Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sneaky Dates

With two teenagers in the house, Tim and I find ourselves with unexpected pockets of time together.  Windows of opportunity I like to think of them.  They come without much warning so planning a date isn't really possible.  Spontaneity is the ruler here, especially as they often fall at unusual time slots.

For instance, last night, after filing our taxes (how exciting), we realized we had about two hours to kill until Noah was out of practice.  Tina was already home from an after school meeting, at which she'd already eaten.  In addition, her sister came home to spend the night with her so I was trying to give them some uninterrupted sister time.  All of this scheduling chaos revealed a "window" to an impromptu date night.

Hunger predicted the plans...a dinner for two.  Tim, always the caregiver, questioned if we could eat out with his "what about the kids?" look.  I explained the above and he happily agreed, hinting to scent of steak drifting through the downtown Owensboro air.  I obliged and headed for our favorite peanut-shell-covered-floor escape.

For the next hour or so, we lingered over perfectly charred meat, a treat in my chicken and fish health conscious house.  We held hands.  We laughed.  We talked about nothing in particular.  I even got a twirl on the way to the car, thanks to the honkey tonk music playing over the loud speakers outside. 

It wasn't scheduled or planned, no reservations necessary, but it was wonderful.  More than anything I just appreciated the couple time.  This date night, on a Monday, from a leather booth, was an unexpected chance to reconnect with my hubby.  And maybe those are the best dates of all.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Simple Joys

We opted for a quiet, relaxed weekend.  Maybe it was because I've been fighting a sore throat all week.  Or it might be because our old bodies couldn't quite handle the birthday-palooza we experienced the weekend before.  And yet, it could also be because we knew we needed to store up energy for this coming week, and another birthday fest.  Regardless, it is nice when you really have no plans all weekend long and you can just be.

I found myself several times over the past two and a half days smiling in the moment.  Finding blessings in simplicity.  There wasn't any major event or activity, no single topic I could find to narrow in and write about.  But yet, with every small-but-blessed point in time, I would pause, thankful, and consider sharing whatever it was. 

Looking back, I don't know that I can even recall each joy, which really, makes them all the more special.  Happiness often comes from something that happens.  But joy is internal.  Nothing particular has to occur to be joyful.  It comes from within.  And I guess that has been my weekend.

Nothing and everything.  And....
Fresh clean sheets.  Unexpected sunshine.  Afternoon naps.  Hot tub time under the stars.  Homemade lasagna.  Visiting a new church.  Laughter until your sides hurt and then laughing because you can't remember why you started.  Grilling in winter.  Loving and loyal dogs.  Simple family moments.

Joyful additions...like sprinkles on an already perfectly lovely cupcake.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Faithful Friday: Remembering You

 "I thank my God every time I remember you" --Philippians 1:3

I went to bed last night with this scripture on my heart.  Yesterday I found Noah with his treasure chest opened on his bed.  This chest is one he built with his dad, shortly after we lost Austin.  In it Noah placed memories of Austin, things he treasured about his big brother.  The chest came with a lock and key and we shared with him that it was his to go to whenever he missed Austin.  Most of the time, he opens it privately, as I'm sure that tears often fall, like they do whenever I reminisce.  This time however, he wanted to share.  We spent time looking through things and he decided to wear one of brother's necklaces and his cologne to school this morning.  Although I wish he didn't have to have only memories left of Austin, I am glad he can remember and feel close to him in these ways.

Memories are difficult when you first lose someone.  You waiver between wanting to remember them and guarding your heart against the pain you know will follow.  While you welcome others mentioning the lost loved one, you brace yourself for the raw emotions those early months bring.  On one hand it may lift your spirits that someone remembered or thought of them, but on the other it just irritates an already broken heart.

And truthfully, in some cases, I avoided the topic at times because I just couldn't break down in that moment.  Either I was in a location I didn't want to bare to my soul, or my face was still damp from tears I didn't want to spill again so soon.  So, you build it up and wait until you are alone, or feel safe, to reflect on the memories and allow the pain to come.

There were times that I wondered if we could ever speak of Austin that tears wouldn't fall or our voice would shake.  It hurt me because I wanted us to recall memories of him and be able to smile, laugh, and warm our hearts in remembering him.  But I also knew how each of us stood on shaky ground every day.  Some days were ok, some days were horrible,  and I never wanted to cause tears to fall on a rare good day.  I didn't want to cause Tim or Noah anymore pain than what I already knew they felt, even though I also knew they thought of him with every breath.

