I recently had an encounter with a young person who was so distraught they couldn’t speak, and I seriously thought someone had either died or was seriously injured. After the sobbing ended and they were able to speak, I was told the reason for the emotional meltdown was due to missing a person they had recently broken up with.
Let me tell you, the almost 5 minutes of watching the flood of tears, the erratic breathing, and the possibilities of what could possibly be wrong going through my head - was almost causing me to have an anxiety attack; so when I learned a breakup was the cause, I felt a bit of relief.
We talked and hugged, and I reminded them if they ever need me, I’m always available – that’s the great thing about cell phones – no matter where you are, you can be found…a blessing and a curse at times, really!
While driving to work the following day and thinking about the conversation, my first thought was, “Thank God everyone is ok” then, “Yikes, that was a lot of emotion over a breakup”; and then I remembered the devastation of my first crush all those years ago and all of a sudden I totally understood the level of emotion shown the previous day. Everything seemed so intense back then; and whoever coined the phrase, “These are the best years of your life” couldn’t possibly have attended high school. I had some good times in high school don't get me wrong, and I still cherish some of the friends I made back then; but "the best years of my life"? No so much.
I do however, try really hard to remember how I felt when living through the various seasons of life. It's so important that others recognize they're not alone and even more important that we don't give the impression that we know everything or that, as adults, we've forgotten what it was like to feel those intense emotions. I don’t ever want to become that person who sounds as if they’ve never had an issue or life just always worked out for them; or the person who makes it sound like they always did the right thing - because the moment we stop remembering – we no longer relate to those around us; and the moment we stop relating, we stop making a positive difference in our world.
My life has been a series of learning experiences. Some longer than others, some more difficult, some I’d rather never talk about again, and others I’d like to relive. Then you have those moments as an adult, when a song takes you back to that special night when you were 15 at a dance, swaying back and forth with the guy wearing the coolest white pants (Hey, it was the 80’s and they were cool!); or when your sister-in-law asks you if you’d like a piece of Big Red gum and you have to decline because you haven’t chewed a piece since breaking up with the boy with whom you shared your first kiss…which causes a fit of laughter that has given another wonderful memory.
This breakup discussion has left me feeling so many things; but most important is the joy I feel being thankful for many lessons learned, the countless wonderful people who've crossed my path and those who continue to make me smile.
Truth is defined as, “The state of being true”. True is defined as, “in accordance with fact or reality.” Feeling is defined as, “an emotional state or reaction.”
So often we allow our feelings to dictate our actions. I’ve done this for years. I’ve acted and reacted to things I believed about myself and allowed those feelings to keep me trapped in a world of not feeling good enough; and as I look back over my life, I missed out on some wonderful experiences and opportunities. The truly sad thing is, after taking a long and hard look at what I felt, what filled my head wasn’t truth. It was my reaction to how I felt. I had to dig deep, I had to rid my thoughts of negativity, and I had to find the truth - find what really defined me. I found that truth, in looking to the one who created me.
Sadly, we are still very much a Country divided. The truth is, no matter who is in the White House, it is you and I who have control over how we react. If we take a moment to think before we speak, and if we listen to hear each other, instead of listening to respond, we can make our part of the world better; and just think if we all did that – how different the entire country would be! You see, it really is each individual response that allows us to collectively create change.
I have, and will continue to pray for our Country and the unity of its people. I will also share with you...there is nothing that will make you feel better than learning the truth of who you are with Jesus as the center of your life.
While waiting for the iced tea I ordered and my friend to arrive at the restaurant, I couldn’t help but hear the commotion going on in the booth behind me. I also felt the commotion as a child was not only screaming at the top of her lungs, but kicking the seat behind me; our booths were attached, so I felt every blow.
My tea arrived, and I realized after the waitress left, the normal sweetener options were absent. I decided I would grab some from an adjacent table, but just as I was ready to get up, a blood curdling scream came from behind me. That scream was due to the fact that the French fries accompanying her meal were not to her liking. There was nothing anyone could do to stop the noise.
People were glancing in the direction of the screaming, a man glared over at the table and shaking his head made an audible comment about people controlling their children, and I heard the mother of that child say, “Honey, these nice people just want to eat their dinner in peace, it’s ok, try them.” This caused an even louder protest and she finally said, “Just take her out, I’ll get to-go containers and pay”, and then in more of a pleading voice said, “Please…. take her out now.”
Dad left with a screaming child in his arms, and his head bent down as not to make eye contact with the dozens of eyes now staring his way. Mom motioned for the waitress and asked for containers as, “My daughter isn’t being a very good girl and we will just eat at home.”
Mom was left to wait for the check, alone.
I decided now was a good time to get the sweetener and as I turned around, I watched this young momma as she pushed the contents of her plate into the foam dish. Of course, she was going to have to eat that food cold when she got home, and there was a good chance it would be much later than she would have hoped. I saw her fighting back tears and the look of almost despair on her face and before I knew it ...
“Excuse me.” I said.
“Yes?” She replied, catching her breath awaiting my, what she was sure would be criticism.
“Anyone who has had children has been exactly where you are at one time or another and guess what? We all survived…and you will too.”
For a moment she said nothing and I began to question whether I should have said anything; but then, in one continuous breath she said, “Really, because I was just sitting here wondering what I’m doing and what I was thinking wanting to stay home and yet I know, next year when I have to go back to work, I’ll be questioning if that was the right decision and I’ll miss her…she really can be a sweet girl.”
