Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Of Moons and Mothers (An #AtoZChallenge Post)

Last night I was up late, craning my neck back to stare at the moon...

No, it wasn't some strange ritual, I was attempting to catch a glimpse (and photos) of the Blood Red Lunar Eclipse that was happening!  I'm still learning my way around photography and custom settings - as in I hardly know anything.  But that 's the beauty of the internet: just type a question or phrase into Google like "Eclipse camera settings" and you're likely to find that someone has taken the time to share their knowledge with the world (and get settings into your camera that work to photograph the eclipse)!  I didn't have my tripod, and I've read that it's a huge component to successful nighttime shots, but I'm pleased with what I captured last night, anyway.

The other thing I wanted to share with you today is this great job ad posted by Rehtom, Inc. and the video of some of the people interviewed for the job; it's great!  So, read the job requirements by HERE and then watch the video of the interviews!

Awesome, right?  Well, I enjoyed it!

One more M word for the day, since I'm really excited about it...

Yesterday I posted HERE a post that is part of the Messy Beautiful Warrior Project.  I'd love it if you'd pop over and read it; it's not often I really take down all the walls and just "put it out there" and I'm pretty happy with how the post turned out.

Also, read more Messy Beautiful essays (and maybe think about joining the project) by clicking HERE!

For the month of April I am blogging each day with a letter of the alphabet as my theme as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  Today's theme letter is M!

Did you see the eclipse last night?  Do you have the #WorldsToughestJob?  Know someone who does?  What do you think?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lies I Believed About Myself – My Messy Beautiful

I had a tumultuous, sometimes scary, sometimes happy, but often very sad childhood.

Things happened that broke myself and the people around me so devastatingly, that normal wasn’t possible.  Barely getting by was a frequent state in our family.  It was the only thing I knew, though, and it framed who I became in my own mind.

During the hard times and the darkest of my memories, and as a result of the things that happened, and things that were said, I formed horrible, heart-breaking beliefs about who and how I was.  They were as true and real to me as if they were etched into my skin for all to see. Their actual invisibility couldn’t shield my soul from being marred and changed or protect me from their permanent impact on how I see myself.  I wore those labels and beliefs like a heavy weight for most of my years.  I was never, in my understanding, free to become someone without those labels, to leave them behind.  I was them and they were me.

To keep people far enough away from me that they couldn’t see all that was etched on me, and especially so they couldn’t add more, I carried a shield of anger with me always.  I used it often.  Few made it behind the shield.  It’s hard to be loved when everyone is held at bay.  And the more I felt unloved, the more I believed the labels were true:  I was unlovable.

But the labels were lies.  Lies I believed about myself!  Some of them so painful to hear and believe that, even still, I cannot bring myself to write them here.

Over the last few years I’ve been working on sanding down the surfaces to blend those hard-etched words in…chiseling them away one painful memory at a time.  Replacing them with truths. It’s hard, hard work. Taking out one painful scene and experience at a time to examine with my now-grown eyes and heart and finding the truth in it.  It’s not always a voluntary process; painful memories and realizations spring out at me and catch me unaware and unprepared often lately.

Most often I see that those words are not me.  I am not them.

I am a good person.
Kind. Loving. Honest. Caring. Generous. Hard working. Smart. Creative. Fun!
(Some days I even believe that!)

I would have liked to have gotten to this point sooner, but I’ve never been the person I am today before…
And I suppose, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

I thank God that I can walk lighter now and have hope that some day soon the only labels etched in me will have been put there carefully and lovingly and that I will see myself as I truly am…

…a Messy, Beautiful Warrior!

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Friday, April 11, 2014

And now, a musical interlude... (H, I, J, K an #AtoZChallenge Post)

And now, a musical interlude...

I'm behind in blogging for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, because real life has to take priority some days.  AND I still need to get our taxes done and filed!  So to give myself a few days to get organized, I'm cheating!  This post will include the letter H, I, J and K - in song titles!!

