Are You A Chinet Or A Dixie?

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The days are warming up as the sunshine begins to grace us with its presence, but it feels like we’ve just wrapped up the holidays chockfull of picture worthy dining rooms photographed as proof that we are capable of dressing up our tables as much as our bodies. As Easter approaches, we are presented with another occasion to pull out the fine china and gather round the beautifully set table with family and friends. Each place setting lovingly set with items that were pulled out of their resting places in dark corner cabinets, washed, and given a prominent place on the table.

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I love a magazine worthy table as much as the next person, but I’ve come to accept that we are living what I refer to as the Paper Plate Years. The truth is with active young children, dogs, work, workouts and only twenty four hours in a day, paper plates have been a life saver at our house on many an occasion. The benefits of a quick table setting, less dishes to wash, and guilt free recycling currently outweigh a pile of dishes in the sink battling for attention with nightly tooth brushing and tucking in services.

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And, I’ve begun to use the term Paper Plate Years in other aspects of our lives too.

The lack of dishes in the sink, makes for quick clean up and more time for my husband and I to enjoy some evening quiet time, watch a show or catch up on our day as date nights during the Paper Plate Years often consist of evenings in rather than evenings out.

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The Paper Plate Years may also come in the form of carpets that are showing wear and tear and are in need of being replaced or a car that may have run its course but the money is more wisely spent elsewhere for now.

Dreams of fine china vacations may currently be replaced by staycations during the Paper Plate Years and laundry may not get the attention it needs in exchange for loads of family time instead.

Homework is a large part of the Paper Plate Years as school projects need supervision and little readers need encouragement.

The house may not be as pristine during these Paper Plate Years, but life is messy when you’re living it to the fullest.

Intimate moments may often feel impossible with toddlers in the house, but your creativity will surprise you (and your partner) during the Paper Plate Years.

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We’ve all experienced the Paper Plate Years at some stage in our lives. Some of us may still be living smack dab in the middle of them. Each phase of our lives brings with it a set of challenges but also a set of dreams. When the kids are young or money is tight it’s easy to lose ourselves in wishful forecasts of what awaits, but the Paper Plate Years are the memories we will look back on and cherish when we have plenty of time, money, and energy for date nights, vacations, new cars and clean homes.

The most important thing is to be fully present in the here and now as you pull up your chair to your family table and make it a fine dining experience filled with love, conversation, and of course, paper plates.

In what aspect of your life have you experienced the Paper Plate Years?

The view out my window

To The Woman Who Owned My House

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Compassion. Ten little letters which on their own are insignificant. Yet, when placed side by side, come together to spell a feeling so strong it can move mountains. And, when that word takes action, the world is a better place for it.

#1000Speak, Compassion, Key

To The Woman Who Owned My House,

My family and I looked at many houses during our search for a home to begin the next chapter of our lives. Some were professionally decorated, perfect paint colors and gleaming hardwood floors fit for the glossy pages of a magazine. Some felt like the word “home” would never find a home in my heart as I walked from room to room trying to imagine my family in them. When we first visited your home it was apparent it needed a little TLC, but not enough to turn us off to it. You see, I had already gathered you were recently divorced and had been living in the home on your own with your youngest of three children for a while so I expected some wear and tear to be evident as I imagined touch up paint and home maintenance may not have been at the top of your priorities nor possibly in your budget.

As we walked through your home, I saw the carpet that needed replacing, the walls that needed a fresh coat of paint, and the landscaping that needed some sprucing up. I also saw years of love, of life and memories on the walls (your children’s growth chart marked on the door frame in the pantry brought tears to my eyes).

As we continued our home search, we began to refer to your house as “the one with good bones, a solid house with great potential that just needed a little TLC” and came back for a second visit as we moved along in the decision process. With each visit, I began to envision tucking my children in at night, each in their new bedrooms and walking down the hall to the master bedroom to wrap up another full day of living in our new home. I could see us around the table in our new dining room, enjoying home cooked meals and conversation. As I slowly made my way through your home, the picture began to take shape as each scene painted the house as my home. With each step I took, I could more clearly see my family creating memories in each room much like yours did through the years.

compassion, #1000speak, home

At the closing, you rushed in late, looking a bit out of sorts. You ran back out to the car, having forgotten something. I watched you through the conference room window and tried to imagine what you were feeling. I felt sad that the end of your chapter was the beginning of mine as though I was taking something from you that didn’t belong to me.

