September 22, 2016

Letting Go

I'm infatuated with sunlight.  There is something about sunshine that makes me feel a certain special kind of alive.

I find beauty in it throughout the year.  It's rising and setting, it's shining brightly at the heat of the day, or when it peeks through after a storm to remind us it's still there.  And when the sun hides behind evening clouds and it creates amber and fuchsia and periwinkle colored skies, I have been known to pull over on the side of the road just to look at it.  I've chased down sunsets, awoken early to watch it rise, and I've put blankets down in my backyard in January to bathe in it's light, feeling it soak into the pieces of my soul that starve in the winter time.

And then there's the way it lights up my house.  The way it comes in through my favorite living room window makes me swoon every year, especially in the fall. As soon as the first of September hits, I wait for this magical day that happens when the sun shows off in all of it's September splendor.
It signifies a changing of seasons, of good things to come and the months ahead that my heart treasures the most.  I usually feel my heart shift with the seasons.  My quiet solitude in the winter, an awakening and renewing in the spring, and an enthusiastic energy in the summertime.  But the arrival of autumn, is different.  Autumn brings with it sweet memories of my mother, reminders of the beginning of my love story with Todd, and invitations to create some of my favorite memories with my children in pumpkin patches, costumes, parties, feasts and a time to focus on gratitude and giving of thanks. Somehow, it all begins with autumn's sunlight streaming through my window.

"The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go."

This has been a year of loss for me, for our family, for our lives.  Loss of health, loss of time, loss of memories made.  Loss of relationships, friendships and community.  Of reputation, of dignity and character.  Loss of money.  Of certain hopes, dreams and plans.  Loss of weight that I've carried on my body for years.  I have been full of deep sorrow and sadness.  How life unraveled this year and spilled out into places, ended up leaving us wounded and wounding others in the process.

As another season invites me to something new, I'm aware of all that I've had to let go of this year, all that has let go of me, and all that I'm still holding on to that I need not to.  I've been coping and medicating and numbing out with all of the loss, trying to grasp on to something.  I'm discovering that loss is something we must feel, and the only way to do that is to empty our hands and stop reaching out for something to fill them with.  If my hands are empty, than they're finally open to receive.  And it's been a while since I've come before God in any measure of humility asking Him to fill them again.

Autumn's light through my window invited me to remember His goodness.  To remember that it's okay to let things go.  And to give my heart the rest, grace and kindness it needs in this season.
There's talk of our first "cold" front making it's way in soon.  I have my fall decorations ready and waiting to decorate.  My favorite white chicken chili recipe is on the menu, and a pumpkin pie to be made celebrating it's arrival.

Autumn is coming, with wind and gold.

And letting go.

August 31, 2016

Life Lately

Keeping a blog as I've had now for many years, my intention was always to write a few times a week.  This space has always been a public journal of sorts:  Family happenings.  Musings on motherhood.  Stories shared.  Memories remembered. 

With the way my life looks now, I'm lucky if I post once or twice a month anymore and I find myself having to back track and remember things I wanted to post rather than write as they've happened.  I'm always so ever aware, that life happens in seasons. The one I'm in doesn't allow much space for writing, though if I'm honest, the free time I've had has been spent numbing out to various series on Netflix and spending adequate time checking out.  I've been tired, weary, sad and struggling.  Thankfully, I reached out to a friend and I've been sorting through some of those things, but for now, my creative writing juices and writing out what is in my heart seems to be a sporadic happening. 

Right now, I seem to be aware that another summer has ended, even though it's still 95 degrees.  Life continues to feel like it's happening in fast-forward motion as so much of my year feels missing and unaccounted for as I was sick or slept my way through months of it.

A few little nuggets of life that I don't want to forget.....

 Tommy started the 2nd grade.  I don't even know how it's possible to have a second grader.


 My Batman.
  It was as dramatic as loosing teeth might be for this one, but we finally have a front tooth-less smile from my big boy.
Silly Hulk feet.
 Grand opening of a fun store in San Antonio that I was way too excited about. The nerdiness has been strong with me.  Never to miss an opportunity for a photo with a superhero.
 Celebrating my dear friend Shelly's birthday.
 And Tiffany's wedding doing the bridesmaid thing.
 Tommy and Tippy on her special day.