My musical taste varies with my moods - so it changes dramatically and often!  Here are four songs I'm listening to lately, when the right mood strikes me!

What are you listening to lately?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


My windows were rolled down on a cool and sunny day as I pulled to a stoplight.

She was standing on the corner, leaning heavily on her cane with one hand and in her other she held a cardboard sign that said HOMELESS in bold letters and explained below it that her Gift from God was singing and that she hoped it would be a blessing to us.

She was singing Don McLean's "American Pie".

I had an overwhelming urge that, in that moment, I trusted.

And while my sunglasses hid my tears, I prayed that she would be blessed with the little I had to offer as well.  And that we should all find our Gifts...

For the month of April I will be blogging each day with a letter of the alphabet as my theme as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  Today's theme letter is G!

What is your gift?

Monday, April 7, 2014


In 39 days I turn forty.  How on earth is that even possible?  I’m pretty sure I was just 20-something yesterday and then I blinked…

I haven’t entirely come to grips with this whole officially-middle-aged thing yet.  I was talking to my daughter on the phone the other day and she says I shouldn't freak out this year because I did it last year when I turned 39…funny thing is – I don’t remember freaking out.  Is that my age already rearing it’s ugly head?  Or perhaps I've blocked it out for self-preservation…

Regardless, it’s going to happen.  There’s nothing I can do to stop it.  I’ll officially, officially be a grown up.  Now what?

For the month of April I will be blogging each day with a letter of the alphabet as my theme as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  Today's theme letter is F!

Do you have any advice on turning 40?  Are you just laughing at me?


Even though we’ve moved to a suburban area, we still have a few chickens!  It’s hilarious to me to have chickens in a backyard in a full-fledged neighborhood, but it’s allowed here and in many other suburban areas throughout the country. 

The chickens are curious about what goes on in here!

Backyard chicken flocks are a positive side effect of the health foods and organic foods trend – as people became more concerned with what they were putting into their bodies, they realized that one way to ensure that they were getting what they wanted was to grow it themselves.  Thus, a boom in container gardening and backyard flocks in the US!

My desire for a flock is more about a longing for the days of my youth spent caring for farm animals and crops.  Also, I’m interested in self-sufficiency.  And I just enjoy the chickens!  They have character, they’re entertaining!  “Chicken people” get it; the rest of you just don’t know what you’re missing out on!

That tiny little egg means one of our hens has finally started laying again!

The best part of a small backyard flock, though, are the fresh eggs!

For the month of April I will be blogging each day with a letter of the alphabet as my theme as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  Today's theme letter is E!

What do you think of chickens in the suburbs?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dandelions – Weeds or Carriers of Wishes? (An #AtoZChallenge Post)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a fondness for dandelions.

Perhaps it’s because it was one of the few flowers I was freely allowed to pick as a child.

Perhaps it’s because they magically turned into white fluff that was excellent for carrying my wishes away to be granted.

Regardless of the reason, they’ve always been a favorite rather than a nuisance and I’ve never owned a lawn that I wished to rid of their gold flowers or fluffy white remains.

Even still, as I stare down the slope toward my fortieth year, you may find me whispering a wish to a fluffy dandelion before giving it my very best…

For the month of April I will be blogging each day with a letter of the alphabet as my theme as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  Today's theme letter is D!

So, how do you see dandelions? As weeds or carriers of wishes?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cell Phones (An #AtoZChallenge Post)

Yesterday morning I ran out to the local grocery store to pick up some bagels for breakfast.  As I was leaving the grocery store I realized that I hadn't picked up my cell phone and put it in my purse before I left the house.  I felt terrible!  What if DH had tried to reach me to pick up something he thought of while I was at the store?  What if there was an emergency and they needed to reach me? I had been incommunicado for an entire 20 minutes!

Life wasn't always this way.  We weren't always wired to each other; in constant communication.  In fact, for more than the first half of my life I often took long road trips with the full knowledge that if something went wrong I would be at the mercy of *gasp* strangers who stopped to help and would need to get to a payphone in order to call someone I knew.  As a young, single mother I often travelled the 6+ hours between my home in South Carolina and my parent’s home in West Virginia with little more than some snacks for the road, music to listen to and gas money!

