Monday, October 31, 2011

Living in the Moment

One of the choices for the name of this blog was today's title.  Losing Austin so suddenly, so unexpectedly, and what seemed "before his time" was a shocking reality of how short life really is.  None of us ever know what could be our last day, our last moments with the ones we love.  My drive, and what inspired this blog, was to live each day to the fullest, to live in the moment, and to find the joy in every day. 

The weekend was filled with reminders of this reality.  Friday we awoke to the news of two men trapped by a landslide at our local mine.  There was a pause in the air wherever we went, as the county held their collective breaths awaiting word.  Shortly after noon, what we feared was true, as we learned both men lost their lives.  While I know all miners know they face danger each day, I doubt either man imagined that it would be their last day when they said goodbye to their families Friday morning.  My prayers have been those affected, as well as to the rescue crew who responded.

Saturday, we attended a local event, "Judgement House" at a nearby church.  It was a live, walk-through drama showing the consequences from choices we make.  I was hesitant in going, as I'm protective of my family and never want to put them in an uncomfortable position where feelings and reminders of losing Austin may be too difficult.  When we walked into the car wreck scene, I was not prepared.  It was shocking, and although we didn't lose Austin in that way, seeing traumatic death reenacted was difficult.  The next scene, at the graveside, was not any easier.  In fact, there was a point I nearly walked away.  I prayed that Noah wouldn't be hurt by seeing someone crying over their sister's grave.  The only comfort of the night was the final stop, Heaven. 

Seeing a glimpse of where my precious boy lives now was worth the difficult parts of the play.  There was such joy and warmth in that room.  I cannot explain the peace and love that was felt, especially when being hugged by Jesus.  One of Austin's and our favorite songs, "I can only imagine" played in the background and how true that is.  While we don't know exactly how Heaven will be, I can only imagine the beauty and peace that he is surrounded by.  The pain I experience in this life is worth the end reward.  Just knowing that someday we'll be reconnected get me through the hardest days, and I can only imagine how wide his arms will be open, ready to hug me and show me around. 

And then Sunday, our family day, was shadowed with the sad news of my step-grandfather.  He went from thinking he had food poisoning on Friday to being unresponsive in ICU.  News last evening sent everyone leaving in a rush, as we discovered he had suffered two strokes, with another blockage that is not operable.  The prognosis is about the worst it can be with a stroke and we're left to pray for either full healing or peace.  When I think of Dallas, I see his sweet, smiling face.  I hear his happy voice, calling me "Sis" as he reaches for a hug.  I see him working on the farm, always active and busy.  My wish for him, and our family, is that his suffering is not lengthy and that he can be remembered in that way.

Not quite the happy, festive weekend that I'd envisioned, but throughout there were joyful moments.  The common thread was family, which always brings me happiness.  From seeing my big guy enjoying his last fall festival and reminiscing through the years, to an impromptu theatre treat and popcorn for dinner when hayride plans were spoiled, to snuggles and spooky movies, steamy bowls of hot soup, and sharing sweets with my favorite littles, we made the most of the moments. 

The weekend made us refocus, reminded us of what's most important in this life, and what to hope for in the end.  Prayers were longer and more thoughtful, and reflections of gratitude more thankful, but perhaps we all need that now and again. 

Today is life - the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today.  - Dale Carnegie

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fall Fest-palooza

What a crazy, busy, season-filled week!  In addition to the typical chaos of a work week, we've tossed in the start of basketball season, a couple of practices, and not one but TWO fall festivals.  Bookend that with another Fall Fest tomorrow, a family Halloween party on Sunday, and of course, the holiday on Monday, and you can see why my blogging has suffered! 

It's everything I love about this time of year, crammed into one week.  While it's been hectic, I've enjoyed it and I'm looking forward for what's to come.  One of my favorites of the week have been the festivals.  What's not love when you have a hodge-podge of cake walks, hayrides, hot dogs and chili, games, silent auctions, and more?!

