The end of the year.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

The year 2011 has been a wicked year for our family on both sides. I’m anxious for it to end; to step over the line into 2012 (I’m picturing a thick chalk line on the sidewalk and I’ll take a big step over so I don’t step on the chalk and smear 2011 into 2012). I wish, in some ways, that we could erase the blotchy black spots of 2011; as if they never happened. Yet, those black spots, more so than the happy pink and yellow balloon days, have made us who we are today. My Girl has “Jeremiah 29:11” tattooed on her upper back along the edges of a beautiful floral design. It is her favorite verse. It is a verse I have clung to this year. The Message version of Jeremiah 29:11 is even more comforting to me: “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”

“I know what I’m doing.” I can’t tell you the number of times I have said, “Why, Lord? Why?” Only He knows. For now.

My sweet friend, Susan, just texted me a great idea. She suggested I go out and purchase a new article of clothing that only I can see and know about as a sign of the New Me for 2012. I immediately suggested a Diamond Tennis Bracelet would be more to my desires, but I liked the idea. And I’m going to do it.

Beginning today, we will start packing up my father-in-law’s life into boxes, move it in trucks to a new home and help him start over. My heart and gut ache at the thought for him. It is more difficult for him to step over the chalk mark of 2011 into 2012. He won’t be able to do it without a smear mark. Much more so than I, he will be unable to leave any part of 2011 behind. Whereas I am able to see and cherish the yellows and pinks and moments of joy of 2011, he clings only to the black; the sadness and pain. If you think of it, could you toss up a prayer for him that he is able to find some joy and peace and comfort in 2012? 

You probably won’t hear much from me until well into the first week of January. The next three days will be busy (my husband brought me back a Venti instead of a Grande…even he recognizes I need the extra energy today!) I am taking a day next week for my mini-retreat. I expect I’ll be blogging about that sometime soon.

Happy New Year…love you guys! And so does the One who has it all planned out.


No Resolutions…??

Do y’all have any revolutions/resolutions in the works? Have you even thought about it yet? Please share. My blog comments area is very lonely. The only way I know y’all are actually reading is if you comment. I’ve shared a few of my revolutions…now it’s your turn. I’ll give you some ideas: weight loss? exercise? daily vitamin and supplements? determined to be kinder, gentler (that is my bro-in-law…the New Kinder, Gentler Al Odenthal)? give more to charity? simplify?

Let’s hear it.

Love you guys!

The One in Which I have Nothing Witty to Say.

I felt the need to post a blog, even though I have nothing to say.

  • Once a mother, always a mother. I made My Girl promise she would come straight home after working a double shift yesterday. She has been stressed and sad, like the rest of us this Christmas, but she has been working double shifts, having to put on a happy and cheery face every day (bigger tips that way.). *The rest of us have been able to be grumbly and sad because we don’t get no stinkin’ tips* By Christmas evening, she was a wreck. *I crashed hard last night so I couldn’t tell you if she actually did come straight home after work, but while I was up prowling the house after midnight, she was home*
  • Thanks to the many Starbucks cards I received this Holiday Season, my Gold Card is filled to the brim for a couple month’s supply of liquid caffeine. The gift that keeps me going and going and going.
  • *As I’m typing this, My Man is at Starbucks securing a grande bold, no room coffee for me*\
  • This week is pack and move week. The packers arrive in Dumfries on Friday and pack up my father-in-law’s home. Saturday we move him into Greensprings in Springfield. Russell, Shawn and I were in Dumfries with him yesterday finalizing the layout of his new apartment and packing up tools. We hit a glitch and we prepared ourselves for him to dig his heels in and refuse to move. It wasn’t quite as bad as we expected, thankfully. We totally understand how difficult this is for him. He can’t see that we are hurting too, and that we have had to completely shut down our emotions and feelings while doing this. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to do this ourselves. Like most evenings after being there with him, we come home, sit in silence and attempt to make sense of it all.
  • I also have a ton of work to do for my paying job at the church. I will pop into the office today for a bit, but will not go to Dumfries with the boys so that I can work on the church calendar from home. Entering every calendar item into a Publisher driven Calendar, and then separately adding each of those items to PW’s and my Outlook calendars and this year I have created a Google Calendar that will link to the church website and each calendar item has to be entered to that, also. Three (four, actually) separate calendars to keep up with for each calendar item is ridiculous. But it is how we are doing it. That’s my job this week. Actually, that’s my job today, Wednesday and Thursday as I’m off Friday and Saturday packing and moving.
  • Her Evil Highness received an Angry Birds toy for Christmas. We have had to hide it from her. She is obsessed with it. It is two Angry Birds on a string attached to a pole. If we don’t hide it from her, she runs through the house with the birds in her mouth catching the string and pole around and through everything. Not only is it loud and annoying, it’s also loud and annoying.
  • I think I fulfilled the promise of the this blog post title…nothing witty to be found here. Thanks for making it this far!

