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New address!

29 May

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I am WAY more excited about this than I probably should be!  But we have searched High. Low. In town. Out of town. Big yards. Small yards. And we FINALLY found our new home!  Moving soon!

Happy 6th birthday to our Boo!

12 Jan

This was a birthday party for the books. Belle decided she wanted a skating party. An ICE SKATING PARTY. We are not sure why she wanted this kind of party. She did not know how to ice skate. Recently the winter Olympics were on television and she did see a lot of skating. We can only figure this is how she got the idea. I think she was more into the decor and the idea of wearing a skating outfit than actually ice skating. The decor was definitely on point:

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Even her American Girl was there, dressed to skate as well.

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And this girl is a FAN of a beautiful cake.

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The panic started to set in when I got RSVPs. She had invited BOTH kindergarten classes to skate. KINDERGARTEN. Few of them had even been skating before. None of them actually knew how. Start the valium IV drip. I was not going to make it through this party without a nervous breakdown.

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At the end of the day, it was awesome. Lots of parents were terrific sports and skated with their kids, some really mastering the skills that day. My kids had a BALL. They skated with their dad until they skated with their friends until they were soon flying around the rink all on their own.

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Interestingly, this guy had a blast too. Later in the month, we would visit his aunt Kim. Our family would discuss baseball sign ups and how we were going to get to the park on the day they were scheduled. He spoke up and said he didn’t want to do baseball this spring. (!!) A former college catcher, his dad’s heart may or may not have broken into tiny bits, but he didn’t show it, thankfully. We encouraged him to sign up for it. Sports are fun, we said.

I want to ice skate, he said.

!!!  You just never know what a skating party will bring.

For this guy it became his #1 sport and several all star teams and tournaments. All from a 6 year old party.

Helping a sister out

12 Jan

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I’ve never felt like I was living the story of Esther quite like I did this month. I’ve been drawn to that story since learning about it, particularly the idea of how God prepares us – all our lives – to bring glory to his kingdom, in the most perfect timing imaginable.

My sister-in-law is one of a kind: hilariously funny with a huge heart. I felt a special connection with her from the moment I first met her. When she called me in January, I was literally moments away from 25 guests appearing on my doorstep for a baby shower I was hosting at my home. I almost didn’t answer the call but something made me pick up. I was not prepared for her to start the call with words that sent chills down my spine: “I felt a lump.” After urging her to get herself in a doctor’s office – stat – and some reassurance, I hung up, truly thinking she would probably be okay. But none of this came with easy timing. Though her family would continue to be most supportive, they had recently established a new home in the neighboring state, and she had few friends to lean on and absolutely no established medical care yet. Once we found her a solid doctor, things started moving quickly: positive findings, orders for more imaging, requests for genetic testing, big decisions to make. Her house is a 4 hour drive from mine, so I hopped in the car to attend the biggest decision making appointments: meeting the oncologist, evaluating the prognosis, and making chemotherapy decisions.

I didn’t know a thing about cancer before I met Joe. But God knew everything. He knew I would be helpful to Kim when her time came. He stirred my heart and I quickly became an advocate – maybe THE advocate – for women’s reproductive cancers in our region. After forming a nonprofit, I counseled patients and their families, helped them find appropriate social networks and resources. I had never had cancer. No one close to me had ever had cancer. But I had a need to do this in a way I could never explain to anyone else.

When Kim was diagnosed my husband was at the busiest height of his career. I was his stand-in for her, a link to bridge her to his knowledge and expertise. And I could do it with my own authority too. I knew the tough questions to ask and the important decisions that needed to be made. God had prepared me for such a time as this.

When it all came together, we had a plan in place for Kim. Our whole family went for her first chemotherapy. Joe was there to support her at the doctor’s office and I was there to help support her at home. Nothing was more special than this time we all had together with her family. The photo above was the early morning just before her first chemo.

