Monday, November 29, 2010

The Thanksgiving Hangover...

I am feeling a little hungover this morning. From the turkey and dressing. From the football. From the tree and the lighted reindeer and the ornaments wrapped in tissue and bubble wrap and tucked into boxes. From the up and down and up and down of the attic ladder. From all of it. I have done so much, yet there's still so much to do.

I'm sure Jesus is real excited that we commemorate His birth each year with hustle and bustle and lights and trees and lighted reindeer in the yard that have to be held together with little plastic zip ties because we need to use our money for gifts not for buying new reindeer. Oh, wait... that last part was entirely specific to my house. My point here is that I wish we could take the commercial part out of Christmas and just let it be, you know. Take all pressure out of it and leave the enjoyment. But what would the kids think???

Anyway. Today will be spent cleaning up from Thanksgiving and putting out the tree. In the meantime, I need to do laundry and I'd love to sit down to write a little since I haven't written in over a week. Haven't been feeling incredibly inspired lately between Thanksgiving and life in general. But maybe if I force myself to sit down and pretend to be inspired, the words will flow.

I also have an odd prayer request for any and all who are reading this. I am going to the doctor tomorrow morning - a new general practitioner - to see about my legs. For six weeks now, I have been dealing with strange lesions on my legs. Itchy, red, raised, gross looking lesions. And I have no idea why. At first I thought that it was related to my having strep back in October, but the longer it has lingered the less I think the two are related. So I am praying that I can get an answer tomorrow, figure out why I have them, and a good way to get rid of them. You know, before I scratch and claw all my skin off which would even less attractive than the spots on my legs. I would appreciate any prayers on my behalf concerning this odd issue. Thanks in advance!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In between multiple panic attacks...

In between multiple panic attacks, we successfully put up the Christmas tree. Both of them. The Auburn themed tree downstairs was done last night, and the upstairs family tree was just completed. All with the help of a five year old, no doubt.

I know I have blogged about this in past years, my lack of patience. But there's a whole other side to my lack of patience, and that would be Madalyn's personality. She's precious and funny and can be ever so sweet. But she doesn't like to listen, has her own ideas about what she wants to do and the way she wants things to look, and I find that my lack of patience combined with her personality is a lethal combination for any project. Add in my obsessive compulsive disorder (no, I have not been officially diagnosed, but rather feel I have the propensity towards such) which is brought out by spots on the mirrors and Hallmark collectible ornaments not being hung properly or their bubble wrap placed back in the box - well, as you can guess, getting out the Christmas stuff proves to be a little tricky for me and my daughter.

But we made it. And I know that each year will be a little easier. At least this year she didn't argue with me about which ornaments were breakable or off limits. She actually stopped to ask, and if I responded that they were indeed fragile, she passed them over to me with no argument. We did have some words about my vintage section of the tree; it's the area up near the top where I placed all the ornaments she is not supposed to touch even if the tree begins to fall on top of her head and she needs to protect her face with her hands. Like, seriously, if I find out that her little tiny fingers have touched any of said vintage items, she will pay. Not sure how, put I will cross that bridge when we get there, and if I know my daughter, we will most definitely get there within a couple weeks time. And I am already planning on doing a whole post about my most sentimental ornaments on my tree as I have a few newly passed down from my mom that hung on my tree when I was little.

So, right now as I type, I am surrounded by a huge mess and little artificial pine needles. I need to get things straightened up and squared away and vacuumed over so that I can turn on the lights when the sun goes down and admire the handiwork of my daughter and me. And thank God for answering my prayer for patience...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

OMG... Shutterfly Rocks!!!

When I saw one of my bloggy friends, Kristin, post that she was receiving 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly just for writing a blog post, I said to myself, aloud of course, as though I were talking to someone else, "Where do I sign up?" I send cards every year, and I'll be honest ~ I have used Walgreen's for too many years to count. Not that I haven't thought of trying another company, but I had never had that extra push to do something different. FREE, however, is the one word that can get me moving no matter what the situation.

This little promotion is a way for Shutterfly to show off of the new additions to their holiday collection. I believe there are close to 1,000 different options available on their website, so all you have to do is upload the perfect pictures and let Shutterfly do the rest!

