Thursday, September 30, 2010

Precious Pumpkin Painting

You knew it was coming.  My love for pumpkins is obvious.  A few days ago I shared a photo of the cute little pumpkins we grew in our backyard this year.  Noah and I have been anxiously awaiting for October to near so we could paint and display them in the window boxes by the door.

Yesterday afternoon, when Noah announced he was homework free, I knew it would be the perfect day to bring in the pumpkins.  I spread newspaper across the table while Noah went out to gather our holiday gourds.  Craft bucket out, we were open for business.

Noah was ready to start stabbing, gutting, and carving until I shared with him that whatever masterpiece he created would be long gone before Halloween.  He sadly put down the knife and picked up the paint brush but was happy again within moments.  We shared giggles and stories over paint strokes and pumpkins for nearly two hours!

We were sticking with a theme of black and white, polka dots, and stripes.  At some point, Noah decided to make the color gray.  He had great fun swirling the two colors together and the different designs it would make.  I looked up as he began painting and he stopped. 

From my look, he assumed I didn't like his color choice and he immediately offered to paint over it.  It was the perfect opportunity for a life lesson.  (I actually loved the gray against the orange and would have never thought of the combination but they are among my favorite from our collection.) I told him though, that it didn't matter what I thought.  Painting is personal.  "If you like it, paint it," I told him.  I used the time to share with him that throughout life he'll have to make choices- do what you love, regardless of what others think - or you'll be living your life for someone else. 

I have to mix in a little humor with Noah for him to stay engaged in the conversation so I said... "Pick your paint and wear it proud!"  He laughed.  "Fly your paintbrush high!"  He smiled.  But I think he got the point.

It was such a cheerful afternoon, as I'm always happy with a paintbrush in hand.  My most joyful moments though came from the chance to mold and shape my own little pumpkin into the person he's meant to be. 

Teaching a child always helps me grow a little more too.  It reminded me not to expect life to be a paint-by-numbers kind of world but an open canvas full of brushstrokes, both in bright and dark colors, which in the end create a beautiful picture.  We just have to open ourselves to appreciate the art in every day.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Baby, you can light my fire

Do you feel that?  Do you smell it in the air?  Fall is here!  The house was chilly this morning!  Noah came running to the bed and jumped under the covers with me.  I love snuggling on a brisk morning (or anytime really) and the hardest part is finding the motivation to leave the warmth brave the cold.  We were enticed by the sound of Tim starting a fire in our fire place.

I grew up in a home with a fire place and I've always loved them.  There's something very comforting in those flames and it isn't just the heat they provide.  I enjoy watching the colors flicker and move, rise and fall.  A crackling fire just makes you want to grab a blanket, a hot beverage, and a good book and curl up beside it.

In the Ice Storm of 2009, we were very thankful for our fireplace, as it was our only source of heat for weeks.  We even used it to cook from and heat water on some of the hardest days.  The difficulty though was keeping the fire stoked through the night when we fell asleep.  As a result, we decided to convert it to a gas fireplace last winter.  While I'll miss the scent of the a roaring fire, I consider it a good trade to know that I'll have no mess to clean up, no wood to carry in, and a fire is ready for us with the click of a button at any time.

Sitting by the fire this morning, excited me thinking about all fall has to offer.  I have so many plans, traditions new and old, for October.  Our calendar may be very full next month but thankfully it is packed with joyful activities and great quality moments with the family.  I can't wait for hayrides and pumpkin carving...apple cider and hot chocolate....driving around to view the fall foliage....decorating for the season....festivals full of rides, crafts and yummy food....a mini vacation during fall break...trips to the orchard and the zoo....Halloween costumes and parties galore....scary movies while snuggled on the couch...What a great month!! 

I intend to soak up every morsel of the memories we will make this October!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Afternoons with Noah

For so many years, my job required me to be at night meetings at least 3 times a week.  I was planning events with volunteers and they needed to meet in the evenings after they got off work.  This meant I was rarely there in the afternoons when the boys got home from school.  It makes me sad when I think about all those missed moments, especially now with Austin gone. 

However, I am so very blessed that my job now allows me to be home most afternoons with Noah.  Some days I may leave my house before the sun comes up but it's worth it when I get to see his smiling face bounce off that yellow school bus at the end of the day.

I love the afternoons I spend with him as it is quality mom and son time.  We talk about our days, in the midst of snacks and hugs.  He does his homework at the counter as I start supper.  I purchased three cute little stools and placed them at my counter for that exact purpose; however, usually he's sitting on the counter not at it to do his work.

Sometimes, if he finished everything at school, he'll join me in the kitchen and help me cook.  I've let him cook with me since before he could reach the countertops.  Even as a baby, I'd let him play with cookie cutters or mixing bowls so he felt a part of whatever I was doing.  The tradition has continued as he's grown and I can't wait for the day he cooks me a meal on his own.

I just belive that memories can be made not just from sitting around the table at dinnertime but in the preparation too.  I remember helping my mom cook, whether it was peeling vegetables or stirring a pot.  I have fond memories of times in the kitchen with my grandmothers too.  Even as far back as my great Grandma Davis, I can remember being in her kitchen while she made sugar cookies and how she'd let me place the raisins in the center. That picture is still so vivid in my mind....

The warm scent of the sugar cookie wafts up, enveloping me in comfort. The raisin smile reminds me of my grandma’s face, wrinkled and sweet. She watches me, as if it is first time I’ve tasted one. I think she gets more enjoyment from baking them for me than I do eating the cookies! The first bite always leaves a sugary trail behind, landing on my shirt and the countertop below.

 It's a memory I'll treasure and one that makes me continue to work towards making many for Noah. As I type I big pot of chicken is simmering on the stove, nearly ready to shred apart while dropping dumplings into the boiling broth. Cooking his favorite meal together and then spending time snuggled on the couch seems like the perfect afternoon with my favorite little guy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Socks and Fried Pickles

Did that grab your attention?  Socks and pickles sound like a strange pairing, huh?  Well, it was two odd little things that brought me my daily dose of joy today. 

Mondays can get you down if you let them.  I don't know why but it doesn't matter what time you go to bed on Sunday night, you always seem to be extra tired on a Monday morning.  The alarm clock sang a little after 6 am and I sprung right out of bed.  I knew it was for the best.  If I let Tim hit snooze, it would just make it harder to pull myself out of the snugly warmth that surrounded me.  So, I took the plunge and jumped up and straight into the shower.

As I let Patch out for his am potty break, I noticed it was chilly.  Seemed like a great day to wear socks!  I wore socks for the first time this season over the weekend.  Tim actually laughed out loud when I walked by because I had on shorts, long sleeves and socks.  I don't care what it looks like - it is comfy!  I love socks and enjoy this time of year because it allows me to wear them nearly every day. 

