Weekly Update

Vast, Like the Trees

After making our descent over the orderly grid blocks of Minneapolis containing houses and trees with changing leaves, we touched down on the MSP Airport tarmac.

Our suitcases were packed with a contrasting mix of dress clothes- black, for my Grandma’s funeral, and white flower girl dresses for my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding.

I was anxious about this trip: the last time we flew into Minneapolis was disastrous- Alice puking on the flight and dry heaving in the rental car, which prompted Avery to faint, and then sympathy puke.

But as we pulled out of the rental car lot, I exhaled. The trip had gone without a hitch.

The first thing I always notice when driving out of the rental car lots in Minnesota is the trees. They are tall and wide, expanding, the antithesis of the skinny palm trees that linger awkwardly, mop heads blowing in the wind. The oak and maple trees are wild and audacious– a stark contrast to the manicured trees of Florida, who are hesitant to grow just an inch outside of their preconceived outline. And I like that a lot. The trees of Minnesota have a lot to teach.

My Grandma passed away over a year ago, yet with the timing of COVID, we were unable to have a funeral. I was beyond the waves of tearful grief hitting at unexpected times, I could talk about her without crying, and it seemed as if grief had run its course.

Her zebra print swimsuit is framed in the bathroom that leads out to our pool. Her blue flowered china is neatly stacked in my cabinets. I have voicemails from her saved, asking if I could please, for the love of all things holy, deposit the check she gave me 3 years ago so she could balance her checkbook. She is no longer here- but she is remembered daily.

It seemed odd, gathering so late after her death, to mourn something that had ripped our hearts apart long ago. The wounds had scarred over and it seemed as if there was nothing left to heal.

But as the pastor delivered the sermon at her memorial, grief washed over me again- filling my chest and eyes with the heavy, crushing feeling.

I tried to hold back the tears, but they still found a way to slip out. And in case you haven’t tried it yet, crying in a mask is messy business.

When it came time to bury her ashes, I had a chance to hold the urn containing the grains that made up who she was. It was odd- holding every ounce of the feisty, vivacious person I knew, now a silent mound of dust.

But there was an indescribable peacefulness.

As we stood in a half circle around her urn, with the pastor uttering the final blessings, a warm wind that was powerful yet gentle wrapped around us. And I knew, that she was there.

I remembered a long run I had gone on soon after she had passed. I could feel her presence deeply, and had talked to her as the miles ticked by. “Hi, G,” I had whispered on an exhale. The wind gusted around me.

The pastor reminded us that Grandma or as we fondly refer to her- G-Dizzle, would live on through us. We all carry different aspects of her from the imprint she left on our lives.

For me, it is the love of pinot grigio, a dry sense of humor, and the pointer finger that comes out when I get fired up.

As I said my final goodbye, hand pressed against the wooden box containing her earthly remains, I was reminded that pain is rooted in love. That the heartbreak I was experiencing was because of the deep love we had shared.

And I wouldn’t trade an ounce of the pain in exchange for the beauty that my world holds because she was in it.

Two days later, I watched my brother and sister-in-law exchange vows under the silver maple trees lining the Mississippi river. I watched a leaf float down from the tree, released from its duties. The wind caught it and guided it to the ground in a zig-zag, fluttery pattern.

I was sitting between my nieces and nephews- little Abigail, less than 2 weeks old. The moment contained it all. Love, new life, loss, joy, peace, and beauty, oh the beauty.

And it was vast, like the silver maples.

Weekly Update

What Does an Actuary Actually Do?

Imagine a young version of me with post-breakup short hair. Like, boy short. I was newly graduated from college, had just finished a multiple month stint getting over mono (thanks, ex), and was working at THE Mayo Clinic.

It was a precarious stage of life. I was old enough to have a full time job that dealt heavily on the foggy line between life and death; yet, young enough where I was still trying to establish who I was and what was important. I spent many a day leaving work feeling totally incompetent.

