Thursday, April 28, 2011

Egg Salad & Sunshine

To say this week has been stressful might be an understatement.  With storm warnings, from floods to funnel clouds, we've been in a constant state of alert.  In fact, I feel our family has spent more time huddled in our safe space than in the other parts of our home.  It's difficult to concentrate on every day life when you fear for the safety of your family and friends. 

In addition to the chaos of the weather, "life" has decided to take this opportunity to rain down on us.  It has demanded our attention, whether we wanted it to or not.  Flat tires...broken visits...and more.  At one point, I just started laughing, admittedly after a crying spell, because it just felt as if we were the stars of a sad country song.  But then, maybe it was best to just get all of the sogginess out in one week?  As annoying as they are, flat tires just don't hold the same weight against the dangers of a tornado and visible funnel clouds in our backyard.

Each night this week, I have fallen asleep while praying, feeling as if there's so much more than usual to pray many I feel obligated to protect.  Each morning, the sunshine has reminded me to be thankful for another day, to be joyous in the safety of my family and friends.  Last night, my prayers were extended to my work family in Alabama and my heart went out to all of those who are suffering through the devastation.  While I felt relief for another morning with my family and home whole, I know there are those today not able to share that joy.

Having been through devastating loss, I know that in those moments even small rays of sunshine are sometimes difficult to see.  In the center of the storm, all you seem to find are clouds of grey.  What I know though is that the sun does return....slowly, you begin to see the silver lining.  If only for a few hours, you welcome the warmth the sun brings.  No matter how dark the hour may be, light is somewhere at the end of the tunnel.

 - - - - - - -

This morning, as I was sharing coffee and breakfast with my husband, I was overcome with memories from my childhood.  In the midst of my worries and sadness for those who may be facing loss today, I found a glimpse of sunshine.

With the many leftovers from Easter, I decided to attempt making egg salad.  It's a sandwich I loved as a child and always reminds me of my grandparents.  Egg salad was a constant at their home and something we would take on picnics and road trips. 

As soon as I bit into the sandwich, it was as if I was still in the backseat of my Grandpa's Sunday car, riding with them to church.  I could imagine the backs of my chunky legs, sticking to the leather seats, and swinging my feet back and forth.  I could smell my Grandpa's cologne, envision his starched suit and his large hands on the wheel.  Grandma sitting beside him in the front, would be reminding us of our manners before we arrived, as she passed back our snack of egg salad for the ride.

And as I kissed Tim out the door and felt the sunshine on my shoulders, I was reminded again of a favorite song from childhood.  Somehow, my cousin Jennifer and I learned the sign language to this song and we would sing it while playing outside.  I could picture us, sitting on the grassy hill above our grandparent's home, moving our arms and hands to the melody of this tune and singing it together.

This unexpected mini trip down memory lane reminded me of a simpler time.  Of fond childhood moments, forever captured in my mind.  Funny how something like egg salad and sunshine can make your day all the brighter.

For all those facing storms this week, whether from the sky or in your hearts, my thoughts and prayers are with you.  May you find sunshine in your days, even but for a moment, and may you pause in it's warmth and welcome the light.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. - Psalm 34:18

Monday, April 25, 2011

MRI Moments

So today has been one of those blah days.  Ever been there?  You know, the type of day where the weather kind of mirrors your mood?  Soggy, wet, and dreary, tossed in with a sprinkling of stress and emotions.  It's been the kind of day where I really had to force myself to get in front of the computer and write a blog about joy, kicking and screaming the whole way.

In the midst of everything already going on, I needed to get an MRI done on my shoulder.  It's been bothering for me a long while but something just kicked me in the pants a few weeks ago to get it checked.  It wasn't anything I was looking forward to though, as I suffer from a mild case of claustrophobia.  Ok, in some instances it's more than mild. 

