Broken

Humble image of my broom, dust pan, and probably some dust bunnies.

I broke two ornaments today. That would not be the first time. Every year, I usually break a couple. It always bothers me in an inconvenient type of sense, but today was different. The two ornaments were special to me. Irreplaceable. They were not expensive, but they were sentimental. I had been especially careful decorating our tree because most of our ornaments are made by our children or gifts to me from friends and family. When the first one broke, I was slightly sad. However, when the second one broke… well, I was taken aback and honestly wanted to cry. Once they were broken, there was no “fixing” them. That was that and I swept up the pieces and threw away what was left.

Earlier in the day, I was trying to decide on putting more ornaments on the tree (or not). My husband assured me that the tree looked finished to him…but I was not convinced. This particular tree is a Balsam Fir. Although beautiful, the branches are not as sturdy and ornaments tend to fall off or bend the branches if not wired securely in place. I decided to add the additional ornaments and some extra ribbon, and that is when the two ornaments fell off the tree. There was no time to catch them, and I helplessly watched as they fell and shattered.

I started thinking about the ornaments and the way it felt to watch them fall out of my control. Yes, I am aware that they are JUST ornaments, but they happened to be special to me. There is not a price for which I could replace them. And I believe that many of us are going through the same struggles in our own lives. We try to maintain a sense of control. “If I plan enough, pray enough, worry, enough… maybe nothing bad will happen,” we tell ourselves. But then it does. We are broken. There is no going back. The hurt, damage, circumstances are irreversible. We are left to sweep up the pieces of our lives, so to speak. I personally know people going through divorce, financial loss, sudden death of a family member, anxiety, depression… there is a never-ending list of struggles that do not discriminate.

And I am writing this thinking how trite I must sound. What advice or solution do I have to offer? It is humbling in the least because I do not have all the answers. But as I look at my Christmas tree, I see that it is beautiful in my eyes. There are two precious ornaments missing… but it does not affect the overall picture of the tree. There is still something beautiful in brokenness. You are still beautiful in your own brokenness. Your life has worth even though there may be parts and pieces missing. We all have broken pieces that have to be “cleaned up” and dealt with. Yours and mine may be different, but we are still the same. We all hurt at times and we all can still have beautiful lives in the overall scheme of things.

Merry Christmas.

and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Date Night

Pascagoula Bridge at sunset

A long time ago in a galaxy far away from bills, health issues, jobs, child rearing, and 401ks… there was a thing called “date night.” I remember it well. There were movies, restaurants, picnics at NIGHT (with roses on the front seat of his jeep for me), and limitless opportunities to talk and spend time together. As time progressed, date night was replaced with ballgames, cheer competitions, late-night visits to the pediatrician, homework, and general adult responsibilities that eat away at time. Yes, date night became the occasional anniversary dinner or Christmas shopping for the kids.

With the development of the pandemic almost a year ago, date nights with my husband became even more rare. We had already gotten out of the habit of carving out time for each other as he had a long recovery the previous year from back surgery and was at home (no getting out for dates.) Life happened and sometimes got in the way of the truly important things like relationships. We had gone to a nearby town on our anniversary this summer, so I got the motivation to date my husband again. Unfortunately, we are usually tired and good intentions go “out the window”…. especially on a Friday night!

I picked the tree quickly… once we found the lot!😂

I got home from school this Friday and just wanted to go to sleep because I was so tired. We sat at the kitchen table (my head literally on the table!) and decided begrudgingly to go ahead and make the 45 minute drive to the tree lot we like to visit. This would be the first time our children would not be with us to pick out a tree (they were not interested in going) I was sad as this was always a family tradition, but kids grow up as we all know. We also decided to let little guy stay with my mother in law. Although we were exhausted and I was completely dressed down (including messy hair and minimal makeup), I wanted a tree, so off we went.

As we got on the Pascagoula Bridge, I took several pictures of the most beautiful sunset. This was the type sunset one might see with a significant other. We got to the town where the tree lot is located and literally could not get to the lot. It was situated on a frontage road off the highway and there was no exit. We decided to take a chance and turned off onto another road. Twenty minutes later we were still “lost” and I was laughing so hard . Finally, we got back onto the bridge. Unfortunately, we missed another turn and had to take the bridge to the end of it and turn around AGAIN.

Finally, we found the tree lot. I picked out a tree in less than five minutes. A couple and their three teenagers were admiring their tree and the mom asked me to take a picture of them in front of it. They made silly poses. This was actually fun! We left the lot and stopped at a gas station for fine date night food… Cokes and Reese’s cups. As we rode home, we talked about Christmas plans and listened to music. At home, we were surrounded by our three kids, a dirty kitchen, and more “things” to do than could be handled in one night, but for two hours I got a spontaneous date night. No flowers, pretty clothes, or fancy restaurants. Nonetheless, it was one of the best date nights I can remember in a long time.