I smiled and said, “Yes, they have a way of driving us crazy one minute and melting our hearts the next. Trust me, you are not alone, and really – enjoy her…I have four and it doesn’t feel like it now, but the time goes by so fast.”
She forced a smile and I grinned saying, “Hey, I’m proof! I lived through four boys…and you’ll get through this too, I promise.” She genuinely smiled saying, "thank you" and I returned to my seat.
My friend arrived just as the sweet, tired momma exited the restaurant and we started chatting ninety miles an hour as we typically do. She told me a story of her now college aged child saying, “One minute I wanted to kill him and the next I was praying he was alright!” It was at that moment, I realized a few things…
When children are little we are worried that we are totally screwing them up, that they will never learn how to eat without food going everywhere and they certainly will not know how to use the toilet properly.
Then they get a little older and we hope they remember the envelope that you’ve reminded them about ten times and after dropping them off at school, receive a frantic call two hours later because it’s picture day and guess what? The envelope of money is still on the counter where they left it.
A few more years pass and you hope they really heard the talk about treating others kindly, and as you read the horror stories of bullying, you watch them roll their eyes at you as you, once again explain how once words are said, they can’t be taken back.
And then before you know it, they are getting married, and going to college and joining the Army, and getting their very own place to live and starting high school; and you realize it seems like it was just last week, you were the woman sitting in the restaurant booth, silently hoping she could melt into the vinyl seat because her child won’t stop screaming that the applesauce touched the mash potatoes.
I left the restaurant in just enough time to pick up our youngest to get him to basketball practice. The entire ride, asking him questions about his day… did he get his homework done and his gym shirt out of the dryer, because it will be late when he gets home from practice…did he decide yet if he liked Spanish or German better, and commenting how he will certainly have more of an opportunity to use Spanish in the future…. adding that it will look great on a resume’; and I couldn’t help but laugh when he said, “Mom – I got this…it’s all good.”
And that’s the thing…it may not always be how we really wish we would do it. It may not go as smoothly, or near as quietly as we hope; but guess what...every moment gives us the opportunity to start fresh.
If you're the momma crying in the booth because your little one was just carried out kicking and screaming; once they are sleeping after the hissy fit, look at the sweet face and allow the love you have for them to push out the moments of chaos; and if you’re the Momma who knows it goes by far too quickly, I encourage you to be kind to those young, struggling moms you see throughout your travels, maybe remind them that you too are living proof, they will survive.
Whether you need to hear you’ll make it through, or need to chat because your “littles” are now big; one thing is certain…we all need each other.
After a frustrating morning of fighting traffic, I wanted to stop for a medium Diet Coke and three chocolate chip cookies at McD’s, (yes, this is my breakfast sometimes – please don’t judge), but being so engrossed in the traffic that I just drove to my work parking lot; I wasn’t surprised as I sat down at my desk to notice two big white spots on my stockings. Yes, I said stockings, and No, I don’t like wearing them but believe it or not, it’s part of the dress code. I just stared at them for a moment and wondered what else was going to happen as clearly this was, “One of those days”. I decided I would have to go out at lunchtime and fight the traffic for a second time to grab a new pair, and I wasn’t happy about it.
As I went on with the endless typing, I periodically looked down, saw the spots, and each time got a little more irritated. Not only did I not want to go out at lunch, this was the third pair of stockings I’d gone through in one week! For those of you who don’t know, this is a big deal; not only is it a pain to find a brand you like, but unless you find them on sale and with coupons, they’re like six or seven dollars a pair, and one thumb placed incorrectly while putting them on, can ruin them before you’ve even begun your day.
While standing at the copier, a co-worker asked what I was doing for lunch; and after telling her she looked down and said, “What spots?” I went to point them out and did a double take. They weren’t there! I looked at the other leg and sure enough, nothing. Weird. She then rolled her eyes and shook her head smiling. We laughed it off and I went back to my desk.
I continued working, but still confused at the situation, I looked down and sure enough…the spots were back! This time I moved my leg to get a better look and they disappeared. I moved again and it was this time I realized the “spots” were created by the sun peeking through the shades behind me! I was now the one rolling my eyes and shaking my head.
I spent a good part of the morning being irritated about something that didn’t actually exist. The sun was peeking through and I was so wrapped up in the spots sadly, I didn’t even see it! I then realized this was a very real example of life. Often I have fretted about something because of how it appeared, and yet when all was said and done, the outcome was not at all what I had imagined. I also realized that many times the “spots” of life are the very things, which once worked through, allow me to see more clearly.
We all have "spots", real or imagined. How much better life would be if we would take the time, prior to getting irritated, to examine them - making sure they really exist before we waste precious time that could have been better spent basking in the sun.
Seriously? Two skirts, three shirts, two dresses and two cardigans were strewn over the bed in my room; and I still couldn’t decide what to wear. I was going to work for goodness sake, not some fancy party. There are rare occasions when uniforms seem like such a good idea; and then I’m reminded uniforms typically include terrible shoes and immediately that thought is erased from my mind.
While sitting on the bed, staring at the pile of clothing I would now have to put away when I get home from work, I couldn’t help but realize how that pile represented my feelings lately. Each piece being a different emotion, each emotion piled on top of another, none of which I wanted as part of my day. Please know, I recognize how truly blessed I am; and I am aware that life could be much worse. There are however, times when I’m just not sure what to do with the thoughts and feelings I find myself wrestling with.
