Monday, August 30, 2010

Whose Skin are You In?

I haven't felt very inspired lately - but in joking around about whether or not to write about my monstrous back side, I stumbled upon something.

Are you comfortable in your own skin?

I don't mean the outward skin that you wish you could change. By all means, if you want to make any outward appearance changes, I'm not faulting you for that!  But I mean the inner layers. Are you happy with what's inside?

Me circa 1974ish..
My long time friends might say I've always been confident about who I am. Growing up in a single-parent home, I didn't have a lot of the "extras". Designer jeans? Only if one of my friends outgrew hers and passed them onto me. Polo, Forenza, Izod? Nope. Not me. But it never really bothered me. (I joke that we were too poor to keep up with anyone...let alone the Joneses. And yet I had everything I ever needed.)

There were times when I didn't feel as pretty as someone. Or times when I liked a boy but would never have told a soul because I was scared he'd find out and run the other direction. But I think that's just all part of normal growing up. Those times didn't define me. And now, 20+ years later, those boys I didn't date are my "go to" guys. I don't have any weird baggage to carry into our adult relationships. And those girls that were prettier than me? Some of them still probably could win a beauty contest. But I don't base my appearance on what they look like anymore.

I'd say my confidence has always come from within. The core values I learned at church. I knew that God loved me and that His plan was all that mattered. And no matter how my social standing, wardrobe or hairstyle may have evolved over the last 40 years (gulp).......I, like Popeye, am who I am. 

I'm still that girl from Hereford, Texas who loves a good barn dance and feels just as comfortable at a rodeo as I do at the theater. I may not be the skinniest, cutest girl on the block - but I'm the same girl who speaks her mind and doesn't apologize for her actions. I still strive to be a better person, leave the world a better place and love my husband & children with every ounce of my being.

My skin is right where I belong. How about yours??

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You've Got a Friend

“A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.”
~William Penn

Tonight our church's women's ministry had it's annual Women's Gala. Randi and I were in charge of the speaker, so I knew it would be worth the effort.

And I wasn't really looking forward to it.

It's been a hard week. I've been in no mood for anything. I don't want to smile. I don't want to make small talk. And I don't want to explain to even one more person why I'm so sad. I just want to curl up in my sadness and have a good ol' pity party. (I'd even love to drown my sorrows in Diet Coke and Malibu Rum, but I have refrained)

We got back Monday night from a great weekend in North Carolina carrying with us the grim reality that Billy is leaving on the boat very soon. It rocked us to the core of our beings - and we are just flat sad. There's no redeeming quality of your son deploying. Trust me. There just isn't. Proud? Yes, of course. With every fiber of my being.  But beyond that....pass me a pillow, the box of kleenex and the rum, please.

So anyway....going to a women's gala - one I helped plan no less - was not at the top of my favorite ideas list. 

But I was committed. And, I knew I'd be with friends.

Let me tell you a little bit about some of my friends I spent time with tonight. (I hope I don't get in trouble for this....)

Randi is my rock. This week, when I have been virtually worthless in every way, she has been right there quietly reminding me that she cares. We have this hilarious way of communicating that probably drives everyone crazy. We have lists.

It goes something like this, "Ok, I have 2 things.  1. Did you remember to pick up that candy to go in the candy bowl? I was thinking M&Ms - but then I really like Hershey's kisses too. Really - just whatever you think.  And 2. Did you get that email about next week's meeting? I completely forgot."  

She has become my 'go to' girl on so many things. I trust her judgement 100%. And she's always there to make me feel better without even trying. God just gives her the right words to say to me at the right time....or no words if that's the right thing to do. I am SO thankful for her.

Courtney is a newer friend. I haven't known her as long, but she is such a kindred spirit. We connected right away - and she's been invaluable. I love being around her - and she can always make me smile. She thinks so much like me and it cracks me up when she does something that I SHOULD have expected but didn't. She's the "fixer" - just like I am in so many situations. She stealthily finds solutions to potential problems, then tells me at just the right moment.

Tonight she announced that she has learned we can freeze dry homemade food and ship to Billy on the boat. WHO would have researched this - or even considered finding a way to give Billy a taste of home? Only Courtney. And I love her for it. I can't tell you how good it made me feel to just know that someone else was thinking ahead when I can't bring myself to think about 30 minutes from now.

Joy is one of the girls I've known most of the time we've been at our church. She has always offered positive words of encouragement, and I can usually count on her to get teary right along with me. She's quick to say she loves me - and she's always there with a hug.  Tonight she was immediately at my side reminding me that we will all get through this deployment and that she's always available for "therapy" sessions. 

MaryAnn and I were in a small group Bible study for years. Fortunately, she is ex-military so she understands the emotional roller coaster that comes with it. Not only that, we have weathered many storms together: her mother passing away, her children going off to college, her infamous knee surgery that took FOREVER to heal.  So MaryAnn just "gets it". She's the one who shows up with the cookies - or the enchiladas - or whatever - when you need it.  And she's quick to point out, "That's the way we do it in Lefors."  (A tiny town where she spend some of her childhood.) 

I'll stop there. But as you can see, the best place I could have possibly been was at church tonight - with my friends. Between them and Karen Porter, our guest speaker, my spirits were lifted. I really DO know it's all going to be fine. I just needed a pity party day (or week). And I was glad to have friends to share it with me.

Don't know what I'd do without them. And I'll be returning the favor tenfold when they need me.

(And for all of you friends that weren't with me warned. You'll all be making guest appearances around here. So prepare yourself now!)

Friday, August 20, 2010

What is that Smell?

“Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.”
 ~ Vladimir Nabokov

Isn't it funny how things can take you back to a point in time or remind you of something so familiar?

