Back Porch Lovin’

This morning, as I sit outside on my back porch, it is silent. Well, it’s as silent as possible in the country. The air is heavy with fog. A few insects are buzzing and chirping. A buck snorts in the trees and one of our neighbor’s cows is lowing mournfully. I wonder if she is all alone in the pasture? For the past couple of days I have heard a cardinal chirp but I haven’t been able to see her.

Aside from all of that, it is silent.

I love mornings on my back porch.

In the past, I loved them because Steve and I would sit out here drinking our first cups of coffee, listening for the different creature sounds, talking about our thoughts on the world and dream of the future.

After he died, I sat out here because I felt closer to Steve.  I felt that he was still here.  I talked with him while sitting in his chair and bawled.

While the above remains true, seven months into this new life of mine, I think I’ve reached the point where I begin my mornings on my back porch because it’s just where I love to start my day.  A day begun on the back porch with my coffee, dogs and Bible is a day begun well. The setting is one of peaceful communion with nature, God and my thoughts.

Grieving sucks.

Surviving is still hard.

But life…life is still good!

 

“Nothing ever gets easier.  You just get stronger.”

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“How Do You Do It?”

Late last night an old work friend messaged me with this comment, “Laura, you seem to be surviving well without Steve.  I still don’t feel like I’m surviving without _____.  How do you do it?”

At first I was a little upset as I took her question to mean that it looks like I don’t care that he’s gone and that I don’t need him.  But as I thought how best to respond to her I realized that my friend lost her husband almost four years ago and she still hasn’t found her footing in the new life without her husband.   That realization made me incredibly sad.  

In truth, I am doing well. It’s been seven months today that Steve died and I’m busy! I’m taking care of the house, although at the moment it needs some serious cleaning!  I’ve been sewing!! What can I say?  I’ve been sewing for the family, moving my house around a bit and spending time with my mom and kids when I can.  My finances are stable, I find time to read the Bible (and “shoot ‘em up” type books, Harry Potter and Miss Julia, too).  And, while sitting on the back porch, I have begun to make plans for the future. My future!

All of that aside, I miss Steve, my husband and best friend.  Every single minute of every single day I feel his absence.  I shared with my friend that I cry at least once a day and sometimes a memory will hit and I will cry all day. BUT…I don’t show that side of my life on FB or Instagram.  To share with the world how lonely it feels to sit in his chair watching one of our old shows, to want to pick up a project and, seeking his approval, say, “Hey, Babe!  It’s finished!” or to open the door after being gone all day and look at his chair only to find it empty, is a meaningless act.  People really don’t really want to hear it and I most certainly don’t want their pity.  That is unhelpful and meaningless, too!

I want to remind her that there is no ONE way to grieve nor is there a time limit on how long a person should grieve.  Grieving is an intensely personal act and I am not an expert on how it is to be done!  Most days will find me wading through those murky waters just trying to find some solid ground on which to tread.  Having a plan, albeit a flexible one, for the day or week has helped me to find that solid ground. I find that it is better for me to be productive, to have a project to work on…something to do each day…than it is to NOT have one!  When I’m productive I am less likely to focus on myself/my loss, therefore, I’m happier!  I also choose to look for joy in each day!  I admit that there have been days when I reallllly have to reach to find that one tiny scrap of joy!  But when I do find it my day is made so much better.

To be truthful, I don’t believe that I have any other choice but to move forward.  It would not be fair to myself, to my children or to my grandchildren to just give up and be sad all of the time.  What lesson would that teach them?  No, I need to show them that life does go on in spite of setbacks, sadness and tragedy!!  I need to be/want to be an example for them!  Crappy things happen in life but God does have a plan for us.  It is our responsibility to get up each morning, pull up our boot straps and continue to work His plan. 

I also want to make Steve proud of me!  Steve would hate it if I were miserable all of the time, if I stopped being creative, if I let my life end with his death. While in the hospital, he continually told people how strong I was, how grateful he was that I was there with him.  He bragged about my painting, our house, my new sewing gig, etc.  He was always proud of me.  Frankly, when it is my time to join him I don’t want to see him shaking his head or rolling his eyes in disappointment.  I want him to gaze at me with those sparkling, hazel eyes, smile and proudly say, “You did good!”