Looking back at the long road of grief with child loss, I can say those days do eventually come.  Yes, we still cry, and yes, it still hurts, but we can also smile now when saying his name.  We can laugh as we tell a funny story of something Austin did.  We can remember all the many, many blessings he brought into our lives, even if his days with us were shorter than we'd hoped.  We can also thank God with every memory, every thought, each reflection of his life and how he impacted each of ours.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Small Packages

We surprised the kiddos this weekend with the news that we'd purchased a camper.  Although we didn't go into much detail, looking back, I'm sure the lack of explanation left it to their imaginations.  As with all kids, bigger is better and they were already dreaming of a house on wheels, complete with flat screens and bathrooms.  You can imagine their shock when Tim backed in the compact little white box that is our "new to us" pop-up camper.

"Is this a joke?" was basically the expression they both gave us and pint-size Tina even said, "There is no way we're fitting in that!"  Tim chuckled and set to unhooking and opening it to it's full capacity.  Even expanded, it wasn't quite what they expected, although upon further inspection they did show a little excitement.  In fact, Noah wanted to sleep in it that evening.  Thankfully, it hadn't went through our cleaning detail and we didn't allow it because a huge storm passed through that night.  Having left it open to air out, we felt if it survived that storm, we'd made a good purchase!

Tim and I were truly like little children on Christmas morning though, as our evening pillow talk was of plans and trips to be.  We had already been discussing our spring break options when we happened upon this camper deal.  Plans to visit the mountains were tossed out the window in favor of breaking in the camper by the lake.  After many suggestions and ideas from friends, we opted for familiar territory semi-close to home for our first outing.  I made the reservations last night, though I felt like a newbie not yet understanding all the camper terminology.  Hopefully it meets our expectations when we get there and we don't reenact one of the kids favorite funny movies, "RV"!

It's not that we're new to camping.  We own tents and try to squeeze in a camping trip at least once a year.  It's harder with tents though.  It seems there's more to pack, more to plan, and the weather is the predictor of the trip.  I'm somewhat finicky and don't enjoy being too hot or too cold, so in Kentucky this leaves me with few weekends to camp.  This past season, because of Tim's back we missed out entirely.  I just couldn't ask him to sleep on the ground, on an air mattress, while visiting the chiropractor 2-3x a week!

Labor Day weekend 2010 Tim, Noah, and I loved our Camping/Boating Trip to Livermore.  It was the perfect weather weekend with sunshine in the day for boating and cool evenings so we could snuggle under the stars.  The year before, Tim surprised us with a trip, as we were Shipwrecked-on-a-private-island.  He took us by boat to a remote location that we'll always fond memories of, even if I had to pee on a log.  You can read about either or both trips by clicking on the links above.

Even though our pop-up is really nothing more than a portable tent on wheels, with the addition of tiny kitchen, I have grand plans for it.  Because I know good things really do come in small packages and I can't wait to open ours to enjoy every moment and memory!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Birthday-palooza

In this family, we do birthdays.  I mean, we really DO birthdays.  It's an All-Out-Fest!  Last week was Noah's celebratory birth week.  I say "week" because that's about how long our festivities last.  Truly, it's only 4 days this year but I've been planning for weeks.  So has he.

Rarely does his birthday fall on the weekend so this always results in at least two parties.  His actual birthday was Thursday.  Our tradition is to celebrate simple.  At home.  Just us.  His favorite meal.  One gift.  Special dessert.  His birthday menu was homemade shrimp Alfredo, finished with a chocolate chip cookie cake.  The rest of the night was HIS.  He was master of the remote.  He decided what games we'd play.  It was all things Noah.  And he loved every minute of it, complete with blowing out a "Happy 30th" candle because that is all I had at home!

The weekend found my house invaded by a swarm of tweenage boys.  We caravanned to a nearby hotel for the night so the flock of testosterone could enjoy the indoor pool.  It was an interesting experience, traveling with so many boys at one time.  I will say they were all incredibly polite and well-behaved but still ALL-BOY, from midnight pranks with spray cheese to sneaking salt and soy sauce in their friends' drinks when they weren't looking. 