Times

Image: Google

These sure have been strange times.

Actually, these sure have been strange times, blessed times, hard times…and the list keeps going. Sometimes I am not sure how I feel, how to feel, or even if my feelings make any sense. Even my prayers are sometimes jumbled and I just have to believe that God knows what I need to say before I do.

These are emotional times.

Yesterday, I rode by our first home we purchased as a couple. The home where we brought two of three children from the hospital in their little newborn outfits. I love our current home… but I cried for younger days and for the speed at which my children have grown. I miss my brothers who live 12 hours away. I always miss my grandparents. I miss watching my son play baseball. I miss smiling at people without a mask. I do not necessarily miss hugging.😂I think we ALL miss life before last March.

These have been trying times.

Every time I log into social media, I see someone grieving over the loss of a loved one. Whether from COVID, another illness, or tragedy, my heart aches for them the same. I see a country divided… both figuratively and literally…many relationships strained over political differences. And the families voluntarily staying apart from older or immuno- compromised family members is heart- wrenching. There sometimes seems to be no end in sight.

These have been times of blessing.

This Thanksgiving was blessed as my parents were here with us as well as my in-laws. We ate, laughed, and visited over dessert. I did not take that time for granted and pray that there will be many more to come. Back when school closed down in March, our son came home from college. Although I know he missed playing baseball and being with friends, I am grateful that my family of five had some extended time together. And I have seen this sentiment echoed by others, as well… many posts on social media are filled with photos of immediate family reconnecting because of the current circumstances. Weddings are smaller but maybe more meaningful. Game nights are more frequent.

These have been times of strength.

Our essential workers have stepped up…and big time. The medical community continues to give it all they have with immense sacrifice and bravery. They also serve to educate communities on how to stay healthy. Our educators have navigated uncharted territory so that students may continue to grow, learn, and and have a sense of normalcy. And those teaching in person also put themselves in the line of fire to keep themselves and their students safe. I am proud to be a teacher. Other workers, like my husband, produce the oil, gases, and products we need on a daily basis.

These times have been uncertain.

Although I try not to live in fear, I have battled anxiety for the better part of 25 years. Actually… I am currently battling anxiety if I am honest. Watching only five minutes of the news can send me down a trail of worry and fear… so I choose to watch carefully and only sporadically. When I see a small business having to close, I see someone’s dream shattered. When I hear of someone losing a job, I think how it must feel to worry over that stack of bills on the kitchen counter. Last year, my husband had major back surgery and was out of work for over half the year. I know there is a mother right now wondering how to make Christmas happen because I was that mom. Praying so much for those families right now…

We must take the circumstances as they come, I suppose. And though I cannot change what happens in the future, I can make this time count. Right now. Just today. Smile. Count my blessings. Tell my family I love them. Take things one day at a time.

Sometimes

Sometimes she needs to know she isn’t messing everything up in her life.

Tell her you know she’s doing her level best as a wife and mother.

Sometimes she needs to remember who she was before.

Give her time to pursue a dream. She had them once. Probably still does.

Sometimes she needs to remember she’s still the woman with whom you fell in love.

Tell her she’s beautiful. Look at her like you did the first few months you fell in love. Take her away from all the mess. The stress.

Sometimes she needs a break.

A five minute shower doesn’t count. A day without hearing her name, making 1090 decisions in a one minute time frame, or half-drinking her coffee does.

Sometimes she needs to cry without judgment.

Your attempts to fix things or say “don’t worry” aren’t needed. Be there. Just be there.

Sometimes she just needs you.

Between Grace and a Hard Place

I always post more pictures of little guy… it’s not on purpose. Being a mom to two different age groups is a blessing… and a challenge.

I am sitting in my den on my husband’s recliner. Paw Patrol is blaring and my Yorkie is sniffing around like he is about to mark his territory. Honestly, I would rather be on the couch, but I am tired a being kicked in the stomach. My preschooler literally has almost a whole house in which to play, sit, kick…. but wants to be attached to me with super glue because I am SO awesome. Just kidding. Today I am not as awesome as usual. Still kidding! I do my best and whether that counts as awesome or not I have yet to know.

My daughter is with a friend. They are varsity cheerleaders and her friend’s mom (a friend of mine) graciously offered for my daughter to ride to the game with them and stay the night. My husband is on night shift. My oldest son is away at college studying and playing baseball. I am grateful my daughter has such a sweet friend and I am grateful for the opportunity my oldest has to do things he has dreamed about since first setting foot on a baseball field at the ripe old age of four. I am also grateful for my youngest blessing.