I suppose that’s just how it is.

Life is an endless revolving door of experiences where one person exits and the other enters. Each compartment only allowing for one person to be fully present in that moment. 

You took a deep breath as you settled in across the large, mahogany table from me, and only then did you look at us. In that moment, I wondered what was going through your mind as you took in my husband, myself and our children. Were you taken over by flashbacks of your own family, once intact, as you raised your children in the home that was about to become ours? As you handed the keys over, after documents were covered in ink, I saw tears in your eyes. I wanted to stand, make my way to you, and give you a hug. Instead, I simply said, “Thank you. Know that we are excited to make this our home and will create many happy memories in it.”

After we moved in, you and I texted about forwarded mail, trash pickup, etc. You could have ignored my queries as I’m sure you didn’t need to prolong the transition into your new life. I could have ignored your messages when your cat went missing and you were sure she had tried to come “home” once again. We didn’t.

As the weeks came and went, text messages became a bit more personal as we asked each other how we were settling in, how the kids were adjusting, how we were adapting to our morning cup of coffee in a new place. With each new message, I could see the transformation in you as you went from a woman whose life experiences had her doubting her future, hesitantly closing the door on a life lived and taking her first steps into the unknown to a woman who has not only embraced her new place but ultimately her new place in life.

I want you to know that your home has become our home. We have embraced it with love and excitement and are already creating memories we will carry for a lifetime. We may have painted, re-decorated and spruced things up a bit, but we were right when we described this house as “one with good bones, a solid house with great potential that just needed a little TLC.”

Apparently, that description fits the prior owner as well.

Sincerely,

The Woman Who Has Made This House A Home

Check out #1000speak posts all in one place!

Will The Internet Catch You When You Fall?

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The internet is a funny thing. It can suck you into a time-consuming black hole of social media, leaving you informed on news you could have lived the rest of your life not knowing. Last year, I wrote “When 547 Facebook Friends + 832 Twitter Followers = A Negative Number.”  It was about a beautiful friendship between two men who started their journey as childhood friends, sharing treasured experiences throughout the years, only to have that journey end tragically with a cancer diagnosis. In that post, I touched upon the fact that I believe real life friendships, the kind that allow for eye contact, hugs that stay with you forever and the day-to-day that comes with it are unique and can’t be experienced in internet friendships. I don’t mean a real friendship can’t exist, but in my opinion it’s not the same. There’s something to be said about holding a complete conversation with your best friend without saying a word because you know each other so well that one look is all the communication you need or how one little squeeze of the hand can give you the strength to face your biggest fear.


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However, a movement called #sogladtheytoldme, by blogger Stephanie Sprenger of Mommy For Real has stirred something within me that wants to address this in a whole new light. Sprenger wrote a response post to  “They Should’ve Warned Me” about motherhood and the warnings or lack thereof that new moms are given by experienced moms in their lives. In her article, “I’m Glad They Warned Me” Sprenger spoke in detail about the fact that she respects experiences such as the one Jenny Studentroth Gerson had as a new mother where all went smoothly and she simply embraced motherhood like a natural and  felt they should have instead warned her of all the positives of motherhood.  More importantly, and the reason I believe Sprenger’s post went viral is her focus on making sure all readers, especially new mothers, understand it is okay to have a different experience.

Motherhood is a very personal journey and no one should feel pressured to have a storybook pregnancy or feel like a failure when the whole nurturing thing doesn’t come easily. Colicky babies, postpartum depression, raw nipples, and sleepless nights are a reality many mothers face.

#Sogladtheytoldme is allowing mothers everywhere to know they are not alone. And, if you’ve ever felt truly alone in your plight as a new mother then you understand the magnitude of Sprenger’s movement.

Lisa – She can’t keep her eyes open after weeks of sleepless nights with her newborn baby girl. She has finally gotten her down for a nap though has failed at getting her to sleep in her crib yet again. As she tries not to disturb the baby, asleep on her chest, she gently shifts her body on the couch and reaches for her phone. She knows she should sleep when the baby does, but she’s also desperate for some adult interaction even if it is online. Lisa scrolls her Twitter feed coming across the same hashtag time and time again. Mother after mother shares a story, a photo, a simple line, all conveying the same message, #sogladtheytoldme. And, with her newborn snuggled to her chest, Lisa no longer feeling alone, drifts off into a peaceful sleep…if only for twenty minutes.

