Be Still. Just Listen.

I’m going to attempt something a little different today.  Bear with me as I muddle through.  It won’t be my most eloquent post, but I feel like it is important that I try and share.

As I have lived my Christian walk I have often found myself impatiently waiting on God to reveal His plan to me.  Sometimes I wait with excitement and anticipation, other times I brace myself with expectancy and fear.  But almost every time in the midst of my frustration and impatience, I call my Dad for direction.  The response is always the same, “Katie, be still.”  I feel my emotions coming to the surface as I think of the words.  I am always both grateful and frustrated by that sentence.  I don’t WANT to be still.  I wasn’t designed to be still.  “Katie, be still.  God is getting you ready.  Don’t rush it.”

So a few years ago I asked God to lay a purpose or need on my heart.  “Use me where you want me Lord.”  I knew how dangerous this request was, knowing full well that I might not like the work God chose for me.  Almost immediately I was in touch with the Tim Tebow Foundation.  “We work with orphans in Haiti, and we need to collect shoes for these kids.  Do you think your family can help?”  Little did I know that God would open the flood gates of blessings.  Together with the help of friends, and friends of friends, we collected 375 pairs of shoes.  I was overjoyed, and the Tebow Foundation was overwhelmed.  It took multiple mission trips to get the shoes over to the kids.

Next we collected Christmas gifts for these orphans.  This time a private school teamed up with my family.  God was opening new doors and new opportunities.  We ended up filling a small Uhaul to the ceiling with toys for orphans.  It was incredible.  And when it was over, I felt the way you do the day after a vacation.  There was this emptiness.  It was over, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next.

I called my dad, more than a little bummed out.  “What now Dad?  I don’t have a mission.  What does He want me to do now?”  “Be still, and wait.”  I am a woman of action.  This was really getting old.  “Quit telling me that.  I’m no good at it.”  “Well, God is going to keep making you be still until you learn from it.  Now BE STILL.”

It was months before I felt God tug on my heart again.  This time I raised my eyebrows and thought maybe I had misunderstood.  “You want me to do WHAT?!”  God was leading me to do prison ministry in our local women’s prison.  Sadly the timing didn’t work.  There is extensive training that has to be done, clearances to be obtained, and then placement.  It takes months, and we were moving.

I moved, started a new job, and didn’t think about it again.  Until God placed a boy on my heart.  I just couldn’t shake it.  J was the son of a friend.  He was a good boy who had lost his way, and now was sitting in prison.  ALONE.  LONELY.  Again I felt God’s voice.  “Write him.  Tell him he isn’t alone.  Love on him.”  I wrote J.  He wrote back.  We now write every week, sometimes multiple times a week.  I finally asked J, “If you could share anything on my blog, what would it be?”  Here is what he wrote…

From J’s pen to my keyboard, “Listen, Not Hear”

“People talk to me every day.  One thing I have noticed is that most of the people who I talk to aren’t really listening.  They are just waiting their turn to speak.  I can be in the middle of painstakingly describing something that I have seen or been through, and I notice the person I am talking to is just saying “Yeah yeah”, and when I finish they don’t even respond.  They say something like, “Well this one time…”  I guess this is the product of people not being listened to themselves, and in turn they feel the need to be heard.  Maybe it’s their pride?  Maybe they are insecure, and feel they must talk and be heard to prove something to themselves and everyone around them?  I’m not really sure, but I DO know  that it is more beneficial and fulfilling to listen actively, respond accordingly, progressing in deep conversation.  Try to understand and feel where someone is coming from instead of waiting to be heard.  I suppose there are much more pressing issues in this world right now, but what would it hurt to just listen a little more often?  So the next time your buddy has something to say, listen, don’t just hear.” -J

As I read these words, I was forced to be still.  I can’t fathom the life J has, nor do I understand every choice he has made. But I don’t have to understand.  That’s God’s business.  J really is on to something.  What if we all just took a minute to be still and listen?  Darkness envelopes us sometimes, and the words come spilling out looking for the light.  Let’s stop leaving them in the black abyss, and instead embrace those words, wrap our minds around them, and help them find the light.

So often I do to God exactly what J is describing.  “But Lord, I need to tell you something.  Can you just be quiet for a minute?  Let me tell you what I think.”  But in the quietness of a cell, J gets it.  Be still.  Just listen.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Did I Mention It’s Frozen?

Getting older is tough.  I have to work two times harder to stay in shape, and forget about driving  through Krispy Kreme at 10 PM for a dozen donuts.  I feel my hips laughing at me for even thinking about donuts!  So that’s why what I’m about to tell you is such a big deal.

All week I count calories, log macros, and bust my butt in the gym with one thought ever present.  “Do it for the cheat day, Katie.”  As every salty drop of sweat further ruins my makeup, I plan that cheat meal.  As I eat yet another hard boiled egg minus the yolk, I relish in the thought of my Saturday cheat.  Seriously ya’ll, I begin thinking about my next cheat meal at midnight as Sunday rings itself in.  I still curse the day when I was a size 2, and ate junk at every meal.  Why did I complain that I couldn’t gain weight?!

Anyway, this week it was all about the pumpkin cheesecake.  There is nothing that quite says Fall like a creamy slice of Cheesecake Factory pumpkin cheesecake.  I’m salivating just thinking about it right now.  Now our little town doesn’t have a Cheesecake Factory, but we have a Barnes and Noble that kindly serves some of their treats.

