Friday, October 5, 2012


Road Trip, Vacation, Field Trip...

Those words all invoke excitement in children, teens and husbands!  ::snort:: But for us women it conjures up long lists of things that must be packed, thought about and taken care of before you can leave and then stressing about it all when you are gone.  Coming home simply means you get to clean, unpack, put away and wish for a "real" vacation!

I find myself in the perdiciment fairly often as we seem to go out of town frequently.  I've almost got this down!  But truly, I think my dear husband has no idea what really goes into these "quick trips!"

1.  Do we need a hotel or are we staying with family?  If the answer is hotel then one must think about entertainment for the kids.  Hotels are just about the most boring place-even if there is a pool, it seems often they are too hot or too cold or maybe outside and it's rainy.  Also you've gotta have a fridge and microwave because someone needs something kept cool and we all know popcorn is one of the staple food groups!  Also if it's a hotel, do they serve breakfast?  Will my husband eat it or will we need to find alternate sustenance?  Star Trek had it right with that little food thingy!

2.  Weather...will it be hot, cold, rainy, snowing or just perfect?  Because this dictates what clothing we pack.  Do the kids need sandles, tennis shoes or rain boots!  We all know that our kids can't wear long sleeves in the heat and freezing in shorts is the worst.  Even more trying is when there are several states crossed and one must check the forecast in multiple cities...sad thing is so often it is wrong.  And remember we have three girls so things have to look right, feel right and we must be "in the mood" for a particular outfit or it just won't work!  You always have to pack at least one extra outfit and 2 extra pairs of underwear because...well, you know!

3.  Leaving the pets at home-we are the proud owners of three cats, eight fish and one dog.  They all expect to be fed at least once a day, the dog has to be let outside to do her business and the cats...well, they have to be scooped.  To board the dog is expensive and traumatic for her, the cats-well, they haven't left the comfort of our home since they entered it so I can't even imagine taking them somewhere, and the fish...well, they require lots of water, special filtration and bloodworms :)  Several years ago, I discovered a wonderful family with three children (older than my own) who enjoy coming and staying in our house, loving our animals.  This is perfect.  I've always hand written the directions which added a whole 'nother element of stress to leaving.  This summer I finally figured it out.  I made a "housesitters notebook" and in it is everything from where the toilet paper is to using the washer and dryer.  All the directions for the electronics so movies can be watched and games can be played but most important that internet password!  Also in it is our address (in the event she has to call 911, she needs our address, right?), our phone numbers and phone numbers of locations we are staying.

Okay, that looks pretty simple when I type it out...only three little things.  But you and I know it's all those untyped things that really add up.  Enough things to keep the kids entertained on the road so we don't have a constant chorus of "are we there yet" being sung from the back seat, snacks because no matter how much you feed them-the kids are starving as soon as you hit the road,  directions/roads to take/where are we going, does the car have gas, where's Miss Kitty, and most important did I get his medicine?

During these times, I have to constantly remind myself that I am crazy blessed...I've got a husband who doesn't mind loading up and driving cross-country with our kids and his in-laws in tow, I've got kids who don't get car sick and the adventures we go on always give us the most wonderful memories!

So, I guess I should get off of here--I have to strip the beds, load the dishwasher, pack the snack bag-clothes bag-bathroom bag-shoe bag, make sure there is plenty of food in the cat/dog buckets, get the fish food ready, clean the bathrooms, vacuum the floor, update the housesitters notebook all so I can go enjoy a weekend seeing my favorite college student and A #1 Angel Girl!!  This weekend, I'll enjoy picnics (if the weather cooperates), see a wonderful play, spend time with my exceptional family and have a delicious brunch!  I'm going to concentrate on being one crazy blessed wife, mother and daughter--proud to have each one of them by my side! 

Next week, I'll start worrying about the two other trips in October and the one in November I'll have to plan for! 

~~~~~Sarah, are you available?!?!?!?!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Alex, I'll take Waterworks for $500

In August 2012, what happened that caused a Bentonville mom to leak profusely from her eyes?

  • Dropped phone calls
  • Text messages
  • Letters in the mail

When will it stop?  I mean seriously, I am a logical woman who has been preparing for years for this very time in my life so why is it so difficult for me?  I've know from the moment that little pink plus sign showed up on my pregnancy test in February of 1994 that someday that sweet baby would leave...that that baby would head off to college just like every child should.  Once Anna began her freshman year in high school, I began to talk about her eventual move to college, encouraging her and building her up.  Strengthing her wings so she would be ready to soar.  I got my mind convinced and it is find but my heart well that's another matter.

In the weeks leading up to the big day, I had lots of cases of the "leaks."  Those unexpected episodes of tears streaming out of my eyes seemingly without cause or reason.  I explained to her that it was normal and uncontrollable that I didn't want her to be sad I just want her to go to college and be the best she can be, the tears aren't that I want her to stay but rather an outward reflection of how I will miss seeing her sweet face every day.

Flash forward to the actual day and I did pretty good!  I didn't cry as I walked out of her dorm room and left her in a new world.  I shed a few tears on the way home but over all it wasn't as bad as I had anticipated.  When we got home we had so many things to fill our time for a few weeks that I didn't have time to dwell on the fact that she was gone.  I started school with the littles and life seemed to be just fine until last weekend.

