Always Daddy’s Girl

My dad and I visited over a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop this morning.  I can’t even remember the last time we’ve done that, if ever.  That’s if you don’t count the times he used to fix me coffee in my sippy cup when I was little…3 parts milk, 2 parts sugar, and 1 part decaf coffee. It was a magical mixture that made me feel like quite the big girl.  I think to some degree, I’ve always been a ‘Daddy’s Girl’, but I never wanted to admit it.

My dad took dance lessons at Arthur Murray dance school, so my favorite memories with him are when he would put me on his feet and dance with me.  That was always the one thing we always did together – dancing. Even if it was just for a few minutes in our living room, or on the dance floor at a square dance, at a party, or wherever there was music…we would dance together.  When I got older, and too big for my britches at times, I didn’t think I needed him anymore.  I suppose we all do that at some point when growing up.  Because he and I are also very much alike, we would butt heads more often than we got along. Thus, entered the years of friction between us.  For the most part, we did okay.  But there were moments I didn’t think we would overcome our differences.  I can be a bit stubborn you see…as can he. I learned from the best.  

The last 25+ years I haven’t been around much.  My family took me to many different places, most of them far from home.  We visited as often as we could, but it’s hard to do sometimes when raising a family.  Now, at almost 74 years of age, his health isn’t what it used to be and I know my time with him (and my Mom and Grandma) is precious.  I’ve wanted to be closer to home for a long time, but it just wasn’t possible until now.  Recently, my life changed directions and I made the decision to try and move back home – hitting ‘restart’ on the virtual button of life.  Thanks to a wonderful job opportunity I didn’t expect, I was able to make the move a reality even sooner than I had planned.  I’ve been home a couple of weeks now, and although it’s been a hard transition in many ways, I know this is where God wants me…for many reasons.  I feel whole here, and my heart is at peace.

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Grace Found On the Broken Road

Today starts a new chapter in my life, and the life of my family.  I won’t share the details, but suffice it to say that the changes taking place will forever change the course of my path, and theirs.  God already has a plan for each of us in all of this, I know it.  It may not be the original ‘Plan A’, but I’m confident that God will continue to bless my family in new and different ways because of His love, mercy and grace for each of us.

I wonder at times if these changes will open the doors for new opportunities and even allow us to see life from a new perspective.  I hope so.  Perspective is such hard thing to have at times when we focus in on the one part of life that hurts, or the one thing that makes us angry or sad.  It’s difficult to retract our view and behold the situation in its entirety.  Once we can do that, whenever that time comes, I believe that’s the moment we will understand the ‘why’ and ‘how’, and begin to open our minds to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, this was the road we were MEANT to travel.  That all the challenges, road blocks, detours, pot holes, forks in the road, downed power lines and trees, the roads less traveled, even the moments of smooth roads, will have led us to right now.

From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been moved by music – their words, the notes, the beat…all of it speaks to me at a level I can’t even explain.  Being a singer and piano player since I was six explains most of that connection, but it runs deeper than that.  So, to accompany today’s blog, I have selected a song.  It’s one by Rascal Flatts…(love them!), ‘Bless the Broken Road’.  The words describe how God blesses even the most broken of roads and that they can lead us to new places with new meaning – places where we can start over and learn from our past travels.  They may even lead us to a beautiful future we never expected or thought we deserved!  Despite what we tend to believe of ourselves, how our mistakes define us and because of them we don’t deserve a good life, THEY DON’T.  In God’s eyes…WE ARE WORTH MORE!  God wants the best for us…imperfect, washed up, dirty, scarred and broken.  In my humanness though, I have limits and sometimes those limits define me and what I’m capable of doing.  Thankfully, God is LIMITLESS and nothing can separate us/me from His love! I believe He truly wants to bless our broken roads.   

I forget that too often, and today on my run…I was reminded of my brokenness.  I am like the uneven, broken, beat-up sidewalk my feet pound against, one foot after the other.  I need that road to get to where I am going…broken or not.  And to be honest, the crockyroadondition of the road when its smooth and perfect, is far less exciting to run on.  It is easier, don’t get me wrong, and I’m longing for some smooth roads ahead, but they are also uninteresting and plain.  I’ve never been a fan of plain anything – especially plain vanilla ice cream.  NOT a fan.  I do however, love me some ROCKY ROAD!  Chocolate, nuts, marshmallows…YUMMY!  Yep…totally taking a blogging break right now to go get me some.  Woohoo!  

