The Day I Met My First Squirrel

“Mom, why did Aunt Nickie send home a stuffed squirrel?”  “Ugh, she’s enjoyed tormenting me with them since the squirrel incidents years ago.”  “What squirrel incidents?”  Ok, Paige, I will tell you the squirrel story.  I can’t believe we haven’t told you this story before now.

When I was in middle school my parents bought this ridiculously large house with all kinds of nooks and crannies, and it backed up to a wooded lot.  My favorite place in the whole house was my dad’s office.  He had this massive desk (which is in my office now), a cozy fireplace, and a comfy couch.  I would go in there to nap, read, or just hang out.  I loved it, until one day I didn’t anymore.

I was camped out on the couch half asleep when my mom called me.  I had a habit of just kind of rolling off the couch, catching myself with my arms before I hit the floor, and then standing up.  You can image my horror when mid roll I see a dead squirrel staring up at me from the floor.  Let me paint the picture for you.  This joker was on his back, his mouth in a snarl showing his jagged little jerk teeth, and his hands up like he was about to grab a nut.  Have you ever seen a 13 year old girl defy gravity, roll back UP a couch, and hurdle over a kitchen pass through before?!  Well that’s exactly what I did!  To this day I don’t know how I managed to jump through that pass through.  It was an epic move worthy of an Olympic Medal.  I screamed the whole way as if I had been taken over by evil spirits.  And then the rest of the evening is a blur.  I have no idea who removed the squirrel, whether he went to a squirrel heaven, or what his fate was.  But I knew I hated squirrels from that moment on.

Now there is a little fun fact we had not yet discovered about the woods behind our house.  They were full of FLYING squirrels.  Not regular, normal squirrels.  Oh no!  Everything in my life has to be extra, even the squirrels!  Well, if you don’t KNOW that the squirrels are flying, you don’t know to close the fireplace flue now do you?  So does anyone want to guess what happened?!

Fast forward about 6 months to a year.  I’m sitting on the kitchen floor, leaning against our rolling island while my mom cooks.  The fact that she was in the kitchen cooking should have been an odd enough turn of events for me to know known something bad was going to happen.  I mean seriously, we grew up on KFC and Foster’s BBQ.  Mom didn’t cook.  Anyway….there we were, attempting to have a mother daughter moment.  She turns around to look at me and her eyes do this funny twitchy thing.  I can tell something isn’t quite right, but she’s trying to keep her cool.  “There’s a squirrel isn’t there?”  She couldn’t speak.  Wooden spoon midair, she just nods.

Guys, I really should have considered track after the squirrel episodes.  I jumped up, jumped back over that pass through, and up to my room.  This squirrel was ALIVE!  That asshole had been in my room.  I found his tiny soot covered rodent footprints on my window ledge along with his droppings.  Why were these furry jerks after ME?  Why not torment my sister or my mother?!  I mean seriously, this wasn’t funny.  And Nickie, I STILL don’t think it’s funny!

When I believed the coast was clear, I ventured out of my room, and back into our home which was now part of Snow White’s Enchanted Forest.  Turns out that squirrel panicked a little when I started screaming.  He flew from the kitchen into the dining room, kept right on going to the music room, and then committed suicide as he flew into our Christmas Tree.

Great….Now we’ve got a dead squirrel hanging from the limbs of our tree.  How decorative.  Ugh!  I made it abundantly clear that I did not care how the squirrel was removed; I just wasn’t helping.  Somehow my dad had managed to dodge the bullet on this one.  He was out of town on business, so my mom conned the pastor next door into removing the rodent from the tree.

I’m pretty sure we never lit Dad’s fireplace again.  The flue was permanently closed, as my parents were afraid one more squirrel encounter might lead me to an early death or a padded room.

