Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One Big Fight

I was in a huge, knock-out, drag-out fight this afternoon...and couldn't have had more fun!

Noah planned this ambush in advance, saying he was done with his homework and going out to play in the backyard. I didn't think much else of it and started working on dinner. I also decided to get a small workout in, since he was busy playing anyway.

Awhile later, he opens the sliding door from the back deck and asks if I want to come outside and sit with him. Thinking to myself "how sweet" and ready for a welcome break, I followed him out. It was a beautiful afternoon and I can always use a dose of sunshine.

As I sat down onto the patio chair, sinking my head back with a big sigh, it hit me. Or, rather I should say, he hit me - with a huge water balloon. Splash! Instantly my feet and legs were splattered with cool water. At first I didn't know how to respond. I was shocked. I was wet. And then I started laughing. It was so unexpected!

Noah starts attacking then, one after the other, when I halted him and said it was unfair if I didn't get to throw too. He was all over this and rolled a few balloons my way, before ducking for cover. We threw and smashed, ran and played, and ended up soaking wet by the time we were done. Actually, when he ran out of balloons, he chased me with the water hose too. I felt like a kid again. What fun!

How often does life throw something at you? Do you choose to pout and get angry? Let it ruin your day? Or, do you make the most of it, shake it off, and join in the fun? I'm so glad I did just that today.

Monday, August 30, 2010

1 minute Joy

Sometimes the biggest joy of my day lasts mere seconds. When compared to the many events and moments in a day, they are but small snippets and sometimes overlooked.

Today's minute came this afternoon when Noah came home from school. (Actually the first minute Noah walks in is always a highlight of my day but not the topic of this story!) I had just received a phone call, text and email from various family members letting me know gas prices were rising tonight and supposedly quite a jump - from 2.44 to 3.19. That kind of spike motivates me to get out of the house and fill all the vehicles!

Noah enters the house, amid barks and hops and lots of tail wagging from Patch, flashes me a smile, and slings his trapper off his shoulder and onto the table with a loud thud.

"Hi Fred," I say, "Want to go for a drive?"

He's grumbling about lots of homework and not having a chance to do it while waiting for the bus but nods and shrugs and follows me out the door. On the way, I notify him that he'll be the gas attendant today, as I'm still in PJs, covered in some type of strange rash, and do not wish to be seen. Noah gives me a once over, agrees that he would also prefer me not to be seen, and replies with, "Cool."

I watch him from my side mirror, looking and acting so grown up, as he goes through those every day motions. What is an ordinary task for us, is pretty exciting for a 10 year old. He likes swiping my card, as if it has magical powers to purchase anything with ease; and he likes watching the numbers race around and grow. Both things, I can honestly say, do not bring me joy! Anyway, when the gas handle clicks signaling full, and all parts are back where they belong, we head back to the house.

Knowing that my plan was to fill up both vehicles, I brought Tim's keys with me so we wouldn't have to go back in the house and swap out. As we pull into the subdivision, Noah asks if he can turn his dad's truck around. I say yes almost immediately, causing him to repeat himself, I guess because he was surprised at my sudden answer. My second yes gleans a huge smile, followed by his own loud and enthusiastic, "Yes!" He leaps out of my truck and runs to the field.

All these moments I've just described lead up to my favorite...Noah sitting behind the wheel, glowing with excitement, carefully going through all the steps one by one. Safety first, he clicks his seat belt. Mirror tilt and check. Seat scoot. Windows down. Radio off. He knows but asks again, "Why am I the only one who can't drive with the radio?" and then gives the answer he knows I am about to, "so I can hear you....yeah yea" with a smile. Seconds later, he has turned around in the field and onto the driveway. Park. Seat belt off. He's out of the driver's seat, around the truck and buckled into the passenger side before I even get in.

The whole thing probably lasted less than 60 seconds but it was one of my biggest joys today because it made my boy extremely happy. To see him smiling is always the best part of my day; and we're making memories....one minute at a time.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bonfires and Babies

I love bonfires! There's just something about the smell of an open fire...smoke drifting, flames flickering back and forth...the warmth from within and the love of a family around it.

It is mandatory that we have at least one or two bonfires a year at our house. One of these days I'll break down and buy a fancy fire pit, but for now Tim's stuck with roughing it. He is a firefighter after all, so I figure he has the knowledge anyway - and we're safe if it spreads!

This afternoon, I stepped onto the back deck, looked up at the beautiful blue sky and felt the wind on my face. The sun played peek-a-boo among the puffy cotton ball clouds above. I knew immediately it would be the perfect opportunity to invite the family over for some food and fun.

I love impromptu get-togethers, when you don't have to prep and plan or clean the house. Family loves you and doesn't care if there are crumbs on your floor or dishes in the sink. We set the time, I thawed out some hot dogs, and waited for them to arrive.

Looking in, I'm sure we appeared pretty ordinary. Just a family cookout, complete with burgers on the grill and cornhole in the yard. To me though it was anything but average, for anytime I'm with family, I'm filled with comfort and delight. In fact, my heart was as warm as the blazing bonfire we sat around.

Grins and giggles...chocolate and marshmallow stickiness...twilight...watching the babies dance among the shadows from the flames...surrounded by people I love. What joy!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Middle of Nowhere

A few years ago, we decided to share with our boys the delight in an Island Burger. That's enough said for anyone who's ever had one; and they probably wouldn't have to read much further!

When Tim and I were dating, decades ago it seems, we would ride around all day on his motorcycle and end up at the Dairy Freeze. Two burgers and two shakes...a little piece of paradise...and we were on our way. Actually, back then, I remember the burgers being so big we often would share one. Or, maybe that was just the thing to do when you were newly in love.

For whatever reason, once we married and the motorcycling days were over, we didn't visit there often. Occasionally on a fishing trip, or if we happened to be near Island, Kentucky, we'd stop by.

I guess it was about four years ago when we took the boys there for their first trip. It's about a 30-45 minute trip, depending on how hungry you are, to get there, and along the way there isn't much to look at but farms, barns, and fields.

That day, the boys were both hungry before we even left the house and didn't quite understand why we passed up all the food chains in town, especially after we missed the turns for Owensboro. Austin must have remarked how long it was taking and where on earth we were eating. Noah responded with, "I believe it's the middle of nowhere!" (To this day, that is what Noah calls it, even if nobody outside of our family understands what he's talking about.)

Needless to say, they were instantly hooked. Double bacon cheeseburgers, cheese balls and peanut butter shakes (I don't even want to think how many calories that is!) and they were two happy campers. Once everyone was settled in with a travel tray smorgasbord, we were off for a scenic road trip.

For whatever reason, Tim decided to turn around in a remote driveway along the way, and out of nowhere jumped Kujo's twin brother. He snarled, and barked, and nearly bit the tires off our truck. Tim laughed, Austin thought it was cool, Noah didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and I about wet my pants. While jumping and screaming simultaneously, my milkshake in hand hit the ceiling above and the straw pushed through the bottom of the cup.

