Thursday, December 31, 2009

A letter to my husband at the end of this crazy year...

Dear Scooter,

Wow. What a year. If you had tried to tell either one of us just ten short years ago what this particular year would be like, we'd have laughed and tipped another sip of our beer. At the time, we had no real understanding of stress. We knew pain, but definitely not stress. My how much we've learned...

I just want to finish this year off writing just to you. Because that's really what this year has been about. Me and you. It's seemed to be about the finances and the kids and the stress of your job and the baseball schedule and the cleaning up of the leaves in the yard. But when you really think about what this year has been about, I think it's mainly been about you and me getting to know each other in a totally different way. Without the fluff. Without the extra. To the heart. To the core. With the phones ringing and ringing. With no one calling at all some times. With the kids beside us, or sitting in between us, or even crawling all over us. At the ball park in the heat. At the ball park in the cold. On the couch, at the end of a long day, watching Pawn Stars. Or Desperate Housewives... not really sure if you're ready to admit that one out loud.

So, here we go. Another year for me and you. I've been focused so much on telling this year goodbye that I've almost forgotten we've got one only beginning. In many ways, I can't wait to see what God has in store for us and our little life. But in other ways, I'm terrified of what the next 365 days will bring our way. The struggles aren't over... who knows what tomorrow brings. But I'm so glad to know that no matter what comes my way, you'll be there beside me to listen or hug me or tell me what I need to be told. And I want you to know that you can count on me, too. If we can make it through 2009 without killing each other, I think we can make it through just about anything. Well, maybe we couldn't make it if I had to drive you to work for three weeks like when you broke your foot a couple of years ago... we almost didn't make it through that the first time, so maybe you should just be extra careful with your right foot and adjoined leg. Just sayin'.

So here's to another year. And here's to 2009... without this year we've had, who knows if we would have had the opportunity to grow closer together in this way. And that is a blessing that would make it worth repeating even the crappiest of years!

I love you, Scooter. Truly, deeply love you.

Your one and only ~
T. Blair

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And just like that...

And just like that, it's over.

The presents are ripped open. The surprises are gone. The mess is cleaned up. The tree is down. The only thing that remains is the few fake pine needles that will linger in the carpet for the next several weeks to remind me that we indeed had Christmas here.

Isn't it funny how weeks and weeks of preparation - the decorating, the gift hunting, the hiding away of the purchases, the wrapping, the baking for parties - are just over in an instant?

We had a great Christmas here at the Blair house. I would say that the excitement level was at an all-time high this year. With Madalyn almost five and David a still believing eight-year-old, I wish we could have bottled the excitement and passed it out to households that just didn't have enough. Santa's bag was full of surprises for the children - David finally got his gas powered four wheeler he's been asking for since he could talk. He's been riding a little battery operated one he got for his birthday four years ago, and it's about on it's last leg. And I believe Santa may have gotten a spectacular deal on the one he brought (wink, wink). Whatever strings he had to pull, deals he had to finagle, or meals he may have to skip in the next several weeks - it was all worth it when David found a key to a new four wheeler in his stocking. There's just nothing like seeing your child get something they've wanted desperately for so long.

Madalyn got exactly what she wanted, too - an absolutely gaudy hot pink and black "beauty shop" vanity, complete with mirror surrounded by lights and hair clips and pretend scissors. She also got a set of pretend hair dryer and curling iron, a gown and robe, a little Crayola art desk, and a couple of big coloring books. Needless to say, she couldn't have been more pleased with her goodies. Of course her loot next to her brother's looked a little unfair, but the monetary difference was amazingly unequal. Isn't it nice when their stuff is still so cheap?

The biggest Christmas blessing of all for me and Scott is that we were able to do for our kids this year. After the financial blows we've suffered, I must say the biggest joy of all was watching them still have the same kind of Christmas they've always had. For the past several months, I have fretted about how it would all work out. But it did. We may have had to borrow from this, scrounge around with that, but it all fell into place. But on Christmas morning, I did think of other families who may not be as fortunate. I thought about other parents out there who had lost their jobs this year or had fallen on hard times. And I was so thankful for my family who has been so supportive through this tough year.

And so, another Christmas come and gone. Almost another year complete. Many memories. Many smiles. Many tears. But many blessings. Many, many blessings.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lo and behold...

So, we put out our saltine crackers and water and a potato in David's shoe. Lo and behold, an elf arrived that night as we slept. His name is Farley, and he came with a letter explaining how to take care of him and what he was here for. Absolutely amazing. The magic of Christmas is alive.