Love you guys. See y’all soon.

Happy Christmas!

Thank you so much for all of your prayers, calls, text messages and love. We have been blessed by all of you. As expected, this has been a hard time for our family, but we will continue moving forward. What other choice do we have?

This is going to be a wicked week for Russell and I. We are trying to give our boys some down time, but we are also packing up Alvin on Friday and moving him into Greensprings on Saturday. There is so much to do! Sarah is working double shifts all week, so she is out of the packing/cleaning/moving loop. I know that she would much rather be helping us. She feels guilty, which is ridiculous, but I love that her first concern is for her family.

In addition, I need to get the church calendar all up to date and also entered into our new google calendar, accessible through our website.

I have to admit I really want to take the tree down today and put away all of the decorations for two reasons: 1) I just never felt it this year. Don’t get me wrong…I never took my eyes off of Jesus this Christmas Season, but the whole merriment and decorating, etc..just didn’t have it in me like I usually do. 2) The next two weeks are going to be so busy and crazy I’m not sure when I’ll get to it if I don’t do it today. However, my husband convinced me to wait a couple of days. He is eyeing the weather to determine the “warmest” day of this week and he and the boys will take the Griswoldesque exterior illumination down and I will most likely take advantage of the attic man-power and take the tree down and put all of the decorations away that same day.

I’m ready for 2012. It’s not that January 1 will be a magic day where everything will be better, but there will be a mental deep exhale at turning over that calendar page from 2011, our “Annus horribilis” to a New Year.

Our Christmas morning was very quiet and subdued. We all slept in, relatively speaking. The first child didn’t make an appearance until 7:30 and that was My Girl who had a migraine and was very tender and weepy. We roused the boys and dug in to our stockings and gifts. There were smiles and laughs and chattiness, but our Christmas Morning Free-For-All was missing. And that is okay. We continued our time together with cinnamon buns and quiche and the boys hit the ground running to meet Alvin at Parkwood Baptist for church. Sarah went back to bed to successfully beat down her migraine.I attempted to corral the paper and boxes and gifts in the living room and start pulling Christmas Dinner together. William and Travis joined us and, honestly, it was a wonderful distraction to have five big kids “helping” set the table, bring food in, pour drinks, etc. It was just what this momma’s heart needed…the laughing and joking and teasing and joy.

Sarah was sad that she had to work, but she and Travis headed out and Russell took his dad home while I cleaned up (I’m seeing a theme for my Christmas Day…I did a lot of cleaning up!) We pulled off our traditional Christmas Day movie theater trip, dragging Carolyn and George, Beth Bryan’s parents, along with us, along with Stephen and Emery, to see Sherlock Holmes. Two thumbs up from everyone. Great movie. Kept me totally entertained from opening to closing credits. We tried to sneak into Delia’s, but Sarah stopped us at the door…they were busy, she was stressed and she hugged and kissed each of us and sent us on our way! It actually worked out perfectly…we all came back to our house for leftovers. It was a wonderful way to end the day.

I’m taking today off…whatever that means. Most likely giving my kitchen a good wipe down from the tons of baking and cooking we have done. I need to pull together my mini-retreat materials…one day over this next week, I will take to myself  and sit down for an extended quiet time to pray and plan out goals and visions for 2012. Not sure where I will go yet, but I will definitely leave the house to do it or I will be distracted by all I need to be doing at home!