And now I worry what might have happened in the twenty minutes it took me to drive a mile and half, pick out bagels, pay for them and then drive home!

In the spring of 1999 I was 25 years old and dating DH; Baby Girl was in 1st grade and Monkey Man hadn't even started school yet.  Most days were spent helping DH with his auto repair business; Monkey Man and I would spend our days there until we drove across town to pick up Baby Girl from school.  One day DH took Monkey Man with him to test drive a vehicle without telling me – it happened to be right about the time I had to leave to pick up Baby Girl from school.  I left not knowing if Monkey Man was with DH or lost in the woods somewhere behind the business – the whole drive across town and back I prayed that Monkey Man was OK and with DH.  It was terrifying!  DH had a cell phone, but I didn't.  At that time they really were more of a luxury item and something DH had only as a business owner.

Cell phones from the early days...
My first phone was the third one from the left!
Source: Wikipedia

When I got back, Monkey Man was just fine, of course.  But that incident changed my life forever.  Because of it, DH bought me my first cell phone.  These were the days before unlimited everything, before text messaging, before smart phones!  Heck, we still got on the internet with a dial-up connection through AOL that we paid for by the hour!  I was one of the first of my friends to have a cell phone – and I've had one ever since.  Now, my cell phone is the only phone I have!  And I can get messages through calls, email, text and internet connection!

Cell phones have changed my life and our world in ways I’d never imagined possible back in 1999 (and that really wasn't all that long ago). Heck, when I had to pick ten things to take with me if I had to leave my home forever, my phone was #5 on the list!

I can only imagine the technology that will come into use in the rest of my life!  It’s somewhat mind-boggling…

For the month of April I will be blogging each day with a letter of the alphabet as my theme as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  Today's theme letter is C!

What technology has become common in your lifetime that still amazes you?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Buddy-Bear and the Home Depot (An #AtoZChallenge Post)

Two weekends ago we were visiting friends at their home in a nearby state and happened to go to Home Depot for supplies for the projects the men were working on.  The supply run has turned into a story that is yet to have an ending and certainly one we will tell Buddy when he’s older…

To understand this story’s significance, you need to understand that Buddy-Bear (originally called Beary but a few months he was dubbed “Buddy-Bear” by Buddy himself) has become a full-on family member.  He and his identical twin (acquired by parents who feared the fallout if the original ever disappeared) were pretty high on my list of things we’d take with us in case of disaster.

It all began that fateful day with Buddy’s insistence that Buddy-Bear needed to accompany us into Home Depot.  Looking back, I wish I had insisted he wait in the car…

So, the scene:  Buddy is riding in the shopping cart entertaining himself by throwing Buddy-Bear to the floor for our friend to retrieve over and over and over and you get the idea.  Now, also important to note are the facts that we have been working with Buddy to transition him into more age-appropriate ways of communicating (like multi-word requests) and that he is strenuously resisting those efforts and that  we’ve been focusing on always following through with the consequences we tell Buddy will occur if he doesn’t comply with a request we make (typical toddler parenting, but important to this story).

So, tiring of the never-ending game of Buddy-Bear Fetch, our friend told Buddy not to throw Buddy-Bear on the floor again or she would leave him there.  You see where this is going yet?  Yep.  Like every other two year old on the planet would, Buddy opted to “test” our friend and her resolve.

Bad choice, Buddy, bad choice.

Down Buddy-Bear went…  Deciding to be kind, our friend offered to pick up Buddy-Bear one final time but explained to Buddy that first he would need to ask her to pick him up.  This is where we ran into problems.  You see, Buddy has been quite content pointing to things he wants and playing “toddler charades” with us until we figure out what he’s requesting.  He will gladly say “please” but he resists adding any additional words.  So, being told to say “Please pick up Buddy” before the bear would be retrieved didn’t sit well with him.  He refused to even attempt to say an additional word other than “please” while pointing to Buddy.  He refused to say “Please Buddy”; he refused “Please pick up”; he simply refused.  And we refused to bend.

