Monday, November 7, 2011

Thank God For Kids!

I remember when my kids were little and they would go over to folk’s house while I worked. My mom hadn’t worked for several years and my dad decided to retire early. They would sit all day in the front yard while my kids had the opportunity just to be kids. They would play games, pick up leaves, and just got to enjoy being outside. Now I have little grandkids. Riley is five, Morgan is almost two and a half, and little Bodhi is about a year and a half old. I see my little ones quite a bit, but I’m not privileged to the carefree days that my folks use to enjoy with my kids. I work, and what even adds to my work is that I’m self employed. Owning a store like Country Roads that only closes three days a year, is at times like a ball and chain. Thankfully I enjoy that ball and chain but I do wish I had the freedom of down time. Those of you that are self employed  know what I’m saying. When I want to help my little ones build a Lego castle or spend time coloring with them, work is always in the back of my mind. There are always emails to answer, and paper work to do.

I do feel blessed that I manage to spend as much time as I do with my grandkids. I know many of you don’t have that privilege. We all live not far from each other. I missed Riley’s soccer games this past fall because her games were always on Saturdays and I have Country Roads to open at 10 am every Saturday. I was lucky enough last spring to catch her T-ball games because they started much earlier. Sometimes when I’m with my grandkids I just watch them play. The simplicity of them playing and pretending takes all of us to a different place in time. It makes me jealous, and reminds me of the carefree days as a little kid. One of my favorite moments several months ago was when all three of my little ones were at my house.  Riley was instrumental in putting together the “Woody-Jesse Parade”! I had bought them all little vintage cowboy boots, of course from Country Roads. Riley helped Morgan and Bodhi get their boots on. As the parade began, they circled around my family room and you could just hear the girl’s squeals of laughter. And you could see Bodhi, because of his age, definitely marching to his own drummer going in the opposite direction! When my daughter, Katie, works at Country Roads, I usually watch her two kids, Riley and Bodhi, a couple of days a week.  And because of that, I have the privilege of picking Riley up from school, meeting her friends, and her teachers and many other things. I got to rock Bodhi to sleep when he was smaller and Morgan lived with me & my son and his wife up until a couple of months ago.  I know not all Gramma’s get to spend so much time with their little ones! Riley and Bodhi’s dad has been off work for a few weeks because of his back. I haven’t had my little ones over at my house like I use to. And I can’t tell you how much I missed them. And Morgan? My son Bryce and his wife got their own place a few weeks ago. Morgan has been living with me since the first day she came home from the hospital. There has been a bit of an empty spot in my heart.

The past couple of weeks I’ve had some reminders that my little ones really do love me though. Riley will get on the phone and tell me that. She is at that chatty age, although I think she was born at the chatty age!  Morgan came over the other day and just ran to me and plopped herself in my lap. And the other night I had taken Katie home from work, but I only had minute and was getting ready to leave. Bodhi started running towards Katie and I crying. Of course I assumed because we had worked all day, that he wanted Katie to hold him. You know what? He wanted his Gramma! As I held my little boy very tightly, I knew how truly blessed I am to be able to have these experiences. I get to go to Disneyland with them, spend holidays with them, do just every day stuff with my grandkids and even be a part of the “Woody-Jesse” Parade! And no matter how tough life gets, or what is going on in our world, I know how blessed I am. I know in my heart what makes me happy, and how these little grandkids of mine are such a huge part of my life. I know some day they too will be working at Country Roads. I will teach them to work just like I did Katie and Bryce and Brande. And when this world of our gets a little tough, I always, without a doubt, thank God for kids!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Holiday Memories

