I had one of those days where the big gray clouds of doubt started creeping in.

I confided in a friend how inadequate I was feeling. I told her that I have a business degree, not an English degree. I have only ever worked in advertising not writing. I’m under-qualified. I’ve just had a good streak of luck with my blog and luck doesn’t last long term. What the heck am I even doing?

Her response, “You are a complete idiot.”

She was right. I needed someone who loves me to slap me around and shake some sense back into me. She suggested that it was a sign that I needed to call my counselor back up and set an appointment. Then she said, “I need an appointment with him too. Let’s set them back to back. We can get lunch and shop afterwards.” Yeah, she gets me.

Then a couple days later a sweet young lady, who was home visiting her family from college, called out my name as I walked by her at church. She gave me a bracelet she made for me with the name of my website on it. She told me she loves reading my blog. I hugged her neck and told her how much I loved it. As I walked to my seat in the congregation I couldn’t help but think how God had used her, without her even being aware of my struggle, to encourage me when I needed it.

We need each other to survive this being a grown-up thing. Guys, we NEED our friends….people who can lovingly call us idiots and those who smile and give us bracelets.

Because life gets cloudy sometimes

Dear 29 year old me,

You’re here! You didn’t think you’d live long enough to see 40, but unless something unforeseeable happens in the next few months you will be celebrating the big 4-0 this summer. You aren’t even bothered by it that much like you think you will be now. You are counting down the days until your girl’s trip to the beach to celebrate with other friends who are also celebrating milestone birthdays this year.

You aren’t white haired and on a cane. It makes me laugh to think how old 40 seems to you at 29, but now that you are 39 and knocking on the 40 year old door you’ll discover that you don’t feel as old as you thought you would at this age.

That time you were adding up how old the kids would be when you turned 40 and you couldn’t visualize them being teenagers. Well, they are teenagering quite well so don’t worry.

Your daughter who is in preschool now is almost 15. She finally outgrew that embarrassing thing where she thinks she’s a cat and meows all the time. You will even look back on how she use to meow in response to the waiter at a restaurant asking for her drink order and laugh instead of being worried that she would meow like a cat forever. She also doesn’t demand that a high chair be brought to our table to put her baby doll in anymore either. In fact, I’m not even sure where that baby doll is now. I think it’s packed away in a plastic tub with her huge collection of zoo animals and Polly Pockets.

Oh, and your 3 year old son is 13 now and did finally start sleeping in his own bed, but not until he was about 10 years old. Sorry to disappoint. Just try not to overthink it too much for now. I know it’s annoying to always be cramped and not get a good night’s sleep unless you can con his sister into letting him sleep with her every now and then. But trust me, you will look back at all the cute things he said during those quiet nights he was wrapped in your arms and you wouldn’t change anything. Also, at 13 he will still gladly sleep with you in your bed when his dad is out of town on business so don’t listen to what people tell you about how boys close off emotionally as teenagers. It doesn’t happen to your baby, or at least not yet. But the bad news is that he didn’t outgrow being a messy eater. We are still working on that one.

I’m mostly writing to let you know that you are doing a good job. You should let up on yourself some.

All the PTA meetings you’re about to be knee deep in and Saturday birthday parties at the inflatable jump house places are exhausting and not how you want to spend your time exactly, but you did a fine job juggling all that while also working full time. Stop being so hard on yourself when you forget a dentist appointment. Don’t get so stressed out when you have to reschedule a meeting because the kid who was perfectly fine when you left them an hour ago is now vomiting and running a fever. You won’t even remember what meeting you had to reschedule or how frazzled you seemed doing an ill prepared presentation because of it the next week. You will, however, remember sitting in the rocking chair with your sick little girl who wouldn’t allow anyone but you to tend to her and didn’t want you to leave her side because she feels like she “has to fro up”.

In the words of a future Disney movie that will make you thankful you don’t have toddlers anymore, just “Let it go.”

As frustrating as family can be, make more time to be with them. You won’t have everyone that you love right now with you when you get here at 39. By the time you get here you won’t have any grandparents. Make sure to visit them and tell them you love them often. Make sure to write down your Mamaw’s recipe for fried cornbread because she’s the only one who knows it. It hurts me to tell you this, but you won’t have 2 parents with you anymore once you get here. You will be missing one and it will leave a giant hole in your heart. It’s hard to fathom that right now and actually I’d rather you not try to. I’m only telling you because I want you to use this time wisely and soak up all the time you get to spend with those you love. It will be the memories from those days that will carry you through the bad times once their gone.

Take lots of pictures. Record lots of video.

Oh, and just to prepare you, there is going to be a birthday in your son’s life that’s coming up soon where you will go all out and hire a magician to do magic tricks and make the party as perfect as you possibly can. You will give your husband one job. One. Job. His only responsibility that day will be to record the magical birthday party on a ridiculously large camcorder. He will give the illusion he is doing this, but after the party you will discover that he never pushed the record button and so there is no video documentation of the event whatsoever. I only have three words of advice for you. Let. It. Go.

I’d also like to take a moment to tell you to stop worrying about the ending of your 20s. You think that the 20s are the peak of your life, but sitting here on the back side of the third decade I can tell you that you are about to start your peak time. So stop spending so much time worrying about getting old. Take this new decade you are about to enter and hold your head high. Stop worrying about every detail of your appearance. You will look back at pictures of yourself at work parties, at holidays and on vacations and think “damn, I looked good.” As you turn 30 know that you will reflect back on this decade and be proud of your accomplishments. Stop being so hard on yourself and just enjoy. You’re winning!

I hope this was helpful to you. I’d send you a picture of 39 year old you, but I don’t want to give you more to think about….and try to prevent.

