Saturday, February 28, 2015

Before you judge me for letting my 16 year old get a tattoo... please read this...

Savannah got her first tattoo tonight. Her dad and I took her just like we went with Timmy to get his first tattoo.  And some of you out there are at this very moment saying out loud or in your head, "What the heck are her parents thinking letting her get a tattoo?!?!?" Trust me... I hear you... I know you are saying and thinking it. And I should not care or give a hoot, but sadly, I do! But, for just a minute let me explain WHY we allowed her to do this and then if you still think we are crazy, well, that is your call and I don't give a hoot! For the record, we would not have allowed her to just go out and get ANY old tattoo. What we did consider and after months of thought and talking about - finally agreed to - is a tattoo that is the drawing her brother sent her on her 10th birthday. When she was 9 years old, Savannah's older brother, Timmy, joined the Army and was sent to Oklahoma for basic training.  He was there when her 10th birthday rolled around. It was the first time they were not together on her birthday.  When kids are homeschooled, they are TOGETHER A LOT!!! He was with her nearly every day for 9.5 years of her life. He made her lunch a lot of days and they were connected.  So, when her birthday was coming up, he couldn't get her a present because he was in Basic. He drew her a picture.  The picture has a story - when he was younger his best friend, Patrick and him, created stick figures for themselves.  Later, Timmy tattooed those stick figures on his ankle. So, he sent her this drawing and he made her an honorary stick figure.  She was thrilled to get this simple drawing for her birthday and for a 10 year old missing her brother it was huge! When Savannah was 11, her brother was killed in a car accident. To say that this has been hard on her and our family is just words. It doesn't even touch the emotion that is really involved.  Unless your world has been devastated by losing a loved one - you have no freaking clue and don't even try to say you do. Timmy was a tattoo crazy person. And not long after his death, Savannah began to tell us that some day she was getting a tattoo of those stick figures.  As she led up to her 16th birthday - she began to talk about it more and more.  Tim and I talked and talked and talked some more.  Then I do what I always do... I asked my mom her opinion. Then I asked my SC friends. Finally, I asked my bestest friend, Jorgena, what she thought of it. ALL OF THEM said that under the circumstances, they could see this being okay. And, yet, I still had to think on it some more. Ultimately, I realized that my sweet girl has struggled greatly the last 5 years. I have seen her not sure how to answer the uncomfortable question of "Do you have any siblings?" I have seen her not want to talk about what happened to her brother. I have seen her face emotions that I don't wish on anyone.  Finally, we decided that we believed that she would never regret this particular tattoo. We believe that each of us have to do things that help us put shattered pieces of heart back in place. For her that is a tattoo. If it gives her the strength she needs to talk about him and feel him close to her - then I am certain we made the right choice. I didn't owe any of you an explanation. But I know all too well that people form opinions of people without knowing all the facts. She is my baby and she has been through more grief than she has ever deserved. If my telling people why she has been allowed to do something spares her just one person looking down upon her, then I am glad I did it. Just remember everyone has stuff they are dealing with and you may really not have any idea how hard that is.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"Crazy House Lady"

Have you heard about this app called Time Hop? It shows you your facebook posts on the same day in years past.  It is pretty neat to see what you were up to years ago.  My time hop told me, yesterday, was the day we bought our first South Carolina rental.  I hadn't really been thinking about that at all until I saw it.  That, in turn, made me reflect on the journey our life has taken in the 4 years since that time.  Lots of you know that I am the "Crazy House Lady" as some of my friends like to call me.  Some of you know why I am, but I suspect many of you don't know why we would decide to buy 7 more rental houses over 3 years bringing our total to 8 rentals including our original Florida rental property.  As with so many things, my life is divided into the parts of  "before Timmy died" and "after Timmy died".  Before he died, we owned our Florida rental property because we could not sell that dang house no matter how hard we tried. With my job layoff, economy, etc. it made the most sense to rent it out and move up here to South Carolina.  The plan was NEVER to stay landlords.  The plan was to wait for the market to return and sell the house. When Timmy died, he left life insurance behind. I still, to this day, can remember the phone conversation we had in early 2010. Tim had recently begun working for the State of SC and now had life insurance benefits. I was telling Timmy about them because he was the named guardian of the younger kids.  I remember Timmy saying, "Oh yeah, mom! I forgot to tell you that I put you down for my life insurance! If anything happens to me... you will be set!" Me being me told him to HUSH! DON'T SAY SUCH THINGS! DO NOT SPEAK OF THAT! I am always saying KNOCK ON WOOD! He laughed and that was the end of that conversation.  I didn't give it much thought.  Not until Sgt. Fetters sat at my table going over the details of my child's death. He spoke quietly and directly and matter of fact. Like we should know exactly what he was talking about when he referred to life insurance.  We did not.  We didn't know anything. The more he spoke, the more I became physically ill.  I wanted to RUN from the table, but didn't because I was thinking that would be rude.  So, I sat and I made myself listen. Weeks passed and we did not speak of it. It was money that sat in an account because my child was dead. It hurt and I hated it and I wanted it gone and my child back.  We decided to pretty much do nothing because neither one of us wanted to think about it. Then in January of 2011, I woke up and looked out the window.  I saw a for sale sign in the yard across the street.  I tell you, it was like divine intervention! I had this peace that said to me - buy that house.  I called Tim and thought he would think I was insane! He didn't at all.  He told me to call a realtor. We had a friend, Celeste, that sold my mom her house. I called her and honestly, she was so gentle and kind with the crazy, insecure, emotional wreck that I was.  And so began a new path. At that moment, we thought we would buy 1 or 2 houses in the neighborhood.  Our grand plan in a perfect world was that we would secure the price of houses at today's prices and sell them deeply discounted to each of our kids when the time came.  Then they could live right by us and NEVER, EVER go to Alaska.  Okay, okay... we knew they may not want to live there RIGHT by us, but at the very least - we could then sell the houses and give them a large chunk of money to put down on whatever house they wanted. So, we bought the first house and we had to renovate it.  This is where I think that God knows exactly what you need and when you need it.  We needed a project.  We needed something to talk about other than the ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM i.e. our child had died.  We needed focus and a reason to get out of our comfy and safe chairs.  We had to pick paint colors and flooring and appliances, etc.  Then we physically did all the work ourselves.  Just ask my children about removing wallpaper - they will tell you they have been traumatized!
We could have paid somebody, but we didn't.  We put our energy into a new beginning of a house. We finally finished it and stood back and had some happiness over what we had accomplished. And then on May 14, 2011 - one year to the day my boy had to go away - I signed a lease on that house.  Our wonderful tenants are still there almost 4 years later.  I knew that this is what we were supposed to do.  And so it went... we bought another house that year, two more the next year - 2012, two more the next year - 2013 and our final one in 2014.  Most of these houses needed renovations and it kept our minds active as we navigated this new world of ours.
There are times when my phone is ringing or I am meeting crazy people that want to rent our place that I think this was a huge mistake.  But, overall, I feel like we were guided to exactly what we were supposed to do.  Our hope is that these houses will provide security not only for Savannah and Sebastian, but their families. Our wish is that he is proud that we took what he gave and we worked to make it something to last in his memory. We believe that there will be a day when our kids talk about how Uncle Timmy served his country and provided for these houses - Pyro Tim Properties.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Harry Potter... One little book - so many memories...

