We are more adaptable than we realize. We have settled into new routines and found sparks of hope in unexpected places. T.Puzzle’s new mantra is “less school, more video games!” Silver linings are there for the taking.
Everyone has unique strengths during times of stress. While my strength lies in cultivating family bonds, I may also freak out a little more than the rest of my clan. Thankfully, I am married to a man who never freaks out. It actually kind of freaks me out that he is so calm ALL THE TIME. At this point, I am not going to change who I am, but I am forever grateful I feel safe enough to fully be myself and know without doubt, I am loved just as I am.
When this whole pandemic began to impact our lives, to help preserve my sanity, I took a major pause from social media. I simply cannot hold that many stories in my head and function well. It may appear that I am less connected to what matters, but I have found the opposite to be true. I am remembering the beauty of my own backyard.
My imagination runs wild so I have to be mindful of the T.V. shows I watch. Otherwise my sleep will be disrupted and general mind mayhem will ensue. This leaves me with limited options. I have been reduced to watching lots of reality T.V. This is fine in small doses, but recently I have noticed my propensity to want to walk around in thong bikinis, toss martinis about and speak incoherently in a British accent. Weirdly, Mad Dog has little to no objections concerning my altered behaviors. I am in no danger of being voted off the island.
Sarah Jessica Parker, Princess Kate, and Abby Wambach are a few examples. These are the women that inspire me and help me to dream bigger dreams for myself.
My current ‘best friend’ is Melinda Gates. While it is mildly possible the Gates Foundation has slightly more monetary resources than the giving fund Mad Dog and I started, Melinda’s philanthropic sensibilities are the paragon I hope to follow. She grew up in Texas and, when the world was accessible, I would drive by the high school she attended on my way to workout. This makes our ‘friendship’ seem all the more real. I live near where she grew up. I live near where she learned how to code. I live near where she became the person she is today.
See? Anything is possible.
Mad Dog recently sent me an article about books Melinda recommended. Since she is one of my very best friends, I immediately bought them. One in particular, The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, has daily entries to help open your mind and heart to a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you. It is awesome, but honestly, my best friend wouldn’t recommend anything subpar I can promise you that.
Since I am deep in the self-quarantining phase of life, I have several books that I am reading simultaneously (I kind of roll like that anyway in regular life, too), and found myself with this glorious recommended book in serious need of a bookmark (as all others were in use). Ever the problem solver, I marched back to the game room and announced the boys needed to make me one. Yes, there was some serious pause and a healthy dash of attitude thrown my way, but I persevered.
“I gave you life. Because of me you have life. Make. Me. A. Bookmark. Now.”
It took them a few minutes, but they did it. I also made it clear, please, take it seriously. Write something thoughtful and inspiring on it as I will be reading this book every day.
First up, I read Full Speed’s side:
He did not let me down.
Next up, T.Puzzle:
It’s super emotional so if you are the sensitive-type, gather up your courage before you look at it:
Every year Mad Dog and I embark on our annual Buckeye Cruise for Cancer. It is a cherished trip as it supports cutting edge research and cancer care, but also happens to be a giant party with hundreds of Ohio State Buckeye fans. You can learn more about this awesomeness here:
Through the years, my relationship to this getaway has shifted. It still requires weeks of planning and preparation, even at this stage in the parenting game, but it is so much easier. I trust my boys to be active and willing participants in the care of our home, our dogs and most importantly, themselves. They did not disappoint. They received a glowing review from our dear friend who kindly watched over them while we were away. Full disclosure, T.Puzzle promised that they saved their worst behavior for me. Specifically me. Not Mad Dog. Me.
He’s not wrong.
Despite some sibling rivalry flare-ups upon our return, I felt grateful having us all together again. My heart was happy knowing I genuinely missed them but more importantly, that I looked forward to seeing them. I don’t take this for granted. I don’t take anything for granted. They are teenagers. I have no idea what could happen next, but for right now, for this day, for this moment, when the four of us are together, it feels like magic.
2019 will forever be known as the year Mad Dog and I became the parents of teenagers!
How did we go from this:
Somehow our boys became young men in less than a year’s time! No one tells you that when you become a parent. That in an instant your children vanish and are replaced by grown-up versions of themselves. Naively, I thought it would be more gradual. How do I feel about this? If I am to take a cue from T.Puzzle and his extreme articulation abilities which are common to thirteen year old boys around the world I’d say this:
“I don’t care.” (my personal favorite)
In general, despite some family growing pains due to the realm of the teenager, both boys are successfully finding their way in the world. Academic success is part of that, and even this isn’t always smooth (A Humble Hero’s Journey), but it’s the intangibles that make them so awesome. Like Mad Dog, our boys get better with age.
2019 was the year of dreams realized. First and foremost, Mad Dog and I ventured to Africa (My Heart Belongs to Africa). The magic of the African bushveld and all our adventures there have pushed me to keep writing. I never know where it might lead, but I am learning to love the process and am grateful for any chance I am afforded to be published.