So congratulations. You survived your 20s. You navigated through getting married, moving away, coming back home, having kids, messing up and making up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that any day now a letter from the future 49 year old me will show up and give me some pearls of wisdom.

This decade is about to be a crazy ride and I’m excited for you.

See ya in 10 years. Good Luck!

Sincerely,

39 Year Old Me

Sports Illustrated came in the mail at my house this week like always.

This issue was the swimsuit issue.

My husband says if there was a way he could opt out of that particular issue he would, but it comes with the subscription. He said it’s awful because he just hates sexy women with perfect bodies wearing bikinis on the beach.  Gross.

Ashley Graham is on the cover this year. I don’t know her, but she did catch my eye. What caught my attention wasn’t her skimpy bikini and sultry look.

What caught my eye was her size.

She isn’t rail thin. I can’t count her ribs. I’ve never seen anything like her in Sports Illustrated much less on the cover.

(Cue the heavenly choir of angels singing.)

Did you hear me?  A size 14-16 model is on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. She’s not in one of those plus size fashion swimsuits that cover more than a regular swimsuit would and normally comes in mostly black either.

She’s in a sexy little purple bikini and isn’t trying to cover anything up.

She is stunning.

It makes me feel like taking a victory lap for women.

Hooray, now girls of a more average size can also be exploited on magazine covers just like the little tiny skinny girls do!

While equality among swimsuit models may not be the final goal, it certainly is a good sign of the shift in culture that strong confident women are demanding.

It’s not that I don’t think the traditional slim model is beautiful. I have a nearly 6 foot tall teenage girl who can give them a run for their money in those swimsuits. It’s that I’m happy to see women of other sizes be celebrated as well. Finally.

I fall into that category of always trying to change myself to fit into the standard mold of what beauty is according to pop culture. When I was in middle school I thought I was too skinny. As a teenager and young adult I always felt too fat. I constantly chased the idea of how I needed to look, as it was fed to me by what I saw on the covers of magazines, if I wanted to be beautiful.

Now, at 39 years old, I still struggle with that, although with age comes wisdom and so I do care less than I did as a teenager about these things.  Even so, I still look in the mirror and say words to myself that I would never say to anyone else.

Mean things.

I say things in my head like, “That stretch mark above your bellybutton is disgusting, don’t ever think of wearing a bikini. Maybe you should consider some Botox. And for God’s sake do a few pushups before you wear that strapless dress.”

I’m so rude to me. I’m such a bully.

I would never talk to another woman like that yet I don’t hold anything back when talking to myself.

Despite how I tend to chew myself out in my head while standing in front of a mirror I still manage to wake up in the morning feeling pretty cheerful on most days. Fortunately my husband is also a cheerful waker-upper. However, we managed to produce two children who are anything but morning people. They start their day each morning feeling annoyed and moody.

This really brings me down. Normally about the time we are almost to school on the morning drive I usually begin my sermon on positive thinking.

And let me tell you, there is nothing a cranky non-morning person likes more than sermons preached by their mom on the benefits of positive thinking at 7:30am.

My Daughter: “Today is going to suck because I have (insert any activity) to do today at school.”

Me: “Well if you think that it will suck then it probably will. You are going to believe whatever you tell yourself about today. Why don’t you tell yourself how great it will be instead? You need to focus on what you love about this day instead of what you hate about it. I bet it will cause you to have a better day.”

Her: “Please don’t.”

My son: (he’s not saying anything because he has completely tuned me out and began listening to music through his headset…he’s not as wordy as his sister)

Today, as I was giving myself the less-than-encouraging pep talk in my head as I was deciding on what to wear it occurred to me how hypocritical I am. If my kids could hear the convo going on in my head they would jump at the opportunity to use my own words against me by saying, “Why don’t you think about how great you look today? Think about how you are healthy and happy. Focus on how inner beauty is more important than outer beauty. Think about how lucky you are to be standing in a closet with so many options. Try to focus on what you love instead of what you hate and maybe you will feel better about yourself.”

I get the feeling by looking at the lovely Ashley Graham on the cover of SI that she feels pretty good about herself. One has to feel somewhat comfortable in her own skin to be cool with being half nude on the cover of a national publication.

I know that the idea to begin showcasing a wider range of what is considered beautiful didn’t come from a bunch of women sitting around criticizing themselves. Beauty starts with the heart and then oozes out to the face. This shift in how we as Americans are trying to reshape the idea on what beauty is came from people who were beautiful on the inside. People who believed in themselves. People who saw beauty in others. That inside beauty oozed out and covered them making their outside beautiful as well.

Ever notice how someone can get prettier after you get to know them? That’s inner beauty that has oozed out. I also know people who have looked uglier after I got to know them, but that’s a topic for another time.

So as I sit here and feel excited about the subtle shift I’m seeing I understand that in order to be part of that movement of celebrating women of any size I have to begin with me.

Spring is around the corner and I can promise I’ll be in a swimsuit at the pool. I can’t promise that I’ll be as confident as Ashley Graham quite yet, but that’s my goal. I think the key to making this happen for all of us who share in this struggle is making the focus be on beautifying our inside so that our outside will show it, but remembering that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

“Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

This morning was my bi-monthly hair appointment.

I look forward to this appointment because no matter how hard I try my hair never looks more fabulous than when I’m walking away from my hair stylists chair. When I leave from there I’m able to give the illusion to others that I got up early and fixed my hair, applied some lip gloss and ran errands looking like a boss.

Another thing I love about my hair appointment is that when I go into her little salon with teal walls, a pretty little chandelier and a girly white fur chair I get to sit down for an hour and a half and have girl talk.