I jumped out of bed Saturday morning.  Can someone please tell me why I could sleep until noon on a weekday, but when Saturday rolls around, I’m awake by 8?!  I dutifully ate eggs for breakfast with a cup of coffee.  No sense in blowing all my hard work this week.  I mean…there is cheesecake in my future!  I do all those chores mothers do on Saturdays, then head off to my son’s flag football game.  I hop into the car, and am very firm.  “We are going to get my cheesecake after the game.  Don’t make any other plans.  This is happening.”  By now my husband is used to this craziness, and he smiles and nods.  No point arguing with a crazy women who is dieting.  I sit through that game, cheering on my baby boy, silently counting down the minutes standing between me and my cheesecake.  Game’s over!  We take a few end of season photos, and it’s now officially cheesecake time!

I ask Pete to park far away.  “I’ve gotta get my steps in!”  He looks so confused.  His looks basically says, “This woman is about to go eat a 6000 calorie piece of cheesecake, but she is worried about her steps?!”  But once again he just smiles, and does as I ask.  He and my son opt to forgo the craziness that is cheesecake, and they go elsewhere.  I rush into the bookstore.  This is it!  This is  the moment I have been waiting for!

I march up to the line.  It’s absurdly long today.  I swear if one person does anything stupid to slow down the cheesecake process it could get ugly!  The line is moving….I’m getting closer.  Wait!  No!  This can’t be right.  WHERE IS THE PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE?!  I see the sign.  But where is the tray full of cheesecake? I feel my eye begin to twitch a little.  Deep breathes…”Hello ma’am.  Can I help you?”  Be nice Katie…Be nice!  “Ummm…yes.  Hi.  See, I’ve waited all week for pumpkin cheesecake.  I see the sign here advertising it, but it’s not here.”  Oh wow.  I think my voice just got a little shouty and panicked.  This is not a good look for you Katie.  Be cool.  I take another deep breathe.  The gentleman smiles and tells me he will ask if they have anymore in the back.  It’s friggin fall.  It’s pumpkin.  It should be in the damn cabinet, NOT IN THE BACK!!!!!  I feel myself start to fall apart a little.  If I’m not careful I’m going to be on the sequel of Girl Interrupted.  “I’m sorry ma’am.  We’re all out.”  I’m a lady.  I can do this.  I smile and ask for the red velvet cheesecake instead.  Wait, why does this strange man keep interrupting me?  I’m trying not to have a meltdown, and he’s not helping!  I sigh, realizing that this crazy man is going to keep interrupting until I let him speak.  “Ma’am I just checked.  We have a frozen pie in the back.  But it’s frozen.  I need to stress that it’s frozen.”  “Pie?  I didn’t order pie?”  “I mean pumpkin cheesecake.  I have some of that.  But again, it’s frozen.  You can’t eat it now.”  “I’ll take it!  Bag it up.  Send it home.  I don’t care!  Let me have it!!!”  “So is this to go?”  Ya’ll this man’s head must be made of cheese.  Didn’t he just tell me it’s frozen and I can’t eat it yet?  Why in the Sam Hill would I want it for here if I can’t eat it now?!  But I’m nice because he holds my precious cheesecake for ransom.  I smile and tell him that indeed I will be taking it to go.  And then I wait.  And wait.  And wait some more.  Did they have to go to Richmond to get my slice?  What is taking so long?

Now anyone who has ever been to a Barnes and Noble cafe knows that they are incredibly tiny.  You can see everyone with one quick sweeping glance.  So imagine my surprise when the man comes back and shouts, “Pumpkin Cheesecake to go!  Did someone order pumpkin cheesecake to go?”  Did my face just morph into another face while he was in the kitchen?  Does he seriously not recognize me?  I walk up to the counter to claim my frozen cheesecake.  I reach for  the bag, and he pulls it away.  Seriously?!  Are we really going to do this?  “Ma’am, before I give you this cheesecake, there is something I need to tell you.  This slice of cheesecake is frozen.  You cannot eat it now.  You’re going to have to wait until after dinner.”  Didn’t we JUST have this conversation?  Does he think I’m four and have a short attention span?  Or maybe he thinks I have early onset dementia?  Just give me my damn cheesecake!  My inner voice reminds me that I am wearing a sweatshirt with a Bible verse.  This is not the time to jump the counter and beat the stupid man with a fork!

I must have zoned out because I hear him saying, “Ma’am?  Do you hear me Ma’am?  I didn’t put a fork in the bag because it would break because your cheesecake is FROZEN.  You’re gonna have to eat it at home.”  I lean over that counter ever so slightly, snatch that bag out of the crazy man’s hand, holler “Got it!” behind me, and bolt out of there.

I return home, lovingly place my cheesecake on the counter, and threaten to hurt anybody who touches it.  It took several hours, and it was only partially thawed, but I ate that tasty treat.  I kinda felt like a rebel as I bit into a slightly frozen bite knowing that the man at the cafe would probably stroke if he knew.  But I loved every bite!

Now the moral of the story is that from now on you should buy an entire cheesecake and keep it in your freezer so you don’t have to deal with crazy people.  But for now I will just begin to ask myself how I will treat myself next Saturday, but I can assure you it won’t be with a treat from Mr. Frozen at Barnes and Noble!

