Sunday, July 31, 2011

Happy Blog Birthday!

Happy 1st Birthday, Joyful Blog!  I was on vacation during the celebratory landmark and nearly overlooked it.  Truly, I'm amazed a year has passed and that I've stuck with writing, though not every single day as first intended.  If you're a regular reader, thank you for the support and words of encouragement.  Each time I hear from someone, I'm touched that they take the time to read.  If you're new, welcome and thanks for stopping by.  My hope is that each post can bring a blessing to those who read it, as just by sharing it I am blessed.  Opening myself up to recognizing the joy in every day has uplifted my soul and changed my life.

The idea of this blog pulled me from my bed in the middle of the night.  I couldn't go back to sleep until the thoughts were out of my head and on the screen.  Having written on the blog I started in memory of Austin, since the first of 2009, I could feel it coming to a close.  Hours of writing the pages, which poured out of me that year and a half after losing him, filled hundreds of posts.  It was my mission to share his story from beginning to end so that everyone who came upon it would know my son.  It was therapy for me, healing me a bit with each word.  Even though I will never stop telling Austin's story and sharing his legacy, I felt the need to move forward and do more.

But how could I honor his memory and still go on with my life?  It didn't seem right, for laughter or happiness to be where Austin wasn't.  Guilt followed those early glimpses of joy.  And then something - or a special someone from above - tugged at my heart and led me on this path.  Not only would I seek out joy, but I would accept it, gratefully, and share it with others.  This JOY Journey would be my next step on the path of grief and would be how I chose to honor Austin.  After all, he was the first bundle of joy I held in my arms and he filled our lives with joyfulness for 14 years.  He lived every day of his life to the fullest and now it's what I do as well.

That first week I tiptoed cautiously, unsure if I could find enough joy each day to write about.  Surprisingly, many days I had more sources of joy than I could share.  Along the way, I've learned much about myself, become even closer to God, loved deeper and enJOYed life more each day.  I've found and made new friends, who happened upon my blog at just the right post for whatever they were facing that day.  I've drawn strength from the stories, shared by those walking this same journey, whether ahead or behind me on the path.  Through it all, I treasure happy moments, linger in laughter, dance in the rain, and smile in sunshine. 

Is every day perfect?  Absolutely not.  Is there still pain?  With every beat of my heart.  But I've found that facing each morning with faith and closing each day in prayer gets me through.  Having the hope of finding joy in every day has made each a little easier to face.  Knowing that joy will and does come, fills my heart with the warmth of a sunrise in every promise of a new day.

Not followed my blog since the beginning?  You can click back to my first post and see how it all began.  ...Although, I'm more excited to see how it continues!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fish Bait

We've discovered several nooks and crannies of Kentucky Lake this summer and I haven't found a part I don't love.  For this last vacation, we chose a section of the lake nestled on the Tennessee side.  (More than anything, it was due to finding a pet friendly cabin, so our little doggies could join us.)  It was a very quiet and peaceful part of Kentucky Lake and we're thankful we discovered our little cabin in the woods and this area.

We're fortunate to have a boat that can handle everything we like to do on the water, from fishing, to racing down the waterway, to tubing.  The cove and area we stayed was perfect for all three, especially since the traffic was almost non existent during the week.  We felt safe letting Noah take his hand at the driver's wheel, as there was no worry about oncoming traffic.  The calmness (and cleanliness) also made it ideal for tubing - Noah's favorite water activity.  I wonder if those in the area overheard the joyous shouts he made while zig-zagging across the lake!  And swimming was nice as well, especially once we discovered the sandy private beach. 

We were able to dock our boat at a marina just up the street from our cabin.  This made boating easy and gave us the convenience of going in and out of the water anytime we wanted.  Tim could sneak out in the morning for a fishing trip while watching the sunrise.  We could come in for lunch to cool off and nap in the afternoons - or drive the boat to a nearby resort for a quick bite.  If Noah wanted to tube awhile, we just loaded in the float, tossed our fishing gear on the nearby dock, and headed back out.  The best part of having the boat docked though was that when we wanted to swim, we weren't stuck in wet bathing suits the rest of the day.  Once we were finished, it just a hop, skip and jump back to the cabin to shower and rinse the lake off us.