But when I look back, it was the best of times. I lived in a quaint townhome, just a five minute walk from work. It was bright and airy in the spring and summer and warm and cozy in the winter months.

My roommate, Ally and I were close friends. Dinner was sometimes popcorn and sometimes hamburger helper. It wasn’t out of question to be in my pajamas about ready for bed only to be asked to join a group of friends at the strip of bars in downtown Rochester. Oh, the energy I had, back in the day.

Life was near perfect, but it was missing something. Or should I say, someone.

I was encouraged by a friend to create an online dating profile. I’m a rather risk adverse person. It seemed daring. Almost too daring. But, on the other hand, I was already single… so what did I have to lose?

In walks Chad.

I was drawn to his profile by his cute picture, specifically, his smile. He looked like a fun guy and I couldn’t hold it against him that he was from Iowa.

We started messaging.

Well, actually, I messaged him first. My first words to Chad were, “What does an actuary actually do?”

Because, side-note, I thought an actuary took care of birds.

First we messaged back and forth on the website (eHarmony). Then, he gave me his number, prefacing it with, “Well, you don’t seem like some crazy person…”

Such a romantic. Little did he know what he was getting into.

You know how they say you just know when you meet your future spouse? I’d have to agree.

Our first in-person date was at a coffee shop in Rochester, MN.

Being the cautious person I am, I planted an undercover friend at the table directly next to us.

It was a cloudy January afternoon. I shivered on my walk to the coffee shop, but not because it was cold. The nerves of a first date are the worst.

I stepped into the coffee shop, inhaled the smell of espresso and tried to exhale my nerves. My eyes darted around. First, they rested on undercover friend. Check; security covered.

Next, my gaze rested on Chad. His blue eyes were more piercing than I had noted in his dating profile pictures. His smile was just as reassuring.

Conversation was easy. Chad had a calming presence. It was clear he was extremely intelligent, but not in an overbearing or cocky way. Best of all, he was funny.

Our first date was supposed to just be coffee. But it transitioned to checking out a book sale, then, bowling, and finally dinner. As we said goodbye, I knew he was the one.

Chad drove down from Minneapolis to Rochester for a date EVERY WEEKEND. Eventually, I moved to Minneapolis to be closer to him (and my family).

When he proposed, I can’t say I was shocked (because I picked out a ring and told him he needed to propose by April so we could have a Fall wedding.) Also of note… I bought my wedding dress before he proposed. Maybe I’m the cocky one in our relationship.

Our wedding was amazing. When I think about it, I am bombarded with memory clips of a snowy day, walking down the aisle and thinking to myself, “This is the most beautiful scene”. I remember sitting on the altar, listening to one of the readings and tightly grasping Chad’s hand, trying to stop my own hand from shaking.

And I remember dancing. A lot of it. We danced so much that my calves were sore for a week. I literally LIMPED around for the first week of our honeymoon because of my unconditioned legs.

When the night was over, I felt a pang of sadness when I realized this iconic day in our life was done. (Which is why every year I ask Chad if we can do a vow renewal / wedding do over.)

Marrying Chad was easily the best decision I’ve made in life.

He is the most patient person I know; and thank goodness for that, in an estrogen saturated house full of girls and a wife who can get a little feisty and hangry at times.

He is a perfect partner: a great listener, hilarious, patient, and eats the broccoli soup I make despite growing up on a beef farm. He laughs at my jokes and gives the best hugs.

Like parenthood, we didn’t fully understand what we were getting into when we got married.

I am no expert on marriage, but in our 6 years together I have learned:

  • It is always easier to get along when we do fun things together. Furniture shopping, for example, IS NOT FUN. We try to balance out the not funs with funs.
  • Date night is a must, ESPECIALLY after kids.
  • Avoid going to bed mad at each other.
  • Choose humor in the tedious situations that could turn into arguments.