One of my favorite holiday movies isn’t one of the classics. The one I love to watch each and every Christmas is “Home For the Holidays” with Robert Downey, Jr. and Holly Hunter. If you haven’t seen the movie (it’s been out for a long time), basically it is about a family, a bit dysfunctional, that all gather together at Christmas time. I think I enjoy this movie each and every year because in my eyes that’s what most families are, just a tad dysfunctional, you know? Some of us admit us, and some of us don’t. I remember one Christmas when I was in high school, that my Dad had accepted an invitation to have Christmas dinner over at a co-workers house. They were a younger couple that had moved out here from back East and didn’t have any family out here. Their names were Donna and Joe, and all day Donna spent cooking. There was turkey, ham, all the traditional side dishes, several desserts and more. While Donna was finishing cooking the Christmas dinner, my Dad had gone upstairs with Joe to play pool. My Dad wasn’t much of a drinker. He would have a beer here and there, but that was about it. Apparently, while upstairs playing he pool, he also was drinking whiskey. The next thing we knew, he sort of stumbled down the stairs. I’m not sure exactly how this happened, but he managed to trip and fall into the beautifully decorated Christmas tree that was placed in front of the bay window. Half of the tree crashed through the window into the front yard, while the remainder of the tree was inside of the house. And my Dad? He landed on his butt on the floor with Christmas lights wrapped around his head and part of his body asking, “did I do that”? I have to admit, I laughed as did Joe and Donna. After all it was pretty funny. But my poor Mom was so embarrassed I don’t think she ever recovered from my Dad being part of Joe and Donna’s Christmas d├ęcor with holiday lights wrapped around him!

My point of the little story above is this. The holidays really should be about “who” we spend the holidays with. It shouldn’t be about what food is on the table or how it is displayed, but “who” is sitting at our tables with us! As we all know the passage of time seems to go by faster and faster each year. Rather than spend all the time looking for the perfect holiday gifts, although Country Roads does have wonderful things as far as gift giving goes, or cooking the perfect Christmas dinner, we should just enjoy each other, you know? I wish you all a magical holiday season. And I hope you will find it in your hearts to reach out and help those that won’t have a table to sit around this Christmas. Our world isn’t like it use to be but that doesn’t mean that we have to change. When you are in a position to “give” to those less fortunate than yourself, you couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present ever! Happy Holidays!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Memories of Fall

I love this time of year. The days start to get shorter, and eventually the weather cools down a bit, and we find ourselves at home a little earlier than we use to make it home. For me, Fall is full of memories. Several years ago I use to notice an elderly lady that would take walks with her caretaker in my neighborhood. I never thought too much about it until one Fall day. The leaves the leaves had begun to turn color, and this lovely lady would have her caretaker equipped with a bag she would carry for her. The lady would take time to stop on her walks every now and then and pick up leaves. These weren’t just any old leaves. I would watch out my window as she would stop in front of my house and pick up one leaf and examine it. The lady would look at the colors on the leaf, the shape, the textures, truly examining it. If it was a leaf that met her approval, she would hand it to her caretaker to gently place in her bag. Even today, I marvel at how wonderful and touching it was to be able to secretly watch this woman sincerely enjoy the beauty and simplicity that nature has to offer us. I haven’t seen her for a few years now, and I’m sure she’s passed on, but I always think of her with a smile on my face during this time of year. And I have to admit, I now look at the leaves a bit differently than I use to.
The passage of time is something that I’m always keenly aware of. This Fall my oldest granddaughter, Riley, started kindergarten. It still hasn’t sunk in with me as I watched her wave good-bye to us her first day of school. I looked at her and wondered how she was already in kindergarten. This is the little girl I helped deliver when she was born! I also beat myself up a little bit thinking that there was so much more I wanted to do with my little Riley before she started school. I’m always so busy with Country Roads and just life. I do the best I can to juggle my time, but for me, I have to confess, it gets away from me. There is, however, something special about Fall. It feels like the beginning of not just a new school year, but a new year all together. I want to make more time for my little ones. I want to create more memories for them with me, especially this time in my life.