Now days I won’t even go outside if a squirrel is in the yard, I run past them in public parks, and I curse at them through windows.  And of course my family finds this hilarious, and thinks that we should relive this moment every once in awhile, so they wrap up fake squirrels and give them as gifts.  Maybe one year I’ll wrap up an alligator and give it to them.  Hateful people!  So if you are in a park and you see a lady running at full speed while yelling obscenities at the wild life, don’t worry.  It’s just me having a minor squirrel meltdown.  And as Paul Harvey used to say, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

Thanksgiving Shenanigans

As many of you know, I am NOT a morning person.  So you can imagine my joy when Pete says the Thanksgiving train is pulling out at 5:30AM the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  “But Pete, that’s so early!  And I have to put on makeup because you know Nickie is going to want to take pictures.”  “Well get up in time to make it happen.”  When the alarm screamed at me, I dragged myself out of bed, slapped on a face, and off we went.  It’s only fair to note that I slept the first 5 hours of the journey, only waking for bathroom breaks, breakfast, and because Pete was shoving his fingers in my mouth as it hung open while I slept.

But before I could even get comfortable for my roadtrip nap I hear, “Mom, did we get Miss Cindy’s cookies?  If not, we have to turn around.”  “Yes, son, we have the cookies.”  “Oh good, can you pass me some?”  “But it’s only 5:30!”  “I know.  Let’s call them breakfast cookies.  Now pass them back.”  These cookies ya’ll.  They are the kind of cookies that make men fall in love with women who can bake.  They are the kind of cookies that make skinny girls fat, and cause wrestlers not to make weight.  Yeah…They’re that good.  I must note that these cookies did not even make it to the Georgia state line.  The boys were licking crumbs out of the container by the time we hit South Carolina.

We roll into Savannah around 2:30 that afternoon.  I am greeted by tiny people throwing their little bodies at me with arms wide open, and my brother in law kindly offering to make a pot of coffee.  After 17 trips back and forth to the car, we are unloaded.  While sipping on my coffee my dad sheepishly tells me that we need to go to the grocery store to get a few things.  My brother in law, Chris says, “But I just opened a fresh beer!  And I thought we went yesterday so we didn’t have to go with Miss High Maintenance!”  “Yeah, that was the plan, but I forgot the stinkin sweet potatoes, and you know how much she wants them.”  Ummm….excuse me!  I’m standing right here!  I can hear you!    We ended up at Publix.  I DID end up asking for about 7 things other than sweet potatoes, but it was FINE!  It’s really not that hard to go to the grocery store with me.  I swear!

We arrive home, and Chris immediately starts making a giant pot of spaghetti.  “Oh crap.  The noodles are boiling, but I’m not sure if we have any spaghetti sauce.  How do you feel about plain noodles and meat?”  Miraculously he digs up two tiny containers of spaghetti sauce, and we throw down like it’s our last supper.

My sister strolls in around 10PM.  Here is the tricky part about Thanksgiving.  My sister works retail, so we only see her in little snatches of time.  You know, like when she walks to her bed, when she walks to her car, and during Thanksgiving dinner.  Other than that, the girl works, and then works some more.  I honestly don’t know how she is able to stand after Thanksgiving week, much less function.  I hug her neck when she comes in, and then we all stumble off to bed.

Now bedtime was a little comical.  Nickie and Chris have a big family.  Six kids total.  This makes sleeping arrangements a little interesting.  Pete and I were placed on a futon.  Guys, I haven’t been on a futon since college, and I forgot about the slope when they open up!  We lay down on that thing, and we both are hanging on the the edge for fear of rolling into the middle.  We love each other, but we like a little space when we sleep.  I whisper, “Hey Pete?  Are you awake?”  “Yeah, I’m busy holding on so I don’t roll to the middle and get yelled at.  Let’s pull the mattress on to the floor.”  Chris was quick to remind me the next morning  about the time they slept at our house on an air mattress and woke up to it being deflated.  It’s the price you pay to be with family!

I stumble into the kitchen Thursday morning, and my dad immediately hands me a cup of coffee.  “It’s time to go to work.  Nickie’s kids are getting picked up by their dad at 1.  So drink up, and let’s cook.”  I groan a little.  Still not a morning person!  I walk toward the guest bathroom, determined to wake up and start this day.  I’m a little confused.  The bathroom has a door, but no handle.  Chris must have seen the confusion on my face.  “It’s ok.  Go on in.  You can shove a towel in the hole if you want, but I promise we won’t look!  Kids broke the handle off when they were hanging on it.  I’m not replacing it until they are teenagers!”  While I WAS a little freaked out by the bathroom peep hole, I did find the whole scenario rather comical.  “You know Logan is only 7, right?”  “Yup!”  Oh, and did I mention the kids broke the handle off the kitchen sink too?!  “Just pull the screw up.  We’re gonna fix that once they’re all teenagers too.”  LOL….I had forgotten how much mischief little people could get into.  But these little ones are so cute, I sometimes have a hard time believing they could possibly be bad!

