Friday, November 24, 2017

The Heaviness of My Heart


I've had writers block for a long time. I've had several posts started and some still hang in mid-air on my computer just waiting for completion of my thoughts. I've struggled with some ups and downs lately that I have been unable to put a finger on, but I think it's finally coming clear to me. I'm simply heavy hearted, sad, and angry with how our world is.

I realize that is a very deep and generalized statement for which most of you would simply say, "Duh!" For me, however, always idealistic and hopeful, the state of our world now is absolutely heart-breaking. We have people being sold into slavery (STILL), not only in other countries, but here, close by, under our very own noses. We have people choosing drugs over their children, and ideals over their spouses. Money and things are idolized and people, animals, and nature are abused and I absolutely cannot stand it! I realize while many of us can do little but set an example, teach our children, and be the best we can be, there are leaders who have power who are doing nothing and it makes me sick! We should, as a WORLD be above the abuse, the hatred, and the intolerance that is happening.

Haven't we come further than this? Don't we ALL deserve better? Don't our CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN deserve better? Why on God's green earth are there people going hungry, children being abused, our Veterans living on the streets, and young men and women being sold??? I have seen a lot of political ads lately... mud slinging. Would someone please tell me what can someone do to HELP?? Please help us help others! I know what I do personally and at work to help. You know what you do on your end to help, but good heavens, these people in power are "talking about it" and talking isn't cutting it! If I had the answer, that'd be amazing! I don't. I mean, at my own little level, I do, and I do what I can.... but heavens, can we all just be a little kinder, stop the mud slinging and finger pointing and get our heads out of our own rear ends and start ACTING to make things better?

Please know this is not a political rant, this is an "everyone plea." While I believe there are those who do not need to be in power, we ALL need to help make things better. Make noise. Vote. Be kind. Buy a meal for someone. If something looks strange, say something. Call 911 if you're concerned. Speak up. If we all spoke up like the people being mistreated were our children, grandchildren, or our parents....  well, I think we'd all speak up a lot more. Admittedly, myself included. Lets change some things.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Wouldn't have missed this...

So once again it’s been awhile since I’ve put the crazy thoughts in my head to print. You can thank me for that later. This last year has been a whirlwind, but we knew it would be before we headed into it. I think the initial conversation went something like this:

“Liam, I’m thinking about going back to school.”
“I need to talk to Mary about it. Remember how she was when I finished at A & M?”
“Yeah… it’s fine, Mom. I’ll be gone, but it’ll keep you busy and take your mind off me going away to college…” (smart kid)
“Mary, I’m thinking about going back to school. Think you can handle that now?”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
“...Because you won’t be able to drive yet, Liam will be off at college, and it will be a ridiculously crazy year. But just one year. One year of crazy. We can do that, right?”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
“...Because remember when you were 7 and we were literally leaving my graduation from A & M and you told me you were proud of me but to not EVER go back to school again? Remember that? I don’t want you to bring that up again…”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
“Ok. Well, I’m doin’ it…”
“Yes, Ma’am.”

Mary’s chatty like that. Liam was full on supportive from the start and I knew he would be because he was leaving to start his own ventures at South, so he wouldn’t be around for all the crazy. Shoot! He welcomed the crazy! Bring it on! He’d be down at South having himself a good ol’ time! Mary was the one I would have to figure out rides for, forget to pick up sometimes, and who would live off Dino-nuggets and mac-and-cheese again for the year. Nevertheless we were all on board that Mom was heading back to school. It didn’t really surprise them. When they were 4 and 7 I started graduate school at night while working during the day. It was a blur and we don’t talk about it a lot, really only because we don’t remember much. Occasionally I’ll find something I wrote while in grad school and think, “Wow! That was really well done! I wrote that???” But I digress….

The year of crazy. Being super excited to get accepted into the Samford Cohort for Educational Leadership, I eagerly awaited our first classes to begin last fall. Walking into our first class and meeting my new twelve classmates felt awkward at first. I won’t pretend that we weren’t all sizing each other up. I’m sure we were. “These people seem really nice and I’m sure we’ll get along just fine” I thought to myself. I remember thinking that exactly, but I also remember thinking there was no way we would end up as close as the other cohort professed to being when they came to talk to us about the classes. How in the world can we all really relate to each other? Our jobs within education were all quite different; everything from coaches, to specialists, to kindergarten teachers, TOSAs, counselor, Gifted Coordinator, high school teachers, elementary teachers… I’m sure I left some out, but you get the idea. We were so varied in our expertise and interests. How could we possibly bond?

