Have you ever been so tired that you didn't think you could put one foot in front of the other to walk? Have you ever worked so hard that every single muscle in your body ached? What about having carpet burn on your knees from crawling around on the floor? Well, if you haven't, one piece of advice: NEVER EVER allow it to happen! Naaw, I'm just kidding. Hard work is good for the soul, even if every burning muscle is screaming passionately for mercy.
I would say the last 18 months have been a doozy. When we finally found out that my mom was sick, she was in her last four months of life. Since her death, my dad has needed our care and attention and we have been more than happy to be there for him. After all, he is my daddy and I will be forever grateful for the life he gave me growing up. Now it is his turn to receive our care. But it seems when you very least expect it, an aging parent can become more like a little child than a parent and it is truly hard to see him decline when at one point in your life he was the strongest person you knew. But my dad still has a good mind and I am very thankful for that. It is always a treat to sit and talk with him about his day. Which mostly involves eating, watching TV, napping, and sitting outside on the porch. A conversation with him will always leave me smiling, if not laughing. He still has a good sense of humor at 89.
It's been a long drawn-out process for taking the needed action to make sure Daddy has everything he needs at this time in his life. Just like giving birth to your first child and facing all the uncertainties of taking them home from the hospital where they are lovingly cared for in the arms of professionals, it's very much the same when you begin to care for an elderly parent. Exactly HOW do I do this, now? Also like a surprise pregnancy, we are sometimes caught totally off guard when we are thrust from being the "cared for" to the "caregiver." It doesn't matter how many books you read, how much you psyche yourself up mentally for either time of life, or how much love is in your heart for that new baby or that aging parent, you are not prepared. I have found through experience that there is no 100-percent plan or preparation for either of these two life events. Every baby and every elderly person is different. So most people do what me and my siblings have done...we fly by the seat of our pants! One day at a time, one emotional decision at a time. Sweet Jesus.
Our first hurdle to jump was finding the proper place for my dad to live...somewhere he would be lovingly cared for and where they offered things to enrich his life. I am so thankful that we found such a place. My daddy's life is more active now, he gets his meds regularly and ON TIME and he has gained a few needed pounds. His color is even better, due I think to the fact that he has three healthy meals a day. Imagine that! He is able to take in the many social opportunities offered at his assisting living home and has daily, constant interaction with others. I would say he's doing pretty well and as well as any 89-year-old man can do, having lost the love of his life.
So since moving my dad to assisted living, we have begun the daunting task of sorting through, packing up, selling, and dispersing the many things my parents accumulated over their 66 years together. Do I keep this or sell it? I can't get rid of this because it was precious to mama so it's precious to me. I can't get rid of that; they had that for 50 years! Did Mama really keep my lock of hair from 58 years ago (eww...)? These are some of the hard decisions we've had to make since beginning this heart-tugging process. In recent weeks, we have been sorting, cleaning, painting, and just generally preparing the house for putting it on the market. It's been a task of love, endless days of fatigue (bodily, mentally, and emotionally), and finally now a time where we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I have been reminded through this process that teamwork is essential when getting through any life crisis. You call your family for help. You call your friends for moral support. You call in the doctor, the preacher, and other professionals if you have to. But somehow, some way, you get the job done. And even though I sometimes think I'd like to move to a deserted island, I've also been reminded that no one is an island and we need each other. You do what you have to do, because someone is depending on you.
So today I have a rare and cherished day to recoup, to re-focus, to renew. My mind is whirling with all we've accomplished and all left to accomplish, but I will keep my body still and mostly immobile if I am able. I want to encourage you who might be stumbling around with duties and responsibilities that seem insurmountable at times and threaten to surely throw you down a long, rocky hill head-first. You can get through it. In fact, you not only can get through it, but survive it in a way that you can use it to help others. Share the pain you've suffered. Give others needed hope for tomorrow. People can benefit from your hardships by seeing that it is possible to survive. You can be an inspiration in this world.
But now my right butt-cheek is crying for some heat and my lower back for an icepack. I will now go tend to them and also remind them to quit complaining because we're about to round a huge curve...but until then, suck it up and carry on!
Lately I've noticed how truly attached people are to their phones. At the risk of sounding like an old-timer, I will say this: I remember when no one had a cell phone! Way back then (in the good ol' days), you had a phone in your house and before that (which IS before my time), you might've even shared that line with another family or two. This was called a party line I believe. Coming up, at least I didn't have to suffer through conversations wondering if the neighbor was listening in, but I did have to compete with my siblings for air time, and my little brother was probably listening in on the other extension more times than he'll admit! When I finally did get my chance to talk, it was sometimes for the first time of the day to that person (usually a boyfriend) and I was anxious to hear what the caller had to say because I hadn't already talked to them 24 times in the 24 hours prior. If you were well off enough to have a "mobile" phone in your car in the sixties and seventies, it was about a foot long, extremely bulky, and had no semblance of the thin, sleek specimens we employ today. Now, when I say "employ," that's exactly what I mean.
