Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The House That Built Me

I've never been a very sentimental person, but as I age, I certainly hold a few things close to my heart that I once took for granted. This house is a perfect example. I grew up here and never considered that there would be a day when that front door wouldn't welcome me home.

My grandparents bought this house right around the time I was born and it was home in every sense of the word. Walking up those paint chipped front steps (where I perfected my dance routine to Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All") into the front door every day gave me a feeling of security that I wouldn't recognize until I was an adult. My family no longer owns this home and hasn't for many years but one look at it takes me back to my childhood.

Along the edge of the front yard, there was once a beautiful old Mimosa tree. My Mamaw would tell me to pay attention to that tree when I was outside playing because when the leaves closed and the tree went to sleep, it was almost time for me to do the same. Over to the right of the house was a gorgeous Dogwood, whose branches held me as I plotted my next adventure. In the back yard, she taught me to hang clothes on the clothes line and the proper way to take them down. For hours at a time, I would sit up on the riding lawn mower and pretend that I was a school bus driver, using the lever that raised and lowered the blade as my handle to open and close the door for my students. Once I had driven them safely to school, I would take a few steps over to my makeshift classroom and teach them their lessons for the day. I was too much of an over achiever to have only one pretend job.

That sidewalk leading to the front door proved more nemesis than friend on Christmas Day when I was about ten years old. Santa brought me a new bike and I tried to hop onto the sidewalk as I rode, but the front tire didn't quite make the jump. Those paint chipped front steps left a nasty gash beneath my right eye. I got plenty of attention to make up for it and pictures (and a scar) that will still elicit sympathy!

Over the years, I've tried to think of my favorite place in this house but I couldn't narrow it down. My first thought was the kitchen because I loved sitting at the table watching my Mamaw cook. She rolled out her biscuits just so and every single time, she'd take the last bit of dough and roll it back and forth lengthwise between her palms to make it a special shape...just for me. We called it my "Roly Poly" biscuit. Along one wall of the kitchen sat her sewing machine. She could make anything, often without a pattern. I loved watching her sew. I was amused when something would go wrong and she'd curse but more amused when I saw her finished product.

The living room where I sat with her watching her "stories" in the afternoons is another favorite place. I'd sit on the couch in the evenings between my Mamaw and PaPete, watching Matlock and knowing that there was no place I'd rather be. This is the room that welcomed you into the house when you entered the house and although I knew so much of what to expect when I walked through that door, one thing was never certain...the furniture arrangement. Mamaw was notorious for moving furniture around often. I don't know if she got bored or just liked to exercise her decorating skills but the furniture placement never stuck around long. The living room is bittersweet for me, in some ways. It was there that my PaPete took his last breath, in my arms. If I think about it too much, I feel like I'm still there, begging God not to let this be it even though I know it is. It's almost been 20 years now.

Really though, if my heart was forced to choose a favorite, it would be the master suite. Whether it was nestling in between my favorite two people to sleep or sneaking into the bathroom to rifle through my Mamaw's huge supply of makeup and hair products, this room still holds my heart. I watched many UNC basketball games sitting in the middle of their bed, often crying, cheering or bargaining with God that if He'd just let them win this one, I'd be SO good. Playing hide and seek with cousins, this room is always where I would hide. I felt safe there and my cousins never seemed to know if it was ok to go in so they often wouldn't look for me there.

Several years ago, I was home for a visit and as J. and I passed the house, it was vacant but there were a couple of contractors outside doing some work. We stopped and explained that this had been my home and asked if we could go in. They were happy to oblige and I was surprised at the butterflies in my stomach as we entered. So many things surprised me that day, actually. In my mind, this house was huge. There were four bedrooms and plenty of space for everything we needed. Walking in as an adult, it was so much smaller than I remembered. It was in the process of being re-modeled but to me, it looked so much the same that I could picture just where everything should be. I felt the oddest peace as we walked from room to room looking around and telling stories. Until we got to the back of the house to the master bedroom. Walking in opened the floodgates of my heart. (Even now, remembering, I am crying.) I could almost smell Mamaw's Estee Lauder Youth Dew perfume as I turned to go into the bathroom. It was the same and yet, so different because they weren't there. This home was now there for someone else to make memories.