I look forward to spending time with not only Riley, but with my other grandbabies, Morgan (2) and Bodhi (1) this Fall. We always go to Disneyland for their Halloween event. And how can I forget how I smiled really big the other day while driving down PCH and seeing “Pa’s Pumpkin Patch” being set up for yet another Fall season. My whole family gathers here each and every year with all the little ones. Fall does make me remember the things like the beginnings of school years, and Disneyland and the Pumpkin Patch. But I think this Fall; I will create a new memory for my little grandkids. I think it’s time to grab a bag, and walk around my neighborhood and examine the leaves! And just like the lovely lady I wrote about above, I can have Riley, Morgan, and Bodhi decide which leaves are worthy enough for “our” bag! You know, the things we remember the most, the things we never forget, the things that touch are hearts the deepest are usually not the most expensive things in life. It’s the simple stuff, like collecting leaves and not only appreciating Mother Nature’s beauty in the Fall, but creating a memory that you will always carry in your heart.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back To School Memories

Riley just finished pre-school, and wanted to see where her kindergarden room would be back in June!

This time of year always takes me back to when I was a kid and after a carefree summer it was time to head back to school. Growing up in the fifties, was so very different than growing up today. There were no uniforms, there were no gangs, and life just seemed simpler. My folks didn’t have a lot of money. My Dad, after getting out of the Army, went to work for Southern California Edison. My Mom did what most moms did back then, she stayed home with me and my sister and took care of the house. I attended Patrick Henry elementary school here in Long Beach, CA. The school is still there today and my hopes were that my granddaughter, Riley, would go there since she is beginning kindergarten in a few weeks and lives in the house I grew up in. As we all know, things have changed a great deal since I was a kid. Patrick Henry is now Spanish immersion, so she will be attending nearby Bircham elementary.

It’s funny after all these years the things you remember. When it was almost time for school to start, my Mom would take my sister and I school shopping. Now most schools have uniforms and there isn’t a whole lot of variety to choose from. Back then, we got all of our clothes for the school year at once. And of course, I wanted to wear everything all at once. Here in sunny SoCal, our fall weather can bring on the heat before it begins to cool down. I know there were days I was just throwing a fit to wear one of my new sweaters, no matter how hot it was. And I also remember sweating to death as the school day dragged on! Then there were the dreadful “saddle shoes” my Mom insisted that I wear. A lot of my friends, I felt, were so lucky because they got to wear tennis shoes. My Mom always thought those were bad for your feet, thus I was stuck with the saddle shoes until one eventful day. I had a lot of “sass” in me as a kid. I think I was about in the third grade and I had popped off to my Mom about something. Back then it wasn’t a crime to spank your kid with a belt. I can still hear the sound of my Dad whippin’ that belt off. It was like the sound of pulling the cord on a lawn mower, and I use to run like hell to get away! So when my Mom threatened me three or four times more with the belt, as she chased me through our house, I finally stopped running and accidently (on purpose) stepped backwards on her foot. Yep, I broke her foot and off course when everyone asked her what happened, it was, “Susie kicked me”! Nice.

Everything changes as time marches on. I still like to remember all the fun I had growing up on Senasac Avenue. After school when we use to have a mean “Good Humor” ice cream man, whose truck would drive down our street daily, me and all of my neighborhood buddies would hide in the bushes, and yell that magic word, “STOP”! He would get out of his truck and find no one. Realizing he had been pranked again (you would have thought he would have learned after a few times) he would get out of the truck and look all over for us, but we were never caught! And how can I forget the smell of those glazed donuts when the Helm’s Bakery truck would stop across the street. The double back doors on the truck would open, and out would come that very special drawer that held the freshly baked glazed donuts!

Childhood friends from those days on Senasac and attending Patrick Henry still hold a place in my heart. My very bestfriend in those days, Donna Nagel, was my buddy I would always sit by me at lunch time! Of course that was unless my Mom had packed me an egg salad sandwich. She hated the smell so she wouldn’t sit by me on those days! I went to school with Donna all the way until we graduated from Millikan High school longer than I like to remember.
So, as I watch my oldest little granddaughter get ready to start kindergarten here pretty soon, I will also be there watching her walk away, on her own, to her first day of school. Yes, times have changed, and Riley’s memories won’t be like mine, but she will have her own special memories of her own. But, the one thing that will always be the same is when our little ones turn around and wave “good-bye” as they start the school year. Because in our hearts we all know how fast they grow in a blink of an eye!