Our cell phones work really hard for us every day. They are our secretaries because they can take dictation and send that correspondence to anyone anywhere in the world, and they can record appointments and remind us of those appointments a day or even a week or two in advance. They are our calendars as well. Any number of birthdays and anniversaries and special events you ever wanted to remember can be recorded for the year and the years to come and your phone will be most happy to remind you of those special dates as well. They are our cameras and photo albums capturing, editing, and organizing all those hundreds (or thousands) of photos we take. I have just tipped the iceberg on what my iphone can do for me and, thank you very much, but I'm not sure if I wanna know everything it is capable of. I am a technology misfit and simply prefer to use it for what I choose and nothing more. I still enjoy a little mystery in life and don't care to know what you are doing at every given moment of the day. And of course we can actually use them to talk (imagine that!) to family, friends, and acquaintances as well but, even better, we can see the other person if we have FaceTime or a similar app and so desire. I haven't used that app as much maybe as some folks because I personally am glad people can't see me when we're talking. Unless it's my grandchildren. It's better for them to see Nana looking like the walking dead than not see Nana at all. And, in spite of a pale face with no makeup, hair with major bedhead and roots that are long past the touch-up date, I have never had a grandchild wince at my appearance on FaceTime. Sweet little grandchildren, they're so forgiving. And thank God that our phones don't have smellavision. We would all be mortified if our essences (as in bad breath, lack of appropriate hygiene, and unsightly gases) were passed through the phone. Some things are just not meant to be shared.
But in recent weeks I've actually been taking note as to when people are on their cell phones and what they are doing at the time. The conclusion I've reached? They are on their phones ALL THE TIME as they do EVERYTHING. They might be surfing the web engaging in a little shopping while they wait for a prescription to be filled. They might be playing a game as their kids practice soccer. It's quite possible they may even be watching a movie. My hubby has said I'm never bored now that I have a smart phone, which is probably true. You guys know that patience is NOT one of my virtues, so having a cell phone to keep me company is definitely a way to be entertained while I'm waiting (which is usually on my husband!). But I've found even for me that it's really hard to put my phone down. If I have a minute or even a second, there I am checking my messages or emails or Instagram. I am truly as bad as the next person. There is power when you have a smart phone in your hand -- power to learn, power to get things done, power to be involved, power to be "in the know!" If I do put it in lock mode and slip it into my purse, I can hear it gently calling my name: You know you want me. You know you need me. You know you've got to have me! Isn't that an old song? I surely cannot criticize anyone because of my own addiction. I see people on their phones shopping in stores, working in stores (shame on you!), in cars driving, sitting on benches, climbing ladders, jogging, working out in the gym, and walking down the road. When I fly and the pilot gives the go-ahead to use cell phones after landing, people scramble to be the first to let loved ones know they've landed safely. Whatever happened to the mystery of "not knowing" and just seeing that loved one come around the bend safe and sound? There is no longer any mystery about anything because we know it all from our cell phones!
Have we ever -- even for once -- thought of the things we might be missing when we're on our phones? Like the fragrant and brilliantly-colored flowers we just passed on our walk or the precious little granny on her porch waving at us? Like the person trying to get our attention because they need to pull over in our lane? Like what happened at school that's burning in our child's heart to tell us? Like meeting a new friend or helping a stranger out? Like all the conversations we surely miss, big and small, important and not so important, simply because we are nursing our phones? That's right, you heard me. It's like tending a little baby at the breast...it cries for our attention and we willingly oblige. And that's exactly how we get so attached to them We equip them with all the necessary apps they need to totally addict us and we keep them at our side every single minute of every single day because it'd be hard, if not impossible, to live without them now.
Our cell phones...they complete us.
Recently I was at the eye doc with the hubs and I watched as nearly every single person in the front waiting room had a cell phone they were attending. Then as we moved to the back waiting room, ditto. But what really got me (and made me chuckle on the inside) was a lady who was in the dilating room. This is the room where, after they have given you drops to dilate your eyes, you wait for the meds to do their magic. If you've ever had your eyes dilated, you know it's hard to focus afterwards and certainly difficult to read. Well, it didn't stop this woman from using her cell phone -- in the dilating room probably blind as a bat, rocking the cell phone two inches from her face. No worries, I probably would've been doing the same thing because, well, it's really boring in the dilating room. And we all know that our cell phones from time to time embarrass us like a naughty child. Like the time I forgot to turn it off in Sunday worship and it rang playing Brown-Eyed Girl.
Oops, that blankety-blank cell phone. If it is so smart, doesn't it have the good sense to know not to talk in church?
Wow, it's been a whole week since I posted. Not because I haven't had an exciting week, but because my week has been super-crazy and jam-packed! This is the first moment I've had to sit down at my computer in close to seven days. The hubs and I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying our youngest to Greenville, SC (one of my fave "weekend getaway" cities) for the Indie Craft Parade this past weekend. As you know, our youngest daughter is a potter and she crafts some amazing things out of clay!