This was especially helpful the day we decided to take the dogs for a swim.  Now most dogs love water and jump in paws first with joyful excitement.  Chihuahuas...not so much.  Already cold by nature, being wet just adds to their shaking!  Our oldest, Patch, loves boating; he just prefers to stay inside at all times.  As Suzie is still a puppy, we'd hope an early trip would teach her to love it.  Not the case.  They both shriveled up and scampered to the top of our heads, racing for the highest point of dry land.  Being so close to our dock and cabin, we wrapped them in a towel and took them back to the cabin for a quick bath and the safety of their kennels.

Of course, after Tim's scary experience later that day, while swimming in the lake, he probably wished I'd done the same for him.  Our first day out we began scoping the best spots for swimming.  Even though we have a ladder on the back, it's nicer when you can wash ashore and find a spot of private beach.  We noticed a long piece of shoreline that boats seemed to frequent and, finding it empty the next evening, decided it would be our swimming hole for that day. 

This section was actually a small island in the center of the lake.  It was a bit rocky to start with but my waterproof shoes got me to the mud before I tossed them aboard.  The water was cool, even though it registered in the 90s.  I guess when the temperatures are 110 in the shade, water feels good regardless!  With the radio in the background, we splashed around and enjoyed the afternoon.  After a short while, a pontoon approached and sadly interrupted our private retreat.  We chatted for a bit with our new neighbors and then waded out a little further, hoping for some solitude. 

Yelping, Tim let out an ouch, but I figured he was just trying to spook me.  Seconds later a louder "OUCH!" as his body literally jumped out of the lake.  This time, I paid attention, all the while swimming backwards to the shore.  I'm screaming, "What!" while he's explaining he just got bit by a fish, and we're both splashing our way back to the boat.  Noah's looking on like we've both gone nuts, and from the side, I see the pontoon group chuckling. 

Thoroughly freaked out, but in the safety of knee-high water, I decide I can now check on my dear husband.  He's rubbing his chest, somewhat laughing, somewhat disturbed, as he explains that a fish took a nibble on his nipple.  The first time was a taste test I guess and nothing more than an annoyance.  The fish must've  liked the sampling though, as upon his return, the second bite was more forceful. 

"I heard him chomp!" Tim exclaimed. 

At this point, Noah and I are rolling in laughter, as is the group beside us.  All at once the men stand displaying their floats strategically placed to cover their nipples.  The older man shouts, "Did you think we were wearing these because we couldn't swim!" 

Surprisingly, Tim did get back in the water after his encounter, though not without an arm or float protecting his chest (thanks for the tip pontoon guys!).  It was certainly one of the funniest moments of the trip, even if Tim might not agree.  While it was humorous to us, joy-filled for Tim it was not!  We've managed to continue to laughter even at home, as Tim's since been nicknamed "Fish Bait" to honor the memory.  I'm sure it doesn't help that Noah and I don't just call him that....we also tweak his chest and then quickly run away!

Even though he tries to return the ribbing, by reminding me of my squeal when I tried to un-fish my hook, or of Noah's somewhat girly scream when we circled the 50 pound dead catfish while he was still on the tube; it just doesn't compare to his fishy adventure!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer Vacation Memories

Back from our lazy lake vacation, kissed by the sun and relaxed.  Here's a few of our favorite joy-filled moments that didn't involve the lake....We'll save that post for tomorrow.  So many memories to little space!