It seems we are this way in life sometimes, doesn’t it? We automatically size people up before we ever really know the first thing about them. We decide we have nothing in common with them, or that we are better than they, or even worse than they. We decide upon one look or one quick conversation that we could do their job better or would certainly do it differently. Why would they choose to wear that to work? Don’t they realize that isn’t professional? Maybe we do this with people we see at church, or in our neighborhood, or while we are simply out running errands? “I can’t believe they left the house like that!”, or “Why is she driving like a maniac??” I do have some answers to these in just a minute. Stick with me…

A few years ago I spoke at the Rescue Mission. Afterward, my little sister came up to me and said, “You know I was a little nervous. I didn’t know what you were going to talk about… how you would relate…” I understood what she meant; how I would make that connection to people who may have possibly been through a hell I couldn’t understand. As I look back to when I spoke, it was simply on needing each other. I can relate to that. The parishioners at the mission that evening could relate to that. I was in no way above anyone, I just needed people. So did they. We just do. Period.

Back to sizing people up. We all do that and I’ll admit I’m guilty as well. Understand, I’m not talking about being aware of your surroundings, I’m talking about those judgments that may very well keep us from doing amazing things, meeting amazing people, and growing in ways that at first are uncomfortable (isn’t that always the case???) but in retrospect you cannot imagine having sat complacent. Think back to those things you almost didn’t do because you thought you didn’t fit, and ended up having a ball. Think about the person you almost didn’t talk to who is now your best friend, your mentor, your better half or maybe even your spouse. Think about the person you swore was so aloof, snooty, and disengaged… could it be that they were sad, lonely, awkward… and waiting for someone to talk to them? That woman driving crazy in traffic? That was me last summer when my son was in the E. R. and I had to get to him. It was also me this summer when my daughter was in a fender bender and I was trying not to hyperventilate, just getting to her. I knew they were fine, but I’m a mom. And that woman who “went out looking like that”? Again, could’ve been me, or you, when our kids were sick and we needed that medicine YESTERDAY, or were out of diapers, or worse...COFFEE?!?!

Being immersed in the Samford work with twelve new people proved to be amazing. You really can’t ignore people with whom you are always in class and doing projects. Especially when no one really knows what the project is, but we all have some sort of idea so we make it work. It’s fun to learn who has great handwriting (they get to write on those giant post it notes when it’s group work time), who can draw, who knows law well, who is detail oriented, and who sees things from different angles and analyzes everything to death (me). It’s fun to see who will bring the chocolate, or blow-pop suckers, or sour gummy worms, and who can eat the most small bags of chips in one sitting. Will a guitar be brought? Will we have a sing-a-long? Maybe… you never knew... We formed our inside jokes, those late night group texts, and grew to truly love, support, pray for, and lean on each other.
Throughout the last year our little cohort went through alot together, proving that we didn’t just all get along pretty well, we did, indeed, form a deep, forever friendship (and almost a band). The funny thing is, it wasn’t really just with our cohort, but the one before ours, and likely the one after. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world, but I would have missed this if I had sized them all up, and passed on the opportunity, because I thought I was better, or they were better, or we had nothing in common. I would have missed this… and that’s a sad and scary thought. What all have you missed that someone else may have had to offer?

In our class times together we grew to value our differences, feel safe with being open and honest, and really listen to one another. We were all there to learn from each other and that’s what we all loved. Opening ourselves up to other points of view, to the fact that our way isn’t always the only way (it rarely is), and that we ALL have things to bring to the table isn’t always easy, but oh, my friends, it is so, so worth it.

To my Samford cohort…. My friends…. Carla, Kyle, Megan, Alecia, Yolanda, Tyler, Chad, Lisa, Rebecca, Wendy, Emily, and Lynne… this past year was crazy. It makes me proud to have been in such an excellent program with the best of the best leaders. You make me want to be better, push farther, and take risks. There is no doubt in my mind God knew what we all needed and put us together. And truly, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

(PS After carefully analyzing everything, I realized we don’t have a group pic! WHAT??? lol)

Not sizing you up,
July 30, 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fallin' Over, Test Scores, Rude Folks, and Rainbows (Yes, really)

So today I came to the realization that I really, REALLY get in the mood to write when I:

a. fall over
b. don't pass a very important test
c. come darn near close to chewing someone out because THEY are rude
d. rainbows land in my backyard

Okay, this isn't really a test. Seriously, it's all of the above. I fell over, didn't make the score I needed on a test I had to take, got really REALLY aggravated at the lack of compassion shown, and yes, they're always after me lucky charms. For real.

I've been meaning to write you. Really. For a long time. My brain hasn't been at full capacity it seems for many months, what with school, and school, and kids, and their schools. You get the point. It's been a crazy year, but we knew that going in to it (when I speak in years, I often refer to school calendar years. Just clarifying in case you're up all night wondering about this crazy year speak I babble about).

I watched Lucy this afternoon. Not the old comedy series where she has some 'splainin to do. Nay nay, I watched Lucy with Scarlett Johansson. Have you seen that? It's pretty freaky really but being a brain study lover, I do find it fascinating. I want to be her. Well, I really just want to look like her. Of course, I don't think in real life she's utilizing 100% of her brain and to be quite honest, having that capability would likely not be NEAR as much fun in real life as I dream it to be. I wish we COULD utilize 100% of our brains. I DO think SJ is very intelligent, but 100%? No one really is... and...  Just typing that out makes me aware that you all wonder why in the world this girl is single, I know. Move over crossword puzzles, the men folk will line up!

