About Me...

My photo
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!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Life Lesson # 71~ The Memories We Make

Life is a funny thing. Nothing is guaranteed and nothing is completely safe. We can try and predict all we want but we cannot fully anticipate life’s twists and turns. Life is beautiful this way. Everything can fall apart only to be revealed as stained glass once broken and restored. Memories they too can be tricky. Just like our emotions they can become fuzzy, blurred, vague, unclear and distorted. I’ve heard it said before a picture says a thousand words. Memories are in many ways like a photograph. When we invision a moment in our thoughts sometimes those memories aren’t as beautiful or as horrible as we imagine. It’s when we actually look at a memory captured on film we can see the truth revealed. Our faces and our eyes they don’t lie. Happiness, love and joy or even hurt, sadness and anger speak for us. In those photographs our unsaid words are captured. 

I know for my family, we’ve had many more happy memories than sad. The problem is sometimes those sad, hurtful memories can feel overwhelming and deafening. They can drown and block out our happy memories. I guess that’s why I love pictures. It’s why I take so many to my family’s dismay sometimes. I simply love being able to hold on to a moment. To be able to capture it and look back, reminiscing, remembering how I felt in that very moment in time. Memories so close, so vivid I could reach out and touch them. That’s the beauty of a photograph, of a memory etched not only in ink but in our hearts as well. Taking a look back over our photographs, and blog posts I think I’ve been pretty honest here about our family’s struggles and near misses these last two years. It’s not been easy, but it has been so worth it. Frankly all the pictures we’ve taken year after year have been part of our recovery process and the creating of our own stained glass panel.  Piece by piece Johnny, the boys and I have been put back together again and in ways beyond our imagination. Perfect, not a chance but inseparable, close and tight-knit, absolutely! Our family has come so far in just a year I can’t begin to explain it. We came pretty close to losing it all. Life couldn’t have dealt us a harder punch than it did a year ago. But you know what? We’re still standing, hand in hand, side by side together. Johnny, Joshua, Micah and me, I guess you could say we’re a pretty tough bunch. We don’t give up easy on anything but especially not on each other.

Studying our photographs and memories I can see our family has really grown. We’ve rediscovered who we are as our own little unit. We've also found what keeps us connected, bonded and healthy is the time we spend together, away from the constraints of routine and expectations. Sure those things have their place, but so does one on one family time, sharing moments away from those things which distract us from our core. Bonding through goofy, silly and unrestrained laughter is the best kind of glue. Now you may ask what defines this glue I speak of. Well many things do. For us it’s Joshua’s weekly hockey games, browsing comic book stores, making trips to the country house, day trips, all- night fishing excursions and of course there’s our Disney time.  You could say as a family we’ve made a conscious decision, a choice to take part in each other’s lives more often, making time for each other over everything else. We understand the value of time and how important it is to laugh, play and dream together. While some may scoff at our choices, and others may question them, we’ve learned none of that matter’s, family does.

Life Lesson #71 ~ these memories we make link us to our past, our present and our future.  So be slow with your anger, wise with your words and quick with love and forgiveness. How we reminisce and carry these moments with us leave very important impressions across our hearts. All these memories we're busy creating can inspire artistry, motivate greatness and kindle warmth inside us. Or they can drag us down, impairing our vision, turning us cold, sabotaging and destroying our chances for hope and happiness. What we tend to forget being human and all is while being there for the moment isn’t as important as being there in the moment. That’s why I love Luke 2:19, as it says this, “Mary treasured all these things in her heart and always thought about them.” We have to be there in the moment for the memory to stick. We can be there for a moment but in order to remember and treasure the memories we make together we have to be there, living inside the moment.

So that’s exactly what we've been doing, living in every moment. When Johnny and I decided to celebrate our 20th anniversary last spring at Disney World we were excited. We wanted the opportunity to play together at one of our most favorite places in the world.  After a bit of planning, and reminiscing our plans changed and we decided to bring the kids with us too. After all Disney is where it all started for us some 10 years ago. Laughter, smiles and happiness all came together for our little family as we faced the reality of me dying young. In spite of the uncertainty, we found hope. During our 2006 visit we experienced laughter, happiness and developed a stronger, deeper fire encouraging us to fight the beast at the door. So when Johnny and I made the decision to bring our teenage children in 2016 on our anniversary trip it just seemed natural. All our pictures, the memories they all pointed to family. And that’s exactly what led us to our recent trip just last week, family. And yes, family will continue to lead us on our next trip and the next. All these memories we’ve made, our family time and the photographs we’re taking are little moments of joy captured forever. Each picture is a future reminder of our unshakable connection during whatever prospective hard times may be ahead of us. I’ve always said, “Family is everything” and this has never been truer than right now.

Each memory for us is a dot connecting us to the next one. Watching Joshua meet Jack Skellington, his favorite childhood character come to life, seeing his face light up entering Halloween town even at almost 20 years old was priceless. Seeing Micah smile in spite of his tough exterior as Chewbacca pulled him in for a hug or listening to Johnny and the boys howl with laughter spooked by the Scare Zones at Universal is incomparable.  Looking at all the pictures in front of me, realizing how far we’ve come in 20 years I know without a doubt why my favorite quote is by Michael J, Fox, “Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.” I truly love my family. I’m blessed beyond measure and thankful for each and every memory we’ve made together. I pray we have many more ahead of us. After all, "This is my family. I found it, all on my own. It's little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good."~Lilo and Stitch


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Life Lesson #70 Stay a Child at Heart

Have you ever wondered what the child you were once would think of the adult you are now? With wide eyes and innocence how would that little girl or boy see you today? Would they still find you to be kind and brave? Would they be disappointed in your lack of childlike faith? Would they ask you where your inner dare devil and adventurer is hiding?  Or would they instantly recognize you? Would you jump up and down, spin around in circles, dance like no one was watching? Or would you shake your head and complain you don’t have time for this silliness right now?

 We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t grow up. It’s a trap!” It’s a reference from one of my favorite movies and books, Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. Poor Peter, he never quite left Neverland did he? See there’s a balance to life, in becoming an adult without losing sight of our childlike spirit. Wendy had it right when she told Pan, “Don’t be afraid to grow up, Peter. It’s only a trap if you forget how to fly.” I think many of us sadly forget how to do just that, fly. Many times as we take on more and more responsibilities, bills, work, families of our own and we put our childlike heart away. Life is hard. There’s never enough time in the day especially for childish things right? Before we realize it, the little children we once were are long gone, hidden behind our now grown up exterior.  Our inner child simply slips away as we tell ourselves we’ll visit again, someday. We wave goodbye as the Jolly Roger sails back to Neverland without us. Our childhood, our childlike faith begins fading away into nothing but a distant memory.

But what if you could call that ship back again though? What if you could keep a bit of Neverland inside your heart, some pixie dust tucked away inside your pocket for a rainy day, would you? Would you choose to stay a child at heart or extinguish that flame? Would you “think of happy thoughts and fly”? Or dust yourself off, dying a slow death of boredom and routine? We all have this choice. We can grow up and forget or we can have adventures while growing up, staying young at heart. Life Lesson #70 Stay a child at heart. “Live for the moments you can’t put into words.”(Unknown) Go ahead, “Take the second star to the right and straight onto morning.”

