Anderson-Messeder Holiday Card 2018

Another Year passed already!

 

As I write this in early December 2018, Tom is 21. Gabby is 19. Kieran is 18, and Devin is 15. It’s been an interesting year. When I sat down to decide how to write this year’s e-card, I quickly glanced at a few older ones and had to chuckle about how I continue to write that the current year has been a growing experience for me. I can say without a doubt it’s again true this year, more true than ever. It’s been tough, but I’ve also enjoyed every small step of the way – even the ugly ones… because this is it. It’s the only life we have and we are to experience and take in whatever it brings with it.

 

For me it was the year of PTSD, running, and blogging more than ever. Here is a quick highlight from each season for our gang –

 

WINTER

January – always the opportunity for a new start. It’s a cold and dark time of year. This one kicked off with my brother Mario coming to stay with us for a while, trying his hand at Uber and beginning a new life. Tom moved back home from college and started working locally. Daren & I took a birthday present trip (for Kieran’s 18th) to NYC to see the Opera Tosca. Daren made his first batch of beer. In February I went on a work trip on weekend with Daren to Austin, TX where we had the WORST wine tasting ever. Koji hurt his paw and was on limited duty for a few weeks. In March Daren and I went to Costa Rica with a great group of folks from my yoga studio, and then on another work trip that I accompanied him to down to New Orleans, LA. We spent as many weekends as we could in Branford, and at the end of March brought in the new season of renters, but not before we got back down to the city for Devin’s birthday present from his girlfriend who took him to see an Islander’s Game while we enjoyed some grown up time (eating Ethiopian).

 

Winter Blogs:

On Giving Gifts that Heal this Holiday Season

On the Mysterious Secret of Slowing Down

Lexapro Journal (Continued)

 

SPRING 

The weather started warming up (just a little at first). The sun shone for more hours. We took a few trips down to Long Island to visit our families. The outdoor work began at both houses. We did not plant a garden this year (surgery for me), but did create an attractive herb garden off the back porch. Gabby came home from college for the summer and took up a job at Stop & Shop (where she also works at URI) as well as weeding during the day for one of her friend’s from high school’s father’s landscaping company. Mario moved along to work with our cousin Paco who opened a pizza kiosk in New York City, just a block away from Columbus circle. Kieran had his senior prom and graduated from high school. I had carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand. Daren and I took a long weekend and went to York, Maine (my birthday present). Tom bought his first car on his own (used of course) and officially stopped going to college for now. Devin completed his first year at Cheshire High School. I completed a 500-hour yoga teacher certification in June.

 

Spring Blogs:

On the Wonder of: What’s wrong with me?

A Frigid New England Morning

On The Monkey Mind vs Spirit

On Our Human Inchoate Brain

On the Sound of Silence

On a Song for Someone

On Vagueness

On the Sun, Moon & Tides

On Being AWOL Through Life

On Understanding Panic Disorder

 

SUMMER

As the summer rolled around the days were officially hot and long. Tom and Gabby worked their summer jobs. We hit up one of the concerts on U2’s latest tour. Daren & I went to Branford for a few weeks but it was cut short by a really bad episode (PTSD related by yours truly) which is how I will pretty much remember this entire year unfortunately. The good part is that I finally took my diagnosis seriously and started pretty intensive treatment. From that point on it is fair to say it’s been my sole focus. Daren, his father, Kieran, and Devin took a 12 day sailing trip along the coast from Mystic to Nantucket and back. My girlfriend Sherrie and I went on a long weekend getaway to an all Women grown up version of camp up in the Berkshires. Around this time I became a bit more serious about running and self-care as well. I spent a lot of time on the trail that is 1.25 miles from our door. I finally got out to NYC to see the pizza kiosk Mario worked in this summer with my friend Lucy & her daughter (before he took up an even better painting job). In August Kieran and Gabby packed up for college. Kieran to Harvard as a freshman and Gabby back to URI as a sophomore. This semester Gabby moved into a beach house with 3 other roomies. I underwent carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand and spent time in recovery blogging and painting with my left hand. Daren and I took a trip to Nantucket after a brief stop in Boston for a work function he had.

AUTUMN

The start of autumn was still incredibly warm for a while. The days however were getting shorter, and the trees more colorful. We did a LOT of weekend traveling this fall. I began by going down to Florida to visit with my aunt Fran who was also hosing my cousin Camille who I hadn’t seen since 1992! It was really special to spend time with them. Daren and I spent our anniversary by going back to Jonathan Edwards where we got married and had a wonderful long weekend in Mystic. We also got out to Cambridge a few times to see Kieran, and down to New York City again to see the Nutcracker and enjoy a truly Nordic meal at Aquavit. Daren had an unexpected trip the ER one lovely Sat eve (kidney stones). The fall baking took place, followed by the fall planting, and then lots of holiday baking! It only got colder and darker as the weeks went by. We had our first snow in mid-November. We’ve hiked a bit, me more so than Daren. I’ve continued to run, topping out at 18 miles for the longest run and shooting for 10Ks for my “short” runs. I’ve also been spending a lot of time by the dark windows meditating and contemplating the beauty of the earth. It’s a beautiful pastime at sunrise and sunset.

Autumn Blogs:

Life in the Slow Lane

On “Her Story”

On the Fluctuating Gunas (The What???)

On Why I Love Teleworking

On the Harvest and our Minds

On Fear and Suffering

On Navigating with Love

On the Possible Spiritual Aspect of Halloween

Rainy November Morning Walk in New England

How I’m Choosing Who to Vote For

Hygee (Hoo Guh) & How I Plan to Embrace Winter this Year

A PTSD Triggered Morning

Weekend in New York City

And speaking of sunsets – … the sun is now setting on 2018. Happy Holiday Season from our family to yours.