Like Lisa, I can’t help but wonder how many other mothers are being touched, saved, by knowing they are not alone in wanting to run away some days or wondering if they just aren’t equipped to be a mother. Single mothers, working mothers, first time mothers and mothers of three can all relate to navigating the course of motherhood like a newbie at a Spartan race. I wonder what they feel like when they come across another mom online admitting they are so glad to have been told it’s okay to not be a perfect mom all the time or even half the time. It’s okay to cry because you feel like you are failing this precious gift you were given, yet maybe don’t truly deserve. You’re not the only one.

I still believe there’s nothing like having a friend that can show up on your doorstep when you need them most. I still believe there are certain experiences only to be shared in person, but I think I may have been wrong when I said, “The internet won’t catch you when you fall.” Stephanie Sprenger has proven just the opposite.

 

Let Them Eat Cake! – Photo Friday

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The day each of my children was born was life-changing for me as it is for many parents. I believe in celebrating their birthday special every year as much for them as for myself. Through the years, after the kids go to bed, I have spent many a night creating a cake for the occasion. Amid yawns and stretches, I relive each moment of my pregnancy, each memory of their birth. As I bake, ice and decorate, I imagine the look of joy on their sweet faces when they lay their eyes on the finished product. It may not be Cake Wars worthy, but I know they will remember these cakes and the love I poured into each one for many birthdays to come.

Do you have a special birthday tradition for your children or loved ones?

For more Finish the Sentence Friday and diabolical ideas of what to do when the kids go to sleep, check out

Kristi (Finding Ninee)      Stephanie (Mommy For Real)    Kerri (Undiagnosed but Okay)

A Christmas Tradition

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“Lord, give me strength.” She pulled up to the house in the dark of night, cut off the engine, and leaned her head back against the seat. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. And so began her nightly ritual as she arrived home from her second job each night. She reached across the seat and grabbed the small bag containing toilet paper, toothpaste, a gallon of milk, and a loaf of bread before exiting the car. She prayed it was enough to hold them over until Friday when she would once again stretch her small paycheck like a magician pulling colored scarves out of a hat.

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She quietly entered the old house, treading lightly across the creaky old floorboards so as not to wake anyone. After placing the milk in the fridge, she willed her tired muscles to carry her up the stairs, knowing once she reached the top her exhaustion would be forgotten as she stopped in for a glimpse of her sleeping angels. Her life wasn’t always that of a single mother with three children, but life doesn’t always turn out the way we once dreamed. She was living proof of that. And yet, she wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world if it meant erasing the three greatest blessings in her life. As usual, she found the twins cuddled up together in one twin bed as though reverting to the comforting days of the peace they experienced in the womb. She covered them with a second blanket, kissed their foreheads, and made her way down the hall. She passed Jacob’s room, knowing she would find her ten-year old son asleep in her bed once again. She no longer moved him back to his own bed, taking as much comfort from sleeping with him as he did with her.

As she did every night, no matter how late she arrived, she filled the tub and soaked for a bit. Surely, it made more sense to take a quick shower and jump in bed, but she needed these baths. It always felt like a cleansing of sorts as she imagined washing away all her troubles before laying her head on her pillow. Otherwise, she knew her worries would circle her mind and sleep would elude her when she needed it most. Thank goodness she still had her mother with her to stay at home with the kids while she worked. She wouldn’t know what to do without her help, but she also knew she was getting older and that wouldn’t always be the case.

This time of year was always the hardest and loneliest for her. It was when she seemed to feel the full brunt of being a single mother the most. She wanted a magical Christmas for her children, but she had stopped believing in magic long ago. How do you continue to help your children believe when the world has stripped you of your hope, your dreams, your faith? As she lay beside him, she watched her son sleep and realized the tranquil look he once possessed was beginning to fade even in his dreams. “Lord, please give me strength.”

She woke before the sun. Gathering the envelope labeled “Savings” in her nightstand before heading out once more. She hoped to make it back before the kids woke up. As she pulled into the Kmart parking lot, she ran the numbers in her head and knew she would have to choose only one item on the list for each of her children. She didn’t have enough for the rest of the items she had placed on Layaway, but Christmas was just days away and she had to have at least one gift under the old Charlie Brown tree in the living room.

