Saturday, March 22, 2014

A decade!

Ten years.  We have been married for ten years.  TEN YEARS?!?!  That seems insane.  At the time, it was the next logical step.  We started dating in October of 1998 - during our senior year.  As much as I insisted that we should be nonexclusive - not that I was seeing anyone else, but because I didn't want our relationship to affect our college plans - he eventually won me over.  In February 1999, I agreed that we could date exclusively.  However in July of 1999, he broke up with me.  I still find it amusing that at that time he told me that I wasn't "the one."  

We both ended up at Iowa State in the fall of 1999 and because we still had mutual friends, our paths crossed once again.  We were broken up for a year and a half, however during that time, we managed to maintained a friendship, even while we were with other people.  During the winter of 2000, one might say that Russell came to his senses, but I say that I was the one who started dating someone else and he didn't like that so much.  At this point, he made it known that he was interested in getting back together and that this time, it would be for the long haul.

I had a decision to make.  I was with someone who pretty much worshipped the ground I walked on, but I had the opportunity to be with the one person with whom I could very clearly see my future - my best friend.  It took time for me to officially tie up my loose ends and then we both went home for winter break.  We went out to dinner on New Year's Eve 2000.  As we were sitting in the parking lot of Macaroni Grill, he turned to me and said "I'd really like to take my girlfriend out to dinner tonight, so what do you say?"  It's pretty obvious what I said.

Russell made it very clear that his intention was that we would eventually get married.  I made it equally clear that I was going to earn my degree before I got married.  Then 9/11 happened.  September 11th, 2001 - many of us remember what we were doing when we heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center, but can any of you say that these attacks altered the course of your life?  I can.  Following these attacks, Russell decided that he would join the Marines.  So, with my full support and the eventual blessing of his family, it was official.  Russell was going to be a Marine.  

In addition to my own studies, I was suddenly helping Russell study Marine history, ranks, etc.  He left for Bootcamp during the summer of 2002.  While most college couples were worried about where they were going to party next weekend, suddenly we were faced with being separated for 13 weeks until I got to see him at his graduation and then several more weeks for his specialty school.  (Little did we know that this extra-ordinary obstacle that we faced would set a precedence for our  future.)  

Our time apart merely solidified our commitment to each other.  Suddenly, actual plans were being put into place for our future.  As I powered through my final classes, studying for the GRE, and applying to grad school.  We decided that we were going to move in together in Omaha after I graduated.  One final roadblock stood in my way.  I needed to tell my Dad about our plan, which I did on my next visit.  This was one of the most terrifying conversations that I had to date.  Little did I know, that my Dad already had some inkling as to what was going on.

My graduation was set for May 2003.  Russell wasn't able to get out of drill to attend.  We didn't realize at the time what this meant, but it all became clear in time.  We moved back to Omaha in July 2003.  On July, 19th 2003, Russell proposed to me.  We were planning a September wedding until that fateful day in February when Russell was informed that he was going to Iraq.  Russell insisted that we get married before he left.  I was worried about the date being moved up on us, so I decided that I might as well have a fun anniversary.  So, we were married on March 17th, 2004.

At the time, I thought we were so old and so mature.  Like I said, it was the next logical move.  But, I look back and think about how YOUNG we were.  Holy Moley, we were babies!!  And yet we had already been through so much.  And we would endure so much more.

So much has changed in the last 10 years, yet the important things have stayed the same.  I would never have predicted that we'd be standing where we are today.  But, I'm so glad to be standing here with my best friend, celebrating everything that we have overcome, the three beautiful children that we've created, and the plans for the future that we continue to make.

Happy anniversary, Russell.  I look forward to many, many more.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The First 10 Russell Bennett

