Top 10…wait, what?

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Today is not just any, ordinary day. Which is why no simple Top 10 post would do this week.

My big sister has a birthday today. And not just any birthday – a milestone. The big 4 – 0.

So, instead of a Top 10 this week, I’m going to share 40 things about why I love my sister and love being a sister to her. 40 things about why my sister is awesome. 40 wishes for her. All of the above. Because 40 is special. And no simple list will do.

40. No one knows me better

I’ve known her longer than anyone else, besides our parents. She’s never not been in my life. Of all the people that know me, she has had a front row seat, and I have with her.

This results in a bond like no other.

39. No b.s.

Because we know each other so well, there is no pretense to our relationship. We don’t have to be polite for the sake of being polite. We can just let out anything that the outside world might find……unacceptable. I have discovered that I can say a lot of things to my sister that I couldn’t admit to anyone else. It’s very liberating.

38. Commiserating

I love that we are both moms. Both married. Naturally, we experience a lot of the same emotions. But we have more in common than just our parents and the fact that we are both domestics.

We struggle with some of the same issues. We deal with many of the same frustrations. We both know how important it is to just be able to have someone to complain with.

37. She has dimples.

My sister has a killer smile. And she has the most perfect dimples.

I only know a handful of people who actually have them. There’s something about dimples that make it almost impossible not to smile when you see them on the face of someone with a smile like hers.

36. Inside jokes

I could say something as simple as “monkey ass” and she would immediately get it.

35. Brutal honesty

Except when we each need to hear how wonderful we are. And it’s okay. We know we aren’t perfect. But sometimes you just need somebody to gloss over your imperfections and focus on your best features and traits.

34. Memories

We have been so many places, experienced so many things. It’s like having spent a whole lifetime with someone before your actual life really begins.

33. She has twins

No matter what, my sister carried and birthed a set of twins. That makes her infinitely better than me and more of a woman. There. I said it. You can stop rubbing it in my face.

32. She was born first

But they saved the best for last. 😜

31. Spontaneity

Most of the people I know are creatures of habit and routine. To some extent, so am I. But there’s something to be said for totally breaking away from that on occasion.

My sister is the only person I know that I could text at midnight (because it’s quite likely she’d be awake) and propose a drive to the Huddle House, a trip to Wal-Mart for no reason, or to the coast to watch the sun rise and she’d say, “Okay!”. Or “Go to bed.” Because there’s always that brutal honesty. Even in spontaneous idea proposals.

30. Cat lover

She is the epitome of “crazy cat lady”. That is all.

29. Care giver

She has 3 kids and a husband with C.F.. Care-giving is her way of life. And I respect her, tremendously.

28. Humility

I don’t think that my sister thinks she’s better than anyone else. She’s never acted like she was and she’ll be quick to point it out.

27. Don’t mess with her

But she’s also quick to halt you if you’re being a crappy person or aggravating her!

26. She appreciates the absurd

At least a couple of times a week I will get a meme or a gif or a video that solidifies our mutual amusement at the ridiculous.

25. She’s nostalgic

I think I’ve always been the sappier one. But she’s got a nostalgic streak in her as well. Probably more than she’s willing to admit. And only she would appreciate some of the same things that I do. That’s priceless.

24. She’s fearless.

She’d say otherwise, but she’s faced a lot in her life. Stared down some scary stuff. I appreciate the part of her that owns the uncertain and takes it one day at a time

23. She FINALLY eats tomatoes

Not like I do, but, ya know, baby steps.

22. She’s affectionate

We’re an affectionate family. And her hugs have been there for me when I was falling apart. There are no words to describe what that means to me.

21. We are so different.

Like night and day, sometimes. But how boring would it be if we were alike in every way?

20. She is private.

While I live my life with my heart on my sleeve most days, she internalizes a lot. Sometimes I wish I could do that.

19. She has my back.

No fiercer defender can I call on when I need a warrior.