Middle Aged Dress Code Violations

I’m tired today.  Like Monday tired, brain tired, bone tired, and everything in between tired.  I told myself that when I’m this tired I probably shouldn’t write.  But  then I got on Facebook, and Lord Have Mercy!  I have so much to say!  My friends have heard me talk about clothing and age appropriateness before, but I’ve gotta circle back!

Since it’s October let’s be festive and talk about costumes.  If you are over 25, married, or a mother, there are just some things you should NOT wear as a costume.  I really don’t care if you are going to an adult Halloween party, going out with your man, or handing out candy on your front porch.  No self respecting 30 something or older should be showing their hind end to the world.  It’s NOT sexy.  You look stupid, and desperate for attention.  And if Little Jimmy can see where his good buddy, Parker used to get his breakfast, then you need to put your girls away!  Ladies, it is Halloween, not Hugh Hefner’s birthday party!  Now we’ve addressed what shouldn’t be hanging out.  Let’s go ahead and talk about what shouldn’t be sandwiched in.  If I can see your lady bits, your pants are too tight.  If I can read your rolls, body dimples, and indentation of every stretch mark, then you need a bigger size.  I do not need to be able to read your body like a 3D map of the interstate.  Thank you, but no thank you.  So go stand in the mirror.  Take a good look.  Now raise your arms.  Are your cheeks hanging out?  Bend over.  Did Little Sally’s buffet just fall out?  If you answered yes to either of these questions, GO CHANGE!!!!!

Now let’s venture over to Homecoming pictures.  Let me be clear….It’s not your homecoming!  Your moment is over!  Let your child shine, and dress accordingly.  I should not scroll through Homecoming pictures and see Mama Bear dressed in sequins, and a belly shirt and heels standing next to Little Stella and her date.  No Ma’am!  You’re too old, and you look silly.  Leave the sequins to Stella, and get out of the group photos!  Odds are Stella looks better in that top anyway.  Now don’t make me tell you again in May when it’s time for Prom!

Now let’s talk about your every day wear.  These are the things I see in the grocery store, when I’m out to dinner, and out running errands.  I just can’t stay quiet anymore!  I don’t care if you are  man shopping or not, keep a few things in mind.  A man that picks you up when you are shopping for melons wearing a leopard print dress cut to your belly button and 6 inch heels is NOT interested in your ability to make the world’s best apple pie or the fact that you sing in the church choir!  Now stop going to the store like you just left work on the corner!  No ma’am!  No ma’am!  No ma’am!  And if I can see what color your Victoria’s Secret underwear is, then it’s not a secret!  Quit stealing your daughter’s low rise jeans, and buy some normal ones.  I don’t like seeing my plummer’s butt crack, and your’s isn’t any cuter.  I don’t want to see your boobs, belly button, butt cheeks, or any of your other mysteries!  PUT THEM AWAY!  I’ve had it.  Some of you are 40 years old, and I see you half naked leaning against your teenager’s car for a quick selfie before you go serve his friends homemade cookies.  Yuck!  Yuck!  Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!  You are not Stifler’s mom, and why would you want to be anyway?  Now go find some jeans, a nice boat neck shirt, and a scarf.  It’s getting cold outside, and you’re nipping.  Cover it up!

So here is the bottom line.  I believe women are sexy at all ages, and we need to appreciate and love the way we look in every season of our lives.  If you are in the mom crowd or the over 30 crowd, please have a little self respect.  I’m not saying you have to dress frumpy, or not be proud of your body.  I’m simply saying dress age appropriately.  Showing all your goodies at the PTA meeting doesn’t make you look attractive.  It makes you look like a middle aged woman who is desperate for attention.  No go inside, take off that nonsense, and put some clothes on!!!!!

I haven’t attached a picture, because I don’t want to offend anyone.  I’m too tired to deal with the drama attached with some people’s reality.  So insert your own mental image.  We all know someone who this post applies to!

Two Girls, A Funeral, and a Mercedes Benz

So the story goes like this….Papa died.  We rented an expensive car.  My family is crazy.  We flew home.  I can almost see your faces scrunched up in a look that says, “Katie is crazy, and more than a little twisted.”  You’re right; I am!  But let me at least explain before you judge me too harshly!

My Papa Bill lingered in a hospital bed for months before he passed away.  While my sister and I were both heartbroken, we were relieved that he didn’t have to suffer any more.  We received the news, and began making plans to go home for the funeral immediately.  The phone would ring…Me: “What are you wearing?” My sister: “I don’t know.  None of my black dresses fit.  Can I wear pants?”  “No!  You cannot wear pants!  But I’m struggling too.  All of my black dresses are scandalous, and my boobs hang out.  Momsie will kill me.”  “Yeah, I guess we both better go shopping.  You think we can use Dad’s credit card?”  And so the conversations went for several days.  We both found black dresses, and we will get to what our grandmother thought of them in just a minute.  And for the record…I paid for MY dress.  Who paid for Nickie’s remains a mystery.

Next it was time to book a flight and hotel.  My sister left the hotel up to me.  “You’re a snob.  I know I can trust you to find us a nice place that won’t have hookers hanging out in the hallways.”  God bless Marriot.  I not only found us a nice hotel near the airport, but I had enough points to stay for free.  One more hurdle jumped.  Now just time to board a plane, and head to Texas.