I am a preschool teacher. My youngest is in my class. No playing favorites… I promise. I am blessed to teach him, but it can be hard. Today was one of those days. Like many three year olds, he “tried” me. After school, we had a staff meeting. My principal was talking and he steadily talked, fussed, got up… you get the picture. I was NOT happy and instead of just reprimanding him calmly, I was very short. I already felt badly about missing my daughter cheering tonight at the football game. And I know my husband and oldest have been texting about baseball. As the mom, I do not get those text messages as often. As frustrated as I was with my youngest, I felt guilty about being so short with him.

As we drove home from school, I began to think. I thought about how God gives me an unending amount of grace. I thought about how I am not perfect and sometimes that is going to manifest itself in my parenting (or anything else). I realized that I may have a hard parenting day but that I can always pray for grace and ask for forgiveness. I also realized that I am human. While other moms my age are sitting at the game (and I would love to be, as well), there is grace in the hard places to be what I need to be to all three of my children.

Not Forgotten

I was teaching on September 11. Our principal summoned us to the conference room and this is the first image we saw. (Image: Google)

I am writing and I am literally sitting in a booth at a Mexican restaurant… a rare “date night.” Our daughter is cheering tonight and my mother in law has the little guy. Adult time. Rare and welcome to someone raising a preschooler later in life (also a teacher so doubly grateful for adult conversation). My husband is humoring me. I really do not mean to be rude. He knows writing is my version of therapy. It is crowded in here. There are lots of conversations going on and the television in the bar area is blaring with the latest news on a possible tropical storm. I see some people I know from work. To my right are four women with September 11 remembrance shirts on and I really want to tell them I like the shirts. The sharp contrast of sitting with my husband while eating dinner and listening to laughter on this tragic anniversary is not lost on me. If one can feel blessed and selfish concurrently, then I absolutely do. Such a sad day of remembrance mixed with the mundane….

We pay for our food and go riding around as the game does not start for another hour . I am guilty of looking at Facebook when I should just be enjoying the free time and decide to put my phone down. There are some cows grazing in a rolling, green pasture. I love cows. In a conflicted and sometimes scary world, they are unaware and unmoved. They just keep on living. I read stories earlier in the day about wives that just had to keep on living when their husbands died on September 11. They had children that needed them. I had my first child seven months before the attacks. I suffered from postpartum depression and decided on that fateful day that he needed me, too. These women are among the heroes that day. They just kept going.

We head back to the football field and find some seats. As is the custom at sporting events, we stand in honor of the American flag and listen to the National Anthem. I miss our son who is away at college as he used to play on the same field, but am nonetheless grateful to see our daughter cheer. I cannot complain as there are many parents on that fateful day nineteen years ago that would have given anything to see what their children would have become. I learned today that the youngest victim of September 11 was a two year old little girl…. one year younger than my youngest blessing. She was with her parents on a plane. They were taking her to Disneyland. I feel a tinge of remorse as I recall my impatient tone with my youngest the day before.

Life is unpredictable. Little did I know that tragic day that my seven month old would grow up and play college baseball, that I would have a daughter three years later, and another son thirteen years after that. I did not know that I would still be teaching, lose my two grandmothers, build a home, go through many hard times and good times…and the list goes on. But maybe that is the whole point. Those people did not know. They did not know that it would be the last date night, peaceful drive, ballgame, goodnight kiss, story time…or any other seemingly normal event. So tonight I will remember those lost and those who have lost. Thank you for inspiring the rest of us to make memories in the seemingly mundane. Because of you, I will put down the phone and take in the scenery, plan more date nights, and be more patient with those I love most.

God is Everywhere

This oak straight ahead was tiny when we planted it 11 years ago. It’s witnessed baseball, riding mowers, and child-sized Jeep rides….

It’s been a hot minute. Not exactly Wordsworth material, per se, but it is better still than the absolute writing desert I have traipsed through for three months on now. This is relatively painful for one who has admittedly told others that “writing is like breathing.” Cue the eye rolls. Call it writer’s block. What is absolute baffling is that it has not been for a lack of material. My mental energy has been spent making decisions about the usual family things and getting my own classroom together. Also, I just saw my college sophomore off to school and my high schooler and I have been having mutual conversations about how we miss him already. Also, I. Am. Exhausted.