My socks can be a little wild.  I think it is fun to have bold and crazy socks hidden under work pants and shoes.  It's kind of like the mullet...business in the front, party in the back.  I can peek at my socks at any point, or just go through my day knowing that I have pink socks with hearts, skulls and crossbones on them.  They make me smile.  Actually, there's a purpose to their craziness.  They boys would always steal my socks when they couldn't find a pair for school.  Buying girly colors and designs guarantees I always have several pair to choose from!

Aside from their cuteness, they are comfortable.  My socks hug my feet in satisfying warmth.  I always slather on a good amount of lotion before putting on my socks too so it's like a mini pedicure all day long.  I can be a little random with my body temperature and somehow it is all controlled by my feet.  If my toes are warm, the rest of me is happy.  When I go to bed, I have to untuck the bottom sheet so that my feet can breath ,and thus, I won't have a hot flash in the middle of the night.  ....maybe I share too much on this blog!

Anyway, my cute little socks brought me happiness today and I am looking forward to a season full of sock-ness.  (It's a word if I write it!)  On the way home, I decided a tea was greatly needed and my stomach reminded me that a snack wouldn't be a bad idea either.  Lee's is on the way home for me so I swung in to order some amber liquid to quench my thirst.  I was happy to see they still have fried pickles, a guilty pleasure of mine, so I ordered a small snack size version to carry me through until dinner.

I love pickles and always have.  I think you either love them or hate them and there is no in between.  I adore them of all shapes, sizes and varieties.  I like bread & butter just as well as dill...enjoy spicy and zesty versions...and I will eat them sliced or whole.  Tim pokes fun of me when we go grocery shopping because I always buy a jar, even though there are four to five different types always in the frig.  I just figure a girl can never have too many jars of pickles!  Plus, you need a potpourri of flavors depending on what you're serving.  I like the zesty ones as a side dish with BBQ.  I like the sweet ones on a peanut butter sandwich.  (I see you wrinkling your nose...try it!)  And I like the dill slices on my hamburgers....or better yet, hamburger pizza.  You see, the possibilities are endless.  So, if you're ever at my house for dinner, don't be surprised by the entire pickle platter I may serve.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Simple Sundays

What a beautiful Sunday!  With no obligations or schedules to keep, we were able to make it a very lazy day.  We spent the morning in our pjs with coffee and donuts on the deck watching the world wake up.  You could feel and smell fall in the air and I had to retrieve a blanket to enjoy the sunrise.

After lunch, a nap.  I love Sunday afternoon naps.  Actually, I'm a fan of a nap any day of the week.  It's always amused me how when you are little you fight not to nap, yet as an adult you long for them.  There's just nothing better than snuggling with my hubby on a chilly afternoon.

I'd been happy staying home the rest of the day but Tim wanted to get out and enjoy it a bit.  When fall arrives I think of soup and pumpkins and days cuddled on the couch with a good book.  Tim thinks of hunting.  He wanted to check the deer at his hunting spot, up on my mom's farm, and let Noah do some target practice.  So, we loaded up in the truck and headed out in the country.

I got to sit on the porch and spend a few hours with mom, watching the cows eat and the trees change.  Every now and then we'd hear a boom in the distance, a signal they were still in the woods.  Before too long, Noah pulled the truck up into the yard, grinning from ear to ear.  I'm not sure if he was happier because he got to drive down a dirt road or shoot a gun.  It's a boy thing.

Before we left, Noah wanted to take me for a ride on the 4-wheeler.  I eagerly jumped aboard.  Some people are nervous around them and I guess most would think I'd shy away after my motorcycle wreck but being on the farm is just different.  I feel safe there, especially with my special driver at the wheel.  As we rode, I noticed how big he has become.  To see, I'd have to lean to one side, as he's nearly as tall as me now.  His shoulders are so broad and holding on to him he didn't quite feel like my baby anymore.  He's growing up.

I got a little teary-eyed on the back during our drive.  If he'd caught me, I'd just blow it off and say it was the beauty of all we were surrounded with.  It was glorious.  The blue sky might have been a little gloomy but I could still feel the sunshine on my face.  As the wind whipped through my hair, I took in all the changing colors of the trees.  We'd rush through the grassy fields, blades swishing at our feet, in blends of brown and green.  Alongside us, mom's farm dog, Daisy, sped to keep up.  Her pink tongue flapping at her face with the crunch of fallen leaves at every pounce she took.  The world was a soft mix of fading summer pastels and a brilliant fall palette.

Arms around my sweet growing boy, taking in the beauty of the day, was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.  It's a Sunday drive I won't soon forget. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Buried Treasure

There's a line of happy, sweet little pumpkins perched on my deck.  Noah decided it was time to harvest from the backyard yesterday.  As I've mentioned before, our pumpkin patch was quite the surprise this summer.

I went a little overboard last year buying pumpkins, even filling my flower boxes with them.  At the end of the season, Tim tossed a few under the deck just to see what happened.  Sometime this summer we noticed vines snaking their way out from under the deck, soon to be covered in flowering blooms.  A few weeks later tiny pumpkins began to sprout.

Noah has had such fun this summer watching their progress.  He would visit the backyard every other day or so to see if they were bigger.  He'd peek and count and water them, so excited for the day we could pick them.  For whatever reason, when he arrived home from school on Friday, he went straight to the backyard.  Moments later, yelling happily, he urged me to come onto the deck.

He began filling the steps with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, quickly returning to the yard to see if another could be found.  In all he gathered well over a dozen.  And he's named each of them!

When I pick pumpkins I like to find the ones with personality.  I like the ones that are different.  I'm so tickled that our little private patch could provide us with such an variety.  We have medium, normal pumpkins...lumpy, angry pumpkins....cute,  tiny pumpkins...and on and on.  Such a fun an unexpected find as Noah dug for buried treasure right from our own yard.

And the fun isn't over.  We still get to paint and carve and decorate with them.  Oh, and of course recycle those seeds for a new crop next year!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A special birthday dinner

Today's Tim's birthday - and his first without his mom.  My heart breaks for him, as his past two birthdays have been emptier, through the losses we've endured.  My wish for him today was happiness and I set about planning surprises here and there hoping to bring extra smiles and love into his day.

If June were still here with us, she'd have called Tim this morning and said each of her boy's names before she made it to him.  He would've laughed and shook his head and then she'd invited him for lunch for his favorite meal...fried chicken.

Now June could fry about the best chicken I've ever had.  What was so odd is that she didn't really have a secret.  The Colonel would be jealous because June didn't need 11 herbs and spices, she just used love.  But whatever her method, it worked and it was delicious.  Fried chicken didn't last but a minute when she cooked it and you'd better load your plate with how much you wanted on the first trip or be hungry in the end!