"If there is one thing that Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign... to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever." - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Sebastian and I just finished the first Harry Potter book tonight.  Of course, he had heard of Harry Potter before and I am pretty sure he has seen a movie clip or two.  But for the most part, Harry Potter was quite the unknown for him.  It is strange how that happened because for so very long both Timmy and Savannah were engrossed in Harry Potter. Savannah, recently, had reread through the books for herself which led to how much she would like to go to Harry Potter World at Universal more than any other single trip. We decided this was the year to go.   Of course, that meant that Sebastian needed to be introduced to the amazing world of Hogwarts.  I went and found my first book - the only Harry Potter book I have in a tattered, well loved paperback.  I have thought of replacing it with a hard covered book several times, but somehow leaving the book exactly as it began seemed more fitting.  It started way back in December of 2000.  I had ordered some Christmas presents from a website and as a bonus they sent me a free copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's stone.  I had never heard of it and really knew nothing about it.  I looked it up and found it was supposed to be a great book, so I put it under the Christmas tree with all the other gifts. I still laugh at the video footage of Timmy opening it.  One because he is in a t-shirt and underwear and two because he read the title as "Harry Porker".  That child of mine was not a reader and completely underwhelmed that there was a book as a present.  When we started back to school in January, I got home from work in the afternoon and would do the lessons we needed to cover and then we would sit on the love seat and do a read aloud book. I decided to try this one.  When I took Timmy out of school in the 5th grade, reading was a struggle for him.  I would have him read one page and then I would read two.  It was slow and tedious, but little by little, he began to read better and his confidence grew. (It is a whole lot different reading it now to Sebastian.  He follows along word for word and is quick to point out if I skip a word or change it in any way!)  Savannah was just a baby - 2 years old, but she would sit with us and listen.  By the time she was 4, she was convinced she was Hermione with her very own robe and wand.  Two Halloweens in a row she proudly wore her costume and beamed.  Timmy was the same age as Harry Potter in the books. He grew as Harry grew. We read each book as they came out until my little boy was no longer little and had a life of his own.  I was sad when I read the last 2 books silently to myself.  Sure, we still went to see the movies together as they came out, but I missed cuddling on that couch reading the afternoon away.  I distinctly remember going to see the Harry Potter movie when I was pregnant with Sebastian and seeing the winter scenes.  I craved ice so badly with that pregnancy that all the snow made me need ice immediately! Those were wonderful family times that I cherish!  Sadly, Timmy died before the last movie came out. That winter, I put on his giant hoodie - still smelling like him, wrapped myself deep inside it and I watched the last movie in the theater.  The tears streamed down my face and I remembered.  I remembered how lucky I was to have that child in my life. How blessed I was to have memories that some people only dream of.  I knew he was sitting with me in that theater. I felt him with every part of my being.  And now, I have gotten to start all over again 15 years later.  How often does that happen? So much has changed and yet, so much is still very the same.  Sebastian leans up against me and we enter into a great adventure.  And life continues...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Christmas Letter 2014

Your long awaited Christmas book has arrived! Pull up a chair and relax! It’s that time of year again!

Let’s start with Sebastian! He is a double digit midget this year! My youngest baby is 10! And with that extra digit, he has grown physically and his personality has grown. He has these long legs that he never had before. I look at him sitting in the van and I am like where did those legs come from? Guess what? He still loves video games and could spend his entire life playing them. He has been making basic programs on Khan Academy that I am pretty darn impressed with. I don’t understand half of what he says whether it is about programming or building something in Minecraft or whatever the computer talk is about. I have mastered saying, “Uh huh… uh huh” very well. I sound almost convincing. He still has a fantastic group of friends. Our boys have gotten easier this year. Less refereeing and more playing. We still have him in karate and he is up to his blue belt now. Overall, he likes the class except that it interrupts his computer time and well… we are okay with that – so he will continue and hopefully keep learning a lot. Even though he is growing up on me, he still lets me sing to him each night before bed. Sometimes he wants to say no, but then he misses it! Not all grown up, just yet!

Savannah aka Savy as she likes to go by these days has turned 16 this year! She has come out of her comfort zone the past 6 months. She put herself out there to just meet people and do new things. Once again, she joined student council and this year she is the Secretary. She is involved in two very different homeschool co-ops.  One is large and has a bustle of people and classes.  The other is small and a bit calmer. She worked at our local haunted house scaring people several nights each weekend.  This suits her! She likes to be loud and obnoxious and meet people. Getting made up all creepy and then freaking people out brings her a ton of joy! Can’t say that it doesn’t creep me out when I pick her up and her face is all bloody and scary.  Not my favorite thing to do, but Tim and I gladly drove her back and forth night after night.  Speaking of driving, not so much happened this past year, so the new plan is drive time this year. Dad is going to be helping more with that, so maybe next Christmas letter will tell you that she is a new driver. She has decided she wants to go to school to be a physical therapy assistant. This year we found an online school that offered a good athletic sports medicine class. For her first time, she is doing an online class. She is trying to figure it all out, but it is going to take a little more time. Oh, but it is going too fast! Please stop!

One of my silly memories of Timmy goes back to when he was a little boy about 7 or 8.  We had him in tae kwon do. He had a very serious teacher who was on the slightly short side for a grown man. One day, Timmy came in with a lose tooth.  It was just hanging by a thread. He was fussing about how sparring was going to make it fall out. His teacher, Master Dennis, told him to pull it out. Oh my goodness! What a fit he threw! He did not want to pull that dang tooth out! No way, no how! Master Dennis stood over him and demanded he pull it out. He pulled it out and was not very happy. Fast forward about 10 years… we were at a superbowl party and none other than Master Dennis was at this same party.  My now 6 foot plus tall, 260 lb son walks right up to Master Dennis and leans heavily on his shoulder – just towering over him. He very calmly says to him, “Wanna make me pull my tooth out now?” Oh my… I laughed so hard.  It was just the best memory. It still makes me smile every time I think of it. I still talk about my boy Every. Single. Day. and I will until I take my last breathe on this side. I still hear him talk to me in my mind. I hear his laugh and I feel his hugs. Someday it will all make sense.