Friday, June 24, 2011

"High Hopes"
"My Mom & Grandma in a field of Texas Bluebonnets"

When I was a kid growing up, my Mom never talked a lot about anything. The one story I do remember that she shared was her love of her Texas bluebonnets. This was one of her favorite memories of growing up in Texas. My Mom had kind of a rough time growing up in Texas. She has lost both of her parents by the time she was eighteen. Her Dad sadly committed suicide, and then her Mom passed away from cancer a couple of years after that. Occasionally she would talk to my sister and me about growing up in Texas and the Great Depression. In her stories she told, she would always mention that her family didn’t have much, and often people would come to their back door begging for food. And somehow, some way, her family managed to help by giving them whatever they could, even though they too were struggling. Those stories stuck with me my entire life, and I never thought we would be living through something very similar in today’s world. As I mentioned, my Mom had been through a lot of hardships, and even though she didn’t share much of herself with us, she would always sing songs as she worked around our house. One of her favorites being Frank Sinatra’s song, “High Hopes”!

I think for many of us, what use to be so depressing; empty houses with weeds growing in front lawns where children use to play, our favorite big chain stores closing, and the many people, not only living on the street, but that have been forced to ask for food and money on street corners, sidewalks, freeway off ramps, and more has become the norm. It does sadden me when I hear people say they don’t “give” because they can just tell that this person is pulling a scam. Maybe in some cases that is true, but wouldn’t you rather feel that you are putting food in someone’s stomach rather than letting them go hungry? Our country is always helping other countries that are in need. But how do we help our own citizens? People that have worked their entire lives for a pension and retirement, only to be told the company is closing or scaling down and there is no longer jobs for them. It’s a tough call, and if you haven’t been affected by any of this, as one of my good friends in Texas always says, “then bless your little heart”.

My daughter, Katie, was telling me a story about what one of the mom’s at Riley, my granddaughters pre-school, does to make a difference in others lives. She told Katie that she doesn’t hand out money, but instead has big baggies in her car for those in need. The baggies are filled with water, maybe some toothpaste and a toothbrush, some food, and dog food, stuff like that. As we all know, many of the homeless have nothing left but their pets. I was touched when I heard that this Mom puts pet food in these baggies that she makes for the homeless. When this Mom see’s someone in need with a sign asking for help, she has her daughter, who is Riley’s age, hand them the big baggie out the car window. Why? Because our own children, grandchildren are never too young to learn the importance of giving, paying it forward. My kids still talk about the times I would make them either walk up to someone in need, or roll down the car window and hand them a couple of dollars. They remember well how some of these people at the time seemed scary! Today, I still keep singles in my car so I too can make a small difference in someone’s life. And there are times that the rewards for me are ten times greater than my act of giving. To see someone’s face light up, or as I had happen on a freeway off ramp a year or so ago, grab my hand and say, “bless you child”, still touches my very soul. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in our world. A smile, just a simple smile and a dollar or two, can make someone’s whole day and their life just a bit better.

My favorite lyrics in that old song, High Hopes, that my Mom use to sing to us goes like this:

“Next time you’re found, with chin on the ground
There is a lot to be learned
Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant can’t
Move a rubber tree plant
But he’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie, in the sky hopes”.

I hope we can all carry a little of that “hope” in our hearts each and every day. It takes so very little to make a difference in others lives, especially if you have “high hopes”!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We've Grown Up Together!

Country Roads opened on a rainy day on January 2nd, 1993. I remember the day well. My good friend, Chris Nickoloff, was standing there in the rain waiting to come shop. Not too long after that she became a dealer in our store as well. And for those of you that personally knew Chris, we sadly lost her a few years ago to cancer. But I will always cherish the memory of her standing outside waiting to be the first customer to shop on our opening day. I have to confess, I had no idea what to expect of the future when it came to this little place, Country Roads, that I quickly fell in love with. I opened the store with my then husband and one of my bestfriends. His wife had passed away the prior year and I think that is what made me realize how quickly life can pass or sadly end. I knew then there was more that I wanted in my life. I loved, and still do, being a Mom, and now a Gramma, but there was a void inside of me that needed to be filled. That is when Country Roads and I became bestfriends.

