About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a wife, a full time working mom, a teacher, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a decade long breast cancer survivor, and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Life Lesson #57 ~ His Double Shot of Irish Whiskey

There’s a saying about Celtic women. It says something like this, “we’re not created for the faint of heart.”  Honestly, that about sums it up.  Just ask my hubby. He’ll tell you straight up his wife is a double shot of whiskey without hesitation. There’s no denying my stubborn streak keeps life interesting around here.  I’m Irish through and through. I've got pale skin, a loud mouth, and yes I’m hot headed. I know I’ve seen that in writing somewhere before, probably on Pintrest I bet. Seriously though, from my red hair and freckles to my blue eyes, my boisterous laugh and all my sarcasm wrapped up in one package I am definitely my daidis daughter through and through. I may get my Scottish roots from my mama but you can bet as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow I get my fiery, feisty, excitable  Irish disposition from my daddy.

From the moment Johnny and I met he knew I was trouble. Now don’t read me wrong, I wasn’t the kind of trouble you’re afraid to take home to your mama. No, I was the kind of girl you took home, harmless until shaken that is. Truthfully I have always been a little bit of innocence and wildfire muddled together. As Anne of Green Gables said, “I know my own mind. The trouble is, my mind changes and then I have to get acquainted with it all over again.” I’ve always been a free spirit, a spit fire, full of life, adventurous, knowing no fear.  I will change my mind 100 times, and then some.  I’ll line up your shots of whiskey and then change my mind and drink it myself. Yes, I can be a very confusing creature.

 Johnny, with all his firm, fixed and sensible ways has had the job of keeping me on track. Honestly he has done a pretty good job of that through the years. He’s always loved me for my quick wit and my excited,  contagious laughter. Johnny and I have never done things ordinary, run-of-the-mill or mainstream. I think we tend to forget there’s a box. We met and married in six months. Yes, you heard me correctly, I said six months. I was everything he wanted and yet couldn’t wrap his head around. I baffled him, truly confused him, puzzled him, and unhinged his senses and emotions. I was the hot mess he never saw coming. This Irish girl made him laugh while driving him crazy and opening up new meaning to a straight up shot of 100 % proof Irish whiskey.

Life Lesson # 57 ~ I'm definitely his double shot of Irish Whiskey.  Personally I believe women are meant to be loved, not understood. Irish women on the other hand can’t be understood, loved yes, but clearly never tamed! We are raised to believe, “Is bean laidir ata ionam” which translates to, “There is a strong woman in me.”

After 20 years of marriage, I like to think I’m still that same girl, still his shot of whiskey in a delicate teacup. I’m soft, and yet can go from calm to a blazing fire in seconds if provoked. Johnny’s still my goof, the love of my life, my “strong and steady”, always and forever my honey bee as the song says.  I’m blessed to be Mrs. O. The hard times, the difficult moments we’ve shared together have only served as building blocks, paving a firm foundation that we’ve built our life and our family upon. Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way. No, I wouldn’t trade any of the pain for only clear skies. Our struggles, the aging of our relationship and our marriage has built character, created an electric energy, and developed a fine, stable fusion of love and respect. Like a fine, aging whiskey, older is always better.

Johnny isn’t perfect but then neither am I.  He’s the only man I have ever loved to the point of losing my mind.  Why? Because Johnny just as Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables believes “being smart was better than being pretty.” He’s always seen through my insecurities, allowed me to be myself fully. Johnny loves the “me” no one else sees, the Irish girl with a fiery wit and devilish humor.  He embraces the Christina who has the dimple and the devil within. I’m free to explore who I am without changing a single thing about myself.

True, no one else may understand our connection, heck we don’t even understand us sometimes but when has love ever been fully grasped, comprehended or even deciphered completely? Song of Solomon 8:6-7 speaks of love like this, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy[a] as enduring as the grave.[b] Love flashes like fire,  the brightest kind of flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it.” This is love.  Johnny, despite any of our upside down, sideways, turbulent clashes, completely frees my wild, childlike spirit.  Maybe we’re just drunk on love, on life, but you see, we have this fire, a burning desire for each other we can’t put out after all these years together. Love, may sting at times, but just like a good Irish whiskey burns all the way down, we’ll still pour ourselves another round without a second thought.

I guess after all these years Johnny has learned the art of loving, not understanding this misfit, fiery, stubborn, feisty, hot headed, strong,  and yes soft spit fire of a Celtic woman. Johnny, ‘gets’ me, even when he’s scratching his head trying to figure me out. He’s tucked away this little gem, recognizing fully his wife will always be his double shot of Irish whiskey in a tea cup, “Her walk is a like a shot of whiskey. Neat and strong and full of purpose, and so many underestimate her punch.” (JmStore)



Monday, August 29, 2016

Life Lesson # 56 ~Fierce Friendships

When you stop, thinking about the ladies you call your sisters, your best friends, those who share in your uncanny, quirky and zany ways who comes to mind?  I don’t mean a number, a title or some cute hashtag, I'm talking the kind of girlfriends you can completely rely on, those you trust, who hold your complete confidence, I'm speaking of  your closest allies, the friends who tell you the truth no matter what.