We made several trips to the pool, broke for pizza in the room, and let them hang in the hotel lobby.  It added to the humor of the weekend that a flock of females, in their same age bracket, were also celebrating at the same hotel.  Directly in the room below us.  Pool time was amusing, as the boys claimed they were "being stalked" by insane girls.  Every boy, including Noah, has a girlfriend back home - who would be thrilled to know, they showed no interest. 


I don't know we made it home the Sunday morning, provided Tim and I maybe had 15-20 minutes sleep per hour.  We'd awake to an uproar of laughter or a stampede of feet to our adjoining room, open the connecting door and remind them of their neighbors, who were also trying to rest.  While nothing was damaged, I do pity the poor maid who had to clean their room the next day, as pillows and sheets sprawled across the floor, which was littered with candy wrappers and empty soda cans.  We left one lonely half damp sock because no boy would claim it.  It took several minutes of investigation just to find the owner of a tshirt and jeans, I didn't have the energy to care about the sock at that point!

I think it was a success as the boys were calling it "Epic" and one even used the phrase, "Noah's bachelor party" when we overheard them in the hall.  In fact, I'm sure the mom's may not speak to me for awhile, as I'm pretty certain this is the request of each of the attendees to do for their upcoming birthdays.  Overall it was a fun night and one I'm sure Noah will remember for years to come.

Sunday we arrived home just in time to ship off the boys and trade them in for family.  The house was then filled all afternoon with screaming cousins, hopped up on cake and ice cream.  We pulled out the "Just Dance" games and got a kick out of everyone who participated.  (Mom - you were the party pooper!)  The winner of each round would challenge the next and I even got Noah out for one dance.  Most of the time he was wrapped up in his new gift - a Kindle Fire.


Before we headed off to bed last night, early because we were all T-I-R-E-D, Noah gave us both a giant bear hug and kiss, thanking us and claiming 2012 as the "best birthday EVER".  I'd say it was a job well done.  Now, to catch my breath and figure out how to top it for 2013!
still not too old or big to sit on Dad's lap!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Faithful Friday: Unconditional Love

My baby turned twelve on Thursday.  This week has been filled with all things Noah.  I'm completely wrapped up in preparations to celebrate the blessed day he came into our lives.  With each activity, I hope it shows him a fraction of how special he is and what he means to us.

Earlier in the week, while away from him, I thought about how big my love for him is.  It's all-encompassing and expands through every fiber of my soul.  Being separated from him, if only overnight, just magnifies that love.  It makes me long to reconnect with him.  And he feels the same.  As I kissed him goodbye before the sunrise on Tuesday, on my way out of town, he grabbed tightly hold of me, yet still half asleep.  Once on the road, a simple text "miss you already" appeared under his name.

There is no greater love than that of a parent and a child.  They are a part of you, a reflection, and yet so much more than you could ever hope to be.  Even before he was born, like most parents, my only request was that he be happy and healthy. 

I've reflected on this throughout the week, comparing the love for my children to God's love for me.  While it doesn't seem possible that anyone could love me more than I love them, He does.  And just like I want the best for Noah, that's God's hope too. 

John 15: 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 

It wouldn't matter what Noah does, I still love him.  That will never change.  Even as a toddler, still sniffling from a punishment, he'd crawl in my lap looking for affection.  Regardless of whatever small act he did to disobey, he received it.  With a hug and a kiss, he'd have the reassurance that I loved him still.  And while I pray Noah's path in life never takes him to a place of trouble, I would be there to love and support him through whatever he might face. 

God's love is the same.  He loves me anyway, despite my shortcomings.  Even though I fail, daily, his love is always there.  It is unconditional.  And that brings me great joy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Destination Inspiration

I apologize for the brief hiatus in posting.  Having driven to Birmingham and back this week, I've had more than my share of windshield time.  With little sleep and long hours, I'm operating mostly on fumes, though I do feel fully recharged. 

The trip was a recognition event of sorts.  A small handful of staff chosen within our Division were called down to celebrate successes from the past year.  I was honored to be among the select few.  Just to be nominated was touching and I appreciate my supervisor more than words can express.  Not just for the nomination, but for her continued support, motivation, encouragement, and words of wisdom.  I'm blessed to have her as a mentor.

My success is only a reflection of her leadership and the tireless work of my volunteers.  Really, without my volunteers, I could accomplish nothing.  Among the many, many things I love about working for ACS, they are certainly at the very top.  In the past, I've shared a few posts about them and how they are so much more than a volunteer.  They truly do inspire me daily and motivate me to do and be my best.