My sweet husband is plugging away. He works and he rests and then he works again. It is the pattern of his days. Sometimes crazy, sometimes lazy, but it has been a good balance this year. It seems our rental houses go in spurts of all needing him to make repairs and then there will be a lull of quiet time. When is he is not working, he putters around with his hobbies. Always a plant or a fish or a something that grabs his attention and he messes with that for awhile. As some of you know from Facebook, he bought himself a brand new Jeep Wrangler this year. It was his first new purchase of his choice. He has always gotten the family car or what the family needed, but this time he got to just pick what he wanted.  It made him nervous, but it made me very happy to see him get to do something for himself.
I am older, fatter and a bit greyer. Sometimes my brain is swirling in 5000 different directions. I am teaching at our new homeschool co-op and managing rental properties. We started back to school in July and plowed through 17 weeks straight without a week off. I am enjoying our extended winter break immensely. Here is the not so sing, song, cheery, blah, blah, blah part of my letter. I love homeschooling. I believe in it and at the same time, wow! I am tired of asking, ummm, more like begging and pleading for kids to do their work. I know it is a test and I may or may not pass this one. Let’s hope January brings renewed strength. We did a good bit of running around this year which is one of my very favorite parts of life. Lots of Disney, even a couple days with Tim there. That is always a huge treat for our kids to have dad at Disney. We hit the beach and the mountains and took a very relaxing cruise. I am constantly aware that exploring new places is this amazing gift that needs so much gratitude.

There is this song by Need to Breathe called Multiplied. It has this one lyric that goes like this:
God of mercy 
Sweet love of mine
I have surrendered to your design
may this offering stretch across the sky
And these hallelujahs be multiplied.

When I hear this, it literally brings tears to my eyes. Possibly because I am an emotional, crazy lady, but I think it is more than that. It makes me cry because I am finally, little by little, with each moment learning that there is not a whole lot I can control in life. Sure, I pay my bills, brush my teeth... all that good stuff. But in the big picture – I have surrendered to His design. People die and it just plain, flat out stinks. We lost our dear friend, Laurie, to cancer this year and I hate it. I realized that there was nothing we could do. The pain was just going to have to come and we were going to have to all get through it. So, I have surrendered, but at the same time that I can’t control the bad stuff – I also can’t always control the good stuff. And there is good stuff. Really, amazing and wonderful stuff happens every day. And for that I say “these hallelujahs be multiplied”.  Now, nobody is perfect. I still try to control so much. I still feel better with a plan, checklists, order and neatness. I just know that this awful pain that comes with the trials of life is worse when you try to control it. Peace comes when you can accept the way things are, not what you thought they were supposed to be. With that thought, I leave you and say hug your family and friends! Tell them you love them! I wish you peace and joy!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
                              Tim, Kari, (Tim II), Savannah and Sebastian
               In memory of my sweet and wonderful Timmy 3.5.89 to 5.14.10 
        Until I see you again... I love you and miss you more than any words can say.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Savannah's first job... oh, but so much more than that!

This morning I set my alarm for 7am. That was the time Savannah said she would need to get up to start her first job today.  She said she had set her alarm, but I thought just maybe she would sleep through it. So, just to be sure, I set my own. As I opened my eyes, I could see that her bedroom door was open and she was awake. I tried to go back to sleep for a while until I had to wake to drive her to McDs.  As I lay there, I kept thinking about how this is how it happens. I have been down this path before. Ten years ago, right around this time, Timmy got his first job at Firehouse Subs. He didn't work early mornings there, but I still kept a check on time to make sure he was ready.  And he was. He did very well with his job and at just 16, he was more than ready to take this next step to growing up.  Things happened very quickly when he started the job. First it was working and then practicing driving more and then a license and then POOF! He had this whole other life of running in and out and eating warmed up dinners and catching up in phone calls throughout the day.  And... now... my baby girl is 16 and she just started this first job.  And before I blink, she will be working and then practicing driving more and then a license and then POOF! She will have this whole other life of running in and out and eating warmed up dinners and catching up in phone calls throughout the day. In some ways, it was a relief! It was like, "YAY! One less kid to micromanage and shuffle from place to place!" In hindsight, it was the last time or at the very least a distinct change for many things.  I don't even think I realized it at the time. This time around, I am going to try to notice it more. I am proud of her and nervous all at the same time.  She is beaming with possibilities right now and that just makes a mama's heart smile. To my beautiful daughter that I asked God to give me... I love you. I am proud of you. You are a young woman with amazing talents and I have no doubt that you will do great things with your life. Just remember that we are right here every single step of the way and we will help you with whatever you need to make those things happen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why we won't let him quit...

I haven't blogged in over a year. I don't know if this is ME blogging again or not. Facebook destroyed my blogging days because I now blog in popcorn posts. Some part of me wants a blog, a place where my memories are stored more than popcorn posts. This is what is on my heart today.