 I’m absolutely a child at heart. And yes, I do take the responsibilities of my grown up life seriously, just not too seriously I suppose. I have “the teacher voice” as my kiddos call it at times,  I just understand there’s a balance to this growing up thing.  I keep that little girl I once was close. I made the choice long ago not to banish her and her silliness.  I am not afraid of letting her out; to be goofy, to laugh so hard soda explodes from my nose or to dance around, giggling wearing Mickey Mouse ears on top of my head in public. I want nothing more than to live life. And not just through my children’s eyes, no I want to live with them, beside them. I never ever want to forget the way to Neverland, to lose “the desire to climb a tree or run through the sprinklers.”  

Do you remember the little girl or boy you were? I sure do. I won’t let myself forget. No, I’m not the red headed, freckle faced little girl running around jumping off of couches anymore but I do however have the same daredevil, adventurer spirited heart I did then.  I still and always will be a child at heart. It’s who I am, who I chose to be. When life get tough, when my sometimes overpowering grown up voice inside wants to take over, I simply think of raincoats and rain boots, splashing around in puddles. I remind myself that the Jolly Roger isn’t too far away and remember that Pixie Dust just inside my pocket. Peter’s words echo in my ears, “Come with me, where dreams are born and time is never planned.”

I think in my own crazy way, even in those beautiful disasters of ideas and failed attempts; I want nothing more than to live a life well spent.  I think we all do actually; we just lose sight of our childlike faith. “To live is an awfully big adventure” isn’t it?  So what if we stumble? As children our resilience is strong, we envision ourselves flying and jump, do we not? So why as grown-ups do we fear the fall? Eric Hanson says it pretty incredibly well, “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”  Our transformation from childhood to adulthood doesn’t have to be tedious, dull, bland, mundane, unimaginative or ho-hum. Just because we have to grow up doesn’t mean we have to stop having fun, to stop living. Take time, act silly, laugh out loud, spin in circles, make “them” wonder. Stay young at heart, always. Even Psalm 103:5 speaks of keeping our childlike heart alive, renewing our youth, “Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” Growing up doesn’t mean forgetting or losing the simple and loving heart of your childhood. It means having the courage to keep it alive. Walt Disney said it beautifully, “growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional.” 

So come away with me wont you? Come away to Neverland, where our hearts are forever young.  All you need have is a little faith, some trust of course and just a little bit of pixie dust tucked away. Oh and one last thing,never, ever grow up.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Life Lesson #69 ~Finding Who You Are

Life can get pretty complicated but so can people. We tend to get stuck in one chapter of our story and can’t turn the page. We simply get lost in this great big abyss of why and what if’s while the story of who we are is still being written. I think in our journey to find ourselves we tend to try and erase all our not so great moments as if they never happened. But is this really the way we want to have our story told? I like what Andrea Dykstra has to say about it. She puts it like this, “In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you.” Our experiences are profound, and we need each one of them not only to understand who we are but to find ourselves. We can’t change where we’ve been, the pain, the hurt or the rejection we’ve faced. These things shape us, they make us  who we are.  We can't pretend our past hasn't happened but can use each experience to push us forward. We're all lost and insecure at times but that doesn’t mean we can’t find our way out of the woods. The uncertainties in our lives teach us how to be self-reliant, to find our voice and to have compassion. Without the dire days of my life I wouldn’t have the outlook I do today. I wouldn’t have strength or even joy. These moments in my life have taught me to dig deep and never give up. Our experiences in life, good and bad, can help us or hinder us. The choice is ours.

Life Lesson # 69: The Journey to finding who you are is pretty perplexing, tangled and tricky.

If we're not careful we can get lost in the bogs of self-defeat, regrets and memories.  Stuck and feeling our own hurt, self- inflicted or not, we can forget to wish those not meant for our lives goodness, kindness and peace. Instead get lost in a particular chapter of our lives, and the story of who we are becomes diluted and unfocused. We tragically lose who we're meant to be in the process. Our view becomes corroded. We allow those experiences to be rewritten or erased becoming victims of ourselves. We simply forget who we are. This is the thing, “You will always be too much of something for some people: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out all your edges, you will lose sight of who you really are. Apologize for your mistakes. Apologize for unintentionally hurting someone…profusely. But do not apologize for being who you are.”

I guess it’s time to ask, do you know who you are? I’m talking about the real you, the you not everybody gets to see? The you hidden under all the pretenses, under the ideas of who you think you should be. The you, you were born to be.  Sometimes we get these parts of us mixed up. We lose sight of our goal and we have no idea what page we’re actually on. We put up walls, blaming others for our own misguided, attempts at perfections. Life isn’t easy and neither are our relationships or experiences. We can’t simply go around throwing up our hands rejecting experiences or people for that matter because they don’t “feel” like we expected. Pride, the end all, becomes our undoing once we begin dismantling ourselves. Unfortunately when we get so busy erasing our past, editing it, we lose our future. Take a look at Job 12:12, "Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding.” It takes hardships, misunderstandings and maturity to gain a full life, to find who you are in the last pages.

I guess it comes down to how well we really know ourselves doesn’t it? Are our souls deep enough to swim in the deep end or are we going to insist on keeping them in the shallow end of the ocean? Can we be open enough with ourselves not to be afraid of  failure, to fall or to be vulnerable? Can we let others in; let them see our real, weird, and beautiful selves? Or will we continue to lose ourselves in the abyss? Maybe we need to stop thinking of just ourselves in the pursuit of happiness. Maybe it’s not about us, but instead it’s about self-sacrifice, letting our light out. Mother Teresa had it right, “Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.” So who are you? Who are you going to be? What does your story tell about who you are? Who will you become? 

Remember the pen is in your hand. And don’t worry, “It’s OK. You just forgot who you are. Welcome back.” Now let's see what you can do!


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Life Lesson # 68 ~ What I’ve Learned (About Life)

What I’ve learned about life? That’s a loaded question. There are so many things I could say and just might before I’m finished. I mean where do I begin?  Life has taught me a million and one lessons. But if I’m truly going to be forthright, I’ll start with this one as it sums things up quite nicely. “I tried to be normal once; they were the worst two minutes of my life” (Unknown). True story but now that we’ve gotten that out of the way maybe you’ll understand my thought process just a little better. Let’s just say I’ve never been nor will I ever be “normal”.  As Joshua has always said,  "Normal is overrated."  I'm awkward and shy, loud and sassy all put together in one package. I’m a seeker, a dreamer, a thinker, an “imagineer”, a nerd, a geek, a realist and yes an optimist stitched together into one very unique tapestry. When I look back, I don’t regret how I was raised and brought up at all. I found my voice early on growing up to becoming the woman I am today. What I’ve learned about life in general is never to feel guilty or to apologize for your life. In fact, I have learned a lot, as I'm sure most of us have,  about living in a world full of angry, blame-seeking and jealous people. The problem is so many times; people walk in on your life, on page 999 and think they know your story. But they don’t. The truth be told sometimes we don’t even know our own stories at this point of the book ourselves. Many times we’re still figuring out where the story is taking us. This leads me to the lesson following the first one, learn to be comfortable in the skin you’re in. You have this one life don’t waste it wishing for someone else’s. The Laws of Modern Man #254 say this, “You’re going to be in your own skin until you die. That’s a while. You might as well get comfortable in it.” So, whatever you’ve been given, be it blond hair,  brown hair, red hair or purple hair, own it. If you’re an only child, middle child, oldest child of six, wear it like a badge. If you’re serious or witty, sign the deed. It’s your life, your footprint and signature why fight it?  