I was a bit of a nervous wreck on Wednesday knowing she was driving (alone) 800 miles (alone) from Houston to Atlanta. Did I mention that she was alone without a traveling companion? I know I probably got on her nerves calling her exactly every two hours to check on her progress and, like a good mother (or not), following her route on my computer screen as she made her way eastward. She called at around 9:00 p.m. and I surmised that she was about 45 minutes out. As an hour passed and she still hadn't arrived, I paced the floor like a woman who had just robbed a bank. But I was not gonna call her and bug her one more time! When the lights of her car came around the corner, I rushed out to greet her, uttering a prayer of thanks that she was home safe and sound. Actually, I might've been shouting those prayers! Exactly 13 hours after leaving Houston, she pulled her rental car to our curb loaded to the brim with carefully-packed containers of the goods she has meticulously created in the last several months preparing for this weekend show. When I opened the passenger's door to greet her, a couple of things fell out (oops!) and I peeked at her through the packed car to welcome her home. What I saw I couldn't believe. There was barely enough room for her in the car! How she drove 13 hours in that two-by-three-foot space, bars within inches of her face, without going mad is beyond me! But I have to remind myself she is my brave, extremely-motivated girl, and is exactly 31 years, 4 months, and 19 days younger than me. Yes, that does make a difference. Before pulling out on Friday to head north to Greenville, her bestie since college arrived to accompany us and we finished up some last-minute chores. A mom may work from sun to sun, but a potter's work is never done. But, alas, either from sheer exhaustion or because there's absolutely no time left to do one more thing, you come to that point where enough is enough and you're as ready as you're ever "gone be."
Abbie's show in Greenville was a breathtakingly-beautiful success! Her hard worked paid off and she returned to Houston on Monday with far fewer packed containers than when arriving on Wednesday. I am convinced if she'd had two more days, she would've sold every single, solitary gorgeous piece of her pottery (am I a proud mama or what?!). But more than just being proud of the awesome woman my daughter has become and her amazing talents as a artist, I was proud and extremely grateful for the small amounts of time spent together as just mother and daughter...a cup of coffee together on the sofa...a slightly emotional debate sitting on the front porch...a quick lunch across the booth from each other...snippets of time where I feel she shared and bared a bit of her soul for only me to see. I cherish those moments now more than ever because they are few and far between. She has gone from this tiny little girl who completely depended on her mom for everything to this fiercely-independent young woman who is tackling the world on her own. I like to think that I have a small part in her world still, even though it is not always easy to feel that way living so far apart. Thank God for Instagram and Facetime. These tools are amazing miracles of the modern world.
On the rare occasion I get to attend one of Abbie's events, I enjoy watching her interact with strangers and friends alike. She has a genuineness about her that I think appeals to a wide range of people and people enjoy meeting the artist who actually touched their purchases and shaped them with her own, glaze-stained hands. I have also come to realize that she is very selective about the pieces she offers to the public. Of course, as her mother, I think every piece she creates is stunning and perfect in every way. But if one of her pieces comes out with a defect such as a small crack or the tiniest imperfection, she refuses to offer it to her buyers. She, just like me when it comes to images, is very picky in what she considers her best work and tends to be as much of a pottery snob as I am an image snob. But to demand of yourself the very best you can be, snobbery in your craft is a necessary evil when it comes to quality. It's pretty easy to throw out an imperfect image but I can only imagine the agony of sending a piece of pottery that has taken hours to complete to the "no-sell" stack. Sometimes her mommie-dearest ends up with those pieces and that's all right by me. They're all flawless in my eyes.
I am always reminded of the correlation of the potter and her wheel to God and his creation. We are influenced and shaped by the hands that mold us and the brokenness that inevitably seems to find us in life. No life is without flaws and imperfections. Thankfully, we don't have to be perfect to be of use in God's eyes and for that I am truly grateful because I carry many physical and emotional scars that are the results of bad choices, mistakes, and hard experiences over the decades of my life. But those flaws and imperfections prove to be great trophies of lessons learned over the years and God is able and willing to use a cracked pot. It's in allowing God to use the broken pieces to make us better that our lives are pieced together for strength and durability for the years to come.
After all, God don't make no junk (and neither does Abbie).
For other selections and to make a purchase, go to www.abbiepreston.com
Some days should never be repeated, spoken of again, or even remembered anywhere at any time in the fullness of time. That was the kind of day I had yesterday.
The day started normally with an appointment but was interrupted by the freak opportunity of a conversation which turned into a -- not an argument but what I'd call a short hostile interlude. I'd be lying if I said I never have words with anyone -- hey, nobody's perfect -- but for whatever reason this little 10-minute episode totally knocked me for a loop and subsequently ruined my day. Now, being the positive person that I usually am, I firmly believe that you choose to be happy and that choice can turn a bad day around just by the sheer will to do so.
I never could seem to turn my day around. And I tried. Believe me, I really tried.