At this point, everyone in the car is full of snorts and giggles and I'm frantically trying to salvage my shake by drinking it upside down. That golden brown, liquid fudge in a cup was too precious to toss! And that was their first trip to get an Island Burger...pretty memorable!

This afternoon, we made an impromptu trip there for dinner. Tim got called out to work in McLean county and we thought we'd make the most out of a bad situation. A change of plans....to the middle of nowhere...for burgers, shakes and memories!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lil Miss B

My favorite little three old spent the night with me and brings me more joy than I can capture on paper...mostly because she never stops long enough for me to write!

Bryanna is my little sister's girl and I think I've loved her since before she was born. She is a mini version of her mom, stubborn and sassy, knowing just when to turn on the charm to get her way. That is no difficult task, considering her long blond hair that resembles spun gold, or her sparkly blue eyes she can bat with eyelashes so long they kiss her cheeks.

Our relationship was a rocky one to start, mostly because she has and always will be a "Momma's Girl!" She would only let you hold her, as a baby, on her terms and when she was done - you better give her back to her mom.

As she grew though, we quickly became friends and she loved coming to see her Aunt Heather. It's probably because I spoil her rotten. We pull out chalk and bubbles and play on the sidewalk....or sit in the floor and color and make things with play-doh....or whatever else she wants to do every 15 minutes!

She's smart as can be and carries on a conversation like an adult, always listening and watching anyone near her. I'm amazed at her little mind and how you can almost hear the wheels turning as she processes things. I can't wait to see the big person she will become - and I hope she always enjoys spending time with Aunt Heather!

Please excuse the errors and multiple posts of this story....as she decided to come help me write somewhere in between. I'm not quite sure how I managed to construct anything readable! :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010


A friend of mine sent me a sweet email this afternoon, thanking me for my timing. We had been talking throughout the day and I sent her some words of encouragement - just for being a good friend.

Little did I know, she was on her way to deliver school pictures to a family who had just lost a child. She had previously shared our story with this family but was unsure how to approach them today. My words, at just the write time, gave her the courage she needed. She called it a wink from God.

I was so glad to do so, even though I didn't know I was helping at the time. It made me realize how powerful words can be. These past two years, writing as much as I have, I've noticed how writing can change someone. Simple letters put together into sentences evoke emotions, both good and bad. I pray daily that I use this gift God's given me, for words to flow so freely, in the right way and that I do so to honor him. Sometimes I fail, but it is truly something I strive for, as writing brings me more joy than I could ever imagine. It is just something I love to do and always have. To know though that my writings sometimes help others makes me feel even more blessed.

I reflected for awhile on my friend's comment on timing. I do believe that everything happens for a reason and in God's time. Sometimes I don't understand, or even agree with it, but most often I can look back and see that whatever happened was at just the right time. Whether it was a blessing or a time of difficulty, it led to something else and brought us closer to the path God chose for us. May I live the rest of my life believing that, trusting in his ways and his timing.

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More than a Volunteer

Volunteers, by far, have been the best part of my career with the American Cancer Society. During my twelve years at ACS, I can't even begin to fathom how many volunteers I've worked with. It has to be well over 1,000, if I gave my best guess!

Working with volunteers is inspirational on a daily basis. To see how much they freely give for the good of ACS is sometimes unreal. I am thankful every single day for the volunteers we have within this organization, and most importantly, those who choose to donate their time to help me.

My husband jokes when we travel throughout Western Kentucky because, more often than not, I'll see a previous or current volunteer. And Noah will assume, if he finds a Relay shirt in a crowd, that I know anyone he sees! It truly has been a blessing to meet and work with so many amazing people. Aside from the personal connection to cancer in my family, volunteers are why I've continued to work for ACS.

While I've made lasting relationships across my territory, those that mean the most are the ones that have transitioned from volunteer to friend. I truly believe God puts people in our life for a reason and he continually bestows upon me, both personally and professionally, good souls. I have certainly been blessed with treasured friendships from so many of my volunteers.

What's even better is that they were unexpected. When our relationships began, it was purely professional, but grew over time. Some took a few years to blossom and others bloomed almost immediately. These friendships have carried me through very joyous occasions to tragedies in my life. It is those moments of caring, when not anticipated, that stick with you forever. I'll never forget what those acts of kindness - from a sweet card, to a meal, to a hug, have meant to me.

Lives change, people move, and volunteers step down or back for various reasons. Those relationships don't stop though and continue as friendships for life, I hope. These friendships mean more to me than I could ever describe and they bring me joy daily.

How great it is to work every day with people you love, admire and appreciate. Volunteers are what motivate me every day to do the best job I can for the American Cancer Society - and for them!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Love Drama

Ok, so I'm breaking the rules of not talking about someone in my posts but I can't help it! Noah has cracked me up lately with his tales from the "days of his life" as a 5th grader. - this is where you agree to keep silent and I will deny any rumors or news that gets back to him!-

I still can't get over what changes he's had this school year. It was as if, when the bell rang on the first day of school, Noah jumped from childhood to a pre-teen. He's sharper and wittier than ever, coming out with remarks I think Letterman's staff is helping to write. He's more responsible, having his homework done before he even walks through the door. And then there's the girls...

Noah's always been a little heart breaker. Between those dark brown curls you want to run your fingers through and those beautiful ocean eyes, every girl he meets is sure to be hooked. Add to it his spunk and personality and he's a catch! Of course, until this year, he really could care less.

He's had crushes here and there but never anything serious. Third grade must be some kind of girls-are-gross stage because he wanted NOTHING to do them that year (or at least that's what he told me). Last year, I could tell his interest was growing but he was still very shy when it came to anything girl. This year, he's still tiptoeing, but I see such a difference.

Noah cares what he wears, checks his hair twenty times before the bus comes, and asks for my feedback regularly on his appearance. Best of all he's started to talk to me about it.

He'll begin by telling me the "Love Drama of the Day," as he puts it. Noah will re-live the events of his school day, complete with whatever break ups, letters passed, and other relationship news might have occurred at BDE. It's a cross between a teen soap opera and Facebook updates. I have to say it is becoming the highlight of my afternoon and better than anything on reality tv. Who knew 5th grade was such a romantic production!

Then, sometimes, he'll ease into hints and snippets of his love life....or rather, "like life" at his age. I only get bits and pieces but I just enjoy the time with him and sharing a moment or two of his day. I'm sure there will come a time, maybe after he gets wind of this post, that he'll stop sharing these details so I'm soaking them up every day and loving every minute.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Random Texts

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't get a text from my mom. We may go a day or two without talking (unusual) but I hear from her every day with a text or two....or three or four. Actually, if I don't receive a text, I worry and will end up calling to check on her.

My sisters and I like to pick on Mom for the texts she sends because some of them can be so random. They come, without warning or reason, and cause some type of reaction from you.

