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Friday, February 12, 2016

We All Shine On

I missed someone tonight that I haven't thought of in years.  She was taken from our lives far too 18 years old...we were babies.   My friend Danielle was on my mind... I'm not sure why but I just wanted her to be a part of my adult life.  Having coffee talking about our husbands and our kids.  Smiling about the old days and so hopeful of our futures.  I wanted to laugh and sing Patsy Cline while our kids played.  I missed her sweet smile and her kind nature.  I missed her goofy laugh and silly jokes.  I hadn't thought about Danielle in such a long time.  Maybe death has been on my mind too much lately, perhaps she peaked down from heaven and touched my heart to help me understand the failing health of my mother in law.  Danielle was one in a million and her star shown too bright to last here on earth.  My mother in law, Elaine, is one in a million as well.  Both characters in different ways, but still made a huge impact on my life.  Danielle, almost as much in death as in life.  Both have this magnetic personality.  When they are happy, there's nothing like it.    Elaine is a happy loving sweet friendly person.   She loves people and loves being with them.  It was amazing to watch her work a crowd at the Atlanta Motor Speedway where she and my father in law ran security.  She knew everyone and everyone knew her and loved her.

We all get off our game sometimes and down on our luck but my mother in law, no... my mom never gives up.  She's been through hell...and she's still with us.  I don't know for how much longer but regardless, her light shines bright.  My sister in law sent me a video of her and she ended the video by saying "Happy happy happy"  Now I can't say this for sure, however I know some part of that was her wanting me to know she is okay and not to worry.  She's laying her bed unable to move her legs, knowing that at any minute she could leave this earth.  At the beginning when we were able to be with her in St. Louis, MO,  she told me she was scared.  I asked her if she'd like me to pray...she did... ..and I did it!  Out loud!  I know she's in a lot of pain, and the medication might take her ability to get her words out properly.  But sometimes, in between the babble, I hear Elaine loud and clear.  In those moments I know where her heart is.  It's happy.  There's an eery peace that comes with knowing your life is nearing the end.  I've never experienced it for my own self but I've seen it in the eyes of some I love so dearly.  I've been lucky enough to be with both of my grandmothers on their way to see Jesus.  They both had the same look about them that my mom has now.  I was blessed to spend time with them on the day of their death.  Even to be with one of my grandmothers, holding her hand as she went to be with the lord.  During these times, you don't know how you will react or what you will do, losing someone who has always been there for you.  Someone who's star burnt too bright to be held here on Earth any longer.  Elaine's star always burnt too bright for this Earth.  She had a way about her...and you didn't cross her.  If you are lucky enough to be one of hers, she will fight to the end for you and then kick your ass when you got there.  She is a force to be reckoned with...still.

I remember, at a bonfire we had by the lake, when my hubby and I were showing his parents my family's cottage in Northern Michigan.  Dennis...being well.. Dennis... told his very Italian mother that I had made spaghetti and meat sauce with turkey meat.  Elaine practically jumped the fire pit to berate me for using turkey.  "No upstanding Sicilian would use turkey in their meat sauce!!  What are you doing to my boy!??"  She barked at me.  As I look to Dennis in fear, hoping he'll stand up for me, I see him and his father practically falling out of their chairs in laughter at this tiny 4'11" spitfire her son had provoked.  I barely could squeak out that I was trying to be healthy, my own parents sat stone faced at the faux-pas I had made.  They knew she meant business.  She sat back down in her chair, while uneasiness hung thick like the smoke from the campfire.  Her face softened and she looked at me with the same look she gave me right before we left her for the last time I was her own.  Then she looked at the two jokers making fools of themselves howling on the other side of the fire.
She laughed and took a big draw off her smoke. "Hell, you wanted to eat healthy, should have started that way before now... look how much weight my Dennis has put on?!"
Instantly the tension left the air and the focus went off of me and back on my husband where it was rightfully deserved.  Moments like that perhaps, few and far between, made me know I was hers.  I might be her daughter in law, but when we were together, she never treated me like anything but hers. I always felt like her daughter and never like her daughter in law.

I wasn't alone in that feeling, everyone who was on her good side was like family.  She protects us all the same, like a bear who's been backed into a corner.  But she'd step away in heart beat and let the wolves take you down if you piss her off.  Wording is very important when talking to Elaine, sometimes you never know what would set her off...made it part of the fun!  She was like an attack dog on your leash, say one wrong word and you can't control her, just had to let her go and watch with partial terror and partial hilarity for her next move.

