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Olympic sized memories

It may take a while before I settle back into the normal rhythms of life on the heels of the two weeks spent watching the Rio Olympics.  Every day found me tuned to the television to cheer on the American delegation and if they weren’t participating, to root for the underdog. I have been glued to Olympic viewing size Nadia Comaneci wowed the world in gymnastics by scoring a perfect 10 and in the same year but during the winter games when Dorothy Hammill spun magic on a sheet of ice.  I have watched every Olympic competition since those days of my childhood.

I have seen them all.  Mary Lou Retton, Shaun White, Flo Jo, the Miracle on Ice team, Greg Louganis, Mia Hamm, Serena Williams, Kerry Walsh Jennings, and Michael Phelps to name a few.  I have cried tears of joy watching the triumphs and tears of sadness over devastating losses.  Mouth agape at the records being shattered and at Olympians defending their titles from previous games, I have soaked in everything that a television viewer can while watching the coverage from afar.

But of all the Olympic moments I have seen, the one that will forever hold its special place in my heart is the Summer Games of 2004.  This was the summer that a rite of passage was passed from mother to son and it is one etched deep in the memories of my soul.

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Reed was nine years old and ready to start staying up a little bit later. Watching the games return to their roots in Athens created the perfect atmosphere to introduce to my son my secret passion for Olympic viewing.  After the other kiddos were fast asleep, tucked into bed much earlier, he would come and nestle in next to me while we cheered on the American team. It was during these games that we discovered more than just I could feel the little girl God was knitting together in my womb. Simultaneously glued to the T.V., Reed would lay with one hand on my belly to feel his baby sister kick away, swimming in her own in utero version of the games and the other hand would be busily cheering on his team.

Reed was a bigger fan than I could have ever imagined.  The son of a soldier, he defined what it was to be a patriotic fan of your home country.  The thing about Reed’s viewing was that he forgot he was in a tiny bedroom in southwestern Minnesota and he would cheer and yell and wipe away a tear or two as if he was in the Greek coliseums and arenas and natatoriums. Our pillows would shield his eyes if he felt the excitement was too overwhelming and at times a full out face plant into the mattress was the only way to calm his nerves or effervescent enthusiasm.

Wrapped up in a favorite quilt we would stay up way past his bedtime.  While his siblings had been out for hours, for one summer the delectable taste of growing up and having new freedoms was tantalizing.

Reed’s fanom knew know bounds, and after watching Michael Phelps commanding performance he convinced me to help him create a costume honoring his favorite Olympian.  That Halloween, we did and Reed was so proud to emulate the athlete that wowed his imagination and stirred his heart. The crazy thing is that Reed was a super fan long before the repeat performances in Beijing, London and most recently Rio.

 

Perhaps like many things in life, Reed knew that Phelps was destined for greatness long before anyone else.  Sure Michael has had his ups and downs in life (Who hasn’t?), but I have to believe that Reed would have loved him anyway.  Unlike the way many Christians view the world, Reed’s way of seeing people was through a lens of viewing them as perfectly human in need of Jesus.  Stumble and fall, no judgment would have come from him, rather a love would have emanated saying “pick yourself up and learn from this”.  Knowing that is exactly what Michael Phelps did following the London games would have caused my redheaded wonder to beam with pride. To him, that would be the definition of greatness – someone who overcame a challenge and tackled it head on.  Of course, a little help from the man above didn’t hurt at all.

So while the rest of the world joined me in watching the Olympics, I don’t think anyone viewed the same way I did.  Wrapped up in a quilt, I carried the memories of a boy who died in 2008 months before the Beijing games  began.  Watching Michael Phelps wrap up an amazing career in perhaps his final Olympic performance, I envisioned that same little guy jumping up and down on the bed hooting and hollering for his favorite athlete one last time. The games became more than the greatest athletic competition in the world, they were a beloved trip down memory lane.

While my efforts didn’t earn any gold medals, I still believe they would have made Reed proud.

