Just Heather

Today is our 6th anniversary. Sort of. It’s our fake anniversary. Our renewal anniversary.

Spencer and I have been married for 18 years. 18 really long, terribly emotional, overly erratic years. But we made it. There was a time when we almost didn’t. Many other times when it could easily have gone the other direction.

Several years ago, we took steps to reconnect and recommitted ourselves to one another. So when the opportunity for a business trip to Vegas came up, we did the only thing we could. We got (re)married in a wedding chapel with Elvis as our officiant.

Our vow renewal was silly and tacky and tons of fun. But it was also incredibly meaningful. The venue and ceremony was a joke — something silly we always said we should have done the first time.

The vows were totally not. We take our vows very seriously around here. We called it Sokol Wedding 2.0 — and that just about sums it up because it’s better in absolutely every way. That’s not to say that things are perfect.

We are still flawed people with our own issues who often fail to communicate properly. We still argue and fight and forget to actively love one another. We went almost two solid weeks without speaking just last year. But we are more confident in our commitment. We fix things without question now. We turn towards each other more often than we pull apart. I know when every storm passes, he’ll still be there holding my hand.

Because this time, neither one of us is willing to let go.

Today is my dad’s 60th birthday. I’m feeling a little guilty because we threw our mom an epic 60th birthday bash last month. All I’ve got for Dad is the annual phone call and “my dad is awesome” Facebook post. 


But, he really is awesome, and I wanted to do a little something more for such a milestone birthday. I’m a writer, which he sometimes thinks is kinda cool, so here is a birthday listicle for Dad: 60 reasons my dad is cooler than yours:

  1. He insisted we didn’t need to include him in Mom’s birthday party because he wanted the night to be all about her. 
  2. He still asks me if I need gas money when we travel to visit them. 
  3. He plays ball outside with his grandkids, even though he’s usually sore for days afterwards. 
  4. Two words: kickball video
  5. He is never afraid to apologize. I definitely did not get that particular personality flaw from my dad. 
  6. He is still completely in love with my mom — his high school sweetheart. Sometimes it’s gross.
  7. He really did drill us with table manners and etiquette but mostly just laughs when it turns out the lessons didn’t stick. 
  8. He took me to lunch after I got engaged to express his concern, but he has zero problem admitting how wrong he was and embracing my husband as one of his own. 
  9. He once introduced himself to my neighbor as “Spencer’s dad.” That’s how much my husband has become part of his family.
  10. He is such a huge Colts fan that my mom painted the living room blue and decorated it with fan gear.
  11. When Peyton left the team, he was sad but refused to become a Denver fan. Broncos decor is not allowed in the Colts room. 
  12. He later bought my mom an orange Manning jersey even though he thought it was ridiculous.
  13. Family legend tells of the one Scrabble game my dad lost (very loudly) at 3am. He still contends his best friend cheated.
  14. He also doesn’t often lose at Words with Friends. 
  15. He taught me to play euchre when I was 13 so I wouldn’t be left out on the marching band bus. That game is basically how I made friends in college. It’s a marketable skill in Indiana. 
  16. When anyone complains about my driving, he is quick to my defense and swears I drive exactly how I was taught. By him. 
  17. After he spent a month trying to teach me to drive the stick shift he accidentally bought, he sold it and bought a replacement without a word.
  18. And laughed when he found out Spencer later taught me in a single evening on one of our early dates. 
  19. After a series of not-a-dates with a guy friend of mine, my dad told me it’s never a date without a kiss goodnight. I hold my husband to that definition to this very day.
  20. He doesn’t talk much, but when he does, it’s powerful and meaningful. 
  21. He’s on Facebook nearly everyday but hardly ever posts. 
  22. When he does, it’s novel length. 
  23. And always grammatically correct. 
  24. His laugh is infectious. It’s a good thing we all inherited his sense of humor so we can hear it often. 
  25. Family is the most important thing in his life. It’s an amazing feeling to know you’re the center of someone’s world. 
  26. If you’re his, you’re his for life. 
  27. He’s the decider. Mostly, he doesn’t care what we do, where we choose to go, or who makes the decisions. But when there’s a conflict, he will put his foot down, and all decisions are final. 
  28. He never goes to bed without goodnight kisses for everyone. If we’re at his house at bedtime, there are kisses all around. 
  29. No one laughs harder than my dad at Pixar movies. I’ve also never seen anyone cry as much. Both are equally amazing. 
  30. He absolutely hates cats, but their home hasn’t been without one since I got my first. 
  31. He has a smartphone he can barely use, but he will talk to text like nobody’s business. 
  32. I grew up with a solid moviecation because there is nothing my dad won’t watch. 
  33. He has seen Notting Hill dozens of times but never all the way through. 
  34. He and Spencer once bought each other the DVD for Christmas after a year of that joke. We have still never watched Notting Hill.  
  35. “That’s what she said.” should probably be a little creepy from someone his age, but it’s not. It’s hilarious. 
  36. He was always the loudest parent in the stands shouting encouragement, coaching, and instructions. My sister tells me this is less cool when you are a cheerleader and Dad is leading the cheer block. 
  37. Free watermelons and cantaloupes are a major job perk, but if you ask for “a few,” empty your car because you’re getting at least twelve. 
  38. Dad has the largest penny collection I’ve ever seen because he is convinced they will be deminted in his lifetime and worth something. 
  39. He actually collects a lot of change just from emptying his pockets at night and was not even a little surprised at how quickly his quarters added up when I moved out. 
  40. He’s got all the corny dad jokes because he’s such a mushroom. He really is a fungi. Just ask him. 
  41. He doesn’t always understand the issues we face with adoption, celiac disease, or depression, but he reads every article I send him in an effort to learn more. 
  42. He’s really hard to shop for because he legitimately does not comprehend why someone would want to buy him gifts. 
  43. Whatever he’s playing, he gives it his all. Some may call that “too competitive.” I call it having a dad who was cool enough to teach me to play for keeps. 
  44. I always joke that I’ve been disappointing my father since that time I was born without a penis, but he really did an amazing job raising three strong, independent women. 
  45. He once requested a stocked toolbox for Christmas, for “all the people who fix things at [his] house.”
  46. He and his siblings took over caring for their dad when my grandma died. Without thought, without complaint, my dad is there whenever he needs to be. 
  47. He never goes back on his word. 
  48. When I jokingly reminded him of a bet we made in high school over straight As for a television I never got, he bought me a new tv. Even though I was married with children at the time. 
  49. My mom cooked dinner six nights a week; Dad was in charge of Sundays. He became an expert at bacon or fried bologna sandwiches. 
  50. He also made a mean microwaved cheese and mustard sandwich when he was in charge of packing lunches. Mom didn’t let him pack lunches all that often. 
  51. He also rocks out anything covered in Velveeta. Nothing beats his cheesy potatoes or mac & cheese. 
  52. From dancing on his toes to goofy moves with the teens, my dad has seriously sweet dance moves. 
  53. He leaves all birthday and Christmas shopping up to Mom, but he came up with our “Thanksgiving present” all on his own to support our Black Friday shopping experience. 
  54. He reads almost all the same books as his kids, even when they’re about sparkly, teenage vampires. 
  55. No matter now busy his life is, he always makes time for his kids — even when that meant coaching first base with a cell phone in hand. 
  56. I was actually taught English as a second language; I am most fluent in the sarcasm learned at my father’s knee. 
  57. He taught me from a very early age never to give up. That hallway must have looked real long to a one-year-old, but Dad stood me right back up at the end every time I fell down, until I finally learned to walk. 
  58. I work harder than necessary to make him proud, but only because I know he truly believes I can do anything, and I want so badly for him to be right.
  59. He is in charge of the remote at all times, unless his grandkids are around. They get to watch whatever they want all day. 
  60. He is probably crying right now because even though we don’t say it often enough, he knows how very much he is loved. 

This is my cousin, Lori. Growing up next door, we spent most of our summers together — outside in one of our yards, playing sports, or swimming in our grandparents’ pool. We got on the bus together every morning. We played together every afternoon. We played outside on Saturdays. We had dinner together at our grandparents on Sundays. We frequently spent the night together.

And now, we fight cancer together.

Over the years, Lori and I have stayed in touch through text messaging, Facebook, and Instagram while she lived in Florida. It was hard to have someone that was such a part of my daily life living days away. Sure, we had our own families and lives, and I wouldn’t have seen her often even if she’d stayed in our hometown, but there’s just something about knowing your family is home that settles your heart.

She and her family had just decided to come home again when Lori was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was alone at the doctor’s office, finalizing the movie and waiting to join her husband in Indiana, when she learned of her diagnoses. Four days later, she was loaded up and on the road to Indiana.

I can’t imagine her going through this anywhere but home.

Her mom and dad are right there to help take care of her. Her brother can drive an hour to be with her during chemo. My mom can watch her kids during her treatments. Friends and family can bring meals or just give her a hug. Because she’s home — where her family can be a part of the fight.

Where people know her. Where things like #TeamLori become a community endeavor.

A few months ago, the family ordered pink Team Lori bracelets and began a campaign for those near and far to show their support for Lori. You guys, they gave me a prop and a hashtag. It’s like everything I’ve ever done was leading to this very moment. I might not be right there in our hometown to help, but I can make her smile with ridiculous pictures all over town.