Wednesday was spent at our former church, with a festival we've known and loved since my boys were little.  In fact, I remember bringing Noah to the first and needing to carry him most of the time because he was so small.  (Heart tug moment!)  The rain dampered a bit of the plans, but we still shared favorites, like the cookie decorating station and free pie.  Hugs and kisses from Noah during the cake walk was extra special too!  Most of all, what I treasure about this festival is that my entire family comes for the fun.   It was an added treat to watch new littles, my toddler niece and nephew, on the giant inflatables.  Seeing their excitement as they climbed the giant slide and having them wave to us in happiness made my heart smile.

This evening, actually in just a few minutes, we'll leave for Noah's school festival.  It's a bittersweet one too because it is our last.  My big 6th grader, this will be the end of grade school festivals for my kiddos.  It really is a little sad because it's such a sign of how quickly those childhood days are fading.  I will miss so many moments and memories from fall festivals past but am so grateful I have them.  And, I will certainly soak up every ticket, game, swarming of the silent auction table, sweaty hugs from my excited boy, squeals and screams I will encounter tonight!

And then tomorrow a new festival for us, at the church we've been attending.  Much to look forward to with the hayride, Trunk or Treat contest, cake walk, chili supper and getting to know more of the families there.  It's sure to be a fun-filled evening and a new tradition for us!  But of course, the icing on the cake will be our Souper Spooky Sunday at the house.  I don't want to write much about that because I'm sure it will wrap up my joy post for the weekend!

All in all, it's been a festive week, a sure to be seasonal weekend, with sprinkles of family, fun and joy throughout.  May yours be filled with sweet spooks, festivities and treats too!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday

November is days away. Because it holds the anniversary of our son's death, it is a difficult month. Each day on the calendar, as well as the holiday, is a constant reminder of our loss. It's a bittersweet time, as we waiver between favorite memories with Austin, and the horror of those last moments. While a month that is full of sadness for us, it is also a time of Thanksgiving.

One of my favorite traditions from my Grandma Coons was to gather as a family on that holiday and share at least one thing for which we were thankful. Last year, focusing on "Thanksgiving" is how I chose to face each day. Knowing the day would be brimmed in tears, I needed to start my mornings reflecting on what I still had to be thankful for. No matter the heartache, there are still so many blessings in our lives.

Each morning, I began with an affirmation, a statement of what I was thankful for. It carried me through my day, reminding me of a positive during such a negative time. This year, I plan to take it a step further. For the month of November, my blog (and life) will be focused on "Thankfulness" and I'm challenging myself to write a post every day.

Since losing Austin, we've also started the tradition of "Random Acts of Kindness" on his angel-versary. You see, that's what Austin was all about. I have so many cards and letters from those who knew and loved him, sharing small and simple, but powerful, moments they remember and treasure him for. Austin's legacy will always be his warm smile, loving hugs, and helping hands. Because November 29th is such a tragic reminder for us, it is how we've chosen to get through it. Helping strangers has lifted our broken spirits.

Last year, I asked others to join in his memory and I plan to do the same closer to the date. So many messages of support and sharing their acts came through via email and on his Facebook page, Remembering Austin. Each time a wave of grief would overcome me, a message of hope would arrive and hold me. It was such a wonderful way to remember such a beautiful soul.

With each random act, it was as if Austin's spirit carried on and it blessed our family. Because of that, I've decided to dedicate this entire month to my precious boy and will be striving to perform random acts of kindness every single day. It's the only way I know to get through a seemingly impossible time. Each day, each thankful moment, every act of kindness, will be a tribute to Austin, the life he led, and the inspiration of hoping to be a fraction of who he was. I hope you'll join me...

"Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
Write them deep within your heart." - Proverbs 3:3

Big Comfy Bed

I think just about everyone loves their bed. Often a comment you'll hear someone say when they've been traveling is, "I can't wait to get home to my own bed!" There's just something comfortable and relaxing when you melt into in it at the end of the day.

And I have to agree. I do love my bed. Whether it is crisp, cool sheets on a hot summer night with a breeze blowing through the windows, or the toasty warmth of flannel sheets in the winter, I adore the feeling when you plunge between the layers.  All the stress and worries of the day, just wash away as your head is cradled by pillows and the blankets cocoon your soul.  It is just an "Ahhhhh" moment that I look forward to each evening.  And now that cooler weather is upon us, my big fluffly down comforter has returned, which makes the plunge all that dreamier!

