Old hobbies die hard…

I began sketching and designing clothes when I was a Junior in high school, in an effort to keep from falling asleep while listening to the ever-enthralling diatribes in Mr. Dauner’s World History class.  Turns out I managed to retain everything he was saying as long as I remembered what I was drawing at the time. My  test results and grades were solid, validating that I was retaining the information, and he approved of this practice. I bet not everyone can say that they decided to pursue a career in fashion design due to their experience in World History Class. I applied to and was accepted into DAAP, one of the most prestigious programs in the country. I needed a sewing machine and my mother graciously gave me her 1983 Viking Husqvarna.


This machine was top of the line…in 1983. While it still functions incredibly well (things were just made better back in the day), it weighs an awful lot, boasts knobs that serve some purpose I have yet to discover and there are certain things that I wish it was capable of, but it simply isn’t. However, I’ve never had an easier time making a buttonhole…

Anywho, I asked for a new sewing machine for Christmas this past year. I wanted to be able to embroider things and do intricate stitching techniques, etc. for projects for my niece.

Ask and you shall receive. I opened up a mammoth of a box on Christmas morning. Introducing the Brother Innov-is 1250 D.


I took the contents out of the box and, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this thing and allllll the stuff that came with it, put the cover over it and didn’t touch it again for a month.

IMG_5862  brother-innov-is-1250-brother-nv1250--[2]-1468-p

My aunts kept asking me if I had tried to figure it out yet and I would reluctantly reply, “No…but I will.” Finally, Aunt Tessie left me no option, but to sit down and do it.

Challenge #9:

Get the machine out, read the owner’s manual and sew.  I want you to complete both a sewing project and an embroidery project.  I know you have a wonderful sense of style so you will be able to come up with some great ideas as you read the manual. Put your talents to good use and get started.” – from Aunt Tessie.

I have been blessed with three fabulous aunts on my father’s side.  We joke about which one is my favorite, but truthfully, it’d be impossible to choose. They encourage to me to chase my dreams, try new things and never give up. They are my biggest cheerleaders and could not possibly have any more faith in me than they already do. Aunt Tessie, knowing I’m trying to find my true calling, had me circle back around to something I once loved so much.

In case you hadn’t picked up on this, I did not, in fact, continue my career in fashion design. Turns out I enjoyed designing as it was an expression of my own creativity and when the professors tried to tell me how to change it and do it like them, I rebelled and did not in fact do as they said. Much to the chagrin of my fellow students, I managed to get steady grades until I decided it just wasn’t the degree I wanted and switched to Communication.

I have however continued to sew. I have made countless items including my French Kiss Halloween costume (that won several contests and the adoration of many), Natalie’s Chiquita Banana Sleeves, a few things for my niece and taken in dozens of tops and pants from when I lost weight. I was using that old viking machine for all of those projects and have continued to do so, even though this new sewing machine was sitting in my basement, untouched. This week, I decided to give it a go.

First of all, this operation manual is 209 pages. Needless to say, I have not made it through the entire manual just yet, but I learned enough to turn it on and figure out how to embroider initials. I bought a cute little outfit for Belle that I wanted to monogram so I thought I’d test my skills on fabric swatches before I committed to the ensemble.

The hardest part was trying to change all of the accessories from a regular sewing machine to an embroidery machine. Eventually I figured it out. I ironed on stabilizer and put the fabric into the frame thingy (technical term…) and attached the frame thingy to the embroidery arm. A couple of buttons later and the thing was moving along nicely!

IMG_5811 IMG_5814 IMG_5815 IMG_5817 IMG_5818

Finished sewing! It dings when it’s done! Like an oven!


I thought I did a pretty great job! Then I turned it over…


Ok…lesson learned! Move the fabric out of the way! This is why I practiced!

Round 2…

IMG_5826 IMG_5827

Now we’re talking!!  Ok, let’s give this a shot!

Second hardest thing…trying to figure out how to get the outfit onto the frame so that it wont get sewn over like the first trial attempt.

IMG_5830 IMG_5831

This took 3 different attempts before I got it right. I’m sure you can imagine the level of patience I had at this point…

Ok. Fabric in frame thingy, frame thingy on embroidery arm, buttons pushed, and we’re off.

IMG_5832  IMG_5834   IMG_5837

So far so good!



Holy cow it worked!! This is the iron-on stabilizer I applied to the back of the fabric for support. You can get sew-on or iron-on and either Wash-away or tear-away varieties.

IMG_5845 IMG_5846

Alright! Let’s see how it looks…


Welllll it’s a little off center…


Let’s give it another go…horizontal stripes should complicate things.


This one turned out alright!!


Ok, so these are the embroidery projects!!

IMG_5853 IMG_5857 IMG_5858

As Aunt Tessie’s challenge was two-fold, I still had to accomplish a sewing project! Inspired to create things for Belle, I started to brainstorm something I could do that would not be toooo difficult, but challenging enough to make me proud of myself.  I decided to create a Onesie Dress. It’s pretty easy.

