Christmas 2017

I believe the line between childhood and adulthood is very clearly defined: the year that you find yourself no longer being excited about Christmas, you are officially an Adult.  Some people never stop being excited, and I kinda envy them.  For me, it was around the age of 19 or 20.  I’ve always been able to derive some enjoyment out of getting my kids presents that they’ve been wanting and then seeing their reactions as they open them on Christmas morning, but other than that, I find Christmas to be overly commercialized, and just generally a little too invasive.  The inescapable Christmas music alone is enough to make you want to rip your ears off.   If you’re a person who isn’t all that fond of Christmas, this entire time of year is pretty annoying.

But just because I’m a bit of a grinch doesn’t mean that I want to spoil my kids’ enjoyment of the holiday.  They’ll either get jaded like me on their own, or they won’t…it’s up to them.  I simply try to provide the best Christmas I can for them every year, and if I can do that, I feel like I’ve done my job.  This was the first Christmas together for Shauna and I, and I think we did a good job of pulling it off.  We each brought our own traditions to the table, and we were able to merge them pretty successfully.  We certainly had a bit of adversity along the way, but we powered through.  Christmas 2017 in the Hesse/Lane household was a pretty memorable one.

Early in our relationship, Shauna and I talked about our respective opinions on Christmas, and what our families usually do to celebrate the holiday.  I was pleased to find that Shauna had pretty much the same thoughts on Christmas as I do; if anything, she may even be a little more anti-Christmas than I am.  It might even have been the very thing that made me realize I must marry this woman.  Anyway, as time went on, we found ourselves having all the conversations that parents have to have: how much to spend on each kid, how to get each kid more or less what they want without breaking the bank, which day to do what with which persons family, etc  We finally settled on spending spending Christmas Eve with Shauna’s family, and Christmas day with mine.  As for presents for the kids, we had them do Amazon wishlists (not everyone got on board with this, but we improvised as best we could), and we ordered everything online in one fell swoop.

Which brings me to the aforementioned adversity.  During the process of ordering gifts online, our card was somehow hacked into and someone used our bank account to make a purchase for airline tickets.  I’ll spare you the horrific details, but a trip to the bank, many, many phone calls, and a vicious barrage of insufficient funds penalties later, we finally have the situation fixed (the bank is still conducting their investigation; I suppose they could still find that Shauna and I felt the need to book a flight to scenic Iraq this holiday season, but I feel confident that they won’t, since we obviously didn’t).  In any event, with this ridiculous situation finally resolved, we finalized our plans and commenced with Operation: Christmas.

Shauna and I had to work Christmas Eve, but we were able to leave early (we weren’t really “able to”, we just did).  Soon after getting home, Shauna’s mom, stepdad and sister arrived, and we all went to Panda Garden, our local Chinese buffet.  Shauna’s family has a tradition of having Chinese food at Christmas, a tradition I found it quite easy to get on board with, as I enjoy eating in general, and Chinese food in particular.  My 3 daughters, on the other hand, thought it a bit odd, but judging from the loud, fun atmosphere at our table, I think they had a great time.  We left at the perfect time, considering we were likely moments from getting forcibly ejected due to an impromptu ice cream fight that erupted right at the end of our meal.  We went home and and had our gift-shredding-open session; everyone seemed to be very happy with what they received, and Shauna and I looked at each other with a sense of relief and satisfaction that, despite everything, we had pulled it off.  We ended the night by playing games into the wee hours, finally going to bed around 2 or so.

The next day we gave the kids their stockings, and loaded into the ol’ Explorer to head to my brothers house in Iowa City.  The last few years the kids and I have had our Christmas festivities there; Jason and his husband Mark enjoy hosting everyone, and it’s usually about the only time of the year I get to see them.  Jason, much like myself, isn’t a fan of traditional holiday food (turkey, stuffing, etc.), so instead he cooks a variety of pastas, and does something of an Italian buffet.  Which, not unlike my kids and the Chinese food, Shauna and her boys found a little odd, but, also not unlike the Chinese food, they seemed to really enjoy.  In particular, Jason makes this cheese bread that’s capable of bringing about world peace, and perhaps even ending world hunger, considering how much of it he makes.  After eating, we all opened presents, and headed home.