I'm thankful, I have these kinds of friends, the sort of kindred spirit's who know your soul deeply, both the dark and illuminated spaces of your heart. These are the kind of kinship's you just don’t know how you’d live without. Some move in and out of my life at different times, yet remain tied to my heart. By God;s grace time never seems to diminish our bond. While all are kindred,some are closer than a sister.These are the friends so close they feel my sadness without  me ever having to say a word. Mindy Kaling sums it best as far as I’m concerned, "One friend with whom you have a lot in common is better than three with whom you struggle to find things to talk about. We never needed best friend gear because I guess with real friends you don’t have to make it official. It just is."  See our friendships aren’t defined by quantity; instead they are determined by quality and intent. The reality is this, some may be closer to me at times than others but none are insignificant. These women are an incredible driving force in my life. 

Personally I love the kind of friends, the women I can be crazy with. You know, those un-biological sisters, the women who join in our weirdness without a question? The kind of kindred spirits you can be yourself with, completely. These are the women you call your people, they’re our better half and no, I’m not talking about our spouses.  I’m talking about those fierce, intense, powerful, strong and un-explainable lady friendships. We all need them, and no these friendships don't replace other relationships in our lives, they simply compliment who we are,motivating and influencing us to grow into deeper, more  transparent , better versions of ourselves. There’s a quote on Pintrest I love, explaining exactly how I feel when it comes to my own fierce friendships. It goes like this, “You are my people. This is where life is LIVED. These are the moments, the people that make life worth living. These are the people who make life beautiful. These are my people. This is my tribe.” (The Art of a Beautiful Life)  These are the women who show up in our lives and stay.

 Life Lesson #57~ Fierce friendships are the bonds that tie us together.

I like to call these women my tribe, the backbone of my wild child ways. And you know what? I’m really grateful for these kinds of friendships I share. Because of my sisters, I had a great summer. One of the best I’ve had in many years actually. We spent afternoons painting, grabbing lunch, planning new adventures, hanging out by the pool and opening up about life. Honestly just being able to be quiet without forced conversation or judgment is one of the best qualities of a genuine friendship.  I appreciated and welcomed the days spent together, even the quiet days. Sometimes, it’s just about knowing in spite of how you feel; your girlfriends are there, no expectations, no demands, just there beside you. Having a friend, a best friend, a sister of the heart is more than a title. Oprah Winfrey says it best, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo—what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up.”  We all need friendships just like this. You know, the 2 am in the morning phone calls, holding your hair back, wiping your tears, laughing till your nose runs, and planning midnight runs of ice-cream and chocolate kind of friendships. These women, they are all that and more. More importantly, they are my family; they know me better than I know myself sometimes. These are the kind of friendships that know no bounds. I know for me personally, without my girlfriends I wouldn’t be whole. Because of their genuine love, determination to see the good and be honest with me even when I don’t want to hear it, I’m a better person. I know unequivocally, I’m loved in all my imperfect ways and without judgment. These women call me friend, sister even in all my unlovable and un-saintly ways. I am humbled, and fortunate to call each one of these ladies my friends.

Thank you my sweet beautiful friends. Thank you for loving me just as I am, for not trying to change me and always encouraging me to be the best me possible. I know I am blessed to know you. And I know, no matter where life takes us, “you’ll always be my Nemo. If you get lost in the great, big ocean, I’ll find you.”


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Life Lesson #55 ~Let Them Be Little.

Family has always come first. Growing up an army brat and an only child I knew I wanted two things when I grew up. One was a house, a place I could put down roots and two was to raise a family of my own.  By God’s grace, I have both. I was blessed to be raised by two parents who not only loved each other but loved me enough to let me be little.  Growing up, I had this sense I could breathe fire if I was so inclined. I knew I could rise above, become what I most wanted to be and be unstoppable to boot. I was free to be myself, to spread my wings, to soar and to experience the magic the world around me offered and to be innocent. Childhood is this delicate dance of imagination and first steps. It should always be full of new ideas, experiences and adventures. Our imaginations are wide open, wild, free and untamed. We can dream big and explore without being boxed in.  I wanted the same for my own children.

Being a mom, well it’s everything to me.  I wanted nothing more than to be a mama since I can remember. I would say I wanted this more than being Wonder Woman, which was big believe me. My boys, they are my greatest achievement ever. They are more than a personal legacy, they are an extension of my heart, beating or not. In them, I’ve found joy beyond measure.  Through their eyes I have seen the world and all its wonders. I truly believe with all my heart as Psalms 139: 14 says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” is true of my boys. And yes, I absolutely believe with all certainty Joshua and Micah, are my greatest gifts from God.  As I gave birth to each of my little bundles of joy, I knew I wanted to raise them in much the same way I was raised. To love them fully, wholly and completely equally. Individually, they bring different qualities to the table and distinct smiles to my face. In many ways my boys are polar opposites, unbelievably unique and individually distinctive even though they’re cut from the same cloth.

Life Lesson #55 ~ let your children be little, just as the song says.  Let them explore, find their own voice, rebel a little bit and experience both the risk and thrills life has to offer. See life through their eyes but be very careful not to live your life through them.

