Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2016...and 11 years of NOT keeping resolutions.

The holidays are nearly over. I am sad. I have really enjoyed this holiday season. Even with the mild, non-Christmasey weather that seemed to keep many people's Christmas spirit away, I loved almost every minute. The decor, the twinkling lights, the time with family, the magic of Christmas morning, our traditions. We went to my sister's house on the 23rd and Matthew and I joined my parents and Jenn's (my sister)family at Christmas Eve mass. I love mass..I am pretty sure I am a closeted Catholic! When were sitting there waiting, because my sister is a good, regular attending Catholic and we arrived nearly ONE HOUR ahead of time, my mom was lamenting about those we know that have lost loved ones this year. My mom made the statement, " I am sure so and so had no idea that last Christmas was the final one they would spend with their loved one. We should all remember that!" I smiled and said, "Oh, mom! Please! I am a palliative care social worker!, I think about that all the time!:  And even before that, every Christmas since I was about 11 I have thought, "Who won't be here next Christmas?" Morbid? Yes! But, that's how this girl has always rolled and really I think it is what draws me to my career. I think about things like how death will forever alter celebrating things like Christmas all the time and I always have. I think at some points in my life, this morbid take on life and death has been detrimental. But, as I get older, I think that I have learned to really respect the fragile state that is this life. Everything you know to be your reality can literally change in a moment. I know that it is unlikely that that will be my reality or yours but I want to savor all this life has to offer me. I want to enjoy my kids and my Christmases before the bitterness of losing a loved one taints it for a year or years. I want to rejoice and praise the years we've had good health and good fortune. I want to strive to have New Year's resolutions that will ensure that the next Christmas I will be just a merry. I want to work on my faith and relationship with Christ so that when life and death happens, I can go on. I can learn to love and celebrate again..not merely exist.
There are so many things I hate about how I live this life. I am disappointed in so many of the ways I am choosing to live my life. If the world really knew the mistakes I have made in the past five years I am sure they would be pretty disgusted. Alas, I can't change any of it. It is who I am. That is the progress I have made. To own ME. I am flawed and messed up. I will try and try again to redeem myself but I will always fall short. That can be somewhat discouraging as I face another year. Part of me is thinking.."Please, woman, you will do what you have always done. Don't even try." But, then there is the part of me that seeks something better, something holier. That part says.."God can redeem anything, any PART, any UGLINESS. Come clean." And so, I am. I believe in that part, in that power.
I have had this blog for eleven years. So THERE! I can stick with something. I can make good choices. It's just hard for me. I struggle. Forty years of living has taught me that nearly all of us do in some way! I have many resolutions for this year but above them all is to COME CLEAN. To own my ugliness, ask for help, pray for mercy, seek holiness, surround myself with goodness. 2016..I am coming for you!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Messy messes

Ellie had a "family" stocking project. Get ready for some brutal honesty but when I saw that damn stocking come home in her folder with the instructions.."Do not use markers, crayons, or pencils" "Be creative use twigs, ribbon, buttons, etc" I thought to myself.."What the HELL?!" I can barely get our arses to school each morning in clean clothes, with our homework done, lunches packed! And now I have to come up with the time and materials for a "winning stocking." Ellie nagged me for over a week about the stocking. "Mommy!" she pleaded.."We have to do the stocking! Everyone else did their stocking!" I was shamed by the stocking! So, yesterday, I sent Caroline to the neighbors for glue, because of course we didn't have any to start in our stocking.  By the way, back in September I designated a drawer for school/art supplies and the Simpson kids have blown that to hell. Anyways, Caroline, Ellie and I sat down and embarked on decorating the dang stocking yesterday. I looked in the pantry and found raisins, sprinkles, candy canes and a glitter pen. Perfect! I thought. We were hard at work and when we finished, I proudly surveyed our masterpiece and thought. YES! That is worthy of the other kid's stockings. Mrs Rumora, Ellie's first grade teacher, might think I am delinquent but boy, this stocking was worth the wait!! Fast forward to this morning when Ellie ran to its "safe, drying spot" and found a runny, NOT dried, raisins were too heavy, this stocking which was glorious last evening, now SUCKS!" Ellie looked at me with dismay in her eyes and said..."Mommy, this is a mess!" Jeff looked at me silently, with judging eyes that screamed.."What the hell were you thinking with the raisins and green, sugar sprinkles that seemingly melted into the glue making a BIG, GREEN, MESS?" How did I react? I got creative! I would not be dismayed by our stocking mess! I quickly devised a plan. Get a Harding's bag sweet girl, we will put in there to continue to dry and tomorrow, I am sure, Mrs. Rumora will be able to hang it! She was fine with it, Jeff humored me and I haven't heard anything from Ellie's sainted teacher so I am assuming our messy stocking will find its place in the first grade hallway!
I have been thinking a lot lately about Christmas and the gift we all received all those years ago in the manger. Jesus came amidst the mess and was born in a messy, stinky stable to redeem us. He can make good of any mess we've created. He sees our well intended stocking plans and wants to help us right our wrongs. What a gift! Every year I find myself in awe of the God I am so privileged to serve. I can never make too many messes for Him. It has taken me the good part of forty years to process that truth. Christ will always seek me. He wants all of me and you, even the messy parts! Amen! I can't think of happier reason to celebrate Christmas than that! Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a less messy New Year!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thankful Top Ten 2015

My annual list of things I am thankful. In the 10 years I have been writing this blog, these thankful posts are some of my favorite to look back on! I hope you have a wonderful day of eating lots of yummy foods, relaxing and appreciating all the good things in your life!

10. NETFLIX..seriously brings me such comfort. I love having a multitude of shows at my disposal! Especially on the days where I am feeling blue or anxious.  A few favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls or Mad Men allow me to escape my real world to Stars Hollow or to feel like my life is far better than Don Draper's!
9. gets me going and keeps me at it when my body is all..I can't even.
8. My home..sure, there are about a million things I wish I could change or update but this home has been so good to us. We are making memories here. Within these walls, for better or worse, life happens to the Simpsons on Carnoustie Street!
7. My car, this one is hard because I really do hate it. But, I also love not having a car payment. Our van's days are numbered and I am trying hard to love her till the end! Sure, she's a little tattered, her doors don't open automatically anymore, her rust is abundant. But, she gets us to all the places we need to go!
6. Friendships..I have realized throughout this year, that I have so many good girlfriends who I can count on!
5. My kids..they can sure be spicy but they have lots of sweetness too. Appreciating them for who they are, that is my new focus.
4. Jeff. I love this man so much and am loved unconditionally by him. Thankful, thankful, thankful.
3. Marriage. I feel like I spent much of the past few years taking my marriage for granted. I am so thankful that I "woke up" and realized that marriage is a blessing and needs daily work and love to make it through. I love having a partner to help me navigate this crazy world.
2. Health. Working with people who are dying makes me aware everyday that tomorrow is never guaranteed and that everything you thought you knew can change in a moment. Live life to the fullest, everyday.
1. Faith...Jesus. I have realized this year that I am serve a God who will relentlessly pursue me. He has, through it all, every stupid mistake, every bad decision, every day I have chosen to do what I wanted to do,even though I knew it was the wrong path, continued to pursue me. It makes me sad to think of my God, sitting there thinking, "Oh, sweet girl, please stop this insanity." I am thankful for a church, small group and Christian friends who I am able to confide in with my struggles and say.."Help!"

