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, November 30, 2016

Life Lesson # 102 ~ Swimming In the Deep End




"Watch yourself little girl. You're swimming in the deep end now." ~ Anonymous

Learning to swim in the deep end of the ocean can be scary. The idea of not being able to touch the bottom while sharks are circling on all sides is simply terrifying. But sometimes life is just like this scenario. Life with all it's complicated lessons throws you in head first, no floaties and screams "SWIM!" My life so far, has been countless"SWIM" lessons. Not that I'm complaining or counting actually because I've definitely learned to swim without my floaties on more than once. As for the sharks, well they are another story all together. But this is the thing about those terrifying, jagged edged mouth full of teeth, ready to devour us whole sharks: if a difficult situation doesn't challenge you then it certainly won't change you. So the reality is those sharks circling us night and day, well they have a purpose. They teach us not only to tread water but in the end they force us back to shore, standing upright on our own two feet. The truth is,"sometimes we're taken into troubled waters not to drown but to be cleansed."

I've learned in life not to fret the small things.The bigger things well they too have a way of working themselves out. Life is simply too short to worry about anything out of my hands. I could fear tomorrow or worry about yesterday.I could be concerned with gossip or those who may or may not understand me. I could agonize over any little thing, over-think, assume and stress out about who said this or who thinks that.I could be wrapped up in every little bit of confrontation or even disputes going on around me but how does that teach me anything new? How do I grow or develop new perspective if I'm always caught up in the nets of despair and destruction? I can't and that's why we have to understand "success is different for everyone. You gotta keep a proper perspective and just do your your personal best."(Speedo) See we can't be caught up or consumed in whether or not our troubles or accomplishments are louder or bigger than the sharks circling us.You are you and I am me. I will rise and fall with the waves, swim out to meet my own boat and wash up on shore again. This is life. We are all individuals and we all face and meet challenges differently. See the secret to being you, to being the best version of yourself is clearly explained by Melanie Koulouris, " be humble in your confidence yet courageous in your character."

As for my character, I am only confident because I trust in the One who created me. He taught me how to swim, to dive and to enjoy the splash life makes. He's shown me how to float and even to tread water. He made me to live and breathe this very life I have today, shark infested waters and all. I am only brave because He has taught me to be. And yes many times I've been afraid but still I've learned how to appear brave in spite of my fear. I have faced these waters before and you know what, sometimes that's all the sharks need to see...a brave face in spite of your fear.  Honestly what I know is this: I am not perfect and I have no claim on being so either. I am weak, I am limited, broken, rough around the edges and unpolished on so many levels it would make your head spin. I am absolutely perfectly flawed it's true. From the tops of my head to the heels of my feet I am a chaotic mess. Most definitely a work in progress that's for sure. I am not ashamed of who I am. I wear a sign in big bold lettering that says, UNDER CONSTRUCTION on a regular basis. I fail, I fall and I mess up all the time. I don't have it all together. I am so far from arriving anywhere to be honest it's dumbfounding. Speaking honestly, I am still learning. I am still finding my faith and figuring out how to float without my blow up wings in the deep end of the ocean some days. Said ever so well by Peter Parker, "No one can win every battle. But no man should fall without a struggle."

The truth is struggle is part of the lesson. Figuring out the solution and applying it is half the battle. No, I am not bullet proof. I can't rise above the waves without the faith I'll resurface?  But you see I do have that faith. I do know I'm in the deep end honey. I also know I may not have the strength on my own to keep my heart above water but I do have the faith to try. See I do know for a fact I am not alone. I don't have to watch myself or my back because My Father is right here in the deep part of the ocean with me. He is teaching me to trust Him, to have faith in the process and to allow the water to cleanse all of me. See in all the flaws you see in me, in everything you feel I am lacking, I am not a hopeless cause. I am confident in knowing God has taken all of my broken pieces and made me new again. I may go under the with the waves, fight the current with the rising and falling of the tide but I am coming back up again you can be assured of this. I will reemerge time and time again secure in the unique and wondrously imperfect way my Father has made me. My prayer, is this: "I want to be like the ocean, pretty enough on the surface but if you dive down into my depths you'll find beauty most people never see." (paraphrased anonymous quote)

Isaiah 30: 15 says this, "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." So yes darling, I am confident I'm a force to be reckoned but only because I do not stand alone.  I have confidence because I stand with the might of my Father behind me. I draw strength from the depths of the ocean and courage from the trust I hold in the One who believes in me. I have been thrown into the deep end, without a shark cage to be sure and told to " SWIM!" But you know what, I've made it to shore by His grace and His alone. So please never mistake His grace or His faith in my life for pride. I am nothing if not for Jesus Christ. I have nothing without His salvation paid for through mercy and by His grace. I'm grateful that His strength never fails me and my weakness never disappoints Him. And so today, I end with Life Lesson #102 ~ Swimming in the deep end you realize Ralph Waldo Emerson was right all along, "It's not the length of life but the depth." 

~ Christina


Monday, November 28, 2016

Life Lesson #101 ~ Give Thanks



"It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy."  ~ Anonymous

As we approach the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season, i want to reflect first on Thanksgiving. This year as most we gathered with family and friends. And like so many other years we have so much to be thankful for. This last year our family has seen so much growth spiritually, mentally, emotionally and financially. There's not much we can honestly complain about. Johnny and I are on solid ground, happy and our foundation stronger than ever before. The boys are in school.Micah is a senior, looking forward to starting college and yes planning his graduation trip. Joshua, he's 20, in college, becoming his own man and finding his own way. I'm working my dream job and Johnny's working for a good complany. My parents are in the prime of their lives, preparing for my dad to retire, to travel and enjoy even more time with each other. And there's the puppies, who have brought so much joy and happiness into our lives. Life isn't perfect but it's pretty darn good if I do say so myself. I look back and I am truly thankful for all God has given us, provided us both through experience and by material means. The memories we share are worth far more than money could buy. Our family may be little in size, but our heart is bigger than the ocean is wide.

Life Lesson #101 ~ Give thanks in everything. I have learned this lesson to be the best tid bit of advice I've ever been given. Remember, "someone else is happy with less than you have." Start every day with a grateful heart and a sense of purpose and you'll never be unhappy. Seriously, we all make mistakes, we fail and plans fall apart but God never asks us to carry more than we are capable of. Believe me I speak from personal experience. I've learned many times to be happy even when I'm sad. It's kinda an important thing you know? (Paraphrased quote by Marylin Monroe) The truth is life doesn't always go our way. Things get complicated, chaotic and a bit upside down from time to time. We don't always get a story book happy ending but that doesn't mean we aren't happy. My family is far from perfect, but I like it that way. Kinda makes life interesting doesn't it? There's never a dull moment right? The reality is we may not have it all together but together we have it all. And that's why I love Thanksgiving so much. Why, because it's time for reflection, a time for gratitude and thankfulness for ALL we have, not necessarily all we want. Today I am thankful for every failure, every misstep, every down and out moment I faced this last year.I have enjoyed more laughter even if I've felt the sting of a few tears. I am stronger for the fall, wiser for the journey and content with who I am because of where I have been. My faith has not been broken, my spirit has not been shattered nor has my heart been nailed to a wall. What this last year has given me is perspective, a deeper, stronger, sounder and more secure marriage. The relationships with my boys have grown, expanding and resonating a deeper, even more meaningful resilient bond than ever before. I've also developed an even stronger more authentic relationship with  my parents and with good friends who are just as much family as those whose blood I share.

This Thanksgiving weekend was spent in the company of those I love. I couldn't have asked for a better way to enjoy the last four days. As Paddington says,"There are no other humans I would rather call family." From our traditional family dinner, to friends-giving, playing cards or hanging out with extended family at the Houston Zoo Lights to simply having lunch with my parents, I have every reason to be thankful. So what are you thankful for this year is my question? What has life complicated for you yet God untangled this past year? Gratitude is not found in the things we've obtained, or those items which we've accumulated or even accomplishments we've managed on our own. No real gratefulness come from s deeper place, an understanding we have nothing on our own merit. Honestly all I have, all I am is a gift from God. By His grace I am the woman I am today and by His mercies I am part of a family bigger than myself. As long as I have air to breathe my heart will praise God for all He has given me, both in hard times and in good ones. Psalms 28:7 says, " The Lord protects and defends me, I trust in Him. He gives me help and makes me glad; I praise Him with joyful songs." To me this is what Thanksgiving is all about, praising God for all my many blessings, in disguise or not.  Knowing no matter what tomorrow brings I am happy because I'm thankful.