In my home every year, I love opening up the holiday cards as they come in. I have a card holder in the shape of a Christmas tree, and when I pull it out at the beginning of the season, it looks bare and sad. But by Christmas Day, my little tree is full of smiling faces and glittery cards, some of which I have to keep for good. I believe the photo card is the best route to go for families with young children these days ~ what better way to share your sweet faces with friends and family you don't see as often as you wish throughout the year.

P.S. If you'd like to get in on the fun, click here for details...






So, I've already perused through the collection of options... there are soooooo many! I have always gone for the photo stationary card, and there are several different options I was drawn to on Shutterfly's website. This one is one of my favorites. Oh, and this one, too... But I also love the idea of having multiple pictures on the card, maybe even get mine and Scott's face on it for a change, so I am drawn to this one as well. There are so many different layouts and options, the possibilities are endless! Check out the website for all the options for stationary holiday cards.


Shutterfly also offers folded cards, which I have not done with my own photos. It's more of the classic feel of a real Christmas card, but it's totally custom! I love, love, love this design, but this one is pretty awesome, too. Click here to see the entire collection of folded cards. I honestly can't decide what I'll do this season, whether I'll go with a single photo, multiple pictures, a flat or folded card. But I am convinced that whatever I decide on will be super cute!

There's also lots of of cute gift ideas such as calendars, mugs, and even Christmas ornaments with the photo of your choice. Simply upload your photos and place a simple order for a one-of-a-kind personalized gift with no trip into the crazy holiday shopping masses! The possibilities are endless...

Be sure to check out all your options for holiday cards and gift ideas at Shutterfly! And be sure to watch your mailbox for my two children's precious faces spreading holiday cheer...

P.S. If you'd like to get in on the action, click here for details...

Thanksgiving

Today, I will spend the bulk of my day preparing the home for Thanksgiving. As I type, the oven is preheating at 450 degrees for my first batch of cornbread for my dressing. I need to clean David's carpet in his room and go over all the bathrooms.

Every year since David was two, I guess, we've done Thanksgiving at our home. In the beginning, it was perhaps one of the most stressful things I had ever done. I will never forget the first time I prepped a turkey at my kitchen sink on Patti Court in Montgomery. As I read over the instructions attached to the store-bought frozen bird, I found myself saying aloud to no one but myself, "I have to put my hands WHERE???" But I did it, and I firmly believe that every woman in the world should prepare a turkey at least once in their life. It's a rite of passage, kinda like child birth. Once you've accomplished it, life feels slightly different and you are impressed with yourself.

I also remember the stress of having to orchestrate all the various food items. How to time everything just so to have it all ready at the same time. In the beginning, I made detailed lists of what to do and in what order. Now I just kinda know and don't feel the need for writing things down.

Things have changed a lot in the last seven years ~ that's how long I've been in command of Thanksgiving. I'm older. I guess one could assume I'm wiser (though that is debatable). But one thing is for sure ~ I am a lot less anxious of a person. If it's not all perfect, well, so what. If my house is not immaculate, who cares. I used to feel inadequate that I don't know how or have a desire to learn to cook giblet gravy. Now, I don't care. I buy the jarred kind, and that's just what you should expect around here at my Thanksgiving. No doubt, the rest of of my food will be tasty enough to make up for the lack of homemade gravy. Because the purpose of Thanksgiving is not to show what you can do, how much of a super woman you are, and how good your gravy is. Thanksgiving, for me, has become the holiday my kids actually look forward to because they truly enjoy it being in our home. They love it that their cousins come to eat and play. They love the feeling of the tradition, even though they don't really understand the meaning of the word. But they feel it none the less.

So, happy Thanksgiving to all. Hope your day is filled with good food, family, lots of laughter, memories, and gravy (whether homemade or jarred).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Madalyn's Taste in Boys

With David down for the count yesterday, that left plenty of opportunity for hanging one-on-one with Madalyn. And, for anyone who's spent more than five minutes around her, time with Madalyn is never short of interesting. She's spicy and sassy, and one can never predict just what she'll say next.

Last night, Scott, Madalyn, and I were sitting in the garage (yes - I said garage; ours is like a the third living room we didn't realize we needed) with Buddy and watching football. After seeing pictures of her preschool boyfriend's birthday party on Facebook, I decided to ask her something...

