Tuesday, November 22, 2016

My Thanksgiving Wish

Maybe it is pressing the invisible brake on time, as we're days out from our first college tour with our baby boy.

Maybe it is the numbness from the horrifying news of the bus crash in Tennessee, on the cusp of this holiday weekend.

Maybe it is that this weekend holds horrible, terrible memories of our own in losing our firstborn the night after Thanksgiving.

Maybe it is sharing in the pain of loved ones facing the chaos and sorrows of life.  Unexpected upside downs.

Or maybe, it is the mixture of it all.  All the melancholy, on the heels on "the most wonderful time of year".  Whatever, it has me extra grateful for time off, a slowing down for the season.  Welcomed relief and rest, space for self-care.  Retreating and staying in with the ones who mean most.  Serving others and giving thanks.  Coffee and board games.  Random acts of kindness.  PJs and pie.  Family dinners.  Fireplace and Christmas movies.  Kitchen messes.  Macy's parade.  Christmas tree scents and sparkles.  Laughter and tears.  Memories and mementos.

Unplugging and reconnecting.

And so I'll leave you all with this, my wish for each and every one of you.
Be kind to yourself - and kinder to others.  Seek gratitude.  Embrace and treasure the day, whatever it brings.  Prayers it is filled with goodness...

Image result for thanksgiving prayer


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Country Mouse visits the Big City

When Noah was younger, one of my nicknames for him was "my little mouse."  He was not a fan.

Anytime I said it, he'd scrunch up his nose, make fists, and tighten his shoulders as he'd growl,
"My not a ittle mouse, my a boy!"

As he towers over me with his giant frame, I rarely call him that anymore but was reminded of it Friday when a major milestone took place.

My little country mouse toured the Big City and his future college.

The entire day seemed like a dream, in every sense of the word.  For me, it was hard to imagine that in a year and a half my baby will be on his own, hours from home.  For Noah, it was a glimpse into the future he's always wanted.  And seeing him experience his passion helped take some of the sting out of him growing up, up, and away.

Wednesday night we realized that each of us would be off on Friday - a rare occurrence in this house.  Noah was also in the midst of picking his senior schedule and trying to decide about dual credit courses for college.  It hit me that this was the perfect opportunity to tour his top pick - Sullivan University.  Tim made the call the next morning and, thankfully, they were able to work us in for an early Friday slot.

Though we had to set an alarm at 4 am, the entire day could not have been more perfect.  We toured the campus, spending most of our time in the culinary hall, which is where Noah plans to major.  He was able to meet a few of the chef/professors, a couple students, and see the kitchen/labs where he'd be learning.

There were many times I got teary but my voice even cracked, as I shared with the rep how he's wanted to be a chef since he was knee-high to a bar stool.  I can still picture him donning his yellow apron and setting out his own supplies to cook beside me.  Where did the time go?...

We also visited the dorm, which is actually a renovated hotel, complete with individual bathrooms, a pool. fitness room, convenience store and even a movie theatre on site!  The excitement as he soaked everything in was visible.

This was getting real.

We were so caught up in the moment that few pictures were taken.  Looking back, I wish I'd gotten more but I know there will be future visits to do so.  What we did capture was our next stops, once leaving campus.

Recommended by his advisor, we stopped for lunch at a local place ran by a graduate of Sullivan.  Super Chefs was everything Noah rolled into one establishment.  God, superheroes, and amazing food.  If he could've envisioned his dream restaurant, I imagine it'd been very similar.

Every wall had cool hero art, Noah was mega-jelly
I'm not sure why the Grinch was eating at Super Chef
but it was pretty cool to meet him

The food was amazing.  Our server called it "Caviar taste on a Rally's budget."  It did not disappoint.

Tim played it safe with steak and eggs.  I had fish tacos and a Caesar salad.  And Noah ordered shrimp quesadilla.  After seeing his dinner menu, we have to go back.  And the red velvet pancakes were calling my name for breakfast.  Guess we know where we'll eat while visiting Noah in the future!

We did save room for dessert, as Noah wanted to stop back by the campus bakery on our way home.  He plans to double major in both culinary and pastry, so it was neat for him to experience where he'll someday be.  Asking the lady for a sample box, we began pointing to the various delicacies.  At the end, we received a heart hug, as the total was 23.32 - a sure sign big brother approves of his future plans.

I'm still pinching myself and trying to ignore the giant red countdown clock that reminds me how quickly time is passing.  Though I know I'll miss him terribly - and can't even envision what life will be like then, seeing his smile makes every tear this momma knows will come so very worth it.  

Dream big, sweet boy.  The world is your oyster.  Or shrimp.  And even creme brulee. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

THANKS-giving comes

We lost Austin eight years ago, Thanksgiving weekend.  As such, November is a bittersweet time, filled with emotions and memories, some of which we'd rather forget.  Instead of focusing on the pain of the season though, we lean hard into the kindness and gratitude that comes with the turning of the calendar.

The year after he passed, I challenged myself to post something I was thankful for every single day of November.  As the days drew closer to the 29th, I questioned whether or not I would be able to post something positive when my heart was still shattered.  Once accomplished, it forever changed me; because it was proof that despite the circumstances life may send your way, there is always, always something to be grateful for.  

Aside from posting gratitude in each day, we also use this month to do Random Acts of Kindness in Austin's memory.  It has grown from doing it only on the 29th, to celebrating kindness all month, to truly having a heart for it all year.  

Noah shared with me a couple weeks ago that the past several times he's stopped into a local fast food joint, someone has paid it forward to him.  And while he admitted he sometimes gets surprised in the moment and forgets to continue the trend in that line, he makes sure to send anonymous kindness in other ways to keep it going.  Or sometimes he starts the movement.  I can't even begin to tell you how that made my heart swell.  

When we began doing RAKs, I was hesitant in including Noah, unsure if it would cause him more pain than good.  Instead, it helped bring healing to us all in a way I could've never imagined and became a family event we actually look forward to.  Helping others, bringing a smile to someone's face in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, is a far better way to spend that anniversary, than reliving the horror of losing our boy.

Austin had such a servant's heart, I can only imagine how happy it would make him to see us doing RAKs in his memory.  This time of year, he would already be asking to stock up on supplies so we could make treats for every person he knew - from mailman, to bus driver, to every school employee he came in contact with.  And the legacy he left behind for his friends is one that helped others.  A Christmas box remains wrapped in our living room, filled with notes from classmates who shared just that - how he made small differences with big impact every single day.

He's been on my mind a lot lately, probably the timing of the year, combined with the constant news of the World Series.  I haven't really watched baseball on tv, since he's been gone, but we have this season.  So many times, sitting on the edge of my seat, I could envision him pacing the floor, enthusiastically yelling, freaking out if we'd changed the channel, and celebrating the win.  How I miss that contagious smile and personality!

Losing a child is daily reality of how fragile life is, how much every day matters - what a gift it is, and hoping they are remembered in some way.  My prayer is that we make him proud this time of year - and always.

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