Wishing I were a bird…

Fly Away

When I was a little girl, I vividly remember wishing I were a bird so I could fly, high above the tree’s where I could see everything!  Almost like a little spy.  Ahh, to be a bird without a care in the world ~ flitting around so happily ~ coming and going as I please.  I could spread my wings and take off at a moment’s notice I thought, and the adventures and possibilities would be endless.  So tiny, so fast, so light and gorgeously feathered!  What is not to love?  If the clouds high above were looking particularly fluffy & puffy, I could take a trip up and have the best view in town.  I dreamed that cloud would be so soft  that I would lay down and take a rest.  I’d be a tiny bird, resting in a cloud being rocked to sleep by a gentle breeze. ~Annebella

He definitely loved me, BEFORE it was the cool thing to do….

I’ve been married for 21 years and I still have these wonderful feelings bursting inside me after all these years.  He and I met when I was 20 years old.  I had been burned before; he had never really been with anyone exclusively and by all outward appearances was handsome and sweet.  I had been with a few bad boys.  You know the type; they wanted to control my every move.  I gobbled that attention up because I was young, naive, stupid as hell and it translated to me that they loved me. *Here’s where I could write a novel about an underlying condition, but choose not to as it is much too personal- so before I go making myself out to be completely shallow or just a shell of a girl, I was- and there is good reason.  This is why this man of mine is sooo important to me- he saved me, he saved my life as I often thought of taking my own from a young age.  He saved my life and saved me from myself*  Continuing on, they (2 boyfriends from the past) were jealous and controlling because they loved me SO MUCH, or why else were they being so guarded and protective?  I never was a cheater.  If any guy even looked at me, my boyfriend would have punched them in the head.   It never crossed my mind that they were insecure, abusive, and didn’t trust me most likely because they were untrustworthy themselves.

So, when I was introduced to my husband on a blind date I resisted a bit because he was nice.  Nice was the equivalent of boring to me back in the day.  Nice, meaning considerate and giving and why was he being so nice?  Why was he so interested in getting to know me?  The question swirling around my head was what the hell does this guy want?  There are a lot of girls that were just like me, they wanted the bad boy, the drama, the break-ups and the intense make-ups.  But when He ♥ came along I wasn’t ready.  His being nice to me was completely foreign and left me skeptical, and being ignorant to what is important in life at the time; I was bored with it.

My ♥

I wasn’t over the previous heartbreak.  I didn’t lead my husband on or anything, he knew I was struggling with letting go of a complete piece of shit that didn’t love me anyway.  He definitely loved me, BEFORE it was the cool thing to do!  He loved me when I was a complete mess, not the cool chick you have come to know and love now-a-days, LOL!   I do not know how on earth he waited for me?  Yes, I was a beautiful young woman, but surely that cannot be why he waited?  I smoked, I drank like a fish, I was immature, and I ran from him.  What did he see?  I even got into a huge fight at a Denny’s late one night with a girl while on a double date with him and another couple.  We’re talking full blown cat fight, the claws were out.  This girl at another table poured a strawberry shake on top of my head as I sat in the booth trying to sober up with a cup of coffee.  Neither he, nor the other couple that we were hanging out with that night had been drinking.  It was just me, in my own world singing “Hare Krishna” and evidently not everyone appreciated my singing.  The next thing I knew I had a shake poured on my head by this girl who didn’t think I was as cute as He ♥ did.  A scuffle ensued, eyes were poked, and punches were thrown.  I was even cornered by a Bible banger in the bathroom.  The woman holding the Bible told me I was saved, I told her she better get the *bleep* out of my face.  The strawberry shake assailant left, and if I remember correctly I was yelling wildly after exiting the bathroom, “WHERE IS SHE, I’m GONNA KILL HER!”  He ♥ begged me to calm down before we got kicked out, or worse, arrested.   “Why would WE get kicked out?  SHE started it”, I declared, hence the immature part I was telling you about earlier.  I really was a piece of work back in the day.

