Easter Is Sneaking Up On Us

We are just over a week away from Easter. This year feels so different from the years past. It doesn’t feel like it’s time for Easter. And I know Easter comes early this year, but it seems like more than that.

In the years past, the boys and I have done a lot of talking leading up to Easter. One year, we went on a search to find the cross. One year we talked about the lamb. Every year, we doing lots of talking, and Easter never sneaks up on us. This year it’s sneaking up on us and I’m not sure why.

Maybe it’s because we leave for vacation Easter morning. I guess that’s possible, but it doesn’t feel likely because we have a plan. I’ve told Chris that I don’t care what time we leave the house. We can leave at 4 am if he wants but some time between 10 and 11, he had to pull over and find me a church because I will not miss Easter service. I don’t care what church, but I need a church that morning. And the people vacationing with us can stop with us, or keep driving and we will catch up later.

Maybe it’s the fact that I recently became in charge of a group of kids every other Friday night, and I’m in charge of their Easter party. I’m in charge of the Easter bunny and the egg hunt and everything in between, and I hate the Easter bunny and just want to tell them all about Jesus and the real reason we celebrate Easter. (And it’s so much more amazing than a bunny leaving candy.) What would happen if I told the REAL Easter story in the middle of the party?

But maybe the real reason it doesn’t feel right is because I don’t have a church that I feel like I will be missing leaving for vacation Easter morning. Right now I don’t have a church that I want to go to on Sunday mornings. I don’t have a church that seems worth that extra hour or two I can sleep if we don’t go.

This makes me feel like a terrible mom. I grew up in Sunday School and that’s what I wanted for my boys. But churches don’t have Sunday School anymore. They have kid’s church which takes the children out of the service. I want my kids in the service with me. I want them to be able to sit for that hour (counting music) with me. And my recent experience with kid’s church is that it is all fluff. We watch Veggie Tales at home. I don’t want that on Sunday mornings.

So it puts me in a place where I don’t know what to do. I want a church that I WANT to go to on Sunday mornings. I want a church where I know my kids are getting Jesus when they aren’t by my side. I want Jesus.

Easter is an amazing day. Jesus DIED and then Easter morning he ROSE FROM THE GRAVE TO SAVE US ALL! I want more. I want to not be surprised that Easter is a week away. I want every day to feel like Easter.

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My Family

Once I was in my 20s, people started saying how much I looked like my mom. We had never seen it before. I was shy and quiet, and my mom was always loud. How could we look the same? But the older I get, the more people say we are the same and the more I act like her. And just so we’re clear, there is no one I would rather be like than my mom

My mom is the best. Even when we disagree and she makes me crazy (and she does make me crazy) she is the best. My mom is my best friend. When I lose my direction, she is the arrow pointing me north. I don’t know what I would do without her. And when life overwhelms my mom, I like to believe that I am her north star. Without each other, we would be lost.

Before I can remember, my parents took in strays. I’ve heard the stories so I know there were little boys who we loved as our own. And then a parent showed up and took those boys away from us. I don’t remember their names or how they came to be with us, but if you asked I would say there where three boys and I think I remember them sleeping on the floor by mom’s side of the bed or at least in their room.

I remember as a teenager, just out of school, we had another girl living with us. Mom was out of town and I had to go to the local high school and explain why Jewelia was late for school. The only proof we had of our relationship was love, and let me tell you, the government doesn’t use love as proof of anything. One of the few times I remember my dad crying was the day Jewelia (at 16) was made to leave us.

I’ve looked back at those who we loved. Yes we had Jewelia who was made to leave us, but we also had Joey, who had amazing parents but always ended up at our door, Meagan, who I consider my sister to this day, Seth who came to spend spring break at our house and then left two years later when he graduated high school. Daniel who I’m pretty sure went on as many family vacations that I went on with my family.  I have so many more siblings than the two brothers my mom gave birth to.

For as long as I can remember we have called these extra kids strays. And the ones I can give names to are just the beginning. There were always extra kids at my house. And we loved each and every one of them.