Rainy days and Mondays

Recently I have been busy, overwhelmed, and frankly at times, worn out. Amazing things have been happening, and accompanying those have been some moments that have shaken my foundation. While at times I may need a reminder, I know that my foundation is laid on God’s solid ground which has and will always anchor me through the storms of life.

Despite my best efforts, the clock hands continued to turn and so too flipped the pages of the daily calendar leading up to yesterday – which happened to be a Monday. Blech. In my mind, I wanted to pretend that the day wasn’t coming. Mondays are sometimes bad enough, but this Monday was the worst of them all as it was the day we would be taking the Boy Wonder back to college. Much like the unexpected Friday e-mail that sentenced me to my bed weeping, the arrival of this Monday had me not wanting to leave the bed. If I just lay here this day will come and go and we can go right back on living our lives with our guy home.

But then I saw the excitement and joy and anticipation in his eyes, and I put on a happy face and kept on keeping on even though my heart wanted to hold on tight. And while my spirit was sad for me, for us, my soul knew he was going in exactly the right direction on the path God has laid out for him to truly shine a light in this world, desperately in need of some illumination.

I know this with every fiber of my being, but it was confirmed while we played the game known as “Let’s change passengers with our college boy every 30 miles; so, we can all have one-on-one time with him”. He, of course, while willing to play along, knew nothing of this plan. When I had the coveted co-pilot seat in his sporty little car, I asked him about his goals and dreams for the year. This seemed like a better plan than sobbing and pleading with him not to go. His answer helped soothe my worried momma heart. Adding to his goals of continuing to be involved on campus and being the best student he can, he dreams of adding more leadership opportunities and hopes to start a new campus club. Whoa! Socks blown off! I often look to heaven and marvel that we had a hand in the shaping of this amazing young man.

I am a better person because of him and his brother and sisters. These tiny moments, even while hiding tears behind sunglasses, are the glimpses showing me how blessed we truly are. No matter how tight I want to hold on to our past, he, with God’s help, needs to create his future.

When my heart is breaking, there are always friends that receive my distressed Bat Signal, and they respond with rapidity unparalleled by any caped crusader. A perfectly timed text saying to hug my kiddo and tell him “how proud he makes us all” and a personalized card saying to keep shining because that is what the world will see in our son changes everything. I am left smiling through my tears, counting my blessings. Who would guess both of those could happen on a Monday?

There are many days when laid out grief is all I have to offer, and then there are the moments in life when someone has to offer the bit of humor to fill the awkward silence. I prefer the latter and it seems I have developed and (if I can brag for a moment) perfected this technique over time.

Growing up, I don’t think I would have ever considered myself funny. It just wasn’t in my repertoire. I loved to laugh, but creating laughter wasn’t my strongest subject. In school, I was never the class clown, being more concerned with trying to learn everything about everything. I know the apples don’t fall far. I am certain in all my growing up days my parents would have considered my brother the humorous one.

But, like my son – who has always been hilarious – I went to college chasing my dreams and along the way somehow developed that sense of comedic timing where a snarky comment, a light-hearted sarcastic retort, or an aptly-placed witty comment could save the day.  Although not my superhero power, this skill has helped me on more than one occasion to change my outlook on something. All my besties share this knack, and it is the glue that bonds us together as a tribe of mommas doing the best we know how to do.

So while my boy goes off to college, I can always take solace in the fact that technologies have improved so that we can stay in contact much more easily. If that doesn’t work, I always have pictures for blackmail memories.

To all the returning college students: Be your best. Shine your light. Call your mother. Make good choices. Find your adventure. Be brave and take chances. Make a few mistakes and learn from them. Be resilient. READ THE SYLLABUS. Find your own tribe of weirdos and embrace them. Be kind and gentle. Give back to others. Don’t forget to study. Remember why God gave you knees. Read a book just for fun (trust me you have way more time than you think you do). Have fun and my most favorite of all-time: Be Particular.