Sebastian is 10 and has been in karate for a little over a year. We believe he has done very well in this environment. If you know my kid, well, you know that he can let his emotions carry him away. We greatly struggled for 3 years after Timmy's death. There were lots of tears and anger and emotion. We plugged along each day and came out a little tattered, but no longer quite so crumpled.  For about the first year of karate, we went to 3 classes a week.  I had to drop that back to 2 as our rentals demanded more time and other activities filled our calendar.  Recently, Sebastian got his blue belt and immediately after we left for a week at Disney.  The first class back was fine.  The second was not. Last night, I took him to class and he was not a happy camper.  He was defiant and adamant that I stop forcing him to go to karate.  I am not gonna lie, I was done with him by last night.  It had been a hectic few days since returning from Disney and I really just wanted to squash him like a bug.  I was not happy that he was telling me I was forcing him to do this.  Here we are paying out money and spending precious time to get him there and he is being a spoiled brat.  Yeah, I know there are the gentle parents out there saying I am a monster that forces my kid into stuff.  I am fine with your interpretation of this.  Really, I believe everyone has a right to their own opinion.  And it is your opinions that make me question myself over and over.  Ask my mom, she will say that when she made decisions when I was a kid, she just did it. She didn't think about other people's opinions or thoughts.  Sometimes I wish I could be that way.  Not only having to think about the way I, personally, perceive things, but also think about the opposite opinion to decide which is the best way for me.  My loving husband came home and I told him about our class.  I told him that I was too tired and done to make this decision at the moment.  He quietly went to talk to Sebastian and came out saying, "He is going back to karate."  I was relieved, but I knew there would have to be more talk.  This is what I have come up with and I believe my husband agrees with me.  Sebastian doesn't want to quit karate to pursue another interest.  He has no burning desire to play basketball or soccer.  He is not chomping at the bit to get out his 4H bunny packet and work away on getting it done.  He doesn't want to read books about a new endeavor and formulate a plan.  I can tell you what he does want to do... He wants to play computer games and watch neflix.  He doesn't want to have to change out of his clothes into a karate outfit, drive 20 minutes and then do conditioning (he really doesn't like conditioning).  If he could just do all the kicks and punches and fun stuff in the comfort of his own home without the 3 steps above, he would probably be cool with that.  But that is not how life works! You have to take the right steps to accomplish something.  I was thinking about some grown people I know that walk away from their adult obligations.  They just decide they don't want to do what is required of them. They want to skip the work and in some cases still enjoy the good stuff.  I just posted on my fb this week a rant about parents raising their children to be responsible adults. And that helped me decide that Sebastian will continue with karate.  And not in the, "Wow, I am going to force him to do something he hates" scenario.  He doesn't hate karate.  He actually quite enjoys the class after the change of clothes, drive to class and conditioning part.  I am going to continue to take him because he needs to understand that it is important to work towards a goal and finish a task.  He needs to learn that commitment to something or someone is important.  Oh and it is our job to facilitate this.  Now, if the time comes that he can tell me a valid reason why he wants to quit, something like I want to pursue the robotics club and spend those hours working on my projects... I will be open to the discussion.  For now, I am going to be the grown up and just like so many things... guide him in a direction that I hope makes him a fantastic adult one day.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


In case you don't know this about me... I am a planner. I love plans. I love checklists. I love marking things off all neat and tidy. I also have a very strange love of amortization tables and seeing things paid off.  I don't like debt, but house debt is a necessary evil if you are going to invest in rental properties. I have spent a HUGE amount of time over the last couple of months pouring over our finances and moving towards expanding our rental business.  I am a bit OCD when it comes to these things. Even if I have worked through the numbers once or twice, I must do it again and again to be sure I did it correctly.  At the beginning of this year, I pulled a notebook off my bookshelf.  It was a partly used notebook - well because we homeschool and notebooks get used randomly, but not always finished. As much as I love my iPad, I have a need to actually write my budgets down on paper.  I flipped to the back of this notebook and found several pages of Timmy's handwriting.  It was his Apologia Biology homework from a decade ago. These things stop me in my tracks. I always am aware he is gone from this world. Occasionally, little things pop up and it feels like I have been kicked in the gut and at the same time I feel joy because it is proof that he was, indeed, HERE! Where am I going... don't you love how I ramble? So, at the very front of this notebook I began my typical monthly budgets. We use our credit card for nearly everything and while it is online - again, I feel the need to actually write down the purchases and make sure we are in line with out budget. Yes - I have Quicken. I do it there too, but not daily. Yes, I said I was OCD, remember? Recently, I decided to do a much larger business plan. One that projected the next 5 to 10 years. I broke out the amortization tables (yes, I am a nerd).  I figured one scenario and then another. At the end, I felt satisfied. I had done the homework. I had built in several emergency plans. I was at peace with our decision to move on and purchase more properties. Then this life event happened... my newest granddaughter in love was born last week. And I really, really want to go down and just hold her. I want to talk baby talk to her and tell her that Mama Kari loves her to the moon and back. But I have these plans and they are written in a notebook. They say that realistically, I should rent these properties as soon as we close, save for a bit and then head to Florida. Disclaimer - I fully believe you should live within your means. For me there is living within our means and then living within a very strict set of sometimes INSANE means that I set up. Seeing the baby isn't really the problem with the budget. The other part of my insanity is that I think if we go to one place, then surely we should go to another. If we are driving to Tampa Bay, then why not go further and drive to the Florida Keys? Sebastian has never been and we haven't been in 10 years.  Coincidentally, about the same amount of time as when Timmy wrote those answers in this notebook that is sitting here staring at me.  We took the whole family to the Keys in August of 2003.  We had plans to take Timmy snorkeling for the first time.  Then Tim got a kidney stone and he had to get him home for surgery. The snorkeling got canceled and I remember very clearly telling Timmy that we would plan for another time.  Well, that time never came. We never were able to make it back down to the Keys. When you lose your child, you have so many regrets. Silly little things and big, important things.  So, I was sitting here looking at the page on the left that holds our long term goals for the next 5 to 10 years and on the page next to it - my son's biology homework. I was thinking that we don't know how long we have on this side.  We don't know what the future holds. We do know there is a sweet baby girl in Florida that we have never met. And we do know that we could make amazing memories with our kids in the Keys. So, here I sit wondering... do we stick with the plans or occasionally throw them clear out the window (with caution, of course!)? 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fear and Motivation

So, I know I don't blog as often as I would like. There is always something else to keep me busy, but blog posts still roll around my mind.  Today, the topic of FEAR came to me. I have written about my fears here before. This is a bit different. It is not just about fear, but how fear is a motivator. It can either motivate you to act or motivate you to stay the same. There are a lot of big decisions going on in the Clayton household these days. My anxiety level is at a high.  That is not all bad. Actually, most of it is not bad at all.  I was thinking about how many times in my life that fear has kept me from doing what I needed or wanted to do.  I think back to being really little and being afraid of riding amusement rides. To this day, they terrify me and I have tried to conquer that fear. Ain't happening. Then I think about how I was afraid to even talk to a boy, much less walk up to his door and ring the doorbell of a boy I did not know. But, somehow, I did just that. On the other side of that door was the boy I would someday marry. I didn't let fear stand in my way.  When I was 25, we were ready to buy our first house. It terrified me! I ran numbers and wrote out budgets on backs of envelopes for weeks. I was just so nervous about making such a big decision. When we decided to homeschool, my right eye twitched for months!!! I kid you not, from May till August, my eye had a whole life of its own. I was sure I would mess my kid up and ruin his life. Finally, of all things, a bumper sticker gave me peace on that. I had been considering the Waldorf method for my curriculum. I had all but decided to enroll him in 5th grade, when there was a bumper sticker in front of me that said, "Education from the inside out." ~Waldorf homeschooling. I took it as my sign to go forward.  Not long after 9/11, something happened with my job. It was being merged with another department.  I had been working the same job, happily, for 8 years. I loved my job! I remember my boss, Bill, calling me into his office to tell me the news.  I was a basketcase.  The thing is... he was calm and understanding. He told me that he had a different job for me. It was a full time job that was an in office job, but he was going to take that position and turn it into a part-time telecommuting position custom tailored for me. How great was that? It was perfect, but I was stressed. I was afraid. He gave me a book and told me to read it. It was Who Moved My Cheese? It was a corny little book, but it made a lot of sense.  It is so strange how there are little pieces of your life that form you. Just chance moments, impromptu conversations, random life.  They shape you and transform you into a different you - hopefully smarter, stronger and better than before. So, today, I am on the other side of some decisions I was putting off because of fear. I am realizing that I still fall to the same old bad habits of letting the unknown control me to a certain extent. I would like to say that I have gotten a whole lot better at dealing with my "cheese" being moved, but I would be lying. I am, however, moving forward - pushing the fears back - making educated decisions and always looking up.