Hugs and blessings to each of you today! Love you guys.

Merry Christmas Eve.

Somehow, I counted incorrectly and ended up with five extra tins of Cinnamon Buns. What. A. Shame. I have hidden them. THEY ARE ALL MINE. I wrapped early this morning and finished up before my first cup of (cold) coffee was gone.And I was so consumed with making 30 6 batches of them that I neglected to take even one picture, Droid or otherwise.

I was so tired from baking and wrapping yesterday that by the time I started texting with my baby sister last night, we were both just beside ourselves. Please, please keep our family in your prayers this Christmas…our family and all families that have lost a child. The pain is beyond description. I would never wish this agony on anyone. We are praying for all of you that we know have lost a child. I can honestly say that we haven’t even really begun to grieve the loss of our beloved Katie. I know it will hit tonight. During the singing of Silent Night. I’ll be Home for Christmas has been a song I have had to turn off every time it has come on this season. So many are not coming home. It just crushes my heart.

On a happier note, *if you have made it this far in my post today* the last week has seen our home filled with boys. Big boys and little boys (Nate Doran came by all spiffed up a bit ago to help deliver a present and to hang onto Jack as Jack dragged him all over our main level). Grace Doran came by, too, but she is terrified of Jack (all dogs, actually) so they did not stay long. But we have had a lot of big, noisy, hungry, thirsty *did I mention loud* boys in our house and I have loved it. Sarah and I are always the only girls. Unless Harlee pops in. Which reminds me, shout out to Harlee and Brett for stringing all of the candy canes for the Christmas Trees at church.

Tomorrow morning we will open stockings (my favorite part) and presents, drink coffee and eat Bacon and Swiss quiche and Sausage and Cheese quiche (which have yet to be made, by the way, but did I mention ALL MY WRAPPING IS DONE?), and warm cinnamon buns. The rest of the family is going to church with Granddad and I am going to cook. We’re having our main meal at noon tomorrow because we have a Christmas Day tradition Beth Bryan and I started years ago…movie on Christmas Day. Seriously, our kids were little when we started doing this and we joked that the only thing open was the movie theater and the only people there were Jewish or Muslim. Honest. Now…it’s a zoo at the movies on Christmas Day, but we continue to go. We are going to see Sherlock Holmes and then we will hit Delia’s, where Sarah will be working tomorrow, 4-close, for appetizers and pizza and dessert.

I have a pic of it somewhere, and when I find it I will share, but Chloella’s favorite new toy is the empty wrapping paper tube. She carries them around, chews on them, stalks and pounces on them, freaks out over them if they move. She really is a fun kitty. But an Evil Kitty. I hope to get even with her later tonight and put the Rudolf antlers hat on her and take pictures. Cuz I’m evil like that.

Merry Christmas. Hug and smooch on your loved ones.

Christmas Eve Friday Photos.

 Shawn’s Fab Chili

Best Jam Ever. Thanks, Mom! 

Christmas PJ Day 

Honey Pecan Crispix Mix. Oh. My. 

My Living Room  

Let the Wrapping Begin! 

Sleeping Evilness 

Small Group Girlz…minus Kristy. 

Nothing is sacred, not even decorating the tree. Hi Trav! 

The Smiths love Spongebob

Spongebob everywhere
No glass ornaments but still lovely.

New Year Revolution #3.

Get back to God.

There was a time when every morning I would get up early, grab a cup of coffee and start the day with quiet time, prayer, bible study homework, and journaling. In the summer, my favorite place to do this is the dining room or, if it’s not too hot and humid, the back porch. In the winter, I love the living room with the fire place going. *as an aside, our fire place has been down all season so far and I am very bitter about it…part is “on order.”*

I am a book freak. I love everything about books: their weight, the texture of the paper, the way they can be spread out all around me, the opportunity to highlight and underline. So far, I have not be interested in nor tempted by Kindles or Nooks and have told My Man I have no desire for anything like them. *he sees them as an opportunity for me to get rid of some of these books…ain’t happening.*

Somewhere over the last year, I have lost my desire for this time I have set aside for years. I do think it began when bff, Beth became sick. When she passed away, I think I was just so shocked by it all that I didn’t know what to say, or pray or journal about. When I look back at my journals *which are to be burned upon my passing* I see half-empty pages; short sentences; obvious tear drop ripples in the paper. I picked myself up, though, and eventually got back to it.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I did not and have not turned away from God.