As I grew up and got married and moved on, my husband was reminded repeatedly that girls normally turn into their mothers and my husband said he would be honored if I turned into mine. Fourteen years later I have to remind him of what he said.

My mom adopted stray kids. And while every sad kid story makes me want to take those kids into my home, I’ve adopted a different kind of stray. I’ve taken in adult strays. Those grown ups that think no one loves them. Those that don’t speak to their parents. Those whose parents have died. Those who just need someone to tell them the truth. Those who need someone to love them.

Some days it makes my husband crazy, but as long as I don’t move them in, he will love my strays as much as I do. They need parents to tell them no. They need someone to say they’re making a mistake. They need someone to say, I believe in you and want the best for you. They can sleep on my couch. They can cry on my shoulder. I will cry with them and sometimes I cry for them once they leave.

My husband tells me regularly that I can’t make their decisions for them, I’m not their boss no matter how much I feel like their mom. What I can do is love them and pray for them. And whether they like it or not, my God is their Father and I know He hears our prayers. I know that even when our prayers end with us in tears and not understanding, He knows and His time is so much better than ours.

When my sister is pulled from my home and my dad is in tears, my Father cries with us. When all I can do is cry out, my Father is crying out with me. When I feel like no one hears me, my Father asks why no one is listening to Me.

If you don’t think God is listening, take a moment and listen closer. God is crying with you. You’re pain is His pain. He loves you and so do I. You are my family. My family is so much bigger than blood could make it. I love you all so much.

I wasn’t ready for this

It’s starting to feel like I only write when I’m asking for people to give or when something bad has happened. And let’s be honest, today fits right into that mold.

I used to talk to my mom on the phone every day. She would call me on her way home from work, and we would chat for that 15 minute drive. Then my brother started working with her and since they live 1/2 mile apart, they started carpooling most days. That meant that my mom only called me on days when my brother wasn’t with her. It was hard (annoying) at first, but I’ve gotten used to it.

Normally on Tuesdays my brother rides with my mom so I was obviously surprised when my phone rang around 5 and it was my mom. She thought she was so funny telling me how sorry she was that she wouldn’t be able to see us the next day. She was sorry that I decided we wouldn’t be able to see her. (Wednesdays weather permitting the boys and I go to my mom’s house to spend time with Grandma Jo and then see my parents. The weather is a lot less permitting in the winter that the other 3 seasons.) Finally asked why “I” decided we couldn’t go over. My dad and Grandma Jo were both sick with the flu. We talked the rest of her drive home and said good-bye when she pulled in the garage. It should be a few days until I talked to her again.

You can’t imagine my surprise, my shock, my panic when about an hour later my phone rang and the caller ID showed my mom’s name. I had been messing around on Facebook and answered on the first ring. She doesn’t call me at night. My phone should not have rang.

My mom was a mess and the strongest she’s even been when I answered the phone. She said, “I think Grandma had a stroke. The ambulance came and got her. I’m on my way to the hospital.”

I can’t even tell you my reaction. I got this same call 2 years ago, but this time is worse because I know how that story ended. The last time I got this call Grandpa had brain cancer and died. And that was hard and I didn’t want to lose Grandpa. I wasn’t ready for that, but I’m really not ready to lose Grandma.

And as broken as I felt, I held it together. I got the information Mom needed to give me. I was strong for her. I hung up the phone, told my husband what happened and took 1 minute to fall apart. Then I made the calls that she needed to me to make.

They made it to the hospital and confirmed that she did have the flu. They didn’t think it was a stroke, but the flu was bad enough they were transferring her to a bigger hospital. Okay. I can do that. The flu is extra bad this year. They transferred her and did an MRI and EKG the next morning. She has the flu, and it was a stroke.

If you know anything about my grandma, you know she is so ready to be in Heaven with my grandpa. She’s been telling us all since Grandpa died that she just wants to be with him. So my first thoughts with all of this is that she was just going to give up. I’m not ready to lose her. That may be super selfish, but I need her for just a little bit longer.

But the one thing she wants more than to be with Grandpa is to not be a burden on her family so she keeps fighting. The location in the brain where her stroke was just affected mobility on the right side. It didn’t affect her memories or attitude or personality. She is as ornery ever. Her speech is slow and affected, but she makes jokes with the doctors that they don’t get.