Once we got past learning how to operate the rigged doorknob, having coffee, and finding my morning brain, I began to make the sweet potato casserole.  Chris says to me, “I don’t know why you make that stuff.  Sweet potatoes are gross.”  “Shhh!  The children will hear you, and my kids love this stuff!”  My nephew comes in, “Aunt Katie, can I help you make whatever you are making?”  This might quite possibly be the highlight of my trip.  It took a little begging because Chris had said no kids in the kitchen while we were cooking, but after a few minutes Mr. Adorable is perched on a stool pouring in vanilla, brown sugar and marshmallows.”  “Yummmmm….Aunt Katie these are really good!”  Take that Chris!  The boy loves them!!!!

We gobbled up all the Thanksgiving goodies, and then if was time to load the tiny people into their dad’s car.  Everyone should be proud, despite my strongest desires, I didn’t say anything tacky or hateful.  And trust me….there was plenty of material to work with!  I seriously was just typing examples but I could just hear my sister’s disgusted “shame on you” phone call.  So I’m keeping my mouth shut!

Lunch is done.  Dirtbag has the children.  Now it’s time for telling my sister bye as she heads off to work, taking naps, and getting geared up for shopping.  It’s the one day of the year that even my boys offer to go shopping.  We hit the outlets HARD, and we usually end up finishing our Christmas shopping.  And every year we say it’s insanity, and that we won’t do it again.  And weeks before the next Thanksgiving we get giddy about the craziness, and make our plans to do it again.  My brother in law is the instigator.  It’s all his fault!


There are some highlights to shopping though.  For instance, Austin gets super silly, and offers to model anything you ask him to.  And Jackson’s pockets seem a little deeper, and he actually asks me what he should get people for Christmas.  Then we sneak away and buy Double Doozy cookies from the American Cookie Company.  (This is probably one reason poor Jackson has spent the last 4 days running in sweats trying to cut weight for tomorrow’s wrestling tournament!  Oops!)

We rounded the trip out with a death defying ride home courtesy of Jackson.  3 hours of Jackson driving, and controlling the music.  We walked the line with Johnny Cash, went way down yonder on the Chatahoochee and sang along to Alabama as we crossed the state line.  I’m not even sure where my child heard all those old songs, but they were his jam as we cruised down the highway.

I am tired, about 2 pounds heavier, and glad to have another Thanksgiving down in the books.  I suppose now it’s time to wrap presents, finish decorating for Christmas, and gear up for the next round of holiday craziness.  Paige, I swear child, if you peek at one more present I’m going to take them back and give you coal and sticks for Christmas!

A Father’s Letter

A few weeks ago I received a request to share some words on my blog.  I have read the writing over and over, and tried to figure out how I could take portions and add it to my writing.  And the truth is….I can’t.  It comes from an unlikely place, a prison cell in Texas.  The words are powerful, but again I struggled.  “How can I make this “ours”, when I can’t contribute?”  I received another letter two days ago, and I learned that the writer is a father of two girls.  He is desperate to share his message, so I’m doing something I have never done before.  I am turning this post over to Justin.  I believe his message is powerful, and worth sharing.  (And no, this is not the same fellow who helped me write, “Be Still.  Just Listen.”)  The floor is now officially yours Justin.

“#ListenToThisStory (Young Ladies and Women Everywhere)

I’ve read a few articles about women who post nude and exposing pictures.  What type of attention or people do you think this attracts?  What would you expect in response to these images?  Well a few people replied that these girls were slutty, and others salivated.  So one woman says, “Internet bullies and perverts not welcome.” Another was offended by the “slutty” accusations and perverts?!  And her boyfriend of 5 years left her because she was becoming an entirely different person for attention.  So, she doesn’t come to her senses, and belittles him by saying, “Obviously he’s insecure just because I’m comfortable in my body and not ashamed.  It would take a real man with confidence to date me.”  This clouded outlook encourages our daughters and sisters to think it’s ok to degrade themselves.  Somehow it’s cool to be a stripper.  Young women are saying they are “exotic dancers”.  So I’m like, “Hmmm, do you belly dance, Hawaiian hula, or what?  These are foreign, exotic dances.”  So the girls say, “No dummy.  I’m a stripper!”  “Oh.  So “dummy”, you’re NOT an exotic dancer.  I think you mean “erotic” dancer.”