College girls will do what college girls have always done-get in their vehicles, drive to the nearest mall and SHOP!  I understood that and was fine with her going to Joplin with her friends until I was in Oklahoma at the Lake talking to her on the phone.  She was rattling on about how much fun she was having and that they were almost there.  As I drove on, service got sketchy and she began to fade as we both simotaneously said "I'm losing you, I love you, goodbye..." oh my that seemed so final.  I began to sob uncontrollably as the emotions swept over me.  I was no longer in control.  I no longer could protect her from harm.  I was no longer the safe place for my A #1 Angel girl.  I had reached the point where I realized that I had done all I could and now, now she is in God's hands.  I have to trust and believe that I have raised her right and that she will make good decisions and stay safe.  Wow, that's a load to grasp driving down some hillbilly road in eastern Oklahoma.

The other day, she dropped me a note with a trinket she had picked up on her trip to the Mall.  It was engraved with "a daughter is a forever friend."  Of course I fled the scene and escaped to my private retreat (AKA my bathroom) to sob and say a word of thanks for a daughter like her.

Then a few minutes ago, my phone chimes-it's a text inquiring about video to a song.  Not just any song mind you but the song "Imagine" by John Lennon.  Last year, our 4-H club signed to the Glee version for Talent ORama.  Several weeks later, her and Jessica signed it for Living Waters.  She was needing to brush up on it as she and a friend are wanting to perform it tonight at college.  So being the rescuer, I rushed to my trusty desktop to find the video.  I quickly located the file, clicked on it and my screen was filled with the sight and sound of her sweet voice and again, I cried.  I'm oh so glad to be the crazy blessed mama of three amazing young ladies!  Just think I'm going to have to do this two more times!  YIKES

The video isn't professional but here it is, enjoy!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Don't be an Oscar...

On September 11th, I got my normal monthly email from the Unted Methodist Communications...a section of it caught my eye, it was about the Advent season and a new study series available called "A different kind of Christmas." I was intrigued and would really like to get a small group together for this 5 week study. (If you're interested, let me know.) Of course while I was on there I had to click around and explore. I came upon something that challenged me to take on the 21 day complaint free church challenge. that's something we really need. I immediately posted it to my church Facebook and had a couple of friends like it but no one realy showed any interest.
Now don't get me wrong, my church isn't filled with a lot of Oscars but frequently on Sunday mornings I hear grumblings things like: I'm tired, it's been a really hard week, the kids have so much homework it's really eating our family time, my job sucks, I had to work on Saturday, my football team lost...on and on and on. Nothing really major just all the little petty stuff. I have to admit, I'm guilty. I really hadn't given any additional conscious thought to the challenge until yesterday, I made the mad dash through Walmart grabbing groceries for the week while Melissa was in volleyball practice for one hour. That meant I had about 35 minutes to do all my shopping plus visiting because we all know you can't just run into Walmart without seeing at least one person you know and getting sucked into a lengthy conversation!  At the checkout, I was quite pleased with myself-groceries plus some staples like toilet paper and paper towels came to a total of less than my normal. (Thank you ezmeals planner!) The guy behind me was guzzling his Diet Pepsi, on the belt he had placed ten giant two liters of all types of super caffinated diet soda drinks, four packages of frozen burritos, at least a dozen microwave meals, several blue boxes of mac & cheese and countless bags of chips--not a single piece of fruit or veggie. I found myself being a grocery cart judge, you know we all do it--we peek into other peoples carts and look down our noses at how much junk they buy when are carts are full of the good stuff!  What I thought to myself:

When the clerk told me my total he exclaimed "I wish I could get out of here for that!"

I replied with "this is groceries to feed my family of four for the next seven days minus the meat which I'll pick up at the Butcher Shop tomorrow."

He began to grumble and complain under his breath about how much his food cost and that it better last him two weeks. As I began to walk off, the clerk politely asked the gentleman how his day was. He began to unload about how horrible his day had been and how miserable he was.

I turned and said "at least you woke up this morning."

He retorted with, "that remains to be seen whether that is good or not."

I said, "it sure beats the alternative."

He said, "I guess you're right, I hadn't really thought about it that way."

All of a sudden, I felt a fire in my belly...what just happened?!?! It wasn't just a simple exchange with a stranger, it was a challenge, a 21 day challenge to quit complaining! The concept is quite simple put a bracelet on your wrist and every time you complain, you switch it to the other wrist. Now the website has ones you can purchase for $10/10 but I want to get started today, I'm fairly certain there is a bracelet running amok in my bathroom that can land on my wrist. The tricky part of the deal is you're supposed to go 21 whole days WITHOUT having to move the bracelet! Wow! 21 days without a grumble or complaint, I wonder how long it will take me to achieve that goal. I'm one crazy blessed woman; I strive to remember that several times a day and say a little prayer of thanks but how many times do I negate that with my grumbles? Who will join me in this challenge? Give me a shout by text, email, comment of Facebook message--let's hold one another accountable and see if we can start making this world a more positive place!!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Come and listen to my story about a man named Ted...