October for me is an emotional roller coaster. My birthday is in the first week – which includes fun times with my family, for which I am extremely grateful. Then, the day of my mom’s passing is just five days later, and a few weeks after that, would have been my Dad’s birthday. Sure, they’re just days on a calendar, but each of those days causes reflection and brings with it mixed emotions. Add to this the fact that we’ve had some difficult issues present themselves within our lives; have also made some significant personal changes; and although I know some of these changes needed to be made, it doesn’t make the process easier. And that’s when it hit me … I’m looking for easy. Unfortunately as the saying goes, life isn’t easy; and taking this a step further, change isn’t even close to easy.
Life experience however has shown me, the seasons of struggle and uncertainty, have also been seasons where I’ve grown the most personally and spiritually. We won't grow if we aren't willing to be uncomfortable in the process, because inevitably something a little messy is bound to show itself as needing to be tended to.
This reminder made me realize I have two options. I can either continue to be sidetracked and allow my feelings to keep me caught up in the moments that I really have no control over, or I can recognize I need to continue moving forward, so I’m able to live out the life God has for me. I need to be mindful of those around me; but I must also recognize we are each on our own journey. I need to stay in my own lane, certainly encouraging those alongside me, but recognizing when it comes to their race – I can only be a cheerleader….and that’s exactly what I’ll continue to be.
So I pick my "go to" black skirt, a white top and gray cardigan. Blah and boring until my sassy gray boots with the cute little bow are added … and that's when my day really begins.
“Well, she just needs to get over it.”
Words said by someone sharing the same waiting room as I. The conversation continued as my name was called and I followed the nurse, exiting the room. I find it interesting when those on their cell phones, carry on with conversations as if no one else exists. I’ve heard many things I really don’t want to know, and have actually had to suppress laughter because of something shared.
As I waited for the doctor I sat thinking about what she said. Of course, I have no idea what needed to be gotten over; but I do know in the past I’ve said, and have also been on the receiving end of, “just get over it.” I will also tell you, it’s something I don’t typically say anymore.
We each have different tolerances, hot buttons, and stress points. What causes me to be upset may leave someone else wondering why I would be worked up by something so trivial.
One of my boys can see a Daddy Long Leg Spider, pick it up, allow it to crawl on his arm, and set it gently down on the ground. Another, is deathly afraid of spiders, and a Daddy Long Leg will send him flying out of his seat faster than anything you’ve seen. Is one right or wrong? I don’t think so. I do wish I could figure out what caused him to fear spiders but hey, I don’t like thousand leggers and I don’t ever remember there being a traumatic event leading up to it – they just creep me out.
I’ve learned it’s really easy to be on the outside looking in on other people’s situations and believe we know what should be said and done; and I’ve also learned, unless I’m in the midst of a problem, I must be very careful before I offer a quick, flippant response as to how it should be handled.
The phrase, "Don't judge. Behind every person there's always a reason they are the way they are", is so true. It's important to remember that we really don't know what others have gone through or endured. Maybe someone needs validation, maybe they are clinging to something because of a loss, maybe they're dealing with bitterness and are in need a loving friend to help them with these feelings or maybe they don't even realize they are in the midst of destructive behavior. I've learned that if I’ve weathered a storm and see someone else is in the same boat, I should be willing to share my experience so they don’t feel alone and so maybe I can lessen the length of theirs.
We may not be able to calm their storm, but we can certainly offer a life preserver and float along with them until the clouds have passed, and the sun shines once again.
I watched the clock as it moved from one number to the next, wondering if I should just get out of bed, as sleep was avoiding me. It was one of those nights that no matter what I did, or didn’t do, I ended up either staring at the ceiling listening to the hum of the air conditioner or checking the time to realize only three minutes had passed. Typically there are two types of people when it comes to stress– either you want to sleep all of the time to avoid it, or you can’t sleep at all and continually think about it. Then there’s those who, “aren’t able to eat a thing”, and those who eat everything they can get their hands on; sadly, I’m the latter on both counts. I’ve gotten better since I realized neither one of these things is very good for me but trust me, it’s a struggle and I’m certain I’ll be writing another blog someday about it. I wish I would be telling you what I finally did to fall asleep and that I woke up well rested and ready to face the day. Instead I will tell you I faded in and out of sleep until I finally got up at 4:30 am; and by 2:00 the next afternoon I needed a nap and drank two cups of tea allowing the caffeine to do its thing.
I’m surrounded by friends and family who are enduring some very difficult life situations, I’m questioning what the future will look like, I’m struggling with the reason certain things happen, and I’m questioning why… a lot. Once again, I wish I would be telling you I’ve figured it out and there is one simple thing to do that will make it all work out and make sense; unfortunately, as a very wise man said to me this afternoon, “We won’t see the big picture this side of Heaven so I trust that God has it under control,” which was followed by, “I try not to allow myself to get wrapped up in the why.”
I realized as I thought about my near sleepless night, I wasn’t just listening to the hum of the air conditioner. I was silently questioning God without actually talking to Him about any of it, and then I realized, that’s where I went wrong. Each one of us has a choice when faced with circumstances that we don’t understand or are out of our control; we can fret over them and allow them to consume every moment; or we can give them to the one who does have it all in control.
I will never know the reason for every life event. I do however know, that God is good – all the time; and I will trust Him in both the calm and the storm, knowing it is only He who can get me through.
