The One Where the Baby Graduates from College.

17361559_10156104818002575_2969150716797048672_nThis curly haired, brown eyed, Momma’s boy takes his last college final exam today. Saturday he will officially be deemed, “a college grad.” I thought I had another semester of “and our youngest is at Radford.” I am not quite ready for, “and all of our babies are grown and gone.” I still choke up over, “and our baby is getting married in May.”

Mommas with littles. I’ve been there. Two under the age of one. Two in elementary school with a crawler attached to the hip. The days are long and often hard. The nights eternal. But the years…the years are short. Get up thirty minutes before the first tiny feet hit the floor running. Spend some time planning, meditating, journaling, and reading Scripture. Lordy, it is called “quiet time” for a reason! It may be the only bit of quiet you see for the day. Embrace the noise. (Try) to pull into your heart the arguing, the bellows of “MOOOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!” And when that oldest kiddo of yours opens the door to leave for school each morning and shouts out, “Mom?! I’m leaving! Love you!” Spit the toothpaste into the sink and reply in kind.

Before you know it, you may even think you are longing for it now, your morning cacophony will consist of starving kitty mewls and puppy exuberance that someone is finally awake (at 4:45 am). You will wait for a text, a call, a visit with as much anticipation as you waited for your due date. You won’t sleep until your phone alerts, and you read that one word, “home,” no matter the hour of darkness.

Soon, it will only be just you and the husband of your youth.  He in his leather chair with the remote in hand, you on the sofa in “mom’s spot” watching Wheel of Fortune, high-fiving each other when you figure out the answer before the contestants do. (Or so I’ve heard.)

Wrap your arms around these fleeting years. Store the snuggles and smooches, and I love yous in your heart. You will need to pull them out and inhale their memory scent long before you are ready. These truly are the good times; the stuff our lives are made of; the “you’re gonna miss this” moments. And all of the other clichés that ring true in the silence.

So that when it is time to let your babies go…both of you will be ready. And by ready, I mean ready to remind them when they get too big for their college/adult britches that you have pictures of them standing bare-butt next to the tub and you aren’t afraid to use them.

So proud of you, Brett. Now go out, find a decent job with benefits, and marry that girl you deemed, “everything I’ve ever wanted in a wife” one month into your relationship.

 

Love, The Queen.

 

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Mornings.

21586611_10156845743002575_919475980979942273_oYou know that first sip of coffee? The one you take when all is right with the world. Even if you don’t drink coffee, you know the time of day I’m talking about. Before you check your phone. Before the thump of kids’ feet hitting the floor running in a herd of shouts for “MOM!” The sip you take after the critters have been let out and fed (because Lord knows they have been on pins and needles for an hour just waiting for you to get up, already.)

THAT sip of coffee…that time of day. When your brain is a jumble of sleep-generated cobwebs that you try to make sense of and just end up shaking out. When your joints ache and creak and muscles long to be stretched out by a lengthy session of yoga. Or, at the very least, a shot of wish I were ten years younger.

Sometimes, that first sip is thrust into your hand by a “ha, I was up hours ago” spousal unit that you can’t glare at because helloooo…coffee. So you ignore their bouncy, cheery attitude and vow silently to have a quick comeback next time. Cuz you both know there will be one. And you both know you won’t have one.

Or maybe it’s the holy grail of all first sips…the vacation morning coffee. Because really, no matter what is going on in the world, there is nothing, nor ever will be, anything like that first gulp of brew, this side of the Heavenly realm. Where, I am convinced (and I am sure it is biblically sound) the rivers flow with honey for non-coffee drinkers and hot, steaming bold blend with just the right amount of sugar and cream, for us coffee worshippers.

Why, you ask, is that morning first cup of life so important? For me…it signals a new day, fresh mercies, maybe even a do-over or twelve. Which, without the crowning moment of coffee goodness, could go either way…and, if I were honest, still will go either way but if it’s going to go south, at least I can say the day started off right. And, why is it that the second cup never has the same mystical powers of taste and gift of life that the first cup has?

But truly, doesn’t coffee make it easier to do the morning things? Empty the dishwasher, start a load of laundry, make breakfast, send your people off to begin the day? Hopefully, like me, you are the last one to leave the house in the morning. Able to linger over that last cooled sip of life in a quiet house where the critters have sunk into their post breakfast coma, the counters have been wiped clean, and your lonely, empty favorite mug is left in the sink to hold down the fort for another day.

Blessings (and cheers to a good cup of Joe).