"So, Madalyn, do you ever think about Sam anymore?" {Sam was her dearest friend in preschool last year, her boyfriend all throughout 4K.}
"No..."
"Are you just over him?"
"Well, I think about him sometimes. But, you know, I have a boyfriend."
"How many do you have?"
She held her tiny pointer finger up, brown eyes brimming with every radiant emotion known to man. "Matthew."
"But I thought you said Grayton wanted to be your boyfriend, too?"
"I told him no way."
"But why?"
"You know........ sad faces. He gets them all the time."
At this point, I am laughing out loud, and daddy steps in to the conversation.
"That's right, baby girl. You stay away from those bad boys. Your mama had a thing for the bad boys. She picked one the first time, and just didn't have enough. So she thought she'd try again..."

Sad faces. Who knew that sad faces on your conduct folder was a part of the boyfriend picking criteria in kindergarten, but apparently it is. My question is this: at what age does it shift? At what age will she find herself drawn to the boy telling dirty jokes in the corner and chewing gum in class and picking his nose for laughs? Hopefully never. Hopefully she will continue to check their conduct folders on a regular basis to determine if they are worthy of her adoration. Hopefully.

Madalyn is all about the conduct folder, I assure you. When I go to eat lunch with her, I get the rundown on who has been naughty that day and how many sad faces so-and-so has. She's quite serious about it, and her record is blameless at this point. And, for those who have been on the phone with me during one of her many crazy tantrums, a clear conduct record seems nothing short of miraculous. But somehow, she has managed to work the system immaculately, and she expects the same out of her boyfriend. I admire her her high standards, and I pray that they work their way on up through the age bracket with the grace of a sliding scale. I pray.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Over the course if my parenthood, there have been many occasions in which I desperately wished my children came equipped with some sort of warning light. I think on the back of the back of the neck would be the perfect location. In my dreams, it would work somewhat like traffic signal. Green for all is well, yellow for sickness/accident/major tantrum up ahead, and red for down-for-the-count.

If David came tricked out with said warning light, yesterday it would have shown yellow, though throughout the day he gave no physical sign of what would come in the wee hours of the morning.

All this week, he had looked forward to attending one of his best friend's birthday party ~ a camp-out theme complete with tent in the backyard, campfire, tent, and nine other rambunctious boys. I packed up some extra clothes in case he got cold, rolled up his sleeping bag, and took him to his friend's house at 5:00. Around 11:15, just as Scott and I were walking up the stairs to go to bed, the phone rang. David yacked all in the tent. Great.

Scott headed right out to get him, and I prepared his room for a long evening. Towel on the floor, trash can with a bag inside it, extra blankets. But I really had no idea what I was in store for. At this juncture, if David had been born with that lighting system, his would have blinking bright red.

I learned something new last night ~ there are worse things to clean up than throw up. I won't get into any more detail than that. Just know that the good Lord got me through last night, and I have thanked Him over and over again for it. I am still in amazement that I didn't join David in the intestinal party he was having. At one point, I was on the verge... well, at several points.

My son can be such a little poo-poo head here lately, but last night I was reminded that he's still just a little man. And he still needs me, whether he likes to admit or not. And that I do have patience in the weirdest situations. In fact, the more strange and disgusting the situation, the more abundant my patience. Amazing. I think I can attribute that one to God as well.

So prayers for my little David who is thankfully peacefully at sleep at this moment. But I am praying that he will be able to keep fluids down when he wakes up, and that this nasty one doesn't make its way around the family on this Thanksgiving week.

Friday, November 19, 2010

In the thick or the thicket...

I'm in the thick of it right now. The thick, or should I say the thicket? The thick of life... the thirties. Seems like every which way I turn there's struggle. Weird illness, divorce, disappointment, financial strife. You name it, it's all around me. So many dear people whom mean so much to me are battling through extremely tough and life changing issues. And, if I am completely honest, it makes me question my Creator.

But in the midst of my questioning, I realize that these struggles are of the world and not of God, and that in His divine plan for us as individuals earthly strife is meant to bring forth and strengthen faith. But still, we mortals would like to believe that our faith could be strengthened equally as well by good times and the abundant life! Couldn't it????