Grandma and Grandpa always thought that she would die first. They planned for that. We know she has an aneurysm in her brain. Any day it could move and kill her. But it hasn’t. This week we learned things about her heart. It is bad when your aorta is enlarged. At 3cm they do surgery. Grandma’s aorta is 6cm. That makes your heart pump too fast and, instead of sending the blood out faster, your heart is pumping too fast and the blood can’t get out of the heart and instead pools around in your heart and starts clotting and that clot is what caused Grandma’s stroke.

We’ve been told that with the kind of stroke she had that with medication there is less than a 15% of her having another stroke. I guess if you must have a stroke, it’s the best kind you could have. Although that information came before we knew how swollen her aorta is.

Mostly we are being told that with rehab, Grandma will get back 60% mobility on her right side. She will be able to walk, but she will probably have to use a walker. They want to do heart surgery eventually. It’s hard for some people to understand but she is looking for quality of life over quantity. She’s been ready for Heaven for 2 years.

So today I’m feeling the same feelings I had 2 years ago. I feel selfish and guilty. I want Grandma to live, to be healthy and strong and for us to have years more of Wednesday visits. But I don’t get to make these decisions. I don’t get to pick. And my mom sits at the hospital all day and I think I should be doing something, but there is literally nothing I can do. Even if I drove to the hospital, they wouldn’t let me and the boys in.

So it’s all in God’s hands. And I pray for His will. For the right thing. If He chooses for us to have her longer I will rejoice in that and if He chooses for her to be with Grandpa, I will mourn for our lose, for the world’s lose, but rejoice in knowing that she is with Grandpa.

If you, dear readers, would pray for my family. The selfish part of me wants you to pray for healing and the unselfish part asks for you to pray that His will be done. Either way pray for Grandma to be at peace and for God to be with us all.

 

 

Thanks for the Hope

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December has just been crazy around here. A lot of the time it hasn’t felt like December, and it’s hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away. We’ve had Christmas parties and family come into town. We finally managed to get a tree last weekend and start our own Christmas shopping. There is still so much to do and so much going on in the next week. (And the week after that, if I’m being honest.)

I went back and forth a lot on whether I was going to do Hope for the Holidays this year. It’s always a lot of pressure on me to make sure I’m doing what’s right. I do my best to make sure there are no repeats or fraud. This year was especially frustrating as we did have fraud. There were two posts with different stories that came from the same person. And the most frustrating part of all of it was that one of those stories was part of the reason I did this again this year.

However, we all go into this with our eyes and our hearts open. It is all a matter of faith. And while one person lied and got help before I could get it shut down, we helped a lot of really great people. Nine families received a little extra help this year, a little bit of their burden lifted. They got a little hope from strangers across the internet.

This year we helped a single mother whose daughter needed a winter coat and a little something under the tree. We helped grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. We had people write in requests for their neighbors because they knew they needed help. We helped several families who struggle to put food on their tables. We helped families from the east coast all the way to Alaska.

Thank you to everyone who gave this year. Thank you for caring for people you don’t know and will never meet. Thank you for supporting me in my small part of giving back. If you want to give, it’s not too late. I’m sure any of the families we’ve given to could use a little more help, and there were several new comments today from people who just heard about us and could use some help.

From my family to yours,
Merry Christmas

A lesson in patience

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Recently I’ve been especially emotional. I’ve been stressed out. I’m tired. I’m still not completely better after being sick at the beginning of the week. And all of that makes me grouchy.

Do you know what else makes me grouchy? Having to go to the store with 3 kids (my 2 crazy little boys and their friend who I’m watching this summer) in tow when I’m not feeling 100% and it’s hot and humid outside. But we had to stop at Wal-Mart because they were some things I needed, girlie stuff, shoes to replace the ones I’ve worn out since I’ve been working, a couple of tank tops to replace the ones I have worn holes in, and some white t-shirts for my 3 to tie-dye this weekend.