5 days...5 pieces of luggage
Mad Libs on the road
Jerky sticks and RC
"Are we there yet?!"
Medicated puppies and prayers for clean back seats
Clean back seats
Singing to the radio
Little cabin in the woods
Steaks on a charcoal grill
Afternoon naps
Family giggles
Ice cream every night
3 people and 2 dogs piled into one bed, even though we had two
Enchanted evening in Paris
yellow butterflies
Penny Poker
Midnight Snacks
"Is anybody open on Monday!!??!!"
The search for the 70 foot tower
Turtles, birds and snakes - oh my!

but the best...
hugs from my sweet 11 year old boy
on the first night at our cabin saying,
"thanks for the best vacation EVER!"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tech Free Trip

Oh, happy little I've missed you!  It's been nearly a week since my last post.  Being on vacation, there's certainly been several joys to share but we were on a Tech-Free Retreat.  I'm actually still on vacation but home from the lake so the technology ban has officially been lifted!  So of course one of the first things I wanted to do was write a new post.

Before leaving, we made the agreement to keep the laptops at the house, turn the phones off, and disconnect to reconnect with each other.  Since I have instant access to work email through my phone, I wanted to make the promise that I wouldn't talk, text, or check my messages.  Just one little peek can lead to several minutes, to an hour (or more) stolen from the family.  Tim can be just as distracted both with work calls and the fire department.  With the added workload of building the station, his position as Chief for a volunteer department has quickly become a full-time job, in addition to the one he gets a paycheck from!  And then there's Noah, a typical preteen, with a cell phone permanently attached as an extra appendage.  Would it be possible for this tech-heavy modern family to disconnect?...I'm proud to say it was! 

What I didn't expect was how easy it was to do, even if the area helped us out a bit.  I knew we were staying in a remote location, being that our GPS couldn't guide us there, but I was surprised at the lack of signal and internet strength.  In the beginning, it was a bit frustrating because my smart phone wasn't so smart when it couldn't keep a signal to search for area restaurants or other travel needs.  We had to rely on (gasp)...real, live people and our own exploration skills to discover things to do.

Our first day in the boat we realized that nobody brought a phone, which worried me a bit in the event we had any trouble.  I was pleasantly surprised we all forgot to bring one though!  Tim's phone went dead from not being used and neglecting to charge it.  Noah used his phone just a few times at our cabin, never bringing it with us anywhere we went.  I did have mine with me most of the trip but it was because I like the convenience of using it's camera.  It was easy for me to click a few pictures and tuck it back inside the waterproof box when on the boat. 

I'll also confess that I did occasionally break the rules and plug in but only when my family was sleeping.  When you're awake in the middle of the night and sharing a room with the family, the phone is the quieter alternative to the tv or a lamp and book.  And I did share a few pics and posts on Facebook, mostly for my mom who was house sitting and living vicariously through our trip.  Perhaps I'm just good at making excuses but I really did try and I did not let the phone steal any time away from the family or our vacation.  It was a good experience and a lesson to carry over back into real life. 

While it's fun, and becoming the norm, to stay so connected to the outside world, we must never forget that the most important people are the ones who live with us and who require no technology to connect with.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Free Hugs & Ice Cream

I fell in love with my husband because of his heart.  Tim is just about one of the nicest people you will ever meet, willing to help anyone at anytime.  The best part of him is that he never does it for recognition, or any other personal motive.  Many times he even helps anonymously.  Tim also rarely tells me about the sweet things he does, as doing so in his eyes, would be bragging.

Over the years, I sometimes felt that some took advantage of his giving heart.  Tim has a hard time saying no, so if he's asked he'll be there - no matter the hour.  What I adore about him though, is that he seeks out people to help and seems to always be watchful of others in need.  When driving, if he sees a stranded bystander, he stops to help.  If a neighbor is working on their roof, he offers assistance.  It's probably why it is so easy for him to run into a burning building without giving a second thought.  God certainly sent him here to be a helpful messenger and maybe puts him the path of those in need just for that purpose.

Earlier this week, I had a thank you message from a friend, letting me know how much she appreciated Tim buying her girls ice cream.  I told him and he looked at me shocked, wondering how I knew.  "Facebook, my dear, I know all," I said jokingly.
Laughing, he shared the story with me.

Making deliveries for work, he passed a little girl with a box on her head.  Not really looking fully, he thought she might be setting up a lemonade stand and planned to stop back by on his way home.  When he pulled beside her later and asked what she was doing, she said, "I'm giving away free hugs."  Well, this pulled at every heart string Tim has and he told her how nice that was as he drove away. 