I received the news of the passing of my sweet Sister-in-law’s Mother, and couldn’t help but be saddened knowing the emotion she will experience from this loss. We only spent bits of time with her mom at family gatherings throughout the years, and I didn’t really know her on a personal level; but I watched her youngest daughter not only care about, but care for her mother, and the beauty of her selflessness is certainly a reflection of the Godly home she grew up in.
There are ten children in her family. Yes, I said ten; and “close blood relatives" number almost one hundred! While attending the viewing we heard various people sharing their affiliation and fond memories; and one women in particular was asked if she was a family member. All I heard her say, because she continued walking in another direction was, “Oh, not by blood”. I would have loved to hear what exactly she meant. I didn’t think about that statement again until I found myself lying in bed unable to fall asleep.
I too have many, “Oh, not by blood” family members. I smiled as I thought about the people whose friendships have changed my life, those who no matter how long it’s been we’re able to reconnect the moment we begin talking; and those whom we connect so well that I really believe somehow one of us was taken away at birth.
It was at that moment, I realized something else. I have countless, “unbiological, but still connected by blood family”; and almost instantly, the tension I was feeling began to fade. You see, those whom are believers in the saving power of the Cross; well, we’re eternally connected by the blood of Christ. This bond isn’t broken by how many miles apart we may be; nor does it grow weaker if we attend different churches. Our connection is a cord of three strands that cannot be broken because we have the common ground of Jesus, and there’s nothing stronger. So although I may not see my “unbiological, but still connected by blood family” quite as often as I used to, we are still family; and we have the promise of Eternity to look forward to.
There were six cars in front of me as I reached for my security tag. Checking the side pocket of my purse, having no luck and feeling annoyed, I opened the large compartment. Nothing. Realizing I needed to get it quickly as there were now only three cars in front of me; I carefully open the second compartment and that’s when I realized I must have forgotten it. I then recognized I would have to press the dreaded “Assistance” button as I approached the gate. Without my ID, I must buzz Security, prove who I am by reciting my employee id number, give my supervisors name, and wait for the “all clear” as the barrier gate arm then rises, allowing me to pass through; all while a line of cars forms behind me. I know that someone in that line is saying to themselves, “Really, you know you need your ID – why don’t you have it ready?” I know this is the case because I have said that very thing as I’ve waited for someone who has misplaced their tag. In the future, I will certainly be more patient.
The moment the arm began its upward journey, I was through the gate. It then dawned on me that I also needed it to enter my building. Although I typically am surrounded by people, this morning I was alone and had to wait at least four to five minutes for someone to arrive allowing me to enter behind them. I got to my area, unlocked the door, plopped my purse and bag down on the desk; and proceeded to go downstairs to the café for a much needed cup of hot tea. I normally make my own, but this morning I needed “Barista made vanilla chai.”
Upon returning with my steaming cup of vanilla goodness; I moved my purse and saw, much to my surprise, my ID tag - neatly tucked in the holder that is clipped to the handle of my purse so that I don't need to search for it at the gate. I shook my head and rolled my eyes. My first thought being, “Of course. Of course it’s right there, where it belongs, just waiting for me to grab it.” My second thought was, “I could have saved myself some irritation and about 11 minutes and then; I couldn’t help but think, what else have I overlooked because I haven’t taken the time needed to see what is right in front of me?”
I’m typically an observer. I like to watch things and get a feel for what’s going on before I jump in and “do”; but I’ve also become a “doer”, so if I see a problem and either know, or are told the solution, I want to get it done so that I/we can move forward. Not everyone is like this, and not everyone appreciates this. I’m still trying to find the balance - better than I used to be - but still a work in progress.
Sometimes we don't see things because we're in too much of a hurry and aren’t focused. Sometimes we don't see things because we simply don’t want to.
There are times when truly seeing what's happening in our lives means we have to take action; and sometimes taking action is uncomfortable, and sometimes it's downright hard. It may seem easier to ignore an issue. The problem with ignoring is, just as I did without my ID, we end up getting stopped at "gates" in life and can't pass through until we take the time to see everything in front of us and deal with it.
The rhythmic song of the waves had me breathing deeply, and thanking God for this special time of rest, relaxation and spending time with family. There’s something about the seashore that allows me to totally unwind. After basking in the sun, it was time to visit those beautiful waves in an attempt to get cool in the 94 degree weather.
By the time I maneuvered through the beach towels, past the umbrellas and those who were reading books or listening to music, I was once again, in awe of the vast ocean before me. I stood enjoying the young children who chased the waves, squealing with delight as their feet got wet and running as fast as they could as not to be enveloped by them. I watched mothers trying desperately to guard their children against wading in too far and getting struck by a wave; and couldn’t help but smile as the fathers encouraged those same children to “get in there and dive in the wave because they certainly won't drown”.
I stood, enjoying the cool of the water as the waves weren’t rough and got caught up in the view. It wasn’t until I saw a larger wave coming towards me that I recognized it would break exactly where I was standing. I then realized my feet had not only been covered by sand, but were firmly planted; and the wave and I collided. I quickly unearthed my feet, removed the sand with the next wave that wasn’t quite so up close and personal, and stood there for a moment wondering how I didn’t see it coming. I was right there, I was aware of everyone around me; but I wasn’t aware of every thing around me. I had gotten used to the sound of the waves, I had gotten comfortable with the temperature of the water, and I was so wrapped up in what everyone was doing, I didn’t see the wall of water about to knock me over.
