Saturday, November 24, 2012

Batch Full of Gratitude

So about this time everyone has a food baby, is in food coma, or feels like they gained 10 pounds. I completely understand. I'm not much of a thanksgiving feast person. That doesn't mean I'm not thankful, in fact that's my favorite part of Thanksgiving.

I will say... this family knows how to cook on turkey day. It's no joke. All tradition, with a counter full of food and a big scoop of goodness.

A thanksgiving favorite is made by cousin Madison. She can whip up the meanest ambrosia in town. By "meanest" I mean the best EVER! My sister-in-law asks for her own container of left overs to take home.

The family drew numbers before supper and sat wherever the corresponding number was. They were all scattered amongst two tables. I did this on purpose. For years there has been a kids table and an adult table. Spouses sit together, boyfriends and girlfriends sit together and it's the same ol thang every single time.

So this year, you were forced to sit next to the long lost aunt you haven't seen in years. Or your annoying brother who chomps on his food. Just kidding. We don't have crazies like that. I did this to create conversation. It was a fantastic idea. Maybe even a way for us to reflect and be thankful.

Speaking of thankful, I'm sure if we all took time to write down everything we were thankful for it would create enough room for it's own shelf on a book case. I think ultimately our life would be better spent, living gratitude, than writing every great deal down on paper. So instead, this year I wanted us to write ONE word describing what we are thankful for. Something that is pinned to the inside surface of our hearts, every day.

It was special.

Each generation had different perspectives on what they are thankful for. As we went around the table to announce our thankfulness they began to change with age. Youngsters are thankful for jobs, and friends, Whereas; the grandmas and grandpas are thankful for health and freedom or Mountain West Conference Champs.

Handsome older brother, Drew. Last Thanksgiving before he deploys.
So here were are with stuffed bellies, getting settled back in after much frolicking around town from one event to another. In two short days the fall decor will be making its way back in the boxes and the poinsettias, Christmas lights, and advent will appear. Just another triple batch of good and glowy things.

This is Thanksgiving at its best.

Happy Day Folks!


What's your favorite part about Thanksgiving?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Two Cities Half Marathon 2012

At the beginning of November I ran my 4th half marathon. It was my 3rd half with Two Cities in Fresno, California. There were about 7,000 participants this year, fewer than the past couple years.

The last minute entry fee for this race is $110.00 and $95.00 for the half.

The expo was downtown at Chuckchansi Ball Park . The way it was set up was designed for the participants to walk by each booth in hopes that they would purchase the latest goodies before race day. I ran into a good friend as she was working at the Fresno Heart Hospital booth.

I didn't have to wait in lines to get my race info. Although, they had multiple steps in order to receive everything needed before race day. One station for bib number, another to pick up bib, and then across the concourse in order to pickup shirt. so yeah, kinda inconvenient.

I decided to run this race a week before the actual event. A good friend, Skinny Chick sent me a text asking if I wanted her bib because she was injured. This is the second year I've ran Two Cities under someone else name and without training. The most I trained was 3 miles. Not to mention I came down with a cold three days before. Fantastic. When I do train, I usually run with a local training group, Sierra Running Company.

This is the first year that Two Cities created a Clovis and Fresno Half marathon. I would have chosen to run the Clovis route if it weren't for the colored bibs for each race. Little too obvious.

My mom and cousin were out at Copper River Ranch to support me at mile 6 and mile 10. Thank goodness for their support before the Godzilla hill at mile 7.

The Finish - 2:31
The finish line was inside Woodward Park. It is a slight incline barricaded with cheering fans. Runners were greeted by volunteers handing out water, medals, and a sweatshirt. I dig the fall colors this year.

The Summary
Overall, I enjoy this race since it is local and practically in my backyard. I think I will continue to take advantage of half marathons within my city since they're cheaper than most and convenient to get to.

Read my race review from last years Two Cities Half here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New Beginnings

Lately I haven't had an opportunity to blog because of late night thoughts being scattered elsewhere. So much to write about and no words to format those thoughts. By the time I get home and showered from client drool, runny nose stains, and boogers, I'm ready to just sit on the couch and watch TV.

I went through a interview process a little over a month ago. Three interviews to be exact. After waiting a week, I was called and offered the job. The following Monday morning I began training. All like that!

Now that my training is complete, I currently have my own caseload of kids. It's insane how much my language has changed towards my family and friends. The verbiage we use is much different and a whole lot shorter in the workplace then at home.

Family members think I'm a little crazy.

