Friday, September 30, 2011

Working the Weekend

Life and the weather have caused us to neglect our favorite room of the house...our deck.  This summer was so unpredictable, from extreme heat to monsoon rains, that we just never had a good weekend for our annual cleaning.  (Or, selfishly if the weather was nice, we wanted to enjoy it and not spend it working!)  Between that, and a mixture of the daily dose of chaos that our life has brought us the past few months, we are way past due on maintenance. 

Even though the temps will be a little cooler than I'd prefer, the forecast shows sunshine for the next week so we feel it's now or never!  It's perhaps not my ideal choice for how to spend the first weekend of October, but I'm sure to find joy through the experience.  After all, "attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."

I know I'll enjoy the one on one time it brings me with Tim.  We'll turn up the tunes, bring out a big jug of tea or lemonade, and set to work.  In between the songs, we'll talk and joke and laugh.  It'll be an entire weekend of togetherness!

We'll be outside among the beautiful fall weather, even if a jacket may be required.  Considering the summers I've done the deck and contributed as much sweat as stain to it, I'll take the cooler temperature happily.  I can already imagine the peacefulness of the morning, watching the sun cross the deck and surrounded by the changing trees.

Although our bodies will be sore from the hard work, we'll have something to show for it in the end.  I love restoration/improvement projects because of the transformation it brings.  Aside from looking nice, I know how much we enjoy the deck so taking care of it ensures it'll be around for years and years to come.  We have so many wonderful memories on the deck...and I'm sure there are many more in the future!

So, I'm not without JOY this weekend, even though another post probably won't appear until next week.  Whether yours is filled with work or relaxation, my wish for you is that it is also brimming with joy!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sunshine on my Shoulders

Yesterday was a rainy, somewhat gloomy type of day, as far as the weather was concerned.  Even though fall has just begun, it was reminiscent of winter, with the chilly morning and overcast tone in the sky.  Days like that make me sleepy and want to go to bed early.

However, I found a bit of sunshine on my drive home.  Sitting at a red light, I looked in my rear view mirror at the truck behind me.  Bright happy rays of sunshine were beaming down on a lady's face and I thought to myself, "I want that!"  Then, I realized I could have it; all it took was a quick push of my sunroof blind to transform my truck into a sunshiny spot.

The instant mood boost and hug of warmth, reminded me of a song from my childhood.  I remember singing the song while making up dance motions with my cousin, laughing and swaying in the sunlit yard.  "Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy...sunshine almost always makes me high."  Such a simple thing to do....Just precious seconds at the stoplight reflecting on happy memories and appreciating a dose of vitamin D.  And, that mini JOY session gave me the needed boost to come home smiling to family!

Where do you find mini doses of joy?

Monday, September 26, 2011

He's such a "Blairya!"

In protection for myself, I must bring back the virtual waiver for this story....

Before reading you must agree on this virtual waiver.
(Please raise your right hand and whisper aloud what follows.)
I promise to uphold the secrecy of this post. I will read this, chuckle perhaps, but never breath a word of it to the child whom this post is written about. In reading, I understand that by releasing or mentioning anything read could result in the harm of the author. (You can put your hand down now.)

Tim and I should've expected a fun future of romantic drama from Noah's love adventures in first grade.  He proudly reported to us, just a few weeks into school that year, that he had 5 girlfriends - one for every day of the week.  Through the years, he's tickled us with his stories of young love.  He was a frequent shopper in the girlfriend department in years past, except for his brief dry spell in the 3rd grade when he decided "girls were gross!"

I guess he had so many girlfriends that one of his friends gave him a nickname, which he shared with me this morning.  I was joking about his famous "girl for every day of the week" when he laughed and said that's how he became known as "Blair-ya" (think Blair + Player in a kid's rap mix).  I have giggled about that name all morning and have reflected on his girlfriend history with a smile. 

Watching him grow and mature into a dating preteen has equally had its share of chuckles and joy.  This summer, he's had a budding romance with a sweet girl from his class.  We've enjoyed picking on him and watching his face turns twelve shades of red at the mention of her name.  I've smiled at the way he pays careful attention to his clothes, hair, and anything else when they're going on a "date" together.  I use the term loosely because there's always an entourage involved, from her family, to his friends that attend.  Whether it's a movie (their fave choice) at our local theatre, sharing a blanket at the 4th of July picnic, swimming, or an impromptu gallop around our neighborhood on her horse and carriage with her daddy at the reigns, he's been a treat to watch.