Fun fact. Did you know that it is entirely possible (and probable) to be grateful and sad at the same time? My youngest and I went for a walk today. We walked past a house that my husband and I lived in two years after we married (and one year before we had our oldest child). Already I had been mourning my children growing up before my eyes… and quickly. My memories of that house were midnight trips to Waffle House, standing at the kitchen sink window that overlooked the front yard, and tying our Christmas tree to the window with fishing line after one too many falls (resulting in most of the ornaments breaking).

I always have mixed emotions. I assume we all do (please tell me I am not the only one). Today was blessed. That little walk with my boy with a gentle breeze fluttering the oaks (and a dog antagonizing an unsuspecting bull). We played on the swing set and just sat in the shade. We also took naps. There was lots of laughter today. There were a few tears, as well. Our oldest was home for several months and worked at the family lake. As I walked our road home with my youngest, it was quiet without Clark’s truck coming down the road. I cried (just a little, I promise) . “Mommy, don’t cry. He’s at baseball school.” said my little guy. My sweet daughter misses him, too. I know we raise them to fly, but so did the time and my throat has a lump in it from trying to be strong…

I almost felt like God was in these beautiful, low-lying clouds.

Sometimes I think I see things others might not see. It has nothing to do with my being more spiritual or closer to God. But I have a need, and although I do not believe in signs from God, I believe He is all around us if we look and still our minds and spirits. But that is the hard part, is it not? I get up on weekdays and literally do not stop until I collapse at night. How can I have the time to find God in the craziness of packing lunches, forgetting my school keys, managing a full classroom of preschoolers, taking care of my own children…I find it in the smallest of things. The rain, the five minutes I get to myself in the shower, a hummingbird at the feeder, watching my oldest continue to flourish in college, hearing my daughter tell a funny story, my little one giving me a kiss, low-lying clouds on a walk. And I remember the He is everywhere. When I do not see Him, feel Him, make time for Him, doubt Him, and even when it is hard….God is everywhere. Stop. Look around you. And listen.

These Days

A quiet day on the Escatawpa River

My little one and I went to the beach on the river today (yes, we social distanced). I began to think about the “good old days.” Honestly, I was sad. Life is always an ebb and flow of mountains and valleys, but sometimes the valleys seem to be more in number and mountains harder to climb. I am not what is referred to as a “fish”. I grew up landlocked, cried at swimming lessons, and always preferred mountains over the beach. But for some reason many of my most precious memories revolve around some sort of water.

My Mamaw used to take me fishing when I was very young, probably four or five years old. She baited the hook with real worms. I wore a bonnet that she sewed to keep the sun at bay. This is probably one of my earliest memories about water and I miss her always. I remember going to Destin, Florida, as a child and not once worrying about sharks,jellyfish, sunburns, social distancing, or flesh eating amoebas. Good times they were. My little brothers would toddle around under a tent with my parents and I spent hours riding the waves. Summers were spent on the Ross Barnett Reservoir. We had a camper and there was nothing as exciting as seeing my dad pull up to the driveway with the camper out of storage. These memories include fun times with my two younger brothers and miles and miles of riding bikes around the campground.

As I got more mature (alright, alright…older), weekends were spent at Rapids on the Reservior and three Coke product drink tabs got me into Waterland for free. That wave pool was the best. Then, in college I remember the first time I told my husband (then boyfriend) I loved him. We were on Sand Island (one of my first introductions to Coast life). He had already used those three words a couple of months before, but I needed a little time… he was quite surprised and we were so young and carefree. The same summer, he popped the question in Cancun… on the beach, of course. We had two children and took them to the beach on the river where we live and tubing, of course. They learned to swim in that cold water. One time, my daughter’s tooth got cracked when she and our older son collided as they fell off the tube.

Sometimes I pine for those days in the past, and that is okay because it means they were good days. Not that these days aren’t full of good things, as well. This year, my two teenagers worked at our family’s campground down the road taking up money and filling ice cream orders at the window… the same campground where my husband would throw them in the water off his shoulders after a long day at work. My little one and I watched the annual fireworks at the campground, too. I have loved being home with him during these strange times…I have a feeling that I will pine for the current days in the future, as well. There is a pandemic. There are protests. I am not as young as I used to be. But I have my family and memories of today on the water.

Image: Google

My Country

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedom, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Abraham Lincoln
Image: Google

Whether you have stumbled upon this blog or opened on purpose, there will be no political leanings to be found in this post. Do not get me wrong. I am passionately devoted to a set of values and beliefs that come from a place of prayer, research, and old-fashioned experience. This is not an attempt to sway, cajole, or persuade anyone to “see it my way.” There are too many other opportunities for those conversations. Yes, conversations. Have we forgotten how to talk? Debate? Is it just me, or does it seem as if social media readily fans the flames of dissent? It was most obviously already there. And our news outlets are usually part of the egging on process. I did not point to a party, a group, or a particular subset. This is what I personally see.