I'm so very thankful for the day I asked her to come over and teach me, even though it got a chuckle from her.  She'd get a big grin on her face and say, "There's nothing to it.  You just dip it and roll it in flour and fry it."  But, she humored me anyway and I wouldn't trade that afternoon for anything.  I will never be the cook she was but Tim's pretty happy with the fried chicken I can produce now. 

June never was much into following recipes, especially for the foods she'd spent her whole life cooking.  She did finally tell me over the phone one day the ingredients she used for her dressing, Tim's other favorite food of hers.  After many Thanksgiving efforts, I can now say that she'd be proud of my representation of her two famous dishes.  But that's the extent of it.  I can't make her dumplings.  I won't even attempt her Jam cake.  And she'd laugh along with me as I say this - I can't do mashed potatoes.

This was the strangest thing to June.  It couldn't be a simpler dish to her (and much to my dismay, I agree!) but I just can't get it right.  They are too lumpy, or too salty, or too milky, or something.  It's just easier to throw a Bob Evans in the microwave and call it a day.  Tim and Noah are happier and it is a lot less work.

So, that's been my afternoon.  I've spent the past hour or so frying chicken for my hubby who will soon be home.  Along with his other surprises throughout the day, I hope this dish brings him happiness and comfort - and that he feels a little bit of his Mom in it.  I know she's up there with Austin and they are both thinking of him today.  It just brings me joy that I can share a piece of her with every plate of fried chicken I serve.

ThankFALL moments

I don't know how the trees and sky realize what our calendar says but nature seemed to know it's the first day of fall. Yesterday morning, on my drive in, I was just absorbed by the beauty of everything fall. I love the sharp contrast of the burnt orange fields swaying against a powder blue sky. The trees, like a patchwork quilt, almost changed overnight to proudly presented their colors.


My favorite landscape view along my drive is an open field full of varying colors of green, to gold, to brown and nestled in the middle is a bright red barn. In the early hours, the sun peeks around spreading beams of light across it. Above, the sky is so blue and calm with wispy tufts of puffy clouds scattered throughout. I wish I could just screech my truck to a stop in the middle of the parkway and take a photo. Somehow I don't think any camera could capture all the beauty of that image though.

I really enjoy this time of year, as so many of my favorite things happen in the fall. Aside from the beautiful display nature gives us, the weather is calmer and gentler too. I love the crisp, cool mornings when everything is still covered with a mist of frost, but that the days are warm enough to still be outdoors. It's comfortable enough to wear a sweatshirt but I can sometimes get away with shorts and flip-flops too (this outfit matching is one that my husband just shakes his head and laughs at!).

Apples...pumpkins...spices of the season and all the sweet flavors of fall excite me! We enjoy going to the orchards and festivals this time of year. The first sip of apple cider each season is so sweet. Noah loves having an array of pumpkins to decorate with and this year, much to our surprise, we have our own selection growing in the backyard! I can drink coffee anytime of day and not feel odd...and begin enjoying chai tea again. And soups! This is the time of year when I plan to make at least one pot soup a week. There's just nothing better than the smell of a soup simmering on the stove. Soup warms you from the inside out and sooths the soul!

Fall is different now too though. November, a month I loved so much before, as it sparked the start of the holiday sesason for us, is not the same. Holidays and family just go together and our family is forever changed. Thanksgiving, which used to be my favorite holiday, is for now a reminder of what we lost. It is a heavy time of year for us, when everyone else is filled with the holiday spirit. It's hard and it's sad and I don't know if it will ever be easy or comforting.

So, what I hold on to are the portions of fall I do enjoy and love. I take a little more excitement in a tree fully bloomed in color than most. I savor that smooth sweet yet spicy bite of pumpkin pie. I let the first sweatshirt of the season hug and comfort me. And, most of all, I cling to treasured memories with Austin. I keep his loving spirit close to me and remind myself of the gift we were given with him, short as it was. And although a part of me will always be pulled to the time when he was here, I work very hard to live in the moment and enjoy every single second of now.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Goodnight, Moon

The moon last night was breathtakingly beautiful. It glowed bigger and brighter, calling us onto the deck. It was past our bedtime but I'm so glad we took the time to go out and enjoy it.

The night was still and quiet, as if all God's creatures were mesmerized as well by the alluring glow of the moon. The air was cool, a welcome relief from the heat the day had brought. The grass, trees and everything around were illuminated by a soft light, as if lamps and candles were placed outside to greet us. The luminescence was warm and welcoming and we were grateful for our special invitation.

Last night, according to the news, was a true harvest moon. The first full moon on the first night of Autumn and it apparently hasn't happened for 20-some-odd years. As well, Jupiter was visible just below the moon. This won't happen again until 2022. To the naked eye, it just looked like an extra bright star. Knowing though, it was stunning. I tried to capture it in a photo but my lack of expertise and cheap camera couldn't begin to do it justice. (I encourage you to read my sweet friend Tracy's blog though, http://tiny.cc/86mos. Her talents were successful - as always!)

As we all three stood there, holding hands on the deck, looking up to splendid moon, I felt an amazing connection. When I'm surrounded by such magnificent beauty, I'm reminded of how small we are in this big world. I felt blessed to witness a tiny portion of that beauty and glory last night. It was especially touching when I know there so much more out there I can't yet see but my heart feels and believes is somewhere above and beyond me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dear Diary

Throughout my childhood, I kept a diary. As I grew older, for many years, I kept a journal. The difference between the two was moving from just recording my day and life to really reflecting upon it. One year, I chose to keep a gratitude journal and each night I would write at least one thing I was thankful for. Taking the time to pull out a notebook and pen though and hand write my thoughts often got pushed aside for things I felt deserved more of my time.

As such, it was a natural transition for me to move toward blogging. I am able to do something I enjoy, which is to write, but I can do it much quicker. My thoughts are still very much raw and unedited. I will sometimes look over what I write quickly and do a spell check at the end, but for the most part, what I write is in the moment and how I'm feeling at that time. Especially given the topics and subjects for the blogs I have, it just seems the right thing to do. It is real. Me...exposed in print.

It might seem strange to some who don't know me well that I would share so much. I can be reserved in person and difficult to get to know. I'm not shy, I just don't fully show myself to someone I've just met. Writing has always been an outlet for me though and it's easier to express myself in that form.

None of my blogs really meant to be public when I first started out. With Austin's, it was a way for me to capture my emotions that I couldn't share externally. I could get out what I wanted - and needed - to say regardless of how many tears fell. What I found though was that people found comfort and even inspiration in the sadness. Those who didn't know Austin, and some who never even met him, came to learn who he was. At that point, sharing his story and continuing his legacy became my motivation. As hard as some of my posts were, they were true and how I was feeling at the time, and they helped me keep his memory alive.

