What’s Love Got To Do With It?

DSC05699On April 17-18th, I had the honor of participating in a Choose2Matter Live event in Estherville, Iowa. Choose2Matter is a groundbreaking non-profit (co-founded by Angela Maiers and Mark Moran) that helps students find their inner genius as they identify issues that are important to them, work collaboratively with their peers to solve real-world problems, and share their ideas with the world. By simply asking “What matters most to you, and why?” and “What breaks your heart about it?”, students are empowered to follow their heartbreak.

Led by their amazing leader, superintendent Tara Paul, 1400 students from Estherville Lincoln Central Community Schools gathered together and were given the gift of time to tackle challenging issues that mattered to them. Topics ranged from sports injuries, suicide prevention, bullying, child hunger, animal cruelty, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and many more.

The event began with an engaging presentation delivered by Angela Maiers and a live Skype chat with General John Michel (Commanding General, NATO, Air Training Command). Once students were empowered with a sense of courage, they divided into groups to begin the “heartbreak mapping” process. As I walked around and observed these students, from preK-12th grade, I was blown away by their bravery and determination. I can honestly say this event has transformed me in so many ways as an educator and a learner. You can read Tara’s entire summary on HER BLOG. Here is a portion of her reflection:

“In all of our efforts to improve teaching and learning, we are failing to connect with our students at the very deepest level to move them to embrace the educational reforms that we are creating. How do we connect with our students on the very deepest and most sacred level? How do we create an educational system that is not only focused on the academics but also on the person? How do we connect to our students’ sense of empathy, compassion, and passion?”

DSC05719On the second day, I had the opportunity to sit with a high school freshman who wanted to help families dealing with PTSD. Her father, an American hero who fought for our freedom in Afghanistan, struggled to find help with his PTSD after his last tour of duty. “What breaks your heart?” I asked her. She pointed to her paper, where she had written the night before in big, bold letters “Not all wounds are visible.” As I sat with her, I listened to her story and held back tears as she told me about Paws and Effect, a non-profit based in Des Moines that raises, trains, and places service dogs with children and veterans with disabilities. She told me about the difference their dog, Saber, has made in helping her father adjust to life after war. Later in the morning, her father and Saber came in to help work on her project. It was an honor to shake his hand and thank him for his service. Watching them work together to brainstorm ways to help other families dealing with PTSD left me speechless. 

To say I’m excited to continue working with Choose2Matter is an understatement. This was more than just an event, it’s a new way of teaching and learning that focuses on empowering students to take ownership of their learning.

As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, I can’t help but think about all of the amazing teachers I’ve had over the course of my life who have helped mold me into who I am today. The ones I hold dear are the ones who took the time to shower me with love and compassion. Sure, they taught me about the Reign of Terror, how to interpret Shakespeare, and how to run a sub-6 minute mile. But that pales in comparison to the lessons they taught me as they modeled how to love and care for others with your whole heart.

I would like to dedicate this post to my HS cross country coach and PE teacher Ms. A, who went above and beyond to instill in me a love of running and teamwork. And my social studies teacher Mrs. P, who sadly lost her battle with cancer a few months ago, for sharing engaging stories of our past so we could better understand our present. I smile each time I think of these compassionate women who inspired me to follow in their footsteps.

I like to think I’m a compassionate person. I think that’s why I got into the teaching profession. Even though I’m no longer in a traditional classroom, I’m still a teacher (and a learner). If you think about it, we are all teachers and learners. As you think of who and how you teach, remember that you can never go wrong when you teach from the heart. So, what’s love go to do with it you ask?

EVERYTHING.

Happy Teacher Appreciation week to all teachers near and far! May you always know how very much you are loved.

Clarity (What the heck IS iMoveU, exactly?)

love carved on a dock in Austin“People who lack the clarity, courage, or determination to follow their own dreams will often find ways to discourage yours. Live your truth and don’t EVER stop!” 

― Steve MaraboliLife, the Truth, and Being Free

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many of my friends and family about iMoveU. I love how brutally honest they have been. Nearly everyone who has been following my journey on Facebook, Instagram, or my blog has come up to me and said “Ok, what exactly are you doing with iMoveU? It sounds really cool, but I don’t get it.”

Although it is as clear as day in my head, I can see how it is confusing to many who don’t currently rent space inside my brain.

So, here is my attempt at providing clarity with iMoveU.