Friday, April 19, 2013

School is out - year 14 of homeschooling is complete...

This was her classroom of choice on a warm January day.

I have been puttering around my house this week. Cleaning a bit, decluttering a bit, taking a minute here and there to really look at some old school work, some old pictures, some of the past. We are getting ready to go on vacation and we were just finishing up the last bits of school. Savannah was sort of a ninth grader this year - I say that because I am taking high school as a journey rather than a sprint. We are in no big hurry to push her out the door and into adulthood. So... we are learning rather than checking the boxes. That may happen to be finished in just 3 more years or it may very well take 4. She started school a year early and I feel like we have the freedom to pursue gymnastics, travel, field trips and many other things before she grows her wings and flies away. Mind you - I have a rule... my children can fly and plant their roots no farther than two hours drive time away. I think we made some huge progress in writing this year. This is her second year of using Institute in Excellence in Writing. I'm so happy with the results. Wish I had bought it years ago for Timmy, but you live and you learn.  I don't assign literature to her because if she finds a book she likes - she finishes it in a day or two. I think if I made her break it down and read a couple chapters at a time - it would kill her love of reading. I know she understands and processes what she is reading because she "feels" the book much in the way I am when I read a book.  Math - oh how I dislike you - I decided that the definition of insanity was to keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome.  With that - I put aside the algebra and I bought the ENTIRE set of Life of Fred. Now some of that is way, way too below her skills. I figured it was best to read a whole series though and I wanted to read it with Sebastian. So far - she is enjoying Fred's take on life and mathematics. I ordered Dave Ramsey's Foundations in Finance for teens. We are gonna work our way through Fred and this... and then back to algebra. I remembered that this is one of the reasons I homeschooled - to take the winding road and curvy path that is the best way for my child.

This was one of his favorite projects this year - making a life size body with body parts.

Sebastian is finishing his 2nd grade year. I see the most progress with him because when they are younger - you see the huge jumps in skills.  He is less writing phobic, but I won't say I have cured him of his phobia. I fear that may take many, many years.  It is not that he doesn't know the answer or isn't learning... it's just that he does NOT in any way, shape or form want to pick up a pencil and actually write it on paper.  I have learned some things about him this year - what works and what doesn't.  I started with some very creative lapbooks and unit studies. Getting him to write out the answers in each book took every little ounce of my patience. After Christmas - I decided that I was just not going to take this route anymore. I changed over to Story of the World for history and geography. I didn't require him to write the answers - just answer them back to me. I order tons of the suggested reading from the activity guide. He loves the mapwork and each day I tell him to choose a book to read. He will sit and read for a very long time without a single complaint. He loves his workbooks because they are very defined. He knows what is expected and laid out for him. So - moving on into third grade - we are gonna go with Mr. Q science and the worksheets, more Story of the World and several different workbook based programs to round out language arts. We are gonna keep on printing for at least half of the year before we move to cursive. I am toying with doing a couple days of school a week on summer break to break it up a little more during the next year. Not really sure where we are headed on that, but it will come to me eventually. Oh and after I wrote this - he finished his math for the year. He was dancing GANGNAM STYLE all around the house. I told him to sit down and finish his math. He replied, "I AM DONE!!!" and continued to dance all through the house. Silly boy!

So, here I am - 14 years of my life - homeschooling.  I started for Timmy. My motivation was that I was so tired of asking him what he did wrong at school that day. Did he have a negative note? Then it turned into letting him learn to be his own person. To explore who he wanted to be. Now it has evolved to my two other children. Who do they want to be? What trek should we take? I still have about 10 more years on this adventure. Looking forward to it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A 20 year old card from my mom for my 21st birthday...

My mom gave me this card on my 21st birthday. Its been hanging on my refrigerator actually refrigerators - I think it has been through 6 refrigerators
since then. I cannot believe it has been 20 years. I mean, I feel like in many ways it has been 20 years. When I look at the card just hanging there every day - I never really thought about it being 20 years. I can't even remember my exact reasons for liking this card so much. I guess because it just fit.

"God gives us dreams a size too big so you can grow into them." 

When I was 21, I had been married for close to 3 years. Timmy had just turned 4 years old. I was in college and had a full time job. We lived in the converted in-law apartment attached to my parents' house. We wanted to buy a house and start our "real life". I had so many things I wanted to do. Finish school, buy a house, have babies, take vacations, make memories. It all seemed so far off - so big - so much to work towards. In 20 years - I have finished school. I have bought a house or actually 7 houses including my parents' house that had that in-law apartment where my house dreams were just beginning. I have had 2 more babies and taken more vacations that I can begin to count. And memories... I have an ocean full of them. And, yet, if my mom had given me that card today - it would still apply.

"God gives us dreams a size too big so you can grow into them."

I still want to buy houses. I still want babies - not my own, but lots of grandbabies and nieces and nephews. I love to think about vacations. And memories... I think this drives me the most. I want to make as many wonderful memories as I can. 

My birthday is hard for me. I don't love celebrating it because my sweet boy will never have another earthly birthday. It is hard to explain, but it is a feeling, an aching feeling. My head and even part of my heart tells me that God left me here for some purpose. I believe to be a mama to my kids. To be the other half of my husband. To be a good friend, daughter, sister, aunt and other mother to many. But I still have not great feelings about celebrating another birthday. And then there is this...

"God gives us dreams a size too big so you can grow into them."

Twenty years later and I still believe this to be true... I am gonna leave it on my fridge - for maybe another 20 years and see where I am then...