Farley's arrival sparked an air of bickering in the Blair household though, and we spent much of the morning fighting over who could hold the elf and play with him and so on. By 10:00 a.m., Madalyn was forbidden to even look at the elf for the remainder of the day after pitching a fit of such epic proportions I was reminded of her days as a two-year-old. It wasn't pretty, and it ended with me telling her these exact words: "You've met your match with me, sister. We can play this game all day if you want, but you still won't get your way. I'm not giving in." She realized the seriousness of the situation, and she quickly changed her tune.

The jolly old elf has been a delight ever since, hiding in various places throughout the house once he comes to life while the children are asleep. Last night, he made quite a mess with the toilet paper, and both the kids got a kick out of that. He rides in the car with us, and they carry him around the house with them. He leaves little notes, nicely versed and rhyming. And David believes he is as real an elf as the sky is blue.

Ahhhhhhh... the mind of a child. The protection it offers from all the ugliness of the world. A place where dreams can come true and wishes can be granted and an elf can come alive in the dark and leave toilet paper strewn about the room. I want to put my dear children in a bubble and protect them from reality. And, if I were lucky enough, maybe there would be enough room for me to crawl in as well.

This will probably be my last post before Christmas. Things will be busy and scattered over the next few days. My hope for any who read this is that you are truly blessed with all the joy Christmas brings. Times may be tough for some. We all have some bit of ugliness or trouble right now. But the truth is still the same; God has us each in his hand, no matter what today may bring. No matter what.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Two dolls, elf bait, and a new motto...

The kids are out of school. And I'll be honest; they are already way too loud and getting on my nerves. But what can you expect? Christmas is so close they can smell it. Even I think I can smell it a little...

Yesterday, I thought I had finished my shopping. I felt this weight lift off my shoulders, and I almost told the fine young lady at Target as she scanned my final purchases, "I AM DONE!!!!!" But, having worked retail myself at her precious little age, I knew she wouldn't care nor understand. And I would have felt really stupid today when I bought another gift, which really is my very last one. I promise.

See, after going to the Princess and the Frog last Friday, all Madalyn has talked about is that she wanted something Princess in the Frog. Mind you, the stuff was EVERYWHERE two weeks ago before the movie actually opened. But of course when I began my search for an item - any item that seemed reasonable like a little doll or the Barbie version - they were nowhere to be found. All I could find was a stinking music set with a little plastic flute and a tambourine (and I will be doggoned if I would even think about such a purchase) and these two frogs that would kiss and then make some noise. I was so excited to find a set of the Princess and the Prince today at the Disney Store (which has to just remain the coolest place ever no matter how old you are). And so now, I am 100% finished with my shopping.

I also had to make another small purchase. David came home yesterday from school telling me all about these elves that come to your house and tell Santa if you're being good or naughty. He says that all we have to do is put out some saltine crackers in a bowl, a glass of water, and a potato in a shoe, and the elf will come. Personally, I remain a little skeptical. But it's worth a try. Unfortunately I had no saltines in the pantry last night, and I told him we'd have to wait until today for me to purchase them. So I guess tonight we're putting out the elf bait, and we'll just have to wait and see what happens. I'll keep everyone posted...

There's so many other things going on right now. Seems like every time I turn around, there's another tragedy to report. There have been so many fatal accidents in the Birmingham area in the past couple of weeks. There was a fire a few weeks ago that burned a young family's entire home and all it's contents. They have two little girls, 2 and 4 years old. There's a young woman I've heard about who's just been diagnosed with cancer, and her prognosis doesn't look good. She may not make it another month. There just seems to be so much all the time. Always so much. Today, as my mind was racing like it does so many afternoons, I was reminded of the Serenity Prayer. Most people connect it with addiction, but the words really speak to all of us. So I am really thinking it will just be my new motto for a while.

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things that I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I mean, really... could we ask for anything more from God? At any time of year or phase in our life, that's pretty much all we need.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Tiger Woods Conversation

So, I've been waiting on my little golfer to ask me about Tiger Woods. He watches Sports Center enough to know there's something going on, and it's on every channel news during every broadcast several times a day. A couple of nights ago, David asks me, "Mama... what is going on with Tiger Woods???"


We would all like to know, David... I answered as best I knew how telling him that Tiger had apparently made some poor choices in his life and he would have to deal with them. Then last night, the real conversation took place when David, out of the blue, says to me, "I don't think I like Tiger Woods anymore."


I had to ask him why, even though I knew the answer. And at eight, it's not the answer it should be. David said it's because he's just not doing the right thing right now... but that's not why David liked him in the first place. He liked Tiger Woods for his amazing golf talent, not for the kind of husband and father he is. And so I took my opportunity to teach a little...