You start with a onesie and one other piece of fabric about 1/4 of a yard wide and a yard long. Run a single stitch through the top of it and gather it along the thread. Fold over a 1/4-1/2 inch hem at the bottom and stich that in place.


After you have gathered the waist line to about the width of the onesie, fold it in half and stitch along the seem to create a skirt. Keep the skirt inside out and slide it around the onesie, upside down. Position it about where you want the skirt to sit and pin in place. Stitch the skirt to the onesie and flip it right side out again.




I may have done it a little bit higher than I intended so I hope it looks cute on Belle (Annabelle Jane Hayden – for those that were questioning the initials).  I decided to add a ribbon for a final feminine touch!

IMG_5872 IMG_5873

Here it is hanging up! I’d say I didn’t do so bad for wingin’ it!


All in all, I am so grateful that Aunt Tessie made me do this. Lord knows how long it would have been before I finally sat down to use the thing. Now that I’m no longer intimidated by it, I can’t wait to make more stuff!

I owe you a HUGE thank you, Aunt Tess! You helped me rediscover something I once found so therapeutic and relaxing. I look forward to creating many new projects!!

Any requests??

P.S. John and Becky, tell Belle to act surprised when she opens these up next weekend…

Come at me, bro…

I’m officially trained to kill! Well…not really. But I know how to break your fingers!!

Challenge #8:

“Take a self defense class.” from Chrissy Hayden Tubbs



Chrissy is my second cousin and she lives in Dallas, TX with her husband and 2 daughters. Considering her sister Amy was going to make me get a tattoo, I’m glad this was one of my challenges.

I have been pretty excited about this one, actually. I’ve been to several self defense seminars for course credits and work-related topics, but I’ve never been in a training facility where I actually learned how to break someone’s arm. I saw a Groupon for Close Combat Solutions Women’s Self Defense training and immediately jumped on the opportunity.

I think it’s important to refresh yourself on these key points every now and then. Statistically, 1 in 3 women will suffer an attempted or completed rape at some point in their lives. I was actually quite surprised and excited to hear that one of the girls in the class with me was required to take a self defense class as part of the Indian Hill High School gym class curriculum. Rock on, IH!

We got these cool handouts with all this important information. I’m going to share a lot of it with you as this is the point of this challenge, but not all of it because I don’t want to defeat the purpose of you attending your own self defense class. Which you should. Immediately. Jim’s great! He was informative and amusing at the same time. Very open and friendly, yet serious when he needed to be. Go there…now. www.closecombatsolutions.com


I have pondered what I would do in the event of an attack many, many times in my life. I have gone over talking/screaming until they were so annoyed they left me alone (I can talk for a really fast, really loudly, for a really long time), kicking, poking their eyes out and running. However, they could gag me so I couldn’t make a sound, knock me out leaving me defenseless, bind my legs and, obviously, catch me. (I’m not very fast…) Needless to say I didn’t exactly have the beeest plan of action so I learned a few techniques this week.

Jim Lentz has developed this seminar to inform women how to protect themselves against potential attacks. He has quite the resume providing a pretty hefty list of credentials. And is legitimately trained to kill. I trust everything that he said and will probably vote in a similar way come 2016…


Jim is a Private Investigation and Security Professional, teaches Karate/Kenpo Jujitsu, spent 6 years in the US Marine Corps, has certifications and teaches Conceal/Carry classes, is an NRA certified intructor, Personal Safety and Awareness lecturer and devoted father. I would also guess that he is a card-carrying republican, uber-conservative, given some of the comments he made (that I totally approve of).  He has 20 years combined experience in personal training, martial arts, self defense and security fields. Now that we’ve covered why this guy is capable of teaching this course, let’s get into what I learned, with the help of Jim’s daughter, Hannah, showing us the ropes. Talk about not wanting to bring a boy home to meet your father…yikes.

The biggest point Jim wanted to drive home is that the most successful way to defend yourself against dangerous situations is to avoid being in them. Now, obviously, things happen that are sometimes out of our control, but by being aware of your surroundings and maintaining a clear mind, some of these can be avoided. We talked about walking alone in Clifton at night. This is sorta crazy because if I counted the number of times I walked home alone from parties in college, or back and forth to studio at night, it is an absolute miracle I survived college without some sort of attack. It’s funny because when I drive through Clifton and certain areas of town at night now, I get a little uncomfortable. These are the exact same streets I used to feel 100% confident on. I don’t know if it’s naivety, or stupidity, but it feels totally different now.


First things first, there is a difference between a good victim and a bad victim. Walking with your head down looking at your phone, digging through your purse, completely unaware of what’s going on around you is like putting a giant target on your back. Walking with your head up, preferably not alone,  surveying the scene, making eye contact or assertive movements when you are uncomfortable are good ways to let a potential attacker know that you are aware of their presence and you’re not an easy target. You can flat out say “Hey, I see you. Don’t come any closer,” to a person to loudly let them know they’ve been made.