Sometimes I smile; maybe it is a sweet poem or some FWD she's found to brighten our day. Or, it might include "Have a great week" or "Happy Friday!" Sometimes I laugh - at times because it is funny - or because I'm in shock at what she sent. (We won't go into more detail on that one!) Sometimes I get teary-eyed, because it is thoughtful and unexpected like, "just wanted to say I love you!" Sometimes I even shake my head because maybe it interrupted my thought process with silly nonsense. "Yard sale on the left" or "Need an answer..do you want a travel bag for your crockpot?" or "yellow one!" are just a few.

The great thing about Mom is that she sends these texts to all three of us girls, sometimes includes the grand kids, and to Tim on occasion. Even on days when the texts seem distractful in the moment, when I think back on them, I see how special they are. Every time she sends one, wherever we are, we've stopped for a minute and are all connected. I can almost imagine my sisters and me simutaneously rolling our eyes or chuckling.

And I think that is all she's trying to do. Even though texting can be an easy way to disconnect, Mom's found a way to keep all of us connected.....one crazy text at a time!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hot Tub Time

Probably seems silly to write a post about the joy a hot tub can bring. Most people will think, "Gee...that's a no-brainer!" But the general relaxing nature of a hot tub is not why I love ours so much (although that part is pretty nice!).

A little over a year ago, Tim found a deal too good to be true on a used hot tub. I researched online to compare prices, as I always do, and was convinced we were being tricked. Actually, it was just good timing for us on the misfortune of an older couple. The man had purchased the hot tub for he and his wife and then was diagnosed with heart disease, thus keeping him from enjoying it.

We chose to fore go fall break and make the purchase. "Vacations-are-nice-but-a-hot-tub-lasts-forever kind of thinking!" And I'm so glad we did!

The hot tub has been such a welcoming little retreat for us all. It gives us special bonding time as a family and makes Noah feel like he's at a mountain retreat any day of the week. It's great for my old broken knee (and half the other parts I feel are falling apart). No big surprise it is a wonderful stress reliever, as all your troubles melt away with the first plunge. Most of all, it gives Tim and I couple-time.

Life can be so hectic it is easy to push time with each other to the back burner. You can make excuses for so many other things that need to be done. Tim and I have always tried to have regular date nights and usually go on a trip just the two of us every year. But the hot tub gives us a mini date under the stars any day we like...and it doesn't cost a thing!

It is so nice to sit, surrounded by bubbles and a blanket of stars, gazing at the moon and sharing our day together. We've enjoyed it year round, from sticky summer nights with the smell of honeysuckle floating through the air, to a crisp snowy evening and softly falling snow. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we just sit, side by side, enjoying the evening and each other. It's the best way to end a busy day after work ...and the best way to start a new week on a calm Sunday night.

Moments of Sunshine

Sharing in someone else's happiness is maybe one of the best joys there is. To see someone smiling and enjoying themselves makes me smile inside and out, especially when they are someone you love.

Noah's had a busy, fun-filled weekend and it has been such a delight to watch him experience it. Friday night was a first for him - a group date. Now, every time he heard me say the D-word, he'd correct me with a sigh and, "MOM, it's not a date!" but there were girls present so that's what I'm calling it. And I noticed a little more mirror checking than usual so I think their presence was on his mind more than he wanted to admit.

He kept me smiling all afternoon, asking every five minutes what time it was, pacing, checking his hair again, and talking or texting in between it all. I was excited for him and could remember my first trip to the movies without adult supervision. While he didn't share a lot about the evening, his smile when I picked him up was all I needed to see.

Saturday was a busier than planned day, full of errands and housework, since we awoke to rain. In between we took Noah to his first basketball game of the season. He's playing for the "Future Eagles," which is hosted by the local high school. They teach the kids drills to improve their play and let them scrimmage against each other. It's a good warm-up for Noah going into his school basketball season.

Being in the high school is very difficult at times, as it's filled with memories of Austin. I feel like half my heart is always drifting, remembering, breaking all over again when I'm there. The other half is rooting for Noah, watching him bounce between two goals, wishing with every ounce in me that he'll have a bright future in this gym and at the school. My mind dreams of how he might grow, what he'll be like in a few years when he's in high school, and I'm filled with hope.

When I think back to yesterday though most of my biggest smiles came from the interactions between Noah and Tim. They seem so small to write about but it filled my heart each time and always left me smiling or laughing, or both.

They both like to pick on each other, always poking, tugging, pushing, and playing a joke on. It seemed like every time I turned around, they were doing something to each other. Tim would get the better of Noah and he'd run back to tell on him, laughing the whole time, but secretly hoping it will get his Dad in trouble.

I remember a time when there wasn't so much playfulness or laughter. I remember a time when our days were dark I wondered if we'd ever smile again. There is still sadness, every day, and I can't imagine a day that will ever go by that we don't pause and remember and our hearts ache. But, there is promise in that our days now are filled with more sunshine than clouds and that remembering Austin doesn't always lead to tears. I think that is what makes those little, normal, every day moments of sunshine that much more special - and worth writing about.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Blissful Boredom

Friday has a lot to live up to. Society puts pressure onto that day being great, fun-filled, exciting - a party. Songs are written about Friday, heck, even restaurants. If I were Friday, I'd be stressed out from all the demands to perform every week and keep everybody happy!

When I was a teenager, I thought I had to have plans every Friday night. Somewhere along the trip from adulthood to parenthood, it somehow lost importance. Most Friday nights are pretty normal for us, a relaxing end to a busy workweek. I'm not saying we never have plans but I'm content when we don't. Some would say that sounds like boredom, and some nights I hear that from Noah, but I think it's bliss!

A perfect Friday night for me is pizza and a movie, snuggled on the couch with the family. You don't have to rush home and change clothes or get dressed up to be there. You don't have to spend time in the kitchen or waiting in line to be seated. And, you don't have to spend most of your just-earned paycheck to have fun. Pizza....$20....Movie....free from Netflix.....comfy night on the couch with the family.....PRICELESS!

Life is hectic and busy enough through the week. You're scrambling to get everyone ready and out the door on time, and rushing home to get dinner on the table each night, in between homework and laundry and ten other demands that need to get done. Give me a simple, boring Friday night any day of the week.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Messages from God

There are so many posts I could write about scripture and how much they mean to me. Certain scriptures have held my faith when it has shaken, calmed me in the storms of life, quieted my worries, and lifted my spirits.

While I make an effort to read the Bible every day, I often fail. I do however receive a daily devotion and it helps sustain me on hectic days when I don't make the time to read more. They are always inspiring and often helps set the mood for my day. What amazes me though is when God finds a way to send scripture when you least expect it and in the most unconventional ways.
This week my heart has been heavy with the needs of others. Prayers for those I love have filled my mind, almost to the point of being overwhelmed. Last night, exhausted and burdened with worries, I felt as if I just drew a blank when praying. Could I remember every name, every need? What if I were praying in the wrong priority, did someone need more time? Worse, was I forgetting someone? In the end, I just gave it God. I said to myself, and to him, "You know the prayers in my heart and the needs of those on my mind. I give it to you in trust."

