December 10, 2015

parties are one of my favorite things...

This has been a year of parties.
We had two Eagle Scout parties (plus one more I got to help out with for my friend's son!), and a graduation party... and as if that wasn't enough, once the boys took off for summer camp, I threw my own party, just for me. I had wanted to host it last year, but everyone was traveling. This year, it worked out perfectly, and some of my most favorite people spent Sunday afternoon at my house, laughing the day away.
 

There were ten of us... friends from all different parts of my life. Because I love to play (ahem, win) games, I wrote my own left-right game story about my friends, and how I had met them, what they have meant to me. I think I made it through without crying. The whole day felt like that moment when you are sitting around the table, surrounded by your people, getting ready to make that birthday wish... a moment which almost always brings me to tears. To love and be loved... it is such a precious gift.

And the favorite things? There were tubes of Burt's Bees, lotion & refreshing face cloths, a giant ziplock bag with a plastic box and multi-purpose tool, a set of brightly colored mini tongs, a wine stopper, hair clips, yankee candles, cupcakes, and the most clever? dinner in a bag! Everyone shared their story of why this was something that was their favorite, and that mostly led to more laughter.

Laughter? Yep.
One of my most favorite things.

I have another party to share with you... because I guess throwing four parties just wasn't enough fun!
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December 09, 2015

love and tears...

He'll be home in ten days. Ten. I can hardly wait.
Sometimes I let myself think about when I see him in the airport and how that first hug is going to feel... and then my eyes get weepy. I would kind of like to let the tears fall now and get them out of my system, so I don't cry all over Cam. And because sometimes, love just spills down your face at the most unexpected times...
This year Eric & I decided that we'd postpone our anniversary celebration a month, and go to Disney's Night of Joy in September. It had been at least ten years since we brought our youth group, and while we always planned on bringing our own kids, it never happened because once they were old enough, they were busy with marching band. It was really supposed to be a trip for two, but after our long road trip with Camden, Eric thought it might be nice to ask Laura if she wanted to tag along with us. It didn't take her a minute to say, yes!

We drove up Thursday night, and spent a little time at Disney Springs to kick off our adventure. Laura loves to pin trade! The next morning we started out with breakfast at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. After filling my plate, I noticed that Laura was on her phone... snap-chatting with Cam. She was laughing because he called us Meanies, and the sadness soaked into my soul. I texted him that I was missing him and that I owed him a trip to Night of Joy. When he texted back But I SO want to be there! I lost it. Big sloppy tears, and the sobbing ugly cry, right over my Mickey waffles. My chest hurt, and so did my heart.
I had left my son at college, a million states away, without tears. I had made it two and half weeks without breaking down, and there I was, in the happiest place on earth, and I could barely breathe from missing him. I would have done anything for him to be with us.  The only thing that saved me was knowing he was so happy at school.

Somehow I pulled myself together, and enjoyed the rest of our day. It was the first time I had ever seen the fall decorations up in the Magic Kingdom, and we made it a priority to attend the Flag Retreat that happens on Main Street every day. I really wanted to stay until the very last minute of the night, and see the Goodnight Kiss, but after singing and dancing along with Josh Wilson, Francesca Battistelli, Colton Dixon, and Rend Collective we were beat and ready to head for the hotel.
I love Night of Joy, and I loved this little trip... even with the tears.
Worshiping in the Magic Kingdom is beautiful, and it is something I will always hold close to my heart. We had a great time with Laura, and she had a great time wandering on her own from time to time. Disney without kids is great, but I probably won't ever try it again with only one kid.
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December 02, 2015

lifted up & overcome...

It has been two months since my surgery.
It seems like it was forever ago, which can only mean that I am feeling great!  I am so very thankful for that... since the whole thing was so much more than I had bargained for. Even though it was scheduled outpatient, I thought we might end up staying over night... but not three nights.

I have been dealing with this urology issue for years... seven? Probably longer. It hurts to pee, and then there were times when I just couldn't. It is not fun to talk about or think about, but there it is. No one really knows why I have had all of this scar tissue build up, only that it is definitely a problem, and definitely on the unique-ish side. It got to a point where I was going every 3-4 months to have everything stretched out, and that was okay. Even though it was considered surgery, and I was under anesthesia, it was quick and easy. But one day my doctor told me that she had been to a conference, and and thought of me as she was listening to one doctor's lecture. He might be able to help me with a forever-fix. Procrastinator that I am, I waited six months to call him. I finally met him this spring, and we decided to start the journey. He is only one of ten doctors that perform this surgery, and even though I may have grumbled almost every time we trekked across Alligator Alley, I was also counting my blessings that he was only a two hour drive away.

