A Grace Full Life


An Open Letter to Open Letters

I submitted this piece to a website recently and it got rejected.
I planned on just relegating it to the trash bin but then I thought, no.
I worked on this, maybe it wasn't good enough for that website but I took time and effort to write it.
Not everything I write is going to be amazing and I need to realize that others aren't going to appreciate what I write as much as I am because they aren't looking at it from a personal perspective.
I had an epiphany this summer after getting rejected by the book deal.

Oh and to clarify, that wasn't my first ever rejection, I had been turned down MANY times before then.
An embarrassing amount.

So anyway, I had this epiphany after the book deal that I need to look at rejection differently than I was before.
First, I am not taking it as hard.
I realize now that it is part of my journey, my story and it is okay.
Does it suck?
Of course it does but does it define who I am?
But this is where it gets really awesome.
I am going to share all of my rejections with you.
Because this is where I want my children to someday see them.
Because when they read this blog someday, I want them to know that rejection doesn't mean failure.
That it is okay.
That when you get knocked down, you can get back up.
Just because they say no doesn't mean that it isn't necessarily good.
It just means that it isn't their cup of tea.
Someone's no might be someone else's yes.

This is not my best work.
But it isn't my worst.

You know what I am getting tired of?
Open letters.
To celebrities.
To kids of the future.
To kids of the past.
From my ex-husband.
From his ex-wife's girlfriend's, aunt's, nephew's, daughter's, neighbor's, son who sat next to you in Home Economics.
To the lady who treated me like crap on the bus but won't read this blog post so I am making ALL OF YOU READ IT.

I get it.
We are a generation of blurters.
We need to tell.
To speak.
To get it out.
Trust me, I am a blogger, I know.
I feel the need to get it out daily.
I blurt out crap all the damn time but usually it is me talking about my crap.
I don't feel the need to write a letter to other people about their crap.

Recently, I had kind of had it with these open letters.
And I blame Huffington Post for this.
I feel like the inventor of the 20 REASONS YOU NEED A DOG BEFORE LABOR DAY is also the inventor of the "open letter" and I wasn't wrong.
On the search engine of Huffington Post alone, I found 330,000 posts with the search OPEN LETTER.


Maybe the authors of these "open letters" should stop writing "open letters" to everyone on the planet and start writing one to, oh I don't know, say ........Grandma?
When is the last time she heard from you anyway??
I mean, she knitted you that adorable sweater back in third grade and made you those sugar cookies you loved.
And they weren't easy to make.
And the best you can do is write letters about how you were given the side eye on the # 3 bus last Tuesday?


You can't give your flesh and blood the time of day but you have PLENTY to say to the person who didn't give you the service you felt you deserved at the Publix on Sycamore Street?
And just like that I probably offended the Grandma-less.
I bet I get an "open letter" about that.
Or that I wrote about Grandma's making sweaters and cookies.
Because that is a stereotype.
Not ALL Grandma's do that.
I bet I get an "open letter" about that too.

Look, I am all for getting it out in the open and hashing it out but can we call it something other than  an "open letter"?
Because when you are writing a letter, you are writing it TO that person.
Writing a blog post or article then posting it on a page is not a letter.
It is an article.
Or a blog post.
Call it what it is.
An "open article" or an "open post".
So let's re-name it, shall we?
To something more honest.
A "scud missile" maybe?

It is all how you look at things.
I guess when I blurt something out, I will just say, "don't mind me, my brain is composing an open letter."
Maybe the next time I want to get my obsession Bruce Hornsby's attention in a blog post, I should title it "scud missile".
Or put that on the front of the envelope in an actual real open letter.
Yeah, that should get someone's attention.


When Netflix Sends Me Blow Up Swords All Hell Breaks Loose. #StreamTeam

Netflix is promoting their newest series Dragons: Race to the Edge and in doing so, they sent a really thoughtful care package to our home to get us ready for the premier.
I shared it with my Instagram followers here:

I lied.
The blow up sword was destroyed by the next morning.

This thoughtfully prepared kit also contained fun things such as a blanket to snuggle up with while watching the show, Bugles ( Dragons Tails), Doritos (Dragons Claws), said sword, props such as masks and a metal lunch box with the characters of the show on the front.
My Instagram feed was full of other Netflix Stream Team members creatively using their kits with their families.
My daughter?