Today marks the 10th anniversary of when Shannon and I were first married. It was a crazy time ten years ago, we had just found out that our original wedding plans were going to be interrupted by my deployment to Iraq. I was in the Marine Reserve then, an infantry unit, and while in Des Moines for my February drill I learned that we were deploying that summer. I quickly accepted the reality of the situation, but was overcome with fear about ruining our wedding plans that Shannon had been working so hard on. I remember wanting to be put on active duty immediately so I could simply call Shannon instead of having to face her in person.
The normally long drive home wasn't long enough, and the single flight of stairs to our apartment was too short; I entered the door to find her sitting on our futon couch, happy and unsuspecting. She may have started to tell me something, I can't recall, but with a giant lump in my throat and a sudden inability to speak, I hugged her tight and hoarsely whispered in her ear "We leave in June." It was the most difficult thing I'd ever done. Even when on that deployment, facing real potential for injury or death, I was never scared in the same way that I was the day I told her Shannon our wedding plans would be changed.  
Fortunately, Shannon is resilient and stronger than people may suspect, and after we cried it out for a little while that day she was hard at work planning our now expedited wedding plans.  Being only a few weeks away, Shannon told me she might as well have some fun with the situation and our wedding would be on St Patrick’s Day, March 17th.  We agreed to have a small wedding since we had little time to prepare, but follow it up with a bigger vow renewal on our second anniversary.  Everything went well on the day we wed, and to this day I have a vivid image of Shannon in her wedding dress while we stood in front of our closest family and friends.  
We've been through a lot since that day, most of it I never could have predicted. Currently, we are always busy with the kids, the daycare, and my work, but despite all the distraction I still look at Shannon and can’t believe how lucky I am to have her with me. She has been amazingly strong during the difficulties we've encountered, and I’ve never thought there could be a better mother or friend than her.  I am truly fortunate to have Shannon in my life, and her love is my most cherished thing.

Thank you for 10 years, Shannon, and I look forward to sharing our lives for all the rest of them!  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Wow!  What a wild ride this year has been.  There is (hopefully) personal growth in every year, but some years it is a small change and others it is quite large.  This year was one of those explosive years.  Though it was not without its setbacks, the general trajectory is miles forward from where we started 365 days ago.

In one year, we:

  • Got licensed to become an in-home daycare.
  • Grew the daycare business to exactly where we needed to be - and primarily through our friends or referrals - the highest form of a compliment.
  • Grew the gun business to more than double the business of last year - again primarily through referrals.
  • All of this while maintaining the life coaching business.
  • Had a baby turned toddler.
  • Lost a family member FAR too soon.
  • Went on our first vacation ("stay-cation", really) as a family of 5.
  • Had a toddler turned preschooler.
  • Had a preschool turned kindergartner.
  • Welcomed Great Grandma Annette to Omaha.
  • Celebrated Thanksgiving with extended family that we haven't seen in many years.
  • Survived our (hopefully only) brush with cancer - everything was benign, but still far too close for comfort!
  • Thrived not only as individuals, but also as a married couple and a family.
One of the factors in my quitting my job to stay home and do in-home daycare full-time was so that Russell could get off of the night shift.  Well, that lasted about a year.  Once Jameson started kindergarten, he realized that he really didn't get to see him except for maybe an hour in the mornings.  So, it was back to nights for him.  But, this time we have a better system in place so that he is able to get more sleep.  And he got back on basically his same crew as before, so that's good!

We had a little health scare with Russell this year.  He had (what he thought were) 2 cysts removed a few months ago in an in-office procedure.  When he went back in for the follow-up, they told him that it was some disease and the cysts were actually benign tumors and the tissue around it contained precancerous cells.  He was told that he was going to need to have a surgery to remove that tissue and a margin around it.

He went in for the surgery.  We were expecting an area of about 6 or 7 inches to be removed, based on what the surgeon drew on his chest.  Right as they were about to wheel him to the operating room, they told him that they needed him to sign one more form - in case they needed to do a skin graft.  WHAT?!?  The surgery took about an hour or two.  The surgeon came out to talk to us.  He said one they got in there, they found that more tissue than they were expecting was affected, but that they did not need a skin graft.  The incision ended up being over a foot long and we later found out that he was actually really close to getting a skin graft.  But, so far everything looks good and Russell is disappointed that this scar, although long, won't be quite as wicked as he had previously imagined.  He'll have some follow-ups, but we're hoping that this is our only brush with cancer!

This year, I have made myself a primary focus for the first time in...well, probably ever.  I realized that I had been putting everyone else first at a detriment to myself, so I decided that it was time to make some changes.  These changes were internal, such as becoming more assertive, overcoming fears, defining boundaries, and finding forgiveness - not only for others, but also for myself.  Soooooooo much forgiveness.  There have also been external changes.  I got my lip pierced, am finding my own personal style, and pursuing my own hobbies - when none of these things were important before.