So happy belated Thanksgiving ya'll. Some of us may talk often, some from time to time but no matter what the circumstance I'm ever so grateful for all of my family and friends. I'm thankful every day for all ya'll bring to my life. I'm beyond grateful because of the ties we share, the bonds we've made near or far. Now go on ya'll, "Live, love and laugh ~ in no particular order."

~ Christina

Monday, November 21, 2016

Life Lesson # 100 ~ Live, Love and Rescue



“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, and filling an emptiness we didn’t ever know we had.” ~ Thom Jones

Losing Oscar was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced in my life. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt loss in such a way as I did the in the days following his death. For some that may sound odd but for those of us who love our pets as our own children, when one of our babies passes it’s excruciating. Without notice, a part of me was gone, leaving a void. With Oscar’s loss, my heart broke in a thousand pieces. I was devastated living with a hole in my heart a mile wide. I had no idea if I could open my arms, my heart and our home again to another fur-baby honestly. I mean there’s no replacing your fur-babies, they have their own unique place in your heart, with their own personalities and charm. The idea of bringing another animal into our home, soon after Oscar left for Rainbow Bridge was comforting and yet a bit rattling too. We talked, we cried and we kept coming back to a quote someone had shared with us, “When I die, please don’t say I’ll never have another dog. Search for the ones who are abandoned and forgotten. Give them a second chance. Honor my life by saving another.” And that’s exactly what we did on November 16, 2016 when Ryder became an official member of our little family.

We met Ryder a few days before after we visited the farm, a sanctuary for Doxie’s just a few miles from our home. I can’t say enough good things about the amazing people who run this place. We came in feeling overwhelmed and left knowing we were a part of a family. Ryder, he’s a handsome puppy, a chiweenie to be exact. Ryder, well you could say he has imprinted himself upon our hearts. At first he was quiet, keeping back as if he knew we needed time. It wasn’t until the end of our visit Ryder really began pushing himself into our hearts. His ears are what caught our attention at first. He was lying on a pillow just kind of waiting for us to have that “ah ha” moment with his ears up, head tilted sideways. He was so relaxed and patient with this, “what are you waiting for” look on his face we couldn’t resist. And it was in those moments we knew he’d been waiting on us, or maybe truly we’d been waiting on him all this time. As a family we had no doubt Ryder was already a part of us, and our home was his.

Flynn Ryder, our little Low Ryder has brought such love and happiness into each of our lives, carving his own little personal place in our hearts. He’s definitely learning how to get what he wants from each of us too. He loves to lick us, bury his treats under our pillows and scratch at our legs to pick him up. Ryder simply loves to wrap himself around our necks, plopping himself in our laps and in our arms like a baby. Seeing Ryder and Mama bond has been so moving and uplifting, especially after watching her mourn alongside of us.  Where one goes so the other goes. I love climbing into bed and finding the two of them burrowed under the covers, legs crossed over the other. Our little Low Ryder follows Mama around all day watching everything she does, snuggling up beside her every chance he gets. Less than a week under the same roof and Mama and Ryder are best buddies greeting us at the door together, sunning themselves outback, looking for treats after a potty break, sleeping side by side under the covers and chasing each other and playing as if they’ve been pals since forever. Ryder, he’s simply a love. Life without him doesn't seem possible. And now that we’ve adopted our little guy, I kinda wonder who rescued who honestly. The truth is I don’t know how we’ve lived all this time without him to be honest. He’s a bundle of pure joy; bringing a new energy into our home. Ryder can never replace our Oscar, but he sure can and is making his own separate, unique place in our hearts and our home. I can tell you this, “whoever said money can’t buy happiness has never paid an adoption fee.”

And that brings us to Life Lesson #100 ~ live, love, and rescue. As said by the National Mill Dog Rescue, “Rescue: It’s not just a verb, it’s a promise.” And we have made that promise to Mama, two years ago, and to our little Flynn Ryder last week and wait for it…Fabian just today. Yes we are the proud humans of not just one but three rescue dogs. The truth is Mama, Ryder and now Fabian have pretty much turned things right side up around here. They’re a beautiful mess, each one bringing sweet joyful chaos in to our home. Honestly rescue dogs are some of the most affectionate, devoted, adoring and warmhearted animals you’ll ever meet once you’ve opened your heart to one. Adopting a rescue dog is about understanding while “you can’t change a dog’s past but you could rewrite his future.” And yes, that’s the hope and love behind our commitment to rescue. I have to believe our Father is watching out for these little guys, as He’s guided them into lives, choosing us to be their forever homes. The Bible says this about the very animals God has created in Psalms 50: 11, “I know every mountain bird by name; the scampering field mice are my friends.” Just as He knows our names, He also knows theirs. Today, knowing I’m the mama of three precious, curious and incredible fur-babies is a blessing I can’t fully explain. I’m thankful to have been found and now owned by not just one, not two but by three rescue dogs.

So let the fun begin. I have no doubt we’re in for some rowdy, rambunctious days ahead but it's an adventure worth the undertaking. Never a dull moment is definitely our motto. It’s no secret that we rarely see an uneventful day, and today has been no exception. As Joshua says so correctly says, “Here comes the cavalry.”  

~Christina

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Life Lesson #99 ~ Give ‘Em Something to Talk About



“Marriage doesn’t make you happy --- you make your marriage happy.  ~ Dr. Les and Leslie Parrott

I’m amazed by the life I have, the one I’ve been given and entrusted with. I’m happy living this life of mine. It's full of love, laughter and adventure. I’m married to the love of my life. Together we have two amazing, smart and handsome boys.  We have a beautiful home, good jobs and a lifestyle we’re content with. Our life is a good one. Have we faced challenges, yes we have. Have we experienced ups and downs, absolutely we have.  Has life been a white picket fence, no way but it has been an incredibly happy life.

It's no secret Johnny is the love of my life. From the moment my eyes met his, I knew there would never be another. He was so young back then with a baby face. I was completely taken by his eyes; they just felt so intense and wild, free and full of fire. His grin was rather devilish causing my heart to skip a beat every time he looked at me.   Johnny was everything I wasn’t and everything I couldn’t wrap my mind around. He was a little but of a bad boy, a rebel, walking on the wild side just enough to make me curious. And when he first kissed me, I literally had one of those boy meets girl romantic movie foot lifts off the ground kind of moments. Honestly, till this day, over 21 years since Johnny first pressed his lips to mine; I still get those first kiss kind of moments. For me, a kiss, well it’s one of the most magical things two people can share. I guess that’s why there are so many pictures of Johnny and I caught stealing a kiss. When Johnny pulls me close to kiss me all these years later I still see those same big intense brown eyes of his and I have to catch my breathe. His devilish grind, it still leaves me breathless and yes, I inevitably feel my heart skip a beat. After all these years, kissing the love of my life thousands of times and waiting for his lips to reach mine, I still feel a fire building up inside me. I can honestly say', “The best kiss is the one that has been exchanged a thousand times between the eyes before it reaches the lips.”

You know the old Bonnie Raitt song, 'Something to Talk About', it's one of my favorites. I can hear it playing through my thoughts right now, “Let's give 'em somethin' to talk about babe, a little mystery to figure out. Let's give 'em somethin' to talk about, how about love? Ooh... Listen to 'em baby (Somethin' to talk about). A little mystery won't hurt 'em (Somethin' to talk about). Let's give 'em somethin' to talk, how about our love, love, love, love.” And truly we have given them all something to talk about right from the start I guess.  Johnny and I, we married young; I’m talking twenty-four and twenty-two. I know we were babies honestly. By today’s standards we were barely out of the crib, let alone ready for marriage.  Our beginning, just like that of our parents before us, was a whirlwind. Almost six months from the day Johnny and I met we were married. Like I've said before, we for sure gave ém something to talk about. Our wedding was beautiful, full of colorful violets and purples and during the early spring too, outside under a canopy of trees just like the movie Robin Hood. It was perfect, romantic and very us. Our wedding felt exceptionally intimate, close, personal and private. Long before we stood under the blue sly, in front of our family and friends taking our vows, we knew we’d found the love of our lives in each other. Johnny and I, well we’ve always had this way about us, a very spirited, feisty, frisky and very lively dynamic that we can’t keep bottled up even if we try. We’re playful, honest with one another and we simply live and love in the moment. We banter with one another all the time, and then break out laughing together. To our kids horror, dismay and the many, “Oh dad, yuck” or "Mom, really, now” Johnny and I have no problem showing each other affection or as our kids say PDA. It’s crazy right, being married 20 years and still acting like you’re young and in love? Who would think right? But then Johnny and I started out together giving folks something to talk about, so why would we stop now?