Leslie is a young 30 year old blonde who is married to the sweetest guy. She hasn’t started a family yet so I hear stories about her adventures with raising a puppy and about the cruises they go on. My talk is usually about my kids or my lack of hair styling abilities.

Today we were talking about our husbands.

It started out being lovely words exchanged from two doting wives about their handsome husbands. However, one thing led to another and the next thing I know I was saying to her that “there are days in my marriage when I’d like to dig a hole in my back yard and bury him in it.”

Well that escalated quickly.

Yes, I actually said that. I would never actually hurt him. It just feels good to say it sometimes. I said it playfully, but it was an inside thought that slipped out of my mouth before I could catch it and she knew it.

To my surprise, Leslie said, “Sometimes I daydream about smothering my husband with a pillow in his sleep. Like I think that would really make me feel better on certain days.”

We both burst into laughter at the shock at what was just said.

She then said, “We are both married to really great guys. Like really great guys. I don’t know how women who are married to jerks do it. They must want to kill their husbands all the time.”

Again, laughter erupts.

She’s right too. My husband is the kind of guy who sends ‘just because’ flowers all the time. He still uses pickup lines on me when asking me to go out on a date with him, which I find adorable. He works hard for our family and is the best father any kid could dream of having. Leslie has shared sweet stories of the romantic things her husband has done. We are lucky girls.

None the less, sometimes I think about burying him in the back yard.

I wouldn’t be ugly about it. I’d get him a lovely headstone and make sure to change out the flowers ever so often.

Today takes the cake for my favorite conversation that has ever happened while sitting in her chair with a head full of foils.

She said that she was actually relieved to hear that she’s not alone with feeling like that. She said she feels bad at times about how she gets so furious with him, but hearing me say that made her feel a little better.

She said, “I’m so happy that other women who are sane and married to awesome men also sometimes want to kill them.”

More evil laughter.

What she said next had me grabbing for my phone to make notes about the conversation before I forgot exactly what she said.

She said she thinks married couples need “peer counseling.” Meaning, how great would it be if we were able to be open and authentic with each other about our marriages. I love hearing about romantic things my friend’s husbands do for them or seeing their gorgeous family photos of their whimsical holiday festivities. However, when I only see the good stuff, their highlight reel, I begin thinking I don’t measure up.

Sometimes I wonder if my thoughts and feelings are crazy. It casts a dark cloud of doubt over our relationship because it makes me feel as though our marriage is not as great as my friend’s seemingly perfect marriages.

When a slip of tongue about wanting to kill him during stressful times in our lives is reciprocated by an “I daydream about smothering my husband in his sleep.” Oddly enough it makes me suddenly feel normal. I feel validated. I feel less crazy. I can even laugh about it.

Peer Marriage Counseling. She may be on to something.

Chrissy Teigen, the model married to John Legend, recently tweeted, “I always have a note in my pocket that says, “John did it” just in case I’m murdered because I don’t want him to remarry #truelove #tips.”

This beautiful lady is talking about framing her husband for murder. And it’s hilarious. Why? Because we can relate to that sentiment.

We deeply love our husbands, but don’t always feel in love. We have to choose love. Make a conscious decision to love even when the feeling isn’t there. It’s the beauty of marriage. Pop culture tells us that we should always have butterflies in our stomach when our significant other walks into a room. How we should always feel dreamy eyed and smitten. It’s just not realistic to feel like this 100% of the time once you’re knee deep in a love that is an in-for-the-long-haul type of love like marriage.

Sometimes I feel in love. Sometimes I have little hearts floating around my head and I swoon over him.

Sometimes I don’t feel the love and briefly pondering his demise kind of feels more appropriate.

It goes both ways. He’s in the same boat. He would tell you that I’m not always a pleasure to be around. He maybe would even confess to visions of poisoning my breakfast, but he chooses me.

That’s what love looks like.

After my peer marriage counseling session that also happened to coincide with a fresh blow out and style, I’m reminded about how normal I am. How great and normal my husband is. How a little bit of real conversation builds trust in friendships and is encouraging. It feels good to be able to laugh about the stress in our lives.

We both agreed that we are indeed married to awesome fellas, even if we do happen to daydream about killing them on occasion.

My kids are home from school today because it snowed.

Here in Kentucky it doesn’t require much snow fall to cancel school. They have cancelled school in the past when snow was predicted, before a single flake fell. I’m not complaining.  I’d rather not have to get out in the mess if I don’t have to, but my New York friends like to make fun of how much of a pansy Kentuckians are in regard to snowfall.  I’m alright with that too.

I have a 13 year old in middle school and a 14 year old in high school. This morning they woke up to the news that school had been cancelled, but for the first time since they were able to walk upright, they didn’t immediately run to the front door, sling it wide open and begin incessantly asking when they could go play in the snow.

Today’s no school snow day was strangely different.

In fact, they both slept until 10am then when they woke just asked me casually about what was for breakfast.

That’s it.

The only exciting thing that happened this morning was when my son told me I had “another moment” in my sleep. He said he came to my bedroom late last night to tell me that school had been cancelled. When he nudged me awake he said I came up swinging my fists at him while yelling for help. I called bullshit until my husband confirmed that it did indeed happen. I have absolutely zero memory of any of it. My son said he just decided to let me find out on my own about the school thing and left my room quickly before he got punched. I’m so glad I didn’t actually land any of those punches that I allegedly threw and also relieved to see that he thought it was hilarious as he told me about it.

(For some further background on my bizarreness when I sleep take a look back at a blog from several months ago titled Freak in the Sheets at https://www.amandawaggener.net/freak-in-the-sheets/. Be thankful you don’t have to share a bed with me. Mad props to my husband who has survived doing so for many years.)

So, aside from the near assault on my child, it was a quiet morning.