We are walking through the store as fast as I can get these 3 monsters to move and they are bickering and dragging their feet. “We’re hungry!” “I’m tired!” “When can we go swimming?” If they’d just keep moving and shut their traps, we’d be done and then eat lunch.

Finally we are headed to the registers. I walk past the self scans that I love because I’m not doing that we these 3, not today. I walk past several check outs with very little waiting because I recognize the cashiers and I’m not doing that today either. We walk clear to the other end of the store because we are parked on that side. There is only one register open on that side. Of course it has a very long line, but I’m not walking back to the other side of the store. We will wait.

While we are waiting, I learned that the cart full of stuff in front of me did not belong to the lady in front of me. The lady in front of me moved the cart out of the line and we all stepped forward. Just as she was about to set her items up on the belt, the missing cart lady showed back up. She let the lady in front of me go ahead and she got back in line in front of me.

Let me tell you how annoyed I was with all this, but I am not one to say something. I just smiled and then rolled my eyes. Mystery cart lady started putting all her stuff on the belt and then disappeared again. I was about to lose my mind. Who does this? If you’re not ready to check out then don’t get in line.

She came back with several boxes of those water balloons that fill up all at once and tie themselves. The boys told me, as they do every time they see these water balloons, that they wanted them. Not today, guys.

Mystery cart lady then started talking. She told the 70-year-old cashier how lovely she looked with her hair done and her make up. She asked the kids if they’d been good. She commented on how much she loved my girl’s freckles and how when she was young she had prayed for freckles.

She told me about her husband, how she is 16 years older than him, how she tried to talk him out of waiting to marry her. She told how they met in church a long time ago. She talked to the kids and told them that sometimes, when you are good there are surprises. She whispered with the cashier.

She talked about being good and that she had made mistakes when she was young. She told that she had to spend some time in the “big house.” She told that she had learned from her mistakes. She told that she always wanted to have kids but was never able. She talked to the kids and then laughed and told them they shouldn’t talk to strangers. She told them if I guy ever asked them to help him look for a puppy they should scream and run.

It didn’t take long for me to go from annoyed to enjoying the situation. It was interesting to watch the whole scene unfold, and I wondered how the people in line behind me were viewing the situation. She finally got all of her items paid for and stepped just a couple of steps away. She stood there going over her receipt and continuing to talk to all of us.

My items all got rang up and then something extremely exciting happened. The cashier picked up a bag with 3 sets of the water balloons in it and handed it to my 3. She said it was from an anonymous person, but we all knew who it was from. And then the cashier handed another set of water balloons to the little girl who was in line behind us.

We all thanked the mystery cart lady. She said that she didn’t do anything, and then told the kids that they needed to be good and not throw the balloons at people’s faces and to be sure and pick up all the trash when they were done playing with them.

She walked with us over to the door to wait because she wanted to make sure none of us got stopped for the water balloons we didn’t have receipts for. She told me that there are good people left in the world and that was need to stick together. She told us to have a great day. She said, “God bless you.”

We all had a lesson in patience. It was a lesson in kindness. It was a random act of kindness unlike any my kids have experienced before. It was a reminder that there are good people in the world. To take the time to slow down and be kind. To let the person who left their cart and walked away back in line where they were. It cost us 15 minutes to wait in line longer and we all gained so much more.

I hope this experience stick with all 3 of mine for the rest of their lives. I know it will stick with me.

 

Facebook is slowly breaking me

I joined Facebook late. I can’t remember when I joined but it was a while after I joined before I became active. I’m pretty sure it was sometime during the 20 months between the birth of my boys that I joined. I know every year Facebook will let me know on the day I joined that it is our anniversary.

And these days I mostly appreciate the updates. It’s how I stay in contact with people I don’t see on a regular basis (or peek into the lives of people I never see and wouldn’t even think of if Facebook didn’t remind me). And I would apologize for my use of Facebook, if I didn’t think all of you use it the same way. It’s a way to pretend we are closer to more people than we are. And I have less than 200 friends on Facebook (and WAY less than that in real life.).

One of the things that I have come to love about Facebook is their memories. “We think you might be interested in seeing what you posted on this day over the last 10 years…” And many of those times, Facebook is right. I’ve posted about the funny things my boys do or say or a super cute “how were they ever this small” picture. I very rarely share the memories, but Facebook was right. I love seeing them.