Over the next few months, I will be filing the paperwork to establish iMoveU as either non-profit organization (501(c)3) or as benefit company, which is a for-profit corporation that is incorporated for a socially just purpose. I’m in the process of working through the logistics with my amazing, newly minted lawyer brother-in-law. (By the way- if you live in Atlanta and you are looking to hire the most amazing, compassionate, hard working and ethical lawyer in town, send me a message. I have the perfect person for you!)

The mission of iMoveU is to empower heart centered change in motion. What does that mean, exactly? I’m so glad you asked. iMoveU combines a mix of exercise, professional/personal growth, music, humor and nutrition all-in-one to provide transformative learning experiences. I’m passionate about all of these things, and as someone who is busy with 3 kids, I don’t want to have to go to 5 different places for 5 different things. iMoveU workshops begin with exercise (as that is what prepares our brains to learn), provides a short but powerful presentation on a specific topic (creativity, innovation, time management, clean eating, storytelling, personal branding, etc…) and ends with networking, discussion and reflection. Oh, and there will be laughter, movie quoting and embarrassing stories that help make a point. Think of it as an exercise class followed by story time, all led by your crazy cousin Ginny, who also baked a smorgasbord of healthy food options for you (no, I didn’t spit in your food. Or did I??!!).

iMoveU focused on “heart centered change” because, often times, we make decisions in life based on money, ego, anger, fear, doubt, peer pressure, or because of societal “norms”. iMoveU empowers people to make positive changes in their lives that are in line with their beliefs, values, morals and goals. It means that iMoveU will provide services for individuals, schools and organizations that help people close the gap between who they are and who they want to be. Often times in life we have a vision of the person we strive to be, but for various reasons we aren’t there. Maybe you take care of yourself physically, but you feel stuck in a job you hate and you don’t have the confidence or resources to change. Maybe you are very successful in your professional career but you aren’t sure how to live a healthier lifestyle. Maybe you feel “happy” staying at home with the most important job in the world raising your beautiful children, but feel as though something is missing and would like to better understand how you can give back to your community. Maybe you woke up one day and didn’t like the person you saw in the mirror, but you have no idea how to change. I firmly believe, with all my heart, that money should not be a barrier for those interested in living a better life. It breaks my heart when I see people going through the motions and not taking the time to better themselves because they can’t afford it or they don’t know where to start. iMoveU was established based on the belief that individuals can and will make positive changes in their lives when they believe they can, and have a support system in place to guide them through their transformation.

To better understand if you are living your best life, ask yourself a simple question. If  you went to the doctor today and received the news that you only have 3 months to live, would you continue living your life as you are now, or would you make drastic changes to your lifestyle?

Maybe you think that’s a bit dramatic and over the top. That’s fine, but for me, I want to live the rest of my life knowing that each day I wake up and gave it my all. Every day is an opportunity to give awesome and be awesome. Not everyday is going to be amazing. Trust me- I have 3 small kids, and most days it’s a rat race of “stop kicking your brother and eat your food!”, “please pick up your mess”, “no you can’t have ice cream for dinner”, “Chopper! (my 12 year old dog) Stop scooting your ass across the carpet!” and my favorite “if I have to tell you one more time to <fill in the blank>, I’m going to <fill in the blank, again>”. I know that some days (and today was one of them), I’m going to feel exhausted, overwhelmed and confused if I’m doing things the “right” way. But, I also know that every day is a gift, and I’m never guaranteed tomorrow. On April 17th, a seemingly healthy father of four from my boys’ school passed away as a result of a pulmonary embolism. A few months ago, a seemingly healthy, beautiful and compassionate college student and summer nanny for my cousin was found  in her apartment as a result of a blood clot. Although I didn’t know either one well, I sat and cried in the privacy of my own home. I cried for their families, and I cried because I feel so overwhelmingly blessed to have what I have. What if it would have been me? Does my family know how much I love them? Do the little things that upset and worry me REALLY matter? Am I doing everything I can to live my life to the fullest?

WE.ARE.NOT.GUARANTEED.TOMORROW. 

PERIOD.

Sorry for the emotional rant, but if you feel that tingle in your stomach (as I did), and you want to make changes but you don’t even know where to start, the first step is simply to say out loud that you want to change (and that you want to change for YOU, not for someone else’s love or attention). The second step is to believe you can change. The third step is to find someone or something that can help you change.

