Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sharp Dressed Man

The night before graduation I called Noah on my way home to see if he was ready for his chiropractor appointment.

"Yea, and Mom....what do you think about stopping and buying a suit on the way home."

A suit?  From the boy who thinks shorts, a muscle T, and a baseball cap are appropriate attire for just about anywhere?  Who wears shorts literally 365 days out of the year, if he can get away with it?

A suit!

I chuckled and honked, signaling I was in the drive.  In record time we needed to make three stops now, two of which he just sprung on me.  First to the barber, to get his curly hair trimmed back before the big day.  Fully thankful he was trimming the fuzz ball that was growing on head, but wondering how I'd cram this unexpected trip in before his chiropractor closed.

Normally, I wait in the car.  It is after all a room full of testosterone.  This time though he tossed me that puppy dog face that gets all things and asked if I were coming in.

The fact that I know someday he'll not want Mom to accompany him to trips like this and because I was already welling up thinking about graduation, I agreed.  Entering the shop, I got my usual, "Hey Sis!" from the owner and settled in between auto magazines and sweaty guys and fidgeting boys.

Our next stop was a late stop to his chiro, where I slid into the parking lot on two wheels.  I despise being late.  If I'm on time, I'm late.  And this time, I was ten minutes late, even though we called.

From the lobby I can hear Noah replaying my interactions with his doctor.

"Mom was freaking out because we were late.  Fr-eak-ing out...."

I chuckled again.  This kid.  I love him.

And last, but certainly not least, the new store in town that sells, of all things, suits.  He heads for the tux ordering booklet and I sweetly explain that is for another milestone down the road.  We turn to the row of suits, and he spies the price tags.

"Are you kidding me?  Just for a coat!?," backing away he says, "It's ok Mom, I can just wear my Easter shirt."

Because I know how hot-natured my son is and that he seems to grow an inch or two a year, I was somewhat thankful he was reconsidering the idea.  But I did want to treat him to a new dress shirt.  Again, this boy's boy does not change out of his joke attire willingly.  So this momma was taking full advantage of playing dress up with her sweet son.

Pointing out a few shirts, I mentioned not knowing his neck size.  Strange looks came from his face signaling he had no clue you bought dress shirts this way.  Smiling, I had him try one on but it wouldn't attempt to close around his giant throat.  As I looked for a bigger size, he spied a tie.

"If I can't do a suit Mom, I should wear a tie.  I feel like really dressing up tomorrow," he says swinging the black and white spotted fabric.

"Sure," I tell him, "We can do a tie."  And I hand him a bigger size to slip on.  This one fits!

Those pesky water holes begin to fill on my face and I scrunch up my nose, then make a quick joke to help them subside.  My word, he looks so handsome.  And so grown-up.  My baby....

As he slings the tie around his neck he spies the price tag and again offers to leave it behind.  I point out that it's 1/2 off today and this deal-shopping momma has a coupon on her phone.  We can do this.

And I'm so glad we did.  Because this young man is a heart breaker in a tie.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Faithful Friday: Commencement

My baby is graduating middle school - today.
In a few short months he'll be (gulp) a high-schooler.

There's so many memories this triggers and, while I try very hard to let Noah have his moments as his own, I can't help but be brought back to Austin's 8th grade graduation.  It was our last year with him.

Never would we have believed when taking this photo that 
he'd be gone from this earth six short months later.

May 30, 2008
All those future hopes and dreams...gone in an instant.

In posting this picture, I realized by the time stamp it is exactly the same date as Noah's graduation.  May 30th.  Only his six years later.

In terms of time, Noah has already surpassed his older brother.  He reached the status of outliving him this month.  Another event I never expected so soon.

And so this momma heart flutters back and forth preparing for this day.
This day for youngest.  My baby.

My little boy who has already walked a graduation line, in memory of his brother just two Mays ago...

