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.
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!
Close enough I could feel the air shimmer over my skin as a lion sauntered past me. Less than a foot away I dug deep for courage as I sat exposed in an open-air Land Rover. His paws silent as marshmallow pillows, his movements sleek as a crocodile slicing through a murky riverbed.
Even in the stillness this king exuded power.
All of it magic.
This is how I know fear does not always tell the truth. If I had listened to fear I would have stayed home in my Cubs pajamas.
I would have missed an enraged elephant tossing sand at me as we interrupted his hunt for female companionship.
I would have missed seeing so many leopards that I lost count. Mothers and babies, lone leopard warriors stalking the land for dinner, a female leopard mating with a father and son to ensure protection of her future progeny, leopards in trees and on termite mounds.
An abundance of spots and I loved every, single one of them.
I would have missed meeting my idol and mentor, Martha Beck.
Martha is a Light Writer and life coach. Meeting her meant everything to me. Her writing and wisdom carried me through a time in my life when I needed it most. Getting to tell her that in person was, you guessed it, magic.
Martha is the reason I cast my fear aside brought my fear with me, let it have its say and still went to South Africa anyway.
I did it for her and for Mad Dog. His lifelong dream consisted of coming face to face with a lion while on safari. I flew nearly 50 hours, endured 17 hours of layovers in Qatar, willingly rose daily at dawn and perched myself without complaint in a vehicle minus any enclosures to face the fiercest animals in all the land.
I would do it all again if only to see Mad Dog’s face each and every time we encountered lions.
I hold gratitude for everyone who made it possible for Mad Dog to realize this dream. From our extraordinary ranger and tracker, to my in-laws who took care of the boys and dogs while we traipsed across the savanna.
Every day dazzled us with mystery and wonder.
As we watched animals roaming free and living immersed in the present moment, our hearts cracked open a bit wider and we grew in wisdom and love.
All I wanted was to walk to dinner in peace. My boys weren’t having it. T.Puzzle’s needling of Full Speed spiked to a dangerous level. So did my exasperation.
I took note that my expectations for the evening were not matching the reality of it. Quiet strolls, tranquil camaraderie and basic normalcy are elusive on most days of motherhood.
When we arrived at our destination, it took me a few moments to process through my frustration. I ended up giving one of my aren’t-we-fortunate-we-can-be-together-and-enjoy-awesome-dinners-out speeches.
Once I said my piece, the edges of discord smoothed away. We shifted back to our default which happens to be a family that is loved.
I took a moment to drink it all in. The breeze that brushed through our faces held the perfect depth of warmth. The trees rustled nearby ushering us to dusk.
Dreams may lack perfection, but I am doing my best to recognize them in all their shapes and forms.