Perhaps I love mine so much because I know what it is like not to be able to sleep in it. For months after our motorcycle wreck, I lived in a hospital bed.  Staying a few nights in a hospital bed is uncomfortable enough, but when you're forced into for over three, it really takes a toll on a body.  Of course, my darling husband did make it more tolerable, since he slept right next to me on the couch.  His devotion each night, vowing not to go back to our bed without me, is what got me through the next day.

I returned to the bed earlier than my body was ready, remembering how painful it was just to turn on my side.  But that pain was worth it, for it meant I could be held by my husband.  Even now, it's how we fall asleep and how I find us whenever we awake.  It's automatic, a movement we make in unison, even if one is sleeping when the other moves or turns.  No matter the position, we are touching and connected. 

Although the mattress is supportive, the blankets soft and warm, and the sheets smooth and inviting, they aren't at all what makes my bed so comfortable.  It's the love of my life who is beside me each night, as we hold hands to pray, and the first person I see when I open my eyes every morning. 

Earlier this week, I heard a beautiful story of a couple.  Married 72 years, they died one hour apart, holding hands.  I can only hope for such a long life with Tim and an ending so precious.  However, no matter how many days or moments we have together, I'll treasure every sunrise I see on his face and thank God for him each evening...from our big comfy bed.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Monkey Fingers

My niece loves painting her nails.  To date, she has nearly 20 different colors, of which she combines in ways I could never imagine.  She'll change them several times a week.  At least every other time, she asks to do mine too.  She keeps me young!

Last night we did our nails in a new technique we found online (Pinterest, people!).  It's marbling and looks really neat.  What was the most fun though was the one on one time together.  Crazy that just doing our nails is so exciting for her.  It makes my heart smile.

Tim just laughed at us.  Noah thought the end result was neat but he didn't get it either.  Boys.  We giggled and stayed up way past bedtime.  That tickled her too.  She said, "Wow.  This is the latest I've seen you stay up."  See, told you she keeps me young!

She's made me vow not to share how we do it.  (Right now, she's the envy at her school!)  But, one of the steps is that you cover your finger with tape - everything except your nail.  By the time we were finished and I peeled off the tape, my fingers were wrinkled and numb.  Monkey fingers.  It made us laugh, thinking about playing in the tub when we were little. 

All in all, it was a wonderful night.  Unexpected fun.  And each time I look down at my nails, I'll be reminded of it.  See.....

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"That's Thinkin' Thursday!"

I've found a new love...Pinterest!  It's a virtual memo board where you can post ideas, photos, DIY, and more.  I'm seriously a little addicted because I love finding new and creative ways to do things.  On the site you can both browse and post items, so my brain has been working overtime.  What can I contribute?!

It's led me to a new inspiration to add to this blog.  I'm pleased to introduce to you (insert drum roll here).... "That's Thinkin' Thursday!"  The place where I'll contribute a mixture of my own ideas and things I find on Pinterest, because I know some of my loyal readers won't ever brave that lovely virtual site. 

Today, I'm sharing something that I'm often asked about.  To me, it seems so normal, as it's the way I've always done it, but I know that there are others who struggle with this daily chore.  We're talking menu planning, or answering that dreaded question, "What's for dinner?!"

I'm a busy lady but sitting down with my family, or at least knowing they have a meal to sit down to, is important to me.  Memories are made in the kitchen and at the dinner table.  Gathering together for meals strengthens a family.  So, to keep a calm on the chaos of an evening, I plan.  And here's how I do it.

I plan out our menus two weeks at a time because it follows our pay dates and when I shop.  I do mine on a spreadsheet but you could use a notebook or really any form that works for you.  I like the spreadsheet because I can type faster than write and save it for future/past reference. 
Here's how I decide what to have.  First I write out the dates for the next two weeks and insert any PM appointments, work, after school activities, etc. that will mean a later than normal night.  (These are the nights that can throw you off and cause you to order in or get take out if you're not prepared.)  I plan batch meals or quick fixes for nights like these.  I also then check my pantry for whatever I already have that I can make a meal with.  This saves money!  Once I know what I can work with, I choose recipes from my family's favorites and fill in the blanks. 