There are several non-violent self defense techniques that seemed pretty common sense to me, but some people might not know so I’ll share them.

– Avoid routine. Don’t visit the same ATM at the same time on the same day. Predators pick up on pattern behavior.

– Look at the people around you and keep an eye out for unusual behavior.

– Don’t go out alone at night.

– Don’t accept a ride from people you do not know or trust. (This is why I develop relationships with my cab drivers. I use the same ones over and over. I trust them. If they’re going to be taking me home if I’ve been drinking, I’d prefer it be someone I can trust. Shout outs to Ousman and Yacoub…thanks guys!)

-Trust your instincts. They’re not usually wrong. Better safe than sorry.

Simple things like changing your routine and avoiding frequenting the same places at the same times can help avoid potential attacks. I have a close friend that is pretty consistent in her daily routine and if someone wanted to find her, it’s pretty easy to pick up on where she’d be at whatever time they wanted to find her. It freaks me out. You know who you are. Stop doing that.

That’s basically it, informationally. Don’t be stupid. Be aware. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations.

Onto the physical stuff. Should you find yourself in a situation where you have the need to inflict physical pain, do so ruthlessly, without hesitation, directly down the center of the body. No. Joke. Eyes. Throat. Groin.  These are areas that can inflict the most amount of pain, with the least amount of effort, causing a neural override where the attacker literally HAS to deal with the pain in order to continue functioning. Fill your hands with whatever you can. If you’re forced to the ground, grab sand, rocks, whatever, and throw it in their eyes. If you have a phone or keys in your hand when you swing at somebody, it’ll hurt a whole lot more than your fist. Also, I’m glad I carry crossbody purses now because they become projectile weapons when you swing them around your head. (Especially with the amount of crap I carry in mine…)

IMG_5396 Screen shot 2013-05-22 at 1.52.52 PM

I’ve compiled some of the videos that I shot during class to show you a little bit about how to handle yourself in the event of an attack.

It’s true.  Being aware and being prepared can only help in these situations.


We also learned that I would not make a good assailant…

Screen shot 2013-05-22 at 1.54.05 PM


I asked when making sure you’re always aware of your surroundings becomes paranoia. He stated that it never does, which I sort of disagree with. I’m not fully engaged in life if I’m constantly looking over my shoulder to avoid an impending attack. I don’t want to walk around scared all the time. I’m still sort of struggling with that idea. I was actually sitting here editing this post when the sound of someone pounding on my front window scared the bejesus out of me. It seemed to go away, but I sat there, alert, with a hammer in reach for the next 20 minutes… I’m hoping I’m not permanently on edge after this. Gus was very alert, as well…


I’d like to thank Jim and Hannah (and Chelsea) for taking some time to teach us these very valuable techniques.  All in all, I’m confident that I am in a much better position to defend myself now than I was before attending this class. I cannot, however, say that I wouldn’t toss over my belongings, curl up in the fetal position and cry like a little girl should some hooligans ever try to attack me, God forbid. But if that’s my plan and I wanna roll with it, then at least I’m prepared 🙂


I’ve got a secret…

Adhrucia, you have some sort of ability to always know the exact “kick in the pants” I need to get motivated about things. This is one of the many reasons I adore you.

Challenge #7:

Buy The Secret on audio book and listen to it until you are done.  Listen in your car, while you get ready, etc., but really LISTEN =)  I think it will lead you far.    


Then put the principals to act with all your being for AT LEAST one month – consistently. During this month please contact Shari Goldsmith and set up a meeting.  Shari is a friend and I think that you two will be soul sisters.   Shari has some insight into careers that involve compassion, understanding, positive energy, and helping people.  She is putting together a challenge for you to help aid you in your path to discovery. 

I think that one of your biggest strengths is that you are a compassionate listener who is able to come up with insight and solutions for those you care about.   I would like you to put this into action because I think that following this strength and your compassion for working with and helping people will lead you to what you are meant to do in this world.” from my dear friend Adhrucia Apana.

Adhrucia and I got to know each other while we were Rho Gammas in college at UC. She was a Kappa and I was a Tri Delt. I remember one night we were at one of our Rho Gamma bonding sessions and we had this realization that we’re really not all that different and it was stupid that we hadn’t hung out before. From that moment on, we were instant friends. Over the years we have continued to build our friendship and whenever I need solid advice, a boost of confidence, a shoulder to cry on or someone to listen to me vent about whatever not-that-big-of-a-deal thing is bothering me at the moment, she is always there. (Usually with fabulous wine and a delicious assortment of cheeses.) Even if it’s 5 AM.


First of all, I am very touched that you feel this way about me, A. Sometimes I am reluctant to take your advice, but I usually come around in the end. I’ll be writing about my thoughts on the book today and in a month or so, circle back around to how things have evolved with Shari and the results of putting these principles in action.