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Moments that Take Your Breath!

I was in a coffee shop this morning and saw a coffee mug that reflected the quote below; how life should be measured in moments that take yothe-moments-that-take-your-breath-away-5ur breath away.  No truer statement have I read in a long time.  Life should be about little moments that captivate us, and even take us by surprise!  We start a day thinking it will turn out a certain way, but depending on what happens during the day…isn’t it fun when it doesn’t go according to plan?  I know some friends who say they are creatures of habit – they have a specific routine and stick to it daily I’m sure.  I am not that way.  I live most days flying by the seat of my pants – as is the nature of my job, and my life as a mom.  On some level I envy them that routine, the consistency and order it must bring, but I wouldn’t trade it for being surprised by life!  Never!

I’m on vacation this week with my two youngest kids – visiting my parents and family, friends from school, etc.  It’s been a relaxing week so far, already filled with many surprises and unexpected happy moments like katydids, fireflies and thunder and lightening.  My best friend from Missouri drove down to visit me too, and we got some much needed girl time in, catching up on one another’s lives.  I cherish those moments with her, as I know I’m lucky to still have her in my life and on this earth!

Another special moment occurred during my morning run today.  I plotted my course and was about to reach my turn-around-point, when instead, I decided to push on to the next driveway ahead.  Just before I reached the drive however, I saw a daddy and mommy deer, and three tiny little spotted fawn, jump from out of the field and then ran across the road in front of me.  It was a sight I hadn’t seen in quite some time – not an entire family at least.  It was so peaceful out there…just wide open blue sky, the road under my feet, me, God, and the deer.  That moment took my breath away!

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To The Place Where I Belong

Country roads…take me home, to the place where I belong.  West Virginia, mountain mama.  Country roads…take me home.

country roadMy dad taught me this old John Denver tune when I was a little girl.  We used to sing it together all the time.  He’d sing the first part, then I’d sing the second part, and we’d join in the end together – one of my most precious memories of my childhood.

I’ll be visiting my hometown in a few weeks – good ‘ole Southern Illinois.  Yep…it’s sultry, sticky, humid, and will probably be in the high 90’s most of the time we’re there.  Woohoo!  Bring it on!  My parents live in the country – not on a farm, but definitely a rural area and still on the same piece of land where I grew up.  It’s far from West Virginia,  but I like it.  Going home is always a nostalgic trip down memory lane for me – seeing old friends from school and family I haven’t seen in at least a year, sometimes multiple years.  Each time I return, it seems to be more of an emotional journey than before as I watch my parents enter their senior years now, struggling with various health issues.  They’ve also taken on the added responsibility of being full-time caregivers to my 89 year old grandmother that now lives with them.  I would joke and say it’s the ‘blind leading the blind’, but I shouldn’t…because my grandmother really IS blind and my mom isn’t far behind her.  That wouldn’t be right of me.  Hee Hee (but a little funny in sweet loving way, huh?)

I’m looking forward to my time with them though.  I miss them more now than I ever have before, and even though I know I’m where I belong right now, it’s still hard to be away.  So, on this visit, I’ll enjoy my time with family, helping where I can and making lots of time to sit by the pool at my brother’s house…enjoying a few glasses of vino and chatting with my amazing sister-in-law whom I adore.    I’ll get lots of hugs and kisses from my sweet little niece too – my favorite part!  Summers in my hometown are lazy and relaxing.  A time to reconnect with where I came from and help me focus on where I want to go.  It’s simply a time to relax and recharge…and hopefully I’ll get to see at least ONE gulleywasher or big thunderstorm!  (I SO miss the thunder…)

stormSpeaking of storms, I’ve just finished writing my second book entitled, Grace After the Storm, currently finishing up the first edit before it goes off to the publisher.  The character in this new book, Hannah, loses her parents and is forced to move back to her hometown and take care of her ailing grandmother.  Along the way, she encounters a few storms that will cause damage to her emotionally, and physically.  She’s forced to deal with a past love who broke her heart, but could also save her if she’ll let him.  Hannah learns that there is always a little grace after the storm, as long as you see it through.