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

My version of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie with Ordering from Rainbow Resource

Ordering just one curriculum item from Rainbow Resource has somehow become my own personal version of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie... It goes something like if you are going to order, you should order $50 or more for free shipping, then you should order the whole elementary set of Life of Fred, then you should also get the bigger graph paper that is hard to find... Oh wait... You should sell some math curriculum you aren't using to help pay for this... You should probably ask your curriculum junkie friend, Christina, if she wants anything... You should order another Spelling Power workbook for next year, but wait are you sticking with Spelling Power? Maybe you should go research Spelling for the 40th time even though you always, always end up back at Spelling Power... While you research spelling, you start to read about Language Arts... Oh my... What should we do for that and should I figure that out while I have enough for free shipping? And look they have spiral bound graph paper in the size Savannah uses, but is that less paper than the ones you can find at the Harbison Walmart and not the Red Bank Walmart? That makes pyou think of Savannah's math and then you wonder if you should get the other older Life of Fred books for her since you are already ordering and there you are back where you started with ordering Life of Fred.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Milkshake Economics 101

Here is our economics lesson for the day... Savannah and I wanted chocolate milkshakes. Now I could have just went to McD's, but it has been an expensive month going to be followed by 2 more expensive months in the Clayton household. We are teaching our kids to budget and live within their means. We run our month from the 5th of the month till the 4th of the next month because we use our credit card for everything and that is how the cycle runs. We still have a few more days to go with an out of town competition coming up tomorrow. So... when the kids wanted ice cream... I had 3 choices:

1. Be mean and just say NO!

2. Run to McD's (so nice of them to just build one right down the street) and order us up          some ice cream.

3. Run to Walmart, buy some French Vanilla ice cream to make our own.

The first option costs us nothing... but we have been sick and food has not been our friend. Both Savannah and I thought ice cream sounded good to eat and that says a lot since we have barely eaten in a couple days.

The second option was to buy shakes at McD's. McD's being way cheaper than the Sonic option across the street will still run you about $2 a shake - could be slightly more or less depending on location. So - $6 for 3 shakes.

The third option - buy ice cream at Walmart - $2.97 for a half gallon of French Vanilla. We already had milk and chocolate syrup. We used maybe half of the half gallon (that's a tongue twister!).  So, about $1.50 in ice cream and maybe if we were going to be on the pricey side for milk and chocolate - 50 cents for that stuff. So, we are up to $2 for 3 milkshakes.

Here's the economics lesson... we could have spent $6 or we could have spent $2. The taste was basically the same. It took a bit more work, but heck... I needed to pull that blender out of the cabinet to find that I had not one, but two blenders. Then I asked why I had 2 blenders and Savannah reminded me that one was Timmy's. He bought a blender while were at Disney for mixed drinks and then just left it in my van. Yes, he was funny that way and that made me smile - so I'm glad I got a happy memory to go with digging out the blender. So... all in all... this is a no brainer here - it was a good idea to make our own milk shakes and hopefully some day - my kids will get that when they are at the end of the money and there is still some month left to go - they can make milk shakes and all will still be well with the world.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tears - not always sad - some come from joy

Over these past couple of years, I have become quite the crier. If you asked my brother when I was a kid - he would have told you that I cried about something every single day. I distinctly recall him saying that to me and challenging me to not cry for one single day. I was very determined to meet his challenge. Ummm... yeah... I lasted like maybe 4 hours and I cried about something. As I grew up, I became much less of a crier. I would say I didn't cry more than the average teenager or 20 something girl. I became more emotional in my thirties and well since my sweet boy has gone to heaven - forget about it - I cry all the time. Not because I am always sad though. Nope - not at all the reason. Just recently, my niece - Jo Jo - came to visit at Thanksgiving. It was the first time I had seen her obvious baby belly. When she walked into my kitchen to say hello - oh my goodness - I looked at her beautiful face and then I saw the sweet joy of that new life. And then the tears came to my eyes. Oh - so much love! When Rachel - one of my homeschool family - did her floor routine at the gymnastics meet... yep - tears and pride for how well she did! My other niece, Tabi, came to visit us in July. Oh her sweet boys - seeing them with my mom - their Great Grandma - happy tears. And then tears to say goodbye to them. Not exactly sad tears - just tears of emotion. Last night, I thought for sure I would be crying the whole time these lovely young ladies got ready for their dance. Well, I was in super curling hair mode and focused on that. When the beauty work was done - I walked out in my living room and I didn't just see my immediate family - I saw so many families that I love! We were all here to celebrate with our sweet babies. I still didn't let the tears fall although I knew they were right there. Then the picture taking began. This morning I have been sitting here looking at all the pictures and you guessed it - tears. I just love these kids so much and to see their happiness overwhelms me to the point of tears. At one point last night, I had Savannah and her cousin Karis get together for one of just the two of them. That was it for me - the tears they were coming. My mom said, "It's okay. Don't cry momma." I held it together, but the tears. You see these two cousins met when they were just a couple months old. We drove up here from FL in February of 1999. Debi and I wanted our sweet baby girls to meet each other. We dreamed about how they would somehow grow up loving each other even though there was 550 miles separating us. They saw each other a couple of times a year. They were instantly friends from the time they barely could walk or talk. And last night - they were going to a dance together. Oh tears - happy tears. A little bit sad tears, but more joy than sadness. You see I have learned something about tears over these last couple of years. I have learned that tears lessen the pain of grief, but tears also happen when you see how absolutely beautiful life still is.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My parents and their agape love...