So…if you want to know how I’m really doing, just ask.  I’ll tell ya.  If you see me in photos on FB or Instagram you can assume that I’m doing well because, in spite of everything, I AM.

Paying Attention to Other People’s “Stuff”

Another week has come and gone.

Last night I realized that when a person is in the middle of his/her own “stuff” it is hard to pay attention to and/or he/she has less patience for other people’s “stuff”. Unfortunately, sometimes our lives are filled with a lot of not-so-great “stuff”!

While last week was a combination of positive and negatives, I managed to find the positives pretty easily. I finished two projects and delivered them ahead of time. Woo hoo! Mailed out two belated birthday gifts. I got to see my daughter and baby boy several times and spoke to my son and texted with him more often than usual. The rain has continued (we really needed it) and the pups are over their kennel cough issues. I went to a couple of wineries to pick up shipments and had a glass of our favorite red while remembering Steve. A hummingbird keeps buzzing my head this morning! (Stinker!! I wonder what it wants?).

But, negatives and sadness has also been a constant presence and I just didn’t have the patience I should have had to deal with it all. But you don’t need to hear all of THAT!

Sadly, I guess what I am trying to say is that for the past several months, although things have improved somewhat, I have been so focused on my own “stuff” that I haven’t really paid close attention to the “stuff” that is going on in other peoples’ lives. I just kind of dug in, circled the wagons, closed myself off and with a very narrow lens, focused on my “stuff” never realizing how selfish I was being. In fact, over the past couple of weeks, I…

  • Worried a friend that she might have said something to hurt my feelings because she had not heard from me and I was really hard to get hold of by phone.
  • Hurt another friend’s feelings. I made her feel like I didn’t want to spend time with her. She thought that I wanted to take a “break” from our friendship. Then I made it worse by fussing at her and telling her that she needs to stop overthinking things and that sometimes things aren’t about her.  (Yes, rude!!)
  • Failed to realize just how hard a time my child is having with her second baby, the loss of her daddy, dealing with the terrible twos all and getting ready to return to work, allllll on little to no sleep.
  • Didn’t know that, because one of our family members continues to battle the demon of alcohol addiction, he lost his job and his sweet wife has been destroyed…again.
  • Found out that another family member has been called back to the doctor for more tests to be run. She’s scared to death as she is a single mama of two littles.
  • Worry that my son is not being forthcoming when we talk about how he is doing…is he really okay or does he just not want to tell me what is going on in his head because he doesn’t want to add to ‘my’ plate.
  • A Ft. Worth police officer died Friday evening after being shot in the head by a criminal.  I didn’t know that because I don’t watch the news anymore!!

So, last night was a wake up call of sorts. I acknowledge that I must take care of myself, grieve and get on with the business of living but I must also remember that the world does NOT revolve around me! I need to focus on others and try to make their lives a little easier. While I may not be able to change their circumstances, I CAN empathize, pray, show a little more patience, offer a shoulder and an ear and, when able to, take some kind of action to lighten their load.

The road to find joy isn’t to be a passive journey traveled alone. It is active, always changing and should include the people whom you care about and who care about you. It’s okay to cocoon, but it is just as important to include others in your safe place where you can work on being healed and where you can help others to heal and find their joy.

So, some suggestions for myself:

  1. I will plan my week out to ensure that I have time to do the things that must be done, as well as, things I like/want to do.
  2. I will call my people (or text if they like that better) to check on at least one person in my tribe every couple of days. Most importantly, I will really listen for their needs.
  3. I will be flexible. If one of my people needs me I will be ready to go!! All the other stuff at home will still be there for me when I get back home.
  4. I will be an encourager. I will sweep the judgmental, frustrated, annoyed feelings out of my head.
  5. I will learn something everyday even if it in how to better help/treat people.
  6. I will be kind to myself by changing my internal dialogue.
  7. I will document/write down at least three things for which I am grateful each day.