Ok, these are boring. Let me give you the real lessons I’ve learned:

  • It is better to ask the other person if they know how to swim (well) BEFORE you jump out of a boat into the Atlantic ocean. This piece of advice is both literally and figuratively. Sorry, Chad. I am glad you survived our honeymoon.
  • The question, “Where do you want to go for dinner?” sparks the most marital conflicts and should be avoided at all costs.
  • When you got your driver’s license, you thought you were done with the “behind the wheel” lessons. But then you got married and now you have a permanent instructor.
  • “Fine” needs to be re-defined in the dictionary. “A passive aggressive way of insinuating you are thoroughly NOT pleased with the current situation”
  • Do not ever wake a sleeping spouse unless there is blood or someone is actively dying.
  • How to start war: Drink the last refrigerated diet coke and don’t replace it.
  • Buy the remote finder. It will save you years of therapy.
  • Also, HIRE MOVERS.
  • Any question that begins with, “Do you know where my….” implies that you stole it and hid it out of spite. When in reality, it is exactly where they left it last. OR, it was moved it to its correct location. Disclaimer: “correct location” is subject to change. I will not be held responsible for any lost or damaged items.
  • Before marriage, if you watch the TV show “Snapped” you will think the killers are psychotic. 1 month after marriage, you will understand.

All kidding aside, the past 6 years have been the best years of my life. I’ve loved a lot, learned a lot, and hopefully have become a somewhat better person (thanks to my sweet spouse).

Happy Anniversary, Chad Michael. I love you cosmos.


PS- I still don’t understand what actuaries actually do. My basic understanding is this: spreadsheets.

Weekly Update

Weddings on Weddings

I love weddings. It is so fun to meet all the family and friends who have formed the couple into who they are today. I love putting faces to names. I love watching the groom watch the bride as she walks down the aisle, the glowiness of the new couple, and the joyful anticipation of the happy years ahead. I love listening to the vows and remembering my shaky voice as I took my own vows. And obviously I love a good reception full of happy people, cake & dancing.

And so, I was not disappointed to celebrate a second wedding (in 2 weeks) back home in Minnesota. In my head I called it “the nerd wedding” because it was full of pharmacists and other medical professionals as both Jill and George are pharmacists. If you needed to code, this would have been the place to do it. (Luckily no one did.)

Jill and I met back in high school when we ran cross country and track together. There’s something about running that innately bonds people; I think it has to do with the pain that running can induce. When you are in pain at the same time as someone else, it connects your hearts. You don’t need to talk to understand that the other person is also suffering. A side glance will do to communicate, “I am with you. We’ve got this.”

And so, ever since high school, Jill and I have been close friends despite different life paths. After we both went to college in Winona, MN (Jill at St. Mary’s University and me at Winona State University), she went on to graduate school to become a pharmacist while I worked as a nurse and got married. I had my first child. She graduated from pharmacy school and went on to residency. She met her now husband during residency. I had my second child. She finished residency. I moved to Florida. And then she got married.

I think it is special that we’ve been able to maintain our friendship. It can be really tough to maintain friendships long term, especially when you are at completely different life stages. She has remained a tried and true friend as I went through the ups and downs of motherhood, despite having no children of her own (yet).

So anyway, the moral of this sappy portion of the post is that I couldn’t be happier for Jill and George.

The girls traveled okay. After their rock star traveling last trip I was hopeful it was an indication that things were changing for the better. Alice is exploring the terrible two’s and her new favorite way to express unhappiness is banging her head on things. I’m terribly sorry to the man sitting behind her on the airplane whose tray table was rocked by Alice earthquakes every 20 minutes. We ate dinner at a classy restaurant in Minneapolis while Alice threw a tantrum under the table…at least she was contained and hidden.