~Anderson-Messeder crew

 

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On Giving Gifts that Heal this Holiday Season

After food, shelter and clothing; true lasting joy and peace can ONLY come from within. No toy, car, phone, pet, room, house, grade, job, college, friend, significant other, anything… can ever bring true happiness. It sounds so cliché, but it’s true and sages have been saying it for thousands of years.

Advertisement and modern society tells us something different. A few gifts can help to bring this inner joy. This is my own concoction of gifts that can help bring forth that inner joy. The secret is that you have to be willing to give these gifts to both yourself and others.

 

  1. Acceptance

Acceptance of what is.

When I was 15 I found a Yin Yang charm on the beach. I didn’t know what it was, but I liked it. I strung it along some fishing line with black beads I somehow had, and held it together with a safety pin as a clip. I wore it for years around my neck, like a thin choker that was popular in the early 90s. A few years later one evening at my church’s youth group, I sat across a boy who was in my circle of friends but I had never talked to very much. We both sat backwards on some chairs off to the side while our friends chatted and danced. At some point during the conversation he reached over to my neck and touched the Yin Yang. He asked me if I knew what the symbol meant. I didn’t. He explained. I loved it even more. We dated all through my senior year.

It is my favorite symbol because it says it all with a simple circle. The world is made up of opposites, and they always circle back to one another at their extreme. We can only understand an expression through the existence of its opposite (hot/cold, dark/light, happy/sad, health/disease, love/hate, summer/winter, life/death etc). These things all exist naturally, are a part of the universe we live in; they ALL belong, and we should expect them to show up. That means there is nothing wrong with disappointment, sadness, anger, something not working, or any “negative” expression or feeling. It should come as no more of a surprise as joy, love, things going as planned, or “positive” feelings. There is no fighting this natural, universal law, and expecting anything different only causes disappointment.

How does that translate into real life? When we aren’t happy it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with us. When someone is grumpy or annoyed (even if it’s with you), it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them or you. Pretending a negative feeling isn’t so, or trying to change an outcome or a mood is unnatural; not to mention completely exhausting.

Acceptance of what is doesn’t mean accepting nonsense in your life OR that it’s ok to make the same mistakes over and over. Accept, learn, & grow. That means changing what you have control over, letting go of what you can’t and having the wisdom to know the difference.  Someone coined that long ago.

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  1. Let go

Let go of contempt and forgive.

Oh… so much easier than it sounds. Regret and lack of forgiveness can seriously block true inner happiness. Like a dam blocks the flow of water. This is true whether or not you are holding onto contempt for yourself or others.

Regret can be about anything that would represent ‘woulda’, ‘shoulda’, ‘coulda’. Lack of forgiveness for yourself is often about regret. Consider being compassionate with yourself and recognizing that you are human, but learn from the experience. Accept how it went and move on. If you don’t forgive yourself, you will often make the same mistakes over and over.

Lack of forgiveness towards others is often about being angry because another individual did not act in a way you wished them to. Consider accepting that it is about them, not you. and let it go. Holding onto contempt only stops you from being happy and wishing you could change a person you cannot.

Both forms of not forgiving will block you from being happy. Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give yourself. It’s absolutely NOT about making the same mistakes over and over, or allowing certain behaviors in your life. Forgiveness is about acceptance of what is and not fighting against things you cannot change. Accept yourself, others, and the world for what it is. You don’t even have to let another person know you forgave them to feel the benefits of letting go.  Whatever you might be holding on to with anger, regret, or contempt: give yourself the gift of letting it go. It’s freeing.

Not everyone is ready to forgive. If you can’t, at least wish that you could want to. And if you can’t even do that, at least wish that you were the type of person who could wish they could want to. But be honest and reflective of where you are: ready to forgive, wishing you were ready, or wishing you could wish you were ready to forgive. The sooner you are honest with your  private self (you can’t really lie to your most private self), the sooner you will move on, come closer to forgiveness and the sooner you will set yourself free. But only you can do that.

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  1. Give

Give gratitude. We are human and as simple as it is, it’s hard! There are thousands of quotes, articles, podcasts, movies, songs, apps etc that talk about how gratitude can change your life. And I can attest to it. Living in gratitude makes life miraculous and SOOOOoooooooo….. worth living.

Look around. Stop living in lack. I listened to a Podcast on the way home from work on Tuesday about Oneness. To sort of, kind of, steal the lines from the person giving the Podcast, she talked about how we live and focus on lack constantly. From the moment we open our eyes in the morning we live in lack. Before another thought enters our mind; more often than not we think we didn’t sleep enough, weren’t enough yesterday (didn’t exercise enough, ate the wrong things, drank too much, didn’t do enough), and that we don’t have enough time in the morning to get ready to start the day. This is before we even get out of bed! This is the story we tell ourselves throughout the day. We focus on all that isn’t rather than ALL that is. Giving gratitude and being grateful for what is doesn’t come naturally.

Most of us are healthy and have several functioning relationships in our lives. We have food, shelter and way too much clothing… in fact we feel confused about choices on what to eat and what to wear when we are lucky enough to have those choices to actually make! But we focus on what doesn’t fit, the people who have slighted us and who we don’t have a relationship with, the poor food choices we made, the fact that there is traffic, a bill we didn’t expect to come… and then we beat ourselves up then for not being thankful.

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On how hard this is –

We are human. We are animals. In a totally unrelated, yet totally related story… I’m in a 300-hour yoga teacher training and there is a student who comes to many of the classes at my studio where I teach and train. He is in his 70’s, legally blind, and a retired psychologist. He is awesome. He will often stay behind after community classes that are open to the public and share some of his insights about yoga and the way the mind works. I’m going to share one of his stories. I will call him “Harry”.