Taking my train-loving boy for a train ride at the park. 
Thankfully, the seasons are changing as they are so faithful to do.  I look forward to the fullness the next few months will bring with it and the gratitude that remains in my heart for being fully alive to live it.


August 14, 2016

Mr. Personality

Jacob.  Jacob is....

Jacob is something.

If there was ever a picture that captures his personality and who he is, it would be this one.  Eyes full of silly, wonder, and mischief.  The cutest grin on the face of the planet.  He's up to something, wheels turning, mind racing, pondering what kind of trouble or havoc he can create in his little world. 

Jacob experiences his world with his entire being.  He runs the fastest.  Screams the loudest.  Smiles the biggest.  Cries the hardest.  Laughs the longest.  I have always seen this light in him, something bright and big that gives me a glimpse into the man he is going to be someday.

I've been vocal with my friends about what a challenge he has been to raise and mother.  He has a fiery, emotional personality.  He is passionate, stubborn, and strong-willed.  He can be explosive and raging angry.  And he is precious, affectionate and adoring.  He knows how to work his big blue eyes and convince me to give him anything, which is why he may be accustomed to having a popsicle for breakfast from time to time. 

And we have had to grow together.  I have had to learn how to help him calm down and teach him how to do it himself.  How to deal with him in a quiet and persistent kind of patience.  I've learned that sometimes we have to get to a quiet space away from a situation so he can hear me, hear himself and find some peace again.  I've learned that he has to get out and have plenty of physical activity if I want him to be able to listen and still when needed.  Some days are better than others, and some days I completely fail him and I lose it.  Jacob has the ability to bring out the very worst parts of me and I hate that.  I hate that he has to know me in these places.  I hate that he is like me in these places.  That his rage, his anger, his explosiveness comes from me.  That some days, I discipline him for the very things he has seen me do.

He is a challenge and he is hard.  It has made motherhood feel hard and I have envied my friends whose children have more even temperaments and better manners.  I have the child that may punch yours in the stomach if they take his toy.  I have the child that might say shit because he heard it in a movie and yes, we let him watch a movie that had the word shit in it and now you know that because he's three and he's cussing.  I have the child that doesn't like to share.  I have the child that squirts an entire tube of toothpaste all over the bathroom sink.

And I have the child that is the source of deep, from-the-belly laughter in our house.  Who reminds me that discipline is always followed by hugs and kisses.  I have the child that invites me to embrace the world and to live life more fully than I would if he weren't in it.

Jacob.  Jacob is.....

Jacob is something.  And I'm glad he's mine.

August 3, 2016

It's August

It's August already.  I'm not ready for it to be August, because if it's August then that means it's nearly September and if it's nearly September then it's practically fall.  And if it's practically fall then it's time to think about Christmas and if it's Christmas.....didn't I just wake up from Christmas?

It's August and I still feel like I'm missing this chunk of my life that was consumed with my illness and surgery and recovery.  So much of me has wanted to close this chapter on my life that was my diverticulitis and my bowel resection as if it never happened.  But people keep reminding me of it because I look "so amazing" and then the medical bills that still keep arriving in our mailbox reminding me how expensive all of this was and has been.

It's August and we didn't get to have a family vacation this year and I've been pouting about it.  I took the week off of work this week and it's been a bust.  It has reminded me that I'm not up for the stay-at-home-mom life and I feel like I've been nothing but a disappointment to my boys all week because some of the fun things have ended up falling through and we have no money to do anything fun and it seems like all the fun things to do take money that we don't have.  Because medical bills and debt.

It's August and I feel lost.  We left our church and it broke my heart to do so and it's exhausting to be looking for some place new.

It's August and there are school supplies in my dining room.  Because it's almost time for second grade and another year of routine and homework and learning new things and figuring out new schedules.  There are still school clothes to buy with the money we don't have.  Because medical bills and debt.

It's August and it looks like more change is on the horizon with jobs and work and childcare arrangements.  And all of the possibility of change makes me tired.