Hello there. Nice to meet you. How can iMoveU?

I have a variety of “offerings” I’m in the process of developing, some for free for those who can’t afford it, and some for a fee for businesses and schools who can afford to pay.

Here is the name and tagline:

 iMoveU

Be Brave. Be Better. BE HAPPY.

These 3 statements have tremendous meaning for me.

  • Be Brave is a tribute to Sara Bareilles and her beautiful song BRAVE. I’ve listened to that song over and over again to remind myself to be brave, say what I want to say, and follow my heart. It is REALLY hard to put yourself out there and do something new. Every time I post on my blog, Facebook or Instagram and don’t get any action on it, I begin to doubt myself. But I keep on chasing my fear. I’m going to say what I want to say. I’m going to be brave.
  • Be Better is a tribute to Seth Godin and his beautiful blog post about the difference between more and better. I’ve gobbled up most of his books, and his blog posts are succinct, concise and inspirational. I’m currently taking his Skillshare class which focuses on how to build a new business the “right” way. To paraphrase one of my favorite posts from him,

“The restaurant makes the menu longer instead of figuring out how to make even one dish worth traveling across town for. We add many slides to our presentation before figuring out how to utter a single sentence that will give the people in the room chills or make them think. We confuse variety and range with quality….Better is better than more.”

  • BE HAPPY is a tribute to Pharrell Williams and his Happy song. My 3 boys and I have danced our hearts out to that song weekly for the past few months. It has gotten me through one of the most challenging times of my life. It’s truly amazing how much music can lift you up, inspire you, and wrap you in love when you need it most. Every single time I’ve doubted myself over the past 2 months or this vision of iMoveU, that song comes on. In the car, on TV as my husband flips through the channels, or at Starbucks on a Sunday night while I’m writing and wondering if anyone will want what I have to offer. EVERY TIME.

I have a long-term business plan of what iMoveU will offer, but as I mentioned earlier, “better is better than more”. In addition to that belief, I also have 3 beautiful boys and an amazing husband who deserves my undivided love and attention. So, as much as I want to work 40+ hour weeks and change the world, I’m going to take it slow.

I decided to launch iMoveU on Mother’s Day because there is nothing else I would rather do on Mother’s Day than to spend quality time with my family and friends. Many people were confused because this “launch” doesn’t incorporate exercise as I’ve mentioned in my previous posts. That’s coming (see below). This launch is more of a promise to my family that as I embark on this new journey, I will put their needs front and center, and I won’t chase my dreams at the expense of quality time with my husband and kids. It’s more of a symbolic launch, I suppose.

So here is my version 1. Starting this summer, I’m offering 2 things FOR FREE FOR WOMEN ONLY (weather permitting, a schedule is in the works and will be shared soon):

iMoveU @ Happier Hour:

  • 2 hours in length (7:30-9:30 pm on a weeknight)
  • 3o minutes of exercise, followed by a short, 15-20 minute presentation on a specific topic
  • Discussion/networking/reflection
  • Healthy food and juice options
  • BYOB

iMoveU @ Morning Rush Hour

  • 1 hour in length (5:45-6:45 a.m. on a weekday morning, or 7:30 am on a weekend morning)
  • 30 minutes of exercise, followed by a short, 15 minute presentation on a specific topic
  • 15 minute run and rant, jog and jabber or walk and talk reflection
  • healthy breakfast and juice to-go options for purchase

The summer schedule will be based on the weather and my availability. Think of it as a moving food truck, only it’s exercise and personal growth with healthy food. I’ll put out a schedule weekly with the dates/times/locations and topics.

Some of these I will also offer an option to join via Google Hangouts so those of you who want to join but live in Texas, North Carolina, California or Iowa can still join me online! 

Also, I will be taking some summer trips to Iowa City, Des Moines, Ames/Gilbert, and possibly Atlanta, so if you live in these areas and want to help me plan a free iMoveU bootcamp LET ME KNOW!

Why am I doing this for free you ask? And how am I going to fund and sustain this financially?

Great question. That’s for another post. But trust me, I have a plan.

Slow Down And Enjoy The Ride

 “Slow down and enjoy life.  It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”

Eddie Cantor 

My yoga instructor shared the quote above at the beginning of class last week. I’m fairly certain she was speaking directly to me. The evening before, I attended a guided meditation call led by my friend Carolyn Flyer with the same message: slow down. Prior to calling in, she had us watch a video about Slomo.