Harry was involved in a study with chickens all not too long ago. Basically, they taught the chickens how to find a pellet in a maze. Before you read further, try to take a wild guess about how long it took the chickens to find the pellet in the maze. Flabbergasted? It’s normal! From the folks I’ve told this story to, they’ve all guessed between 2 and 50 times. I believe the answer was somewhere around 9.

Then Harry’s study changed something in the maze that required the chickens to adapt to a new pattern. The pellet came out in a slightly different way and the chickens had to learn that doing the same thing over and over didn’t work. How many times do you think it took them to determine the new pattern? Flabbergasted again? Again… it’s normal. Most of the people I’ve talked to and told this story to after learning it was 9 times guessed anywhere between 9 and 40. For all those folks I’ve told them it’s much, much higher and it would blow their mind moved their guess to between 50 and 500.

The actual answer is over 42,000 times. It’s mind-boggling. I would hate to be the person who counted that study! Harry told us about that study, and I share this study with you because it’s freeing to know that it’s very difficult to change patterns and the way our neurons fire and give us direction. There is nothing wrong with us if we can’t change a habit in a heartbeat. We aren’t failures, we are living creatures with wiring that makes it so. Again & again, not an excuse – but an opportunity to accept the nature of what is, forgive ourselves, and give gratitude that we have the mind power to change patterns since we have a little more thinking opportunity than chickens, and can be self-reflective.

It’s all good.

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Closing Thoughts –

So be good to yourself and others. We are just frail little humans. We think materialism, acquiring more things, brings joy – but it doesn’t. Use this season, this beautiful solstice, to learn something new. Focus on acceptance of what is, letting go of the past, and being grateful. These are some of the most beautiful gifts we can give ourselves and one another.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog:  true inner joy & peace can only come from within.

Happy Winter Solstice 2017.

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2017 Anderson-Messeder Holiday Greetings

2017

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The kids

I will start with the kids because when I see people I haven’t seen in a while, it’s the first thing they ask me about to break the ice.

Starting with the oldest.

Tom is now 20. He has been going to college at the University of Southern Maine for 2 ½ years, majoring in English. He met a sweet girl the fall semester of last year named Aisy. I had the pleasure of meeting her for the first time on my birthday this year. Tom spent the summer with Aisy and her family in Rhode Island while working at a tent/party set up company. He says it was the best summer and job of his life. He’s had a myriad of jobs in college and is currently working in Whole Foods. But only temporarily. As of today he will be moving back home and finishing school here in Connecticut. Aisy is also moving back home with her folks to finish school in a more economic manner. We are very much looking forward to having Tom back home with us, Koji & Devin. It’s rather quiet in our house these days!

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Tom, Aisy & Koji at the beach in Rhode Island this summer

Gabby. She is now 18. She finished high school last June and is currently a freshman at the University of Rhode Island (URI) studying Geographical Oceanography. She is challenging herself the first two semesters with several lab classes and an intense course load. She is also in the Honors Program. The last days of senior year brought all kinds of fun and memorable activities like prom, award ceremonies, trips and of course graduation. Gabby worked at Panera Bread for the past year through the time she started college. She is still a seasonal employee and will be working through winter break. It will be nice to have her home for the next month too. Other than one of the cats, I’m the only girl left in our house. Gabby does add a nice feminine flair!

Kieran. He will be 18 in just 14 days from today. He is a senior at Hopkins High School and just got into Harvard! Yes, Harvard – wow! 3rd generation (both his parents & maternal grandmother). We found out just Tuesday evening after his winter concert while my in-laws were visiting. Kieran has many highlights this year. Most notably he made it to Nationals for singing. He was in Disney with the nationals group just a few weeks ago following the Thanksgiving holiday. He had many roles in school plays and recently was cast as the lead role in Heathers for the Spring 2018 Musical at Hopkins. For a variety of reasons he hasn’t been spending considerable time at our house, but we are very proud of his accomplishments.

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Kieran and his good friend Michele on the college visit circuit we took them on in March. On that trip we visited many schools including Brown where Michele learned yesterday she has gotten into!

Devin. He is now 14. He finished up IDS (the elementary/secondary school he has been in since he started school) this year in June. It was emotional as he said goodbye to teachers and friends he has known since he remembers pretty much anything. Of course in this day and age it’s not goodbye – as he is pretty much on a perpetual group chat with his old friends on a daily basis. Devin is now a freshman at Cheshire High School (CHS, where Tom & Gabby went to school). He is also in his last year of playing hockey with the Whalers. Next year he will transition onto the high school hockey team. He is still playing the trumpet and we were treated to yet another great holiday concert at CHS last night.

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At the Muse & 30 Seconds to Mars concert we went to at Jones Beach this summer. On the left is Anna Sara – beautiful relative from Sweden we had the pleasure of spending time with

Trips

Daren and I traveled quite a bit this year. We started the year on a work trip (Daren’s work) to Newport CA. In April we took Gabby and her good friend Kelly to Disney for their senior year. Devin and his friend Cole joined us. We also took some day trips & weekend trips to Long Island and around New England to Kingston RI, Portland, ME, Stowe, VT, Grafton, VT… to name a few. But our biggest trip was definitely to Africa! We went to Africa to celebrate Daren’s 50th birthday. We visited Cape Town, South Africa, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and then went on an overland safari that started in Zimbabwe – went all through Botswana; and landed us back in South Africa in Soweto.