Today, in a spot I would have never guessed to find a scripture, I found this....it was as if he was letting me know, I was correct; he knows my prayers before I even say them, he knows my needs before I call his name. Such a comfort to put your trust in someone who knows every part of you and loves you anyway. And it brought me such joy to know that he made a way to connect with me and remind me he's always there.

Psalm 139:1-4
"O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

These are a few...

Since starting this blog, I've been blessed to see so many joys each day. It makes such a difference when you stop and seek joy out. Being more open, you see even the small joys and they improve your day - and sometimes your life.

Some of them aren't quite enough to write a blog about so I thought I'd just share a few of my favorites...

Children laughing...changing leaves...clear blue skies...a sunrise...popcorn in the afternoon...clean sheets...bonfires...new shoes...grandparents...warm cookies...daffodils...sand on my toes...star gazing...surprises...the first sign of Spring...sweet tea...bubbles...warm soup on a rainy day...candles...carmel apples...Scrabble...newborn babies...a stranger's smile...balloons...flavored lip gloss...barns...rainbows...chocolate milk...a cool breeze...air hockey...sincere compliments...the sky at sunset...good ink pens...a train whistling at night...memories.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Joy of Cooking

Cookbooks line the counter top in my kitchen. I've collected them for years. I have some that I've only read once or twice, some that are stained with spills and splats from frequent use, and some that are precious because they were given to me from someone I care about.

Being that I'm a meal planner, I've always loved finding new recipes. With the ease of the internet and phone apps, cookbooks are quickly becoming dinosaurs but I still love them.

I try to cook from a new recipe at least once a month. Sometimes they are a success and sometimes a flop. Sometimes they are so-so. While they are eating, I will ask, "Is this a redo?" meaning, do you like it enough to eat it again. The next time I'll tweak it and make it my own, until I'm happy with the end result. I'll then record it in my faded blue cookbook on whatever corner of a page I can find. At this point, that blue cookbook has more of "my recipes" in it than the originals and I certainly cook from my found collection more often than any other.

My favorite cookbooks, just like my faded blue, are the "home cook" type collections, often used as fundraisers for churches and such. I like them best because they have a great variety and I think about how that recipe might have passed down from generation to generation when reading them.

It was those collections that inspired me to scrapbook a family cookbook. I gathered my favorite recipes from my grandmothers, mom, and others and now have a family keepsake. Many of the recipes are copied cards in the handwriting of those I love. I will forever cherish the memories they give me, not only when looking through the book, but making the dishes again for my family.

While I can never quite recreate my Grandma McGuffin's wine chicken...or my Mom's biscuits...or my Grandma Davis' sugar cookies, I can have fun trying. I can remember being with them, tasting those wonderful recipes, and sharing great times in their kitchens.

Noah already has a love for cooking and I hope to pass down my faded blue cookbook to him, filled with a few recipes and many memories for him to cherish too.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chats on the Couch

I have to really limit what I say in this posting; and as a writer, it is often hard for me to cut back. However, I'm under strict rules not to divulge personal information about my son from my son! Noah has gotten on to me in the past when he's found out I've posted something about him - whether it be in a blog, on facebook, or even in a text. Apparently, I am to keep all his funniness to myself!

While I can't say what we discussed this afternoon, my daily dose of joy came in the form of a talk with Noah. What I loved about it was that he initiated it and did so because he needed advice. As a parent, that is something you always hope for - that you have the type of relationship with your child so that they feel comfortable talking to you about anything.

Today wasn't earth-shattering (and really quite cute - but that's as far as I can go!) but it felt so good to have him beside me on the couch, sharing his day and his life with me. I can only hope that this type of communication continues as he grows.

My little guy is getting bigger every day. He's nearly at eye level with me, sharp as a tack, and understanding more about life every moment. While it is fun to watch him changing, I miss his little self.

Children grow so very fast; almost in the blink of an eye, they are someone different and new. It's heartbreaking and amazing all at the same time.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Family is the only relationship I know that can sustain through tragedy, conflict, and all the other baggage that gets poured into it. My extended family may drive me crazy at times but I love them all dearly. We may fight one minute and laugh the next. We may go months without speaking and then talk every day for weeks on end.

As chaotic as it can be when we all get together, it is one of my favorite things. To be crowded in a house, sitting on top of each other, babies running, dogs barking, cutting in line when the food is ready, laughing at jokes, making fun of whoever just walked out of the room, gossiping about the next to come in, cousins chasing each other outside, playing games, eating good food, hugging hello and goodbye, smiling inside and out. That's my family and I couldn't be more blessed.

Today was one of those days....a time to come together and spend quality time. There was laughter, there was tears, there was excitement, and there was boredom...just another family day. Sure, there was reason to get together, as we were celebrating a birthday, but what I love about my family is that we gather like this on average ordinary day too.

"The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together." ~Erma Bombeck

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Garden Surprises

I enjoy planting things but I'm not very good at growing them.

There's something calming about plunging your hands into a pot of a dirt. I'm always excited about the prospect of whatever it is and how beautiful it might become. Usually though, it either never grows at all or dies shortly after.

Part of it is due to me forgetting about the plants and not watering them enough. The other is that both my thumbs are white, not green, and I'm just pretty unlucky when it comes to gardening.

I've had many surprises in my yard this year though. Some where joyful and some, not so much. The poison sumac was by far the worst yard experience of my summer and I care to never repeat it. In fact, I'm seriously considering making that flower bed a rock garden because the viney little suckers just keep reappearing.

Vines of all shapes and sizes seem to like our house this year and have spread all the way around it. We haven't planted any of them but they've somehow appeared. Honeysuckle has popped up in the front bushes, which I love to smell, but they are kind of taking over my landscaping. In the back, morning glories have crept and crawled their way up the deck, wrapping around the railing. They are very pretty, as when the sun just begins to peek in the sky, they open up smiling back. However, they are wildly attacking other plants in the yard and the cat's water bowl!

We purposefully planted tomatoes this season because I love them so much and could literally eat them every day. They've been a disappointing surprise though as most of them haven't produced. But each time I see a glimpse red popping from those plants, I know a tasty surprise has grown again. I may not get a tomato a day but it really is like a gift each time they grow.

One of the biggest surprises in our yard has been the pumpkins. Tim tossed a couple of our Halloween pumpkins last year, wondering what they'd do. Now our backyard is like the Great Pumpkin Patch and I expect Charlie Brown and his gang will be visiting any day. I'm amazed at how fast they stretch across the yard and bloom. It's brought Noah a lot of excitement, as he loves to watch the stages they go through and can't wait to decorate them once full grown.

