This Is Not Just A Sweater

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“If I close my eyes, I can see her sitting on the brown velour seventies couch in our living room wrapped in that ugly green sweater, relaxing with each passing minute as though cocooned in a blissful state of peace.” – Little Miss Wordy

My little tribute to my own mom is featured today at What The Flicka?

I hope you’ll check it out and remember a little something special about those who’s motherly

role in your own life made a difference.

Texas Style

I Said Goodbye To An Old Love Today

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“I said goodbye to an old love today. My heart squeezes in my chest every time I allow myself to think about it. The pain is still fresh and the memories hit me uninvited as they slam into my unsuspecting mind and pin me down, holding me hostage until I have to catch my breath and take the journey. It wasn’t all heartbreak and these glimpses of what it once was often bring a bittersweet smile with them though I fight the pull with every tiny movement of the over twenty muscles it takes to smile, or so they say.” – Little Miss Wordy

I’m featured over at Felicity Huffman’s What The Flicka? today and am twice as excited because Helen Hunt is this month’s Guest Editor! I hope you’ll check it out and share!

What The Flicka?/I Said Goodbye To An Old Friend Today

Texas Style

Ten Things Of Thankful: Through My Lens

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Sometimes, scrolling through your recent photos shows you just how many moments you have to be thankful for in life.

Give it a go!

This post was part of Ten Things Of Thankful.

Ten Things Of Thankful

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1. I’m thankful I have the physical ability to drag myself to the gym every day even if the enthusiasm isn’t always there. I’m always thankful I did it when it’s over.

2. I’m thankful my family and I never go hungry. Our hearts are full. Our fridge is stocked. Our souls are fed.

3. I’m thankful for making new friends at this stage of my life. When you’re in your 40’s, making a new friend is an unexpected golden nugget that brightens your world.

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4. I’m thankful to have experienced “normal” at our house these last two weeks when my other half wasn’t traveling for a change. “Normal” looks good on us.

5. I’m thankful to have discovered a new coffee flavor for my Keurig. That morning cup sets the tone for the rest of my day and a delicious flavor is a great start.

6. I’m thankful to have discovered a poem that inspired me this week. It stayed with me for days so I shared it here.

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7. I’m thankful for those I’ve loved and lost. In the loving and losing I’ve grown bigger than the biggest elephant on the tallest tree.

8. I’m thankful my children still want to scoot over on the couch and rest their head on my shoulder without any prompting from me.

9. I’m thankful for friends near and far who reach out when they sense my heart may need a hug.

10. I’m thankful for the drive within me that may dim for a brief time, but never goes completely dark.

Head over to Lizzi Rogers’ Ten Things Of Thankful linkup here.

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.

Place Setting, Holiday Table, Dinner Party

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?

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?

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!

Slippery When Wet – Photo Friday

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Slippery When Wet – Photo Friday

During our Farewell Tour of Puerto Rico,

we spent a family day fishing in San Juan

with a company called Magic Tarpon.

We had an amazing day and even caught a fish or two!

 

The Hug That Has Lasted A Lifetime

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I cling to him, feeling the slippery slope of time catching up to me as the ticks on my watch drum in my ears like a tribal rain dance circling round my brain. If only I could freeze time and force it to turn around and head back in the opposite direction, even if it is against oncoming traffic. I know this is a route he is all too familiar with as he has spent his life on a similar road, always heading in the wrong direction, dodging incoming obstacles. It wasn’t always like this for us. There was a time when we traveled a different road, one smoothly paved with stones of hopes and promises. The uphill challenges on that road seem like small bumps compared to the mountainous climb that is his life now. I hold on tight savoring the hug, not knowing when I will have the opportunity to experience it again. My only thought being that it is the kind of lasting hug I will revisit time and again in the future, when he is out of my reach once more. It is the kind of hug that also makes me revisit the day I officially lost him.

Big Sister, Little Brother, First Meeting, Love At First Sight

I found him in his room. The youngest of three, he was the only one left with a room at home. As I approached, trying to connect words of comfort I didn’t believe existed, I realized he was putting on a shield of armor I would find impossible to break through. As he tied his green apron strings and adjusted his name tag, the look in his eyes showed turmoil more akin to a battle weary soldier than a nineteen year old stock boy. As my sister and I carried on with our distant lives in other states, my brother had lived the daily nightmare of slowly losing the man we all thought invincible, our father. He said he wished he could just go to work like normal…like none of this was happening. My heart understood his wish more than he would ever know. Still, I couldn’t let him leave as panic swelled within me and the minute hand ticked on the black cat clock on the wall, left over from our younger years and more innocent times.

I did what I thought was right at the time. I somehow convinced my little brother to stay and face our nightmare with the rest of us, and within a couple of hours of being home our father looked around him and took in each and every face in that room including my brother’s. He asked our mother if all his loved ones were there and when she reassured him they were, he took a deep breath and finally went home. I hugged my brother, grateful he had stayed by our side.

I would like to say that was the end of our nightmare, but for my brother it was the beginning of something much worse. For the next twenty-one years he has lived behind bars with visitation rights that are never long enough, and in a cell that doesn’t often see the light. He is trapped in darkness. Of his own making or mine?

You see, the day my brother stayed and witnessed our father’s death he died along with him. Gone was the nineteen year old stock boy who played basketball with his headphones on because to choose between the two things that gave him the most joy wasn’t possible. Gone was the son who took pride in handing over the earnings of a grocery store employee to help with the bills at home. Gone was the light in his eyes. When I look into his eyes now I still see the turmoil of that fateful day and no medication has ever been able to erase it. So…I find comfort in revisiting these hugs, for it is the only reminder of the person I once knew.