Back to the brain. I love to study. I love education and learning. Right now, somewhere in a Florida retirement village far far away, some professor of mine from long ago is twitching, and not knowing why. I love to learn now. I love studying now. Bettering myself and finding my passion wasn't exactly a late teens thing for me. Or twenties. Or thirties.

So jumping the gun a tad, I prepared as much as one could to take the Praxis for educational leadership. I took several practice Praxis's, read, prayed, watched Seasons 1-6 of The Office. Practiced saying "Practice Praxis" 'cause it's fun to say. What I failed to do was wait until all of my coursework was complete. Most of my friends in the cohort are in roles where a lot of the content is a little more day-to-day, but I really had to study. (By the way, best cohort ever. Best new friends ever! Seriously! Love it!)

Excitement builds as I drive to the test center. I know that God has this and I'm quasi-full of confidence (as long as I don't think about it too much). Entering the test site, I am handed the form where I had to copy a confidentiality statement, in blood, signing over my first and last born, showing 12 pieces of ID, and in turn I was handed a key to a tiny locker in which I was to put my "things". "But I can keep my water, right?" Nope. Crap. So I tried opening a little tiny locker and then realized my little tiny key had a big ol' circle with a number on it. Ah-HA. The key is to a SPECIFIC locker. (Was this part of the test?) Bottom locker. Reminiscent of high school. There were only a few people in the waiting area at this time and I had to squat down behind a gentleman who was signing in, to place my "things in the locker" (locker 5, the number is on the circle). Here's the funny part... I can't see to put the lock back on because 1. I can't see. 2. It's dark in there. 3. I'm trying to be all cool in a strangely squatted position while not getting stepped on before taking my test.

I fell over. I. Fell. Over. There isn't much coming back from that one. With all the grace of someone who had just fallen over, I got up, went into the secure test site, sat down, and took my test. It was long. Very. My adult ADD was merciless. I could hear people talking, people breathing. I won't torture you through this part but let's just say I had 3 to go before finishing and only missed the passing mark by 6 points. I'm fine with that because my daughter texted me and said I'd done pretty well for my first try. Sigh.

With such a wonderful day underway, I have to say that I do work with a very sweet co-counselor and have a wonderful intern who are incredibly kind and helpful and for that I am so grateful. They show a lot of grace and I think at the end of the day we really do just want grace shown to us in our worst hour. Sometimes it's harder than others to be kind and graceful and to see past our own noses, I know that. But I do find it telling that we use the excuses and phrases like "It's not personal", or "It's not intentional" when we are excusing our behavior or lack of gentleness. It reminds me of a line in You've Got Mail, "I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn't personal to you. But it was personal to me. It's *personal* to a lot of people. And what's so wrong with being personal, anyway?...."Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal." We really need to work on being intentional, folks, on being personal and kind. We really do.

I'll leave that one now because you should know that according to my precious neighbor, I do, indeed hold the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They're always after me lucky charms. Coming home a little bummed this afternoon, I was met by my little fluff-muffin dogs. We talked about our days. Okay, not really. I'm not to that point yet. But I fed them and began to work on some things around here, when in rolled the storm. I love a good storm, I do. But I really REALLY could use some sunshine. Shortly after the storm was when my friend sent the text for me to check out the rainbow. Below are two pictures:

The picture to the left is the rainbow I saw. Beautiful and bright!

BUT the picture to the right is what my neighbor saw :) The rainbow landed on my house! I love it! I needed the reminder. 

Some days just start off kind of wanky. We gear up thinking that the day is ours! We have done all we need to do make certain it goes accordingly and then, with click of a button, the misspoken word, or that stupid little tiny bottom locker we are quickly brought back to the reality that control is never really ours. God has it all along. Perspective should be kept when things are going well, also. A routine check of motives might not be a bad idea. Still, on the days when the stars line up for things to go wrong, God shows us the rainbow. He is in charge. We are not. In fact, if we look closely, there are probably a lot of "rainbows" day to day that we miss because we are looking for the big ones. Control? Very little. Blessings? Countin' em. Rainbows? Looking for them and grateful that I'm NOT the one in control. Clearly I'd make a mess of things, or try to put em in the wrong locker.

Your (not so) Lucky Charm,

March 27, 2017

Sunday, January 1, 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR! It's what?