I'm also deep in the thick of writing my first novel. I'm about two-thirds of the way through, and it's been a strange experience. Honestly, I don't believe there's an appropriate word to describe the feeling of writing. I've used this analogy in conversation ~ the feeling is similar to those first several weeks of being pregnant when no one around you can tell, yet it's all you can think about. You've got this little seed of life sprouting, growing, draining all your energy reserves, stretching your insides and changing the way you think. You certainly don't look any different, but you are different none the less. My writing has become more of an act of faith than I ever dreamed it would be. I find myself moving forward in the plot, sometimes easily, sometimes not, and constantly the little voice of insecurity is mumbling in the background, "This is so ridiculous... you're writing all this, wasting all this time... what are the odds, really, of publishing?" It takes almost as much energy to muffle the rumblings of the little insecurity devil as it does to do the writing.

All of this is coming together, I promise. I am building up to share a verse, one of my favorites:

"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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.." Jeremiah 29: 11-14

This verse just speaks to me. I am so in love with this section of the Old Testament right now - Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations. Let me preface by saying that I am no Bible scholar, simply a person who loves words and truly enjoys reading the Scriptures. I have become increasingly fascinated with God's calling of the people of Israel, how he continuously offered His love to them, His forgiveness. In my opinion, this section of the Old Testament clearly demonstrates the Father role of God, how He is trying different means to get His children's attention and draw them in to listen to Him. The same kind of philosophy many of us use as parents: Okay... let me try this and maybe my child will get it, and I really hope I don't have to go the punishment route... please get it... please.

So, this particular verse I've grown up hearing. But several weeks ago, God sent it to me in a weird way that I won't get into right now. I used to not believe in that - that God would send me a message. My conservative childhood memory of religion would not permit to accept that, but I am wising up in my old age. So God put this verse right in front of me on a day when I was feeling incredibly insecure about my direction. And I realized it's so applicable in most any situation in life. So I am trying to memorize it (not as easy to memorize these days as it was in my childhood) so that I can call on the words at any point in my life. Because no matter what we may be experiencing in life, we can all pause and repeat the verse to ourselves as a message from God.

I specifically like the last bit ~ the I will be found by you part. Not you will find me, or I will find you. I liken it to when, as a parent, we play hide-and-go-seek with our kids. We all know that an adult can easily dupe a child. We are much better thinkers than they are (most of the time, anyway). But what do we do instead? We half-hide. We make ourselves blatantly visible so that we can be found. And that's what God does for us. Even in the thicket. He's right there. We're the child playing the game, and He's begging to be found so that He can see us in the midst of our excitement of finally finding the prize.

So those are my thoughts for this morning. And I am praying that all who read these words will seek Him today... He will be found by you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Miss Madalyn

Miss Madalyn has a bit of a cold. Not such a big deal for most five-year-olds... keep on moving though the mucous flows. But I knew when I picked her up from school yesterday that it had shifted her mood. She walked out the door with a look on her face that would frighten a cat away.

In the short walk home from school, we argued about pancakes. She wanted to eat them when we got home, but I specifically purchased them for breakfast, and she had already had two that morning.

"No, Madalyn... they're for breakfast."
"Well, then, I wanna eat breakfast when I get home."
"No, you can eat them for breakfast in the morning."
"Breakfast."
"In the morning, Madalyn..."
"BREAKFAST!!!!!!!!!"

Instead, she had a bowl of cereal. Not sure what her fascination with breakfast items is all about. She played outside as long as the weather would allow her, and then she started in on me when we got inside. I asked her why she was being so ugly. Did she have a bad day? What was so wrong in her little world? My beloved answers...

"You."
"Me. It's my fault."
"Yes."
"Madalyn, you've been at school all day. I wasn't even there."
"YOU!!!!"

After a minor plastic flute throwing and breaking incident in which I maintained composure (somewhat), another issue presented itself. Madalyn's stuffy nose needed a dose of medicine, and I wanted her to come into the kitchen to take it. Ordinarily, I would take the little cup of medicine to her, but here lately, each time she takes medicine, she ends up spilling it and then says, "OOPSY!" which makes me believe it's no accident at all. The Robitussin I had dosed out for her was a deep red, and there was no way she was spilling it on my sofa or carpet. War broke out, and Madalyn was fired up. How dare I ask her to walk into the kitchen especially on a day like the one she had - one in which I ruined all her happiness and not even been in her presence!