Something that has become very important to me is to carve out time for myself regularly.  For one, I joined Jazzercise.  I relish each day that I am able to get out and do it.  An hour to myself, with adults, is golden.  Plus the endorphin boost from the exercise doesn't hurt either!  Kellie, Jenny, and I have started a monthly "mom's day out."  It is so important to have some time to unwind and to reconnect as friends.  And let me just tell you, I am SOOOOOOOO blessed to have such amazingly loving and supportive friends.  At a time when I was questioning most of the relationships that I had ever foraged, they held me up until I was strong enough to stand on my own two legs.  Seriously, they are AAAAH-MAZING.

Lastly, I am working on identifying and developing my own hobbies.  For so many years, my focus was my education and career and then my children came along and I just never allowed myself the gift of doing anything just for the pure enjoyment.  I've always enjoyed reading, but it just wasn't what I was looking for - I needed something to get me out of the house!  This spring/summer, I threw myself into garden.  Both the vegetable garden in the back and (finally) adding to our landscape.  The vegetable garden flourished and I'm looking forward to seeing how the landscaping looks in the spring.  Probably over 6 years ago, I mentioned to Russell wanting to try archery.  He finally took me this fall.  And I LOVED it!!!  As of this Christmas, thanks to my generous husband, I am the proud owner of a new beautiful pink bow and gear!  I can't wait to break that baby in! 

I can see incredible changes within myself and I'm really liking what I'm seeing!

Jameson has had some HUGE changes this year.  He went from being in the 4's classroom to being a preschool graduate.  Then this summer he was officially considered a kindergartner able to go to camp with the school-age kids.  He could not have been more excited.  He went from half days to full day summer camp.  He was quite popular.  He talked about some 5th grade girls that hung out with him and we were told by the camp counselors how much they adored Jameson.  They told us "Jameson is the best!  No seriously, THE best kid."

Then Jameson started kindergarten.  This was a scary leap for me.  He went from preschool where I knew his teachers, had a lot of contact with them, and knew all of his peers.  To Kindergarten, where I had to leave him at the door.  But, I feel much better now that I know how highly his teachers think of him.  Speaking of which, Jameson is officially the most advanced kid in his class in regards to math and he is now able to read simple books.  He is constantly sounding works out.  Jameson has stated that he wants to be an artist when he grows up (among many other things), so we signed him up for art classes after school.  He has made some amazing things.  Where did my baby go??

Delilah turned 3 early in the year.  Poor girl, had to wait several weeks for her birthday party because Russell was in DC for the Navy.  And THEN her party was all but snowed out.  But she was a trooper and took it in stride.  And we had a fun time!

Delilah's transition to school was not quite as smooth as Jameson's.  The first week of summer, we signed the kids up for a special week-long animal camp that they could go to together.  Then when their actual summer camps started, Delilah had a hard time because we dropped Jameson off first and then took her to her room.  She was sad every day to be away from Jameson.  She eventually got to the point where she tolerated it, but never seemed to really enjoy being dropped off during the summer.  Once fall came around, she started preschool and her three teachers were teachers that Jameson had at some point.  Delilah was familiar with all of them, so getting her to preschool was a little easier.  But, she used to get really quiet in the 40 minutes between Jameson's drop off and when she needed to be to preschool.  

The good news is that Delilah has since really flourished.  She gets sad on the days that she does not have school.  She talks about all of her friends that she has made in class including her boyfriend (who comes from a well-known Omaha family - what can I say, the girl has good taste!) and her girlfriend.  She tells me that she and one of her friends at school "just laugh and laugh."  I just love that Delilah is really coming into her own.  :-)

Has grown considerably - as all babies do.  In 2013 he has gone from a fairly needy 5 month old baby who only wanted his mama to being a full-blown toddler.  He has developed impeccable comedic timing.  He has figure out how to make a noise by blowing on his arm and he has figured out that the best time to do this is at the dinner table.  He is starting to talk and his favorite word is "LILAH!!" followed closely by "NO!"  He loves playing with the big kids and can usually get them laughing hard.  He is a climber - he sleeps in a pack and play because he can climb out of the crib.  He had turned into such a cuddle bug.  He loves blowing kisses and giving hugs.  And if he really wants your attention, he'll grab you by the cheeks and plant a few kisses on you.  He is by far the biggest Bennett kid in both height and weight at his age and he has a hearty appetite to keep up with it!

2013 has been a growing year for all of us.  I hope that it has treated all of you as well.  My resolution is to keep this forward momentum going and make 2014 our best year yet!!  
Happy New Year!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A very special man remembered.