The Hubby

Daren turned 50! He is still working at CHC (Community Health Center), rocking it with doing 3 jobs and writing grants and papers left and right. In the off time he still runs, reads and plays piano. This summer he spent quite a bit of time working on the lovely boat the Melanie’s parents (Melanie & John – our good friends) no longer wanted. After fixing it up he got down to Branford as often as possible to take her out on the water. And the ol’ piano needed some serious fixing. All the keys recently got replaced last month in a serious several day long event.

Me

I would say this year was even more about yoga for me than last year. I started the year out by opening my own LLC (Yograzia Balance). At first I was holding classes at a home studio. It was going well until someone complained twice about zoning. I’ve taught at a variety of places throughout the year. Most notably I became certified to teach trauma informed yoga at domestic violence shelters. It is the most rewarding teaching I do. Currently, I’m enrolled in a 300-hour yoga teacher-training program, which will finish in June. I’m loving every minute of it, as the material transfers immediately over to my personal life and practices. I’m continuing to work part-time at the VA. My job is not quite as challenging as others at the VA have been, but it works perfectly for our lifestyle at the moment. I also take care of the house & rentals in Branford. More below.

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Yograzia Balance space

Summer Island

The rental house in Branford has been a success to date! We had over 25 renters this year and got nothing but rave reviews on both vacation rental sites. We used the house ourselves for 2 weeks in the summer and almost every time it was empty. In 2018 we have it blocked for 4 weeks in the summer and hope to make it down more often in the off season. Turning it over and answering calls and texts on the weekends from the renters is not my favorite thing. However; I learned a lot this year, made many adjustments and changes, and hope to have a better handle on the rental process and turnovers  next year.

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The Reality

That’s all the good/positive stuff. On a more realistic note –

I’m still struggling with stress, anxiety and PTSD. Being 100% honest, it’s been the most challenging year I’ve ever faced with treatment, medication(s), and my own personal growth. Grades are a struggle for some of our brood. Work, school, and home challenges often get in the way of a mood, sometimes an evening. We’ve have blended & biological family struggles, hurt feelings, and harshness exchanged. We had a flood from our dishwasher into the basement this summer that knocked our kitchen and basement out of commission for a while. We had contractors in the house almost every day for about 6 weeks. Devin had emergency hernia surgery. Tom’s car broke down on the Fourth of July holiday.

My ex (John) moved away to Tennessee to start a new job and life. My brother Mario has been staying with us when he can while trying to start a new life away from Long Island. Our pets bring us so much love and joy, but they also destroy stuff, throw up, cover our homes in hair, scare away guests and delivery people…

But we are so blessed. We have food in our bellies, a warm place to stay every night, healthcare, clothes in our closet, JOBS, and as the late Dr. Seuss would say, brains in our head and feet in our shoes. No one likes a struggle, but I’m actually thankful for them. They bring insight and make the good times even more sweet. I’m learning that struggles are as normal and expected as joy, and to not be so thrown off when they show up knocking on the doorstep. Learning…. Not there yet – but I am enjoying the path to learning to be ok with whatever I wake up to face each day.

Here’s to the closing of 2017. Onto the next!

 

 

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2016 Anderson-Messeder Holiday Greetings

What a year! For me this has been the most transitional year of my life. Lots of wonderful things with lots of life lessons that were sometimes a challenge. I’m actually sorry to see the year coming to an end. But all exits lead to new entrances so I’m excited to continue on my own journey. It’s only a calendar right, not a true stopping or starting point right?

I had to peruse through old photos to help dust off the memory – so I decided to include them along here too. 

But before I get into the normal yee-hah, look how wonderful and perfect we are holiday cards that most of us get, I want to level with everyone. We had a wonderful year, but there were many not-so-wonderful things about it too. We had normal blended family issues one too many times over going on for 6 years now that left either Daren or me in tears, arguing and/or holding each other tight at night. We now have four teenagers and although we have four amazing wonderful children – we do deal with normal teenage “butt” kid issues that tick us off, leave us worrying or leave us scratching our heads. We often have too much going on and the house feels stressful more often than I’d like. I myself became so stressed this year that I started having uncontrolled panic attacks and needed to start some medication. I hit my knee and it got freakish water on the knee that regardless of injections would keep coming back, and worse every time until I needed knee surgery – which knocked me out of normal activities for a few weeks. I’m dealing with terrible carpal tunnel syndrome now. It began when we started painting the new house in Branford and has not relented even though I stopped painting once the pain started to wake me up at night. Our pets destroy things & cost us oodles of money in replacement of objects or pet healthcare. There are obnoxious mistakes with our bills, our internet doesn’t always work, after getting rid of cable we can’t always watch what we want on tv and spend hours trying to find a way to do so. We miscommunicate and accidentally don’t understand one another and waste a lot of time that could have been better spent if we only just communicated better upfront. There are often one too many things to do during the week and too many comings and going that leave us utterly exhausted. We laugh & cry & don’t always get along as smashingly as the tv tells us you that you are supposed to. But that is life right? We are real and we all do stupid clown things at times. All six of us yes… 😉 But onto the highlights I would much rather remember. 

January

Daren & I kicked off New Years day by taking Koji to the beach at Hammonasset. It was a beautiful day. We wanted to let him off leash but there were horses on the beach. Yes… I said horses. He’d never seen a horse before and was completely dumbfounded. Then he proceeded to investigate their droppings (yucky, stinky nose). 

In January I decided to start a 200 hour yoga teacher training. It was kind of an impromptu decision and one of the best ones I made this year. The rest of the month was fairly quiet and dare I say relaxing? When Thomas went back to college mid-month I felt the overwhelming need to capture these special days. So I started blogging on our shared family calendar/shopping list/to do list/meal-recipe site. It’s called Cozi. It also has a journal feature I started using & just kept using. I’ve been posting a few things each week that summarized what we’ve been up to. Thinking about the weekly highlights is a really nice way to start a Friday. Other than that, there was just some snow & some winter treat making – as seen here with Gabby & Koji. 