Having said that, however, I must be honest and share with you that I haven’t had a whole lot to say to Him this year. At least not on paper or on my knees during my designated quiet time. However, I have never felt His presence so closely as I have this year. Maybe that is why I haven’t felt the need to journal every thought. He is so present in my life that I don’t need to. I realized recently that if I am not verbalizing a thought, I am praying it. If I’m not writing it down, it is a meditation or a chant in my head; in my heart. As I drive, as I work, as I crochet, as I sit silently, I am offering up, very often, short arrow prayers straight and to the point.

I have felt the nudge, His nudge, the last month or so, to get back to it. January 9, our bible study group is beginning this study. I love me some Beth Moore. I never knew bible study could be so cool, until I started following Beth. And this study? Oh, this study came out just in time. If you think that God doesn’t have every single detail of your life planned out…look at mine. This last year has been such a time of pain and tragedy and trial in my life and for my family. If you are not familiar with the Book of James, read how James begins *following a one verse introduction* “ 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” NIV.

Now tell me that God didn’t plan the perfect timing for the release of this new bible study by my favorite teacher.

“Consider it pure joy…”

I believe I shall.

Love you guys. Merry Christmas!

Just wanted y’all to know…

It has really been difficult for me to not be a total downer day after day on This Girl. Writing this blog, like journaling, is a way to pour out what I’m really thinking and feeling and quite often, it is some pretty dark stuff. I want to keep it real for y’all. I realized today I need to share some good stuff with you so here we go: *y’all know I love me some bullets*

  • I love love love Christmas. I start listening to Christmas music in October, much to the dismay of bff, Teri. Really, though, when you think about it…it’s still only three months out of twelve. *I will admit that by the time December 26 rolls around, I am done with Christmas music* Every year I want to drag out all of my Christmas bins (and there are many) and decorate, decorate, decorate. Usually, something *life* gets in the way and I end up decorating a bit and saying, “next year.” This phenomenon, also known as HerEyesAreWayBiggerThanHerTimeScheduleAndHerADD, occurred this year. *and most likely will next year since I’m on a 28 year roll*
  • I have The Best Kids Ever. Shawn *aka The Big Boy* has always been extremely gregarious, never known to hesitate to step onto the stage, whatever it may be, and although he looks remarkably like my father, he is his father’s clone in personality. He has the most beautiful sherry brown eyes. He also has very little patience with his mother. Word on the street is his mother can, and recently has, taken him down. 
  • Sarah, *aka My Girl* is still furious with me that she ended up only 5’7 1/2″ tall. On a good day. While her oldest brother topped out around 6″ and her baby brother is around 6’3″ and still growing, I concede that, as a volleyball player, and an outside hitter at that, she has every reason to be livid. I must brag a little and share that she was still an All District outside hitter each year on Varsity. Short Girl Can Jump. And Hit. And Block. (P.S. don’t tell her I told you but she can also play the drums.)
  • Brett *aka The Wild Boy* was our most funny kid. He started spewing words around 12 months, and didn’t shut up until he hit age 13 and has only said, and I’ve counted them, 15 words since. Thirteen of those words have been to His Girl, Harlee. Second to Harlee is his love of football. The playing of football. More particularly, the hitting of football. Sadly, he is a wide receiver, although he would go defense in a heart beat.
  • I love driving our truck. It’s a Dodge Ram. Dual exhaust. And…”it’s a Hemi.” So far *knock on wood* I’ve not received a ticket while driving said truck. Any day now, I expect.
  • I received my OCD (or, as the letters should properly be listed…CDO) directly from my mother. She is and always has been a perfectionist. As was her father before her. I like to think I am keeping the family legacy alive and well. Surprisingly, the Smith genes totally overrode any and all tendency of OCDness in my children, except for a minute trace found occasionally in my oldest. The Odenthal genes, however, were apparently much weaker and could not crush the much stronger OCD behavior found in our boy, Andy and definitely his baby sister, Minz. Court definitely has the OCD thing happening, too, but like her Aunt Doo-Doo (me…another time I’ll explain), she successfully wrangles it into submission quite regularly. I spent the first 40 years of my life fighting my OCD and the next 10 years trying to control it. This last year…I’ve embraced it. I think my world is a whole lot better now because I have. *at least my linen closets and cabinets are a whole lot better now*
  • For all that I complain about Her Evil Highness aka Chloella, aka Chloe, aka Fox Bait, I truly do lover her. She is extremely affectionate. She keeps my feet warm, and my back and my face and the top of my head, all night long. She definitely rules the house. Tux and Jack bow to her every wish and whim. She hates Brett, but then they all have. I think they can all sense he is the youngest and thus low man on the food chain.