At any rate, I was giving myself a pep talk the whole ride over that this was really mind over matter and I could get through it.  (I guess the one small positive when you've been through as much as I have it really puts some things in perspective!)  This little machine would not get the best of me.  I am stronger than that tiny hole they were going to cram me into.  I think I can.  I think I can.

My first blessing came in the form of the tech who was more than sweet to me.  Once she learned about my "mild claustrophobia," she really went out of her way to make me feel comfortable.  We opted not to go for the box-like jail contraption they wanted me to put over my head BEFORE going in the tiny little hole but instead using the older standard pillow.  I breathed a sigh of relief and nervously joked that I didn't really want to look like Anthony Hopkins in "Silence of the Lambs" anyway.

She planned to only put me in the hole as far as necessary but a slip of the button shot me through more than either of us had hoped.  Already in prayer and meditation, pretending I was cocooned in a spa treatment, I dove deeper with a request for God to keep me calm.  Just when I didn't think I could take another moment in there, my headphones started to play a song. 

Now this was an added comfort and surprise in that she'd been having trouble getting the music to work at all with the storms we've had.  Although she put them on my ears before going in, they really didn't play because the station kept fading in and out.  But just as I sent up a little prayer for help to get through this minor bump in my rocky road came.  And it was a song that shouldn't have been on that station as they were different genres.  On a rock station, comes a song by the Jackson 5.  In between my pauses for a deep breath and prayers, I hear the lyrics "Just call my name...and I'll be there"

The whole thing was just a big ole' sign in my little bitty hole that, as always, He was there.  Even in moments when he may feel far away, or that he doesn't hear me, he reassures me, He is there. comfort be my fill my heart with joy and laughter...whenever I need him, he'll be there.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter at Grandma's

My sister and I surprised our Grandma today by showing up at her church with our families. We got there before her Sunday school room let out and took up an entire row waiting to see her face when they opened the doors. Although we didn't plan it, her daughter also switched churches for the day. I think Grandma was pleased to have all her children and many grandchildren in the seats near her. In fact, she raised her hand in thanksgiving and even shared it with the congregation.

Easter has always been a holiday I've associated with my grandparents. Perhaps it is the fact that my Grandpa was a Baptist preacher and we grew up in and around church, especially when with them. More than anything, I think it is just the love of God that they both shared with us as children. The reflection of that love, during this holiday above all others, has just led me to always want to be at their home to celebrate.

I was thinking of my last post this morning in the shower and realized that they did the same "story time" with Wendy and me when we were little. Every night, after showers and brushing our teeth and hair, we'd tiptoe barefoot into the living room and sit alongside Grandma in matching nightgowns. Some nights she'd read the bible, some nights she'd ask us to, and then we would all pray together before going to bed.

That early prayer which begins, "Now I lay me..." has remained with me all these years. I even have that saying on a wooden piece of art hanging over my bed. So much of the foundation of my faith stems from both of them, the life lessons they taught us, the stories they shared, the sermons I grew up proudly listening to from my grandpa, all shaped who I am today as a Christian.

So, it was an honor to be at Grandma's table yet again this year. While the faces around the table have changed through the years - and we feel the loss from Grandpa and Austin not being there - the laughter, good food, and sense of family remains. I couldn't think of a better place to be on Easter Sunday.

And as I stood beside Grandma washing dishes, I was thankful for yet another holiday with her. I was also reminded of early memories of Easter at Grandma's......of ham, with the special seasoning only Grandma could do....of mini treats from "Harvey" the invisible Easter bunny (who actually lived in their attic all year long...of playing croquet in the bright green grass and hunting eggs...of family gathered at the table.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Story Time

I've had such wonderful conversations with Noah the past several days about God, mostly due I think to our new nightly devotional.  This came from an idea of a friend and fellow blogger (coffee with carolyn) who writes a post about the daily Bible verse, which matches the month and day on the calendar.  I thought this would be a neat way to share some one on one time with Noah and encourage daily Bible reading with him.