Full Speed continues his basketball coaching journey by managing his high school’s freshman teams. He takes great pride in this role making sure to dress the part on game days. The freshman coach has expressed his appreciation for Full Speed’s strategical support and his positive leadership contributions. Something tells me this is only the beginning in what could be a life-long commitment to coaching for Full Speed. He truly is in his element out on that court and we could not be more proud of him.
If coaching is Full Speed’s element, giving is mine. Thankfully, I married someone who supports this life vision. Mad Dog and I were able to start our DeVaul Family Great Day Foundation this year. Each month we are able to give to the causes we care about. I am excited to see how it grows and where it goes.
And while some dreams were realized, 2019 was not without challenges. Mad Dog and I continue to navigate the strain of ‘third-party’ influences on our marriage. This has shown up in the fluffiest of forms:
The only way I make peace with Nora ‘stealing’ my man’s attention, is that she allows me to dress her up like a Disney Princess:
As I do my best to navigate ‘sharing’ Mad Dog, I am reminded that I, too, apparently have some boundary issues when it comes to Max. When he came into our house over six years ago at the age of ten, I never thought he would live to see so many holiday seasons with us. He is a reminder of all that is good in the world. He may be cranky on occasion but he is a living, breathing form of what unconditional love looks like.
Even though we are blessed with the most incredible boys and perfect dogs, we are happy to announce a new addition to our family!
Please welcome Roho the baby elephant! (yeah, I kind of freaked out my sister, too. All she heard was ‘baby’ and thought I had lost my mind)
We are fostering Roho for the next several years in the hopes he will learn the needed skills to successfully return to the wild after losing his mom to poachers. I will be getting my first pictures and official updates of his progress as Christmas arrives. He, by far, is my most well-behaved child.
Welcome to the family, Roho!
While we are so grateful to all the wonder 2019 supplied us, we are even more excited for what the future will bring. Yes, some of it may be unexpected and yes, it may not always look the way we imagined, but we have to be willing to let go of the life we wanted to live the life we are given. In my experience, the life we are given always far exceeds anything we believe we could want.
Happy Holidays to All.
Thank you for reading and may 2020 bring all your dreams alive!
Words more dreaded than this for a teenage boy simply do not exist.
This is where the story of our beleaguered hero begins.
He had a humble upbringing. Raised by a beautiful, age-defying, always-dancing mother and an extremely handsome (you’re welcome, Mad Dog) and benevolent father, our hero rose unassumingly through life’s ranks and, as any good story would have it, found himself face-to-face with doom (aka high school).
Our Humble Hero was not afraid for he new his birthright.
Great men are born to great men.
He had done the math (sort of, just don’t check his eighth grade Algebra 1 transcript) and realized he had everything he needed to succeed. He had wit, he had charm and he had incredible good looks (you’re welcome, Full Speed).
He had everything he needed except for one thing …
Most academic heroes, grammar gods and algebraic warriors know that without such skills, failure looms large. Their parents also know this. These parents state the obvious and hope their progeny take heed. Things like attending tutorials with teachers, studying in study hall (gasp!) and taking your time on tests all fall under the wisdom arc of great, parental knowledge.
Did our Humble Hero listen to these time-tested tenets of success?
Here is his story told in his own words:
Call to Adventure: The call to adventure occurs after parent night. Mad Dog learned that the Humble Hero’s L. A. teacher had tutorials. He came home and said “The Great Teacher has tutorials Tuesdays and Thursdays in the morning.
You should go”.
Refusal of the Call: Our hero ignored the call thinking that he was too cool for more school. He assured Mad Dog that everything was under control.
Acceptance of the Call: One day, the hero got his grammar/vocab quiz back. He had missed 9 grammar questions for a score of 82. It was at this moment he knew he had messed up.
Crossing the Threshold: The hero arrived at The Great Teacher’s door and he entered the special world of her classroom.
The journey had begun.
Meeting the Mentor: All heroes need a guide that shows them the ways of life. The Great Teacher showed the hero how to become one with the grammar gods.
Trials and Tests: In class, the hero had to deal with worksheets about grammar. The days went by and eventually the hero finally figured out what a preposition does.
The Supreme Ordeal: All of the hero’s hard work had prepared him for this moment. A 50 question quiz with half of those being grammar. Mere mortals could not withstand the pressure of this quiz. But, our hero isn’t mortal. Brandishing his magic weapon, (a worn down mechanical pencil), he was able to complete the quiz with only minimal suffering.
The Reward: Much to his surprise, the hero had accomplished his goal. He had gotten an A on the grammar quiz.
Return with the Elixir: The hero was overjoyed. He couldn’t wait to tell his parents what he had accomplished.
Mad Dog’s response “I was right, wasn’t I?”
The hero could only muster, “Maybe”.
From this moment forward, strange occurrences became the Humble Hero’s new normal. As he began to attend other tutorials along with continuing to be mentored by the Great Teacher, all his test scores and grades improved.
How could it be? Do you mean to tell me the Humble Hero had the power to succeed THE WHOLE TIME. Move over sister, your ruby slippers got nothing on this guy.