A few years down the road, my bestfriend, Chris left the business. He left on not the best of terms and as those of us in this business know, there is always “drama” involved. That is the one thing I like least about the antique business, the drama and gossip that is always going on. About a year or so after my friend left, my husband took that same bus out of town. He left, and of course there is always a lot of emotion and more drama that goes with divorce. And through both of these personal issues I had, I knew that my bestfriend, Country Roads, would be there waiting for me. When you stand behind the counter, you have no idea who will walk through the door. You never know what is said about you or your business and in the early years it was tough. I took many things very personally when I should have just let them go. Slowly but surely I began to grow up with my business and we became even stronger and more secure together. We both began to grow up together and be what we were meant to me.

Over the years, there have been times that I’ve had to give dealers a thirty day notice to vacate their dealer spaces for one reason or another. Let me tell you, it is hard, very hard. But I have to make the decision what is best for myself, for my Country Roads family (my dealers) and my bestfriend, Country Roads. As the old saying goes, “you do what you have to do”. We always have people that inquire about dealer space at Country Roads. And to be honest, sometimes even if these people have “killer” stuff, but are high maintence and carrying a large ego as well, I’ve learned not to go there. Over the years, for some reason, the GOOD people find us and become part of our Country Roads family. Sometimes it is a gut instinct for me that they will fit in well, and other times, my heart gives me the answer that, yes they will fit in perfectly. For this I am very grateful and humbled.

There are so many memories that my bestfriend, Country Roads, has provided me. I hope to someday put these stories in a book. As we get nearer and nearer to our 20th anniversary, I am humbled by the goodness and character of my Country Roads family. And my customers have been the best. At the end of the day, it isn’t always about the mighty dollar, but about loving what you do and who you spend your time with doing it. I thank you all, my wonderful, caring Country Roads customers. And my Country Roads family? They are the best of the best!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Let Your Heart Lead the Way

Often times I’ve been criticized for letting my heart, rather than my head, lead my way in life. I know a little of each would make a better combination, especially in business. But after living your life a certain way for so many years, as in listening to my heart rather than my head, change is often hard to come by. I have always felt, yes even in my business, that listening to my heart will lead me down the right path in regards to not only my personal life but my business life as well. I’m always for the underdog; I’m always willing to give someone a chance, especially when they need it. I believe that is what makes Country Roads so unique and so different than other stores. We are more than just a business, more than just a store; we are a family that cares about others.

At the end of this past February, I had been sick and off work for a couple of weeks. That in itself is something that is very rare for me. Country Roads is such a part of me, that I really did miss being there. For those of you that follow my blog ( you may be familiar with this story. My oldest daughter, Brande, was working that day and took the call. One of my customer’s sisters called the store. Her sister, Faith Seiber, has been shopping with me since day one. Over all these years, we have become very good friends. Her sister had called because she was concerned about Faith’s layaway that was due. And then her sister told Brande that she didn’t want to have it forfeited because Faith had died and Faith’s daughter wanted the last piece of furniture her mom had picked out. Brande kindly asked if she minded telling her what happened, how she died. Her sister said that her new husband had shot her in the head, the bullet passed through her head and hit Faith’s dog, who did survive. Even as I write these words, two months later, they still sting, they are fresh, like a new wound.

Faith would come in about once a month, and it was the same ritual. She would pick up a layaway, start a new one, and then buy something as well. And she always loved plants and spent a great deal of time out back in our Johnnye Merle Gardens & Nursery! When Faith came to the counter, it wasn’t a customer I was talking to, it was a friend. After all these years, after all the things we had shared, we had become such good friends. Her and I had a lot of catching up to do. We all loved her visits. The last time I saw Faith, she hadn’t been in for awhile. She told me she had gotten married and I thought it was to a guy she had been previously dating. But it was someone new. Apparently this new someone didn’t care much for antique and vintage items. After hearing what happened to Faith, I immediately paid off her layaway. There would be no way my heart would allow me not to do this. I wanted her daughter to have this piece of furniture. It was the right thing to do and I never thought twice about it.