Being at the "retreat" allowed me to spend time with others who encouraged and uplifted me too.  Sharing time with my peers, especially those with the same passion for ACS and committment to our cause was wonderful.  I soak up excellence like a sponge.  I learn from others, feed off their success.  And I love the electric atmosphere when brains are synced and at work.  My head was spinning with ideas quicker than my notebook could record!

It was also an honor to sit alongside the executive team, many of whom I've admired and considered career role models from my early days with ACS.  Hearing their stories again at how they came to this organization, their journey to where they are, but also why they've stayed, was filled with goosebump moments. 

One statement, a simple comparision,  stood out and sums up why I've remained here, celebrating my 14th year next month.  Anyone who has ever worked for a non-profit and chosen it as a career didn't do it for the money.  Many will comment, "you will never be rich in that job" and that's true, if you're only counting dollars.  But there are riches.

For me, I feel weatlhy beyond measure working for the American Cancer Society.  Although I may spend countless hours on phone calls, meetings, and travel miles to raise awareness for our organization, it's a worthy investment.  For I receive deposits every time I recruit a new volunteer, form a lifelong friendship, see a survivor smile, and help a cancer patient.  After every single workday, I can come home with the knowledge that a difference was made.  That we're one step closer to a cure.  Somewhere, someone was provided HOPE because of what we do.  And that makes me unbelievably rich.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Faithful Friday...on a Monday

Ok, I failed.  Only my second week on a new weekly post and I forgot.  I realized it sitting in the pew at church Sunday morning.  How could I let this happen?!  One word.  Distracted. 

My Bible was open to Luke and I felt pulled to keep reading, even though the preacher had stopped.  Something drew my eyes to a section about Mary and Martha.  You can read the full story at Luke 10: 38-42 but the verse that stood out to me was this:

the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things,
but only one thing is needed."

Doesn't this just sum up the life of an average wife, mom, woman?  It does for me.  Never feeling enough.  Wishing for a few more hours each day.  Busy, busy, busy.  And yet, still more to do.

In my "focus for 2012" I've thought of many areas of my life I want to improve.  I touched on a few of them earlier this week in some of my posts.  I haven't done any of them well yet, at least not everything in one day.  The one I lacked the most though was reading my Bible.  I'm still struggling to find that perfect time slot.  And then the realization that I was doing it all backwards came upon me.

I was giving God what was left, instead of giving him what is first.  The time I wanted to spend soaking in His word, devoting one on one with Him, always came if or when.  If I woke up early enough...when I got this last load of laundry done.  Instead it should've been priority.  Everything else should come later, after my time with him. 

As with all resolutions excuses have ruled this week.  But I spend my commuting time in prayer...But I read a daily devotion on my email each day...but it still wasn't enough and what my soul longs for.  My focus was all wrong.

So, I'm starting week two with a more purposeful concentration.  Perhaps I should've taken my own advice from Resolutions 2011.  Instead of worrying about the many things in myself I need to change, I'll focus instead on the only ONE thing needed.  Everything else will fall into place.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Non-stop Littles

Whew!  What a night!  My niece and nephew, ages four and three, have been with me less than 24 hours but I'm already tuckered out.  Thankfully though Noah and Tina made great sitter support to fill in the gaps this aging lady couldn't keep up with.  Even though my bones hurt from the "go! go! go!" I do believe these kiddos keep me young.  Even tired they sure know how to lift my spirits.  A dose of littles is good for the soul!

There's such a sweet innocence to kids at this age.  I love their energy, imagination, personality and affection.  Or lack of affection, just to get a laugh.  Of course every time I see them I want to smother them in kisses and hugs.  Sometimes they come running to me, sometimes they run the opposite direction to pick on me.  Such was the case yesterday when they arrived for Noah's last ballgame. 

I'd ask for a kiss and they'd grin mischievously, shake their head no, and kiss someone else.  Uncle Timmy was covered in kisses from Allen, who'd giggle in between each little peck.  Bryanna would cut her eyes at me and shout a quick, "Sorry Charlie!" 
Luckily by the end of the evening, they forgot this game so I had my share of hugs, kisses and sweet baby snuggles from them both.  How precious is he?....

a rare sweet simple quiet moment!
They probably love staying at Aunt Heather's because it's pretty much kids rule here. 