18. She’s pretty.

Not just dimples. Beautiful blue eyes. Soft skin. Great hair. She and I are both curvier than we used to be, but we own it. We embrace the bodies that life and children have given us. And that makes us stunning. And if you don’t think so, you can kiss our cellulite.

17. Walks

Sometimes, when we’re at our parents’ house, we’ll take a walk. Just the two of us. Just to talk. I treasure those walks.

16. Support

She was there when I graduated. There when I lost my election. When my daughter was born. When we lost people we loved. I can’t imagine not having her by my side in some of the most significant moments of my life.

15. She knows the crazy

Only my sister can appreciate the deep vein of insanity that runs in our family. She’s one of the safest people I can talk to about it.

14. She cries with me.

Sometimes……sometimes that’s all you need. Someone to feel your pain with you. And give a damn enough to show it.

13. She has a strong faith.

She’s not showy about it. Doesn’t use it to make other people feel inferior. She just trusts and leans on God and her belief is sincere and steadfast.

12. She has a tender heart.

Babies. Animals. Older people. She has a soft spot for the vulnerable. I think that’s one of the things I love about her the most.

11. She’d do anything for me.

I know it.

10. I wish her joy today.

The kind of joy that nothing can diminish.

9. I wish her good health.

Energy, light-heartedness, and physical contentment.

8. I wish her prosperity.

That all of her plans would be blessed and succeed.

7. I wish her peace.

When things don’t go as planned. When uncertainty abounds.

6. I wish her freedom.

Freedom from anything that holds her spirit down.

5. I wish her security.

That she would know, beyond any doubt, just how special and loved she is by so many.

4. I wish her hope.

That she’d never give up on her dreams.

3. I wish her strength.

To continue fighting the battles she has. To be the best wife and mom she can be. These are the hardest jobs in the world.

2. I wish her wisdom.

For every crossroad, every decision, large or small.

1. I wish her love.

That through these words she would see just how special and unique she is, and how lost I’d be without her as my sister. My forever friend.

Reflection

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I cannot bring myself to a place of lighthearted, easy writing. Not today. Not this week.

The hatred I’ve seen, not just as it has been reported by news outlets, but within my own circles of contacts, has been nearly unthinkable.

I say “nearly”, because I have spent the last 24 years in the south. It’s where I was born. Where I was mostly raised. I’ve witnessed the attitudes of white supremacy from an early and impressionable age.

This week, I was reminded that these attitudes not only cause division in our country, but in families. Even my own.

It’s beyond “sad” as the President likes to say. It’s tragic.

And, as usual, I don’t have the answers.

Maybe the removal of confederate monuments would mark the beginning of something positive. Maybe it would cause more violence. But one thing is absolutely certain: hate, in its most raw and organic state, is alive and well.

I’ve read a lot of opinions this week. Many I agreed with. Many I didn’t. But there is no neat and tidy way to deal with the painful issues that divide.

So much of the problem seems to be the inclination of people to stop looking at human beings as human beings, and simply assign them a label. Group them together. And hate them.

Because that’s the easy thing to do. It’s much easier to stand up against a “movement” than to take each conflict as a personal opportunity to listen to individuals and their point of view.

By “grouping”, we don’t have to take any kind of personal responsibility for trying to understand. And by joining a “group” ourselves, we don’t have to necessarily justify our positions on these matters. We can hide behind the group. And let them bear the brunt of the conflict.

But it takes one individual to another, giving and receiving information in a clear, non-hostile way, before common ground can be reached.

At the root of hate, by anyone, there is always the refusal to listen. To open ourselves to the vulnerability of their opinions and criticisms. We fear much. And that, perhaps, is the root of hate itself: fear.

Fear that history will be lost? For some, yes. Fear that our country cannot truly be united unless monuments to the past are removed from public places? For some, yes. Fear that our opinions and ideologies are wrong? Many times. Why else would people be so defensive?

One of the arguments I witnessed personally this week was between brothers. One was trying to show a Christian perspective. One of Love. And humility. And peace. And he was confronted with hatred.