Personally I’m a goofball. It’s who I am. Laughter has gotten me through most if not all of the rough times in my life. All the diagnoses and I mean every last one have been overcome by humor. From breast cancer to a stroke, the losses, and the grief laughter has been the key. ‘I love to laugh’ as the famous Mary Poppins song bellows. Maybe that’s why I gravitate towards humor as a way of healing. Laughing, chuckling, giggling and yuking it up has always made me happy. I actually make a snorting sound when I laugh hard. It can be rather ridiculous at times. My kids like to get me going with it, and then as they tell me, laugh with me rather than at me. My friends call it ‘snauhling’, “laughing so hard you snort, and then laugh because you snorted, then snort because you laughed.” It’s just part of my skin, who I am. Growing up as this crazy, silly, rosy cheeked ball of fire, full of shenanigans girl I am, I learned to laugh at myself quickly.

Life Lesson # 68: What I’ve learned about life can be summed up in one word, laughter. Learn to laugh at yourself and not to take everything so seriously. Milton Berle once said, “Laugher is an instant vacation.”  I do believe he was right. A life without pure, unfiltered laughter is nothing short of dire. I love how Proverbs 31:25 simply says, “She laughs.” God gets it, laughter, is important. “Laughter is the fireworks of the soul.” Laughter cures a million hurts, eases the pain and heals the spirit. I would be nothing without laughter, without ‘snauhling’. It is what makes me who I am, flaws, faults and all. See I’ve learned to be comfortable in the skin I’m in. It took time, errors along the way, trails and yes wonderful, exciting possibilities too. What I really found in all these moments was to live the life I have been given, fully and wholly without regrets. Does this mean I can’t change? No, I should be willing to grow and flourish and change as I adapt to life’s curveballs. Self-acceptance is probably the biggest key to our happiness. Being angry because we didn’t have the life we thought we should is a waste of precious time. 

We can’t change our past, it’s already written but we can however be the victors of our lives instead of the victims. We don’t need to be ashamed of our past or afraid of our future. What I’m learning now, in these moments is my Father loves me just as I am.  It doesn’t matter if we’re goofy, comfortable or uncomfortable, emotional, happy, angry, hurt or simply fed up with our life choices. He loves us just as we are. Romans 8:37-39, tells us,” The one who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these difficulties. I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation.” So again, what I have I learned about this life? Simply put, old ways won’t open new doors.  The reality is, harsh or not, you can’t keep slamming a door shut expecting it to be open the next time you pass through. Life just doesn’t work like that.  Pema Choldron is right, “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” For me, that life lesson has been to understand my struggles (every single one of them) have not ever been to define me, but rather to refine me into the woman God has called me to be, giggle queen and all.

So here we are, and I ask one more time. What have I learned about life? A lot to be honest, more than a few words could ever begin to explain or explore. I am a nerd,  a wishful thinking mermaid, a geek with red hair and blue eyes, making me a very happy mutant by the way. Laughter is my superpower. I am simply me, snauhler and all. I've found laughter is contagious and a beautiful window into our souls.  And yes, you should really let it out more often. As for me, yes, I certainly do have an awfully long way to go yet but that’s quite fine by me. Epic novels are kinda my thing so no,  999 pages simply won’t do.

And by the way I really do think I’m finally ready for the second half of my life to begin. Are you? 


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Life Lesson #67 ~ Riding an Emotional Train Wreck ( Part Three)

Part 3

Finishing up our chat on emotions there's no doubt life is difficult. Let's be honest. Maybe your day or even your year has been anything but serine or relaxed.  Maybe you want to shout and scream and throw yourself on the ground. But let me encourage you; Joy can still keep you balanced. Even Fear from Inside Out blurts out after a bad day, “"All right! We did not die today, I call that an unqualified success!" We’ve all been there right?  In fact I can say with confidence our family has been all over the emotional chart. I think this is why Inside Out became a quick favorite, as it struck an emotional cord. Listening into Riley’s emotions I can almost hear what must go on inside my kiddo’s heads at times.

“Joy: Oh c'mon, it could be worse... Joy: Oh c'mon, it could be worse...
Disgust: Yeah, Joy. We could be lying on the dirty floor. In a bag.
Joy: Okay, I admit it, we had a rough start. But think of all the good things that...
Anger: No, Joy. There's absolutely no reason for Riley to be happy right now. Let us handle this.
Fear: I say we skip school tomorrow and lock ourselves in the bedroom.
Disgust: We have no clean clothes. I mean, no one should see us.
Sadness: Yeah, we could cry until we can't breathe.
Anger: We should lock the door and scream that curse word we know. It's a good one!”

Let's face it. Emotions left on their own, reacting at will are a total mess. They will and do cause internal chaos if we don't rein them in. A bad situation gets worse. A simple misunderstanding becomes a line drawn in the sand. Before we know what's happened our emotional state is sinking in quick sand. Pride, bursting on the scene has quickly taken over and we're in deep uncharted territory. So what to do about all this? Honestly taking a step back, getting off the runaway train and not only facing but confronting Fear, Disgust and Anger is the first step. Sadness and Joy, they will take care of the rest.

The truth is as a family we’ve worked very hard to keep our memory train on track and headquarters in line.  As sad as it may be, we've let go of memories long due to be hauled off to the memory dump. We’ve rebuilt our many ‘islands’. Some have been put back together with the old core memories while new ones have been added to our foundation. Headquarters is still running on all the key emotions, just a little more balanced. Joy is at the helm, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust all get their two cents worth and shift at the console. Life is good. Taking a cue from Joy, I quote, "All right everyone, fresh start! We"re gonna have a good day, which will turn into a good week, which will turn into a good year, which will turn into a good life!"


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Life Lesson #66 ~ Riding an Emotional Train Wreck ( Part two)

Part 2

Taking a look at Inside Out and our emotions once again, I wonder how many times we end up feeling just like Riley, "But everything looks different now." After a traumatic event, life just isn't the same anymore is it? We're all mixed up inside trying to figure out up from down. Not as easy as 1,2,3 anymore huh? We just need a good cry right? Sometimes we need to feel the sadness, to express our Fear, to let Disgust have her “ew” moment. Maybe ‘Anger’ just needs to blow off some steam.  As Sadness often says, “I'm too sad to walk. Just give me a few...hours.” It happens and it’s necessary to be honest. We just need to keep everything in balance, to be careful with our emotions so they don't over run headquarters. I guess what I’m trying to say in my awkward way ; maybe it’s time to slow down and think about who’s running things upstairs.  When we’re up against an emotional wall there's probably a few questions we need to be asking  ourselves. Like “What's happening to our core memories?  Has our memory train suddenly derailed?  Do we have emotions overlapping? And for goodness gracious sake what the heck is going on upstairs?” Do you think we might need to learn to slow down a bit? Just a thought, but maybe we should start listening  to our inner Joy and stop relying so much on Fear, Disgust, Sadness and Anger.