So our first Christmas as a married couple and a blended family is in the books.  Just today, Shauna and I took down the tree, and packed it away until next year.  In some dusty, forgotten corner of my mind,  there still exists the love of this time of year that was much more front and center when I was a child, and while the stresses and cynicism of adulthood have taken their toll, I still get a little melancholy knowing that Christmas is over for another year.  Technically, Shauna and I still have a mini-Christmas to look forward to; we dedicated all of our available resources to giving the kids a good holiday, and decided to wait a couple months to get gifts for each other.  We’ll probably shoot for sometime in February, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to write about when that happens.  For now, I’m completely content knowing that I have an amazing wife, and an awesome family, and I say that’s the best Christmas gift of all.

 

 

Shauna’s 30 Days of Thankful

So, in November I did the 30 days of thankful on my Facebook profile.  I got behind a couple times, but I did end up doing every single day.  I thought I’d just compile them here all in one place:

IMG_1340Day #1 – I am thankful for my sons. These wonderful humans that made me a mother. Every single one of them is so unique, individual, loving, intelligent, and amazing. My life is so rich, having them be a part of it.

Day #2 – I am thankful for my vehicle. With such a big family, with all our appointments and the need for rides to school and work, it’s VERY needed. I’ve gone times in my life without wheels, and having them makes life so much easier.

Day #3 – I am thankful for my bird, Snickers. I never thought myself to be a bird person, but when she decided I was her human, it opened a whole new part of pet-human companionship that I had never experienced. I love it!

Day #4 – I am incredibly thankful for my husband. We had both been through a lot of bad relationships when we found each other, which made our appreciation for one another so much more! He’s the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I don’t even want to imagine what my life would be without him. I love you so much, Jarrod!

Day #5 – I am thankful for the internet. It seems like a pretty broad thing to be thankful for, but without it I wouldn’t have met many of my friends who I have contact with every day, and I wouldn’t know about most of the goings-on in the world around me.

Day #6 – I am thankful for TV/film entertainment. I have watched way too many TV shows and movies to count, resulting in days, weeks, even months of my life of entertainment. Its been a way to bond with people, have things to talk about together or something to do together. Its also been a good way to entertain myself when I’m alone. They have taught me lessons about life, opened my mind to new ideas, or just made me laugh.

Day #7 – I am thankful to have my freedom of speech. To be able to say what I want not only on public forums, but within my family, group of friends, and in my own home. I hold some pretty controversial opinions on some topics, and a lot of my beliefs are not mainstream whatsoever. I am thankful to be able to be myself, without fear.

IMG_0058Day #8 – I am thankful for our new washer and dryer. Never have new appliances been so needed or appreciated in my home. We had used ones for years, and they never worked the way they should, with the most recent ones leaking water everywhere all the time. Thanks to a rent-to-own place, we were able to get a brand new pair and they are heavenly!

Day #9 – I am thankful that I have been able to make it to about 96% of all my kids’ events. Whether they were sports games, concerts, parent-teacher conferences, meetings, etc. Not all parents are able to take time away from work or other obligations to be able to do so. I am very grateful to have been able to.

Day #10 – I am thankful for my mom. Since birth she has been my best friend. She has taught me how to be a woman… she’s taught me how to be independent, how to stand up for myself and do what’s right. How to follow my own dreams, and also how to be an awesome mom, myself. Along with a million other things I could never possibly list here. Thank you for giving me life, mom!

Day #11 – I am thankful for the opportunity to be a step-mom. It’s an opportunity I’ve never had before. It’s not always easy, but I love it! Zoey, Autumn and Willow are all such beautiful, individual, and unique young ladies, and I’m proud and blessed to be a part of their lives.