Women are putting themselves in situations where they are in danger of being sexually harmed or abused, and are seriously not understanding how this could happen to them.  Really?!  Now to be clear, I do not condone abuse to women in any form, even verbally.  So let me say to all the women out there, showing your body is not a way to show confidence.  You are advertising your body, attracting potential harm.  And to the girl who belittled her boyfriend to build herself up at his expense?  You are the internet bully.  Girl, no real man wants to date a woman who exposes herself to the world.  There’s just some things that should be specially for your significant other.  In a relationship I make you feel special by opening to you the parts and things about me I don’t share with anyone else.  You wouldn’t feel special if I didn’t save anything especially for you.

Confidence?  You don’t have to expose yourself.  Confidence is attitude you have, your aura.  Not your breast.  That reflects something else, that you lack self respect.  And if a woman can’t love and respect herself, why would any man believe she can love and respect him?  It reflects, “I need attention.  Look.”  Believe me, trying hard comes off as needy and unattractive.  Your unique mind is attractive.  Your potential infinite.  Use your following to embed real confidence and morals to our youth.  Be a role model parents are happy their daughters look up to.  Your philosophical idealism is great.  You don’t need to show your body to get people to listen.  If your followers log in to see breast, they’d be content watching your show on mute!  They’re not really following you as a person.  That’s not the following you need.  Yet you’re offended when people disrespect you?  You don’t respect yourself!  But you expect respect from others?

Social media has a way of consuming people, creating characters.  People pretend to be someone else in fear of the real them being rejected.  Being original is what makes people stand out.  You don’t need to be liked by everyone.  There’s all types of traits people are attracted to.  Be yourself and you will find someone really interested in you!  Accept you for who you are.  You can stop living in fear of maintaining a false image which is very strenuous on the mind.  There is somebody for everybody.  If you find yourself in an awkward relationship, it’s because your false image online attracted that person.  And in person you really don’t like him.  He really doesn’t like you.  This can hurt you both, breaking confidence that was unsteady to begin with.

So there you have it!  Reality check.  Perception is everything.  Positive and negative criticism because you need both sides of it to create the energy to start anything.  Be yourself.  Originals are worth more than copies!  Calibrate your moral compass, and act responsibly.  Perverts aren’t the only ones watching.

To young women everywhere…Education is empowering.  You can make a difference, and be confident in clothes.


I really can’t add to his message.  I think it was heart felt, incredibly relevant, and articulate.  Well said Justin.


Love Your Own Skin

“I love you, and I’m sorry but I cannot send you a full body picture.  I know you want me to love the skin I’m in, but I’ve really been battling some weight issues along with some depression.  I have tried for the past week to get dressed and take the picture.  I’ve probably taken 100 and I just cry…I’m sorry, but I can’t do it.”

This text was sent to me a week after I told my beautiful friends I wanted to write a post about women loving the skin we are in.  Not the shape we were when we were 16, 24, or even 40, but truly loving the woman that stares back at us each morning.  Let’s be honest….That’s hard!  When I look in the mirror I see wrinkles etched around my eyes that weren’t  there even 5 years ago.  But I’m slowly beginning to love those fine lines; they were created from years of laughter, squinting in the sun at baseball games, and crying along side my children as they learned tough lessons.  Those lines hold memories, and are an a testament to a life well lived.

But what about the extra 5, 10 or even 30 pounds we may be carrying around?  How do we still love ourselves when our pants are snug or don’t even button?  It’s tough.  I get that.  But here is what I want us to consider.  Confidence is beautiful.  Owning your body, and the journey it has been on is empowering.  For too long we have let the world tell us what is and isn’t beautiful.  We’ve watched young women starve themselves for fear of what the mean girls might think about the way they look.  We’ve allowed society to dictate what is too small or too big.  Let’s be honest.  We aren’t all the same shape, height, color, or nationality.  What a boring world it would be if we were!  But one thing is certain.  We are ALL beautiful.  Some of the most beautiful women I have met have curves, laugh lines, and stretch marks.  But they just glow.  Beauty isn’t about being a size 2, having the perfect legs, or meeting a certain description.  It’s about that glow that comes from being a woman who loves life.  THAT is beautiful.

