The Best Thing Happened To Me Today!

The best thing happened to me today!  I was sitting at my desk, doing some research and listening to my some songs on my iTunes.  I wasn’t listening to a particular playlist, artist, or genre, I was just letting iTunes do it’s thing and randomly shuffle through my song list.  Like most of you reading, my iTunes library is pretty eclectic; everything from “explicit gangsta rap” to Italian opera so it was really no surprise when Britney Spears’ Christmas tune “My Only Wish This Year” started coming through my earbuds.

It was what came on next that made my heart happy and eyes brim with tears.  It was a voice memo of my grandmother laughing.  I remember making the recording when I was in Jacksonville visiting with her a few weeks ago but had forgotten that voice memos automatically download to my iTunes library when I sync/ back up my iPhone.

*I just paid $99 to “upgrade” this blog so I could upload this audio file.

One of the side effects of my sister Ashlee’s passing is that I’ve started to notice and appreciate all the little things in life.  Things I would have taken for granted 2 years ago.  I remember sitting at the table in my grandmother’s kitchen when I made that voice memo.  It was the second take, I couldn’t get the app to record in time for her first laughing fit.  I just remember thinking that I loved the moment and want to remember her laugh for the rest of my life.  Mission accomplished.

It really isn’t until someone is gone that you would think about how much you miss someones laugh.  It’s like a fingerprint, everyone’s is different and no one’s exactly alike. So the next time you’re in a laughing fit with one of your favorite people remember this post and capture the moment, if not with your iPhone at least with your mind.  You’ll be glad you did!

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My Mom (#ohKath), Mom-Mom, Myself and Ashlee
Beverage of Choice: Orange Crush
Annual Christmas Girls Night Out 2010

My grandmother just turned 80 years old this year (still rocking her wedges) and is one of the most kind, loving, thoughtful, patient people I know; just being around her makes me have a smile on my face.  She’s an instant ego boost (as most grandparents are); every time I get a card from her it’s addressed to “My Beautiful Granddaughter” and every time I see her in person she tells me how fabulous I look, even when I know it’s a lie.  We both share a love for classic 80’s movies and can get down to the Bee Gee’s or Michael Jackson at the drop of a dime.  She loves Taco Bell and is a cheap date; 1 soft taco supreme and a senior coke, which comes to approximately $2.37.  We both like to gamble and have been members of The American Legion for over 30 years (yes, that’s a fact).  And to top it all off, she knows how to grill.

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Grillin in front of Nacho Mama’s in Canton, MD
Annual Christmas Girls Night Out 2010

I really could go on and on about how awesome my Mom-Mom is but I don’t want to make you any more jealous than you already are.  Cheers to my Mom-Mom and thank you for brightening my day today!

 

Get Your Nose In A Book

Remember back in the day when summer would roll around and all of the libraries would have summer reading clubs and contests to get kids hype about reading throughout the summer?  Someone needs to start doing this for adults except with enhanced prizes such as a bar tab or Target gift card as the prize to the person who reads the most.  Hell, throw in some MAC cosmetics and I know some women that would read novels like a flip book from the 50’s.  I mean, I know a ton of people who like to read but don’t or can’t seem to find the time to read  books they enjoy because let’s face it, as we get older carving out time for ourselves becomes harder and harder.   I guarantee that people would carve out more time for reading if the price of the bar tab or gift certificate is right!

Price Is Right

I decided this summer that I’m going to revisit “The Classics”.  So while I plan on reading Little Women, Tom Sawyer, and To Kill A Mockingbird, I also intend on reading some of my personal favorites which are classics in my book (no pun intended!)

Fun Fact:  My friend Lauren and I started up a book club in our 3rd grade cubbies.  We charged other kids to borrow our Babysitters Club books (we also sold baseball and hockey cards on the side; not kidding).  This was a secret operation, we flew under the radar until the end of the year.  Now when I say we charged kids I should clarify that it was a minuscule amount, 5-10 cents per week and our currency was this:

Plastic Kids Play Money

The currency was also only good at Mrs. Darling’s General Store which sold pixie sticks, erasers, novelty pencils and bouncy balls, if you were lucky!  At the end of the year we had so much damn money that we were like the Robin Hood’s of Mrs. Darlings 3rd grade class.  Pixie sticks for everyone!

Kindle vs. iPad vs. Books.  I’ve had the debate a million times.  If you like to read #getwiththegets and get a kindle.  I’ve had pretty much every model that has come out in the past 3 years and in my opinion, the mack daddy of all eReaders is the Kindle Paperwhite.  Its lightweight, glare free, and backlit.  If you are a book lover and one of those people who says “I just like a book.  I like to hold the book, and feel the pages…” I’ve got a message for you; that’s what everyone says until they get a Kindle.