As I'm writing this, I realize that so much of my nostalgia and memories are special to me more because of WHO was in the house and not the house itself. Still, there's just something about this house. It's not grand or even that impressive but it's so special to me. It's home.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Choose Love

I wish there was a window on social media that would pop up before you submit a passive aggressive status update or hateful comment that would read, "Are you sure you want to do this? Would you say this if the person was sitting right in front of you?"

Unfortunately, my requests for such have been largely ignored by Mr. Zuckerberg.

With so much of our lives being lived online, there is this tendency to forget that what you are saying on social media can hurt, demean and cut right to the bone of a real live person. I'd venture to say that if the person at which you are aiming your keyboard arrows was sitting in front of you, you would keep that comment to yourself.


Because you would see hurt in their eyes before you even finished your sentence. You would realize the ramifications of your words immediately and perhaps it would sting your heart just as much as it did theirs when you realized the pain you'd inflicted.

Our Keyboard Courage almost never equals our Real Life Courage.

My heart breaks to see people making sweeping generalizations about a group of people with whom they disagree (insert any particular group here: gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Cat People) all under the guise of "I'm entitled to my opinion."

While it is true that everyone is entitled to their opinion, what happens when your opinion is delivered in such a way that you cause the immense pain to someone else? Is it worth it?

Do you remember a time when you changed someone's mind on a matter through your pithy Facebook comments? No? Then, why? Why hurt people, cut them down and drag them through the mud when you know nothing good can come of it?

Often, I think our tendency to to make trite statements against another online is because we are desperate to feel important. We chase after those little thumbs-ups to let us know we aren't alone in our beliefs as if somehow, that makes us right.

We spew our opinions in the most hateful way and the only change that comes is in the form of a calloused heart that we wear like a badge of honor and another bruise on the heart of the wounded.

We see so much attention given to cyber bullying in regards to the younger generation, and rightfully so, but from where I sit, adults are equally guilty. We just know how to dress it up to look like it's less bullying and more our inalienable right.

There has to be a better way.

What if we considered another's heart more important than sharing our opinion?

What if we our greatest desire was not to be right, to be heard or to be popular but rather to be loving, kind and giving to others?

What would the world look like if our rants were replaced with encouragement?

I don't have all the answers to my own questions. I'm ok with that. I don't need to know everything.

I do know that choosing to love is never wrong.

When faced with a decision to write something laced with venom or to use your words to encourage a friend...choose love.

Post a passive aggressive rant hidden behind a clever rhetoric or remind yourself that even the most astute words can cause harm...choose love.

Garner adulation from others who are prone to leaving a trail of bloody, broken hearts in the wake of their words or...choose love.

Above all, choose love. It is the best way. It's the only way.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Weekly Chat

This week has been full of ups and downs for our family. Brace yourself for a random chatty catch up.

Jillian went back to the orthopedic specialist for her foot. She'd been wearing the boot for four weeks, missing out on a good portion of her volleyball season and was still in pain. We went back to our GP, who had done two x-rays. The first diagnosed the stress fracture in her foot. The second, four weeks later, confirmed that the stress fracture is still there, not yet healed. So, they referred us to a local ortho. She took one look at the scans our doc had sent over and pointed out that Jillian actually has two stress fractures in that foot and that they had her in the wrong type of boot. So, she's wearing the new boot for three more weeks, at least. This means she will miss her final volleyball game of the season. She's bummed but it's a small price to pay for making sure that foot heals properly.

My leg is still giving me fits. The swelling and bruising are really attractive, let me tell you. I don't know what else to say about it. I'm hoping that the worst is behind me and by the time the weekend rolls around, I'll be able to get around better sans crutches...and sans pain. 

We are headed to Chattanooga this weekend to meet up with our family! I can't wait to see everyone and spend some time with J's sisters and my crazy cute nephews. Good times will be had, for sure. Chattanooga is a great city and every time we go, I find another favorite thing. 

We have to make eye appointments for two of our three children who failed their school eye exam. One of those was with glasses. I'm not sure they weren't just goofing off and not paying attention but we'll see. It's likely that we may end up with three kids wearing glasses. God love them, I had really hoped they didn't their eye sight from me.