Thursday, November 19, 2015


The kids got their report cards this week. I will admit, I get a wee bit nervous when I know they are coming. I pretty much know how they are doing based on the papers that are sent home every week. I know that Matthew hates math but is a whiz a reading. I know Caroline is a whiz at just about everything but usually rushes through to make sure she is the FIRST ONE DONE and therefore makes careless mistakes. I know Ellie continues to struggle with reading but tries her darndest and is also a whiz at math! I assume my kids are above average to average in behavior because I have yet to hear from the principal :) But still, I worry...because that is what I do. My kids are also anxious to find out how they are measuring up. They scan those cards for their scores. In our school the kids are graded with the measurements of three standards, LPS(limited progression towards standards)
PS( progressing toward standards) and MS (Meets Standard). Matthew wants all MS's but to be honest, he is fine with a PS or two. Caroline is very dismayed if she gets anything other than all MS's. And Ellie, she's pretty much clueless about this grading business and just carries on with her bright, happy, determined attitude. The Simpson kids have some LS's on their cards this semester. At first I was irritated when I saw it. To be honest, I felt it reflected poorly on me as a parent. It's as if the LS is saying.."Yes, Jeff and Susan Simpson, your child is sucking at this and really, it is ALL YOUR FAULT." But, as I gave myself sometime to process it and think about the areas where my child is still limited in their progression, I found that limited progress is still progress as long as you're still moving towards meeting whatever standards are set before you. Ellie may have a received a LS in one aspect of reading but girlfriend is rocking out other areas! In this day and age of the tremendous pressure to always be above average at absolutely everything you do, it can be very tempting to feel overwhelmed by all of the ways in which you just don't measure up. Whether that be in math, reading or we can carry that over into our adult lives where impossible standards can drive a mommy bonkers! I can't do it all, I can't be it all. What I have learned in my forty plus years of living and holding myself to impossible standards is that you miss so many opportunities when the standards you are trying to obtain are not worthy of your time and energy.
Now, don't get me wrong, I recognize that my children need to learn that you do need to strive to meet the highest standard possible. I want Ellie to be good a reading so she can experience the joy of getting lost in the story of a great book! I want Caroline to learn that being first is not everything and being mindful will serve her well in so many things other than academics. I want Matthew to feel good about himself despite the struggles he faces daily due to his cerebral palsy.
I want Jeff and I to make choices for ourselves and our family that help encourage behaviors that lend themselves to the kids being successful students. Reading time that is relaxed, family game nights, less screen time, less yelling, less busyness. There are many areas where the Simpsons would certainly score a limited progress towards standards! But, there are many areas where we are certainly PROGRESSING. Regular church attendance, regular volunteering at church, small group and book clubs with friends who share our same values. Filling our times with things that are good and help us progress not limit us in being all we are meant to be! That can be hard as old habits die so very hard. (Especially if you are Mommy Simpson). But, one of the most important lessons I want my children to remember from their childhood is that you will always be loved, no matter how you measure up against the standards our family has set forth. We can't always meet expectations. We screw up. We believe in grace and forgiveness and always in the power of tomorrow being an opportunity to turn it all around.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Things I know for sure..

1. I work with some of the most supportive people. Work has been challenging, sometimes beyond what I feel I can bear lately. I have felt such love from my fellow social workers, providers, nurses, case managers, etc.
2. That man knows how to chill his crazy, anxious wife out with a few sentences. Man of  few words, my husband, but the ones he picks, powerful. So thankful for him.
3. Crock pot meals are somewhat life changing. Having dinner ready and waiting..makes life so much easier.
4. Family is important. This job of mine, it certainly has made me think more about how little I see my extended family. I want my kids to have memories with all of their cousins and aunts and uncles. So, we are spending Thanksgiving with my sister's extended family, who practically is family because they are so awesome and we have plans to return for a few days at Christmas to be with my parents and sister's family. I envision cooking baking and cousin's giggling and lots of memory making. ( In reality it may involve my dad watching endless hours of FOX news and nibbling store bought cookies, but hey, we will do these things TOGETHER!)
5. I miss not having stitches in any part of my left side!:) This sounds ridiculous I know but first I fell and shattered a glass into my left hand which required a minor surgery and two sets of stitches. No sooner did it heal than I went to the dermatologist to have a spot looked at on my left forearm that's removal required three stitches! I know, first world problem
6. Christmas is coming. I love it all, the cheesy movies, the twinkling lights, the tree, the decor, the music, the traditions we have with the kids.
7. Small group and reconnecting with my faith. I am still ridiculously full of flaws and daily make mistakes, sometimes big ones.  But I feel for the first time in years that Jeff and I are on the path we need to be. I also love seeing how much my kids are getting out of being part of a smaller community within our church. They love it too!
8.  Volunteering is good for your soul! I have been helping with GEMS's fifth grade girls. GEM's is a program for girls ages 2nd grade through 5th at our church. I decided that I needed to do more at church this year and considering Caroline goes each week, it really was the perfect opportunity to serve. I will fully admit, I was very apprehensive. After all, I am not a huge fan of helping with kids. (I know, horrible.) But, I have really enjoyed getting to know these girls. I am glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and every week I am blessed to learn so much from them and their perspectives.
9. Friends can make or break you. I am lucky to have some awesome friends who have proved they are there for me through it all.
10. Time flies with your kids. I can't believe that my kids are 10,9 and 6. The other night I went to give Ellie a kiss goodnight. As I gazed at her sweet, sleeping, little face, I noticed her hand closed in the same way it was when she was an infant. I have no idea why I remember what her hand looked like as an infant? I think maybe it was that I remember trying to really cherish and soak up her infancy because I knew she was my last. As I looked at my now six year old with that same little fist, my heart was sad. I love having kids that are more independant but sometimes I wish time would slow down. Soon, Matthew won't want to give me a hug and kiss in the middle of the school hallway, every ,single day, Caroline won't let us call her "Squeaker" and Ellie's clenched little fist will just get bigger and bigger.
These things, these are what I know for sure on November 5, 2015!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Just keep swimming...

The "Fall funk" moved its way out and was replaced with a new, improved attitude of, "I CAN DO THIS!" I will pack lunches the night before, make crock pot meals and pretend to like them when the kids complain, do a load of laundry and fold it every day (but put it away, no,I can't make that type of commitment!), go to bed early, remember where those three kids of mine are suppose to be each night and get them there, make sure the girls are wearing the RIGHT color soccer uniform. I stupidly volunteered to be Caroline's soccer team's manger and what was I thinking? But, even with the stress that has been added, I am trying to embrace a "If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger attitude." And let me tell you, IT JUST MIGHT KILL ME:)!
Work continues to get more and more stressful by the day. But, the thing about working with people who are dying is that you realize that WORK and most of things that cause people to stress, in the END, do not matter. So I am focusing on being the best social worker I can be to the people that are after all , dying. Because that work matters. The rest will work itself out, or not! 
I am doing better, overall, with caring about the things that matter. Surrounding myself with people that improve my outlook, and keep me on a positive path. Jeff and I are in a small group with some families from church and what a wonderful thing this has been. Connecting with a group of people who share your same values and have similar demographics( married, threeish kids, CRAZY lives, trying to be the best spouse/parents/christians/workers) we can be. Accountability. AMEN! This is what has been missing. Jeff and I are both so excited to develop these relationships and grow closer together and to God. We continue to try and find our way, Jeff and I. Sometimes we seem so close and aligned. In fact, most days we are. Some days I lose it on him and BLAME him for everything. Most of the time I apologize and ALL the time Jeff is gracious. Grace is something I am trying to practice more of. Giving those around me the grace I so freely get from my husband and always from God. Telling the kids I am sorry when I lose my crap on them over things that really aren't their fault and even if it is, losing your temper doesn't teach them anything other than how to not be able to effectively manage stress. Forgiving people who treat me badly because chances are I have done the same to them or someone at some point.
The Simpsons are ready for fall! A new season! New opportunities! New challenges! New friendships! New attitudes! (PRAY FOR US!) :)