I got to DFW about an hour before my sister.  I plopped myself down in baggage claim and waited.  Once my sister arrived we headed to get a rental car.  I should preface this by saying that my dad had offered to pay for the rental car….We walk up to the desk, and are greeted by a woman that has about as much personality as a piece of cardboard.  I, being the responsible sister, ask for an economy car, swipe my dad’s card, and we head to the parking garage.  Guys, we walk to our assigned car and cringe.  I’m pretty sure there are clown cars that are more exciting than this car.  But next to it is a BMW.  Across from it is a Lexus.  Is that a Mercedes I see?  I think my sister and I were both thinking the same thing.  It was just a matter of time to see who would be gutsy enough to say it.  Within seconds she looks at me.  I look at her.  A big grin spreads across her face.  “Let’s go back in.  This just won’t do.”  We wheel our luggage back inside, and thankfully Miss Cardboard has gone on break, and she has been replaced with Mr. I Give Discounts to Manipulative Women.  We plaster on our biggest smiles, and strut to the counter.  “Is there a problem ladies?”  It was a rare moment.  My sister let me speak!  “Well….here is the problem.  Our grandfather just died, and we were given this car that just isn’t what we had pictured.  I mean…We would like something comfortable to drive our grandmother to the funeral in.  Do you have anything a little more, you know, comfortable?”  My sister jumps in at this point.  “My dad is paying for the car, and we are on a budget.  But I believe we can be flexible.  Can we get a Dead Grandpa discount on a luxury car?  We won’t spend more that $50 dollars a day.”  I lean in and smile.  “And my husband serves our country.  Maybe there is an extra discount for that?”  And away we go in a crisp white Mercedes Benz!  I look at my sister.  “Daddy’s gonna kill us!”  “Eh, lets just wait a few months to tell him.  Maybe when he’s at  your house?”  In this moment I can’t decide if I hate her, or am in awe of her guts and brazen attitude. 

We get to the hotel about 30 minutes later.  It’s important to note  that the hotel is actually only 5 minutes away, but we got lost.  Dallas is big, and Garmin wasn’t very helpful.  Cut us some slack!  We ask the lady at the front desk to recommend a great Mexican place to grab dinner.  We stress it needs to be close by.  She points us toward a little joint that she swears is only about 10 minutes away in Fort Worth.  “But we’re in Dallas.  Is there not somewhere in Dallas we can go?”  “You’re ALMOST in Fort Worth.  I promise it’s closer.”  We shrug, accept her advice, run upstairs to change, and head out the door.  It took FORTY FIVE MINUTES to get to the restaurant!  And I was too nervous to drive our fancy car in rush hour traffic.  We slide into a parking spot, dash inside, and scan the menu.  I can’t help myself.  “Do you think we can each have a drink without Momsie noticing?  I mean, a drink sounds good, right?”  While my sister is our wild child, she draws the line at drinking before Papa’s viewing.  “No Katie.  Momsie will totally flip out.  Eat your chips, and be happy.”  “Fine!”  We begin to chat and catch up.  We rarely see each other, and texting just isn’t the same as sitting down and visiting.  (Yes, Southerners “visit”, we don’t just talk.)  Nickie looks down at her watch, says a few choice words, and then tells me we have to go.  We have an hour to get to visitation, and we don’t know where we are going.  Oh, and did I mention it’s not in Dallas or Fort Worth?!  “It’s ok Nickie.  It lasts 3 hours.  We don’t have to be there the moment the doors open.”

We weave in and out of traffic, obeying Garmin’s every command, and we end up in the hood.  Surely this is a mistake?  I mean….we are passing buildings with graffiti, closed up shops, and houses with grass so high you could hide your car in the yard.  I look at Nickie.  “Don’t look at me like that!  I’m driving, and want to hit all the green lights.  If I stop we might get shot!”  After driving east for about 10 minutes, we make a U turn, and head west on the same street.  Before you ask…Yes, we’re still in the hood!  We see the funeral home, and turn in.  We step  out of our Benz, question whether it will be stripped by the time we get back to the car, and head inside.  We decide to visit with our Papa before we tell the family we are here.  We walk in quietly, have our moment with him, and then hunt down our grandmother.  She squeals when she sees us, hugs our necks, and then asks us when we are getting married and having children.  My sister looks at me with a look that threatens to kill me if I laugh.  You see…Nickie and I have both been married for many years, and we have 7 kids between us.  What in the world has our grandmother been smoking?!  We sweetly remind her of these facts.  She seems to be satisfied.  Or is she?  She looks at me and says, “Paige, why didn’t your mama come?  She loved her Papa Bill.”  Nickie is giving me that look again!  “Ummm…Momsie?  Paige is my daughter.  I’m Katie.”  “Well girl, you look damn good for a woman who has a grown daughter.  I remember now.  But while we’re talking, I need to ask you a question.  Can I tell my friends that you have fake boobs and are wearing fake eyelashes?”  People, I can’t make this stuff up!  “Momsie, maybe this isn’t the right place.”  “Oh Katie…there is no wrong place to talk about looking good.”  Sigh….I WILL have wine after this event!  Nickie and I endure a few hours of being called by the wrong names, asked when we are growing up, and listening to my grandmother tell everyone just how great our Papa was in bed.  It’s time to call it a night!

We collapse into giggles as we get in the car.  We agree that we have earned wine and Oreos.  But where will we find it at this hour?  Dallas? Fort Worth?  In the hood?  We settle on a drug store near the hotel.  We buy tiny bottles of wine, Oreos, and more fake lashes.  We can’t disappoint Momsie!  Once we’re back in the hotel, we kick off our heels, crawl in the middle of the bed, drink wine, eat an entire container of double stuffs, and giggle at the craziness that is our family.  I’m not really sure when we drifted off to sleep, or who finally moved the Oreo package to the nightstand, but we woke up feeling brave enough to face Day 2 of crazy.