As a side note I also recommend becoming an Amazon Prime Member.  It’s $99 and hands down the best investment I make all year.  For $99 you get free two-day shipping on most items, to borrow a book a month from the Kindle Owner’s Library, and Prime Instant Video (which has taken the place of my Netflix subscription saving me $8.99 a month now that Amazon introduced an app on my smart Blu-ray player).

Below are some of my fictional favorites, Klassics* if you will, along with some other recommendations for your summertime reading list in no particular order:

Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells*:  You’ve probably seen the movie, and while I admit, the cast was fabulous and they did a great job but it’s no match for the book.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet read the book, and if you have seen the movie read the book anyways.  It’s a good story of a lifelong friendship between 4 women and Rebecca Wells does a fabulous job of telling their story.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett*:  See above minus the last sentence.  While I love the movie, and anything with Emma Stone if I’m being honest, I was disappointed when I saw that some of my favorite parts of the book were left out of the movie.  It’s an easy read and will make you laugh out loud.

Perfect On Paper by Maria Murnane:  This is the first of a 4 book series that I stumbled upon a few years ago.  I read the first line of the description on Amazon “Waverly Bryson is a successful businesswoman in her late 20s who almost has it all…”  and was like BINGO.  I breezed through all 3, staying up throughout the night many times because I couldn’t put them down and then was pleasantly surprised when the author, Maria Murnane, decided to release a 4th a final book on Waverly’s adventures.    For all you Amazon Prime members, the books are free in the lending library.  Get on it.

Hopeless by Colleen Hoover:  I could. not. put. this. book. down.  It was an ok read until about 1/2 way through, then it was like whoa; I stayed up all night long to finish reading it and told everyone I know to read it too.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah*:  My go-to book.  I’ve given this book many a time to my girlfriends throughout the years, usually for birthday gifts.  It’s a story of a friendship of two women.  It will make you laugh and it will make you cry.  And then you will give it to your best friend to read and when she’s done you’ll immediately have the debate over who in your friendship is Kate and who is Tully.  I love, love, love this book as well as many books that Kristin has written, she is one of my favorite fictional authors.

Flat Out Love by Jessica Park:  A quirky beach read that I just loved.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling:  Seems a little juvenile eh?  Well obviously if you think that you’ve never read the books.  I had heard the hype growing up and in high school often read passages to my babysitting charges before they went to bed but never sat down to read the full series until the summer of 2008 when I found myself book/ magazineless at the pool.  I finished the 7 books in a little over a month.  Luckily I jumped on the bandwagon right before the 7th and final book came out so I didn’t have to go through the torture the rest of the world did while waiting for the next release.  READ THESE BOOKS.  THEY ARE GOOD.  ALL 4,100 PAGES OF THEM.

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks:  Again, you’ve probably seen the movie, and while I admit, the cast was fabulous and they did a great job but it’s no match for the book.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet read the book, and if you have seen the movie read the book anyways it’s a good one!  I’ll admit, I burned myself out on Nicholas Sparks from 2004-2006.  It started with The Notebook and spiraled into a slight obsession as I found myself hitting up the Leon County Library and checking out as many of his books that I hadn’t read yet at a time.  But things started to blend together, after reading 10 love stories that took place on the beaches in North Carolina all of the story lines began to run together.  So I took a hiatus and gave Safe Haven a chance the summer of 2011.  It’s a nice easy read that becomes a page turner before you know it.

Off The Face Of The Earth by Aljean Harmetz:  I read this book back in 1999 and recently stumbled upon it again.  If you like mystery thrillers this book is for you.

What am I reading now you ask?  I’m currently reading The Hiltons: The True Story of an American Dynasty by J. Randy Taraborrelli and The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.  It’s a pretty interesting combo; that Conrad Hilton was a hell of a business man and I had no idea about their Hollywood history dating back to the early 20th century.  And The Untethered Soul, well just the title has weight to it so you can imagine the content.  Although I have to admit, I’m ready for a good fictional summer read after these.  I’ve been reading some pretty heavy material for the past 8 months and I am ready for some light-hearted reading.

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Share your recommendations and summer reading material on Instagram using #shovelingsunshine.

 

Any Day Can Be Day #1

fresh-start

So the other week I was giving some advice that I think is noteworthy and thought since it was a pretty eye opening conversation for me it would be a worth sharing.   In the front seat of my car and I was telling one of me dearest friends how awesome, amazing, beautiful, cool, and what a good dancer she is; and that any day can be day #1.  She countered with “can we start with 1/2 days?” (you know what they say, friends are a mirror of ourselves…)

On my drive home (approximately 1 mile, #bestlifeever), I started to think more and more about that conversation.  I had just told one of my best friends that you don’t have to wait for December 31st or move somewhere new to make life changes.  Just make a decision to make a change, no matter how small, and it will have a domino effect.  I started to think about how many day #1’s I’ve had over the years, I’m only 30 and it’s been A LOT.  It’s actually a running joke between a buddy of mine and myself, that along with the hashtag #youshouldseeyourlifesometimes.  But just like my man Churchill says, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” And let me tell you, I’m enthusiastic as shit about my future.  Like a fine wine, it seems to get better with my age.