How often it is with life. We get so caught up in the everyday happenings, the crazy schedules, the sports practices, the appointments. We don’t realize some of those very things that we’ve gotten so used to, (I call it “controlled chaos”), may actually be gearing up to collide and we find ourselves standing there, wondering what just happened?
With that controlled chaos about to get a little more chaotic as school will be starting in a couple of weeks; I’ve decided I have to be more mindful and more intentional with how time is spent. I need some more quiet time; and certainly more time for special moments, leisurely talks; and maybe, just maybe the wave won’t so easily catch me unaware - as there is sure to be another one, and it may not necessarily be at the beach.
“I don’t know what I want to do and I don’t know how to figure it out," he said with a sigh.
After watching our waitress make some of the best guacamole we’ve ever had, my husband and two of our boys got into a discussion about careers. Our last son is about to enter high school. It’s hard to believe my “baby”, who is already taller than me, is four short years away from being an adult. It’s harder to hear his confusion as to what path his life should take, especially when I’m just learning what my own “life purpose” is. How much easier would it be if we could have our life experience before we have to decide what we want to do with our life?
He expressed his thoughts, talked about what he likes and doesn’t like to do, and even realizes that what he enjoys doing is more of a hobby than something able to sustain him through life and possibly having a family. He’s seen the struggle his parents have had and the limitations of not having college degrees and thankfully he understands the need to obtain one (not to mention that his parents have told him he absolutely NEEDS to get one. – Sadly, it doesn’t matter what that degree is in, you need it to get your foot in the door almost anywhere nowadays). He’s taken the personality tests and the class telling him his strengths and weaknesses and yet, he’s still at a loss. We’ve joked that he should become a chiropractor or a mechanic, for selfish reasons of course, and we’ve shared in his frustration of being at a loss.
This isn’t a decision we can make for him. Sure, we can guide him; but ultimately he has to choose or he won’t be fulfilled and happy and that’s all we want for him. He's gotten the “You can choose any job but you absolutely must live “within the means” of that job lecture all the boys have heard – if you make $10.00 an hour then you have to be ok with having a $10/hr car and a $10/hr apartment/house because you’ll get in a lot of trouble and deal with a lot of stress if you’re making $10/hr and spending like you make $20. We told him that if he’s a good person, if he’s helping others, if he’s living with God’s purpose for his life as the center, a $10/hr life is absolutely fine with us because ultimately, that’s all that will matter when this life is over and we pass on to the next….did we live our life having a positive effect on our world and those around us, did we show others God’s love by how we treated them, did we recognize it’s not about the paycheck it’s about the people?
We also told him to be realistic because things do cost money…a lot of money sometimes - but the money can’t be his motivation. A full bank account and “stuff” won’t, in fact CAN’T, take the place of family and friends or the memories made with them.
So we left the restaurant believing we gave no real answer to his question. We only told him that we suggest he do what we do in reference to his future…pray about it, a lot; because the sooner he figures out God’s purpose for his life, the sooner he’ll find peace with the decisions he makes and that's when I realized, that suggestion is the best answer we could have given.
Now, a fever? Really? Two days away from heading to “Adventure Camp” with our church youth group and my son wasn’t feeling well. He, like his mother, has issues with dehydration and we’ve found it’s amazing what your body can do, (or should I say can’t do), when you don’t give it proper fluids. Light headed and pale, I wondered if he would even be able to go. I was certain the heat and his lack of taking me seriously when I say “Take a water bottle with you”, was probably the cause. Strange thing though, when we discussed the possibility of him not being able to go, he almost seemed to feel a bit better. I wasn’t sure if I should send him. To make a long story short, he was a bit anxious about the caving and more anxious about white water rafting. After discussing his physical symptoms, some encouraging words from the best Youth Group Leaders ever; and Tom & I assuring him that he was probably in better hands with them (An ER Doctor and an RN), we decided he would go. With bags packed, hugs given and a reminder that his Momma would be “Praying like crazy” (especially when they were going rafting), he was off on his West Virginia adventure.
It was nice to get the updates from the leaders via text message. The quick evening phone calls telling us what fun they had were good to hear, but the real benefit from the trip was revealed when he got home.
After hearing about the high ropes course, the cave having a passageway only big enough to do an Army Crawl though, and the stories of one of the rafts flipping over, I asked him what his “take away” was. He told us he’d learned that everyone struggles with something and we have to be careful not to think that someone else’s struggle is silly or foolish just because it’s not a struggle for us. We need to learn to help each other through and not think we are better than them. We’re not better, we just aren’t dealing with that issue – we have our own. - All I could do was agree.
He then said, “Mom, while we were rafting, three dragonflies came and landed on me – right ON me!” (** side note: I love dragonflies. In fact, my logo is a dragonfly and someday I may just have to explain why in a post.) I smiled and then he said, “I knew you must have been praying really hard right at that moment and God gave me a reminder with the dragonflies. I just knew it had to be you praying and said “Yup, my Mom’s praying right now!” He continued to tell me how he felt better and ended up being the only one in his boat who didn’t fall out at one time or another. It took everything in me not to tear up.
Once again, we both learned some life lessons because of a trip he went on. I learned its ok to encourage my children to do things they are fearful of in hopes that they recognize not to allow fear to paralyze them, keeping them from living life to its fullest; I learned my children are much more observant than I ever thought as I’ve never really talked to him about what a dragonfly represents for me; and I was reminded that God has an amazing way of giving us what we need, when we need it, to help us through.
