Footprints Along the Way

For the last eleven years, I have been the partner of a man who has been on a journey, or a mission so to speak. Four years ago our life path was thrown for a loop with these three words, “You have M.S.”  Our minds were wracked with the following questions: What did that mean? What did that mean for him, for his daily life, for our marriage, for the future?

Perhaps I shall back up a bit to provide more story elements that frame the picture properly:

We met in 2003 whilst waiting for an area recital at Portland State University. I was scribbling in my notebook, writing about, “life,” and my emotions as a nineteen year old freshman in the music department.

He sauntered in with a gray sweater, shining blue eyes, a mop of short but wavy brown hair and a flashy smile.

I was hit.

I was hit with the thought, “Woah, wait a minute, who is that and how did I miss him earlier in the term?”

It was January, the first Monday back at school from winter break, 4:30pm before the dreaded gathering of all voice majors in the department to, “support,” (insert eye roll here….) one another and perform for our peers. We all paraded through Lincoln 75’s doorways and settled into the drab grab chairs and waited to hear who would perform that afternoon.

Sure enough, HE jumps up, and without prior rehearsal, announces, “I’ll sing, might as well get it out of the way!” which was followed by a barrel of a laugh and a wide toothy grin.

I’ll always remember him that way, standing up in front of the performance hall and filling the room with the sounds of resonating song.

Perhaps I’ll write more about how the love affair began after that day, but at a later time.


Cut towards years later…

Sitting on the floor of our apartment, I was surrounded by boxes, and knee deep in newspaper when the phone rang, and my heart jumped. I answered and Andy was on the other end of the line and he choked out, ”They called me back. The optical neurologist,”

“OK,” I reply as steadily as I could force my voice to proceed. “And what’d she say?”

“She said they found spots on the MRI, I have optical neuritis and the spots indicate, one of two things: cancer tumors or most likely, M.S.”

I’d like to say that I found the right words to say something extremely uplifting and profound, but I didn’t. I said, “Where are you?”

“On the highway,” choking and crying amidst rain pouring down on the car, a drizzling whir in the background.

“Well shit, I can’t get to you now,” that’s what I mustered. I said something else about, come home, we’ll talk about it here, and don’t call anyone else, just drive carefully, I’m right here, I love you.

We were in the middle of a move, a move back into his parent’s house, he was in graduate school, student teaching 30 miles from home, I was in my second year of teaching, and we were in our fourth almost fifth year of marriage.

“I want to do an Ironman.” This is what Andy stated a couple weeks after his diagnosis. “A what? What’s that?” I replied.

Cut to the present time, and here we are in Whistler, Canada.

We find ourselves in the midst of the day before a goal that was once set in the distance and is now within grasp.

Andy has always been a strong person, a caring and humorous individual who always looks on the bright side of life. I knew that he would recover well, that he would push forward and place his best foot forward. He is an inspirational human on numerous levels. The last four years have been a pathway filled with footprints from so many experiences, conversations, and decisions made. Being the partner of a person with MS has changed me in many ways.  It has helped me to understand the meaning of appreciating health and life, and just how essential a goal can be.  Andy has this amazing tenacity to always smile. He will always try to brighten someone’s day, or provide a kind word with a helping hand.

There have been so many memories, people, and events that have transpired over the last few years. One thing about a life ‘crisis,’ so to speak, is the amazing humanity that is brought forth. If we were to write a list and thank each person by name and for which event, which bike ride, which conversation we’ve had with them, it’d be a hefty, and lengthy list. You know who you are, and you know how much you mean to us.

Life is about never giving up. Always taking chances, and placing one foot in front of the other. In so many motivational speeches, books, and experiences I’ve experienced as of late, I find one phrase that always rings true: Just keep moving forward.

These foot steps have been tread before, but they are new to you, and they lie just before you. We all choose to make goals, and live our lives how we see fit. I’m so proud of my husband.  He makes me feel grateful to have met him all those years ago on a dreary day in January.

Tomorrow I will watch him tread forward, on a day that means so much to not only him, but to all of us. That day in life, is a tomorrow that will become a today.

Sparkle on friends.

Good night moon, good night cow jumping over the moon…

When I was quite small, but past the age of, “nap time,” my mother instituted the idea deemed by the phrase, “quiet time.” This was the replacement for nap time in which I could choose whatever quiet activity of my choice to engage in, but the rule was to stay in my room until I felt refreshed and calm. Little did I know at the time my mother was laying the foundation for an essential part of a healthy life. Finding balance is absolutely the struggle and key to leading a balanced life. Part of this balance for me, is engaging in some form of, “quiet time,” that brings me peace or joy for that day.

Now, as an adult, I cherish my quiet time. I love quiet solitude.  Snuggling into the crook of the couch and reading is a favorite past time of mine. I used to read aloud stories to Cassie dog, and I still read to Bella cat.  One of my favorite memories of Cassie, this past April was reading her a story earlier on in the week, and sitting quietly with her at my feet, the day we had to put her down. There is something to be said about sharing a story and letting words wash over you in a quiet hour of the day.