I don’t know how to go slow. I’m fairly certain I came out of the womb running. I’ve been moving at mach speed since I was born. As a little girl I was independent and fearless. I’m always in a hurry to get where I’m going, wether it’s running, working, eating, talking, driving, reading or learning. On the first day of kindergarten I demanded on walking to school alone in front  of my parents. Basically, as a 5 year old I had a restraining against them. I can just imagine my kindergarten demands ….”Fran, I said 50 yards away! Frank, is that a tear? You better lock it up!”

Just like Forrest Gump, I’ve just always “felt like running”.

I barely event taste my food, I inhale it before my husband has finished his third bite.

If there are stairs, I’ll run down them. Or better yet, I’ll take the slide.

Slowing down is hard to do, but it’s necessary. I’m realizing that I haven’t taken the time to enjoy my life’s scenery. I’ve been too busy focusing on what’s next to take in the beauty of the present moment.

It’s very difficult to slow down when you are passionate about something. You want to change the world, help people better themselves, sing kumbaya as you hug your friends and family.

So, I’m going to need you to hold me accountable. If you see me moving too fast, feel free to slap me across the face (figuratively) and remind me to enjoy the ride.

It’s not about racing towards your destination full speed ahead. Life is best lived when you enjoy the journey and take in the beautiful scenery.

I’m soaking it all up and taking time to enjoy every moment. And as far as I’m concerned, a genuine smile from a child is God’s greatest gift to a mother.

my 3 boys laughing

The Gift of Time (iMoveU Launch)

iMoveU“The first person you lead is you.

-John C. Maxwell

Let me start by saying I am humbled by the outpouring of love and support from family and friends after announcing my new passion project, iMoveU. It’s nerve-racking  to put yourself out there, and I wasn’t sure what would happen after I shared the idea publicly. I was scared and nervous to share. What if people think it’s stupid? What if they don’t like it? What if they think I’m crazy? What if it fails?

For most of my professional career, I’ve been self conscious and scared to share. I only speak up if I feel comfortable, or if I’m 100% sure everyone will think my idea is brilliant. I’ve been afraid to fail. While I’ve witnessed many of my co-workers have no problems voicing their opinions or ideas, I often times sat in silence with my thoughts hoping no one would call on me.

This self doubt and fear began when I was in college. I remember calling my mom crying the semester before student teaching. I was so nervous, and I didn’t think I could do it. I had a horrible experience with my practicum teacher and she didn’t give me very good reviews. My first (and only) lesson she observed was awful. As I attempted to teach her 9th grade class, I was so nervous my voice trembled, I began to sweat, and I nearly fainted. I’m not sure what I said or did, but I’m pretty sure those 9th graders thought it was awful.

Luckily, my student teaching experience was much better. I was paired with a compassionate and veteran teacher. He let me lead from the first day of school, and by my last day there I was crying as I said goodbye to my 7th graders.

After graduating college, I began my teaching career in Atlanta, GA. I wasn’t a great teacher. I had no idea how to manage my classroom, and I was too scared to ask for help. So I sat in my room and cried almost every day after my students left.

This fear of failure, self doubt and low self-esteem has followed me my entire professional career. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when I’ve been comfortable enough to share and show my true colors thanks to a few compassionate leaders. But for most of the past 15 years, I’ve let my fear get in the way. I listened to my inner voice when it told me to stay quiet, that my ideas were dumb, and that I didn’t belong there.

In my personal life, however, I’m fearless. I’m the lone nut, dancing on the dance floor like Elaine from Seinfeld. I don’t care who sees me and I don’t care what they think. I’m comfortable in my own skin and I know who I am. My family and friends love me crazy and all, and laugh with (and at) me.

So for the first time in my professional career, I’m going to be brave. If I want to lead others, I first have to lead myself. For the first time ever, I believe in myself and the impact iMoveU will have on those I love.

As much as I want to take off running full speed ahead with iMoveU, I have a far more important title: Mother. So I’m going to crawl, walk, and then run. I’m going to take the summer slow and spend time with my kids. I’m going to cherish every moment with them and give thanks for this precious gift of time. I’m going to kick some old habits that developed as a result of my fear and self-doubt. (Bad habit #1- comparing myself to other women.) I’m going to look in the mirror when I’m scared and tell myself “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gonnit, people like me!“.