It's August and I'm struggling.  I'm discouraged and I'm having a hard time.  I'm using new things in the place of old addictions and I'm frustrated that I continue to find small, little gods to fill a void and a chasm inside of me that can't be filled by anything or anyone but Him.

It's August.

July 24, 2016

Avengers Assemble: Another Birthday

When Tommy turned 5 and I planned the epic Star Wars party of a lifetime, I told him that year we weren't going to do any big parties until he was 10.  We had plenty of big parties every single year of his life up until that point and I thought we could think of other fun birthday things to do.

And last year we didn't have a party.  We went to Six Flags for his 6th birthday and ate pizza and cupcakes with some friends after church.  I did good for a whole year.

But then, his birthday was coming up and I got the party itch and I just had to scratch it.  I sort of talked him into an Avengers party.  I mean, he loves all of those supeheroes, but maybe not nearly as much as his mama.  But he said he knew it would be fun because I throw the best parties ever - and that made my party-throwing heart just beam with pride.  So, I set off on my Marvel loving ways and began planning an epic Avengers party for my seven year old.

What's great about him being seven, is that he can totally help with party decorations.  
 Like any party planner, I scoured Pinterest for ideas and made some fun superhero paper lanterns.
The Thor paper lantern was my favorite since I got to put a red cloth napkin on it as a "cape."  I'm only slightly passionate about party decor.
 My awesome friend Lindsey made some cookies for the party.  The Ironman hands and Captain America shields were my most favorites!

 I made cupcakes and had some of my favorite Tommy pictures on display.
The great thing about this party was that we had so many toys and costumes that I basically had party decor covered.  Between our superhero action figures and the outfits they dress up in all of the time, I had almost everything I needed.  I displayed all of our costumes on the wall and I thought this was such a fun backdrop!

Pinterest showed me how to make a shield out of strawberries, blueberries and marshmallows to look like Captain America's shield and I loved how it turned out!
 I made "Hulk's Power Punch" and "Gamma Ray Grapes."
And cheese squares with pretzel sticks as "Thor's Hammers."
And pizza - Tommy's favorite.
Only a really big nerd will understand the reference to the "Sha-warma" pizza.  Again, I had way too much fun with this party.
 I thought it would be fun to do a couple of games.  I had this brilliant idea of letting the kids smash a bunch of ice cream cones like Hulk.
And it was brilliant, except for the fact that it only lasted about 2.5 seconds and the game was over!  Kids definitely know how to Hulk Smash!
 Our dear friend, Uncle Nate, volunteered to be the bad guy so all the kids could work together and capture him.
 We had a pinata which sadly broke before we even let the kids hit it! But there was candy in the end and the kids didn't seem to mind!
 Tommy's best buddy Matthew that lives down the street.  It's great having a best friend that only lives a few doors down!
And his "best girl" Callie who gave him a Star Wars blanket for his birthday, which is his new favorite thing ever.  But mostly because it was from her. 
 My big boy has come a long way since his first couple of birthdays where he would burst into tears when we sung Happy Birthday to him. 
 And he scored with some super awesome presents - Star Wars and superheros alike.  His face says it all.
I may have broken my "no parties until he's 10" rule, but I mean, you only turn 7 once right?  We all had a great time and I have officially decided that someone needs to throw a superhero party for me.  I think a grown up version of this would be so fun!
Happy Birthday to my big boy Tommy!  I still can't believe you're seven years old!  I hope you always remember how loved and treasured you are to us and that you have these fun memories to look back on for always!

July 7, 2016

July Adventure

Having boys means that almost everything can turn into an adventure.  I've learned a lot about adventure and exploration from Tommy and Jacob.  On the 4th of July this year, we met up with Todd's long time buddy Richard and his family out at a campsite in Kerrville, and spent the day in the sunshine on the river where adventure was waiting for all of us. 
 