"You're right, David. He's not doing the right thing. He's made some big mistakes, but we all do. We all make mistakes. However, he's still an excellent golfer, and you can like that about him."


I think we all fall into the same pattern - we find someone in the spotlight that does something well, and we assume that makes them the person we'd like to be. But it doesn't. We have admired Tiger Woods in our house for his golf skills, and now that he has fallen short in other areas of his life, it reminds us that we can't look up to any human being on this earth. We all fall short. No matter how much money we make, no matter how beautiful our spouse may be, no matter how low a golf score we shoot, we all fail miserably on a regular basis.

I want my kids to realize the only perfect person to ever walk the face of the Earth is not someone you'll ever see plastered on the evening news. He isn't someone you'll come face to face with in the mall. But, He lives in the hearts of many... you can find Him in a helping hand, a nice gesture, a prayer for the needy and sick, and in the pages of the greatest Book ever written. But you will not come face to face with Him until you draw your last breath.

In the year to come, I hope to look to the right person for the example on how to be the best person I can be. It's certainly not Tiger Woods. And it's not a beautiful actress. It's not the mom at pre-school who always looks so perfectly put together and makes the coolest goody bags. It's Jesus. And my goal in the upcoming months is to show His true and perfect love to more people I come in contact with and try a little more every day to be like Him.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Happenings

This morning, I am wrapping presents in peace... I can't stand anyone to help me, especially if they have little hands and bright eyes (Bah, humbug!!!). I know that may sound terrible, but I am a compete and total control freak about wrapping presents. It makes little sense as they don't look like fantastic works of art or anything. Just simple cheap wrapping paper and bows... but the edges have to folded over a certain way or the world might implode. Seriously. I am sure it will implode if the edges are not turned the exact same way every time. And if the floor behind the toilet isn't clean. Oh, and if the rows in the grass aren't perfectly straight. If you didn't realize this, I am so sorry I brought it to your attention because you may never be the same again. You'll be neurotic about perfectly meaningless things, just like me. At least I am aware of my issues...

I am also preparing this week for our annual adult only Christmas party. And I must admit that after the stressful year that we have had, along with several of our friends, I am more excited than ever about this year's event. My mind is all abuzz with the burning questions - What will I serve? What will I wear? Who all will show? AND the most important question.... WILL DAVID GET SICK THIS YEAR??????

My little David has impeccable timing for illness. If I am excited about an event, a little light goes off in his subconscious and sets the perfect timer for a sickness. Last Christmas, it was strep. Granted, every Christmas, since he was five, he's been stricken with strep. But if he's gonna get sick, I am hoping for a Sunday or Monday arrival. Just please not Saturday morning like last year.... please, oh please!

I'm sure this afternoon Madalyn's excitement about Christmas will rise again when she sees new presents under the tree. I'll have to go over them one by one explaining who they are for and why I won't tell her what's inside. And then she'll go over her spill about her gift again and how she knows what it is. Followed, of course, by her asking me to tell her what it is. Her excitement is so pure, and I must admit I remember feeling that way. Even as an older child, long after I knew the truth about Christmas, I can remember lying in bed at night, waiting on sleep to come, and wondering deep inside my heart if the possibility were true. Did the magic of Christmas really exist? And now, I know it does. It thrives inside the eyes of my two little ones, looking at the gaudy lights hanging on the homes as we drive in the car, talking together about what Santa might bring, shaking and poking at the wrapped presents under the tree. Yes, the magic is still alive.

It's been tougher this year to get into the spirit, but it's beginning to bubble up inside me. When you see the excitement in your children who know nothing of this world's trouble or stress, you just can't help but feel the true spirit of Christmas. The giving of gifts, the biggest of smiles, and the hope for a bounty of blessings... that's what we all dream of.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gifts

Most gifts are simply a reciprocation... at Christmas, we have the list of people we exchange gifts with, and usually birthdays are much the same. We always give the children on both sides of the family Christmas gifts, and my kids receive from them. I give my friend a pretty picture frame for her birthday, and then she'll give me a gift card to Starbucks for mine. You know the drill.

This morning, I opened my email and received a gift. I must admit, it's the most emotionally moving gift I have ever received, and I technically haven't received it yet. The email I got was from a company, Giving Anonymously. I had never heard of the organization before, so when I received an email telling me that someone wishes to pass along a gift of money to me, I was a bit skeptical. I Googled it, looked over the website, and determined that it didn't appear to be a hoax. They didn't want my social security number or me to mail a check to Africa or surrender my PIN code for my check card... just simply send an email back verifying they had my correct address, and they would forward me the gift.