So, there Buddy-Bear laid, on the floor of the Home Depot aisle.  And we left. Or at least that’s what Buddy thinks… In truth, I snuck back to the aisle and stuffed the bear in my purse because I couldn’t leave him behind.  But Buddy didn’t know that.  The tears and cries for Buddy-Bear as we pulled out of the parking lot were heart-breaking, but still Buddy refused to say any version of “please pick up Buddy”.

Now, before you start feeling too sad for Buddy, take note that this didn’t play out with tears and sadness so much as it did crossed arms and a look of absolute defiance on his little face.

Later in the day the question of how to resolve this “abandoned Buddy-Bear” situation was raised and discussed amongst the adults.  We reasoned and agreed that Buddy doesn’t know the difference between one Home Depot and another and that we would give him the opportunity to remedy the situation when we were next in a Home Depot.  As it turns out, that was the next day because that’s just how DIY home improvement projects seem to work out.

You should know that during the time between the Home Depot visits, Buddy requested adults to “pick up please” several times when he wanted one or the other of us to pick him up.  This isn’t a question of whether he can ask for the bear to be picked up…

So, we arranged to stumble across Buddy-Bear in the Home Depot.  And explained that Buddy must ask for the bear to be picked up or we would be leaving him behind again.

He refused.  We pointed out other customers who may find the bear and take him home with them, Buddy yelled at passers-by “No Buddy!” and stomped his feet angrily, but he refused to ask for his bear to be picked up.  And so the sad bear was abandoned once again. (And hidden in my purse for another Home Depot experience in the future.)

Buddy-Bear’s identical twin was hidden away as well…this isn’t an accident; this is a battle between a toddler’s desire to control the adults and manners.  I hope that at one point in the future, Buddy will give in and ask for his bear to be picked up.  But until then, keep an eye out in Home Depot…maybe you’ll run into him there!

For the month of April I will be blogging each day with a letter of the alphabet as my theme as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  Today's theme letter is B!

Have you ever had to prove to your child that you meant business?  Think we're being too mean?  Have suggestions?  I'd love to hear about it in the comment section?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Army -- (an #AtoZChallenge Post)

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge!  For the month of April I will be attempting to blog each day, excluding Sundays, with a letter of the alphabet as my theme. 

rmy.  My oldest son made the choice to join the US Army.  He is currently training at Ft. Benning, Georgia to become a Cavalryman; the training is not easy.

While he’s been away training our main form of communication has been letters through the US Postal Service.  It takes around a week for our letters to reach each other and they usually cross paths on their trip.  It’s certainly not the best way to communicate when you, as a mother, want to know everything that’s going on with your child.  Especially when the communication relies on a 20-year-old who has grown up in a world where his home always had a computer and email to pick up a pen and tell his mother what’s going on with him!

Letters from my son are treasured.

His letters are few and far between.  I try to make mine more regular so that he never forgets that he is loved and supported in his goals.  I do cheat a little by typing his letters and adding photos of things that we’re doing – but this “cheat” allows me to tell him more of what’s happening here and show him as well.

My son, early in the morning as we were
headed to the Airport after the Holiday break.

Because my son started training at the end of the year and has struggled with health issues while there, his “16 weeks of intensive training designed to make him a versatile warrior” has taken longer than expected.  Originally he would have been graduating this week, but will be in training until mid-June if all proceeds as expected.  If his health issues continue, it may be longer still.  I know he wants to complete this phase of training and move on to his Army career and that these setbacks must be hard for him; I pray they make his resolve stronger and his training set in his mind more firmly than might otherwise have been the case.

As a Mom of an Army Soldier, praying and writing letters is about all I can do – the rest is up to my son, his Leaders and his fellow Soldiers.  I pray they all stay safe and make good decisions.

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