Both Tommy and Jacob thought tubing on the water was pretty much the best thing ever.  That is until Richard took out his canoe and they got to ride in a real live boat and rowed down the river together.  Jacob acted like the captain and directed all of them on where they needed to go.  Tommy spent the day scouring the shallow waters for treasures like rocks shaped like the Millennium Falcon and lost snorkels.  He held tiny frogs in his hands and tried his hand at skipping rocks.  I'm not a huge fan of rivers and lakes and swimming with living creatures, but my boys don't seem to mind the fish or slimy mud.  I had to let myself relax as they tripped over rocks or nearly fell out of tubes and realize that all of the falls and scrapes that come with days like that are part of adventuring.
Part of the day was spent at the pool which is more my speed with it's clear waters and lack of living things and all.  My oldest will now get into a pool since he's tall enough to walk in it, and was brave and put his head under the water several times.  Teaching him how to swim and being patient with his fear of deep water is an ongoing challenge, but I can see where he is trying and he wants to break through and figure out how to do it.  And my other son was angry that I wouldn't let him go into the water on his own, completely unaware that he needs to learn to hold himself up.  He was jumping off the sides of the pool into our arms and takes on the pool with fearless abandon.  They continue to be completely opposite in personality and my mother's heart hopes that as they continue to grow up together tat they will learn from on another's fears and struggles, goals and accomplishments and build each other up.
We ate hot dogs and got a little sunburned, because sunscreen, no matter how many applications, still loses to south Texas sunbeams in the middle of the summer. 
 And of course, a 4th of July celebration wouldn't be complete without a little saber fighting.



On the way home, we found this cute car shop that had an old time gas station out front for fun photo-ops.  Never one to miss a photo-op, I asked that we turn around and get a few fun pictures.


July is notoriously hot in our neck of the woods and after a full day in the sunshine, we opted to watch fireworks from our living room sofa in our pajamas and the comfort of air conditioning.

Perhaps every year that we celebrate the birth of our nation, don our red, white and blue outfits and pop fireworks, I grow more grateful for our country, our freedoms and the blessings we have because we live in America.  I'm thankful that our day included long time friends, sunshine and adventure.

June 22, 2016

Short Stories

YARDWORK HARDWORK.

In all of the years we have been married, I have never helped with the yard.  I'm pretty sure it's partially because I was traumatized as a child by having to pick up smelly, rotten pears in the backyard anytime my dad needed to mow.  The only thing I hated more than picking up gross pears was when I had to scrub out the cat pan.  Ew.

But, Todd and I had a pre-marriage agreement, that all yard work and grass mowing was in the husband department.  I would make sure he always had clean underwear and dinner to eat and that occasionally I would dust things.  But killing bugs, taking out the trash and anything to do with the yard was his domain.

However, with how awesome I've been feeling lately, I offered to help Todd with some front yard maintenance.  We needed to weed out our shrub area and wanted to plant some new bushes to spruce things up a bit.  Tommy even helped and we got to reinforce lessons about working hard without complaining and having a good attitude.  I heard myself say all of the things that my dad would say to me when I had to pick up those damn pears in the backyard of my childhood house.  Full circle moments.

We worked and toiled all day - taking some popsicle breaks and a nap right in the middle of our project, because it's blazing hot in June here which is probably why do what we did in a sensible month like March.

But it felt good to help.  To move my body and dig and lift things and sweat along side of my husband.  Not because I had to, and not really even because I wanted to.  But because I could.


BETTER.

Someone called me "tiny" the other day and it felt weird.  I am far from tiny.  I am still overweight.  But I am smaller and can officially buy clothes on the "normal sized" parts of the store.

For me, the most drastic thing hasn't been my waistline or weight loss.  It's been in my health - how my body feels, how I am moving it, and what I am actually desiring to eat.  I want vegetables.  Pizza has lost its appeal.  I eat fruit for dessert on purpose.  When I have a sweet tooth, I eat a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips and it's completely satisfying.  I've been working out - walking and attempted jogging.  Light weight lifting, crunches, squats and lunges - trying to both strengthen and push my body.

I've had several compliments on my appearance.  Some of that feels good, and some of it doesn't.  i try to filter things and let them roll off of me as any mention of my size in the past whether positive or negative has been triggering for me.  I've heard things like, "Wow, I know you went through a hellish ordeal this year, but man, you look fantastic!"  And I just say thank you.  Because yes, I did go through a hellish ordeal and I do look a bit fantastic.  But, how I look isn't even the point.  It's how I feel.  It's how much healthier I am now.  It's about my changed perspective and how I'm finally caring for my body with better nutrition and exercise.