I think I have the most wonderful husband in the history of marriage.  Now don't get me wrong, he's not perfect but neither am I.  Having been married for twenty years, I'm a firm believer that love is an action word.  Love is what we do when we don't see eye to is what we do to get us through every minute!
What brings this up, well here he is taking precious vacation days to drive me, my parents and sister to the Royal Wedding.  Tomorrow, cousin Bart marries princess Lindsey and we get to be there to share in this special occasion asking with numerous family members.  Last night and this morning, he's been driving through remnants of Isaac, this is one trip we won't forget! 
Thanks honey for loving all of us...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Forget me not...

August is here and it's time again for the fair!  The kids excitedly scramble around looking for all the things they have created during the year that might be fit for an entry into the Benton County Fair!  Of course Mom is willing to suppy a few items so they can get crafty with something fresh and new.  This year, it was two plain white plates and a brand new package of the ultra-coveted Sharpies!

Thanks to Pinterest, I learned that you can draw on an inexpensive plate with Sharpie and make it a masterpiece!  Since Mel and Jess are budding artists I thought this would be a good creative outlet-inexpensive and fun!  At the store, they each took their time weighing the pro's and con's of each style of plate and bowl.  Mel settled on a salad size square plate and Jess a rectangle dish slightly longer than an ear of corn.
Saturday afternoon was the perfect time for creating.  Mel immediately knew what she was doing!  The words Peace, Love, Joy, Hope and Happiness on a plate with confetti dots.  She practiced her penmanship until she felt she had it just right.  Jessica grabbed her tablet and began a Google search for "cute elephants."  I encouraged her to draw from her heart and that is exactly what that child did!

Ted and I are truly crazy blessed for each one of our girls has an amazing and caring heart but Jessica-- that kid is something else!  She feels things on a different level than the rest of us-she is like a little mother, always jumping up to help someone.  When one of us is sick, Jess is at the ready with an extra blanket, grabbing another box of tissues or getting your favorite pillow fluffed just right.  I should have known that I was in for something that would tug at my heart when Jess went to work on just a simple elephant. 

First there was the simple outline in black of the kind of elephant that can only be drawn by a true seven year old lover of elephants. 
Next, the plate began to fill with hearts, the kind that can only be drawn by a seven year old with a heart full of innocence and love.

I then turned my attention to Sweet Melissa who had completed her work of art filled with the sophistication of a ten year old who is savvy of things popular in this world...

I then looked back at Jessica who had for some reason added fresh green grass along the bottom of her design and was adding some flowers but not just any flowers, that child was drawing forget me nots!  I then put together the symbols on her plate-the elephant who never forgets, love, forget me nots...the Alzheimer's Memory walk is coming up soon.  Anna has established a team once again, here is the link to my donation page.  If you have a dollar to spare please take a moment to donate so that so many loved ones with this horrible disease might be helped. 

Forgetting is really the hardest part!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Crosswalks the root of all evil?

Crosswalks, can they possibly be the root of all evil?  It boils down to following the rules and being a good citizen.  Now this is a topic that has been of great concern to me for quite some time.  I haven't felt "qualified" to actually write this post until a particular incident that happened last night.  For you to fully appreciate it, I must take you back in time.

We absolutely LOVE our hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas.  There is a beautiful downtown area with a town square complete with a fountain, courthouse, bank, incredible places to eat, giant pink snails and of course Walton's 5 & 10!  It is the epitome of of small town and symbolizes everything we love about living here.  You never know who you'll see on the square--the Mayor strolling through picking up small pieces of litter, the mother with her kids playing at the fountain, the yoga class working on a new pose or perhaps the dance class taking it outside for the day.  So now you have an idea of what it looks like, now imagine the same idyllic setting crowded with traffic.  It's not bad, just different.  A lot of cars funnel through this downtown area.

Now just a few steps from this picturesque square is the dance studio where my sweet Jessica twirls, spins and taps!  There are hundreds of little girls who dance in this studio because the owner is absolutely amazing--we have watched her grow up through the years.  (When she was in high school she taught Anna jazz so we feel kind of partial toward this young woman who has created an amazingly successful school.)  Her studio is nuzzled between a restaurant and another business with limited parrallel on street parking in front however there is a grocery store across the street with a rather large parking lot where most of the parents park.  Sadly, there is no crosswalk in the middle of the street for the children to cross so they must walk ALL the way to the end of the block in order to cross in a crosswalk with a stopsign.   Needless to say very few parents and students take advantage of the safety of the crosswalks, most just rush right across the middle of the street assuming that traffic will stop.  (We all know what happens when you assume something...)

Now my blood really started boiling one day when I was driving in front of the studio when a mother with children in tow stepped in front of my vehicle and I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting them.  All my children were safely buckled in the van and I went into a rant.  It went something like this:

"That is the problem with society today!  No one uses the crosswalks.  They think they are entitled to cross the street wherever they please and the world will come to a stop for them!  These parents are teaching their children to disobey the law!!  Jaywalking is a ticketable offense and there needs to be an officer here writing them!  One of these days one of these kids is going to get hit!!"