Today we finally made it to North Carolina to visit Billy, and we spent some lazy hours in the hotel just hanging out and talking. At one point, after probably the billionth hug, he said, "your shirt smells like the house." I didn't notice it - but then I guess it's just a normal smell to me. But it took him home - at a time when home seems to constantly elude him. I wish I could bottle it up and send that smell with him so that when he starts to miss home, he can get a little whiff.

I love smells. The smell of Downy reminds me of my childhood - and my mother's laundry days. In my mind'e eye, I can see her standing at the ironing board, folding clothes and loading the washer. I can almost hear Hee Haw on the television too. It always takes me back. (And it makes my friend Josi think of me in middle school. She says she always loved the way I smelled.)

Pillows are another place to find familiar smells. Kerry's pillow smells like him. If he works late on a holiday or for a big wedding, I find myself burying my nose in his pillow to go to sleep. If I can't be near him, at least his pillow would give me a little comfort. 

Or how about the smell of a campfire? It reminds me of high school and college bonfires, summer camp and the mountains. I'm instantly relaxed when I smell it. Somehow everything just seems to slow down when the smoky smell takes over.

The smell of black-eyed peas or green beans being shelled and snapped puts me in my grandma's house - the safest place on earth. What I would give to go back and relive one of those days!

I'm sure I could go on and on. (With this long nose, I have keen sense of smell...haha.)

I definitely think the candle companies have it all figured out. (And I'm glad because I don't always want to bake a pumpkin pie just to relive Thanksgiving!)

I'd love to hear what smells take you back! :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What the.........??

This was a request. So don't hold it against me or think badly of me when you read this one. Because it's allllll about peeves.  And I'd say I'm pretty easy to peeve.  (Kerry says this could be book. I'll refrain from adding his smart mouth as a peeve.) Haha!  Here's my top 10 pet peeves - in no certain order AFTER #1.

1.  ALL TIME TOP PEEVE:  Chip crunching  
Yes, I know that chips were made to crunch. And that no one can eat one without crunching it. But it bugs the FOOL out of me.  Poor Kerry has endured my glares for years. Give him a tortilla chip - and sit back and watch me try to hold it together. It's just painful. *chomp chomp chomp*  I don't even like to hear myself.

2.  Chomping Ice
This is almost as bad as chips, but a bit more tolerable. I can at least keep a smile on my face. And frankly, we have my grandmother to blame. She chomped ice LOUDLY with her dentures all the time. I miss her and would endure hearing that crunch again in a heartbeat. But's painful to hear.

3. Cold Offices
Why is it that the hot-natured people get to control the thermastats?? I know I can put more clothing on to warm up, but why should I have to wear a parka and gloves in the summer months? Come on people!! Give a little!

4. Unanswered cell phones - but texts answered immediately.
Really??? You can type out a text to me a nanosecond after I send it. But you can't ANSWER A CALL??? Grr.

5. Slow left lane drivers
Why? Why? Why is it necessary to drive in the passing lane at a tortoise pace? What part of "slower traffic keep right" do you not yet?

6. People who scream at their children - ESPECIALLY in a store
We've all been guilty of raising our voices at some point. But screaming? Really?? And why is it that Walmart or Target seem to be the favorite places for these screamers to congregate? It really takes every controlling bone in my body to keep from marching over and taking those children away. I don't care HOW bad the kids act, they deserve to be treated respectfully too. (And I'm sure taking them straight to the car and taking them home for a nap or snack would work a lot better than your trashy screaming. Just saying.)

7. "Aren't you lucky to know me" People
No. I'm not lucky to know you. It's just a burden I must bear. So "you go girl and take those tacky shoes with you!"

8. Smacking.
Again with the food. Have you NO manners at all? Chew with your mouth CLOSED!! It is unnecessary to show us all your food while you are chewing.

9. "Off of"
You get off the boat. Not off OF the boat. Only one preposition is necessary. Really.

10. "Excuse Me"
If you step right in front of me in the store, or cut me off in an aisle, just say excuse me. It's just 2 words. A little courtesy goes a LONG way!

Ok. Give me some of your peeves! ;)

Monday, August 16, 2010

This is Home.....

"Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family."
~ Anthony Brandt

Ok. Some of those reading this aren't necessarily on my Facebook friends list, so they have requested to hear more about our adoption.  And since we are preparing to go to North Carolina this week, I thought I'd indulge them (while maybe boring the rest of you) by telling our story.  Part of this came straight from my note on Facebook - so those of you re-reading...God Bless Ya!

Kerry and I always said we would adopt someday. He has adopted family members.... I have siblings who are not blood related. It was just a God-given desire in our hearts to add to our family this way.

And I guess, in true Charee fashion, I thought it was all in my hands. I thought I'd decide when I was ready, God would work out the details based on what I wanted, and a precious baby would land in my lap someday. I was a girl mommy, so I was sure it would be a girl.

One of the few childhood pics Billy has of himself.
What I wouldn't give to rock THAT sweet little boy to sleep!
Well....along the way God was working on HIS version of the plan. And I'm pretty sure now that He knows me better than I know myself, because he brought me the child my heart longed for and didn't know it. A BOY no less! And not a baby at all. A 23-year-old boy!

I met Billy when he was about 14. I'd taken a job in a place where there were kids who no longer lived with their families for various reasons. Many had been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. Other were privately placed. Either way, I met some of the greatest kids I will ever meet while I worked there. Billy happened to be one of those great kids.

He had the cutest smile and the uncanny ability to do something mischievious and look completely innocent. I can honestly say he always made me laugh when he came in the office.  Neither of us can neither one pinpoint the moment that we started talking regularly, but by the time he graduated from high school, he was stopping by my office to chat about what he was going to do with his life. He had been accepted to WT and was going to run cross country. He had a car. And he was ready for the independence he was about to experience. 

Of course, I found myself wanting to take care of him even MORE when I realized he was about to embark on the 'college journey.'  So did Kerry. And we were so glad my mom worked at the university so she would be available if he needed her. Maybe that was the first nudge God gave me. But I wasn't listening very closely....because I just kept "mothering" him without really thinking about being his mother!