For his age, one verse is great.  It isn't too much and we can discuss in detail what the scripture means to him.  And, on days when the verse doesn't make sense, it gives me an opportunity to explain it to him.  Our nightly "bedtime story" is something I find myself looking forward to all day long.  It's a way to reconnect with God, spend quality time with Noah, and maybe most importantly, helps me to shape him into the person he is meant to be.  I don't know of a better book to read to your child!

This week, I've switched gears and am reading him a passage each night leading up to Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ.  While he is still at a somewhat tender age, I think it is important to share with your children the true meaning of Easter.  It is not about bunnies and chocolate!  Sure, those are fun traditions I've enjoyed with my boys over the years but we've always tried to bring it back (a bit more each year) as to why we really celebrate and remember this holiday. 

This reading has really opened up such deep and meaningful conversations with Noah.  I'm amazed sometimes at the things he asks, at only 11, which tells me how much he is paying attention and processing it.  Last night's conversation was somewhat emotional, on many levels, as he asked me, "Mom, if God knew this would happen to his son, why did he send him?  Why would he want him to be hurt?" 

That's a hard question but such a powerful example of God's love for us.  As a parent who has lost a child, I can connect to this message on an even deeper level.  I struggle daily with my loss and I don't think I could ever imagine knowingly sending my child to danger or pain.  For me, knowing what God went through to show his love, reminds me in a very clear way how much he truly does. "For God SO love the world, that he sent his ONLY son..."

It also opened up the conversation with him that God doesn't purposefully hurt us but in all things there is a reason and plan to them.  It felt like a good opportunity to stress to Noah that even when we are hurting, He is there with us and for us.  Sometimes we don't understand God's plan but we have to believe and trust in him that everything happens for a reason.

And, through child loss, it certainly is an issue I've struggled with, questioned, and even momentarily shook my faith.  When we are hurt, suffer loss, or live through a disaster, it's our nature to ask why.  Why me?  Why us?  Why did this happen?  On the other side though we rarely seem to question when something good happens.  Is it right to accept the good and not the bad?  It certainly isn't easy but as Christians, something we must all learn to do.

This time of year is an emotional one for many reasons...As Easter approaches, I am spiritually reminded of God's love, Jesus' sacrifice, and the weight of that knowledge - in living up to feeling worthy of such.  I can't think about the burden Jesus must have felt in knowing what he had to do or imagine the excruciating pain he took for us without crying.    There is gratitude...and responsibility.

I am reminded of my sweet boy who is missing from our family Easter photos...of straightening his tie for him on the one day of the year he'd wear one...and even of the tradition of filling his baskets with his favorite goodies.  As with all holidays, and every day in between, he is missed.  There is sadness.

But, there is also hope.  I know that even though I don't understand, some day I will.  I know that God's plan for Austin was set from the beginning.  He didn't take him from us, Austin just fulfilled the journey that was written even before he was born.  I'm refreshed in knowing there's more...that through life's trials we form a closer and more personal connection to God...and most importantly, that I know the end of the story.  Because "The End" of this story.....well, it is packed with JOY!  This time of year is especially a reminder of what a Glorious Day it will be.  And I can't wait for it!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Just a Song

I don't remember which came first, Guitar Hero or Austin's love of Classic Rock.  As it is one of my favorite genres, he was exposed to it from a very early age.  I just don't think he found the appreciation for those songs until he learned to alternate his fingers with the red, yellow, green and other keys on the game.

I bought him the Guitar Hero game soon after it came out and admitted even then it was a little bit for selfish reasons.  Jamming to my favorite songs while rocking out and playing a guitar?  Count me in!  What I didn't know though was how much we would bond over playing together.  And for that, the game will always hold a very special place in my heart.

We spent hours strumming to those classic hits and Austin was always amazed when I did well.  After a few practices, I began beating him - and his friends when they'd come over, which shocked them all.  We had so much fun with the game that I ended up buying Rock Band so Noah could join in the fun.  The Partridge family had nothing on us, because of course, we were much cooler and did not wear matching outfits.  With Austin on the drums, Noah at the mic, and mom rocking the guitar in the background, we'd jam into the night.