A few weeks had passed and I had kind of forgotten about someone coming in to pick up the layaway. Then on a random Saturday, I saw this young woman, about the same age as my oldest daughter, Brande, walk up to the counter. I knew immediately who it was. It was Faith’s daughter, and she had brought a friend to help take the piece of furniture home. I wasn’t sure what to say, but my heart led the way. We started our walk to the last building of the store. I didn’t say much except that to tell Chloe I had no words to say, as she began to choke up and tell me that just being in her mom’s favorite store was so hard as I told her I understood. We got to where the piece of furniture was, and I walked with her and her friend as they carried it to the back gate, where they were parked. At times like this, you want to say something meaningful, profound and comforting all at once. I was at a loss for words. So, I let my heart lead the way once again. I walked up to Chloe, took her in my arms, and gave her a hug. At times like this, words aren’t really needed when you trust your heart to lead the way. You will be missed Faith!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Texas Roots and Cowboy Boots

One thing I always keep near and dear in my heart are all the stories my Mom told of growing up in Texas. Over the years I’ve shared some of these stories of mine that live on in my heart. And although my Mom is no longer with us, her stories of her childhood in Texas stay tucked close to my heart, just where she would have wanted them to be! Her parents married young, and lived in Lubbock, Texas. My Grandpa Hobson was a rancher, but I like to remember him as a cowboy. I’ve seen some pictures of him where he is riding a bronco and another where he is driving a tractor to herd the cattle. Their little family never had much, but my Mom always told the story about people coming to their back door during the Depression and giving people what food they could. I guess that was my first story, as I child, that I truly understood as a lesson learned about the importance of giving back, paying it forward whenever you were able to. Sadly, as much as my grandparents loved Lubbock, after the Depression and all, it was time to re-locate to Temple where more jobs were available. My Grandma Madge took a job as a waitress and my Grandpa Hobson drove an oil truck.

When I look back at old pictures, there are two things that stick out in my mind. In every picture of my Grandpa, no matter where he was, he had on cowboy boots! And usually, not always, he had a dog or cat in his lap as did my Mom. Funny how some traditions are picked up years later, as in rescuing and helping any cat or dog that needs help today. And my kids are just as bad about that as I am, and as their grandparents were. The life lesson I learned as a child, and that my kids learned as children, is about how it’s just not “right” to ignore people or animals that may need of a little help in life. That is something that has stuck with us all!

After having just a sister, then having my two daughters, when Bryce was born, the first boy in our family, excitement spread like a Texas tornado! I remember there was only one Western store nearby. It was in Bellflower, when the city use to be a Dutch community and downtown Bellflower was filled with little stores. My Mom knew exactly where to find my little baby boy, her first grandson, a pair of little cowboy boots. Funny how we hang on to those precious memories, just like they happened yesterday, rather than years ago.
Today I still have Bryce’s little cowboy boots in a little vignette in my home. I remember buying Riley, my first granddaughter, a pair of red cowboy boots. Hey, we have to carry on the family tradition! They are in her bedroom at home. I had kind of forgotten about all of that until recently. At Country Roads I saw a little pair of rattleskin cowboy boots. The toes on the boots are scuffed up a bit from, what I imagine, some little boy kicking rocks around while wearing them. They had my grandson Bodhi’s name written all over them. I had to bring those little boots home . And guess what comes in the store next? Another pair of little red cowboy boots that I can have at my house for Riley, and some little pink cowboy boots for Morgan! Along with Bodhi’s little boots, and Bryce’s childhood cowboy boots, I thought all the boots might make a sweet little vignette in my home. Remind me of the importance of family and memories that have been re-created many years later. One of the reasons I love what I do, having a store like Country Roads, is because of the memories it brings to mind all the time. In this disposal able world we live in, it warms my heart to be surrounded by things, items that have a story to be told. Just like my “Texas Roots and Cowboy Boots”!