Over the years, Billy was just part of our household. He didn't have any close family (his birth parents neither one were in the picture much)....but he has lots of people who love him. Christmas, Thanksgiving.....last minute name it, he's been part of it. As far as we were concerned, he was part of the family. We met girlfriends, cooked him dinner, helped him find jobs. Kerry even had him work at the shop for extra money. He was just always around - and we loved it!

After he went into the Marine Corps, he was working on his paperwork, and I got a text from him asking if he could list me as his next of kin. I was SO honored - and quickly replied yes! (You'd think at that point it would have crossed my mind that God wasn't just nudging. He was yelling "HERE HE IS!!!! I am giving you a son!!!!"  But I clearly wasn't really paying attention.)

Then last Christmas (the first one since he'd become a Marine), he called and asked if he could stay with us when he came home. Again - the answer was obviously yes. I really couldn't believe he'd ask instead of just calling and telling me that he'd be home!

I look back now and it makes my heart ache that he felt he needed to ask at all.

He'd tell you that he just didn't want to intrude. I say he hadn't "bought in" to being part of our family yet. Either way, I wish I'd been paying closer attention when God was giving me His obvious hints earlier in the that question wouldn't have even come up.

Not long before he came home, my mom called to tell me that she been watching some tv show about adoption and that we should adopt Billy. (God clearly decided to try a new approach.) Kerry and I discussed it and thought it was a great idea. We also talked to the girls about it only to find that they were instantly ready for a big brother. 

When we were at my dad's house over New Year's, we talked to Daddy and Keren about it - and they thought it was a great idea too. So everyone was in agreement.....except Billy. NOW we had to ask him if he even wanted to be one of us. And we all understood that he might not want to go that far.

I did start making phone calls.... I needed to know just HOW to adopt an adult! Thanks to Brian and Vaavia Edwards, I learned the process is pretty easy. We just had to be sure it was something Billy desired as much as the rest of us.  Unlike an infant adoption, he could say no.

I braced myself and called him the night before he was coming home for President's Day. (I wanted to do it in person but if he wanted to decline, it would've been easier for him on the phone.) I wasn't afraid he'd say no. I was afraid he'd think we were crazy!

Gracey was sitting in the floor in front of me while I put sponge rollers in her hair. And I just grabbed my phone and decided to call him right then. She could barely sit still while I was talking. She kept turning around and giving me the thumbs up. Lol (I should mention that she would ask me at least twice a week when we planned to ask him, so this was a long time coming in her mind.)

My mental speech tumbled out so fast that I am surprised he even understood one word. I kept reminding him that he could think about it. And I kept explaining that we just really love him and wanted him to know that he was part of our family. He told me later that he could tell I was nervous. (Imagine how weird that must have been on his end of the phone.) 

We laugh about the fact that he was the only one surprised by the whole thing. Poor guy! I'm sure he thought  we were crazy!  Of course, you already know that he said yes. And the rest of the conversation was just talking about how it would be done, etc. and how excited we were to see him the next day.

After I hung up the phone, I called Kerry at the shop - where he was feverishly working on Valentines orders - and we all did the happy dance!

His homecoming the next day was even better knowing that he wanted to belong to us..officially! The next couple of months really run together in my mind. I know that we were all thankful for unlimited text plans - and we spent a hours and hours just talking about things we'd all never thought to talk about before.

We discussed about the past, present and future. We talked about whether he'd change his name and what he'd do when he finished his 4 years in the Marines. (Yes, he's changing his name...and he's coming home to live near his MOTHER when he get done!)

We relived all the stuff we've all done together - and planned all the things we want to do. You name it - we discussed it.

And it all was leading up to the most important moment of all. The official adoption!

The papers were drawn up. The affadavits were filed. The court date was set: the Friday before Mother's Day. The one thing that wasn't going to happen though was Billy being here to go to court. Talk about sad! I cried buckets!  We'd  hoped to have him in town, but thanks to his new position with the MEU, he was training all over the place. And none of us wanted to wait any longer to be official. So....we were going to make it happen no matter what.

I know Billy so well...but I highly underestimated his love of surprises! (He didn't get that from me!) May 7, 2010 - just a few hours before we were to be at the courthouse, my son came walking into my office!!! And, by the end of day, we were officially a family of 5.  Our family became complete - and we all spent one of the best weekends of our lives together!

So.......there you have it. That's how Billy became officially ours. (And how we managed to have a child who was born while we were but teenagers without being teenage parents!)

And let me just add, my last pregnancy was by far the easiest of all of them! (Kerry says it came with a job and car too....haha)

I love you, Billy!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Real Page Turner..

“You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.”  ~ Paul Sweeney

I love to read. Not just like to read.  And I'm not just a "reader."  I think I might take "avid reader" to a new level.  You could probably find 3-5 books on my nightstand at any given moment. (Until I get a Nook or a Kindle anyway..) And I am probably reading some of them at the same time.

Reading isn't just an escape for me. It's something I am compelled to do. And I am blessed to have some really good friends who love to read as much as I do. We are always on the hunt for our next read. (Feel free to offer any book you are reading on the post. I always love suggestions!) It's one of the first things my friends and I talk about: "What are you reading?" or "Any good books?"

I know. But I warned you. I LOVE to read!

Here's the thing:  I come from a family of readers. My grandparents both read all the time. Neither one graduated from high school or went to college, but they were both extrememly avid readers. I remember going to the library with my grandma ALL the time. In fact, if I close my eyes, I can put myself right back there. I can almost see her at the counter with Louis L'Amour books for grandpa.

My aunt Theresa also reads a ton. I remember going to the library with HER too. She always had a book - and probably still does. Both of my parents like to read. (Mom isn't quite as devoted to it as some of us, but she definitely has one going most of the time.)