I'm so glad fall TV is back. We are watching our favorites from last season: Blacklist (THE BEST), Castle and Modern Family. We also like the new show, Forever, on ABC. We are barely hanging on to Revenge by a thread. It started out so good but I feel like they are floundering for a story now. I lost track of Grey's Anatomy when we moved to England but seeing the commercials for it now, I'm wishing I'd kept up! And, I'm probably the only person who hasn't seen Scandal. What shows do you love? 

Finally, I will leave you with this. Jimmy Fallon is the best. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sole Hope

Have you ever heard of jiggers? Here in the south, we have chiggers but don't be confused.  Jiggers are not chiggers. Go figger.

Jiggers are tiny parasitic sand fleas that will find a warm body in which to burrow.  Jiggers are a huge problem in Uganda, Africa. It makes sense that if most of the population lives in homes with dirt floors and goes barefoot, jiggers have the perfect place to breed and wreak havoc. Once jiggers burrow in the skin (most often in the feet) of their unwilling host, they lay eggs. Eventually, this leads to painful sores and ulcers. If not treated, the jiggers can cause nerve damage, need for amputation and even death.

Dru and Asher Collie began researching the problem of jiggers in Uganda a few years ago when Asher saw a video online about it. The Collies realized that the prevention and eventual cure for jiggers was simple: shoes. Simple for us, not quite as simple for the children of Uganda. So, they founded Sole Hope. Sole Hope is an organization that aims to eliminate jiggers in Uganda through education and shoes. Eventually, they moved their precious family to Uganda to dedicate their lives full time to the cure and prevention of jiggers. They regularly hold clinics to wash feet, remove jiggers and provide shoes. They also provide an education to the precious people whom they serve to teach them how to avoid jigger infestation in the future.



There are so many ways to help Sole Hope. One way is to hold a "shoe cutting party" with your friends, neighbors, church or other social organization. It's so simple and yet so very helpful. You order a kit from Sole Hope, complete with the patterns for shoes. Gather together a group of ANY size and trace that pattern onto old blue jeans, cut them out and mail them back to Sole Hope.

Do you want to hear the next step in this beautiful process? They have hired locals from their village in Uganda and trained them as shoe makers. They pay them a fair wage and have taught them a very valuable trade that they may now use to support their family. Amazing, right?
So, you mail the shoe patterns that you have cut back to Sole Hope and their shoe makers turn them into durable shoes to keep little feet from being jigger infested. Eventually, this problem of jiggers CAN be solved. We can help.

Do you have a group that would like to get together and hold a shoe cutting party? It's so easy. It's so helpful. It's a tangible way to love your neighbor. Contact Sole Hope today! There are other ways you can help here. If you have questions about how this process worked for us, I will gladly answer to the best of my ability!

*This post is not sponsored by anyone. Sole Hope has no clue who I am. I am just madly in love with what they are doing to serve and love the people of Uganda.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Trust for the Lame

I have a problem. Most days pass without me giving my problem a passing thought. But, some days, my little problem slips up on me, laughing maniacally at my fright when I realize it's presence.
My problem is: I forget my age.

Sometimes this is literal.  Like last year, when I was sure I was turning 37, having told people for a whole year that I was 36.  Two weeks before my birthday, J. reminded me that I was only 35, turning 36. So, this year, I really had to stop and think when I told someone my age. Indeed, I am really 37 now.

Most of the time, my forgetting my age doesn't involve telling someone the wrong number.  It's more like, hey I'm not much older than this group of high schoolers so of course, they think I'm funny and cool.  Except that I'm really closer in age to their mother and my jokes are kind of lame.

Or, like this weekend, I find myself taking part in activities with my kids and pretending that my body can keep up with their unbridled youth. This past weekend, I chaperoned 45 kids from my church on a Fall Retreat. We were at a local camp and we had the most fun. The last day, just before we had our chapel service, we did a series of trust games.

Trust games involve trusting another person or group of people to either lead, catch or support you...sometimes blindly.  The last game a trust run. Two lines of people facing each other extend their arms in front of them, blocking the path between them. A group of people who are not a part of the lines each take a turn running through the blocked path and just as they get to those extended arms (not too soon, just before!) the arms drop and let them through without them breaking their speed and without the arms knocking them to the ground.