And for our guy – Ride like the Wind!

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What Would Nannie Do?

When you spend a week at the “cabinet” (my four year old nephew’s word for cabin)  without television with your parents and siblings and their families, you have plenty of time for conversation.  One of the topics that comes up every time we are all together is a task that I have struggled to complete.  Have you done anything with your inheritance? Now before anyone suddenly decides to become my new best friend, let me do a little explaining.  My “inheritance” is a whole life insurance policy that my grandparents, Nannie and Granddaddy, bought when all of us kids were little.  If I were to pass away today, my family would have a thousand dollars to spend towards my funeral. If I wanted to be buried in a soup kettle, that might cover it. There is a buy-out option, which the last time I checked was considerably less.

Since we have worked hard to adequately insure ourselves, my best option would be to take the pay-out.  I professed that I hadn’t made up my mind and was waffling between several options for what to do if I took the cash option.

But then there was the other conversation that took place at the cabinet. This one bittersweet in nature, as caring for elderly parents is a difficult challenge. Both my Nannie and Granddaddy have gone on home to heaven as well as my Papa, leaving only Mama left of my grandparents.  Mama’s house is in dire need of some repairs, but she adamantly refuses to let us do any work to fix it, always comparing the days she has left on earth to the cost/benefit analysis of spending her money to make the repairs.  Even when we have offered to make the repairs at no cost to her, she refuses.

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Farm Security Administration: Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. (Circa February 1936). Picture for the FDR, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

I wasn’t even a twinkle in someone’s eye during the Great Depression, but all of my days I have lived with the after effects.  My grandmothers are the perfect dichotomy of those ripples from that era in our nation’s history.  Mama has chosen to save every last penny she has, just in case.  She never wanted to live like that again, choosing to do without now, while saving for the day that she might need it later.  Nannie on the other hand lived by the philosophy “smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em”.  My maternal grandmother’s take on life was to enjoy the good days while you’ve got them and not worry or plan for tomorrow.

The irony of the situation is the one time she chose to plan for tomorrow is what has me in a quandary.  My grandmother, a shrewd businesswoman with only an 8th grade education, was a whiz at numbers, but somehow never mastered spending within your means.  If she saw something that made her smile, she bought it and LOTS of it.

When it comes to grandmothers and genetics, I definitely take after both of them.  My love of crafting, hospitality, and good ol’ Southern comfort food can be attributed to both.  My love of bling definitely originates with Nannie as does my love of animals, but my money sense falls in step with my Mama’s pragmatism.

So even though my letter from the insurance company arrived over two years ago, it sits collecting dust.  My dilemma haunts me every time I come across that letter.  Do I spend the money on something practical like paying for tuition for the doctorate I am pursuing?  Or do I honor the grandmother who gave it to me and ask WWND – What Would Nannie Do?

For a while now, I have had my eye on this nugget ice counter appliance which is the first of its kind.  Some may raise their eyebrows at that purchase, but if you have ever seen me order a beverage at a fast food drive-thru you would understand.  Can I please get a sweet tea with extra, extra, EXTRA ice?  And trust me, if my straw doesn’t hit a cube on the way in, I am righteously indignant.  Ice machine may sound frivolous to some, but to me, it sounds divine – simply divine. And then I remember that my kitchen, while beautifully remodeled still has limited counter space. Ugh!

And then there is the home fitness surfboard that I have dreamed of owning for a bit.  I regularly profess that I need high doses of Vitamin Sea; so if I can’t bring Mohammed to the mountain the girl to the Gulf, then at least I could pretend to be there while toning my well-earned momma-to-many core. A little ocean music and (voila!), I am home. Of course, this kind of surfing won’t result with sand in places I didn’t even remember I had which is always a bonus. And then the Mama side kicks in and reminds me the last fitness equipment purchase I made ended up being a jungle gym for my kids and place to hang the laundry. Argh!