A good reader is always prepared... Sadie on a hike with her daddy.
Stopping to read "Walter the Farting Dog" on a break!
 And I think I passed the "reading gene" onto Sadie. She always has a book on her nightstand too! (Love that!) Gracey loves a good book, but doesn't really like to read. She'd rather have someone read to her!

Kerry might argue that my kind of reading is a mental disease. Ha ha!  He just can't understand how I can keep so many books going - and why on earth anyone would want to read so much. It's the one thing I could never give up. I read every night before I go to bed. If I don't have a book, I just feel lost!

So....I thought I'd share some of my favorite reads and how I came to read them.  If you would like to share yours too, please do!

 Mister God, This is Anna by Fynn  - My middle school librarian Mrs. McGilvary is the one who pointed me in the direction of this book. I remember going to that little library at Stanton Junior High and browsing around. I loved the dark wood and the tall shelves. It was definitely a cozy library..

 Beloved Benjamin is Waiting by Jean Karl - This was one of the hundreds of books I tore through in grade school, and for some reason stuck with me. I need to re-read it and see what exactly enthralled me back then. I just have always thought of it as one of my favorite books.

 A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving - Thanks to my friend Laura Reynolds, I read this one. And I fell in LOVE. Such a great book - and such a great story. I highly suggest you wading through Irving's looooonngggg descriptions and read it.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - Randi and I read this one last year and both LOVED it. I'm ready for more by this author because it was such a great story.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - Ok. This is just a fabulous book. I even got my 23-year-old son to read it! (And he did NOT get the reading gene. He'll tell you that he doesn't like to read. Must be more kin to his dad on this one...) I just love the way they make the circus life so real.  I think I pictured scenes from HBO's Carnivale while reading it. Anyway- loved it! I really can't remember who told me to read it, but I'm so glad I did!

Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte - Having an English degree, I was fortunate to dissect many of the older literature. This was one of those that I just loved. I've watched virtually every single movie version of it too. Ahhh...Heathcliff.....

Ok. That's enough for one blog, right?

If you use "Goodreads" to keep up with your books, look me up! :)  And PS. Nook or Kindle??? I can't decide!!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Famous Last Words..

“Some people wonder all their lives if they've made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem.”
~ Ronald Reagan

I wasn't going to do it.

I even "said" it outloud in a email.

Specifically, "I am going to try to refrain from blogging about the trials and tribulation of having a child in the military."  But here I son is a Marine. And I am so proud of him! I was very supportive of his decision to serve his country. And he is doing it so honorably.

But he is also deploying.

We've known this all along. We knew he wouldn't serve 4 years and never have to deploy. We also knew that were numerous possibilities. So imagine how thrilled we were when he said he was going on the Marine Expeditionary Unit? A nice, clean, safe the ocean for 7 months. No Iraq. No danger. Sad? Yes. Do-able? Absolutely. Exciting for our Marine? A little - but probably not what he'd expected. They train them to want to get in the trenches. (But they don't train their MOTHERS for that.)

As you saw last week, I was preparing for a roadtrip to bring his stuff home. Bought the one way ticket on Monday. His estimated departure was the end of September-ish. We'd have him for 10 whole days. The longest we've seen him at one time since he left for basic training.

Nothing like having a child in the military - and experiencing all the 'surprises' that go with it! We found out this week that he's leaving a LOT sooner. His MEU is a humanitarian one, so all the recent flooding, etc. in Pakistan has changed all the plans.  Remember that 10 days? Not happening. And that roadtrip? Nope.

Needless to say, I'm sad. We've been quickly getting travel arrangements made to see him a few days and pick up his belongings before he leaves. And I'm certainly thankful that we'll get that time. the end of the day, I'm just sad.

This military mom stuff is a LOT harder than I'd expected! I'm not complaining. Well......maybe I am. But I'm not saying it's the worst thing in the world. I just didn't realize how hard it would be to see one of my children do something like this! I'd been through it with my brother (who served in Iraq TWICE) - but it didn't feel like this.  I thought I'd hold it together a little better. Instead, I'm just flat whiny!

There's no way to describe this gut-wrenching fear I have of him deploying. Or the intense sadness I have that he doesn't get to come home and sleep in his own bed before he leaves. Or the disappointment our entire family is experiencing over all our plans getting changed - again. 

And even with all of that.......the pride is even more undescribable.  My son is part of something bigger than himself. He will be helping people who cannot help themselves. He's a hero. And I know he will make a difference. I am extremely proud.

So........when you see me walking around with tears in my eyes - and I seem a little less "Charee" than normal - you know why.

It's all going to be ok. It's all going to be ok. It's all going to be ok.

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Imagine This...

Tonight Kerry and I got to talking about Sadie's imagination and decided her stories are well worth sharing. So here it goes:

Sadie, Gracey and their cousin Justis
Sadie, who is now 9, began talking, walking and just generally commanding attention at an extremely young age. So none of us should have been surprised when she started telling tall tales. (Those still exist...just not to the extent of her early ones.)

In preschool, she came home telling us all about  Mrs. Haney's classroom rabbit. I got so excited because I love bunnies! I told Sadie that I wanted to see it.  But Sadie explained that they let the bunny go in the forest. And it was attacked by a lion, then eaten by a snake. The only problem was that there ARE no woods by the school she attended. And, frankly, there was no rabbit either.  We were 99% sure of both of those facts.  But she was very convincing. She kept on and on about that rabbit till we finally asked Mrs. Haney if there ever was a rabbit - only to discover we were right to start with.

Then there was the time she got on the phone with her PaPa (my daddy) and told him all about her fish dying. She went on and on and on about the fish...had him feeling sorry for her, etc.  Again - there were no fish. And when he tried to revisit to conversation about her fish - just moments after her story - she announced, "PaPa, we don't have any fish!" As if HE was the ridiculous one!