I was raised on Disney, Sci-fi, and Jesus and not in that order.  So to say I was determined to raise my children up on those same three staples is not an over exaggeration. Jesus, well He is a constant, never-ending presence in my life.  Sci-fi, can’t browse through our weekly TV list without a handful popping up. And Disney, well it’s been a part of my life since forever.  I watched those old movie reels on our home projector with my parents until they fell apart. Dumbo was my most loved. It’s now one of our family favorites.  Ya, probably best not to get me started on our Disney movie collection. My parents and I made our first trip to the Magic Kingdom in 1978. I was five.  Till this day,  during our Disney trips, I can sing almost every song, giving great testament to my hubby's patience levels.  Growing up my mom used to take me on post to the movie theater almost every weekend. We saw everything from Bedknobs and Broomsticks to The Rescuers. If you asked my children which one classic Disney movie left the biggest imprint on my childhood, they would answer you in unison, ‘Pete’s Dragon’! Then they would tell you, it’s the same movie summing up their childhood. So when I heard there was going to be a remake of Pete’s Dragon I was nervous and excited.  We were there with bells on, popcorn in our hands, ready.  It was a family adventure. My parents, the boys and of course Johnny and myself were all in a row. Nope, I wasn’t let down, not at all. This beautiful, heartwarming retelling of my beloved original was spectacular. Even Johnny wasn’t holding back tears at the end.  What a wonderful moment, recapturing not only my childhood memories, but my boys as well. Our ride home was whimsical to say the least, the boys retelling Johnny the original story line while I sang, Mickey Rooney’s part, “It’s a dragon, a dragon, I swear I saw a dragon.” You see, even now, being nearly grown and yes educated in the ways of this world, my boys don’t have to pretend to have outgrown pieces of their childhood. Of course they don’t believe in dragons anymore, though they may still chase a few from time to time.  See Joshua and Micah understand the key to growing up is keeping the embers, the spark of childhood imagination very much alive. I’m actually very humbled understanding their mastery of this. They’re not only aware of but still appreciate these fleeting moments of childhood innocence.  

The reality is they’ve seen and experienced more angst and worry than two children should have in a lifetime.  At 6 and 9, Joshua and Micah had to face cancer, face death, the beast continually knocking at the door, wondering if they’d have to bury their mother. They could’ve grown up quickly, lost their childhoods, become angry and bitter but they didn’t. They never became victims of their circumstances. In spite of the worry and the fear, we encouraged them to stay little for as long as they could.  And because of this, they both learned to spread their wings while staying innocent, using their imaginations, dreaming and yes breathing fire, becoming unstoppable. Today, a nearly 10 year survivor, I sit in awe watching how they each have learned to take the bull by the horns whistling oo-de-lally. They’re both a little hard headed, kinda like their mama. They’re loud sometimes, quiet a little more often, and entertaining always. When they’re getting along, there’s no keeping them apart but then when they’re not, whoa; hold up and Katie bare the door!  I know neither one of my boys are perfect. We bang heads, raise our voices, but at the end of the day we’re family, we’re close, faults and all.

After all these years, the ups, downs, troubles, joys and yes differences,  they still believe in the power of imagination. More importantly, they know we never rushed their childhood. You see, these boys, they are my life, my greatest undertaking and the fulfillment of my most ambitious dreams and they call me mom. Yes, I may have given them life, but the truth is in their own unique, remarkable ways, they gave me mine back. Walter M. Schirra, Sr. is word perfect, “You don't raise heroes, you raise sons.  And if you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes.” Let them be little for as long as they can and you know what, they may truly surprise you…


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Life Lesson #54 ~ Bold, Relentless Love…

“I got it from my Mama”, is a saying you’ll hear a lot here in the south.  It basically sums up my life in a nutshell.  I am definitely my mother’s daughter, there’s no other way about it.   Apart from the obvious like our eyes or our smile, we think alike and we share an indestructible, unbreakable bond.  My mom is more than my mother, she is also my friend. With this new chapter of life lessons, I want to really digg in on the diverse and different relationships in my life. I’ve opened up about the influence of my parents and my marriage on my life recently but today I’m going to share a little more about my Mama, who she is and who she has shaped me to be.

Life Lesson #54 is the story of a Bold, Relentless Love.

I grew up in an extraordinary loving home. I was an only child. Let me make this clear though, I was never lonely, nor was I spoiled.  I had all I ever needed and mostly what I wanted, but I was never a stranger to the word “NO”.  Our home was always full of laughter, family and friends. My parents were active in home ministry from the time I can remember. We didn’t share too many meals without an added plate or two set at the table. I can’t remember how many nights I gave up my room for someone in need of a bed. You might think this was not fair to a child, but my mom knew better. She knew it was a way of teaching her only child what sharing, giving, thinking of others and self-sacrifice was all about. Mama knew in the long run I would have compassion and grace and those gifts would have a greater, longer lasting effect on my life than one night without the comfort of my own bed.

My mom is an exceptionally beautiful woman. She’s the kind of women who has no idea she’s beautiful.  She’s not only kind, gracious and giving, she’s young at heart, full of a contagious vibrant and radiant light. To know her is to love to her. She knows no stranger; no one leaves without a hug. The best part of watching her make new friends is not only witnessing the love they feel but walk away with as well. When she loves, she loves with all her heart, with everything she has and thinks nothing of herself.  Mom isn’t a saint, because none of us are but she’s authentic and real and that’s what makes her so truly special. She’s the kind of woman Proverbs 31:28 talks about, “Her children show their appreciation, and her husband praises her.” My mom has been my greatest example of real, unbelievable, unconditional love. She has not only given me her wholehearted, unrestricted and unequivocal love but shown me how to be a Godly woman with integrity. Her character is undisputed and she’s about real as real gets.  