God meets us right where we are – whether it’s in a dark cave, the white water rapids of West Virginia, a difficult job situation or a struggling relationship – He’s there, just waiting for us to see Him and rely on His strength to get us through.
The silver bowl was beautifully polished, filled with ice, and various beverages were placed inside. The hustle of the wait staff preparing the table caught my attention as they placed plates draped with linen onto a table. Silver card holders were used to identify the assortment of food items and the individual jars of honey for hot tea were just darling. The lunch buffet was quite pleasing to the eye.
The hotel where I’m staying for work isn’t typical for me as this is “Luxury” and I’m used to more of the Holiday Inn kind. My room is incredibly spacious and has a lovely chandelier hanging in the center. The television screen is personalized with my name welcoming me and the assortment of fruit and chocolate was a nice touch. Everything about this hotel is accommodating. Really accommodating – ask for anything and you will have it in less than ten minutes.
I spent the day in a room that had the most beautiful crown molding and ceiling engravings, candelabras lined the walls - the entire length of the room, and the antique door handles were beautiful. The vintage wood floors have been finished with a high gloss but you can still see nicks and scratches which give it remarkable character; if these floors could talk, how interesting the conversation would be! The hallway floors are exquisite marble, some of the furniture is clearly still original from the early 1900’s, and the time spent creating it is evident in the intricate wood carvings. I could spend an entire day browsing the various areas, taking in the extraordinary architecture and don’t even get me started on the library!
At the conclusion of the meetings, and after dinner when our day is through, I go to my room where a butler has turned down my sheets, placed slippers next to my bed and given me a reminder of calling if I need anything. It is luxury at its best and yet it’s silent and I’m sitting alone on a bed that has sheets which most likely have a higher thread count than all the sheets I own put together! It is beautiful, it is more extravagant than any place I’ve ever stayed, and yet I find myself hoping the next twenty-hour hours go quickly. I’m certainly thankful for the experience as I would never have the opportunity to stay in such a place on my own. I am however reminded – all these little touches that create a luxurious atmosphere, all the attention from the staff willing to cater to my every need, just don’t compare to the genuine smiles of those I love greeting me after a long day of work, the amenities don’t provide comfort like the warm embrace of a family member, nor do the sheets cradle like the arms of my husband and suddenly, the chandelier doesn't shine quite as brightly.
There really is "no place like home."
The concentration on her face was evident as she pondered her next move, she squinted at the squares that had been roughly drawn in yellow chalk, and she carefully maneuvered the course after passing the rock she had thrown. Her “beat that” glance at her opponent, who was also about 6 or 7 years old, and the triumphant hand on her hip showed she was proud of her turn at the Hopscotch board. I couldn’t continue watching because the traffic light beckoned me forward, but I can tell you this – I played a mean game of Hopscotch back in the day; and for the record, it wasn’t just squares stacked neatly on top of one another as you typically see today. Our set up was one that included triangles, a rectangle and a half circle – I know you’re impressed. I was also lucky enough to have something other than a rock as my place marker. (at least I thought it was lucky). We lived close to a Cobbler (Shoe repair shop) and the owner gave us rubber heels to play with – they were the old ones he replaced with new on the shoes he repaired, and they worked perfectly for the game. After practicing with the heel, I learned how to throw it to make it land the way I needed it to, being careful not to throw too hard or have it land too much to the side causing it to bounce - that certainly wasn’t good. The object of the game is to have your marker land in the shape (going in numeric order) and then hop through all the other shapes to the end and back. If you touched a line while hopping, hopped out of a shape or lost your balance and fell, you were out; your marker stayed where it was and your turn was over. First one getting their marker through all the shapes, won.
For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the Cobbler but I remember the heel, and the joy I had tossing it like it was yesterday. I can tell you over the years, every time I see a Hopscotch board, I've always wanted to hop through it. Maybe to see if I could still do it or maybe to remind me of those summer days of playing outside with no worries; but I never have - maybe because as adults we are far too serious - far too often.
So, I've decided the next time I see a Hopscotch board, I'm jumping through those shapes. I've also got some rubber heels on my "watch list" on eBay. Thinking that this may just be a tradition I start with my grandkids some day. I'm already thinking how to personalize them so they're ready when the time comes. I'm also thinking the next picnic I help plan may just have a friendly game of Hopscotch on the list of things to do and you better believe I'm gonna ask to go first!
We’d been driving for almost five hours when we finally got off the highway and began the last leg of the trip on country roads. I’m always amazed at the beauty of the landscape in upstate New York. This time of year it’s full, green and absolutely gorgeous. I’m equally amazed at the variety of housing. You see quaint little houses, large working farms, beautiful multifamily homes, double wide mobile homes and single wide trailers that have a variety of makeshift additions, some of which include blue tarp roofs and just about any type of rusty car part or farm equipment you can imagine on the front lawn. The roads are well maintained and the hills leading to my sister’s home are the biggest I’ve ever driven. When we got to the top and pulled in her driveway, we were greeted by their sweet, ten year old dachshund named Cassie, who instantly wanted to be petted and of course, I obliged. After the initial hugs and “How was your trip” questions, we unloaded our luggage and had the next week to enjoy; how thankful I am for my sister's invite to unplug and visit. I learned quite a bit too, some of which includes:
Nothing beats the animal chatter at 7am, on a deck overlooking a pond, surrounded by cattails. I was fascinated with the many different birds, toads, bull frogs, turtles and even the two deer who visited. It was nature at its best. I really wanted to see a bear, but that didn’t happen – next time maybe. Most enjoyable was the absence of cars, trucks, construction, lawn mowers, and every other thing that invades the tranquility of nature – it was relaxing to say the least.