Me: “You want to go play in the snow today?”
My daughter: (laughter)

We had breakfast, tidied up the house a bit, hung out in our pajamas for the better part of the day and made plans on how we were going to spend our snow day…..which did not include playing in the snow.

How did this happen?

IT’S A NO SCHOOL SNOW DAY!!! Why are my kids too big to want to play in the snow?

I retreated to my bedroom and looked at Facebook. It was full of pictures my friends had posted of their littles in the snow. Pity party ensued. It made me feel sad.  Last year my kids acted like kids, but somehow there was a transformation and this year they are acting like teenagers!

They are growing up. I won’t get to take cute pics of them bundled up so tightly that they can barely move their arms while they throw snow balls at each other. I won’t get to clean up puddles of water off the floor all day long while begging them to please put all their wet snow gear in the laundry room. I won’t get to make them hot chocolate and watch them snuggle up together on the couch under blankets, watching cartoons while they warm up. Their pink little cheeks that are so cold they hurt and the frozen snot on their top lips is a thing of the past it appears.

They grew up some more on this snow day.

It’s another first.

I decided to go to my bedroom, get under a blanket and write. In the peace and quiet. And that’s when it hit me that this ain’t so bad.

I wasted a good chunk of my day grieving the loss of one of the chapters of their childhood ending instead of enjoying the perks and being excited about what this new chapter has to offer.

There will be a day soon enough when a no school snow day won’t mean anything to me because they will be grown and out of my house. I’ll look back at these new teen years that we have just started and miss them. I’ll miss how they woke up every morning in my house and needed me to help them get their breakfast. I’ll miss how they stayed inside with me all day driving me crazy with their loud music and way-too-long showers. I’ll miss not knowing all the details and being right in the middle of what is happening in their lives.  I’ll miss how we spent these days working on the upcoming science fair project that’s due soon. I’ll actually miss all this hustle bustle business that creates so much energy and makes the house feel so alive.

I don’t want to be so sad and focused on what has passed that I miss out on what is here in front of me right now.

It’s actually pretty great that I don’t have to go outside and freeze my butt off, then wonder if my fingers may actually be frost bit from giving one of them my gloves because theirs got wet.

This teenage chapter of life is pretty awesome, at least on snow days, at least in regard to my body temperature.
Maybe, but please remind me of this during my next breakdown. As they age, so do I. They say the first thing to go is the mind…..and maybe a nose if you wake me up at the wrong moment while I’m sleeping.

I’m easily annoyed.

It’s the truth. I have more annoyances now than when I was younger. I think lots of it has to do with the older I get, the more people I know.  I have social media. Before having it I didn’t really know much, outside of my circle of good friends, about who was getting married, getting divorced, what they were eating for lunch, who they endorsed for president, their stance on gun control or that they enjoy placing their kids on railroad tracks to add a splash of danger to their family portraits.  I only knew the details of people of whom I had a close personal relationship.

I didn’t know as much about the people I didn’t know as much about and that ignorance was often blissful.

Before I go on, I promise that this is not a blog post bashing social media or one that will develop into new year’s resolutions of using it less in the coming year.

I think that’s been done before.

Actually, I had decided not to have any resolutions this year at all because they always seem to fade away by March at best.

Who knows what will happen between today and January 1, 2017.

I’ve decided I’m more of a New Month’s Resolution kind of gal.

I can totally do most any goal for 30 days.

Like in 2015, I was a vegan mid-October through mid-November. It was some of the worst days of my life. I like cheese too much.  And I like not feeling hungry too much.  Also, you know what is vegan and completely legal to eat while on a vegan diet? Carbs. I was the world’s 1st chubby vegan. But I did it for a month.

I also did a 30 day squat challenge this past summer. No way am I doing an ungodly number of squats for 365 days. It wouldn’t happen. In the short term, however, I can persevere for the sake of my own ego and to have tight buns for the few weeks when is really matters, which is June and July when I spend peak amount of time at the pool.

Since I have a better success rate with shorter term goals, I’ve decided to take 2016 and divide it up into 12 equal parts.

I went ahead and assigned my goals for the first 3 months. At first, I was trying to assign goals to all 12 months, but let’s be real, I’m far too non-committal for that and it would end in failure. Why try something if there is a good chance you can fail? That’s my motto. It also may be why I’m not hugely successful at anything. But I digress.

So in the words of my accounting friend, who happens to be the only accounting friend I have, “Let’s review this again next quarter.”

As I said, I did think about and manage to set new month resolutions for the 1st quarter of 2016.

They are as follows:

January 2016. I’m going to focus on trying to be happy for people. I’m going to try and have faith in them.

January will be a long month.

When I hear about lifting weights from the person who has never given a crap about being in the gym until now, I will make a concerted effort to encourage them instead of taking bets on how long they will stay on course. I’m going to like Facebook updates about 5k races, dead lifts and CrossFit. I’m going to encourage them to keep at it. I hope this makes me less annoyed by all the talk that comes like clockwork this time every year.

I’m going to try and focus on being happy about seeing people giving it a shot. Win or lose. There is something to be said for trying.

February 2016. I am going to spend this month doing everything I can to keep myself from getting in that end of winter funk.

Every February, I get so sick of myself that I can’t even. All the retail stores are featuring their new spring lines and I’m over here with legs that haven’t been shaved in a week and a slouchy sweatshirt that I also slept in the night before.

I’m going to use this February to focus on not getting to that point. I’m going to take walks when the sun is out, even if it’s bitter cold. I’m going to think positive thoughts. Guys, I’m going to commit to shaving my legs every day this month. Every day. Pray for me. Hold me accountable, but don’t do it by feeling of my legs because that’s a little weird.

March 2016. I’m going to take lent seriously for the first time ever.