Welcome to this week. With everything happening with us plus I’ve been sick as a dog, I’m super emotional this week. And then Facebook wants to share with me. The first thing FB shared with me was an article that I shared. It was written by a mom whose baby died. I originally read the article and shared it because I know that it hurts and we don’t talk about miscarriage, stillborn, SIDS, infant and child death because it’s hard. Let me tell you, FB reminding me (Oh, and I reread the article) didn’t make it easier. Thanks for the memories.

That memory was one year ago today. Do you know what happened two years ago today? No? I didn’t know either until FB told me. I thought I had some more time. Two years ago today, my brother who is in the army (so he doesn’t live close) and his wife came home to see my grandpa. Two years ago today my family (minus my husband who wasn’t able to be there) gathered for pictures which I clearly remember telling my sister-in-law I wasn’t happy to be taking, and then remember telling her I was so thankful we took because these were our last family pictures.

I remember this week two years ago so clearly. It was my grandpa’s last good week. It was that “maybe the doctors were wrong” and “God works miracles” week. And, for the record, that week was a miracle because Grandpa was so good that week and had such a good visit with everyone. God gave us all that one super awesome good week.

But seriously, FB, I could have had a couple more days before the reminder. I have missed him so much these last few weeks with everything going on, I could have done without the reminder. I have heard his voice, that amazing, annoying, loving and terrible voice, “God’s only preparing you for something worse.” I’ve heard it, Facebook. I didn’t need the reminder this week.

I’m not sure if Facebook is trying to break us or help us. What I do know is when you are feeling fat and ugly and throw on the first shirt you can find and your sister-in-law wants to take pictures and tells you that you’ll appreciate it some day, trust her. Take the picture. Hug the ones you love. As hard as that summer was, what I would give to do it again.

being a mom

 

There are times that as a mom I believe I’ve got this. More often than not, I feel like I am the worst mom ever. Especially as a homeschooling mom, more often than not I feel like a failure. You’re 3-year-old is reading chapter books, and my 9-year-old is still struggling with his letters. Obviously, I’m the worst mom ever. The internet says so. Let’s not take into consideration that my 9-year-old is hard of hearing and dyslexic and we work hard every day. Obviously, I’m ruining his life.

And those are the thoughts I have on a daily basis minus the last sentence. I feel like I am failing my boys every day of the week. And it doesn’t even matter that my hard of hearing, dyslexic on his own last week knew a lower case b over a d, p, or q. (And if you know anything about dyslexia, you know what a mile stone this was!) I never feel good enough, that I’m doing enough, that they know enough. I always fall short in my head. It doesn’t matter that my 7-year-old can properly pronounce dinosaur names that my grandma didn’t even knew existed until he told her.  I feel like I am failing them on a regular basis, all day every day.

And maybe that feeling of failure is because I want so much for them (because I want SO MUCH FOR THEM!). Maybe it’s because every time someone asks me (or the boys) what grade they are in or who their teacher is or where they go to school, I cringe waiting for the negative comment. For the record, no one has ever said one bad thing to me about homeschooling. Most of them are super supportive and don’t even understand how it works. I know its me. I know that its me expecting them to think it’s the dumbest, worst thing they’ve ever heard and they are all so supportive. I’ve had people I thought were going to be negative tell me they wished they would have homeschooled.

And in case all that wasn’t enough, about a month ago I went from a stay at home mom to a working mom. I love my job. I am bartending at a beach bar where my kids are more than welcome. My boys know everyone there by name and their favorite thing is that they get to go swimming in the pond every day this summer. The hours that I work are super family friendly and where I work prides itself on being a family center so we don’t have to worry about drunk idiots stumbling around or fights breaking out. These are our people who buy my boys ice cream while I’m behind the bar. I would not have this job if it caused damage to my marriage or my children. I love my afternoon old men.

And then we come to tonight. I have been working this job for almost 5 weeks and we all love it (me, the boys, and my husband.). I noticed yesterday Connor, my youngest, had a stuffy nose. He didn’t have a fever. He played like he was a rock star. I gave him medicine for his nose.