Hay or Straw? This may be an easy question for some of you to answer but quite honestly – I thought Hay was in rectangular bales and you sit on it on fall festival rides, and straw was – well, I kind of thought it was the same thing – just called something different (like groundhog and woodchuck – really, it’s the same animal). While spending some girl time with my sister, her daughter-in-law and some friends, this topic came up. I was thrilled to learn that I was not the only one who believed hay was a crop Farmers planted and thought that if it was in rectangular bales – it was used for bedding, and if it was in round bales - it was eaten by animals. This was highly entertaining to some of the ladies who had several questions about why we thought what we thought. We were asked where we get our straw when we need it: My answer of “The only time I need straw is for my porch in October and there’s always a farm that sells it,” was overshadowed by the best answer of the day….”I buy my straws at the grocery store and drink out of them.” Oh Gail, we are connected on a deeper level for sure! ;)
If you don’t have boys, live on a farm, or don’t live in the snow belt of New York – you may want to skip the next paragraph.
There are several names for animal poop; cow pies – round flat cow waste; cow chips – hard, dried cow waste; mouse scat; horse manure or road apples – just to name a few. In frigid temperatures the manure still has to be scooped up and then put on the compost pile when weather permits. The quote of the day was awarded to Sandy who exclaimed, “Oh, there’s nothing more fun than nailing someone with a frozen, horse poop ball.” Yes, you read that correctly. I asked her to repeat herself and just about died laughing. She also received an honorable mention with informing us that she attended someone’s “showing”. It took a few minutes for me to realize she meant “viewing.” Oh how I love these girls!
The two-hour, 4th of July parade at Chautauqua Lake was entertaining in itself, but the best was when several little boys on a float spotted our niece, their fourth grade teacher. Their screams of "Mrs. Claypoole! Mrs. Claypoole!" caused all around to not only laugh, but wonder who the celebrity was in our midst; and their attempt to shower her with candy (which landed about 20 feet away) was fun to watch.
The laughs over the sentence, “No, THIS week is Shark Week”, won’t soon be forgotten, the hours of watching my nephew interact with his 4 ½ month old son; and being able to hold that sweet little boy are memories that will make me smile many times over I’m sure.
It really is about the moments. The everyday, silly, friend filled, tongue twisted, beautiful serene moments that make our lives worth living. Take the time to cherish the moments; but more importantly, make sure you are IN the moment – Facebook posts and Instagram pictures can wait – our friends and family shouldn’t have to.
He peddled his bike and quickly looked around before he went into the neighbor’s garage. He didn’t have permission, but he just had to go in. I watched as his bike fell down, I watched as he ran up to a dog who’s tail was wagging in anticipation, and I watched as he gave that dog the biggest hug; and that was it. His sole purpose of going into the unknown garage was to hug the dog. The video went viral and I learned that he had lost his own dog some time before; he missed his dog terribly and wanted another but hadn’t yet gotten one. He said the dog looked lonely and he just wanted to love on her. He risked being reprimanded by the owners to do this, and his Mother said she wasn't happy that he went into a strangers garage but her heart melted when she saw why. Thankfully the owner, having learned his identity, allows the boy to come over anytime he wants to play with Duchess, the black lab.
I can totally sympathize with the boy. I know the pain of losing a beloved pet, as it’s been almost a year since we had to put our sweet Milly down; she was a little, off white Cockapoo and I miss her every single day. It’s my hope we get another; just waiting for the right time….and the right dog. Trust me - I’ve got my eyes open - I'll know when it's “the one.” Tom’s eyes have gone from closed to peeking out of one eye when I talk about it – baby steps. I’m leaning towards a Cavoodle (a mix between a King Charles Spaniel and a Mini Poodle). If and when it happens, it’ll be a blog post, I’m sure.
I can’t help but wonder how different our world would be if we, like that little boy, would periodically reach out and give a hug because we thought it was needed. For you non-huggers out there, a handshake, a fist-bump, a high-five, or any other positive gesture you can share with others to let them know they’re not alone. Sadly, we’ve become a very connected, disconnected society.
What if we all, even if it was just once a day, made eye contact, smiled or started a conversation with a stranger? Maybe, just maybe, we would begin the process of truly reconnecting – I’m trying, will you?
While browsing antique shops with my husband, I was inadvertently following a little girl and her mother; she must have been about 7. Her straggly, long brown hair reminded me of my own at that age. At her mother’s request she was careful not to touch anything, and quite honestly, she didn’t look interested in anything enough to try; and everyone knew this was the last place she wanted to be.
Her mom came upon something and exclaimed, “Oh! I had this when I was little!”
Her daughter glanced over, wrinkled her nose and replied with a sarcastic, “Really?”
A few shelves later her mother once again said, “Oh, this too” and then squealed, “Oh my! Look - this doll was my favorite!” Her expression was that almost of a little girl as she picked it up, holding it for her daughter to see.
Without skipping a beat the little girl looked and very seriously asked, “Mom, did they only have old, dirty toys when you were little?”