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Fall Funk

School started today and for the first time in the five years I have had children in school I was not excited. We all know that I am not the kind of mom that is all.." I have so enjoyed every minute with my little bundles of blessings." Please. Let's continue to keep it real here, I was thrilled to run to Costco without anyone asking me for a million things. But, I have enjoyed the laid back nature of this summer. To only have myself to get ready while the village it seemed to take (three sitters in three months due to various scheduling conflicts among them) tended to the morning routine of the hooligans. No homework, not worrying about when they went to bed, not caring all that much who showered when. (Don't worry we didn't get too funky over here.)  The sporting season did go into mid July for us due to Caroline making the softball all star team which made me our shortened "no sports" nights all that more enjoyable.
With Fall comes football and hockey for Matthew and soccer for the girls. Caroline is playing on a travel league this year that practices a good twenty five minutes from our home. Good gravy, are you still reading? Are you thinking, "Wah, wah wah?" I know, first world problems of epic proportions! It just feels from this day until next July it is rush, rush, rush. I am trying to be more organized with the school portions of things because, let's face it, the Simpson kids start limping to the school finish line around January! I am determined to have the kids spend time doing their homework, reading before bed, actually fostering good learner behaviors.
A dimension of my stress level comes from my work stress being at an all time high. We are down providers and I am literally running all day at work feeling like I can never catch my breath. I am trying hard not to take this stress, which is hardly my children or my husband's fault, out on them. But, I failing more often than not. I am grouchy and irritated. There is no end in sight at work and let's face it, my kids are still young. I have miles and miles of homework, lunches to make, conferences and sporting events to attend before I can make myself a bowl of cereal for dinner and enjoy my empty nest. I don't want to wish these years away. I know I will miss them. I know I will say to myself one day, "Why didn't you enjoy it more?"
And then I run into a wife of a patient who died all too soon and she thanks me for what I do. I rarely run into my work in the community. When I do see a patient or family member I don't say anything because I want to respect their privacy and  in this woman's case, her grieving. As I walked away from her, I was humbled. Yes, working, parenting and marriage is so hard and it seems like it sometimes it is ALL hard. But, these things that stress the hell out of me, are also what make life worth living. Simply said, I need to get it the heck together. I am wishing the moments away and missing out on all that is truly important and really all I hold dear. That is no way to live. How do you fellow parents swing it? What keeps you sane and grounded?! HELP!

Saturday, August 08, 2015

You are what you think..

This summer I have spent time considering what fills my head on any given day, in any given moment. I have "thought about thinking" for a variety of reasons. One, I work with families all day, discussing all sorts of horrible and hard things. Sometimes it is necessary to be able to go to a place in your mind where you can still be present but have a tiny break from the heaviness that is happening. I have always been a day dreamer. I was telling Jeff the other day that maybe I am adhd because I can easily drift away in thoughts and become distracted. Secondly, I realized, as I have tried to write about on my blog regarding my struggles, that my thought life directly impacts my behaviors. When I spend time fixating on things that are unhealthy, those behaviors only increase.
So, in attempts to get a handle on this crazy brain of mine, I have embarked on some techniques to be more mindful about my thoughts and actions. To take time and center myself and really consider what I am choosing to let myself think and believe. It has shocked me since I began this quest how many times the thoughts that have corrupted me enter my head. It isn't always something hugely profound. Sometimes it's simply a thought about myself that is self depreciating and adds no value. Being a spiritual person, or at least doing my best to be, I have incorporated a way to center myself in the morning that works amazingly if I can get my booty up and do it! I pick a Bible verse or simple faith sentence and find a quiet place and concentrate on my breathing and simply repeat the phrase over and over silently in my head. My favorite verse that does a great job of bringing me back is Psalm 51:10 "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." As my breathing becomes more controlled, my thoughts soften and honestly in those moments of quiet, I am totally at peace. I am hopeful as I practice this on a regular basis that I will be able to tap into it throughout the day when I am feeling like I am spinning out of control. The other day I was entering a situation that had me anxious for days. I was facing circumstances that usually have rendered me very much out of control of what I think and how I act. As I stewed in the anxiety I realized, Wait! You do have tools to respond to this situation in the way that is most healthy. I did a mini mindfulness session in my car and of course it worked. Well, the mindfulness and the power of prayer,  which I believe is an unbeatable combination. Like I have always said, baby steps, step by step, day by day. That is the only way this girl is ever able to successfully incorporate anything into successful practice! I am not going to lie, some days the struggle is REAL and I just want to stay in those unhealthy ways. Then I remember that if I continue to do what I have always done, I will end up exactly where I never wanted to be! Can I get an amen?! :)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

And Yet..

I posted an article on Facebook last week from the NY Times that I loved about marriage. There was a Buddhist quote in there that I especially loved. "Life is suffering..and yet". The author of the article lamented about lessons she's learned thirteen years into her marriage. She made comparisons to the phrase "and yet" to the parts of marriage that are good and bad. You married your spouse promising for better than worse, richer than poorer and yet you can not really comprehend, in those first years of marriage, what worse and poorer looks like. You can appreciate the ways you may struggle but you have not yet known struggle. Thank goodness for that or most likely no one would ever embark on the journey, right!? For the past few years I felt like life in general has had a lot of frustrating aspects of "and yet". And yet I kept feeling like nothing was good enough. And yet why do I get so frustrated with parenting? And yet why does it always seem like I am having a crisis of faith? And yet why does it seem everyone has a better marriage than I do? And yet I was so sick of it all. About three months ago I was truly sick of all the shit and said AND YET what the hell are you going to do about it? I am so blessed to have a few awesome friends who I was able to call and say..Listen! I am struggling. I need support and accountability. I need someone to help me walk this path! I am failing! They said, "Sure! Let's meet weekly and talk about our lives, our faith, our struggles! Let's pray for each other! " We've done this each week since June and what a difference it has made. This accountability in conjunction with consistent quiet times and church attendance, has me feeling hopeful and happy. I feel more like myself and who I am meant to be for the first time in a long time.
This summer has been a great one for our family. We have a wonderful babysitter whose kept the kids happy and entertained. We just returned from a wonderful family vacation in Silver Lake with Jeff's family filled with sunshine and beach days and swimming. Matthew spent a week with my parents and is going to hockey camp next week. Caroline is spending her week with my parents next week and soccer camp is the following week for her. Ellie is going to Spring Hill day camp at our church this week, her first camping experience!
This summer has been filled with the good side of "And yet". Sure, marriage can be tough and yet you find yourself on a beautiful friend's lakeside deck, enjoying a beautiful summer day, chatting and talking about all the awesome memories you have and think.."Wow! I love this guy and the life we've built together." There have been crappy times and yet they make the good times all the sweeter. Parenting can suck and yet you find yourself happily playing on the beach and in the lake and you think "Well, this does not suck. This is what I imagined having kids to look like." Work can be depressing, stressful and irritating and yet when you are able to help a family walk the path of losing their loved one in a way that gives them dignity and grace, you find yourself in awe that you have that privilege on a daily basis. I love being on the upside of the "and yet's" lately. I know that I must continue to do the hard work in order to keep on this path that is better for me. When the going gets tough or I find myself thinking and doing things that have only found trouble, I have to continue to make the decisions that keep me pointed the way I know is what God wants for me.  Every day I am able to do this it gets easier and easier to feel like I am back on the path I wished I had never strayed from.
Wishing you a wonderful rest of the summer! This mom is not looking forward to the busyness of fall! Lots of running, running, running! And yet, I am sure it will be a wonderful adventure!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Stepping out..