She had made a Barbie fort with her Dragons: Race to the Edge lunch box.
Don't see the lunch box?
That's because she had ripped the top of the lunch box off.
Because on night one it was already dented in.
The bottom part was inverted and being used as Barbie's stage.
It is behind that playhouse you see there.
The blow up sword?
Already in a landfill somewhere.
I AM SORRY, recycling bin somewhere.
Need to be politically correct.

What Netflix doesn't realize is that when it sends things like blow up swords to homes like mine, is that as much as we like to be all creative and artsy, at the end of the day, all hell breaks loose and well, literally breaks.
But it is all good because we love to be creative around here in our own special way.
We have used that blanket a lot though for forts, family room picnics and snuggling because it has been raining here this summer.
A lot.
So thank you for saving us Netflix.

Here is a good adventure movie we discovered this summer, Planet Earth.

And we didn't need to destroy a blow up sword to discover it.

What is your favorite adventure?

I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. Meaning, for the next year, once a month I will be writing posts about how my family is using our Netflix. They provided me with a Roku and a voucher for my Netflix account.


Summer So Far 2015

I started these posts years ago and I don't have the heart to stop.
So here it is.
Our summer so far.
And no they aren't in order.
Kind of like our life.

Annie went to cheer camp this summer only for a few days but my heart kind of sank a little.
My reaction to her going makes me realize that I won't do very well when she goes to college.

Cooking in the kitchen with Mamie.
My mom doesn't like her face in this picture.
She says she looks upset.
She isn't, by the way.
She and I both suffer from an affliction called RBF.
Those who suffer from it know what that means.

My childhood best friend was in town for a day/overnight over fourth of July and it was magical.
We spent an entire day reminiscing and I couldn't stop looking at her face and remembering our past.
She is my childhood and so having her in my home was just so special to me.
I need her in my life more often.

Fourth of July slip and sliding.
Nothing more American.

We let the teenagers light "fireworks".
They only let off smoke but they thought they were the literal bomb.
It was so much fun to watch them have fun and we were there the whole time to make sure it was safe.
Trust me, when you know what other teens their age were doing on this day?
This was nothing in comparison.


My "three" daughters.
I love these girls so much.

Ella waiting for Mamie and Papa to arrive from Tennessee.
I think she spent half the day in front of this window.


Twirling in her "fancy" dress.

Taking a rest in papa's ball cap.

 Best friends.

 Mars Cheese Castle

I got fooled by the damn Internet into thinking that Barbara Park just died.
She died two years ago.
My daughter's both learned to read from this author, so we mourned her again.
Maybe that isn't such a bad thing after all.

Cheer leading isn't what it was when I was in high school.
For reals.
Back in my day.....OMG I sound like I should have a cane and a white beard.
But seriously, the cheerleaders in our high school were there to cheer on our teams, look pretty and occasionally kick their legs really high.
Maybe do a cartwheel and you always had that one girl who could do a back flip.
I think in our high school it was actually illegal to do pyramids.
Lawsuits and all.
But nowadays, they do things like above.
That there is nothing compared to what else they can do.
So to those that say cheer leading isn't a sport, I say look at this picture.
I also say this is the definition of teamwork.

Meet Tink!
This is my mom and dad's dog and my sister dog.
They were visiting us for a few weeks this summer while my husband was training for a new job in Utah, so it was nice to spend some time together since they live so far away.
While they were here, there were a few thunderstorms.
Of course because Summer of 2015 is also the summer of Thunderpocolypse.
The never ending storm.
Poor Tink doesn't like storms.
She shivers and shakes.
She also stares at the wall and gets the nervous farts.
This is her staring at the wall.
I will spare you the smell but I think you can get the visual.
Or rather the olfactory.

Ella struggled with her Dad being gone two weeks.
He has never been gone that long at one time and by day six at bedtime, she was a sobbing mess.
But she made it through and the look on her face says it all.

She even carried his luggage all the way to the parking garage.
Now, THAT is love.

The day after he got home, God went bowling once again because Thunderpocolypse 2015 and decided it was the perfect time to flood the backyard.
Actually this is the first time in the ten years we have lived here that this has ever happened.
Because Thunderpocolypse 2015.

Summer is the best time to head over the border to hit one of our favorite drive in fast food restaurants.
The Spot in Kenosha, Wisconsin is the best place to get a cheeseburger but they are famous for their root beer.
I have no idea if it is any good because I don't like root beer but my husband and teenager say it is amazing.
I need to try those pickle chips though.
And the spicy breaded green beans??
Guess we need to make another trip.