February

I turned 40! Something I dreaded for years, but as the weeks approached it didn’t seem like much of a big deal any more and it was nothing more than any other birthday. Daren threw me a surprise party (though it wasn’t much of a surprise – lol). I felt very loved surrounded by family & friends. Thomas even came home from college to be there.

Daren & I also visited with Keegan and Sarah in Portland, OR the week before my birthday. It was too short of a trip but we wine tasted, hiked and spent some qt with Liam & Lilly and had a chance to have some yummy meals with the grown ups too.

  • Snapshot of me & my February birthday homegirls with whom I celebrate together every year (Priscilla & Michele). 
  • A winery Karen “found” in Northford. I thought I knew all the wineries in the state, so this one took me by surprise.  
  • Harvard/Yale hockey game with Daren & Devin.
  • Some winery & hiking pics from Portland. 
  • My daily walk I take at work (stairs). This was just a pretty cold, snow on the ground day. Nothing special other than I was just really happy and wanted to capture the moment.
  • Out to dinner with my “Vannies” at Powder Ridge.
  • Gabby fencing. It was the first match we got the ‘ok’ to come see.

March

Thomas turned 19 and Devin turned 13. It marked the start of a year that we have four teenagers. Some key highlights from the month:

  • Sherrie & I took Gabby & Sierra Boston to visit the Lush store.
  • Daren met Bernie Sanders’ chief of staff in Washington DC on a work trip
  • Devin wrapped up his hockey season
  • Easter Egg hunting with Mario, Maria & Pops

April

Oh boy what a month. It was a whirlwind of college visits for Gabby. We took her to SUNY ESF (Environmental Sciences and Forestry) in Buffalo, NY; Boston University; Roger Williams in RI; UMass Dartmouth in MA; and University of Rhode Island. Then didn’t end it there… Gabby & I followed Daren to a conference in San Diego to spend a few days in the sun with David & Angela, and checking out the Scripps Institute with “Uncle Dave” who teased that he would walk in with a southern accent and ask all kinds of embarrassing questions – haha! It was also the month I kicked up the blog I wrote one story in last year. I took a day off after this trip due to stress and ended up writing a blog I decided to publicly share about my stress. I was so touched by the many, many people who publicly and privately reached out to me to share their stories and tell how that I’m not alone, both after that day & many others. I’ve posted many articles since then. If you’ve never checked it out – it’s @ esterinaanderson.com. Take a look and either publicly or privately comment/chat on any of the stories if you feel moved to. 

  • Daren and Gabby on the water of one of the finger lakes (can’t remember which one without looking it up)
  • At SUNY ESF
  • “Uncle David” at Scripps 
  • And lastly, my beautiful daughter Gabrielle had her junior prom. 

May –

Koji turned 2! I took my crazy chances at the peak of my anxiety to ask if I could work part-time (crazy story that I blogged about & ended up with me working a totally different part time job as of last week [11/28]) How to squash a motivated employee. Wrapped up the end of the school year with spring concerts and end of year events and fanfare. Thomas finished his first year of college, came back home for the summer, and resumed work at Best Friends in Prospect (dog daycare/boarding). We hiked & did a bit of CT wine tasting. I got my knee surgery. And we spent a lovely long weekend on Long Island seeing my beautiful niece’s dance recital and hanging out with my father-in-law doing some LI hiking too. Well, I did some LI wobbling with my pained knee. But I went a few miles with it! 

  • Koji’s birthday!
  • Pets always where they aren’t supposed to be.
    • Pictured above this one is a shoe out of a closet when Kieran & I got home. Luckily this one wasn’t destroyed. Guilty looking paws are caught next to it. 
    • Gilmore caught here on the counter hairing up the juice I was about to make. 
  • Memorial Day weekend hiking on Long Island with Dick & Devin

June –

School ended for the other three kids. Gabby turned 17. Daren & I “discovered” the CT breweries & fell in love with IPAs. Daren and Devin built a beautiful stairwell down to the garden from under our deck that we enjoyed this summer. It’s a pretty little sanctuary with a mandala, some adirondack chairs, a swinging bench, a fire pit and some cool lights. Kieran took a little trip to Ireland with his class for Chorus. And we started our European family vacation at the end of June. 

  • Chilling one Saturday afternoon with cards & snacks at Stony Creek Brewery
  • View from under the deck
  • Gabby’s birthday cake
  • International Yoga Day (6/21) with my homegirls at Two Roads.
  • Game of Thrones snacks Thomas made for the season finale 
  • The group (minus Daren who was taking the picture) in Berlin. As you can see my eldest just has to be a clown and cross his eyes for most serious pictures. Ugh… these kids I tell ya! 

July –

This month started out in Europe. We crossed from Berlin to Copenhagen on a train/ferry (pictured below). We took a train over to Sweden and back to Denmark. We came back to CT and the kids started back at work. Kieran worked at the country club golf course in Westhampton Beach by his grandparents (my in-laws). Gabby landed a job at Panera bread and Tom kept his old high school job at Best Friends. Best Friends luckily allows him to bring Koji to work most days, so that stinky black beast gets to play with lots of his doggie friends. Unfortunately there was a bout of kennel cough and Koji got a little sick. He does have his kennel cough shot so it wasn’t too bad. All was good!

Right after we got back from Europe, Daren and I took a trip out to Vancouver, Canada for a work conference he was a part of. It was awesome. I spent the days walking through the city and hiking/doing yoga in a nearby park. What a great city. Cool restaurants and museums. No need for a car.