This week, I've found myself listening to classic rock more often, as my normal christian station is doing a pledge drive.  What I love and treasure now is that when I hear one of those songs on the radio, I am taken back to those times with Austin.  If I catch a few lines of "The Joker" or "Living on a Prayer" or "Sweet Child of Mine" it is as if I'm right back in his bedroom, playing alongside him.  I can feel the guitar in my hands, imagine which keys to play next, and see his beautiful smile when we powered through a song. 

Songs I've always enjoyed, just for the beat or history, now all have added special memories.  Now, those songs connect me to Austin.  As I listen to them, I can picture him next to me in the truck, nodding his head with the beat, reaching to up the volume just a few notches more.  ...And the best part is knowing that those memories are always just a song away.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Refreshing Evening...

It's National Volunteer Week and since the majority of my job is working with volunteers, they've been on my mind a lot today!  Hands down, throughout my thirteen years with the American Cancer Society, the favorite part of any job I've had here, has involved volunteers.  It's an honor and a privilege to work with such passionate and dedicated people.

I'm blessed to have wonderful volunteers.  Without them, I could not achieve anything.  It always amazes me how much they do for ACS.  Life is busier than ever these days, it seems, and so when someone is willing to freely give of their time, it impresses and inspires me.

Last night I had the joy of spending the evening with a few of my "pink lady" volunteers.  I call them that because they are normally wearing pink, in some form or fashion, and because they all just exhibit that color.  They emit joy, passion, courage, and hope.  They are volunteers for a program known as Reach to Recovery.

This program, through the American Cancer Society, provides one on one support for women facing breast cancer.  Volunteers are trained by ACS to help a newly diagnosed woman by offering information and help.  More than anything, they offer their stories and are visible proof of survivorship.  Many women who are recently diagnosed are filled with questions, fears and concerns.  Seeing a positive, vibrant, healthy survivor and hearing how they overcame the battle is a huge comfort.

Our meeting last night was for the purpose of a training, something we call a "refresher" meant to update them on changes in cancer, news about ACS, and giving them a chance to discuss concerns or questions about recent visits.  What I often find interesting though is how they end up refreshing me.  Hearing their stories again of how they survived, the difficult journey they may have faced, and their amazingly positive attitude now, always rejuvenates and lifts me up. 

I consider myself very blessed to work with and along side these beautiful volunteers.  What I love most about them is that they each chose to make the most of the situation they were given.  Through it all they not only remain positive but they choose to help others.  They choose to make a difference.  They choose joy.  And surrounding myself with those special women is always a boost to my soul.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Noah's First Job

Late yesterday afternoon, Noah comes inside from mowing and asks for my help at the computer.  "I need to make a poster on this thing so I can get a job," he informs me.  With a smile, I sit down at the desk and reply, "Ok, how can I help?"

Noah then instructs me to type in big bold letters at the top, "WILL MOW YOUR YARD FOR $15" and then jump down to the bottom and put my phone number.  His secretary obliges.  I offer the suggestion of adding a clip art mower in the center of the page.  "That would be awesome!" he said.  And so I set to work to creating his, flyer.  When I finished, he asked for 10 copies, as that is the number of homes he's counted in our neighborhood which could be potential customers.

No sooner than the tenth page printed, he grabbed the stack and was out the door.  Moments later he returns with a smile on his face.  "I've got my first customer!" he exclaimed, bouncing into the room.  "She said I could mow it now or wait until tomorrow."  As dinner was ready and the sun was setting, we opted for him to wait until today.

The rain we had this morning put a little damper on his work plans but soon the sun was out and Noah was open for business.  He went over all the basics, steps and safety reminders with Tim, including a sampling of his weed eating skills, before "driving" to his job, courtesy of the mower.  Awhile later, he came in with the mail and yet another smile, explaining that he would be making $5 extra dollars because she wanted her yard mowed in a special pattern. 