Day #12 – I am thankful for my job. I may hate it sometimes, and I may feel under-appreciated. But I get to work with Jarrod (which we both LOVE), and I get to deliver rather than being stuck in a building during my shifts. Not to mention, time away from home is sometimes much needed, as I’ve discovered these last few years of no longer being a stay-at-home-mom.

Day #13 – I am so very thankful for the blessing of being in Malia’s life pretty much from the start. I never dreamed I’d be a grandma so early (and I’m glad it’s not my young boys that made me that way), but I am so very blessed to have a beautiful, cheerful, amazing granddaughter. And of course to call her momma my step-daughter.

Day #14 – I am thankful for being able to go see my favorite bands LIVE in concert. Seeing live shows is so much better than listening to music on the radio or iTunes. Seeing the passion for the music in the band members and the fans is priceless. Jarrod and I are going to see a sold out Highly Suspect show tonight, which I’ve had the tickets for since July, and I’m so excited to see them again!!

Day #15 – I am thankful for independence from others. Depending on others has very rarely ever turned out in my favor, so having independence now, Jarrod and I together, is quite refreshing. All our bills, utilities and expenses are 100% covered by US now, no one else.

Day #16 – Jarrod is getting a second day of thankfulness from me. We have been through a LOT these last few days, and rather than take that stress and turn on each other, we have stuck together and become a stronger team, he and I against the world. That kind of amazing strength and dedication deserves its own mentioning and recognition. Jarrod, you are absolutely amazing. I am so thankful for you, and I love you.

Day #17 – I am thankful for my newfound ability to laugh at myself.  I was far too uptight and wrapped up in my anxiety and self-esteem issues, for far too long.  Now I feel confident and content with life and am able to find humor in the things I do.

Day #18 – I am thankful that I no longer feel obligated to make wither gift-giving a big deal.  I made an agreement with my boys a few years ago that we will celebrate big for birthdays and go smaller for “Christmas.”  Takes the burden off the winter budget and gives everyone their own special day.  Its perfect for us all.

Day #19 – I am thankful to have a great big bathtub!  I have never been one to enjoy baths all that much, but since I lost weight AND have a big bathtub, it’s quite relaxing.  I love it!

Day #20 – I am thankful for the changing seasons.  I don’t like midwestern winters, but the colors of the falling leaves in Autumn, the blankets of fresh, white snow on the ground (seeing it out my window), and the fresh newness of emerging leaves and flowers in the spring are pretty great to witness.  All things I’ll likely miss once I move to a warmer climate.

Day #21 – I am thankful for my mother-in-law, Connie.  Not only did she raise the wonderful man who became my husband, but she is also always so generous and helpful, and awesome grandma, and a great cook!

Day #22 – I am thankful for the team of people, professional, family, friends, and even online strangers, who have supported me for the last 22 months of my weight loss journey.  I was able to go from a very unhealthy weight, where I couldn’t even tie my shoes very easily or walk across my home without losing my breathe, to being so comfortable in my own body that I could go for a job (if only my hips would allow me to do so), and wear a 2-piece swimsuit in public.  It’s been a short and drastic change, and I’m still adjusting, but I feel SO MUCH BETTER, and I’ll be forever thankful for all the support I’ve had.  I couldn’t have done it without.

Day #23 – I am so very thankful for the entire family!  We had quite a large turnout today for our Thanksgiving, and I’m thankful for each and every one who came to share the day and good food.

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Day #24 – I am thankful for the times we get to spend together as a family.  As the kiddos become teenagers, they want less and less family time, and more independence.  So the times we have all together are precious.

Day #25 – I am thankful for the education I have gotten from school, from life experiences, and from research I’ve done myself.  I am ever-curious about the things that affect my life and the lives of those I’m closest with, and I’m thankful to have the brain power to be able to learn about and understand those things.

Day #26 – I am thankful for all the bad times, trauma, and sickness I have experience and been around.  If it wasn’t for the bad times, I wouldn’t see the priceless value in all the good in life.