The little girl lived near the fire station so Tim swung in, as he normally does, to check on things and talk to the guys.  While there, he heard the melodic chimes of an ice cream truck.  Waving the man down, he handed him a few dollar bills and asked for a favor.  Tim sent the guy to the little girl, who offered her "free ice cream".  Perhaps her mom was skeptical, or the girl asked questions, so he told them it was a gift from the Fire Chief.  And thus, the thank you was sent through me.

I'm so glad it was because this little story has touched my heart ever since.  Such a simple act of kindness, taking little to no effort on the part of the giver, but making the day (or the week) of those who received.  How we could change the world with just a hug and some ice cream!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Momma's Boy

Last week, I witnessed such a touching display of a son's love for his mother and surprisingly it was from a grown man. We were hosting a Look Good...Feel Better session, where women facing treatment for cancer come to be pampered and learn how to deal with the effects of their disease. Often times men will bring their wives but wait in the lobby or return a couple hours later to get them. I welcomed the son into the room but let him know it would be at least two hours and showed him other areas he could wait, if more comfortable.

He smiled sweetly and said, "I'll be just fine right here by my mom," as he pulled up a seat next to her. Further in the session, I noticed him scooting his chair closer. As I walked past later, I realized they were holding hands under the table. Her small and frail fingers rested gently in his strong hand. With the other, he softly stroked her arm, as if to comfort and ease her. It was such a loving moment and gave me goosebumps hours later when I thought back to it.

Just as he'd promised, he stayed right by her side. Thanking us as she was hugging her goodbyes, he shared that she almost didn't come, nervous and not sure what to expect. It was his offer to attend that changed her mind. In seeing how much she enjoyed the session, as well as that special memory they shared, I'm glad for both of them that he did.

There is an extra special bond between mother and son.  It's something indescribable and I was fortunately blessed twice with such a gift.  Such a bond cannot be broken, even if separated by miles - or other worlds.  While my relationship with Austin was cut short by his sudden passing, I feel his love and protection over me still.  And gratefully, I also see that same level of care and devotion from Noah.  I'm fortunate to have both an earthly guardian and a heavenly angel watching over me daily.

I think boys are naturally drawn to keeping their moms safe, but I know for mine their need to safeguard me increased after our wreck six years ago.  Seeing someone they love in pain and for such a lengthy recovery, led them both to cling to my side.  It especially affected Austin, as any sign of discomfort from me after our close call, would almost cause him physical pain.  He was the age that Noah is now and finding some of his essays and journal entries, I see how it made him realize how short life is even at such a young age.  Perhaps it was one of the reasons he made the most of every moment.

Noah is now just as protective, rushing to my aid if I trip or am hurting in some way.  The past few months he's attended nearly every physical therapy session with me for my arm.  He listened and learned along the way, making sure I did my exercises at home and knowing exactly how to help if I had pain.  Now that I'm no longer in PT, he's my home therapist, patiently counting and watching my movements, as well as connecting the unit to my arm that sends electric pulses when I need it.

One would hope all sons would be this loving to their mothers.  Maybe most would say their care for me was just due to their age.  I do know that even at 14, Austin never hesitated in hugging me, leaning in to kiss my cheek, or even holding my hand when the mood struck him.  At 11, I feel a pull and tug with Noah, as part of him grows up while the other still very much needs the comfort from Mom.  I do know that display of affection is something I will never tire of and hope he never outgrows!  Regardless, the love he has for me, whether shown outwardly or not, will always be known by the heart.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Wreck...a Wedding...and a Funeral

The weekend isn't over yet, but it's already been an eventful one.  Through it all, the celebration of life, as well as how quickly it passes and how it changes in an instant, has been the common thread. 

Friday afternoon, on my way to the funeral home, Tim was involved in a wreck.  We had just seen each other, as the fire station sits directly in front of the funeral home where my great-aunt Aggie was being held.  As I pulled in to say hello, the page went off, dispatching Tim to a wreck - coincidentally from an area I just left.  We waved hellos and "I love yous", going our separate ways.