I continued and told the girls about a boy I knew as a child.  He grew up to be a young man attending Oklahoma State University.  One bright, beautiful fall day, he and his friends had finished class; they were laughing and talking-backpacks heavy with books but a day full of promise of all the things life had before them...until Brad and his friends failed to walk the half a block to the crosswalk and began crossing the street without looking.  Brad had the misfortune of being closest the the vehicle that was coming and couldn't stop.  The car hit him and he died.  Yes, he died because he didn't take the time to walk to a crosswalk and cross the street properly.

Not only are crosswalks the safe place to cross, it's the law.  Parents please teach your children to respect the laws.  We are crazy blessed to be living here in the United States!!  If we teach our children that it is okay to break this law, then speed down the highway and show it's okay to break that law, we let them have Facebook accounts when they're too young to understand the social pressures and implications/power of what they are writing and posting--what are we really teaching them?  If they don't have to obey laws then why should they have to obey their teachers, bosses, etc.  We complain that people are feeling entitled to so much like food, insurance, housing and money from the government...something for nothing.  Have some pride, stand tall and teach your kids to obey the rules.

P.S.  My reason for writing this blog that has been on my heart for sometime is my sweet Anna.  As you know, she is involved in drama and 9 months of the year since she was 14, we have traveled that specific stretch of road referenced above to play practice--last fall, she started driving herself.  She was so nervous each night (especially during the dark winter months) because there were so many children crossing in the middle of the street-darting out from between cars.  Last night she was on her way to rehearsal at NWACC and she called me in a panic--"Mom, I almost hit a girl!!  There was a large vehicle and she stepped out in front of me!  I had to swerve to keep from hitting her!  She was probably 12 or 13 and she just looked at me like it was all my fault!!!  Mom, I'm so careful driving through there because I know there are so many kids; I can usually see legs or a head but it was different tonight.  The car was so tall and I couldn't see her at all until she stepped out."  My Anna is seventeen...I can't even begin to imagine the heartache she would have to live with for the rest of her life if she hadn't been able to swerve and had hit that girl and injured or worse killed her.  Please, please take the extra 30 seconds and walk to the crosswalks--no matter how hot or how cold it is!!

 ****FYI the sweet young dance studio owner has requested time and time again for everyone to use the crosswalks.  I have heard it from her verbally and seen it in newsletters.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Advice from a recovering doormat

Like all families with children, there will be fighting...not always the yelling, slamming doors kind of fighting but the other kind...the kind that strikes much deeper, the kind that sticks with you for ever.  I'm talking about the little jabs that hit you where it really hurts, the phrases muttered under the breath and the times we ignore pleas for attention.

Okay, go back and re-read that last little bit, I'll make it easy and just copy it below:

...the kind that strikes much deeper, the kind that sticks with you for ever. I'm talking about the little jabs that hit you where it really hurts, the phrases muttered under the breath and the times we ignore pleas for attention.

Think back to your childhood, while all of us have many happy memories I would bet that just as many of us have memories of that kind of hurt.  While we do forgive and move on, that little bit of pain will always be there--lingering.  If that hurt was too frequent, we continue to live in fear of when it will happen again. 

As a recovering doormat, I feel uniquely qualified to speak on this subject.  My siblings were pretty great--I was significantly younger so by the time my memories really kick in they were in college.  I said great, not perfect.  There are memories of that hurt occuring a few times but not enough to make me skittish of them today.  However siblings and immediate family aren't the only ones who inflict  that hurt.  Often times we find ourselves being treated this same way by friends and acquaintences.  I was once at a conference where the speaker referred to this as the doormat syndrome.  When we put out the welcome mat to our life and allow everyone (or anyone for that matter) to wipe their feet on us, we become the doormat.  You know the person--the one who when you leave their presence you feel just a little worse about yourself, filled with a feeling of self-doubt and insecurity.   There is absolutely nothing you can do for these people because odds are they are doormats themselves who have been "wiped" on for so long that they are simply a product of their own self-doubt and insecurities!  Keep your doormat out but wash it off often--don't let their problems bog you down!!

So if there isn't a way to cure these folks, why mention it at all?  What can you do?  You can join me in recovery!!  When there is a "wiper" in your life, distance yourself from them, be aware and don't let their negativity bog you down and more importantly, don't be a "wiper" yourself!! 

The picture I always verbalize for my girls is a nice clean board, much like this.

When you take that little jab-hitting where it hurts, muttering under your breath or ignoring someone, you are driving a nail in their clean board.

Sure, you may apologize and remove the nail

but look at the board--there is a gaping hole where the nail was placed and no matter how many times you apologize for driving that nail, the hole never goes away.  Sure they may forgive you but you have damaged their essence, the very core of their being.

So today and every day, be mindful and watch your words.  Make sure you aren't driving nails into someone with your words.  We are all crazy blessed to live great lives; every person we meet can either be crazy blessed for having known us or full of holes.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Time to fly

 I'm now the parent of a high school graduate.  I'm now the parent of a high school graduate.  I'm now the parent of a high school graduate.  There, I said it three times that makes it real and makes me feel better because the last few weeks have seemed somehow surreal.