Somehow animals always made their way into her stories back then. Even to the point of her having a boyfriend:  a rabbit boyfriend named Michael. Alas, he also met an ill fate. He was run over by a train.

Wait a minute. What's with all the death??? I wonder if she's the next Stephen King! YIKES!

She also had a cross-eyed skydancing cousin. (Let's not get too into this one. I'm just telling you that we didn't know anyone cross-eyed. And what the heck is a skydancer anyway??) That cousin died, btw. Guess that wasn't a good career choice.

Ok. Anyway...our absolute favorite was her imaginary grandma. Not just a story - her grandma became a huge part of our lives for almost a year. The strangest thing about that to me was that she already HAS 3 sets of grandparents. I can't imagine what made her think she needed ANOTHER grandmother.  Sadie had EVERYONE convinced that this grandma was real.

"My grandma has a swimming pool at her house." or "My grandma has a spider that lives in her sink." And her grandma ALWAYS let Sadie do things that we wouldn't let her do at home.

After quite a long time, her grandma was really getting on my nerves! That darn grandma had a comeback for everything! I decided to challenge that grandma. At dinner one night, I announced that I was going to call her. Sadie quickly explained that we couldn't because we didnt know her number, etc.  I got up and got the phone. I even started to dial while Sadie stared me down. Then, she suddenly explained that her grandma couldn't be reached because she'd moved away. 

I bet you want to know where and why, right? Well.......her grandma moved to Canyon (which is about 18 miles away) to attend college. And guess what she was studying to be?  A TOOTHFAIRY!  You'd think Sadie would be excited about this new adventure with her grandma. Instead, she burst into tears and told us how much she was going to miss her grandma. 

We never heard about that grandma again after that. But we sure do talk about her. Even some of our friends stop to ask about that grandma sometimes.

If she becomes a famous novelist someday, you now can say you saw it coming!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Singing a New Song

"1,2,3 like a bird I sing...cause you've given me the most beautiful set of wings
I'm so glad you're here today, cause tomorrow I might have to fly away..."

One of the great things about my job is that I am surrounded by so much promise. Being in a school environment (and at a children's home before this), has given me an opportunity to see so many amazing kids as they embark on one of the most exciting and scary chapters in their lives:  college.  Every year I watch them gallantly walk across the stage, accept their diplomas, and smile award-winning smiles. They are all thinking, "FINALLY!!!"

Do you remember that moment you realized that your whole life was ahead of you - and you were about to leave home? You weren't quite on your own, but you were about to have more responsibility and freedom than you'd ever had before?

I do. And I remember sitting in my dorm room at Texas Christian University in SHOCK that I was finally "on my own."  That I had no real curfew. And that I was completely responsible for getting myself to class on time. Nobody else was going to prod me along. And no one was going to get on my case for not doing something their way, etc.

College was a magical time in my life. I've never been more poor, tired or overwhelmed. Yet I so fondly remember even the hard stuff. I remember taking 18 hours for two semesters while working 30 hours a week and thinking I was going to die. And trying to maintain my social life while also maintaining a good GPA. Not to mention scraping together my spare change for gas money or groceries, and letting all my friends come do their laundry at my house so they woulnd't have to pay for it at the laundrymat. Then there was the decision making about what I was going to do when I finished college!

It seems like as soon as it started, it was over. (And I took 5 years to get out!) I blinked at it was over. I was expected to be a full-fledged adult and make all those decisions that come with that title. Talk about a let down. No more finals meant my education WAS final. *sigh*

Tonight we went to a local pizzeria to hear the soon-to-be-famous Hannah Boren sing her last gig before she leaves for college. It's always a treat to hear Hannah sing, but an even bigger treat to know her and her precious sister. Hannah has worked at Kerry's flower shop this summer - and thanks to that we've gotten to know both girls better. They graduated this year - and they are both ready to sing a new song. One that will have a chorus each will sing for the rest of their lives.

Hannah is going all the way to Nashville, Tennessee to college - and Haley will be staying here to follow in her mother's footsteps to become a nurse.  I can't really decide which will be the bigger adjustment. Hannah will be learning a new town, new school, new friends, etc. But Haley will be in familiar territory without the familiarity of her friends and sister who will go further away. Either way, they are going to have the time of their lives. I know. I've done it.

I have to say.....I am so excited for them and all the other new college students I know.  And perhaps a little jealous of all the fun they have in store for them!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The things we do....

Do you ever stop and think about all the things we do for our children? (Those of you who don't have them can insert any VIP name into this.)

I've been pondering that the last two days as I've helped Gracey try to catch this runaway guinea pig that has been living in the bushes across the street from us for a couple months.

(Let me clarify: it's not OUR runaway guinea pig. It's just A runaway one. I have vowed never to purchase or own an indoor rodent. My need for animals has been fulfilled by the three dogs and two cats we currently house.)

I've known it was there, but Gracey just discovered it yesterday. She came running in the house all excited because she'd coerced it to come about 3 feet from the carrot she was holding in her hand. And, of course, she had me hooked. I've been helping problem solve ever since. We beat the bushes with a broom - and a mop. (Yes, a mop. Imagine that for a moment.....) We chased it into some ivy where it quickly pulled a guinea pig u-turn and headed back under the bushes. *sigh*  Today we picked up a squirrel trap from the humane society and are bribing the little sucker with an entire salad's worth of veggies. But really this is just one of many things we've done for our kids. Perhaps one of the silliest - but definitely worth mentioning.

In May we drove all night long to meet Billy in Memphis for a spur-of-the-moment vacation. He couldn't get home. We were ready to see him again and didn't want to wait till the next scheduled trip. So we hopped in the car and made Smith Family history. It'll be one of those stories to tell our grandchildren, I'm sure.