He was in love with me, but I wasn’t in love with him back.  I didn’t love myself either.  In fact, I hated myself.  I had no idea of what real love was.  I didn’t see any good in myself at all, didn’t have any hobbies, cares, or interests.  I didn’t think I had a thing to offer other than my outer beauty.  One day, at his wits end with me and my quest to find out what went wrong with my previous garbage relationship, he said, “I don’t care if you don’t go out with me, but whatever you do, don’t go out with that other jerk!”  I think that was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me.  That day, by the Grace of God, I opened up and let him in. It didn’t take long for him to take up permanent residence in my heart.  It did, however, take a long time to share our first kiss.  He was nervous, he made me nervous, and I was terrified it would be a bad kiss that would wreck everything.  It took a long time for him to kiss me, but when he did I saw FIREWORKS!  This guy knew how to kiss, what was he holding out for?  Once I fell in love with this nice guy, there was no turning back.  Slowly but surely I learned how it felt to be with someone considerate and caring.  It was nice to be with someone who genuinely cared about me, my well being.  I’ve always been an affectionate and caring girlfriend; this just made me want to love him even more!  The truth is, I never knew what real love was until I met my husband. Never, not even close.

I learned after a short while, that he wasn’t “all nice and all sweet” to everyone, he was just sweet on ME.  Make no mistake, he was always friendly to other people but he had such a cool side I never knew existed.  There was not a boring thing about him.  He was competitive and had his own hobbies and interests.  He was my fierce protector, but in a different way, a normal way.  Like the time he and I were bike riding and I turned my head around to talk to him, lost my balance and plummeted off the sidewalk and was headed right off toward the cement high side of a retention pond with rock and water after a huge drop-off.  I still do not know how he did it but he grabbed the back of my bike and stopped me dead in my tracks.  I was THAT close to riding off a steep dangerous cement wall and could have been killed.  He is quick, and so very strong.  I wanted him at times to be a little jealous, but he is just not wired that way.  He was confident in himself and in me, which is a way better feeling than someone being jealous and questioning my honesty and integrity any day.  Turns out this sweet handsome young man of mine was solid and strong, in body and mind.  He held a good job and worked a lot of hours so the fact that we sat up talking on the phone all hours of the night was crazy.  It was so interesting getting to know him and what made him tick.  He was a hilarious character.  I never met anyone that made me laugh so much and I didn’t even have to be intoxicated.  In fact, I just stopped drinking all together.  He didn’t drink, my other friends didn’t, it was not necessary.

Still, in the back of my mind I didn’t trust him 100%.  I had to put him through some tests, the poor thing.  He passed everything I threw at him, every test with flying colors.  I was so sure he’d leave me, just walk away.  I tried to push him away, but he refused to go.  After we were married, I still tried to pick fights, even screaming and yelling.  I’d be storming down the hallway to our bedroom where I’d slam the door (temper tantrums much?) and there he would come, right on my heels jumping on the bed where I lay pouting but instead of arguing he’d just laugh and poke me and we’d both end up laughing.  Well, this was perplexing and yet at the same time, a welcomed relief.  Someone who DIDN’T want to fight with me?  What the hell?  This was nice……. real nice.  Scott and I were married in ’91 and had a son 6 months later.  Is this what real love was?  We didn’t have to fight to make-up.  There was more happiness than any bad, we clicked.  When he came home from work, I remember the hug followed by the whisper in my neck that he was so glad I was his.  There was no reason to fight, just more and more reasons to love him every single day.

He has literally watched me grow up over the years and stuck by my side through thick and thin.  I thought when we got married and had our first child that I’d be parenting by myself.  He would go to work and I’d do the whole thing at home, isn’t that the way it goes?  I’ll never forget him telling our son, “I love you” for the first time.  I had never heard him tell anyone else that before.  It melted my heart a little more.  Another time that sticks out in my mind was when he, our infant son, and I were hanging out in our family room and I didn’t have socks on the baby.  I didn’t think it was a big deal but he left and came back with some baby socks and put them on our son and said, “Here you go little man, we don’t want your little feet to get cold”.  I remember thinking, what?  You’re going to help me?  I wasn’t going to do this alone?  He cared about me, I knew this much but the love he had for his son and our little family unit was boundless.  Nothing he said, just pride in his eyes and a pride, love, and protection I could feel.  I really had a man that was going to be an equal partner for my life.  Yes, and he has been, we’ve had 3 beautiful children and he has loved and been as big a part of their life as I have.  If not more so.

