Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Life of Thanksgiving

Reflecting back on this month of thankfulness and acts of kindness today with a heart of gratitude.  Reading over each post from November (hey I managed to write every day!), I'm filled with a mixture of emotions.  Even though I was eager to start the project on the first day of November, I didn't know if I'd be able to keep it up the closer it drew to Austin's angel-versary.

All I can say is that through prayer (the many prayers of others) and a special helper above, I made it through the most difficult part of the year.  But I didn't just get through the days, I lived them with purpose, hope and even joy.  Of course there were tears, painful moments, and days lined in sorrow from the grief I still have, and always will face, but I expected it.  Pausing to be thankful or giving an act of kindness, even on those tough days, made the difference.

It's fairly obvious that an act of kindness would have that effect.  Giving feels good but it's more than that - kindness comes back to you.  Being kind is such a wonderful way to live, though not always easy.  One of the quotes I found while researching this month was from Mother Teresa and it expresses how I strive to live, though I often fail.

"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile."

I believe what made such a change in my attitude this month though was to pause and be thankful every day.  Surviving the wreck and child loss has more than taught me to appreciate the little things, to stop and see the sunrise, to be grateful for every moment, but some days I allow "life" to take over, to rush me, to overwhelm.  Purposefully noticing, almost meditating over moments of thankfulness changes you.  I focused on what was important to me, who I treasured, and I prayerfully gave gratitude for each and everyvthing.

Thanksgiving isn't just a day - not even just a month -
but something I hope to encompass every day of the year. 

"Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal.
It's a way to live."

Today I'm thankful that my blessings fill more than 30 days in November.
No matter how difficult life is, there is always something to be thankful for.
JOY is everywhere, if you just look for it!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Purpose Driven Acts

Sitting down to write about the many touching and wonderful acts of kindness shared with us today, I realized, unlike most, these weren't random at all.  Sure, the people who received them might have been random (although not in all cases) but I believe that even the recipients were chosen - with a little help from above.  Austin's hands were all over this project from the moment it came upon me.

Since the first year the acts and those participating have grown.  This year even strangers joined in!  It's such an amazing feeling, in the midst of heartache, to see my son remembered in this way.  I know personally each act I gave this month was after a gentle nudge or whisper from within.  For the large majority, I'll have no way of knowing who they reached, how they helped or made a difference, but I feel like each of them were with purpose. 

And "with purpose" is exactly how Austin lived.  Though only 14 when he passed, he'd accomplished so much in his life.  Age was never a factor for him and more than anything he just wanted to make a difference.  He was never happier than when he was volunteering and helping others.  In fact, the few months he had here as a freshman was filled with afternoons at local organizations doing just that.  But aside from being a volunteer, he was just a good soul.  My idea and need to start "Acts of Kindness" in his memory came from who he was and how he treated others.  His "words of kindness" I shared two years ago, and "love letters" show a glimpse of who Austin was and the impact he made each and every day with simple acts.

Living the month of November, such a bleak and normally painful for time, with an attitude of gratefulness and opening myself up to see opportunities to help, has made me feel more connected to Austin than I could have ever imagined.  Hearing the stories from others who joined with me, lifted my spirits, comforted and held me on difficult days, and not only blessed our families but the recipients.  However, everyone who shared with me an act has told me they received tremendous blessings as well.  How great is that?!

"It is one of those beautiful compensations of this life that no one can
sincerely try to help another without helping himself."

Didn't find the time or moment to do an act of kindness?  The best thing about acts of kindness is that there is no expiration's never too late to make a difference!  Maybe some of these "acts" shared with us will inspire you to pay it forward.  Or, maybe they'll just warm your heart - they truly did mine!

I helped someone load their groceries.
I paid for someone's purchase and met a new friend!
I made a meal and shared it with a widow.
I donated to Toys for Tots.
I went through the Drive-Thru and left money for the next few cars behind me.
I paid on someone's bill.
I tucked quarters in the jacket pockets at a department store for kids to find.
I bought a stranger's gas.
I surprised strangers with gift cards for their meals.
I thanked people who don't normally get thanked.
I bought supplies to make Thanksgiving baskets for families in need.
I prayed for the person in front of me whenever stopped in traffic.
I volunteered at a nursing home.
I tucked surprises into Christmas cards when sending this year.
I placed coins on game machines and kiddy rides.

My family would like to thank those for the many prayers, calls, texts,
messages and support shared with us on this painful day.
I've certainly felt held by the prayers and lifted by the
amazing stories of acts of kindness done in Austin's memory.
Thank you for your friendship...and for remembering our sweet boy in such a beautiful way!

Monday, November 28, 2011

All things Austin

I hope my readers will understand my lack of writing today.  Austin has been on my mind all day and I've spent it reminiscing through videos and pictures of him.  There's no way I could write a single post to describe everything he means to me, who he was, and how much he changed our lives.  Instead, I'm sending you to his blog that I started shortly after losing him.  I've selected a few posts below but feel free to browse it, if you've never visited before.

Did you know how many lives you touched with your smile?
Did you know how many you helped when you went that extra mile?
Did you know how much joy you brought into our lives from the very start?
Did you know your memory will forever remain in our hearts?
Did you know you were the best big brother, son and friend?
Did you know how many loved you, the number never ends.
Did you know by decorating our trees you’d make Christmas special this year?
Did you know that angel will always hold special meaning now, dear?
Did you know you were a hero who left a legacy that inspires still?
Did you know because you loved us, how treasured we feel?
Did you know how much we’d miss you and that we will the rest of our days?
Did you know your love remains here and with us will always stay….

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Frog on a Tree

We finished decorating the inside of the house today.  It's not the same, now that Austin is gone, but some very special memories somewhat filled the holes.  The afternoon was spent pulling out the indoor decorations and our collections of mangers and many, many snowmen.  After Tim assembled the tree, Noah, Tina, and I completed the base of ribbon, bows and coordinated ornaments, saving the sentimentals for the end. 

Tina commented she didn't know we'd have room to add the two boxes of ornaments which remained.  Each ornament was a special gift,  vacation memento, or one of our yearly additions.  There are so many stories and memories nestled inside the two shoe boxes and we spent some time reminiscing.  With the seashell angel, we recalled our once in a lifetime Disney Cruise vacation and finding her while browsing the streets at port in the Bahamas.  Then there was the firefighter mouse, a gift for Tim one of our first years together, and one of the few he hangs.  Noah hung his first ornament, pausing for a picture, a yearly tradition.

With a tearful heart, I quietly hung my firstborn's, as he is no longer able.  Flashbacks of our 14 Christmases with him filled my mind.  I can remember holding Austin, not even six months old, and hanging his tiny bear.  Every year he grew, towering over that little bear in the end, so big he could hide the ornament in his hand.  But he'd pause and smile sweetly at me so I could capture a photo memory.  Noah reached in for our memorial ornament of Austin, bringing me back to this moment in time.  While it's a painful reminder, it also brings me comfort remembering our last day with him, how easily he stretched to place the angel on our tree, and how very precious those memories are now.  Noah hung it near the top of our tree, right under the angel that he now adds in his brother's place.

Knowing that Tina would be joining us and our yearly traditions, I decided to surprise her with her own special ornament.  I know this year has to be difficult too, being away from her mom and family. 

We know what it's like to miss someone, especially during the holidays. 
I wanted something that would be hers and made her feel like a part of
our family customs.  She thought we were finished but Noah ran out of the room telling her we had one last thing to do. 