I am the woman I am today not only because of the woman my mother not only raised me to be, but because of the woman she is herself. I have learned to love, to forgive, to laugh, to find hope in spite of despair, to be brave, to get up and try to again even when  life keeps knocking me down. I not only found Jesus, but I have seen Him in her.  I have watched my Mom my whole life give everything away, shown not only compassion but patience, rejoicing in the gifts God has given others even when it meant suffering in her own life. Her decision to love even after rejection and to celebrate the goodness of God’s tender mercies in the middle of turmoil has influenced my life tremendously.  To say I am strong is to give credit to my mom. I am but a mere reflection of her example.

Ultimately she has given me the ability to thrive, to live my own life, not only to share unconditional love but to accept it as well. My mom has taught me to be bold, brave and un-relentless in everything I do.  I have never had to question her belief in me, she simply believed, no matter what the undertaking.  Piano to choir, ballet to gymnastics and creative writing mom was my champion. Didn’t matter what it was, dolls and comic books, fairy-tales and Buck Rogers, swords and tiaras to tea parties and forts, no problem.  I was encouraged to be completely, fully and whole –heartedly myself.  Imagination was not only supported but enthusiastically urged on.  My Mama’s arms were always open, her words soft but honest.  As a child, all the way through my awkward teenage years and today as an adult I have never had to doubt my mother’s incredible ability to see the best in me even when I haven’t deserved it.  Yes, we’ve had hard times, moments when we haven’t always seen eye to eye, occasions we’ve been anywhere but close to the same page and yes we’ve even had impassable junctions, the kind you just have to agree to disagree on. But, I can say with all humility I’ve never cursed my parents. Largely because I truly respect my mom and dad, partially because I keep Proverbs 20:20 in the back of my mind,” If you curse your parents, your life will end like a lamp that goes out in the dark.” (And no, I didn’t want to have my light go out, leaving me in the dark!) But being really honest it’s mostly due to their steadfast, fearless, dauntless, assured; unconditional love for me, my children, my husband and for all those who cross their path. 

At the end of the day, as my mom’s life is scrutinized, and her story fully told I know she will be praised. To say her example has left an impression is an understatement. My mom is the greatest example of persistent, continuing, constant, continuous, nonstop, never-ending, unceasing, unending, unrelenting; unfaltering, unwavering unconditional love I have ever known. She has loved me since before she knew me, when I wasn’t lovable, when I wasn’t anywhere close to likable.  And still she loves me.  Because of her, I know what true Bold, Relentless, Unbelievable and Unconditional love is.  As Ezekiel 16:44 says,” The Lord said, “People will use this proverb about you, Jerusalem: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’  I can only pray I am half the woman my mom is. After all, I get it from my Mama.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Life Lesson #53 ~Live Fearlessly!

What is it that makes us fear aging? Getting older, as if there’s this trepidation and horror in a number?  I have never been afraid of age. I guess I’ve never really thought long and hard about “getting older”. I’ve never felt old, maybe that has something to do with it. I’m just not one to worry about whether I’m 23 or 43. Age to me is simply a number, not a way of life.

I was born into a very lively family, full of vitality, exuberance, enthusiasm, pep and gusto. My parents raised to me love life, to take it all in and never worry about if I was too young or too old.  I was an only child, and maybe that played a part in how I was raised.  We laughed a lot, and still do. We traveled , saw the world, the US ,made long lasting friendships, experienced cultures and music, tasted new foods ( sometimes to my alarm) and soaked in life relentlessly and fearlessly. My Granny used to call us street rats, an old southern endearment for saying we were always on the go.  My parents and I were never still, (a way of life Johnny and I have made part of our own foundation) constantly and continually on the go somewhere, doing something together and usually up way later than we should have been.They not only took me around the world and back again, we spent our days at the zoo, museums, inside castles, sailing down rivers, gong to concerts, the beach and countless amusement parks. My parents rode every ride with me including the roller coasters. Till this day I don’t see my parents as old, they just never seem to age in my eyes. They’ve mastered the art of Facebook, instagram, text messaging, email and being able to keep up with their grandsons in a whole new digital world. I know they’re aging, none of us can hold back the clock, but I sometimes think my parents have found a way to slow it down. What I’ve learned from not only watching my parents, but living life right alongside of them all these years is to be fearless in my pursuit of life.

The biggest lesson I've absorbed growing up in the home I did was I’m beautiful even when I don’t feel like it, understanding even when I’m hurt,  my value isn’t based on someone else's  opinions, nor is my happiness or self-esteem. My parents gave me the ability to spread my wings without fear, to experience life fully. Because of that, I’m a free spirit, a weird combination of quiet and loud I guess. Growing up fearlessly the way I have, I’ve  been able to grasp and appreciate the woman I have become today. At 43, I’m still the girl with a set of Mickey Mouse ears on top of her head; I still make those crazy, funny faces and you bet I get on those roller coasters with my kids.  I’m still in awe of my Mama and Daddy and their undaunted, bold, feisty and fearless free spirits. My parents, after 47 years of marriage have mastered the art of a  playful. joyful life and in doing so have stayed young and vibrant. Life Lesson # 53 ~ Live fearlessly and you’ll never have to settle for anything.

