My Dad once told me a story about an analogy that he had heard. It’s been years ago and I've used it many times.

One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.
As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.
When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?" Everyone in the class said, "Yes." Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.
Then he smiled and asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" By this time the class was onto him. "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?"
"No!" the class shouted. Once again he said, "Good!" Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!"
"No," the speaker replied, "that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all."
What are the big rocks in your life? A project that you want to accomplish? Time with your loved ones? Your faith, your education, your finances? A cause? Teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these Big Rocks in first or you’ll never get them in at all.

What are your big rocks in life? Do you remember to put your big rocks in first? I don't. But every time I hear this it reminds me and sometimes I think we all need this kind of reminder.

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It's not often that my blog takes a heavy tone, but at lease one time a year I think I'm entitled, so bear with me or skip over this entry if you'd like but this is part of me, and if that's why you visit, then I hope you can take the bad with the good.
So, I usually try to blog about my daughter on the anniversary of her death but this year I just felt I couldn't do it and manage to keep a positive feeling about it. So I'm a few days late. I've told this story many times, for anyone new here... first, nice to meet you. My daughter's story isn't a fun filled story but it does have a good ending.

On December 16th, 2004, I went into labor at 21 weeks and 3 days of pregnancy. My memory is hazy of the details of the event because it was so many hours of different medications and things trying to stop the contractions.

All of those things, while important, leads to the fact that by the next day my doctor came in and informed me that I would need to give birth to my daughter. I went through labor and I gave birth to a beautiful, albeit tiny, baby girl who we had named Athena Mari. She was beautiful in every way. All her fingers and toes, itsy bitsy but yet there.  Everything was perfect. Except the fact that she had been stillborn.

The emotions and my life from that moment on through the next couple of weeks are gone. I don't really remember much and some of the things I do remember, I wish I didn't.

Leaving the hospital was the hardest. This was supposed to be joyous. I was supposed to be carrying out my little girl in a bundle of pink blankets. Instead I was being wheeled out in a wheelchair with nothing in my arms but my bag.

Only a week or so after I remember being in the shower and wondering why my breasts hurt so bad (remember this was my first pregnancy). I called my doctor only to find out that it was because my milk had come in. Only I had no baby to nurse. What insult to injury.

Shortly after that I was called to the bereavement office, to pick up my bereavement box. Two boxes that held my daughters pictures and anything that had touched her. Her dress (which was tiny in itself but it swallowed her tiny body), a measuring tape with her length marked on it, the tiny little medical bracelet she had worn only briefly. I sat in my car and I cried with these boxes.

So where is my happy ending? I have a beautiful son who, only through losing my daughter gave us the insight into my medical condition that would make carrying any child difficult. Through medicine and a wonderful doctor and hospital I was able to carry my son, almost full term. And I truly feel that her death helped to lead me to a bigger understanding of life and faith.

Here we sit, 9 years later with a son who is about to turn 8 and does the death of my daughter still affect me? Absolutely. Sometimes in the most random moments but mostly this time of the year. But I'm grateful. I'm grateful to have my son. I'm grateful that I know, one day when we all return to live with our Heavenly Father that we can be reunited as a family - with Athena included! And that, that one truth, know that she is in such a good place and waiting for her family to reunite with her, is what really allows me to be okay and to live my life without constant sadness.

Happy belated birthday Athena. I haven't met you but I hope you know how much you've already been a huge inspiration in our lives and how much I love you.

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So a little while back I had the opportunity to jump in on the Meaningful Beauty VoxBox by Influenster. If you've never heard of either of those things, check them out. It's a great way to try out new products and to share your honest opinion about them. And I think you all know from some of my past reviews, I'm honest - good, bad or ugly - I'm telling you the truth. I don't trust an "honest opinion" when all the opinions are positive because there's just no way that people always love the things they receive. To me, seeing nothing but positive reviews says 2 things, either that the person is afraid to be negative because they are afraid they won't receive anymore free goodies (sure I get it) or that they just don't publish not-so-great product reviews.