Throughout this adventure, and knowing what challenges are coming down the pipeline, it is evident that many of the people that are close to me seem to know me better than I know myself. (You all also seem to think that I need to read self-help books…but whatever haha). I don’t know if it’s because I’m an open book and lay it all out on the table or if it’s because you all see something within me that I don’t immediately see within myself. Regardless, I am gracious for the faith and confidence you all have in me and I hope I make you proud.

So for the book…I was instructed to LISTEN to the audio version, which was great because my reading comprehension skills leave a lot to be desired. I downloaded it and began listening while I was running errands.  I had my windows down cruising all over town, taking in all that The Secret had to offer. It’s a little uncomfortable when you come to a stoplight and have weird music playing in the background with an Australian woman’s voice spouting out things like “like attracts like” and “There is a truth deep down inside of you that has been waiting for you to discover it, and that truth is this: you deserve all good things life has to offer.” Insert awkward glance from neighboring drivers. I realized I was not really paying attention to the book so I needed to change my listening venue.  I returned home, hooked Gus up to his rope in my front yard, popped my headphones in and listened to the entire remainder of the book while laying on my porch swing on, like, the most beautiful day I’ve seen in awhile. (BTW, my porch swing is my absolute favorite part of my house.) Perfection.


The idea of The Secret revolves around The Law of Attraction. For those that are unfamiliar, it basically says thoughts become things and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results. I’m pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down, but I do have a couple of issues with this statement. For starters, it says this works every time, all the time.

Gravity works every time, all the time. You drop something, it falls. It can be proven. It is a law. This is not a law. This is a belief. I will refer to this as the “Belief of Attraction” from this point forward.


People pray for things, wish for things, imagine or envision things that they want to happen. Hobby Lobby has made lots of money by selling various items necessary to make vision boards. Obviously, enough people believe in this phenomenon to make it work considering. I started thinking about the idea that if I want something to happen, I can will it to happen. It makes sense. This kind of ties in The Four Agreements that I read earlier in the year for my first challenge. It’s about changing your perspective on the situation. However, you cannot magically will things into existence.

One of the examples they use in the book is about losing weight. They say that if you want to lose weight, and continue to think about yourself and losing weight in a negative way, you will in turn, not lose weight. However, if you imagine your perfect size and continue to think positively about your perfect self, the pounds will just drift away, no matter what you do.

Um. No.

If you continue to eat the way you eat or incorporate little to no physical activity in your life, no matter how positively and consistently you think “110 pounds, 11o pounds…” you will not magically become 11o pounds. It’s science. I cannot will myself to be thin. You have to work for it and put in the effort to make serious changes in your life. I get the idea of thinking positively and how that helps inspire change, but it does not make fat disintegrate. Bottom line. I can see how if you envision your perfect self (which I think is also contradictory because they say you’re supposed to content and love your current self at the same time) it will change your attitude and motivate you to work toward achieving that goal.

There are truths to this book and then there are things that I find to be absolutely absurd. The book talks a LOT about money. In fact, love, money and perfect weight seem to be the only things this book thinks we need in life. Not sure that’s inspirational or appropriate, but I guess the people want what the people want.

There is this lady that loathes receiving bills in the mail. She says that she receives so many bills in the mail because all she thinks about every time she opens her mailbox is bills. She says that, in an effort to turn her perspective on the situation, she imagines that these bills are actually checks and adds zeros to the ends of each of them to trick herself into thinking she’s getting lots of money in the mail…..what.

Hey crazy lady, if you use things like electricity, water, credit cards, etc. you are going to have to pay for it. That’s the way the world works.

I guess the biggest lesson I have taken out of this “belief of attraction” is that remaining positive is the key. No matter what goal I’m trying to accomplish, it will not happen if I don’t believe in myself and in my ability to meet said goal. Yet there are still things that make me feel like there is some truth to this putting your thoughts out into the universe and waiting for the universe to answer thing.

A few examples:

Summer of 2011 when I was trying to get a job, I applied for hundreds of positions over like an 8 month period. One day, after a scoring an interview I was particularly psyched about I posted to Facebook the following post:

Screen shot 2013-05-15 at 1.33.15 PM

I started my new job at Powers Agency October 6th – not even 3 weeks after I positively decided that I would be working within the next 2 months. I put it out into the universe and it happened.