There are a few things I am tired of hearing from well meaning people.  So if you see me, please don't use either of the following phrases:

1.  I bet you're so sad that Anna has graduated and is going off to college.

2.  At least you still have two daughters left.

In regards to the first statement--no, I am not sad!!!  I am so proud of Anna and everything she has accomplished.  For those who were there Friday night, you saw an outgoing, well adjusted, clear spoken, beautiful young woman who has been groomed for seventeen years for THIS time in her life!!  She is supposed to finish high school and move on to college; I'd be sad if she wasn't!  I am oh-so crazy blessed that she has drive and ambition, goals and dreams, and her sights set on something bigger and better.  I am thrilled that she is going to college.  My heart leaps when I look at her and see how strong her roots are and I pray every day that her wings are just as strong.  It is her turn to fly and like that saying from the 70's, I'm sure she will come back-not to stay but to visit often!  ("if you love something set it free, if it comes back to you it was yours if not it never was...")

Response to statement #2--yes, we are crazy blessed to have three wonderful, unique, and individual daughters.  One leaving doesn't mean I won't miss her.  Those of you with two or more children will fully understand that no two are alike (even twins, right Nancy?).  Anna was an only child for seven years, my only child to have that experience and as such our relationship is just a bit different than with the other two.  I will miss Anna--the sharpness I feel in my chest at this point in our lives isn't lessened by the fact I have two more children.  However I am looking forward to the new relationship I will develop with Melissa and Jessica as they get to experience home life with our adjusted daily family life with only four at home.  My time will be less divided as Anna exerts her independence at college while I can devote more time to Melissa and Jessica on an individual basis.

I may be confident that I have prepared myself mentally for Anna going away yet I'm a mess when I think about the little daily things that I will miss, the sweet good morning mama said in her morning voice, the jumping in the van and holding my hand as she bubbles on and on about whatever event she has just finished.  But mostly, I'll miss her presence, you know that time when nothing is being said but you just know the one you love is close.  So when you see me and there is fluid flowing involuntarily from my eyes, you'll know--I'm not sad--I'm actually overjoyed at this new phase in my life but I'm also a little nervous after all I am a Mom!

So my advice today for all you parents with kids whether they're two months old or entering their senior year...spend every moment you can with them.  When they cry-hold them, when they ask you for your time-give it to them, when they begin to fly-be the wind that carries them to the next place in their lives.  Take advantage so when it is their time you can say "I've been crazy blessed and know I've done my job well; go now and be what you are supposed to be."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

LONG and crazy blessed life...

Yesterday was one of those days you dread...come on, fess up you know we've all had them!!  It was the kind of day that actually started on Thursday!  It started with a phone call from my mom letting me know my cousing Ralph had passed away.  Now Ralph wasn't just any cousin but we'll get to that in a bit.  His funeral was scheduled for 2:00 on the same day that my nephew was to graduate from college at 10:00 a.m.-90 miles in the opposite direction!  That meant we would have a hard day driving to transport my parents from one event to another.

The graduation was your normal college graduation, excited young people beginning a new chapter and adventure in their lives.  So full of hope and promise for all the possibilities the future would unfold.   The funeral while a time for saying goodbye to Ralph left me with feelings much like those young graduates, a feeling of hope and promise for what the future holds for our family.

Ralph Long--I've know him my entire life. as the preacher said, he lived a long life in every sense of the word.  He was 81 years old, he left a beautiful family as a legacy, he loved the Lord and lived a rich, full life.  He and his brother Joe were somewhat iconic in our family.  I was only related through their Mother while through their father they were double related to most of their family.  Let me explain--my grandma was Erma, she had two siblings-Olive and Glen.  Grandma fell in love with Elbert Cassel while Olive and Glen...they fell in love with Paul and Ola who just happened to be siblings...therefor all their offspring would be doubly entertwined.  Ralph and Joe were special because they lost their mother when they were young boys...yesterday I heard the story of these two little boys riding in a box car with their daddy, and dead mother and sister in a coffin with them.  Can you even imagine?  But these boys came back to Oklahoma to be doubly blessed with family who scooped them up, surrounded them with love and turned out two of the finest men our family was blessed to have.

Ralph and Joe gave back to the family nine pretty amazing kids who have in turn begat more kids and more kids!!!  This extended family is amazing and I am so crazy blessed to be just a small part.  Yesterday at the funeral, my cousin Raymond was talking about some incredible memories he shared with my own Dad, uncle and Ralph and Joe...he shared a sadness that now he is the memory keeper that he has no one to left to ask or double check his accuaracy for his parents are both gone.  Of those five "boys," only three are left.  Those three are our memory keepers, the ones to share with us the stories which we will have to remember and in turn share.

When we went to the graveside yesterday, I was struck with the incredible rich history it contained!!!  It's a small cemetery out in the middle of a field near Verden, Oklahoma.  I took Jessica by the hand and led her up the hill to see where her great-grandparents, her great-great grandparents, and may other relatives are buried.  I felt that true connection for the first time to my family who is living and past, I felt a sense of urgency that I must get all the memories I can and remember them so they can continue to be shared with those family members who are yet to come. 