The message in church this morning was about marriages. I was sitting next to my mom and I was thinking not only about my marriage, but about my parents' marriage. As we drove home from church, my mom said something about it not applying to her now, but she hoped that they had shown us that kind of marriage while my dad was alive. It was a very simple statement. Oddly it was very much what I had been thinking about during the service. One of the reasons I blog is because some day I would like my kids and their kids to have my memories written down. I believe understanding your family and where they came from is a wonderful gift. My story began with two people that loved each other. I may have doubted things in my lifetime, but one thing I never doubted was my parents' love for each other. For as long as I can remember, my parents did everything together. My mom has never driven. One would think that would have been quite the hindrance to her, but it really wasn't. I remember being a little girl - preschool age. I think my dad had off on Tuesdays (I know it was a weekday.) He would drive my mom to the bank and to the grocery store. He sat patiently in the car. He didn't have a smartphone or an ipad to keep him busy. He just sat and listened to the radio or maybe read the paper. Now, my dad wasn't perfect. He wasn't one to carry the groceries into the house and help put them away. He had his flaws, but they were pretty minor. I learned at that young of an age that my parents worked well together. She was what he needed and likewise for her needs. Another thing they would do was go to "the club" on Friday night. It was a not fancy social club with a fish fry and cheap beer. They would meet their friends for dinner and maybe some dancing. I was thrilled because we would get tombstone pizza for dinner and I could curl up in their warm waterbed to watch Dallas! Yes, I was an 8 year old hooked on Dallas. When we would go on vacation together, I could tell that they were genuinely happy to have a week off to spend with each other. As I got older, my mom began working days at the hospital every other weekend. My dad was not a hobby guy like my husband is. He didn't have projects and stuff to keep him busy on the weekend. He would get up, read his paper, get his car washed, maybe stop by a friend's house and then he would come home and read some more. He would glance at his watch several times an hour. I knew what he was doing. He was checking if it was time to pick my mom up from work. He was counting down till it was time to get her. He didn't really know what to do with himself while she was away. You could see that he was happy when the time finally clicked away on the clock and he would say, "Going to get mom." as he walked out the door. They would usually stop for dinner somewhere on the way home. None of this is earth shattering. It wasn't like he was buying her diamonds or she was kissing his feet. It was just subtle, daily life. And as I said - they were not perfect. I can hear my mom saying his name through gritted teeth, LEO ALLAN!!! when he would annoy her. I can hear him SCREAMING his loud booming voice over some stupid thing one of us kids did. They were not perfect, but they were good. They were good and loving and decent. Sometime before I had Sebastian, Tim and I were looking at getting a new ring for me. It was a sapphire setting that needed a solitaire diamond in the middle. My mom gave me her wedding ring set to see if that might work. It wasn't set the right way, but she told me to keep it anyway. I wear her wedding rings on my right hand. Every once in a while Sebastian will ask me about why I have two sets of wedding rings on my hands. I tell him that one represents my marriage to his dad - our choice to be a family. The other set represents my parents' marriage and the choice they made to give me the foundation of a wonderful family. They showed me what true agape love is.

Monday, January 07, 2013

So, I'm not a gardener...

From our garden back in 2009

I don't have a green thumb. I don't really like gardening. I'm not a gardener, but the good news is my husband is! He loves growing things. Here is the thing... I love watching the stuff grow. I just don't really love doing the work of getting it to grow.  When we first moved to South Carolina in 2008, that was a BIG thing on his list of things to do with our new big yard. He put in a smallish garden that year and I had no idea how much I would enjoy watching the vegetables grow. I mean... I would wake up in the morning and one of my very first thoughts was - I need to look at what has grown since yesterday. It reminded me of when he had a koi pond at our first house. I used to like to sit on my front step and just watch the fish swim when I would wake up in the morning.  It was peaceful and quiet and just brought joy to my heart. In 2009, he made the garden bigger and some things were hit or miss, but I still really enjoyed it. He even cut a tree down to the perfect stump size for me to come sit there and talk with him as he weeded the garden. I got a cute little gate entrance too! When 2010 rolled around, life was hectic. His work had demands of more of his time and well... 2010 sucked for us even BEFORE Timmy died. It was destined to be the worst year of our life well before May. I guess it was already written. Anyway, there was no garden in 2010. In 2011, we jumped into buying our second rental property at the end of January that year. It needed a good amount of renovation. All of Tim's free time went working on that during that spring. In the spring 2012, we were working on a third rental property. Again, not a free moment to garden. This morning Tim had a doctor's appointment. His doctor's office is right across from Lowe's. He meandered in there after his visit and he called me to ask, "Do you use turnips in your homemade soup?" I was like, "Huh? Parsnips, why do you ask?" He tells me he is at Lowe's and picking up some seeds to start some starter plants for our garden. Now, this is a simple phrase and a simple thing. In one little statement - I felt joy! Joy that we were going to have a garden, but more than that... joy that some part of our normal life was beginning to show again. Whatever normal is... because we all know that normal is never really attainable.  I guess I know how much he loves to garden. I know that it is something that makes him feel better in general about himself and everything that swirls around us. And then there is my excitement over getting to watch those darn vegetables grow. Even better - I told him after we finished studying the human body for 10 weeks, we would be moving on to plants with Sebastian and his friends. How perfect is the timing of that? Sebastian said in the background, "I don't like gardening." I told Tim and we both said at the same time, "He doesn't like anything!" Jokingly, I think. Anyway, I just wanted to save this snippet of how one little thing can make me giddy with excitement! I can't wait to see what our garden grows. You know it is growing a whole lot more than vegetables... is is growing a little bit of peace for our family.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Creative Memories Scrapbooking Software May Have Just Saved My Sanity

Back in the summer of 2010, I ordered the Creative Memories Scrapbooking software. Honestly, at the the time, I was not even remotely thinking clearly. I just remember seeing it had went on sale from my friend, Michelle. The next thing I knew - I had ordered it. It is funny what I do remember from that summer because it is like seeing tiny snippets of a movie in my mind. I remember the post or email or something saying the software was on sale for that month only. I remember thinking I should get that. I don't remember why now. I guess I was thinking I was going to make sure all of my memories were put into book. Maybe I thought since I couldn't remember what I was doing at any given moment - I had better start getting our pictures and memories into books. Well... truth be told - I opened that software exactly once in the last 2.5 years. And that was last December when I needed to make a matching collage photo of Timmy to match the ones I had purchased for my kids from Picture Innovations. Well, a year has gone by. I got sucked into this bleepity bleep groupon deal for a Snapfish photo album. I was thinking I could put a book together of our many families trip to Disney. That way - I could gift the book to the other families. Hmmm... this sounds easy, doesn't it. It has been anything, but easy. I have worked on uploading the bleepity bleep photos, then I worked on finding a theme I liked and then I worked on finding some Disney clip art and ugh... all that to HATE the first two pages. I hate them because I - in a distant time and place - used to create beautiful layered pages. I love the look of layers and dimension and this snapfish is just so darned flat. Did I mention that looking at scrapping stuff took me on a whole other sidetracked journey of reading about Project Life scrapping? I like the concept, but again - hate the less layered look. After a very frustrating evening saying bleepity bleep A LOT, I decided to open my Creative Memories software. Oh my goodness!!!! Oh my goodness!!!! There are beautiful templates right there. They are one dimensional, but they look layered. I can move them and mat them and change them and OH MY GOODNESS!!! It has been on my computer for 2.5 years. It is right there! Now, I don't know how this book is going to look yet. My thinking is I will create the pages and this time - upload them to snapfish since I already paid for the groupon. It is really crazy how my brain has worked in these last couple of years. I did things, bought things, forgot things, remembered things only to forget them again. I hope 2013 brings a little more clarity to my brain. I also hope that this book is amazing and years and years from now - we will all smile when we look at that once in a lifetime trip to Disney with our very best friends.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent Calendars

Talking to Savannah about her chocolate advent calendar because she asked

when Christmas was while we were watching tv tonight.