Another example: My iTunes library can read my mind and this is why I almost always leave it on “shuffle.” Some people meditate in their homes, in churches, in pleasant spaces, etc. I, however, go for drives. Whenever I have a lot on my mind, I get in my car, roll my windows down (regardless of the temperature), turn up my music, get on the highway and drive. I don’t need a destination because everything’s a circle around here, anyway. Now I’m assuming a few of my family members are cringing right now that this is my “me time,” but it works for me and I’ve been doing it for well over a decade.  My iPod always plays EXACTLY what I need or want to hear on these drives.  I have never understood it and probably never will, but the course of my thoughts, and whatever I’m trying to work out in my mind, is perfectly in sync with the jams pumping out of my car stereo. I would also attribute the many, many miles on my car to this activity.  I took another drive after having read The Secret, just to see how different my thoughts were and it was actually a much more positive experience than it usually is. Instead of being pissed about something, I accepted that I had a feeling about it and thought about how I could change it and my attitude did a complete 180 – as did my music.

Another thing is how lucky I am. I think I have magic purses. This usually relates to cab fare, but whenever I need money, I reach into my purse and magically pull out almost exactly what I need. Sometimes I literally only have the exact amount I need in my purse. This happens ALL. THE. TIME. I also win things all the time and spread luck to others. I’ve been this way since I was little. This book says that people are lucky because they expect to be lucky. If I’m positively thinking that I am lucky and expecting to win things, according to this “belief of attraction,” then it makes sense that this happens.

I have plenty of other examples of how this could actually be something to pay attention to. The book suggests testing the theory with little things first. However, yesterday I was putting it out into the universe for Adhrucia to call me to talk about this and she did not do so. Fail.

I’ll try again tomorrow.

The last comment I have about this book is that I love the reflection of gratitude. One of the gentlemen carries around “gratitude rocks” in his pocket. He wakes up every day and starts by expressing what he is grateful for before he even gets out of bed. He does this before he falls asleep at night. Every time he touches the gratitude rock, he again repeats these things that he is grateful for.  If you are constantly thinking of all the wonderful things, people and events in your life, how could you not be happy?


And so, I started my own gratitude list.

-I am grateful first and foremost for my family. This is not the first, nor the last time that I will address this. They have made me the woman that I am and raised me to be a happy, healthy, productive member of society.

– I am grateful for Gus – he has taught me so much.

– I am grateful for my health – though it could really be better.

– I am grateful for my laugh/sense of humor. It is contagious. It is one thing that no one can ever take away from me and it gets me through a lot of nervous/boring/difficult/sad situations.

– I am grateful for my friends. Some of you come and go, but you’re always there when I need you.

– I am grateful for my car because I’m pretty sure without the aforementioned drives, I’d be nuts.

– I am grateful for the blessings in my life that others are not so fortunate to have. I don’t always show it, but I am.

– I am grateful for the sun rising and setting each day because it’s almost always beautiful.

– I am grateful for my intelligence. I would really hate being stupid.

– I am grateful for the support and interest this little project of mine has generated. I have received comments from truly unexpected sources and it makes my day each and every time.

I have a meeting set up with Shari for next week and am truly looking forward to what she has in store for me. Adhrucia, I trust you and think you might be onto something. I mean, maybe the fact that we both miraculously ended up in Vegas at the same time has something to do with this…

Til next time!

Adventures in Babysitting, Part 1

Alright, so you can be upset with me if you’d like, but this week’s challenge is sans card. The opportunity presented itself and it was such an eye-opening experience that I’m writing about it. I’ll use any opportunity I can to talk about my cute little niece 🙂 Besides, I have a couple to spare due to duplicates and unreturned cards.

Challenge #6:

“Babysit Belle.”


My brother John lives in Minnesota with his wife, Becky and their almost 11-month-old daughter, Belle. John’s friend Scott invited them to The Kentucky Derby this past weekend so they came to town to visit. The original plan was to have my parents, her grandparents, babysit Belle while John and Becky went to the Derby. However, sometimes things happen and plans change.

Most of you know, but in case you missed the message, my mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer back in February. Due to her health and some of the limitations she is currently experiencing, my parents decided that extra help would be necessary. Insert Aunt Katie. It’s a good thing that they planned ahead because Saturday was a particularly rough day for my mom and my dad needed to care for her, though they both spent a significant amount of time with us and I couldn’t have done it without them.

I wake up, get ready and get in the car to head to my parents’ house – beyond excited to spend the day with my niece. Halfway there, my mother calls me and all I can hear in the background is Belle in absolute hysterics. The frantic tone in my mother’s voice let me know I needed to get there faster.  You see, Belle is somewhat afraid of my dad, and men/grey hair in general, but since mom can’t hold the weight of her right now, Dad was the only option and it didn’t sound like it was going well.

Every other time I’ve been around my adorable little niece her parents have been there, too.  Besides, I’ve been told she’s an easy baby. She laughs. She giggles. She does incredibly cute things that make us smile. And then when she cries, they work some sort of parental magic, fulfill whatever need she has and then reappear with a happy baby in a new outfit. It’s impressive. Also, I spent most of my preteen through teenage years babysitting.- usually only for about 5 hours at a time. Kids are easy. Feed ‘em. Play with ‘em. Clean ‘em. Put ‘em to bed. Naturally, I expected this to be a total piece of cake!