Well, it appears we made it to 2017! I'm sure I'm not the only one who was ready to tell 2016 to kiss their derriere. Right? It isn't that last year was so bad. It really wasn't. I just like fresh starts. Even if I haven't totally screwed up a year, I like the thought of new beginnings. How is my 2017 beginning? I won't lie, it's pretty wild... I'm hunkered down in the corner of a local Panera with my laptop, lunch, listening to some groovy music, and wondering what in the world I'm going to write about today. But write I will! Because I have decided that if I've learned anything, to abandon my passions is self-cruelty, and mind, to hand, to blog, to reader, whether it's one, or one hundred, or one thousand, there is connection. And I need connection. I know I don't look like I need a cookie but the precious lady at Panera just came around with samples and offered me one. Or "Try all of them!" she said. She really did. I'm not making this up. I never want to disappoint. I took the Kitchen Sink sample. Just one. Try it. I'm not getting paid for this, by the way. It just occurred to me.... Kitchen Sink??? It's delicious though. Really!

I've said it before but I write in my head all the time. It's like a living blog in there, or maybe my blog is like a "Becky's head" in writing, I don't know. I've never been good at shutting off the mind. I don't know why anyone would want to. I take that back, I actually envy people who can sometimes, but this is too much fun. Like now I'm making up the conversation in my head that may be going on with the older gentleman who JUST sat down and his little buzzer went off alerting him that their food was ready and waiting. He didn't look thrilled, he look perturbed. 'If that gets his goat, I bet he's a lot of fun at parties', I'm thinking as he and his wife sit there in silence and eat. But honestly, judgment withholding, who knows what others are going through at any given time, right? The snapshots. We only see those snapshots of people and we form opinions or stories around them. It's totally unfair, no matter how entertaining it may be on a rainy Sunday New Year's. This lovely older couple did start talking by the way. Maybe he was just hungry. I wonder what cookie sample he got?

I wish I could sit here and write some earth shattering and enlightening things today. I really can't. Partly because I keep pausing to take bites of my sandwich or soup before it gets cold and partly because I'm just not feeling that deep today. We all know that could change in a keystroke.

Maybe I'll just write a few things I learned over the past year. Well, I guess I actually knew most of these things, but it seems at times we may learn something, but place it on the back burner. Like we've learned it, but not really learned it, learned it. Using double words makes it more effective, notice that? Like not just effective, but effective effective. I have a cousin who hates it when I double emphasize many times in one conversation, by the way. He doesn't just hate it. He hates it, hates it.

So within the last year I've learned a few things. With my oldest going to college this past fall, I learned we all had to change and I don't always like change. Often people ask me how he's doing. He's great. Of course he's great! He's 18 years old, away at college with most of his best friends, five hours from home! He's awesome! Granted I think he learned he had to grow up a little bit, however, he did really well, and no mom could be prouder. He made the grades, made it to class, and did everything he was supposed to. At least that's the story I get. But that's what he was raised to do. I've raised them both to be self-sufficient. It's never cute when someone is decidedly helpless. Not for long anyway.

But how am I doing with my oldest being gone? I had to grow up a little, too. I think the first big thing I did was text him that I'd changed the light bulbs in the garage. All. By. My. Self. If you saw the ceilings in the garage you would be impressed. You see, I'm the shortest in the family. It was probably not the smartest move, climbing on the ladder, to climb on another ladder, but I was determined. Emotionally, it was different when he left. I fell into a little sadness for a while. My daughter was amazing. She immediately started planning our nights; what we would watch, eat, do, etc. Girl nights! We would occasionally have a girl night before, but now we have them all the time. The house has a perpetual smell of nail polish remover. It's fabulous!
I learned that finding new normals within our family is an ever-changing process. It hurts a little. That's ok.

I learned that sometimes the very things we swear we will never do are the very things God has planned for us. In fact when we fight against something so badly, we may need to wonder why we feel a need to fight against it so badly. I'm talking about the many times I wondered and prayed about my next step in life. I love what I do as a counselor, but I knew there would be something else for me. I wanted to grow more, do more, learn know, with all the free time I have. That's a joke. What I never wanted to do was administration. Until this past year. It was like a light switch was flipped and the answer was clear as a bell that I needed to enroll in Samford's Educational Leadership program. I can't explain how, or why, or what.... I just knew. So saying never, well, I should say that anymore. Will I ever use the license for admin? I can't say. I won't say never.

I learned that God doesn't give us more than we can handle but sometimes it feels like life does. It doesn't have to be one big event, it can be many events and we don't even have to define what's going on. Sometimes things just feel big. Overwhelming. We feel lonely, scared, frustrated. We may feel unloved, unsure, unseen. In little bits we may not even think much about these small bites from life, but it seems that on occasion many of these attack at once. I know that if we can keep our head above water and breath, we will be ok. Life may not always be ok, but we will be.

I learned that if we feel we have to prove ourselves to someone, that someone has power over us. I don't mean that we shouldn't want to do well and that it's not ok to have approval. For heaven's sake I still appreciate approval from my kids, my mom, my administrators. But if we have to prove something in order to feel important, successful, or loved, then someone has power over us. God approved us before He created us. That is the ultimate approval. I have to remind myself of that sometimes, but it really does make everything else pale in comparison.