Kim received the strongest chemo available. She had a good prognosis if it worked. She then had several major surgeries. She was BRAC+. Her chances of getting this cancer were almost certain. We wanted to make sure it would never come back, anywhere. Her daughter and sister have had to do major prophylactic surgeries to prepare for their own inevitable fates. Joe, thankfully, was negative.

This picture was taken in January of 2012. It is not May 2016 as I update this. Kim is still cancer free. She has since enjoyed her daughter’s wedding, the birth of her grandson, her son’s graduation from high school and him starting college at Troy. She has moved to the beach. She enjoys every minute of her new lease on life.

For such a time as this – I felt like every moment of my life had led to me helping Kim navigate those scary waters. God was there for her in a mighty way, and it was a privilege to be a small part of it.

World Peace, or Peace in Your World

2 Jan

Turning the page on the year can bring a mixture of feelings: relief, anxiety, a welcome sense of change, depending on the events of the past year and what events the upcoming year may hold.

Many people look back on the previous year with a sense of regret, resolving to do better in the new year.  Some look forward to turning the page on a year of unfortunate circumstances or bad decisions, welcoming a fresh start to begin anew.  Still others appreciate the year that just ended and are glad to begin another, excited to see what’s in store ahead.  Almost everyone makes a new year’s resolution, a promise to make themselves better, a plan to be more organized, more efficient, more in shape, more dedicated, or to quit a bad habit, such as smoking, nail biting, or drinking.

Self reflection is good for the soul and philosophical thinking helps us define the way we live and make decisions that shape our values.  And none of us are perfect; we can all use a little tweaking here or there to make some changes in our lives.  So a resolution for change is not a particularly bad idea.  The problem is, however, that many, if not most (all?) resolutions are broken, empty promises that we strive to fulfill but are never able to keep.  It’s like trying to achieve world peace when all we really need to achieve is a little peace in our world.

This New Year, I’m skipping the list of resolutions.  I’m not resolving to turn critical thoughts into more positive observations, to keep my house cleaner, stay off Facebook and Twitter to make my life more efficient, all of which would be positive changes in my life, my family would surely agree.  To be honest, I really can’t keep those promises to myself.  I’m critical by nature and, though it’s irritating at best, it also makes me a highly productive and conscientious person.  My house is clean but cluttered. I’ve never been a neat freak and that’s not likely to change.  The computer is where I keep all of my organization and if I drift off onto social networking, well, it’s welcome adult interaction as a small break from keeping my children throughout the day, no different from those at work taking coffee breaks from their desk jobs.  I’m not making excuses, I’m just being realistic here.   Making these changes would be about as easy as achieving world peace.  At least in my world.

Instead I think I will focus on just that: achieving peace in my world.  I’m going to evaluate my decisions a little more carefully.  I want to make my decisions based on Love–with a capital L–the kind derived from the Joy leftover from Christmas that resonates through all the way to Easter and carries me throughout the year.  I want to surround myself with people that matter and events that are important and effect change in my community.  More than anything I want to focus on relationships.  I want to nurture relationships within my nuclear family, with my husband and each of my children, and I want to strengthen relationships with some of the precious friends I have been blessed with. I’m going to look for ways to relax my commitments to things that don’t really matter so much and be a “yes” girl to things that do.  If there’s a way to volunteer I want to do it, especially if there’s not a way to be recognized for it.  If there’s a way to serve, I want to sign up, especially if I don’t have to attend a meeting or be in charge of the project.  I want to be the Indian and not the Chief, all year long.

Maybe I won’t be recognized for achieving world peace in 2012.  But maybe I’ll achieve a little peace in my world.

What about you?  Add your resolutions below!

Four

12 Dec

She planned every detail of her perfect day.  And by planning, I mean we had it all worked out that she would have her party at one place, and then after the invitations were printed, she decided she wanted a party “just like last year’s party.”  As in, at a different place than planned.  And she invited all her friends to the same place as last year. So I had to have the invitations re-printed.

Oh yes, this really happened.

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She also “designed” her cake.

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She LOVED it. Which is all that really matters.

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To her, it was the PERFECT party.