Of course, entering the funeral home my phone was silenced in my purse.  Sitting beside my Grandma Coons, I noticed Tim calling but figured he just wanted to talk since we didn't get the chance before.  An hour later, as I walked out to pick up Noah, his voicemail stopped me on the sidewalk.  "Don't worry but I've been in a wreck" was all I needed to bolt to my truck and call him. 

On the way to the wreck he was dispatched to, a lady pulled in front of the firetruck he was in, causing another minor wreck.  Tim certainly had protection from above, as one failed moved could've sent his truck quickly over on its side.  Even though he told me he was ok, I was teary-eyed and shaky until I made it back to see him in person and put my arms around him.  Protectively, I sent him to the ER for a check-up as Noah and I returned to the funeral home so he could visit with family.

Later that evening, we dropped Noah off to a birthday pool party and enjoyed a leisurely dinner, just happy to be together.  I fell asleep on his chest that night, (on the side not sore from the wreck), prayerfully thankful for his safety.  It was a whirlwind day full of a roller coaster of emotions.  Today echoed yesterday's theme, as on the calendar were both a wedding and a funeral. 

I returned to the funeral home to say goodbye to Aunt Aggie this morning.  My Grandma's sister, I will always remember her as the spunky-stubborn-and-sometimes-grouchy-Great-Aunt Aggie.  She was one of kind.  Her funeral was a celebration of her life, filled with funny stories and family memories.   And although she will be missed, my Uncle Bob said it best with, "this is not a tragedy...she is now HOME."  Even though the circumstances for why we gathered were laced with sadness, it was nice to reconnect with family I had not seen in years.  Technology was it is, will never replace putting your arms around relatives, looking into familial eyes and sharing moments.

The evening closed with a romantic walk down memory lane and attending the daughter's wedding of long-time friends.  The parents of the bride were actually the first wedding Tim and I attended as a couple.  Dropping Noah off at my mom's, I could see us posing in front of her plums trees all those years ago.  It was our first "dress up" outing and I was excited to go as his date.  Who would've imagined the life we'd create together, twenty some odd years later.  Once seated at the outdoor wedding, holding Tim's hand, we watched the beautiful bride, who we remember holding as a baby, walk down the aisle.  It was a blessing to see her begin a new chapter, and a new life, together with her husband.

In an instant, life began. 
Moments...that's all we get with the people we love. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mini Milk

I'm a little persnickety when it comes to coffee.  It can't be too strong, I prefer Splenda (no pink or blue packets for me, thanks), and an above ordinary creamer.  My husband jokes that I like to drink a little coffee with my milk, as he's a plain cup of Joe kind of guy.

My favorite creamer of choice is chai tea latte but I also enjoy french vanilla and caramel macchiato.  Really, I'll experiment with any flavor at least once.  Using decadent creamers makes me feel like I'm savoring a speciality cup of coffee...without the hefty price tag.  The problem with liking flavored creamer is that when we're out at a restaurant, I can't order coffee. 

I'm really bad about leaving my creamer out and forgetting to put it back in the fridge.  In the summertime, this is a big no-no as milk and heat do not mix.  There's no telling how many bottles of creamer I've thrown out due to my forgetfulness.  Spoiled milk makes for a sad me so you can imagine my delight when I happened upon mini flavored creamers at the store.

A few weeks ago, I was road trip shopping for the snack bag to be used for our lake vacation.  Heading down the coffee aisle, my intentions were to buy powdered creamer (much to my dismay) as I knew it would hold up to travel.  I'll settle for powdered creamer for vacations and camping trips, and knowing I planned to enjoy coffee on the deck overlooking Kentucky Lake each morning, I was willing to settle.  As I was reaching for the best of the worst among the selections, I happily spied flavored mini liquid creamers.  And....they had caramel macchiato - one of my faves!