I've learned not to be too uptight about being grammatically correct when I write, even though in my head it's driving me crazy. People simply don't write the way I was taught, and if we all did, it would sound a trifle strange. I also learned that apparently I did something wonderful while being uptight with my children's grammar as is evidenced by the sweet note my daughter left me for school one day.

Thank heavens she corrected herself and I didn't have to do it! ha
And apparently I was on the way to kicking Monday's booty!!!! Go me!

I learned that I really really love learning. Seriously. I'm a total learning nerd. I can't wait to study school law in this Samford cohort. My mom used to tell me that I should have been a lawyer because I would argue with a stump, and the other side would just get frustrated and pack up and go home. Those are her words. Seriously. There may be some truth to that. Not sure. I would always argue back and say, "Nuh,uh!" But she wouldn't engage in the argument. Sigh. Anyway, I love learning things and if I were to do life over again, I, well, probably wouldn't change anything.... but I may have been a lawyer. Or tried to anyway. Who knows. There's still time. I've learned that "smart" looks an awful lot like hard work and perseverance.

I've learned my job is seed planting, I don't always see the results, and it's very frustrating. I've also learned that's life. We're all seed planters. When at last we see one of the fruits of our labors, it sticks and it reminds us of why we do what we do. This gem was sent to me from a kid I taught in reading years ago. He borrowed my daughter's phone and sent me this text....
I didn't say I taught grammar, but hey! This kid thanked me for being hard on him because I saw potential!
And I did! And I do! THIS is why I do what I do!

I learned that while this is not the life I had pictured I would have, it's much better than the one I had planned. How's that? I had my life planned out a long time ago (I'm pausing so you can laugh.... God is, so you can too). It looked like so many picture perfect lives you see on Facebook and Instagram. It was going. To. Work! It didn't. Not even close. But here's the thing, becoming an independent, strong, hard-working mom who has raised kids who are compassionate, loving, empathetic, also hard-working and independent isn't something I could have done in my planned out life. I would have WANTED to do that in my planned out life, but I just don't think it would have worked. I wouldn't have become who I am. I like who I am; not in a vain way, but in a content way. I know it's because of the trials, everything we've gone through.... that wasn't planned. I'm better. We're better. Plans? Laughable, I know.

I learned that while I used to love the social life, I now have a huge appreciation for quiet. My favorite time of day (or night) is when I take the dogs for a walk and it's just past dusk. It's quiet. It's peaceful. I'm not on social media during our walk and there is no tv that follows me. I blame myself for the amount of static in my life. I just need to leave it alone now and then. Once I was engaged in a conversation with someone who was talking about social media. She said she wasn't on any social media for the time being because, "I hate seeing everyone else's 'happy'". We both laughed, but it was poignant. People, myself included, put out there every good and beautiful thing they can. How can we really compare with other's perfect lives? Exactly. They aren't perfect. But when we feel low, have just gone through a break-up, or are having some other crisis whether it be large or small, we open the gateway to everyone's perfection and what? Do we really expect to feel better about ourselves? Unplug. At least for a while. Talk face to face to friends. See a goofy movie. Go for a walk. People watch.

Oh, speaking of people watching! I learned that when you people watch... and I do not mean stalk, I really don't, you can hear some serious crazy crap! Arguments, yelling, fights! Sheesh! That happened not long ago. I was out shopping and I swear I really was minding my own business, but a couple was being so brutal to each other! Made me happy to go home to Max and Emmie. Their love is unconditional. And they don't talk.
Max is my homeboy

Emmie just says she didn't do it. Whatever it was.

I've learned, well, always known, that family and friends are the backbone, not to success, I mean, yes, to success, but to life. I couldn't function without them. Any of them... all of them. I didn't ask permission before posting these, but here's my wonderful, crazy family :)

         and my best friend (also crazy)...

Anyway, another year of learning under the belt. It never really stops though, does it? And we always say if we'd just known then what we know now, but in a lot of ways, we do know... it takes something hitting home at times for us to really, REALLY get our lessons down. It takes really reaching our threshold of pain for us to set the boundaries, make the call, rip the band aid off... It takes us saying to ourselves, "I don't want to be this anymore" to enroll in school again, to dare things could be different. They can. Fresh year. Fresh "plans". New learning to be done.

I would love to hear what you all have learned this past year! Happy New Year to you! A year of love, laughter, and learning!

January 1, 2017

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pillows, Jeans that Fit, My Kids, and Chick-Fil-A

Is it still no shave November? I was just wondering. There was a time when it was no shave November. People also post things daily for which they are thankful in November. November has Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, and apparently it's pretty much Christmas now. November is a very busy month. Ask her! I mentioned in a former post something for which I was thankful and said I may or may not try to do that posting daily thing. My reasoning is that I know how my mind works and I would forget. I did forget. I forgot to post, but not to be thankful.