She seemed to have calmed down by the time I got there, but was definitely happy to see me. She reached her arms out to me almost immediately.  We put Belle in her stroller and my Dad and I took her for a walk around the neighborhood -get a little exercise, a little fresh air, occupy some time! She fell asleep almost immediately and when we returned, we let her continue to sleep in her stroller in the kitchen until she woke up. Never wake a sleeping baby or something like that, right?

IMG_4653 IMG_4661

Realization #1:  Babies are almost always hungry when they wake up.

I got really excited because she’s so cute when she eats. It’s messy and she makes funny faces, but eventually, she eats the meal before her and smiles. I don’t know what that child has against plums, but she was not having it. We’re talking hands pushing me away, tears, mouth clamped shut. These bad boys were NOT what she wanted for lunch.


We finally settled on some sort of mashed sweet potato/chicken dinner and she seemed to like it. All smiles after the first bite! After lunch we played with Grandma and Grandpa for a little while. Belle loves to play Peek-a-Boo with Grandpa, though I’m not sure which one of them enjoys it more. We also like to play “How big is Belle?” and we say “Soooo biiig!” and she throws her arms up in the air with a great big smile on her face.


She has a variety of toys that make all kinds of sounds that make her giggle. She’s incredibly amused by them and I am easily amused by her. I’m thinking to myself, “Wow this is going pretty well. I could totally do this!”  Belle especially loves dogs. She played with Cooper, my parents’ chocolate lab, for awhile. He can be grumpy at times but is surprisingly good with her.

IMG_4644  IMG_4640 IMG_4638 IMG_4636

It fascinates me everytime I hear her giggle or watch her learn something new. She likes to give you things. She picks them up and hands them over as if she’s giving you a present and then claps proudly to herself when you say thank you. This includes every thing from plastic blocks to ripped up pieces of napkins. It’s adorable!


And then, out of the blue, she started crying.

Realization #2: You don’t know always know why babies cry.

And they can’t talk so they can’t tell you why they’re crying. I went through the mental checklist. You’ve just eaten. You practically just woke up from a nap. You don’t have a dirty diaper. Nothing has hurt you. You just started crying. WHYYYY??  So I picked her up and held her and walked around the room. She stopped. However, every time I tried to sit down or stop moving, she started crying again. I walk around switching Belle from hip to hip for hours because it was the only method of keeping her happy. That being said, there is something incredibly rewarding in knowing you’re the only thing that can make her happy at that moment. And I cannot get enough of holding her. She eventually fell asleep in my arms and it was the sweetest moment of my life thus far.


Realization #3: There is absolutely no greater feeling in the world than a baby sleeping on your shoulder.

This is not the first time that I have held her while she slept, but it is the first time she looked into my eyes right before she fell asleep. Heart. Melted. She coulda puked all over me and I don’t think I would have cared. Well. Maybe.

Realization #4: I am really not great with bodily fluids.

Gonna have to work on that one. Luckily, I made it through the day with only a few wet diapers. They say it’s different when it’s your own kid. However, those moments of changing her diaper or her clothes and seeing her look up at me, or giggle when I tickled her belly, were so fun.

Realization #5:  You are never alone and nothing is “quick.”

I needed a minute to myself just so I could hear myself think. If I forgot something upstairs I had to run back up and get it, with a 17-pound baby in tow. You can’t turn your back on a crawling machine because if you do, they’re gone.  A quick errand is neither quick, nor an errand. It is a long drawn out chore. You have to get the baby ready, buckle the baby in, go to the place, get the baby out, get the baby ready to go into said place, etc. I mean it would take me 20 minutes round trip if I had to run to Macy’s for something right now. I bet it would be an hour, at least, with a child.  Thankfully, Dad took Belle to the grocery store while I ran home to pick up a few things and take Gus to daycare. This is when I learned I would be spending the night at my parents’ house because I was on night duty, too.


When I came back home, Dad was feeding her again. Goodness this child eats a lot. I get why mothers breastfeed. It’s free. The rest of the evening was pretty similar to the afternoon. Feed, change, play, repeat. Only this time, I was exhausted.

Bedtime was, by far, the hardest part of the day. I would guess that around 7:30-8:00 Belle started to miss her parents and figure out that they weren’t returning for the night. She was quite fussy and the slightest change in atmosphere or action would set her off. John called with a report that Becky’s horse had won the Derby and explained how I should put Belle to bed.

255744_10102763813242969_1067611734_n 944348_10102763811990479_167888631_n

This involved washing her face, changing her diaper and then putting her in a sleep sack (AKA Hot pocket – that thing is turns her into a small, cuddly furnace). I was to feed her a bottle and walk back and forth, patting her on the back in dark silence, until she drifted off to sleep. No problem. I can do that.