Our most beautiful surprise, and what has brought me the most joy, is Austin's tree. We planted it last year on his birthday. It wasn't the tree I wanted but the best match I could find for our spot. We placed it under his bedroom window, in our backyard, which also happens to be right by our deck.

This spring we were greeted with tiny white blooms against bright green leaves. Later tiny red buds appeared. The week of his birthday, as if he touched it and brought it to life, vibrant red blossoms filled the tree. It was such a beautiful view for our family, who gathered to celebrate and remember him. Now, there are various shades of red - from pink to deep burgundy, followed again by tiny white flowers. The tree is beyond anything I could've imagined when we planted it a little over a year ago. It greets us every morning with a new and different hello. The tree brings us comfort and is a reminder of how life continues after loss.

In fact, our yard is like a growing example of life. Nothing is how we planned it to be but when we let go and let God, the surprises are often more joyful than we expect.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Throughout my life I've had many dogs but very few of them became a part of our family. Growing up on a farm, having lots of animals was just normal. We actually raised labs for a few years so it seemed we always had puppies and dogs at all stages of life. Because of this, we didn't get close to many of them, as we knew at some point they would leave and go to another family.

There are only three dogs that truly made an impact in my life. The first was Trooper, a beautiful black lab, who might have been the best dog ever. He was the runt, a trait I've always chosen in pets, and it has never failed me.

Trooper was a kind soul and my best friend for many years. It was nothing to see him sprawled on the grass, covered in kittens, and loving every minute. What I remember most of him though was his instinct. He was extremely protective of my sister and me. Every morning, Trooper would meet us at the porch and walk the mile-long trek to our bus stop. Patiently, he would wait by our sides until the yellow bus picked us up and then he'd slowly turn back toward the house. From the bus, we would see him looking back over his shoulder, just to make sure we were ok.

Mom said in the afternoons he somehow knew just when to rise and start out to meet us. It never failed that Trooper was there at the bus stop waiting when we arrived. What was even more amazing was that he'd be there, even on days when school let out early due to the weather. Sadly, one day Trooper wasn't at the bus stop. I remember the scary and lonely walk home, only to find that Trooper wasn't there either. We guessed that someone stole him, as he was waiting for us to come home. Those walks were never the same.

Kibbles was the replacement dog my aunt got for me, that never really made up for Trooper being gone, but was a good friend. He was a silent listener to me on many afternoons, walking the fields by my house. He was also very protective of me and I always felt safe when he was around. Kibbles lived a long life too, seeing both my sister and me into adulthood.

When Tim and I got married, we attempted many times to bring a dog into the family. Tragedy struck some of them and many were just the wrong fit. Some we found stranded, only to later locate the owners and have to hand them back in tears. We tried rescue dogs for awhile, hoping to find a match while caring for a needy pet waiting for adoption. With each dog we held our breath, and kept our hearts at a distance, in fear of being disappointed again.

2010 must have been our year, as on New Years Day, we found Patch. Through several connections on Facebook (it is a small world!) we were introduced to his current owners and made the trip to Indiana to meet him. Patch, a toy Chihuahua, was true to his breed, jumpy and nervous. His owners had adopted a very large dog and Patch was having trouble adjusting. He immediately took to Tim and Noah, leaping between them both, panting and excited. We snuggled him into his kennel and headed home, hopeful.

My initial plan was for Patch to be Noah's dog. He'd been so lonely and needed a pal, someone to cuddle with, run and play with, and someone to listen. While Patch loves Noah very much, and begins pacing the floor even before his bus pulls into the subdivision; he has become unusually attached to me.

I think it is probably because I'm with him more, especially his first week home, that he just naturally connected to me. If I'm home, he's at my feet or on my lap. When I'm gone, Tim says he'll sit at the door, waiting. And if I head toward the bedroom, he's right behind me, whimpering to join me. Because of his size, he cannot jump onto our bed. If I lie down without picking him up, he'll run to Tim, barking and circling, until he carries him to me.

He's an exceptionally smart dog and we're continually impressed by how much he understands. Patch is so much a part of our family now it seems we've had him for years, instead of mere months. What I love about him most though is how we has connected to each of us in different ways. It's as if he knows what we each need and works to provide it.

For Tim, he is the happy dog, tail wagging, as he meets him at the door. Patch will bark at Tim, almost as if carrying on a conversation. And, he is Tim's meal companion, always at his feet, ready to grab the sneaky treat Tim tries to hide from me.

For Noah, he is his buddy. He runs and plays, circles and barks. They snap at each other, play fighting. He's there to cuddle too when Noah needs it. And, he makes Noah laugh, which warms my heart.

With me, he's calm and gentle, a sweet friend who is always there to listen - or just sit quietly. He is my constant in every day. His kind little eyes look up to me with sincere affection. He makes me feel needed and loved every minute I'm with him.
One of my resolutions for 2010 was to find happiness and joy whenever I could. With Patch, it is so easy to do and we're very thankful he's a part of our family.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sunday dinner...on a Thursday

It's probably the guilt of being a working mom but I take family dinner time very seriously.

I strive to cook dinner for us nearly every night. Some people even kid me about how I plan out my menus two weeks in advance. Even when I'm traveling, I make sure something is already cooked or there are easy options for Tim to make.

There are so many childhood memories I have gathered around the dinner table. Whether it was the early dinners Mom would work to prepare so that we could eat right after school, or the special meals she'd prepare for our birthdays, I could feel the love through her cooking.

I remember my little sister falling asleep most nights in her plate, a mix between her stubbornness and being tired from school. And I recall lots of laughter, as we sat at the table with Mom. One of the funniest moments occurred when I had a friend from school visiting. We grew up on a farm, without air conditioning, and in the warmer months we'd often leave our windows and doors open. One night, we were having dinner (some type of fatty meat like a roast) and Mom went to toss a scrap to the dogs outside. Instead of hitting her mark though, the piece of fat landed right on my friend's face! I was horrified, and she was almost in tears, until we all started laughing. Good thing she remained my friend after that - and came over again to eat!

When I think of a big Sunday dinner, I immediately picture meals at my Grandma Coons' house. From chicken pot pie to baked ham, there was always a warm meal to fill your belly and your soul at Grandma's. Sunday's at Grandma & Grandpa's included church, coming home for a delicious meal, followed by a nap, and the trip back home. There was always laughter around their table too, usually the result of something Grandpa Henry did - like eating his corn on the cob and pretending he was a typewriter.

It is those precious moments that drive me to create my only family traditions around the dinner table. There's just no better place to be than home, with your family, gathered at the table and a home-cooked meal. That's where memories are made!

Today was a long, 10 1/2 hour workday that included driving through a torrential rainstorm. By the time I made it home, I was tired and ready for PJs and bed. Thankfully, I had planned ahead and dinner was ready for me. The comforting scent of a pot roast greeted me at the door. Thanks to my handy crockpot we were treated to a warm Sunday dinner...on a rainy Thursday. And, we cheated by enjoying our meal snuggled together on the living room floor. Perfect way to end any day!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Perfect Brownie Pan

"Mom! The present you've always wanted is in the next aisle...STOP!"