Last night, Mike and I went out to dinner.
It might not mean anything to you but the last time he and I did that was......
Well, we can't remember the last time we did that.
We sat there at the restaurant and actually could not recall when it was.
Oh sure, we have been out to lunch together when the girls were in school but dinner?
I felt for the first time in a long time, at peace.
I won't go into it here but let's just say that we are in a really good place right now that we haven't been for many reasons and it just felt good to be able to go out together and not worry.
It was nice to be at peace.

On our way back to our car, I realized we were just down the street from the train station where we had first met each other.
I ran down the street and he laughed at me.


I know he thought I was crazy but as we were walking down the sidewalk to that Metra station, I thought of that hot July evening and all those memories.
It is funny how being in a place can bring it all back and it seems like it was just a few days ago.
Not 22 years ago.

I want credit for that picture.
Taken as a speeding Metra train went past, to get the logo behind us.
That was pretty good, if I do say so myself in one take.

Thunder, dog farts, cheer, lots of love, lots of amazing family, lots of rain, lots of fun and lots of food.
Even with the Thunderpocolypse, I would say it has been pretty amazing.
How is your Summer so far?


Return To Snake Island. Cedar Point Vacation 2015.

We got to go on a little family getaway last week to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio last week.
What is Cedar Point, you ask?
Well, it is only THE best amusement park in the Midwest, one could even argue the best amusement park in the USA really.
The self proclaimed "rollerCOAST" because Cedar Point is a peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie hence the POINT part.
The Cedar part isn't really clear any more.
I am sure there used to be many cedar's there at one time but were cleared out for all those roller coasters.

We had met up with my brother and his family at Cedar Point a few years ago and decided to do that again this year as well as meet our dear friends Vikki and Kari and their families as well.
The planning began back in March and it was something to look forward to in the cold and snow.
We hemmed and hawed on dates then finally I threw out a random date in June when I found out my oldest daughter's break from cheer camp.
June 29th was the day I said we could go to Cedar Point all day.
A Monday, but it worked for everyone involved thankfully and they all worked around my husband's ridiculous schedule, thank you all for that.
It was a week before we left for Ohio that Vikki told me June 29th was more than just a random Monday.
It would have been her brother's 55th birthday.
David had passed away two years ago from cancer in October of 2013.

Vikki with her brother, David.

It hit me right where my heart and my stomach meet.
It wasn't an accident that we picked this date.
This date picked us.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

We had seen the weather fluctuate between rain and sun for 10 days for the day we were supposed to spend at Cedar Point but at last we had checked, it was supposed to be sunny and 75 for our day.
We were so happy!
Then on the trip out, I was texting my friends and my mom when I happened to check my Weather Channel app.
Rain and thunderstorms.
80% chance.
All day.
I was just sick.
I could hear Anna chatting with her friend in the backseat and Ella singing with her headphones on as I thought of their only vacation this summer being ruined.
Tears started running down my face.

How could this have happened overnight?
I got some tears out, sent a few texts and had some chocolate.
I talked it through to my husband and wiped my tears.
We will buy ponchos and stomp through the rain!
Sure this is our only vacation but we are lucky to even have any vacation at all!
We have each other, our family, our dear friends.
If we are having fun and making the best of it, so will they.
We will make it fun dammit!

We got to our cabin on Lake Erie safely, met up with my brother and his family.
But not before we had a casualty.

He fell off the cooler in the back of our car.
Because my husband felt he would be safer back there.
Did I mention he is the Michigan fan.

Home sweet cabin.

Yay!! Let's go to the pool!! When it is only 73 degrees!! OKAY!!! The husbands were gracious enough to go in the pool with the kids and good thing too because the water in the pool was 65 degrees.

After the pool, the gnome and the husbands kicked back with a cold one.
But not before a very sobering realization.
See what I did there??

Looking at ALL our new pet snakes

We find out when we get back from the pool that the teenagers were planning on going swimming in the lake but were stopped.
By something moving in the rocks.
Long story short, we find out that we have a snake problem.
Or rather they have a human problem.

That snake was just one of many living in the rocks just a stones throw away from our cabin.
Heh heh heh.
So this is the Lake Erie water snake, say hello.
They like to lay on the rocks and sun themselves all day long.
Lazy snakes, GET A JOB!
This was just one.
There were, at final count, 11 snakes at our cabin, on one particular afternoon.
Not any of the other cabins, only ours.
Funny, I do remember many mention of the "bug problems" at these cabins right on Lake Erie on Trip Advisor.
But I don't remember any mention of a "snake problem".
Probably because the person who wrote about it, ended up with a box of snakes on their front porch three days later.
I kid, I kid.