Speaking from my own personal experience emotions left unchecked are a train wreck. The thing about hitching a ride on the Sabotage Express is derailment is a given. Disruption and Demolition are ready at the crossroads where our feelings, sentiments, reactions and responses collide and crash into total destruction. As Anger and Fear come together our first reaction is to lash out. Not a great scenario is it? OK so let’s just look at a scene from Inside Out. It kinda of puts things into perspective. Alright imagine sitting around the dinner table. You're chatting about the day,sitting next to a brooding pre-teen when those tiny but very loud emotional voices in your head join in. It would probably go something like this:

“Riley: Just shut up!
Dad’s Anger: Fire!
Dad: That's it! Go to your room!
Dad’s Fear: The foot is down. The foot is down. Whoo!
Dad’s Anger: Good job, gentleman. That could have been a disaster.
Mom's Sadness: Well, that was a disaster.”

Mom's Sadness is spot on, it’s a complete disaster. I bet in real life by the time everyone walks away from the table they have no idea what the argument was all about in the first place. I'll tell you what they do know and feel and that's anger. See without balance our emotions are a catastrophe. We react out of frustration instead of responding with self-restraint and understanding. This is exactly why we need to anchor our emotional well-being to our faith. For me faith is precisely where I find my greatest source of stability. The truth is we really do need our emotions. They help us feel, to heal and to experience life fully. Our emotions are catalysts for change and growth but if we don’t keep them in check they can be destructive. Fear in it's true form may keep us safe but anger will turn to hate if we're not careful. Hate, he's deadly, lethal and devastating. Hate destroys everything good in our lives. It eats us up from the inside out. Lack of self-control is simply a thief stealing our joy, hope, love and peace. But now Rage he's the child of uncontrolled anger. And if Anger and Rage are left to run the office so to speak, you’ll eventually go bankrupt. If things get to that point then what happens to all those amazing islands of our personality once filled with family, friends, and memories? I'll tell you what happens, Sadness takes over. And those once happy islands gradually begin to crack, crumble, fall and ultimately disintegrate. We forget the good, happy times, and the goofy parts of ourselves which anchor our emotions to our core memories.  

I'll stop here for now. Part three will pull into the train station so to speak with the final post of this series in the next couple days. I can't wait to finish up and see where we land together at the end of our journey through emotions. 


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Life Lesson #65 ~ Riding an Emotional Train Wreck ( Part One)

Part 1

Have you seen Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out? I know it’s a kids film right? Or is it? Truthfully, it’s actually an incredible film taking it’s viewer through our emotions and how they work. It’s one of my family’s favorite movies. My boys at 19 and 17 will pop the Blue Ray in and ask us to watch it with them on any given weekend.  Maybe that’s because they can relate to the film. Of course the hockey helps but given their experiences the last couple years they’ve had their own emotional journey, there and back again. Joshua and Micah not only understand but feel the truth of Riley’s journey. They’ve felt it all from hurt, sadness, anger and yes happiness and joy. Within the movie Inside Out there are five Islands. These 'Islands of Personality' consist of Family, Friendship, Hockey and Imagination but Goofball Island is probably my favorite. These are honestly the closest to our family’s personal “Islands” of personality as you can get. Just like in the movie, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear have all played a part in our lives, if not in multiple roles over the last couple of years. 

Our emotions unfortunately tend to lead us around instead of us leading them. Many times we end up pulled around by the nose while our emotions push and prod us into reacting instead of responding to situations. Before we know it we’re either blowing our lids or balling our eyes out. Sometimes both if we’re having a good day right?  I guess that’s part of being human though. Some of us are led by Joy, some by Anger, others by Sadness, Disgust and Fear. I personally love the character Joy. She’s a bundle of energy.  She’s always looking for the best in a situation, explaining “there’s always a way to turn things around.” Joy firmly believes, “There are a lot of things to be happy about.”  This probably comes as no surprise to you but I count myself in this bunch. I’m one of those “my glass is half full” girls. I have to be. If not I’d find myself lost in sadness. The thing about our emotions is we need them ,every last one of them, just in balance. We truly need sadness in our lives if for no other reason than to appreciate joy.

See when our emotions grab us by the throat, running a muck and out of control, life gets really nasty, gnarly, and pretty much uncontrollable if not completely off kilter fast. Fear, sadness, anger, jealousy envy, hate, despair, anxiety, worry, bitterness, resentment all begin overrunning our once happy, loving, peaceful and self-controlled lives. Once we feel life spinning out of control we tend to gravitate towards words like, “I’m so done”, “I can’t” and “I’m finished.” Impulsive outbursts become the norm and our standard operating procedure. We pull an ‘Anger’, flipping our lid, believing everything is ruined, honking our way through our own personal traffic jams in life while asking ourselves, “Can I say that curse word now?” This moment is the very reason we have to be very careful. To guard our hearts, as Proverbs 21:23 says, “Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”

Watching Inside Out I’m reminded of what God’s Word says about our emotions. The Fruits of the Spirit, they are all part of keeping ‘headquarters’ in check. I love Galatians 5:22-23, “But the spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are no laws against things like that.” This is where Life Lessons #65 and yes #66 apply. Hitching a ride on an emotional train wreck is probably not the best way to spend your day. Emotional stability comes from personal responsibility.  It’s a matter of being willing to take authority over what controls you. As Judith Orloff says, “How you react emotionally is a choice in any situation.”

In a few days we’ll look into what happens when Anger and Fear collide in Part 2. And hopefully see how Joy inspires us to get off the ‘me’ train and regain control of headquarters once again. 


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Life lesson # 64: Mama isn’t just a title.

“If you live to a hundred I want to live to a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” ~ Winnie the Pooh. That’s exactly how I feel about my mama. My mom, she’s a creature of  grace and vast character and qualities, not perfect but beautifully humble. Her natural, unfiltered beauty is breathtaking. Her soul is gentle, full of unconditional love. My mama’s smile, literally lights up a room. She’s pure joy, speaking her mind but never in meanness. She’s sensitive and yet so much stronger than she knows herself. My mom, well she’s not just a special lady, she’s absolutely one of a kind. Loved and adored, she’s one of those people who simply knows no stranger. I couldn’t imagine not being her daughter, not being part of her life in the ways I have been blessed in. I love my mama. I couldn't see my life without her nor would I ever want to. I’ve been told through the years how strong I am, but the reality is I am only a strong woman because a strong woman raised me. (Paraphrasing pintrest here)

If my mom could have said it first she’d tell you, “My entire life can be described in one sentence: It didn’t go as planned.” (Rachel Wolchin) Life hasn’t been easy for my mom for many different reasons. She has moved all around the world and back again, experienced loss, grief, and yes also joy and happiness. She’s never had a house to call her own long, but she’s had a home that’s lasted a lifetime, filled with love, happiness, joy and peace.  Material things have never meant much to my mom. That’s a lesson I learned young. She will tell you however, the time we have here together is worth more than gold. The memories she holds in her heart far outweigh anything she can physically hold in her hands.

Life lesson #64: Mama isn’t just a title. Being a mom is an act of love. Something you do for someone else.