I couldn’t wait to type the last word, and some days didn’t think I would ever finish.  I did though, and for that reason (and many others) I probably need this vacation more than any other.  I hope to spend a day driving around those country roads – remembering that it is still my home and always will be.  It’s the one place where I belong, even if I don’t belong anywhere else.  I look forward to family and friends, and surrounding myself with good food and fun with my kids.  And even though those country roads lead me back home, I can’t forget that they also brought me to the place where I belong now

Happy Summer!  Take a vacation, take a day off, take some time for YOU and your loved ones.  Whatever your summer looks like, I hope you enjoy it, and if you look back at where you came from, don’t look back too long.  It could trip you up, and then you might miss something wonderful waiting on the road ahead.

Until next time…grab a beverage, then go outside and sit on the porch during the next storm!  You never know what you might see.  🙂

The Calm Before the Storm

I grew up hearing this phrase all the time living in Southern Illinois.  I’ve stood in and seen more storms than I can count – mostly in my home town.  Some in the physical sense, some in the metaphorical sense, but both were exhilarating in their own way.  I still love thunder storms, and the lightening, but some days it was nice to just sit on my mom and dad’s porch and listen to a heavy rain beat on the roof as a gentle breeze blew through to cool things down.

I could always tell when a storm was on its way.  There was a distinct smell in the air, and a calm like no other.  Some say it’s an old sailors myth, but ‘the calm before the storm’ is actually a very real phenomstorm umbrellaenon.  It’s that point in time when you’re standing outside and everything around you suddenly stops, then shifts.  There is a change in the air.  The birds stop chirping, the wind dies down – leaving everything eerily quiet. The air is heavy, and even the leaves on the trees are as still as a thief in the night.  I’m far from a science geek, but I do know that storm clouds need warm, moist air as fuel.  The calm is created when those clouds suck that warm air upward, before releasing it back in the form of rain, a storm, snow, or something else.

In metaphorical terms, life can do the same thing.  It pulls us back and forces us to be calm and still.  Most of the time, this happens when you are trying to get something accomplished, or are on a deadline, and therefore under pressure or stressed about achieving these goals.  In life’s funny, yet astute way, it knows when we need a break, even when we don’t.

Maybe we should welcome the calm when it comes.  I think it’s there to prepare us for the storms yet to come.  The calm can equip us with the right amount of strength needed to face the oncoming challenges that life is inevitably going to throw our way.  If we’re not strong enough to handle these situations, we fall even faster and harder in the midst of them.

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The Art of Finding My Way

Since I last posted, several things have shifted in my life.  First, I’ll be staying in Washington now rather than moving back to the Midwest.  I still miss my family every day, but right now, this is home.  We have called Washington home for 8 years now, and I have more friends here than I ever thought possible.  My kids love their schools, and my husband has a great opportunity to return to school and get his teaching degree.  Everything pointed us toward staying here…in our home.

That decision to stay brought new choices and opportunities.  I was given an incredible opportunity to work in the non-profit sector, so I decided to take a leap of faith, and took a new job!  That has also caused writing delays, but SO worth it!  My former job was Marketing and PR, and with that came many opportunities to be involved in my community and learn about the wonderful nonprofit organizations we have.  As I continued to become invested in those nonprofits, planning events, sitting on committees, volunteering…my heart grew more and more passionate about giving and serving others.  I think it was always my destiny since the meaning of my name is ‘Helper of Mankind’, therefore it must be part of my DNA.   It’s also where my heart is!

Leaving behind dear friends and coworkers was hard, but it felt right from the very beginning, and the nice thing is I still get to see them often in this wonderful community of ours.  So, I am now a Development Manager for a local community college foundation, and in my first two weeks, I already love it!  It’s everything I wanted and more.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt more pride or dedication than when I’m involved in helping raise funds for worthy causes.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m finding my way and purpose in this life.  I’m giving my family the first fruits of my time when at all possible, fulfilling my passion to write – wrapping up my second novel ‘Grace After the Storm’, and now that my full-time job is giving back to others, that is covered too.  It can take time to find your way.  Sometimes it requires making choices that require sacrifice, and may not always look like what we wanted in the beginning, but in the end it starts to take shape.