My defense mechanisms went into overdrive. They always do when people behave like bigots.

These are the divisions that the news doesn’t report. The ones that create a divide in families. Between friends.

They go deeper than just ideology. They go to our very roots. And when one person starts examining their roots and pointing to the problems in the soil, there are always those who are so deeply clinging to what they choose to believe, a resolution seems impossible.

I have seen what happens when hate drives people. And I have witnessed discrimination and unequal treatment of people because of who they are, who they cannot help but be.

And many times, I have said nothing. Because nothing I could say would change anything. Not because I couldn’t say something with relevance or truth to it. The simple fact is this: people who choose to believe something, whether it’s true or not, are usually resistant to anything that implies there’s another way to look at something, or someone. And some are resistant to the point of hatred for anyone or anything that dares to challenge them.

Violence should not be tolerated. And you cannot reason with the unreasonable. You can’t fix stupid. But you can educate the ignorant.

I cannot solve the world’s problems. So for many of us who are privileged enough, the answer is often to do nothing. Say nothing. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t stir the pot. Don’t invite that controversy to your doorstep.

I know many activists. While I am passionate, and I think collective efforts can reap benefits, I am also a huge proponent of personal responsibility.

I believe in taking ownership of one’s own thoughts and actions and trying to propel them towards good.

Because I think, if there IS an answer to some of the madness, it’s to be found there. In each individual. One at a time.

But that takes work.

I am, and most people are, impatient. We want immediate results. We want immediate satisfaction. And long standing problems do not have those kinds of answers.

In order to make our voices heard, we first have to make sure we know our facts. Not just b.s. we’ve been spoon fed by the media, or by politicians, or by bloggers, or by preachers, or by our parents, our friends. We have to be able to discern. Understand. See the problem as a whole. See it from someone else’s perspective besides the one we’ve held all of our lives.

Secondly, we have to continue in that quest for truth, and never be certain that we’ve figured it all out. It requires constant examination of our own belief systems, consciences, and motivations. It’s exhausting.

I, for one, am usually so tired from doing this that I don’t have time to point many fingers.

But most of all, I think, our personal responsibility means that we live our truth, and not just speak it.

We all fall short and fail and miss the mark. Nobody is perfect. But are you the kind of person, do you live your life in such a way, does your attitude reflect the light of a person who speaks from the heart? Who can think for themselves? Who has studied and observed and really looked at the WHOLE issue, and not just the part that pisses you off?

This is so hard. I struggle with it daily. I want to scream about the injustices I see. I want to call out people for hate all while displaying my own version of it, because MINE is justified. Right?

While the temptation is often to look outside and point at someone else, blame another, the only way to really begin a healing process in a family, in a church, in a country, is to stop looking outside. And turn our gaze inward. Stop calling out, and reaching in. Deal with what’s inside ourselves.

And maybe if more people did that, we’d truly begin to eradicate the monster. Starting with the one inside us all.

The Enemy Within

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Definition of enemy

plural enemies

1: one that is antagonistic to another; especially : one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent

2: something harmful or deadly ‘alcohol was his greatest enemy’

3a : a military adversary

b : a hostile unit or force

Jesus was once asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

I wonder what he would say if he was asked, today, “Who is my enemy?”

Would it be those who wish to do harm to others?

If that is true, am I the enemy?

Would it be those who disagree, hatefully and carelessly with others, politically and religiously?

If that is true, am I the enemy?

Would it be those who spread messages of hate, division, segregation, discrimination?

If that is true, am I the enemy?

Much has been said in the last few years about landing on the wrong side of history.

Whether it’s concerning the rights of the LGBTQ community. The rights of women. The rights of immigrants. The rights of races.

We all make conscious and unconscious decisions, every day, about where our loyalties begin and end.

More and more, I see where apathy and indifference, silence……these are simply not options anymore. Maybe once upon a time, but if you have children, if you have a conscience, if you have a heart, for God’s sake, these are not options.

Yes, it is exhausting. Mentally and emotionally, to take stands for what is right and good.