Tomorrow we’ll be celebrating the birthday of one of the most beautiful women I know, my mama. I can’t believe she’s 68 years young. She’s taught me so many things but most importantly she’s shown me how to live.  My mom raised me to “Be a girl with a mind, a woman with attitude and a lady with class” by her own example. She’s definitely been my biggest teacher of unconditional love. She will tell you she’s my greatest fan but the truth is I am hers.  As I grow older myself I’m beginning to understand just how quickly time flies.  Yes, the older I become, past the pig tales and Barbie’s, boys and heartbreak, I see the woman I many times took for granted. Being a mother myself, looking at my mama, I see just how blessed I am. Our love is forever, that’s just how it is with moms.  I see the relationship my mom or ‘Nana’ as we call her has with my boys and I smile. I understand , I know the importance my relationship with my mom really is. It's not about me or my needs or wants. Looking at my mama now, as a grown woman, I see she's truly the best friend I’ve ever had. She’s steady, without judgment, loving me and my family unconditionally. She lives the kind of love 1 Corinthians 13:7 speaks of, “Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up.”

I know my mom isn’t perfect. She has her faults, as we all do. But my mom is truly a woman of goodness, a Godly woman whose example far outshines any other I know. She’s the kind of woman who never puts herself first. She will sacrifice her own needs for those she loves. She’s always been this way. I can’t remember a time when mom wasn’t giving of herself. She’s honest to a fault, and kind, she lives love out loud for all to see. Our family’s legacy comes from her determination to rise above the chaos banging at the door and enjoy the free fall of life.  Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wisest of women builds up her home, but a stupid one tears it down with her own hands.” My mom is a reflection of the first part of this verse; she is a wise woman who has continually, unconditionally and beautifully built her family up, never looking for the worst in us. My mom, she always sees our best in spite of our faults. For this gift I am forever and always grateful.

Have a wonderful and beautiful birthday Mama.  You’re an amazing woman. You are loved, adored and treasured. You have and will always be enough. Your value is far more than rubies. I'm not just proud but I’m humbled to be your daughter. “Mom I know you’ve loved me as long as I’ve lived; But I’ve LOVED YOU my whole life.”

Happy Birthday Mama, I love you.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Life Lesson #63: Good times

Weekends are made for fun, laughter and a little bit of ruckus. Friends on the other hand are handpicked, born to spend the weekend with. I love weekends. They just simply lend themselves to freedom and fun.  Late nights, even later mornings, Tex-mex, margaritas, Mexican train, Phase 10, dancing, karaoke and anything else we can think of is up for grabs. Weekends are definitely made for me and my familia. 

When I say this week Saturday couldn’t have gotten here fast enough I am not kidding. The week itself started off with a bang for my best girlfriends and me.  Seriously, they say things come in threes? Well who am I to say otherwise?  Looking at month of September so far, not to mention this last week Lord have mercy is all I can say. It has been a riot of a mess for the three of us and that’s not saying nearly enough. Let me see if I can explain any of this without causing your heads to go up in smoke. Nat broke her hand; Shawna has had a difficult if not a downright are you kidding me kick in the butt kind of week. Then my crazy body at war with itself anyway decided re-injury of my already re-injured, messed up broken ankle was in order.  You can definitely say we’ve been asking the question, “Are we out of the woods yet?” Just not for the same reasons Taylor Swift asks. So no, it wasn’t our week. I think you’d probably agree with me, a night out, with friends was just the ticket. As one of my saved Pintrest quotes correctly says, “There are some people in life that make you laugh a little harder, smile a little bigger and live just a little better.” That’s the pure definition of my girlfriends, my familia.  

So what to do was the question. What mischief could we find? And what a problem to have right? OK so with one of us in a hand cast, another feeling the blues and the other hobbling along in a boot not made for walking we definitely had our difficulties cut out for us. Now silly goose you didn’t dare think that would stop us did you? Surely not, we’re steel magnolias, not weaklings here. With plans made, details out of the way, hubbies in tow and our bling on we sat down at Tony’s. It’s a favorite, local restaurant around our parts. The good times as folks like to say were rolling.  Tex-Mex, beer and margaritas were all on the table. As for our worries, they were fading quickly. See this is exactly why I am so blessed to call these ladies my friends. These are the kind of beautiful spirits who feed your soul, bringing your best to the surface, leaving your heart feeling whole again.

Life Lesson # 62: Good times and crazy friends make amazing memories.

Weekends, especially the kind of weekends like these, you remember. These are the moments you carry with you.  Beyond the laughter, dominoes, Fireball and cutting loose Saturday night was about real friendship. Being best friends and familia isn't just about showing up, it's actually being present in the moment. And that’s what it’s really all about isn’t it?  I wasn’t there for myself; I was there for my sisters even if I was hobbling along in my Star Wars boot. In the giving of ourselves, we all received the gift of ease and well-being. We came in with a near empty glass and left with a full one.  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend always loves.” And this is the beauty of our 20 plus yearlong friendship, love, unconditional and devoted in the midst of all hell breaking lose. So yes, the reality is my upcoming week may be disastrous, but the weekend is coming isn't it?

The truth is kindred spirits always recognize each other.  Our hearts see what the eye may miss in our differences. In my own personal growth, in the maturity of my friendships, I have come to understand  this: Friendships are a gift, not a #hashtag. Appreciate those who stand with you even when your hair’s a mess, your foot’s got the nerd squad all over it and you have more drama going on than the Housewives of Atlanta. These are the women who won’t abandon you; they are your sisters, your familia you've been blessed to personally handpick. When your crown starts to slip, you can bet they’ll be the ones securing it in place, with “chin up buttercup” and a smile.  These are the sisters I call kindred spirits and the women who fill my life with unbelievable joy.

“Because I have good friends my heart is happy.” Happy indeed.


Friday, September 9, 2016

Life Lesson # 62 Raising Strong-Willed Daughters

Life Lesson # 62: Raising strong –willed daughters to fly.

There’s no doubt “I am my mother’s daughter. I am her only novel” so beautifully said by Marge Piercy.  Thinking about my mom’s birthday this coming week, it’s like a rush of beautiful memories flowing out from a volt that’s been locked away. I am my mother’s reflection, her mini me. Growing up, looking up to my mom as little girls do I wasn’t aware of how much I mirrored her. My mother’s beauty and grace always took my breath away. She was and still is my inspiration and I her baby girl.

If you asked her today what I was like as a little girl, she’d tell you without a second thought, I was strong-willed. I kept her busy running around singing, jumping off the couch, building forts and dragging her off into faraway lands inside my imagination. I remember sitting in awe when the hope chest was opened. Standing there dancing in front of the mirror like a fairy princess. I’d brush my hair, place her old prom tiara on top of my head and practically swallow myself up whole inside my mom’s wedding dress and jacket. Excitement doesn’t even begin to explain it that is until I got caught anyway. Just before bed, as she’d tuck me in, saying a prayer and telling me how much she and Jesus loved me I’d take her face in my hands and kiss my mom goodnight.