I'm actually quite impressed that he's stayed together with her this long, as grade school romances can begin and end during recess.  They're relationship sustained through the summer to the start of 6th grade and seems to be going strong.  I think it's sweet and am glad that they enjoy each other's company and conversations.  I'm sure this is the first of many transitions I'll watch my guy go through as he travels down Lover's Lane.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Do you know what today is? Yes, it's Friday, always a joyful day in itself, with the starting of a new weekend. Yes, it is also my hubby's birthday eve and we'll have lots of surprises and fun to share the next two days. But that's not why I'm so excited; something special about today has me brimming with glee.

I knew it was close and the weather lately has been whispering the news. The trees have been slowly displaying messages. There is a crispness to the air announcing an arrival. Yesterday was so beautiful I opened my windows to enjoy the breeze throughout the house. Sleeping to the sound of crickets is just about my favorite way to slumber. This morning, the cool air reminded me that it's nearly time to bring out my down comforter. And, as I snuggled under a blanket with a steamy cup of coffee, the news reminded me that today is my favorite time of year...FALL is here!

Tim surprised me a few weeks ago with my favorite fall flowers, mums, and in my favorite mum color - yellow. They greet me at the front door each day and always bring a smile to my face. In the stores I'm seeing other signs of the season, with decorations and pumpkins, hues of brown and orange. I can hardly contain my excitement for the many doses of JOY October will bring.

But, of course, there's still plenty of September to enJOY!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Favorites Flashback

I'm wearing Keds today...

If you grew up in the 80s perhaps just the name of those shoes bring back some fond memories.  They certainly do for me.  My Keds today are a modern grey, but as a teen, I remember them only in white.  I had both a canvas and a leather pair. 

To wear Keds correctly, you only tie them once - perfectly - and then never again.  They mold to your feet and hug them the instant you slide in your foot.  And, you never wear socks with Keds.  These were just unspoken vows when wearing and owning Keds all those years ago that I still recall and honor.

I found a pair on clearance a few weeks ago and happily purchased them, not realizing they still made the shoes.  Now, when I see their familiar blue tags lined up and waiting for me on the floor, I'm eager to hop in.  As I glance down at my feet throughout the day, when wearing them, it's as if I'm a teenager again.  Flashbacks appear in my mind of those carefree days, which at the time I didn't realize were so simply precious and fleeting.

Wearing them reminds me of a few other favorites, that if you're a child of the 80s needs no explanation...

Hair Crimpers
Bon Jovi
Boom Boxes
Strawberry Shortcake (the doll, not the food)
Mixed tapes
 Kirk Cameron posters
Sticker Collections
Saturday morning cartoons

Ahhh...the memories!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Decision Free Excursions

There were a few pleasant surprise outings this past weekend planned by my hubby.  Of course the biggest shocker was that he took the reigns, as he normally leaves all our activity scheduling to me.  It was nice to take the backseat in decision making and just enjoy the ride. 

Friday, thanks to my mom, we were able to keep our scheduled date night.  Both kiddos had their plans of sleep overs changed last minute, so we expected to postpone ours.  As mom was going to be out late offering Homecoming taxi service for Haylea anyway, she agreed to stay at our house.  Aside from helping us, Noah and Tina were thrilled to spend time with her.  In fact, I think they jealously fought over space with and attention from her all night long!

Tim and I took off for a shared steak dinner and couple time.  In the chaos of the past month, time together was much needed.  It was a simply sweet date.  Tim picked the restaurant and ended the evening with a little shopping.  Of course, being old souls in young(ish) bodies, we were home just shy of 10:00 and ready for bed.  Mom laughed that we made it back just as the dance began.  Yawning my way to midnight to keep her company, I commented that I must be old if I can't even stay up late on a Friday night anymore.  That's ok though, I'll take snuggling with my sweetie over a loud party scene any day of the week!