I usually ask everyone to give me one request, which helps me feel like I'm not making all the decisions and gives them something to look forward to.  On my favorites tab I have a folder of recipes, broken down by categories, that we enjoy, as well as a multitude of cookbooks to turn to for ideas.  Some weeks it is plain, tried and true favorites and sometimes I throw in a new recipe or two.  The menu is really reflective of whatever is going on in our lives for that time period. 

Once I have the menu set, I then type out ingredients I'm missing on the right hand side which will begin my grocery list.  This also helps when shopping so that you're not just randomly adding things to your cart.  Sometimes my menu is influenced by whatever is on sale at the time (or sometimes it changes a bit if I get to the store and a certain meat is on sale).  The idea is to have a plan but be flexible!

When I can, I batch cook or at least cook meals that can be double duty.  For example, I will cook a pot roast and make more than normal knowing that the leftover meat and veggies will be turned into a soup later in the week.  Also, if we tend to have more leftovers than expected, I'll swap one night out as a "Whatever night" meaning I save the planned meal and we eat whatever is left in the frig.

Maybe this seems complicated?  I don't know.  I just know it works for me.  It keeps me from having to deal with the stress of knowing what to cook at the end of a long day when I'm tired and everyone is hungry.  It keeps us from ordering in or going through the drive-through and feeding my family unhealthy meals.  And, most of all, it ensures that we'll be gathered at the table sharing a meal together every evening I can squeeze it in.  For it's those moments when we're side by side, saying grace, enjoying dinner, discussing our days, and laughing as a family that are among the best of my entire day! 

....So, what's for dinner at your house tonight?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Lil Man

My joy tank was overfilled this evening, as I got to spend some time with my favorite littles; specifically, my favorite lil man - my nephew, Allen.  Today was his 3rd birthday party.  It's hard to believe that he's already three, although looking at him he is quite the little man.

Allen is all boy.  Rough and tumble.  Dirt and Tonka trucks.  Or, in his case Thomas the Train!  And tractors.  Oh, and of course, firetrucks - just like Uncle Timmy!  And Lightning McQueen, Tow-mater and any of the "Cars" crew.  If it has wheels, Allen loves it.

I spent the time waiting for all the guests to arrive playing with him out in the garage, though not with the trucks as you might expect.  The kiddos just got a new mini washer/dryer set to go with their kitchen center so were checking it out.  Allen was attempting to shove any toy within his reach into the washer, including the toy box lid.  Figuring the small unit was reaching capacity, I distracted his attention to the refrigerator and asked him to make something to eat.  He then proceeded to pull out every single item from the frig and the stove, with precise opinions of what each container held.  When the picnic table and stove could hold no more, it was time to eat.  I was rescued from plastic eggs sprinkled with baby powder though as it really was time to eat (true party food!).

Allen wasn't excited about pretend or real food, he just wanted presents.  Climbing up into his chair, he let his big sis wait on him with each gift, one by one.  If the wrapped box contained clothes, it was a quick toss over his shoulder or piece by piece onto the floor for mommy to pick up, before shouting, "more presents please!"  If a toy, he'd squeal and play with it until the next present arrived in his lap.  In the end, I'd say it was an equal ratio of wheels to outfits.

At the party's end, he hopped in his gator, as it was easier to shoot the other kids with his new Nerf gun. 
Riding across the vast front lawn, he reminded us to visit his pumpkin patch.  A short, but pleasant, walk across the bridge and down the path to the garden, our little farmers gave their tour.  Bryanna was the guide, showing us which pumpkins were just right for picking, while Allen waited in his trusty ride, ready to haul our load.  When the three of us found just the right ones, we carefully placed them in the back of ride.  Promising to "be caresel" he motored them back to our truck. 

On the walk back, Bryanna stopped and showed us the cotton they grew from tiny seeds.  I asked if she could make me some socks with them, to which she chuckled, "No, silly!"  In the moonlight, we took the time to touch the buds and feel their growing fuzz.  We then had to cut two "flowers" - one for me and Mamaw to take home with us.  The cute little stem is now in my kitchen to remind me of my time with them.

Of course, the sweet time in the garden was short lived, as upon returning my behind felt an attack.  Allen proceeded to shoot all of us goodbye, giggling that contagiously sweet little laugh that only he has. 
Happy Birthday, Lil Man.  May your life be blessed with many more!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Life of a Leaf

The trees are mesmerizing this time of year.  