The truth is after all this time and all these years every night I roll over I’m still thankful for the love we share. It’s far from perfect but it’s uniquely our own. I’m blessed to be Johnny’s wife, to share his name and my life with him each and every day. And yes that means the good and the bad, the ups and the downs. If all we shared was the good, then how would we ever know the depth of our love? Looking back, taking inventory of our life, our love and our future together, I know more than ever I want to grow old with this man. I have no doubt as the years continue to pass we’ll look back, knowing we’ve lived an amazing life together side by side. And you know what? I’d choose Johnny again and again, “and I’d choose him in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality I’d find him and I’d choose him.” Yes Johnny is the love of my life. He’s my perfect match. He challenges me, encourages me, frustrates me and always insists I confront my insecurities. And why does he do this? Honestly, so I’m always true to myself. He’s not without flaws, but then neither am I. He’s still got a wild streak in him, keeping me on my toes. He drives me nuts many times but that’s not always a bad thing either. He makes me laugh, sometimes he's the reason I cry but mostly he brings joy and balance into my life. He reminds me who I am. Not who I think I am but who I really am underneath all the makeup, education and pretense. Why, simple because Johnny loves the woman I have become, not just the girl I was when our stars first aligned. He knows me, and has seen my best and my worst. I have seen the same in him and still we’ve both stayed side by side. You see happiness isn’t something we just find in life. Nope, happiness is something you build together.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 says “Enjoy life with the one you love.” This is God’s advice, straight outta the Bible. So why do we make things so complicated? It’s simple really, enjoy life, and take it all in, the good with the bad with the one you love. Then as life lesson #99 says ~ give ém something to talk about. Life is too short, people will talk, so I say let them. Enjoy your life together and have fun, take chances, steal a kiss in public, make your kids cringe and then do it all over again tomorrow. I for one have no apologies to offer up when it comes to the love of my life. I’m his and he’s mine, and whatever else happens in-between is just part of the adventure. I’ve never doubted our love even if I've doubted myself. I guess you could say I’m a stubborn, sassy mess of a southern belle who doesn’t think twice when it comes to offering up a mystery, and a little something to figure out. Seriously, the real honest to God is my witness truth here is this: Johnny’s my peanut butter to my jelly, the blue in my sky,  water to my ocean, cherry to my sundae,  milk to my cookie, spring in my step, my best friend and the love of my life.  He’s made my life an adventure every day, taken me on an incredible journey, and most certainly given everyone something to talk about along the way.

Johnny, baby, talk or not talk, “I want to be with you till my last page.”  (A.R. Asher)

~Christina


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Life Lesson #98 ~ Life’s Snapshots


“A photograph is the pause button of life.” ~Anonymous 

I’ve been reminiscing, looking back on all our photographs from the last 20 years lately. It always brings me such joy. It’s as if all those years all come together building a mosaic, a montage of memories, feelings and emotions right in front of me. I love holding old pictures in my hand, being able to remember a moment from years ago that may have slipped away from my memory. It’s almost as if you can actually reach out and touch the memory, feel the love, the joy or even the sadness of the moment as it unfolds in your hands. It’s one of the reasons I always have a camera ready. I learned early on to capture as many imprints life has to offer as possible, I guess I’ve always understood how important keeping a collection of life’s impressions close by was while also making sure celebrations on hand  were tucked away somewhere safe. Why, well because in the blink of an eye all those memories can fade and be taken away. The truth is our yesterdays and the days gone by well they’re caught somewhere between impression and reflection. These snapshots, the moments we capture on film, digitally and anything else in-between embrace those memories, tucking them safely away for us for another day and time. Photographs, they allow us to return time and time again, to experience the happiness, sadness and even the uncertainty of those minutes already passed.

Our snapshots, the pictures we gather through a lifetime read like a book, chapter by chapter don’t they? In each photograph we see pieces, parts of ourselves through each and every stage of our lives. If we’re really honest, “memories are the architecture of our identity.” Thinking about it this way really pulls things into perspective doesn’t it? Our memories paint a picture, telling a story pixel by pixel. A moment of hope, a reunion, graduation, a birth or even a death all captured in a photograph reveals emotions we may have forgotten about. Our lives, our failures, accomplishments, happiness and fears can all be connected, tapped into through a memory. Pictures, they pause life, imprinting our emotions, our feelings on a piece of paper allowing us to rediscover those parts and pieces of ourselves during a later chapter. I’m not sure we realize it in the moment but the truth is “we take pictures as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.”

Personally, when I look back, I can see just all the living we’ve actually done together. It’s been a really good life so far. I can’t complain. We’ve traveled, gone on adventures and settled into new homes together many times. We’ve made memories, shared experiences and struggled together. We’ve faced illness, death, uncertainty and triumphs side by side. And because of those things, life has rewarded us with invaluable snapshots. True, life has mostly been a roller coaster ride for the better part of our lives but oh what a ride it’s been! Yes from time to time we’ve even gone without a working lap bar. But when my mind drifts back to those chapters behind us, I feel fortunate. I see love, happiness and contentment. Smiles, laughter and yes many tears have jumped off page after page through the years but they all remind me just how close we are as a family, of how far we have come.  We’re stronger together, a family made up of diversity and difference. Nothing has ever been handed to us, that’s for sure. We’ve had to work hard for each and every victory pushing through every failure. But you know what; we’ve made it through every up and down, every step, and every pitfall.  All those infliction's, disappointments and even losses have not been able to keep us from imprinting happiness in all of our snapshots of this life. What I know is life’s a mystery, but it leaves clues within each photograph we take. This crazy life of mine is perfectly imperfect by the presence of my family. I am absolutely surrounded by a bunch of crazies that’s for sure, myself being one of them. And yes, it is my circus let’s be honest, but you know what I love ém just the way they are. Philippians 1:3-4 makes this point better than any other scripture I know can, “I thank my God for all the memories I have of you.  Every time I pray for all of you, I do it with joy.”

And it is truly joy that makes these memories, these pauses in time so precious. So yes, life lesson #98 ~ Life’s snapshots do have a way of reminding us not ony of where we’ve been, but with whom we’ve taken the adventures with. My life is truly a hodge podge of escapades but what I know is this:  I’m besieged on every side by love, silliness, and seriousness and yes laughter. I can’t escape it but I wouldn’t ever really want to. What I know, which isn’t much actually is each snapshot tells a story all its own. Each picture tells a story from Micah pretending to be Elvis, dressed up as the Pope for a class project or as a hot dog for Halloween to the boys clowning around, inspecting a turtle, Joshua goofing it up with me or even Johnny and I stealing a kiss in Epcot.  And just as the stories in each of those pictures unfold, every memory connects our hearts to one another, photograph by photograph. The truth is, “we didn’t realize we were making memories we just knew we were having fun.” And those my friend are best kinds of snapshots because they make the best memories.

~Christina

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Life Lesson #97 ~Sticks and Stones



"Throw your sticks and stones. Throw your bombs and blows but you’re NOT going to break my soul.” ~ Katy Perry

Today I want to talk to you about something close to my heart. For those who know my family’s backstory, you know we’ve faced some fairly big hurdles. Now for those of you who've recently joined our journey the details would probably make your head spin like something out of the Exorcist.  Seriously, it’s been quite an ordeal, the whole head spinning, vomiting thing and all. I have to be honest there have been a few times I wasn’t sure we’d make it out of our own montage of classic 1970’s/80’s horror movies combined. But the truth is we did and we've not only grown since but thrived in the process. And yes hands to my heart, we have stayed as far away from anything remotely resembling a Regan moment since. But none of that changes the fact we had to live through any of it in the first place now does it? On a serious note, the truth is those scary movie scenes for our family  that turned into real life scenarios taught us something big. They taught us how to say no, how to stand by each other no matter what and when to walk away from talk of a sequel.

The truth is life hasn't gone exactly as expected now has it? That's not up for debate. As a family, we've navigated through some pretty awful stuff. I mean, we've had a lot of life go off rail. Good thing we invested in off road, full traction tires huh? Still,  taking all that in consideration I'm not always sure what to say when I'm asked how we withstood all of it. During the last few years folks have asked our family many times how we’ve overcome the ordeal or ordeals we've been faced with. The truth is we didn't, not at first anyway. We failed miserably in the beginning. To be really honest we let too many things get the best of us. In the end, we just had to let it go, stop worrying about any of the nonsense and start focusing on our life together as a family. Seriously no one can get your goat if you don't leave it outside alone right?