Wile on a cooling off and water break, he got a call from the neighbor.  Holding is hand up, I guess to keep me quiet, he mouthed, "it's my customer."  I'm not sure if she was checking to see if he was finished or what but I let him have his privacy.  Moments later she was in the driveway to pay him, he said because she had to leave for the day.  With the biggest smile of all, he strutted into the room, holding up a crisp $20 bill.  The picture says it all.....

Of course, after a hug and "I'm so proud of you" moment, I reminded him to get back out there and finish the job!  But I am proud of him.  And, I'm sure his big brother is smiling down on him today, happy to see him following in his footsteps.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Signs from Above

I'm still covered in goosebumps when I think about all the signs Austin has sent us this week.  He must know that while this season provides hope, it is also a difficult reminder of his absence.  As the grass begins to grow, I think of him and how excited he would be to start another mowing season.  When I pass a ballpark, I'm reminded of the countless hours we spent on the bleachers cheering for our #23.  The sounds of other children riding their bikes around the neighborhood brings back all the memories, both good and horrible, of the many trips he made on his.  Spring is a constant reminder of our sweet boy, of the amazing fourteen years we had with him, and of the palpable loss we still feel.

The number #23 seems to be visible everywhere I look these days.  That number always comforts me, as it instantly makes me think of Austin.  I see the number every morning on may way into work, as a road sign indicates it is 23 miles to Owensboro.  It's my daily hello from him.  I'm always awestruck though when the number comes to me unexpectedly. 

Yesterday I posted about our first meal outdoors.  It was wonderful and during the meal I even started to comment, "This couldn't be any...." and I paused, painfully aware that it could indeed be better, if Austin were still here.  So, I changed mid sentence to "any better weather for this."  The empty chair across from me on the deck was another indication of him missing.  I shrugged it off, trying very hard to stay in the present and enjoy the moment with Tim and Noah.  Coming inside, I paused at the computer to update the Joyfulchallenge message on Facebook for the day, and noticed that it was up to 23 fans.  The last time I remember looking, it was at 17, so the jump to that exact number just seemed like a message that night, letting me know he was in fact there.

I replaced Austin's flowers this week at his grave.  It's an odd activity, something I never imagined doing.  While I enjoy being the one to arrange them, feeling like it's a gift I can give to him, it certainly isn't a hobby I wanted to have.  As I prepared to leave, I asked Noah if he wanted to come along.  Visiting Austin's grave has never been something that brings me a lot of comfort so I've never forced it on Noah.  I let him go when he wants and we stay as little or as long as he wants.  Thinking about it for several minutes, I soon found him by my side, ready to go with both vases in his hands.

Once there, I busied myself by tidying up and gave Noah time alone while repositioning flowers on his Mamaw June's grave, just a few plots down.  It had been awhile since he'd been and I know all too well the wave of emotions that takes over.  Feeling like he needed me, I joined him back at the bench and just rested my hand on his back.  In that moment a large and beautiful eagle appeared above us.  It was so close that I could see the details on his feathers.  As he glided in the winds directly above our heads we were both frozen and speechless.  When the majestic bird floated away, I whispered, "and they will soar like wings on eagles" because it just came out of me.  A sense of peace washed over both us.  It was amazing.

Then, yesterday was our first family outing of the season.  Although my mom's side visits the zoo at least once a year together, this was a new zoo for our group.  We went to Kentucky Down Under and closed the day with a picnic in the soft spring grass.  Of course, Austin was on my mind, and though we move forward, a grieving parent never fully moves on.  It hurts to do activities without him, especially those you know he would've enjoyed.  Tim and I were the first to pay and so we were also the first to enter the park. 