Next month I'll fly to North Carolina and ride/drive back with that same crazy kid before he has to deploy. Twenty-five hours in the car...and I'm trusting that what doesn't kill me will make me stronger. Yet there's nowhere I'd rather be. I can't wait to see what adventures happen along the way. And I am most willing to do it because it's for my child whom I love.

Sadie is queen of talking us into things. Well....especially her daddy. What other kid spends half the national deficit at the Dollar General? She has learned the art of talking Kerry into letting her shop there every day after school. (We could use a subsidy for more flowers!) And often she comes back with something that requires him to get out the hot glue. She also talked him into getting a pedicure with her. I was having something at the house, and she decided it would be more fun to be at the nail salon than at home. So she convinced her daddy to get his toes "done" too.  If only I had a picture of that!

And we come by it honestly. Our parents did crazy stuff for us too. Kerry's dad tied a string around a locust so they could let it fly around but not lose it. His mom made costumes for the school play - thanks to Kerry volunteering her without asking first.

My mother let us have a pet cow in our backyard - in the city limits - for close to a year. She never said no to a single stray animal I brought home - and tolerated multiple litters of puppies. Not only has she been spontaneous for me, but she's carrying it on with my girls. They've nursed baby kittens, tried to keep baby birds alive and  turned her house into a baby-doll heaven.

My daddy has never backed down from riding a roller coaster with me - and has planned innumerable family vacations around some theme park we were dying to visit. And, of course, the list goes on and on. (Just this summer I was dragging him to pick blueberries with us.)

What have you done for your kids lately? Any funny stories immediately come to mind? It seems like we all have some. And isn't that what parenting is all about?

Forget going above and beyond in all the obvious ways. Anyone can work harder to make their kids' lives better, safer, or more stable. Right??  It's the unusual activities that stand out. That show real character. The  things that get everyone giggling and having fun. THOSE are moments we'll always talk about around the Thanksgiving table - or during Christmas get togethers.  And they are my FAVORITE!

Now if you'll hand me that mop......I've got a guinea pig to catch.

UPDATE! UPDATE! We caught the guinea pig!!! :) We are now thinking of a name and have purchased supplies. (Now who's the sucker?!)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Oh Mercy...

I feel a ramble coming, so I'm aplogizing up front for the tangents this entry may take.'s Sunday. How much I love Sundays is impossible to explain. They always bring back memories of being with my friends at church, lazy afternoon naps, trips to Walmart (lol) with Mindy and Cathy. (That was back before there was one on every corner. We had to drive 30 minutes to wander the aisles of beauty products!) It seems like I always learn something on Sunday - even if I'm not at church. It's like it's the day God uses to or out of the pew.

This Sunday we received an assignment from our Sunday School leader, Darrin. He gave us each a journal - and we are supposed to journal about various things we've discussed the last few weeks. First we have to pick a movie title that decribes our life. I, of course, haven't got a clue. I can name my favorite movies...but one to describe my life? Nope.  Maybe it's because all I can do is think of the struggle Jason is going through as he sits in his own movie. I'm a supporting actress in it - and I feel like I'm in my weakest role ever. His movie is fast-forwarding and all of us characters are all scrambling to fight the antagonist. And it seems as though I'm just standing by - in tears - not able to change anything. I'm on my knees every chance I get. I'm trying to live my life to its fullest and somehow beg God to let Jase do the same for many years to come. This unknown just overwhelms me - and I'm not the one with cancer! (Wow, I hate that word.) It's such an awful part of the movie. The stressful part. The part that makes it hard for me to see that this isn't it. There's more to the movie/ I'm skipping this assignment for now. Sorry Darrin!

Next we are supposed to journal about God's gift to us - as we are undeserving of the grace and mercy He has bestowed upon us. Ok. I can do that. I definitely don't deserve the love He has for me. And I'm definitely not good at forgiving others the way God forgives me. Take this morning for example: my wayward brother is on a tear. He is being hateful and ugly - literally out of the blue. I should be used to this. He's been like this for years. He's always trying to hurt someone. But I gave in and reacted. It felt SO GOOD for about 15 minutes. Then I realized that I'd done exactly what he wanted. I fought back - and didn't turn the other cheek. I've harderened my heart to him - and I have an unrelenting desire to not forgive him for anything every again.  Yet I claim to understand God's free gift to me? Ugh.  Gotta work on that.

The 3rd assignment is God's promise to rewrite our story. By allowing God into our lives, He can rewrite anything. None of the baggage of our past has to be carried forward. His mercies are new every morning. Wouldn't that be so awesome if we could do that too? Stop carrying the burden of our pasts around? Having people remind us of all the things we have/haven't done? Wow. Again - that brother I don't want to forgive....he is stuck in the past. He wants to remind us all of everything he can possibly think of to try to bring us down because that's where he lives: in all the bad choices he's made.  I, for one, don't want to do that. I want to wake every day knowing that God's grace is covering me - and that I am to extend that grace to others. I want my story re-written. I want to be the person God created me to be and not the person the world seems to think I am or should be.

And this week's lesson/assignment will be to write about our Genesis. What is our starting point? What does God want to lighten for me? That's my quest this week.........gotta find my Genesis. Let me know if you run across it because I'm feeling uninspired right now.

I'm still too busy trying to find a way to forgive my brother. *grumble grumble*

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Stepmother in Time...

Today is my stepmother's birthday. And in honor of her, let's first look back at the most famous of stepmothers...and do a little compare/contrast with mine.  (If she sees this, she will kill me. Please notify the authorities if I mysteriously disappear.)

Cinderella's Stepmother:  In case you want to read the original text on this..

To compare:  My stepmother, Keren, definitely appreciates cleanliness. We have an ongoing argument about whether or not she vacuumed every single day when we were kids. I vote yes. She votes no. Either way - she maintains a spotless home. She also has 2 daughters - as does Cinderella's.  And she is, in fact, my father's 2nd wife. That's where the similarities end.