So how did we get to this place? Honestly as a woman, as a mother and as an example to my children I made the decision not to allow anyone else to dictate how our story ends. As a family we blew up the target on our backs and walked away. Then we put on our armor and exited the scene. On a personal note, as far as I’m concerned folks can throw anything they want at me because none of it has any bearing on my destination. I vowed a few years ago not to allow anything unjust or bigoted within my control to break my spirit let alone unravel or fracture my life or my family’s.  Let me assure you anyone throwing sticks and stones can do so, at any point if it really makes them feel better.  Why, well we’ve learned to play a pretty mean game of dodge ball.  This is the thing, as adults, we have the choice to participate or not.  As for me personally I’m tough; I’m strong-minded and spirited. I may bruise, I may even bleed but I will never give up. I have faced formidable adversaries before and guess what? I’m still standing. With God as my strength, I’ve resisted the undertow. As Psalms 16:8 says, “I always keep the Lord in front of me. When he is by my side, I cannot be moved.” And I can say today with all certainty I won’t be budged, moved or pushed out of the way. I will stand tall, strong and resilient until my last breathe.

I firmly believe, “The way people treat you is a statement about who they are as a human being. It is NOT a statement about you.” And that is exactly the thinking we should live by. Let those words fall off your back like water on a duck. And that’s exactly how you have to look at it all. I’ve personally found walking away from the schoolyard bully, even if I’m a bit dusted up, is the only way to hold on to your swing. I think of these kinds of situations like this, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” We’ve all heard the saying, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. It’s an old proverb meant to assure us that words have no merit when spoken by the oppressor. You know the types I’m talking about. The hit you in the mouth for no reason then call ‘victim’ because their hand is bleeding. Life is full of these types, those who strong-arm, browbeat, harass and coerce anyone they feel threatened by. Let’s be honest it’s easy to be hurtful especially when you feel you deserve more praise, more influence or attention right? It’s the easy road but not the less traveled.  I mean if we aren’t getting what we want, how we want it and when we want it can’t we can just call people names ?  Umm no, however if you do, understand this, it’s the cowards way out.  Are we responsible for the way others feel after we’ve torn them to shreds just so we can feel better about ourselves? Oh yes, we are. Why, well we’re responsible for ourselves, our actions and how we respond and react to those we don’t necessarily get along with. True, it’s not as easy to accept loss, to be kind when you’re hated or take the high road when the gutter is so close but we must. I know believe me, it’s downright hard to resist the urge to react isn’t it? But you know what; it’s the right thing to do. See ‘pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.”

So you ask what are right things to do? It’s a really good question. One we all must ask ourselves especially when faced with tasting our own words. We've all been called names, been poked fun at, spoken badly of and to, been teased, degraded, abused, lied about and that’s all as an adult. Let’s not get started on childhood. So how do we respond to all of this? Well, the truth is you have to stop letting what those folks have to say about you and do to you matter to you for starters. Words are simply words; they hold no merit or standing whatsoever if you don't allow them to. Let those words fall where they may. Laugh, after all you’re living a much more interesting life then you knew right? And honestly once you do, you won’t have time to engage in any kind of tantrums anymore. Once someone like this loses power over you, what more can they do?  Their only power is fear and once you’re not afraid anymore, poof, be gone, no more power. As Gandi once said, “Nobody can hurt you without your permission.” So my advice to you is this: stop giving people permission to wreck you. Who are they anyway? Who made them king of anything? You surely didn’t and neither did I. Maybe it’s time to stop bowing down to a shabbily, self-made throne and start looking up to the One who knows your heart. The truth is this, you’ll always be too much for some people and that’s OK. Those people, the ones who mock you for being different, they aren’t your people. Let them go. Walk away. When it comes to those folks remember this: “Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness.

And so I end Life lesson #97~ with this ~ Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. My advice? Let them talk, let them whisper and let them judge. You know the truth and honestly so do they. You know exactly who you are, what makes you, you. Who cares what they say? Who cares what they think? I say pick up those sticks and stones at your feet. Go ahead, start a fire of your own with the remains of those fallen arrows. Keep the flames of your personal grace, love, courage and wild sense of humor burning bright for all to see. And just remember, “When other people treat you poorly, keep being you. Don’t ever let someone else’s bitterness change the person you are.”

~ Christina




Sunday, November 13, 2016

Life Lesson # 96 ~ Little Boys



“Legends are born in November.” ~ Anonymous

I learned this very lesson during November of 1996. Yes, twenty years ago I became a mom… for the first time I might add. In the days before Joshua was born I was scared, excited and completely unaware how much my life was about to change. Sure I knew life was never going to be the same again but I never dreamed how infinitely it was about to. I knew what I’d been told by other moms. You know the old no sleeping, "don’t do that, but do this" speeches. I was ready for all that, but what I wasn’t fully prepared for was the ache I felt inside my heart. I had no clue the unbearable yet beautiful pain I’d feel loving my child more than myself.  How do you fully explain how a child changes you? I don’t know if anyone can really except to say your lives are turned upside down, changed and completely different within seconds. From the very moment we first heard Joshua’s newborn cries Johnny and I knew our lives would be forever altered. We weren’t simply Johnny and Christina any longer; we were Johnny, Christina and Joshua.

Sure our sleepless nights would eventually end, replaced by wonderful blissful rest; after all being tired was only temporary.  The days of waking up to not just one baby but two in our bed would become a sweet memory. Wiping bottoms and split milk up would fade along with the days of play dates and naps. See the time we have with our babies can never be given back, or replaced. Memories can only be remembered once time has passed us by. Robert Rodriguez says it so well, “I wish I could freeze time or go back in time and watch my kids grow up all over again because it is just going by too fast.” I think this is how all parents must feel at some point. Johnny and I talk often about this, how we’d give anything to just have one day with our boys, back when they were little, dependent on us and eager to climb into our laps. The truth however hard, is we can’t turn back time. And that’s why celebrating life’s big and small moments are so important.

It’s hard for me to believe our first born is now 20 years old.  Seriously where has the time gone? How did life pass by so quickly? And doesn’t he know he’s making us old? Kidding aside, time stops for no one and this is exactly the reason we must live in the moment, loving and forgiving one another. Our time here is short, no one is guaranteed tomorrow. We have to learn to appreciate the time we have, the memories we make celebrating each milestone as if it’s our last. I look back on the last 20 years with thankfulness. I honestly can’t believe we’re celebrating two decades of being parents, definitely learning by trial and error, along the way but here no less. So how do you celebrate 20 years and two decades of life? Well you do exactly as the birthday boy asks you to, by chilling. And that’s exactly how we spent Joshua’s birthday weekend, relaxing and chilling together as a family. From flounder fishing down in Galveston off the rocks, grabbing a burger at the Spot, to making biscuits and gravy for breakfast, seeing Dr. Strange, eating one of the biggest and best country fried steaks in Texas, meeting our new puppy, helping a friend out, making a cake and eating it too, to having his friends over, playing video games,skateboarding, watching hockey and finally eating the fish we caught with all the fixin’s, Relaxed and chilled yep that's exactly how we spent our weekend. Honestly, this is what life is about, everyday life wrapped up in small, amazing, perfectly imperfect moments spent together.

Life Lesson # 96 ~ little boys are made of bent halos, devilish grins, dirty faces and lots of love and hugs. And every moment of it is a spectacular gift not to be taken for granted. Johnny and I have been blessed not just by one but by two precious boys, both with bent halos and devilish grins. Together, they’ve brought unfathomable joy and happiness into our lives. I am often reminded of how blessed we really are when I think back, knowing having children was not supposed to be in the cards so to speak. But God had a different plan and it started with the birth of our first born son Joshua way back in November of 1996. In my book he is a legend, a hero, a child entrusted to us by a gracious God who knew far better than we did. Genesis 33:5 is a perfect example of His grace in our lives, “Who are these people here with you?” “The children God has graciously given me, sir,” Jacob answered. And so we celebrate Joshua, his life, the memories we’ve made so far and the possibilities yet to come. I cannot express how proud we are of Joshua, his accomplishments and his potential. He’s a good man, flaws, imperfections yes, but he’s also a man of character, determination and greatness.  It’s been said of sons, “You’re my baby, my headache, my love, my smile, my frown, my strength, my weakness, my everything…you’re my son.” And you are our everything Joshua.

You Joshua are my first born. You're all grown up, a man, not a boy anymore. You’re 20 for goodness gracious sake!  You're ready to make your own way, to be your own man and to set the world on fire. So happy, happy birthday baby boy. We love you so much. Dad and I are so proud of you, the man you're becoming and the places we know you’re on your way to. As your mama, I pray you’ll always remember how much I love you. I hope you carry your childhood home in your heart, as a place of imperfect but unconditional love. I  honestly had no clue the day you were born and placed into my arms just how much my life would irreversibly change for the better. You my baby boy have changed my life forever. I know I'm far from perfect, I’ve definitely failed many times. The truth is I was learning with you, right alongside of you all along.  Til this very day I still hold this truth of Ruth Graham's close to my heart, “As a mother my job is to take care of the possible and trust God with the Impossible.”  Joshua,  I believe in you baby.  And I know without a doubt, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, God's got you in His hands.… bent halo, devilish grin and all.