As soon as we opened the door to step outside, a tiny yellow butterfly flittered across my path.  I paused, unsure, not expecting to see these, now favorite creatures of mine, so soon in the season.  Catching a glimpse of it again confirmed, as it floated up the hill almost leading the way to the path we would take.  Choking back tears I knew it was Austin's way of letting me know he was there, as he's always present when our family gathers together.  It was just the needed boost to get me through that day.

I would've been satisfied with just the small but powerful sign yesterday.  I never ask for signs but am always overcome with joy, and grateful, when I receive them.  We left the zoo much later than expected and everyone was past starving as we walked to our vehicles.  Discussing places to have a picnic, I noticed the grassy sides of the lot and suggested we just eat there.  Noah and his cousin Larry took off running, looking for the shadiest spot as I lingered behind.  Through lack of communication, the rest of our group drove to other side.

Just as I was about to start the walk across the parking lot to join them, Noah spoke.  "Mom, there's a huge yellow butterfly beside you!"  Turning my head, I saw the vibrant yellow and black monarch, nearly on my shoulder.  It hovered around me for a moment, actually long enough for me to reach out in an attempt to touch it, before it flittered away.  But that precious moment was long enough and yet another sign from Austin letting me know he'd been with us all day.  It was an incredible ending to a wonderful time out with the family.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blair's Bistro

What a beautiful spring day! The sky has mesmerized me from sunrise to sunset, from a quilt-like white canvas in the morning to an evening view of pink cotton candy puffs. Each hour the weather seemed to grow a little warmer, and by late afternoon, the deck was calling out to me. I love this time of year and all the sounds and smells that go with it. Sitting on the deck, I took in the hum of lawnmowers, followed by the aroma of freshly cut grass and wild onions.

Although I could've lingered there for hours, hunger began calling. As this was Tim's "Friday," though only a Wednesday, I decided to surprise him with a steak dinner and the cherry on top was serving it outside. He came home to robust scent of charred sirloins and the warm earthiness of baked potatoes. With music floating through the air, the three of us soaked up the last of the sunlight while enjoying our meals.

When they complimented the chef, I couldn't help but point out what a meal like this would've cost if we'd gone out. Not to mention the drive, the wait, and the potential for bad service. Instead we ate bargain beef that I grabbed up on a quick sale and our total tab ended up being less than a ten spot for the three of us! Plus, there were tidbits and goodies to share with Patch, who was ever-circling our feet.

What you can't put a price tag on was the quality time together and the atmosphere. Our evening was filled with laughter and discussion of plans for spring. It was relaxing, comforting, and uplifting. One of the best meals I've had in weeks...and it had nothing to do with what was on the menu.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Adventures with Noah

Yesterday was absolutely joyful from beginning to end, though very busy and filled with activity from the time I rolled out of bed until the time I fell back into it.  Even though it was a day off, I awoke early with Tim to see him off, and set to some chores I needed to accomplish.  This was especially true since Monday my goal was to do as little as humanly possible!  I also wanted to get everything done and out of the way so that I could fully enjoy my day out with Noah.

I try to schedule a Mom & Noah day at least once during any vacation break I get and as many times in between those as I can.  I've captured one of these days before in my post "Mom & Noah Days" which you might want to read to learn more about what they are and why I love them so!  On this day, as with all "M&N days" I let him be the boss and pick whatever he wants to do. 

For this outing, he chose to eat at Red Lobster, one his all time faves, go to a movie, and have some ice cream.  One thing was apparent from his choices, my diet would be out the window for the day!  I let him order whatever he wanted at the restaurant, including a virgin Pina Colada, which he thought made me the ultimate coolest mom ever.  We laughed and lingered over our shrimp dishes and other delights, including taking a few photos to brag and pick on Tim with later.