#TeamLori at graduation. #TeamLori with blue hair. #TeamLori in the treetops. #TeamLori at the ball diamond. #TeamLori on tour has been my summer mission.

And then her son’s team blew every one of my pics out of the water. After winning the championship game, the boys all changed into pink #TeamLori t-shirts to surprise her. It brought us all to tears. I am so very grateful she has that kind of support in our hometown.

I hope she draws strength from every offer to help, even when she doesn’t accept it. I hope she sees each silly photo as a hug, even when I’m not around to give it. And, I hope she knows I would do anything to help her through this.

Lori is approaching the end of her chemotherapy, and things are looking really good so far. She looks amazing. Her doctors seem pleased. And, it seemed like the perfect time to participate in a fund-raising campaign in her honor.

I joined the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pink Sweater so I could share our story and raise money to truly help fight breast cancer. The recipient of the funds raised through the pink sweater project is Pink Ribbon Connection, a local organization that whose mission is to provide emotional support, local resources, and education to those touched by breast cancer across Indiana.

I couldn’t think of a more fitting organization. Support and resources right here at home? It’s exactly why I’m so glad Lori packed her own suitcase and moved to Indiana. I would love if you would join me in the sisterhood by making a donation to the Pink Ribbon Connection — in honor of my cousin or someone you love who is also fighting breast cancer.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pink Sweater project will continue through September 15th, and the fundraising results will be tallied. Please follow the pink sweater as its journey continues — my friend Katy from Indy With Kids has taken possession of the lovely vintage suitcase and will be blogging her own story soon.

A few months ago, there was a big hullabaloo when some magazine used a cancer survivor’s race photo to make fun of “women thinking tutus make them run faster.” I no longer even remember the magazine nor do I care enough to look it up. But, I did find the whole thing completely ridiculous, even beyond the outrage over it all.

Tutus are not about being faster. Silly race socks are not about speed. A running skirt won’t make me fly. But dressing up for a race makes it a lot more fun. In a costume, I can be someone completely different. I can be a runner — who would have thought?

Today, I visited the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon Expo to pickup my race packet and walked through the vendor booths. I collected a little swag, stopped by to thank McDonald’s for their support of my efforts, and checked out a few shops, not at all intending to buy anything.

And then I saw them. Wonder Woman race socks. Complete with a cape. You guys! I have been wanting these for ages, but I have never found them anywhere and have yet to justify ordering them. But there they were — and I had birthday money in my pocket!

I’m kinda regretting that I didn’t buy the matching tutu, but I am now the proud owner of Wonder Woman socks . And you know what? They will make me run faster. Because this time, I was content to walk this 5K. I’ve been such a slacker about training, but I’m going to give running my best shot anyway.

Because I want to see those capes fly. (Someone take a picture; I can’t actually see behind me.) Whatever it takes, right?

Disclosure: Mcdonald’s of Central Indiana has provided benefits, including free Finish Line 500 Festival 5K registration, an ArchCard, a t-shirt, and giveaway products in exchange for my participation in this campaign.

I was doing pretty well with my kinda, sorta moderation and my barely there, slacker fitness. I had lost 5 pounds in two weeks. And then it was Easter.

Easter candy is my greatest weakness — Cadbury Caramel eggs, Peeps, chocolate bunnies, and the greatest candy ever created, Reese’s eggs. I was doing well with one (okay, two) pieces each day, with a little exercise on the side. But suddenly, it was all just there. Easter baskets full, clearance shelves well-stocked, and my cart suddenly full.

For a solid week, I basically gorged on Easter candy. The good news is, it’s nearly gone, so I can start over again. The bad news is I gained 2 pounds. In a week. Once I realized it, my eating went back to “normal” with candy in moderation.

That’s the key with all of it — moderation. While I once drank soda all day, every day, I now allow myself one every day or so. And while I used to eat candy whenever I wanted, I now try to stick with one treat per day. I don’t have a lot of indulgences, really.

Most of the day, it’s all about the rest of my family. I work to pay the bills. I drive kids all over town. I keep track of the family calendar. I make sure the team uniforms are cleaned in time for every game. Sweets are the one, small thing I keep just for me. A Sunkist to get me going each day and a treat to end each night.

It keeps me sane. It gives me something to look forward to. It gives me a few seconds of bliss in a chaotic day of appointments and kid activities. I just have to make sure it stays that small. So far, so good. I’ve maintained my weight for the last week, even though I still have a few Peeps left in my stash.

The workouts and running that I have to begin again will have that weight back off (hopefully) quickly. And I have another year before the Easter candy becomes a problem again. We’ll deal with Halloween candy when we come to it.