We roll up to the funeral with our hair Texas high, our sunglasses as big as  our faces, and our black dresses pressed.  I thought we both looked like true ladies. We walk in, and I kid you not, my grandmother says with delight, “You both look like show girls!”  What?!  Seriously?  Oh yeah….And my grandmother is wearing red!  I can’t help it.  I have to say it.  “Momsie, you are wearing red to your husband’s funeral.  How can you say we look like show girls when you’re in red?  And our skirts are to our knees!  We look like proper ladies.”  “Papa Bill liked me in red.  He said it made me look sexy.  That’s why I’m wearing red.  And I called you show girls because calling you dancers wouldn’t be very nice.”  Thank God Nickie and I went together, because I’m really not sure how I would have handled those comments if her giggle hadn’t cut the tension.  We made it through the funeral.  We gingerly walked our crazy redheaded Momsie up to say her goodbyes.  We kissed him one last time, and then like proper show girls, slid on our diva glasses, and walked back to our Benz.

The two days flew by in a blur.  Nickie and I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to head back to the airport.  It was time to turn in our pimped out ride, hug each other goodbye, and go back home.  We haven’t seen our grandmother since that day, but she has kept us laughing as we chat with her on the phone for hours at a time.  (We secretly pray she won’t go off on a tangent about her sex life again!  Not today!  Not today!) We may all be a little silly, some might even say we’re crazy, but I wouldn’t trade these crazy girls for anything!

PS…Thanks for the Benz Dad!

My Accidental Blessing

I’ve hesitated on writing this post because I knew it would be raw and emotional.  So far I have managed to keep things light and fun, but sometimes a story just begs to be told.  So I may have to pause along the way to wipe away a tear or two, but here we go.  When I was a freshman in college I fell hopelessly in love.  I was reckless, wild and free spirited.  I had always been the model child who did as I was told, made the honor roll, and said yes ma’am and no ma’am.  But my spirit longed to be unleashed, and I met a boy who did just that.  Well, we weren’t very careful, and I found myself pregnant.  I was a cliche if ever there was one.  Good girl gets pregnant out of wedlock.  Despite whispers, disapproving glances, and words of disappointment, I married that sweet boy, and we had a little girl who changed our lives.

“You’ll never graduate from college.”  “You’ve ruined your life.  What were you thinking?”  Well Paige helped me prove everyone wrong.  I finished college in two and a half years, loading up with extra classes, taking summer classes, and working full time to make sure the little princess didn’t go without, just because I had been irresponsible.  If I’m honest, I don’t think I would have gotten my act together if it hadn’t been for that tiny person.  There were days when she came to campus with me, having lunch on the lawn with friends while I took an exam, or bringing her puppy for everyone to see while I turned something in to a professor.  And when she wasn’t with me, her picture dangled from a key chain reminding me why finishing school was so important.  I would look at her chubby little face smiling out at me, and I would remember the cockroaches that crawled across my belly at night while I was pregnant.  I wanted better than that for her.  I needed to do this for Taylor Paige.

Two and a half years later I walked across that stage and received my college degree with my baby and her daddy watching.  I had done it despite everyone’s doubts, and I was going to continue to conquer this big world with Paige by my side.  We were growing up together, and she was watching me.  I couldn’t let her down.

Time was unkind to Paige and me.  It has a habit of sneaking up, and stealing what doesn’t belong to it.  My family had grown to include a sweet baby brother for Paigie Girl, and then the world stole our daddy.  He went out for a motorcycle ride, went around a curve, and hit a tree.  He was gone.  I remember looking at my pastor and asking, “What will I tell my kids?”  I was having a hard time processing this, how would they possibly be able to?  Jackson was almost two, and Paige was five.  This was supposed to be one of the happiest times of my life, and I felt completely and utterly lost.  From across the room a tiny blond girl walks up to me.  She picks up my hands, places her small hands around mine, peers into my eyes and asks, “Daddy is dead isn’t he Mama?”  I begin to sob, and slowly nod my head.  She very gently says, “It’s ok.  You still have me.  I will take care of you.”  And she did.  And she does.  EVERY DAY.  Our bond had always been close, but now we were an inseparable force.  We were determined to stand up against the storms of this world together.  If you tangle with one, you tangle with both.

Time passed, and as it does, it dulled the pain of loss.  I don’t think you ever totally move on from loss, but you learn a new normal, and you find a new sense of happy…  I married again, and added another little guy to the family.  Paige mothered him as if he were her own.  There were birthdays, family vacations, school dances, and so many happy memories.  But when the tough times came, Paige was always the first to rush to my side.  She has always had this uncanny ability to sense when my heart needed her most.

During Paige’s junior year in high school my husband deployed for 7 months.  So many said, “You’re strong.  This will be a walk in the park for you.  You’ve endured much worse.”  Well it wasn’t, and there were days I just wanted to hide under the covers and cry.  Paige would walk in, pull back the covers, and tell me to get up.  She would even invite me to dinner or a movie.  4 weeks into the deployment I was put in the hospital with 4 kidney stones.  Any military wife can tell you that’s just the way it goes in our lives, but it still seemed like terrible timing.  Paige was only 16, but she sat with me at the hospital, helped with meals for the boys, grocery shopping, and getting the boys to school until family could arrive to take over.  And then at Thanksgiving when I was too sad to go pick out a Christmas tree because Pete would still be in the desert, she fired up the Suburban, and told me to get in.  We were going to get a tree.