And just like that: she was FOUR!

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Still building

14 Sep

He’s still building things.

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Because, you never really know.

7 Sep

 

 

I mean, things change, right?

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Glow

29 May

“1-2-3-GLOW!” the crowd yelled. The giant balloons lit their flames in unison, creating a lovely display of color across the horizon. Moments earlier we’d started across the same field in broad daylight just as dusk began. We crossed it, visiting our favorite balloons up close–a gigantic dinosaur, a familiar Pepsi can, one with children holding hands around its belly. Just as we sat down to enjoy our ice cream treats, we surveyed the field before us and darkness fell down on the horizon like a curtain. Shaped like lightbulbs, the balloons took turns lighting up the sky until the crowd asked them to create the glow together. It was a magical sight!

 

Even more fun was that the event was held in a public field adjacent to the backyard of one of our friends. We drove to their house and enjoyed the backyard party and could walk right over to the big event.

The real treat for me was getting to see my friend and her sister, who had come into town for the balloon party. These aren’t just any friends, they are some of my longest-standing friends whom I have shared some of life’s most dramatic and exciting moments with. I met Melanie when I first pledged a sorority in 1991. Soon after I met her sister, Melissa, who soon after became one of the most precious blessings of my college experience. The years to follow were some of the most fun years of my life, full of memories we will always cherish, and moments who shaped the people we are today. These girls and their entire family–sisters, grandparents, cousins, there is hardly anyone in their entire family that I do not know–became like my own family.

We have laughed together–oh, we have laughed–beginning with our first memory (of a party cake, no less) and throughout many, many more.

We have cried together as we have suffered loss and heartbreak.

We have even weathered arguments that would have divided most households!

We have felt each other’s pain when one of us has been hurt or experienced a challenge in life that has been frightening or scary.

We have befriended one another’s new sets of friends along the way, and moved through the new phases of life that adult hood has sent to us.

We have been so close that we have talked everyday, sometimes several times, and we have gone for weeks or months without finding a moment to call, but when we find a moment to connect again, we just pick right up where we left off, as if we’d just spoken yesterday in the grocery store over a head of lettuce.

With these kind of friends there is no backstory, no catching up, no explanation. I just talk and they know the nuances involved in what I am saying. There are no apologies for how I look or how I feel or what I might say that doesn’t quite come out right. They just know.
It is so special to walk into a backyard full of almost-strangers and see a handful of people who support my dearest friend on a daily basis the way I wish I could, and for them to accept me as one of their own too. It is so special to see my friend among the busy-ness of it all, with her precious family thriving and happy, in her “element,” still the social chairman, all these years later.

It’s not the same kind of party we used to throw, way back when with the party cake. But then again, we don’t have the same kind of glow as we did back then either. Our “glow” is a different kind of glow. Like the balloons across the street, we glow from the inside now. We’re powered by a different kind of spark, and for that, I’m thankful. And for her company in my friends on the horizon of my life, I’m especially grateful.

Another Gold Medal

15 May

Today was the culmination of a year of bragging rights for Gold Medal Husband.

Because of his busy work schedule he doesn’t get a lot of guy time with his friends.  Usually it comes in the form of weekend trips away, like the annual turkey hinting trip he’s been on for the past 20 years.  About three years ago, his buddies implemented a golf tournament.  They call it the “Woody,” named after the organizer of the tournament.  GMH loves to play golf — in fact, he’s pretty good at it — but he rarely has time to pick up his sticks anymore.  He was really just going out to have fun.

It seems he had more than fun at the Woody that year.  He came home with enough cash winnings to buy us a flat screen TV!  Awesome.

Soon after, he played in a local charity tournament, for our hospital.  He was paired with an amateur who was playing for pro status the following week.  Guess what?  They won.  This time, being a charity tournament and all, he won a crystal bowl…and bragging rights. He was happy to take the bragging rights!