Saturday night, Tim again surprised us by suggesting a drive to Fordsville for their outdoor festival.  We spent the evening strolling the streets, stuffing our bellies with fair food, playing BINGO, and watching the kids laugh on the rides.  It put a small dent in our wallets, but seeing smiles on their faces as they spun in circles, was priceless.  They enjoyed it so much, we nearly had to drag them to the truck, both asking if they could come back the next day. 

For a girl who plans out her whole life, I enjoyed the spontaniety of the weekend.  It was a pleasant change to be able to just go with it and take each moment as it came.  Of course, it's Monday now so the "to-do" list and schedule have returned; however, I'm eagerly awaiting the chance to toss the itenerary out the window again.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Birds of a Feather

One of the things my Grandmother passed down to me is a love for bird watching.  I remember sitting at the kitchen table with her as she'd point out her favorite ones.  Grandma knew what was out there as without even turning around, she could tell by their song or squawking.  She'd smile the most at male cardinals and talk to them from the window.  Almost if in response, they would puff out their chests proudly or ruffle their feathers before flying away.

Though you could've thrown a rock at the many birdhouses Grandpa put up and kept filled for her, she often had binoculars and even a bird book nearby.  Sometimes the cousins would vie would space at the window and argue over got to hold the book and research the types.  I can still recall the very large and strange bird that arrived one morning, much to our surprise.  I don't remember what type it was but we found it in the book and ran to tell her.  Of course it was gone by the time she made it, and I don't think she really ever believed us as it wasn't a bird for our area, but I will always know.

There are many other bird stories I could share, from her breeding her own parakeets and the friendly "Hoppy" I would take from the hatch to keep as a pet for years to come.  Or, the time she rescued an eagle she found while fishing one day and how she nursed it back to health.  Or, the many other special memories I hold and treasure from our times together watching or talking about birds. 

This morning, as I was enjoying the deck with an early morning visit from my parents, Mom mentioned our bird houses.  Tina excitedly ran to check the feeders, as she's found filling them fun in her stay with us.  And Tim and I often spend time watching the world awake or fade into slumber while bird watching.  Through the years Noah's made dozens of feeders or houses for our birds.  It made my heart smile, as I realized the joy Grandma passed to me was also shared by so many others.

"A joy shared is a joy made double."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cloudy Days

One of my fears in starting this blog was wondering if I'd be able to truly find joy each and every day.  When you're in the midst of grief from child loss, some days seem too grey to see any sunshine.  With this journey though, I knew bad days were expected.  I knew tears would come.  I knew pain would be present.  I also knew joy was possible and that happiness is present in every situation if you look deep enough.  Knowing all the bad forced me to push forward and search for the good.

Some days, I'll admit it comes easy.  Joy appears to me as a gift and words flow out for me to share with others.  Some days my "cup runneth over" and I have to actually choose which joy to write about.  Those are blessed days.  An overabundance of joy makes up for the gloomy days child loss brings.  It doesn't take away the pain, the heartache, or the tears, but knowing sunshine will appear again helps you get through it.

Yesterday was one of those days, and it was unexpected, which is always the hardest to handle.  When anniversaries or special occasions appear on the calendar, I can brace myself, somewhat prepare for what I know will come.  The date gives me permission to sink and release.  When it's unplanned, it hits you suddenly, as if being punched in the stomach. 

It was something so simple, yet very complex.  A single sentence that changed my afternoon.  Feeling as if the wind had been knocked out of me, I stumbled.  The day spiraled, as if in slow motion, while in reality life continued at full speed.  It was a sentence I've prepared myself in my mind for many times and answered it beautifully but always seem to fail once the words reach my mouth.

Meeting someone for the first time, the inevitable question of "do you have children?" appeared.  I froze, though words flowed immediately, almost without my permission.  For such a short sentence it requires so much and I never know quite how to answer it.  I've been blunt, I've been vague, I've held information, and in the end nothing ever feels right.  Yesterday, my sentences ("I have an 11 year old son, recently gained custody of my 12 year old niece and...") were cut short with revealing additional new information of our "child status" and so I felt unfinished.  It just never opened back up for me to say, "and a child in Heaven who would be 17".