I must say it was glorious each morning, holding a steaming cup of Heather's speciality coffee, while watching the lake come to life.  Our last day, we decided to have breakfast at a diner in town.  Tim laughed when I pocketed half a dozen creamers to bring in with me.  Sitting in the restaurant, pouring the creamy liquid into my white ceramic mug, I flashed back to my childhood.

Until that moment, I hadn't realized what those little creamers reminded me Grandpa Coons.  When we were little and visiting our grandparents' house on the weekends, Grandpa would treat us to lunch out after church.  He'd always order coffee with extra creamers so that my sister and I could share a few.  We'd gingerly open the the mini milk containers (or so that's what we thought they were) and take a sip.  The sweet drink would make us feel special and grown up, we'd giggle, and Grandpa would smile at us.  As long as we ate our meals, he'd keep the creamers coming our way. 

It was a tradition we continued all the way into teens, even though we felt a little silly sipping creamer at that age.  Now, each morning as I add a couple to my coffee, I smile remembering those moments with Grandpa.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Helpful Hubby

My husband would never be described as lazy.  In fact, he's just the opposite; he's the hardest working man I know.  Tim isn't one to sit still long.  Even when he does lounge and watch tv for a bit, he sits on the edge of the bed, as if ready to run should anyone need him; and he never stays on a channel long enough to get too involved.  (This part drives me crazy, which is why he has his tv and I have mine!) 

Tim's never had a desk job and I honestly don't know that he could handle it.  He prefers manual labor, something he can do with his hands and that allows him to stay busy.  His current job involves all of that, plus working direct with patients and lots of driving but never lengthy windshield time.  And even though he'll be on his feet, mostly concrete for 8-10 hours a day at work, he never hesitates to pitch in around the house once he's home. 

I know I'm blessed to have him as a husband, for many reasons, but in hearing other women talk, specifically when it comes to what he does around the house.  From the beginning of our marriage, he's never hesitated in helping with household chores.  Other than cooking, which he'll do but doesn't enjoy, he doesn't even complain about things like laundry, taking out the trash, or even helping me shop for groceries. 

He's happiest though when he has a project to do, whether it is yard work, roofing the house, or staining the deck.  He seems to always have a project or two he's working on, whether at our house or the fire station, or both.  This weekend, he decided the yard - specifically the landscaping the surrounds our home, would be his project of choice.

We were fortunate to have mature landscaped bushes along the front of our house when we bought it.  They've been low maintenance and haven't required much attention the past ten years we've lived here.  A few weeks ago, I mentioned they needed a little TLC as they were displaying some wild sprouts.  (This is normally something I'd tackle myself but, since I've been in physical therapy for my arm the past two months, decided doing so wouldn't please my therapist.)  When I arrived home a few nights ago, I was thankful to see them tamed...until I noticed a gaping hole under Noah's window.  Turns out the wildness on two bushes was a mixture of morning glories and weeds.  Once Tim trimmed and pulled them out, the bushes underneath were found dead. 

Since we had to go to garden store anyway, I opted to buy a few plants for the neglected side flower bed and back flower bed while we were at it.  Now, for most men, they'd probably moan at this point, knowing the amount of work that it would require.  Instead, my husband smiled and said, "great - I'll have a project for the weekend!"  And that's just what he's done.  He spent most of Saturday afternoon and all day today in the sweltering heat transforming our yard. 

The most he's let me do is point where I wanted them planted and deliver cold lemonade.  I did dig my fingers in the window boxes to plant some flowers, so I guess I can say I got my hands dirty, but nothing in comparison to what he's accomplished this weekend.  Even though it's something he enjoys, I certainly appreciate having such a helpful husband.  And each year as these plants grow and bloom, I'll be reminded of his love and dedication to our family and our home.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Heart Hugs

It's difficult to say that you found joy on a day that is also surrounded by the awareness of loss.  What I expected to find on what would've been Austin's 17th birthday was sadness, tears, and longings for missed moments that never were.  While all of those were sprinkled through our day, a constant was the calming of peace, comfort of prayers, and warmth of love. 