Returning with a small gift bag, he asked her to sit.
She nervously opened the bag and squealed with delight
at what she found inside.

Tina loves animals...and bugs, but especially frogs.  Of the few things from her past she managed to hold onto, she's happy to have part of her frog collection.  Lining the top of her desk, the smiling green reptiles greet you as you enter the room.  I knew a frog would be a perfect addition to our tree and would let her feel a piece of her was on it.  She loved his cute little face and crown and eagerly jumped up to add him.

Each time I see the frog, I'll be reminded of her and I hope he brings her as much happiness as she has us.  It's been an adjustment for all of us but we feel blessed to share our home with her.  We are thankful to have her not just in our home but a part of our lives.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Remembering Austin's Last Day

We spent today decorating the house for Christmas.  It's a bittersweet activity now with Austin gone.  Thanksgiving weekend marks our last holiday with him and holds the anniversary of his passing.  My heart and mind were flooded with memories of our last perfect day with him....

from Austin's site:

When we awoke on November 29, 2008, little did we know our lives would change forever.  That day was one of our best - and absolutely the worst day - ever.

In the beginning, that Saturday was the perfect family day. We woke to beautiful weather, especially for November, and immediately set to decorating our house for the holidays. It was an annual tradition to decorate Thanksgiving weekend.

Christmas songs filled the air, from our outside sound system. Tim and Noah went to the roof to put up lights and Austin and me decorated the rest of the outside. I remember how everyone was in such a good mood -and even that day I paused several times, counting my blessings for such wonderful memories. Austin and Noah got along perfectly that day and even wrestled outside in the yard, tickling each other. I remember commenting, "wow. what a great family day!"

As I finished up outside, Austin came in and began to decorate the inside of the house. He'd never done this before and actually in the past kind of groaned about decorating. He would poke fun of my traditions and how I had to take pictures of every special ornament and person hanging it. But that day, he loved it.

He put up the "kids tree," which goes in our kitchen, and has all their homemade ornaments by himself. He surprised us with it when we came in from a quick trip to the store with last minute supplies. He had left it bare, except for the lights, so that Noah could help hang the ornaments. I was so touched at the gesture and we spent the next hour or so pulling out each memory. The kids would comment about what grade they were in when they made this one or how much they liked that one. The last to go on was the "star" which we made from cut-outs of their hand prints a few years back.

Afterwards, I was tired from our long day and asked to put off the big tree until Sunday. Austin wouldn't have it. "It is tradition, Mom. We have to do it all tonight." And so we did. And it was wonderful.

He had grown so much the last few years - well over 6 feet tall, size 13 shoes and all. We laughed because he took over so many of his Dad's jobs that day, wrapping the ribbon around the tree and placing the angel on top - barefooted. Tim always had to get a chair and Austin loved that he could place the angel on it without one. Placing that angel, is one of the last photos I have of Austin.

Austin was so sweet throughout the tree decorating. He let Noah hang any ornaments he wanted without a fuss. He posed for pictures without poking fun. He even commented on what ornaments he'd always loved. I could tell then he was enjoying the moments; but looking back, it seemed as if his soul was soaking up those memories, knowing they'd be his last with us.

So many memories, simple moments, that day that are now priceless.We ended the evening by going together, just he and I, to get Subway sandwiches (his fave) and watched a Christmas movie as a family. Again, it was the picture perfect day.

If only we could have tucked the boys in the bed that evening and life would go on as we knew and loved it. Instead, just a few short hours of watching my sweet little man, nearly grown, place that angel on the tree, he would himself join the angels. And so, that is why our last perfect day is also our worst nightmare come true.

Tomorrow, we will try to remember the gift Austin gave us his last day. He wanted so much to leave us with a beautifully decorated house for Christmas. We haven't been able to keep the tradition of doing it all in one day, as opening those boxes of memories have just been so hard. Instead, we finished the outside, in between the tears. Tomorrow, we will remember and honor him by finishing the inside, hard as it will be. The tree, especially that angel, will always hold special memories because of his last gift to us. And as much as we wish he could be here with us, a part of him always remains, as his spirit lives on in our hearts.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
We miss you sweet boy! Hope you can see our lights from Heaven.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hidden Shopping Spree

Our shopping this weekend didn't include fighting crowds and hunting for deals, but instead involved hiding them.  We didn't stand in line, scour the ads, and struggle with strangers but rather snuck, searched, and whispered through the store. The kids chose to do "acts of kindness" by attaching money to gifts and tucking them secretly back on the shelves.  While we didn't stay to see the reactions, we hope children will grab items wanting them, as they often do, and be surprised.  It was one of the best shopping trips I can ever remember during such a normally chaotic holiday experience.
Sharing with the kids the "free drink" idea, they quickly asked if they could do the same and that started our Kindness "Reverse-Shopping" Spree.  Handing them change and a sheet of labels, we set off.  Soaking in the meaning of the labels, which said, "This random act of kindness was done in memory of Austin Blair (7/8/94 – 11/29/08).  Pay it forward." they were both silent for a moment and then touched to get to be a part of this project. 

Instantly, they began spurting off ideas of things we could do to make a difference in someone's day.  We soon ended up at a local store with a plan and two very excited kids.

Each of them had a few one dollar bills and began the search for toys in that amount so whatever child found it would be able to get it for free.  Sadly, in today's economy, there aren't a great deal of choices in this category but I think the kids did a wonderful job.

Noah found a firefighter coloring book, which reminded him of Austin and how much he loved the fire department.  Attaching the dollar to the back, I was glad I captured the sweet innocence with my phone.  He then located a container of play-do, something he still loves to play with even at his age. Tucking them both so that the dollars were hidden, Tina began her hunt.

She was able to find a toy firetruck as well.  It was the only truck in the mixture of rubber ducks.  Bringing the box toward the front and at a kid's eye level, she squeezed the truck in among the yellow birds.  I can only imagine how happy a little child will be when they spy it and their chubby little hand grabs it off the shelf. 

Tina then headed for the baby food aisle, saying how hard it might be for someone this time of year.  Hoping a single mom or struggling family might happen upon the food, she attached a dollar with a label, making it free.

Both kids said after each one, "Wow, this feels good," and "I wish I could see who gets it," or "I hope it goes to someone who really needs it."  They were both truly touched by the acts and honored to do something in Austin's memory. 

Noah, remembering he had a five dollar bill in his pocket, asked if we could make one last stop at the shoes.  He wanted to gift a free pair to a child who may need it.  Finding just the right pair, he hid the money inside with a smile.

On the way home, we made a few more secret stops the kids requested,        each one a hug to my heart. 
While we miss Austin every day, holidays are the hardest, especially this weekend with his angel-versary approaching.  However, I know Austin was with us every step of this shopping spree and so very proud of his little brother and cousin.  I could feel his sweet spirit surrounding us and am thankful for each treasured moment.  I hope Austin's spirit lives on and touches each family finding these hidden surprises. 
Just the act certainly blessed each of us.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Wreck That Saved My Life

This year, I am especially thankful for many things….
The first being Life and all that it brings
Next being family and those I hold dear
How precious they are and how lucky I am to have them near
I am thankful for laughter, smiles and fun…
Treasuring those moments and remembering days when there were none
The stars, the sun and sky … all of God’s beautiful displays
Remind me how thankful I am of experiencing every day
I’m grateful for the lessons learned, as on this journey I go
And welcome the opportunities that come and how they help me grow
Even little every-day things that are overlooked by many
I’m thankful for them all and wouldn’t trade any
I am ever-grateful to God, who each of my blessings gives
His wisdom, guidance and strength are by which I live
With all this said, I cannot forget one more important gift
Friends like you that motivate, inspire and lift!
Happy Thanksgiving!