With this joy blog, it was just something that called out to me to do. I knew that the coming months would be hard, especially as we near the second anniversary of Austin's death. I could focus on the pain and the looming date or I could choose to see the positives of each day. The pain would be there regardless, but in searching for the joy, I at least have something to look forward to. The blog was purely selfish and a means for me to record my thoughts, reflect on each day, and hopefully heal along the way.

When I write, I have no idea who reads the posts or what they think, unless they tell me. The site keeps track of unique visitors so I can see how many and I can tell what posts might be more popular than others but overall I am writing blind. It doesn't bother me, because as I've mentioned, the goal in the beginning was mainly to help myself and the few family members I knew would read. What I've found though is that this blog has brought joy to others and that both surprises and blesses me. It wasn't my intent but I'm glad to spread a little happiness in someone's day. And actually, that knowledge in itself brings me joy. It was unexpected that something I wrote might help or change someone but I'm grateful for the opportunity to share.



In the end, I am thankful God's given me a gift that I can use to show his love. On difficult days, I remind myself that the joy I find in today's sunset may bring sunshine into someone's tomorrow. And so I record and share another day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Heaven-Sent Hugs

Yesterday, we started the next fundraiser for the scholarship fund we formed in Austin's memory. When I'm doing work for the "Austin's Legacy Scholarship Fund" I have mixed emotions. I wish that I didn't have to be doing it. I wish he was still here with us. But, I'm proud to do work in his memory and to carry out his legacy. It hurts and it helps all at the same time.

We've had so many people ask us about the t-shirts we had made for our family shortly after losing him. We decided that having a T-shirt fundraiser would be a great way to support the cause and keep Austin's memory alive. Our goal is to see lime green shirts everywhere we go.

The pre-sales started yesterday and I'm already amazed and blessed by the response. Each message and order is like a hug sent from Heaven. It lets us know that people care about us - and love and miss Austin too. We are so thankful to this community and the network of friends and family we have who continue to support us. Aside from the orders, and knowing each shirt is a step closer to an additional scholarship, what brings me the most joy is hearing stories about Austin.

I know many people don't know what to say to a parent who has lost a child. Most of the time, they choose to say nothing, for fear of upsetting them. What I can tell you is that we hurt every day, regardless of something said to us. Hearing Austin's name may bring tears to our eyes and a tug on our hearts but it is comforting too. It is extra special when his name is followed with a story about how he touched their life.

Having a teenager means that a large majority of the time, you really don't know what's going on in their day. Austin was very close to us but I still missed out on a big chunk of his daily life, especially the time he was at school. You raise your children and hope they go out into the world representing good and being who you know they can be. With Austin, I'm continually blessed with the knowledge that he was even more than I expected and the way he lived his life continues to inspire me.

Yesterday I heard from a lady who wanted to order a shirt and knew Austin from school. She wrote just two or three lines but the words she spoke of him will forever hold a place in my heart. She talked of how he helped another child that she worked with and that he was friends with her. She told a story of how he helped picked up this student's books when she dropped them one day. She then said, "I will never forget him. He was a such a kind young man." I don't think she knows how much it meant to hear a story like that!

We raised Austin to take up for "the little guy" and to befriend others some kids might make fun of. From the stories I continue to hear, Austin was kinder than necessary. He stood up for others when the crowd would turn their back or laugh at them. He smiled at a kid who thought nobody knew they existed. He helped. He made a difference. And, he is remembered.

It is my dream that his story continues to be told, to be shared, and that his legacy lives on. I hope that he continues to inspire others and that his love sweeps through us like a gentle breeze, scattering seeds of kindness along the way.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Summertime

Daily I'm seeing the transition of summer into fall and it excites me, as I love the upcoming season. For as long as I can remember, my favorite season was fall. Now, if I'm ranking, it probably ties with Spring, followed by winter, and last would be summer.

The reason for summer ranking last is really just because I'm a wimp. Kentucky weather in the summer can be scorching and I don't like to be hot. There are many things I enjoy about summer though; so I thought today's moment would be a reflection of summertime joyful moments, and a friendly mix of seasonal memories.

Summertime means....boating and being on the water. Being in it, on it, or just looking out over it. Swimming, fishing, tubing...

Starry nights...blue skies full of big puffy clouds...longer days...the bright green that seems to be everywhere...honeysuckle...and garden veggies.

Family cookouts...burgers on the grill...S'mores...watermelon...tomatoes...homeade ice cream...picnics...reunions...

Drive-In movies...riding with the top down...open windows...milkshakes and shaved ice...vacations, camping and road trips...

Lazy days...the warmth of the sun...the shade from a tree...a good book...going barefoot...crickets singing...lightning bugs...popsicles...water hoses...

Carefree...Relaxed...Simple...Fun. Summertime.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stupid Tax

We love to pick on each other in our family. Noah has become quite the pro at it and has the ability to strike, lovingly of course, with some snappy comebacks. What I love about him though is that he can take as much as he gives and will laugh at himself with the rest of them.

Yesterday we ran to Wal-Mart to pick up a last minute gift for my niece, Bryanna. It's uncharacteristic of me to wait until the last minute. Typically, I find deals throughout the year and put them in my gift box. This way, whenever we have a birthday party or other occasion that calls for a present, my shopping trip can be done from my closet.

I've fallen behind on my deal finding though and the result was buying everything in a rush and some at full price. We were in a rush because Noah had a ballgame to get to and I knew afterwards everyone was coming to our house for the party. (Our fenced in backyard has been deemed party central for any family activity these days!) Anyway, all this to say that Noah snuck a purchase in without me paying much attention, until the cashier announced the price that is.

I had mentally calculated the approximate cost in my head so when it was a higher than expected, I paused. The cashier said, "You're most expensive purchase was his toy." Noah smiled sheepishly, snatched up his purchase, and used the excuse of being late for his game to escape the questioning at the register. On the way to the truck I asked to see what he bought.

For well over a month, every time we've shopped Noah has taken off to find something called "Cuponk" but has always returned empty handed. We've joked about the name, and even more about what it actually was. It is basically just a cup and two ping pong balls and the goal is to bounce them in. Since he snuck in the purchase like he did, I had all rights to pick on him for the purchase.

Tim and I both laughed, saying we could have bought a whole package of Dixie cups and a bag of ping pong balls for half the price of what he spent. We also confirmed that he would be paying us back for the toy. (I'll spoil Noah now and again with things but for the most part he earns and pays for things he wants.) Since he didn't bring his money and would have to reimburse us, I joked that I was going to charge "stupid tax" for such a silly purchase.