So why fear age? It is truly nothing but a number and there’s not a number big enough to define who I am, let alone who you are.  Diane Von Furstenberg is absolutely on point, “Aging is out of your control. How you handle it, though, is in your hands.” Living life fearlessly is not about a lack of fear, but instead a determination to overcome it, not allowing fear to control you or your passions.  Psalm 118:6a says this about fear, “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.” What is there to be afraid of anyway, some wrinkles, a little extra weight, gray hairs, glasses, or yes even death?  This is the thing I believe based on  my parents examples , if you’re  busy living life, enjoying it, fearless in the pursuit of happiness,  filled with joy, free from anxiety and “the end’,  contentment will make herself right at home.

Does this mean we’ve never felt the sting of rejection, the pain of loss or the woes of financial worry? No, not all, we definitely have. Life is about all these things, but it’s also about understanding some things are simply out of our control. Matthew 6:25-26 has long been a favorite scripture my parents have repeated to me through the years, “This is why I tell you: do not be worried about the food and drink you need in order to stay alive or about clothes for your body. After all, isn't life worth more than food? And isn't the body worth more than clothes?  Look at the birds: they do not plant seeds, gather a harvest and put it in barns; yet your Father in heaven takes care of them! Aren't you worth much more than birds?” Because of my parents example I don’t just understand this, I know it to be true.  In spite of everuthing life has thrown our way, cancer, the removal of my breast, chemo and the loss my hair, a stroke, job insecurity, marriage trouble and everything else in-between we’ve lived life abundantly, fearlessly and full of joy and happiness.  Age has nothing on me, I’m more than any number it can tally up. What I do know, fear has no place to hide if we don’t let it define us, control us or convince us we’re anything less than enough. I guess you could say I aspire to be a beautiful person both in my youth and in my old age, fearless in my pursuit of life and happiness. My challenge to you today is this, start living a fearless life. Don’t get caught up in the whole what could have, should have been lies fear whispers in your ear.  Remind yourself of the masterpiece you are, gray hairs, wrinkles and all.  After all just as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”  


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Life Lesson #52 ~Love Is...

Love, what comes to mind when you think of amore? Is it romance, passion or intimacy? Maybe it’s none of these things at all. No matter what we think love should be the truth is love is many, many things. Love is kind, forgiving and gracious. Love is full of laughter, sometimes angry, other time it’s filled with sorrow and tears. Love offers compassion, love grows and deepens over time, love is an act of self-sacrifice and yes love is difficult.  True love can be bold, fierce and beautiful whereas the idea of love can be destructive, hostel and vicious.  Sadly many times we get caught up in what we think love should be. We compare our relationships to the ones we see in the movies, read about in books or lyrics sung on the radio. We get so caught up in fairy tales, in a writer or songwriter’s version of a love story; we forget who the real author of our love story truly is. Fear can be a driving force in love. Insecurities, uncertainties, anxiety and doubt can destroy love. “F-E-A-R has two meanings: Forget everything and run or Face everything and rise. The choice is yours.” (Curiano) So let’s get very real here, Johnny and I have had a rough few years, and that’s anything but an understatement.

Trouble always starts out small doesn’t it? A few emotions left unchecked, words gone unsaid, affections unattended then bam before you know it you’re living with a stranger. The once warm, beautiful home you’ve shared and built together becomes a battlefield. We’ve all been there, admitting it or not. For Johnny and me, we just simply lost touch with one another. Before we realized what was happening life’s wrecking ball came in swift, demolishing what we thought was a solid foundation. As for what got us there, the details are not as important as the symptoms.  For us, as a couple, we struggled with communication; grappled with overwhelming emotions, wrestled with hurtful words and stumbled through uncertainty.  Looking back on the last three years I have no idea how we successfully crossed our 20 year mark together. I can tell you honestly there were times I didn’t like my husband very much. There’s also no doubt there were moments he didn’t want to be anywhere near me either.  Our marriage blew up, and yes we came close to walking away but God was BIGGER than any of our hurdles or insecurities.  Yes, life has thrown us some pretty big obstacles but saving our marriage was and has been one of the biggest. Once we hit bottom, there was no doubt we not only loved one another but no one or anything was going to unravel the life we’d build together.  Was I hurt, did I feel betrayed, abandoned, absolutely. Could I forgive my husband and find forgiveness myself, yes I could and I did.  The thing about forgiveness is it’s about growth, to pardon, to show mercy; give reprieve and let go. Love doesn’t hold a grudge nor does it keep a record of hurts.

Life Lesson #52 ~Love is…a lifelong work in progress. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says this, “Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth.  Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.” If we’re being honest with ourselves how often do we practice every single one of those attributes? Bottom line love is hard and the truth, loving and liking someone are two very different and distinctive things. What Johnny and I found in the middle of our misadventures was that we couldn’t do any of this alone. We had to surrender ourselves, our wants, our desires and ultimately our own hard headed way of doing things.  Essentially we had to be broken together wrapping ourselves completely around each other and in the Lord just as Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.”