Most of the time I say "I have two boys" and hope they leave it there.  Depending on my ability, I sometimes share more, but tears don't always listen to the off switch I've demanded.  Location sometimes forces my answer because I prefer to not have a mental breakdown in the middle of complete strangers.  Those days, my heart breaks all over again.  It's a tug-o-war within your soul, struggling to know which way to go.  If you share it all, you're both left uncomfortable.  If you hold back, you feel guilt in what could appear to be "forgetting" your lost child.  There's just no easy answer.

And so last night was a difficult one.  I fought with myself for hours about what I said, what I should have said, could have done.  How easy life would be if it had a virtual delete, backspace, or fast forward button.  But there are no re-do's.  So, I dealt with the consequences.  I closed up.  I pushed through.  I cried.  I attempted to function in front of the family, and when all else failed, I went to bed early.  I allowed myself to let go.  It was an evening of sadness and this morning has had hints of the same, as I replay the events of yesterday. 

With each word I write today though, a little more of the pain melts off.  Each paragraph allows me to process, deal with it, learn from it, and move forward.  Though rainclouds are in the sky this morning and the forecast calls for rain, my internal radar says there's sun somewhere.  I will find for days to come because I have hope, because I know Austin would want that, and because I know God holds my hand each step of this complicated journey called grief.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Unit #210 - My special Hero

There are many different posts I could write today, in honor of 9/11.  As can anyone, just closing my eyes takes me back to that day and that instant when our country was attacked.  Having nearly an hour commute, I was on the road listening to news on the radio.  Stomach churning, I pushed to get to the office to connect with others and see what I was hearing.

Witnessing the crash, black smoke, frantic and scared people running, only made me want to get home quicker.  Gathering work that I may need, I said goodbyes to my co-workers and rushed to pick up my baby.  Noah was only 20 months old and staying with a private sitter.  My heart calmed the instant I picked him up, holding my precious boy close to me.  We then waited in a longer than normal line at school to pick up Austin.  Home was my destination.  Home felt safe.

In those first moments, hours, and even days after, my only concern was my family.  I hugged them harder, kissed them more, and watched them sleeping, as gathered together in the stillness of our house was about the only time I felt at peace.  9/11 was the first of many events in our lives that reminded us of how short our time on this Earth really is and how none of us know what day will be our last.

Being married to a firefighter, 9/11 took on another meaning for me, as we remembered the 343 men and women who lost their lives that day saving others.  In the years to come, we would attend many services recognizing their sacrifice and that number would forever be etched into our minds.  It not just a number of sadness, it is a symbol of pride.  While so many were running out of those buildings that day, 343 brave souls willingly entered to save as many as they could, most knowing it would be the ultimate sacrifice.

For us, there's another fire number we take even greater pride in, and on days like 9/11, we pause to remember and reflect.  For us, that number is #210.  #210 was Austin's unit number as a junior firefighter at Beaver Dam Fire & Rescue.  This number is not just etched into our hearts and memories, but also onto Tim and me.

I have one tattoo on my body and didn't get it until well into my 30s.  It's black and grey and contains simply the numbers 210 surrounded by angel wings.  On my lower ankle, it is located not just in a place for me to know but others to see.  An obvious memorial tattoo, people ask what it represents.  This is my opportunity to share with yet another how special our son was. 

Austin was one of a kind, full of love and passion for life.  It seemed his sole mission here was to help others.  Becoming a Junior firefighter, and following in his dad's shadow, was a natural fit.  He was so proud of his unit number and what it represented.  We were filled with pride that at only 13, he was maybe one of the youngest firefighters to join a department in the county. 

Sadly Austin's time with the department would be short, as he passed away the same year he'd joined, but the impact he made was great.  The Junior program has increased both in our home department and others within the county.  Many who've joined were Austin's friends and I have to think that he had a little part in their inspiration to become firefighters. 

Each time I share his story, or look down at my tattoo, I feel a piece of Austin there.  And although difficult to see, we watch his dream live on in other youth with a sense of pride, knowing they're following his lead and that Austin's smiling down because of it.

The unit number #210 was retired in Austin's memory upon his passing but his legacy will live on forever.  More of his time as a BDFD member can be read here: A True Hero.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Growing Pains

It amazes me how quickly our kids grow.  In an instant, it seems like they go from tiny bundles of joy to towering teens.  Having to look up into my 6th grader's face just doesn't seem right; however, when I lock into those ocean-swirled eyes I'm taken right back to when he was a baby.  Whether it's a position I catch him sleeping him, or a tiny curl at the back of his neck, I'm reminded of when my little guy was actually little.