Yes, it can be disconcerting. Because you might have to make those stands alone.

And that, that is the point.

Because first, one has to come to terms with the enemy within. And most people, myself included, don’t take the time to do that. To examine our own hearts.

That “hostile unit or force” can often be our very selves. That “something harmful or deadly” can be the very attitudes of our minds, hearts, and actions (or lack thereof).

I try to refrain from too much political subject matter here on this blog. And it’s not because I lack passion, but because I lack the emotional and mental fortitude to withstand a constant discussion about such things with people who have no interest in examining what I have actually said, but only want to argue.

I have to be careful. Not because of them. But because of myself.

Because argue? Well, I’m a seasoned pro. I come from a long line of people who are right, opinionated, verbose, and unwilling to NOT have the last word.

And there is no victory in that kind of engagement. I’ve seen it. Because people are so unwilling to see themselves as the potential bad guy.

This is where my politics and religion settle: in which scenario am I the enemy? In which scenario are my behavior, actions, and attitudes unbecoming to one who claims to be a follower of Love Personified?

And more often than not, I fail. I am sensitive and passionate, which makes for a very difficult inner dialogue, especially when confronted with dissent. By those I care about. By those I know to be hateful people. By even strangers.

So the only thing I know to do for now, and regularly, is examine my own heart. Look for the enemy within. And engage it first. Because that enemy is the deadliest one of all.

Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.

Charles Spurgeon

Top 10 Thursday: Little things

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They say one day we’ll look back on our lives and realize that the little things were the big things. I think that’s very true, especially the older I get.

10. Silence

In a world that seems constantly noisy, silence can hold profound meaning. It can bridge a divide, or create one. It can provide peace, or madness. It can imply compliance, or defiance.

Choosing when to break it is the mark of wisdom.

9. New and/or freshly laundered sheets

My busy summer is catching up with me. While out shopping for school supplies, I picked up a new set of sheets.

I splurged a little on a higher thread count. Last night, after a hot bath, I crawled into my freshly made bed and reveled in the simplistic pleasure of new linens. Pure perfection.

8. Hugs

Nothing quite shows affection like a genuine embrace. Sometimes it can say more than any words could explain. It is encouragement, affection, hope, and acceptance, all rolled into one physical expression.

7. Books

Little things that can be held in the hands, but what worlds they hold. Thoughts, ideas, stories. Inspiration, escape, and imagination at our fingertips.

6. Smiles

Want to make someone’s day? Smile at them.

5. Touch

There’s been a lot in the media about Princess Diana these last few months. One of the things she was known for was being accessible to the masses, especially those outcast from society.

Being willing to touch the untouchable, both literally and figuratively, can mean the world to those on the fringes, the ones hanging on by a thread of hope.

4. Connection

One of the things I’ve always loved about writing in this format is the connection I’ve developed with other writers.

I’ve made some lasting friendships through this medium. Our art connected us.

I’ve made other connections through work, church, mutual friends. All of these have become important to me. Many of them, without intention of them becoming so. But they have. They are. And they give my life depth and contrast.

3. Nature

There is a moment, just before the sun rises, that feels akin to desperation. It can seem so dark. So gloomy. And then, almost suddenly, there is light.

Seeing flowers on the brink of bloom or watching the tide roll in and out – little tastes of something divine.

2. Music

Seven little notes on a musical scale with sharp and flat variations.

Think about the millions of songs and symphonies that have been derived from those simple tones.

1. Minutes

Made up of tiny, fleeting seconds. They turn into the years, decades of our lives.

They all count.

They all matter.

Owning time

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I’m writing this morning, as I often do, from a chair, outside. But instead of my own patio, I’m sitting on the front porch of my parents’ home.

The sun will be up soon. I have my coffee, my words. The sights and sounds are just a bit different than my normal routine.

I’ve been scrolling through Facebook off and on the last two days, reading post after post of back-to-school photos. Most parents lamenting the passing of time. Wishing it to slow down.

I do not.