~ Mom

(Christina)



Friday, November 11, 2016

Life Lesson #95 ~ The Daughter of a Soldier





“May we think of freedom not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.”  ~ Peter Marshall

I am the daughter of a soldier. I was born into a family of those who serve. My life from the very beginning was one of love for country. From the time I could sit up my heart was wrapped in the red, white and blue. On this day, November 11, 2016 I wanted to say thank you to my dad and acknowledge the great man that he is. My dad was born and raised into the military. His dad was a pilot in the Air Force and served in the Navy during WW2. My dad being the rebel he was decided it wasn’t enough to fly those birds, no; he had to jump out of them. And jump he did. At the age of 17 my dad enlisted in the Army and never fully looked back. He was a soldier, and his life as a GI was carved into his dog tags. He trained hard, sending all his money home to take care of his younger brothers and sister living as modestly as possible. By the time he met my mom in 1968, he had been to Vietnam and back again.

Growing up my dad was my hero. He was not only a green berret; he was part of the Special Forces, the 1st CAV and 82nd Airborne. My mom sacrificed a lot being married to a soldier, but in loving him, my dad showed my mom the world. He was gone a lot, and that was hard. I watched my mom pack us up time and time again; making our house a home every time we resettled. Home was pretty much wherever the Army sent us.  I’m proud of my dad, his service and the way he raised me. I am the woman I am today in part because of his devotion to our country. My boys, they are who they are today because of the man my dad is. His example of sacrifice, loyalty, devotion and honor has shaped my children into men of honor themselves. His example is a constant reminder of valor and unconditional love for both his family and his country. My dad, well “he is the reason I have so much patience, so much courage and so much strength. He is my hero.”

I can tell you growing up an army brat, traveling the world and back again by the age of 7 molded me, shaped me and prepared me for responsibility. I leaned early on about self-sacrifice and commitment while watching my dad serve his beloved country. He came home every evening in his uniform tossing his cover right on my tiny little head. I looked up to him, wanted to be like him and slept tight knowing he had our six. His blood, his sweat and his tears paved the way for my personal freedom.  Because of my dad, I have never taken my freedom nor my rights as an American for granted. I look at his accomplishments, and I know my dad is a true hero. No, he never wore a cape but he did wear dog tags. My dad was a bad dude and by that I mean he was just fierce as he is amazing. It takes a special kind of bravery to jump out of a plane and my dad; well he has always been that kind of brave. 
When I think of my dad, Joshua 1:9 comes to mind, “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord will be with you wherever you go.”

My dad’s legacy has been built in his example. He gave up what most could not. You see “a soldier doesn’t fight because he hates what’s in front of him. He fights because he loves what he left behind.” So this Veteran’s Day I want to thank my dad for all he’s given up, sacrificed and forfeited for our freedom. It is because of our military and their self-sacrifice and willingness to do without we have the rights we do today. It is because of their commitment to defend our freedom of speech and our ability to vote we can even disagree with one another without fear of persecution. So today I urge all of us to reflect on the freedom we have. To take a moment and genuinely thank those serving you, in our military, both past and present this Veteran’s Day. For truly at the cost of their own freedom and the possible loss of their lives they put on their boots, take up our flag and defend you. So again I urge you to take the time and appreciate these gifts we’ve all been given, the rights we take for granted every day here in America. Remember your right to vote, to cast a ballet and even to raise an angry fist in opposition sits  squarely on the backs of those who have and do serve in our military.  Just ask a service member or their family how much they have given up for your rights, whether they agree with you or not. See what many of those in uniform understand  is brilliantly quoted by George S. Patton, “If I do my full duty, the rest will take care of itself.” And so in times of turmoil discord or even harmony and peace our military serve without a second thought of their own personal peril.

Tonight as the sun sets and the moon rises, I am thankful to be the daughter of a soldier and for the perspective it has given me. True, Life Lesson #95 ~ being the daughter of an airborne soldier I was taught to keep calm and stand in the door.  And yes, I believed whole-heartedly that on the 8th day God created the Paratrooper and yelled, “Airborne!” But in all seriousness, personally I’m humbled to call myself an American, the daughter of an airborne soldier and the great granddaughter of immigrants. Daddy, thank you for your service and for paving the way for the generations who follow me.  What you’ve taught me and my children will be passed down you can be certain of that. We will not forget. And daddy I want you to know I’m proud of you, of being your daughter and the ability to truly call myself an Army brat. What I learned growing up the daughter of a soldier is nothing about Army life is ever easy. The truth however is it's truly  eye opening. I’ve found in my dad’s example that while, “part of military life is about leaving, it’s also about finding your strengths, your courage and where you belong.” (@jomygosh.com)  Because of my dad,  his service  and his sacrifice I really do know where I belong.

Happy Veteran’s day daddy, you’re my hero. And to ALL who protect and serve, thank you for your sacrifice.

~Christina


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Life Lesson #94 ~ Winging it



“To be honest, I’m just winging it. You know…life, motherhood, my eyeliner, pretty much everything.”

Yep that’s the truth of it isn’t it? And honestly it's pretty much life in a nut shell. I don’t know about you but I failed to get my hands on a how to book when I entered this world some 43 years ago. And I’m pretty sure I’m not going to find one anytime soon either. So yes, I’m winging it.  Seriously, have you ever had one of those days when you just walk in the door, drop your purse on the table, pull up a chair, sit down and just say, ‘huh’? Yep those days seem a little too familiar as of late. Not that anything is wrong exactly; nothing is bad or not going well. Everything is peachy keen so to speak, it’s just I have this ache I can’t squash.

I’ve literally been waking up, and winging life. Not that it’s a bad thing mind you. I’m pretty much a fly by the seat of your pants kind of girl anyway. But sometimes you’ve got to ground yourself. Lately, that hasn’t been as easy for me.  For a few weeks I was dragging myself out of bed in the morning honesty. I was fighting headaches, feeling tired, holding back tears and questioning myself. Maybe I’d gone beyond winging it, to just coasting on zero fuel. I mean taking a quick inventory of the last four years the truth is I’ve probably lost myself in more ways than one. I think the root of the problem is I haven’t fully given myself over to the losses from deaths, estrangements, broken friendships and relationships. It doesn’t really matter what the reasons are. Whether the root is disagreements, betrayal to of course the near collapse of my marriage, the grief is still underlying. And yes, though the truth is my husband does hold some responsibility in my state of affairs there is more under the surface than just our issues alone. This is the thing, rejection and loss; both hurt even if you play it off or know it’s for the best. Losing anyone be it death or circumstance is devastating period. And anyone who says it’s not needs a reality check.

I guess I was just trying so hard to keep everything together. Just winging it with a brave face right?  I’ve been going and going, not really taking the time to hit the pause button. So much so I hadn't actually faced the pain. Now I know part of it has been my grief over our sweet doggies passing. I had no idea his loss would affect me so much but it has. Maybe in many ways Oscar’s loss forced me to accept and recognize my own heartaches, vulnerabilities and yes my own internal,  personal mourning.  Personally speaking I’m not even sure if I have fully grieved any of those losses to be honest. Sure I have faced the outcomes and the hurt but not necessary the grief those individual losses caused. Honestly I’ve more than likely bottled it all up, acknowledging the reasons, the logic, accepting the consequences and the end results but not dealing with the actual grief.

What I’ve learned in all of this winging it stuff is this, “Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” I think Vicki Harrison is much wiser than I could dare dream to be. The reality, like so many folks is this: I’ve been hurt, betrayed deeply on so many levels my head hurts. I know for myself personally I have to admit anger has taken my hand a few times. And I know it hasn’t left a pretty picture behind either. In the last four years I’ve overcome being pushed away, pushed out, betrayed, a coup and yes even a near hostile takeover of my own life. Considering, I’m not doing too bad. For whatever reason, life gets hijacked. People just don't want part of the pie, they want all of it. And sadly in the process we end up losing everything we’d hoped to gain. Friends and loved ones with all their good intentions get all mixed up in the kaleidoscope. Nothing in the process makes any sense but we still respond and react indifferently and intently without thought of the consequences. My story, well it’s a dozy and not one I’m willing to tell just yet. But I can say it hasn’t been easy. In fact it has been horribly difficult. Many times I haven’t even been sure I’d recover myself much less those relationships in question. Truthfully, many of those distinct friendships, those particular relationships and loved ones I once had haven't been recovered. They can’t be recovered at this point. But I can say this, by God’s grace many of the relationships that were torn a part have finally been rebuilt, coming full circle. Some have made the journey through forgiveness and into restoration with me while others have simply gone their own way. And while probably for the best, I still feel the loss just the same.  