I was in the kitchen putting dishes in the dishwasher when I heard the noise. I looked into the living room to find my lamp and two pictures on the floor beside the end table, and Madalyn picking up a pillow to put it back on the couch so as to remove the evidence that she had caused the event. In her anger, she had thrown the pillow from the couch and knocked over everything on the table beside it. I was livid. So livid that I couldn't even discipline her. It was one of the few times in my stint as a parent that the voice inside me said, "Do not spank her - you may hurt her..." And so I quietly picked her up and put her in her bed and said only these words to her: "DO NOT GET UP."

This little one... this little soul. Oh, my Lord, give me wisdom, patience, strength, and faith that you have a plan for the fire in her core. Surely there's a plan... surely there's a future direction for the vigor and life in her being.

I am happy to report that she did not get up, I did not hurt her in any way, and her daddy arrived home within a couple of minutes of the pillow-throwing incident and saw the evidence for himself still laid out on the floor. My last words to her before she closed her big brown eyes and went to sleep were, "I love you, Madalyn. Even though you were a poop-head tonight, I still love you. You can be a poop-head everyday if you want, and I will always love you. But please don't be a poop-head tomorrow - I need a break."



Monday, November 15, 2010

Rumble...

In the wee hours of the dark morning, I heard the rumble, low and deep and far away. The end of rumble shook the house and rattled the windows, and I waited to hear the little pitter against the pile of the carpet in between her room and mine. Within five seconds, there she was, piggy and blanket in hand along with a stuffed dog and lamb. Without any words, I helped her up and over my body and into the middle of the bed safely tucked beneath the covers.

Madalyn is fierce and tough and sassy and loud. Until a rumble of thunder. Whether day or night, she's frightened of the noise. During the day time, she'll find me, curl up in my lap, or ask me to stay with her. And at night, she makes her way into the bed with Mama and Daddy to keep her safe. In her defense, she sleeps in the loudest room of the house. The big double window with large arch above it doesn't put much in between her and the noise of the outdoors, and the window rattles deeply with each rumble of thunder during a storm. At almost six, she still climbs in bed at the slightest sound of thunder near or far away.

I must admit that there are nights I hear that thunder and think, "Crap... here she comes..." Madalyn is a bed hog. She has the smallest body of the family but somehow takes up the most space. She wants to get in the middle of the bed, but she likes to kick at least one leg out of the covers which interferes greatly with my strategy for keeping warm. She's a cuddle-bug that likes to lay right up against you or on top of your body, and she changes positions several times during the night. So, when Madalyn is in the bed with me, I don't get much rest.

But, there are some nights I don't mind. There are nights that I lay there listening to her breathe and enjoying the warmth of her little bitty self against me. I enjoy the furry friends she brings along for the safety of mom and dad's bed. I enjoy the fact that she wants to act so big during the day when there's no thunder, when in reality she still needs me for so much - safety from the thunder as one of those things. I like it that she's still small and innocent and my baby girl.

Last night was one of the latter. One in which I enjoyed her cuddling up with me. One in which I realized that these days are flying by so fast. That I can never get them back. That one day, sooner than I think, she won't be bothered by the rumbles of thunder that scare her so now. That she won't need me in the middle of the night or the middle of the day or to fix her lunch for school. That she won't be little. That she'll be big with big problems to help her solve. Not the simple rumbling of thunder that is solved with a hug and a cuddle.

Lord ~ protect my little girl as she grows... my precious baby girl.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The girl who had to move her name...

I went to lunch with Madalyn today at her little elementary school. When I go, I don't actually eat. I've been burned a few times with not-so-pleasant choices in the lunch line, and quite frankly, if I'm gonna pay for a lunch, it better be tasty. So I usually just sit and visit with her while she eats.

Today, as the children filed into the lunchroom with their trays and lunch boxes and took their seats in boy-girl order on the little bench attached to the table, I noticed one girl crying hysterically. I mean hysterically. Hyperventilating. Shaking. Snot pouring from the nose. Face as red as the ketchup she had on her tray to dip her corn dog in. It was bad, and neither of the teachers had made their way to the tables yet. They were still helping the kindergartners get their forks and napkins and milk. So I walked over to ask her if she was okay, to which she responded, "I don't like corn dogs..." Fair enough. I guess some people don't care for corn dogs, but I couldn't understand why a food item had induced such a harsh reaction. I was relieved to see her teacher making her way over to handle the situation. She sat and talked to her for a minute and carefully pulled the breading off of her corn dog for her. She was still beside herself, and even though her back was to me, I could see she was still struggling to catch her little breath in between sobs.