All of this puts me right back at square one, still stuck. So for now, the letter sits, until I can completely make up my mind or at least, until I can balance whether the Nannie or Mama side of me wins out.

But like my Mom said at the cabinet, if you were truly going to spend it like Nannie would, I should go out and buy some lottery tickets. Somehow I have to believe that if there is a window from heaven, tucked up in her favorite fishing hole, Nannie would have looked down and laughed at that idea.

I know for sure one part of her philosophy was spot on – enjoy the moments you have because someday they will be your precious memories!

 

 

 

Love goes on

A couple weekends ago, we made a trip to see our family in North Dakota.  Sadly, the reason for our trip to my sweetie’s childhood hometown was to say good-bye to our former brother-in-law.  He had always been good to us and we wanted to be there to support the rest of our family.  Since Reed is buried there, we knew we would go and tend to his grave.  I would rather be spending money on some great adventure for what would be his college years, but instead we make sure that he has flowers and mementos to commemorate his life.

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Neither reason for our road trip are ones that make me just giddy to get out of bed. Seeing our family – yes, dealing with another life gone – never. Tragic endings are rough on families.  Of this, we are living proof.  The journey is hard when “so long for now” comes much, MUCH sooner than we had expected.  These thoughts swirled through my head with each wheel turn of the more than four hundred mile journey.

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On the day of the service, I watched a morning news show where an interview with a mother-daughter author team caught my attention.  The daughter shared about how her mother’s resilience in the face of difficult circumstances really shaped much of her life. She summed this up in one sentence and as an educator, my interest piqued, wanting to paint her words on all the walls in school.

“Failure is an event, not a definition.” ~Francesca Serritella

Trying to keep my emotions in check throughout the day, this thought continually swirled around in my head as we plunged forward through the tough stuff. I could numb my pain thinking of these words and how I might apply them to the doctorate courses I am taking. Then I thought, “Wait a minute!  Teaching children to be resilient and persist when the going gets tough applies to when tragedy hits a family too!”

“Tragedy is an event, not a definition.” ~Kandy Noles Stevens

This has been my driving force since the day we woke up after the bus crash.  This horrible, terrible event would not define our family.  We weren’t sure how life would go on, but one thing was certain, love would. Our love for each other, including Reed, would endure and faith would carry us through all the tough stuff.  Life wouldn’t always be pretty, but we weren’t going to allow sadness to be our forever garment. And through it all, God would be with us.  That knowledge alone was more than enough.

When one defines tragedy as a moment in time, it becomes second nature to see that like the refiner’s fire life’s hardships shape and prioritize much of life.  But the parts often unseen in the struggle are the unabashed moments of praise are wrapped up in unexpected glimpses of joy even when we are mired in the muck.

While I was understandably sad about the circumstances of our weekend, God still has joy in his repertoire.  The first of which arrived in the form of a text from a young man, whom we have adopted through an “adopt a college student” program through our church.  The e-mail was to tell us that our now “adopted granddaughter” had arrived.

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The next moment of joy came when our nephew and his family stopped over and I finally got to hold our great nephew who has Reed as one of his middle names.  Humbled, thankful and awed is the best way to describe how it felt to hold a little boy who has carries forward my sweet son’s name.  A blessing greater than I had ever dreamed possible!

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In both cases, the joy and the heavenly praise ascended were preceded by God’s unfathomable love for us.  The same love that picked us when we weren’t sure if we would be able to do this hideous thing called grief.  Every time the pain was overwhelming there would be some small God sighting that would remind us how incredibly loved we truly are.  Even though Reed and Scotty were no longer with us, our love for them wouldn’t end.  So it was on the long drive home from our not long enough visit.

My sweetie remembered a local casino always has an amazing fireworks show annually on July 3.  Although a little bit out of our way, he rerouted our path home to take in the celebration.  Part of his reasoning was to remember and honor, Scotty, who loved putting on fireworks shows for the kids each year. We tuned into the radio channel where patriotic music is timed to the lighted brilliance. We “ooh-ed” and “ah-ed” at the show, enjoying one American tune after another.