Life Lesson # 94 ~ Winging it, well I might be that’s for sure. Looking at my eyeliner and the mess in my kitchen today, I’d say it’s a safe bet. But the truth is I’m also learning to let go, a little at a time. Isaiah 43:18-19 says this, “Forget what happened in the past, and do not dwell on events from long ago. I am going to do something new. It is already happening. Don’t you recognize it?” Yes, Lord I do recognize it and I’m ready. My saving grace honestly has not just been in my grief but in the act of actually facing grief’s handiwork. And yes, while pain has been a side effect of being forced to acknowledge and release my grief it has also has proved rewarding. It’s a day by day process, a step by step kind of thing believe me. Some days I take three steps forward only to take two steps backwards the following day. Ultimately time will heal my hurt and ease my grief. Everyday brings me one step closer. What I know is this, “Grief never ends…But it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, not a lack of faith…It is the price of love.” And if that is true, then my heart has not only grieved, but it has loved greatly.

~Christina



Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Life Lesson #93 ~ I’ll Meet You at the Bridge





“You were my favorite hello and my hardest goodbye. ~anonymous

Grief is a strange thing. It affects all of us very differently. Truthfully, we all process our losses in our own times and our own way. Some of us cry until we can’t breathe while others seem distant. Losing a pet is much the same. For many of us when our fur-babies cross over the Rainbow Bridge we experience the same grief as if losing a child.  Something I didn’t fully understand until recently. Our pets become part of us, members of our families.  We care for them, love them, nurture them and grieve for them in the same way we do our own children. So when the time comes to let them go, it’s excruciating.

Our sweet little fur-baby Oscar left us unexpectedly for the Rainbow Bridge on October 3, 2016. Even as I try and type this now, I can barely hold back my tears. I honestly find myself still falling apart out of nowhere. Sometimes I even think I hear him prancing into the room, his little ears flapping the way they used to. I miss him so much it hurts actually. I just can’t believe he’s no longer running around in circles  as I say, “Run like the wind bull’s-eye” Or sitting up on his back legs, looking at me from beside the bed, scratching, wanting up, running to the door to greet us or burrowing under the covers to sleep with us.  I’m not even sure I can accurately express how much I miss him, I just miss our boy. It’s taken me over a month to sit down and write about his precious little life mostly because the loss of our fur-baby is still so very raw for me. Our beautiful handsome doxie passed away from a heart attack just 9 years after prancing his little paws into our home and into our lives.

Life is unpredictable most of the time and our doxie’s death is no different. I feel Oscar’s loss so deeply, it’s crazy. We’d just gotten back from Disney 4 days earlier and we were looking forward to Johnny’s birthday the next day. We had no clue how our lives were about to change. We’d realized something was wrong around 3 am and took him in immediately to an emergency vet. By 4: 30 am we were back home with a clean bill of health. Unfortunately, less than an half an hour after coming home our baby passed away with his head next to mine, on my pillow. I can’t forget that, the image of him lying next to me like that. As hard as it has been there is comfort in knowing he was with us, next to his mommy and daddy, so loved by his humans. I can’t tell you how my heart broke and in many ways I think a part of my spirit did too that morning. But just as life goes on, we must as well. Still none of that takes away the pain of his loss or the happiness Oscar brought into our lives.  The truth is I thank God for the gift of Oscar, even in his loss. I wouldn’t exchange my grief for anything. The loss I feel, the pain and the heartbreak only means Oscar was a part of us, and he impacted my life in precious ways I can’t explain. He was here, with us, beloved and priceless.

Oscar came to us at one of the most unlikely times in our lives. The truth is we had no plans for a dog. Life had been so crazy during my breast cancer treatment and yet, Oscar touched our hearts in a way no other puppy had. He came home with us that very day. It was the day after Thanksgiving 2006 to be exact. I was just finishing up chemo. Now I don’t normally suggest making an in the moment kind of decision when bringing a pet home, but for us it was absolutely the right one that day. Oscar was our every once in while kind of pet. He completely changed our lives, and how we saw the world following breast cancer. He changed everything to be really honest. Oscar, and for those of you who got to know him, understand all too well when I say this, Oscar, “you have no idea the amount of happiness you brought into my life.”

Oscar, he certainly breathed new life into our home, bringing so much joy especially during a time of such uncertainty. He was a happy boy, full of energy and love that’s for sure. Oscar was and will always be a part of our family. He brought us out of cancer’s black hole with a light all of his own, and now his has sadly gone out. To be honest I am still trying to figure out how I get over losing our baby. I don’t think it ever really happens though. We move on, let go and remember I guess and so we will do the same with our Oscar. He was a special pup and he’s given us so much to remember. Oscar brought us hope when we were facing the unknown. His love will stay with us, follow us and I have no doubt I’ll carry part of him in my heart forever. All my tears and the loss won’t ever go unheard or unfelt by my Father. He created each and every life, big and small. He’s aware of Oscar’s life; just as He knows when even a sparrow falls from the sky. Matthew 10:29 tells us this very thing, “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s permission.” I know in my heart He was waiting for our Oscar when he crossed the bridge.

Life lesson #93 ~ I’ll meet you at the Bridge. Yes we will buddy, one day anyway.  For now we’ll grieve, feel the sadness, remember the joy you brought us and let you go to run like the wind our little bulls-eye. After all to live is an awfully big adventure isn’t it? You certainly lived a full life in your short years didn’t you boy? Lord knows we certainly weren’t ready to say goodbye, not yet, not ever really. You’re passing came unexpectedly; we had no time to say goodbye. But bringing you home, finally and knowing you’re at rest here in your own home, with your family brings me peace. Mama, your sweet beautiful companion misses you too. She still burrows under the covers just like you taught her a few months ago. And she’s taken to comforting daddy, lying in his lap as if she’s a tiny dog. Oscar, baby boy oh how we all love and miss you terribly. I know you’re running around, wagging that cute tail of yours, begging for treats and rolling around in the grass, happy, frisky and free. We won’t forget you baby, never.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ~Winnie the Pooh

Love, You’re Mommy,

~Christina

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Life Lesson #92 ~ Feels Like Home





“Home is where your story begins.” ~anonymous

Our home is the beginning of our story, but our life together is the story itself. We are a small, sometimes untidy, and a bit unruly but mostly a happy bunch of nuts from the same tree. Life in our home, inside the intimacy of our walls knows no limits.  Why, because our home has never been contained by four walls.

When I look at my husband I see the man who offered me his name, never insisting I take it. I see the man who became the father of our children, giving them his unconditional love. I fall in love with Johnny even more when I watch him engaging with our boys. I have watched him grow as a father, losing some battles only to find his footing again becoming stronger. As a mom, I sit back and watch a lot. You know what I see? I see a man who loves his boys more than himself. A man who is proud of the men they are becoming and I see a man who would sacrifice anything for their good. I also see the interactions, how our boys respond to and in many ways are so much like the man I love. When I look at my children, at our boys I see how tall they are, how grown up they have become. I see the little boys they once were and the men they are now becoming. I admit, I’m a proud mama but I’m also very humbled by the paths they are taking in life. Perfect? Nope, some days are downright difficult if we’re being honest. But then the truth is raising free thinkers is never painless or uncomplicated. The rewards of raising kid who think for themselves is worth their weight in gold. They tend to be creative souls, artistic and sensitive as well as discerning. Our boys, they are remarkable, and yet they are exceptionally humble. Even now, at the ages they are family is everything to them. Sure they most definitely do their own things. With one almost done with high school and the other in college you can believe they are busy living their own lives, going in their own individual directions. But I know if Johnny and I have done anything right in raising our two boys, it’s this; we’ve instilled a sense of home and family.

Even after all these years I’m still asked every night, “what’s for dinner mom?" And yes, corny as it sounds every night we still sit down together and share a meal. We still pack up the car and head to the coast, head to the country house or we simply sit down and watch TV together because it only feels like home when we’re together. Family is everything and in that we have the world. This is the thing, home, for us anyway, isn’t just a place… it’s definitely a feeling. Home is the part of us that feels we belong, that we are safe, finding warmth, acceptance and understanding. Home is absolutely the best part of who we are is it not? It’s where we can be real, throw off any baggage from the day, be honest with our feelings, and say anything or nothing at all if we want. Home is not four walls, a yard and a place to sleep. No, home for me anyway, is where we love unconditionally. And that can be anywhere and everywhere as long as we’re together. At the end of the day what I know is this: When I’m with my boys, with my husband, it feels like home. Proverbs 24:3-4 says, “Homes are built on the foundation of wisdom and understanding. Where there is knowledge, the rooms are furnished with valuable, beautiful things.” As for our home, when I evaluate what really matters or the true worth of what we have I'm aware how right Proverbs really is. Why? Because our home is filled with precious, valuable and beautiful memories that we will carry with us always despite whatever four walls physically surround us. 