We arrived at the hospital, and while we were waiting to be checked in, Eric posted something to Facebook. I inwardly groaned, as I had only told a few people I was even going to the hospital, but I let it go. I had other things to think about.

I don't even remember being in the recovery room. The first thing I remember was voices talking, while I was being rolled to a room in the hospital, and the overwhelming feeling of nausea. I couldn't even look around the room and see that my husband had a sofa bed and a chair until sometime the next day, I was just thankful he was there by my side.


As for Facebook, I was also thankful. I think it kept Eric going... communicating with friends, knowing we were being prayed for. I would hear his phone beep, and he would update me on the newest message. He was also texting with several people, and it all just made us feel loved, and lifted up. And Kim, your long-distance nursing was a priceless gift! When I was finally able to read some, and respond, on Sunday, I was overwhelmed. Thank you, dear friends, for saying a prayer, for wishing us well, for walking along beside us.

And Mom, I am not sure you can imagine what it meant to me that you came across the state to see me. Maybe my tears said it all, but you were what I needed. You are one of the two people in my life that help me breathe when I feel like I can't. I love you.

Three nights and four days in the hospital is no fun... but the blessings, and the healing, have overcome.
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December 01, 2015

we wait...



I loved seeing photos of so many college kids home for Thanksgiving, and while it did make me a little envious, I was okay. Our Thanksgiving was lovely, from watching the parade {and one of our local marching bands!} to gathering around my Mom's table for dinner. But maybe the best part was... using Skype for the very first time.

The last time I had ever used any video communication was 2002. Eric was deployed to Guantanamo Bay and at one of our once-a-month family picnics on the Coast Guard base, we had chance to use the video phone. Laura, Cam, and I crowded around the small screen and thought it was amazing to be able to SEE Eric's face and for him to see us. It made me cry both happy and sad tears.
way back in the olden days...
Thursday, after a few technological hurdles, my son's face appeared on my phone screen along with all of the fun and animation that is totally Camden. I could feel my smile grow wide. He was as silly as ever, and it just made my heart happy to know that while he has grown so much in the last few months, he is still the Camden that makes me laugh. Cam got passed all around the house, visiting with his grandparents, Laura, and Eric. I waited patiently, enjoying the joy I could hear in all the voices. This whole family has missed their boy.

I didn't tear up until my turn came around again... and even then, I blinked the feeling of those tears away. He will be home in 18 days, and if I know December, those days will fly.


I told Laura that eventually I will have to stop with the Advent calendars... but I haven't decided when. Not this year. Last week I send Camden his first 18 days, wrapped in red & white tissue paper. I told him he'll have to come home if he wants the rest! I love this celebration of Advent... the getting ready, the anticipation, the counting of days. I feel my heart filling up with more and more love... while we wait.

Hello December. We are ready for your gifts.
Twinkly lights, the hustle & bustle, laughter, reunions, and love.
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November 30, 2015

not just standing still...

On our way to work I spotted two otters alongside the canal, one sunning, and the other diving in for a swim. I shouted out, and was happy that my girl actually saw them before we sped on. It made us both smile.
Laura loves her job at the zoo. Better than that? The zoo loves her right back.

Last month, while the zoo was going through their accreditation process, Laura had the opportunity to be interviewed on procedures and talk with some of the AZA people. She even shared her zoo school experience, and I admire her for it. For taking that weakness, and turning it around the best she can.

When she couldn't go back to the zoo program, I think we were all more than a little broken. But she continued to talk about it in a positive context, and I finally asked her why? She told me because I learned so much, and even though I didn't pass, being there was such a great experience.  Me? I would have taken that failure and buried it so deep I might not have thought about it again. Ever.

This girl of mine is so brave.

She has been working her heart out at the zoo for over a year... and maybe it seems like she is just standing still. But she isn't. She is learning all she can in her environment, making contacts, doing anything they ask her to, with a smile. She continues to dream, and hope that she will get her big chance. I admire her so much.
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November 25, 2015

life lately...