I spoil them, I know, but that's the fun of having them here.  Whatever they want to do (for the most part), I indulge.  Popcorn and cheese puffs.  Crafts on the counter.  Ooodles of noodles for dinner.  Castle building in the living room.  Swimming in my bathroom pool...aka the tub.  Makeovers.  Loads of giggles.  Oh, and a surprise visit from a fire truck! 
 (helps that hubby is the Chief!)


Allen was more than ready for bedtime by the time all that fun ended but lil Miss Bry went to bed on her time.  Again, I was thankful for two biggies to sleep with one each of a little.  The boys went off to snooze land in Noah's big comfy bed and Bryanna snuggled with Tina until a Disney movie rocked her to sleep.  Dreamland at last!

Of course, they both had a wild and crazy way of waking the guys up this morning!
video

What a wacky, funny, crazy, kiddo filled weekend!
And this Aunt is so very grateful she got to soak up
every sticky sweet moment!

Friday, January 13, 2012

One Life to Live

It's the end of era today.  One Life to Live, or "OLTL" as it's known, is off the air as of this afternoon.  For anyone who's avoided a television for the past forty years, OLTL is a soap opera.  It's the only one I've ever watched, although I admit I haven't seen an episode in several years.

There was a time though I wouldn't dream of missing an episode.  I got hooked on the show when I was a kid one summer.  It was a treat to catch up on a sick or snow day after that.  Otherwise, I'd make my mom leave it on after her show, General Hospital, so she could give me an update every afternoon.  Staying home that first year after having Austin, I became a OLTL junkie.  Starting college and then working full-time, the VCR became my friend, as I'd tape the show every day.  Fast forward to the age of the satellite and the DVR, I continued to never miss a show in between the soap opera channel and recording it live.

Saturdays became soap day.  But being a busy mom, my remote allowed me to fast forward to the characters and stories I followed.  Life in Llanview was much like a fairy tale.  Sure bad things happened, but in the end, somehow, everything seemed to work out.  Lovers reunited.  Very few worked but money seemed to never be an issue.   People returned from the dead.  It was a fantasy world that I enjoyed visiting, for awhile.

After losing Austin, soap operas just made me mad.  My happily ever had ended.  I knew he could never come back and it angered me to see silly, unrealistic stories on tv.  Now, I'm at a place where I can appreciate it for what it was.  Not reality.  Just a story.

What I can take away from it now is the title.  It has more meat and meaning than any episode.  You truly do have only "one life to live".  Unlike the show's characters, some of which managed to live multiple lives, reincarnate, and simultaneously live in two worlds, for us, this is it.  We don't know the number of days but even if you live into your 90s it is a short span.  It's so important to live each day to the fullest, to make the most of every moment. 

In this one life I have, my hope is to continue my days, how many ever there are, with a joyful faith-filled outlook.  I hope to continue to treasure each day for the gift it is.  I strive to learn, grown and change to be the best me I can be.  And, I'm impressed with the direction ABC is going.  They've filled that hour with a show that promises real-life stories filled with hope, empowerment and transformation.  *The Revolution is ABC Daytime’s new one-hour daily talk show that will revolutionize the lives of viewers from the inside out.  I might just check it out!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Best Face Forward

The problem with "resolutions" is that when you begin to improve upon yourself, at least for me, you think of about twelve other things to add to the list.  Which is why mine is more of a focus.  Just me...but better. 

So far the health aspect has gone well this week.  I've exercised every day, even sneaking in a mile with a mini fast walk early yesterday morning.  My niece, walking by still rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, questioned why I would want to work out at such an hour.  In between the kick-backs and knee lifts, I explained that I was doing it when I knew I could.  Surprisingly it did give me more energy and it's something I plan to do any morning I can squeeze it in.  What's your favorite workout time?

I'm still looking for the best pocket of time to read the Bible so I continue it daily.  I've done mornings but I have to wake up earlier to get it in.  I used to do it in the evening before bed, but Noah and I have started reading a book together and I like that time with him.  Since I work through lunch most days, eating at my desk, I'm considering bringing my Bible to the office.  If you do a daily devotion what time works for you?

The next phase is my face.  Now that I'm in the next check box on surveys, it's never more apparent that I need to take better care of my skin.  I have several cosmetologist volunteers, due to a program we have which helps patients facing treatment.  A few times a month, I sit in on these classes, that teach patients about skin care.  While the majority of the class focuses on techniques to counteract chemotherapy, there are many lessons that the average woman can use too.  I try to soak in their tips every class.