The type of work that I do is considered ABA... Applied Behavior Analysis. We go into homes and incorporate therapy to children who have Autism Spectrum Disorders. It's one of the only Evidence based therapies for Autism. We use highly structured techniques that teach kids how to learn in a classroom environment and in everyday situations such as dinnertime or the neighborhood playground.

Goals for the children range from communication to toileting and everything in between. The intent is to create a developmentally appropriate and comprehensive curriculum for each client. Some of these kids get up to 30 hours or more per week in therapy.

One of the many goals we work on is eye contact... When someone is talking or your name is called to make appropriate eye contact with the person who is speaking. This can be very difficult for spectrum kids to master, whereas for a typically developing child it comes natural.

Over the past few weeks I have learned a ton about each client. Every child with Autism is different. Some whose problem behaviors we are replacing with socially acceptable behaviors and others just increasing language and gross motor skill. It's been fun and challenging figuring each kiddo out to make the sessions as successful as possible.

So that's what I've been up to in a nutshell.

Check out Life with Greyson and Parker for a parents perspective of how ABA has made an impact in her sons life.

What's something that has made an impact in your life?


Friday, September 14, 2012

1 backpack at a time

The school year has begun and many of the "back to school" traditions have been made. Everyone is done with cursing through Target for all the necessary school supplies and lunch necessities. Ah yes parents, those lunches.

A tradition my mom set out to start a couple years back has stuck around and made 3,000 little hearts happy. I was lucky enough to participate in the outreach again this year. I delivered 50 backpacks to the last school in need today. Before leaving, I stopped and knelt down in front of the pile of backpacks and prayed. I prayed that they would touch and change the lives of whoever received them.

On Thursday I went to pull a student out of class for therapy. It was near the end of the school day, so I asked him to bring his backpack along. Embarrassed and speechless the boy did not respond. So I asked again. He looked up at me and replied "I don't have a backpack". It was right then and there I knew getting this kid a backpack would be a lot more meaningful than the first day of speech. So we did. In an instant, an embarrassed and unresponsive face turned into a smile from ear to ear.

This is a post about the outreach I published on August 30th, 2011. Changing live one backpck at a time!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

We Did Good on a Saturday...

Last week I experienced an incredible opportunity. Never once did I envision myself with a hammer and a nail. Nor did I ever think I would build a house for a family in need.

On August 11th, 2012 that opportunity became a reality.

We certainly couldn't do it alone. We had help - a lot of it. Thirty-five unskilled volunteer team members showed up to build for a common purpose. To celebrate my mom's 50th Birthday.

It wasn't your typical 50th birthday bash with party dresses and dancing. We (ladies and gents) got down and dirty with 5 pound tool belts carrying loads of materials needed throughout the day.

For over a year her philanthropic heart had a great desire to participate with Habitat for Humanity.
She planned, she recruited, and she made it happen.

One of the life changing moments that touched the community of volunteers was gathering together to pray over the first wall. I'm pretty sure the majority of us were thankful for sunglasses that day.

Working with a community of like-minded people creates a wisdom of crowds that is considerably
greater than any one person working alone. We were surrounded by others who were working toward the similar goal or objective which increased our motivation, support, and friendly competition to push a little bit further than we would have done on our own.

It was hot... in the hundies, just like a typical August in Fresno. But we stuck it out because of the hard working community of volunteers.

There are no words that can truly describe the day. I left feeling good, and I know the family who is receiving the house felt overly blessed. Many thanks to all who dedicated their muscles, energy, time, and friendship to make this day special. Way to go guys, we did good.

Also a BIG thank you to Silvia Flores Photography  for creating a lasting memory.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

2 Things I Learned From a Funeral

Today was a day to say goodbye and a day to celebrate the good times that were. A fellow student who attended a school I worked at, went to be with the Lord last week.

Today was his service. A beautiful one to say the least.

Every way I turned I was surrounded by a variety of demographics from all over town. It was beautiful.

As I was sitting at the service I wrote down two quotes that resonated with me:

"He loved unconditionally without criticizing, and saw beyond their circumstances".
"He celebrated the small things".

Powerful and moving all in one tiny package.

This kid really did do both of those things and for us earthly survivors it should be a motto we live by each day.

I think of Devon and how his life was cut short, yet he managed to outlive people who are in their 60's and 70's because of the way he chose to love people and how he celebrated life.

There are things in life that get the best of us whether it be a driver that cuts you off, or a clerk taking a year-and-half to scan grocery items. Devon taught me to embrace life for what it's worth. We all have needs that require special attention; drugs, anger, eating disorders, etc. Some of us just hide them better than others. Down Syndrome didn't stop him. It was the gift that kept on giving. His love was strong and courageous.