It was a good week.
Many blessings... and tasks completed. 
And there was snow...
1. Laura is part of the AAZK organization at the zoo. Each year they host an art auction
with art done by their favorite animal friends. It was a fun night under the stars, celebrating.

2. I can hardly believe I got my act together and packaged up 18 days of Cam's Advent
calendar. He is going to come home for the rest of the days!

3. And while I was mailing it... I remembered to buy Christmas card stamps!

4. It took me a full hour, but I did it. I cleaned off my dining room table.
It hasn't seen the light of day since... June?

5. We had our Friday night pizza on Saturday... complete with a poinsetta!

6. It snowed. In Iowa. And Cam got to build his first snowman!

7. We trekked over to the other coast on Sunday... and drove through the worst rain ever.
See that orange strip? Yes, that is where we were... the whole way. 

8. But it was worth it! It was an early Christmas gift and it was fabulous!

9. This picture made my Monday morning...

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November 24, 2015

the state of this heart...

I have spent some time reflecting on my writing... or the absence of it. The words dance through my heart, ready to speak, and when I sit down, they seem to evaporate. Or I simply procrastinate them away. I feel busy, but I'm not. All of the words you have praised over the years have come easily... flowed right out of my heart in a rush of love. My heart isn't lacking love these days, but perhaps just the flow-y.  Maybe the opposite of flow-y is limbo, and limbo is one of those phases of life I am not-so-good at.

When I think about this year, there has been a lot of limbo... and not too much ordinary. The year has been wonderful, full of celebrations and joy... but the transitions from one event to another have felt pretty limbo-y... waiting with too much time, or not quite enough. We threw two Eagle Scout parties, all the while pressing Cam to work on scholarship applications. And then, of course, there was the college decision hanging over all our heads... talking it out when he wanted to, holding my own hopes back while he figured it out, all the while wondering how we would actually pay for it. The decision was ultimately his, but oh what a toll it took on our day to day lives while we waited. The graduation festivities carried on through the whole of May, all the while I was making trips to the doctor getting antibiotic & steroid shots to hold off the pneumonia.

Summer was too short, and too long... we all struggled with the balance of getting ready for Iowa, and fitting in all the fun and making all the memories of these last couple of months before life changed. I miscalculated and lost a week in August, and then was thrilled to find it again... although even that "extra" week moved too quickly. I was so thankful when we pulled out of the driveway... we had everything, or we didn't, and there was only time to enjoy and let the plan fall into place.

Leaving Iowa wasn't as tough as I thought it would be, and I felt like the end of our to-do list was in sight. Two more items... Disney's Night of Joy, and then my October 1st surgery. I never expected that I would fall apart over a plate of Mickey waffles, but there we were, at the Animal Kingdom Lodge... and I missed Camden so much I could barely breathe. As for my surgery... well, that was more than I had bargained for. Three days more, with a recovery that had me on the verge of tears more than once.

These months have been a checklist of wonderful milestones... and once we shouted off "check!" the next item on the list was always looming before us, pressing my heart to prepare, with little time for rest.

So here I am, with Thanksgiving only two days away. Thankfully, it will be a quiet one, and after a beautiful weekend of celebrations, I am ready for the quiet, and the rest that a few days off will bring. I am aching for the ordinary. We dream of wild and wonderful... but what our hearts truly need is a good dose of ordinary. It is where we gain strength for the unexpected and the celebrating. Our day to day ordinary life is a beautiful gift to be embraced... so that when the exotic and the exciting knocks at our door, we will be well rested and ready to dance.
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November 18, 2015

life lately...

I can't seem to find the time, make the time, to sit and write... even though I have been wanting to. Maybe the wanting hasn't totally reached my heart yet. Maybe soon... I hope. Until then, here are some glimpses of my life lately...
1. i have had this basket of wooden thread spool in my garage for... ages. a few saturdays
ago i took the afternoon to unroll most of the thread and dream about a use for these pretty
spools. they are now in bag waiting to be beautiful.

2. turtles. this has been a huge undertaking at my office and they are finally out and about
around town! there is a satisfaction in seeing them, even though i also have some
personal disappointments about them. this one is at the zoo!

3. cranberries simmering on the stove-top with anise and cinnamon. 

4. i stopped for a visit with my mom and she was going through pictures. it was fun to see little me!

5. taking time for tea. and a successful chocolate chip baking adventure: gluten & sugar-free!