Just by looking at any of my volunteers, I know it works.  Two of the ladies are in their 70s but to look at them you would guess them 20 years younger than they are.  In fact, all of them have beautiful skin and I know it is because they've taken care of it all their lives.  A tip they all give is that we need eye cream every day once we're in our thirties.  They also promote washing your face twice a day - no exceptions.  And of course, sunscreen.

I do very well with sunscreen, using a moisturizer daily that contains SPF.  I don't do so well with the others.  Sure, after a class I will be the perfect student, following every instruction to a T.  But days begin to fade and so does my routine until I am in the shower one day wondering when I actually really took off my make-up last.  The crazy thing is it only take minutes to make a difference.  I have the supplies, sadly often collecting dust on my vanity.  Most nights though, I just brush my teeth and go to bed.  Mornings, rushing, I am lucky if I wash off yesterday's coating before adding another.  I know it's wrong but I just don't make the time.

When I do, I feel wonderful.  My skin glows.  Last night I took the extra five minutes, scrubbed my face, dotted on the eye cream and slathered moisturizer across my skin.  Sliding into bed, I felt luxurious.  I smelled good.  It was a good end for a great "me" day.  This morning, I continued the routine.  Here's hoping I keep it up.  So raise a container of skin care to me, girls...and join me.  We're worth it!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Snap. Crackle. Pop

I didn't verbalize any resolutions this year.  Sure, the standard ones crossed my mind but I didn't make it official.  I didn't put it in writing. I didn't even mentally decide on a single idea.  What I've noticed though is that I'm taking small steps that together will hopefully make a big impact.  2012 is going to be my year. 

I think my senior quote was, "the longest journey begins with a single step" and that might be the phrase for 2012.  What I've learned in my 30-something years of experience is that nothing happens overnight.  There are no quick fixes.  No magic dust that when sprinkled makes everything the way we envision.  That's been a hard lesson though, especially when it comes to my health.

Having spent 2011 in a barrage of medical tests that in the end resulted in little help, I'm opting for an alternative route.  Seeing the difference that chiropractic care made in both Tim and Noah this past year, I decided to take time for myself and have an adjustment.  To be able to say I instantly felt a difference, is not something I expected.  Such a quick visit, but after a few twists, pops, and adjustments later, I do though.  And it's one of the monthly "me moments" I'm pledging for myself this year.

What else?  More Water.  Regular Exercise.  Daily time with God.  -Actually, devoting time every day to read my Bible.  My goal?  A healthier, happier me.  Thinner?  Hopefully but it's more than that now.  It's not about appearance, it's about health, endurance, strength.  I'm happy with who I am, I just want to improve the foundation - inside and out.

I've done well in spurts on all of these things but I'm striving to do well continously.  Thanks to a sweet friend I have a giant Tervis Tumbler (complete with a butterfly) that has become my new water jug.  Exercise is a variety.  For the past several months I've done Zumba two days a week.  Basketball season and vacation have eaten in to my attendance but I'm ready to jump back in.  On days I'm not shaking it, I plan to dust off the DVD I won this past year and "Walk at Home," hoping to get in two miles from my living room.  Mom bought me a new Bible for my birthday and I'm keeping it near me as a constant reminder to make time and seek guidance every single day.

Time has been my downfall in the past.  Not feeling like I can put myself first, making excuses that I could better spend that time elsewhere.  Letting life get in the way.  The attitude in general feels selfish.  But I'm at a place, perhaps it is the post 35 jump, that I know it's not.  I am worth it.  I deserve it for me - and for my family.  A better me also makes a better mom, wife, employee.  So the time I may steal elsewhere to put this focus into myself will come back to myself and others tenfold.

I'm always amazed at how God sends me little doses of encouragement.  How simple signs tell me when I'm on the right path.  This morning's devotion, which I read after coming to this realization confirmed it.  In short, it ended with a simple prayer, "Father, give me eyes to see myself the same way You see me. In Jesus Name, Amen."  He loves me just the way I am.  I love me too.  And that's a good place to be.  I just know the me could be better.  So that's my focus for 2012...becoming and being the BEST me!