See the home we’ve made together is uniquely our own. The life we’ve built together has been an adventure filled with ups and downs, highs and lows. Our marriage, our family is nothing like our parents or theirs before them. Though, our lives, our family and our marriage is in no way lacking their influence. Johnny and I each brought pieces of ourselves, parts of our own families with us. But we built our own life, together, set apart and set the ships we sailed in on, on fire. Both Johnny and I come from loving, devoted, supportive, nurturing, motivating and uplifting homes. Not perfect, but homes full of love and joy, hope, faith, comfort and happiness. We were both taught loyalty and the philosophy that family is the most important part of who you are and making your house a home. And that’s why for us home can be anywhere. It’s why when we come through the door every night, we know we’re home. It can feel like home whether we're fishing along the coast or trekking through the woods together. See “happiness doesn’t have an address.” No real happiness lives within us. 

Life lesson #92 ~ my family just feels like home.  When I look at my husband, my children “I can feel it, I’m home.” When I see my family, when I sit with them, laugh with them and dream dreams with them it just feels right. They are my home, they are my everything. Yes, home will always be found inside our hearts and never, ever restrained by the confines of four walls.

~Christina

Friday, November 4, 2016

Life Lesson #91 ~Finding Myself (Piece by Piece)





“Sometimes you don’t realize the weight of something you’ve been carrying until you feel the weight of its release.” ~The Power of Positivity

For years I told myself I was going to lose weight. I had very good intentions, believe me, but intentions aren’t actions. Intentions don’t produce results, hard work does. I had avoided the weight issue for years, slowing gaining more and more weight telling myself I would...eventually take it off. I was a mom, dong mom things. I didn’t have time for lipstick or fashion, heck I didn’t even have time for a shower some days. I had somehow lost myself and the woman I was before becoming a mom in the process. Andie Mitchell’s quote “we put our lives on layaway until we lose weight…and lose years not just waiting but hating ourselves too” honestly hits home for me. I was giving myself every excuse possible from still carrying baby weight, breast cancer, early menopause or simply stress. By 2013 I was at my heaviest, wearing a size 16 at around 200 pounds. Not a good place honestly, especially as a breast cancer survivor with type 1 diabetes. By the time my husband started talking off his weight I knew I was in over my head. I had to make a change.

Problem is nothing was working. No matter what I did the weight wasn’t budging. Johnny was losing weight and I was stuck in a size I desperately wanted to shred. I was miserable. Johnny was feeling great, looking amazing with more energy than I’d seen him with in years and then there was me. I woke up one morning to find my world had crashed, and I was barely hanging on by a thread. I had to make a change, I had to stop making excuses if I wanted results, and that meant more than just my weight. My size was not the problem; it was simply a symptom of the many issues at hand. I had to understand no matter how much weight I lost, if I wasn’t happy with myself, who I was underneath it all, misery would continue to keep me company. It wasn’t until I had to face myself, start piecing me back together again after my life went sideways did I begin to lose the weight. Now, stress is in no way a healthy way to lose or even gain weight. Unfortunately for me it was my game changer. But the reality is once I began honestly dealing with my body image,  my lack of confidence, my insecurities and yes even the hurts I was carrying around I found my motivation. This is the thing, “Nobody can do it for you, you have to do it for YOURSELF.” ~ myweightlossdream.com.uk

Boy, once the weight started coming off I'll be honest I began feeling like a whole new woman! I was suddenly wearing things I would have never dreamed off. I began looking on the outside like the woman I felt like on the inside all along. Before I knew it I was buying sizes I never thought I’d ever see. And yes a size 5/6 feels great, but it’s not what makes me who I am. Being the smallest I’ve ever been has nothing to do with my happiness. Do you know what makes me happy? Being able to look in the mirror and see the woman I am, who I have become inwardly, not the woman I thought I should be. I am not ashamed, hiding myself away anymore. Now listen up, this has nothing to do with how I look physically but everything to do with how I feel emotionally, mentally and spiritually. See these three things are much more important to your physical health than you know. Liking yourself but not excusing yourself is the key.  And no, it’s not conceited to say to yourself, “I think I like who I am becoming.”

Now let me say this, I have never been a tiny girl and I’m OK with that. After all we’re all very different, ranging in size, body type and frame. Even women wearing the same size dress will  look completely different in it than the other one. We’re all built differently; carrying our weight in dissimilar ways. In my personal journey I’ve had to relearn the way I see myself. Am I always happy with my body or my weight, no. Could I be thinner, sure but should I have a meltdown over it? Absolutely not nor should I worry about anyone else’s opinion of my journey. To some I’m still heavy, to others I’m too thin and there’s even a few who like to criticize my newly acquired confidence. But you know what, none of that really matters now does it? Truthfully my perspective regarding my body image should never be determined by anyone else but me. Body shaming either way the pendulum swings is unacceptable. This is thing my friends, life's a balance and so is the act of finding yourself. “Some days you eat salads and go to the gym. Some days you eat cupcakes and refuse to put on pants. It’s called balance.” For me this journey is about realizing I am perfectly OK being me, heavy or not. See I’m not hiding who I am underneath my physical makeup anymore. I’ve acknowledged I will never be or look like anyone else. Why, well just like you, I’ve been given my own set of unique finger prints, a life solely my own, flaws and all. I won’t ever walk a Paris runway nor will I ever look 21 again. I am Christina, a mom, a wife, a daughter, an educator, a breast cancer survivor and a perfectly imperfect woman at 43 years old.  I absolutely believe Philippians 1:6 to be true, “And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.” And I have no doubt He will.

Life lesson #91 ~ finding myself, piece by piece has not only led to my life being healthy but that of my family too. Losing weight has been an individual choice for each of us. As a family we’ve lost 175-180 pounds combined. In the process we’ve each had to face our own demons, fight several internal struggles and find our own way out of and yes past the image in the looking glass.  What I know is my life has been put back together piece by piece, and not all at once either. It has taken time, sweat, tears and determination. Now it’s your turn, “this is the part where YOU find out who you are.” When you’re ready, you’ll let it drop. Until then accept that you’re beautiful. Be completely yourself and remember no one else has ownership. You have wit, talent and more potential than you can imagine. All you have to do is believe in yourself and acknowledge the woman or man in the mirror is enough. You’re not holding yourself back, not really, but your fear and insecurities are. Stop feeding yourself lies and excuses, and start being you, heavy, skinny or somewhere in-between it doesn’t matter. Dance to your own song, not someone else’s version. And that’s really what’s it’s all about isn't it? See I've found the secret is not in being a certain weight or a particular size that matters. Nope, it's in being healthy on every level, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and yes physically. After all,  “Health is the thing that makes us feel that now is the best time of the year.’~ Franklin R. Adams  

~Christina


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Life Lesson #90 ~ Beautifully You & You Alone



“You’ve got a beauty that’s all your own.”

Do you see it yourself? Do you accept you’re beautiful, handsome? Do you know how amazing you are? Be it an oddball, a nerd, a beauty queen, jock, bookworm, living with a learning disability or a genius. Doesn’t matter, you’re you and that’s all that matters. Colbie Caillat says it so well in her song ‘Try’, “Wait a second, why should you care what they think of you. When you're all alone, by yourself do you like you? Do you like you? You don't have to try so hard, you don't have to give it all away. You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up. You don't have to change a single thing.”

