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This weekend I had a perfect weekend.

It was amazing. Perfect.

As we begin the holiday season, I've been doing a lot of thinking about happiness and life and where i am in my life this year as compared to the last several years. Five and four years ago, we were navigating what life was like fighting cancer. Three years ago was my first Thanksgiving as a married woman. Two years ago, we were saying goodbye to Dad. Last year, I had absolutely zero hope for anything good, and the only thing I felt was sadness.

Amazing how time and experiences change things, isn't it?

The difference between this year and last year is staggering. As I walked through the streets in my beautiful neighborhood this weekend, enjoying the beautiful warm fall, crunching through the leaves, looking into people's windows, petting cats on the street, and listening to the sounds of my community, I couldn't stop smiling about how happy I am. For the first time in what seems like a lifetime--and it honestly might even be for the first time in my lifetime--I feel like I am where I need to be. I am able to actually be myself, Erica Noelle Reid Gerdes, and I love that. I'm not fighting and struggling and working for or against something anymore. I am madly in love (like movie romance in love,) I love what I am doing creatively, I enjoy my job and love my work environment, I have amazing friends that inspire me and make me laugh and feel like I'm special, and my family is surprisingly well (I am more than happy to report that my mom is doing better and is slowly also becoming herself again.) I also love my down time and the time spent with others, and I know how to listen to my body and nourish my soul when I need to. I am also smart enough to know that any of this could end at any moment, so I am enjoying the moments as they come. And it feels great.

I thank God daily for the blessings He has given me, as well as the ability to love and to have hope and faith again.

Walking home from dinner at a neighborhood restaurant on Saturday night, I was by myself and marveling at the beauty in life, when a man exiting an apartment building told me that I had dropped something on the sidewalk. I stopped and saw that I was still carrying my hat, I looked at my purse, and turned to him and looked at the sidewalk and asked him what he had said that I dropped.

He replied, "Your smile."

I laughed all the way home.

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I love you, lady. I'm so glad you're feeling good...and equally sending you strength and big hugs as you face another holiday without your daddy.

I saw a silly girly play a few weeks ago, and it opened with two girls doing Victoria Secret poses while flipping through the mag.

I didn't know other people really did that!