Have you ever gone to church, on a day where you nearly didn't make it, and thought to yourself "Thank you God for allowing me the privilege of being here and hearing what you have to say to me?" That was me at church yesterday. Jeff and Matthew were out of town and I nearly took the girls to my in law's church. However, the kids are doing a day camp at our church and I needed to pick up their tee shirts. When I walked in, I heard a guy preaching and immediately was taken aback at the power you could just feel from his voice. As I looked closer, I realized it was a Nate Bull, a Kalamazoo pastor who has done so much good for inner city Kalamazoo and Benton Harbor. I have heard about him from friends who attend our church who have heard him speak but have never been fortunate to hear him personally. Wow. I was blessed immeasurably by what he had to share. His message was about stepping out in faith. Listening to what God is asking you to do and doing it, no matter how scared or anxious you feel about what he is asking you to do. A lot of what Nate was talking about was regarding ministry type things. He was an employee with Kalamazoo Public Schools before God laid on his heart to start a street ministry which has taken off and blessed thousands of individuals in our community.
Rewind to my own personal walk in my faith, which I have shared throughout the years here, which has taken some pretty interesting turns lately. Long story short, I have felt very strongly that God was asking me to do something and I have done it. The thing about me is I am good at following my conviction for about two weeks when I am pulled right back into my destructive ways. As I listened to Nate speak and he literally asked, "What is God laying on your heart? Where do you need to step out in faith?" I literally could hear God saying, "What I have laid on your heart, this is what I am asking you to do." I also felt a very real sense of conviction that if I continue to follow my own ways and not do what God is asking, there will be some very real, negative, long lasting ill effects on my life. I am already dealing with some of the consequences of the sin I have let overtake my life but truly feel that if I don't make serious changes, God will bring me to my knees. Scary but strangely freeing at the same time. I feel broken for the first time in a long time. Over the past few years I have not even let myself entertain feeling broken. It is amazing how much you can numb and mask those feelings.  Satan is all too happy to supply you with endless ways to destroy yourself. I felt that yesterday at church God was breaking my heart with the realization that I have missed so many opportunities to live for him when I live for myself. I have missed opportunities to show my community, my friends, my husband and most importantly, my kids what it looks like to walk a righteous and God fearing path.
I continue to be in awe of God's amazing grace and provision for me throughout my rebellion. He has never forsaken me, he has not brought me to a true rock bottom. He has spared me and continues to welcome me back and literally bring me to his guidance through amazing messages like I heard yesterday.
I have reached out to several friends who I know I can trust and depend on to help me be obedient and accountable to stay on the right path. I am taking it literally day by day. Each day it gets a little easier to discover not who I have been or who I have tried to be on my own but who Christ says I am. I feel that was largely my problem all these years. Trying to find my own way or fit into what the world says I need to be or do. Chasing the world has gotten me no where and so,  I think , I will try God's way. I realize I am not sharing what God asked me to do and for now, I am keeping that for myself. But, I think the lesson of stepping out in faith can be applied to anyone in any crisis of faith. If you read here and you pray, I covet any prayers for strength to perseverance you can send my way! Thanks!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dear Ellie..

This week Ellie is star of the week. She has been looking forward to this all week! We were able to write a special letter to our littlest and I thought since it did a pretty good recap of my baby at five and a half that I would make it a post. Because God knows I will lose the hard copy:)

Dear Ellie,
HAPPY STAR OF THE WEEK! We know you’ve been looking forward to having this special week all year!  Daddy and I wanted to share some things that we think make you special and unique and why we are so glad God blessed us with you! I know that you love to hear the story of how we came up with your name so I thought I would let you share it with your class! When Ellie was born we thought we were going to name her Emma Jane Simpson. The whole time she was growing in her mom’s belly we called her baby Emma. But, when she arrived she just didn’t look like an Emma or a Molly, our second choice name for a little girl.  It took her mommy and daddy two whole days to come up with her name, Elizabeth Jane.  Ellie is named after her grandma Betsy and her grandma Barb.
Ellie, there are so many things that make you special. You have the most creative imagination. You love to pretend that you are a teenager or a mommy or a teacher. You can play for hours and hours with common household items that most five year olds would never consider playing with. You are a good friend. You are considerate and you always remember details about what your friends like and hate to hurt anyone’s feelings.  You love your stuffed animals and only Daddy can do your special tuck ins at bedtime with your “zooms” with your special lovies turtle, twigs and spikey. You love to eat and will usually try any food. Your favorites are hot dogs and you are an asparagus nut! I think you would eat asparagus for every meal if we gave it to you!  You crack us up at the things you say to us. Your active imagination also means you “speak your mind” and “tell it like you see it.” You are usually a good sibling. Sometimes you fight with your sister but you also have lots of times when you spend hours and hours playing nicely together. You adore Matthew and he’s a good sport about letting you tag along! You are a big daddy’s girl and you get very sad if Daddy leaves before you wake up in the morning. You love to snuggle both mommy and daddy! We are so proud of how hard you have worked this year at school. Some of what you’ve been taught has been hard for you, like reading. You’ve worked hard to do your best and Ms. Rantz says she seen a lot of growth in you too this year! We know that you will do awesome in first grade!  We love you so much Ellie Jane Simpson. Daddy and I say all the time that we can’t imagine our family without your spunk, your sass and your sweet spirit.
Love, Mommy and Daddy

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


During this past week I have heard a friend talk about her recovery from a brain stem stroke and another lost her husband to ALS. Suffering is all around me. But, so too is real examples of faith and perseverance and living your life with the hope that you are investing in something real. Hope that this world full of suffering and loss and sin is all too temporary.  Last weekend I heard my friend, who had a brain stem stroke, husband ask us what we were investing in? What do we spend our days and hours here on Earth doing? He made the point and I whole heartedly agree, that when you are faced with a crisis you will quickly learn exactly what you have invested in. Am I investing in things that are worthy? I have talked here before that in many ways, yes.  I don't feel like I am messing up 100% of my life. But, when it comes to investing in my relationship with Christ? No. I always throw it to the back burner. More over, during the past year, I dare say I have blatantly turned my back on my faith in many ways. I tried to justify it by blaming church and  the hypocrisy that I saw, but really it was my own sin that I was desperate to run from. Investing in crap, that's what I have been doing.
I was talking to a co-worker this week about how I got into medical social work. I said, honestly, fear. I am terrified of many of the things I help people deal with everyday. I think part of me thinks if I immerse myself in death, dying and suffering, it will never touch me. The irony of this is that I have seen both in my work as an ER social worker and certainly as a palliative care MSW that life guarantees you nothing other than that you will DIE. If a crisis hit me today I know the return on my investment with my friendships would see me through some of it. I am a good friend, for the most part (and humble too?!) But, my faith would be rattled. I simply do not have a strong enough foundation these days to sustain me through any real struggles. As I read this over I would like to go back to all of my posts over the past ten years that have related to this topic. How many have I written? Maybe a dozen!? Seriously. I have no great way to end this post. I refuse to write, once again, I am on the right path, etc, etc, If I am being honest, I am desperate for God these days and that makes me hunger for things that are worthy like reading the Bible, having quiet times, investing in things of substance. But, if I am being honest, it could all go to shit tomorrow. I am still so very real and human and sinful. Thank goodness I believe in a God that defeated sin and death and the REALNESS of this fallen world for me. Thankful and trying.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Dear Matthew at age 10

Dear Matthew,
You are ten years old! Ten! I still remember when we saw that tiny,miraculous heartbeat that beat all the odds at five weeks.  You grew into our first born son, rambunctious toddler, challenging preschooler and have now become a mostly joyous school aged kid! I sometimes have to take a moment and truly think about all the things that "could have" happened when it comes to you. Not only were we told that you weren't a viable pregnancy, but your delivery was anything but smooth! I am grateful that I was not a medical social worker at the time or I would have freaked out even more than I did. We are lucky your cerebral palsy is mild. In fact many people don't even know that you have it! I know when you are playing sports that you are starting to realize where the cerebral palsy causes you to struggle some. But, I love that you have fun out there, doing whatever it is, hockey, baseball or football. You love sports and you love being on a team. You want to be the best you can be and son, that determination and drive will serve you well in so many ways other than how well you can play any sport!
You are a nice boy. That is a simple statement but really it encompasses so much more. You are thoughtful and  considerate. You can move easily through different groups of kids. I hope you always stay true to who you are. I often think of some advice Papa Lenny gave Uncle Mike,  "If you hang around garbage, you start to stink." Remember this as you decide who you want to hang out with. You have picked some awesome buddies so far. Take it from your dear old mom, your friends will help to make or break you in life. Choose wisely. You have a great conscience, follow that, it will never lead you astray.
I love how much you love your dad. You are so lucky to have such an awesome role model. I love that you have been able to ask dad and me questions about what you should do or when things don't quite feel right. You can always come to us. You know that we value honesty and integrity above all. We know that you are just a kid and you will mess up. Let us continue to help you figure out ways to help you navigate the messy parts of life.
You are not a huge fan of school but you are a good student. You seem to love reading and social studies and can take or leave math! You don't like to do homework and if that's one area where we get into yelling matches, homework is one! Life can't always be fun and games and you are learning sometimes that isn't very fun!
Happy Birthday sweet boy! Daddy and I love you more than I could ever write about. We can't wait to see what the next decade brings for you!
Love, Mom