Now on mornings when my brain just isn’t functioning she makes my coffee, hands me my lunchbox, and sends me on my way.  I know one day she will have to move out and live her own life.  And I’ll be honest, I don’t know what I will do.  It will be like someone cut off my arm.  I will be lost, lonely, and feel like I lost a part of myself, maybe even the best part.  Sometimes she asks me, “Did you ever feel like I was a mistake?”  “No, you saved me from myself.  You are my accidental blessing.”

Paige, I know you will read this, because you are my biggest fan.  We have traveled through the darkness, and always found the light hand in hand.  When your walking shoes feel one size too small, and you’re tempted to lace up the running shoes, and run in the opposite direction…just reach out.  Let me catch you, and lead you back to the sun.  I love you…

When I Grow Up I Want To Be Alane

When I was 17 I met a woman who would change the way I look at things for the rest of my life.  But she wouldn’t realize the impact she had on me until 20 years later.  Alane was beautiful, cool, full of life, and crazy in love with Jesus.  Alane was the kind of woman you watched.  The kind of woman that younger women wanted to grow up to become.  I paid very close attention to how she lived, the things she said, and the grace that she offered so many.  But I was 17.  It would have been uncool to tell here just how much she affected me.  So I kept quiet.

I saw her again about 5 years after I graduated from high school.  She was glowing, carrying her second son, and her smile was as big as ever.  We chatted about how I had gotten married and had a toddler now, and there she was about to be a mommy a second time.  It was a short chat, but even then I was watching.  Much had happened since I had seen Alane.  She had had to make some tough choices, and had decided to live a life of forgiveness and grace.  She probably didn’t even know that I knew of her struggle.  She was never one to complain or point out how she was the bigger person.  Instead I just watched her ruffle the hair of her oldest boy, and lovingly rub her swollen belly.

And then she was gone again.  This time I wouldn’t see her smile again for almost 20 years.  Life went on.  We both added more children to our families, ironically having children that are very close in age.  I was so excited when Facebook offered her as a friend suggestion.  I clicked on her name, and prayed she would remember who I was after all these years.  You see, Alane was who I wanted to be when I grew up, and now I was all grown up!  (Little secret…she’s still who I want to be when I go up!  I’m not at Alane status yet!)  She was still beautiful.  She was still strong, and she still had that serene look of being at peace.  Both of our lives have taken unforseen turns.  I buried a husband, and she had become a single mom raising 3 boys and running her own business.  Despite a few bumps she seemed to have life figured out.  And in the midst of heartache she still oozed JOY.

So last week I was faced with a dilemma.  My husband is an excellent skier, and he wanted to plan a ski trip.  There are a few things you should know about me.  I’m terribly uncoordinated.  (I’m the girl who can break her toe just walking to the kitchen!)  I’m only a so so skier.  I hate cold weather.  I get bored easily, and am not really an outdoorsy person unless it involves sea and sand.  So imagine my excitement about the prospect of FIVE days of skiing.  I was in a panic.  I clearly needed guidance.  So I jumped on Facebook and messaged Alane.  “Katie, I love your honesty, and I don’t like the cold either.  But I would give anything to wake up next to a man that loves me.  And I would travel to the ends of the earth if it meant feeling his strong hand on the small of my back as we walk into a room.  GO KATIE.  TAKE THE TRIP.  When you love somebody you make sacrifices.  I promise it will be worth it.”  I cringed because I knew she was right.  I might end up in the emergency room, but I needed to agree to go.  And I needed to smile the whole time.  After all, how many times has Pete agreed to go to the beach with me?

Yesterday I was at lunch with my sweet husband, and skiing came up again.  I was determined to be positive.  But he surprised me.  “Katie, do you really want to go skiing for five days?  I’m concerned that you would be miserable, and it seems like a lot of money to spend for you to hate every moment.  I mean, I can see you skiing maybe two days.  But I don’t think you will have fun.”  “Pete, I’m afraid you will be hurt or disappointed in me if I don’t go.  I love you.  I don’t want to hurt you or seem selfish.  I mean….will you still love me if I don’t go with you?”  “Not only will I still love you, but why don’t I send you to your dad’s house at the beach that week?  I know that would make you happy.”  I texted Alane and told her about this crazy plot twist.  You know what she said?  “THAT IS AMAZING!!!!  That’s what love does!  I’m proud of you.”  She was right.  Being open to the needs of someone else made him more receptive to my needs.  We both felt loved, appreciated, and understood.

For one brief moment I was Alane reincarnate.  I made her proud.  When I wake up tomorrow I will try again to live a life of grace and love, and strive to have another Alane moment.  Strive to live a life of grace, joy, forgiveness, and great shoes!  Here’s to Alane.

(I was going to post a pic of her, but my daughter said that was creepy!)  Trust me, she’s beautiful inside and out!

I Accidentally Told A Girl She’s Pretty

I was sitting in the middle of my bed with my daughter folding the 30th load of laundry when Jackson walks in.  He plops down in between us, looks at the ceiling, and announces, “I accidentally told a girl she’s pretty today.”  Paige and I look at each other, our faces a mixture of amusement and dismay.  The first thing I could think of was, “Wait…You actually SPOKE to a girl?!”  “Yeah, but it was a total accident.  It happened before I even knew what I was doing.”