The generation of my family who is beginning to pass had a beautiful opportunity-their lives were entertwined on a personal level--day by day.  They lived close in both proximity and love.  Today, I live in Arkansas, my sister and brother in cousins are scattered to the north, south, east and west...literally...I have cousins in California, New Hampshire, Alaska and Texas!  We don't have the opportunity to see one another and be a part of the day to day lives of one another.  While it makes me sad I am so thankful that our world has become a little smaller thanks to social media!!!  I would like to see us all use Facebook to it's family potential--let's find one another and introduce our kids to one another so they will know each other and be able to feel this wonderful connection to family.

Today in church, Rick Cato preached on family today and his words ring true to the way the Cassel/Long/McDowell family truly lives, "A family should emulate the character and nature of God.  They should be committed to the personhood of EACH member and really care spending time and energy on each member.  Not just quality time but quantity time because we need more the affirmation.  There is commitment to the GROWTH of each member where gifts are seen, discovered and developed.  Most importantly a commitment to God at the center of it all--not on the edge but at the very core.  The family is where God is named and known."

I feel oh so crazy blessed to be a part of the McDowell legacy and hope that I can instill in our children exactly what that means so maybe one day when they take their child by the hand and walk that hill they will feel the same sense of rich history that I feel today.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Root bound

This week I was hanging out in my favorite place-my greenhouse!  Last weekend we had purchased some habanero and annaheim peppers at the Orange Big Box up in Bella Vista.  I took time looking at the plants and picking out the ones I thought to be the strongest, healthiest, and most likely to produce lots of peppers!  I brought them home and gave them a cool drink of water and let them rest for a couple of days.  I've been taking advantage of having a greenhouse; I have grown most of our plants from seed.  Starting them in a peat pellet then moving them up until finally they reach the quart size containers before they graduate to the garden.  When I can't grow from seed, I purchase smaller plants then repot them into something a bit larger so they can have additional grow time before going into the big world of my garden!  Now these particular orange box plants were in the pots that are "biodegradable and will become part of the earth." 

Now that sounds absolutely marvelous, right?  It has to be so much better for the plants because it *breathes* and becomes the earth.  I got my handy dandy snips and cut off the piece of plastic and since I was repotting I thought I would go ahead and remove the "earth" pot.  I'm so glad that I did because what I found underneath was a mess.
There was a tightly woven tangle of roots wrapped inside that healthy pot.  Those roots weren't any healthier or fresher or livelier because they were in an "earth" pot!  They were in a POT.  Even though the POT was permeable, these roots were still bound and confined by the size and shape of their pot and it got me to thinking about me.  Am I root bound?  Have I been complacent with my life for so long that I have forgotten to put out new roots?

Last week, Blake was talking about this very phenomenon during his sermon.  He told us how his mother purchases plants and then gets frustrated because they don't grow when she plants them in her yard.  He goes over and pulls it out and the roots are still wrapped up looking like it was just pulled from the pot.  Even in rich healthy dirt, the roots had been so crippled, so bound that they couldn't seek out the sustenence that is right before their eyes.  When a plant has been in a *pot* it is inevitable that it will become root bound and when it does you must tear the roots a bit before you plant them in the earth or they just won't grow.

As human beings we should strive to not become root bound in our *pots* of life!  While tearing our roots to loosen our soil may hurt a bit, in the long run we will become the beautiful beings we are meant to be.  This week, I would encourage you to look at your roots...have you been in your *pot* too long?  When is the last time you loosened your roots a bit and did something outside your comfort know like seeking out the least, the last and the loving others like we love serving someone else, not just dropping some change in the offering plate but going out and getting your hands dirty or spending some of your precious time giving of yourself to help a stranger?  If you're reading this today, you are indeed crazy blessed.  Take a minute right now to think about all your blessings.  Your family, your home, your clothes, your computer, your smart phone, your car, your clean clothes, the food in your refrigerator...the list is endless.  So consider shaking up those roots and letting yourself grow just a little bit more :)  You might just be surprised at what you can be!
(by the way this last picture is from my 2011 garden.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Refresher course in the cotton candy clouds...

In 1989 one of my favorite actors, Robin Williams, uttered two words on the big screen that made a huge impact..."Carpe Diem."  I can still remember the hairs on my neck standing up as he whispered by the trophy case those words to young boys full of life and future.  Boys who already thought they were seizing every day but who really had much to learn.  My eyes still swell with tears at the scene where the boys all stand on their desks and proclaim "Oh Captain, my Captain!"  These boys had learned the lesson but would they remember?

I think the lessons we learn when we are young are forever imbedded into who we are as adults but I know sometimes they get buried beneath being the adult--you know, running the kids and doing the tasks of everyday life.  Then something happens and what we learned from that lesson comes to the front and everything else comes screeching to a halt as we shake our heads in astonishment that we had forgotten.  I had one of those this morning and consider myself crazy blessed to catch that brief fleeting moment that God had just for me!