My sweet guy who had to grow up so much faster than we'd wanted him to.  My not so little guy who towers over both Tim and me and already looks like he should be in high school.  Funny he used to be my "ittle mouse," as I recall him stomping his foot and shouting, "My not a ittle mouse, my a big boy!"

Yes, my son, you are now a big boy.

And for this son, I have so many Big plans and dreams.  Wishes for his future.
Prayers that his time in high school will be safe, will be full of learning, will be memorable.  Hope that he will grow into the man I already see him becoming.  That his character stretches to fill his giant frame.  That he remembers all the lessons we've taught him along the way - and will continue to do.  That he looks to God for the steps of his future.

 “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3 

There are so many milestones ahead for his high school years.  Four much I want to pack into this time.  And yet, I find myself tiptoeing.  Wondering if it is ok to let go and dream?  Doubts creep in and Evil whispers.

When I find myself fluttering, I cling to the Truth I know.  

No matter the earthly wishes I had for my oldest son, his future was (and is) ultimately secure.  Austin is now safe.  He's learned all the secrets of the world.  I can only imagine the moments he's had in Heaven.  Austin is Home and in the place we all long to be someday.  He was exactly who he was meant to be and here for exactly how long God planned.  Austin fulfilled his purpose.

So that is my earnest prayer for Noah as well.

God's plan, Noah's purpose.
Whoever, wherever, God deemed it to be from the very beginning.  

“For we are God’s workmanship, 
created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

Happy Graduation Day, my big-little guy.  We are so very proud of you, Noah.
And we're here for you for whatever the future holds...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Faithful Friday: Remember Me

Memorial weekend has various definitions for people.  Some see it as the launch of summer.  An extra long weekend.  An opportunity to catch up with family and friends to cook and hang out.  Time for a household project.  

For many Americans, it is a time of patriotic remembrance and humble gratitude for the ultimate service of our armed forces. (Thank you... Thank you... Thank you.)

And for anyone missing a loved one, Memorial Day weekend can also be a time of grief.  A time of remembering those now gone from this earth.

For us, it is a bittersweet mixture of all.

Years and years ago, as a little girl, I can remember the day being spent in the car surrounded by flowers.  With my Aunt and Grandma, we'd visit numerous graves the entire day, dusting off and sprucing up their sites.  In my shorts, I'd be sticky from the heat, legs itching from walking in and out of grassy areas.  Most of those graves contained memories I'd never experienced, as I didn't know the names etched in stone.  But I recall the loving care my family took for each of their graves - and even as a little girl - I knew that meant they mattered.

In years past, Memorial weekend was a holiday I longed for.  In a career that had me working most weekends of the summer, I was eager for a long stretch of time with the family.  It included picnics and cookouts, time fishing or swimming, and lots of relaxing.

For the past several years, it has been a working holiday, as our hometown's annual festival coincides.  We took the opportunity to launch our first fundraiser for Austin's scholarship fund, using the anticipated crowd to boost our support.  It helped that the fire department, for which my husband led as chief, was in the middle of the activities and made for the perfect spot.  And it just seemed fitting to remember Austin on such a symbolic holiday weekend in that way.

This year, our family again sees changes.  With Tim no longer tied to the department, we have plans to get away and enjoy the lake.  Time together on the water is something we enjoy and it brings us peace.  The weather looks to be beautiful and Tim has eagerly been prepping the boat so here's hoping we have fun, stay safe, and catch lots of fish!

It goes without saying we'll pause to remember Austin.  We don't need a holiday to think of him, as he's in our hearts every single day.  I did visit his grave yesterday and freshen his flowers.  Perhaps it is different for every parent, but I've never really found comfort there.  For one, it is a place no momma ever wants to have to go to see her child.  For another, I know Austin is not really there.  But out of respect and love for him, I try to keep his site nice and change his flowers with every season.