And then it happened, Reed’s absolute favorite song of all time, Toby Keith’s Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue, began playing and this was the firework that went off exactly as it did. In my imagination I can only dream that maybe in some corner of heaven, Reed, Scotty, and Jesus said, “That ought to get their attention.”

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Sure! Plenty will look at this and say it was purely coincidence.  I know differently.  A single moment of illuminated display over the windswept prairie was God’s way of reminding us that love can and indeed does go on.

 

The price of yesterday

My family like millions of others enjoyed our country’s birthday yesterday.  Our fanfare was reserved to the later afternoon and evening because unlike many others looming deadlines kept us tethered to the computers for a few hours. Nonetheless, the significance of the day was never forgotten.  As dawn broke, we posted the “Stars and Stripes” outside our door, and we recounted how incredibly lucky we are to have been born here in the “land of the free”.

The cost of that freedom has never been questioned in our family as military service dots our family tree like the ripe mulberries in our backyard currently. Generations of uncles, cousins, grandfathers and my own sweetie have served proudly in the various branches of the armed forces. We often get a few raised eyebrows when people hear of our college graduation dates because mine is three years before his.  When folks learn it is because of my husband’s service during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the incredulous looks we receive are a mixture of gratitude and awe that war changes everything including your college graduation date. The cost of freedom is never free.

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In the last month there have been a few experiences that have brought this knowledge to the forefront of my thoughts in unexpected ways.  Recently we traveled to one of the absolute best World War II museums, Fagen Fighters.  Although we had visited this collection before, our visit that day was to see a travelling Holocaust exhibit featuring Minnesota survivors.  Also new to the museum was a German boxcar which houses a two-sided exhibit.  One side featuring Nazi officers supervising as a Jewish family exits the boxcar, and the other depicting American soldiers who were prisoners of war.  Our visit was emotionally draining as the journey was heart heavy indeed, but I completely lost it when we got to the boxcar.  I broke down and sobbed.  When I looked in the eyes of the extremely realistic wax figures on the GI side, I felt as if I was looking in the eyes of my great-great uncle, Arlie, who was captured shortly after landing on European soil and was forced to work in awful conditions the remainder of the war.  I have only heard bits and pieces of his story as it just wasn’t something he talked about, but I knew enough.  And there I stood overcome by my emotions as my baffled family looked on. The cost of freedom is never free.

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As a part of our family’s commitment to service we participated in the second annual flag placing for our Modern Woodmen youth service club.  For this project our club purchases hundreds of small flags and places them on the graves of veterans in our local cemeteries.  It warms my heart that our children and friends spend hours walking cemetery rows, honoring those who gave of their time and energy to answer freedom’s call.  Walking in the hot July sun is a small sacrifice compared to what these men and women gave to us.  This year one marker really stood out to me and made me wonder how I missed it last year.  The inscription told of the greatest sacrifice of the man commemorated there.  “He died as prisoner of war in Germany during World War II.”  Once again, I was overcome with tears.  My people came home from their various wars, but this man’s family wasn’t as lucky.  The cost of freedom is never free.

Over the years, I have witnessed some things that I never believed I would like a female college student refusing to stand for the national anthem while seated next to my veteran husband, who had tears pooling in the corners of his eyes.  Then there was the time we were shopping in another college town and there were young people protesting soldiers.  Protesting war is one thing, protesting soldiers is something altogether different.  The sacrifices made by individuals protecting their rights to do so, but both times I wondered how we as a society forget the sacrifices that were made on our behalf.

Twice I was reminded through the eyes of my children that while we can’t jog the collective memories of a nation we can instill patriotism one child at a time.  When Reed saw the protesters he asked that we never drive by that corner again, he was too overcome with emotion to explain his daddy was one of the soldiers.  Even at his tender age of nine or ten, he knew that the protestations were laid at the wrong boots.