We are blessed with amazing people in our lives and sometimes, if you don't pay attention, you miss all the good stuff.  You just take all the bad and push it in front of the light at the end of the tunnel so all you see is blackness and uncertainty.  I can tell you that Elaine, my mother in law, has a unique, bright beautiful light that could so easily be taken for granted.  There's no one like her, she's one in a million and her light is too brilliant for this Earth.  Soon Jesus will take his child up to heaven and we'll only have beautiful and heart breaking memories of her.  So now after all this reflection, I understand why Danielle came to mind.  A life cut tragically too short and one well lived.  Both with so much more to give but their bodies here on earth have had enough.  I'll always think of Danielle before anyone else when I hear Patsy Cline.  I'll always think of Elaine, my mother in law who took me in as one of her own...well...I'll think of her every day.  At Christmastime(it was her favorite), when I watch a football game(she loved her Packers and her Patriots), when I hear a thick Bostonian accent(no one had a better accent than her), and especially when i'm making turkey sauce for dinner.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Letting Go

God has been asking me a few times this summer to let go.  It’s all in His hands, and I need to trust in Him.  Tomorrow is another one of those tests as I send my baby girl to kindergarten.  I know she’s ready.  I know she’s smart, kind and a good friend.  She will flourish.  She’s excited and ready to ride the school bus like a big girl.  Yet her mother is the one struggling with this new adventure.

Those with children can relate to that moment when they go off to school for the first time.  It’s a big moment.  You are entrusting their young mind and body to others who you may or may not know that well. You have faith that their intentions are to take good care of your child, get them to school, help them learn, eat, develop relationships and then get home to you safely every day of the week. 

To me that requires the hand of God.  Not because I don’t have the faith in the school or the bus drivers -  because I do.  I pray for all our teachers, our education staff and the transportation staff.  That they may find their faith and trust in God and love our children as much as possible.  I say it this way, as I can’t imagine anyone could love Grace as much as I do.  I pray for the peace that passes all understanding for all of the parents, as we let go tomorrow and send our babies to a new world.  May they learn wonderful, exciting new things.  May their heartbreaks be minimal, but lessons learned be strong and long-lived.

Our summer has been full of heartbreak, anticipation, and disappointment.  As resilient as children are…I am not.  May this new season of our lives open new excitement and less anxiety.  May I never reflect my nerves or worry on to Grace’s young open heart.

Letting go this year has meant so many different things, when I first thought of writing this piece.  It meant letting go of my Grandmother, the thought of losing a dear friend and the idea that my sister–in-law, recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, might be forever changed.  It meant the possibility of letting go of a dream promotion.  And it meant letting go of my baby as she became a big girl riding a school bus to a giant new world.

Now I see letting go as opportunity.  Letting go of what life is behind and pressing on to the good things that God has in front of us. That’s what He wants us to see, right?  These are exciting days!  She’s going to make new friends she may have for life!  Learn new things she will teach me!  It’s going to be wonderful to hear all about her days every night.  I can’t wait to let go of her hand tomorrow so I can give her a big hug at the end of the day and hear all about it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Blessed are the Peacemakers

My daughter Grace is a character, she’s sweet, thoughtful, sassy and smart.  She loves to run, dance and use her vivid imagination.  She teaches me so much all the time and God uses her to resolve conflict, strife and bring a smile to my face all day long.  I’m smiling right now!  Her influence is powerful.  When she was little she would tell us that Jesus was in her heart and God is in her belly.  That makes perfect sense to me now.  She innately loves the Lord without question.  God gave her an old soul and I know He has big plans for her.  It is our job, Dennis and I, as her parents to give her the proper upbringing to see those big plans through.  I pray that we do a good job raising her right, but I rely heavily on my faith and the Lord to see that through.  So far I think we’re doing pretty okay!  She is kind to everyone she meets and has an unstoppable energy.  She’s also a superhero nut.  She loves all things superheroes, even claiming that right now her boyfriend is Robin, but Batman keeps cancelling their wedding.  She is a character!  Dennis is just glad that her boyfriend is imaginary!

When the subject of bullying came up I wasn’t surprised that my daughter would be an advocate for anyone, especially her friends.  One day she told me, out of the blue, that if anyone said anything mean to her friends, she would look them square in the eye and defend them so hard their hair would fly back letting her powerful words command it.  She would tell them in her bold, determined, yet somehow still tenderhearted voice, “These are my friends and you don’t get to pick on them!  We are always kind to our friends!” 