He thought that phrase was pretty funny so I used it all night to poke fun at him. Every time he'd bring it out to show me a new move, I'd just shake my head and say, "stupid tax" under my breath. He'd laugh and go back to practice. Later, he came out of his room, wallet in hand, and handed me a $20 ($5 over the price). Without missing a beat, he said, "Use the extra to do something with your hair." That's my boy....

Who knew a pricey Dixie cup and two ping pong balls could bring us all such joy on a Saturday afternoon?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Until the Whole World Hears!

Sometimes your joy is just too big...too much...and too late to capture for a blog! I would've loved to wrote in the moment last night but it was already approaching midnight, my boy had to get to bed, and I knew my recovering body would pay come morning. We needed what little rest was left from our adventure. We took Noah to his first concert, to see Casting Crowns (and Leeland) at Roberts Stadium.

Tim and I saw Casting Crowns a few years ago at New Song. We worked EMS/Security for the event and I was close enough to them I could've touched their shoes. The awesomeness of this was a little lost on me though, as before that night, I didn't really know who they were. (I had heard a few songs of theirs but never connected the artist to the music.) By the end of the concert, or really after the first two songs, I was hooked and ready to kiss their shoes!

What impressed me that first night with Casting Crowns, and why I've remained such a fan, is their ability to reach you and make it seem like the song they sing is just for you. The words are as if they've been in your moment, your life, and wrote a song about it. They have an amazing gift of connecting you to God through music.

I bought a CD from them that night (along with a Leeland CD,who I also discovered at that concert) and began to play them both frequently. In the beginning, I'm sure certain songs became favorites because of their style or tempo and sometimes the message would hit me later. I would skip to those favorites on both CDs, depending on the mood and the need I had at the time. And of course, my favorites became the family favorites, probably because they heard them so often, but I like to think the words touched them too. Playing the CD so often, I quickly memorized the words to every song though.

Knowing how much their music helped me get through some of the most difficult days of my life, after losing Austin, I can't help but believe they were put in my path for just that reason. Suddenly the words to so many of those songs I knew by heart were touching my heart and changing it. Some days, it was the only way I felt I could stay connected to God. My faith was wavering, I was angry and questioning, and I my spirit was in a constant tug-o-war.

From East to West - "...Here I am, Lord, and I'm drowning in your sea of forgetfulness. The chains of yesterday surround me..I yearn for peace and rest.....I need your peace to get me through...get me through this night. .....And I'm not holding onto you but you're holding onto me..... In the arms of Your mercy I find rest..'cause You know just how far the east is from the west " This song instantly took hold of me one day and probably saved me. Those words still bring me such comfort each time I hear them. Some evenings on the lonely ride home, I would play this song over and over, letting those words hold me.

Last night was inspiring, uplifting, and such a needed spiritual hug for our family. Even before the concert began, being a sea of believers is a wonderful feeling. You could feel the positive energy in every smile and the atmosphere just lifted us all. It was an amazing night and I felt blessed to be there - and especially to share in Noah's first concert experience. To hear him singing their words made me so grateful and brought such me such a sense of peace.

There are so many of their songs I could tell a story of and how their music has helped me...healed me. I'll close though with one of my current favorites. Again, it is like the writer is telling my personal story. ....Maybe these words will touch you too, for everyone is facing some kind of battle.


Praise You in This Storm
words by Mark Hall

I was sure by now,God, that You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

Chorus:
And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone how can I carry on
if I can't find You
and as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away

Chorus

I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes onto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

Chorus


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday, Wednesday....

I'm a big fan of traditions. I think those rituals are what memories are made of. Sometimes my family makes fun of some of my quirky customs, and some they've grown to love.

Usually when you think of traditions it might be something passed down through the generations and normally surrounds a holiday. I like everyday practices too though. They are comfortable, expected, and brings a sense of anticipation leading up to them.

Tonight is one of our new traditions, and one I'm personally a big fan of.....Wing Wednesday. Now, when you read that two word phrase you have to say it with enthusiasm and with kind of a manly sports announcer voice. (Try it again, just for fun.) The words just roll off the tongue and immediately perk the taste buds.

We love wings in our house but I'm not thrilled with the price tag that generally follows them. They are just tiny bits of meat on little chicken bones....why so pricey, I ask?! The great thing about Wing Wednesday is that those precious little spicy appendages are only .50 cents each. And even better, they are delivered right to my door.

One of the most exciting parts of "Wing Wednesday!" (don't forget the voice) this week is that also coincides with the Survivor premiere...and the Big Brother finale. What a way to make a sick girl happy. Mama don't have to cook, she can kick up her feet, please her palate, and tune into some good TV. That my friends, is a great night. Yep, it doesn't take much to make me happy!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

PJs

(Blame it on the meds...I apologize for my premature post earlier. It wasn't quite finished and I must've hit the wrong button!)

Pajamas. PJs. Immediately I'm comforted when hearing those words. There is nothing better than snuggling into a warm, soft, worn set of comfy jammies.

If I had my way, I'd live in PJs all the time. I enjoy nothing more than to spend the entire day in my pajamas. Of course, I'm not one of "those people" who actually go to Wal-Mart wearing eeyore bottoms and fuzzy slippers.....but I do love when I can lazily lounge around the house, having nowhere to be and spending the day in comfort.

Being sick this past week, I've had lots of time in my old sleeping suits. Some of my outfits are actual pajamas, matching sets and all. And some, my favorite really, are just worn oversize tshirts and shorts. As the weather turns cooler, I love it when I can pull out my flannel jammies...and best of all, holiday themed wear!

I remember getting to pick a nightgown from my Grandma's dresser each night I spent with her. I loved the colors, prints, tiny ribbons and floral designs to choose from. And best of all, each one smelled like her so I was wrapped in a Grandma hug all night long. I guess that comfortable memory has remained with me and is one of the reasons I love pajamas so much.

Because I think they're so wonderful, I try to pass on that cozy feeling and give PJs for gifts to all the kiddos in my life. My favorite two to buy for are my baby niece and nephew, Bryanna and Allen. I started their tradition on their first Christmas together and plan to continue it for years to come. Being little, the selection is even cuter, they match, and my favorite part - footies!

There's not much better of a feeling than to slip out of the chaos of the day, let your troubles hit the floor, and slip into the comforts of a pair of your best-loved jammies. Well, except maybe diving into a crisp and cool, freshly made bed! All this is waiting for me now....so, goodnight all!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tea Time

The sharp whistle from my tea kettle sends me such sweet memories.