While we are talking about the glow, let me address pregnancy.  I remember hiding from the camera while I was pregnant.  “Please don’t take my picture.  My face is fat, and everything is wide on my body.  I look horrible.  I don’t want anyone to remember me like this.”  I kick myself regularly for that.  I wish I had photos that documented my growing belly, the glow of my skin, and the joy mixed with apprehension  I felt while carrying my children.  So love those baby bumps.  Flaunt them the same way you would a pair of diamond earrings.  Smile at the camera, and say, “Look at me.  I’m growing a tiny human.  What are you doing with YOUR free time?!”

I remember working out with my friend a few years ago and she had on this sweatshirt that said, “Pretty For A Black Girl”.  It had this adorable cartoon of this black girl with big hair blowing a bubble.  “Faith, I don’t get your shirt.  Why does it say “For A Black Girl”?”  “Katie, do you know how many times people say that to me?  They don’t just tell me I’m pretty.  They tell me I’m pretty for a black girl.”  WHAT????? Why have we been conditioned that some races are more beautiful than others?  Do we sit little girls in front of mirrors and tell them they are pretty, but the girl down the street is prettier because she is a different color?!  I was disgusted by what  I had learned ignorant  people were saying.  Friends, I don’t care what color you are.  You are BEAUTIFUL!  You may have your grandmother’s nose, your dad’s eyes, your mom’s smile, and hair like you Aunt Clara.  THAT is what makes you beautiful.

Then there are those of us who say, “I just wish I wasn’t built so thick.  I want to be petite or tiny.”  STOP!  I am of German decent.  I have big thighs, a behind that needs it’s own zip code, and a waist that is about a size 4.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a pair of pants?!  But I embrace it.  I don’t care that my thighs are big now.  Instead I focus on looking strong.  Let them be big.  I’ll just make them as strong as a Clydesdale’s.  Let society tell me to eat more grass and carrots.  Forget them!  I am strong, and thus I feel good.  Stop freaking out about size, and focus on health.

Let’s not forget the tiny girls.  One of the biggest misconceptions is that tiny girls have it easy.  I remember a time when my daughter came home in tears.  She was just a tiny wisp of a thing, and another girl told her only dogs liked bones, and that no boy would ever be interested in her.  Other times people have accused her of not eating enough or even having an eating disorder.  Again, there were tears.  So many misconceptions about beauty.  I doubt my baby will ever be very meaty, but she is beautiful.  She may not have as many curves as the girl next to her, but she has dancer’s legs, long curly hair, and the sweetest button nose I’ve ever seen.  Are you sensing a trend?  It’s not about the size of the package.  It’s about what’s IN the package.  We as women have to be done letting stereotypes define our beauty!

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I also want to talk about those of us who say, “You should have seen me when I was younger.  I used to be really pretty.”  Ladies, beauty is ageless!  I personally don’t think gray hair will look good on me, but I don’t even know what my real hair color is right now!  It’s not that I’m afraid of getting older, I’m just destined to be a blond until I die!  While I will forever take care of my skin, and take my vitamins, I will not curse the aging process, or get a facelift so that I look more cat like than old lady.  We need to age with grace, and love ourselves as we go.  I caution you though.  Some women get sexier with time.  I have a friend that has a better body than I do, and she’s in her early 50’s!  Age is just a number!

So here is the take away.  We are women.  We are beautiful.  Every curve, every wrinkle, every stretch mark, every shape, every age.  We need to love ourselves right where we are.  If you have areas you want to work on, that is ok.  There is never anything wrong with trying to create a healthier version of yourself, but stop punishing yourself for not being perfect.  Look in the mirror.  See the beauty.  It has been said that when we believe we are beautiful, others see more beauty in us.  I won’t sit here and tell you that I wouldn’t like to drop 5 pounds, or that I don’t constantly work to be healthier and more fit than I am today.  But  I refuse to beat myself up for not being perfect.  I will NOT hide away until my body is just the way I want it.  I want us to live life to the fullest, loving ourselves along the way.  On your birthday, eat the cupcake!  When your are invited to the beach, wear the swimsuit, and saunter like you own the place.  Stop letting others dictate how you feel about you.  I’m telling you…YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. 