To contrast: Keren NEVER made me clean. Keep stuff put away - yes. Scrub floors, etc. Nope. She also never treated me with anything put kindness and love. In fact, she's always been a lot of fun. Even when I probably wasn't all that much fun to be around, she has loved me.

We wear the same size shoe - so I guess if a prince charming showed up with a glass slipper, she could just as easily put it on her foot. But I bet she'd have pointed him directly to me after grilling him about whether or not he was good enough for me!

She also never made me sleep in the attic. In fact, I am/was always lucky enough to sleep in the fancy guest room. And she always makes sure I have everything I need.

What makes a great stepmother..........

Keren and my daddy have been married since I was 7 years old. And while divorce is never an ideal situation, I can safely say that my parents did a great job! They have always been respectful and kind in every word and deed regarding each other. I am very thankful for that!

I am also very thankful for Keren. She's been a GREAT stepmother...and a fantastic GiGi for my children. I can't remember much about my life before she came along - and I certainly can't imagine what it would be without her now. Because she is the same age as my favorite aunt in the whole world, she always sort of seemed like that to me. An authority figure - but not really a parent. Her role has always been sounding board and secret keeper. (I bet my sisters would say the same thing about her - although I'm sure she was much sterner with them than me.)

Just another adventure!
Summer vacations at my dad's house were always magical because they were out of the ordinary. And I loved that Keren always let me do things in the kitchen when I was there. (Probably because she was chasing 3 other kids around..)  We still giggle about me getting to make the Tuna Helper for lunch. I thought that was the greatest thing EVER. She also let me help make Daddy's birthday cake one year. It was such a big deal to be treated like the "big girl" when I was with her.

And then there was my all-time favorite car. She drove a blue Volkswagon beetle when we were little. It was the coolest car! (Her memory of it is quite different.) I remember a bird hitting the windshield once - and her telling me that blue cars get hit by birds more than cars of other colors. And I remember looking in the back seat and seeing Damon and Kerensa..with Jessy between them in her carrier. (At least I think Jessy was there!)  I wanted her to save that car for me till I was 16. She still swears she did me a favor by not honoring that request.

Another thing I love about Keren is hearing her play the piano. She swears she's not that good - but when she sits down and starts playing old hymns, all is right with the world. We used to sing with her when we were little. Now she and Gracey sit together and play when we are at their house. It's so sweet - and so "home" to me.

She is as nostalgic as I am about geneology - and we always have fun digging for more family history. And she's definitely my daddy's best friend. Her tolerance of all things "Godwin" is without a doubt a jewel in her crown. (Bless her heart - she's put up with ALL OF US for so long...I'm surprised she's still sane.)
Keren and my niece Cordelia

I guess what I'm saying is that if ever there was a perfect stepmother in the world - I got her. She puts up with my need to plan. She's always game to run around and do whatever we want to do when we visit. And she's the best "game player" ever. If you want to play a game, just ask her. She's always ready! (My girls LOVE this about their GiGi.) I couldn't have asked for a better "other mother" - and I'm so thankful God gave her to me!

So........HAPPY BIRTHDAY KEREN! We love you!

PS. I was serious about my disappearance. Not only does she hate pictures of herself - she hates it when we call attention to her.....and retaliation is highly possible! ;)

Friday, August 6, 2010

How Deep is Your Love?

"I hold it true, whatever befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; 'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
~ Lord Alfred Tennyson (Birthday - August 6, 1809)

I remember this oh-so-seventies wall hanging (think orange, avocado green, brown..) in our kitchen when I was a kid that said, "If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it is yours. If it doesn't, it was never meant to be."  I remember it so vividly. Maybe it's because I read it everytime I was standing at the cupboard choosing a snack. Or maybe it's because I found it so sad.
But I really like Tennyson's take a lot better. He doesn't worry about getting it back. He knows it's all about the love. If it's lost, it's lost. But at least you had it. Right??

There's never been a moment that I regretted loving someone. Even when I've been crushed by rejection, taken for granted or just plain wounded. Anyway, I am choosing to focus on the love. So here's a tribute to some of those I love:

This past weekend I was blessed to spend time with some of the first people I ever loved. Many of you have heard me say how good it is for my soul to be with my high school classmates. And I understand that many people don't look back at high school with nostalgia and happy thoughts. But most of my classmates were in my preschool classes at First Baptist Church Kindergarten, so I really have known them my whole life! Through the good, the bad and pubescent.....we have come to an understanding that we didn't always like each other, but we definitely love each other!

On a very base level, these are the people who know me. They don't know all the details of my adult life. They may not even know the details of my childhood because they were experiencing their own at the same time. But they just "know" me - and love me anyway. The same is true for me. I love them. I love that when we get together, we are so different - and yet we are just the same. We fall back into our same roles we had when we were 16. I'm still the planner. Robby is still the provider. Colin and Brent are still the comedians. Mandy is still the do-er. Amy is still the....oh wait. I can't blog about her. She won't let me. hahaha

When I see them, it brings back so many memories. A couple examples:

Exhibit A: Learning to drive a stick shift on a Saturday night. In a giant pickup, with some of the sweetest guys I knew and my BFF Cathy. And they are STILL some of the sweetest guys I know. (Even if they were probably just letting us drive their truck because Cathy was drop dead gorgeous and they all wanted to get closer to her. haha)

Exhibit B: Freezing at a homecoming football game (with no date) because I wore a skirt. (Lesson to live by:  look cute even when dateless.) That particular game, one of my guy friends gave me his socks to wear and I continued to wear those socks all through college! Ha! (That was Steven - one of my TOP FIVE. Brent? Did you ever give me your socks? lol)

Exhibit C: Cathy, Jason and I watching scary movies at his house. One pillow, one blanket....and Jason sandwiched between two silly high schoool girls hiding their faces every time something was about to happen. Not to mention all those lunch periods when we made him carry our purses into McDonalds while we ran ahead to talk to some other friends. True love.