I couldn’t help but laugh as her mother shook her head and said, “Honey, they were new back then!”
I decided to head down another aisle and didn’t hear the response. It did however make me wonder... how many times have I experienced this?
Perspective is a funny thing, it allows two people to see the exact same object or be involved in the same set of circumstances and yet, each have their own point of view and thus see things differently.
The mother at the antique shop looked at the items and saw treasured childhood memories; while her daughter just saw dirty old toys. I certainly hope she was able to explain to her daughter the joy she had playing with those toys when they were new; and equally hope that her daughter was able to see past the dirt and share in her mom’s nostalgic moments. It's all about being willing to see the other's view.
I pray, that every single time I’m not seeing eye to eye, I'm able to recognize it doesn't mean we will never see things from the same angle, we just aren't at that moment. I also pray I'm willing to change my perspective when needed to always choose joy, no matter what the circumstance.
“I’m gonna die Mom.”
I can’t imagine being the mother of the young man who texted this sentence in the wee hours of the morning, from the club in Orlando being attacked; the helplessness she must have felt, how her heart must have been breaking. I can’t imagine how he felt as he texted, nor can I begin to understand the depth of fear and dread he, along with every person there, must have suffered. I don’t know specifics nor do I personally know anyone who was at the club. What I do know is this…
It has to stop. “It” being the hate, the violence, the “I’m better than you” attitudes, the “I don’t agree with you - so I’m your enemy”; the “God hates ______ people” (fill in the blank with every single word that you’ve heard over the years defining “groups” of people); and every other thing we are saying and doing to tear each other apart.
God didn’t do this. An evil, hate filled man did this. This was an Islamic extremist and he (had he lived), along with every other person who makes the choice to perform such horrific acts, should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. We can recognize - this time it was a club in the United States – this year alone it’s been France, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Yemen, Belgium, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Egypt, Libya and who knows how many more? There’s no rhyme or reason and no-one is immune. When and who they choose as their target of hate can’t be predicted because that’s what hate is….ugly, violent, unpredictable and destructive.
I can’t help but wonder if each of us allowed God to be a part of our everyday, if we pray to Him before the attacks, before we begin our days, before the meetings where decisions are made in government, before we choose to spread the hatred of our differences, before we remove every trace of Him in our communities, before we allow our children to play hate promoting video games, before we complain about how horrible our lives are…..maybe then our government would be making wiser choices as to what to do to these extremists; maybe our communities would become stronger; maybe we would know who are neighbors are and want to reach out and help; maybe our children would begin playing outside again; maybe – just maybe, we could once again be truly “One Nation Under God” and our lives would be better; because how we’re doing it now – clearly isn’t working.
I saw a picture of you today. The freshly pressed uniform, the smile of achievement. Having now graduated the Academy, you’re one step closer to your dream of becoming a police officer. Quite the accomplishment having a family, working full time and attending classes. You should be very proud.
I’m amazed at how life continues to move forward and yet our lives, once so beautifully intertwined, remain so vastly independent; and I’m equally perplexed at the inability to know how to remedy the situation. I used to wonder how family members could go years without speaking, and yet here I am going on four.
What if I told you once again, there isn’t a day that goes by you don’t come to mind and that if you’d just tell me how to fix this, I would? I guess that’s the part I can’t wrap my head around, I’ve said those things many times and still, nothing. You have my love, something you’ve had from the moment I knew you existed; from the nine months of carrying you close to my heart - all the way through these almost 29 years. You also have my devotion, as no matter how many years pass, my heart and arms will remain open waiting for the moment you realize you want to return.
I used to say “I’d give anything to have you be a part of my life again,” but I realize it isn’t what I’m willing to give, it’s what you’re willing to receive; and I haven’t quite figured out what that is. Do you even know? If it were just you and I without outside influences could you tell me, or are you too at a loss? If that’s the case – let’s be at a loss together and find our way through.
Most days I know where to put the raw emotion of it all and no one would know. Today however, is not one of those days. So today I’m allowing myself to be sad, but recognize tomorrow I will, once again, find a place for it.
I’ve never wished my children anything but peace and yet, it’s my prayer that the place you’ve found to tuck away the emotion, doesn’t ever become comfortable. I pray it tugs at your heart and causes it to beat wildly now and then so maybe one day you realize, that heartbeat of yours - once beat in unison with mine - and they belong together.
I used to think there was nothing worse than writer’s block. You know, when you either have a deadline or are trying to come up with something new and your mind is blank. I’ve decided there is something worse. That something is when you have so many things you could write, but because you know yourself well, you recognize you are too emotional to write about them with any real clarity.
The question I pondered at the close of last week’s post, “If all my stuff was gone would I, (without my stuff), be enough?” seemed to be a lingering theme. I must take a moment and thank those who called, commented, or emailed kind words telling me that “Yes, I was certainly enough” and the “Sometimes you’re a bit too much,” (said in love of course) made me laugh, and all warmed my heart. This was a lingering theme because I found myself in conversations and I questioned a few things about myself; after re-evaluating I realized, I am absolutely enough.
I’ve come to the conclusion that all I can do is be the person God wants me to be. Not try and be someone else, not try to convince people I’m not who they define me as; but be, who I know in my heart I am. The definition others have created won’t matter, it will be me and how I’ve acted and reacted, how I've loved and served others that will define my life; and I pray I live in such a way, that in the end I'll hear the words “Well done.”