She asked the Layaway attendant to please pull up her list so she could select the items she could afford. The list wasn’t long, although she had surprised herself that day by allowing herself to dream for a bit, imagining she actually had the means to give her children the items they asked for this year.

The young girl hit a few keys and said, “Paid in Full.”

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“There must be some mistake,” the woman said and repeated her name. The young girl gave her the biggest smile she had ever seen. “I was working the evening shift last night, when a couple came in with their two young children. I heard them explaining to their kids the meaning of putting something on layaway and how blessed they were to be in a position where they had never had to do that. They then asked me to pull up a layaway list that included children’s items and paid it in full. When I asked them if they wanted me to contact the person, they said no. Just tell them we said, Merry Christmas and God Bless.”

The young lady then proceeded to hand the items over to the woman who stood motionless, tears streaming down her face. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” The young lady handed over the final item and said, “Don’t thank me, that family gave me faith that magic still exists. Merry Christmas to you and your children.”

This is our yearly tradition with our children, and all of us have come to look forward to it more than any other aspect of our holiday season. The story above is just one of the versions I’ve imagined in my heart throughout the years.

How do you give back during the holidays?

When I Get Old, I Hope To Look Back On My Life And…

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When I get old, I hope to listen to the steady creak of the rocking chair beside me and know that you are still by my side on our front porch. I hope to look over and not only see the aged man you’ve become whose every wrinkle reflects my own, but also relive the stories each line on our skin has told.

Front Porch

As I reach out my trembling hand for yours like I have done so many times since we met as young college kids, I hope it reminds you of all the times your hand in mine made a world of difference in our relationship. I hope we recall as we sit and rock during days of no demands and no schedules, all the obstacles we faced and more importantly all those we surpassed to reach this day.

I hope we remember where we started, our trips through stores we could only dream of shopping in as a young couple just getting started on life’s journey, creating our wish list of items we would one day purchase for our first home as a couple. I hope we will have filled the shelves with photo albums of all the places we only dreamed of visiting back then.

When you look at me, I hope you not only see the young girl you met who became your best friend before our first conversation even ended, but also the strong woman and loving mother she grew up to be with you by her side.

I hope as we take in the view from the comfort of our front porch, we take a deep breath and thank the Lord for having made our dreams come true. I hope we never forget the struggle and hard work we endured to reach this moment, because it will be those sacrifices we made that made us who we are today.

I hope we open our minds and hearts, dust off the cobwebs, and turn the pages of our life’s album together. I hope if we listen hard enough, we can still hear the patter of little feet, bedtime giggles and even the cries, wails, and tantrums that will now be music to our ears.

I hope we will have filled our home with more laughter and happiness through the years as we created memories with our children, their children, our family and many friends.

I hope when I get old and I look back on the roads I have traveled, I see you and our children always walking alongside me, hand in hand. And, when I get old and look in the mirror, I hope each and every line on my aged skin, reflects a life lived, all the love bestowed upon me in each and every crease, and many many laugh lines from smiles shared with my best friend.

 

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday prompt, where writers and bloggers each finish the same sentence and link up to read one another’s answers. This week’s prompt was “When I’m really old, I hope to look back at my life and know that I…”

Lessons From A Third Grade School Performance

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I watched you from my seat in the second row of the right side of the auditorium. Your eyes scanned the room, row by row panning left and right, left and right. Hands in your pockets, you stood tall and attentive, fully aware your third grade performance would begin at any moment. You had the notes, lyrics, moves memorized as you had been practicing for weeks in the comfort of your own home. Though, now you looked a bit nervous, standing on the stage, in the spotlight, anxiously searching the audience. You had told me to sit on the right side of the auditorium so I would have a good view of you. Today, on the drive over, we even reviewed left and right a few times to ensure I would be in the right seat.

 

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As you searched the eager faces in the room, I knew we had gotten our right and left mixed up. The more your big brown eyes sought mine, the tighter my heart squeezed. I tried to catch your attention even waving my hand in the air but you were focused on the other half of the room. I stood and waved once more and it was then your eyes locked with mine, and as your little body visibly relaxed you nodded your curly head ever so slightly in my direction.