None of us are perfect, not one and in that light no one should ever feel ashamed of the struggle God allows to develop our testimony.  There’s no disgrace in the journey Johnny and I have made together or where it’s taken us. Yes, the struggle has been very real, but it’s also brought us increasingly closer than we’ve ever been before.  We’re stronger, not necessarily indestructible but absolutely a solid and fordable team.  So what about fear? Well, fear isn’t something our family runs from anymore. Nope, fear has taught us to rise and keep rising. Our story isn’t unique but it is part our past, our love and our future. And you know what? “I love our story. Sure it’s messy, but it’s the story that got us here.”(How I Met Your Mother) And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way!


Monday, August 15, 2016

Life Lesson #51 ~Be Completely, Entirely, Downright, Fully and Authentically You!

They say, “Ain’t nothing in the whole wide world like a southern girl.”  Well speaking as a southern woman, I have to agree we’re a different stock, a totally distinct band of womenfolk.  A bit of sassy mannerisms, conflicting signals, unconventional qualities and independent streaks mixed together.  We’re the bare feet and pearls go with anything kind of girls.  Growing up in the South as a fishing, mud pies and dirt road kind of girl I found my place quickly. I grasped, discovered and learned from my tribe, my family, from those who surrounded my life, whether in church or around the dinner table to be authentic.  What is an authentic life?  Well, it’s about being true to yourself, not compromising who you are for the attention of the few. Most importantly, it’s knowing yourself, not the idea of who you think you should be.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Be an original, don’t die a copy.” Being authentic, being 100% yourself means nothing if you’re continuing to be a knockoff, a duplicate or reproduction of someone else. If we are going to live a life that’s 100% proof, then we have to be genuine, real, bona- fide, and true, legitimate, the real McCoy and the real thing. Laetitia Casta explains in her quote, “Real beauty is to be true to oneself. That's what makes me feel good.” See it’s being yourself ,you find true happiness. It’s not about being the best, one up or a forged copy of someone else that makes you unique. Nope, it’s about being sincere, genuine, real, unfeigned and heartfelt in all you do and in all you are. That means flaws, mistakes and all.

Life Lesson #51 ~Be Completely, Entirely, Downright, Fully and Authentically You! Everyone that knows the real me, knows I’m a downright goofy mess. I love life, to laugh, to feel, to embrace my passions, to live it fully and out loud . I completely appreciate every moment I’ve been given to be unapologetically me. I believe once you’ve stared death in the face, as I have done, life becomes more of a gift than you ever could imagine. Breast cancer, growing up with diabetes, living with auto immune diseases and yes through a small stroke did not change me, no my dance with the beast, with the devil,only fortified my love for life and for who I truly born to be.   

Yep, I’m a nerd, I own that. It’s my superpower. I will talk geek to anyone willing to listen. My amazing hubby, the love of my life has to feel like a ping pong ball, with a headache to boot, as our boys and I go back and forth in deep comic book conversations.   I have absolutely no fear of making silly faces, wearing Mickey Mouse ears, being seen in any cosplay that suits my fancy, dabbing with my kids in public or yes even having messy hair days.  My laugh is more of a snort than anything else; I can go from jeans and a t shirt to heels and pearls in a blink of an eye.  Give me a day of fishing or an afternoon at home heck even an evening out with friends and I’m still the same silly, goofy girl. I am me, or as my Granny used to call me, a silly Goose to be sure. I found out a long time ago, being authentic requires being comfortable in the skin you’re in.   I have a fiery Irish side, a stubborn streak a mile wide but I’m not ashamed of who I have become, or of the scars that got me here. I simply love the life I have, I’m imperfect in so many ways, and yet I’m perfectly me. I have no shame in my enthusiasm, in the individuality of my soul, the zip of my eccentric spirit. I love where and from whom I come from.

Psalm 139:14a says to us, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!” This should always be our mantra. We are beautifully and wondrously made. Absolutely, we’re complex. I know I sure am but that’s the magnificence of life!  None of us, not even one should ever have to accept less than who we are.  It’s a beautiful occurrence to influence and to be influenced by those we love, or even distain but we should never ever steal or have our souls stolen from us in the process.  

Again, I say be authentic, loyal, faithful, constant, steadfast, true- unswerving, unwavering; trustworthy, reliable, dependable and "a true friend" to yourself.  Don’t ever settle! As we say in the south, you’re finer than frog’s hair (that’s a compliment by the way).  Simply, just be yourself, be the REAL you, not a carbon copy of an original. Be authentically quirky, beautiful and flawed.  Just be the inspirational, unstoppable, brave, kind and fierce you, you were created to be. (Love pintrest).  Never stop believing in yourself and remember this, “Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books - especially the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.” ~ John Wooden


Friday, August 12, 2016

LIFE LESSON #50 ~A New Beginning!

Growing up is scary. And by growing up I don’t mean getting older or putting mileage on. No, I mean growing into men and women who were born victorious.  None of us are born to live a life of defeat. Yes some are given more, while others have to fight to get to the top but we're not meant to live derailed, crushed or rejected. What I do know from my own difficulties, is I want to be the kind of woman who doesn’t settle but walks with purpose, allowing the fire inside me not to scorch my surroundings but to burn brighter inside of me.