I imagined family and close friends might remember us this day but not the outpouring of we received.  Whether said to us or not, we felt the many prayers and were lifted up throughout the day.  As soon as a sadness would darken the mood, peace broke through.  When I didn't think I could cope another minute, a sense of comfort would wash over me.  We are very blessed to have the support of so many.

What I wasn't prepared for was the flood of comments on Austin's Facebook group.  Early that morning, birthday wishes began to post on his page.  It seemed like every few seconds more and more posts would come, many from people I don't even know - hundreds were from his friends.  Some were simple, some were heartfelt, all were filled with love.  Every single post lifted my spirits and hugged my heart.  To know Austin was loved and is still missed by others fills my soul with joy.

The best moments though came direct from Austin.  Somehow he always knows how to send us messages to show his love.  One of the most symbolic and touching for me was in the afternoon as I was mowing.  Noah went to a movie with friends; and upon returning home from dropping him off, I decided to help him by cutting our yard.  Mowing was always Austin's job so anytime I hear the rumble of the lawnmower or smell freshly cut grass, I am reminded of him.  Plugging in headphones and turning up Casting Crowns, I set out for some alone time to pray, think, and connect with my boy.

As soon as I entered the backyard, butterflies began to pop up from the dewy grass.  Each one that fluttered by me, was like a hello wave from Austin.  Once our yard was complete, I turned out to finish the long field beside our house.  Instantly, dozens of yellow butterflies flittered about, circling me and dancing in the yard.  Together they formed a virtual hug from heaven that was almost as if his strong, yet soft arms were really holding me.  Goosebump covered and blurry eyed from tears, Austin's love surrounded me completely.

Right before dusk, Tim, Noah and me headed to the cemetery, each with a blue balloon and a note for Austin.  We've done this every year since losing him, at first as an idea to help Noah connect and find comfort.  Each year we've been surprised by the messages of love he sends to all of us in that moment we send them to Heaven. 

This year, rain threatened our plans.  Still sprinkling as we pulled near his stone, I worried the black clouds would open up before we had time to do our release.  As we stepped out of the car, rain quickly began to soak my hair and shirt.  Our balloons would ping with every raindrop but it gave us each a mini umbrella to walk to his graveside.  Once there, the melody from the balloons suddenly stopped.  In the small area we stood, no rain fell - but all around us it continued to.  At the count of three we each let go, silently sending our messages up and joining hands.  Noah whispered, "That was from Austin." 

In the photo you can even see the break in the clouds as if the balloons knew just where to enter.  It was yet another of the special messages and heart hugs Austin sends us - always in the very moment we need it most.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Happy Birthday in Heaven

It's hard to imagine my little guy would've been 17 today.  ...Harder still knowing he's not here to celebrate the special day with us.

Seems like only yesterday we were bringing that tiny bundle of joy home for the first time.  He was wrapped in a yellow afghan (even in July) because his Mamaw June had made it for him.  In the blink of an eye, we were celebrating his 1st birthday.  Austin continued to fill our life with happiness and love...all the way through to his last birthday with us, #14
(You can read about each birthday at his blog from any of these links)

Today, he would be a nearly grown young man.  Looking down on us, because he's surely be over 6 ft by now, I can imagine how handsome he would be.  Today would be filled with his favorites, as we'd celebrate a simple night together, just the four of us.  I'd make his favorite meal, which would include grilling kabobs and hot potato salad, complete with strawberry cheesecake Blizzard cake from DQ.  Tomorrow would be a large gathering with family and friends in our backyard, where Austin chose to have so many of his birthday parties.  ....if only.

This link will take you to a Birthday Slideshow through the years with our special boy.

Happy 17th Birthday in Heaven, Austin. We love and miss you...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Big Brother

Tonight is the premiere of my favorite summertime guilty TV pleasure - Big Brother.  I've loved the show since the very beginning and so did Austin.  He always loved that it premiered on his birthday week.  In fact, one year the show date opened on his birthday and the night of our party. 

Austin was disappointed but we couldn't watch it live but laughed when the outside surround speakers started airing the show.  (Our surround sound is connected to our home tv and so when the DVR changed from the music channel we were listening to, to the recorded "Big Brother" show, it broad casted it over the outdoor speakers.)