With Thanksgiving upon us we reflect once again on all our blessings. Just yesterday I saw a church sign that read, “We don’t need more to be thankful for, we need to be thankful more.” While the grammar made my brain itch, the message was spot on. And please know I realize the grammar in my own writing makes some of my readers’ brains itch. I won’t say names. Sister.

Many years ago before most of you were born, I was listening to a friend’s son say a blessing before we ate lunch. He thanked God for many things, but what totally caught me off guard was when he thanked God for his pillow. Never before had it occurred to me to thank God for my pillow. Ever had to sleep without a pillow or on one that felt somewhat akin to a saltine cracker? If so, you are probably thankful you have your own fluffy piece of heaven, right? Who thinks to be thankful for a pillow? This child did and it absolutely changed how I viewed my prayers of thanks.

Having the pleasure of spending time in deep discussion with friends at the ALCA conference last week, as well as other friends lately, I’ve been reminded that every single day I’ve been given roughly 16-19 hours of wake time, depending on what time Max and Emmie deem it necessary to devour their morning kibble. Every day; same amount of time. Every day. I am extremely busy as are you, my reader, I am certain. (By the way, thank you for taking a minute out of your schedule to read this) I work full time, have a son in college in Mobile and while I don’t help him out a lot anymore, I do try to keep in touch often. I’m the mom. That’s what we do. I have a teenage daughter who doesn’t have her license yet, so I’m back to being chauffeur and private detective. I’m kidding. Sort of. I also felt the need to add a little more to the plate and am in school again working on my Educational Leadership license. We have church, family, friends, and functions. Slicing time for fun things is rare, but precious.

When my son came home last night for the first time since he left in August, I cannot even tell you how thankful I was. Praying for safe travels for his friends and him all day, when I finally saw his face I couldn’t contain my excitement or my scream. I ran and hugged the first kid out of the car. He was shorter, wasn’t Liam, it was Ira, but I didn’t care. They were home. They were safe. Our kids are here! I made my rounds and got to my boy. I squeezed my son, Liam, so tight. I didn’t want to let go. Thankful is a shallow word for the way I felt. I almost asked Liam if he’d gained a pound or two but I was afraid he would return the question, so I resisted.

Here’s what people didn’t see…. I took my son to his dad’s and took a few pics as he hugged on his sister and they played around with throwing punches at each other. I think that's obligatory.

We all talked, and I left. I left him. I left them. There. Now, lest you think I’m awful and gave my kids up, I didn’t. The deal was that they would stay with Todd the first night and have their Thanksgiving with them today. Did I feel empty when I drove away? You better believe it. But I was thankful. I was thankful that I can go to my ex-husband’s house, hug his wife, talk about what we’re each cooking over the holidays, sit in their family room with OUR children, and feel like a family. I was thankful that we laughed; we are safe, healthy, happy, and proud. I am thankful I have a home to come to that is warm, beautiful, and decorated for Christmas. 

I could have been bitter about our circumstances. I could have been angry that I didn’t get the “whole time with my children”, but what good will it do to be bitter? Same amount of time, what am I going to do with it? Be angry or thankful?

The Bible refers to us as children. I think that’s pretty telling given we act like children and not in the sweet way. Actually, most children act a lot better than some of us adults. Don’t act like you don’t know to what I’m referring. We all know if our kids did and acted the way we do sometimes, we’d ground them for life. The truth is we want them to be better than we are.

If you’ve ever worked with children or received a gift from a child, you act like it’s the greatest thing in the world. It’s not acting really, it really is great. Why? Why is that tacky shell covered duck statue thingie so wonderful? (Sorry, Mom. I really thought it was beautiful at the time. You can put it away now) It’s not the actual content, it’s the thought. It’s that you were the center of someone else’s thinking. You were loved. A child walks up to you with gift and eagerly awaits for you to unwrap this treasure. All eyes are on you. You know what you have to do…. You have to wear this (insert: necklace, bracelet, earrings) at least 3 times, including RIGHT NOW to show how much you love this precious sentiment.

When we give our children gifts we are hoping for the same reactions, but it’s not always quiet so fantastical, is it? You are absolutely positive they will LOVE the lemon yellow puffy vest you picked for them because they look SO good in yellow! (Sorry, Mom, I never could tell you… it just wasn’t me). We give them things we know is best for them sometimes and they may not understand; like jackets, warm socks, underwear.

Gifts are a funny thing, no matter how you open them. I think whatever any of us expect when we give or receive a gift, we never hope for, nor expect rejection. Sometimes our gift is whimsical, sometimes it has been long thought out. Sometimes it is very simple, sometimes it is complex and serious. Never do we sit there awaiting our beloved recipient to say, “You know, this really sucks and isn’t what I was looking for right now.” Or “I really don’t have time for this. Thanks, though.”