Art

I imagine when a painter begins a new work of art, it starts off looking somewhat ugly and rough, a mere charcoal sketch of the image to come.  Once colors are added, each tiny brush stroke makes the images more clear and visible.  After a while, it starts to look familiar, recognizable even, but it’s still not done.  It’s up to the artist to determine its tone and meaning.  Adding dark paint can turn it to night – lighter paint into day.  Slowly, with each added layer, the image becomes more vibrant and the final picture is finally revealed.  A work of art can take hours, days, even weeks, but even after the image is finished, the passing of time can still change it’s appearance, making it even more beautiful than before.
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The Story Behind the Picture

My grandfather, my mother’s dad, died in a motorcycle accident when I was one year old.  I never got to know him which makes me sad, so I rely on stories and pictures to help me learn about him.  The stories paint him as a loving father, grandfather, a hard-working man, a man who would move heaven and earth to make his wife happy, could fix anything he touched, a man of strong faith in God, and much more.  I hold on to those stories and know, based on who shared them, that were true because they knew him in real life.  They were his wife, his kids, his brothers and sisters.  They all told the same stories about who he was, and I’m thankful that I have more than just pictures to tell me.  They shared stories that reflected my grandpa’s true self, as seen from the eyes of those that loved him.

The old saying is, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words‘.  I think that’s a true adage, however, what words are being said?  Most of the time we see photos of people wImage result for a picture is worth a thousand words imageho are smiling and happy.   It’s rare that we see pictures of crying adults, or pictures of people yelling and screaming at each other unless it’s tied to a traumatic story or disaster on the news – those are a much different type of picture.  No, I’m talking about the ‘fluffy’ photos.  Family snapshots and photos from ‘good times’ with friends at parties.  Yes, babies and kids cry may be crying, but the adults are always the picture of loveliness – smiling, happy, not a care in the world.  But if all I had were pictures of my grandfather, and no real stories, I would always wonder who he was, or what was behind the man in the picture.  He always looked content in photos, but in the 1930-40’s, there weren’t many things you could do to enhance a photo.  And back then, people didn’t even smile for photos, making it even harder to get a sense of who they were or what they were like.

image

Today, we live in the age of the ‘Selfie’ (and yes, I admit I have taken a few), trying to capture that moment in time with some sense of reality. We have digitally enhanced photos, Photoshop, and many other ways to change the original image.  What we see isn’t necessarily a real or true account of who they are in reality, and that makes it hard to figure out who people are in real life.  This weekend, I stumbled across a photo via the internet that wasn’t sent to me, but it sent me a very pointed message all the same.  The photo?  A beautiful couple – a husband and his wife.  They were smiling, and seemed happy and in love.  If I had to guess, I’d say they are probably beloved by many in their community and by their families and children.  The photo was a glimpse into their life at that moment in time.  The photo said, ‘We’re happy!’ It said, ‘We have the perfect life because we’re together and we’re smiling.’ It said, ‘We’re in love!’.  All great things, right?  Of course!  I’m glad I saw the picture – it was quite moving, and made me smile.  I was genuinely happy that they were together and had each other.  It also made me wonder what reality was behind the photo?  What was their story? Did they stop smiling the minute the camera was down?  Were they fighting seconds before it was taken?  Do they live as happy as they look?  Wouldn’t it be nice though if our photos were a true image of our reality?  That’s why we take them right?  We want to tell the world that everything is okay even when the people in the picture, in not all but some cases, are hurting, sad, longing for more, or simply dissatisfied with the person they’ve become.

I have many photos of my family, my wedding, my kids being born, high school and college moments, my friends and my life since birth.  I love to pull them out and reminisce about the day it was taken – what was going on before and after the photo…the real stories.  Those stories, whether funny, sad, heartwarming, dramatic, or uplifting, are the most meaningful.  Not the picture.  The pictures generate emotions, and those emotions bring back memories.  After we lose someone we love, or we’re forced to say goodbye to someone we love for whatever reason, photos of that person can bring us both joy and pain.  It brings us closer to that person again as we remember moments of time being with that person, and then we remember the stories behind the pictures – stories that remind us who they were and what they meant to us.  Sometimes, they are our only connection to that person.

Next time you look at a photo of someone in your life, or was once part of your life – whether it breaks your heart, makes you smile, or gives you hope…remember that it’s just a picture.  It’s the untold story and the memory of that moment that tells us what we need to know and lives on in our hearts and minds forever.   Take your photos!  Have fun and smile for the camera!  I hope the images you are sharing with the world are a true picture of who you really are.  #storyinpictures #memories

Until next time…here is a #selfie from me to you.  🙂   Of course it’s about the coffee!