Actually, it's a little dangerous because while I'm driving I tend to want to gaze their way instead of the road!  Today, on the way home from grocery shopping, I found myself wishing I could brake in the middle of the street.  Glorious little leaves in a multitude of colors were twirling in unison on the asphalt dance floor.  It lasted mere seconds but it's been my favorite joyful moment today!

Throughout the rest of the day, I've found myself soaking up the leaves each time I passed the window or stepped outside.  The wind has been rustling them out of our trees and the start of a patchwork quilt covers our lawn.  I watched them slowly tiptoeing in the breeze, pausing mid-air, as if holding out til the last possible moment before they nestled on the ground.  My eyes fell on an orange leaf, mostly faded and wrinkled but still signs of the beauty it once contained.  I realized that was it for this little leaf.  Finding its way to the spot on my yard, it had reached the end. 

And I thought, what a beautiful, but brief, life the leaf has.  It starts its journey as a tiny bud, new and green.  Born in the beauty of spring, it grows with the sun's love.  A leaf's youth is spent in the carefree season of summer, where its days are filled with warmth and blue skies.  As it reaches its peak, it transforms.  The leaf, almost shouting its joy in the end, bursts into stunning colors.  Its last days are among the most beautiful.  Gently, softly, sweetly falling to its end, the leaf breaks free and comes to a rest. 

But that's not the end, for just as we see the shell of the leaf give away, becoming brittle and frail, it finds new purpose.  Piled into a mountainous heap, little children squeal with delight as they jump and frolic, lifting the spirits of the leaves.  In one joyous motion, they twirl and dance, spiraling in absolute happiness.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Discovering Owensboro

I love vacations...who doesn't?  But sometimes between all the planning, packing, and hours spent traveling, you lose the whole point of it.  Not to mention that life is just expensive these days and vacations aren't any cheaper!  So, this fall break, we've opted for a "staycation" around our house.

When you think about it, how many things are there to do and explore in your own backyard?   Have you ever looked at your hometown, or those nearby counties, with a visitor's eye?  What would you do if you really were vacationing there?  Where might you visit?  Are there businesses or attractions just miles from your home that you've never explored?  That's the attitude we took today, as we set out on a 30 mile journey from the house.  We were Owensboro bound.

I admit it took a little more planning than I anticipated.  Being fall break, I assumed everyone would be open, but apparently many spots are only available on the weekend.  This changed our itinerary a bit (no go-carts, laser tag, art museum, or indoor bounce house) but I was determined to make the most of the trip.  With my smart phone in hand, it was Operation Destination Fun!

Our first stop was the Owensboro Science & History museum.  It's one of those places I've always "meant to go" but never made it.  How much we've missed out on!  Though a section of the museum is still under construction, we found the two levels very interesting.  From the tiny hummingbird nest to the looming mammoth, the first section was full of discovering nature from our past to the present.  A quick ride up to the second floor was a child's playground - something for all ages.  At first glance, I was afraid my 11-12 year olds would scoff but they eagerly jumped into the fun. 

Who knew they'd play in the puppet house and perform a 3 act play for me?  Or that they'd have so much fun in front of the green screen, acting out the weather.  I heard "and back to you" more times than I could count and laughed every time!  More exploring and experimenting led to a trip down history lane, learning about Wendell Ford.  The kids were excited to learn about government and interacted with the sound tubes, dioramas, and even gave their own elected official speeches at the podium.  In all, it was only $9 for over 2 hours of family fun - amazing!

But we didn't stop there.  We walked the city streets.  We drove around and saw some sites, including the world's largest sassafrass tree (who knew? I drive by it nearly every day!).  And then it was off to our next excursion - the mall.  What vacation is complete without a trip to the local shopping complex?  We lingered and browsed, strolled and shopped.  With our appetites worked up from all the tantalizing scents from the food court, we headed to one of our favorite splurge restaurants.  The kids got to order whatever they wanted, the only rule being "you order - you eat it" and that they did!   Bellies stuffed to the brim, we waddled to the movie theatre for a mid-day matinee.  I love snuggling into a dark theatre in the middle of a sunny day.  For the next two hours we were on the edge of our seats with an action packed show (Abduction - highly recommend!).  And, how else would you end a great vacation day without a stop for ice cream?  With a literal topping of the trip with whipped cream, we sat outside soaking up the gorgeous fall afternoon weather by the yummy spoonful. 