I grew up on tea. Of course, as a child it was iced, sweet tea. My mother makes the best sun tea and seeing an amber pitcher warming on a summer day reminds me of my childhood. My Grandma McGuffin also mastered the art of a perfect glass of sweet tea. She had a glass pitcher that only made two quarts at a time. I'm not sure why she never bought a larger container, as we'd drink tea at her house all day long. Maybe she liked steeping the tea at just the right moment, measuring out the delicious combination of sugar and water and watching us enjoy a wonderful refreshment of liquid honey.

As I grew older, my taste buds appreciated a hot cup of tea. I'm sure a steamy cup of tea is relaxing to anyone but having that warm liquid comfort my throat reminds me of time with my other grandmother, Virginia. When I was enrolled in college, and working there as well, I would spend my free time at my grandparent's house. Grandma would cook me lunch and supper too, if I had an evening class, as they lived just down the street from school. After Grandpa Henry passed away, I was grateful our tradition continued, as it allowed me to check in on her daily. At some point, we began having tea. I think Grandma was given a set of different types as a gift and we looked forward to trying new varieties each day. I will forever treasure our "tea for two" afternoons that we shared and each time I treat myself to a cup, I am reminded of her and our talks.

My tea kettle holds extremely precious memories for another reason too. It is my last present from Austin. He had overheard me mention how I wanted a silver tea kettle with a whistle. He saved up his own money and bought it for me for Mother's Day in 2008. Before he passed, it had special meaning because it was touching that as a teenager he would pay that close of attention to his mom and spend his own money on me. Since our loss, the kettle reminds me of my sweet boy and his love for me. Each time the whistle sings, letting me know a soothing cup of tea is moments away, I am warmed from the inside out before the first taste. Each cup from that special kettle is like a hug from Austin.

Whether tea is served at my house hot or cold, I love having such fond memories from such a simple drink. Today, home in my pjs and trying to recover, it is such a comfort to be reminded of so many loved ones with each sip.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

An apple a day....

I'm sick. I've had a cough for over a week that I let myself think I was too busy to take care of - and now I have bronchitis. It isn't fun. Last night was the worst, as the coughing spurts were so frequent and strong I was up literally until the sun rose.


At 11 a.m., when I stretched and knew someone was watching me, I awoke. (I really don't get Tim's fascination in watching me sleep. It isn't pretty and love can't be that blind!) Sleeping until 11 isn't that bad, considering I didn't go to sleep until after 6, but it still shocked me. My Sunday was slipping away and my sleep pattern would suffer.

As I stumbled into the living room, my husband informed me that he was taking me to Urgent Care and I needed to get ready or go in my pajamas. I'd like to think it was out of his concern for me but part of it probably had to do with the little sleep he got last night between my coughing fits and breakdowns. In the end, I'm glad he made me go and will happily swallow these horse pills if it helps me feel better.

On the way home, even though I really just wanted to go home and back to bed, I decided we needed to go to the grocery. Since we went camping last weekend, I purposefully only purchased enough food for our trip and our refrigerator was suffering. I don't know why milk and eggs constitutes the need for groceries but I knew we were out of both. I also knew I wouldn't feel much like cooking the next few days and needed some comfort food, along with quick snacks Noah could make himself.

Shopping on a Sunday afternoon is about the worst time to visit Wal-Mart. People are out of church, hungry, have a list for the week, and every aisle is crowded. As I greeted all the people in their Sunday best, the majority of which I personally knew, I began to feel even worse. I know I looked about as bad as I felt, with my disheveled hair, sloppy clothes and bare face. It was about the only time I was thankful for my incessant coughing, as I hoped at least they'd excuse the messy-me in the knowledge that I was ill.

Anyway, at this point you are probably wondering where the joy is in all of this. It's hard to be joyful when you're sick. Tim says I whine when I don't feel good. He laughs at me, lovingly, but he laughs. He thinks it is cute. So, as I'm wobbling through Wal-Mart, whining internally because he's gone off to look for some random man-purchase, I notice them.

The signs of fall and the upcoming holiday of Halloween is already present. Mums and pumpkins greet you at the front door. Rows and rows of candy greet you around every corner. The idea of fall, my favorite time of year, and all the things I love about it is enough on its own to make me smile. Just seeing the visible displays of the season, would on a normal day, put a little skip in my step. Today though, what really warmed my soul, was a small shelf in the produce aisle.

As if a spotlight beamed onto them and music fell from the heavens, I saw them. Three pleasant little treats neatly contained in plastic wrapping. Round, juicy, nutty, dripping with ooey goodness - my favorite fall treat....Caramel apples! For that moment, I didn't care that I looked like a refugee or sounded like a pack a day smoker....I didn't notice the scratchy throat, throbbing head or achy body parts...I didn't mind that I still had 14 things on my own grocery list I had to find. I snatched up a shiny package, gingerly put them in the front of my cart, and happily went on my way.

Of course, when we made it home and Noah helped carry in groceries, he noticed them. Instantly a giant smile came across his face, followed by a jump in his step and a wide embrace that I was sure would crush my already fragile lungs. "Thank you, Mom! Oh, thank you! I can't believe you bought these for me!"

And so, I later enjoyed my ONE luscious caramel apple right down to the wooden stick, saving the other two for my sweet boy. After all, how can I even think of stealing someone else's joy - especially when I know how much excitement can come from one simple apple, covered in golden caramel, rolled in salty chopped nuts and placed on a stick!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

343

The fire department has been a huge part of my life - at least for as long as I've known Tim. He became a firefighter when he was 18 so that's all I've known with him. It's not just something Tim does, it's who he is.

While I can honestly say there have been many times the fire service has frustrated me - from the cold suppers, missed family moments, and drama that comes with any group - there have been more blessings than disappointments through the years.

When your spouse is involved so deeply into something they love, you find a way to be a part of it and support it. Over the years, I've done more than my share of fundraisers, from chili suppers to auctions to grant writing and more. I've served as secretary at some point on both departments Tim's been with (still currently doing that one). I've cleaned gear, ordered t-shirts, kept dinners warm, and been there to listen or give him space on runs that haunted him. I even joined myself, if only for the short while it ended up to be.

Joining was something that always interested me. In helping Tim study for his EMT certification, I felt like I could've aced the test too. I remember so many times I'd be in the truck with him when he was paged out. As I sat in the vehicle, amidst the sirens and lights, and witnessed first hand how he helped, something stirred in me to do it too. After awhile, I grew tired of just sitting on the sidelines when I could be helping alongside Tim.

I joined in 2005 and it was one of the best acts of service of my life. Of course, 05' would also be the year of our wreck and I was never the same. My knee kept me from doing so much and I knew I could never give 100% - and that just isn't me. So, I'm back to serving in other ways but I'll never forget the few months I got to truly experience what Tim has done for over 25 years.