  • Ferry portion of the trip to Denmark. As you can see, not everyone is happy to take a pic, nor can everyone gets off their phones for a moment. “But there is wifi ma…”
  • Kieran & Devin in Copenhagen 
  • Gabby, Daren, Kieran & Devin in Malmo, Sweden
  • Pokemon Go – All the rage of the summer of ’16
  • Daren & I outside a work dinner at a beautiful restaurant in a park during sunset. All you can eat oysters when we first got in (oh and we did… oh boy we did!). 

August –

August… well…. We decided on the fly to buy a second home 🙂 Well, not too much on the fly. For anyone who knows us well in real life, you would know that Daren and I had always planned to move in 4 1/2 years somewhere else, perhaps to another country, likely a 3rd world one, to help out with healthcare in someway. We of course would want an address in the U.S. and always talked of having a decent home on the shoreline of CT where people would want to rent by the week so we could make some income on a permanent home  that we’d have to keep a mortgage on, and have a place to come home to for holidays & events. Well, while driving back from LI one weekend visiting my step boys who spend four weeks each summer with my in-laws; we started to ask ourselves why we were waiting on the house on the water part. So we came home, found some places we wanted to look at… contacted our good friend Melanie who also happens to be a realtor. And the rest is history! 

Aside from buying a home, running back and forth to LI, and immense stress at work – August 2016 was THE most relaxing month I have had in my adult life. With no school and mostly no kids and their events/practices/sports/comings & goings, every night was like a mini vacation out on our beautiful back deck. Thomas went back to school at the end of the month. Gabby and Devin started 12th and 8th grade respectively. 

  • New trail in Cheshire that I fell in love with. It even got it’s own blog story 🙂 On New Pathways
  • Typical happy hour in the evening this summer. We really fell in love with rose wine (french word, can’t seem to put the accent mark in there) – you know… pink wine. I had a white craze two years ago and always stayed away from the pinks. We found some delightful ones this year. A new love! 
  • Keegan and Liam came to Long Island for a few days this summer. Liam got to see the Mets at Citifield for the first time.
  • View from the yard at the Branford house before we got it. I believe this was from the realtor site. It took so many pics since then. They are all ridiculously gorgeous. 
  • Koji enjoyed his pool this summer.
  • We had a very prolific garden. My co-workers and yoga mates were some of the many recipients of the abundance. 
  • Missy Jean’s first day of senior year (missy jean would be Gabby – in case that was too much to figure out).

September – 

Daren, Gabby, Kieran & I ran the New Haven annual Labor Day 5K. Daren and I beat Kieran and Gabby – it’s nice to know we can run faster than our teenage kids – lol.

Kieran went back to school right after Labor day & wrapped up the summer golf course gig. Everything was back in full swing as the days quickly got shorter and cooler. Hockey, cross country, open house nights – papers to print & sign (printer never works is always out of ink), checks to write, ugh… 

Daren & I got in full swing with a new mini career as furniture renovators for our new house- haha! We bought a ton of furniture between $5 and $50 and repainted and refinished it all. We had such a blast. We did a little end of summer hiking. I made a few last summer pies. Gabby had her senior day at Cross Country. And we closed on the new house! 

  • One of the very many before & after pics of the furniture we refinished. 
  • I took a picture of so many pies I made this summer. It was pie summer, I was obsessed. I think the was my last summer pie – but I can’t be 100% certain.
  • The last hike we took this summer. Not because of the weather, but because we started working on the house like crazy lunatic fiends.
  • Gabby’s senior day for XC with her closest XC girlfriends. I cannot believe these girls are seniors. They’ve grown into beautiful young women.
  • House closing day! 

October 

In October we spent a lot of time painting, cleaning and repairing the new house. It was also our five year anniversary & we took a trip to Italy to celebrate. We went to Milan, Venice, Tuscany and Como. And it was Halloween – one of my favorite holidays. 

  • Little miss Maria, my awesome brother Mario & me painting one early Sunday morning. 
  • The VACT 2015-2016 Strategic Planning Team. Was something akin to a last supper  – lol.
  • One of many awesome “game nights” (although we hardly play games these days) with some of my favorite girlfriends. 
  • One of many beautiful views at Summer Island Point.
  • Everyone has seen enough of our Italy pictures – so I’ll spare you all. This is something I took a picture of in Italy that I still laugh about. It just makes me smile- seriously 🙂
  • Gabby’s boyfriend Dennis’ first pumpkin carving! His family is from Ukraine. Although he was born here, they’ve never observed the tradition and he wanted to try. Check out Devin in between them photo bombing the pic… Haha – totally cracks me up.

November –

Grateful time of year. We finished up the new house. It came out beautifully. Anyone who wants to see some pics who hasn’t seen the blog or been victims of  us showing you pictures on our iPhones – they are available at New Vacation Home Renovations

We spent one weekend visiting Thomas in Portland, ME. We rented a cool apartment in the heart of town and brought Koji with us. The weather was gorgeous and we had a great time. It was the Clinton/Trump election. Gabby had her senior year Cross Country banquet which was very beautiful but sad because these young girls have been together forever! It was the busiest month ever with Daren traveling to Seattle, Boston, and Colorado, and the usual kid scheduling craziness. In the middle of it all I had a peaceful evening with some of my closest work girlfriends over at the Branford house for some wine, pizza and mandala coloring. Also, Daren turned 49! We celebrated at the new house with just the boys and a beautiful sunset and homemade surf & turf dinner. We also celebrated Thanksgiving in the new house with my father, my brother Frankie, his girlfriend Mary, my nephew Frankie, and Tommy & Gabby. 