It was one great staycation day.  ...The best part?  It was only a 30 minute drive home and no unpacking necessary (other than shopping bags and leftovers)!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Family Lines

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we had a family reunion yesterday.  I've always thought it funny how even at family gatherings there are "strangers" or people you rarely see.  Someone new would walk in and there'd be a pause where all the younger generations would turn to the older for help.  With just a glance we were saying, "Who is that and how are they related to us?"  And then, in a quick whisper, we'd be updated on our family line.

Of course, even without knowing names, it was obvious that each person who walked in was related to us.  These folks were Davises....they were McGuffins...they were from my Grandma and Grandpa on my momma's side.  They were family. 

I saw it in the twinkle of of my Grandma's eyes, though she wasn't there.  I heard her in their laughter.  I saw my Grandpa's ears, his hands, his fat little nose, and broad shoulders, but not on him.  All the signs of my grandparents were there, though they've been gone for several years.  It made me miss them both but I found comfort in looking around the room.  Strange how I noticed it so much on those I haven't seen in years yet never recognize it our immediate family.  But we all have it, those family lines - physical traits that make us who we are.

That's not just what makes us family though, the fact that we look similar.  We are fried chicken and biscuits.  Rook and Rummy.  We are RC and sweet tea.  Bear hugs and big laughs.  We are bad jokes and pranks.  Grey hairs and thick thighs.  We are miles apart but close-knit.  Garden growers and flower planters.  We are old bones and young souls.  Railroads and pickup trucks.  These family lines and more have been passed from one generation to the next.  We are all Davises and McGuffins...and one big-messed-up-but-wonderful-family!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Family Reunion

Today was bittersweet. We had a historically large family gathering, and of course, anytime we're all together like that there is an obvious absence. Austin loved being with family, whether it was one or two, or a huge crowd. In fact, our first "Family Game Day" was held our last year with him. Maybe that's what makes days like today so hard, and so special, all at the same time. They remind us of Austin and swell our hearts with memories, as well as fill our eyes with tears from the loss; but they also push us to stay together and there's an ever-lingering presence, as we know he's watching over us proudly.

If Austin were here today, he'd been among the first to go help set up, with his strong arms and back lifting tables and chairs to prepare the room. The many trips I made to my truck, loading and unloading, would have certainly been decreased as he'd been right there without me asking. Upon anyone pulling into the drive, he would've met them at their door, ready to give those giant bear hugs and then haul anything in they might need. He would've snuck bites of food from any dish that came in which contained something he liked. And he would've gotten away with it, as all he'd have to do is break out his smile or puppy dog eyes.

There'd been a Rook game started before everyone even had a chance to sit down. All the babies in the room would've had a constant sitter, as I know he'd have had a lap full or been chasing them in the yard. That beautiful big laugh would've been heard a dozen times through the course of the day. He'd of challenged every willing body to a cornhole game outside, smiling whether he won or lost. He would've made old friends with any new face, listening to the stories from the grown-ups table or patiently playing a game with the kids.

And yet, in so many ways I felt Austin today...from the beautiful painted skies that greeted me good morning and said the lingering hugs by family or the smiles on their faces as they arrived...from the butterfly balloons someone hung by the front gate to guide those traveling long distances the warmth and joy of laughter and love throughout the day.  He may not have been there physically but he was certainly present in our hearts and minds.

I'm thankful our family made the effort to organize this day.  We realize how precious each day is and how important togetherness is, regardless of the time and miles it takes to meet.  It was a true blessing to spend the day with each other.  My Great Aunt Gladys, 84 years young, perhaps summed it best as she left with, "If I don't see you again (here), I hope I see you up (there)!" 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Childhood Friends

My house seems invaded by tween-agers most of the time.  Whispers, giggles, phone calls and texts, revolving doors, and a never ending taxi service provided by yours truly.  It's a sure sign your kids are growing up when you have to start sharing them with their friends.