I just checked the calendar and it says lent begins February 10th and ends March 24th this year. Maybe I’m not taking it seriously enough by starting on March 1st instead of February 10th, but these are my resolutions, not yours so don’t judge.

This year I want to take the season of lent and use it as a time of genuine reflection. I don’t want to give up something that I can take or leave. I want to sacrifice something that means something so that it will be on my mind this whole month. I want it to be a constant reminder that I need to pray more. I want it to remind me I need to serve others more. I hope it reminds me that I need to be more like the example that Jesus set for me.

I want to use the month of March to get in the mindset of how miraculous Easter really is. It’s amazing how much historical proof has been documented to confirm the validity of what the scripture says happened in the Easter story. I so wish reality television was a thing then.  The Easter story would for sure have won an Emmy.

I want to use this March to soak up the enormity of what I get the privilege of celebrating and being a part of. I don’t want the amazement of it to miss me this year.

So that’s what I’m ready to commit to at this point. I’ll worry about next quarter’s goals next quarter.

As for now. It’s January 1, 2016!!! Happy New Year!!

I’m so excited to see what happens this year. I have an itch in my bones that tells me it’s going to be a good one.

As for the rest of you, go to the gym and wait your turn in line for the treadmill.

I’ll be behind you cheering.

I have a lovely friendsin. I’m sorry if you don’t. They are good to have. The term came to be because she and I are friends, but also happen to be married to men who are 1st cousins…so that makes us friendsins.

She is a special lady with a special little boy named Maddox. She has watched her precious little boy struggle for most of his 6 years on this earth. Maddox was born healthy but then at only 3 weeks old he contracted meningitis and suffered significant brain damage. He wasn’t expected to live after he was removed from life support, but he did. Then he wasn’t expected to live to his 1st birthday, but he did. He’s been the exception to most rules.

Maddox is the kind of kid who still manages a smile to assure his loved ones he’s still fighting. He’s never spoken a word and is visually impaired, but he knows his mother’s touch and will light up at the sound of his father’s voice. He is living proof that miracles happen.

He teaches me that it doesn’t take words or deeds to love.

Now, 6 years later and just 3 days before Christmas, it appears he has arrived at the time when he will soon be in heaven.

His mother loves him so much that she recently said she was ready for him to be healed and be with Jesus. I can’t imagine the strength it takes to say those words out loud.  It’s not what’s best for her, but it’s what’s best for him and that’s her heart’s desire. The selfless love of a mother radiates from her.

Through her broken heart she has peace.

When I put myself in her shoes I can’t image I’d be walking this journey with as much grace as she does. I’m by nature anxiety and worry filled, especially when it comes to my kids. She is certainly not free of anxiety and worry, but she has faith that keeps it from overrunning her mind.

Watching her family over the years has been such a blessing and has taught me so much by their example.

Peace isn’t a place we arrive. It doesn’t only come when everything in life is going smoothly. It’s easy to have peace when all is well.  It’s those times of turmoil when our faith is put to the test.  It is in those times when we can discern real peace from perceived peace.

Peace is found when one can believe and trust the promises of God despite the circumstances. It’s living a life of assurance that God is in control thus we don’t have to be. Peace is independent of the outside noise of life and the hurts of this world.

Watching them be peaceful in the midst of their storm shows me that it’s possible.

During this week, as we are with family and friends, enjoying a table full of food and the sound of excited kids may we always have a heart of gratitude. May we appreciate the good times, understanding that good times don’t last, but praise God neither do bad times.

People have bad days, terrible days, get sick, get divorced, have financial devastation, and are betrayed by those who should love us the most. Things go wrong when we live in an imperfect world full of imperfect people.

Not all little boys get to grow up into men.

Love is the biggest blessing and can be the deepest heartache.

Not everyone will have a gift to unwrap under the tree this year, but we were all given a heavenly gift that we can enjoy this Christmas and all throughout the year. We were given a baby who was born to a peaceful woman in a lowly manger.

He was called prince of peace by no coincidence.

He came as God’s gift to us. He gave us promises that he immeasurably loves us and has a plan for each of us.

Christmas is a day to remember and celebrate that gift of peace who was born that day.

If my friendsin can find peace as she watches her son fade from her then there is hope for all of us.

Maddox has a purpose in life.

I believe he is a teacher. He teaches everyone who knows him how much love can be conveyed with just a smile. He is a picture of bravery by being a tiny warrior who perseveres beyond what any doctor expected. The prince of peace proves that while he equipped doctors to attend to his Maddox’s needs, that he is the great physician and the only one who knows the number of our days.

Without ever saying a word to me Maddox is teaching me what it looks like to find peace no matter the situation.

As Christmas rapidly approaches, my prayer is that every single one of you feel the peace God intended for you, despite your circumstances. I’m on the journey to do so as well.

I pray that should our little warrior go home to be with Jesus today that peace will overcome and flood the hearts of my friendsin and her husband. I pray for peace to be so all-consuming that they will clearly recognize it’s coming straight from their Maddox’s new home in heaven.

From my heart to yours, MERRY CHRISTMAS.

My husband use to travel a lot. This meant I was often the solo adult in charge of keeping the children alive. My safety never crossed my mind whenever he was home. I’m not sure what I thought he’d do if anyone tried to break in, but I’m certain he would have taken care of it. By ‘taken care of it’ I mean that I know he would kill someone with his bare hands, if necessary. However, in his absence I realized I needed backup.