Saturday, April 25, 2015

12 years

Jeff and I have been married for twelve years. In some ways it seems like just yesterday that we were all gathered at the Stetson Chapel and then partied like it was 2003 at the Kalamazoo Country Club. In other ways such as remembering our glorious honeymoon to St Lucia or the fact that we've had three kids, job changes and moves it seems that a good chunk of time has passed. I have had the privileged of working with patients who have been married sixty plus years. Each time I encounter these individuals I try and soak up as much wisdom as I can. I am simply in awe of two people being in relationship and living life for that long together! I always ask, "What is your secret to marriage?" Every.single.couple has said that communication and not sweating the small stuff is what held them together. Twelve years in, I completely agree.
Jeff and I have had a growing year in our marriage. I certainly acknowledge that twelve years in, especially in this season of smallish kids and the busyness they bring, it is very easy to get restless. The fact that Jeff and I have a solid ability to communicate has hand's down preserved our marriage this year. I can tell my husband anything and he is always there. Some of the things I have admitted to him over this year, I will tell you, would have made me question whether or not I was worthy to be his wife. So loving. So forgiving. So full of grace, this is my husband. What a lucky girl. We went to dinner tonight, with the kids, for wings and beers and over the chaos I looked at him and said, "So, twelve years in, why are you glad I am yours?" He said,as only Jeff Simpson can, " Because you keep my life so interesting!" and then chuckled a classic Simpson laugh. Truer words have never been spoken. I am grateful for a partner that continues to believe the best in me, that aspires the best for our family and that truly knows my intentions and helps me become a better me.
My goal for our marriage this year is to appreciate all I have. I spend a lot of my time wishing that I had a better marriage, better kids, better me. Why?! The life I have has blessed me beyond measure. Am I perfect, Is Jeff perfect? No. Do we make mistakes everyday..for sure. But, we love each other. We are committed to every day and every year and to whatever this crazy life brings us. I can't think of anything more amazing to appreciate and nurture than that!?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The truth about self care.

I knew when I took my new job that it would be depressing. Working five days a week with patients and their families discussing chronic disease and how they want to spend their final days, not exactly uplifting conversations. Hospice talks, code status talks, what it might be like when your COPD or CHF advances to the point that you will die. Tough stuff. It is very different than the work I did in the ER. ER social work is a lot of crisis, a lot of keeping your shit together in the moment because you literally can not fall apart. Plus, I worked part time in that role so I always had a few days to recover from the hardest days. I am realizing seven weeks into this new job how critical it is for me to make healthy choices in my work and personal life. I am also realizing that perhaps, it does not come naturally to me. I often leave work feeling very pensive and if truth be told, as I drive to get the kids from daycare and run them to various activities, I feel a sense of dread . I know there will be fights and grouchiness and running, running, running. I know that I truly won't have a moment to just be for several more hours and after spending most of my day in heaviness, I long for some downtime. But, this season of life does not allow for that and really, expecting that from my kids, who after all are just being kids, is not fair. Jeff said to me the other day, " I think sometimes you just get very overwhelmed by things that don't really need to be." TRUTH. It's like I can feel myself becoming edgy and I try and talk myself down from the inevitable freak out but another truth is bitchy Susan almost always prevails. By the end of the night, all I want is some wine. To dull the millions of thoughts that are racing through my head, to cancel out the sadness and pain I have dealt with all day. The thing about that is, for me, choosing wine every night is not an option. I have never tended to be a one glass kind of girl. I am not naive to think that if you know that about yourself that you won't end up with a problem, especially when you have such an emotionally tough job. I have far too many stories of times I have done and said stupid things when I have had too much wine or whatever drink fills the glass, and really at 40, there is no excuse for that. I will not be able to serve my family, my patients, my friends or my co-workers well if I don't take care of myself.
I have thought of all the things available to me that are healthy ways to chill. Reading is hands down one of my favorite. I love a good book! I love escaping to a new world though the eyes of an author! I love a good cup of tea! Lately I have been experimenting with new flavors and really tea can calm me down much better than wine. Exercise, taking 45 minutes to take a walk, with some good music as my companion, such a great stress reliever. I have found that when I take the time to invest in myself, I am able to be the mom I want to be. At the end of the day, that is the most important legacy I am investing in. Do I want my kids to remember their mom as a witch who needed a glass of wine to deal? Absolutely not.
Every day I see patients who are dealing with the consequences of their poor choices. I am not going to lie, it scares the hell out of me to think that I continue to make choices that have some crap consequences.
So, for now, I am taking it one day at at time. One good choice at a time.
 I am sure some of you who are reading are wondering why I am sharing these issues? I am sharing because I think the struggle is real for many of us. I wonder how other people handle their self care? You don't have to be a social worker to need to take a moment for yourself, right!? And I know I am not the only mom/forty year old woman who looks forward to her wine?! There are so many jokes about the woman needing wine. I see the humor in it but I think we need to be very careful not to normalize something that potentially could be and most likely is a huge struggle for lots of us! I suppose that is another post for another day! If you have any tips on ways you like to de-stress..I would like to hear them!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The new normal

I have been a blogging fool lately! I thought I would update how life has been going since I started my new role as the palliative care social worker at the hospital. I know that I  have mentioned that I love working days! Having a regular sleep scheduled has helped me have more energy and I think I am less grouchy:) (Jeff claims he has seen mild improvement!)  I still struggle with waking up 4-5 times a week at 4 in the morning, wide awake and am still dependent on sleep medications. I am weaning myself off of the Ambien though because that medication has contributed towards all sorts of crazy behavior. I have had full blown conversations with Jeff and other people, texted and eaten weird combinations of food whilst under an ambien spell! I try and only take it if I am really in a bind and have only one refill left and don't plan on drug seeking for more:) !
As far as my actual job, I am loving it. Palliative care allows for the privilege of helping patients and their families have input into what they want their care and in many circumstances, end of life to look like. It can be hard and it is complicated. I have said many times over the last six weeks that nothing complicates a life more than having it be under the magnifying glass of death and dying. I thought leaving the ER would mean less drama. Oh Lord, how wrong I was. The drama is plenty and many days I am literally left speechless. This role can be draining and I have to be careful to do healthy things and take care of myself. Some days I do want to just come home and have some wine! But, I also try and journal, read, blog, work out, drink some favorite hot tea or meet friends for dinner. Working as a medical social worker, in the ER, and in palliative care continues to remind me everyday how precious life is. Tomorrow is never a guarantee. Assisting and counseling patients and families in coming to terms with their own mortality can't but help me examine my own.  I have had many conversations with myself over the last few months where I am finally tired of making the same mistakes and am taking meaningful measures to knock off the crap that only  hurts me and my family. Jeff and I do not have our shit together at all when it comes to what would happen if one of us became suddenly ill or died. I realized how foolish this was when I worked in the ER but this job has made me all too aware of how important it is to have those discussions before something happens. We are slowly making our way towards planning and hopefully we won't need to look at it all again for a very long time.
I am certainly still finding my way in my new role. There have been some frustrations and certainly hard days. But, overall I am so happy with the changes! 

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

It is well..