I guess I should back up, and give you a little background.  Jackson is 16, and terrified of speaking to women unless they are gray headed grandmothers.  And sometimes that is even a little scary for him.  During his freshman year in high school he loved a girl from afar for an entire year.  “Tell her Jackson.  Just tell her.”  Oh he told her!  3 weeks before we were moving to another state he declared his love for her.  Way to be a risk taker Buddy!  It turns out the girl had liked him all year, but never said anything for fear he didn’t feel the same.  So as we loaded up the moving truck, with big fat love sick puppy tears threatening to spill over, we all believed that he had learned his lesson, and he would begin to voice his feelings to the lovely ladies around him.  WRONG!

We moved, and Jackson hibernated in his room.  The world spun around, but Jackson stayed still.  Then one day a very assertive girl told Jackson she liked him, and he was going to take her on a date.  Wait….what?  When did girls start doing that?!  I would have died a very dramatic death by embarrassment before I ever did that!  And my mama would have told me that wasn’t very ladylike, and to hush!  But it was great for my shy boy.  I think he was secretly a little afraid of the spunky minx!  He complied, and they ended up dating a few months.  If we are completely honest, he wasn’t really required to do much talking, as she did enough for both of them.  Then one Saturday he declared it was over, and the world went quiet again.  Rumors swirled that he liked another.  I was brave, and I asked him who the girl was.  I mean…I DO work at the school.  I wanted to be a little nosy.  I spotted her, and I approved.  Again we all nudged him to speak to her.  Months passed…does anyone else hear the crickets chirping, because I swear that’s all we heard!  Then one day I see him smiling into his phone screen.  I believe the native have crawled out from under his rock!  Do I dare move closer or say anything, or will I scare him back under the rock?  Awe screw it!  I’ve never been one to be quiet!  “Jackson, what are you doing?”  Cue the deep sigh, and rolling of the eyes.  “I’m snapchatting Mom.”  “Yes, I know.  But who?”  It indeed WAS a girl!

So this went on for months.  He finally got the courage to ask her on a date.  He wasn’t  driving yet, so I dropped him off and picked him up.  I was lucky enough to be early, so I was able to spy from across the street.  I slumped down low in my seat as they walked past, then popped up as they entered the ice cream place.  Paige is frantically texting him, “Don’t forget to pay!  And pull out her chair!”  We laugh as he turns to look from side to side, undoubtedly wondering where we are and how we know his every move.  He tells her he knows the drill, and to leave him alone.  We watch with baited breath.  Will he speak or just stare at her?  We use our jedi mind tricks, willing him to speak.  Say SOMETHING!  Later as he climbs into the car he says, “I had fun.  But I’m not sure she knows it was a date.  Heck, I’m not even sure it was a date.”  What?!  How can you not know that?!

The next day we get a text…”It was a date!  Her friend just told me she heard about our date!  That must mean it was a date!”  “Great!  Ask her out again!”  Well he did….MONTHS later.  You know, once she’d had time to move on and get a boyfriend.  Roll my eyes.  “It’s ok Buddy.  Live and learn.”  Then came the next girl….

I knew this girl.  I LOVE this girl.  I was giddy that she was who he had chosen.  So happy that I tried to orchestrate every opportunity for them to bump into each other.  Chance number one….Jackson is sitting in my room after school, and I see the doll walking down the hall.  I call her in to ask about her day.  Jackson looks at his phone the ENTIRE TIME!  He doesn’t even look up or speak.  I ask him about it when she leaves.  “Mom, she walks into the room, and I can’t seem to speak.  She terrifies me.”  Maybe in time he will become more comfortable?  Chance number two….I notice the girl is still hanging around well after the final bell.  She tells me she is killing time until the evening basketball game.  I invite her to join us at Panera Bread for an afternoon snack.  She agrees, and off we go.  Jackson didn’t speak more than 10 words.  I give up!

Summer comes and goes….Jack is still hung up on the girl, and now they work together!  Another month goes by….He finally gets up the courage to ask her out.  She’s seeing someone.  His timing is HORRIBLE!  So this brings us to “I accidentally told a girl she’s pretty.”  We were all shocked that he had spoken.  He informed us that it wasn’t on purpose.  “We were talking about jobs, and I told her she should wait tables because she would get lots of tips since she’s pretty.  Once it was out of my mouth I didn’t know what to do.  I couldn’t take it back, but I couldn’t think of anything else to say either!”

Well I wish I could tell you that he asked the girl out, that they got along swimmingly, and now he is bankrupting me as I help pay for dates.  But that isn’t the case.  He still stares at his feet, forgets to speak, or breaks into a hot pink blush when a beautiful girl walks into the room.  I can’t wait for the day when he says, “Hey Mom, I told a girl she was pretty on purpose.”  Until then we will hope for happy accidents, girls bold enough to pull him out of his shell, and for shy smiles that make you just want to walk right up and tell him hi.