Can’t you just see it?  Grace leaned in… looking someone dead in the eye and watching their hair fly back as she speaks God’s truth straight from her tiny mouth.  Something right from a superhero cartoon, right? That’s my girl!  I’m not advocating violence or challenging a bully, but I am proud that my daughter would give a voice to someone who may need a hand.  We all should do more of this.  Pay more attention to our friends and the needs of others then boldly take a step of faith and respond.  I believe peace can be boldly executed.  Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Count your Blessings

Sometimes life gets so busy that we forget to be thankful.  It constantly amazes me that I can go through my day and not realize how much I am blessed.  From my morning time with God to the evening snuggles with my little girl before bed, I can just plug through my day and not notice how special and lucky I am. 

Last night I couldn't wait for my busy bodied ball of energy to go to bed so I could relax.  Game after game and silly song after silly song I pushed on through them all.  In the back of my mind I was thinking, please Lord, let her be sleepy.  Finally a half hour after her normal bedtime, she was curled up in my lap watching Superheroes.  That's when it hit me.  My sweet girl is so much more than a wild streak to be followed and taught lessons to; she can teach me sometimes, to cut loose and be silly.  I shouldn't rush those few moments we get before bed, I should be enjoying them...not counting down the clock. 

She was curled up in my lap entangled in her daddy's arm all at the same time.  For those few minutes I had my family all snuggled up next to me, when I remembered that this time will not last forever.  Soon she will not want to snuggle or maybe even be in the same room with me.  How quickly silly songs turn into homework filled nights and time with her friends.  I need to savor these days, when my parents are close and my daughter is young.  This time will not last forever and I don't want to miss any of it.

Every moment we live is an opportunity to be grateful.  We are put on this earth with a purpose and if we aren't living up to that purpose than what are we living for?  Whatever it is you are doing in your life, I urge you to find a way to enjoy it.  If there isn't a way to feel blessed about your position in life, then I kindly suggest that you make changes.  There is too much good still out in this world and too much that God needs us to do for us to spend our days unhappy. 

Many speak of the negativity in the world, few change it.  May we all be ones who see fit to change the world we live in to make it a better place.  Enjoy your work, give more freely, love more openly, rejoice in all of God's blessings.  We are only here for a short time, why not make the most of it?

As for me, I will be signing off, there's a little girl that needs me to play with her. :-)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Adventures To Be Had

Some of you may know that I’m working on a children’s book series, Ella Jean the Jelly Bean Queen.  In this series, the main character is a young adventurer who finds herself tempted, caught in various mishaps and trials in this crazy little world she found through a doorway just down the hall from her laundry room.  She has a thing for jelly beans and her own unique sense of style.  I’ll share more about our friend later.  But it occurred to me that I used to be like Ella Jean, dreaming up different story lines and predicaments.  I would find myself entrapped in storylines and difficult situations where I had to either get myself out of or heaven forbid…be rescued by a handsome prince or two.  My youth revolved around imaginary situations and dreams of who I would be or what I would do.  I can tell you that I spent a good part of my childhood dreaming of being an astronaut. True story.  I remember dreaming and even filling out applications to Space Camp.  The idea of going through the training that a real astronaut went through sounded thrilling and terrifying all at the same time.  The stars and space were always something that intrigued me…maybe it was the unknown, the idea of unexplored territory.  Maybe it was the adventure.  Something about adventure has always excited me.  I would lie in the grass looking up at the sky plotting my next escapade.  The closet was my rocket ship filled with blankets and books.  I would spend hours in the backyard and the woods behind my house pretending all kinds of different escapades.  As I sit here writing this I’m grinning ear to ear remembering running across the open field and diving into the woods and hiding behind the big rock quickly so no one would see me.  Climbing in the old apple tree and swinging across the laundry line as if hot lava were below.  My smile grows wider as I recall my daughter just last week was using the couch cushions to jump over the hot lava and get to the other side of the ravine.  It amazes me how 30 some years later the same great adventures never change.  We complain about technology and how the world has changed, yet the simple things are still there.  The mind of a child deep at its core is still the same.  The adventures might change slightly but dreams are still an adventure.  Life should still be an adventure.  That’s what Ella Jean is all about to me.  In a sense I am Ella Jean and so is Grace, my five year old daughter.  The beauty of it is that so is my girlfriend’s six year old son, Anderson.  So is another girlfriend’s twelve year old daughter, Anna.  They are all Ella Jean.  In some ways we all hold that adventurous spirit deep within.  We have dreams that make us smile; things that make us want to keep pushing towards another day.  Goals that make us get out of bed in the morning.  When you read Ella Jean the Jelly Bean Queen, and you will (the author says smiling) you will feel parts of yourself light up like a child and you will also remember truths that you told yourself to remember, and morals you promised yourself, perhaps your loved ones and God you’d live by.  I hope it brings you closer to the truths you want to remember about yourself.  I hope it helps children of every age and background find who they want to be and what adventures they want to have.  So they can read the book or have it read to them and then set it down and have their own adventures.  My prayer is that we all remember that there are adventures still to be had and hot lava to be jumped, we just need to find it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nothing is Ever Good Enough for Me - I am Never Satisfied