And then we did it all over again tonight, only tonight I worked until 9 instead of 5. And then we got home and my baby was coughing and choking and I fell apart. A year and a half ago, Connor and I spent 4 hours at the ER because he was struggling to breathe. He went home with a nebulizer and medication. We are still using both today. We used them both tonight.

And as my baby is sitting snuggled up to me with a breathing mask on and medicines pumping into his lungs because every breath is a struggle, I again thing of what a bad mom I must be. A good mom would have stayed home with him and kept him home today. It doesn’t matter that he was fine earlier and had an amazing time playing in the water today.

And then I think about my mom. She had asthma so bad as practically a baby that she has to get shots for it. My mom has a dent in her arm from all the shots she had to get to keep her breathing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been told that what my mom had skips a generation so my brothers and I need to watch for it. And tonight as my baby struggled and had tears rolling down his face as we cuddled while he had his breathing treatment, I again felt like a terrible mother.

Should I have been watching closer for this? Is this my fault (genetically)? Was it better when I stayed home with you (even though you go with me every day to work)?

I have so much doubt. And then I think and remember all God is doing with us. I’ve talked before about His plan and how I could never understand it. And today is a prime example, because I feel like a failure and I know this is His plan. I need to trust more. TRUST MORE!

There are so many more things going on in our lives right now than I have even wrote about tonight. And it’s so funny to me that me and my husband are on the same God page. This is a path. It hurts. It’s hard. It’s right. Happy Father’s Day this Sunday. My Father in Heaven has a plan and there is a reason we are right here, right now. I’m all in on faith, God. We are all, all in on faith, God.

Please pray for me and my family. If you have something, anything, you want my family to be praying for please leave a comment and know we will pray for you.

A crazy year

This has been a crazy year. It has felt that we have gone nonstop and the only times we’ve had to slow down is when we’ve been sick. Trust me, it’s not restful when we are sick. And the craziest part of all of it is if you ask what we’ve been doing I’m not sure what all we have been doing.

One of the more exciting things that has happened is I was asked to write an article for a local publication. I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it is to be asked to write something for print. It’s the first time my words will be in print. I am so amazed that someone believes my words are good enough for print, and at the same it makes me want to throw up if I think about it too much.

The article I wrote was for a countdown to Christmas special. I was given 5 days to write it and told it could be about anything Christmas related. I thought about it. I brainstormed. I wrote paragraph after paragraph and then deleted it all to start over again. I finally put together what felt like an okay group of words the day it was due.

I ended up writing about giving. I took some of the ideas and thoughts I’ve shared here before about raising boys with giving hearts. I talked about how sometimes we giving grudgingly and how thankful I am that God doesn’t give to us that way. I talked about how easy it would have been for God to look at us, roll His eyes, and keep His Son with Him rather than sending Jesus to Earth.

While I was writing, I thought about the giving we do personally and the giving we did here 2 years ago with Hope for the Holidays. It was a great experience for me and hopefully everyone else involved. People came to the blog and told their stories about needing some hope and others, strangers, gave from their hearts and gave hope where they could. The idea of strangers helping strangers came from another blogger who I loved. I followed her journey from martinis to diaper genies and was a part of the first 3 years she helped hook people with needs together. What would have been the fourth year, MODG, the blogger, had stopped blogging for personal reasons. I saw a need and did my best to fill it.

Last year MODG was back, and I had a hard year. With Grandpa dying, I just didn’t have it in me to do Hope for the Holidays. And that has carried through with how I have neglected the blog this year. I’m better, I think. I’m hoping enough time has passed that I can start writing again. I have thoughts and ideas I want to share again.

So while I was writing the article, I was thinking about this space and writing again, of how I have all these words inside me that I need to get out. I thought about Hope for the Holidays and how this summer MODG blogged once last time and told us she was done. I thought about the people we helped 2 years ago. I thought about hosting Hope for the Holidays again this year.