In a full day of teaching, there is no, “quiet time,” which, makes sense, however, with the exception of read to self or D.E.A.R. time (Drop everything and read J). This is probably one of my favorite times in a teaching day to share with students. My inner librarian emerges as I explore my classroom library with students to help them find a good fit book. The look on their faces is absolutely priceless when they are paired with a text of their interest and reading ability level!

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives as adults, where is our quiet time? I mean truly, what would happen in society if we provided ourselves, or dare I say, employers provided their employee’s with mandatory read to self time for 20 minutes a day *GASP*? Perhaps employers or companies would see massive improvements, not just in morale, but also in productivity?!

Six years of teaching has lend to many, MANY, memories of amazing students, but one moment stands out as aligning with this particular ramble. The school district provided a writing challenge for kids to; choose any topic of their choice to write a persuasive essay about, in the hopes of making a change in their school. I worked with a student who had a very dry sense of humor and once said to a friend, (which I overheard and later shared at their conference, but that is another story), “You know teachers aren’t in schools because they care about kids, they do it for the money…”  Being me, I dramatically paused in my scan of the classroom, made eye contact and replied with, “Darling, don’t believe everything you hear.” 

Anyway, I digress; the same charmingly hilarious child chose to write an essay about, “Why Naps Should be Required in School!”  The writing was peppered with hilarious insights of the world according to a nine year old and their view of how this could help not only students, but teachers.  Needless to say, this didn’t end up happening.  However, the student made a profound impact on their peers when they shared their writing with the class and submitted it into the competition.

What about quiet time, peaceful breaks, meditation, or creativity? How do these fit into your life, or do they at all make an appearance? I find that when I have quiet time, I come back to socializing with a renewed and refreshed outlook on a situation; upon which I desire to share what I learned during my quiet time.  I am an odd dichotomy of an extroverted introvert.  

But, back to quiet time…

I’ve found that this summer time and with the blessing of a summer break, that I appreciate very, very much, I have experienced a lot of quiet time.  It draws me back to being a little girl.  I learned how to appreciate what being alone and finding a creative outlet in life meant to me. I would become lost in characters and places in far off lands, create performance opportunities for myself, or use my imagination.  I worry about my students and our next generation of kiddos for a variety of reasons.  But I am primarily concerned with the aspect of being able to unplug and have quiet time with themselves and a book, or a note pad, a musical instrument, a basketball, whatever it may be….quiet time can mean so many different things to each person. 

I’m not really quite sure where I was going with this particular thought process, but merely sharing my thoughts. Perhaps, take a little quiet time for yourself today. Take ten minutes and engage in an activity that brings you joy or creativity. Feeding your mind and your soul is healthy for not only you, but also those in your life in whatever capacity that might be. Sparkle on friends. 

Why Sparkles?

“Sparkles, my dear, are a glittery effervescent that adds to one’s life what you desire.”


When I was a little girl, just like other girls I was enamored with anything that sparkled, twinkled, or down-right showed a sequin. Perhaps this obsession came from both my mother and my grandmother. The very thought of wearing a cape and sparkly crown around the house seemed as natural as how peanut butter and jelly went together in my mind as a six year old.

Dress up was my favorite event. I would put on hours of endless make believe play with my friend. We would adorn ourselves with the magical garments from our dress up closets. Then what would ensue was a parade around the house, gallivanting dances around the yard, and endless stories embedded with story book characters we relished at the time. I loved how the light was caught in a sparkly sequin. The glitter of those moments and how I felt, more importantly, will always burn bright in my mind’s eye.

Cut to 2014, here I am, age 30, and in all honesty, I still feel the same way. There is something to be said about feeling one’s best, and sharing it with the world. Whether that is in wearing a glittery top, wearing a sparkle on the lip, or metaphorically utilizing sparkles as a means to apply an emotion towards a situation. By this I mean having sparkles in your life, can take on many meanings and variations.

Let me explain…

When we think of sparkles we are immediately envisioning the silver sparkle of a disco ball, crystal light sparkles, or perhaps something else in a “shiny,” embedded memory.

I like to add sparkle into every day by trying something positive or new. Sometimes it’s harder than others, I’m absolutely no perfect human being, however, I do believe firmly that we have a choice to feel sparkly and positive or to not.

With that being said, what I meant by choosing the phrase, “startwithsparkles,” is the concept of, starting out with positivity. Start your day, your phrase, your response, your thinking with something that brings joy into the forefront of your mind. It is not always easy, I completely recognize this. I have been in the, “Depths of despair,” to quote Anne Shirely more than once in my life. It’s completely natural and healthy to find ourselves walking into a vast array of emotions, however, it is how we choose to respond to our emotions that makes all the difference.

A large part of my life I have remained very quiet and at times passive about my response to the world. I find happiness within myself, my family, and my friends who I interact with daily. I have felt the drive to share for a long time, and I have in various ways shared my own personal ideologies and philosophies so to speak….but it wasn’t until now with a bit of a nudge or two from my husband and father to really share my voice. So I’m kick starting my sparkles with this first little number. Thanks for stopping by and reading. “Sparkle on friends.” 

rachel little girl