I wrote this poem the Thanksgiving that followed our motorcycle wreck, in 2005.  That was such a powerful year for us and a visible symbol of how short and precious life is.  Below is a story I wrote last year, reflecting on the impact of that wreck and how it changed us - for the better - forever.  It may sound odd to say you are thankful for a motorcycle wreck but it was blessing in a disguise....

The Wreck That Saved My Life

Five years ago this week, Tim and I were in a near fatal motorcycle wreck. At the time, and for years after, I felt it was the most difficult thing we'd ever endured. I had hoped it would be; that somehow, we were given a tragic moment early in life and would be spared pain in our future. Sadly, our life would be turned upside down only three years later with the loss of our son, Austin. The wreck doesn't even compare to the pain of losing a child. Broken bones hold nothing to a broken heart.

Even though I still suffer lasting injuries from the wreck, I am thankful for it. Though I am weaker physically as a result, it made me a stronger person. It undoubtedly brought me closer to God. The wreck made me realize how fragile and short life is and to treasure every moment. It made me appreciate the simple things and every day experiences that others may overlook.

People always say in a near death experience, their past flashes before them. With me, it was the opposite, it was my future. What I saw were the snapshots of time with my children that I was going to miss. I saw the timelines and milestones that I wouldn't get to be a part of, should I not make it through the accident.

My children are what kept me grounded through the chaotic, terrifying scene I found myself in the middle of. Externally, I was fairly calm and composed, spouting off birth dates and numbers to the faceless voices above me. Internally, I was fighting with every ounce of my soul and in deep conversation with God. I didn't care what condition my body was in, I just wanted to remain on this Earth to be with my boys and be a Mom to them.

The wreck also strengthened our marriage. I remember nearly every moment of the wreck, from impact to the ambulance, to the ER and hearing the gasps of family as they arrived and saw me, to being wheeled to surgery. The only part I don't remember is right after impact when I briefly lost consciousness. Witnesses have told me that even though the motorcycle had pinned Tim down; he pulled himself out from under it and literally crawled to me, grabbing my hand before he too lost consciousness. That act of love will forever speak to how deeply he cares for me.

For the first time in our marriage, we were forced to sleep in separate beds and in different rooms. Yet, I would often wake up from the fog of medicine they kept me in, to see him sitting in a wheelchair beside me. Later, we would arrive home to again be separated, as my injuries kept me in a hospital bed for many months. Tim refused to sleep in our bed without me though and lived those long weeks on the couch, again beside me.

We joked that we had become our grandparents, with our oversize pill holders and medical equipment. We were more dependent on each other than ever, as an act as simple as a shower now took an entire morning, followed by a nap to recover. I appreciated then the time we were able to spend together and the patience the wreck was teaching us. I never imagined we would need this strength just a few years later.

What I am most grateful for in the wreck is the awareness of how special life is and to soak up every moment with my children. Nothing was better than spending time with them. We made beautiful memories that I cherish, especially now with Austin gone. Whether it was on an amazing vacation or a simple night at home, we appreciated every second with them. Hugs and kisses had more meaning because we knew how lucky we were to be there with our boys.

I was thankful to be given a second chance at life, grateful for each sunrise because it meant another day to spend with my family. Looking back, I am so appreciative of that time. In those days and months after the wreck, I sat in the moment, thankful for the gift of being there. Never would I have thought that a few years later, we would lose our most precious gift. I knew for myself how short life was - and is - but never guessed it for one of my children.

Losing Austin has been a nightmare I wish daily we could wake from. It is a pain that even the lessons from the wreck did not prepare me for, if there is anything that even could. However, that wreck brought each of us closer together individually and as a family. And I will forever cherish our time with Austin and I am grateful that the last three years we were especially aware of how precious those moments with him were.

Don't let God give you a speeding ticket. Slow down.
Make the most out of life.

Look at more sunrises. Find joy in every day.

Never go to bed angry. You might not get a second chance to make up.

Trust God. He always gives you the strength you think you don't have.

Laugh. A Lot. It makes any bad day seem a little better.

Answer every question when your child asks, "Why."

Don't take the little things for granted.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Big, Little Guy

Today I'm thankful beyond words for the towering boy that is my baby. Noah came into our lives at God's perfect timing and changed us forever. He fills my days with laughter and love.
I'm blessed for every single moment with him!

I'm thankful not only today but every day for the JOY that Noah brings into my life.  There isn't a day that he doesn't make me laugh, usually full body, big belly chuckles from something he's said or done.  Quick-witted and a comedian at heart, he always has snappy comments or reactions to our daily life.  Taking after his momma, he's theatric and dramatic, making the every day occurrence a full event.  Intelligent, athletic, helpful and a sensitive soul, just a few of the individual qualities I love and admire in him. 

Truly God's gift to us, I realize how precious his timing was in giving us Noah.  Though we tried for three years, Noah came when we needed him most - and after we'd quit trying.  Tim and I were going through the roughest patch our marriage had ever seen and Noah's arrival was the needed boost to hold us together.  With his pregnancy, we fell deeper in love and became stronger as a family.  He is a visible reminder of how far we've come, and now more than ever, the glue that continues to hold us.

Noah has been my sole motivation some days, especially the first few weeks and months after losing Austin.  Knowing he needed me is what pulled me out of bed, forced me to put one foot in front of the other, and move forward.  But it was more than just that knowledge, it was his sweet spirit, his joyfulness, and his love that helped and continues to heal Tim and me.  I'm so grateful to have him in my life and thank God for every second spent with him!

Prior to starting this blog, I was writing on one dedicated to Noah.  There aren't a lot of posts but Noah Bear Notes is filled with funny stories, mostly direct from his mouth.  Here are just a few of my favorite "one liners" from my silly guy!

Noah: "Hey Mom, Look...I can get up from the floor with handcuffs on."

Me: "Hey Noah, that's a skill I hope you NEVER need."

Lady: "What grade are you in?"
Noah: "4th"
Me (later): "Why didn't you say 5th?"
Noah: "Until my feet are in the 5th grade room, I'm still a 4th grader!"

Noah (walking in with disposable camera): so how do I see these pictures now?
Me: we have to get them developed
Noah: ...(insert silence and crickets)
Me: (sigh) I feel so old!

Noah: "So how do you get your breath fresh?"
Me (chuckling): "Why, got somebody you want to kiss?"
Noah (ignoring): "What does mouthwash do, what's it all about?"
...and after a long discussion on dental hygiene...
Me: "Do you have a girlfriend or something you want to tell me about?"
Noah: "Nope, but I figure it's about time to go out and get one." :)

Convo with Noah ..."did you call 911?" me, "no, I called dad". Noah, "duh dad IS 911!"

Noah just asked me to look up a cheat code for the Wii Fit...I think that kinda misses the

Me: so is this a great valentines present? (eating at Patty's)
Noah: less talking, more eating!!
.....guess that answered my question

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Free Drinks

There was an urgency stirring within me this morning.  I felt a gentle push to complete some things I've had in planning for the acts of kindness we're doing in memory of Austin.  Tim and I have both been doing things secretly but I've not posted many of them because we truly wanted to remain anonymous.  I had more public ideas in mind though and needed to print things to share when we did them.