So I have always struggled with Christian music. To me, a music enthusiast, it always seems to have a cheese factor that  I can't overlook. There are exceptions to the rule, Sara Groves and JJ Heller come to mind, I love their voices and their lyrics move me. About a year ago I heard a version of It is Well, one of my favorite hymns, by Kristene Dimarco , that is perhaps one of the most moving pieces of Christian music I have ever heard. This past weekend was Easter. Jeff and I took the kids to our old church for a few reasons. One of which was the church has recently hired a new pastor and we have heard great things about him. He was great. It was a great message and really what I needed to hear. The message was about how Christ came and died for our sins to release us from the power those sins hold over us. The pastor had several biggish rocks up on the stage and he put them in a backpack. As he added one and then another and another, you could see the weight of the rocks pulling on the backpack. The backpack analogy represented all the crap and sin we try and fill our backpacks and lives with. The most powerful part of the message was when the pastor said that what we need to do is bring our backpack, our rocks, our sin to the cross and and lay it before Christ. I had to laugh, because otherwise I would cry, at the thousands of times that I have tried to lay my stuff before Christ and then I find myself grabbing those dang rocks back and filling my backpack up again. I feel like Christ has to be thinking sometimes..WOMAN! Just leave the back pack here. It is all so unnecessary but I will fully admit those things that I fill my life with, at the time, seem to fill a need. I know that isn't true but it has been a struggle my entire walk with God to truly trust in him. It seems that I have a well worn trail between the cross and my own sinful nature. One of the lines in the song I talked about earlier is, "And through it all, through it all, my eyes are on you". Those words are so powerful to me. If I keep my eyes on Christ and the cross and things that are holy, I have a much better chance of leaving those rocks for good! Oh, how my soul longs for that. Unfortunately, my flesh is weak. There in lies the power of what Christ did for us on Easter. He died so I could be redeemed.  His grace is sufficient. And all I have to do is keep my eyes on him, through it all. Here is the video..enjoy!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Florida 2015

We are back from our vacation in Florida. We had a good time filled with sunshine and fun! I thought to recap for down the road when the memories of the trip fade, I would make a top ten list.

10. Watching the kid's faces during the flight to Florida. They were all so in awe of what was happening and thrilled to be on a plane. However, I did not enjoy everyone complaining that their ears hurt for HOURS after we got off the plane.
9. I remember that magical feeling when you get off the plane and you felt the change in climate. The humid air hits you and it feels like Florida is giving you a big, warm hug! Their reactions to palm trees and everything being green was cute too!
8. Having so much time together. Now, let's keep it real, all this togetherness definitely got tense at times, but overall, being with each other, non-stop for seven days was so good for our family.
7. Spending time with grandma and papa. We don't see them nearly enough and the kids loved hanging with grandma and papa.
6. Jeff got a round of golf in! This is a sport he loves but right now in this season of life, there isn't a lot of time for it.
5. We took a dolphin boat tour on Marco Island and not only got to see lots of dolphins but other sea life as well. The company that runs it does a great job of educating everyone on various sea life. The boat also docks at this little island and the kids were able to comb the beach for more shells. Mommy got to lay on the beach and soak in the rays!
4. Eating out! The kids love to eat out and we had lots of yummy food! Matthew, our seafood foodie was in heaven!
3. Spending the day at the beach with my good friend Liz and her family. We spent the entire day playing in the sand, swimming and then celebrated their 13 year daughter's  birthday with dinner and cake poolside.
2. Matthew got to go fishing at my friend's parents condo. They have a boat and are right on the water. Matt, Jeff and Liz's dad sat on the dock for about an hour and Matthew caught three fish. He was so excited and said it was his favorite part of the trip.
1.  This one certainly isn't my top memory, but sleeping in a queen size bed with Jeff without wanting to strangle him is a memorable moment from this trip.  We have had a king size bed for our entire marriage. Usually we really struggle in smaller beds because we are both so used to our own space. But, for some reason on this trip, we didn't mind being close and snuggling close to each other while we slept.
We are back in Portage now. We all slept wonderfully last night and in the interest of full disclosure, there was no snuggling last night. I have never been more excited to sleep in my own room, in our bed. The rest of the town has left for spring break because our school is on break this week. We have the weekend to get unpacked and organized and of course to celebrate Easter. Next week I return to the work I love. I have given some thought to what that will look like. Because my job is helping those with chronic disease and those that are dying, re-entry could be rough and depressing to say the least. I have decided rather than dwell on the depressing aspects of it all, I will move forward with gratefulness. Our family was at a place where we desperately needed a break from our everyday  lives. Jeff and I needed a week of spending time together and being close (even while we slept). We all feel more relaxed, more connected and renewed. For all of these things I am blessed and grateful. For those of you reading that are on Spring Break..enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Eve of..

40! Are you sick to death of reading about my impending birthday?! I know my husband, and I am sure many of my friends are! I can't help it, I have always loved my birthday. A day that truly you are able to make all about you, what fun! Tomorrow will be a regular day, filled with work and getting ready for our trip to FLORIDA on Thursday. I am so excited to escape this life here for awhile. Work has been heavy and life as we know, it even heavier. I can not wait to just "Be" somewhere that's not here! The sun, pool and beach certainly won't be hard to take either! Time to be with my husband and my kids. I am determined to just take each day as it comes and make fantastic, forever memories with the kids. They are so excited about their first flights and their first "real trip". This trip comes at a perfect time really, the day after such a milestone birthday.  Having time to renew my weary soul. Having moments of sweetness with my kids and my husband who has tolerated this crazy soul for 20 of my 40 years! A couple of nights ago after a tearful conversation I looked at him and said, "So how come you stick it out with me, Simpson?" He just smiled at me with that wise grin I have come to fiercely depend on. I think, in that moment,  I realized his love is the greatest gift this 40 year old could have ever received. Here's hoping to a magical time for us as we head out! See you when I am 40! And I hereby promise to never mention my birthday again...this year:)!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Caroline update

Not so long ago I wrote about the struggles our Caroline was having with self esteem. It has been eight months and I am happy to report Caroline is doing so much better. I think there are several things that have contributed towards her improvement. First of all, she began counseling and I think allowing her time to a time to vent her frustrations and process all her little mind was burdened with was huge. She loved Miss Laura, her therapist, and we almost immediately saw improvements. Secondly, Caroline began playing Kingdom soccer this Fall and she has become quite the little soccer player. Caroline's feisty spirit makes her a tough competitor. She has enjoyed getting to know the girls on her team and is one of the top scorers (can a mom brag a bit?!) Finally, Caroline has been blessed with the most amazing second grade teacher. Mrs. Barlow has poured self esteem and goodness into my sweet girl in so many ways. She appreciates Caroline's enthusiasm for school and genuinely enjoys being with Caroline. Words can never adequately express how grateful we are for the influence Mrs. Barlow has been in Caroline's life. Caroline continues to be strong willed and have a love/hate relationship with her sister which often causes angst in our house. We are continuously trying to teach the girls to effectively communicate and love each other.. Each day we all make mistakes and what I have tried to do is offer grace to the kids when they mess up because Lord knows this mom messes up all the time.
I have thought a lot about my own self-esteem issues the past few months. I know without a doubt that my insecurities about myself and lack of self-esteem have led me to some dark places. I want Caroline to embrace all that she is. I am hoping that if I can teach her to manage the parts of her personality that can cause her to struggle socially and emotionally that she will be a successful person. She certainly has the drive to accomplish anything she sets her mind to. I am so thankful that Caroline is happier and healthier today than she was in the Fall. Here's hoping we can continue to help shape our little spit fire's spirit and not break it!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

29 years

Jeff's dad has been gone 29 years today. I always gingerly talk about this topic with my husband who is a man of few but worthy words. Although I never knew Jeff's dad, I know he was an amazing father and husband. I know this from pictures and stories and the man my husband is. Sometimes when I think about the fact that he only had a father figure for eleven years, I am amazed. Jeff  is so patient and kind and loving with our kids. Parenting in many ways is effortless for Jeff. I wish it was so for me but I am beyond thankful that the father of my children is better at this than me. Sometimes you think life will be this way or that and well, it is so very different.
Jeff's dad taught him how to to love, how to parent, how to be a man in many ways. Although he only had eleven years with his son, he taught him well. Am I sad that my children will never know Papa Roger? Without a doubt. I know he would have added so much to their lives. But, I also know that life goes on. Jeff's mom is married to a wonderful man. Jeff and his clan would likely never have stayed in the Kalamazoo area if his father lived and it is likely I never would have met this man who has blessed me beyond measure. I have no doubt that Roger Simpson's spirit certainly lives on in his children and grandchildren. I think he would have enjoyed watching Matthew play hockey, negotiating any number of things with Caroline, dealing with our spunky Ellie. When I think of Jeff's dad, I imagine an older and wiser Jeff. I am sad that I never had the opportunity to meet this man that has greatly influenced my life. God rest you Papa Simpson!