I came to the realization, yet again, that I am never satisfied with anything.  This is not a new revelation, we’ve talked about it before; it stops me from making many major decisions in my life to the point where I can be crippled.  I live with things that would be unacceptable to many others for way too long simply because I fear that there could be something better.  For example: I have a dream of the perfect purse, it is most likely a couple thousand dollar Prada or a Louis bag, not something in the budget for me.  I understand that, I have fully accepted it.  So instead of purchasing a beautiful purse in my price range or saving my shekels for a more luxurious option, I carry around an old purse that my mother discarded years ago. 

My daughter slept in her toddler bed way past her toddler years (she’s five now) because I could not commit to bedroom furniture.  Not that we couldn’t afford it, but more that I couldn’t choose.  What if I chose the wrong set?  What if something better lurked at the next store?  What if I bought a set and then found the perfect set online the very next day?  I am never satisfied with anything.

It’s not just things…stuff…my expectations are set way too high on everything else as well.  My poor husband can barely take the trash out right.  For the most part I do my best to  not nag, but those of you who know me, know that whatever is in my head usually comes straight out of my mouth…immediately after it’s…in…my…head.  That blog post will be another day and much longer.  Foot–in-mouth syndrome is a big problem over here.

The point of this blog post is not necessarily to make me sound like the most awful nagging wife with a horrible greed problem, but it is to point out that happiness is not found in perfection.  Maybe that’s what I have to remember: finding true happiness is about not caring whether everything is exactly the way I plan or imagine or dream.  It is okay if I don’t live like a Norman Rockwell painting, no one really does. 

Even when the devil is in the back of my head telling me that everyone has it all together except for me.  Happiness, real happiness is found when you love who you are and who you are with and it doesn’t matter what kind of purse you have.  Think about it, when you are truly happy with your family and friends are you really thinking about your stuff?  Even I’m not.  I’m thinking about my family and how happy they make me.  Well…I might still find happiness in a purse someday, if I can commit. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Most Important Moment in Your Life is Right Now

What if you sing beautifully?  What if you can craft a story that inspires millions?  What if you hold the keys to curing cancer?  You know there’s something different about you but maybe you feel like it’s just your imagination or wishful thinking.  You even know that God calls everyone for a purpose. Take a look at Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  God calls all of us…for a purpose…for prosperity, and not for harm.  He puts something on our hearts that matches up with our desires and our abilities.  He opens doors and windows whatever we need if it’s according to His purpose.

Look, sometimes it’s easier to sit on the couch in your PJs and watch Food Network re-runs; I know….I’ve been there.  The end of the day is so exhausting.  The kids…what would you do with the kids?  Getting up early?  Ugh, who wants to do that?!  Here’s the thing, your life will never feel fulfilled if you don’t do what God made you to do.  You will always feel like you are missing something.  You will always feel like something is off, that you aren’t in the right place or that you are living in the wrong life. 

This is why we all must recognize the most important moment in our life, is right now.  You have an opportunity, right now, to take this moment and change direction.  Every moment previously is behind you, it has already happened.  Now is the time to start fresh and dig into your passion.  Is it serving the homeless or singing to millions?  Whether you want to take care of lost pets or open your own bake shop.  God’s plan is still available for you whatever it is.  He never gives up on you therefore you shouldn’t give up on you either.  

The oldest person to run a marathon ran it at 101 years old.  The oldest person to graduate from college was 99 years old.   If there is something that you want to do in your life take a lesson from these folks, they didn’t give up or make any excuses.  I’m sure it wasn’t easy; I would even guess that it was much more difficult than they imagined and even thoughts of giving up ran through their minds.  We are wired to achieve things we might in the human mind deem impossible.  But to God all things are possible.  Nothing is impossible to Him.
So, if right now is the most important moment in your life and you have something on your mind you feel God wants you to do.  Ask yourself this, what if it does work out?