Growing up isn’t about who you are,where you're from or where you're going in life because we’re all still growing, learning every day whether we’re 10 years old or 80. The truth is up until we take our last breath our hearts and minds continue to illuminate and compose our story. Our tales are never fully told or revealed until the last word is penned on the very last page of the final chapter and the book is closed. Honestly, until then our stories continue to unfold into new chapters. Each new beginning becomes deeper, sometimes darker or brighter, more radiant, dramatic, vivid and a fascinating portion of our story. Turning over the final page in our irrevocable last chapter, in this great big book we call life is inevitable, no doubt.  I don’t know about you, but I am nowhere near ready to shut my account of life down just yet.  Until that moment arrives, I believe you, as much as I do, have many wonderful and a few harrowing chapters left to explore.  

Firsthand experience, from a personal account I admit, I’ve been stuck in a rut, re-reading and going over the last few chapters of my life for a while now.  I'll close a chapter; turn the page and suddenly old subjects and predicates are present again. I keep going round and round, trying to skip pages and bypass chapters. Despite my best efforts I end up on the same page, same topic, without a concluding sentence. It’s seriously past time to edit the last chapter and begin a new one. Personally, I’m ready to turn over a new leaf, begin a new chapter. There’s a quote I think of often, especially when I’m looking at the beginning of a new point in my life.  It goes like this, “There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world-because you realize there’s so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on.”(Unknown)

Life Lesson #50 ~A new chapter begins “Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses. He sets the time for birth and the time for death, the time for planting and the time for pulling up, the time for killing and the time for healing, the time for tearing down and the time for building. He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing, the time for making love and the time for not making love, the time for kissing and the time for not kissing. He sets the time for finding and the time for losing, the time for saving and the time for throwing away, the time for tearing and the time for mending, the time for silence and the time for talk. He sets the time for love and the time for hate, the time for war and the time for peace.”   I think Ecclesiastes 3: 2-8 really hits the nail on the head when it comes to describing chapters in our lives.  There’s a time for everything, just as there’s a time to begin a new chapter and close the one that came before it.

Have you ever wanted something so badly and yet this illusive"object" continues to slip out of your hands, always just out of reach? That’s how I’ve felt for a while now. The reality is I actually have ALL I need and everything I want. I have a beautiful family, a husband who loves me, calls me beautiful and is committed to our marriage. Two smart, intelligent boys who might not always see eye to eye with me never disappoint me. Parents who adore me and are always there for me. And my family, both extended and by name who've never stopped loving me for the crazy mess that I am.  No, I don’t need a size 3, perfect body; I don’t need a bank account overflowing beyond my wildest dreams or a flawless picture perfect family parading around as proof of a flawless life.  You know why, because I have a very full, fault filled life. I’m so far from perfect it’s ridiculous. I’ve questioned my confidence all my life. I’ve allowed other people or circumstances to allow me to feel unqualified and less than enough. But the truth is I AM ENOUGH, I’m coming to understand this important fact: imperfection is nothing to be ashamed of.  Sure it’s frightening, quite alarming in fact to start over, to begin again.  But it’s not just about ending something either, sometimes it’s about recreating yourself, and your circumstances. I've come to realize this is MY story, and yes it’s still unfolding, day by day, and chapter by chapter.

Yep, a new chapter absolutely seems difficult, but it’s not the end of your story. What so many of us need to do is believe is the One who made us, and by doing this, we not only know ourselves but we also know our worth.Growing up, learning to stumble, and not be embarrassed, to accept life has more gray than black and white and to be authentic in spite of our last chapter’s struggles and failures is where victory is gained. Yes, this is where I am today. I’m following my courage, not dimming the light inside my heart even it makes others uncomfortable.  I'm beginning to find the courage to be myself, nerdy life and all.  I’m not afraid anymore to live the life I’ve been graciously given nor am I afraid of the woman I was not only born to be but created and destined to become.  Just remember we’ve all got our own story, we’re all on a journey, as Bob Goff says, “Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

LIFE LESSON #49 ~ Comparison Is A Thief!

You may know my name, but do you know my story? Do you know who I truly am? The woman I have fought hard to become? One chapter simply does not chronicle or detail, illustrate or depict my whole tale. A paragraph is but one raindrop falling from the sky. Words from a single sentence alone are but one moment, one small glimpse into my life, into my story. Without the complete account no one has the ability to discern the outcome.

 Let me take a moment and reintroduce myself to you. My name is Christina, Christina Marie to be formal. My family calls me Christie.  I’m a 40 something year old wife, mother and educator.  I’ve been married to the love of my life for over 20 years and together have raised two practically grown sons. I’m also a writer; I express myself through written narrative.  I can be difficult, headstrong and yes very strong –willed. I’m a bit of a wild one, an only child at that and a certified complete sassy mess. I have a soft heart, a kind nature and I’m loyal to a fault. I may be obstinate but I’m typically able to find a compromise in most situations.  I’ll fully admit when I’m wrong, humbling myself enough to accept I’m blameworthy.  I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, maybe more like a shot of whiskey if we’re really being honest here.  I’m one of those people you either love or hate.  There’s not a lot of in-between.  I’m a weird combination of quiet and a live out loud kind of girl. I’ve never stood out because I’m exceptionally beautiful or a rocket scientist type of genius. I have never craved attention; in fact it makes me feel pretty awkward when the spotlight is suddenly turned on me.  I’m  basically an unassuming person. I really just see myself as a plain Jain and gladly embrace the words nerd and geek as personal victories.  I am me, flawed, to the max but absolutely imperfect in every way and yes, that’s my super power. Can anyone imitate my style, the things I like, the way I live, yada, yada, sure they can? But why, I’m a complete mess?  The thing about trying to compare ourselves, to be better than someone else is in the process we lose ourselves. The original picture becomes distorted, out of focus, but so does the one we are trying to recreate. Essentially our desire to rise above ends up dragging us under, getting tangled up in bitterness and anger. I see this quote about comparison all over Pintrest , Life lesson #49: “Comparison is a thief!” And when over watered, it can make a complete hot mess out of everything!