Even though my days seem to flutter past, more and more quickly, I do not wish for it to change. I do not wish to go back in time to when my daughter was smaller. Or for the current moments to go into slow motion.

I think my daughter has many adventures ahead of her. And I think I have many ahead of me. We can’t have them if we stay exactly as we are right now. And for all the nostalgia I feel about childhood, I wouldn’t go back to my own, or hers. Each new year has brought us to new and better places.

I am sitting on my parents’ porch this morning because they took a little road trip. Just the two of them. I’m here keeping an eye on the dog, and in case my grandmother needs something.

When my mom called to check in last night, there was joy in her voice. The sound of someone who had been exploring. It made me smile.

When I was growing up, we took 4 actual “family vacations” that I can recall. And very rarely do I remember my parents getting away, just the two of them.

When my dad retired last September, this was one of my hopes for him and my mom. That they would take some time, after 39 years of marriage, and just be together. At home, of course, but also away from home. That they would set out on a few adventures of their own.

I know, from my own life experience, the toll that the daily grind takes on a person. And even the ones who love where they live and the lives they lead need a change of scenery every now and then.

Dad is home every day now. And every night. Not something that has always been the case. My grandmother moved in with my parents two years ago. They got a dog last year. There have been many changes to the lifestyle of the people who raised me, and their daily routine.

I’m here. In the house where I spent the last portion of my adolescence. The place I’ve come back to many times when my life has been in shambles.

But it’s different now.

Certainly the aesthetics have changed since I lived here. New paint. New floors. Refinished countertops. An addition built for my grandmother off of my old bedroom.

But that’s not what I feel is different now.

This house used to be a place of schedule. Alarm clocks. Off to work, little time to play.

And now……there is no thermos waiting for my dad to fill and take in his truck for his journey of a thousand miles. The pipe tally books no longer sit on the end of the bar with notes from his day, his work. The alarm clock sits, only telling the time. Very rarely used to awaken anyone. My parents are no longer bound to that clock.

I suppose that is why I don’t wish for my current days to slow down. Because even with all the bittersweet moments, with each day that passes, I’m that much closer to no longer being bound to a clock either.

I want to own time. Not for time to own me.

I’m about to wash out my coffee cup and get ready for work. I will go awaken my 8th grader and drop her off for the first day of a new school year.

And time will own us today.

But not forever.

Filtered Beauty

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This is me. At 35 years old. Filtered.

When I was a kid, I was a complete nerd. Frizzy hair. Glasses. Braces. So skinny people thought I had an eating disorder though I ate like a teenage boy on steroids.

But other than my Dad and my Mom and my grandfather (who told me every time I saw him), I don’t remember people ever telling me, as a child, that I was “pretty”.

I remember them saying it about my sister. Because she was. She is. Blue eyes, dimples. A smile that lights up a room.

I just don’t remember people telling me anything other than I looked “puny” or commenting on whether or not I ever ate.

I don’t really remember my first husband telling me I was pretty, either. But after I went through some intense medical issues shortly after we married, I remember him asking me when I was going to go on a diet. Or reminding me that I was supposed to be on one.

I went from having a thin, flat body type to one full of curves and rolls and dimensions I was not used to in a matter of a couple of months. And then I got pregnant. So, of course, my body has now never been the same.

I never had to watch what I ate. I never had to exercise. I never had to be disciplined about my body. For 20 years. And I’m just now learning how to take better care of it.

It’s a roller coaster. But I’m doing better. Again. For now. I know better than to say I’ve got this area of my life under control because I’m weak. And I love food. And it’s the south and we plan entire days around meals.

Still, I see progress.

And not just progress in my daily discipline of making better dietary choices or getting my ass to the walking track or on the treadmill.

I’m finally seeing myself as beautiful. Just as I am. Not because of what anyone else sees or says. But because I like what I see.

Maybe it’s just my problem, this insecurity about my looks. But in a world of selfies and fashion and fitness advice, I think the large majority of the population DOES care and has their own hang-ups about their self-image.