But moving on, the whole honest opinion thing is a whole different blog topic for another day because this one is about Meaningful Beauty's Creme de Serum. Meaningful Beauty is Cindy Crawford's skincare line of products. Seriously, anyone looking like she does.. I'm buying the products, at least to try once! How could I not want to have her skin? So luckily for me, Influenster hooked me up with a free bottle of Creme de Serum, which is... wait, why I am I trying to explain this... let me quote you what the Meaningful Beauty website says...
This crème de la crème treatment takes a triple approach to combating the signs of aging with three powerful anti-aging ingredients: superantioxidant melon complex, anti-aging peptides and hyaluronic acid. Combining the power of a serum with the rich, moisturizing effects of a crème, this super-boost is designed to help protect, increase hydration and prevent the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Ok! So there ya go! What does all of that mean? Heck.. I don't know.. I guess it's going to keep me from looking old! Or at least that's what I'm hoping for! All I know is that there are a few things that I aboslutely love about this product and one thing that I don't love.

The texture of it. It goes on smooth, it feels smooth on my skin - like a primer does - and it wears for quite a while if you don't put any other makeup on.

The hydration. I'm not sure what in this product does it, but my skin is actually really hydrated lately. I can tell because usually during the winter I am fighting rough, dry spots on my skin all the time with my daily moisturizer and right now.. nothing, not one rough, dry patch at all. This alone sells me on this product.

That the anti-aging stuff in it is working. I don't really know if I see less lines or not. I mean I've got some wrinkles and lines starting around my eyes and all but I guess I just don't pay that close attention to know if it's either decreasing them or preventing them.

The price. Straight up. I went to the Meaningful Beauty website and to Amazon.  You're talking roughly $40 for a bottle (and if you order from the website, you pay shipping and handling). I am totally low maintenance when it comes to my makeup and skincare (translation: cheap) so this was all but a deal breaker for me. I just can't fathom the idea of paying that much for 1oz of anything! Of course, that doesn't stop me from putting it on my wishlist and letting others know how much I want it. Hey, I got no shame!

Buy it here!,default,pg.html

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Dear Santa,
If I could take  moment out of your busy schedule to just refer you to the following wishlist, I could make this year a lot easier on you. I'm not expecting everything on the list, I mean who's going to be wearing sandals in the winter time, but seriously everything else is open season.

By the way, I was really good this year. I mean, sure I had mistakes. I missed a lot of events that I really wanted to go to and that I knew I was needed at but I had valid reasons for 99.9% of them.

More important that that is I've learned to hold my tongue very well this year. I know of 4 times in particular that I bit my tongue for the greater good. Although honestly, I don't see what the difference would have been if I would have said my peace anyway - at least it would have made me feel better. But alas, I'm learning some self control.

Speaking of self control, I've been very good financially. Which is my weak spot. My impulse buys have been almost nil and when I did indulge it was something practical - which is totally out of the norm so I'm feeling very accomplished.

And while we are talking about accomplishments, let me just say that I totally rocked at work this year. I mean first, those 4 times I bit my tongue.. all of them were at work. Way to be professional, right? Oh and I stopped bucking the system and didn't wear my flip flops to work at all this year! Not to mention that our health insurance premiums went up and our coverage went down (again, 9 years in a row), we lost our benefit of comp-time, so now any over time I put in is purely because I love my job so much that I want to work for free and here I am.. being humble about it (not really but I can try).

So Santa, I think you can see that I should totally go on your "Nice List" this year.. especially considering some of my years past, I at least deserve a Most Improved curve added on to my score, right?

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It's always this time of year, during the hustle and bustle of the holidays and life in general that I always take pause and wish that life would just slow down.

The year itself has just flown by. I feel like it was only a few weeks ago I shuffled my son into his first day of 2nd grade and here I am now, trying to figure out ways to keep him occupied (and off his tablet) during Christmas break.