The reality is, I’m an absolute sinner.  I was born that way, and will die that way. I’m not perfect nor have I ever claimed to be.  I hurt, I get mad and yes I slip up all the time. My Irish temper can downright get the best of me on any given day but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt God’s grace covers me, His love saves me and His Son lives in me.  Sin is sin but God’s grace is STILL GRACE.  Whatever spin we’d like to put on it, however we’d like to weld our swords of righteousness, once our past has been forgiven it’s gone.  God no longer holds our wrongdoing against us. His Word clearly says in Hebrews 10: 17, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. “  Keeping records of our wrongdoing is not the way of my Father; nope it’s man who throws that power around.

Conflict for the sake of conflict is nothing but self-infliction and self-absorption.  As a writer I know conflict is part of the story but it’s not the whole plot. We all deal with adversity, we’ve all had hard times but at some point we have to decide we are NOT defined by the wrongs we feel have been done to us.   A writer knows this and will tie all five elements into any story. These parts may be basic but they are equally important.  Characters, setting, plot, conflict and most importantly the resolution makes up any good story. The victim in each and every conflict has to find peace in one way or another, to rise above being the victim in order for a story to conclude, to find resolution. If not, the victim becomes a casualty of his or her own un-doing. It’s the same in life, if you want to overcome the victim’s role; you have to be willing to rise from the ashes.

Forgiveness is a gift; it’s something I’ve talked about before. Why, well because it’s a necessary component to healing.  This is the question we all must ask ourselves; should we allow anger and rage to entangle our lives, sprouting seeds of bitterness to ultimately strangle us to death or forgive without expectations?  Forgiveness isn’t easy, but neither is hate. At my lowest, when I am holding onto hurts done to me, I choose this verse to cling to, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. FORGIVE, and you will be FORGIVEN.” Luke 6:37

I  just want to make peace with the past and move forward from this chapter of my life. And hopefully without sounding pompous I can say what I need to without continuing this tango on a sinking ship.  All of us have these moments, the kind where we just throw our hands up and say, “Can we just move on?”  In these times, in those chapters of our lives after we’ve offered forgiveness, even sought forgiveness ourselves and yet there’s no resolution, we need to understand we can move on without regret. A great quote I love says it this way, “Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart.”  (Love my LSI)  Truthfully we just need to realize those who need to continue with discord, making contention their path, craving turmoil and constant disturbance have no place in ours.  My advice, my plea to those folks caught up in this sideways sentiment: please, please go knock on someone else’s door.  Bolt the door shut, hammer some nails in it for goodness gracious sake and say adios to needless and pointless drama.   It’s simply not healthy for anyone. Look, life is bigger than imitating a lifestyle.  Again I want to stress, comparison is a thief and she will rob you of everything good.  Your life is unique, go get it, live it and “Just Be You” (January 2015/ The Uniboob Club). Personally speaking I have no desire to play a role in Titanic, The Sequel.  You’re the captain of your own ship, the author of your own story. I’m loved by those who count, hated by those who don’t. And you know what; I’m perfectly OK with that.  If comparison is truly the road you want to travel, go ahead, the only person you’re truly robbing is yourself. You may try and steal my identity, to imitate my life, even counterfeit my writings as your own but the truth is I KNOW “The HouseBuilt Me” (July 2012/ The Uniboob Club), I genuinely understand my “Family is Everything” (December 2015/ TheUniboob Club) and I’m fully aware just how much “Wonder Woman I Am Not” (November 2008/ The Uniboob Club) is true.  I don’t have to rob, swipe, thieve or misappropriate someone else’s life or words as my own to validate the woman I have become. I may be a mess but I’m a strong, independent,   educated, very human and a very happy mess. I’m not a puppet; I have no strings on me, as Pinocchio would say. So give it your best shot, throw everything you have at me.  I have closed that door, barred it shut. Take scripture out of context, not a problem, MY God is not a God of wrath, He loves, forgives and isn’t sitting with a hammer ready to send me off to hell, fire and brimstone because I screwed up or anyone else for that matter. He isn’t sending my husband to hell or raining down an inferno of burning woes on top on our heads. I’m sorry I just have to disagree. Throw it around, but it doesn’t change what I KNOW! I for one am confident in God’s ability to love UNCONDIONTIONALY.  Your threats have no hold on me, I’m a daughter of the King, His grace is sufficient and only He has the ability to judge my life or those I love.  As Glinda the Good Witch of the North says in The Wizard of Oz, “You have no power here! Be gone. “