I clearly remember singing praise music with my mom daily. She would strum her guitar always encouraging me to sing along even if I wasn’t on key.  As I grew into a teenager we would harmonize together, and that quite frankly was magic. My musical gift and that of my son Joshua, comes directly from my mom. She has given me so much, and realized early on “a strong willed little girl will grow into a strong independent woman.” It was my mom, never realizing her own beauty, who told me I was beautiful daily.  Mom believed in me, never believing I was ordinary. She told me my mind, my complete nerdy self and all was perfect. It was mom who made sure I knew the way I saw the world was the most beautiful part of who I am.  My mom knew it was important to praise me, to encourage me but she also knew it was equally important I understood that while the world didn’t revolve around me, I was absolutely her entire world.

I am thankful for my mom, for her unconditional love and constant encouragement. Because of my mother I am the heroine of my own story, never the victim. I believe life is short, so yes buy the dress. My mom freed me to soar, to live life and never back down. Yes because of my mother “I choose to be kind. It simply makes me happy. From my mother’s love I have learned to defend my boundaries and my loved ones without hesitation. And make no mistake; this strong-willed girl is fierce.”(Paraphrased quote from Pintrest) My mother worked way too hard for me not to become the woman she knew I could be. She spoke love into my life, and scripture. I still keep Proverbs 4:23 in my heart, “Above all else guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.”  I hope with all my heart I'm a mirror image of her grace, letting kindness flow from my heart in everything I do. I’m so very thankful for the life lessons my mom’s taught me. Now as my mom turns 68, I want to honor her, give her credit where credit’s due.  I am a strong, independent, loving, giving and happy woman today because of her and the way she raised me.

Yes, I am my mother’s daughter, her one and only novel. Her hands guided me, shaped me completely, she's really the co-author of my life. In the process of shaping my life she shaped her own.  Because of my mom I am secure in the unique way my Father made me. By loving her strong-willed daughter so completely, my mom taught me to fly. And I pray with all my heart my life is a testament of my mother’s humility and grace. Truly “Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face. (George Eliot) 

I love you mom, forever and always.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Life Lesson #61 ~Love What You Do

If you had asked me a couple of years back what I do for a living, I’d have looked you straight in the eyes and told you straight up, I’m a mom, need I say more? My resume would have included the following description and then some. Nonstop cleaning lady, 24 hour a day short order cook, personal assistant, finance adviser, loan officer, troop grocer, personal organizer, stylist, motivational coach, trainer, storyteller, fixer upper, triage nurse, detective, school volunteer, advocate, and yes teacher. I won’t mince words I loved being a stay at home mom. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade easier days for any of the difficult ones.  They say, “Love what you do and do it well.” Guess that pretty much sums me up then.

Lately Johnny and I have been reminiscing, taking a stroll down memory lane, evaluating our lives. You could say we’ve really stopped to smell the roses. We’ve talked a lot about how we met, retelling stories, pulling old pictures out of our boys, ourselves, my parents and his mom and dad. We’ve talked about where we started, how blessed we are and everything else in between. To be honest we’ve come a very long way in 20 years.  By God’s grace I was able to be at home with our boys all those years.  It was definitely a sacrifice, especially on Johnny’s part. He worked 2 jobs at certain junctions to make ends meet. Even as difficult as it was, we knew that’s where I needed to be. Looking at our boys presently, who by the way aren’t so little anymore, there’s no doubt we made the right decision. Let me be clear here. I wasn’t just a mom; I was a king maker. I raised our boys to respect all women, to value their place as queens, working inside or outside the kingdom walls.  See, it was my choice to stay home, a choice I don’t regret.  But this is the thing, working moms by choice or not, should be respected and appreciated. 

Honesty, I don’t think when we were raising our boys I could have done both without driving one of us nuts. I’m one of those all in or nothing kind of girls, which in many ways isn’t a bad thing but can make my vision a bit unclear at times. As a stay at home mom I was all in, hands on, all the time, let’s go, hair’s a mess, mommy needs a makeover kind of mama.  Truth, I lost myself at times but I found myself too.  The greatest life lesson I’ve taken away as a mom is this:  “Your kids don’t want a perfect mom; they just want a happy one” (arabahjoy.com). This is where Life Lesson # 61 comes in. Love what you do, period. Doesn’t matter what your profession is or isn’t. You can be a working mom, dad or a stay at home mommy or daddy; you just have to love what you do, big or small. That’s really the whole story. Angelina Jolie says it perfectly, “I think if you love what you do, and the choice you’ve made in your life, somehow that drives you forward to enjoy it all. Even the chaos, even the exhaustion of it, and even when it seems out of balance.”

For me, going back to work, let’s just say, the idea after almost 2 decades of being “just a mom” was terrifying.  I wasn’t even sure I had the skills to do anything of any value honestly. Oh wait what did my resume say again? That’s right I had skills, mad skills baby or something like that anyway. The reality? I didn’t need to sell my skills to the world; I simply needed to believe in myself. Believe in the woman I have become, just be me. Oh I was completely petrified alright.  But with a little self-confidence, a great deal of stress, a lot of encouragement, the right pair of shoes and a good push out the door guess what? Presto, I was a working mom for the first time since Joshua was born.  Now in the beginning I worked sales and marketing (glamorous words for a wine demo model). Then I worked food service in the schools (not as glamorous, but I rocked my lunch lady bun and hair net) for a brief period. That is until I found the courage to really believe in myself, to get back to my calling; to the Christina I knew I really was.  So again, with a push and a prod, I dusted off my degree and leaped right into the one thing outside of being a mom I love. I applied to teach.  I was scared believe me but I kept repeating Joshua 1:9, “I have commanded you ‘Be strong and courageous! Don’t tremble or be terrified, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’” Then I finally took that step of faith and rose up and out of the ashes like the phoenix I was born to be.  I went back to teaching, being in a classroom and hopefully if I’m doing my job correctly, enlightening a few change makers along the way.

Of course I still answer to anyone calling out the word, “MOM” in a grocery store.  I still wear the mommy bun on my ‘I don’t care days.’ Yep I'm still working those mad resume skills  and then some. I guess you can say I’ve added novice juggler to my bag of expertise too. I wear two helmets, two tittles, Mom and Mrs. O. I really have the best of both worlds honestly. I’m a sub and I love it this way.  I can work when I want, and be at home when I don't. I'm on top of my ‘9-5’ life when I choose and kicking back with my family when I'm not.  I’m happy, so is my family and it shows.  Life isn’t perfect, but when was perfect ever really the goal?  Being a working mom isn’t a punishment, it’s a joy. And you know why?  Philippians 4:12-13 says it like this, “I know how to live in poverty or prosperity. No matter what the situation, I’ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when I’m hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little.  I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.” This is my truth, where I stand and how I personally balance being a mom, working or not.  See the real secret of being a working mom isn’t in the paycheck with a perfectly clean house or a hot, cooked and ready to eat meal on the table every night. Nope, it’s knowing what Margaret Culkin Banning already does. A mother, working or not, understands, “she never leaves her children at home, even when she doesn’t take them along.”