And now, when things are supposed to be magical and beautiful and fun, I feel more like a tornado touching down, trying to keep up with the blur of life spinning around me. Every year I say I'll do something to make things more easy, but then something else comes up... keeping me from doing that something and then not only did I not do that something to make it easier but then I have 2 more things piled on top of that.

I remember old Christmas movies, people just browsing around the stores. Now we don't have time for that, we have to get in and get out, order online and ship direct because who has time to just mosey about browsing for that perfect gift.

I used to throw on some Christmas music and spend hours decorating my tree. Enjoying it. Now, it's like a race. Get it up and get it decorated so I can move on to the next project.

Life is short and boy does it go by fast.

When I was a kid it seemed like every day lasted a lifetime! Summer vacation seemed to never end (until it ended) and laying in the grass watching the clouds go by seemed like a perfectly sensible way to spend at least an hour.

Now when I find a free hour I try to cram it full again, with everything but clouds and laying around.

I don't ever want to look back on my life and regret not doing things because I couldn't find time. But how do you minimize the things that take up the most time in your life? It's not like I can just up and quit my job. My calling at church is pretty time consuming but I really enjoy it. My hobbies.. wait, what hobbies? Hah those went out the window years ago.

It's days like today that I want to wake up, call in sick, and just slow down. Remembering to smell the hot chocolate.

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Oh hi. So as you can see, I've gone and changed my hair color again. Most people who know me, know that my hair changes in some sort of fashion every 6-8 weeks. Usually in color. Rarely in cut.

But basically since the spring I've had my color the same. I've gone a little blonder here and there or added a little red here or there. But this time.. I was ready for a change.

Now the picture really doesn't do it justice. There's some red (a  lot in fact) that you can't see in the picture. I was inspired by this pin on pinterest (of course!) and knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Anyone else making a big change for the holidays?

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Personally, I say Merry Christmas. I realize not everyone celebrates Christmas but I'm not sure why anyone would find me saying "Merry Christmas" offensive. If someone wishes me a Happy Hanukkah I say thank you and move on. It was a nice sentiment that they expressed regardless if I'm Christian or Jewish or whatever.

So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanzaa, or whatever else you celebrate this time of year, I hope it's a good one!

Christmas tree up and decorated. Check.
Front porch decorations done. Check.
Elf on the Shelf made his return appearance. Check.
Outside lights and decorations all up and ready...... yeah not so much.

I'm one of those people who would have my Christmas tree up and all the decorations done by the evening of Thanksgiving (if I weren't always in a food coma until 7pm that night). So the fact that our house isn't twinkling with lights each night or that my ribbons aren't fluttering from my wreaths on the windows is just kind of irking me. It's December 3rd! We are three days in people! We should be fully decked out in holiday cheer!

Luckily for me though, one of our neighbors kid's is an engineer and has their whole house set up so that the lights all flash to the beat of the music that plays on their custom radio station. Seriously, it's awesome. If you are ever around my way, turn to 87.9, pull up into the empty lot across the street from their house and make yourself comfy! Some nights they come out and sell coffee and hot chocolate, with all the money raise to go to a local shelter (I believe, I'll find out again which for sure). So every night when we drive in from running errands or something I watch their lights synchronize with the sounds of the Trans Siberian Orchestra or their big Santa lip sync along to some catchy country holiday song.

I have awesome neighbors.

And because I have some awesome neighbors, I want to plan to bake some cookies for a few families and drop them off just to let them know we appreciate living in the neighborhood with them and hope their doing well. I guess this is my Christmas guilt of not really being a very social person with my neighbors all that much that I need to make up for it during Christmas time. Whatever it is.. I'm thinking it's the holiday spirit.

Another thing we usually do is bake cookies to take to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at Greenville Health System. That's the hospital that my son was born in and he stayed in the NICU for 14 days. The doctor's and nurses there work really hard day in and day out and we just like to show them that we appreciate them.

So many things to do... so little time before Christmas. Everyone complains that Christmas music starts too early or that the decorations are selling before Halloween. Frankly, I'm ready to start Christmas in August!

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