My first appointment was thwarted so I agreed to accompany the hubs to one of his appointments, after which we planned a lunch date. But as we got totally stranded for an entire hour on a highway in our community because of an accident, a kink was put into that plan as well. Now, I have great empathy usually for victims of car accidents and can patiently sit and wait until the road is cleared enough to pass. I would want others to do that for me. But at the risk of sounding disrespectful to our loyal officers in this county, there must've been an idiot controlling the traffic for this accident. We got within 50 feet of the intersection and could clearly see cars passing with ease from one street through the intersection to the other side, yet they WOULD NOT re-route cars to the side street. I have passed horrible accidents with fatalities where the authorities re-routed traffic like champs. Sheesh...I bet the traffic was backed up into the next county. We sat there for an entire hour and, for some reason, I was as impatient as I've ever seen myself. My day had gotten off to a rocky start, and it wasn't getting much better.
When the accident finally cleared, I was too irritated to have a social lunch and didn't want to burden my husband with the annoyance of my presence. Hey, I didn't even want to be around me but what was I to do about that? So hubby and I went our separate ways, and I opted for some retail therapy to see if that could improve my mood a bit (it usually does). My first stop was to eat, though. It was almost 3:00 pm and I had not eaten so that was probably part of my problem. I get grouchy when I don't eat. But, as is common for me to do when I am stressed or upset or irritated or -- well, you get it, I chose not very well I'll admit and surmised that surely some tasty fast food would comfort me. The image is proof that my choices were filled with flavor and short-lived comfort, but had little or no nutritional benefits. Nonetheless, I took out to the neighboring town to indulge in my retail therapy while chomping down. Just as I was biting into the greasiest crunchiest corndog I ever remember having, the traffic ahead of me backed up. You have got to be kidding me. But, much to my delight, it cleared after exactly three minutes and I was on my way. The shopping did help a bit. It took my mind off the terrible start to my day and I bought my little Preston a new outfit, which always brings me joy. Headed back home, I indulged in yet another pleasure -- ice cream! -- for the ride home. I don't know why, but eating while driving sometimes just feels right to me and brings me great contentment. I know it's a bad habit, but what can I say? Besides it was a vanilla cone and it could've been a triple-fudge sundae with nuts and whipped cream, right? So see there, I'm disciplined... sort of...
Much to my disappointment, I was just as ill-natured when I returned home. Even though my little escapade did help, I had not been able to completely shake the feeling of irritation and grouchiness that permeated through me. I felt doomed to a day of non-productivity, non-happiness, and total aggravation against my fellow man. My day was empty and filled only with feelings I wanted to shake, but I absolutely could not seem to do it. Even a late-evening walk in the park which usually clears my mind and gives me a clean slate to move forward did not dissipate my funk. Well, I'm sure it helped my body especially in light of the food I'd taken in but, as we headed home from the park, my heart felt just as heavy as it had the entire day. I flopped down in front of the television and distracted myself with a couple of episodes of Fixer Upper while I ate 10 Vanilla Oreos with a big glass of milk. Then I drug my limp, totally apathetic body to bed.
I know. I know. It's completely pathetic.
But thank God for a good night's sleep. Today is a new day. And I can look back on yesterday (just this once, though) and realize there were indeed things to be grateful for. It was a beautiful fall day, not a cloud in the sky and 70+ degrees with a gentle breeze. I was upright walking around and not six feet below the ground. I felt well physically and had no complaints in my body -- not even a belly ache from the atrocious food I'd consumed. My husband had given me tremendous grace over the course of the day, and my BFF gave me a pep talk complete with a few laughs, and that always helps. Laughter truly is the best medicine for whatever might be ailing you. So I guess in light of the way my day could have been, it wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time. And even though I will try to never speak of this horrible day again, I thought sharing with you might help you to remember that everyone has a bad day occasionally.
Okay, I shared mainly because it really helped me.
BTW, I just remembered yesterday was a Monday, that was probably part of it! Also, there was probably some weird gravitational pull of the moon (hence, the short tempers). People were probably distracted because of the weather (hence, the traffic), and any time you suffer distraction while driving, it doesn't end well. Maybe the stars had lined up in some evil way that affects people on a Monday in the fall, I don't know.
Looking back now, however, I can be thankful to have survived such a wicked day and I'm sure it will definitely not be the last bad day ever experienced by moi. It is my intention to make this day a happier, more contented, more productive one, and I hope yours is as well...
My children have taught me so much. There was a time when I was naive enough to believe that I taught my children everything they needed for success in life and that they were too young to teach me anything at all. I took them to church; I demanded they did well in school and going to college was strongly encouraged; I taught them to live a life of morals and to respect authority. And even though my children are now grown and I have three adorable grandchildren, I realize just how much they have taught me over the years and how they continue to teach me about life, love, and acceptance -- even the grandchildren.
As a young girl growing up in the south, I was exposed to atrocities that I didn't realize were atrocities at the time. We are taught certain beliefs when young because of our parents' beliefs, because of our environment and demographics, and sometimes just plain out of the influence of others we came in contact with daily. Unfortunately, an upbringing in the south in the sixties did not come without its share of lessons learned from nothing more than grave ignorances. I grew up in a segregated south and it wasn't until I was in my high school years that I even had minorities in some of my classrooms -- minorities meaning any student who was a race other than caucasian. It was a bit uncomfortable to say the least because my parents had never allowed me to be around those who were not like me. But as my children were growing up, I unintentionally tried to protect them from minorities because that was the only way I knew. Now, I certainly am not blaming my parents for my own faults because my parents grew up in the south as well and were products of their childhood influences. Today I am very ashamed to admit that I had a very segregated childhood and when I see some of the things that happened in the sixties in the south, I realize just how scary it can be for those who are not accepted because they happen to look or be different from the majority.