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Life Lesson # 60~ Living like Renegades

I have this cousin. Her name is Julie. She’s our family historian, the keeper of our genealogy on my mom's mother's  side. Now, that's a mouthful isn't it? Try saying that 3 times fast. Julie and I are opposite in many ways but we come from the same line of strong, independent women. Together you could say we’re a couple of nuts off the same family tree.  She’s my partner in crime, my co-conspirator, and collaborator in all things mischievous and roughish. We’re cousins by blood, sisters by heart and absolutely friends by choice. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our grandmothers, the Bergman sisters, Marie, (she’s my middle name’s namesake) and Betty, were sisters. So in reality, we’re distant cousins. In fact we grew up as far apart as possible; she in Pennsylvania and myself in Texas.  Truthfully we never knew who the other was until 2012. When we met just four short years ago; we made up for lost time. Looking back, I don’t see how we haven’t known each other our whole lives.  We would have made quite the pair for our grandmothers if we had anyway.

Julie and I’ve connected over many various, diverse and very distinct adventures and escapades to say the least since we met. We’ve both faced some fairly difficult and overwhelming times, situations which took true grit. Nothing has come easy for either of us. Many of the same ghosts from our families past have haunted us while others we’ve laid down at the river together.  Isaiah 40:31 is a scripture my mom often encouraged me with growing up.  Repeating it as an adult, I know it speaks to both Julie and I, to our hearts even now. “Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in the Lord will be renewed. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and won’t become weary. They will walk and won’t grow tired.” Our faith is not perfect, but it’s sound.  We may be a couple of lost souls from time to time but we absolutely walk in His strength, and fly on the wings He’s given us, individually and together. We have more in common than most and yet we’re very different in others. It’s true we love Fireball, Wonder Woman, Kolaches and laughing for no reason whatsoever. We can chat for hours and then go for weeks without, picking up right where we left off.  She’ll listen to me without judgment and still set me straight.  

Life Lesson #60, Live like renegades. So go on, get up, embrace your past, present and future, have no fear. Never be tamed and “Run away with me, lost souls in revelry.”

“Our roots say we’re cousins” but our hearts say we’re sisters and friends. Julie is my constant reminder (paraphrasing a pintrest quote here) that no matter where life takes me, I can’t forget where I came from. When I hear the song Renegades, by X Ambassadors, I think of Julie and I. Maybe because we’re both slightly rebels with wild spirits and definite fight inside us.  I imagine our lives now and our grandmothers then, stepping out, a little rebellious, in awe, seeing life for the first time. Betty the younger sister picking up her guitar singing and yodeling and Maria the proud older sister, playing her harmonica, riding her bicycle, free and wild through the streets of Philadelphia.  The lyrics echo in my ears, “Long live the pioneers, Rebels and mutineers. Go forth and have no fear, Come close the end is near And I say hey, hey hey hey Living like we're renegades.” These words, they speak to me, inspire me and remind me of the lineage we come from.

My grandmother, Maria, her 6 sisters ( Betty, Frieda, Selma, Ruth, Carol, Doris) and her half-sister (Sigrid) , well they were the beginning of a legacy. Through them the generations who have followed have a connection and a bond, a link that can’t be broken.  I love all of my family, each one of them individually, unconditionally, bound by blood or not, all my aunts, uncles, cousins and their families. We’re spread out all over from Pennsylvania, Virginia, DC, to Georgia, Florida and Texas. We’re family, all of us together, strong, and connected with a solid foundation despite the miles between us. We stand together, unbroken. As a family, we remember our grandmothers, our past, their past while looking to the generations ahead. Julie and I well, we’re just a piece of the legacy, but together, we’re linked. We understand we’re part of them just as much as they live inside of us here in the present.  “I was born into a family of warriors, really strong people.” And Shallene Woodley is absolutely right about that.  I was.  I have no doubt my strength in this life comes from the generations who came before me,  who’s struggles shaped my future and who’s wild, independent spirits flow through my veins even today. As our family grows, as those of us descended from the Bergman (Olson in the old country) sisters have families of our own we won't forget. Julie is preserving the details, our heritage, birthrights, our inheritance, our identity and the story of us, the legacy of who we are.

Because of our grandmothers, Marie and Betty, Julie and I have a blood bond. Because of our bond, I have a forever friend in my Great Aunts granddaughter. Looking forward, as a family we remember, we pass their legacy down. “I am bound to them, though I cannot look into their eyes or hear their voices. I honor their history. I cherish their lives. I will tell their story. I will remember them.”  Julie, thank you. And to the Bergman women and men of course, may we know them, raise them and love them!


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Life Lesson #59 ~ Finding Purpose

What is your why? Do you know why you're here? How have you figured out or come close to clarifying  your purpose? Or have you ever just stopped and looked around at your life and had an “ah ha” moment? You know the, I get it now; “bing, bing, bing”, light goes off reality check moment?  Ever realized it wasn’t about you, but who your life is meant to impact? Over the years I’ve found myself considering my real, true purpose in life. I mean what do I contribute, what do I have to offer? Honestly, if we’re going to really get into it, why was I created in the first place, what can I bring to this great big world? Truthfully, I don’t think I ever really knew the answer until I heard the beating of my children’s heart right under my own.

See when Johnny and I married we knew we wanted to be parents, to start our family early. We talked for hours about the importance of family, of sharing our youth with our children and never being too busy to play with them. So from the moment Joshua and Micah were conceived we knew life was going to change. I can’t honestly explain what being a Mom means to me.  For Johnny, being a dad has been an incredible journey. Becoming parents, well it’s changed his life and mine. Honestly, as I’ve watched Johnny through the years with our boys, I’ve come to love him so much more. The reality is no parent is perfect, we try with all our hearts to love our children, to show them unconditional love, teaching them to to be good people in all those small, sometimes awkward moments as we fumble through parenthood without an instruction book.

Looking back I never doubted I would be a mother, but the truth is I wasn’t always sure how I’d get there. For years I was uncertain if I’d be given the opportunity to have children of my own, given my long history with diabetes. But then, by God’s grace before I knew it I not only had one little boy running around in diapers but two.  The blessing of being a stay at home mom was an unbelievable gift. I was there for all our boys’ major moments in life.  How can I forget Joshua taking his first steps at Disney MGM Studios just after his first birthday? Or the morning I came in to grab Micah from his crib and heard him say, “It’s about time mama. “ Seriously he was just 10 months old. I spent hours playing with our boys, teaching them to color and to sing.  Johnny and I brought them up on Disney, Star Wars and comic books. We chased dragons with swords in our hands, defended Lego cities with capes and masks on, dressed up like pirate’s, fished until dark, ran around after basketballs and baseballs and filled ourselves up with chocolate milk and goldfish. Life was good. These days, life is still good with the exception I’m looking at boys who’ve grown into men. Joshua, at nearly 20 years old is just a couple inches shorter than Micah, at 17 and I can barely keep their hallow legs full. Yep, I’m still chasing my children’s dreams alongside of them, except now I’m learning to let go as they spread their own wings. And yes, I’m still buying goldfish for my hungry boys, but they tend to pour their own chocolate milk these days.

Life Lesson # 59 is about finding your purpose, knowing exactly why you were created. Our reasons, our purpose, even our flashes of understanding may be very different from each other but there’s one common detonator, selflessness. I found my moment when I realized it wasn’t about me. Just like Tony Evans says, “When you realize God’s purpose for your life isn’t just about you, He will use you in a mighty way.”  Yes, I know my purpose. Do you know yours? Those “ah ha” moments tend to find us when we least expect them.  Ester 4:14 says it this way, “Perhaps this is the moment for which you’ve been created.” The day our boys were born, my heart knew this life was no longer about me; it was about raising our two boys to become men who aren’t just here to pass through this world, but to change it.