This is why we got a security system and surveillance cameras installed at the house. I took some self-defense classes and read up on gun safety. The No Trespassing signs were discreetly placed on the front and back doors in effort to detour any prospective intruder or Jehovah Witness. We also decided we would get a big black dog. That should do it. Any more than that and the neighbors may have thought I was paranoid. (Not all of this statement is true. I can’t tell you which part is and which part isn’t. It shouldn’t concern you. PS The security alarm part is true. And the part about the dog. )

It needed to be a big dog, scary bark, but also one that didn’t shed, poop too often or bother me in any way.

Enter Margaux. She was the calmest, most chill would-be killer dog of the litter. This adorable wavy haired pup quickly turned into a balls crazy, ADHD, spawn of Satan dog within a matter of weeks.

I had a vision of my big fury protector walking calmly beside me, watching side to side like a secret service agent, always ready to spring into action if needed. What I got was a dog that required more patience of me than either of my kids had ever required.  We had Margaux for all of 8 months before we rehomed her.

(Rehome is a new word which is a nice way of saying that we couldn’t deal anymore so we gave her away.)

During the short time we had her we: replaced the garage door (twice), replaced the garage door opener mechanism (twice), replaced multiple bushes from the landscaping, backfilled many holes in the back yard, apologized to neighbors who she chased while they were on a neighborhood stroll, too many chewed up shoes to count, etc. During that 8 months, separate from vet costs and food expense, we spent more than $3,000 in home repairs.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven times.”

Folks, I didn’t say it. That came out of Jesus’ mouth. That totals up to the fact that we are on the hook to forgive someone at least 490 times before we can say to hell with them.

Statistically, Margaux would have hit 490 around a year or so, but I’m not Jesus and decided to move on a little sooner than that.

There are times when I have to prayerfully consider what is worth fighting for and what needs to be moved on from. Margaux needed to be moved on from, for both our sakes.

We were toxic for each other. I didn’t appreciate her skill sets of digging, chewing or making me chase her down the street. She couldn’t peacefully live with the fact that I demanded she only gnaw on her chew toys and not the couch legs.

We tried, we really wanted it to work. We got her private obedience lessons and everything. It just wasn’t happening. We weren’t meant to be, her and me.

There are approximately 7.13 billion people in this world. I only know a few of them. Every once in a while life seems to allow a person, or in this case, dog, to be in my life for a season of time then pass on by. Every once in a while that pass on part comes with heartache and disappointment, but occasionally the pass on part comes with relief.  Either way, there are certainly times when pass on is necessary.  In their absence I can usually see how they made a beautiful mark on my life, but mostly the mark is better appreciated after they’re gone.

I always learn something from the ones I had to rehome. Thankfully rehoming doesn’t happen too often. After quite a few years on this planet I finally have come to grips with the fact that I can’t be friends with everyone, whether human or canine. There are some who are flat out toxic and need to be, not given up on, but moved on from.

Dogs are a lot like our human relationships in that they are flawed and imperfect creatures. They fall short. I fall short. We both require a lot of love and forgiveness and require patience.

However, sometimes even after trying everything I know to try it still just doesn’t work. The boundaries I have to set which allows me to be a sane and content individual get crossed. Some relationships steal joy and at some point become necessary to be rehomed.

There comes a time in certain relationships when I have to walk away.

Before you deem me a complete loser for rehoming our dog I do want to mention that we also have an 11 year old, tiny, white dog named Piper. He’s the kind of dog you see Paris Hilton carry in her purse. He’s part of the family. My kids don’t remember life without him. He’s a great dog now. As a puppy he peed on everything. It doesn’t seem as bad now because years have passed and we were younger then, but at the time we were house training him I remember wanting to throw him away on certain days.

We didn’t rehome Piper because despite his challenges we still were able to maintain a sense of joy and peace while co-existing with him.

Margaux presented challenges that were relentless and never ending. She was worthy of love, but made us chronically miserable. She’s happier now with someone better suited for her personality. And so are we.

Her 490 ticker can start new with them. Maybe that’s what she needed, what we all at times need, a fresh slate.

It turns out that Piper, despite his size is a great guard dog. He will bark when the wind blows. Nothing is happening in this house without him to alert us of it. Margaux left her mark in our hearts as well as on several walls and baseboards. She will never be forgotten, but we all concur that life is more pleasurable without her.

It’s important to note that it’s still not wise to attempt to break into my house as our tiny little Piper dog can hold his own. He’s never met an ankle he was scared of yet.

statue of lib

Raise your hand if you remember watching Roots. Or Selma. Or Straight Out Of Compton.

Keep your hand raised if you are a white person who felt some shame and even a little bit of guilt as you left the theater for what racist white people did in those films.

Yeah, me too.

I wanted to pull a Jerry Maguire and run around hugging everyone while announcing “I love black people!” Just to make sure nobody thought any of those bigots in the movie represented me.

I get the feeling that the Muslim taxi driver who picked us up from the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City probably felt the same way.

The museum is not for the faint of heart. It’s a 3 hour self-guided tour of heartbreak. It features relics of that day. The luggage of one of the hijackers, pieces of airplanes, twisted metal, shoes, eyeglasses, firefighter hats and pictures.

Tons and tons of pictures.

Pictures of average looking people who went to work on an average looking day but then ended up having their picture as part of an exhibit in a museum.

All of the bad guys who caused this tragedy were Muslim extremist. I studied their vacant expressions in the pics of them featured in the museum. It was easy to start allowing ugly thoughts about Muslims to build up inside my mind as I continued through the exhibits. We stood and watched the surveillance footage of the hijackers casually checking out of their hotel on the morning of Sept 11th then heading to the airport with mass murder on their daily agendas.

So callous.

It’s hard for any sane person to fathom their rationale.

Also, I’ll admit that prior to arriving in NYC for the Thanksgiving weekend with my family I had to take a Xanax before boarding the plane. It was just a few days after the Paris attacks. The terrorism risk was raised to high for air travel.