And to the young lady who cried at her own image….I’ve known you since you were 19.  I’ve seen you go through 2 hair colors, multiple boyfriends, and several career changes.  I thought  you were beautiful when I met you.  Your hair was tied in a top knot, and you had that young fierce look that only a kid ready to take on the world can have.  You are STILL beautiful today.  You have mellowed a little, and when I look at you, you look a little more seasoned, and a little wiser.  Every curve, every dip, every scar is beautiful.  If you choose to change your body, do it for you, not because the world told you to.  I love you.

I’m the jerk, not him…

My daughter has been nagging me for days.  “Mom, you are behind on blogging.”  “Mom, you still haven’t posted.  What’s the deal?”  Well…sometimes we get writer’s block.  Other times we have lots of ideas, but none of them really gel.  So today, I was going to force myself to write something, anything.  And then I was nudged to “just be honest”.  Groan….I hate those nudges!  So here’s the deal.  I was a colossal jerk.  I hate admitting when I’m wrong, but apparently today it is easier to admit that I’ve been a butt head than it is to go to the gym and do leg day!  So here goes nothing!

My friend Alison texted me today.  She’s had a long week with a sick mom who lives in another state, and on top of that her husband is deployed.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  When your spouse is deployed, every crazy, inconvenient or emotionally draining thing that could happen WILL happen.  Alison has spent the last week in another state, sitting in a hospital, away from her kids, dealing with making tough choices ALONE.  And today she is home.  She texts me, “I am home, and I am angry.”  I felt compelled to ask why.  I mean, what kind of friend ignores a text like that?!  As we are talking we sort out that Alison isn’t really angry at all.  She is overwhelmed.  Her husband asked her from across a distant sea what her plans were for the day.  “What does he think my plans are?!  I’ve been gone for a week.  Life went on, and now I’ve got to catch up.  I guess I’ll start with grocery shopping.”  I found myself reminding her that her husband loved her, and was just trying to use that question as a conversation starter.  He wanted to show he was interested in her day.  And in that moment, I felt humbled….

I have been married for 14 years to a man that works terribly hard.  In fact, he has a hard time pulling himself away from work, and just relaxing and hanging out.  It has been a topic of conversation for years.  Lately though, he has really tried to break that nasty habit.  He has invited me on dates, sat down to watch TV with me, and really made an effort to connect.  But I have been short sighted.  I too have complained about the question, “What are your plans today?”  In fact, I have been salty and snapped back, “What am I, 4?  Do you want a running list of my plans Dad?  Are you keeping tabs on me?”  Here is what I didn’t realize until I was sharing so much wisdom with my friend.  *insert eye roll here*  Pete wasn’t trying to keep tabs on me.  He was trying to make sure that he showed interest in my day.  In his mind if he asked early about my day, he could mark “asked about her day” off his list.  Not the most romantic line of thinking, but he still should get an A for effort.  Of course if I snap at him enough, eventually he will stop asking.  So who’s the idiot now?  But it gets worse.  I somehow manage to up my jerk game, and I don’t realize it until I’m talking to Alison this morning.

Pete invited me on a date Friday.  The invitation was extended on Thursday evening with tentative plans for Friday night.  “I feel like Asian food.  Let’s go on a date tomorrow night.”  I happily agreed, and mentally noted that that also meant there would be no time for the gym after work.  Bonus!!!  Well Friday rolls around and he texts me the name of the restaurant, and my grumpiness kicks in.  This place serves Thai food and Japanese food.  I don’t LIKE Thai food or Japanese food, unless it’s sushi.