In our time together, I’ve had many hobbies.  I’ve grown, branched out, learned new things, widened my horizons, and he’s been there to encourage me to evolve.  If I said, “I’d love to learn how to build web graphics” he’d be the first one researching which program to buy.  That had NEVER happened in any of my other relationships before.  Whether boyfriend or friend, nobody ever put me first.  If I needed a new computer with more memory, he’d be the first one grabbing the sale ad looking for a deal.  If we got a new car, he ALWAYS let me drive the nicer one.  He has always put me and the kids first – and happily so.  He has never acted like he was short changed nor has he ever complained.  When our oldest was 4 years old we had boy/girl twins.  This man worked so hard to support his family.  He’d go to work so early that the kids and I would still be sleeping and sadly, by the time he got home, they were already asleep for the night.  This went on for years to make ends meet.  I knew it killed him to not be able to see them every single day.  I felt so bad for him but he never complained.  There were mornings when he’d call me while the kids and I were at the park, and he’d say, “I took a loaf of bread out of the freezer this morning because I noticed that you didn’t have any out”.  This is just something so small but insanely sweet and thoughtful all at the same time.  And that is just one sweet kind-hearted act of hundreds that he bestows upon myself and the kids.

So, here we are, 22 years later and I can honestly say that I love him more now than I ever have.  Every single thing about him physically turns me on and mentally, his personality just sends me over the edge.  He is beautiful inside and out.  He see’s right through to my soul, regardless of what I’m saying- he always knows the truth of a situation.  And he tells me so.  I have never met a stronger man.  He is a pillar of strength.

Not only has he been good to us.  Over the years, his job has been solely physical and he had been working for the same company for 20+ years.  He only called in sick once for this company and it was because he was hospitalized.  Other times, he’d go to work sicker than a dog because there was just himself and his boss sharing the work load.  He drove a fuel truck and we became family to his boss and his family.  Over the years, he cared for that company as if it were his own.  Constantly handing out his business card, on the lookout for ways to expand and often times brought in new business on his own. Nobody asked him to.  He’s made hundreds of friendships over the years driving a fuel truck.  I always joke with him, “Telephone, Telegram, and Tele-Scott” because back in the day, he is how THE word spread throughout the day!

The economy took a crap, and it affected small businesses hard.  He was still working for that same company but when his boss suggested that he might be interested in working for a different company that had offered him a job, he knew it was time.  He took a HUGE pay cut and it was so scary going to work somewhere else.  All the safety we’d known since we were first married was out the door.  I personally, do not do “change” very well.  But, he did it – for our family.  It’s a family owned company but bigger than the one he previously worked for.  We never knew the benefits of a bigger company.

Even though he lost some money going in, there were some benefits that were there also.  Just as he knew, from over the years this was a great family company.  Good, honest, solid, people.  He’s been with them now for 5+ years.  But, you want to know what impressed me most about my husband?  There was an opening for part-time sales.  My husband applied.  And, they hired him.  He has been working his tail off and bringing in new accounts for 2 years now.  He is the type of man that was doing sales ALL ALONG anyway- handing out his card and putting in a good word for his new company from the get-go, because he does care.  More business for the company equals more job security for himself and for his fellow drivers.

So, not only am I writing this to talk about how much I love and appreciate him, I’m writing this to tell him HOW PROUD I am of his new position and what he has done with it.  I think anyone in sales has an idea of how hard it really is.  He was up to the challenge!  This is a man who didn’t even know how to write an email and is now making spread-sheets and quotes for his own customers.

I am an extremely complicated person but don’t think it took him long to figure me out.  Somehow he hung in there and cared enough to get to know the real me buried under a pile of hurt and insecurity.  There are times I feel like he knows me better than I know myself.

Still, my ♥ today, and always

I admire him.  I know my sons admire him and I hope and pray they are strong men for their wives one day because of this supreme example he has set for them.  I am amazed at the man I married and am so in love with him.  I’m so lucky to have him in our life.  As far as my kids and granddaughter are concerned- they are the luckiest people in this universe to have such an awesome father and grandpa.  There  is nothing he wouldn’t do for you.  Thank you for being the best husband a girl could ask for.  I love you Scott!