FullSizeRender (5)Over the weekend, while tending to the grave of that sweet boy, his baby sister looked around at the North Dakota cemetery and noticed the veteran plaques sitting empty.  “Where are their flags momma?” It was a quiet little question, but it reminded me that in her eyes every veteran in every cemetery should be honored with a tiny little flag each Independence Day as a token of our gratitude.

While the prairie wind whispered through my hair, I was reminded she understood the cost of freedom is never free.

For this momma, that was more than enough.

 

Returning home

Who says you can’t go home
There’s only one place they call me one of their own
Just a hometown boy, born a rolling stone, who says you can’t go home
Who says you can’t go back, been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There’s only one place left I want to go,

Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora

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I don’t know what creativity transpired for the musicians to pen the lyrics to “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”.  What I will never know in song origin, I make up for in sentiment.  Last week, I lived those words. Standing underneath the stately magnolia tree, I was transported to the elementary school days of my childhood when teachers would ask us to clean the erasers.  Smacking those black woolen felt erasers into clouds of white dust, we would enjoy the Southern dappled sun peeking through the waxy leaves.

Carefully walking over the exposed roots, I traipsed back to the vehicle where my completely Midwestern family patiently indulged my tour of childhood schools and homes.  The older I get the more I value roots; both those supporting my favorite tree of all time and those connecting and grounding us to our childhoods.  Although I haven’t lived in the South for nearly thirty years, the scent of Gulf air and the sound of the whippoorwill are not far from my soul’s memories. I haven’t spent much of my life thinking about the influence of the place I call home, but sometimes paradigm shifts are subtle.

It’s always the little things. The interior paint of our home is called “sea salt”, my grandmother’s cast iron cornbread pan rests on my stove, and a big bag of grits can be found in my cupboards. The South never truly leaves a girl.

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On our recent vacation, one which was planned to correspond with my grandmother’s 92nd birthday, I realized just how much the South has shaped my life. Although I love both of these things, my nostalgia extended far beyond “yes ma’am’s” and door-opening gentlemen and somehow I felt more alive than I had in many days.  Of course, visiting in the summer was questionable judgment, but when your Mama is a June-bug there aren’t many alternatives.

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My senses were overloaded in way that made my soul say, “Remember this.  Savor this moment because your next infusion might be awhile away.” The sound of the Gulf waves lapping the shore were the melodic framing of many days and nights. The smells of home cooking and the sea aroused my olfactory bulbs.  All the swirls of green and blue with a few white blossoms punctuated my vision causing heart to be truly content. The feel of salt spray on my skin and sand between my toes lingered for days.

This is home. This is where I truly feel happy.

It wouldn’t be the South without the swapping of tales and little humor sprinkled in the right places like the when my uncle teased the waitress the cooking was so good it would make someone want to slap their grandma or when my vegan cousin suggested he could buy a whole lot of carrots with a gift card to a fish house.

My South included the divine, sitting in the wooden pew of a little white church being surrounded by the “Amen’s” of God’s people and the standing to sing the hymns of my childhood.  Having the opportunity to speak and share God’s love for others while my Southern Baptist uncle, who happens to be the pastor,, looked on and said I had missed my calling melted my heart completely.

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We did a whole lot of visiting and eating. Sharing my childhood with my children included a gastrointestinal tour of the southeast. There were Cracker Barrel and Po’Folks veggie plates, lemonade and chicken sandwiches at Chic Fil’A, big ol’ Texas sized burgers at What-A-Burger, juice dripping Georgia peaches, and limeades at Sonic, but somehow my favorite boiled peanuts eluded us.  Buying the shrimp straight off the boats at the biggest tourist attraction in Florida, Joe Patti’s, was a must as was al fresco dining at Flounder’s amid cannons firing at pirate ships on Pensacola Beach.  A little walk-up stand was frequented twice, because the best foot long chili dogs and milkshakes in Alabama can be found there.