Mark Your Calendar!!

On Sunday, May 11 (Mother’s Day) I will be launching iMoveU with a free 1-hour workshop for families. It will be called “The Gift of Time” and will include a mix of discussion, presentation and a scavenger hunt through downtown Arlington Heights. (Location and time information coming soon!) Any donations will be given to Our Lady of Wayside School, a community that has welcomed me and my family with open arms this past year. I invite you and your families to join me as we celebrate Mother’s Day with the ones we love.

iMoveU isn’t just about exercise and learning. It’s about helping individuals live their best life.

This past week I sketched out my tagline and logo for iMoveU (see image above). I’ll share more background on why I designed it the way I did, but for now I’ll share this: The apple core in the hand of the “i” is in memory of my late cousin Andrew who lost his battle with leukemia as a child. He was first diagnosed with cancer in kindergarten, the same age as my oldest son. I hope the work I do with iMoveU puts a smile on his face as he watches from above. While I can’t heal the hurt and the pain that my family has experienced as a result of this loss, I take comfort knowing that I grew up in the most compassionate, caring, loving, fun, loud, goofy and faithful family because we knew first hand how precious life is. Each moment we spend together as a family is a gift. My hope is that iMoveU will create opportunities for my friends and family to spend more time with the ones they love the most.

iMoveU

Be Brave. Be Better. BE HAPPY.

 

All I Want For Christmas

December 14th marks the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy. One year ago twenty babies were taken from this earth in the second deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history.

Yesterday I came across this video on Facebook.

Emilie Parker was one of those babies taken from us. And yet, as her mother reflects on the unimaginable tragedy, she shares with the world that “Evil did not win”.

Also on Facebook, one of the first members of the DEN, RJ Stangherlin, shared one of the best posts I’ve ever seen:

“At HUP yesterday for a post-stem cell transplant MRI check. The result: lymphoma free. That makes me an official cancer survivor. God bless all of you for traveling with me on this journey.”

It’s easy to get caught up in all the holiday hype. The newest toys, shiniest electronics, and hottest new trends. As much as I love watching my boys light up as they open a new gift, I can’t help but think of those who would give anything to have what I’ve been blessed enough to have: a healthy, happy family.

So this Christmas, as I make my wish list, I promise to cherish every moment with my family and never take for granted the joy they bring to my life.

All I want for Christmas:

  1. For my 3 sons (Michael, Owen and Kellan) to know how very much I love them. How proud and humbled I am to be their mommy. How much I love every hug, every kiss, every laugh and every cry.
  2. For my husband Brian to know there is no one in this world I would rather share this journey with.
  3. For my parents- the infamous Frank and Fran- to know how blessed I am to be their daughter.
  4. For my siblings- Mary and Mike- to know how awesome it is to be their sister.
  5. For my Grandma Pierce- to know how much I treasure our texts, Facetime chats, emails and get-togethers. And how much I appreciate the example you have set for me.
  6. For my in-laws- MB, John, Amy, Dan and Mike- to know how grateful I am to have married into such a loving family, and how thankful I am that you welcomed me with open arms when I moved to Atlanta all those years ago. You made me feel at home.
  7. For my extended family- Oppold/Washburne/Pierce/Burns- to know how lucky I feel to be surrounded by the world’s most amazing family. All of the cherished family traditions- stockings from Aunt T, videos from Uncle Mark, Thanksgiving with the Washburne’s, 40th birthday bashes, grab bags and Lake of the Ozarks. The memories I’ve made with you are truly cherished.
  8. For my friends- near and far- to know how freaking awesome they are and how much I enjoy every hangout, phone call, email, text, and FB post we share.
  9. For my work family- to know how honored I feel to be part of a team that works tirelessly to transform teaching and learning, and has fun doing it.
  10. For me (yes Ginny, I’m talking to you) to know that I am proud of all that you have accomplished, and to never let your fears get in the way of your dreams. The world needs you.

What’s on your Christmas wish list?

Gratitude

I’m sitting on my couch, home alone on  a Saturday afternoon. After a year and a half, I have just submitted my FINAL project for grad school. Once all of my projects have been graded and posted, I will have received my Master’s of Science in Instructional Media. For the first time in a long time, I am able to exhale.

Now that it’s over, I can’t believe I did it. Trying to keep up with the projects, discussion boards and assignments as a full-time working mother wasn’t easy. Nothing worth accomplishing ever is though, is it?