Michael David Bennett was Russell's cousin.  Despite Michael ending the four "glorious" years that Russell was the only grandchild, they were close growing up.  I was introduced to Michael when Russell and I started dating back in high school.  During one of those first few visits to Lincoln, I remember Michael expressing his frustration to Russell that it wasn't fair that he had 2 girlfriends (his ex-girlfriend and myself), so he should just go ahead and let Michael have me.  Talk about making a girl feel welcome into the family!  :-)

One of the things that Michael was passionate about was sports - specifically the Huskers.  We would occasionally travel to Lincoln to watch Husker football at Russell's grandma's house with Michael.  During halftime, the boys would go out back and throw the football around.  I went to my very first Red & White game with Russell and Michael.  I will never be able to think of the Huskers without being reminded of Michael.

Another passion of Michael's was music.  Looking at Michael, you would likely not assume that he was a talented musician.  You see, Michael was born with some major challenges.  Including the limited use of his right hand/arm and some hearing loss.  These are not qualities that you would look for in a talent musician.  And yet, he had an amazing ability for music.  I was always in awe of Michael's talent to play by ear.  We asked Michael to play the piano at our wedding.  I gave him a CD of the songs that I wanted played and that was it.  He did an amazing job.  Michael's skills only progressed to the point where he was composing his own songs and made a CD.

Several years ago, Michael excitedly told us about the part-time that he had recently started at 10/11 news - which is a station local to Lincoln.  He was working in the sports department (surprise, surprise - right??).  This part-time gig eventually turned into full-time.  You could tell the dedication that Michael had to the station and the joy that it brought to him.  We knew the love that Michael had for 10/11, but it wasn't until after he passed away that we realized that the feeling was mutual.

A few months ago, Michael was forced to go to the hospital by one of his co-workers.  He was diagnosed with what doctors thought was a bad case of pneumonia, had a surgery to drain fluid from his lungs and was discharged.  At this point, we were able to visit Michael at his house.  A short time after that, Michael was back in the hospital again having fluid drained from his lungs.  Things pretty much went downhill and ultimately they opted to do an exploratory surgery to see what was going on.  They found the culprit - Michael had lymphoma.  However, he just wasn't able to recover from all of the procedures.  So, as we were closing out celebrating Ephraim's 1st birthday and gearing up to celebrate Russell's birthday, we got urgent news that Michael's time on this Earth was coming to an end.  We raced up to Lincoln to find comfort in family.

It's such a juxtaposition to be celebrating the anniversaries of the day two very special guys being given life as we begin to mourn the loss of another very special guy's life. But, I can tell you that all of a sudden all of the petty stuff and life's little annoyances don't seem to matter anymore. I am sad for what has been lost, but I am grateful for the time, love and laughs that we had.

Rest in Peace, Michael.  You will be missed.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The day I said yes.

Ten years ago today, Russell and I were literally days into officially living together.  I carefully zipped myself into my new black dress, assuring that my hair and makeup were just right, as Russell dressed himself in his Marine dress uniform.  You see, I was told that we were going to a retirement party for a fellow Marine, but I had a sneaking suspicion that this day just might be THE day - the day he slipped that engagement ring onto my finger.  I looked down at my my hands and noticed my chipped nail polish.  I knew that I couldn't have that if people were going to be ogling the rock that was about to be slipped on my finger.  I could not find any nail polish remover in the apartment into which we had just moved.  So, on our way to dinner, I made Russell make a quick stop at Target.

Once my nails are appropriately unpolished, we are on our way to dinner.  We head to Mr. C's, a local italian restaurant, which has since sadly closed.  While at the restaurant, Russell says "Oh, I forgot to give you your graduation gift."  (Sidenote: I had graduated from ISU that May and Russell missed my graduation because he had drill with the Marine reserves and couldn't get out of it.)  My heart skipped a beat as he reached into his pocket to retrieve my gift.  My heart sank as I noticed that the gift box was much longer than a ring box.  And I tried my very best to hide my disappointment as I opened the box to reveal a necklace with a heart-shaped pendant (the very one that I still wear to this day).  We finish dinner and head to (what I am now coming to terms with might actually be) the retirement party.