Heart Shares.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1 – NIV)

The words of the Psalmist, David, ring so true for me this morning. In fact, the first sentence in my journal entry this morning is, “Where are You? I feel so alone!”

I realized this morning that I am the cause for the loneliness, not God. I have totally pushed Him aside these last few months and have focused on me. All about me. What I think. What I want. How I feel. Sure…I’ve been doing my “quiet time” each morning. A time I say I reserve each morning for God. To discover what He thinks of me. What He wants of me. How He feels about me. Except I left the He out and focused on the me. I have to admit I haven’t even had my Bible alongside of me for much of these mornings.

So, I’ve lost my jam. It happens. Pretty regularly to me, I must confess.

Today, I had set aside as Day 1 (for the 268th time, I believe) to really get back to taking care of me. Focusing on healthy eating and the discipline and commitment of daily exercise and not focusing as much on pounds lost. As I sat down this morning to tweak my plan, that’s when it really hit me. Again…still…it was all about me. I had already failed because I left out the winning equation…He is my strength and I can do nothing without Him.

Hopefully, y’all are still reading at this point. I’ve never made it a secret that I am a Christian woman; that I am the Church Administrator/Manager at our church home; and Jesus is life. I’m also a sarcastic and fiery-tempered wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt and friend. For every word about Jesus, there are references to the funny things in life; my (sarcastic) take on things; my family; as well as pain and loss.

But I want you to know what I had temporarily set aside: I am first a child of God. Nothing about who I am, what I say, or what I write is going to change with that pronouncement. It was already true; has always been true. I am who He created me to be…from the sarcasm down to the daily heartbreak of the losses our family has endured. But I also needed you to know…I needed to get it out there as a reminder to me, I suppose…that just like everyone else in this world, I need Jesus. And so do you.

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Reading back through this post, my heart has definitely lifted. The heaviness and darkness I felt sitting down on The Porch this morning is gone. Time to get back to work. Absolutely taking better care of myself and making exercise a consistent part of my day again. All the while remembering where my strength and discipline actually comes from.

Blessings.

Can’t we all just agree to disagree?

I think it is time I weighed in on a seriously controversial subject matter. We are being inundated with it on social media and main stream media as well as the obscure outlets. I know I have been drawn into some pretty heavy discussions over it. And while I try not to get pulled down to the depths of hysteria and, I’m shocked to admit, threats, I do have a very definite stand on the matter.

Of course I am talking about when it is politically correct to bring out the fall décor.

I know that you also, dear reader, have very strong opinions on the matter. No matter where you lie in the spectrum, I think it is something that we can talk about rationally and without any name calling. Let’s begin.

I absolutely have to start with hair. I have a very curly, tends-to-get-frizzy mop of hair. One hair consultant went as far as to say I could withstand 6 months of chemo and still have plenty of hair left on my head. Let’s pray it never comes to that. Now you are probably wondering what fall décor has to do with my hair. In a word: TONS. Call it the placebo effect, but when I am walking around my house with all of it’s bright, sunny, beachy decorations and summery candle scents in the air, my hair of course thinks it is still summer and frizziness ensues. But as soon as I start pulling out the dreamy deep yellows; calming burnt oranges, and deep red decorations, even my hair follicles relax.

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I don’t really see what an actual date or month has to do with the unofficial start of fall décor season. I know that some of you are bristling at that pronouncement but let’s try to look at this as mature adults. Fall is really just a state of mind. (As well as the state of hair I discussed above.) There is something wondrously  wonderful about fall. It heralds the resting of the trees. Leaves slowly turning from their bright summer green coverings to comfy, sweater-inducing yellows, oranges, and browns. Just thinking about them turning has my eyes drooping in comforting sleepiness. There is a stillness that can be heard and felt throughout the ‘Hood. The lawn mowers end their continuous ruining of my quiet time on the porch. The joyous screams of laughter from the children turn to deep, low mumblings of surliness that the first days of a new school year bring. The area traffic turns from bumper-to-bumper weekend traffic to the more normal 24/7 bumper-to-bumper traffic that encourages us to stay in our homes.

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I know, I know…some of you are sick of the Christmas decorations coming out in August at the Cracker Barrel, but honestly…is it really hurting anything? Why can’t we all just embrace Christmas year round? The presents! The food! The decorations! The softening of the heart! Did I mention the presents! It’s true. I was born a gift receiving loving girl. Over time, I realized that what I truly am is a gift giving loving girl. Yes. It is partly my choice. But I also feel that I was really meant to be a gift giver. It has taken me many years to transition over to it, but I think it is who I truly was born to be.