Clear as mud?

Great. So, I was the final person to do the trust run because I was helping to keep everyone in line on task with the arm dropping. Just as I was about to take off in my sprint of trust, my foot slipped, turning my leg outward at a very odd angle. I heard a pop just as pain shot up from my calf throughout my entire body. I finished my run (thank you very much) and stopped at the end while everyone cheered, none knowing the pain I was feeling.  Our gracious leader excused everyone to gather their Bibles and have one last potty break before our chapel service while I tried to compose myself.

Turns out, I tore a ligament and sprained a muscle in my calf. I'm now the proud owner of a fine set of crutches and a not so fine bruised ego.

Turns out, my jokes aren't the only lame thing.

The irony of this entire situation isn't lost on me. I injured myself during a trust game.  My injury has me out of commission for my regular daily activities; meaning, I have to trust others to help me with the most mundane of tasks. This is so hard for me. I do not accept help very well. I like to be the one helping others not the one receiving help.

Isn't this like our relationship with God? We go through life, saying that we trust Him. We help others when they are struggling to trust Him. But, the minute our lives fall apart and everything isn't as tidy as it once was, that trust is tested. We find that all along, we were really trusting in our own abilities and letting go of that trust in ourselves in order to cling to Him, well, it isn't as easy as we thought.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to build your immune system...one sandwich at a time

Title Addendum: Or, you could contract a mystery illness and die. Tales of a 50/50 chance.

When we were in England, Jillian's class took a field trip to the amazing Science Museum and Natural History Museum in London. I was lucky enough to get to chaperone this trip with one of my closest friends, whose daughter happens to be Jillian's BFF.

When lunch time rolled around, we decided to eat outside because the weather was unusually nice that day. The only available bench we could find was just outside of the building, along a busy street. If you have been to London, you know it's always busy and there are always a million people bustling around. No worries, we were content to enjoy the weather and our friends, no matter the place.

Not long after we unloaded our lunch sacks and settled in, the wind picked up a bit.  Jillian, in a swift move to catch a napkin before it blew away, dropped half of her peanut butter sandwich on the sidewalk. I gestured and told her to just go ahead and pick it up, no big deal, it's just a sandwich.

We continued our lunch, chatting and having a great time with our friends. Once I was done, I gathered all of my trash in my lunch bag and handed it to Jillian.

"If you'll put that sandwich you dropped in there, I'll toss it for you," I told her.

Stunned, she stared at me with eyes as wide as saucers. "But, I ate it. You said pick it up...I thought that meant it was ok to eat it!"

I nearly threw up, right on the spot. I looked around at the pigeons, people, trash and grime that was covering that sidewalk and had no idea what to do next. Having her gargle with anti-bacterial seemed logical yet risky so I did what any responsible mother would have done.

I laughed and vowed that if she didn't get violently ill within the next 5 days, I planned to tell this story to her first prom date.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Diamond in the....blinds

We are fortunate to have several local farmers markets to choose from in our area.  We've always gone to the same one but last week, we wanted to try one that's a little closer to our new house. It's in the perfect location, in the heart of downtown Montgomery. The market looks small from the outside compared to the State Farmer's Market we usually attend but it's so efficiently laid out that once inside, we quickly realized that there's twice as many vendors!

The first booth we came to had a very nice couple that I stopped to talk to about homemade pickles. As we were chatting, I noticed that Caroline had wandered to the booth next to us and was chatting with the little lady behind the table.  Before long, she came around the table and was squatting next to Caroline showing her something. I was still in conversation and J. was standing close to Caroline and paying attention to the conversation so I turned my attention back to pickles.

In a few moments, Caroline walked over to me, holding a parsley plant. Knowing that she loves flowers and plants, I figured she just picked it up to show it to me and ask if she could buy it. I quickly excused myself from the conversation and the couple I was chatting with said, "It's ok, she really loves to do that." Having no idea what they were talking about, I headed to the next booth with Caroline to return the plant.

The first thing I noticed was a small hand written sign that said, "Free Butterflies" laying on the table next to another sign that invited people to "Please touch and smell the plants!"