So my pre-anxiety due to current world events coupled with my raw emotions from touring the museum had me slightly on edge.

When we walked out of the museum heading to dinner the cab that my husband hailed just so happened to be driven by a Muslim man. I immediately recognized that to feel anything ill towards this young man, as though he had done anything wrong, was discrimination and unfair to him, but I felt slightly uneasy despite the logic.

I watchfully climbed into his car.

Traffic was a snarled mess and it took us a half hour to go 7 miles. In that time we got to know our cab driver pretty well.

I know it’s not customary to chat up the cabbie, but we are from the south. The initial 45 seconds of silence felt weird and rude and uncomfortable so our southern hospitality overrode the ways of the big city and a conversation ensued.

Because of this I can tell you all about the driver, what he loves and what bothers him, his political views and his thoughts on religion.

I can’t help it. When I get nervous I talk.

He was a young 32 year old who called both Libya and Algeria home. He was married and had a baby girl. He and his wife came to America 22 months ago to pursue their dreams of getting college degrees and making a good life for their daughter. His wife attends college classes until 2pm every day while he stays home with the baby. When she gets home he leaves and drives his cab until midnight to financially support the family. Their plans are for him to go to college after she graduates. He told us he fluently can speak Arabic, Italian, Spanish and English. He said his daughter’s 1st language will be Arabic, but that he wants her to also speak English. He was proud of his Muslim heritage.

I asked, “Do you ever have time to see your wife with that schedule?” He shook his head and said, “No, but it’s the sacrifice we make for the dream.”

To further solidify my American snob status I asked another question and immediately realized how pretentious it sounded. I said to him, “So you must really love it here compared to Libya don’t you?” He immediately responded that he misses home, their food and inexpensive healthcare. He told me I shouldn’t visit Libya right now because “the terrorist are doing crazy things and nobody understands them” but once that’s all over and things return to normal there he suggested I go visit. “It’s a beautiful country.” he said.

In that short conversation he became human.

Not Muslim or Libyan or anything else, but just mutually human.

I can sympathize with him on how it must feel to be Muslim right now in this country while the extremist of his faith are making headlines for the most horrific of reasons. It probably feels similar to how I feel when I see people in this country do inhumane things in the name of Christianity.

News Jesus always seems biased and intolerant. The news Jesus and his followers always look harsh and unlovable and condemning. The Jesus portrayed in the national news is not the same Jesus I know.  The Jesus I follow didn’t turn people away or hate anyone.  He didn’t condone anyone being heartless towards anyone else.

I don’t recognize news Jesus. Most Muslims don’t see any semblance of their faith in the footage they see of ISIS either.

If you read my bio on this website you will notice that I said I was raised by Baptist parents.

Want to know who else is Baptist? Those lunatics at Westboro Baptist Church.

You know the ones I’m talking about. They picket at military funerals and hold signs about God hating homosexuals.

Yep, them. They are Baptist.

I cringe every time they do something hateful. I really wish they didn’t call themselves Baptists and weren’t the ones scoring the PR for the rest of us, but the terrible tragic stories are always what is newsworthy. It’s one of the reasons I no longer associate myself with any religious denomination.

The people who shoot up abortion clinics and promote their ideas with fear under the name of Christianity are similarly minded to the crazy people who fly planes into buildings and promote their ideas with terror under the name of Islam.

Right now the big debate is if or how to allow Syrian refugees to enter our country. I don’t like being political on social media or on my blog because I hate reading about that stuff by others. However, when I hear people talk about a nation of people as though they are dogs and less human than we are because a few of them are heartless, it becomes a human issue, not just a political one.

I understand the concern with keeping the bad out. I fully agree that we have to be careful of who we allow to enter our country. It would be foolish not to be cautious. What I don’t understand is the harshness by which some Americans talk about the refugees, as though they aren’t real people.

I certainly hope that if I’m ever in a situation where I need to flee to safety with my family that I’m not rejected because the people who I’m running from are scaring the people I’m running to.

If this is the mentality Americans have then why don’t we be fair and implement these rules for all large groups of people in the name of public safety?

Let’s stop allowing men to attend the movies. All the shooters at the massacres in the movie cinemas over recent years have been men. We just can’t risk it.

Let’s go ahead and shut down online dating too. Statistics show that 10% of sex offenders use online dating services. Scams, rapes and even murders have happened as results of dates set up via online dating sites. It’s too dangerous.
But we don’t do anything like that because it wouldn’t be fair to the majority who are law abiding citizens.

There is evil in every group of people. People are flawed, but I have to believe that there is mostly goodness in every group of people.

As the cab ride came to an end and my exhausted family filed out of the cab I looked back at him and said, “Have a good night. Happy Thanksgiving.” He responded with a smile, “You too.”

Within 24 hours of stepping off the plane in Nashville, TN, from our NYC Thanksgiving trip we were back home putting up a Christmas tree. When the kids were little they would gleefully help decorate the tree, but now as teenagers they laid on the couch watching holiday movies while I did the decorating.

I’ll take it.

Right now I’m just happy we are safe in our home, not worried about suicide bombers nearby and not feeling as though our kids are in imminent danger as they head to school tomorrow.

Praying for the refugees who cannot say the same.

So grateful I live in this great country of ours.

Giving thanks a many.

Last weekend I took my son, my nephew and a friend to our church youth group leader’s apartment. They had plans to go get pizza then head to a local elementary school to use their gym for a game of dodge ball. On the way there the topic of career aspirations came up when I posed the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The conversation then went as follows:

My nephew: “I want to go to the community college for the first two years then transfer to the University of Kentucky and get a degree in nursing.”

Me: “That’s great. You would make a good nurse.”