Noah and Tina both have company or have been someone's company at least once each week.  The weekends are a mixture of juggling family activities and squeezing in time with friends.  As a mom who likes everyone under her roof and together as much as possible, it's an adjustment I'm facing.  When I may feel like saying no, I remind myself how often I spent time with my childhood friends.

When I was a child, my best friend and I practically lived together.  We just switched locations every day or two, swapping between her house or mine.  I was a member of her family, just as she was ours.  We celebrated holidays together, vacationed together, went to grandparent's houses together, and grew up together.  My childhood wouldn't have the special memories it does, if not for my best friend.  Most of my favorite and funniest moments growing up involve her.

I'm glad that Noah and Tina both have several friends.  When the phone dings for the fourteenth text, or I hear "Mom..." followed by a pretty please, I try not to get annoyed.  When the house is empty, I try not to feel abandoned.  For it's when I hear laughter from their side of the phone, or see how much they light up as I drop them for a group date, or how excited they are when kids come home with them, I remember how special this time is. 

I share their joy because I know how precious friendships are, especially at their age.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Survivor's Strength

I love how a single sentence has the power to evoke emotion and feelings, to inspire and uplift.  Positive quotes are one of my very favorite things.  A special friend and cancer survivor read a beautiful quote to me today.  "You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have." 

She was sharing her breast cancer story, along with another sweet volunteer, to a group of middle school students.  It touched my heart to watch their young faces listen to the journeys these women faced after hearing the words, "You have cancer."  Both of them shared, what may have been the darkest and scariest point in their life, with such passion and light.  They had come through to the other side, scarred but stronger.

I'm sure in the midst of their pain, they may never have imagined themselves at this point. In the depths of their cancer battle, maybe there were days they didn't feel they could make it another step.  But they did.  And now, they gladly share their story so that other women are educated and empowered.  Each pleaded to the group of boys and girls to, "Tell your mom, your aunt, your grandmother, to get their annual mammogram!"  Hearing the stories from some of the youth after class, I know they made an impact.

We all have a story to share.  Everyone is a survivor of something.....

Perhaps you are also a cancer survivor and can help others facing the disease.
Maybe you are a survivor of abuse and you share your story so that someone facing that pain doesn't feel so alone.  Or, though I pray not, possibly you are a survivor of child loss like myself and you reach out to others facing loss to help them find hope.  No matter the trial, the pain, the journey, we all have a testimony and a purpose.  Sharing it is the first step to healing, for both yourself, and the others you reach along the way.   

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fall Foods

The foods I prepare for my family are seasonal.  Sure, we have tried and true standby dishes that frequent our table throughout the year, but I love how certain meals only come out according to the calendar.  The fact that we don't have them regularly makes them seem extra special.  Just the thought or smell of cooking them evokes memories of comfort.

Fall has only just begun but we've already devoured some of the season's specialities.  Caramel apples was top on my list and I'd say I've already had half a dozen or so.  In fact, one morning I had it for breakfast!  Don't judge me, at least it contained fruit.  By the end of October, I won't want to look at another apple for months...but that's ok, it's worth it!

My fave category of food for fall is soup.  Actually soup is a meal we enjoy almost all year long, just not in the sweltering heat of the summer.  (I've never convinced my family to try cold soups.)  Last weekend, we had our first pot of chili for the season and it was yummy!  I made a double batch, as it provided more than a couple meals for us between lunches and reinvents like chili dogs.  I can't wait for our next "first batches" of white chili, veggie soup, chicken soup w/mini meatballs, Italian Stoup (yes, I meant to include the T), and creamy cheesy potato soup with crumbled bacon.  What's your favorite soups of the season?

And then there's the cookies.  This month marks the start of lots of baking for our family.  I can't do pies, never really attempted cakes (unless from a box), but I do love baking cookies.  And, I love having helpers in the kitchen to make them.  It's a wonderful family activity.  Last week I kicked off the season with a new favorite, pumpkin chocolate chip.  My niece was skeptical at first, sure she wouldn't like them; however after trying one her mind was set.  She smiled and said, "Heather, these are bakery quality!"  I chuckled at the compliment, watching them disappear one by one. 

So now I'm off to plan out our menu for the first two weeks of October, excited to sneak in beloved dishes for this time of year.  So many yummy choices, so few meals.  Decisions, Decisions....
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