I don’t think I’d feel much differently about my looks than I do today if I’d been showered with compliments on my appearance all my life. In fact, most of the most beautiful people I know struggle with insecurity. I could blame that on a lot of things, but at the end of the day, I think the simple truth is: we’re just human. And we all have a need to be told our worth. And somehow, in this crazy, messed up society, a lot of us have equated that worth with appearance.

I’ve developed a lot of unhealthy habits over the last 25 years, but none so unhealthy as that one.

I think several things have helped shift my thinking. But mostly, maturity and the love of a partner in life who accepts me so unconditionally and has seen me with “filtered eyes” long before our smartphones came along.

This is also me. Unfiltered. Makeup sweated off. Mascara blurred from tears cried. I love makeup. I love it because I like the way wearing it makes me feel. It’s a kind of protective mask between me and the world. But I also love the freedom of not wearing it if I don’t want to. And finally being okay with how that feels too.

I love a good selfie. Filtered or not. I love to see women embrace their individual beauty with confidence and be proud of the face in that picture.

I’m sure there will be those who judge my photos. And yours. But that’s okay too. Those people will never know, nor take the time to understand, what it often takes in terms of personal growth to reach a point where some of us have any semblance of physical confidence.

So post that selfie, girlfriend. Filtered or unfiltered, the people that really know you always thought you were beautiful. It just takes some time, sometimes, to see it yourself. And it’s okay to feel pretty. As long as you remember, you’re so much more than that.

Top 10 Tuesday: Summer, 2017

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Weather-wise, summer in Mississippi will be with us for at least another 8 weeks. But as for freedom, well, that is slowly coming to an end.

School resumes in 8 days. I’ll have an 8th grader in my house. The spontaneity of some things will give way to routine.

Here are some things that have made this summer one to remember:

10. Day trips

I’ve documented our trips, and if you missed them, you can click on the Travel category on the home page and go back to read them.

They’ve worn me smooth out, but so many memories were made. I wouldn’t trade them for all the naps in the world. And I do love a good nap (or three) on the weekend.

9. Work

Hey, I said the summer was “memorable”- that doesn’t always translate into “enjoyable”.

In my life, I was always taught, “work before play”. This summer has been one of the busiest I’ve ever had, professionally speaking. My stress level has been through the roof and I’m hoping that things will begin to calm down a bit as August begins.

Reagan has learned a lot about work also. In setting a goal of buying her own laptop for school and photo-editing, she compelled my parents to hire her for work around their house and farm. They obliged, and there is a new shiny laptop on our kitchen table this morning.

It’s been really good for her, having a routine like she’s had these last 6 weeks or so. And she’s learned a lot. I’m proud of her for learning about what it means to work hard, save her money, meet a financial goal.

8. Late nights

I’m pretty religious about being in bed at a semi-decent hour. This summer though, I’ve taken in a couple of 10 o’clock movies with the kiddo, stayed up late hanging out with her, just embracing my nocturnal side.

I’ve never been a “night” person. I suppose I’m turning into a morning person, but really, I’m more of a ……..10 a.m.-awake-on-my-own-with-no-alarm clock person.

But the late nights have just meant more time with my daughter. And we’ve had a lot of fun.

7. The weather

It’s the south. It’s summer. It’s hot, humid, and downright oppressive…..usually.

This, by all previous standards has been a pretty mild season. We’ve had our share of heat waves this year, but Sunday night, hubs and I had an outdoor Dairy Queen date. And it was FABULOUS weather. I can’t tell you the last time I sat outside in late July, even past sunset, and didn’t feel like I was melting.

6. The writing

I’m very close to meeting a writing goal. Had I not been in such a funk during April and May, I’d probably already have met it.

When you blog, you do so for several reasons. But one of them is to share your words with the world. So far, 2017 has been my best year to date since I started A Pensieve View. I’ve almost doubled my page views from last year and July has just ended. It’s been an exciting year for me as a writer.