So it was very enlightening for me as my children were coming up to see that their views of others were completely unbiased and that they strictly looked upon others as the same, no matter their skin color, their race, or their cultural upbringing. I tried not to be racist because by that time I had begun to see the truth of the matter and to truly believe it, that: God created all men equal. But as much as I tried, I still had this fear of mingling with those who were different from me and I'm afraid I passed some of that on to my children although, today, thankfully you'd never know it. I mean, all men being created as equals was a belief of my faith, but it's funny how we allow our past and our environment to influence us in what we know in our hearts is wrong. Sometimes we are just too afraid to speak out against what we know is incorrect, and that is a sad thing to admit. But my awakening has been a long time in coming over the years as I've truly begun to embrace the equality of all people, and my children and grandchildren have been a huge influence in that.
My children, by some beautiful miracle that does not involve me, are the most accepting people I know. So much so that my oldest daughter has served as a missionary in Central America for going on six years now. When we first found out that they felt called to do this, my first thought was Can't you just serve people here? Why do you want to move so far away and serve a culture you know nothing about? But Hollie has a great love for hispanics, and specifically for the people of Honduras. It is a love that I have come to understand more in recent years as I've had the pleasure of visiting this country and getting to know a little about the people. My youngest daughter has always had a love for the underdog who lives in urban America -- the lost, the homeless, the downtrodden, the forgotten. She has been intricately involved with these folks since she was in college and this love will continue to drive Abbie's passions, her choice of lifestyle, and her decisions for the rest of her life I am sure. I cannot leave out my dear son. Even though he has never directly served in what we consider mission work, he served six years in the military, and that is a mission above all missions! He sacrificed his life not only for those on the homeland, but also for his brothers on foreign soil. He learned very early on that his comrads were greatly varied...some white, some black, and every race in between. His best friend was a precious hispanic man (love you, Perez!!), and Tim has never met a person, no matter their ethnicity, who he does not treat as his equal. There truly is no color when you are bound by the common ground of love.
The image of Preston playing with her little friends tells a story in and of itself -- that babies come into this world having no prejudices, just accepting people for who they are. This picture spoke to my heart when I received it the other day and I felt compelled to share. So I share all this with you to remind you that there is hope. There is hope for all to get along as one, to love each other regardless of differences in color and culture, and to do it despite the fact that you lived so much of your life not embracing that truth. I owe my children a great debt of gratitude for the truths they have taught me, to love others as equals and to actually desire and embrace diversity. They have taught me to look beyond our differences to our many uncountable likenesses, and to love unconditionally no matter what. And they are teaching their children to do the same. My grandchildren have friends from all walks of life and all backgrounds, and they truly see no difference. The beauty of a person's soul is all they see, and for that I am truly proud.
As a photographer, I have learned over the years how important light is in capturing the perfect image. I have heard photography described as painting with light, and that is absolutely true. Lighting can either make or break an image. If you have too much light, the image is blown out and good for nothing because the detail has been lost. If there is not enough light, the image comes out dark, blurry, and grainy. The use of light when taking a picture makes all the difference in whether that image is one that is kept or thrown out. The reduction of light is not always a bad thing, because it can be your tool in achieving dramatic effects. If you want drama and moodiness, reduce the light. When you're in a situation where natural light is unavailable, there is always a dance around what shutter and aperture settings would be best for the effect you're attempting to achieve. Unless you're going for a dramatic effect of some kind, natural light is what we're always trying to emulate. Natural light produces an image of things as they really are, crisp and clear with all the details. But sometimes you want a little softness and not such clarity. I cannot express my joy when I have an image where the lighting is perfect. It is the dream of every photographer (and a good light meter can help you to achieve that!).
From a very early age if not from birth itself, young children seem to be afraid of darkness. Some people get over that fear but many continue to fear darkness into adulthood, even to the point of sleeping with a bit of light after they're grown.. Then there are those like me, who have to have a little light to get up and go to the bathroom during the night. I can't tell you the times I've killed my toe on things in the dark at night! But why is there fear in darkness? I believe it's the "not knowing" of what might be there that cannot be seen. Is there something in the darkness that will hurt me? Is there someone in the darkness lurking who will jump out at me and do me harm? I believe the true fear is the fear of the unknown, and that darkness covers whatever is there, good or bad. Most times all it takes for a child to be relieved of the fear of the dark is to turn on a light. Light makes everything better. Have you ever been unable to sleep for whatever reason and you finally see the sun coming up and it just makes all things better? I have. I've had nights where sleep eluded me, but as I witnessed the sun slowly making its way over the horizon, things just seemed better. Light is life-giving and life-illuminating.