All day, I have thought about this gift. I don't know who it's from or how much they want to give me. I feel honored, humbled, guilty, loved, blessed, undeserving. I feel so many things inside about this random act of kindness.

I have made it no secret that my family has encountered financial difficulty this year. We make ourliving through the selling of cars, and unless you have had a set of those over-priced noise reducing head phones for the past 18 months, you've no doubt heard that the car business had taken a blow. Even though most people reading this believe me to be incredibly transparent, I haven't been as see-through about my monetary woes. It's embarrassing. It's shameful. To make promises to pay money back and not be able to follow through... well, it's been difficult for me. To know that you've made incredibly irresponsible decisions with money when you were so blessed to have it pouring in each month... well, that's just pure shameful. To wish you could go back and make different decisions and save more and spend less and not count your chickens before they hatch... well, all that's just useless. What's done is done. What's spent is spent. What's owed is owed. And what's not coming in each month is just simply not coming in each month.

Things are better now that Scott has changed jobs and is given a set amount every month no matter what. And I am amazed every single day that I still have a warm home and a car to drive. I am so incredibly thankful and blessed to be sitting here at my computer and listening to my kids play above my head. I have learned to cherish the simple things so much more this year, and I doubt I will ever be the same since going through this financial hiccup.

And I know that this gift - this anonymous gift - no matter how small or big is truly a sign sent down from my Lord Himself.

I am in the midst of a true spiritual awakening right now. And I am reading this book, as I discussed before. And I am seeing so much of me in the main character. So self-slaughtering like her. Guilty. Shameful. Unable to receive love and simple gifts. And today, after I opened that email, those feelings began to bubble up inside me.

You're undeserving.
You've squandered so much away in years past and been so selfish when you did have plenty.
How embarrassing; someone pities you.
There are so many others who need it more than you do.
You can't possibly accept this gift.

And then as the day went by, the voice of my Creator started to rise above the other and simply said me, "Someone loves you."

Someone loves me. And they don't want anything in return. They want no recognition. They just want to give me a gift and be used as a vessel by God.

I have a strong feeling that the anonymous donor is reading this post and probably crying along with me. And I want you to know that I am more thankful for this gift than any other I have ever received in my life, and I haven't even received the tangible gift yet. You can't imagine the things I am going through right now... the things I am dealing with from my past, the demons in my head I am fighting. The amount you've given doesn't matter, but the timing couldn't be any more perfect. And my promise to my donor is that I will pass along the love that was given to me. I will pass that love along when I am given the chance...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reading

Hold on to your seat for a minute... I am reading a novel.


I know. Catch your breath. Alert the authorities. Look up to the heavens and await the coming. I haven't read a novel since I ditched college. And that's been nine years ago. The only reading I have done has been the Bible, and that's not been as often as I should.


I have never really enjoyed reading. And that seems incredibly strange since I love to write and have a fascination with words and was an English major in college. But there have really been few books that I have been forced to read along the way that I truly enjoyed. In high school, there was A Tale of Two Cities which I remember specifically enjoying. In college I took a class about the Bronte sisters' writings and Jane Austin... I so loved Wuthering Heights, Emma, and Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I still have a paper I wrote about the use of the word heath throughout the novel Wuthering Heights. Yes... I was actually that smart. I pointed out each use of the word and explored the meaning and symbolism and so on.



Anywho... I am reading Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. And from the first chapter, I have literally been riveted. The story just speaks to the my heart. For anyone unfamiliar (like I was) to the novel, it is based off the Book of Hosea in the Old Testament. So, being the literary nerd I am, I read Hosea first. I must admit that I don't think I've ever read a verse from the Book of Hosea in my entire life. Stories involving God telling a prophet to marry a prostitute weren't that big of hits in the church I grew up in (or the Christian private school I graduated from, either). And any time I find something so excitedly new in The Scriptures, I am immediately drawn in by the wanting to learn more. More about this God and Savior I am still so utterly confused about.

So that's what I find myself doing right now. Every spare second I have, I find myself wanting to read this novel... which is so unlike me. And I'm really glad. Maybe I'll read something else when I'm done with this one. I am seeing so many words I've never seen before and thinking about these characters all the time. And I find myself looking for a piece of me in the story. Uncomfortably, I find more of myself than I'd like to admit. Not quite as tragic, but still there.

So if I am not blogging as much here lately, it's because I'm reading. And that statement alone just makes me chuckle.