Naked Batman, Jello Shots, and Best Friends

 

Imagine looking out your window and seeing a naked toddler sprinting across your lawn in nothing but a Batman mask.  Well, that was my life.  EVERY DAY.  Austin is my youngest child, and he was by far my most spirited toddler.  For some reason he wasn’t a fan of clothes, but he WAS a fan of being outside.  And he was sneakier than a ninja!  Many mornings I would fix him a sippy cup, put on Little Einsteins, and try to squeeze in a quick shower.  And on a good number of those mornings my phone would ring….”Austin is running down the street naked again. Do you want me to bring him back?”  “Yes!  Yes, I want you to bring him back!  Why are you even asking me that?!”  I began wondering if I should just boycott showers until he was school aged.  I mean seriously, what would he do next?!  Oh, and did I mention I lived two doors down from a social worker, and sometimes he would streak through her yard, and pee on her flowers?  Yeah….good times.

I began to think of how I could get the child to keep his clothes on.  I knew it would have to be creative if it had any chance of working.  So I hit the local Target, and bought every left over Halloween costume they had.  Perhaps he will want to dress in super hero costumes?  Oh he did!  He wore his Spider Man costume EVERYWHERE.  I took Spidey to the grocery store, out to dinner, to a neighborhood block party (They were just happy he wasn’t naked.), and even to the pediatrician.  We lived with Spider Man for about a month, with me washing the little costume each night while he slept.  Then one morning he woke up, and was done being Spider Man.  He was a dog.  Like for real….He was ALL IN.  He didn’t speak.  He barked.  He crawled around on all fours, shook his butt like he was wagging his tail, and nudged you with his nose.  A DOG PEOPLE!!!!!  I was raising a dog!  He wore this little  furry headband that had floppy ears and a dog nose.  Thankfully this phase only lasted a week.  Any longer, and I would have had to check into the Betty Ford clinic!  Then came naked Batman….

I had gotten smart, and gone to the local hardware store to pick up alarms for our exterior doors.  That’s right, every time you opened the door it sounded like Armageddon was upon us.  But at least it kept him inside.  So Austin had now taken an interest in his Batman costume, but it was pretty hot outside.  Austin knew just how to remedy that.  Just wear the mask!  AND NOTHING ELSE…Since the doors were now wired for sound, I felt safe taking showers again.  I came down one morning to find him climbing the pantry shelves in nothing but a mask.  “Austin, what are you doing, and why are you naked?”  “I’m not naked Mommy.  I have on my Batman mask!”  I just stood there wondering how many bottles of wine it would take to raise this child as I watched him scale the shelves like a spider monkey.

Raising Austin wasn’t just about surviving his streaker phase.  Oh no, he wanted to test my friends too.  “How much do you REALLY love my mommy?!”  We were blessed to live in a neighborhood littered with toddlers and stay at home moms.  We all forged such a special bond.  There were play dates, zoo outings, and many girls nights.  But my child had an uncanny talent for pushing people right to the edge….I lived next door to my best friend, Rebecca.  I’m sitting in my sunroom, and I hear her voice, “Austin!!!!!!”  I cringe just a little, then I pick up the phone.  Yeah, I know what I have to do.  “Becks?  What did he do now?!”  “Katie, he’s throwing poop over the fence into the pool!  And we’re IN THE POOL!” This is bad.  This is really bad.  “Oh no!  He was just in the sandbox two seconds ago.  I’ll go get him.  But Rebecca, you still love me, right?”  Rebecca sighed the largest sigh I think she’s ever sighed.  “Yes, Princess, I still love you.  Now get your kid to quit throwing poop!”  I swear, I was living in the circus.

Now if you still don’t feel like I deserve the mother of the year award, let me tell you one final story.  We lived in this sweet little neighborhood for 3 exhausting, yet blissful years, and over those years we ladies continued to get together as often as we could.  And each of us was assigned something to bring to our backyard get togethers.  This time I was assigned jello shots…I’m not a very good cook, and they all figured this was something I couldn’t mess up.  They were right….sort of…  I made about 2 dozen jello shots, put them on the top shelf of my refrigerator, and went upstairs to get ready.  It was late afternoon.  My other 2 kids were home from school, and all 3 were playing together.  What could possibly go wrong?  Why do I ever ask that?!  I don’t even know how long I was up there when I hear this giggle.  It’s loud, high pitched, and doesn’t seem to be stopping.  I get to the bottom of the stairs and see Austin running in circles through my dining room and kitchen.  My heart lurches into my stomach.  This is exactly how I act when I’m drunk.  Surely not.  No no no no no!!!!!  I race to my fridge and fling the door open.  “Look Mommy!  You made tiny jellos just my size!”  I peek down into the jello cups as my brain is saying, “This is the mother fail to top all mother fails.”  Sure enough, he has scooped out the center of 3 jello shots.  Don’t panic.  It wasn’t poison.  Give the boy some water, a cracker, ANYTHING.  I put on my best calming face, and turn to face my drunk toddler just as he pukes at my feet.  That’s right boys and girls, all that jello just swimming around my feet.  “Well at least you got it out of your system.”  I cried and carried around guilt over that one for a long time.  Why hadn’t I anticipated that?!  But then I got older, and I learned not to beat myself up.

Austin is 12 now, an honors student, and a pretty sweet kid.  I survived streaking, poop throwing, Batman, and one crazy drunken afternoon.  Rebecca and I are still best friends.  In fact, her daughter and Austin text and snapchat now.  It’s really adorable.  Momming isn’t easy.  It’s messy, exhausting, and sometimes we fail.  But if we survive, it is all worth it.  Now when I look at my kids all grown up I miss the squeaky little laughs, the handprints on the walls, and taking Spider Man to the grocery store.  Let them be little.  I promise you both will survive.