I often wonder why so many people compare themselves to others? Honestly it’s very bewildering as to why folks duplicate; mimic or even forge a copy of someone else’s life trying to pass it off as their own. It’s a bit perplexing isn’t it as to the reasons some feel the need to compete to the point of losing themselves? What’s happened to originality, being yourself, unique and beautifully you? When did it become OK or normal to put someone else’s skin on as your own? Why do some need to replicate another’s every move? I honestly wonder what is missing, what’s lacking in our lives. What has gone so defunct in our society causing so many not only to mirror but to live as a knockoff rather than an original?  Don’t we know, “true beauty is not of the body or the face, no it is a thing of the soul ~ of fire and air, breath and spirit, something brave and unafraid?” (Segovia Amil)

I’m truly blessed to have been brought up by a mother who not only encouraged my free spirit insisting I live an authentic, genuine and unedited life. I never lived in the shadow my beautiful mother; instead I lived beside her, learning from her.  We differ in many ways. She’s a blond, I’m a redhead. She’s a bit shorter and I’m taller.  While I am not my mother, I am definitely my mother’s daughter.  We are different in every way, and yet alike in so many others. I never felt inferior to my mom. I was loved, encouraged to be myself and allowed to be a misfit if I chose to be. One of the greatest gifts my mom gave me was not expecting me to be just like her. Instead she inspired me, influenced me to be true to myself and my undisputed calling in life. My mom is one of the most beautiful women I have ever known. Yet she is a woman who has never fully understood just how beautiful she really is. My mom is grace, she’s full of humility and she is one of the kindest souls you’ll ever meet. Because of my mom I was taught to be me, to be myself fully, not a copy but a full-fledged original maverick of sorts depending on whom you ask, an absolute nonconformist and your basic oddball. You know why, because “a beautiful soul is never forgotten.” My mom imprinted this very sentiment upon my heart. And I know this for certain; my mom and her one of a kind beauty will never be forgotten.

I guess you could say I learned from an early age, beauty was not necessarily something I saw in the mirror; instead beauty is something that grows inside of you, overflowing out of you. In the years since I was a little girl, I’ve come to have a greater understanding of that. You see,“Beauty is in the way you hold yourself. It’s how you treat people. The way you love. It’s self-acceptance. Beauty is in your soul. If you think you’re any more of a person because your face is nice you need a reality check.” The sad truth is in today’s age of social media and instant access; we see more photo shopped beauty than ever before. Many folks think they’re entitled to an opinion without any kind of fact. We assume, and we overthink. We become angry and why? Well because we’re challenged by those we are trying to compete with. We allow our own insecurities to become their fault when the truth is it’s no one’s fault but our own. Many times we end up discontent, almost hating those we feel are prettier or better than us even if they aren’t for no other reason than being insecure with ourselves. This is the thing we have to understand in the big picture of life and I’m paraphrasing here, “The beauty in your struggle is the fact that’s it’s yours. Embrace your truth, learn from your hardships.”

Growing up, watching my mom’s beauty shine from the inside out I not only witnessed real grace, integrity and originality, but it was planted inside my heart as well. I may be a screwball for thinking this way, but I have no desire to imitate, impersonate or duplicate anyone. I like being me, flaws, faults, imperfections and all. I’m not a beauty queen, I’m not better than anyone else and I do not claim to be. I love knowing I am different, that I am simply me. I am not my mom, my un-biological sisters, friends, cousins or aunts and so on. I am not in competition with anyone. The women who fill my life with their presence are uniquely themselves. I admire and appreciate their beauty, their individuality but I am personally content with who I am. Together, we add layers and diversity to each other’s lives. We have no desire to be the other, nor are we willing to take anything away from one another. We’re all so different from our jobs, to our education, our outside beauty and even our personalities. Competition is nonexistent, and why you ask? Simple, our differences complement each other; they do not intimidate or inhibit us from being ourselves. As friends and family, if we’ve learned anything as a collective, it’s this, “Be authentic. Speak sincerely. Listen thoughtfully. Act compassionately and love. Always love. What we bring to life becomes our life.”  If not, you’ll live a life of discontentment, never happy or fulfilled and always trying to convince the world and yourself you’re someone you’re not.

Life lesson #90 ~ be you. Be beautifully you and you alone. Go on dare to be different, to be unique and yes absolutely divergent. Psalm 139:13 says, “You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother's womb.” If this is true then why are we willing to kill ourselves, our relationships and to sell our souls for a phony, imitation and counterfeit version of ourselves? Stop where you are and take note of your surroundings, your life, your beauty and your own unique grace. Personally, “I wish to live a life that causes my soul to dance inside my body.” And my heart’s prayer is the same for you too.

~Christina


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Life lesson #89 ~ Simplify Your Life



“A simple life is a beautiful life.” ~Anonymous

Life in itself is pretty complicated. Why, well I'm not sure there’s one particular reason honestly. We hurry to work, hurry home and repeat. Life can get overwhelming and become under appreciated. Life, if we’re not careful can get completely out of control. Before we know it we’re working to live instead of actually living. If lived simply, life offers us continual moments of inspiration daily. We just have to be willing to stop worrying about the Jones’ next door and begin living as the Smith family we are. “Sometimes all we need is just a new perspective.” That’s part of the reason I love spending weekends at the country house. Being out in the woods, away from the noise with no real technology, being able to grill and eat  outside, just chilling with our family and friends, well it centers us.

Want a simple, uncomplicated life well then you have to, “ask yourself what is really important and then have the wisdom and courage to build your life around your answer.” Both as a couple and as family unit we’re simply happy spending time, being together, slowing down and taking a collective breathe. As most people do, we tend to live and learn. And what we have learned in the 20 plus years we've spent as husband and wife is this: “there is beauty in simplicity.” As unpredictable as life is if you want to be truly happy then you have to be consistent in your demands for simplicity. Proverbs 13:7 puts it this way, "A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life.” That doesn’t mean we have to live destitute, or without material things it just means things shouldn’t be our sole form or proof of happiness. Seriously “no one is going to stand up at your funeral and say, she had a really expensive couch and great shoes” right? The reality is you can’t take anything material with you. Living an uncomplicated, easy, not a flashy or showy, but an unpretentious and honest life is what it’s all about. Life isn’t about impressing anyone with the things you have. No, life is absolutely about inspiring other’s by the way you live your life.

Looking back on my childhood you can clearly see I was raised in a home where things weren't important. Family, friends and memories were.In turn Johnny and I have raised our children in the same way. The ‘things’ we hold close aren’t anything money can buy. Sharing a meal together, grabbing a pick-up game of basketball, catching a hockey game, offering one another unconditional love, forgiving a wrong, real or simply perceived and simply spending a quiet afternoon together side by side, these are the moments our family holds close. Life lessons #89 ~ simplify your life, don’t overthink it. Remember, just as Laura Ingalls Wilder once said, “it’s the simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” So I guess being raised the way I was I’ve just never cared too much about material things. The value of a gift is in the thought not the cost. I have always cared more about the time given to me, memories imprinted, the effort and the honesty shared between my heart and another’s more than material objects. These particular gifts mean more to me than anything money could ever buy. It's one of the biggest reasons I've spoken so often through the years here on my blog about family being everything. See I was taught by my parents example,"The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you."

Personally, I’m a simple girl over all. I can be complicated at times, everyone can, but my hubby would definitely tell you I’m not high maintenance on any level. I'm not demanding, and neither is he. We’re not perfect by any means, but we accept that. We don’t always see eye to eye but we try to always find compromise. We don’t have to constantly pat each other’s back; we just want to be held, to love, to laugh, and to find joy in each other’s accomplishments. Johnny and I don’t expect grand gestures or expensive gifts from each other. Honesty, a simple text from him, telling me he loves me, is enough. We don’t have to be continually told how great or incredible, beautiful or attractive or even how special or exceptional we are to be happy and content. We’ve learned if we put the other first, the rest will follow. Believing ourselves individually to be the sole focus of attention or demanding to be the total center of the universe is a sure fire way to complicate things. You can bet that kind of thinking will definitely cause resentment, hurt and misunderstandings for sure. Johnny and I have faced the results of being self- centered, and it’s not a happy place believe me. Lesson learned and applied. Instead of looking for happiness and love as the world portrays it, instead of forcing love to grow in selfishness,we simply love unconditionally. As the song says, “we found love right where we are.”  

The reality is this: no one is perfect, we’re all sinners. Life is complicated but it can be simplified. “Simplify your life, simplify your mind, simplify your surroundings.” Again, that’s why we love going out to the country house. Packing up the car, the dogs, and hitting the road is our way of simplifying. Being there among the quiet woods with our minds at rest surrounded by life’s simple joys is pure magic. Again it reminds us of what Laura Ingalls Wilder said so long ago, “Some old fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.” So I ask this question, when you look back on your life what is it you want to see? A life spent in the fast lane, speeding by, possibly a life held up in the slow lane, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, anger bubbling over, yelling at the people around you, and feeling you’ve been jipped? Or do you want a life with a view, spent somewhere down the back roads, taking in the landscape, experiencing your surroundings? After all we’re only here for a short time, so find what makes you happy. Simplify your life, and slow down, un-complicate and untangle life’s demands just a little bit. Take a deep breath and find your country roots so to speak. My advice is this, stop living to work and start working on living.

“Live simply, love generously and learn constantly.”

~Christina