Before I spoke the lady came over and told me how Caroline was and how she reminded her of her own grandchildren, whom she missed dearly. She said she'd given the parsley plant to Caroline because there was a caterpillar among the leaves and she just knew that Caroline would LOVE it. I looked down and sure enough, there was a bright green caterpillar clinging to a stalk. I thanked her and made sure Caroline did the same as J. and the other kids came up to see what we were doing. Noticing the big kids belonged to me, she encouraged them to take a plant for themselves. She spent the next few minutes talking to them about the types of plants she had available and how to care for them. Jillian and Keller each chose a plant and we bought some mums from her for the front porch and left.

These types of interactions are quite common at the farmer's markets here.  The people are so kind and so excited to see families together enjoying the fruits of their labor. Our kids really look forward to our trips and I think this sweet lady will become a good friend that they look forward to seeing each time we go.  I'll make it a point to take pictures of their plants to bring to show her that they are caring for them the way she told them to.

We came home afterwards so that our market goodies wouldn't have to sit in the car while we ran the rest of our errands. We found the perfect windowsill for Caroline's "callerpitter" plant because she was afraid putting him outside would give him the chance to run away. (If you see Caroline and hear her say "callerpitter" please do not correct her. I love that she says it this way and never want her to say it properly.)

A few things about caterpillars.  One, they aren't really that entertaining to watch.  We spent hours over the next few days watching Diamond (of course, he needed a proper name!) and it was about as much fun as you'd imagine. Two, they poop a lot. It's really gross. Three, if you look really closely at their face (is that really what it's called?) it looks like they have a constant frown.  Or a mustache.

Several days after we brought Diamond home, we came home from school and he wasn't on the parsley.  We noticed that he'd climbed up the blinds and was nearly at the top. J. brought him back down and put him back on the parsley so he wouldn't be lost.

The next morning, he was dutifully climbing back up the blinds. Keller mentioned that he was probably looking for a place to form his chrysalis. We let him climb and I checked on him periodically throughout the day while the kids were at school.  A while after they got home, we checked on him and he was fully inside of his chrysalis! So, we're apparently growing a butterfly in our blinds!

I know next to nothing about caterpillars/butterflies so we've been reading about the stages and what is happening inside of the chrysalis. He should be out in a couple of weeks and we'll release him into the yard. You can't even imagine what a huge deal this has been for everyone in this house. So much fun!

Here's a couple of pictures of Diamond. Keep in mind, he's cocooned up in our blinds so it's hard to get a great shot!
All wrapped up

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Overwhelming Love

Parenting can often be a roller coaster. When at it's best, it's a sleek, well kept ride at Disney World run by a professionally trained "cast member" who makes small talk while you wait and helps the tiniest riders off with an extended hand and a smile. At it's worst, it's more like the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair run by a carnie with a cigarette hanging between two of his three teeth, laughing as he cranks up the speed and bolts start flying off while your kid (and you) screams for mercy.

With one, you leave in a state of euphoria and can't wait to come back tomorrow to do it all over again. With the other, you aren't altogether sure you'll make it out alive and if you do, there's NO way you're coming back. 

The real catch is, parenting can be both of those in the same day and you go to bed at night confused about what just happened and wondering if eating a whole sleeve of girl scout cookies was really the answer.

I've know my entire life that I wanted nothing more than I wanted to be a Mama. To hear a precious voice calling me a name that she would never call anyone else. To see your baby walking down the hall and breaking into a huge smile the moment his eyes meet yours.

And, yet. I often forget how blessed I am. I can't see past the carnie and the carnage of my tattered soul and aching feet to see that the very beings that I prayed for and begged the Lord to give me are just inches away, depending on me for everything. When I look at them through the lens of love, I realize that their dependence on me is not a yoke around my neck, as some believe, but a powerful reminder of my dependence on Him.

How I must grieve Him when I wander away, refusing to hold his hand as I head into dangerous territory.  I wonder if His heart beams when I set aside time, just for Him, in my day.  Is He proud when I love and serve others just the way He's taught me?