I sat back and watched you shine on that stage much like you do in our living room every night and throughout your performance I thought of all the things I want you to know as the world becomes your stage.

1. I will always be here for you, even when you can no longer see me. You will never be alone.

2. When life’s spotlight shines too bright, blinding you from what’s really important, I will help you see it.

3. And, when that same light dims eventually leaving you in moments of darkness, I will be your guiding light.

4. There will be times when our signals will get crossed and lead to misunderstanding. Know that we will communicate and straighten things out and even through disagreements I will never stop loving you.

5. Enjoy your successes, the big and the small. Those that seem insignificant are often the ones that will fill your heart with joy when you look back on them.

6. When the spotlight is on you, remember that all eyes are on you too. Use that opportunity for good.

7. Never take life so seriously that you exit the stage completely. There’s always room for creativity, imagination, and those things that make you laugh.

8. I will always be your biggest fan –  in your brightest moments as well as your darkest.

9. Don’t ever pretend to be someone you aren’t simply to please others. Who you are behind the scenes is better than anyone you could ever pretend to be.

10. Live your life in such a way that you will exit the stage with dignity when the final curtain comes down.

One Ring To Rule Them All

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“I inhaled deeply, filling my lungs with air, slowly lifting the weight that seconds earlier was crushing my chest. My relief at hearing his voice didn’t allow me to focus on his words. In his endless string of hurried phrases strung together with pauses to catch his own breath, I could only make out a few words. Wedding. Flood. Ring. Elevator. Almost died.”

I Love You

My first contributor post is live on Felicity Huffman’s website, What The Flicka?

Head over and check out One Ring To Rule Them All and take a moment to look around.

You won’t be disappointed!

Photo Friday: Off With Her Head!

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Execution was a public spectacle; free entertainment for the masses. Vendors sold hot potatoes, fruit and gingerbreads, and peddled gin. Life was cheap in an age where diseases raged and life expectancy was short. So frequent were the tortures and punishments, the exact number of victims will never be known.

 

Ten Things Of Thankful

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Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. – Melody Beattie

He was my introduction to so many things in life, my first in so many ways.

He was my start line to events I never knew I wanted to experience, my cheerleader along the way, always waiting there with a smile as I crossed the finish line.

He was my gas pedal when I didn’t know I needed a push and my brakes when I was unaware it was time to slow down.

He loved a road trip –  teaching me so much about life and himself on the open road during long talks I still treasure.

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He taught me lessons I didn’t always learn the first go round, but left me with a knowledge I would find priceless one day.

He was my guiding light when I couldn’t see the darkness that threatened to surround me. A beacon of hope I still gravitate toward.

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He was the first to hold me with strong arms that embraced me in such comfort and safety their presence still lingers on my skin.

He made me laugh when I took life too seriously, always reminding me to seek the joy in the pain.

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He not only worked hard to provide the basic necessities for his family, but more importantly the sense that what we had was more than enough.

A few days of bare feet on warm sand was enough to carry him through the harshest of winters.

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He loved with all his heart and made me want to love and live life as passionately as he did. Music made him come alive in a way that was contagious.

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He gave me more than ten things of thankful. He gave me life and left a legacy of love I will always treasure.

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A special tribute to my dad, my hero, my best friend.

It has been 21 years today since we said good-bye

and while I miss you every day,

I always take a moment on this day to honor you in a special way.

Thank you for being you and in turn making me the woman I am today.

 

Lizzi Rogers from Considerings does a weekly event called “Ten Things of Thankful” and for the first time I am participating. A bit late or a bit early, but participating nonetheless.

In Lizzi’s words – “One day when life was particularly tough, I remembered a trick I’d employed when life had been tough before:

Find ten things, right now, to be thankful for about today.

And I began to write them on Considerings, partly to share what was good in my life, and partly so I could hold myself accountable for doing them. A week’s self-challenge of ten things behest a ten-day challenge, then a two-week challenge, and by that time I’d realised how much change I’d made in myself.

By actively choosing to seek the Good things – by hunting them down and dragging them out (kicking and screaming, sometimes) I was making a change in my own attitude.

Not only that, but people seemed interested in how I was doing this. Inspired to try taking charge in their own lives and actively seeking the Good. So very tentatively, I began a blog hop, with some very supportive, wonderful co-hosts, and Ten Things of Thankful was born.