Our next stop was the movie theatre - and of course, I splurged and took him to "the big one" which gave us many more choices, and a bigger bill.  He picked "Diary of Wimpy Kid 2," as he's enjoyed the first one and loves the series of books.  It was a cute movie but my heart ached for him during it and I wondered if it was the best choice.  This version was all about the main character's brothers and the love/hate relationship they had.  It was another reminder of our great loss and the void that will always be present in our family.  I grieve so much for the relationship Noah lost when Austin passed.
But I choked down the tears and put on a brave face, pulling my sweet boy closer to me and enjoying the time together for what it was.

As if we'd not ingested enough calories to last us three days, we headed to Coldstone to further indulge in frozen, gooey goodness.  He picked a create your own; I opted for one of their signature creations, tweaking it a bit to ensure full peanut butter flavor.  As always, Noah enjoyed my selection better and sneaked his spoon into my bowl every opportunity.  I did break down and peek at my handy Iphone app to see how bad the dessert was and immediately lost my appetite when learning even the smallest size I chose topped well over 700 calories!  Of course, it made his day when I topped his waffle bowl with more than half of what I had left. 

The rest of our day was sprinkled with lots of laughter, hugs, and wonderful quality mom & son time.  And maybe one of the best parts was hearing him retell our adventures to Tim with enthusiasm, partly because he enjoyed making him jealous, but mostly because he thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with mom.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Girls' Night Out

Saturday afternoon I endulged in a girls' night out with my cousin. It's something we often talk about doing but life gets in the way of scheduling time together. I'm grateful she's put these plans in motion and I've looked forward to the time away and with her all week. Having girl-centered discussions in a male heavy household will be a nice change of pace.

As wives and mothers, it's natural to always put ourselves last. We feel guilty if we spend money or time on ourselves. And we shouldn't.  Life is all about balance. To be the wife and mother, friend and co-worker, and all the many hats that us women put on ourselves, it's important to take care of "me first."  Just like the emergency instructions you receive during a flight, if you don't put the oxygen mask on yourself first, you can't help those around you later.

That's sort of what a night out with other women is like for me...a bit of oxygen.  It's a time to let your hair down and relax.  To be funny and silly and not care what anyone thinks about it.  To restore yourself from the chaos of life, a busy workweek, and household responsibilities.  And that's just what we did.  We snacked on yummy food without counting calories.  We relaxed, especially with the help of a massuse Jennifer brought in!  We relived our youth listening to songs from the 80s and remembering a simpler time.

And we learned from somewhat of an expert about girl trips.  She's been taking trips with the same group of friends for years.  There's always a "big trip" each year, followed by mini road trips and even good old fashioned pajama parties.  It made me realize that you're never too old to enjoy things like this and it's something I'd love to make routine in my life too.

The point though is that there doesn't have to be an elaborate vacation planned with a large group of friends to make time for yourself.  "Me time" can be doing anything you enjoy - but making sure it's something you schedule often.  If you have to put it on a calendar to get it done, then get out those markers.  Whether you end up writing, "shopping trip!" or "read a good book" or "get a pedicure" schedule something this month that is just for you.  Something you don't normally splurge on because YOU are important and worth the time!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

More than a cousin

In losing a special friend and volunteer this week, I noticed something.  The best words often said about someone are after they're gone.  Obituaries, eulogies, and the kind words said to the family and friends about the said loss are perhaps never heard by the person needing to hear it most.  As I was remembering my friend and writing about all the things I loved about her, I wondered if I ever really shared all those feelings with her.  And really, who does?

Sure, we tell people on special occasions, maybe a few lines in a greeting card, or through an email, and when the time seems fitting.  We tell our immediate family "I love you" often, at least I do.  I know I've been working on ensuring that I always share my feelings with Tim and Noah.  Even little things that are sometimes overlooked, I make it a point to tell them I'm proud, or thankful, or happy.  However, in reflecting on all this, it's made me realize I need to a better job of paying tribute to the other people I care about - in the present.