They say, “Happiness is when you realize your kids are turning out to be really good people.” Now I know we're all are a bit prejudice when it comes to our kids. After all, they are an extension of us. If they hurt, we hurt. It’s just how it is right?  But I can say without hesitation, our boys, have turned out to be unique, quirky, good people. The truth is life has been far from easy. Believe me we’ve failed our boys more times than I’d like to count. But God hasn’t failed them.  He knew all our faults. He knew the struggles we’d face raising our children, understood how imperfect as parents we would be and still chose to answer our prayers anyway. He knew fully well what our burdens would be, what sins and triumphs we were destined to faced. In spite of it all, God knew our purpose as parents was to raise two mighty men, strong willed with untamed spirits so He could use them in ways we could only imagine. Truly 1 Samuel 1:27-28 is a mirror reflection of my heart if any scripture has ever been, “I prayed for this boy, and the Lord gave me what I asked from him.  So now I give this boy back to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is given to the Lord.”

I go back and forth between wishing my babies could stay little forever and being excited to see them grow up. I want nothing more than to protect them, to keep them safe from this world. But I can’t hold back the hands of time can I? I’m excited, scared and ready at the same time to witness all the amazing things our boys will do with their lives. Looking to the future I don’t have to imagine what Joshua and Micah will become or who they will be. By God’s grace I’ve already been given this gift. I know the men they are now, and because of that I’m blessed. True, I don’t know all God has for them yet, the struggles or the accomplishments, but I don’t need to. All I have to do is trust Him, have faith as Ester did. My purpose is abundantly clear and those two amazing reasons call me mom. I’m firmly trusting in God’s promise; He alone holds their lives in His hands. His Word will not come back void.  After all, He promises, “I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.” ~Jeremiah 29:11 


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Life Lesson #58 ~ Teacups and Superheroes

As little girls we look up to our daddy’s. They are our first love, our heroes and navigators. They set the example, and if they are good men they set the bar high. As children we watch everything they do with eyes wide open, how they love our mothers, how hard they work, sacrifice and how much they believe in us, their children. My dad is an incredible man, selfless in every way, always giving, with a true servant’s heart. Thanks to my daddy, I was given two of the greatest gifts a little girl could ever have. One, my dad loved my mother and it was evident in everything he did, and two, he believed in me.

My mom and dad married in the late 60’s. My dad came into my mom’s life when she needed him the most. He has loved her since the day he met her. Now my dad is a southern gentleman from Alabama and my mom called Philly home. To say they were the least likely pair to meet and marry is not a stretch of the imagination. Four years later I came along. I was an unexpected miracle as my parents like to say. Not that they weren’t trying, it was just the odds were against them. I was what you call a medical improbability. Given the circumstances, the likelihood of having another miracle baby wasn’t really in their favor. Thus I was my parent’s only child, and a daughter at that.  

Now, let’s go back a ways, to the early 70’s, when I was born.  Fathers didn’t go into the delivery rooms like they do now. It was a "woman’s thing" despite the fact it took both to bring a baby into the world. My mom had an incredible OBGYN. His name was Dr. Close. Where I was born, they were just allowing dad’s into the delivery rooms. My dad was the first. He was ready, full of happiness beyond belief and eager about being there with my mom welcoming their little miracle into the world.  My daddy was the first to hold me, even before my mama. From that day forward, I was his baby, Daddy’s little girl (Love's Not Demanding /April2015), I was his Criggy.

Life Lesson # 57 ~ Teacups and Superheroes, capes and tiaras, that's what daddy’s and their little girls are made of.

Growing up my daddy was always there for me. He didn’t miss anything. Didn’t matter how tired he was, he would walk in with a smile, kiss my mama and up I’d go into his arms. We’d talk, giggle, set the table together and tell my mom how beautiful she was together. I spent so much of my early childhood riding my daddy’s shoulders. It was my favorite place to be. I felt tall, safe, protected and I felt as if I could see forever when I was up there. My Daddy never failed to join me for a tea party and he never missed bedtime hugs and kisses.  He read to me, helped me brush my teeth, and told me I was beautiful, just like my mama and that I could be anything I wanted to be. I was his princess, a superhero and secret agent all in one.  We’d put the dollies to sleep and off we’d go, with our capes and goggles chasing super villains but not before tea.  I knew I was loved, and I never had to question that.

As a teenager my dad was there for my first vocal performance, my first dance, my broken hearts and everything else in-between.  By the time I met Johnny in my early 20’s my dad was a pro at mending my broken pieces and propping me right back up on my feet again.  I think he knew from the moment I first mentioned this boy, named Johnny; his little girl would be taking this boy’s name as her own. I remember coming in from the car one night to find my dad with binoculars at the window. I hugged my dad and then proceeded to laugh all the way to my bedroom. He was right, I married 'that' boy some 5 months later.

As a daughter, I could ask for no better of a father. I am thankful I have been given the blessing of calling this man my dad, my daddy, my father. He’s honest, loving and giving.  I have never felt abandoned or neglected by my dad. He’s authentic, true, unwavering and he’s been an unyielding architect in my life. My dad, he’s an example of God’s love in not only my life, but in all our lives. He is a man among men, a gentlemen and a scholar. He’s worked very hard for his family, opened his home and life to so many.  Sure he’s been rejected by a few along the way but loved more by countless other folks who’ve crossed his path.  He’s true North, always faithful to his beliefs and his family. As a grandfather, as Paw Paw, he’s been a driving force in my boy’s lives. They look up to him, love him dearly and will defend his honor and character in a heartbeat. Joshua and Micah, his Bunkie and Munchkin, it doesn’t matter how old they are,  they’ll always be Paw Paw’s little boys. Proverbs 17:6 says “Grandparents are proud of their grandchildren, just as children are proud of their parents.”  My dad is a daily example, a testament to this bible verse.

I truly value my dad’s place in my life, his wisdom. My dad has taught me many life lessons, including recognizing I don’t always need to be right or win an argument; understanding I shouldn’t allow my pride to get in the way of personal growth. I’ve learned through his example to admit when I’m wrong, to be humble enough to accept and own my own choices in life. Yes, we may bud heads from time to time, but I never have to question my daddy’s love for me or my place in his life. When I think back on my childhood, I see my dad standing tall, strong in his uniform. He was always there for me no matter what. I love this man more than I can truly express. My dad, even when he’s tired, after working a 12 hour shift at 72 years old will still stop by his little girl’s house. And why you ask? Well just because I asked him to, because I needed one of my daddy’s hugs. He’s that man and I’m humbled to be called his daughter. I not only respect him, I cherish him and the unconditional love he’s given me and my family. I’m honored to have carried his name, to have walked down the aisle on his arm taking my husband’s name some 22 years after he held me for the first time.   

In closing I want to share this. There’s a quote, I have no idea who said it, but it goes like this, “No matter how much I grow up, I will always be three things, the apple of my father’s eye, the reigning queen of my dad’s heart and daddy’s little girl.” I may not be able to ride his shoulders anymore, but because of my daddy, I can still see forever. Even at 43 years old and counting I am and will always be daddy’s little girl