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So, let’s all just try to get on the same page, shall we? It’s okay to be an early fall embracer; it’s also okay to not be. Please just stop pushing your summer-loving, short-sleeved wearing, has to wear a pony-tail to keep the frizzies down, grilling every night agenda on those of us who just want to cover up, snuggle in, and sip our hot toddies all the live long day.

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Blessings.

 

Just a few Life Lessons.

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On the porch this morning, I stared at the blank pages of my journal. Tons of thoughts swirling around in my head, none of them coherent enough to put on paper. It’s been like this for months. Like a drain clogged with frustration, anger, questions. Searching for the peace that passes all understanding and finding a big fat glob of confusion.

Today I’ve decided to take captive those brain cloggers and dump them behind me and just move forward. Easier said than done?

Tomorrow Russell, Shawn, and I head to Radford. So excited to see The Girl after three months of hell Summer. Just fyi…it is nasty and humid on The Porch again as I am writing this and I realized that this weather has been contributing to my ugly state of mind. Like how ridiculous to give the weather…or a season…that much power!

So we move Brett into his new teeny weeny one bedroom apartment tomorrow. He had enough of roommates for three years and this last year was a doozie. What kind of person removes his name from the utilities so he doesn’t have to pay them while he lives there? Now they all lose out on their apartment deposit to pay the utilities and Brett wasn’t even there the last four months that the utilities weren’t paid.

Life lessons. A momma’s outrage doesn’t override the life lesson of some people. Thankfully, most people aren’t like that loser guy.

Life lessons. Deciding to move forward when you just want to stick around and fight a losing battle. Coming to the realization that people aren’t always going to act the way you would act. Accepting that there are times that people, even family, aren’t going to give you what you need or want and sometimes, will just decide to dislike you or hate you without reason. (If this rings familiar with a few of you that I have been talking with/texting with the last two days…I’m looking at you AND me.)

Life lessons. Learning to forgive the unforgiveable. Stepping around the mess instead of wading through and getting pulled into the muck. Choosing to turn away for the sake of peace and love, instead of fighting back. Focusing on the good things, the good people, the good times, the goodness and letting all of the other bs go.

Learning from the people purposely placed in your life. Seeking and accepting and implementing their wise and experienced counsel.

Not to allow yourself to be a doormat for people and their junk. But to be adult enough to just move on. Realizing that what goes around, comes around. Not for the sake of retaliation and revenge, but because that is just how life works.

And while I began this laundry list of life lessons with Brett in mind, really…it is a note to self.

Blessings.

 

Kids Ruin Everything.

Before having kids, I enjoyed being a night owl. After having kids, I had to be a night owl because those kids weren’t going to nurse and snuggle themselves all night long.

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Before having kids, my evenings were my own. After having kids there were messy bath time water fights, with loud giggles and laughter and chasing naked littles down the hall to grab and wrap up in towels and carry off to bed.

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Before having kids, I could eat what I wanted, when I wanted. After having kids I was forced to share all of my food with sticky-fingered love bugs who left “fishies” floating in my drinks.

Before having kids, I could sit on the sofa watching anything I wanted. After having kids, it was endless rounds of Barney, Ariel, Beauty and the Beast and the constant noise of singing and “why did they do that, momma?” with a wriggly little tucked under each arm.

Before having kids, I could go out at night and wear fun clothes. After having kids, there were children to be read to, prayers to be prayed and stories to be listened to.

Before having kids, I was carefree and dare devilish and could stay out all night. After having kids, there were sleepless nights of worry and prayer for three little people in my life I would lay mine down for.

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Before having kids, I was annoyed by squeals and getting kicked in the seat back and little faces popping up over the backs of booths to say, “Hi”. After having kids, I was apologizing for all of that from my own booth with a laugh and a shrug.

Before having kids, there was quiet and peace and calm throughout the house. After having kids, there was laughter, giggling, and tiny padded feet running across the floors.

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Before having kids, I was selfish and self-absorbed, focused on me and what I want. After having kids, I had to let me go and focus on littles screeching “MINE”, “I WANT”, and “I DO IT”.
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Before having kids, I had energy and could hold intelligent conversations. After having kids, I collapsed in a heap on the sofa at 8pm and recited to my man every word, step, and poop from the day.

Before having kids, I could sleep soundly through the night. After having kids, I paced the floor and checked my phone certain I had missed a call from the State Police or Hospital because my kids were out with their friends.

Before having kids, vacations were easy, relaxed, and spent lying on the beach with a book. After having kids, I was on high alert, scouring the water line with my binocs, and responding to “look at me, momma!” “Watch THIS, momma!” “Help me swim, momma!” “I need a snack, momma!”