There is no better feeling than to help someone. To be at their side to calm them in the chaos of a wreck. To hold a little girl's hand as she watches firefighters ease the flames that attack her house. To bring medical aid to someone, scared and alone. And, to see the expression of children when they realize a GIRL is driving a fire truck. Each time it happened, I'd scan the crowd for faces of young girls, hoping in some way seeing me would inspire them to grow up and be anything they wanted to be.

Today is 9/11.... a day that will forever be etched into all of our memories. For those belonging to the fire service though, it is especially somber, as we think about and remember the 343 firefighters who willingly walked into that terror and gave their lives to save others.

That's a heavy picture and may seem strange in a blog about joy. But when I hear that number "343" which probably has little to meaning to someone outside the fire service, many thoughts come to mind. ...sadness in their loss and the loss their families feel, gratitude for their service, and pride, knowing the unselfish act of bravery they each had...but also hope, in the knowledge that approximately 30,000 people were saved that day because of those firefighters. Some people say, "It was their job" but how many people do you know who willingly face danger EVERY DAY to save a life? On a day filled with tragedy, there were lives saved - because of the 343.

It happens every day. Not all calls are of this magnitude but every minute a firefighter is responding and helping someone in need. And that brings me joy.

Each time the pager beeps and my husband responds, without a second thought, I'm reminded of the daily sacrifices of firefighters across this world. I'm prayerful for their safety and for the safety of those they are helping. I'm thankful for their service and proud to be married to one of the best of them.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Happy Feet

Happiness, to me, is painted and pampered toes (and feet)! A simple joy of mine is the relaxing splurge of getting a pedicure.

Every six weeks or so, I'll surprise myself with a new set of toes. I rarely ever plan it, going when I find the occasional free hour - or even going in lieu of lunch. During the pedicure, I let go. I don't chat, I don't watch tv, I just soak into the massage chair and de-stress.

The pedicure itself is well worth the splurge but what I love about the purchase is that it's a gift that keeps on giving. Each time I look down at my painted toes, at whatever color suited my mood that day, it makes me happy. Given how long I can make a good pedicure last, I figure that happiness is well worth the .60-some-odd cents a day it runs me. After all, that's why I make my own coffee and take my lunch to work most days!

So, if you've ever seen me glance down at my toes and smile and wondered....now you know why!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Honey, I'm Home

Two favorite points in my day - when Noah comes home from school and Tim makes it in from work. Having them home, safe, and near me brings such a sense of comfort and peace. Neither event happens without a hug and a kiss and a smile I can feel from the inside out.

I know before the bus pulls in the subdivision, as Patch begins to pace. The closer the bus gets, the more he barks. By the time Noah's made it to the door, Patch is swirling, tail wagging, jumping and bouncing to get to him. His reaction is kind of what my heart feels when I know he's home again.

I say, "Hi Fred," on most days, followed by, "how was your day?" and this begins our routines of warm hugs, homework, papers, and a snack. We then settle into nightly chores and such and I begin cooking dinner as we wait for my second favorite moment.

The thing with Tim coming home is that I really never know when it will be. Between his job and being a firefighter, his timing is very unpredictable. I've become a master at drawing out dinner and keeping it warm. Sometimes we break down and eat without him but I love nothing better than to have us all gathered around a hot meal together.

Just as with Noah, Patch usually tells me Tim is home before he makes it to the door. Patch reacts a tad differently, but still excited, remaining in one spot and making Tim to come to him. He'll squat low as his short little legs will allow, rear stuck in the air, tail shaking and almost talk to Tim with his barking. They'll play a game of cat and mouse, until Noah or I break it up with hugs.

May seem like such a simple thing but those two moments bring me tremendous joy each day. It doesn't matter how difficult a day it has been, or how tired I am, being home at the end of the day with my family revives and sustains me. They fill up my personal love tank until it is overflowing and I'm ready to face another day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Daily Drive

I've commuted to work all my life. Even in high school, my job was over 30 minutes from my house. I don't know what it's like to get ready and drive a mile or two down the street to work. I guess that comes with living in a small town!

While in college, my jobs were near the school in Owensboro, but all still about an hour away from home. My first "real job" was in Owensboro too and I've been working in this town ever since. When I took the Development position twelve or so years ago at ACS, I remember them asking if I would have a problem with the amount of traveling it required. I chuckled when I answered, commenting how long I'd already been doing it.

Now, I won't say that I always love commuting. It certainly has points that aren't fun - like driving in bad weather, or when you don't feel well and you just want to get home, or even on sad days as the drive can become very lonely. Overall though, the drive to and from work has always been my daily dose of "me time" and I usually look forward to it. The drive gives me time pray and talk to God, to listen to music, and to enjoy the scenery.

Being a working mom is a busy job. Sometimes you wish for just a few more hours in a day. That frantic, running all the time mentality can make you put God aside. I've been guilty myself of thinking, "He's always there," and only going to him in times of need. However, I appreciate and am grateful for the time my daily drive gives me to spend with Him. Having nearly two blocked hours of time each day allows me to focus my thoughts on Him, to talk to Him, and most importantly to listen to Him.

I'm a station hopper, and as I've written before, a fan of a very wide array of music. It usually just depends on my mood as to what I'm listening to. However, for the past year or so, I've become a devoted listener to K-Love. I found it one day, while driving of course, and instantly fell in love with it's inspirational and powerful messages. If I am going to work, I love how the songs can change my mood and bring a positive energy through my day. On the way home, I enjoy how it can calm me, ease my worries, and put me in the right frame of mind to greet my family after a long workday. The only bad part is that I can't pick up the station throughout my whole drive. Oh well... it gives me time to enjoy other things too!

You would think I'd grow tired of seeing the same fields, the same trees, and the same houses every single day but I don't. As many years as I've driven those roads, I still find something new nearly every day to admire and bring me joy. God paints new pictures each morning with the sunrise and depending on the time of the day, a different and beautiful surprise greets me. I love watching the seasons change before my eyes, especially this time of year. Each afternoon I'm welcomed home with new and deeper colors on the trees. Before long, the sun will be setting on my drive home. While I'll miss the long days of summer, I'll enjoy driving home to the amazing sunsets created each evening. No matter the time of day or night, there is always something magnificent and breathtaking to see in this world!

So, if you see me on my daily commute and wonder why I'm staring aimlessly out the window, you'll know the reason now. Or, if you see me swaying and singing, you'll know I'm celebrating life in song. And, if you see me talking to myself, you'll know I'm really not alone at all. Whatever my reaction, I'm just enjoying my daily drive.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sense of Love

What a joyous weekend we had! Impossible to capture them all....