 "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: 
and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." - Ecclesiastes 12:7 

I left his grave yesterday upset, not just in having to visit him there but, mostly because the grounds (even after six seasons) are still bare.  Even though we have little to no control over the quality of lawn care at this facility, it still feels like my responsibility.  And that it looks like we, his parents, don't care.  

Coming home to load the photo and vent, I noticed the rainbow surrounding his feet and where I stood.  I couldn't help but feel that was Austin's reminder he was shining down on us.  And as another dear friend posted, perhaps his ground is worn because of so many visits from others.  I'll cling to those more joyful thoughts than what the angry momma bear inside me is thinking...

If your time includes a visit to graves of those you mourn, pause and remember the good moments in between the tears.  Take a favorite memory or two home with you.  

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

No matter where this holiday weekend finds you, I wish you much peace, family, freedom, fun and most of all joy. Soak up the "unofficial start of summer" and enjoy the sunshine.

Monday, May 19, 2014

360 Degrees of Grief Book Launch

Today is the day!  The beautiful compilation project I was asked to be a part of is now available.

360 Degrees of Grief is a Selah Press Anthology filled with stories, poetry and songs. Sixty-four authors contributed transparent stories written with open hearts reflecting hope to the reader. These authors have lived through the complete spectrum of life—from ecstatic joy to the darkest grief—and share the lessons they learned along the journey.

A piece of Austin's story and our journey is included in this book.  By purchasing the book with this link below, a small percentage of the proceeds comes back to our family.  Thank in advance!

It is a book about grief but blessings of hope comes from reading the stories shared.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Faithful Friday: Happy Days

Tomorrow marks the end of my #100happydays challenge.

It has become so much a part of my day that I'm truly going to miss it.  What this exercise solidified in me is that there is always something to find JOY about in every single day.  And whether I document it with a photo or not, soaking it up in the moment is what matters.

But, since it was a photo challenge and a picture speaks a thousand words, here are some of my favorite memories among the past 100 days.

Actually, my top 10, in random order....

surprise bird nests shout spring!

random flowers from hubby and sleepy saturday breakfasts together

worship @ our church home

our fireplace on a cool rainy night

flip flop weather begins!
 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."  3 John 1:4

my sweet gma turns 85!  AND we surprise her  ;)

how the water calms my soul...

my sweet boy pulling birthday party kiddos

sunday afternoon naps

snuggle time with my son
"Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth."  Psalm 100:1

How blessed, how happily blessed am I.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Faithful Friday: Love Notes

Years and years ago I started a tradition with the family whenever I had to travel for work.  Prior to leaving, I would hide little notes around the house for them to find while I was gone.  Thankfully I've never had to travel so much that it lost it's sparkle!

Usually the kids will race to find them all in one day.  This past trip, Noah spaced his out so he'd have one to read each day I was away.

Sunday (yes, Mother's Day), I leave out for another training with work.
.....Please pray for hubby as he juggles everything on his own.  Again.  He's a trooper!
And prayers are ever-appreciated for me, as this always tends to be a bittersweet and difficult holiday.

Since this is the longest stretch I've ever been away, I'm trying to be a bit more creative and plan ahead this time.  As organized as I am, there have been years I've frantically forgotten and had to scribble and stuff post-its on a moment's notice. I'm really going to have to think about hiding spots that might last through the week too!

Of course my family is always on my mind but when I'm not around, my hope is that they are reminded of that with my notes.  Even though we will talk daily -and even face time- I want them know throughout their week how special they are to me.

One year, Noah surprised me after a trip and left me notes of my own.
That was a sure sign to me how loved these little notes were and are.

But even when I'm not traveling, I try to occasionally text the kids something sweet or send them an encouraging note or thought.  I know how powerful words are and they have the ability to either build you up or tear you down.

My prayer is that I always use them to lift up those around me.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Dreams and Nightmares

For as long as I can remember, I've had a dream of being a writer.

Words have always spoken volumes to me.
And without much effort, they flow out of me.