Today marks one week until his angel-versary.  It's not a date I look forward to, in fact my heart breaks a little more each year when the calendar turns and I realize it's been so long since I've seen my son.

If I let myself, I could easily shut down this time of year.  With every cheery holiday tune that comes across the radio, I face the reality of another season without Austin.  This year, next Tuesday, will be three years since he's passed.  Time doesn't heal this wound though, there are days I can be shocked right back to that horrific night and have to deal with those emotions all over again.  It's so very difficult, this journey of child loss, and I don't know that there's any right or wrong way to face it. Everyone grieves and heals differently.

The way I've chose to face it, most of the time, is to focus on the positive.  It's the way I know Austin would've wanted it.  Happiness is who he was.  That attitude is the inspiration behind this blog.  It's also the reason we started Acts of Kindness in memory of our son.  The first year it was private, last year I invited those who follow his blog and Facebook page.  This year, I've made it a month long challenge for myself and have encouraged other to join in, if even just for November 29th.  Today, for whatever reason, Austin told me people were thirsty.

The labels I created, so that perhaps someone finding them would be inspired to pay it forward, or read his blog to learn more about his life, came in useful today.  They were my glue for attaching quarters to random drink machines. 

Tim normally raids my change stash, as I throw coins from drive thrus or other locations in the door of the truck or the console, but I decided they had better use this time. 

Stopping whenever I saw a drink machine, I'd peel off a label, attach two quarters (or more if needed) and stick them above the money slot. 

I didn't stay long enough at any of them so I don't know people's reactions but I hope they lifted someone's spirits. Perhaps it was just the needed pick me up in another's day.  It's just a free drink but I have a feeling my boy is working through everything we do so I don't doubt that each and every one of them had a purpose.

Today I'm thankful for your sweet spirit encouraging me to do good.
I feel you pushing me and today through next week
will be filled with acts of kindness in your memory.
We love and miss you Austin!

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Grandma

My Grandma's voice has gotten frailer over the past few years, an indication of her age and failing health.  While hearing her on the phone, my heart see-saws between loving the connection and listening to her sweet familiar sound to worrying about her in the shakiness of the tone.  She gave me quite a scare today as I could tell at her answer she wasn't feeling well.

I actually had already grown more than a little worried, as I'd tried several times over the weekend to reach her unsuccessfully.  Not driving anymore, Grandma doesn't get out like she used to.  Knowing what I do now, I should've followed through a little more but I didn't want to see her door knocked down again. 

Grandma's suffered several strokes over the years and her strength is not at all what it used to be.  She's hesitant when walking and has had a few falls over the past year.  As such, I think many of us in the family are on guard.  My Dad tried to reach her one day and upon not being able to, called the police who knocked down her back door.  She had only gone shopping with her daughter and was fine but ticked she had to replace a perfectly good door.  Another day I had tried calling, knowing she should be home but was getting a busy signal for hours.  She snapped my brother's head off when he arrived to check on her, as he'd woke her up.  She was fine again, just didn't replace the phone on the headset all the way.

This Friday though she actually did take a fall in her laundry room and had to crawl to the phone for help.  The thought of my 82 year old Grandma doing this, breaks my heart.  The fact that she spent the weekend in the hospital and I didn't find out until today when I called makes this normally joyful gal, not so much so.  (insert family lectures here)  At any rate, I'll feel much better when we get some sort of system installed that allows her to call for help at the touch of a button.  I've pushed her toward this before, as well as a walker and some other assistance, but she stubbornly refused.  Guess I'm gonna have to show her that trait passed down to me too and not take no for an answer this time!

She's just very special to me and while I know none of us have a guarantee of our next days, I want to have her in my life as long as possible.  I certainly don't want to see her hurt or suffer, especially from something simple like a fall.  I love her and value the time we spend together.  There's nothing better than being with her and visiting Grandma's House.

Today I'm thankful for still having my precious Grandma with me. I love hearing her frail but sweet voice on the other end of the line when I call and even better spending time with her. I treasure the role model she's been to me growing up and the difference she's made in my life.
Love you Grandma Coons!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Simple Sundays

The two words "Sunday Dinner" immediately bring comfort, home, and family to my mind.  Like a Norman Rockwell painting, a family gathered at the table, heads bowed, hands held around a meal is the essence of happiness for me.  Nothing warms my heart, and my belly, like joining together for dinner on a Sunday evening.  It's something I strive for every week.

Our Sundays are very low key and I love it that way.  Life is busy enough and during the school year our weeknights can be hectic.  Knowing we can start the week off by slowing down and pausing to eat as a family sets my soul for whatever is to come.  Aside from planning a comforting dish from family favorites, I also work to ensure nothing else is on the agenda.  We enjoy our Sundays at home just being together. 

On a rainy day like we've had today, our hours have been spent lazily snuggled watching movies.  I dusted off the VHS movies from under Noah's bed and we picked a few.  Neither of the kids had ever seen "Dances with Wolves" so we spent most of the evening viewing this while spooning in steamy bowls of potato soup. 

The collection of video tapes reminded me of a simpler time.  While Noah and Tina had to think about how to operate the machine, I recalled how Austin could navigate it like a pro, barely at the age of two.  He could recognize a tape by the words on the label and match it to the correct case even that young.  Glancing over the faded cases, I saw many of his favorites, which he played over and again by pushing in the tape with his chubby little fingers.  While those memories tug at my heartstrings, this time of year they are especially needed.  It was a day spent treasuring our past, while holding tight together for our futures.

What I love about Sunday dinners is that you can recreate this warmth and togetherness any day of the week.  When obligations and after school events don't pull us away, we make a commitment to eat as a family every day of the week we can squeeze it in.  Sometimes it's a Sunday comfort kind of meal, and others it is only a quick sandwich; however, it doesn't matter what's on the table, just who is gathered around it. 

Today I'm thankful for Sunday dinners with the family...
and for making that same priority on Mondays, Fridays, and every day in between.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Today was the first scrimmage of the season.  Noah was a little disapointed going in, as the 8:30 arrival time caused him to miss morning hunting.  Since this is the last weekend and tomorrow's forecasting rain, he really didn't want to give up what could have been his last morning opportunity.  The fact that it was only a 20 minute scrimmage made it difficult for all of us to justify.  I've always raised Noah to follow through on his committments though so we had to go and make the most of it.

Tim did decide to hunt, knowing he could rush out of the woods, strip down to one layer and be at the school in time for tip-off.  Noah's eyes would glance toward the door every few minutes during warm-up.  As the clock began the five minute countdown, he mouthed, "Where's Dad?" and I made the steering wheel motion to let him know he was on his way.  He arrived literally at the final second, settling in front of me as the buzzer sounded the beginning of the game. 

For probably the first five minutes of the game, it was ping pong action with no results.  We'd look down the left half of the court, missed shot, swap sides, another miss or steal.  I wondered if the game would ever see a score when our team came alive and merged.  The plays I'm sure they've practiced over and over began to take motion.  Each player took their spots, watching for signals on their next move.  The setup placed Noah at the basket, fairly obvious due to the size advantage he has over the majority of players. 