Except…when a kid doesn’t want to go to sleep, you can’t make them. You can’t just turn off the lights and hope they drift blissfully into the sweetest dreams. She revolted at the first inclination it was time for bed. We are talking one of the screechiest, mind-numbing wails I’ve ever heard. I didn’t even know she could make that sound! And I didn’t know what made it happen or how to make it stop. I imagine this is a combination of a long day mixed with missing her mommy and daddy, because honestly, no one can replace a baby’s parents. We paced around the room for quite some time while I tried everything I could think of to get her to drift off.

We then sat on the floor and played with all of her toys for a little while and read a book. After exhausting my resources, including a poorly sung lullaby, I gave up and went downstairs to watch The Blind Side with Dad. He tried to rock her to sleep to no avail so we assumed she was just not ready to go to sleep yet. I would guess it was because of the time difference, but what do I know? I sat in a chair and within 5 minutes of rocking her, the kid was out cold.  Getting her from my arms to the crib presented its own difficulties, but eventually Belle was fast asleep in her nursery, cute as a button!

I went to bed shortly thereafter and fell asleep reflecting on the day. I was thinking about all of the things I watched her learn and how much fun we had. I wish she lived in Cincinnati so I could see her all the time. I then started thinking about how hard it must be for parents, especially single parents, to do this day in and day out. I mean, I didn’t even have to juggle things like laundry, grocery shopping, my own needs, appointments, practices, etc. while taking care of her. I had one day of making sure she was fed, clean and happy. One day. 24 hours. I gotta hand it to all you parents out there. I do not know how you do this. Every. Single. Day.

Realization #6: A very small part of me thinks I might not be cut out for this.

I then proceeded to wake up every 2 hours or so just to make sure she was still breathing. I’d like to credit this to my “internal maternal instinct” though I’m sure it was more a fear of something happening to my niece while under my care…

Realization #7: That beautiful face makes everything worthwhile.


I woke up the next morning and checked on Belle, still sound asleep in her crib. Seeing her lying there so peacefully, with nothing, but the sound of her breathing, made all the stress, anxiety and exhaustion from the day before sort of disappear and all I could think about were the smiles and adventures that were in store for the following day.

Not only was I responsible for watching and caring for Belle, but I was throwing her an early 1st Birthday Party Sunday afternoon, as well.  I finished decorating and picked up the Cinsational Sweet Treats cupcakes from Jen Hardin, a friend of mine from Junior League while Belle was still sleeping. Also somethign I could not have managed without the help of my parents. Her parents walked in the door and I don’t know if I’ve ever been so grateful and so sad at the same time. I really enjoyed taking care of her, but was glad that they were home.  Belle took one look at Becky and crawled as fast as she could straight to her. Our cousins and family slowly arrived for the party. We took a picture of the 4 Hayden Great-Grandchildren to send to my grandparents and had a lovely day celebrating Belle’s first 1st birthday party.

Leah, Hayden, Reese and Belle

Leah, Hayden, Reese and Belle

945765_10101054659311295_1940815038_n 947149_10102763838672009_774492539_n leahbelle IMG_4800 IMG_4810 IMG_4808 IMG_4793 602584_10102763839545259_2020164730_n IMG_4833 IMG_4810 IMG_4781

It has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl to be just like my mom when I grew up. She stayed at home with us and raised us, but remained incredibly active in the community. She volunteered with a variety of organizations, serve(d/s) on several boards and continues to make a difference with nonprofit organizations in Cincinnati to this day. Heck, she is using her treatment as a “study” of how things are going at the Cincinnati Cancer Center from a patient’s perspective.  She never stops. And she is the absolute best mother I could have ever asked for.  She guided me and served as my role model in every way I can imagine. I want to do that more than anything in this world. (Dad, I obviously can’t grow up to be a father, so it can’t be my dream, but I’m incredibly lucky to have been raised by a man like you.) I thought I’d use this day with Belle to kinda test my abilities. She survived and was happy when her parents got home so I guess I didn’t do such a bad job, after all!

I learned many things about myself, about children, about my parents and about life in general this past weekend. I would do absolutely anything for that child and she’s not even mine. All kidding aside, I had an absolutely blast taking care of Belle for a day. It makes me feel confident that I will figure it all out and be a great mom someday.

In the end, nothing in this world is more important than family and I’m so blessed to be a part of the one that I have. Though we are continually growing over the years, those that have passed will never be forgotten and those that are born will never be more loved than they are by us. My cousin, Amy, showed me this quote by Story People and it has been one of my most favorite sayings ever since.

“Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, What have you done with your life? & though there are many moments I think I will remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.”


Then I went home and took a really. long. nap.

Calling an audible…

I have encountered my first curveball within a curveball! I didn’t anticipate this being a thing, but sure enough, it has happened! It appears as though I am not allowed to complete the challenge I had selected for this week due to hospital and FDA guidelines, rules and regulations. Whoops!!

Challenge #5a:

“Pass out Tootsie Roll Pops in the lobby of Children’s Hospital greeting people with a great big smile!” –  A dear family friend (this person wishes to remain anonymous.)