I inquired Madalyn about the little girl. "Is she having a bad day?"

"Oh, she had to move her name."

Ahhhhh... had to move her name. Got called down in the class. When lunch was over, the teacher clued me in that she had written on her table in the classroom and had to move her name on the board for the very first time in the school year. And she was destroyed because of it. Devastated. I wondered what went on in her little mind. Did she think she'd get in trouble at home? Did you shudder within from embarrassment from being called down in class in front of her friends? Did she cave inside at the notion that her image was less than perfect? I was that girl, the one who was so destroyed by a single mistake. The girl who thought the world would end if anyone around me knew I was not quite perfect.

In many ways, I've been that little girl at the lunch table squawking about corn dogs when it really something quite more serious at stake. When I knew I had blown it. When I knew that my mistake, that my sin, was bigger than I ever wanted it to be or dreamed it could be. When I thought that because of my mistakes I was somehow less lovable, less deserving of grace. When I thought that my mistakes made me a disappointment. What I am glad to walk in today is the understanding that even on the days when I have to move my name, God loves me no less, He extends even more grace, and he sees those mistakes as a chance for Him to shine through me.

So, yeah... I've had to move my name a lot on the conduct board. I've made a mistake or two or 43,000. I've been the girl, red-faced, hyperventilating, in the midst of an ugly cry about corn dogs. But I am glad to say that the ugly perfectionist in me is dying down and upward springs the realist that says, "Honey, we all move our names every now and then. But God always moves it back..."

I leaned over and told that precious little girl that I hoped her day got better. She had settled down from crying, but at the sound of my words, she cranked it back up again. I felt bad for her, but I said a little prayer for her on my way home. God bless her. God bless us all.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Compliment...

Saturday, my mom and I somehow managed to spend a few hours together sans kids. We don't get times like this often, mainly because, in general, once you have kids, most everyone in your life (your own mom included) would much rather spend time with your children than with you. But every now and again, me and my mother long for the days when we could actually have a conversation and eat lunch somewhere besides Dairy Queen.

I dropped the kids off with my mother-in-law on Friday afternoon to spend the night so my mother and I could check out the Mistletoe Market in Prattville and the Southern Homes and Gardens Christmas Open House in Wetumpka. Last year, we took the kids with us to peruse the beautifully decorated trees and left with the strangest conglomeration of ornaments that the snot-noses had to have. So this year, the idea that I would not be forced to purchase a clear plastic high-heeled Christmas ornament was beyond exciting.

We started out at the Mistletoe Market, which was basically a blend of local vendors peddling holiday wares and trinkets that any good Southern lady believes she just can't do without. I mean, who doesn't need a clear acrylic soap dispenser with your monogram appliqued on front in fancy script vinyl lettering? Who doesn't need to buy their kid a marshmallow gun made out of PVC pipe? Who doesn't need a necklace made of rolled up wallpaper bits in your choice of Alabama or Auburn team colors?

As we walked the aisles looking at the various booths full of goodies, my mother had Christmas on her mind. She is about 25 steps ahead of me this year on that note - I am planning on ignoring Christmas this year until a rather large bag of money is dropped in my lap. A local jeweler had a booth set up, and we stopped to look at all the beautiful things. They had some real stuff - silver and gold and the works - and they had some everyday stuff as well. She purchased a couple of gifts for my sisters-in-law, and we walked away to continue looking. We had looked at all the booths, and my mom wanted to walk back to the jewelry for me to point out something I might like for Christmas. And so we did, and I was drawn to things that were shiny and way overpriced for my mother's holiday budget. But that's when I was smacked in the soul with a pleasant surprise...

A lady working the booth looked at me and said these words to me: "I just wanted to tell you that you are such a beautiful woman. I noticed you when you were here a few minutes ago. You just radiate a beauty, and I like to tell people when I see that in them."

I was floored. I can't say that I have ever been paid a compliment that genuine and unexpected in my life. I'm sure at some point in my life many foolish young boys have told me I was cute or pretty or hot or whatever. But for a woman to pay you a compliment, well, just seems quite different. It feels real somehow. When a man thinks you're attractive or beautiful, a woman always assumes there's some sort of ulterior motive involved.