Like clockwork the ball made it's way down the court, passing from player to player and landing in my boys hands.  With a seasoned swoop, the ball swooshed, earning the first two points of the game.  Over the loud speakers the announcer called out, "Noah Blair, two points" and in the same instant my guy's face lit up, his arms pumping as he trotted down the court.  The other team dribbled, a steal from us, same setup and another swoosh, followed by hearing Noah's name over the loudspeakers.  This play went on for awhile, climbing us to six points.

Opposing team earned one point from a foul on our Beavers.  Noah played defense just as well, making some great blocks at the basket, rebounds and passes.  At our end, he scored four more points by stealing and swishing.  One was after three attempts, the ball kept swirling the rim and coming back out, but he was persistent using his size and elbows to bend, jump and repeat until he finally scored.  By the game end, he'd scored 10 of our 13 points to the other teams 3. 

I'll have to say Tim and I were beaming the entire game from the bleachers, as parents commented around us, clapped and cheered Noah on.  My joy though came from his face (and puffed chest) at each score, block or play and the response from the crowd.  Even on the way out, the pats on the back, high fives and shouts from the stands, had him walking tall.  I love seeing my boy happy, smiles are even bigger when I get to see him proud.  Today, as the MVP, he certainly had every reason to be.  However, even if he hadn't made a basket, just seeing him try hard on the court always makes this mom, and his number one fan, very proud and grinning from the inside out.

Today I'm thankful for basketball season but most importantly seeing my favorite player on the court. I will always big your biggest fan #40!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Master Surprise

I love surprises. Little surprises, big surprises, being surprised, and especially surprising others.  Giving someone a surprise is like planning a mini party. Last night, I developed a master surprise. It was a historic surprise. One Noah and Tina will be talking about for years. Decades. Major mom brownie points earned.

If you've never heard of Twilight, wait a minute, who hasn't? You've been living under a rock if not! It's a series of books and movies and followed heavily by the tween crowd. Well, and us Twilight moms. I didn't want to like the books (movies are more of a novelty) but I got sucked in...pun intended, and have been hooked ever since.  Anyway, opening night of the latest movie, Breaking Dawn, began at midnight. 

I don't know when midnight showings became popular but it's been on my list of things I want to do for awhile.  Unfortunately "Sticky Floors," our local theatre, doesn't usually offer midnight shows so I'd have to drive nearly an hour away to enjoy one.  In my old age, I just didn't think I could attempt the wee hour drive after being snugged into a movie for two hours.  To my delight, I discovered Sticky Floors would be having a midnight show when reading the paper Wednesday night.  This began my plan.

Yesterday, I texted my mom to see if she'd be open to going with us.  I knew Tina would enjoy having her sister there with her and needed her for the details to work out.  You see, Haylea had a school competition and would be returning home late on school night.  I used this as the reason the kids needed to go to bed at 6:45 on a school night.  Explaining that we'd have to set an alarm and wake up in the middle of the night to pick her up, and that I needed them to go with me so I'd stay awake, the plan was set in motion.

While at McDonalds, our pickup spot for Haylea, the kids began discussing that this was opening night.  Disappointed, they mentioned how many of their friends were going.  Mom and I both sadly apologized, wishing we'd thought about buying tickets, especially since we were awake in the middle of the night anyway.  With a glance at my watch, I rushed them out, exclaiming we needed to get home and to bed.

Instead of turning right toward home, I veered left, and at first the kids didn't notice.  Once on the road, Noah asked why.  I then added to my growing embellishment that I needed to stop at the grocery for a few things for our office dinner the next day.  (This grocery is in the same parking lot as the theatre.)  Of course, as we pulled in, the store was closed and lot was empty.  Next door though was a bustling of activity, as ticket holders made their way inside.  Noah moaned how unfair and Tina wished we could be among them. 

I pulled into a parking spot, which caused them both to question me.  "We're already up this late, let's just go see if they have tickets," I said.  This led to several excited remarks and chatter among them, as well with Haylea and Mom who pulled in beside me.  Haylea and Tina shook their heads, spouting that they didn't believe there was a chance.  In the midst of their chatter I hid five tickets in my hand, draping a jacket over my arm.  Noah ran ahead, hoping to beat others in line.  The sign on the door stopped him in his tracks. 

His face covered in disappointment, he turned back to me slowly shaking his head and saying, "No luck.  They're sold out."  At this point, I turned to face the three kids and raised the jacket, revealing the five tickets.  Mouths open, gasps, shrieks, squeals, and one giant bear hug rapidly followed.  It was a Rock Star Mom Moment.

The movie was good.  The kids reactions were great.  Thank yous all the way home.  Getting in the door at 2:30 a.m., not ideal, but they went to bed immediately  Alarm clock came way earlier than any of us wanted but surprisingly, they woke up with little trouble.  As I dropped Noah off to school, at the last possible minute so he'd get all the extra sleep he could, he smiled and hugged me sweetly.  Opening the door he looked back and said, "Mom thanks again for last night.  Awesome surprise."  Even though I was yawning as I drove away, I couldn't help but smile all the way to work.  The memories of last night have kept me smiling all day and I hope that they can look back on this for years to come with the same result.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sugar Cookie Smiles

I've loved writing for as long as I can remember.  Ever since I first wrote the words, "Dear Diary" as a child, I've been compelled to put pen to paper and share.  To anyone who knows me well, it is no secret that one of my lifelong goals and dreams is to write a book.  For awhile, I thought it would be children's book and even took some classes working towards that goal.  Now, I feel God pulling me to a different path.  I can already envision the cover of the book my heart needs to write.  It's not a subject I would've wished for myself, but I feel called to write a book on child loss, more importantly, about finding hope through loss and learning to move forward.

Tonight though I'd like to share a short story that's not so heavy.  It's an assignment from one of the writing classes I took.  Perhaps it is a lazy way out from posting a blog tonight but it is a story near to my heart and falls in line with my thankful moment today - the love for writing and appreciating the gift given to me for words to flow so freely.


The walk between my grandmothers’ homes isn’t far, but I always linger along the way. The path offers silence and privacy, nestled far enough away from the houses at each end. There’s a line of oak trees on one side, a haven to cardinals and blue-jays, who sometimes sing to me on my walk.

The hilly path has history and I often wonder what my mom, and even my grandmother, was like at my age. This path, stomped by the feet of my family through the years, is now dusty and worn. Puffs of dirt settle on my shoes and fill the air if I run. The final hill leading to my great-grandmother’s yard is steep. Hidden among it are small stone steps that help you down.

Grandmother’s house is green, a pale, worn green like a faded picture in a coloring book. Two aged, metal poles pull gently at ropes tied between, holding the day’s wash. The clothes, still damp to the touch, smell of freshly fallen rain.

At first descent upon the backyard, you are instantly filled with sugary scents of cinnamon and vanilla. There are always cookies cooling for the next guest, rimmed in sparkling sugar, and topped with raisins in the shape of a smiley face.

The back porch creaks, announcing my arrival. A metal roof hangs above, weather worn and rusted from the years. When it is raining, you have to rush onto the porch or your head will be soaked from the water that collects there. Today though, the sun smiles down on the house and creates patterns of shade upon the yard.

The window is open and I can see Grandma working in the kitchen. She pretends I’m not there, continuing to pull fresh cookies from the oven. Opening the back screen door, she is forced to look up, as it screeches with every inch I pull it. Her face, full of lines and creases, forms into a happy smile. “Hurry child, before all the flies come in with you,” she says sweetly.