Did you make any resolutions this year?  What are you doing to stay motivated and committed?  I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

30-Something Birthdays

I don't remember ever seeing this much sunshine on a birthday weekend.  Ever.  As a child, my birthday parties almost always consisted of only immediate family because of all the snow.  But this year, the weather has been amazing and very un-January like.  It almost made me want to pull the furniture out and enjoy the deck!

When you're in your late 30's, birthdays change.  Expectations are less.  Parties, if they even happen, are low key.  For the most part, it can seem like just another day.  I make the most of it though and take a little time for me.  This year, luckily, my birthday fell on a weekend so I've had three days of "Me-centered" bliss.  I've done exactly whatever I've wanted, when I wanted. 

Friday Tim and I winded into our weekend with some couch time, catching up on one our favorite tv shows.  Yesterday was a mix of productivity, laziness and an evening out.  Taking advantage of the sunshine we finished cleaning up Christmas from the yard and sold one of our trucks.  I did a little shopping, including 4 couch pillows I've had my eye on for some time.  It takes a birthday to make me spend money on myself!

Noah and I spent some time reading together.  Having him snuggled up beside me as I read aloud the pages took me back to when he was little.  I've missed those nightly bedtime stories.  Even though the books are larger and longer, I think this may the start of something new. 

Tim took us out for dinner last night and we splurged from appetizers to crab legs.  I even let the kids order cokes (hey 2.00 each on a normal day is a crime for a drink!)  There's been a free movie channel this weekend so my DVR has been busy recording.  Any opportunity we've had that couldn't be spent outdoors has been on the couch enjoying a show or two.

My actual birthday, today, began with a breakfast buffet at one of our favorite country restaurants.  A chunk of my afternoon had to be spent at the fire station but Tim surprised me with a cake...the icing was that he was elected Chief again.  And the weekend has ended much like it began, cuddled on the couch in our own private little theatre.

Nothing big but everything special. 
....Family.  Yummy Food.  Sunshine.  A good book. 
Fluffy couch pillows.  Moist Cake.  and lots of Movies.
I like 30-something birthdays.
If this is what growing older feels like, I'll take it!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Faithful Friday: Five Minute Joy

Joy is a choice.  For me, joy comes from my faith.  It's something stronger than myself that carries me through.  It is how I can find sunshine even in the rain.  Choosing joy is what helps me face each day and what gives me hope.

This blog is about the joy I find in every day but I don't know that any of it would be possible without God.  Knowing this has led me to a new feature I'll be doing each week - Faithful Friday.  In it, I'll share a quick five minute devotion.  A scripture, an inspiration, a story...and hopefully something that can uplift and bring you joy. 

If there's one scripture that says it all. 
One sentence.  Everything.  It would be,
"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." -Philippians 4:13

This single line has been a source of inspiration and strength for me for as long as I can remember.  When we were in a motorcycle wreck in 2005, this was the phrase I found myself whispering over and over.  I said it in the ambulance, as Tim and I were strapped in, scared and hurting.  I prayed it as I awoke in ICU.  I willed it on the day I took my first steps, all those weeks later.  I envisioned it during therapy.  I chanted it as I made it from hospital bed, to wheelchair, to walker, to crutches, to healed.  I lived it.

Does this verse mean we're invincible?  Super-human? 
That whatever we try to do we'll succeed?  No. 
It means that we don't have to face anything in this life alone. 
It means that when we are at our bottom and feel there is no hope,
no way out or up, He is there. 
It also means when we are well and life is good
that we shouldn't forget to still lean on him. 
And it means that even when we fail, he's there to pick us back up
and there as we try again.

Whatever you're facing today, I hope this scripture brings you peace.  Meditate on the words.  Let them seep into your heart.  There's a whole lot of power in that single sentence.

For five minutes today,
give it to God. 
Whatever is worrying you,
whatever stresses life may bring.
Release it and let him strengthen you. 
Face this Friday in the moment. 

Enjoy the sunshine. 
Soak up the blue sky. 
Breath in the fresh air. 
Just be.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Date and a Sign

January means a new calendar.  A new year...opportunities, anniversaries, plans, hopes and dreams.  For a mom, it also means organization.  My calendar keeps me sane - juggling work, home, school, church, and all the in-betweens. 

I've used the same type of calendar at home for several years.  Purchasing one each book fair at Noah's school, it held large empty spaces across the top for me to write in our names.  This allowed everyone a section on each day, so I could keep track of who does what and goes where when.  Unfortunately, I missed this year's book fair, and thus, did not buy my annual calendar.