This was the exclamation I heard today while shopping. Noah, just returning from the restroom, noticed something that I just had to have. He snuck around to get another glance then bounced back in front of me.

"Do you know how many stores I've searched for this in? Do you know how many holidays have passed that I wanted to get this for you?" he says, still very excited.

I'm not quite sure what is in the next aisle but I think I need it! I asked him what he wanted me to do about it.

He pauses for a moment, thinking, and then responds, "Well...it is $19.88 and that is cheaper than they show on TV. I have the money back at the house in my wallet (way more than that actually) and I can pay you back.??"

Looking into those beautiful, puppy dog eyes, how could I say no? For $19.88 it didn't matter if it was a pad of paper. He wanted me to have it and had obviously researched and planned it for some time. I agreed and he bolted for the next aisle, pulling my cart with him. I had to remain in my spot and upon his return agree to follow him at a safe distance to the counter. Once at the counter, I had to turn around backwards while he loaded the cart. Only when this magical present was wrapped in the protection of a Wal-Mart bag, could I turn around to pay. This procedure continued at the truck. (Hey - maybe I should let him buy me a gift every time I go shopping? I didn't have to lift a finger!)

At the house, I was promptly placed on the couch, eyes closed, as he darted off to his bedroom. Moments later, he comes strutting out, pillow case slung on his back and shouting, "Ho! Ho! Ho!...Happy Birthday!"

He then adds a disclosure, "I'm so sorry that you had to wait two birthdays and a Christmas (and some holidays in between) to receive this." And, laying pillowcase on lap, "Open and Enjoy!"
To my surprise and amusement I opened none other than - The Perfect Brownie Pan! I remembered seeing this on TV months back and Noah's reaction of "We must have this!" Of course, he says this with nearly every infomercial so I didn't give much thought afterwards. Apparently, he did.

As I'm opening the box, he includes sidebars of, "But it doesn't just make brownies, Missy..." and "Look at this beautiful display shelf..." (I think I've found his calling. Perhaps we should start calling him Ronco!) At any rate, I've chuckled so much at this point, it wouldn't matter I ever used the thing. This little present has given me more joy than a tree full of gifts on Christmas day!

And there's a money back guarantee that the Blair family will be having brownies tonight...and that they'll all be perfectly square!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Happy little bookworm

I walked into a bookstore today to buy a gift for a co-worker and it was like meeting an old friend. Although I read frequently, usually one or two books at a time, I don't often visit bookstores. I've just found it easier and cheaper to borrow and trade with friends or order them online. However, as I stepped inside and the scent of fresh, crisp paper swirled around me, I remembered how much I love them. I could've lingered in the aisles for hours!

Maybe it is my love for writing that led me to love books...or maybe it is the other way around. Either way, I remember loving to read at a very early age. In fact, I wanted so desperately to read that I memorized a favorite book just so it would appear that I knew how.

My older cousins had learned to read and were picking on me that I hadn't yet, although I wasn't even old enough to go to school. When I went home that night and Mom read my favorite story at bedtime, I noticed that I knew every word before she said it. I practiced in my head as she read and before she turned the page, I knew what words came next.

My plan was ready for the next time those two show-off cousins came to visit! Book in hand, I sat under my Grandma's counter, quietly reading to myself as they walked in. One of them must've commented about me reading a picture book when I began to recite the page. They both stood there, frozen in surprise and disbelief. Justin, the oldest, decided quickly that I just memorized the page and flipped through towards the back. He challenged me to read it, which I did, perfectly. To this day, I don't know if they ever found out about my sneaky trick.

Memorizing that book must have helped me though, as Mom said I learned to read shortly after. While it was never necessary to learn every page, there were many books afterwards I read over and over again. Even as an adult, there are books I treasure and would never grow tired of reading. In fact, the true test of a good book is when you can open it, eager and excited to turn the next page, even though you know the ending. So, excuse me while I go read a favorite book...again!

Monday, August 9, 2010

This Ain't Nothing....

Why is it that vehicles seem to break down just after you fill them with gas ...and detail from top to bottom (read yesterday's blog). Add to it that it literally was 110 degrees, as I often use to exaggerate the heat, but it truly was H-O-T!

Here I am, just back into the sweltering car from spending a chunk of cash at the gas station, when I turn my key and notice a loud knocking noise. At first, I thought it was the oversize truck beside me, but as I pulled out, I noticed the sound followed me. Turning down K-LOVE to better hear, I tracked the sound to my air vents. Windows down, air off, noise stopped. Wonderful...my air decides to malfunction on one of the hottest afternoons in history. In addition, my poly-cotton dress clothes are rapidly clinging to my already sweaty skin. I have several more stops to make and my hair is quickly becoming a cross between just from the shower wet to just from the gym frizzy. Nice.

There was a time when the events of today might have plummeted me into a very bad mood. While I can't say it wasn't frustrating, I let it go. Well, after a call to hubby, who reminded me I was nearly an hour away. If I wasn't in danger and the truck was running, I would be ok. (Tell that to my pants which are by this point stuck to the leather seat!) But, he was right and there was nothing that could be done, at least not until he made it home from work.

I could've cried. I could've worried. I could've let IT win. But in the big picture of things, the air conditioner going out, even on a hot summer day, is nothing compared to the trials and concerns of others. If there is anything that going through pain and suffering has taught me, it is to let the little things go. Things could be so much worse. Life is too short to cry over spilled milk...or in this case, hot air.

Because, in the end, it was nothing at all. A store receipt had travelled from the glove box to some back-of-the-hood compartment and was causing the knocking sound. So, immediate joy came from not having to pay a mechanic to find this out (thanks Tim!), to not having to pay a hefty bill to fix a broken air conditioner. The best joy though was not letting the little things turn into the big thing that ruined my day!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blessed wife

It makes me sad when I hear women complain about their husbands. They can be in seemingly happy marriages but never satisfied. Maybe it is because I've seen truly bad marriages and know how hard it can be that I count my blessings. Maybe it is because I know how fortunate I am to have Tim for my husband that I give thanks for him daily.

Granted, nobody is perfect, and I could certainly fill a paragraph or two with things Tim could improve upon. And, I'm sure he would say that I complain quite enough but I truly do know how lucky I am to have him in my life. In fact, when I thought of writing about him today, I wasn't even sure how to narrow it down to a normal size blog.

The joy he brought he me today though was in the form of helpfulness. Tim helps out so much that I guess at times I take it for granted. When I listen to other women talk about their husbands, one of their biggest complaints is that they don't help around the house. I can honestly say I've never had to complain about this!