But I think the analogy between dark & light and falsehood & truth in life is a very interesting one. Sometimes in life, we choose to live in darkness. That may sound a little creepy, but it's true. How many times have we accepted the dark because it covers the light of the truth? If, like I believe, truth is indeed light, then the light reveals how things really are, unlike the darkness which covers up the truth. If there is a truth that you do not want to know, then living in the darkness about that truth seems easier. Because sometimes light, like truth, can produce hurt and discomfort. I always say that candlelight is the most appropriate light if you want to look your best. It's enough light to been seen, but not enough light to reveal all! When I see a close-up picture of my own face in bright light, I do not like what I see! I can see every single freckle, scar, wrinkle, and blemish. But at a distance with light not quite so bright, I can say that I look pretty good because I am not being revealed in true, vivid, up-close lighting. The "truth" of the matter is at my age, it's a given you're gonna have some spots and wrinkles (doesn't mean I have to like it!). So if truth in life is light, why do we sometimes choose to walk in darkness? Once again, because we are afraid of what the light will reveal. If we know the truth, we may be hurt. If we know the truth, we may be forced to change or make a hard decision. If we allow the darkness to cover the truth or even if we just play dumb, we keep the truth from confirming what we don't want to know.
But here's the thing about truth. Like light, it will always come out and reveal the way things really are, whether we want to admit it or not, and whether we like it or not. That old saying "Just give it time, the truth will come out" is so very true. No matter how hard we try to deny what we don't want to believe, the truth will eventually shine its light on the subject and illuminate everything for what it really is. Truth is light and light is truth. I believe they are exchangeable when it comes to life. We should all strive for truth, because it's in walking in truth that we grow and move forward. There have been women out there who want to deny that their scumbag husband is cheating on them but, when they are forced to accept the truth because the light has clearly revealed it, then they begin to heal and find life without the darkness that has always hung over them. When we choose to admit that we made a huge mistake and accept the truth of our error, we are set free to move forward. When we quit denying that we have hurt someone and choose to fess up and make things right, our darkness becomes light. Any time we accept the darkness of a lie, we push the light of truth and the hope of bettering ourselves farther and farther away.
So is darkness always a bad thing? No. There is nothing I love better than to lie down at night in a cool, dark room to rest as long as I know I'm safe. That kind of darkness eases the mind and brings on sleep. There is nothing quite like lying on a blanket under the sky at night with all the stars performing a fantastic light show above. We cannot see the stars without the darkness. But when we allow darkness to cover the light of truth, we do ourselves a great injustice and our own lives much-needed growth. Just like a tiny flame in the middle of a dark room, truth can illuminate the darkness all around you and drive it away. Is there darkness in your life? I wish you a life of walking in truth.
Just light that little flame and take one step forward.
When your youngest grandbaby lives 1400 miles away and she is growing faster than the weeds in your yard, you do things you might not otherwise do. Since we use Skype for keeping in touch and seeing all her growth and weekly changes, we try to make every Skype occasion memorable. Hubby bought this Elmo puppet online months ago and we have enjoyed making him a part of almost every Skype session. Sometimes he might answer the Skype call before Nana or Poppy and sometimes he might magically appear in the middle of the conversation or rappel from above our heads. But it is rare for us to have a visit on Skype that Elmo does not make an appearance. He is always part of the fun. I have never met a child who didn't like Elmo and it's a given that his bright red fur, googly eyes, and orange nose are instantly noticed when he takes his place in front of the camera. Lately we have downloaded a new app where we can send texts and pictures back and forth for free and I will forever be amazed that we can communicate in this way at such long distances almost instantaneously. This way I feel more a part of her daily activities, like getting her toenails painted, having her breakfast, or sitting at her little table working on her numbers. Recently I received a picture of her making a snowman out of pink play-dough and rocks. Oh, the creativity of a two-year-old! We also talk on the phone briefly but it can get pricey, so we limit those to quick, gotta-talk-to-you-right-now moments. Plus, talking on the phone to another country still gets me every time with the 10-second or so delay. I find myself forgetting the delay and talking over the other person every single time!
So since Skype is our go-to for a vitual family visit and that satisfaction of knowing you're spending real time together (well, except for the delay here as well), we try to make these visits fun for Preston. It is such a joy to see her face light up when she sees ours. Of course, if it's just me, she doesn't give me a second look before she's asking "Where's Poppy?" That little girl loves her Poppy. Sometimes the internet connection is sketchy to say the least on their end and we don't get to talk long or maybe not at all if the internet quits completely, but we'll take any time we can get. Just a few minutes of that little face is enough to make my day! This past Saturday afternoon, we were having a visit when Preston kept running to her room bringing back things she wanted to show Nana and Poppy. We patiently waited for her and she returned with her little tea set. Now, if you know anything about the ladies in our family, we are a tea-party bunch. When the girls were growing up, we first had pretend parties and then real ones as they got older. So, of course, Preston had to have a tea set so she and her guests might indulge in the taking of afternoon tea. Now, it was too early in the day for high tea, but Poppy and I were delighted to have tea any time if our little Preston wanted tea. It was our pleasure. I ran to the toy closet and pulled out two cups and saucers and, as she poured tea for us into her little cups, we reached up to receive the tea with our cups and pulled them back as if she'd passed it through the camera. "Well, thank you, Preston, for the lovely tea!" The look on her face told it all. She was so pleased with herself! She's probably still wondering how she pulled that off but, more than likely, she's moved on to something else and has forgotten the magical tea party she had with Nana and Poppy. The attention span of a two-year-old is fleeting. But it was one of those precious moments you're so blessed to be a part of and you'll not soon forget, even if the smallest tea-taker doesn't remember it an hour later.