When your're facing the hard days, take a moment to let love overwhelm you. Remember the thrill of holding them for the first time.  Ponder the dreams you have for them because they can't yet dream for themselves. Most of all, imagine the love your Father has for you as He watches you love them. May it open your eyes in a fresh way to the Love that you've been shown. A Love that truly understands.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Life in the Middle

The school year is officially underway and my kids are in yet another new school.  They don't seem to mind (yet!) and are all three doing really well. We've finally found a teacher who seems to be a good fit for Keller and he's (mostly) enjoying the challenges of 4th grade.  Jillian is settled into 6th grade and has already joined the middle school volleyball team.  She's currently sitting out due to a small stress fracture in her foot but she's counting down the days until she's off the bench and on the floor with her team again.  Caroline is in pre-K and although she says differently, she seems to really enjoy it.  She loves to say that she doesn't like it much and that her favorite part of the day is when I pick her up but I can see the truth behind her sweet smile as she says goodbye to her friends each day. She's doing just fine.

I'm enjoying the new house, new school, new schedule of life these days.  I only have two and a half hours of alone time since preschool is short but I am really finding my rhythm during those brief moments. I'm still doing Bible study at our church and I'm about to host a shoe cutting party for Sole Hope for our church. (By the way, Sole Hope is an amazing organization doing important work. Check them out!)

J. is loving his new job and is doing really well. He's in a great men's Bible study and is trying (trying) to finish up his school work that is required for advancement in the Air Force.

I keep trying to put a label on this period of life for our little family.  We are in the busy season with three kids, their activities, and our activities. But, I'm not kidding myself that this season won't seem like a relaxing vacation once we hit the teenage years.  I'm trying so hard to savor the days, to lock away every little memory in the corners of my heart because I know they are fleeting.  Jillian won't always want to link arms with me as we walk into a store.  Keller won't always want just one more snuggle before bed time.  And, Caroline won't always smoosh her face so hard into mine that it's difficult to tell where I end and she begins.

For now, I'm just enjoying life with my people. No label needed.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Inspired by Grief

Yesterday, one of my former high school classmates passed away after a courageous battle with cancer.  She leaves behind a husband and three darling sons.  I've been praying for her along this journey, through remission and recurrence, through highs and lows and I just cannot wrap my brain around the fact that she is gone.

Just over a month ago, a darling lady that I met while in a Bible study passed away.  One day she was a vibrant, healthy 76 year old sweetheart who blessed the socks off of everyone she met and the next she was in ICU dying from complications of pneumonia.  

While I loved both of these ladies dearly, I wasn't particularly close with either of them.  At least not in the way that warrants frequent phone calls or unplanned visits.

I guess that's why the intense grief I've felt at both of their passings has caught me off guard.

When Mrs. Jeannie died in December, I felt her loss in a way that surprised me.  During her short bout with illness, I prayed fervently that she would be healed.  I bugged our mutual friends who attend her church for an update, so afraid I'd miss an important change in her health. And when she was gone, I felt like the world was robbed because we didn't get to have her around to cheer us on anymore.

Much the same as, I've been on pins and needles hoping for good news from my childhood friend.  When the news came that she'd been moved to a hospice center, I still had hope though deep down I knew that the end was near.  And, now she's gone.  That feeling of deep sadness and injustice takes over once more.  She's a mommy.  To three boys.  Lord, they need her. Why?

Though I am talking much about my own feelings, please do not think this is about me.  It's not.  Both of these ladies were incredible.  Both lived life as if they were in love with it.  They enjoyed every second that they were given.  Even in illness, the worst kind of illness that robs you of everything that the world holds dear, my friend was so strong.  She was an encouragement to others.  She was rarely seen without a smile.  She spent every second she had enjoying those boys and making memories with them.  She fought so hard.  They both did. 

So, tonight, I am trying to break out of the "Why?" zone.  I'm trying.  Instead, I want to show how inspired I am by two amazing women.  These two women who never met are forever entwined in my heart. I tend to get so caught up and bogged down by life's inconveniences that I miss some of the most beautiful parts.  I don't want to see how amazing life is through hind sight.  I want to look every day straight on with a smile.

My friends we both so encouraging to others.  I will be, too.

They smiled, even in the toughest of circumstances.  I will, too.

They loved deeply and with the purest of hearts.  So will I.

They lived each day as if it were the best they'd ever had.  Then, so can I.

They fought hard.  We all do.