6. more work. we had our annual gala last week, which was gorgeous and exhausting.
but there were extra centerpieces left and i got to bring one home. a box of succulents
and tropical flowers... perfect for dreams come true in blue hawaii!

7. just a little walk on the boardwalk... to the gift shop... where i found...

8. these alligator treasures. camden is not coming home for thanksgiving, but he has been invited to dinner at a friend's house. i am so very thankful; he has received this invite! it does a mama's heart good. when i told him i wanted to send a thank you for him to bring, he requested... alligators!

9. this week i went to my very first (and second) basketball game. 

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October 28, 2015

life lately...

October has been a long month... loooong. That little surgery I had put me through the ringer, but I did my best to get out of the house now and again for an easy glimpse of fall.
1. Almost four years after my fabulous Fiesta Forty, a free photo book coupon prompted me to make an album of the party photos. It took more than I thought it would to find all the pictures - and I realized that I didn't even share much about the party here!  It makes me so happy to have the photo book around.

2. My little out-patient surgery... wasn't. We were sure we'd be headed for home four hours later, but instead, it was four days later. I am doing okay now... but it took a lot of healing to get to okay

3. The night we finally came home, friends brought us cupcakes. Since it was late, and Eric didn't have time to go to the grocery store, we had them for breakfast the next morning. 

4. A week after surgery I finally put on my face & hair for a little outing to my mom's house. It was SO good to get out! But it kind of did me in for a few days...

5. This kitty! She is not a snuggler... but she took up as my caretaker and sat with me everyday. 

6. Two weeks after surgery I felt well enough to slowly walk through a corn maze! It is the first time we have had one in our area and it was fun!

7. Eric thought we needed to take a drive out to safari road... and the golden sun set made our leaves look like fall! 

8. More fall... as in falling acorns in our driveway. Continually. 

9. I spy with my little eye... this gator! And you are supposed to see gators on Alligator Alley! I have turned my husband into a scenic-overlook- lover. This little bridge gave us a great view.

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September 24, 2015

loved.

I am pushing myself through the days, sometimes speaking out loud to accomplish this or make progress on that. This morning I hit a wall... wondering if I was coming or going, and only wanting to hide under the covers for a few more hours, or maybe the rest of the day. I wonder if I am starting to get sick, but I don't even what to think about it, since I must be well for my surgery next week. {surgery?! yes... hoping for a final fix to this.}

I headed out the door anyway... and in my blah mood, my eyes were glued to the road, my heart heavy with doubt. Half-way to work, three of my favorite songs played on the radio in a row, starting with Mandisa's Good Morning... how can you not feel just-a-little-better when you hear that? Though I felt encouraged, I could still feel a tear or two hovering in the wings.  I dropped Laura at the zoo, thanked her for her help in getting me out the door this morning, and then headed off to work, wondering, how? And just before I came to the zoo entrance, I spotted a little blue zippy car. I stopped and in a flurry of arms flying and buttons being pushed, I finally got my window rolled down. She did the same, and we shouted I love yous across the road.

Thank you, God... for lining up your love for me... even putting my Mom in just the right place at just the right time. You always know just what I need, and I am so thankful for your provision, the way you make me feel loved.
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September 23, 2015

coming home...

All I really wanted to do was see the mountains... I talked about it for months. On our way north, we planned to stop and admire them, but a storm swept through and as we drove uphill and down, all we could see was sheets of rain and faint tail lights ahead of us. Maybe on the way home

We left Chicago with our weather apps open, watching Hurricane Erika... hoping we could make it back ahead of her. Before the end of the day though, she had broken up and drifted far into the Gulf. We were happy to slow our pace just a bit and Eric decided it would be okay to detour down into Gatlinburg.

We arrived in time for a little fun at OberGatlinburg...
the last time i went down an alpine slide was three days before i started 7th grade!

And in the morning, the shortest path home was up and over the mountain. As we drove up, the beauty took my breathe away. And when he said Let me know if you want to stop at an overlook, my eyes must have danced. Six overlooks later he was probably sorry he had offered, but that is one of the things you do for love. {Or maybe mostly so I would stop complaining about not having time to stop when we drove through in 2005.}






I think he thought I might have been kidding when I said I never thought I would see this beauty, but I wasn't. Every view was postcard perfect and I was in awe of how God made the peaks and folds of our beautiful earth. That He would do this just so our eyes could take in such an amazing sight... it made me giddy. 