Handmade Burlap Banner Tutorial

Here’s a little tutorial on how to make a burlap banner for any occasion.  Buy some burlap from your fabric store.  Make a template for your banner “flag” out of some cardboard.  Here is my template:

** please click on my thumbnail images to view a larger pic, hit the “back button” on your browser to get back to this page **

Next cut out your burlap and your scrapbooking paper:

I have a Cricut machine and easily cut out my black letters.  You could buy yours pre-cut or use your imagination the sky is the limit here.

Line it up and get ready to sew.  I’m not a “seamstress” whatsoever, but I can thread a machine and bobbin (*by following the picture guide that came with my $87- Walm*rt machine) LOL, and get ‘er done!

I LOVE to sew although I am not able to follow a pattern.  It’s like another language and I do not speak it.  LOL!  But a straight line you say?  I’m your girl!

Just grab a string at a time and pull to make some fringe, do it to your liking.

I did fold the top over to make a clean edge at the top.

I had this string on hand (what are the chances?) but you could use yarn or whatever you like – how can this go wrong?  Make it just as unique as you are.

Now it’s time to place my flags along the string by evenly spacing them.

Here’s the finished product:

I hope this little tutorial helped.  I made this for a woman who retired at my office and she loved it so much!  It only took a few hours to complete.  I think this is the type of project that you could bring to work and at least get it started by cutting out the papers and letters- that way you could assemble it at home and get it done much faster.

Have fun!  With Love,

Sharing a favorite E. E. Cummings Poem

I Carry Your Heart With Me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

-E.E. Cummings

She did it again…

My daughter participated in her first 1/2 Marathon in Chicago on 7/22/12.  My niece Terri drove her all the way to Chicago the night before to get the materials, then drove her back the following morning to participate even though she couldn’t due to her ankle pain.

My sister Carol, on the left was there to support her daughter Andrea and my niece Terri, on the right was there for Lexi – funny, they run into each other at these races *pardon the pun*.  Look at the signs that Terri and Lexi made!  Could you ask for better family? No, you couldn’t.

Auntie Carol & Cousin Terr-Terr

My daughter & Terri have been training like crazy.  Lexi has been running on her own for only a short while due to Terri’s injury but I’m so grateful for the love and support she continues to show my daughter.  She loves my daughter and my daughter adores her.

The home stretch!
For those of you who do not know, a 5K is not “5 miles” *as I thought*, it is equal to 3.1 miles.  A 10K race is equal to 6.2 miles.  A half marathon is equal to 13.1 miles.  A Marathon is 26.2 miles.  How could anyone run that far?  It’s amazing I tell ya!
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥
..and last but not least: my smart, talented, sweet, strong, beautiful daughter that I’m so proud of!.. I love you Alexis!  Keep on moving sweets!
YOU GO GIRL *LEXI*
♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

What is “It”?

My gosh, to say that I’ve changed so much in the last 5 years would be an understatement.  Physical changes I’ve noticed have indeed made me cringe; gray hair, thinning hair, achy back, sometimes walking funny after being in a sitting position for too long which goes along with being stiff.  I’ve got some age spots on my hands and even on my face.  I have wrinkles, bags and sags all over the place.  I’m 42 and young at heart, but my aging body didn’t take note.  Then again, I don’t do my part to stay in shape like I should.  I plan on changing this.  I don’t think walking every single day is asking too much of myself.  I will not allow myself to keep making excuses, “I work the night shift so I’m too tired, It’s too hot outside, it’s raining, there aren’t enough hours in the day, I might get mosquito bites” or whatever ridiculousness I can come up with.

There are enough hours in the day – shoot, even if I just get my heart rate up for a solid 15 minutes a day!  Enough with the damn excuses, it’s pathetic!  There are enough hours in the day for me to love myself – it can serve as a reminder that I do count, I do matter.  This body is the most valuable thing I’ll ever truly own.  I gotta get on it.