Facebook was created in 2004 and followed by Twitter two years later. Instagram had its beginnings in 2010. Since then, many a friend, foe, celebrity, and everyday person has voiced an opinion, been silenced, unfriended, unfollowed, blocked, reported, and spat upon (just kidding… maybe?). As I was driving my preschooler to the pediatrician for a check-up (call when you get there and get scanned for a temp… so unreal), my mind traveled back to another place and time on the very same road. Times were different then. Technology was not what it is now, and I miss those days.

I have traveled the same backroads for many years getting my three children to the pediatrician. My first was born in 2001. I had an easy pregnancy. Harder delivery. A combination of factors led to some postpartum depression. Everything was going smoothly as far as adjusting to having a new baby and I was completely smitten with him and with motherhood in general. But women sometimes have these issues and I was not immune. Try as I may, I could not shake it. I felt down and cried often. Yes, this is going somewhere.

On September 11, 2001, I dropped off my precious seven month old at his daycare and went to work as a remedial reading coach. Around 9 am, our principal called us to the office and told us to watch the television in the conference room. I was floored…. so much so that I had to ask our school counselor what was happening. Then, we watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center. THEN we were told some planes were missing. Our area has a major oil refinery and a shipyard that builds warships…. my baby’s daycare was in front of the shipyard. My principal sternly directed me to go get him. Parents began feverishly checking out their kids from school. I do not remember anything after that except for holding onto my child and watching the news until late in the night.

I remember thinking that this was a scary world to raise a child. My husband would not let me check the mail… remember anthrax? Keep in mind, this has been almost twenty years ago. As news continued to unfold about the terrorist attacks from day to day, there was a tangible sense of togetherness in our country… no certain race, religion, or politics stood out… just the fact that we were all Americans and we were all in this together. It became acceptable to reach across political lines, pray, help our fellow neighbor regardless of differences, sing God Bless America….we were seemingly blind to the insignificance of our differences.

Now, about that postpartum issue. For some reason, the attacks on September 11 made me “snap out of it.” Postpartum depression is very real and it is perfectly acceptable to get help. But on that day, I decided that I had to pull out of it and realized that my child needed me to be strong. Twenty years later, that has not changed. Now I have three children and they still need me to be strong. And it is HARD. The coronavirus, political unrest, and other issues our country is facing has made me realize that we are not united as before. Rather, we are more divided than ever. I wish September 11 never happened. But my country came together. I miss that.

There Were Three

“I want Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Twinkle Little Star, Jesus, and God.” These are the four requests I get every night from my precious toddler. The last two are somewhat vague, but I know what they mean. I am his mother, after all. He wants “Jesus Loves Me”, “Jesus Loves the Little Children” or another spiritual song. I choose “Amazing Grace.” I am not sure why. Maybe I remember that the last time I sang this, he was peaceful and still. I sing one verse of the Row Your Boat and Twinkle Star. I run my fingers through his hair. He wants me to rub his little eyebrows and demonstrates with his chubby fingers…..I am well-versed at this, though. He has two much-older siblings.

I rub his eyebrows and sing “Amazing Grace.” I have to be honest …. it is not my favorite hymn (I do love hymns, though!). He seems to be transfixed, however. His turned-up nose is ever familiar. I sing the second verse and almost cannot finish….

My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood, his mercy reigns. Unending love…. amazing grace.

“Please,” I think. “I have to remember how his little ringlets feel in my fingers. I have to remember his chubby little hands in mine.” I cannot forget. I said twice before I would not forget and yet I did. The familiar curls, upturned nose, baby breath… this is not lost on me. Years ago I sang. I sang to another precious toddler boy, then a little princess girl. I breathed them in and hugged them tightly vowing not to forget. But years come. And years go. And now I cannot remember. My heart breaks while I struggle through the second verse. My heart breaks that I cannot remember. My heart soars. My heart soars because I have one more chance. One more chance to remember, one more chance not to take anything for granted. Not that I took my other babies for granted, but there always seemed to be plenty of time. And now that one is in college and the other is in high school…I’m concurrently proud and admittedly a little sad. It came and it went… all too quickly. But there are three reasons to be thankful. And I am.

All children are miracles…. but some are unexpected miracles. Four years ago this summer at “advancedmaternal age (in medical terms), I found out I was expecting. I was already going through health issues. It was a harrowing experience. I am constantly amazed that he is perfect…. in every way, just like my other two blessings are.