I don’t even have to ask, and she begins to pour a fresh, cool glass of milk, as I sit at the counter. The glass forms little droplets of water and I watch them slowly slide down, as my hand goes around it. I’m ready for a drink but not before biting into one of those cookies.

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

I savor a few more before heading back. I skip home down the path, wondering how many smiles have been shared by family, while eating Grandma’s sugar cookies over the years.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Love Quitters!

Today I'm thankful my mom quit smoking three years ago, after being told she was "a cigarette away" from cancer.  I'm thankful that she noticed early signs and went to the doctor for a checkup. I'm proud that she had the courage to get the scope done on her throat. And, I am thankful to God that the doctor was able to remove all the pre-cancerous cells. This scare was enough to make her quit for good and I'm grateful every day for more precious time with her.  Who knows how many years this added to her life?

Amazing things happen to your body when you quit smoking, as early as 20 minutes after. 
Here's just a few.....
20 minutes after quitting:  Your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
12 hours after quitting:  The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
2 weeks to 3 months after quitting:  Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
1 to 9 months after quitting:  Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia start to regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.
1 year after quitting:  The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker's.
5 years after quitting:  Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years.
10 years after quitting: The risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas decreases.  *

Sadly, many people aren't this lucky to have a wake-up call.  I hate cigarettes, have since I was a child, but even more now that I've watched it attack and kill those I love.  Cigarettes stole time from me with my Grandpa Wavie, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2002, and passed away 18 months later.  I witnessed it slowly torment my Grandma McGuffin, who suffered for years with emphysema and COPD.  She struggled for a breath for over a decade, cigarettes confining her to her home in the end.  Those last few days with her, watching in her in pain just to inhale - something we do without thinking - will forever be etched in my memory.  She was the first loved one I actually prayed for her death, so that she would finally be at peace.  And then, most recently the passing of Tim's mom, June.  Although she had quit smoking a couple years prior, the damage had already been done.  By the time it was discovered, her lung cancer had spread throughout her body, making it impossible to swallow even a sip of water.  Her passing was painful as well, as we watched cancer torture her to the very end. 
For these loved ones, and so many others who've died painful and needless deaths, I fight.  I educate, hoping that just one more person will choose life and quit.  I advocate, urging for smoke free laws that protect.  I pray, for those I love who still smoke, and for the innocent children who don't have a choice of the air they breath in.  I hope...that someday everyone will have the right and privilege of breathing clean air.
This post may seem heavy, especially on a happy little blog about joy; however, if one person is inspired to quit by reading this, or one is educated to never start, and a life is saved, then this lady would be filled head to toe with amazing JOY!
Need help or tools to quit?  It's just a click away at or by calling your
American Cancer Society 1.800.227.2345

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Eat Your Veggies

Today I'm thankful for tomato juice, (my "winter tomato") and to V8, it's tasty cousin.
...Love me some veggies!

My thankful moment may seem a little odd to some today...but I really, really love tomatoes.  I have since I was little.  When I was a kid, I would run barefoot out to the garden with a salt shaker in my pocket, sit on the hot dirt, and bite into one just like an apple.  By the time my belly was full, I'd be dripping with juice, my feet covered in a light mud from sitting cross legged while eating.  Even now, that's the best way to enjoy a tomato, fresh and still warm from the sun. 

I'm thrilled that my favorite, littlest niece, Miss Bryanna, shares my love.  When she's with Aunt Heather in the summer, she knows she can count on me to supply her with a big juicy "mater" to enjoy.  She too will walk right down my deck to see if our plants have produced anything.  Of course, now that my other niece, Tina, is living with us, I've had to learn to share even more.  I think I *may (and I use that word lightly) have found someone who loves tomatoes more than me.  Every week this summer, as we visited the farmer's market (because my plants did not produce enough), we'd load up and place them on the window sill.  When it got down to one tomato, we'd look at each other, both of us hoping the other wouldn't want it.

I don't know if I've always liked vegetables or I just grew to love them more as adult.  Mom says I never was very picky.  (My pant size would agree!)  To hear my Aunt Faye tell it however, I didn't like mashed potatoes.  I'm not sure if I was just in a mood with her or what, but I would not eat them and she politely forced me to.  She still apologizes to me today for whatever happened.  Guess I've blocked it out of my memory!  (I still love you big, Faye!)  Nevertheless, this traumatic experience did not cause me to steer clear of my veggies, and for that I'm thankful.

Actually, I don't think there is a vegetable I don't like.  My love for them has made me consider being a vegetarian a time or two.  My love for steak (and chicken, turkey, pork) always trumps it though.  Instead I just try to get my daily intake of veggies, whether it be fresh in the summer or from a can of V8.  Aside from tomatoes, my favorite vegetables are green beans, asparagus, and bell peppers.  What's yours?

When cooking, I always include at least two vegetable choices, learning with two boys that choices were necessary.  Unfortunately, my love didn't pass down to them, but instead, they took after their picky father who thinks macaroni and cheese is a veggie.  Noah's been my most difficult, and I suppose I should've known when I'd hide peas in his mashed potatoes, only for him to spit them out.  He'd swirl the fork full around in his mouth and dispense those peas out like a slot machine!  Now I dice hidden veggies into casseroles and soups, hoping he won't notice. 

This post is beginning to look much like a casserole, with random bits and pieces of thoughts thrown in, hoping in the end it comes out, readable!  It's probably due to the timing of the post, the lunch hour, and the fact that I neglected to bring anything from home. 

In honor of the upcoming holidays, I'll close with a recipe.  In fact, I may create this for our office potluck at the end of the week, especially since I'm the only one who is bringing veggies to the Starchfest!  It's an oldie but a goodie; however, I have "healthified" it up.  Geez...I better just paste it below and call it a day.  My hunger has me making up words now!  Thanks for hanging in there.  Happy eating!


3 (16 ounce) cans Veg-All, drained

1/2 cup onion, chopped   (could toss in a bell pepper too for extra vitamins)
1 (8 ounce) carton sour cream   (I'm swapping with Greek Yogurt - great substitute!)
2 (10 1/2 ounce) cans cream of celery soup   (fat free version)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese   (lo-cal)
salt and pepper  (no cal!)
1 cup crushed buttery cracker, we use Ritz   (maybe I'll try wheat?)
1/2 cup butter, melted   (I can't believe it's not butter!)

Butter a 13x9" baking dish. Layer Veg-All in the bottom. Mix next 5. 2ingredients and pour over Veg-All. Combine crumbs and melted butter and pour. 3over top of casserole. Bake for 45 minutes at 350ยบ.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cafe Memories

I'm fortunate to say that I've been employed steadily, since the age of 15, except for the precious first year of Austin's life I chose to stay at home.  Looking back, I don't know how we survived financially but God certainly blessed us, and I'm ever grateful for those memories and time spent with him then.

Sharing a story this weekend with Noah about my first job, those years at Centertown Cafe have been on my mind.  I'm grateful Mom let me start working at such a young age because it instilled in me early a strong work ethic and an appreciation for earning a paycheck.  Waitressing was a tough job physically but the strength I gained from it was invaluable.  Tenacity from learning to show up, even on days you didn't feel like it.  Fortitude from facing strangers and turning them into friends.  Toughness in overcoming rude customers and bad tips. Durability from long hours on young legs, early mornings, and late nights.  Security in setting goals and saving from meager earnings.  Stalwartness from the life lessons shared with me by my mentor and first boss, Fry Holden.