Tim and I have always made a great team. We look at each other as equals and have from the beginning. One of our favorite songs while dating was a country song titled, "Meet in the Middle" because it spoke of how we treated each other. In fact, it is how we walked each other down the aisle at our wedding. Tim met me halfway and we walked it together, symbolizing how we would treat our marriage and lives together.

He has never acted too proud or shrugged off a household chore because it might be considered to some a "woman's job." That being said, he isn't fond of cooking, but he will do it when I'm not home or if a grill is involved. And through the years, with a little teaching, he's gotten pretty good at the laundry. Occasionally, Noah or I will find pajamas hanging in our closets or something in the wrong drawer, but we just laugh and correct it.

Tim knows how I like to have things in order by Sunday evening so that we can start our week ahead. I don't like feeling rushed or unorganized on Monday mornings. Having all the "chores" completed, clothes ready, and meals planned, just makes the week go more smoothly. Aside from helping in all the normal tasks, he also helped me with the shopping, and cleaned my truck inside and out. And he did it all without me having to ask. He did it because he wanted to.

Some may think it silly to find joy in such things but I think acts of service, especially when done in kindness, shows love. Tomorrow morning when I wake up to a clean house, a stocked frig, and sparkly truck, I'll be reminded of his love for me and with each of them how blessed I am to be his wife.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tube Time

One of the greatest joys of motherhood, for me, has always been experiencing the world through my children's eyes. I can recall so many "firsts" or unique memories that I spent the entire time watching my children and being completely happy in their moment.

Those moments, like watching fireworks reflect in their eyes, were so much more special because of their expression or reaction. Sometimes I would get teary-eyed, feeling so blessed to be in that moment and sharing it with them.

Today was one of those moments. I knew the day was going to be a great one right from the start. For once, in many weeks, this summer day was scheduled to be beautiful. Not too hot, not to cool....just right. It was the perfect day to go boating!

Because the weather has been so difficult this season, we haven't been able to boat much at all. I have missed the feel of the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, with all of God's beauty surrounding me. I've missed lazy days sitting under a shade tree, with the boat softly rocking, while reading a book, fishing pole by my side. I've missed the cool, liquid-velvet feel while floating on my back in the river. And, I've missed the excitement of tubing!

Noah hasn't tubed since this past summer and his last memory of it wasn't a great one. His last time tubing, Tim was playing around and attempted to spook him by zig-zagging the boat, which Noah always loved, but getting a little closer to the bank than normal. The prank didn't quite work out as planned and Noah returned to the boat in tears, afraid he would crash into the treeline had he stayed on the tube a minute more.

In preparation of today, I began trying to build Noah's excitement for our tubing trip. He wanted nothing to do with it. I worried that our fun tubing times were over but I continued to gently prod, like a momma bird nudges her babies to fly, on the drive to the river. Once in, Noah finally agreed to give it one more shot. (It did take a solemn swear by Tim, which I had to oversee, that he would in no way get close to the bank line and that Noah was in complete control of the speed!)

His first go was ok. Nothing too exciting. Very slow. Very straight. No zig-zags. Kinda like Grandma-Tubing but I was happy he tried it. We took a break, had lunch on the beach, swam a little, and then gave it another try.

The second time was AMAZING! Another of those teary-eyed moments for Mom, as Noah was grinning ear to ear the whole time. He used his hand signals to say "speed up!" and "more zig-zags!" and "don't stop, keep going!" Tim couldn't believe the messages I was relaying and kept glancing back, chuckling. We were both so proud of him for jumping in and facing his fears. In the end, I didn't know if we were going to get him to quit. The best part was Noah, still smiling, as he climbed the ladder, announcing that it was, "Awesome!"

I didn't have to be on the tube to feel joy from the day. All I needed to do was watch my little guy's face and share his moment. What a blessing!

Friday, August 6, 2010

yellow one...

My mom started her grand kids on the "slug bug" game recently. For anyone who's never done this, each time you see a Volkswagen Beetle, you yell out the color and hit whoever is closest to you. Mom and Noah's cousins quickly learned though that a hitting game is not very smart when he's playing along. He hits hard - even when he doesn't try! So, they revised it and instead just see who can spot one first and yell out the color.

I later taught Noah about "Cruiser bruisers" and showed him what a PT Cruiser looks like. He grinned upon knowing this extra information and couldn't wait until the next time he was in the car with Mom and the girls. It took the girls several trips, and actual bruises later, before they figured out what a Cruiser was. They've since called a truce and can now only yell out either, knowing they'll never win a match against my little fists of steel.

Noah loves this game so much though that it has carried over into our family. We bend the rules that you can tap easily when finding either. He finds it especially funny when Tim is driving and he is in the backseat. If he or I find one, I get to hit Tim (maybe a little harder than a love pat) and it cracks Noah up!

The game keeps Noah very alert, instead of absorbed into texting or playing a game on his phone, when we are on the road. He is always on the lookout so that he is first to yell out his discovery. Being that he doesn't have to focus on driving, he usually finds them first!

We've memorized the spots along our daily drive where we are certain to see one or the other. No matter where we go, we are guaranteed to pass a silver PT Cruiser and yellow bug. They are parked down the street from our house at a local garage. Noah will stretch his head to catch a glimpse of yellow first so he can yell it out and tap me on our morning trip to school.

Imagine our surprise when we saw that a second yellow bug parked near our everyday yellow bug. For once, Noah wasn't paying attention on the way home. I said, "cruiser bruiser, yellow one.....yellow one?" and simultaneously swatted him on the leg. He looked up, knowing we were almost home and then caught that I hit him twice. Mouth open, about to object, he glanced over and spotted the extra car. He found it so funny that he took a picture as we passed by!
This silly, every day game, brings me joy because when Noah is with me, it gives us a way to interact as I'm driving. When he's not, I still think of his funny face each time I pass one on the road. You'd be surprised how many bugs and cruisers are out there - and how often I am reminded of my little guy!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Joy through tears

Today I saw an old friend, who sadly is walking a grief journey too. We've known each other and been friends for years and I've been blessed to work with her through volunteer projects. Our relationship was recently changed and moved to another level though after she suffered a great loss.

I don't want to have friends that I share this in common with. It is a pain you wish on no one. Too see someone you know and love go through the same tragedy though is extra painful. People say, "I can't imagine"and it is so true. Until you've experienced, you do not know. As terrible as the reason is, you are now forever connected by this new bond.

This may seem like a strange way to begin a blog about joy but I've learned that true joy isn't really felt and understood until you've suffered. Maybe living through the pain I have throughout my life just makes me appreciate it a little more than most?

Anyway, what began as a quick hello turned into a mini therapy session for us both. We talked, we cried, we laughed, we hugged. You wouldn't think after a talk like that you'd think of the word joy but I did. I was thankful for seeing her today, no matter how painful it was in the beginning. It brought me joy that through our tears we could help each other heal.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

yellow gumballs

Sometimes it is the simplest things that can bring joy into our day. Today, mine came in the form of small, yellow gumballs.