That's the lens he viewed life through.

The reality is loss is inevitable. We are given the tools of choice, to live life as better individuals and embrace the little things. No one said it's easy but Devon made it look that way.

If there was a skill he was particularly good at it was stealing people's hats. He was known as the "hat thief" to everyone who knew him. We can now say he's moved on from a hat to a crown in Heaven. Well done Devon, well done buddy.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On a day like this...

This is a day for dirt under my fingernails, and my freshly painted pedicure.

It's the day for a hat to hide the greasy, curly, swim hair.

... and no make up, just moisturizer. Thank God for moisturizer.

Yesterday I hung out in the dry daylight and managed to get my hands dirty on the farm. There is definitely a proportionate relationship between my desire to be OCD clean and the dirt caked beneath my fingernails from a day on the farm.

There is one thing I am convinced of, and that is that the ultimate truth finds me on a farm. The dirt, hay and everything else about it gets in the cracks of my skin and messes me up but still somehow makes me miss it the next day.

Did my family or I ever think I would have a heart wrenching desire to live on a farm, or even come near living anywhere outside of a city... probably not. But on this day,  I walked around and dreamed big dreams of what I would love to have some day.

I pondered and smiled at the thought of living in a farmhouse with a wrap around porch.

Oh, and a super cool old barn tucked back in the long wheat grass.

I want acreage, just enough for my children to run free with a little time left for me to be alone. As years tick by my desire becomes stronger and I want it more.

Today was one of those days, where everything smelled so nasty it was so good, and there is so much to consume in one day, it's best to make it two.

Even though the smell was hardly worth barring, I wanted to stick around for this mama pig. I felt like she needed me.

Fresno State really knows what's going on... they are more than willing to make a farm experience a memory that can never be forgotten.

My heart was happy when I spotted a big red tractor. It reminds me of my grandpa who taught me that the color green was not accepted in our family. It's all about International Harvester baby.

Lucky me, I made it in time to experience the milking process. Let's just say, I'm glad I am not a milk drinker. Although, one day I will own one. Those suckers can bring in some mooo-lah.

These fellas my friends, were hungry... looking at me as if I should be their top of the month meal. Especially 805.

The sunset that night didn't seem real. I could either grab my camera and snap some photos or stand there and enjoy it until it's no longer.

Summer is beginning to wind down, and it's scary. Where did the time go? Weren't we just putting up Christmas lights and opening gifts? Don't run off and smell the Autumn leaves just yet. Even though it's August she's earned her due. Lets embrace it and make the most of these next few weeks. 


Monday, July 30, 2012

Escaping Reality

Living in a crazy world, that is constantly throwing us information and busy schedules, it tends to make it difficult to unplug and find peace. The " I need to", " I should do", " I must do" compete with our ever so frantic lives and soon creates stress.

When I was young my most enjoyable days were being outside. Nothing greater than riding my bike, walking to the local corner store for slurpees, and climbing olive trees until the street lights turned on. Even then I was able to find peace.

As I grew older and became an adult it turned into a struggle to find use of the simple activities that are truly enjoyable. Even simple things like going for a run on some local trails didn't prevent me from "hurry up and get back to"... the email, the missed calls, social media accounts, or whatever else was waiting for me.

So after some thought, I have come to an answer to find this peace, which was to explore things I have never done before. In order to find quiet and peace is to venture out to the edge, the place that allows me to release all the "human" thoughts and concentrate on simply just "being".

This weekend I made time to make peace with Yosemite Valley. I was able to look up and stand in complete awe of the soaring peaks that brought a sense of calm. It was breathtaking and emotionally stirring to know that there is something greater.

Hiking 6 miles on the mountain trails, splashing in a Tuolumne River, and driving through the rolling hills just outside of a hectic environment was so relaxing. This was the place to pause, reflect and gain a sense of perspective again.

After hiking a couple miles it was time to refuel with some nutritious food. Nothing better than a packed picnic lunch. 

Pirate Booty does the body good!
Maybe some day in my lifetime I will have the privilege of calling myself an Ahwahnee Hotel guest. Oh how nice that would be. Good food, nice people, and a spectacular atmosphere. While stopping for a bite to eat at the hotel, I cheated a little and had a beer. Ahwahnee Amber Ale that is. 

Before heading back somehow getting across the river was a must. Guess crossing with our shoes on wouldn't hurt. 

Where is the jaw dropping, eye opening, place that you enjoy? Where is the magic for you and more importantly, where do you find peace?