I went back and forth on it. I havent been blogging like I should. How do I come back and immediately ask those readers I still have to help me help strangers? Yes, I’m going to do it. No, it’s too much. I can’t do it. Yes. No. I went back and forth. I know I have people who will share my words, but will people still give? I struggled thinking about it.

While I was having an internal debate, God spoke in an amazing way. I got an email from the contact page here. Someone who followed MODG, who needs help, who saw 2 years ago I helped, emailed me. And then because she wasnt sure the email went through, she posted a comment on the original Hope for the Holidays post. If that wasnt enough for me to decide to go for it again this year, there was a second comment from another person. She also needs help this year and wondered if I was going to help.

I was on the fence and God said, “MOVE.” I wasnt sure and God said, “HELP.” I was scared and God said, “BE BRAVE.” So I’m going to move. I’m going to help. I’m going to be brave. And im going to count on you guys, my super awesome readers, for help. Between Thanksgiving and December 1st, Hope for the Holidays 2 is starting. And it can only be successful if I can count on you. Move, help, be brave with me. And thank you for hanging on with me while I have been unable to write.

I didn’t know we were family

It’s been a rough year around here. And those of you who follow me (thank you so much!), I’m sure you’ve noticed I haven’t been posting nearly as often as I used to. This last year my emotions have been so raw it’s hard to write and on top of that I am extremely empathetic. If you hurt, I hurt. Even if I don’t know you and I see you cry, it’s a safe bet I’ll be crying, too.

A few weeks ago, Facebook came out with a new feature. It wasn’t the thumbs down button we have all been asking for, but it was five (I think) different choices on top of the “like” button. And I am a child of the 90s, I am (on the upper edge) in the generation that was just young enough to get Facebook and MySpace and live journal (if you know how I can get my hands on my live journal these days I’d love to have those words!), but old enough to not ruin my life on social media.

All of these extra options on Facebook seemed so silly to me when they came out. All we asked for was a thumbs down. And I’m old enough, I don’t even know what all those faces stand for. I know that there is a heart for love (over like?) and a laughing out loud one and a sad one. I’m not sure what the other faces are for.

That sad face. The one with the tears and when you press on it, it says sad. That is the face I have used the most these last few days. Well, let’s be honest. These last 24 hours have been the saddest. I can’t even count the times I’ve pressed that sad face today.

We all love in groups. You have those closest to you and then like a ripple when you through a stone in the water your love expands. And you love every ripple, but maybe you love that first ripple more than the fifth or maybe you love all those ripples and can’t even tell the difference between them. I have always known who is in my first ripple. My first ripple is full of all the people who cried with me when Grandpa John died. It is family and friends who should be family.

That first ripple is all I did (could) focus on when Grandpa died. Those were the people who hurt with me. Those were the people who understood what he meant to me. Those were the ones that clung to me as I grieved.

Today I learned about the other rings. Those people who joked around with me. Those people who bought me a drink when we were hanging out. Those people who served me a drink or two too many and then walked me home because they love me and need me to be safe, and I’m safe with them.  Those people who get a kick out of me when I’m not at my best. Those people who aren’t blood but are better and closer to me than some that are blood.

Today we lost a mother. And while I am so close with her husband and son (they are some of my favorite people), I am not blood. And maybe it sounds bad to say, but before today I didn’t know we were family. I didn’t know how much I loved them. I didn’t know how much they meant to me and how much their pain would hurt me.

Oh my goodness. That’s not what I meant. Or maybe it is. I have this group of people, and I have known for a long time that I love them. What I didn’t know before today was how much I loved them. I always thought it was like anyone loves their friends, (although I have little experience with this as well. I have one forever friend (I’m looking at you, Cassidy!). And then today, my friends lost their mother, I thought they were fifth ripple friends, and then I learned they really are first or second ripple friends.

Now, biologically she was only the mother to one of my friends. However, by love she was the mother to most of the people who I am friends with today. I think of that group of kids that were around when I was young. They called my mom Ratmom because there were so many that loved her. Shirley was the Ratmom of my new group of friends.