Turns out you’re not allowed to do that. There are policies against passing things out, bringing food into the facility, interacting with the patients, etc – a very long laundry list of reasons why I cannot spread joy to sick children via sugary goodness.

While I understand their reasoning for having such policies, I am pretty bummed because I was really looking forward to this activity. Incidentally, I have a basket full of tootsie roll pops and blow pops tied with cute little ribbons, naturally, sitting in my kitchen with no place to go. I have, however, contacted their volunteer department to find another way to spread cheer around Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center at a later date.

This brings us to our next option.

Challenge #5b:

“Climb the steps at Holy Cross-Immaculata in Mt. Adams and reflect. Or pray the steps (Holy Thursday – Good Friday) if that sounds interesting.” – Melanie Chavez



Melanie came up with several great ideas, and fortunately, they coincide with a few other options so I’ll still be able to complete her other challenges, as well. Now, obviously the Easter Holiday has come and gone so I clearly didn’t do the Pray the Steps portion, but the physical fitness aspect of it was definitely appealing.

For those of you that are unfamiliar, Praying the Steps at Holy Cross-Immaculata is a tradition of the local Catholic community that has been around for over 150 years, since the church began construction in 1860. Many people continue to participate every year based on nothing, but memories. Grandparents bring their grandchildren to participate in the same traditions they had as children.

Some begin the “Pilgrimage to the Immaculata,” which takes place at 12:01 AM Good Friday and proceeds for the next 24 hours, at the base of the steps on St. Gregory street. Every year, anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 people climb the 93 steps, stopping at each one to recite the Hail Mary, all the way up to the church where they proceed inside to pray in the Immaculata. The steps were originally wooden, but have since been replaced with reinforced concrete multiple times by the city of Cincinnati, as it is their duty to maintain them.

Praying the Steps in 1934.

Praying the Steps in 1934.

Others begin at the base of the Mt. Adams Steps Pathway, where Eastern Avenue meets Pete Rose Way. While I’ve tried to figure out how many steps there are on the latter route, it seems to be escaping me. I’ll go back and do it again and count this time.

My best friend Jenna does these steps regularly for exercise so I gave her a call and we decided to meet up yesterday afternoon and give it a shot. Gus and I met Jenna down at The Banks and we walked by the ballpark over to the steps, climbed up, climbed down and then walked back through Sawyer Point, ending with some downtime on the lawn in Smale Park.  The incredible weather made this a wonderful little afternoon.

IMG_4310 IMG_4312 IMG_4316 IMG_4318 IMG_4321 IMG_4323

As we reached the foot of the Immaculata steps, it occurred to me that I should probably say at least one Hail Mary, just for effect, though I am not Catholic, or practicing much of any faith, for that matter.  It is at this moment that I let down every religion teacher I have ever had…again.

I, Katie Hayden, do not know the Hail Mary.

I really tried to remember it, but all I had were the first line and the last three lines… “Hail Mary, full of Grace […] pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” Which, duh. No wonder y’all feel so guilty all the time. Such a somber message…

And so, Jenna proceeded to take me through the Hail Mary, as I repeated after her line by line, until we got through it. For shame, Katie. At least 6 years of Catholic, school, religion class everyday, and I cannot recite the Hail Mary!? Fail.

We reached the top and, heavy breathing aside, I felt great! I am pretty proud of myself, and Gus, who at one point looked like he wasn’t going to make it! Jenna, I’ll totally do this with you again! I’m thinking a couple times a week and my rear will look fantastic by the end of the summer!!



What goes up must come down! That made me a little bit dizzy and I almost fell a couple of times.

IMG_4337 IMG_4327 IMG_4346 IMG_4342 IMG_4347 IMG_4351 IMG_4353

After a nice stroll through Sawyer Point we headed to the Schmidlapp Event Lawn at Smale Riverfront Park for a lil R&R in the sun!

One tired pup...

One tired pup…

This little adventure reminded me of all the great assets Cincinnati has to offer that do not cost a single cent to enjoy! Did you know that Cincinnati has over 400 sets of stairs and pedestrian pathways hidden amongst our winding seven hills?  I’m looking forward to investigating more of them to see where they might lead!

The timing on this couldn’t have been more perfect as I am currently serving on the Hospitality Committee for the Cincinnati Parks Foundation Hats Off Luncheon.  It’s a luncheon held every year to promote the parks and raise money for different portions of the development. I absolutely cannot wait for 2015 when all of the construction will be completed, the carousel, public boat docks, children’s playground and so many more bonus features will be a part of our riverfront. Cincinnati is about to be sooo cool, y’all.

If you’re interested in attending, the luncheon is May 23rd and tickets are still on sale, though I believe it’s almost sold out!  http://www.cincinnatiparksfoundation.org/page.aspx?pid=388

Shameless plug…

See ya next week!!!