My cousin is on my mind today, as I'm heading to her house in a bit for some quality girl time.  (More to come on that fun tomorrow!)  Jennifer has always been much more than a cousin to me though.  I think of her as a sister and as one of my closest friends.  I'd like to say it's been a mutual effort for us to remain this close, through growing up, marriage and kids, but I truly think she deserves most of the credit.  Time and again, she's been there for me and somehow always seems to know when to call, or send an email, or schedule time together.  She keeps me out of my rut and reminds me that I'm worth time too.

Growing up I was always envious of Jennye, for her beauty, her intelligence, and her willpower.  Today, those are all qualities I admire about her.  What I love most about her is her sense of humor.  You can't hang around her more than two or three minutes, that you aren't laughing.  She has a dry and sarcastic, sometimes very bold sense of humor.  Nothing seems to embarrass her.  She's quick witted and full of one liners, that through the years, have always kept me smiling and laughing out loud.

From singing American Pie while swaying on Grandma's swing having two soul brothers sing backup on my first live karaoke experience, with her in the audience.  To picking on our siblings...making my sister Wendy drop her milk, which dropped with a crash and splattered all over the wall, to dressing up Clayton in bows and makeup because Jen was jealous I got a baby sister and she didn' still making fun of the two of them today, like their night/day eyebrows.  To memories of road trips and vacations....shared moments of being pregnant together with Brooke and Noah.  To many others in between...and more to come.

There's so many fond memories I have with her, there's no way I could capture them all in a single post.  And there's certainly a few stories with her that are funny enough to stand on their own as a story.  What I love is that the treasured moments didn't end at childhood.  I can imagine that someday when we're old and gray, we'll still be two snickering friends plotting and planning, padded with lots of laughter.

If and when you read this Jennifer, I love you.  You have and always will be more than "just a cousin" pick your friends, family isn't a choice.  With you, I have the best of both worlds because you are family but you're also one of my best friends.  Thank you for always being laugh, to cry, to vent..or just sit in silence.  You are an amazing woman, mother and friend.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hightech Redneck?

When I started this blog last summer, I never dreamed or expected the response I would get.  Honestly, I'd found so much comfort in writing on Austin's memorial blog that it just seemed the natural progression.  Writing has always been therapeutic for me and it is the way I express myself best.

What I didn't expect was the growth this blog would receive and how far this little virtual diary would reach.  I have readers throughout the US and Canada, but also places like Russia, Germany, Belize and even China.  I've received such wonderful feedback on certain posts from people I never imagined would take the time to read - and from strangers.  It's a blessing, an honor, and it's what has kept me writing, even on days I didn't think I could.  This "challenge" has become so much more than I ever thought possible.

Aside from writing, which is my favorite thing about having a blog, I also enjoy dabbling in the tech side of things.  I feel like it keeps my toes wet in this ever changing high tech world.  Although I have a degree in computer science, it has been so long ago that the programs I "specialized" in are now extinct....we're talking DOS, folks!  But I've always challenged myself to keep up with the changes because I just can't be the grandma who doesn't know what "smart phone" or "social networking" means, or whatever is invented by the time I reach that phase of my life.

I read a lot of other blogs and always notice things about their page or ways they promote it.  Having no training on this, it really forces me to roll up my sleeves, research it, and self teach on any subject I'm interested in learning about.  For the past couple of weeks, I've wanted to create a button for my blog.  Over time, if the blog grows, it is something that others can use to grab and share.  I've also noticed several blogs joining Facebook, as a way to reach more readers or a way to share thoughts when they're not really big enough for a post.  Happily, I've accomplished both of these this week.

Now, I do not at all have the knowledge or software to create a professional button but I'm pretty pleased with the results of my first attempt.  Mostly, I'm proud that I was able to figure out the html-jargon to add it to my blog.  It's still bigger than I wanted, but for now, it's on there.  (Guess I just have some more schooling to do!)

And, if you're a reader and a Facebook user, I encourage you to check out and "like" the page.  My hope is to include daily mini doses of joy, especially for the days I don't have time to write a full post.  Because really, everybody needs a little sunshine in their day!
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