So, to most youngin’s, it probably does sound a little sucky to get older the way the body goes.  It doesn’t have to be as severe as in my case – I chose to age this way by eating wrong and neglecting to do the right thing by myself.  Even if you are in shape, you can suffer some of the signs of aging, it’s the circle of life, right?  But, what I’m not mentioning is the knowledge, the wisdom, the inner-peace that I’ve gained over the years that completely  outweighs any signs of aging.  I’ve heard this over the years and never knew what it meant.

How can wisdom outweigh saggy boobs?!!!  LOL!  It just does.  It doesn’t have to outweigh saggy boobs, it can just be the icing on the cake to the person whom has taken good care of their body all their life.  But to the person with saggy boobs, work that wisdom along with a super supportive bra!  Either way; you get it, or you don’t.  I see plenty of men and women around me, in great physical shape for their age and think, “More power to ya!”  Some even have the wisdom that comes along with the years and I think, “Hey, double-edged sword~ you go!”.  There are some that just do not get it.  Those are the ones, the older ones that whether their body has aged or not, will try to drag you into their hate, anger, and pure ugliness.  Usually they end their sentences in an angry fashion or will end it with, “You know what I mean?”

So, you either get it, or you don’t.  How will you know if you get it?  Because the he said/she said will be a thing of the past.  All of a sudden you will see “it” and have NO COMMENT, replaced by a calm and peace in your heart.  All that petty, crappy, neurotic, hateful bullshit being spread all around you in your work, sometimes even in your own home environment, out in the world, just falls off to the side of you in a big heap of, “I could care less”.  When well intended friends tell you that “So & so hates you, and thinks you’re a total twit” just falls off to the side of you in a heap of, “That’s nice”.

It is wisdom, silence, positive energy, knowledge, power, love, and kindness.  It is God, truth, humanity, philanthropy, contribution, grace, benevolence, sympathy, tolerance, and so much more.

Do you have it?

Wrapping a gift with a little panache.

Lately, I’ve started to wrap my gifts with a little extra “Ooomph!”. How you say? Well, I take a brown paper grocery bag and up-cycle it! Cut all around the edges, cutting out the bottom portion of the bag to discard (recycle) until you get one long brown paper rectangle.

Gather up some cute rubber stamps and ink, some Sharpie markers, curling ribbon and whatnot and off you go! You can completely personalize this for family, friends, and loved ones. Write funny quotes. The Quote Garden is always a good place to gather up some much-needed quotes.

Here are three that I recently made for my friend’s Birthday. Summertime flower, bird, heart stamps with FUNNY quotes about friendship all over. she told me she didn’t want to unwrap them ♥ Made my heart happy!

Lastly, I will share a really neat trick with you that I learned when I was little. You can make a baby foot print stamp by using your own hand. Just curl your hand up into a fist, dip bottom side of your fist (the pinky finger side) in ink or paint (see image below that I borrowed):

Flip it over and press onto your brown shopping bag paper and presto! You have the “body” for the baby foot. Just dip your index finger into the ink or paint and dot on 5 little toes where they belong. Recently I did this for homemade baby shower gift wrap and it turned out ADORABLE. Since the couple knew they were having a girl, I also took permanent Sharpie ink pen and wrote all over with scrolls “Baby Girl (Last Name)” and the couple loved the personalization. I wish I had taken a picture before I gave it away because it was the prettiest gift wrapping that I have ever done. Try it. Use a wide variety of color or different shades of one. Have fun!

Billy Joel

I have been told (by many) that I am, shall we say….  a little obsessed with the magnificent Mr. Billy Joel.  Why you ask?  I’m shocked that you even had to but since you have, let me fill you in.

I grew up in a large family.  Family holiday parties were big.  I can vividly remember one 4th of July party, playing badminton out in the side yard late at night with my older brother playing his Billy Joel record out the window.  It was loud, everyone was enjoying themselves and it’s safe to say that it is a childhood happiness that I will always remember.  My mom’s favorite was always “Just the way you are” and I can recall her singing this.

As I’ve grown, his music has followed me all through my life and I love it.  Once older I was able to examine his lyrics and I realized what a brilliant and talented writer he is.  He is old school, he is a story-teller, with a beautiful voice; sweet when necessary and gruff too.  He is my piano man.  As an adult, I learned that I could also relate to many of his lyrics.  “I go to extremes” strikes a chord in me being that I have a tendency to think black and white, ALL or NOTHING.