Friday, March 06, 2015

40 /choices

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows I am turning 40 in a few weeks. I don't dread 40 and I don't think I dread growing older. There are good things that come with age like wisdom and discernment. I have only worked in palliative care social work for about a month now but the wisdom I have already gleamed from this position is beyond measure. I know this about life forty years in, life is all about the choices we make. From what you eat and drink to what you think and how you act. What kind of friend you are, what decisions you make as a mom, the love you show your spouse, how you interact with your co-workers, how you treat your patients when it isn't easy. All of these cumulative choices will one day leave a legacy. Death will come to all of us. One thing I know for certain is that you are never guaranteed a tomorrow. When my life is all said and done what will people say about me? Will they say that I did my best? Will my children remember a kind and loving mother? Will my husband remember a wife that loved and cherished him? Will patients and families I worked with remember me as helpful and empathetic? Will my friends remember me as someone who was there for them in all circumstances? Honestly, I can say, nope. Don't get me wrong, I have some redeeming qualities but I have so many things I can work on. If I died tomorrow I am afraid my kids would remember a mom that is quick to anger. My husband may say that I tend to makethe problems in our life one sided. I have already had so many discussions with patients that are facing the end of their life that have so many regrets. I do not want this to be my reality. I want to live a full life that added value to those who've known me. Sure, you aren't going to please everyone but overall I would like to know at the end of it all that I left the world a better place. Is this post a bit morose? In a word..yes. I blame palliative care, turning 40, the movie "The Judge" and some wine. I plan on making forty fabulous and full of righting the regrets I have from the first 40 years.. Happy Weekend! 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Life right now

Life right now is pretty darn sweet. I feel such contentment with how things are going with work and life and love. I am LOVING working days. It has only been three weeks but I can already feel the difference with how much being fully rested has helped me cope with the moments when, lets just say I am not feeling content:) We are settling into our new routines and so far, I think we are all happier with our new normal! Time to read, to work on homework, time to be up without passing out on the couch on my nights off!
I have just begun to orient with my team and my new position but so far I like it. Palliative care allows for thoughtful conversations to take place. It is very different from the ER in many ways but it is good. I was worried how I would feel about being in the hospital during the day after two years of the night shift but its been a nice change. It's nice to have other social workers around to talk to about certain patients or situations that are difficult. I am not naive to think that there will be no bumps in my road. I know I will make mistakes, and I am ready to learn, everyday , ways in which I can be the best palliative care social worker I can be.
The kids are focused on one thing right now...FLORIDA! We leave in 29 days (whose counting?) to go to Naples, Florida to spend a week at my parent's condo! We have many fun things planned including a dolphin tour, a major league baseball team training camp game, beach and pool trips. The kids can not wait to fly on a plane! I am excited to escape this winter hell and feel the warmth of the sun and be with my family.
My 40th birthday is 28 days away! 40! I am not afraid of 40! I feel for the first time in a long time, that I am finally getting my shit together. Like I said earlier, I am content. I love my husband, I feel so lucky to be married to a man who know everything about me, including some pretty ugly truths and mistakes, and  yet he loves me still. Being able to share my fears, my mistakes, my struggles with someone who gets it and gets me is something I certainly have taken for granted over the past few years. Jeff and I have had an opportunity through a series of situations to realize that at the end of the day, we get each other and we love each other. I have seen my quiet and reserved guy express his gratitude, love and support of me in some surprising ways over the last year.
Life can be hard at nearly 40. Life is usually about my kids, my patients, my husband. But, I have realized there are so many blessings in having people who depend and love you. There is such comfort in being married to a man whose known me for 20 years.  There is such hope in his continued faithfulness  and grace he has extended to me and our marriage. There is joy in being able to provide comfort for patients and their families in their darkest hours. I am blessed beyond measure.
Who knew that a fully rested Susan Simpson would be a happy and grateful girl?!

Monday, February 16, 2015


I feel like Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season came quickly this year. I just read a great article that a friend posted on Facebook about Lent. The article spoke about the importance of not only sacrificing and learning to go without, but to also look forward expectantly to the redemption of Christ. I love this time of year to  have an opportunity to spend more time prayerfully considering what my faith and Christ's sacrifice means to me. I tend to have lofty aspirations of all the ways I will change and grow throughout the days of Lent. I almost always fall short. This year, the timing of the Lenten season aligns wonderfully with my new schedule and the freedom it has brought me.  Although I work full time, I have already found that I am able to accomplish so much more with my time away from work. It is amazing what being full rested does for me. I often wake up around 5:30 a.m and I have loved having the time to enjoy a cup of coffee and usually I waste a lot of time reading blogs, checking my email or Facebook. I plan to devote this morning time by reading a devotional and simply spending time with God. I am leaving it relaxed because right now I just feel like God and I, we need to just BE with each other. I suspect if I show up, God will undoubtedly do the same and surprise me with what He wants to say to me. We've been acquaintances for awhile now, and I miss feeling that connection that daily meeting with God brings me.  My work has certainly made my thoughts of God never far from my mind. Working amongst the sick and the dying, especially when it is quick and often traumatic, brings my thoughts to the spiritual and religious aspects of life almost daily. I feel like my lack of discipline when it comes to working on my prayer and church life has only hurt me. As I have said before, God is always where He has been, right here, most likely shaking his head at this girl. Jeff and I have talked about recommitting ourselves to weekly church attendance. I would love to do a Lenten study with the kids. I want to be realistic about what is possible but not lazy or use busyness as an excuse to let these next weeks go by and end up the same person I am today.
I am hopeful and prayerful that once again redemption is mine for the taking, after all, isn't that what Easter and my faith is all about?

Saturday, February 07, 2015

All you need to know about eating healthy lies in nasty half and half....