This stranger had no idea how much I needed to hear the words. She didn't have a clue that I have gained ten pounds in the past few months and can't button any of my jeans. She didn't realize that my legs have been covered in this weird and awful looking rash on my legs since coming down with strep a few weeks ago. She really had no clue the insecurity that plagues me as I notice the little lines beginning to settle in around my mouth and eyes and the gray hairs emerging in the sea of dark brown. She was not privy to the endless dialogue of negative talk that streams my conscious thought. She just thought something - a beautiful thought about me, a stranger - and decided to share it out loud.

It got me thinking how the world would be different if we shared these thoughts on a consistent basis. If we dared to say the things that bubble over in our heart but we would typically be too afraid to speak. I mean, why not? What do you have to lose by simply saying something nice? Someone might think I were crazy, but that wouldn't be a first for me.

So, I think I have a new goal. To share positive tidbits with others along the way as the Spirit moves me... anybody else wanna join me?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Yesterday... one of the best days in a while...

After a second trip to doc-in-the-box on Wednesday, a steroid shot in the rump, and a filled prescription of a decongestant/antihistamine with the longest list of warnings I've ever seen on a prescription, I woke up feeling a little more refreshed than I had in two weeks yesterday. On my birthday. My 34th. The time is drawing nigh that I will skirt around the number, but for now, I am pretty proud of 34. I guess. But that's not where I am going with this post...

I needed my energy yesterday for on the agenda was a big trip to Ft. Toulouse with David's school. I was excited to go especially since I spent most of my childhood in Alabama just a short distance from the Fort and had never crossed through the gates. We loaded the charter bus at 7:00 and headed southeast to Wetumpka, Alabama to surround ourselves with history. I was assigned two other boys to chaperon, given a map and questions to answer throughout the day, and we were set off to explore.

I must say that I enjoyed it thoroughly. Seeing anything through the eyes of three 9 year old boys is entertaining, but add in muskets and cannons firing sporadically during the day and that brings a whole other element to things. We'd be right in the midst of pioneer men starting fire with flint and iron, a musket would fire in the distance, and the three little heads would start spinning and saying in chorus, "Was that the cannon? Was that a gun? Where is it? Where's it coming from?" Thankfully, we were able to view the musket firing from close up, watched men making ammunition, a lady dying yarn, a man carving wood (and speaking in Native Indian tongue for us - fascinating man, perhaps the most fascinating one there to me), Indians shooting their handmade bow and arrows, women cooking in pioneer fashion complete with wooden bowls and adobe oven. There were lots of animal furs to handle and beg mom to buy for you - cause you know every home needs a coyote fur on the coffee table in the living room.

It was a great day, and the best part of the trip was the fact that all three boys kept looking at one another and at me and repeating this phrase all day long: "THIS IS THE BEST FIELD TRIP EVER!!!"

Shortly after I arrived home, I got the best news ever. I hadn't mentioned the fact that my mom had scans scheduled for yesterday. I had attempted many posts in the past week, but for some reason I struggled with getting my words out. When I know the scans are near, I sort of go into this place in my soul - this quiet place, this I know I shouldn't worry but I can't help it place, this place that just wants to be silent sometimes because if I don't speak it or write it then it must not be so. This time around, I just couldn't bear the thought of more spots. My personal prayer to God was please nothing new. And I am beyond elated to report that there's nothing new. No major change in what was already present, but the fact that there are no new spots tells the radiologist and the oncologist (combined with good blood labs over the past few months) that things are moving in the right direction!

My heart leaps for joy! A rush of relief went through my body and soul when my father called to tell me the news. I could tell by the tone of his voice before he reported a detail that the news was good. I am happy for my mother - that she can continue on the current treatment that has her feeling relatively well and living a normal life. I am so happy for my father who I know has been ready to hear some good news about his bride. I am just plain happy!

So thank you, Lord, for the best birthday ever! No fancy gifts, no frills and thrills, but a life full of happiness and love!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The one about Halloween...


Another Halloween come and gone. Another search for costumes. Another eating through the first couple of bags of Halloween candy only to have to go out and buy more the week of the actual event. Another ride around and freeze your booty off after the sweat has barely had time to dry on your skin from the October Alabama afternoon. Another trick. And too many treats.