And lastly – I finally started officially working part time. It’s not even been 2 weeks yet, but I feel the stress just melting off my body, mind & spirit. Time to fill in that empty space with my heart’s passions before the “little rocks” of life fill it up for me. I won’t let that happen though! 

  • Visiting with Thomas in Portland. Kofi was SO stinking happy to see him.
  • Election Day. 
  • Out to dinner with our hubbies but had to get a girl pic. Love you girls! 
  • Senior Cross Country Banquet. 
  • Picture I captured while taking an early Thanksgiving morning walk in Branford at the new house. It was cloudy & quiet, but an absolutely breathtaking morning.

December –

This month’s story is still being written. Kieran will turn 17 this month! We had some of our closest friends over to the new house last weekend for an intimate house warming party. Next month we hope to do a large open house and have everyone over. We adopted another domestic violence family this year. I love doing this and feel so blessed we have the ability to keep Santa alive for another family – giving their children hope and possibly a chance in life with confidence and the attitude of giving back. Most excitingly for me, it’s yoga teacher graduation next weekend. The class and experience shaped me into a different person this year. That is truly a story that is personal, and one that I may share one day – but in another more appropriate venue. 

Thank you to all who are a part of my life and our lives. I cherish each and every single one of you and the time we spend together. Not everyone I see all the time or often share a supper or girls night with was pictured  or mentioned here, but I cherish & love you all immensely. 

Love, Peace & Namaste.

Happy Holidays for our family to  you & yours.  

 

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Anderson-Messeder 12 Days of Christmas Part II

We’ve continued our journey of donating to charities for the 12 days of Christmas this season. Here are the last few and what we’ve shared with one another –

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Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS). I realize this is a minefield of a charity to share with the public since it’s created such a divide in our country. However, no matter what side of the fence you are on, the reality is that there are refugees and they need resources. Daren dug up a short video clip showing refugees arriving in Greece from Syria via Turkey: https://youtu.be/tOwL89Tndk4. We donated housewares via Amazon to a refugee family in New Haven, CT.

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National Organization for Women Foundation (NOW). After watching Miss Representation on Netflix last month (free if you’d like to watch it!), I was moved to donate to this organization. We watched most of the movie together last night as a family. As a woman myself, I have not even noticed the way the media has influenced me to think about the way I live my live and see myself; AND has likely pushed women away from engaging in Leadership and Political roles. The media and politics shape our culture & how we live, and only 6% of our representative population are making these decisions for everyone else (caucasian heterosexual college educated married men over the age of 35).

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Save the Sound and CT fund for the Environment. This is an organization that works to ensure critical natural areas are protected and support wildlife, recreation, and clean water. In addition to a myriad of many environmental pursuits, some highlights are: They push for great open spaces to be protected from over-development, see that important coastal and island habitats are preserved, and natural dunes & marshes help protect shoreline communities from future storms and sea level rise.

 

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Bowery Mission. The Bowery Mission has been helping homeless New Yorkers since 1879, meeting the specific needs of each man, woman, and child who walks through their doors. They first help by meeting immediate needs: food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. They also have residential recovery programs and camps for children. Additionally, they address deeper needs for spiritual wholeness, life and job skills training, and addiction recovery. We watched a short YouTube video that Devin found that explains the impact of this organization impeccably. Check it out if you have a moment – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oL_i5WcSOzQ

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American Red Cross. I know everyone knows what they do!

I really enjoyed spending the holidays this year focusing on a charity each day during the 12 days of Christmas. It was an exercise to think about what matters to us and to take action (no matter how small) to do something outside of ourselves that inspires us to make the world a better place. I hope everyone I know feels empowered to do things for others and fight for what they believe it.

“As (Martin Luther) King said, ‘The problem today is not the vitriolic words and the evil actions of the bad people. It is the appalling inaction and silence of the good people.’”

Happy Holidays!

 

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Anderson-Messeder 12 Days of Christmas

This year in honor of the holiday season, as a family we are focusing whole-heartedly on those less fortunate than us. We are cutting back on overall presents, cards and cookies. With the heavier wallet and extra time, each of the 6 of us picked 2 charities to focus on this holiday season. In honor of the 12 days of Christmas, each day we are donating to the charities of our choice in rotating order.

Today marks Day Six of our 12 Days of Christmas Giving journey –

  • Saturday afternoon our family (except Thomas who is still away at school) went to Target to purchase toys, clothes, pajamas, and shoes for two little boys who are in a domestic violence shelter in Middletown. We really had a fun time picking out items from the heart. At times I had tears in my eyes thinking about the these two little children we were shopping for and how we are making Santa come true for them and their mother.
  • Sunday we honored the Connecticut Virtual Food Drive that we are running. If you haven’t already donated and would like to help us reach our goal, please do! We are 31% of the way there so far. The website is: http://ctfb.convio.net/site/TR/Events/General?px=1049701&pg=personal&fr_id=1140
  • Additionally, over the past few weeks I have been ordering extra non-perishable items on sale through Peapod and putting them aside for the Cheshire Food Pantry. On Tuesday evening after work, Devin and I drove over to the food pantry to drop off several bags of items. We have decided that this is so important, so each week we will continue to look for non-perishable items on sale and put them aside for a monthly drop off on the 2nd Tuesday of each month.
  • Tuesday evening Kieran and Gabby gave us a presentation of their two charities and their donations were made on Tuesday and Wednesday evening. Gabby’s presentation can be seen here: http://prezi.com/qqhfcr-k9ijg/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy.
  • Gabby chose the ALS foundation. Her father’s cousin passed away fairly young from the disease, and now his mother is also suffering from ALS.
  • Kieran chose to donate to The New Haven/León Sister City Project. Last February Daren and I went to Nicaragua and learned about the vast number of ways we can help this country. It touched our hearts and the most profound message I took away from this visit to the Third World is that I’m lucky. We sort of both have a soft spot in our hearts for this country ever since we saw a House Hunters International episode where a young couple was moving down there to help their economy.
  • Hailing from a Domestic Violence home as a child, Tuesday evening we also watched a Ted Talk about Domestic Violence with Gabby, Kieran and Devin. https://www.ted.com/talks/leslie_morgan_steiner_why_domestic_violence_victims_don_t_leave. Tonight we also made a donation to the Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury to help victims in our own area.
  • Lastly, yesterday our daily donation went to World Vision.