I love coffee but I may love half and half even more. I would rather have the real stuff in my coffee and forgo other goodies. I use it regularly in my coffee and so I have never worried about it going bad. At the beginning of last week I was sure I was coming down with the stomach flu. After I had my coffee I just felt off. All day this feeling continued. I even called Jeff and said that the way I was feeling was reminiscent of the horrible morning sickness I experienced with all three of my pregnancies. Jeff was horrified at even the mention of another baby which for all intensive purposes can not occur anyways. As the week went on I continued to make coffee and use my half and half and then feel sick. You would think at some point, EARLIER in the week, I would have put two and two together,  that maybe the half and half was bad ,but nope!  You see ,that's why I had to get off third shift, I walk around in a fog unable to discern that there was a direct correlation between the cream and feeling yuck. Finally, on Thursday, I thought, you know maybe it is the half and half? I took a smell and oh my lord..horrible. I can't believe it wasn't curdling in the coffee, that's how bad it was. I can't believe I never actually got sick and just felt nauseous.
I immediately threw away the container and bought some fresh half and half and you can bet I will be smelling that stuff everyday to check for freshness. This situation had me think about the healthy changes I have made to my diet since June. I am still doing my diet but admittedly was "off the rails" for a large portion of the holiday season. Amazingly I did not gain any weight and am continuing to lose, although if I would have stuck to the protocol of the diet, I would be at my goal weight by now! There were several times over this period of eating poorly that I have felt yucky. Ever since my surgery, if I eat too much sugar I have what I call, "blood sugar attacks." One of those attacks is exactly what caused me to become faint on my first day of work in the ER! You would think sustaining a concussion and stitches would make you realize that you need to fill your body with healthy fuel. But, as I continue on this journey, I am realizing that for me, eating healthy and making the right choices is a daily, sometimes minute to minute struggle. Once I go astray I tend to take the attitude of, "Well, to hell with it! Bring on the queso!" The metaphor of the creamer resonated with me because I literally felt horrendous when I was putting something "bad" in my body and as soon as I figured it out there was NO way I would have ever had another cup of coffee with that creamer in it. Yet, when I eat other "bad" foods, I justify it.
I met with my weight loss coach last week and felt encouraged and proud of myself for getting it together enough post holidays that I am down overall. I am motivated to push on to my goal weight by May. I  have my fortieth and Spring Break as well as my cousin's wedding to keep me motivated and my eyes on the prize. Mostly,I think that realizing and owning that it will always be a struggle for me to do the right then when it comes to food, is my biggest accomplishment. I realize without changing how my brain thinks about it all, my actions will go back to what I have known my whole life.
Of course there are many life metaphors in all of this too. To take each day one day at a time. To learn from my mistakes and realize what is "bad" and what is "good" and just how much is in your life? What are you doing that is adding value? What am I doing that is detrimental to me?  To seek to make the best decisions I can, to give myself some grace, and sometimes to realize I am doing the best I can and that is all anyone can really do.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015


Two blog posts in the same week, what is going on?! Lots on my mind, that is what. I have only one night left at my job in the ER. I can't even think about it too much because I am so, so sad to move on from what will certainly be one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. But, as I said in an earlier post, this change is needed for our family. I am excited but nervous. New people, new challenges, new patients, a new level of social work practice. The kids will have to adjust to more daycare, which they will be the first to tell you, they are not thrilled about. The weeks will be crazy as we adjust to these changes in the morning and afternoon while still having the craziness of our winter sports to contend with.
There are lots of good changes to look forward too as well. Sleeping at night, every night! Being able to go to hockey and soccer and all those other sports. Cozy Sundays at home. SLEEPING AT NIGHT!:) I think the kids will get used to after care and I am hopeful that we will find a great nanny to help us out this summer. Jeff will certainly like that I am not exhausted and able to help more with the routines of homework and bedtime. I am sure there will be some hiccups, and maybe a few tears, but six months from now I hope and pray that we will all say, this is better, this is good, this was right.
And if not I know one thing for certain I will forever be grateful that once again I am SLEEPING AT NIGHT!(Can you tell I am over the moon about that change?!)

Monday, February 02, 2015

Lucky thirteen

Jeff and I will be married for thirteen years this April! We met each other in 1995, March 31st, was our first date. It did not end well. Many years of chasing, by me ensued, and I finally landed my guy in 1999. Seventeen years with this guy. I have written before in this space of how I naive I was about marriage. I thought I had it all figured out! Oh, what a foolish girl I was. Thirteen years, three kids and lots of life has happened to us as a couple. Again and again, I am realizing how blessed beyond measure I am. Jeff gets me. He knows me better than I know myself and is fiercely loyal. He is the calm in any storm we weather, the voice of reason when his wife wants to lose her shit, the perspective I need when I am weary beyond thinking past today. He has supported me through graduate school and the last two years of working nights. He has never complained about the additional work my job has demanded of him. He is the best father around. Our children are so blessed to have such a dedicated, loving and patient man to call their dad!
I have always teased Jeff about his ambivalence about music. I love music and have always laughed at Jeff's light rock taste! The song we danced to at our wedding was Marc Cohn's True Companion. I really haven't given much thought or even heard the song much in the past thirteen years, but as I wrote this post, the song came flooding back to me. As I listened, I realized how perfect it was, thirteen years ago and now. I am fortunate to be married to my true companion.

Baby I've been searching like everybody else
Can't say nothing different about myself
Sometimes I'm an angel and sometimes I'm cruel
When it comes to love, I'm just another fool
Yes, I'll climb a mountain
I'm gonna swim the sea
There ain't no act of God, girl
Could keep you safe from me
My arms are reaching out
Out across this canyon
I'm asking you to be my true companion
True companion, true companion
So, don't you dare and try to walk away
I've got my heart set on our wedding day
I've got this vision of you girl in white
Made my decision that it's you alright
When I take your hand
I'll watch my heart set sail
I'll take my trembling fingers
And I'll lift up your veil
Then I'll take you home and with wild abandon
Make love to you just like a true companion
You are my true companion
I got a true companion, oh, true companion
When the years have done irreparable harm
I can see us walking slowly arm in arm
Just like that couple on the corner do
Girl, I will always be in love with you
When I look in your eyes
I'll still see that spark
Until the shadows fall
Until the room grows dark
Then when I leave this Earth
I'll be with the angels standin'
I'll be out there waitin' for my true companion
Just for my true companion
True companion, true companion
Thank you Jeff for being my rock, the calm in the storm, my true companion. And, today's cheesiness has commenced! :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

10 is heaven..

I am always very honest with anyone who will listen to me whine about how I have struggled with parenting. Even as the time when my kids were babies and toddlers becomes years ago, I still sometimes cringe at the angst those years brought me. Diapers, colic, a crazy little boy that didn't like to talk but liked to run from mom, three kids under the age of four, everyone having the pukes at the same time, and the list goes on and on. Sure there are happy memories from those days but if I am being honest, I am not removed enough from the tough stages to look back idealistically to that season.  Plus, I still have a five year old so I have plenty of temper tantrums to deal with too!
But, I can't help but get excited as Matthew nears ten, at what lies ahead for me in parenting. Matthew and I, we get each other. We have great talks, he is becoming such a little man and it is much easier for me to deal with ten year old issues than it was when he was two and three. My patience is certainly able to hang in there for ten year old mischief than that of my five year old. We've begun to have discussions about drinking and life issues that will all too soon come our boy's way. Matthew is thoughtful and realistic about how he would approach peer pressure, bullying, feeling left out, and other third grade boy issues. It gives me such hope that one day I will be able to better relate with all of my children and not feel that I am miserably failing them.
I have really been struggling with parenting lately. The girls fight and sometimes it seems that they fight 100% of the time they are awake. It is draining to say the least. Add in their feisty temperaments and ability to wear mom and dad down to beyond exhausted and you have a recipe for a pretty miserable household some days. I said to Jeff the other night, "How can I be a social worker and suck so bad at this parenting crap?" and I think I added.." I am so over this shit."  Jeff, being the voice of calm and reason and optimism said something like, "It will get better." Then I freaked out and said.."YOU'VE BEEN SAYING THAT FOR 8 YEARS!!" But, after sometime alone I thought about Matthew and how it doesn't always seems so overwhelming anymore with him. Sure, his temperament differs from the girl's but he has his moments too. I am hopeful as everyone gets older and hopefully wiser year to year that this mom might finally find her parenting groove ten years in. I have to hope for that because some days the struggle is all too real. It has impacted me in so many ways. It's shaped how I view myself, my friendships, my marriage, myself as a professional.  Lately it has made me want to just withdraw from everyone but our little family unit because I am sick of feeling judged with how the kids act or how I handle it. I just want to be able to BE. I know everyone means well and has their own approaches for parenting, ahem, my mom, but sometimes you don't really care what anyone else thinks because all you are hearing is.."Since you apparently suck so bad at this, let me offer some friendly advice.: I know I suck at this. At least I own it and I haven't given up yet! After all, one day everyone in this house will turn ten!