I’ve let go of some things I thought I wanted as a writer as well. For the most part, anyway. And that growth and acceptance of what this part of me needs to be and was intended for has made a huge difference in how I approach it.

I’ve had to learn how to be an artist. I think I’m growing a lot in that department. And it’s very liberating.

5. The transformation

I’m not the only one growing as an artist. Reagan has blossomed a lot this year in terms of embracing her inner artist as well. She’s a very good writer in her own right, and an amazing photographer.

The beaten down shell of a girl that sat before me at the end of basketball season has been reborn into someone who picked herself up, dusted herself off, and discovered new and exciting talents within her own being.

I can’t wait to see how she uses her talents in the coming days.

4. Nature

This is the first summer in the 11 years we’ve been married that none of our plants have died under the oppression from the summer heat. We’re learning what survives and thrives and have been focusing our gardening energy on those. *Kudos to my husband for keeping the plants watered.

3. Giselle

I bit the bullet and bought a new car at the end of March. She’s already got 10K miles on her, but I’m enjoying racking them up.

I think we’re in for a lot of memories together.

2. Simplicity

With every passing season, I grow to appreciate the little things in life, more and more. Like the beautiful sunset and hot cup of coffee I’m enjoying right now.

1. Opportunity

I received a promotion at work several months ago. I’m exploring new territory in my professional life and it is definitely a challenge.

But challenges were meant to be conquered. I have no doubt that I will do just that. And on the days that I’m feeling overwhelmed, I will let my mind wander back through the memories of this summer. Remind me of all that these last few months have taught me, and look ahead with hope and determination to make the next season as memorable as the last.

Muddy Water 

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The water wasn’t clear yesterday. But its soothing sounds were. I let the waves lap at my feet, felt my heart settle into a peaceful rhythm. Allowed my mind to wander, sitting in companionable silence with a kindred spirit on the shores of an island still very raw and mostly free of people and their noise.

The gulf is never the same. My cousin and I were discussing this yesterday while we walked on the beaches of Dauphin Island. Every day, they look different. The tides and what they bring in, take out, result in different scenery from one day to the next.

What gets left behind are often broken bits of shell. Trash. 

But sometimes there are intact pieces of beauty. Whole shells, perfected by their trauma, that somehow managed to arrive at the shore without blemish.

Little survivors of the waves. 

If you’ve ever seen an angry sea, that’s pretty amazing to stop and think about. That anything so small and fragile could survive, and not be broken. 

What is the secret to that, I wonder? I would suppose that it has a lot to do with resistance. Not fighting the tide, but simply allowing it to carry, push, pull, and then finally allow it to roll onto shore.

There’s an expression for people who remain on the coast during inclement weather. We say, “They’re going to ride it out.”

It simply means, “We’re going to prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and let nature have it’s way. And when it is done, we’ll take the next step. Whatever that may be.”

Sometimes, they have to go. The threat is just too high. The potential just too threatening. Higher ground has to be found. 

I used to think that this must be an exhausting lifestyle. Until I realized that it is the same for everyone whether we live near the tides or not. 

And we all hope, like the unbroken shell, that by hanging on, a peaceful shoreline awaits us.

My wish

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The kiddo is off today on another adventure. She’s been so many places this summer. North Carolina, two summer camps, and lots of little day trips with me. Tomorrow she sets sail with her Dad to Cozumel. 

I love to watch her experience new things. In just over 4 months, she’ll be 14. That much closer to leaving my nest. She wants to go to college at Oxford University in London. That’s her first choice. Her second? Anywhere that isn’t here. Not that she doesn’t love her home, but just that she wants to see more of the world.

I was proofing her summer reading paper last night. She wrote it on the book, The Help, by Katherine Stockett, a Mississippi native. Her understanding of the subject matter, the discussions we had about it…… The kid just gets it. Her level of perception scares me sometimes.

Reagan is a bright, intelligent young woman. My wish, my greatest desire for her, is for her to create a life that makes her happy.

Her path is not my own. I cannot make the decisions that are coming. Only she can set her path. 