In honor of the title of the show, I'm taking to you to a post I wrote on Austin's site about the relationship he had with his little brother.  My heart still aches in knowing the void Noah feels in his loss of his big brother, but I know Austin would be very proud of his little buddy.  Noah is like Austin in so many ways - but it was because he was such a great role model and because he was ...the Best Big Brother in the World.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

For the first time since losing Austin, the Blair family will be at a baseball game.  After he passed, I didn't know if we'd ever watch the sport again.  It just seemed too hard, too painful, when our baseball fanatic wasn't with us. 

As he always does though, Austin gently pushes us - with a little help from above.  Fittingly on his birthday week, Tim received box seats to a Hot Rods game.  So, though tip-toeing, we'll be there tonight, if for nothing else knowing that Austin's spirit will surround the field.  And that he'll be smiling down proudly at us, all the while having the best seat in the house.

Please visit Austin's site to learn how his love for baseball began and carried through all the years of his life at Love of the game.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Hero

This will be the start of a very busy time for Tim, as plans begin for the construction of a new station.  As their current station is over 60 years old, this is such a timely blessing.

Shortly after losing Austin, a grant opportunity came about that could potentially award the department with $500,000.  It was an extremely long process with hundreds of man hours, rough drafts, research, and proposals.  As time consuming as it was, I know the distraction from grief and pain was welcome for him.  It gave him a mission and something to keep busy with. 

Through it all, Tim never gave up or lost hope that the award would come through.  A single text announcing the news brought Tim more joy than I could've imagined and has kept him soaring ever since.  The only sadness that lingers, is Tim wishing Austin could be here to see it happen. 

Austin was Tim's shadow everywhere but never more than when the fire department was concerned.  Tim was so proud when Austin joined the department as a junior firefighter.  I'm just glad they had this extra special time to spend together.  To learn more of Austin's brief but impactful time with the department click here - True Hero.

Monday, July 4, 2011

My Teacher

Happy 4th of July!  (and Happy Birthday to my Mom!!)

I'm keeping today's post short and least on this side and sending you to a post I wrote about Austin on his memorial blog.  As the countdown to his 17th birthday approaches, I am filled with beautiful memories of this precious child and so grateful God lent him to me for awhile.  What Austin Taught Me is and was so much more than I could've ever imagined and I'm so blessed to have been his Mom.

May this day be family-filled for you and sparked with laughter and love.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Who Austin Was...

Austin's monument sums up best with who he was with one verse, appropriately from the book of the Bible he was named - 1 Timothy 4:12:  "Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for other believers in your speech, behavior, love, faithfulness, and purity."

But shortly after he passed I wrote a post on his blog about all the things he was and how he chose to live his short but very full life.  You can read it here:  Who Austin Was

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Celebrating Austin

If Austin were here, today would kickoff "Birthday Fest" and start the week-long planning to celebrate his special day.  Next Friday, July 8, Austin would've turned 17.   Austin always chose to have his birthday parties at home, with a backyard full of family and friends.  We'd grill out, play yard games, and just have a great day-long adventure together.  Austin would be in the center of it all, grinning from ear to ear, and soaking up every family-filled moment.  This is a "milestone year" and a rough one to get through, as so many special moments we will now miss. 

Austin would've been a senior this year...he would've been driving by now...and this would've been his last year home as a "kid".  The "would've/could've moments" can spiral a parent right back to the level of grief they felt in those first moments of loss.  And although it would be easy to do, I choose to celebrate who Austin was, not who he'd be today.

Our time on this earth is never enough with those we love.  We often wish for just one more day, one more moment with them.  While I'd give anything to still have him here, I'm grateful for the 14 years God blessed me with.  Austin was a precious and loving spirit from the very beginning and I will forever share his story.  In honor of his birthday week, I'll be posting favorite memories and posts from his blog.  Please take a moment to share how Austin touched your life too...whether you knew him in this life or will know him in the next.  Those memories and stories are like gifts to me...each sentence a present to my soul.

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