Disclosure: Mcdonald’s of Central Indiana has provided benefits, including free Finish Line 500 Festival 5K registration, an ArchCard, a t-shirt, and giveaway products in exchange for my participation in this campaign.

I go through phases with my fitness goals. I’ll be pushing hard for awhile, and then nothing. The key, really, is getting up again and starting over. And over. And over. It doesn’t matter how many times I fall or how many Reese’s eggs I eat. What really matters is that I get up and start moving again. Eventually.

The hubby wrote about the same thing for his first post — just get back to it, every time. So that’s what I have done all month. I started over again when I decided to run the 500 Festival 5K. I started over again after I was sick for 2 weeks. And, I’ll keep starting all over again no matter how many times it takes.

I don’t consider it yo-yoing at all. I think it’s more about being realistic. There will always be things that get in the way. I will always have times when I just don’t want to. And that’s totally okay. If I beat myself up over it and start to feel like a failure, I’ll fail.

Instead, I just start again when I’m ready.

And again when that one doesn’t stick. I’m going to keep coming back — not because I still have more weight to lose (I do) or because other people think I should (they probably do). I’m going to keep coming back because fitness is like an old, childhood friend.

It’s always there for me when I need it. It always makes me smile when we reconnect. And it never judges the fact that I haven’t called in awhile. It’s comfortable and comforting and all sorts of adjectives that keep us connected despite the time between our last visits.

But next time? Let’s try not to stay away so long.

Disclosure: Mcdonald’s of Central Indiana has provided benefits, including free Finish Line 500 Festival 5K registration, an ArchCard, a t-shirt, and giveaway products in exchange for my participation in this campaign.

Four weeks ago, I was supposed to start a campaign with McDonald’s of Central Indiana as I began training for a 5K they’re sponsoring this weekend. I weighed in (yuck), started tracking my nutrition and fitness, and titled my first post. Slacker Fitness.

And then I proceeded to do almost nothing for 4 weeks. Do I rock at slacking, or what?

That wasn’t exactly the intention, of course. I didn’t mean to get derailed and literally do nothing. But, that’s a story for another day. My original point was about making real progress with minimal effort. I didn’t start a rigorous fitness program. I didn’t suddenly start training for a marathon. I didn’t obsess over calories or eliminate everything I loved from my diet.

I simply started doing something. Anything. Just a little. I downloaded Quick Fit to my phone and began a daily, 7-minute exercise program. I started running just a little. A mile here, a mostly walked 5K there. And I was paying attention to what I ate again — even if that did mean logging every single Reese’s egg into My Fitness Pal.

And I lost weight immediately. Every day, the scale dropped just a little bit. It was encouraging, and I even through in a 2nd, 4-minute workout now and then. Okay, once. (Slacker, remember?) It all went really well for the first week, but before I could finish writing about it, I was down for the count with the worst sinus infection I’ve had in awhile.

Three weeks later, I’m back in the game. Totally unprepared for a 5K in 4 days, but completely ready to do it anyway. This week, I’ll be chronicling my panic as the race draws closer, finishing with a race recap on Saturday afternoon. After my nap. (Did you know the 500 Festival race started at 6:45 in the morning?)

Disclosure: Mcdonald’s of Central Indiana has provided benefits, including free Finish Line 500 Festival 5K registration, an ArchCard, a t-shirt, and giveaway products in exchange for my participation in this campaign.

On Monday night, my grandmother passed away. Her husband of 63 years held her hand, and she was surrounded by her children and several grandchildren. The room was full of sadness as we said goodbye, but it was also full of love and prayer, exactly the way she would have wanted.

Nana leaves behind 6 children and their spouses, 16 grandchildren and our spouses, and 24 great-grandchildren. 24.5, really. I know the upcoming birth of my cousin’s baby will be bittersweet when Nana isn’t there to hold her.

20130926-092953.jpgShe was a champion baby snuggler, an amazing cook, and a mother or grandmother to anybody who needed one. That’s the legacy she leaves behind — family, by blood or by love, is second only to God.

Nana bought me my first Bible, taught me how to make noodles, and showed me that traditions make memories.

She will be there every time I serve a home cooked meal to a crowd, every holiday when I choose the same menu year after year, and every Sunday when I go to church, though I have a Bible app these days instead.

Things will continue to grow and change, but she will live on in our hearts. She will live on in our kindness. She will live on in our willingness to set an extra plate. She will live on in our service.

My grandma dutifully served God, the church, her husband, and her family — with a smile on her face and love in her heart. And I want to be just like her when I grow up.


Barbara J. Smith

March 2, 1930-September 23, 2013