Every day we get a gift. God eagerly gives his children a brand new, shiny day.  For me it is 16-19 hours of beauty to unwrap! Every. Single. Day. I have written it before, but when I was at Auburn and feeling so miserably, my mom said to me that God divided our time into 24 hours because He knew we couldn’t handle any more than that. That really stuck with me. I also feel that every 24 hours is a brand new shiny chance to find things to be thankful for. Can you see the gorgeous leaves right now? The ones you dread raking? Be thankful for your sight. Can you hear your kids laughing? Arguing? Be thankful you can hear. Can you move about your home to do housework, that never ending housework? Be thankful for a home, your mobility, and people to clean up after.

Do you get to sleep in a bed, on a pillow, and cover with blankets? There, three more things for which you can be thankful. You see, you can choose. Every day you can choose. Be bitter, or be thankful. You have the same amount of time in every day. Being bitter about things will buy you no more time and you are only wasting the precious gift God gives you. How it must break His heart to see his children hate or simply not appreciate the gifts with which He showers them every day. How it must sadden Him to no end to graciously give, and give, and give, only to have us protest because the gifts aren’t “fair” (we may ought to be happy that God is gracious, not fair, by the way), that His gifts aren’t what we want, desire, or good enough. By the way, the One who created us knows what we need. It’s pretty simple. And when The Bible speaks of us being like children, maybe we should look at God with those huge eager eyes, the way children do when the presents are under the tree; in awe and wonder at what our amazing Creator has in store for us today, knowing it will be exactly what we need, in this time, whether we understand it or not.

So while we are thankful tomorrow, can we honestly say that we are choosing to walk in thanks daily? It is a choice, but it is more than that, it is absolutely crucial to being happy. It isn’t easy and there are backslides for sure, but today… today I choose to be thankful for small things, like my Coca Cola Zero, my dogs who are freshly groomed and look pretty, my jeans that still fit. I am thankful for big things too, like family and friends, of course. But I’m thankful that my kids came and brought lunch, Chick-Fil-A nuggets  

 (....and please notice that they left the bag on the counter and cups out... just saying. But also please notice well groomed pup in the background, protecting our castle.)

I’m thankful for the outlet of writing. I’m thankful for the cool temps. I’m thankful for the brief but thoughtful phone call from a friend making sure my son was home safely, for the kids and my hilarious attempt at hanging the “big wreath” (it’s still not up), and for half-and–half tea. Simple things.

And tonight when I put my head down, you can bet I will be thankful for my pillow.

Wishing you all things wonderful, many things for which to be thankful… or at least that you can fit into your jeans.

November 23, 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

My Letter to Liam on Graduation

Well, my oldest went off to college. Actually we took him there and left him which feels as horrible as that sounds. It's not like we dropped him off in the desert and told him to figure out how to get home. We carefully planned our weekend, overloaded 2 vehicles, and with all the blood sweat and tears we had, drove to South and did what had been done thousands of times before. We set up our son's room, made sure he had plenty of toilet paper and dorm room food, and I, being Mom, set up his bed (..."because that's the mom's job!"). No one argued with me. No one dared argue with me. All weekend. Or since really. Sweet Mary has fared well, given her brother is away. They talk and text a lot. She has actually been rather chatty and has explained that, "someone has to fill Liam's spot while he's gone."

It's hard letting your child go, even though you prepare them for this. You raise them to make this world better and trust that God has them, but your heart aches like nothing anyone can explain really. I thought for certain I would have pages and pages to write soon. I may. But for now, and with Liam's permission, I am posting my Letter to Liam on his Graduation.

So... Here was my letter to Liam:

To Liam on Graduation Day,

When you were born, I calculated the year you would graduate: 2016. I remember chuckling to myself as it seemed so far away. There were times I thought I was ready for you to grow up just a little; dress yourself maybe or maybe even run to the store for milk, or take Mary to or from practice. No mom can tell another mom that those days come too quickly, that your kids grow up in the blink of an eye and that you literally lie in bed awake with tears streaming down your cheeks wishing for a do-over so you can do better, be a better example, give better advice, spend more time with them, or hold them longer.

Praying for do-overs doesn’t work. I know. I’ve prayed for them. Many times. But we get new days, every day, and for that I’m grateful. While I can’t slow time down I can take a little of that time now to tell you some things that I know you’ve heard a million times over the last 18 years, but I want you to take these to heart. Let me start this by saying that if all the children in the whole wide world were lined up, I would pick you and Mary Abbott again. I can’t believe I have been so blessed to be your mom. I am, indeed, the luckiest woman on earth for that blessing.

With that, as you go out into this great big world….