The dramamine I took for the curves of the mountain roads kicked in and I slept on and off most of the day... Eric was wide awake though, and I was thankful he could put the miles behind us.  When we finally made it into Florida, with many hours still ahead of us, and the promise of heavy rain bands headed our way, we stopped for one last night. For a moment, I wondered if I was afraid to go home. But after a good night's rest, a few more hours of driving, and a stop at the grocery store, there we were. Home. And it was a-okay. 


Home is where love resides, memories are created, 
friends are always welcome, and family is forever.

{even if one of them has run off to Iowa}
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September 16, 2015

love...

This is one of my most favorite pictures. Ever.

You are precious in every way, the sunshine in my day,
the joy in my soul, and the love of my life.

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September 14, 2015

after the goodbye...

He came up with the perfect idea before it ever crossed my mind. I'm not sure when, or if, it ever would have. I'm sure he was thinking survival when he said What if we drive to Chicago to see Amy after we drop Cam off?  Usually I plan these kinds of things in the secret of my mind, and drop almost invisible hints until he comes around to thinking it was his idea, but this time?  All him. There is more than one reason he is my hero.

It took us exactly 4 hours and 10 minutes to arrive at their door... dinner was ready, and they had already poured the champagne. What a way to celebrate friendship, Camden's adventure, and us being able to drive away with a smile! We spent two days in Chicago, enjoying our friends and the city, complete with lovely fall weather.
 

I think it was the anticipation of this trip that got me through the goodbye. Otherwise, I'm not sure I could have handled driving off in the empty car, headed to our almost empty home. Thank you, my dear, for knowing me so well...


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September 10, 2015

journey to a smile...


The pains started about two weeks ago. The clutch in my chest. The sting of tears behind my eyes. He is really leaving...

We were in the kitchen starting dinner and I told Eric I'm starting to get sad. With love and knowing in his eyes, he replied I was wondering when, and he kissed the top of my head. We both know life will be different with our easy-going, adventurous son half-way across the country.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
In. Out. Just keep breathing.

The breathing is working, the sadness has been shoved back behind the to-do list. Even his almost empty room seems okay. But today, the pains return stronger and closer together. Familiar... and I realize the laboring wasn't really over eighteen Decembers ago.  That finally now, almost nineteen years later, I must be prepared for that final push.

He leans his head onto my shoulder and it has a sweetness that seems to move me more than all the times I could hold all of him in my arms.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
In. Out. Just keep breathing.

Three farewell dinners, and between grandparents, we celebrated Friday pizza on a Wednesday. An ordinary evening in the mist of an extraordinary week. It is just what we needed. And those two... they sat and visited and played video games between slices, just as they have for twelve years. Boys to men. They wished each other well and sealed their friendship with a firm handshake.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
In. Out. Just keep breathing.

The list still lingers and Eric is out mowing the lawn. Cam and I find jobs we can do while we watch the last episode of Food Network Star. He looks at me sitting on the floor folding laundry and pats the seat beside him. For a moment I am torn, because the list, but I come to my senses and join him on the couch. It is only seconds before he leans fully into me, his head fitting just right into the crook of my neck. My chest is crushed with love and I try to hide my gasp for breath... and one lone tear escapes, leaving the others to burn. The mower continues to make loops around the yard and I feel almost guilty for sitting, but oh I cannot give up these minutes. Surely I am the luckiest mom in the world.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
In. Out. Just keep breathing.

Cam, are you ready for this adventure? he asks as we pull out of the driveway and begin the drive north. Of course he answers the only way he knows how Yes! It makes me smile knowing this is the honest truth. But when the next question comes from Eric, I pinch back tears. Is mom ready? I say Yes, because I want nothing to come between my son and his dreams.

The Iowa sunshine welcomed us to the land of corn, and we laughed as we put miles behind us. There is always fun to be had on a road trip. And then I saw the sign, Mount Vernon 8 miles, and all of the tears I had been holding back for weeks could not be held a moment longer.


  



He was good to me. He smiled for every picture; he let me take as many as I wanted. And then it was time... to say goodbye. I took his face in my two hands and repeated the goodbye I've uttered a million times before Make good choices, be YOU, I love you...


As he walked off into the sunshine, I saw him as the man he has become... and it made me smile.
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