I’m home alone because my husband knew I needed space to clear my mind and work. He packed up the car with our 3 boys and headed out for a few hours. He’s done this more times than I can count over the last year and a half. And he hasn’t complained once. It hasn’t been easy spending my precious free time away from my family, and I can’t wait to FINALLY look forward to a lazy Sunday afternoon with nothing to do except play with my kids.

After submitting my final project, I happened to come across this video from Soul Pancake.

In the video, they share the science behind one of the greatest contributors to overall happiness in your life: Gratitude.

It’s with this in mind that I would like to take a second to express my gratitude to one of the most influential people in my life: My husband.

Brian- I met you when I was 18, and I knew. I always kept you in mind, and when the timing was finally right, I somehow convinced you to be my boyfriend:) It turns out, that was the best thing I’ve ever done.

You are the reason I’m where I am today. You have supported me every step of the way, taking on more than your share of family responsibilities so that  I could go back to school. And you do it all with enthusiasm, grace and love. I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am, how much I love and appreciate all that you do. You are everything I have ever wanted, and more than I deserve.

I know it hasn’t been easy. I know I’ve been stressed, overwhelmed, annoyed, tired, and irrational more than I care to admit. Thank you for always listening, always caring and never letting me quit.

I love you more than you will ever know. Our three boys have been blessed with the world’s BEST dad, and I have won the lottery in the husband department.

Here’s to you. Thank you, for everything.

Our Love Story

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. It seems like a made-up holiday created by a group of florists, candy shop owners, jewelry stores and Hallmark. Luckily I married someone who shares my feelings towards V-day so neither one of us has to waste money on over-priced flowers and heart shaped candy to please the other. Wedding

That being said, I am a fan of love stories. I grew up surrounded by inspiring love stories. My parents are high school sweethearts and have been happily married for over 35 years. Both sets of grandparents were married for over 50 and 60 years before my grandfathers passed. As for me- I’m living my love story. So in the spirit of Valentine’s day, I thought I would share it. My hope is that one day my children can read this and know that they are surrounded by love.

I met my hubby my freshman year of college at the University of Iowa. One of his high school friends was in a few of my classes and the two of them came over to hang out with me and my roommate. We had an instant connection. I don’t know what it was, but every time I saw him I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach. But it was freshman year and neither of us were looking for a relationship, so we maintained a friendship for the next three years.

The summer after my junior year we started hanging out more and it was obvious we had feelings for one another. Then one day he told me he was leaving for good at the end of the summer to live in Atlanta where his family had relocated a few years earlier. I will never forget that day. We were playing basketball at a local park and I was trying to figure out why he was being so distant. I forced the “let’s talk” conversation every 22-year-old guy wants to have 🙂 When he said the words “I’m moving” I felt my heart sink into my stomach. I felt like I was losing my best friend. I tried to play it cool and said we could just hang out the rest of the summer and see where things go after that, but I knew I wasn’t going to let him go.

Summer came to an end and we said our good-bye as he packed up his car. I wrote him a ridiculously long letter professing my love for him and asked him to give us a chance. I promised I would move to Atlanta as soon as I graduated (I had another year and a half of school) if we could make it long distance. To be honest I don’t think I really gave him an option, so he politely agreed to formally be my boyfriend 🙂

It was tough to maintain a long distance relationship but we made it work and after I graduated I packed up my car and moved to Atlanta. With no job and no money this small town Iowa girl was a deer caught in headlights trying to adjust to big city life. But it was all worth it.

In July of 2003 we took a vacation to Charleston, South Carolina. On our last night there, we went out to dinner and then to a park. As we sat on a bench and reminisced about our time in Charleston, my best friend got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. He had kept a home made “coupon” I had made him a few years earlier that said “One person to spend the rest of your life with- redeemable only by Ginny”. He said we forgot to use a coupon while we were on vacation, and when he gave it to me I looked up to see him on his knee. I have no idea what he said next, but I’m pretty sure I said yes.

Married in 2004, moved to Chicago in 2006, started a family in 2007, expanded our family in 2009, and now expecting our third in 2013. Our love story is just beginning. No love story is perfect, and we have certainly had our share of challenges and struggles. But I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life.

Babe- you are more than I deserve and I have loved you since the first day I met you. I’m so blessed to call you my Valentine.