Our cabin was beautiful and so peaceful if you looked beyond the snakes.
Hisssssss hisssssss.

Oh and apparently they are good at getting rid of the bugs.
Yeah, no we still had bugs.

Oh and the snakes swim too.
My sister in law and I were sitting on the deck on the first night and I said, "umm Kristy, is that a snake swimming? Yes. Yes it is." CHECK PLEASE."
It was like we were in Hell.
If my grandmother were still alive, she would have never left the car.

So if you were thinking of swimming at the beach here?
Just know, you would have company.
Little snakes wearing life jackets.
It gets better.
Keep reading.

We were ready to tackle Cedar Point the next day!
Even with a broken foot and snakes that can swim!!!!

We woke up and saw the snakes popping their little heads out of the rocks because we had donuts.
Snakes love donuts!
I even said good morning to the snakes.
They were growing on me.
We woke to beautiful skies, I sat on the deck and listened to the waves and said a thank you to the sky.
This would be a great day to spend with some beautiful people.


We missed the petting zoo by an hour but they left the animals out as a teaser.
Thanks a lot Cedar Point.
Yes, I know they must live there but how's about that life as a "farm" animal?
Living on a peninsula on Lake Erie full of roller coasters.
Of course, they looked well fed.
Kind of like those Lake Erie snakes.


Something about little behinds.

This is Vikki's dad, Jack and he holds my heart.
So I mentioned earlier about this day being David's birthday.
I thought about him throughout the day and would occasionally hug Vikki or her dad.
I know this day had to be hard on him as well. 
But this is what is so cool about this man: he is 80 years old but he I don't think he knows he is.
Shhh don't tell him.
He rode approximately 8-10 roller coaster rides on this day.
He also feels as thought he might be "slowing down a little bit".

This picture makes me laugh out loud every time I look at it.
Ella loved these cars so much and wanted to ride them over and over and over.
This is Vikki's daughter, Beth aka my twin, in the passenger seat and her sweet friend Emily, in the backseat.
The greatest part of this whole thing is that these two teenagers were just as excited to ride with her as she was to ride with them.
There are so many bad things written about teenagers out there and I am here to say this: there are really amazing teens among us and I am witness to quite a few.

Case in point.
This train filled with teens riding with kids.
At the end of the night, my daughter Anna and her friend Abby, as well as Beth and her friend Emily ran from ride to ride in Camp Snoopy, with my nephew and my daughter as they squealed with glee.
Those two kids will never forget that.
I am forever grateful for teenagers who do deeds like that.
They have no idea how much children look up to them for things like this.
It leaves lasting impressions.
God bless them all.

Ella was by Jack's side or "Grampa" as she called him, almost the entire day.
She told him long stories, lovingly pushed him in his wheelchair and just loved being around him.


Ella doesn't have a grandfather figure in her daily life and I know she misses it.
This day was therapeutic for her, filling a void she desperately needs.

It was good for both of them, I think, to have this day.

Do we have these in Chicago?
I had never heard of these before or was completely oblivious to them because when I saw the cart for these I heard angels singing and the clouds parted.
No, seriously, the clouds parted and it stopped raining.
The best part of the funnel cake are the outside edges because the inside gets all mushy, so what a perfect invention!
Now, I wasn't thinking that an hour later on the third run on the Gemini roller coaster when I almost vomited in Kristy's lap.....BUT OMG FUNNEL CAKE FRIES?????

My all time favorite part of Cedar Point is the older Frontier part.
We were trying to find out how to get to this area and Vikki asked a young employee how to get here, mentioning some kind of frontier trail to a blank look.
Then she asked him where the Panda Express was and he was all OH YEAH! TAKE A LEFT THAN A RIGHT THEN ANOTHER LEFT!
It's located in the woods and has all sorts of little shops and cool leather making exhibits etc.
I hope they never get rid of this section but a sure fire way not to is to stick a Panera or a Panda Express in here.
Frontier people would have loved those.

It was so sad to say goodbye to our family, friends and to Cedar Point but we decided we need to make it an annual trip.
Because it was so much fun to spend the day with our loved ones in such a fun place.
We got to talk, hold hands and make lots of memories.
By the way, we didn't get rained out.
This day turned out to be absolutely gorgeous and because of the forecast, the longest lines were only 15 minutes long.
My teenager and her friend got to ride every roller coaster in the park, some four times.
It was the perfect day.
One could even say, it was Heaven sent.