Moving forward.....

I love my husband with the undying love I never thought possible. None of the guys I ever dated before him could have possibly lived up to the love he has shown me. If you know him, you know that he's not only the nicest human being alive - but he's also hopelessly devoted to me. (Hey Randi - that was just for you...earworm....Grease...) I don't deserve him. And yet, here I am. Blogging about how much I love him!

There's no one I trust more or value more. The mere thought of not having him near me is almost more than I can take. I know I seem like a strong person, and I can almost hear the snickering that I wear the pants in the family. But until you've seen me without Kerry, you have no idea how much I rely on him. He quietly disagrees about something - and I immediately concede. He is the love of my life. I have loved before. But never have I been loved this way before. Even in our darkest moods, we wouldn't want to live without each other. And if it all fell apart tomorrow, I wouldn't regret a single moment.

Then there were three.....

How do you even put into words the love you feel for your children? Is it possible? When I think of my kids, I am overcome with emotion. No matter where life takes them or what they tell their therapists later in life, I will love them with every fiber of my being. And I will spend the rest of my life making sure they know that.

I remember the moment I felt Gracey move inside me. And the second I touched her sweet face. It was the most amazing and scary feeling. She was really OURS. We would be taking her home and caring for her.  When I look at her, I just see that sweet little face and fall in love all over again. Her kindness always astounds me. She's got so much of her father in her spirit. When she loves, it is with everything she's got. No holds barred. She just loves.

I'll never forget the morning I gave birth to Sadie and then saw her and her sister together for the first time. I felt so teary and so fulfilled as a mother. We had two precious girls who would have each other forever. Even when she didn't sleep all night until she was 3 years old, and she began to wreak havoc on her sister at every turn, we couldn't help but laugh. Who couldn't love that face that is basically her father's Mini Me? She's such a Godwin. Full of wit and emotion - and every bit the jokester. She feels everything to the nth degree - and she is loyal to a fault.

And I cherish the sweetest voice saying "I'd like that very much" when Billy agreed to be adopted. I knew at that moment that our family was truly complete. The missing piece had been placed in the puzzle of our lives. Just a simple glance across the room - and that twinkle in his eye. I fall in love with my son all over again everytime we share some silly moment that no one else sees. There's a protectiveness that comes over me when I think of him because I know I wasn't there to protect and love him in the years that he needed me most. I can see that his initial reaction is to hold back and size up the person in front of him. He doesn't love as naturally or as quickly as his sisters because his experiences were so different than theirs. But he loves deeply. It's all or nothing.

In some ways, I think that's the way to love. You either love or you don't....and even if you lose it, you are better for it.

And that leads me to the real question:  How deep is YOUR love? Have you stopped today and thought about the people you love or have loved?  It's worth the journey....

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Steak and Potatoes Anyone?

So here we go. I'll probably have 5 followers - and only 2 of them will actually read anything I write - but I'm blogging. If Randi ever thought I didn't love her, this is proof I do! :) And Cathy swears I make a PBJ sound like steak and potatoes, so we'll see if she's right. lol

I think the idea of blogging has always sort of scared me. I mean - we all know I like to talk, but what if I run out of things to say?? What subjects are off limits? What subjects will inspire? Ugh. Who knows?!? 

Jumping right in.......

Foremost on my mind right now are 2 things: one of my best friends' battle with colon cancer and my son's upcoming visit before he deploys. Clearly one is sad, the other happy - and both nervewracking!

It's such a sobering moment when you get a phone call from a friend - who is your same age - about something so serious as cancer. After the initial shock wears off, and you've cried all the tears you think you could possilbe cry, it becomes a survival exercise. Using my favorite coping behavior, I have begun thinking of how many ways I can show him that I love him. Yes, there's a list. Yes, there's creative approaches. Yes, I've already started.

But at the end of each day, I find myself on my knees praying like I've never prayed before. (Heck I'm praying all day every day - but at night my undivided attention is on it.) If ever we needed a miracle, it's now.  And I KNOW God grants miracles. I've experienced them and witnessed them. So, if there are any extra prayers out there, I'd like to request they be used on one fabulous 40 year old who has an appointment at a nursing home with his best friend about 40 years from now. I'm pretty precocious, but I can't wreak havoc alone at that age. I'm gonna need backup. (Or maybe I'm gonna need him to get my butt outta trouble for that havoc? haha)

And I guess now would be the time to apologize to all my friends who are going to be badgered about getting colonoscopies. I think I'll make a spreadsheet so I can keep track of who is getting checked and when. I'll even make the appointments if I have to...and hold anyone's hand that needs it. (Gives a whole new meaning to "showing your butt", doesn't it?)

Moving on......

Billy comes home next month for an almost two-week visit. This will be the first "long" visit since the adoption was final, and we are all looking forward to having him home. I tease him that I need time to get irritated with him. But the thought of having him home and getting used to it then him leaving almost makes me hyperventilate. He'll deploy for 7 months following this visit. It'll be the neatest experience for him - and the most nerve-wracking experience for his mother!! Wahh!! I can't imagine not getting to hug my child for that long!! (However, I'm fully expecting to have a lot of new Christmas ornaments from his travels. It's his "Mother Mission"...haha)

The girls are so excited to have their big brother home. Kerry is so excited to have his son home to add a little testosterone to this household of females! And I'm just excited to have all my chickens back under one roof where I can take care of them. (I already feel sorry for Kerry when the girls are gone. I'll be a basket case.) I think Billy is probably most excited to see all of his Amarillo friends. He may be glad to leave after we smother him to death for 2 weeks!

Why do I feel like this is one long Christmas letter? I'm starting to think, "Oh, should I talk about registering the girls for school? What about the dogs? Do I update about the dogs? Does everyone want to hear about our family vacations last year?"  haha!

On that note....I'm out. And as Misty would say, "Peace!"