Last night, we got dressed and went to our friends' home in another neighborhood along with several families from our baseball team and some other poor, unsuspecting people that were asked to join us and actually thought it would be a good idea. My friend, Ker
ri, had made chili and hot dogs, and the rest of us were instructed just to bring something. It must be 100% accurate that great minds think alike because nearly all of us invited decided to bring cupcakes. There were various icing and decorating styles, but they were all cupcakes nonetheless, and I promise that they multiplied - not disappeared - as the evening progressed.

Our friends always find a trailer and hitch it behind their truck, and we drive around the neighborhood tricking and treating and having a ball. This year, the trailer was full of little goblins who were chomping at the bit to go out and beg for strangers to give them candy. Does Halloween not go against all that we teach our children is reasonable and right? Anywho...

Madalyn looked adorable in her pretty pink witch ensemble. I did manage to get a couple of pictures which proved to be no easier for this event than normal. Why on earth would I expect it to be any different? This year, the sun was in her madame's eyes, and then she stepped in ants, and it really just went all downhill from there. And David, the bloody masked murderer, was really too cute to claim to be a murderer. Maybe he should have said he was one of those really handsome and charming serial killers - you know, the one that lives ne
xt door and no one suspects.

We made it home with the finest batch of Halloween candy I've seen to date. I'm talking about the good stuff, people, not the wax-papered peanut butter flavored chews. I'm talking Snickers, Twix, Butterfingers. I was amazed. The homes we visited spared no expense this ye
ar. One house in particular had a couple of disturbed teenagers in the front yard chasing children around with a weed eater and a shovel while dressed in incredibly awful masks. Even I
shuddered a little at the sound of that shovel dragging across the concrete. It's an eerie sound, folks, no matter how old you are or not-scared you claim to be.

All in all, Halloween turned out to be a success. For the kids. Me, on the other hand, have already gained 25 pounds just from sorting the candy and taking in the smell of all that fantastic chocolate. I also woke up with heartburn in the middle of the night last night I would assume from grazing for twenty minutes at the food table after our trick-or-treat excursion. But I wouldn't trade these good times and great memories with my kids for anything. At least, I don't guess I would...

The past few days...

I've been in a weird frame of mind the last few days. On Thursday afternoon, our little community learned of the loss of a young man at his own hand. Sixteen. The world ahead of him, and he chose to end it all. I never met him, never saw his face, don't know anything about him, yet he haunts me. As a parent, how can the loss of someone so young not haunt you?

I haven't had much close experience with suicide in my life. My ex-husband's mother took her life years before I met him. Of course the actual event didn't effect me, but the fact that he lied to me for a year about the circumstances surrounding her death was bothersome, though I understood why. And once I found out that she committed the act in the house in which he still lived, it was a little creepy to walk past the room where I knew his mother died. About six years ago, my ex-husband's oldest brother chose the same path of exit, and he shot himself behind a bar in Montgomery. Around the same time, a guy I knew through the church youth group during high school chose to end his life. Then, of course, a little over a year ago, a friend of mine was found blue and non-responsive but brought back to full capacity by the ER staff.

My friend's attempt was one of those life changing deals - one of those things you could never forget even if you tried with all your might. I will never forget the weekend I spent with her talking to her, trying to help her see that life can go on despite huge disappointments and losses. That each day can be a fresh beginning. That her children deserved a mom here on earth to hug them and love them as only a mother can. And yet she tried it anyway. I will never forget the moments beside her bed, the way she looked, sitting indian style in the grass outside the hospital with her cousin and mother. I will never forget. But I can't say that I've forgiven her yet, and that is a forgiveness that might take quite some time. It's very hard to forgive a fellow-mother for wanting to leave her children behind, though I know the Good Lord requires me to do so.

But a child... sixteen. I remember sixteen. Driving. Freedom. A lot of angst, a lot of uncertainty, but a lot of fun. And my heart breaks to know that there are little souls out there that believe there's no hope for them. That there's no freedom. That there's no driving force behind them. And it makes me want to pull both my little babies under my wings, tuck them in, and hold them there forever for safekeeping. Never let them go. But I know they would never stay. Instead, I have to wrap them with something that they aren't capable of understanding fully right now but that can sustain them if they try to accept it in their heart and continue to grow - God's love and hope and peace for them. His mercy and forgiveness.

Seeing this happen right under my nose in our ordinary, sleepy suburb reminds me of my never-ending, deeper than the ocean responsibility to my children. And it reminds me that even if I do all I can do while they are young, there will come a day when their choices and life path is out of my control.