Truth be known, I’ll be happy as long as she’s happy. Whether that means she achieves her goal of studying abroad, or takes classes at our community college. I just want her to pursue her passions. Because life is much too short not to.

I want her to see places. Meet people. Experience the big beautiful world in ways that I never will. I want her to grow. Continue to evolve and be shaped into this beautiful person she is growing into. 

When I first laid eyes on her, I knew I had my work cut out for me. She was suspicious, untrusting from the very start. You could see it in her eyes. She asked a thousand questions as soon as she could form the words. She still asks. But mostly, now, she listens. Absorbs. 

It’s crazy, being a parent to this child that outgrows me a little more each day. I’ve never pretended to have the answers I didn’t. I’ve never lied to her. Maybe that’s why those untrusting eyes look at me differently than they did the first time I saw them. 

Some things haven’t changed though. She still takes my breath away. Just watching her. Knowing she came from me. That this tall, gorgeous creature actually came from my own body. It’s startling. Humbling. Inspiring.

I used to worry, constantly, about what kind of adult I was shaping. I know all too well just how much what I say and do will impact her beyond the here and now. It’s a tall order. 

Of all the disagreements my husband and I have had throughout our 11 year marriage, this child has been the source of most of them. We have different parenting styles. Take different elements with varying degrees of seriousness. I knew, early on, that my daughter would be someone with whom I’d have to pick my battles. Her stubbornness exceeds anything I’ve ever known. Even within myself. My husband, who, for all practical purposes, is the father in her life, sees raising a child very differently. Each battle one that can and should be fought and won by the parent. He’s got her respect. But so do I. Different strategies. The same result. 

Sometimes I honestly don’t know how we’ve all survived this blended family thing and still love each other. Still enjoy each other. Each one of us is so different from the others. But survive, we have. Still surviving. Still learning. Still loving, even when we drive each other insane.

Another worry I have always carried is just how much this blended family, and coming from divorced parents would affect my daughter. 

But I see where it’s helped her more than it’s hurt her. She learned, early on, that life, sometimes, means moving on after dreams are leveled. 

She’s learned that people let you down. And you have to rise above. And you will get crushed, but you can always get back up. 

She’s learned that different doesn’t necessarily mean bad. That perfect childhoods don’t create perfect people. That imperfect childhoods don’t create insurmountable obstacles. 

I look at her and think about who she is becoming. Who she already is. I re-read my post last night about where we were at the end of basketball season. How broken we both were by people that I still struggle to forgive for the pain they caused. 

But I look at her now, 6 months later, and see a different child in front of me. She’s always been resilient, but it takes more time now for her to be okay again. And that’s okay. I think that just means that the lessons she learns from adversity will stay with her even longer. And that’s a good thing.

Because, perhaps more than any other wish, my desire for her is the same as the desire for my own life. Not just that she can rise above, be reborn, but that she will never stop letting the good and bad shape her for the best.

If who she is now is any indication, the world needs to look out. My daughter is growing up. And when she finally spreads her wings, it’s going to be quite a sight to see. It already is.

Dawning

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The darkness always gives way to light.

The abyss of the night can seem to last for an eternity. Restlessness abounds. Despair encroaches on the heart. 

There is nothing to do but wait. Wait. Wait.

It isn’t a spotlight that demands attention when the dawn arrives. Only a gradual revelation. A slow birth. Its ascension, a moment by moment experience. One that cannot be rushed.

What was silent begins to awaken, heralding the hope that peaks beyond the horizon. Weeping ceases, and gives way to song.

Slowly, what was hidden and cloaked in darkness is revealed. Chills turn to warmth. Silhouettes take shape and dimension, and truth is uncovered. Dreams become possible again.

It is a daily dance of transformation. The old becoming new. The ending becoming a beginning. The slate wiped clean. A new canvas unveiled. 

Mother Nature calls to me, “Create.” Coat your quill in the ink of possibility. The unwritten story of this day is ready to be told. 

What will it say?