We always stop at our favorite lighthouse in Marblehead on the way out of town.
Which is about 40 minutes drive from Sandusky.
It sounds like a long way but it is just a roundabout drive.
Trust me, it is worth the drive.

Going to Cedar Point without stopping at some of the cool little towns along Lake Erie is really doing yourself an injustice.
So allow yourself an extra morning or at least an extra day if you are from out of state.
Oh and by the way Cedar Point, here is a tip: your employees were amazingly friendly on the grounds of the place we stayed but they knew nothing about the area.
Which leads me to believe that they aren't from the area.
You need to work on that BIG TIME by training them to learn the area.
They didn't even offer to help us to find Marblehead.
Mad props to the Ohio family in the lobby of the registration center who not only helped us re- route a way that was better than GPS could send us but also gave us their map.
I love Ohio people.

The girls loved walking into the water.
Especially because we were far from those snakes.

Since they were across the lake over there.
I didn't have the heart to tell the girls that they swim.
Or that they wear little life jackets.

So back to that lighthouse:

Looks innocent enough, right?
So it was open to the public, which is very rare.
My husband and I are both afraid of heights.
I can do roller coasters but I can't do things like ferris wheels, fire towers in state parks, lighthouses along great lakes.


Maybe we were on a Cedar Point high or something but we had balls.
Balls of steel.
But we decided that on this day, we needed to go to the top of the Marblehead lighthouse.

So Anna and her friend were in front, essentially skipping up the narrow, winding staircase two steps at a time.
Followed by Mike, Ella in the middle, me and then a lady behind me who was probably in her late sixties who made me laugh so hard that I thank God she was in the lighthouse of death with us.
I named her Barbara because I love to name people and dogs.
And inanimate objects.
I named the snakes.
Don't ask.

The problem with being afraid of heights is that once you go up, you can't look anywhere but straight ahead but there was no room to look anywhere else.
Because lighthouse of death.
Omg all slippery and sh#$.
Yeah, that is all I could think of, meanwhile Barbara behind me is all "omg, this is horrible this is awful, oh I don't know if I can do this, that is a long way down, oh dear heavens, oh my goodness, we just keep getting higher and higher, look how far down the bottom is, no, don't look, keep looking straight ahead, yeah that is better".

Her running dialogue is why I am still here today, ladies and gentlemen.
I might even re-name this blog A Barbara Life, because God Bless her soul, she saved me that day.
By the way, when we got to the top, Mike and I literally clung to the wall for five seconds, breathed like we were giving birth and threw ourselves back into the stairwell.
Barbara never left the stairwell.
Barbara might still be there.

On the way home, we stopped at a place that is kind of a tradition.
We used to go here when we were little and we would go up to Lake Erie.
I am sure a lot of kids get upset when stopping here on the way to Cedar Point because when you are little the last place you want to go is a metal building filled with cheese and smoked meat.
When you are an adult that is the FIRST place you want to go.
So when I told my children about Cheesehaven, they didn't complain because FOOD.
My kids love food more than what is probably normal.
So when we pulled up and they saw the sign then read it, I could hear the collective ooh's and ahh's from the backseat.
Even the teenager that wasn't ours was impressed.
By the way, it is pronounced CheeseHEAVEN.
It is.  Really.

We stopped at Notre Dame on the way home because none of us had ever seen the campus and we wanted to break up the trip on the way home.
It is the most beautiful campus I have ever been on but the Buckeye in me definitely felt uncomfortable being there.

Ella met a friend by Touchdown Jesus.

My husband really only wanted to see this campus because he likes the movie Rudy.
He has an aversion to Notre Dame that rivals his aversion to Ohio State.

And I yelled Go Buckeyes into the stadium when no one was looking.
See how many touchdowns that gets ya.

Umm, Jesus doesn't even like football.

It was such a fun trip, a memory maker for sure and it makes me glad that we do these trips.
The beach would be fun, going to distant lands would be cool but spending time with loved ones can't be beat, that is for sure.
Can't wait for next year.
I want to get my parents in on the action next time.
Only we will rent cabin FOUR next year.

Hey snakes! There will be two more next year! You can't handle all that awesome!


That was Harold.
He was very feisty.


This post is dedicated to the memory of David A. Schuster Gabriel
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