I’m one of those people that insists on instituting life changes on Mondays.  I don’t know why but it just works for me.   I myself use the weekend to mentally prepare myself  and then when Monday comes around I’m ready to roll.  I roll out of bed with this January 1st, the world is my oyster attitude and hit the ground running.  Well, ok, that doesn’t happen all the time but it did last week and it felt pretty damn good.

I started last Monday off by trading in my cold brew coffee in for a berry (straw, rasp, blue, and black) and kale smoothie and ended the day with a run through old town with my pup Skyy.  I’ll admit, it wasn’t the easiest run I’ve ever had, Skyy and I were both pretty winded but hey, it was only day 1!  I’ll spare you the boring details but the bottom line is that I kept up that routine 4 out of 7 days.  And!  Only 1 of the other 3 days ended with Hamburger Helper.  Not bad, not bad at all.

My productivity took a slight hiatus when the weekend hit.  Those sneaky weekends get me every time.  Fireball Friday resulted in Sobriety Saturday because of my hangover, but it was worth it.  Totally worth it.

Yesterday was my Super Soul Sunday; I washed my car, took my dog for a few long walks and a bacon wrapped hot dog from Five Guys and even managed to hit up the pool for an hour or two of QT with my Kindle.  I caught up on laundry spent a few hours over at my friends house sipping on vodka lemonades and playing a few friendly games of SkipBo. Needless to say today is my day #1, again.

I guess the  moral of the story is that “a ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for”.  You have to get out there; meet new people and try new things.  Have as many day #1’s as you need, who’s counting?!.  Make a change and start a domino effect in your own life, cheers, and Happy Monday!

Everyone Needs A Hero, Let It Be You

DISCLAIMER:  I’ve had anxiety over writing this post since I started this blog because I knew I wanted to write about my sister Ashlee this week but wasn’t sure if I could ever find the words to do our relationship justice.  This one’s for you piglet…

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he·ro

noun
: a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities
: a person who is greatly admired

The first time I ever remember processing the word hero in my head was back in the early 90’s when Mariah Carey was belting it out on every radio station.  I remember my mom and aunts crying (imagine that, we are a bunch of emotional chicks that’s for sure), listening to the tape on repeat in their vans.  That’s when I realized that the word hero had some clout.  Isn’t it ironic?  My mom and her sisters were belting out the words “there’s a herooooo, if you look inside your heart…” and here I am suddenly realizing that my two “little” sisters are more than my friends, they are my heroes.

Being a big sister is like being a super hero, only better.  It’s a job that comes with serious responsibilities often times at such a young age.   As an older sister you are teaching your siblings, whether you realize it or not, the kind of person they want to be.  They are either going to want to emulate your every move or if you are a dick to them growing up they are going to want to become the exact opposite of you.  If you are lucky, you’ll fall somewhere in the middle like I did.

Sisters can be annoying; mine will tell you that I wasn’t always the nicest or most patient sister on the block, but they know I loved them and when push comes to shove, I always have their back.  It’s natural to look up to people older than you, me, not having an older sister to look up to found a good substitute in my babysitters (shout outs to my cousin Allison, Kim & Kristin, and Ms. Sherri).

Once I went to college my relationships with my sisters changed, they started to mature and were no longer based on who had the best beanie baby collection but on who was better at flip cup and when they could visit me at college.  After I graduated we grew even closer and before I knew it those sneaky chicks had become my best friends.

One afternoon in July 2012 I was working some “overtime” for a project at work and got a phone call from my sister Ashlee.  She was crying and told me that she had been diagnosed with ocular melanoma.  I remember telling her that everything would be ok and she shouldn’t worry because everything will work out, she’ll talk to a doctor, give her a plan of attack and she’ll beat it.  Simple as that.

I was wrong.  I’ll spare you the details but essentially it was 11 months of pain and suffering and I lost my sister to cancer on June 5, 2013; 3 days after her 23rd birthday. When I was growing up (and I mean until I was 28) I was invincible and the world was my oyster.  My whole life I had been told that I could have whatever I want if I work hard enough for it.  Being an optimist I honestly never thought she would die.  I thought we would get a miracle and one day Ashlee would start to feel better.  Let me tell you, nothing gives you a reality check like losing your little sister to cancer, or to anything for that matter. There was no amount of money I could raise or number of care packages I could send that would make this better.  It was the first time in my entire life that the circumstances were out of my control and it was the worst feeling in the world.