The past couple of years he’s played in the same two tournaments, again with little practice time.  This time it showed: he came in dead last (AKA Wee Willie) at the Woody and not-so-great at the charity tournament.  Ah, well, you can’t win ’em all, right?  Well.  I don’t play games with GMH.  He has loads and loads of lovely qualities, but you see, playing games is not one of them.  I don’t even play Uno or Monopoly with him for fear that he will cheat to win.  So the whole “just play for fun” strategy was not getting it with him.  So he tried a different tactic:  bragging.  Without the rights.  He has bragged and trash-talked and cocked all over town in a cumulative fashion for the entire past year about how he is going to win the 2011 tournaments.  He has “prepped” by playing every weekend for the past two months.    And the whole. world. has. heard. about. it.

The charity tournament weekend has finally arrived. He’s been so arrogant he’s been downright hard to live with. Really it’s all been just jokes and mostly ribbing (with a lot of eye-rolling thrown in on my end).

He had a great time.
He didn’t win the tournament.
But he did win the chipping contest.
And the prize was….
a brand new car!
My husband won a car today.
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When is the Woody again???


…….

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Ch-ch-ch-changes: reflections in the wake of a tornado

5 May

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Last week a tornado ripped through our lives. It didn’t just affect our community, it tore apart our entire state, home after home and heart by heart. It dramatically altered the landscape of Tuscaloosa, one of my own hometowns, and the main artery of many people’s lifelines in a large portion of this state having made so many memories in the city center at the University of Alabama. A large swath of the town is now rubble, unfortunately a large percentage of it uninsured victims who cannot afford to rebuild their lives and must now depend on others to help get them back on their feet. Unfortunately, this natural disaster did not stop here. Now known as the deadliest state for tornadoes, we had over 200 deaths in our state from this one day of multiple conformed tornadoes and hundreds of warnings, with the state’s only EF-5 tornado ripping through our state, only 1.5 miles from my son’s school, for a length of 135 miles. For 5 days afterwards we were without power, cable, phone or any type of communication, and now, even with these items restored, we are on water and power conservation and our city curfew has only now been lifted. It has been a scary time indeed.

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Through all of this, our local and state officials have been amazing. They have been swift in making decisions and thoroughly communicative. They have kept a sense of calm and a presence of leadership. They have been realistic and forthcoming about the nature of what we should expect. They have appealed for help at every level without making us appear helpless and defeated; rather, they have rallied us together to form a bond of unity throughout our state as never before. In the midst of it all, there has been an undercurrent of faith and a dependence on God, even in secular areas and government. It has been comforting.

Our family has had a chance to come together and help others. We stuck around and helped here and then spent a day volunteering in our community to spend some hands-on time to help those who lost everything they owned. It was a great way to give back. We felt spared by the skin of our teeth as we left school the day of the storms, watching a tornadic storm literally follow us home, as we fled to safety away from harm. Helping others was one way we could thank God for getting us out of harm’s way and add back to the greater good.

We’ve also had a chance to realize how much God has a message in everything…in every little and big way of life. The smallest things are a chance to bring glory to God. We want to look for them more in every day.

Life in our home is dramatic on a daily basis, and I really mean that. Something seems to happen every day that is of some seismic proportion. Today it was on spin cycle. Sometimes it is on a smaller global scale, but the message is always just as loud and clear.

For this reason, I want to change my blog up a bit. I have struggled with what to write and how to say it. I’ve struggled with a lot of things over the past couple of years. But I think things are coming together for me a bit clearer now. With a lot of things. So I’m changing the landscape a bit, on a lot of home fronts, and on this blog too.

There will always be storms in our lives. Hopefully they will not be as destructive as the storms on April 27, 2011 were for so many families who lost lives and property. But no matter the size of the storm, we must rely on God to show our storms how big our God is, and face the storms with a faith that is bigger that the storm and bigger than our earthly losses, and show everyone around us a bigger glory, that of a faithful God who can bring us through it.

And so, we press on, friends. For this blog we will press on to here. I hope you will join me in a more focused and faithful journey.

“Daily Drama in the Glamorous Life”

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