Monday, January 17, 2011

When Boys Become Men

I only had a sister growing up, no brothers. And when I began my family, I had two daughters and then, my son, Bryce. Or as I call him these days, “My Boy Bryce”. My first introduction to “boys” was when I put Bryce down on my mom’s bed at ten days old. I mean, come on, ten days old, where is a newborn going to go? About ten minutes passed, and we heard a thud! I rushed into my mom’s room, and somehow, some way, Bryce had managed to fall off the bed! My mom was totally terrified. And my mom, being an only child growing up, had a hard enough time dealing with me and my sister. Now, she had three grandchildren and a boy for the first time! Bryce survived the fall well, and there were no injuries involved.

Growing up, Bryce did typical boy things to his sisters. A favorite being hiding rubber snakes and lizards under their pillows at night, or hiding in their closets and jumping out in the dark to scare them. He also found pleasure in torturing his sister’s friends as well. He was in his glory. Growing up, he also tortured me and made me just as crazy as his sisters. I remember one time taking him and his friend, Matt, to the beach. I settled in on the sand in my chair, headphones on, sunglasses and eyes closed. I was totally relaxed, but I kept feeling a “breeze” over me. When I opened my eyes, I discovered what felt like a hundred seagulls around me. Why? As I was relaxing, Bryce and Matt thought it would be funny to spread Fritos all around me. They put Fritos in the sand, on my towel, in front of me, behind me, everywhere! I don’t think I’ve been up close and personal with that many seagulls since that day!

As the boys began to grow-up they still did typical boy stuff. As they got older, they had their share of trouble they got into. Bryce always looked out for Matt. There was a time that Matt picked a fight with three guys, all bigger than him. And once again, Bryce went to his rescue. Those two boys put me through hell and back. But they finally grew-up, got married, and they each had baby girls. Matt’s daughter, Hannah, was three months older than Bryce’s daughter, Morgan. When Matt’s daughter was born, she had muscular dystrophy and the doctors didn’t think Hannah would live past two years old. I can only imagine how devastating that would be for anyone, especially for Matt, his wife, and Bryce knowing that he had a healthy baby girl only three months younger.

This past year, little Hannah passed away only a few days before Christmas. I remember when I received a text on my cell phone from Bryce telling me what happened. I remember the tears streaming down my cheeks, as I desperately tried to find the right words to say to my son. The funeral was held the day after Christmas. It was a beautiful and emotional service. There were pink balloons everywhere, large blown up photos of baby Hannah all over the stage. It began with a slide show of Hannah while the song by Roberta Flack played, “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”. As my son sat next to me holding a pink rose, and I sadly watched Matt as he sat across from me, I knew these boys’ lives had been forever changed. As the service ended, the Pastor told us “God reached out his hand, and Hannah took it, and is no longer in pain”. He then gave us directions to exit the service and if we chose to pay our respects to little Hannah we could. Me, being “me”, didn’t realize that during the entire ceremony little Hannah was there in an open casket. As I passed little Hannah, I don’t think I will ever forget I saw, a tiny Christmas Angel lying there so peacefully.

That evening, I was sitting in the kitchen, talking to Justine, Bryce’s wife. I was holding Morgan in my lap and being very thankful for her. I looked up and saw the two “boys” walking up to the front door. I wasn’t sure how Matt would feel after losing his baby girl. He walked over to me, looking at Morgan with arms extended and said, “come to Uncle Matt”. And with that, he had Morgan in his arms, giving her hugs and kisses. As he left, he put Hannah back in my lap and told her that he promised she would be seeing more of her Uncle Matt. And with that, my boys walked out my front door all dressed in black. And I knew that those two boys had become men on that day and I couldn’t have been more proud. Sometimes life deals us some very difficult situations we must go through. But it gives us strength to survive and we all learn from it. My boys are now young men after going through one of the worse heartbreak anyone could go through at that age. But life’s lessons teach us to be better people because of that and to value each and every day! I know my son has grown up to be a great young man, but in my heart he will always be, “My Boy Bryce”!