When I was a little girl, I'm guessing around the age of six, I "made" my first book.  Cutting out cardboard pages and gluing them together, I bound the book that I would later fill with my own words.  I don't remember the story but I vividly recall the process.

And perhaps it was from that moment my passion for writing bloomed.

That dream has always included being published.  The online world made that a reality soon after I began blogging.  But I still desired to see my name in tangible print.  To have words come from my mind and end up in physical form.

It seems surreal that I will see not one but two published books this month.

Both are compilations, I'm honored to be a part of.  Both tell Austin's story.

When I gave birth to him nearly 20 years ago, I knew instantly he'd changed me forever.  My dreams became his.  My goal was his future.  Suddenly this tiny human was the center of my life...

Never would I have imagined he would help to ensure a dream of mine with the nightmare of his passing.

Bittersweet doesn't even begin to describe it.

While the little girl in me surely dreamed of a different topic for her first book, I am thankful for the opportunity to share Austin with the world.

Today is the second anniversary of Still Standing Magazine.  A website that gave me tremendous support when I found them at their launch.  A sisterhood that opened their broken hearts to help mine heal.  And a group I would later have the privilege of guest posting for, then most recently becoming a monthly contributor of.

This second edition book, Still Standing...Because They Lived, includes stories from many of the grieving writers who share their loss but also their hope.  Because they lived, we are still standing.  The link above will allow you to pre-order this beautiful collection today.

Some of you may recognize my own feet...and Austin's memorial tattoo, on the front cover.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Faithful Friday: Free-flowing Oxytocin

Although I missed my family terribly, from being away at training all week, it was exciting to dig deeper and learn more about my new position.  (Cannot wait to be out meeting new families by the end of this month!)

Though I consider myself a pretty educated mom, I discovered many parenting tools to strengthen even my own family.  That is, when they aren't making fun of me practicing on them!  The biggest take-away this week was how amazing the human brain is and what a difference love makes to the development of it.

And, though happiness is often felt in the heart, those joyful sparks come from the brain.

I've been 'preaching' it on this blog for the past several years but now I have further proof....
JOY is not determined by your circumstances but rather by your attitude!

At the training, I also learned a new word, which is always fun for me:
ox·y·to·cin  äksəˈtōsən/

Oxytocin is a powerful hormone. When we hug or kiss a loved one, (or even bring happiness) oxytocin levels drive up. It also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In fact, the hormone plays a huge role in pair bonding.

Love is oxytocin. Oxytocin = happiness.

Thinking about it, I'm sure I've heard this word before, having delivered two children, one of which I was given extra of this hormone during labor.  It's kinda neat to think that the body uses oxytocin to stimulate labor, which delivers you about the biggest dose of love humanly possible...a baby!

One of the things I learned this week was how important love (aka oxytocin) is to how a child's brain grows. While basic needs are necessary, what a baby truly needs is love to feel happy and whole.

And isn't that the same for us once we're adults?
There's nothing that compares to true joy.
That feeling, like goosebumps on the inside, washes over you from head to toe.
Internal Sunshine.

While we can't go back and change how we were raised, 
or erase anything that happened in our childhood,
we can make it a point to have happiness in our lives now.  
Each and every day you can choose joy.

This week I got lots of free-flowing oxytocin from...

the beauty of Eastern Kentucky and seeing new landscapes...
meeting new friends and a visit with a dear old one...
extra "me time" to rest, read, relax...
learning new things...
experiencing face-time with my family...
fresh calamari...
singing at the top of my lungs in the car on a 3 hour drive
(a 3 hour drive)
.... ha ha - couldn't resist!
quiet devotion time in my room each night...
finding Ale-8 in the vending machine...
sharing positives points with new co-workers...
the giant kiss from my hubby when I arrived home last night...
even bigger hugs from Noah...
a visit from my Mom and spending the afternoon with her...
and many, many more.

What were your joyful moments??
I'd love to hear from you!

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