at nineteen by any means, I just think that we are a rare commodity. I tell people I’m married and their eyebrows go up. “Oh Newlywed huh.” They’ll say. To which I respond. “Actually coming up on four years.” Then their eyes pop, and the jaws literally drop in disbelief. It’s pretty fun to watch. There are so many great benefits to marrying young. For us specifically it’s been an adventure. A bit of a financial roller coaster at first, in which Brandon was working freelance, and we were eating a whole lotta hot dogs for dinner. But then we just kept moving forward. And we’ve grown into responsible tax paying adults together. You see we hopped in the same car, and kept on the same track with the same goal. That’s the benefit to marrying young. To begin adulthood with similar expectations and share the same end goal, enjoying life all along the way.

But Brandon was not your average twenty-one year old guy. And I was no regular nineteen year old girl.

In addition to being madly in love with a man of God, this is why I was ready…

I can’t tell you that I had no childhood. Because I did learn how to ride a bike. Sort of… with training wheels. Ok, you got me. I can’t really ride a bike or swim. Dad gave me a grand total of like two lessons, and I never quite mastered either of those. I did however manage to master climbing the overgrown holly tree in our backyard. I made mud pies by the deck when my mom wasn’t looking. Scarfed down my easy bake oven creations like they were the best dang brownies I’d ever tasted. I played teacher, and house, and the occasional secretary. Who played secretary? Clipboards and all? I had big dreams guys.

So yes, I had a childhood. I remember it being whimsical, and I remember it being fun. But once I hit about eighth grade, I needed to learn to fend for myself. My sisters were working, and mom was working. They weren’t always around to be sure I finished all my homework, or ate my vegetables. Well… I shouldn’t pretend like I was all on my own. Nem definitely completed a few science fair projects for me. And Nadir definitely helped me get through some books I needed to write reports on. But once they moved out I was left making my own dinners, and caring for myself until mom got home late from work. Being raised in a single parent home leaves you fending for yourself… a lot. This is in no way to say that my mom should have been there. Cause guess what? Dad should have been a better man, and been there. Sometimes I wonder if I should write stuff like that and then I decided that I own my stories. I hope people understand that if you want to be spoken of highly, maybe you should treat people better. They shouldn’t have to tiptoe around your words or actions. You should have acted better. Thought about the venom in your words before you spoke them.

I am in no way saying that my mother could have done better. She did perfect. I am who I am today because I had to figure things out for myself. I didn’t have parents to fall back on or mooch off of. I learned to make my own decisions. My own meals. Suffer the consequences of not completing my homework when no one made me do it the night before. Now I realize how many things must have been on my mother’s mind. She wasn’t worried about holding my hand while I finished my algebra. She was too busy figuring out how to put food on the table, and pay rent. She trusted me to be her helper, and fend for myself in the areas I was capable. I can’t wait to have my own children and be faced with the challenges she was able to face alone. How much stronger will she seem to me then when I have Brandon by my side?

If you don’t believe in prayer you haven’t met my family. You haven’t met my sisters, and our husbands that my mom prayed for since we were small. That we would love, and care for husbands who were good men, ones who sought satisfaction in their own wives, and never needed to look any further. It’s amazing to think that my mom prayed for Brandon before I could make logical decisions. Do you realize the importance of that? As a product of her prayer I can tell you I’m eternally grateful. Thanks mom. It worked.

And a Happy New Year

By Natalie

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Forgive me, we’ve been on Christmas vacation..

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I wish I could describe to you the emotions I felt during our stay in Fredericksburg. But there were so many different feelings with so many different people that I’m still trying to wrap my own head around it. I would hope that maybe this Christmas you experienced the same sort of thing as you begin to witness your families growing larger and larger over time.

There were so many conversations I cherished, so many smiles I’ll miss. So many moments that will be hard to forget from the Poe family’s quick wit, to my sister and brother in law tearing up while opening presents for their still growing baby girl.

Christmas was as expected, Christmas. Full of family, presents, and a whole lot of calories. It came and it went just before my eyes.. Sending all of us in different directions to carry on with our lives, and it left me sitting here on my own hundreds of miles away from the family I laughed so much with. How that happened so quickly I hardly know. I keep thinking back wondering if I thanked that person enough for that thoughtful gift. If I should have just gone ahead and eaten that extra cookie that’s only around this time of year. If I told everyone I cared about them enough, and that it was wonderful to see them. Just in case, I’m saying it now.