I will not simply grieve and move on.  I will grieve and be inspired.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Old School Blogging: 2013 Re-Cap

I'm joining my friend Elaine over at The Miss Elaine-ous Life today for Old School Blogging! This is a long one but it was crazy to think back over a whole year.  My memory isn't what it used to be!!

2013 Re-cap

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
HUGE bucket list...I traveled to Italy!! It was even better than I imagined.  

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I'm sure I had at least one.  To lose the pesky pounds that I've gained over the past two years.  However, I didn't write it down and I didn't keep it so it doesn't count...right?  For this year, I have so many.  I'm terrible at putting them out there because I don't like to fail but I need the accountability so I'll tell you a few.
a) The pounds.  They need to be lost.  I need less jiggle and more wiggle.  Whatever that means.  I just need to get serious about getting healthy again because I've really let stress take over for the past couple of years.
b) Read more.  As in, real books. With chapters and no pictures.
c) Find something for me.  I spend so much time doing everything that I think will make everyone else happy and I think 2014 needs to be the year that I find some purpose for myself.  What has God called me to do? I have no idea outside of taking care of my husband and kids but I know a few things I love to do and I'm hoping to find ways to incorporate those into my life more.  If I could find what I want to be when I grow up in the process, that would be stellar.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My cousin's wife had a baby boy and that's the only one I can remember.  There must have been more.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
A sweet lady that I was in Bible study with shortly after we moved here.  It's the strangest thing to me because our Bible study was only 7 weeks long but when she suddenly got sick and passed away afterwards, I felt her loss so deeply.  I am still just so sad about it.  We were a Bible study full of 30 somethings and she was in her 70's yet she really seemed to love being in there with all of us.  She was genuinely the sweetest lady.  I can't explain how she impacted me in the short time I knew her.  

5. What countries did you visit?
England, France, Belgium, Italy and the United States. I think that's it!

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
Focus. In so many areas.  I need to be more disciplined and I want to focus less on what others think.  I'd like to also focus more on loving those around me.  Survival mode needs to be switched off! Also, exercise.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
July 4.  We had just gotten back to the US days before and were celebrating with friends who moved here from England at the same time as us.  We just felt so content and so happy to be home.  
December 30.  Our family was here and we celebrated my amazing husband's promotion.  That night, we stayed up late playing Rock Band and pretending to be rock stars.  It was the most fun EVER.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I made it through in one piece.  The huge things that made me feel like my world was upside down look smaller in hindsight. 

9. What was your biggest failure?
UGH.  Weight gain.  Plenty of it.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing major.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Hmmmmm.  This is a tough one.  A new car, maybe? We were down to one for our duration in England and it was our giant SUV so when we moved back, we needed to add a second and more economical (re: not a gas hog) vehicle to our family.  

12. Where did most of your money go?
Travel.  Moving expenses.

13. What did you get really excited about?
Finding out our next assignment.  Going to Italy.  Moving.  Finding out that J. made his promotion.  Getting to see family after two years!

14.  What song will always remind you of 2013?
Unfortunately, it will be "What Does the Fox Say?"

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
happier or sadder? Happier, for sure.
thinner or fatter? I think we've established this.  Don't make me say it again.
richer or poorer?  Hmmm.  The same maybe?

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Reading.  Bible study.  Putting myself out there to make new friends.
17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Stress over the things I couldn't change.
18. How did you spend Christmas?
With my five favorites here at home. It was amazing.
19. What was your favorite TV program?
Blacklist and Castle.
20. What were your favorite books of the year?
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Amazing.
21. What was your favorite music from this year?
Pitch Perfect soundtrack. Jillian and I dance to it every afternoon while I cook dinner and she unloads the dishwasher.  I will love it forever because of our dance parties.
22. What was your favorite film of the year?
Pitch Perfect. (Duh.)  I didn't get to see it until 2013! Also, Despicable Me 2.  I know, I'm basically a child.
23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 36 and I had a fun night with my favorites here at home with an amazing cake and takeout. Funny though, I was convinced that I'd turned 36 last year so I spent an entire year telling people that I was 36 only to realize just before my birthday that I was only 35 about to turn 36.  I gained a whole year!
24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Finding a local group of girlfriends!!
25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Oh boy.  It was lacking.  I need to step it up.
26. What kept you sane?
I'd say my sanity is debatable.  :-) Just kidding.  My hunky husband and cute kids.
27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
That it's ok to do what's best for me and my family even when others don't agree.  That I don't have to feel guilty for other's poor behavior and my inability to change it.  To listen to my intuition and stop apologizing for who I am.  Whew. 