It's a bittersweet journey, watching your baby grow into a young man.  While I long for the sweet moments of yesterday, I dream for his tomorrows.  With each inch he grows, I realize again how soon all this will pass.  In his last year of elementary school, I know the days will fast forward sooner than I'm really ready.  This makes me hug deeper and make the most of every moment with him.

As if he's not aging fast enough, Noah's going through a growth spurt.  I guess that's to be expected when your inching towards 6 feet and only in the 6th grade.  Only 11, he's taller than me now.  He outgrows his shoes, it seems, in a matter of weeks.  And while all of this is hard on a momma, from the heartache of losing the baby in her boy to the sting of the wallet, it's also not easy watching him hurt. 

Growing legs result in aching pain that shoots down the length of him.  It was so strong last night that he was limping, hesitating to put much weight on it.  I pampered him, opening up the hot tub so he could soak and bringing him out a icy cold cream soda in a bottle.  As he crawled up next to me awhile later, still damp but in pajamas, I held him close.  While he may be taller than mom, I guess you never outgrow needing to be babied sometimes.  With a smile in my heart, I cherished every second and hugged even tighter.

"For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again."  - (from the Curious case of Benjamin Button)

Monday, September 5, 2011

An Outing, a Day in, and a Cookout

The weather and Tim's unexpected back trouble cancelled plans for our Labor Day camping trip.  While I was disappointed to miss out on campfires, sleeping under the stars, and watching fog rise over the river, I was determined to make the most of the long weekend.  With a mix of last minute planning and spontaneity, this weekend has been JOY-filled.  More than anything, it's due to appreciating moments for what they are. 

Tim's back has certainly given us lots of togetherness and quality time.  As someone who's used to sharing their hubby with being on call - both at the fire department and at work, it's been nice to know he'll be home each and every night.  (Of course, I wish he didn't have to be in pain for this to happen!)

Friday night the kids were invited last minute to the hometown football game.  Tim and I took advantage of a mini date night, snuggling on the couch.  And just like an old married couple, we happily went to bed as soon as they were back home and safe.  Tina and Noah enjoyed the unexpected gift of staying up late.  Into the wee hours of the morning, we awoke to the tv still on, along with every light in the house, and two snoring kiddos on the couch.

Saturday morning found us at a Farmers Market, where invisible tomatoes were available by the bushel.  Saddened at the sign of summer's closing, Tim and I decided to splurge on breakfast and let the kids sleep in.  We woke them by lunch, in time for showers and a surprise trip to Bowling Green.  The day is best summed up by an ode to the tune of the "Twelve Days"....

‎12 questions of "where are we going?"...11 tokens for each pocket...10 frames of bowling...9 trinkets from the arcade...8 rounds at the batting cage... 7 snacks off the menu... 6 hours of entertainment... 5 golden FUN-YUN rings!...4 hugs & thank yous...3 frozen yogurts...2 tired kiddos...And 1 perfect day!

Sunday was full of rainclouds and thunderstorms but we didn't let it dampen our day.  We lingered over a breakfast of homemade muffins and fresh mango on the deck while the weather allowed.  Once "rained in" we piled onto the couches with blankets and lazily enjoyed a movie marathon.  Lunch was one of our favorites...appetizers!  Eat, nap, movie, repeat!  It was a simply perfect stormy Sunday!

Our plan for Monday was to spend it cooking out, savoring the last bits of summer.  The weather was anything but summer like though, with chilly breezes and cool temps.  This morning, coffee on the outside couch required a blanket and cuddling with Tim and our two doggies.  Not willing to let the weather dictate my happiness, I changed into warmer clothes and heated up the kitchen in preparation for the day. 