But while the travel was not smooth, it definitely wouldn’t classify in the “top 3 worst trips” (if you’re curious what would, think on the level of projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea at the same time in a hotel bathroom. TMI? Sorry)

Highlights from the trip aside from the wedding include: seeing my parents and their chocolate lab puppy, “Bear”, visiting some old coworkers at Minneapolis Heart Institute for lunch, and visiting my cousin who works at Perkins prior to our flight back to FL.

Chad flew to Canada for an Actuarial conference (BOOOOOORING) while the girls and I flew back to Florida. The girls were pretty good travelers once the plane took off & we made it home intact and still loving each other. We are lying low today. The girls are happy to be back to their toys and I am happy to be back to my bed.

Quote of the week:

A plumber came by to fix a leaking pipe. When I told Avery not to use that toilet since the water is shut off, she asked “What happened, Mom? Did someone go potty too hard?” Uhhhhhh….I guess that is a possibility.

Sending love from FL,


Weekly Update

A Minnesota Wedding

As promised, last week’s update is late as we were in MN for my sister Amelia’s wedding. The trip was a whirlwind and we did not stop moving from the moment we left Florida until we returned home. I am surprised and proud to report that the girls traveled like absolute champs.

I think my pride over their traveling well is finally a combo of me having realistic expectations from them when we travel, and the fact that they are actually getting better at it. When I first started traveling with the girls, I had really high expectations- no tantrums, good listeners, and that they would go to bed without complete meltdowns.

Now when we travel, I expect tantrums. And sure, we get a couple- always on the airport floor, which is teeming with germs. But because I’ve come to expect them, I’m able to calmly wait it out without getting all feisty myself and in turn riling up the girls even more.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I will snuggle with the girls until they fall asleep when we are traveling (and maybe have even come to enjoy it).

Minnesota greeted us with dreary weather and snow, confirming the fact that we are happy we moved to FL.

The wedding was beautiful. I could not be happier for my sister, Amelia and her husband, Brian. As I stood at the altar, I had my eyes glued on Brian when Amelia started processing down the aisle. Of course, Amelia was looking absolutely stunning and radiant. He sighed when he first saw her and his eyes began to tear up. “That’s right!” I wanted to yell, “You got a good one!” We danced the night away and my calves are still sore (like, literally more sore than after I ran a marathon). I take weddings seriously, okay? Also, my dance moves are pretty horrible so I’m sure my bad dancing form contributes to my sore legs.

Avery and Alice were flower girls for the wedding. None of us expected that they would make it down the aisle gracefully, but they did. I was shocked. Did someone drug my children? Why were they behaving so well? It is still a mystery what their motive was for behaving well, but I will take good behavior when I get it.

<<side note: It is possible that the good behavior was related to the fact that I told the girls King Kong would come and eat them if he heard them whining.>>

It was so lovely to be able to see a lot of our MN family and friends. While we love living in Florida, it is really sad to be so far away from our peeps. I was able to get my hair cut and styled by my favorite hair stylist who has been cutting my hair since I was 6 days overdue with Avery. We danced the night away with our childhood neighbors growing up- and while we haven’t seen each other in a LONG time, it was as if no time had passed.

I got to see one of my favorite aunts (who religiously reads this blog and always leaves a nice note)- shout out to Aunt Kris! And my Grandma, who is way cooler than anyone else’s Grandma as she goes by the name “G-Dizz” a true gangsta at heart (who graciously accepted this name I gave her back when I was in middle school).

Not too surprisingly, I came down with a case of the sneezes on the plane ride home, which quickly morphed into a full blown upper respiratory cold. Yesterday I spent the day on the couch, napping away most of the day while letting the kids watch an insane amount of TV. But it was so worth it- though I’m still tired, I feel a million times better today.

We are happy to be back home in our Florida digs. The Florida weather is now a bit cooler, with highs in the upper 80’s. This week should be a quiet one, allowing catch up on laundry and cleaning and hopefully some time to relax before we travel back to MN in 2 weeks for my good friend, Jill’s wedding.

Sending love to all,