There are people who lost their mom young, there are people who never knew their mom, there are people whose mom just gave up on them. And Shirley was there for all of them. It didn’t matter if you needed a mom as a child or as an adult, Shirley would be your mom. It didn’t even matter if you thought you didn’t need a mom. If Shirley thought you needed a mom, you got one in her.  And tonight, so many more than she birthed are mourning the loss of their mom.

Tonight I had the chance to look at all these “kids” in a different light. This is my family. I didn’t know before tonight how much I loved every single one of these people. We all come from different places and backgrounds, but when you put us all in the same room, you can’t tell a difference. This is family.

Maybe in this family, I am the third cousin twice removed. But I’m still family. And they are still family. And I would do anything to keep them from the pain they are feeling tonight. But what I can do is laugh with them, and cry with them. We can tell stories and talk nonsense. We will come up with a plan to take care of Dad (this is so familiar and again I am so grateful Grandma has us to ground her).

It seems so silly, but I didn’t know this was family until today. I had no idea how much I loved these people until the pain was knocking on our door. When we (because I know my husband feels it more than I do) say, “is there anything we can do?” What we mean is, cry on our shoulder. Let us buy you a beer. Just know we hurt so much and aren’t blood but wish there was anything we could do. And then remember that the one thing I knew about Shirley was that blood didn’t matter at all.

Those that are family, those that love us, those that we love, remember that every tear you cry, we cry with you. We feel every pain. And maybe it doesn’t make your pain less, but where she is now, there is no pain.

Super Duper Tuesday

It’s Super Tuesday in the United States. During election season, this is the day that the most states vote in the primary elections and tends to set the tone for the rest of the election season. It is very hard, if not impossible to come out of Super Tuesday without winning several states and continue on to win your party’s nomination. Today is an important political day.

I love politics. I listen to talk radio. I watch the shows. I read as many of the articles as I can stomach. I follow this stuff closely. Today is a big day for me even though my state isn’t voting today. In fact, if I could find someone willing to entertain my husband and children this evening so I can watch the election coverage on TV, Facebook and Twitter that would be super awesome. Since that probably won’t happen, I’ll be watching as much coverage as I can without my family losing their minds.

I like to talk politics. I like to argue politics. I have always been a conservative, both socially and fiscally. I am against big government. Until the last 6-10 years, I have considered myself a republican. However, as I have grown and paid more and more attention to the state of the world around us, I no longer consider myself a republican. Technically, I am probably an independent, but I lean hard to the Libertarian party. Because while I am very conservative in my personal beliefs, I honestly don’t give a crap what you want to do as long as it doesn’t affect my personal freedoms. I want the government to leave me alone and I want you to leave me alone.

So I’ve been watching this election cycle closely. I am amazed by the direction both political parties are going. I made up my mind about my vote more than a year ago (before people even began announcing that they would run). I have known for a while who I would like to see as the next president. And while I have made my decisions, there have been other candidates come and go that I could consider voting for. And there are some candidates that I would never vote for.

In the past I have normally voted straight republican, but that has changed. In our last state election, I voted for the libertarian candidate over the republican (who I know) because of the votes cast at the state capital. I have contact several of the people claiming to represent me because I will not vote for them again. You can not just assume you have my vote. I have actually contacted the democrat senator for my state on more than one occasion to thank him for at least doing what he said he was going to do, even when I don’t agree with what he is doing. At least I know where he stands on the issues.

There is one thing that I can guarantee you this election cycle. When it is my turn to vote, I will not cast a vote for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump. I also will not stay home on election day. I will vote third-party. I will write in a candidate to vote for. I am tired of accepting someone who I can not stomach. I am not going to hold my nose and cast my vote.

I have prayed more over this election than any other in my lifetime. I truly believe this is the election that will decide whether the United States stands or falls. I have prayed that God would give us not the leader that we deserve but the leader that would bring us back to the path of righteousness. I pray that we will not vote with hate or fear or anger but that we would vote with love. That we would vote with a love for our nation and a love for God.

If you live in a Super Tuesday state, please vote today. But before you go to the polls, please pray. And know that there are people out there praying for you, too. I pray that the right person comes out on top tonight. I pray that God’s will be done. I pray that goodness and righteousness win out over name calling and lies and backroom deals.