  • Always be kinder than you have to be
  • Dress a little nicer than necessary
  • Remember that everyone has a story and get to know as many as you can
  • Open doors for ladies; including your mom and sister
  • Use a napkin
  • Wear the bike helmet
  • Taste your food before you salt it
  • Never turn down a gift from a child
  • Always read to a child if you have the opportunity
  • Say “Thank you” a lot
  • Buy good shoes
  • Brush and floss everyday
  • Smile first and often
  • Be kind to people in customer service, it really throws them off
  • Drink a lot of water
  • Remember what you put ‘out there’ (in cyber world) never goes away. Be careful
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you are back
  • Return grocery carts to the proper place
  • Call your parents just to say hi
  • Call your grandparents just to say hi
  • Call your sister just to say hi
  • Remember a bad day does not mean a bad life
  • Speak to people who aren’t expecting your kindness
  • Get to know faculty and staff at school and where you work. They are ALL important
  • Remember every single person makes a difference in someone else’s life and treat them with that respect
  • Remember that every person is someone’s baby
  • Be kind to animals, elderly people, and wait staff
  • Never ever make fun of anyone
  • Laugh with people, but not at them
  • Wear cologne but not too much
  • Find a good church
  • Be ok spending time alone
  • Find a girl that knows how to fish
  • Find a girl that is confident but not cocky or high maintenance
  • Use your manners
  • Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see
  • Read your Bible. A lot.
  • Be careful about movies you watch. Trash in, trash out.
  • Shake hands with people when you meet them, look them in the eye, and repeat their name
  • Learn how to cook at least 3 good gourmet meals
  • Iron your shirts
  • Be humble
  • Be safe
  • Be silly
  • Do not ride in the car with a driver who has been drinking
  • Do not drink and drive
  • Treat ladies the way you would want your sister (or mom) treated
  • Stand up for yourself
  • Stand up for what you believe is right
  • Use your voice for those who don’t know how to yet
  • Remember it’s ok to be afraid
  • Remember it’s ok to be angry
  • It’s not ok to hurt people
  • Be true to yourself
  • Clean up after yourself
  • When you visit someone’s house, leave your area cleaner than when you got there
  • Keep the bathroom mirror clean
  • If you don’t want it shared, don’t say it, post it, or write it
  • Never be afraid to call home or come home
  • Wear your seatbelt
  • Drive slower than you think you have to. You’ll notice more.
  • If someone rides your bumper, let them pass
  • Never engage in road rage
  • Save money
  • Never chase anyone, chase God and find a girl who chases God
  • Never squeal your tires on purpose in a public place
  • Say you’re sorry if you are but not just to smooth things over
  • Ask people if they want to talk, you’ll be amazed when people open up
  • If you say you’re going to pray for someone, do. Ask them later how they’re doing
  • Compliment people, honestly and carefully, but freely
  • Be organized
  • Go to bed clean, you’ll sleep better
  • Pray (you’ll sleep better)
  • Keep a journal of things for which you’re thankful, even if it is simply a cup of coffee that morning
  • Trust your instincts
  • NEVER accept a ride from someone you don’t know
  • Making someone else look bad, never makes you look good
  • Keep a First-Aid kit and spare tire in your car
  • Keep a phone charger in your car
  • Arrive 15 minutes early to interviews and appointments
  • If you need to correct someone, make sure you tell them something positive as well
  • Research your heritage
  • Shop around for the best deal on things
  • Do your research before buying
  • Keep letters and cards from people you care about. You’ll look over them again. I promise.
  • Take long walks in parks, the woods, and on beaches
  • Do karaoke
  • Join a cause
  • Read
  • Keep a calendar
  • When you feel like you’re drowning, your lifeguard walked on water
  • Always walk to the door to pick up your date
  • Always make sure whoever you are taking home is inside safe before you drive away
  • Set healthy boundaries without apologies
  • Keep a rein on your temper. You can’t unsay or undo.
  • Know now how smart you are and do well in school. It’s really hard to go back
  • Spend time with your grandparents while you can, and get to know their stories
  • Find out how your grandparents met; how your parents met
  • Be grateful for the little things, like a pillow to lay your head on at night, and soft blankets
  • Keep your hair neat
  • Make sure you smell nice
  • Don’t wait until you’re really sick to go to the doctor, listen to your body
  • Use good phone manners and talk with energy and a smile. People can feel it
  • Keep your bathroom and kitchen clean
  • Keep your home tidy enough that if anyone surprise visits you, you won’t be embarrassed
  • Put down the electronic devices for a while
  • Go horseback riding…. At least once
  • Hug people
  • Never assume things about people. Ask.
  • Ask God for guidance and then listen
  • Remember you are smarter than you realize
  • You have a killer smile. Use it for good.
  • Getting farther in life is a matter of simply doing
  • We don’t quit
  • Your mom will always believe in you
  • You will always have a home to come to
  • Live big
  • Love bigger
  • Forgive people, but never be a doormat to anyone
  • Remember that you’re the King’s kid
  • And on earth, you’re my boy...always

“Every single thing you do matters. You have been created as one of a kind.You have been created to make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world.”
~ Andy Andrews

I love you more than you can imagine,


Turning pages to new chapters,
August 22, 2016

The Heaviness of My Heart

All, I've had writers block for a long time. I've had several posts started and some still hang in mid-air on my computer just wai...