So why do we do silly, sometimes crazy, things for our grandchildren? Why do we act like fools dancing around the room with them? Why do we look for new ways to entertain them and make them happy? Because, well, they're our grandchildren! They're the children of our children and we take great pride in them! And unlike some of the daily stresses that go along with parenting, grandparenting has more of the fun factor and not the every-day-to-the-nose grindstone of child-rearing. You know how it goes...we keep them awhile, love on them, then return them to their parents. When we see our grandchildren, we use all of our resources and energies to make the visit the best that it can be. Then we take a nap. And if you, like me, are a grandparent that most of the time has to grandparent from a distance, you are hoping that all those special little things will add up to a life of memories and relationships built, even if it's mostly over the internet. Just to get that one smile, that truly exceptional hug, or the occasional comment that seals in your heart their love for you gets you pondering on the next memory you can make with them. And, of course, you ALWAYS want to stay one step ahead of the OTHER grandparents (jk!)!! I've sat on the floor for hours playing Barbies...listened to one of my grandchildren talk and talk for what seemed like forever without taking a breath, gotten hot and sweaty and bug-bitten having a picnic at the park when it would've been easier to stay home, and many other things I would only do for my precious grandchildren. And except for the soreness from sitting on the hard floor or from going down the slide for the tenth time, there are absolutely no regrets that come along with "grandchild time."
But seeing the look of amazement on her face as you take pretend tea through the camera while enjoying a virtual tea party with your two-year-old cherub? That was truly and without a doubt...priceless!
I've been using the word bittersweet a lot lately. It seems as though everything in my life has been bittersweet the last six months. The happiness of saying hello to my kids, but having to say goodbye again before I am ready. Moving my daddy into assisted living makes me happy for the help he's getting but seeing him struggle with so many changes makes me sad. And, yes, the time has come to once again bid farewell to another house. It is officially on the market. Our real estate lady has been with us a while and she says I say this about every single house we sell. I am excited for a new adventure, but don't want to leave this house. I guess I get attached to the houses we live in and it becomes personal because I put my touches on every place we buy and sell. Every house we move into and give some TLC becomes a little piece of my heart and saying goodbye is, indeed, bittersweet.
Why do I love this house so much? For many reasons. We have made memories here. This house is a good bit bigger than my last two houses, so we have ample space to host family when they come. Enough space to spread out, go our separate ways if need be, and room to host a big meal around the family table. My hubby says I positively glow when my kids are all together. Add to that an extended family gathering as all the grandkids and our great niece and nephews run around like crazies, and you can hardly see my face it's so bright with joy. This house is surrounded by a hundred undeveloped acres and even though I know -- if we stayed -- the subdivision would be finished and it wouldn't be that way forever, it's been like living in the country close to the city. We have great places to walk, a fully-stocked pond for fishing, and loads of wildlife. I so enjoy hearing the cows moo at the farm next door and don't even mind the occasional donkey-honk. But, hey, no location is perfect. Plus, a good donkey to stand watch helps everyone, wouldn't you say? There is a screened porch on this house...so perfect for cool fall dinners outside. I love my kitchen, complete with white cabinets and countertops and a floor resembling old gray barnwood. It's so bright and cheerful. And did I mention the closet space in this house? Phenomenal! That is one thing I am quite sure I will not get next time. Never have had this much closet space, nor will I ever have it again probably. Bummer.
Why move then you might ask? Because it's what we do. And as much as I will miss living here, I must admit that after living in a place for a year or so, I begin to once again get what I call "The bug." It's a feeling of we've done about all we can do here...wonder what other fixer-upper is out there that could use our love...I need a new challenge...what next adventure is waiting on us? And this is where the bittersweet comes in. I love this house and could really put down some roots here, but I am excited about moving on at the same time. The other day as we worked like dogs putting the finishing touches on some things before our real estate lady showed up, I said to my husband "Are we getting too old to do this anymore? Are we out of our minds? I think we've got at least one or two more flips left in us, don't you?" But both of us are creative people and we are always thinking about how to indulge our creativity, how to make things better, how to make life just a little more exciting, and how to make money. And flipping houses has been a great way for us to do all of that. It has been part of our "entrepreneurship" for the last few years and will probably be for years to come. And I guess in some small way we really enjoy it. Sometimes I think we are just plain crazy. Yes, there are always downsides to everything, like packing up a house for the eighth time in ten years, wondering where you're gonna go between this sale and the next buy, and just the sheer fact of the "unknown."
And then, once again, there's the bittersweet part. Like a fine piece of chocolate, the sweetness melts on your tongue, but the bitterness bites a little. I've had folks ask me many times, "How do you do it? Isn't it sad and hard to fix up a place and then leave it?