- - - - - - - -
My eyes viewed nature's beauty at its finest...the way the fog comes off the river on a cool morning, sweeping softly across the smooth, glass-like surface below...or the moving artwork the frame of trees created above us, whether their shadows danced across the tufts of grass or floated on our tent at night, like painted pictures on canvas...or the many breathtaking views the sun can make, just by rising and setting each day.

I heard the songs from birds each morning, as their melodies would wake us with a sweet tune...and the serenading from the crickets and frogs each evening would lull us to sleep...or the quiet peace solitude can bring when the rush of life is allowed to pause for a day or two away.

The smell of a campfire drifting through the air all weekend...sweet pancakes and strong coffee...soap mixed with steamy hot water after a long day on the river...and even dirt, as the earthiness reminds you of the wilderness around you.

The taste of anything cooked over an open fire is delicious...the first bite of Grandpa Stew cool enough for your tongue to tolerate...of fajitas, especially when prepared by your favorite little chef...salty afternoon snacks on the boat...or sweet treats in the tent by flashlight in the middle of the night.

The feel of the sun's warmth, mixed with a cool breeze that rustles through the shady trees above, soaks into your skin...of the shocking first plunge into the chocolate river...the hug from the campfire that welcomes you on a crisp, chilly morning or comforts and toasts your PJ's before bed...

But none of those compare to seeing those you love experiencing joy, hearing the sound of laughter from your child, the scent of your family and the memories each smell can evoke, the taste of something cooked with love, or the feeling of togetherness and family and how nothing else in the world matters in those special moments when you're with the ones that mean the most.

- - - - - - -
"The best and most beautiful things in life cannot be seen, not touched, but are felt in the heart."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Anticipated Happiness

Did you ever build a tent in your bedroom when you were younger? That was one of my favorite things to do as a child. My sister and I shared a bedroom most of our life and so there was always some sort of dividing line in our room - invisible, a string, or the fact that one side was clean and the other a mess.

We got the idea to build tents over our bed one day and I loved it. Finally - some peace and quiet from her! She couldn't see me, I couldn't see her or her mess...it was great. I could pretend I was deep in the woods camping, or wherever my imagination took me.

At our grandparent's house, we shared a room too, and for some years, a bunk bed. We discovered tent making was even cooler with a bunk bed because you could stretch blankets half-way across the room. I'm not sure Grandma enjoyed the mess but we had so much fun doing it!

Back home, on the farm, there were lots of places for a child to explore. Besides building tents in our room, we also enjoyed being in the wood line that surrounded the house. At the foot of the hill behind our house was a small grove of pine trees. As their needles would fall, a soft brown floor was created - perfect for a clubhouse. We scoured the farm for boxes and broken things that we could turn into furniture. Hours were spent playing out in that clubhouse and so many memories were made...Wendy nearly breaking my nose when she threw an old bucket at me....finding opossum babies (UGLY!)....secrets, whispers, and laughter.

This weekend, we're taking advantage of an extra day off and going camping. Noah's never been more than one night so I'm excited to see his reaction. We'll boat and swim and snuggle under the stars...a S'more or two will have to be made...Grandpa stew, since the evenings will be cool...but more than anything it will be uninterrupted family time, my favorite thing!

I'll apologize in advance for not bringing you my daily post this weekend. It may be a little difficult to find a signal while camping, and while I love to write, isn't really the point of the weekend. Tune in next week though for what I'm sure will be many joyful moments we'll experience on our trip.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Freedoms

Today I had the honor of being in the same room as some of our country's finest - men and women who are serving our country. To think of what these soldiers do for us on a daily basis, nearly brought me to tears. We are so fortunate to have the freedoms we do and I think most of us overlook them.


It's difficult to truly appreciate all the freedoms we have when we've never experienced being without. If you've never known what it is like to not feel safe walking the streets outside your home, to worship as you believe, vote by choice, how can you really know? I'm ever thankful that I don't have to. I'm grateful that we have a country where all these freedoms are given to us from the moment we are born. And, I'm overwhelmed by the protection we are given by soldiers like I met today.


What brought me surprise was that I was thanked by many of them today. Thanked for being there, for bringing them information, when it was just my job to do so. It shocked me and seemed strange to accept. I should be thanking them, which I did many, many times. And then I realized that many of them probably don't give a second thought to what they do - not in a self-righteous sense, at least. They are proud - proud for their country and for what it means to be an American - but not proud that they are heroes. I doubt many of them even consider themselves in that stature. It is just their job.


I'm thankful my job brought me there today. In the beginning, I was excited to see inside the gates of something I've only ever imagined before. In the end, the rolling green grass and protected community was not near as beautiful as the men and women in uniform proudly serving. It reminded me to pray a little longer tonight for them - and for their families...to give thanks for the many freedoms we are given every day, with the comforting knowledge that I could say that prayer as quietly or loudly as I wanted.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Milk Memories

This morning, as I was dropping Noah off at school, the roar of a truck behind me caused me to check my mirrors. Pulling alongside us was a Prairie Farms milk truck. Instantly, a big smile came on my face, followed by a big, "Awwwww." Noah is looking at me by this point like I'm crazy, wondering why in the world I would have a reaction like that to a milk truck.

Of course, there's always a story involved with me, so I began. My Grandpa Coons, who I've written about before, was a milkman when I was little. It was one of his many "side jobs" along with being a pastor. It is a job I have fond memories of because of one special day.

I went to kindergarten at Beaver Dam Elementary in Ms. Tichenor's class. Our room was on the ground floor, next to the cafeteria, and of course, the walk in refrigerator. Every day, as we walked to our rooms, we would see delivery men entering and unloading. Whenever I would see a Prairie Farms milkman, I would wave to him and sometimes say, "My Grandpa is a milkman too!"

Maybe these milkmen all knew each other, or maybe my Grandpa is just extra special (I'm betting on the latter), but one delivery day he made arrangements to swap with him. It had to take some rearranging, as I lived in a different county than my Grandpa worked. I didn't know any of this so you can imagine my surprise when I looked up to the milkman one day and saw my Grandpa's smiling face!

I can still remember how excited I was, even breaking the rules of getting out of line and running to him with open arms. He knelt down, hugging me back, nearly as excited as I was. It tickled him so much that he created this surprise for me and that I was thrilled to see him.

The surprise got even better, when he informed me that this was his last stop. He was going to spend the day with me! Who knows how long he really stayed, as that was many moons ago, but what mattered most is that he changed his day just for me. Thirty some odd years ago, yes I'm telling my age, it still stands out as a vivid favorite memory for me. After all, just seeing a truck this morning brought back that same joy from all those years ago.

I wonder if the memory was as vivid for Grandpa years after he did it. Sometimes I doubt we ever know the impact we make in a life of a child. One small act of kindness can surely bring a lifetime of joy.
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