A little more information about our charities can be found below. I was inspired by a similar blog not too long ago, perhaps we too can be an inspiration for others. Cheers! Love! Hugs & Kisses, xoxo

 

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One in four women are victims of domestic violence and many women are seriously injured or even killed by their violent partners. When there is nowhere to turn, domestic violence support services like New Horizons provide secret, secure housing for the short term while a dedicated team works with each woman/family to find them a more permanent solution. The legal team helps ensure that they are represented in the courts and makes sure that they are safe and protected.Last year New Horizons helped over 1,000 women in Middlesex County.

Here is a paragraph from their website describing what they do:

For over 30 years, Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC) has operated New Horizons Domestic Violence Shelter, a 24/7 emergency shelter for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. On an annual basis New Horizons provides services and shelter to over 1,300 women, children and male victims. The shelter itself one element of a comprehensive approach to intimate partner violence (IPV) that also includes community education, support groups, individual counseling, court advocacy and consultation to CHC’s clinical provider teams. New Horizons’ staff members are part of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence where they advocate for ongoing advancement of legislation and policy that protect the health and interests of women. A 24/7 confidential hotline service is also available through the program.

 

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The New Haven/León Sister City Project is a bi-national organization working in Greater New Haven, Connecticut and León, Nicaragua to promote social justice and support education and sustainable development. Through delegations and other exchanges, we strive to understand and celebrate our respective cultures. We also educate about the impact of US government and individual choices on Nicaragua and other parts of the world

THE BEGINNING

The New Haven/León Sister City Project was founded in 1984, at the front end of a movement of sister-city relationships that sprung up between Nicaraguan cities and North American or European cities throughout the 1980’s. The fundamental vision of the NH/LSCP in the 1980’s was to create healthy ties between US and Nicaraguan citizens as at a time when the government of the US was engaged in an illegal war against the government of Nicaragua and its people. Our alternative citizens’ foreign policy had the goals of raising awareness among US citizens about the effects of US-funded war on the people of Nicaragua, and supporting Nicaraguans in their vision of creating a more just society. The NH/LSCP determined that its commitment was to solidarity with Nicaraguan people, and to relationship-building between US citizens and Nicaraguans, no matter who was running either government.

TODAY

Many Nicaraguans continue to have hope in the social gains that the Sandinistas may be able to make during their governance; and many find themselves increasingly disillusioned with the party. The NH/LSCP continues to prioritize healthy relationship between US and Nicaraguan citizens, continues to educate US citizens on the impacts of US policy in Nicaragua, and continues to support programs designed to empower poor Nicaraguans.

Our Work in León

The primary work of the NH/LSCP in León is to support community organization initiatives in the rural community of Goyena, and to facilitate programs and projects that supplement the efforts of the formal education system.

This work includes:

Support for the community preschool with capacity-building efforts for the local teachers, and facilitation of an after-school program for first to fourth graders. Developing public health projects including clean cook stoves, clean water, nutrition, etc.Organizing Women’s Rights program and use of Forum Theater to explore conflicts and develop leadership. Organizing Environmental Youth Brigade (see article) and other sustainable development efforts. Organizational support for the parents’ council at the preschool, as well as for the community board of directors of the community. Support long term movement by community towards self-sufficiency and sustainability. NH/LSCP’s New Haven office is located 2nd floor of the First Unitarian Universalist of New Haven building at 608 Whitney Avenue where we’ve been for 17 years.

 

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Established in 1985, The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease on every front. By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers, and fostering government partnerships, The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure.

As the preeminent ALS organization, The Association leads the way in research, care services, public education, and public policy — giving help and hope to those facing the disease. The Association’s nationwide network of chapters provides comprehensive patient services and support to the ALS community. The mission of The ALS Association is to lead the fight to treat and cure ALS through global research and nationwide advocacy, while also empowering people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support.

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 World Vision is a humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice.

Working in nearly 100 countries around the world, we serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. We believe in a full solution to poverty and injustice. We provide emergency assistance to children and families affected by disasters and conflict, partner with communities for long-term solutions to alleviate poverty, and advocate for justice on behalf of the poor.

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Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury

Our Services: Safe Haven provides emergency shelter and free comprehensive support services to victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Safe Haven is committed to ending violence and sexual assault by changing the social conditions and beliefs that perpetuate violence against women and children.

Towns We Serve: Safe Haven serves the towns of Bethlehem, Cheshire, Middlebury, Naugatuck, Prospect, Southbury, Waterbury, Watertown, Wolcott, and Woodbury for domestic violence.

A donation of:

$600 provides one week of shelter for a mother and her children, including food, clothing, personal items, counseling, advocacy and support groups

$400 provides one hour of art therapy for 18 children

$100 provides three weeks of support group for 10 women

$75 pays for an advocate to support a rape victim in the hospital

$50 provides court advocacy for three victims whose partners have been arrested or pays for three presentations to 2nd graders to stop bullying

$25 pays for dinner for 8 women and 7 children at the shelter or a birthday party for a shelter child.

 

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