Funny, I have so many of his CD’s that I’m constantly finding new songs (to me) that I had never heard before and am loving them as if they were just released.  My husband jokes that every time he gets in my car, it’s the same Billy Joel CD playing and that I need to find something else to listen to.  I don’t want to, and… I don’t have to either 😉  I listen to all sorts of artist’s ranging from Thomas Dolby to Maroon 5 to Country and a bit of everything in-between so it’s not like he’s the only artist I’ve listened to my whole life– but he is the ONE, that will always be my favorite.  Billy Joel is stamped into my soul and he is a part of who I am.  That is a fact.  He is real, he is/was “ahead of his time” in so many ways, and he’ll never be a sell-out.  He’s true to himself and puts it all out there- his arrangements and voice are glorious to me!

I could write a novel about how each one of my favorite songs of his has touched me in such a deep and profound way – but really, that’s my story to keep.  Whether it’s the River of Dreams- the lyrics that tapped into something so haunting and personal I will take it to my grave, to the lyrics and insane instrumentals of The Downeaster ‘Alexa’, to the simplicity of “Leave a tender moment alone”.  I love him as a person for the never-ending gift he has given me, and he will forever be my favorite musician.

Here’s a link to an unfinished drawing I did that was inspired solely by him.  The following is a t-shirt that I made for myself.  Someone asked if I was making it because I was going to his concert?  No, I made it just to have it – something just for myself.  I’ve never been to his concert – I cannot imagine, it’d probably give me a ♥ attack to see him live.  Here’s the front of my shirt:

FRONT

Here’s the back of my shirt:

BACK

It took me a week to make this shirt but I love wearing it.  And that my friends, is why I have always had a special place in my heart for Billy Joel and why I always will.  I am always going to be in complete AWE of his work.

I am so proud!

Line up

My 16-year-old daughter is a runner. This past weekend she ran a 10K hosted at my work and she won a medal for 1st Place in her age group. She was the only female in her age group so she wasn’t too excited but I told her, “YES, YOU ARE THE ONLY FEMALE IN YOUR AGE GROUP, THAT MEANS YOU ARE THE ONLY 16 YEAR OLD GIRL THAT EVEN TRIED THIS TODAY- THAT ALONE IS A REASON TO BE PROUD!!”

My niece Terri has always been a runner (even got a full scholarship to a GOOD college) and over the years has encouraged my daughter. Not only in words, but she and my daughter Lexi exercise together and they have participated in many 5K’s in our area over the years. She IS my daughter’s running mentor. Lexi has always been a good runner but I know it’s the encouragement from her cousin that keeps her going.

Final stretch

Terri, I just want to take this opportunity to thank you and Nick so much from the bottom of our hearts for showing Lexi the ropes. For signing her up for countless runs and always paying her way, even though I know those races are not cheap. Not to mention all the specialty running shoes. We appreciate your generosity, kindness, and time spent with Lexi so much! Thank you! Terri recently suffered an ankle injury and it has slowed her down tremendously. I’m hoping and praying it heals fast so you can enjoy your races again. You are in my thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery ♥  With Terri being on the mend, this past weekend my daughter went at it alone which made me super proud. Proud because I think it takes a lot of courage to do this. I know Terri and Lexi have been training together and she’s use to having a running partner.

Finish Line

I guess what I’m trying to say is that my daughter has incredible self-discipline; from her being a vegetarian, watching her food intake, eating healthy, to running in her spare time on a schedule is pretty rare for a teenage girl to do and both my husband and I are amazed by her drive. So, even though she is probably SICK that I’m writing this, I’ll say it to the world, “I am so proud of my LEXI!”  She inspires me too.

Congrats to you, you work so hard and you deserve it- now you just have to allow yourself to enjoy it!

The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own.  No apologies or excuses.  No one to lean on, rely on, or blame.  The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.  This is the day your life really begins.  ~Bob Moawad

Side-note:  PHOTO CREDITS:  Credit for the “Final Stretch” photo goes to Lexi’s bff Dani & Credit for the “Finish Line” photo goes to Lexi’s bff Melinda – both girls came to cheer her on!  Who could ask for better friends?