Wow.  That was hard! I had to really think on some of them!! And, I realized that 2013 was LONG and sometimes so hard but I made it through and I'm so thankful for the New Year.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Weather Wimps

I grew up in the south.  I like to think that southern folk are tough.  We can handle 100 degrees with 100% humidity and barely glisten.

There is, however, one thing that we can't handle.  Cold weather. My kids got an extra day of vacation today because it's cold out.  And, there's a two hour delay tomorrow.

Listen, I'm not complaining.  I love having them home and every Sunday night, I get really sad because I know that Monday means they are leaving me to go back to school.  I just think it's funny that the weather dipped below freezing and we're out of school.  When we first got the call, I rationalized it in my head with thoughts like, "Well, the kids here just don't have the winter gear to be out in this kind of weather. Imagine those babies standing out at the bus stop in their windbreaker when the temp is 11 degrees."

I logged onto Facebook today and immediately felt like the south is full of a bunch of wimps.  My friend in NYC had her precious boy all bundled up in so many layers that he looked like Ralphie's little brother.  She was walking him to school.  In the snow.  Four miles and uphill both ways, I'm sure.

My kids were home today because it's cold out.

Regardless of why they were home, I was happy to have them.  I'm feeling pretty somber tonight about having to send them back tomorrow.

We had a lot of family in over the Christmas break because J. was promoted and they all came down for the ceremony. We had 14 extra people in the house and we loved every second of it.  As we all sat around talking one night, I noticed a familiar look on J's face.  I asked if he was ok and he said, "I am.  I'm so content."  As a smile spread across his face, I realized that I felt the exact same way.  Being surrounded by our people makes us happy.

Tomorrow brings back a familiar routine of packing lunches and carpool lines and homework.  I think I'll start my summer break countdown now.

Monday, January 6, 2014


One of my first blogging friends, Kat, just came back from a bit of a blogging break.  I was so thankful to see her writing again and reading her blog took me back to my early days of blogging. I still read and visit so many of my friends from those days.

I started this blog SEVEN years ago.  How is that even possible? I remember agonizing for over a year before I started blogging because I needed a creative name.  Should I even be surprised that the same perfection that caused me to pine over the name is what has kept me from writing? You see, I started to think that I could only write here when I had something interesting to share.  A funny story to share was better than the mundane details of our daily lives.  We moved to England and I honestly lost the ability to cope with anything more than my mundane details so sharing them seemed overwhelming.  J's new job there brought added stress along with the stress of moving our little family overseas and adjusting to SO many new things at once. Survival became my sole focus for two solid years.

We did have a great time in England and we miss it already! We did our share of traveling around Europe and experiencing things I'd only dreamed I'd ever get to do. We made friends that will be a part of our heart and lives forever.  It was brilliant.

All the while, in a corner of my heart reserved just for a passion I've had since high school, I still longed to write here.  I wanted to share with my friends what I was experiencing.  I wanted to tell you all how quickly the the kids were growing and changing.  I wanted to preserve some of those memories for myself because I often come back here and browse my own archives to refresh my memory of the early years with tiny children around my feet playing and growing.

Before I knew it, our two years was over.  The job that my husband had trained for and coveted his entire career was over.  (He wasn't fired.  In the military, this particular job is a two year assignment.) It stretched us and changed us.  It challenged us and molded us.  We came back to the states this summer five people who were unrecognizable to the five who left.

So, here I am.  We are back in the states and back in our beloved south.  We are all huddled around watching Auburn play in the championship game tonight and though we've lived here for only a few short months, we are fans.

Of the state and their football teams.

Of the people.

Of the new job that has slowed our pace and been a balm to our weary souls.

J. and Jillian have been sweetly hinting that it might be time to find my passion for writing again.  I think (and hope) they are right.

2014 is going to be a good year.