My son’s friend: “I really want to get a scholarship to play soccer for Brescia University and get a degree in biology.”

Me: “You shouldn’t have trouble getting that scholarship. You are a really good soccer player.”

My son: “I know for def that I want to get a degree in science and then go work for NASA in Houston, TX. I’m thinking I want to go to college somewhere in Florida or California because, you know, more boobs there.”

Me: (face palming and making a sigh)

By the time this conversation had turned into an enlightening glimpse into my son’s mind, the moment was over and I was pulling up to their group leader’s apartment. I happily unloaded my car full of 13 year old boys and thanked the Lord that there are actually grown men who volunteer their time to hang out with them. I’m even more grateful that dropping off a car load of 13 year old boys at a grown man’s apartment on a Friday night wasn’t weird…because their leader is just that awesome.

On the way home I thought about my son and how he is changing as he grows up.

He is a self-proclaimed mama’s boy and I’m completely at peace with that. When he was little I would play a game called Who Loves You? with him and his sister. I’d ask them that question then they would answer with names of people who they knew loved them. The game could last all day for my daughter. She would answer each Who Loves You? question with a long list of answers including: Mommy, Daddy, Grammie, Pawpaw, etc.… However, the game was always a very short lived distraction for my son because no matter how many times I’d ask him the playful Who Loves You? he would answer with a joyful “Mommy do!”

I mean, come on, that’s adorable.

But now, he’s talking about choosing where he will earn his education that eventually will steer him towards his career goals by which campus would offer the most cleavage viewing opportunities. It’s a small example of the new trend in my house as I raise a brand new teenage boy. I can’t keep parenting the way I always have because he’s not the kid he’s always been. As he grows I’m forced to grow with him as a parent and adjust where necessary.

I decided it’s time to pay closer attention to how I am able to help shape his newly expanding mind so that he doesn’t become a complete chauvinistic ass as an adult.

I’ve come up with a list that I’ll call…..hmmm…..

3 Ways I’m Trying To Keep My Teenage Son From Becoming Chauvinistic Ass

1. I don’t let him kill hookers.

My son likes video games. When I was a kid we got a Nintendo and saved that Mario Bros princess more than a few times. Never even once, do I recall the princess wearing fishnets and smoking a cigarette as she walked towards the fire-breathing dragon. I don’t recall ever having the ability to fatally shoot her in the face. Video games nowadays (use of the word “nowadays” is indicative of my advancing age and wisdom to any of you laughing at the term right now!) Nowadays video games have ratings similar to movie ratings. I’ve had to pay close attention to those games with an M rating. Those games usually feature very realistic images of people. These people often include voluptuous women clad in black leather and stilettos. There is actually a game where you can steal cars and kill hookers. How can we justify allowing our young boys to virtually kill women for pleasure and let them indulge in near pornographic images of prostitutes then not expect them to have warped views on how to respect and show self-control around women in their non-virtual lives? He gives me lots of push back on this one, but I’m under the conviction that allowing him to disrespect women, or any human for that matter, in the virtual world is one step towards him becoming desensitized to it and then disrespecting them in the real world. When he’s 18 I won’t be able to stop him from playing the games he wants, but while he is a 13 year old I can stop him. So I do.

2. I respect myself.

If I’m going to expect him to respect women then, as a woman, I’d better dang well be sure I respect myself. I want his image of a woman to be a reflection of me. I don’t want that image to be one of weakness or one that resembles a doormat. I want my son to see my priorities in life and recognize that I am one of my priorities. I want him to see me practice self-control yet still speak my mind in a respectful manner. I want him to see how a woman can set boundaries in the relationships in her life while still being able to fully love and show affection in those relationships. I want him to learn how to treat a woman by seeing how I allow others to treat me. I have to find, then always use my backbone. If I want to raise a man of integrity, I must be a woman of integrity. It’s not easy. I fail all the time. I have to right wrongs often, but I think that’s all part of the learning process for the both of us. I hope by watching how I handle things when I get them wrong that he will see that while we aren’t perfect we still get back up and keep trying. I hope he can learn by watching me behave like a lady that women are not delicate flowers, but equals and should be treated as such.

3. I choose my battles.

My son is gross. There’s no other way around it. It’s not just my opinion either. Ask our friends or family, they would all back me up on this one. His room is covered in Hostess cupcake wrappers, glasses half full of sweet tea normally accompanied by a fly floating on top no doubt dead from sugar overload to its tiny little insect body. His bathroom induces a gag reflex. We are talking toothpaste on the sink, dirty clothes all over the floor and a toilet reminiscent of one of those truck stops off an old two lane highway. We have gone rounds and rounds over this. I’ve grounded him, given ultimatums and tried scare tactics by sharing with him how one day he will wake up with a horrible ring in his ear and that ringing sound will be that of a roach that has crawled into his ear from under his bed. But after all the turmoil his untidy part of the house has caused, the result is that it’s still untidy. As I review the list of things I want him to really get branded into his head a clean room falls pretty low on the priority list if I’m being honest. Maybe before he moves out on his own he will have arrived at the place in life where unflushed toilets will bother him, but for now I will keep his door shut, focus on the war rather than the smaller battles and will only go into his room to retrieve his laundry then quickly shut the door behind me. Whomever he ends up marrying, should he go down that path, will have her work cut out for her in this area, if things don’t change before then. I can’t make it too easy for his future wife though. I don’t want to hand her over too perfect of a man. They will need things to talk about.

Do I think any of these things will keep him from not enjoying a hottie in a tight shirt who walks by him on a college campus? Not at all. However, I really hope that the respect he has developed for women through some of these efforts will keep him from Bronx cheering her when he sees her.

No offense, men from the Bronx. I’m sure you’re nice people.