Day #27 – I am thankful for the ability to pay my bills and support my family.  It has not ever been easy for me, but I finally was able to get past enough of my anxiety to hold a job and contribute more than I ever thought I would.  I am also thankful for those who have helped me along the way, during the times I was unable to help myself.

Day #28 – I am thankful for the awesome weather!  Having an extended autumn is great, as I really dislike the cold of winter.  It’s been great to be able to do my job, run errands, and do yard work without freezing!

Day #29 – I am thankful for all the family and friends I have lost… thankful for the time I was blessed with, with them.  There have been some amazing people who have left this life far too early, and I learned quite a lot from each and every one of them, both in their lives, and in the loss of them.  Their memories with be forever treasured.

Day #30 – I am thankful for my life.  ALL of it.  The good, the bad.  The troubles, the joys.  The friends, lovers, enemies, haters, the best and the worst of times.  All of my experiences have molded me into person I am today, and I love the woman I have become.

Hippie Hair

I made the decision recently to give it another try after several failed attempts over the last 4 years, and I started a new set of dreadlocks.

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First try, back in 2013

My desire for dreadlocks started back in 2012 or so.  I’m not sure the exact person or thing that made me want to give them a try myself, but I started doing a lot of research.  I joined a couple of groups on Facebook, I watched YouTube videos about how to do them myself, and I read a LOT of information online.  The first time I tried them, I had my mom help me, and I used wax.  Obviously that was a HUGE no-no, as the wax coated everything it touched including my face, clothing, bed sheets, etc.  That was very short-lived, and they were combed and washed out after less than a week.  I looked up some more natural ways to get it done, and found the twist-n-rip method to be something I could do myself.  I tried that, and they lasted about 3 months before I was so itchy, full of flakes, and felt incredibly unattractive and had a friend help me brush them out.

I tried it a couple more times in the same way, and the final time I decided I was never going to try again.  It was far too itchy, stinky, and uncomfortable overall.  I even made myself a private YouTube video to watch if I ever considered doing it again, explaining why it was a terrible idea.

I must say however, in retrospect, I believe a lot of the bad luck I had with this style was the lifestyle I was living as much as the misinformation and lack of support I had to pull it off.  As is said in many cultures, knots contain and keep energy, and I was never in a good enough place in my life, physically nor emotionally, to want to keep those vibes attached to me and worn on my head.

Then, in September, Jarrod and I went to RiotFest in Chicago.  There were quite a few people there with dreadlocks and I was in love with them!  I told Jarrod how much I admired dreads and wished I could pull it off, and he also said how much he loved them.  So we discussed it further and we decided to get some professionally installed for me.

A week later it was done.  It took 6 hours and human hair extensions to get them started because of quite a lot of damage I had due to a perm I’d gotten a couple months prior.  Its been over a month since they were started now, and they are still comfortable 90% of the time.  The only time they aren’t is if it’s wash day (because I wash when they’re itchy).  I have the proper shampoos and products that help them lock up the right way, and keep me from itching or stinking.  And my stylist is pretty amazing too, with her maintenance keeping them looking tidy, and advice as to how to care for them to keep them healthy.  Not to mention my mental and physical states are MUCH improved… I love my life!  I do believe with the amount of care and attention my hair is getting and will continue to get, these beautiful locs can last a very long time…. years, in fact!  I’m very happy with my decision to give it another try.

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I Know This

“…And I know that one day,
You will let me in.
And we will begin to love in a fashion I couldn’t fathom existed.
And we will laugh at the fact that we ever resisted this blissful togetherness.
And the sex?
Well, it’ll be off the charts.
‘Cause we’ll both be
Super freaky
But we’ll be fucking
From the heart.
‘Cause our loving will be something where the
Whole is much greater than the sum of the parts
‘Cause we’re artists, after all,
So what else would fate have us make besides art?
And I know that outside of this space time frame, we are one and the same
We’re a part, not apart
So I know that I can wait patiently for it to start…”

An excerpt from “I Know This” by Rachel Kann

What if…

What if I kiss all the spots you taught yourself to hate?