A few hours and several jackets later, we joined Mom, my stepdad, and Haylea on the deck.  With a tub of homemade ice cream churning in the background, we grilled burgers and dogs while snacking on a veggie tray and crab ball.  With the ice cream complete, we opted to eat it indoors where it was a tad warmer and play board games.  Giggles, snickers, and literal rolling-on-the-floor laughter ended off the evening.  It was a definite cherry on the wacky banana split weekend we had!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hardworking Boy

While most kids would be sleeping in on a Saturday, mine is out mowing this morning.  In fact, he's spent most of his summer doing just that.  What started as an assigned chore quickly turned into a part-time job for Noah.  As shared earlier this year in Noah's-first-job, he went from helping us, to now mowing 5 yards in the neighborhood.

Each time a new yard request came in, he'd bound into the house excited about the cash lining his pockets.  He'd list dreams and plans of what he might do with his weekly paychecks.  After a short "Money 101" with Mom & Dad, we calmed him to make some great choices though.  We were proud to see him open a savings account, set aside an expense envelope for gas, and a spending envelope that was free fun money for him. 

I've enjoyed watching him mature and make decisions on how and what to spend his money on.  While he's happy to have money in his wallet, knowing he worked for it helps in making wiser purchases.  There were several times this summer we had learning opportunities as we discussed value/worth/cost on something he wanted to buy.  That didn't stop him from starting a bouncy ball collection, or splurging on jerky and video games though. His girlfriend certainly benefitted on his career this summer too, as they became regulars at the weekly matinee.  Every time he proudly puffs his chest out a bit while reaching into his pocket for his wallet, I smile a little inside and out.

But of course, it hasn't been all sunshine and roses.  As spring warmed into summer, Noah learned that even on a riding mower, the scorching heat can quickly turn a simple job into a sweaty one.  He also discovered that while extra yards meant extra cash, it also meant more hours in the sun.  It meant not always getting to play those video games, even when they were yelling his name, or shuffling his plans based on the weather.  And it meant taking more showers than a boy his age would ever hope to take!  However, he's held strong through it all and I couldn't be prouder.  He's grown with each blade he's cut down by his lawnmower this summer. With each lap, he's learning lessons that I hope he'll carry with him for a lifetime.

Throughout the summer, he's had his eye on a new tv.  I think that's what has been his motivation each week as he prepares for another mowing marathon.  Carefully adding his new balance in his savings register every time he made a deposit, he'd grow more anxious the closer he became to his goal.  Once there, he jumped up and down in the living room floor, ready to go out immediately and buy one that night.  Taking advantage of a teaching moment though, we helped him research for the best model and price, and decided ordering online was his best option.

Noah was then on a countdown for the arrival, checking off each day on the calendar and asking non-stop if I'd received the email yet.  A few weeks ago the big day (and package) arrived.  Seeing his expression as we placed it in his room was priceless.  Witnessing his pride every time he shows it to someone, as he shares the fact that he bought it all by himself, is even better. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sweet Stalkers

Share my soul over a cup of coffee?  Probably not.  Share my life's story in written form?  Absolutely.  It's always been easiest for me to communicate in writing, so posting to a blog was a natural progression.  As I've mentioned before in a previous posts, starting this blog was initially selfish.  It was a transition from the memorial blog I started for Austin.  I needed something to drive and push me daily to seek joy, when my life was surrounded by complete sadness.

It's been a little over a year and what this blog has brought me has been beyond my expectations.  Aside from the healing aspects - and I do believe challenging myself to write and recognize the joy in every day, has done just that, I've gained so much more.  This blog has given me a new purpose; it has opened my mind to accepting growth from life's challenges.  It's connected me to Austin in a deeper way than I could've imagined and I know with each post he is smiling down on me.

But the sweetest surprise?  My readers.  ...YOU!  What I wasn't prepared for was the outpouring of support that you have given me.  I never in my wildest dreams thought readers from all points of the Earth would find their way to this little blog.  And for those of you regular visitors, my heart is touched.  That you would find inspiration, encouragement, and JOY by reading, means more to me than words can express.  Some of you openly "stalk" me...and I love you for it!  Some of you are sneaky.  I've received anonymous cards, concert tickets, and other trinkets along the way.  This morning, I found a coffee cup with the word "JOY" etched across it filled with peanut M&Ms.  How special for those of you who go out of your way to bring me added joy! 

Just knowing that someone out there looks forward to the posts as much I do, is the biggest dose of JOY one could receive.  Thank you!  I'm sending each of my special readers one giant virtual hug.  May your days be filled with more joy than you can handle!
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