As the new year quickly approaches I’m happy to say that I’ll still be finding myself, which I’d like to believe  never really ends. I promise myself to continue my writing because it’s the one thing that has comforted me in hurt, helped me to see the good in the bad, and most importantly to view life through the window of the small things. Those sweet little moments that remind you of why you’re here, and what a good life this is to live. Moments like noticing my sister in a frenzy before Christmas dinner, and needing to stop her, hug her, and tell her we’re not going to starve. That it’s ok to slow down. Because the small things aren’t found in a blur. That’s the beauty of them. You have to slow down to notice them. Even more precious moments like hearing my nephew call out “Aunt Natalie” while I hide behind a curtain playing hide and seek. Let’s not talk about Bingley sniffing around for me pulling back the curtain to reveal my spot. That dog.

If you haven’t started already I’d strongly encourage you to slow down in 2015 in order to be on the lookout. Find those moments, and when you do, snag them up and hold them as closely as possible so not to lose sight of their meaning. I’ll be here doing the same. Filling this blog up with all the ones I find.

That is what makes up a happy new year. Spread the word.

Don’t forget to get your nap in before midnight.

Cheers.

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It is Good

By Natalie

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Today seemed as good a day as any to talk about Thanksgiving because I’ve been pretty thankful these past few months. I sat in the car on the way back from the park with the kiddos this morning, and when I looked in the rear view mirror I saw a happy napping kid. Result of a good day, and a good life.

Charlotte is good. Charlotte is home, but it’s still alot of fun to visit the town we grew up in. Reminicsing on places that hold so many memories.

Our Thanksgiving was full of yummy Puerto Rican food goodness, and I savored every bite.

It’s not often that I get the pleasure of enjoying my aunt’s spectacular Flan. image So I had 2 pieces. Ok 3. OK 4 by the end of the day if you’re keeping track! But this stuff is good. Worth the calories, and caramelized sugar coma good. Worth the 6 hour drive good.

Let’s talk about cousins here for a second shall we? They’re the bomb diggity. A pal to run around and play with throughout your childhood, and out of your hair in the evening time so you don’t want to rip each other’s hair out. When I was like 3 or 4 my cousin Emmanuel would yell for me in the back yard. We used to be neighbors, and thus you’d find the two of us chasing eachother through our twice as wide backyard. I would be eating dinner at the table no big deal, and then I’d hear him through the kitchen window.. “Natalie!!!” And I’d immediately look at my mom, “Can I go outside?” There’s video proof. It’s adorable.

He’s the greatest. Ladies, he’s available. And pretty dang photogenic right? That’s a good quality in a man. Just saying.

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imageIt is crazy to me that out of nowhere we have this next generation of kids. Running through the legs of the adults preparing the big meal, and screaming laughing their little hearts out. They’re precious, and I’m super thankful for them because not only are they blessings to our family, but they’ve promoted Emmanuel and I to the adult table. If I could high five him now I would because we’ve been at that table into our 20s. It was time.

When we’re nicely dressed and around family, I have it in my mind that Brandon and I will get a nice photo taken. Boy am I always dead wrong. The struggle began with the nicely dressed. Brandon was ready to go in his nerd tshirt which reads Analytics.js is my favorite wrapper. Don’t ask me, it’s a development thing.

I persuaded him to wear one of his favorite flannels for the occassion, so we could get a nice picture. But Brandon doesn’t like posed pictures. He had different ideas. image

imageSo here’s our Thanksgiving photo. 2014 is to be remembered as when we were young and head over heels for eachother.

And to take us out, a shot with baby Lawrence. My beautiful sister is carrying this sweet little bundle of joy, and you can see the happiness all over her face. It makes me giddy. I’m gonna be an aunt x5 pretty soon here guys. It is good.image

Buy Me Some Peanuts & Cracker Jacks

By Natalie

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Lately I’ve had a hankering for a baseball game. Cracker Jacks, organ sounds, caps, the whole gambit. I was just getting into MLB especially since The Nationals stadium was close to home. I was becoming a Nationals fan for a number of reasons. I mean come on the president’s race doesn’t get old. “Root Root Root for the NAA-TION-ALLLS” has a ring to it in the 7th inning. My old coworkers used to call me Nattitude when I was having an off day. And frankly… I think I look good in red. It was all so meant to be.

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Photos from the last game I went to after the Lupus Walk in D.C.

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Down here in Charlotte there’s no MLB team to convert too, just the Minor League Knights. So I suppose it works out and I can root for both. Nationals, you’ll always be in my heart. Until next season.

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