I've never been a big fan of bananas by themselves but I like them in dishes such as banana bread, ice cream, and other desserts. Actually, I love anything that is banana flavored. Apparently the majority of the world does not agree. (It wouldn't be the first time I've not gone with the crowd!)

The plus for me in this is that when yellow treats, which is the token color to signify banana, are mixed with others, I can have my share and more. People who know and love me well will set aside their yellow goodies especially for me. I remember growing up that my best friend did this and my husband has always let me pick out the yellow runts or gumballs he's eating.

Today, I was sweetly surprised with a Ziploc bag of yellow gumballs. This in itself would be a treat but it was even sweeter because it was unexpected. I didn't remember even sharing with this person that I liked yellow gumballs. Thinking back, it was several months ago and we were passing around the gum in a meeting. I must have mentioned it in passing and never thought about it again. It stuck with them though and they remembered and took the time to hand pick out each yellow ball of sunshine goodness for me. That was what made the gift so special.

For the rest of the day, each time I looked down at my sack, I was reminded that someone thought of me. What a great joy! Such a simple idea but it brought happiness to my day. I hope that I never get too busy to appreciate the small joys like this in my life...or the people who bring it to me!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Rose and the Thorn

I wouldn't call myself a copycat, more like an alert observer. If I see or hear something I like and I think it will, in some way, improve my day, I use it. There's no sense in recreating the wheel but I do tweak things here and there, make it my own, and hopefully better sometimes.

I was home last Thursday, as it was my last day of summer vacation, and watching daytime TV. It surprised to me hear that the guest on the show that day would be President Obama. During the interview, Barbara Walters asked him a question about his time in office and "what has been your rose, what has been your thorn?" I later learned he does this activity every evening with his wife and girls. Anyway, I liked it and immediately decided we'd use it when school began.

Maybe it is part of having boys but there's usually only one answer I get when I ask, "How was your day?" No matter how the day was - amazing, depressing, exciting - I'll hear, "Fine" as the response. If I prod, "What did you learn?" I will usually hear one word, "Nothing." And it takes several more sentences and prodding to get much information about the day. I decided this year would be different.

Noah walks in, hot and flushed, but who can blame him in this sauna-weather we're having. I smile, greet him with a big hug, and am surprised by the many sentences which spurt out of his mouth. He informs me his is a "big 5th grader now, so look" and places a neatly packed folder in my hands. One side is to keep, one to sign and send back. (Amazingly, they aren't crinkled and stuffed in whatever pocket was open on his trapper.) I'm glad I'm sitting at this point, for it continues. Noah goes on to tell me about his day, new jobs he may have, and a neat icebreaker that I may have to "borrow" as well.

He goes away for a snack and I'm still smiling from the sharing moment we had, in addition to the many forms I know I'm about to complete. This is a little off track but I just have to say - it is one of my favorite parts about the first day of school! I'm a form girl and I LOVE filling out all that paperwork. (No, this is not an open invitation to complete all of yours!)

A few minutes later he returns, still searching for a snack, and I use the time to introduce our daily activity. He didn't give me a big stage to announce it on, since he kinda shared without needing it, but I continue anyway.

This year, every afternoon after school, and, for what I hope to be many years to come, we will use this to tell each other about our days. The thorn allows us one complaint. I know some roses have more than one than one thorn but a wise friend once told me she only allows herself one complaint a day - I borrowed that too, I guess! The rose, which has many petals, allows us to share one or several great points about our day. I was pleased to see Noah jump right in this afternoon and share them both.

And it made me smile even more when his "thorn" wasn't all that grumpy; it was a fact - it was HOT today!

Maybe you could "borrow" this idea with your own family and start a new tradition.  Here's hoping your day is always full of more roses than thorns.

Monday, August 2, 2010

School Days

There's something about a pack of new pencils and a fresh notebook that bring a smile to my face. I love new school supplies! Selecting pencils, crisp paper, brightly colored folders, and of course, a cool lunchbox, has always been a yearly joy for me. School is in the air, and while it's been a long time since this girl was in class, I still get a little excited about the first day.

I loved school (for the most part), especially the first day. It was just so new - a fresh start. I felt like I had a chance for something special, to start over if I needed. Each year was a new opportunity. Granted, I didn't have this feeling every day, and usually by Christmas break the excitement was long gone, but I loved how each year was a prospect of something new and wonderful.

Wouldn't it be great if our adult life was like that of a student? Each day a chance to learn something you didn't know the day before. And at the end of every week a test, to see what you've learned. Every few months, a report card, that let you know how you were doing. If you did something great, you might get a smiley face, or better yet a sticker. Or, if you were really good, a gold star by your name on a giant billboard in the sky.

Actually, our life is kind of like school. Each day is a lesson for us, if we open ourselves up to it. Stickers come in the form of every joys, if we recognize them.  How we respond to the tests life hands us is up to us and makes us who we are. And, if we have a close relationship with God, no test is too hard to pass. When we struggle, we can have private tutoring with him, anytime, day or night. He is the ultimate teacher and always willing to stay after and show us the right way. The best part is, even when we fail, he still loves us.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Best Coffee Shop in Town

I enjoy the occasional speciality coffee, though I have to admit I'm not a fan of the price tag they come with. My favorite coffee however can only be found at one location. It's an exclusive little coffee shop in downtown Beaver Dam. There's no charge for refills, each cup is served with love, and on beautiful days you can even drink it outdoors.

Tim and I are not heavy coffee drinkers but we do drink a cup or two nearly every morning. Whoever gets up first will start the pot. Most of the time, we pour two coffee cups to go, grab a quick kiss, and rush out the door to start our days. The weekends though are a little different and allow us to linger lazily and watch the world wake up together.

If the weather isn't cooperating, we might stay snuggled in the bed and have our coffee with the news. Or, we might break out a game of Sequence at the kitchen table. Some days, coffee might include fresh banana bread or some other tasty treat. Our favorite way to have our coffee though is on the back deck.

I love our little private dining area. We've worked hard on our backyard and it has come a long way from where it was eight years ago when we purchased the house. Tim built the deck, and the fence that surrounds it, and it has become an extra room in our home - our favorite.

Mornings on the deck allow us to share coffee while watching the birds have their breakfast. Sometimes we're serenaded by their singing and the soft trickle of our water fountain. Other times we turn on the outside speakers and listen to the radio. With the sun slowing stretching in front of us, we talk about our plans for the day while watching it rise. It is the best way to start a day!

Sadly, the weather hasn't been very friendly this year. Winter seemed to jump directly into summer and most mornings the deck is too hot for our bare feet or wimpy bodies to enjoy. Today though was unusually foggy and cool, especially for the first day of August. As I let our dog Patch out for his morning bathroom break, a big smile came upon my face and I quickly headed to the kitchen. ...The best little coffee shop in town was open for business!
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