What if I placed my hands on them and left them still, long enough for my heat to join  ours and you to forget there was ever air between our skin?

What if I love all you loathe and what if I spend my days dirtying up your brain that was washed?

Show you new pictures of the same you you started avoiding in the mirror?

What if I say all they say is wrong and fill your ears with honest words in a language you stopped practicing?

What if I plant new flowers in the places you frown at, and teach you the names of them as they bloom?

What if I told you to never cut them and let the petals decorate the floor as you twirl through your life?

What if you forget you were ever anything other than beautiful?

~Tyler Knott Gregson

2 Months

It has been two whole months.  Two months since my husband and I tied the knot after being together for only 8 days.  And two months since I had my final weight loss related surgery.

I couldn’t possibly ask for a better husband and example of a real man for my boys.  I knew immediately when we confessed our feelings to each other that he would be my forever, and that feeling has only gotten stronger every single day since then.  He’s the best friend I’ve ever had!  We lay awake at night and talk about everything.  We intend often to watch TV or a movie, get housework done together, or take care of other errands, and often it gets put on the back burner to our conversations, or the conversations continue through it all.  We are attached at the hip and prefer to do anything we need to do, together.  We even prefer to work the same shifts together at work, just to be in each other’s presence.  We understand and are comfortable with each other on the deepest level.  I’ve honestly never felt anything like this before, and it’s the best!  He is wonderful with my kids, and they become more and more open to him each day.  His kids are pretty awesome as well, and I love how our family is blending.  Jarrod is my heart, my soul, my life.  This is my forever, and I couldn’t be happier or more content.

As far as my surgical recovery and body image goes, I’m quite satisfied now!  I started my weight loss journey in January of 2016 at 270 pounds.  Around summer of 2016 I had already lost enough weight to disqualify myself from bariatric weight loss surgery by getting down to around 230 pounds.  I had changed my lifestyle enough to take off the weight myself, by eating less fat and carbs, more protein, and cutting out sugary soda.  Then once I reached about 225 pounds I qualified for skin removal surgery, and got approved for my Panniculectomy (tummy tuck) in March 2017, which is when it was done.  I wasn’t satisfied with the results as it healed because I still had quite a bit of sag, my bellybutton was off-center, and a couple other details I was dissatisfied with.  So when I had my breast reduction and lift on September 1st, I was able to get my tummy tuck revised.  Now it’s been two months since I had that last surgery, and though nothing is perfect, I am VERY satisfied with my results.  I am now hovering right around 200 pounds, and still want to lose about 15.  I haven’t had the willpower to just buckle down and take off that last 15 yet, but I know I will and am not too concerned with it anyway.  I’m happy with the way I look now, with the way my clothes fit, and with my appearance in the mirror. Really, I feel I just need to tone up now.  I’m very proud of myself for having come this far without bariatric surgery.  And I plan to continue this healthier lifestyle forever.  I NEVER want to gain that weight back.  I have so much less body ache and pain now, I am more flexible and don’t lose my breath going up and down stairs, I have more stamina and am all around a much happier person.  I love it.

Two months since my life made some permanent changes for the better.  I am so happy to have had these opportunities come to me, and to have been able to grab ahold of them.  I am so happy with my life!

Matching Tattoos

Jarrod and I got matching tattoos today.  We both felt lost at sea in stormy waters (our exes, life) and we somehow found each other through it all (lighthouses), and we really anchor each other, ground each other.  Plus we are co-captains of this ship – our family.  This is our story.  And we wear it proudly.

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We took our original idea and a few images from online for a brand new, original design.  These tattoos are original art by Barron Bon-Chance McCollum at Hot Rod’s Underground Lounge in Newton, IA.

The story of the family of Jarrod & Shauna Hesse…