I cook Ted breakfast in the mornings.  (Now before you storm off in disgust that I'm a throw back to the 1950's, realize that I'm selfish I do it so I have a reason to crawl out of bed...otherwise I would still be sleeping when Melissa drags out of bed around 9:30 or 10 every morning!  The hour after he leaves for work is my time...)  Well, this morning I had this nagging feeling that he didn't have his name badge so I rushed out the door to catch him so I could prevent an extra drive across town.  He had it, I gave him a quick kiss and darted out to the curb to collect my daily paper.  I turned around and the sky had erupted into cotton candy.  I rushed over and opened his truck door and asked, "did you see the sky?  Did you see all the cotton candy?  Isn't it beautiful?"  I know he thought I was crazy but the laugh and the sparkle in his eyes took me back to the night he first kissed me when I was young and had the world ahead of me.
As I walked to the house I thought about waking Jessica so she could see the pink fluffy clouds but opted to grab my "real" camera and rush back outside to capture a more professional quality shot so I could share it with the world.  My heart was full of anticipation as I rushed back out to get that perfect picture and the cotton candy was gone.  The sky was regular blue and grey...

I stepped back and was sad for a moment but realized I saw the cotton candy sky...that beautiful moment that let me catch a glimpse of the boy I fell in love with and it all made sense.  I needed to "carpe diem," I needed to sieze the day.  Ted and I celebrate a big one this year, the time has flown and the kids are growing and getting more independent each day.  Anna leaves for college in four short months and in the blink of an eye Melissa and Jessica will be gone, too.  I have to "carpe diem" each crazy blessed moment with each of them because before I know it, our home will be just that boy with the twinkling eyes and me.  So today we're going to make peep s'mores for Melissa's cheer friends, make some cupcakes with Jessica and make a Mocking Jay t-shirt with Anna. 

This morning, I got my refresher of that lesson I learned from Robin Williams all those years ago.  Today, I am going to seize every crazy blessed moment and strive to remember each and every day!!  I wonder what lesson refresher will come next?!?!?!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The rest of my life...

When I was a kid I shared a room with my sister; in it hung a poster that said,

Today is the first day of the rest of my life

I really didn't understand it but through the years I have come to experience many days when I woke up and uttered those exact words to myself.  It's about doing away with the old and embracing something new.  It can be I'm going to begin drinking more water and make it a habit for the rest of my life.  Or it can be something grand like...with this ring, I take you to be my partner for the rest of my life.  Sometimes the first day is something not so pleasant like the first day you continue the rest of your life without someone you love.

As most of you know, I'm not one of those daily, weekly or even monthly regular bloggers.  I only blog when something happens in my life that moves me to get my feelings down on "paper" and share them in order to provide myself with a therapy of sorts.  Today is one of those days.  Today is indeed the first day of the rest of my life..."

Last night, I was perusing Facebook which can be a good thing or it can be very dangerous.  Last night, I guess you could say it was dangerous; for with my surfing came the certain knowledge that someone who has been a part of my life for a significant amout of time...well, let's just say it hurt.  It hurt really bad.  Not the kind of hurt where you shake your head and walk the other way but the kind that is like a knife right through you heart.  You know the kind that literally takes your breath away and you find youself sobbing and gasping for breath?  Yeah, it was one of those.  Had it been just one of them I would have passed it off as a mistake but when their partner did the exact same thing I knew it was intentional.

So I cried, I even raised my voice as I sobbed against my husbands loving arms.  Thank God for the love of a good man who is a virtual pinnacle of all that is right in my world.  Today, I awoke and again uttered those words to myself,

Today is the first day of the rest of my life

You see, I can hold my head high because I know I have done absolutely nothing wrong; the only thing I can be found guilty of is loving the above people and today, knowing how they feel about me I am finished.  I can stop.  Negativity only bogs you down and today I am free to live the rest of my life will I love them, yes because that is what Jesus commands us to do but will I allow them to have the power to hurt me?  Absolutely NOT!  Because guess what?  Jesus didn't say anything about liking everyone and I certainly don't like the way these folks have behaved.  Will I forgive them?  They are already forgiven; but forgiveness doesn't mean that I put myself in the same situation.  Because today I am crazy blessed...crazy blessed to be married to Teddy Don; crazy blessed to have three beautiful, smart and sweet girls; crazy blessed to have friends like you; crazy blessed to be able to wake up and start and for the rest of my life!

Friday, March 9, 2012

To sign or not to sign...that is the question

When we moved here I was surprised to find we were moving to a county that was dry.  At the time, I was a young mom and my life was totally wrapped up in being a Mom and Wife--I didn't really care about the alcohol situation one way or another.  During the time we've lived here there have been a few attempts to get the question to a vote; they've always failed.  This time however the supporters have the backing of the Walton brothers--I've noticed petition gatherers on lots of places:  the Walmart Home Office parking lot, First Friday, Pinnacle's White Oak Station and the list goes on and on.  When I refust to sign I hear a lot of snide remarks about how dare I not sign:  don't you drink, don't you know how much money our county is losing because of the taxes?  I can only imagine what they say after I'm gone.  However let me tell you another side...