Yes. Yes, it is.
But then I tell them that no matter how long you live in a house, it's just a house. You never leave your memories there; you take them with you. And no matter how many houses you live in, you still have all those cherished experiences from your very first apartment on, and you take them with you wherever you go, no matter how many places you move in and out of. Oh, I know one day it'll all end when we finally decide we are definitely too old to continue, and we'll hopefully find our little forever home where we can live out our days on planet earth, but I don't think that time has come quite yet. Besides, this is the thing, it's not where you live that makes it home, it's who you live with. I've lived with the same wonderful man for 35 years, and he is my home. I have a picture on my wall with this quote: "Home is wherever I am with you."
Couldn't have said it better myself.
I would say that most people in life are somewhere in the middle. The middle of what you ask? The middle of most everything. The middle for the most part feels like a safe place to be. But it really depends on what you're in the middle of.
I'm a middle child and I'll say that I haven't always liked being a middle child. Many times it seems that the eldest child is the one who gets the attention and is the one you're compared to and who you always seem to walk in their shadow. The youngest child is the baby so they get attention just from being the baby and are sometimes spoiled. The middle child? Always having to try and keep up...not being the best and not being the baby. You're not the youngest, not the oldest. You have to fight for attention and that last roll at the supper table! Maybe that's why so many middle children "act out." But to be totally fair, as a middle child I was (almost!) always treated just as well as my siblings. My parents made a supreme effort to treat us with equal love and respect, so for that I am grateful. What they did for the one, they tried to do for the other.
But, again, being in the middle can indeed be a safe place to be. When you are little and you're afraid or upset, right in the middle of the sofa or bed between your parents is the place you feel safest. When you're in the middle of your class grade-wise, you don't have to worry about being tagged as the nerdy genius but you're not known as the dumbest in the class either. Being in the middle of loved ones --- people and friends who care about you most is another "safe middle." There's not much I love more than being slap dab in the middle of a celebration surrounded by family and friends or the comfort that being surrounded by them in times of crisis brings. Sometimes being in the middle when it comes to politics and your convictions feels like a safe place to be. That way, you're never having to explain why it is that you are so passionate about this candidate or that law or this current event. Being in the middle puts you in the "unbiased" class. And, for some crazy reason, I always seem to have a seat in the middle of the plane when I fly. I don't know why, but somehow I always end up choosing a seat in the center of the plane over the wing! Maybe it's because I wanna watch the engines or thinking that being up front in the case of a crash I'd be the first to hit the ground, I don't know, but somehow it happens every time. But, puleeze don't put me in the middle seat between two people! I do not want to be in that middle on a plane. I have to have the aisle or the window seat! But being in the middle can be a place of comfort and safety and the feeling of being sandwiched in is not always a bad thing. You're not a do-nothing freeloader but you're not an extremist either. The middle just feels comfortable.
But there are some places where being in the middle maybe isn't such a great thing. I'm not talking about being in the middle because that's the place you're able to be and the middle is your personal best. Being a part of the middle class is not a bad thing and that is where I've lived all my life. I am suggesting, however, that being stuck in the middle when you need to be or are able to be somewhere else can be debilitating. I have, much to my angst in admitting it, been more than willing at times in my life to be stuck in the middle, to be the status quo, to be good enough when I really could be better if I'd only try harder. Sometimes being stuck in the middle truly depends on where you're stuck as to whether it's good or bad. Stuck in the middle of the ocean with no lifeboat? Terrible! Stuck in the middle of the ocean on a luxury cruise ship? Quite amazing! Being stuck in traffic when you have a Peach Pass in Atlanta? Not too bad. Being stuck in traffic that is not moving at all without a Peach Pass? Not pretty at all. But where I deem being stuck in the middle is totally inappropriate and I'll go as far as to say "unhealthy" is when you fall into that gray area where you have no opinions, no convictions, no ambitions at all and you live your life accordingly, just cruising when you could be soaring. It's a place of no growth, no self-improvement, and a place where you may end up finding yourself in what I call the middle of "nowhere." The middle of nowhere is not a good place to be. It's a place lacking in resources, where there is literally no communication, and where no sustenance for life dwells. This kind of "being in the middle" is like being stuck in quicksand which continues to pull you down until you suffocate and all the life is sucked right out of you.
There is a popular show on network television called The Middle. I first watched this show because I'm a Patricia Heaton fan. I've watched it quite a few times and, if you have as well, you know that the family portrayed in this show is indeed a "middle" type of family. A little crazy, but not too crazy, having their share of struggles but always seeming to come out on top, not seeming too smart at times, but surprising you with their common sense approach to life in the end. I think many of us can relate to this show because it's exactly where we live. Day to day, week to week, year to year trying to keep our heads above water and trying to make better the things that really count -- things like faith, family, friends, and doing for others. There is no middle ground when it comes to faith, family, and friends, only passion. These relationships demand our best every day.
So being in the middle can be good, but being in the middle can also be not so good. Where are you, my friend?
Happy Wednesday! (The absolute, no denying it "middle" of the week)
Posted by CC
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