Fry was a stern looking man, and one who could set fear in a young girl, still unsure how to read people.  My spine would stand at attention when I heard the large metal backdoor open and close, then the metal clink of his lighter, the aroma of his pipe following moments later.  He was a businessman, always heading to the cash register upon walking in the restaurant to see results of the day. 

A man of few words, he would have me spouting the events from the breakfast crowd or any news I knew he'd want to know, with just a glance.  After a few months, I learned how to get a smile out of him, sometimes a chuckle.  In the end, I considered him much like a father figure.  Fry was always there, for me, and all the girls who worked at Centertown Cafe.  He cared about us, but he was also quick to correct any behavior or attitude he didn't like. 

His was the first impactful death of my life.  I guess I was fortunate to not have a loss until very late in my teens, but it made it more difficult to process.  Though Fry didn't approve of absences and the school wouldn't approve it, I am thankful I stood my ground to attend his funeral.  I can still picture all of us girls arriving in Cafe uniform, complete with aprons each with lottery tickets to tuck into his casket when we said goodbye.  The cafe was never the same after his passing and it saddens me that the restaurant closed not long after.

I'll forever have fond memories though of my time there.  I treasure those loyal, regular cutomers, who became my friends.  Memorizing each of their usual orders, I'd have it cooking or at their spot before they made it to their seat.  Some would even call ahead to see if I was working because "I was the only one who could make a chef salad just right."  They shared stories with me and wanted to know mine, ready to hear how I did on a test or what fun I had on my day off.

And I love reminiscing about the funny times I spent with my co-workers, including my best friend.  Fortunately Fry trusted my judgement and hired her and I was thankful to get to spend evenings together.  I don't know whether we had more fun while the customers were there, or during close down each night, when we got to crank up the juke box and sing, dance, and act silly while mopping and scrubbing down the counters. 

Being a waitress will always hold a special place in my heart for these and many more reasons.  I'm grateful that my first job holds such treasured memories and just as thankful that my current job is one I passionately love.

Today I'm thankful for my job. I'm grateful to have a position that allows me to bring hope to others daily. I'm also thankful my mom let me start working at 15, which helped mold me and gave me an appreciation for a hard day's work. I'm especially glad my first job was such a positive experience, working for a great man, Fry Holden, and with a wonderful crew I'm still friends with today. ...Great memories from Centertown Cafe!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sweet Signs

Today I'm thankful for church, how when gathered even strangers become family...and I'm especially thankful to have my momma next to me in the pew!

We visited a new church this weekend to support my stepdad's side of the family.  His brother has started a new church, "A Place Called Hope" in Beaver Dam.  Last Sunday, we went because it was the opening day for the church, but also just two days after losing Dallas.  As it was Jeff's first sermon and having just lost his dad, we felt he needed as much love and warmth in the pews that the church could hold. 

This Sunday, I went back knowing my mom planned to return.  It was such a pleasure to sit with her today.  I grew up in church, though Mom didn't often attend.  I'm thankful that she encouraged us to go as kids, even if she wasn't ready at the time.  To see her going now, fills me with joy.  In fact, it seemed my soul was dancing as we sung together in the pew.  That's what we should hope for most in this know that those we love will be with us in Heaven someday.

It's a tremendous comfort to us knowing that is where Austin is now.  Selfish as it is for us to want him still here, we know that he could be in no better place.  I'm a big believer that those who've passed can send us signs, if we open ourselves up to seeing them.  And the signs Austin sends us, at just the needed moments reassure me that he is at peace, yet watching over us always.  As I've shared before in many posts, he usually sends us a yellow butterfly.

Last night as I was leaving the photo shoot, Austin was on my mind.  Having photographed happy families all day, my eyes welled with tears, knowing our Christmas cards will always have an open spot, much like our hearts.  As I pulled the door closed, something yellow fluttered by my hand.  Of course, I was bawling by the time I made it to the truck, but they were happy tears, as I could feel the hugs of my sweet boy all the way home.  Then, today during the sermon, Jeff spoke of the feelings you have after you've been saved - how you notice sunsets and leaves more than you ever did before.  He told a story of a brilliant blue and green butterfly that flew past his car one day and how short the life of a butterfly is, how he could be the only one to see it live.  And he said, "How awesome is it that God could've sent that butterfly just for me?"

Another surprising sign today came from my Grandpa Coons.  I had him on my mind all morning for some reason.  We were joking about his "JOY" story this morning, when for some reason Tim started singing, "Joy to the World" on the way to church.  Once there, the hymns we sang reminded me so much of my childhood and growing up with him in the pulpit. 

I had my heart on hearing "I'll Fly Away" (one of Grandpa's favorites)  and as they were taking requests from the pews, I'd whispered to Tim to say #333.  Noah wasn't paying attention, or even where he could've heard me say this, but a few minutes later he leaned over to me and said, "If they ask for another song, say #333."  I sat there stunned, hearing Tim call it out on my other side, and then standing to sing with the congregation.  To my knowledge, Noah has never heard of this song.  He didn't have a hymnal in his hands or have any reason to say those numbers.  I don't know any other explanation than it was a hug from my Grandpa.  There was a sweet spirit in the church and I could picture him smiling down and joining in the song.

Who can say how those sweet signs come to us but I'm very grateful they do.  Each one, always unexpected, but at the most perfect moments, hug my heart and my soul.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dinner and a Movie

My thankful moment today was about veterans, in honor of the day.  However, I'm not writing about that tonight because last year I wrote about my favorite veteran, Grandpa Wavie.  If you didn't catch it, just click the blue link to read that post.

It's no surprise to my loyal readers that one of my favorite "date nights" or just any night of the week things to do is have pizza and a movie at the house.  Especially on a cold Friday night, when I've taken a 1/2 sick day, and exhausted from the week, I can't think of a better way to spend time with the family.  I'm grateful to kick back and do just that tonight!

The pizza has been ordered, the movies are on the table, and the fire is roaring.  We're just waiting on Noah to get home from practice and then we'll settle in for quality time together.  As such, my post tonight will be short and sweet!

Tonight's movie is Zookeeper.  I actually think Noah has seen it already (because he always sees more movies than us and was a frequent flyer at Sticky Floors this summer!) but he'll watch it again.  It's hard to find a movie these days that is family friendly and one my boys won't think is too girly.  They just don't make movies like they used to though....

Where the Red Fern Grows
Back to the Future
Field of Dreams
Old Yeller
Stand By Me
Karate Kid
Honey I Shrunk the Kids

I'm happy to say I've exposed Noah to all of these.  He loved Karate Kid so much we had to rent the remaining sequels the next weekend.  Same with the "shrunk" series.  As we're settling in for "movie season" where we watch 2x as many movies than in the warm weather months, I'll have to think back to other oldies but goodies we can watch together.  Do you have a favorite family movie?  Comment below and share it with us.  For now, I'm off to share a slice with my family...and maybe pop a bag of popcorn for later!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Music Mix

We're listening to satellite radio now while Noah does his homework. It helps him focus and I love to have music filling the air. I'm a huge lover of music and to quote a friend of mine, "I'm only as good as the next song I hear!"

Stop. Scroll down on this post and look to the right. See the music player? It'll have a large "play" arrow. Click it. Enjoy! .....For your listening pleasure, take a stroll down memory lane while you finish reading.  Be prepared, it's an eclectic collection.