Me - Why don't you know what day it is? You have an advent calendar.

Her - Dude! I ate like 13 chocolates in one day because I got so behind!

Me - Why do I buy you chocolate advent calendars?!

Her - Because I love the chocolate!

Me - That's it! I'm not buying you anymore chocolate advent calendars! I will just 
get you a bag of chocolate!

Her - That would be a whole lot cheaper.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Did you know that kids grow up?

Did you know that kids grow up to be young adults? Sounds completely obvious, right? Somehow, I never much thought about this when I was a younger parent. I guess I thought a little bit more about the here and now more than I did the future. Probably, because I was the young adult at that time. This is where I am going with this - I became an aunt when I was 12 years old. I was a kid! I didn't much give thought to the fact that someday, that tiny little baby was going to be a beautiful grown woman. I thought she was the perfect doll. Soon after my first niece was born, there were two more nieces born all by the time I was 15. Then I became a mom and more and more nieces and nephews came along. Lots of little kids and they grew up. I was there in some form watching them all grow up. Today, I am 40 years old and at this very moment there are four young adults expecting new babies next year. Add to this - several of them have already had babies. A whole new generation! Sometimes it hurts my heart a bit - not because I am not overjoyed for them - because I am missing my son having his own children. That will probably be there for a good long time, but I tuck it to the side and I try to find the absolute joy in these young adults. You know how we all oooohhhh and ahhhhhhh over the new babies and the toddlers in our lives? Sometimes I oooooohhhh and ahhhhhh over how wonderful these young adults are. I marvel at their kindness and love. Some of them aren't starting families just yet, but they are still not kids anymore. I think about each of them when they were little people and we didn't have a real clue who they would become. Then I send up a silent thank you to God for putting each of them in my life. I love this part of my life. I love that they let me be a part of it.  I love seeing them grow up and become exactly who they are supposed to be.

Friday, December 14, 2012

If I had known it was the last hug...

Taken December 13, 2009

If I had known that it was the last hug I would ever give you on this side - I wouldn't have let go. I would have clung to you like my very life depended on it. Three years ago, today, I drove you to the Charlotte airport. I had taken you to the airport many other times before that day. By that time, you had been living away for 18 months. You had traveled to Oklahoma, to Alaska, to Kuwait, to Iraq and back again. You had seen a war and still came home to me. I remember that day was cloudy and cold. It looked like it would snow even though it didn't. On that day - we had a new (to us) van and we could all take you back to the airport. Well, your dad had to work, but your Grandma, Tusie Michelle, Savannah, Sebastian and me - we all came along for the ride back to the airport. I had a pit in my stomach. Why did you have to be stationed in Alaska? Why did it have to be so far away? Why couldn't I have more money - so I could just fly up there and see you whenever I wanted? Lots of why's going through my mind that day. I don't even remember what we talked about on that 2 hour drive. I remember you sitting next to me in the passenger seat. I can still see you with my memory. You looked so amazing! So grown up, so everything I had ever hoped you would be. I hated getting to the drop off at the airport. I hate how I always feel rushed at those airport drop offs. I feel like don't they know that we are telling the people we love goodbye! I know they need to keep it moving, but I just want to spend a few more minutes with my child. He is my child and he is leaving on a long trip and he won't be home for months. Please, understand how hard this is for me. But, the airport people don't care about this. So, you hug quickly and you tell him you love him and to BE GOOD because that is what you always say to him. He laughs is big, goofy laugh and before you know it - he is walking into that airport away from you. The whole family is silent as we drive away. We are all thinking the same thing - what Sebastian said just a few days before - it STINKS that he has to live in Alaska. Even at 5 years old - he gets how hard this is. I can still smell his cologne on me and in the seat next to me. It is like a wisp of him is still riding back with us. We stop at a Chick-Fil-A on the way home from Charlotte. I think my heart chooses Chick-Fil-A because Timmy's spirit is always at Chick-Fil-A for me ever since he put on that cow costume. I remember sitting at the table looking out the window at the grey sky. I felt a strange feeling that day. Maybe it was intuition that that was the last hug on this side. I felt numb. Do you know what it feels like to have a piece of your heart fly away to Alaska? When I look back now - if I had known it was the last time I would hug you on this side - I would have looked into your sweet face and memorized every part of it. I would have buried my head into your big arms and breathed in deep that mix of you and cologne. I would have told you how much you mean to me and how my blessed my life has been because of you. I would have never let go.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas lights

It has been a rough day around here and for a reason I do not know - I was sitting here this afternoon thinking about Christmas lights. Not just any Christmas lights though. The single, simple strand of lights that my dad and/or brother would hang across the top of our front porch. They were those old larger type bulb lights in primary colors. It was just one strand. That's it! And you know what? To me - as a kid - it was the most beautiful lights I had ever seen. Compared to today's elaborate scenes - this was pretty much nothing. It didn't matter. When they hung those lights, I remember going outside and standing in the yard to look at them. Those lights would get turned off on Christmas Eve while my dad took us kids for our Christmas ride. My mom would stay home to let Santa in. We did Christmas on Christmas Eve because my mom had to work many Christmas Eve's in the
ER. My dad would drive us around to see other people's lights and they were beautiful. Especially if you went to what we called the "rich" neighborhoods. If there was snow, he would drive like a crazy man and we would laugh like crazy! We would circle back to drive past our house to see if our lights were turned on. If they were on - it meant Santa had come to visit. If not, it meant we did another tour around another neighborhood.  Eventually, we would drive by our house and those lights would be on. That single strand of lights shone more bright than any of the other houses I might have seen that night. They were magnificent in my child eyes! We would pile out of the car and run for the door. Once we were inside, we would see 4 neat stacks of gifts - 1 stack for each child. It was a magical feeling. One that I am so thankful I had the joy of having, not once, but many times throughout my childhood.  I wish I had a picture of those lights hanging from our porch, but those were not the days of Facebook and smartphone cameras.  We just took pictures with our memories and hoped we would never forget.  My life was so uncomplicated back then. My biggest worry was did Santa really know that I wanted another baby doll for Christmas? I hope and pray that I am giving my kids that kind of childhood. The kind where excitement and happiness fills their Christmas. I hope more than anything that some day they will tell their children about their favorite Christmas memories. I know that these memories helped make me who I am and they will never leave me.