I wallowed for a few months in my grief, not sure where my path would lead me.  All of my future plans and memories I was counting on in my future included Ashlee in them. After a few months of throwing myself pity parties (which were totally justified) I started to change my tune a little bit when I remembered a text message that I received from Ashlee a few months before:

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I made myself a promise that I would work the rest of my life to personify that text.  To become an inspiration, a better role model, better best friend, and better sister.  I knew that if I were able to personify those words I would become a better person and positive influence in other people’s lives, which was motivation enough for me!

You’ve heard me say it before; I believe that everything happens for a reason but I’m still searching for the reason that God chose to take my sister Ashlee away from the world so soon.  She had so much to offer and was right on the cusp the Phoenix Process which my favorite guru Elizabeth Lesser describes as “our lives ask[ing] us to die and to be reborn every time we confront change—[to] change within our self and change in our world.”

So in her honor, I picked up where Ashlee left off.  Lesser says, “When we descend all the way down to the bottom of a loss, and dwell patiently, with an open heart, in the darkness and pain, we can bring back up with us the sweetness of life and the exhilaration of inner growth. When there is nothing left to lose, we find the true self—the self that is whole, the self that is enough, the self that no longer looks to others for definition, or completion, or anything but companionship on the journey.”

According to Rick Warren, God doesn’t waste a hurt.  The question you have to ask yourself is “what will you do with what you’ve been through?  Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.”  Whoa, what a concept, my pain could help people?  No way.

I’ve always been independent but finding happiness in the gravity of that loss changed my life.  It made me whole first the first time in my life (although until then I never realized I was broken) and I finally realized what Novelist Aldous Huxley meant when he said, “Experience is not what happens to you.  It is what you do with what happens to you.”

I choose to respond by being happy.  By seeing the good in people.  By practicing random acts of kindness.  By keeping in touch with the people that mean the most to me and FaceTiming them over calling them whenever possible.  By living deeper in the moment so that my memories are brighter than any picture I could ever take with my iPhone. By remaining open and a shoulder to cry on for others.  By shoveling sunshine all over the world.

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I Laughed So Hard, Tears Ran Down My Leg

I dare you to watch this video and not smile.

Laughter really is the best medicine.  I mean who doesn’t love a legit LOL moment?  Humor such a good character trait and much more contagious than any cold or flu.  Think about it, if you ask someone what they are looking for in a partner they almost always have “a good sense of humor” at the top of the list.  Now think about the last time you had a good, laugh out loud, un-intentional ab work out laugh.  Doesn’t it just make you smile?

This weekend I’m heading back to my home state of Maryland (represent!) to celebrate my sisters; Kate’s engagement and Ashlee’s birthday, and I cannot wait for the laugh out loud moments to unfold.  It’s kind of like waiting to open presents on Christmas day you know there are good times just waiting to be unwrapped.

You know that commercial “gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now…”, well it’s pretty much my family to a T.  When we have to go, we have to go.  Usually I end up doing a weird gallop dance in place trying to refrain from peeing my pants until I feel I can safely get to a bathroom (which I totally misjudge at least 50% of the time).  As a result of my poor judgement in time I’ve developed a reputation.  I usually get at least 1 package of depends or some other novelty gift that is making fun of my weak bladder, everyone’s always a comedian when it comes to gift giving.  But the best gift is the memories that come along with it.

Needless to say, pants peeing is not uncommon in my family, especially once the alcohol and laughter starts flowing. But who cares, I say embrace it.  I remember the first time I had ever heard of such a thing.  My mom was having a party and all her girlfriends were over.  They were all sitting around laughing and her one friend Janet peed her pants from laughing so hard, do you think she let that stop her from a good time?  Hell no!

Kath: (while laughing hysterically) “Oh Janet! Are you going to go home and change?”

Janet: (while laughing hysterically) “Hell No, I’m having too much fun!  Go get me a trash bag to sit on!”

Now THAT is what I’m talking about!   Over the years I’ve learned to become proactive instead of reactive; I’ve become an stealth squat popper (experience level: expert), I pack extra skivvies for trips and try to stay in my bathing suit as much as possible on my days off in Key West.  I’ve learned to stay away from wearing jeans when day drinking (dresses are much more convenient for emergencies) and how to turn my weird gallop into a dance move so it’s not so obvious when I’m biding time to make it to a bathroom.

If I could spend the rest of my life laughing I would; In fact, I think I shall!  Here’s to a weekend of family, friends, extra skivvies, un-intentional ab workouts and priceless memories.  Cheers!

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