Yes, I look better.  But I feel better.  I eat better.  I move better.  I am better.


FACES IN A CROWD.

We sat in a new church on Sunday morning.  There were chairs instead of pews and they had fun flashy lights when the music played and there were silly videos for announcements.  Our boys had a great time in their classes and Tommy is already asking to attend their VBS program next month.  My skeptical eye looked over their statement of faith for any potential doctrine issues that we don't agree with.  Other than one set of familiar faces, we were surrounded by strangers.  We were greeted as visitors and met with kindness.

But I sat there feeling sad.  Wondering if this place would be or ever could be home for us.  Recently, we made the decision to leave our church body that has been home to us for nearly seven years.  Things happened as they always do, and we have chosen to keep our reasons private.

Nevertheless, we are finding ourselves in this new space of starting over again.  We keep in touch with some of the friends that moved on and left the church before we us, and some of those friendships are long and lasting.  But they have and will continue to shift and change as life does with relationships and communities.  It took us over three years at our church before we really made friends.  At our peak there, we did life with several families and it was glorious.  We felt like we were wanted, like we belonged and had a purpose.

Now, we are new again.  We feel a little lost and quite alone, hoping to meet some new friends and families to do life with again.

But for now though, we are mere faces in a crowd.


PHONE CALLS AND HOSPITAL STAYS.

"You're calling me?" Sarah said answering her phone.

"I think we should probably know by now, that if we are calling each other instead of texting, something is probably wrong or we have bad news." I said choking back tears.  Remembering my call to her last December when I was sick and new something was terribly wrong.

"Uhoh.  What's up?" she asked.

It's funny how accustomed we are in this day in age to text.  For me, it's weird for anyone to call me unless it's my Grammy or my 74 year old boss who doesn't believe in text messages. And especially with Sarah and all of the life we have known together in the last several years, phone calls usually mean big or serious news:  Engagement.  Pregnancy.  Cancer.  Death.

We had some scary news on Father's Day.  Todd's dad went to the ER having difficulty breathing. As it turned out, he had some large blood clots in his lungs and for two days straight, we really didn't know if he would even live.  We were all nervous and scared and preparing ourselves for the worst.  He is planning to retire this year, they are building a new house, and his daughter (my sister-in-law and one of my best friends) is getting married.  It's a big year for him, for our family, and we don't want to imagie any of that without him.

Thankfully, it looks like he is on the mend and blood thinners and doctors did what they do best and were able to heal the scary things that were threatening his life.  The doctors are calling him a walking miracle because a clot of that size that passed through his heart into his lungs should have been fatal.

Sarah came to sit with my boys the evening I called her so I could go up to the hospital and take dinner to my family who hadn't eaten all day.  I sat with my mother-in-law and told her some silly stories about the boys while she ate her dinner so she could have a break from her tears and worries.  Todd took the week off of work and has been up at the hospital as soon as I have gotten home from my job.  It's only Wednesday but it feels like the longest week ever.

I found myself out loud in prayer this week, pleading with God. Asking Him for another miracle, another blessing, another place for Him to please come through and make things go our way.  I don't always pray out loud - I mostly journal and talk to Him through my writing things down.  But, just like Sarah answered her phone and she knew I was calling because I probably had bad news, God was right there to pick up and listen.


THE GIVING TREE.

It is my favorite childhood book.  I can remember sitting on my Grammy's lap listening to her read with her warm, soothing voice.  I would reach up and touch her cheeks and call her skin "fluffy."  Something about the story and those quiet moments with her put me at calm and rest.  Those sweet moments of story telling are some of my favorite memories of her.

Last week, she came over with the book as a gift for me, knowing the treasured memories we had together.  And I asked her to read it to my boys because I wanted them to have the same memory of her - her fluffy skin, her easy voice, the kind of calm that settles over you when you hear the tale of The Giving Tree.

And for a moment I was five again.

I've had her apples and swung from her branches, and she's given me so much to build a life and home of my own.  Grammy was and is and always will be, The Giving Tree.