In the midst of being annoyed with the restaurant choice my oldest son pops into my classroom with a giant grin on his face.  “I’m filling out the recruitment form for the Naval Academy.  I’ll let you know if I have any questions.”  In case you didn’t know, the Naval Academy is in Maryland, and this mama wants to move back to Florida when my boy finishes high school.  (We will save that emotional roller coaster for another blog post.)  So you can just imagine how my emotions were that day.  I was excited for my son, but my heart ached as I thought about the distance.  Oh, and I should probably also tell you that my hormones ran out a week ago, and since I was without my cell phone full of my contacts, I had been unable to call the out of state pharmacy to check on my refill.  So yeah, I was a wee bit hormonal.

All of this should have factored in to how I addressed my upcoming date, but it didn’t.  Nope, I opted for mad and pouty.  How could he not know I don’t like Thai food?  We’ve been married a long time.  He should know everything about me.  Bless him.  He sensed I didn’t want to go to the chosen location.  He even offered other options.  Most of them were still in the Asian food realm, so this didn’t help with the situation.  I just folded my arms and stewed.  “I’m trying to make you happy.  Tell me what you want.”  “OMG…Let’s just go to the stupid restaurant and get it over with!”  I was in full on brat mode.

We were seated at a table near the door.  Every time anyone walked by they bumped my chair.  It was beyond annoying.  Pete offered to switch seats.  “Nope!  I’ll just sit here.  No point switching now.”  Poor man.  They served us water with no ice and no straws.  Another strike!  A young college couple sat down at the table next to us.  I could have reached out and stolen food off their plates they were sitting so close.  So I got to hear all about sorority elections on Saturday, and how Ellen couldn’t believe that Itsy had the nerve to run for president when she KNEW that Bella wanted to be president.  What was she thinking?!  Oh dear heavens, I’m going to snap!  Of course Thomas Paul Walker the 4th was busy trying to console her and tell her that when elections were done he would take her out some place nice.  I kept thinking, well I hope it isn’t this place!

Pete just looked at me.  I pushed my food around my plate looking sullen.  Pete meanwhile looked defeated.  “You hate this place don’t you.”  “It’s fine.  Now stop asking.”  Needless to say the date didn’t go well.  And for the record, I did indeed hate the restaurant.  But it wasn’t Pete’s fault.  He had offered to take me somewhere else.  We get in the car and he says, “Well I definitely won’t ask you to get Asian food ever again.  But I DID offer to let you pick somewhere else.  Now will you PLEASE tell me why you are so grumpy?  What did I do?”  Now would have been a good time to change my approach.  But why do that now, right?!

“You wanna know what’s wrong?  Jackson wants to move to Maryland to attend the Naval Academy, and I’ll have an even emptier nest.  First Paige will go.  1 year later Jackson will go.  And my own husband doesn’t know I hate Thai food!  Or that I don’t like seeing TV cords on my wall!  All these years I’ve been mothering, and you haven’t listened to know simple things like what I like to eat.  PAY ATTENTION!”  Well that certainly felt good!

But here is the problem.  I stand by what I said.  I have spent my adult life being a mother, and it’s scary not having that job much longer.  But my dad scolded me.  And for those who don’t know, he rarely doesn’t take my side.  “Katie, you complain that he doesn’t make time for you or pay attention, but did you miss that tonight that is EXACTLY what he was trying to do?  Sure, he may not have listened enough when you were younger, but now when he tries to be there and listen, you punish him.  Give him credit for trying to be more present now.”  And again as I reminded Alison that she wasn’t angry with her husband, she was just overwhelmed, I again felt guilty.  (For the record, she agreed that indeed she is overwhelmed, and just wishes she wasn’t doing these hard things alone.)  But I messed up.  Pete tried, and I messed up.  One day it will just be us rattling around in an empty house.  I need to stop punishing him for not listening when he was 20 something, and instead be grateful that he is willing to listen now.  I’m the jerk, not him.  At least this time…

So I guess what I would say to young wives is…First off, guys sometimes say dumb things with the very best intentions.  Second, don’t hold grudges, you only punish yourself.  Be grateful for the effort  your husband makes, even if he messes it up along the way.  Third…Learn to be humble and say I’m sorry.  (I’m still working on this one.)

Pete, I’m sorry I was a brat.  I still hate Thai food, but I love you.  And I promise to get more hormones so that my emotions aren’t all over the place!  You were right.  I was wrong.  I was being a brat…

Photo Credit Goes to Amber Joy Phinisee Photography

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…