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Before having kids, my weekends were lazy and a break from the rat race of the week. After having kids, my weekends were tied up driving kids to games, cheering them on during soccer matches, volleyball matches, baseball games, and football games.

Before having kids, I was so excited to raise them and get them out the door on their own. After the kids moved on to college and marriage and their own lives, and my job was done, I had the clean, quiet, calm, empty, and lonely house I thought I had always wanted.

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Before having kids, it was all about me. After having kids, it wasn’t. And it never will be again.

Thank God, kids ruin everything.

Blessings.

Mad Max: A Tale of a Puppy.

AKA…what it is like owning a street-wise German Shepherd Dog/Labrador Retriever mix puppy.

I was at the beach for girls (and babies) weekend, and never suspected a thing.

We had recently been accepted to foster Golden Retrievers. Following the loss of our beloved Goldie, Jack, we thought maybe we would get lucky and do another failed foster. *failed foster: when you “foster” a dog and end up adopting it yourself*. Sarah’s behavior on our ride home from the beach was, in hindsight, suspect, but it had been a long ride home in driving rain with lots of screaming. Mine. Because of her driving. But that is totally normal for us. I try to keep my head down and keep busy with crocheting.

So walking to the carport door, opening it and seeing a dog crate in the dining room wasn’t such a shock as seeing the little black puppy hurling toward me and greeting me wee-wee of joy all over my feet and the floor. Sarah and My Man were quite pleased with themselves that I was completely unaware.

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Max…Day 1. Cute, sweet and seemingly innocent.

It’s been downhill from there.

Apparently, this pup had been found running the back roads of North Carolina. How they ever caught him is beyond me. He is a runner and the more you chase him, the more fun he has running from you. They probably used cat food. Because he loves it. Just one more reason for the kitties to hate him.

It’s been awhile since we had a puppy in the house. But not long enough for My Man to have completely and totally forgotten every single thing he ever knew about raising and training a puppy. But, he has. As Sarah says, “MOM. It’s like he has never owned a puppy before!” Sad, but true.

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Trying to chew my shoe…while it is on my foot.

There is a reason GSD’s are affectionately (ahem) known as “German Shredders”. I had forgotten this small character trait. Max quickly reminded us as item after item after item was shredded as soon as we turned our backs. Well, not OUR backs…Russell’s back. None of these mishaps have occurred under MY watch. Labs are wicked chewers as well. Max happily shreds pillows and dog beds, and chews up shoes and chair legs on a regular basis. He totally disregards the 3,945 chewies, bones, toys, and chew sticks spread around the house and in his crate. My favorite son-in-law found this out when Max chewed up one of their dog beds in a matter of two minutes while he was in the bathroom.

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There is only one reason that Max is still with us. GSD’s are notorious Velcro-dogs. Goldies are known for this also. Jack was the best at Velcro of any dog we have ever known. Max is smaller and shorter (he’s around 53 pounds right now and probably won’t get much bigger) and is often difficult to see. He sits at or on our feet every time we stop for even a second. We trip over him 35 times a day because he lies down right in our path when we stop at the kitchen sink; the washing machine; the bathroom sink. He has tried to climb into the shower with each of us. And has finally, begrudgingly, settled for spreading out on the bathroom mats, every one of which is white. He is solid black. You might ask yourself…or me…why I don’t just go out and by all black bathroom mats. BECAUSE. It’s the principal of the thing. (That and the fact that I wouldn’t notice the black fur as much and I would totally ignore washing the mats every other day like I do now.) There is nothing worse than stepping out of the shower onto the bathroom mat and a blob of black fur sticking to the bottom of your feet. It’s just gross.

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In the lap of his favorite person.

Currently, I am sitting on the porch and Max is gathering every stick in the back yard and trying to pull them up the stairs and onto the deck. One problem: he has already pulled up all the smaller sticks to the deck and now there are only limbs in the yard. It’s been very entertaining. For both of us.

Sarah took him for a week of “puppy camp”. She gave him back after three days and basically told us he is not the dog for us old folks; has too much energy; needs a ton of exercise; and is as hard-headed as they come.

Challenge accepted.

This is perfect timing, really. The weather is beginning to cooperate with my fall weather needs and, to be perfectly honest, I’m about 7 years behind in getting back to my fighting weight and physical condition.

 

Stay tuned for more life with Max updates. Assuming he is still around. Did I mention that cleaning out the kitty litter boxes is his favorite snack?

Blessings.