Earlier in the week, one of my thankful moments was about music but I didn't have the chance to write about it. Today, I'm thankful for music. I'm grateful my Mom let me explore various genres growing up to foster a love and appreciation for all music. I love how music can change a mood, uplift your spirit, bring back a memory, or frame the perfect moment.

Music is not a new post for me by any means.  One of my very first posts, What is Joy?, told of a funny story about my Grandpa singing.  A few days later, Pandora's Landscaping, where I shared how much I love listening to music while mowing.  And another post, My Daily Drive, which is about how music passes the time while I commute back and forth to work.  One of my most popular posts, Now all is well, shares about the Christmas story and The First Noel.  It's easy to see from my writing that music is important to me!

My Mom and I believe that my love for music began in her womb.  While pregnant, she took a music appreciation class.  Growing up, I never heard my mom say, "Turn that down!" or question the artists or genres I listened to.  She embraced my exploration, even during my all black phase and obsession with The Cure!  It was an odd mix floating down the hall, anything from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to Amy Grant, to Run DMC, to Bob Seger. 

Mom's influence later led me to love both country and rock, from Tanya Tucker to the Police.  My stepdad, who gave me my first record player and passed down his favorites, exposed me to artists like Three Dog Night, Don Fogerty and CCR.  And growing up in their house, along with my husband's exposure, I have a love for "old country" from the first greats to cross the stage at the Grand Ole Opry.  Toss that with my teenage mix of experimental music and 80s pop, to classical and jazz favorites from high school band, along with my now equally random collections from christian praise & worship to Top 40 and you can see why my Ipod is all over the place!

Aside from listening to it, I've dabbled in playing instruments and even written a song or two.  I remember my first tiny piano, with what looked and sounded like real keys that I got when I was barely old enough to stand in front of it.  As a teenager, I upgraded to a keyboard and played around enough on the organ and piano at church to know a few tunes.  In middle school, I joined the band and played the clarinet, pushing myself to keep the spot of First Chair.  It's on my bucket list to learn to play guitar, though I can play a mean game of Guitar Hero.  I'm thankful Mom let me experiment and express myself through music as a child.  While I didn't become the song writer or pop star I dreamed about, while dancing in front of my mirror, it certainly was fun at the time.  I still embrace the heart of that little girl when I'm jamming to music in my pjs while cleaning house, or having a mini concert in the car on the way home, or even a solo in the shower. 

I hope you've enjoyed your musical accompaniment today.  Perhaps you recalled a memory from a song you haven't heard in awhile, or perhaps you've found a new favorite.  Either way, I'm happy to have exposed you to just a little piece of what Heather's mix tape might look like, if I ever made you one.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Girl Power!

My niece and son went with me yesterday to vote.  It's something I've always let my boys do, as I wanted them to grow up knowing how important this freedom is.  This was a new activity for Tina though and she soaked up the process like a sponge.

They stood on either side of me and walked through the steps to cast my vote.  Before I made my choices, I let them point to who they would vote for, if they were old enough.  We later discussed reasons to vote for someone and why we should make informed decisions when doing so.

In addition to our yearly conversations about the importance of voting, I took it a step further and educated them on how women got the right to vote.  Neither of them realized that it wasn't always the "norm" for women to do so.  For me, it's been a honor to vote as long as I can remember and I hoped to pass down that sense of importance, pride, and responsibility to Tina today.  Noah counts down every year how much longer he has until he can vote, so I'm pretty sure it's been sinking in with him!

While researching interesting facts to share with them, I came across a few I thought I'd include with this post.  It seems surreal to think that less than a century ago, women did not have the same rights as I do today.  Perhaps this is why I feel such a drive to utilize this right that so many women before me did not have and fought so passionately to earn.  I am so very grateful for their sacrifices.  Knowing what they went through makes me very proud to be a woman, and to wear that little white sticker, with two small but powerful words, "I Voted!"

Did U Know?

•The American Women's Suffrage movement began at a New York tea party in 1848.

•The 19th Amendment to the American Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, was passed on August 26, 1920, after a group of women who called themselves the Suffragettes.  Led by Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, these women pent 72 years petitioning the government to recognize women's rights.

•Charlotte Woodward was the only original Suffragette to survive to see women get the vote in 1920.

•Even though women got to vote in 1920, Women's Equality Day wasn't made an official holiday until 1971.

•While America has not yet had it's first female president, many other countries have had female leaders, including India, Britain, The Republic of Ireland and Canada.

Read more: Women's Equality Day

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Simple Gratitude

We said goodbye today to a sweet soul I was blessed to have in my life.  One of the things I will always remember about Dallas, and what was shared today, was his love of life and always having a smile on his face.  What a great way to face each day!  Because of that positive spirit, he never met a stranger and the crowd was evident of the impact he made in the world.  His sudden passing, even at his age, is another reminder of how short this life is and how very imporant to make the most of every day.

These are just a few of the things I am grateful for today....

Warm sunshine in November
Potluck dinners cooked by church ladies
How a touch, a hug, a smile can hold or lift you at just the needed moment
The right to Vote

Monday, November 7, 2011

Acts of Love

I apologize for the late hour and shortness of today's post.  Visitation began this afternoon for Papaw Dallas so it's been a long day.  I questioned even writing but, being it's only day 7, I couldn't break the challenge so soon.  This morning, my plan was to write about being thankful for music.  Being gone and on my feet all day though, I don't really have a song on my mind.  Despite the emotions of the day, I do however have a song in my heart. 

When I left for the funeral home today, I decided that any acts of kindness would be toward my family.  While my challenge is mostly focused on "random acts of kindness" and to those I do not know, I felt my family needed a few extra doses of love. I could also feel Austin pushing me, as if this was his way of showing us he is there.

One of the most common phrases when someone passes is, "if there's anything I can do..." but seldom does anyone ask.  I sent a text to my little sister, checking on her and asked that familiar question.  To my surprise, she responded.  I then made it my mission to deliver.

As it was early, food hadn't yet begun to arrive so I stocked up on snacks and drinks, planning for a hot bucket of chicken at the end of my errands.  Next on my list was my sister's request, a small stuffed cow.  She didn't even need to explain, I knew what she wanted it for, although I'd never guessed it would be so difficult to find.  Five stores and several phone calls later, the best I could do was a small ceramic cow.  Back home to quickly print a few more needs, I rushed back.

Timing was perfect, as the family had gathered in the kitchen, looking for lunch.  KFC was just what the doctor ordered, as Dallas' wife, Pansy, smiled, nodding that was exactly what sounded good for her to eat.  Knowing I got some hot potatoes in my lil sis, and a piece of chicken in Mom, made me feel better too.  Although it broke my heart to watch Raven tuck the tiny cow into her Papaw's arm, with tears in her eyes, I also knew that the scavenger hunt I went on to find it was worth every second and mile. 

Then, copies of a poem, which I shared with Altiabelle, Dallas' first wife, in the loss of her husband over a year ago, came back to help again.  When I printed out and framed a poem that was shared with us in our loss, never did I imagine it would have such an impact on her.  She'd mentioned several times through the past year how often she read the poem and how much it comforted her.  Today, she requested a copy to share with Pansy.  That, and copies of my "Cow Tales" story from yesterday, which brought some needed laughs in the day.

Piled in the back of my truck, I wouldn't have expected a chicken meal, peppermints and moonpies, drinks, a tiny cow, or printed poems to provide much help, on their own or altogether.  Yet they did, in little ways and big, and I'm so glad I had a special angel as a co-pilot to help me deliver it today.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
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