2012 arrived and my wall was bare.  I was on the hunt.  Although I couldn't find my typical purchase, I did find a substitute.  Though a little smaller, it seemed to have the space I was looking for.  Instead of across the top, there were slots on the side for our names.  Pulling off the shrink wrap and grabbing a handful of multi-colored sharpies, I sat down with my electronic calendar to help fill in the blanks. 

Writing in the names each year has been hard since losing Austin.  As a mom, you are used to writing the names of your family and for so long we were Tim, Heather, Austin and Noah.  On gift tags, I even abbreviated it "THAN" and everyone knew who it was.  Calendars are also difficult because of yearly reminders - his birthday and angel-versary but also all the milestones of 2012 that Austin won't get to be a part of.

As I flipped to July, I braved my heart and readied myself to fill the space on July 8 and write in Austin's birthday.  Goosebumps covered my arms and I felt a hug from above when I noticed the picture on that exact day.  A butterfly.  And not just on the 8th but all over July's page.  It was just another sweet, heartwarming, soul-soothing sign from above.  Austin is ever present in our lives and never ceases to amaze me by how he sends us hugs and love....all on the wings of a butterfly.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Search for Sauerkraut

Happy New Year!  I hope your first day of the year was everything you hoped it to be.  Ours was glorious.  For almost the first time throughout my two week break, we slept in - or rather I should say, I slept in.  The kids have had no trouble with this on any day!  Of course, not going to bed until after 2 am from our movie-fest probably helped keep my head on the pillow longer than normal.

I treated the family to a big breakfast, to which I got a "9.5" from Tina and "best meal I've had all year" from joker boy, Noah.  We decided to eat in the living room and finish the one movie we couldn't hold out for from the night before.

The rest of the day was a lovely lazy, complete with an afternoon nap.  While we were snoozing, the kids braved the wind to play outside awhile.  When I awoke, I realized it was nearing dinnertime and that I was running behind on loading the crockpots.  Dumping in the ham and black-eyed peas, I turned to the main course.  Layering in the brats, I opened the cabinet for the only version of cabbage my family will eat - sauerkraut.  To my dismay, the pantry was empty!

Having taken the plunge and purchased a "new" car for 2012, of all years, we needed to ingest our fair share of cabbage!  Stirring Tim from his nap, I nudged him out the door to the store with a small list. Minutes later, as expected, he called me.  "Where's the sauerkraut?"

Navigating him through the aisles by memory, he landed in canned foods.  "Beans, corn, mixed vegetables, green beans.....I don't see it," he said.  I instructed him to stand in between the green beans and corn and focus on that section.  "Look on every shelf.  There's some in a jar and some canned."  Promising he'd find it, he hung up.  I continued cooking.

Answering my ringing phone a bit later, he responds chuckling.  "Want to hear something funny?" he asks.  Not sure where he was heading I asked what.  "There's no sauerkraut anywhere."  Knowing my typical male husband and how one glance often results in a "I can't find it" reaction, I prodded.  I visually listed the shelves again, but he sadly informed me the spots were bare.  "There's no sauerkraut in this store," he said.

"Go to the hot dogs," I quickly remembered.  Puzzled, he strolled to the other end.  Instructing him to look for a bag instead of a can we said our goodbyes again.  Determined to have this necessary new year's side, I left him with the words, "Ask somebody.  Maybe they have more in the stock room.  Don't leave the store without some." 

Thankfully, he found one remaining bag.  Thousands of items in the store but only one bag of sauerkraut.  I'll take it!  After he arrived home, I happily added it in the simmering pot as the familiar pungent scent wafted through the kitchen.  By this time, the tiny vultures were circling, as aromas called them out of their rooms.  Tina had lots of questions, not ever having a traditional New Year's feast.  Noah made his annual comment, complete with snarled nose, about not needing health and eating those disgusting beans.  Tim agreed.  Tina decided she could care less about the wealth, as sauerkraut was not something she could stomach.  In the end, I managed to get everyone to nibble a bit of both.

We ended the evening with one of our favorite Christmas movies we never got around to watching, "Home Alone."  Bellies full of laughter, black-eyed peas, and cabbage, er, sauerkraut, I'd say it was a memorable first night of 2012!
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