That’s it for now. I just want to assure y’all that I know how blessed I am. I am thankful. I am okay.

Love you guys. Merry Christmas!

What is normal?

Definition of NORMAL, according to Merriam-Webster: 2 a : according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle b : conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern; 3: occurring naturally; 4 a : of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development b : free from mental disorder : sane.

I’ve been thinking it is time for me to “get back to normal” after a really crappy two years. I think that has been part of my whole “it’s a revolution, not a resolution” thing for 2012. But I have a confession to make: I don’t remember what “normal” looks like.

Normal might be sleeping through the night and waking up to an alarm clock. Or normal could be sleeping on and off; tossing and turning; waking up long before hearing any alarm and saying, “what the heck…might as well get up…it’s almost 5:00 anyway.”

Normal might be having a basic cleaning schedule that one follows during the week thus keeping one’s home fairly picked up and wiped down at any given time. Or normal could be obsessing about getting each bathroom spotless, several days a week, or pulling everything out of the linen closet to reorganize. Again. All while the dust bunnies take over in the living room and the rest of the house.

Normal might be having a comfy and decorated living room with a warm area rug underfoot lit by the soft glow of a cozy gas fireplace. Or normal could be a multi-teenage bottom plop spot with kitty claw marks, a beloved grandmother’s chair with the stuffing coming out of the bottom, cold hard wood floors underneath, gas log fireplace guts spewed out on the floor, but shiny new trucks and Jeeps sitting in the driveway. (This one’s for you, honey.) *I’m trying not to be too bitter*

Normal might be sitting down to eat, most evenings, at a candle-lit dining room table, using the regular dinner china or even the “good china” on occasion. Or normal could be tv trays set up in the living room, eating off of paper plates while watching NCIS. Every night.

Normal might be a dedicated quiet time, prayer time, journal writing time every morning, while waiting for the beginnings of a fiery glow to appear through the back door, announcing the sun is indeed going to rise again thus assuring the promise that is a new day. Or normal could be sitting in Mamie’s chair, staring at a blank journal page, opening and closing a devotional and a bible, jumping up and down to refill a coffee mug and switch out the laundry and finally just closing it all up and walking away.

Normal might be a young girl, engaged to an exceptional young man, planning her wedding; day dreaming of the day she will run her own household and have children. Or normal could be the unlikely appearance of an Angel announcing the imminent arrival of the Savior of the World, to a virgin and her betrothed.

My point is…normal is just a word that we cling to when our world has been turned upside down. We’ve tossed around the phrase “new normal” for several years now, beginning with the loss of bff, Beth. I don’t use that term very much anymore. It’s not “normal,” new or otherwise, to lose a 48 year old mom and wife. It’s not “normal,” by any stretch of the imagination, to lose a beloved son/grandson/nephew/
cousin at the age of 22. It’s NOT normal. But it is life. It is our life. I’m not going to make any apologies or excuses for how we are now living it.

It just is what it is.

Love you guys.

Droid Photo Friday.

 I love her markings. Even though she is Evil.
 Our Youth…on their knees…praying aloud. 
He was five. Be still my heart.
Finally got some decorating done.
Sister’s hubs is making these…I told him he should be selling them.
Peeling potatoes.
Martha Stewart’s pie…oldest made it.
The cat/dog whisperer strikes again. They love him.