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Included in our moments were the new memories made like when my children asked to eat at a Waffle House because they had only seen a bazillion of them on our drive from Atlanta to Pensacola.  They were dismayed at my neglect of never having brought them to one of the iconic diners.  Mutiny akin to that of those pirate ships was on their mind when I professed that while they had never eaten at one, their older brother actually had.  Their steely silence lifted when the gigantic waffle was set before them.  Thank goodness for pecan waffles – a mother’s saving grace!

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None of the places visited or the food eaten was the greatest part of our trip.  No sirree! as my tiny little cousin exclaimed more than once in our visiting time.  He along with every other cousin, aunt, uncle, mom, dad, and grandmother were the best part of my grounding. Hugging necks and breathing the same air as my family – all of them – was truly the greatest blessing of my summer.  Having my Minnesota children experience every bit of it was – well, the lemon in my sweet tea.

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Today no matter where you are and where you define home, be thankful for the memories stored there. They are a priceless collection.

As for me, these are my people and this is my home – every Southern fried bit of it!

 

 

Be wild and free!

 

Dear Erin

Last night, Dad and I went to the store to get the one last piece of your gift for today.  I won’t say that the ceiling of the Wal-mart split open and choirs of angels illuminated the path, but what transpired was about as close to that as possible. Rather than our eyes glossing over after reading every card on the shelf, the very first card was the absolute perfect one.

Needless to say we were stunned that it was perfectly fitting.

We never expected having a daughter to be all ruffles and lace.

Good thing.  Because what we got was DYNAMITE in a dress – when we could get you to wear one.

And when we weren’t praying for your survival, we were glad to see you growing up strong and confident.

From the moment you arrived in the world, you have always traveled your own way.  I think your Dad’s declaration that there would not and I quote, “NOT BE A CLOSET FULL OF PINK DRESSES” the day we you were born was just the start of that fiercely independent streak.  After fighting to live on day one, you have proven to be a tower of strength ever since.

I am going to tell you something that I have never told you before about raising a strong, independent, and in charge girl.  Not everyone appreciates parents who do.  I distinctly remember some friends coming to visit when you were about six months old.  They had a son and a daughter the same ages as Reed and Sawyer.  Life is too short to deal with “friends” who constantly judge your parenting.  After spending the weekend together, we discovered they were raising their children to sit quietly and observe the world, while we were raising explorers and adventurers.  As they packed up to leave and said their good-byes, they just couldn’t leave it alone.  Their parting words were, “Oh good luck to you Erin. You are going to need it!”

We never spoke to them again because I was flabbergasted and shocked and appalled.  Secretly I made a promise to you on that day that you could be as wild and free as you wanted and even though your closet has never been full of dresses that you could become whoever God designed you to be.

There were days when I had to hold my breath.

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That promise meant there were bumps and bruises because you had to experience the world your way.  And while your knees were often skinned up, mine were often on the floor praying God would guide your steps.

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But the funny thing about raising tough-spirited girls is that along the way with all the rough and tumble most develop hearts for injustice and the courage to be the change needed in the world.  More than once, I have seen you speak up when someone has been slighted, overlooked, or left out.  And that takes guts. 

Recently I watched as our whole church was stirred to action because of something God placed on your heart.  Think about that for a moment.  As a teenager, your heart led a ministry to blossom and God blessed us all for it.  Don’t ever diminish the greatness God has in store for you.

I don’t know when I recognized that the promise I made to you all those years ago was playing out in living color.  But one day I realized that you were the embodiment of one of my favorite quotes.

Well-behaved women seldom make history. ~ Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Keep being uniquely you and together with God’s help I know you will make amazing things happen.  Be fierce and courageous, never forgetting that you are made of the incredible stardust that created the stars throughout the heavens.  And just like the nuclear explosions that created their existence, your strength and dignity and faith will change the universe.

Happy 17th Birthday to you, my wild and brave warrior!

Love, Momma

 

 

 

 

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