When we joined Living Waters UMC, our family renewed a friendship with Tim Summers...he happens to be the Executive Director of Decision Point.  Our church began doing some volunteer jobs like planting flowers, painting, etc. at Decision Point.  We got to know some of the clients and have come to love some of them like family.  They have worked hard in their recovery to stay clean and sober.  I've seen families work to regain nursing licenses, buy houses and support their families by doing "grunt work" in order to improve their record to get better jobs!  Hard working incredible families.

These families live in Bentonville, Bella Vista, and Rogers which are all in Benton County.  Imagine them going to the grocery store on a bad day and passing the aisle with beer, wine or other difficult will it be to keep from falling back into the arms of their old demons?  You're crazy blessed if you're able to enjoy a glass of wine or a bottle of beer without it triggering the need, the desire to have another and another--I totally respect your right.  I'm crazy blessed on Sunday mornings when someone in our congregation says "today I celebrate 5 years sober..." or "today I celebrate 6 months sober..."

Now I understand you want the "convenience" of picking up your bottle of wine or spirits at your local store.  But think about it what is the price to others in our community?  How many alcoholics will struggle even more?  Are their those in our community who have intentionally chosen to live here because the alcohol is NOT on local shelves?  So when you sign that petition or eventually vote yes, take a moment to think about the life you may be destroying.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Senior Year

Wow, I can't believe I haven't blogged since November!  Where in the world did December and January go?  Oh, that's right--it's Anna's senior year and for any of you who have gone through this with your kids you know exactly what I mean!  Life has become a whirlwind of activity of going this way and that, filling out applications and scholarships, proofing their essays and stories.  All I really want to do is just STOP for an week, a day, an hour, a minute...heck just a second and hold her hand to make sure she know exactly how much she means to me.

People have taken to saying "I bet you're going to miss her."  They have no idea.  Let me share with you a little glimpse of the amazing and unique relationship I have with this girl.

She was born and I fell in love.  I was young, idealistic and just wanted to hold my precious baby every moment.  I absolutely loved getting up in the middle of the night feeding her sweetly as I prayed over her and whispered in her ear about all the world being just for her.  How one day she would grow up and have dreams and make them come true.

She was a child who filled every day with a new perspective.  Rushing in with her "Mama....Mama" and "did you know" and "can you believe?"  She shared with me a glimpse of the world from her perspective.  We went back to Oklahoma and visited and she would ride in the front seat with me as we sang kid songs at the top of our lungs!  Skinna-ma-rink-i-dink-i-do and Once an Austrian went yodeling for a hundred verses.  Let's not forget that hole in the bucket dear Liza.  Laughter, learning and love the three "L's" made up every day!  Still praying over her as she sleeps sweetly--whispering to her about the world being just for her.  How one day she would grow up and have dreams and make them come true.

She was a teenager who began to spread her wings becoming a little independent yet sharing so much of "her" with me.  The long talks, the sprinkles of advice and still the days filled with laughter, learning and love.   Anytime she has something important to say, she grabs my hand...sometimes I'm busy and she insists.  How I wish I had taken just a little more time.  She was a bit bigger up high on her loft bed but still I prayed over her as she slept--whispering to her about the world being just for her.  How one day she would grow up and have dreams and make them come true.

Seventeen...last week, we bought items for her dorm room!  YIKES!  We came home, she took my hand and said "mama, when does college start-September?"  I said, "no, August."  She threw her arms around me because it had just hit her--it's February and she has six short months.  I know how much her world will change.  I know she will go to college and have the time of her life.  I know she will spread her wings and soar far higher than she can even imagine.  I also know that my life will never be quite the more sweet Angel number one grabbing my hand and telling me the news of the day.  I will have to learn to adjust to a cyberhand as she reaches out through text, phone calls and skype.

I'm proud to say I have no regrets.  I have worked hard to help her grow deep roots in who she is so no matter where she goes, no matter if it's New York City or just next door she will know without a doubt that her Mama is proud and loves her.

So what does this mean for you?  Take that extra minute to squeeze your little ones today and every day.  Enjoy every moment of every day, even the bad ones because we learn so much from every experience.  Talk to your kids, more importantly LISTEN because relationships are a two way street.  Respect your kids, their minds, their time and their opinions--believe me it will make a difference.  For me, I've got six months with Anna, seven years and six months with Melissa and ten years and six months with Jessica.  I am going to go blow my nose, wipe my tears and enjoy today and not worry about when they are gone because I know like every stage they've gone through it will happen at just the perfect moment and I will be prepared because I am crazy blessed and oh-so lucky to be the Mom to the three greatest Angel Girls!!

PS--Each night after my kids are fast asleep or early in the mornings before they wake, I step into their rooms and pray over each of them.  I pray for things like health, wisdom, kindness, and self control. I whisper to each of them about all they can be; reminding them how special and unique they are, telling them how much I love them and will always be here to support them.  Right now is an emotional time for me as my Angel One is preparing to fly from the next but it doesn't mean I love her best, I'm just in a different place with her.  I love all of my girls and feel just as passionate about each one!!  As my grandpa used to say--"when they're little they walk on your toes, when they grow up they walk on your heart."  Oh how my heart is feeling her as she prepares to walk to the next chapter in her life.