So, we make the drive from Mr. C's in North Omaha to West Omaha.  During this time, another Marine calls looking for directions.  My heart sank a little more.At the time, it annoyed Russell, but it made me start to actually believe that we were, in fact, going to a Marine function.  But, rather than going to Skyline, as I was told, we end up at Zorinsky lake.  Zorinsky has some history for Russell and I.  It was where we ended up on our first date and where we went when Russell broke up with me the summer after our senior year (his reasoning was because I wasn't "the one" - something I still tease him about.  Haha!).  There are 4 entrances to Zorinsky lake off of 156th street, the above 2 events occurred at separate areas.  So, imagine my surprise when he whipped into a 3rd entrance.

Once we are parked, he tells me to hang on a second as he unloads items that I had no idea were stashed in the car - namely a blanket and his acoustic guitar.  He runs back to the car and leads me to the area where he has laid out the blanket.  And despite the people on the trail, he proceeds to serenade me the song Everything by Lifehouse while playing his guitar.  This is a very special treat because he very rarely sings in front of me.  Unfortunately, I don't have a video of the actual event, but this is *almost* as good:

Once he finished singing, he tells me that he has gotten my father's approval and asks for my hand in marriage, while holding a much smaller box than the one he had given me at dinner (which is now referred to as "distraction necklace"), with the most beautiful ring that I have ever seen in it.  I (of course) say yes and we awkwardly get the ring on my finger.  This was followed by a lot of crying, laughing, hugging, and kissing.

But, this was not the end of the surprises for the night.  Our next stop was his parents' house, which I noticed as we pulled up, was surrounded by cars.  I first meet my Dad and Step-Mom on the front porch.  They try to be nonchalant "so, what's new?"  "Russell asked me to marry him!!" I say in a voice that sounded far too whiny in my opinion (due to the crying).  "So, what'd you say??"   This was the question of the night.  :-)  As I walk into Russell's parents' house, I realize that I am surrounded by many of our family and friends.  He not only surprised me with the proposal, he then planned a surprise engagement party!

Still 10 years later, I can't imagine a more perfect day.  And later I realized just how much work went into  the whole thing.  At one point he went down to KC to take my dad out to dinner to ask for my hand.  He went to the jeweler and actually helped design my ring, based on what I had told him that I wanted.  He planned the whole night - including making a special CD for the event.  And he arranged for the surprise engagement party (because we had previously talked about what we had thought about as far as our dream proposals - I wanted something public, like on the screen of a baseball game, but he wanted something more intimate - and he managed to get both elements in on the same night!).

Have things been 100% perfect?  Nope.  But, life is a rollercoaster and nothing makes you appreciate the highs like successfully navigating the lows.  Is there anyone else on this planet that I'd rather have next to me on this crazy ride?  Nope.  I mean, for one, look what I've gained:

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Graduate!

It seems like just yesterday that I was walking Jameson in foe his first day of preschool, holding back tears.  It was such a monumental occasion as he took the first steps of his educational career.  Today was the end of the very first chapter in that journey.  Today is the day that Jameson graduates preschool.

He has been talking about his "show" for weeks.  He has been practicing his songs and he has been inviting just about everyone that he see to come to his "show."

The day of graduation came.  We entered the auditorium with all of the other friends and families of graduates.  Jameson had not just the four of us cheering for him, he also had his Graham-cracker, Papa Terry, Mama O, Nannie, Papa Bruce, and Aunt Rachel there as well.  The teachers took turns speaking about the program and the progress that the students have made over the past year.  They showed a slideshow of the kids (which of course brought a tear to my eye).  The kids sang a few songs.  They took turns dancing in smaller groups.  Jameson danced to the song "I like to move it!"  We also learned that when Jameson grows up, he wants to be a police officer, like daddy.  He wants to take bad guys to jail.  He was so cute, but very serious during most of the ceremony.  He also looked very bored during times that he was not performing.  He later told us that he was not bored, he was just paying attention.

After his graduation, we had some treat at a little reception.  During this, he said goodbye to his preschool friends and his teachers.  I think that Jameson got his first taste of how bittersweet the end of something cal be.  As we let the gym, I caught him tearing up (which, of course, in turn made me cry!!).  We talked about how it's okay to be sad about not seeing your friends all the time, but also being excited for something new (in this case KINDERGARTEN!!).

We had a lovely family lunch at Greenbelly.  This is one of our favorite places to go for a Saturday lunch.  We've gotten to know the owner during our visits.  So, he held a table toward the back for us, had some bruschetta ready, and even got cupcakes for the kids!  All in all, it was a very nice day, even if this Mama isn't ready to admit that she now has a school-ager!!