Even in our own sadness and grief we still need to do our part to help others. I pledge to do better in this upcoming week and beyond.

“Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all peoiple. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.1

Thessalonians 5:14-16

 

I’m Happy Happy…yes, I Am!

Okay, well, maybe not Haaappppy Happy, ecstatic happy, but I am happy today, nonetheless.

It has been raining all day and that nearly always puts a smile on my face (as long as I see a little sunshine within a week, I’m good!) but, I digress, that isn’t why I’m Happy, HAPPY today.

I have had sooooo many problems with my sewing machines lately that I honestly told my mom that I was seriously considering throwing them out and never, EVER sewing again.  For example, I wanted to embroider some cute kitchen towels for my friend, Deb, to give as a house-warming gift.  What should have taken about an hour and a half to make took, literally…are you ready for this…10 hours to make!!  TEN HOURS!  Yes, I did finish them.  Yes, I did tell her how long it took to make them.  I wanted her to really appreciate them.  Lol

Just one more example for you, I’ve been trying to quilt a baby blanket for two weeks.  It has given me fits.  The thread breaks and breaks and breaks so that I cannot get a good, steady stitch going.  Ugh!  I had to put the quilt away for awhile to keep from ripping it up and throwing it away!

Last night, I needed to get a wall hanging pieced and quilted.  It just HAD to get FINISHED as I promised the person who ordered it that I would have it ready for her prior to September 17th!  So, I sat down at my machine and prayed over that silly thing.

“Please work!”

Applause please!

I pieced the the project with no difficulty at all.  I made the quilt sandwich, looked over at the machine and, as I changed out the presser feet, I prayed over it again.

“Please, Lord. Let it work!”

Hallelujah!  Praise Jesus!!  I had no problems at all and quilted that baby so easily.

So…I’m happy.  I made progress on three projects and I think they will all turn out well.  Photos of the baby blanket and the wall hanging are forthcoming as I still need to bind them. But below are the two towels that took 10 HOURS!

Lol!

Find a little something to make YOU happy today!

Everything has a Season

There is a reason and a season for everything under the sun.

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Ecclesiastes 3 tells us:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 

A time to kill, and a time to heal, a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

In every person’s life we have moments where the negatives “death, breaking down, mourning, losing, rending, etc.” seem to overtake the positives.  It takes a strong heart and a stronger faith to understand that the positives “birth, planting, healing, laughter, embracing, creating, etc.” are just around the bend.

Keep your eyes focused upward and outward and soon the darkness will be replaced by the light…

“and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.  Phillippians 4:7.

Today I have joy that God got me home safely last night (after driving through a super hard thunderstorm through which I could barely see to drive, a “low tire pressure” that came on while I was driving in that mess and before a fantastically frightening rain and lightening storm arrived at my home).

I get joy from my two pups, my family and that it feels like Autumn is right around the corner.  The life-giving rain continues to be in the forecast for the next couple of days.

Look for your joy today!  Happy Saturday!!

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Saturdays

Steve used to LOVE his Saturdays. It was start of the weekend for both of us which meant that an adventure of some sort was on the horizon. We might go to a new winery, try out a microbrewery or distillery (yup…we liked our spirits), look for a new restaurant, go to a movie, take a short hike at Lost Maples or just saunter down the sidewalks of Fredericksburg.

Saturday was our day for fun.  They were carefree and filled with companionship and excitement.

Suddenly Saturdays were just dreadfully sad.

You see, he died on a Saturday at 6:16 a.m.

Most people, I have been told, mark an event in terms of months. Leave it to me to take it to an all new level of obsession. Since April 7th, Saturdays became the day for keeping track. A day for marking that one depressingly specific event.

Every Saturday was one more week that he was not here.

Each Saturday morning, I rolled over to look at the time on my iPhone and thought, “Good morning, Honey. You’ve been gone two weeks, two hours and thirteen minutes.” “Good morning, Sweetie. You’ve been gone ten weeks, one hour and four minutes.”

Yes, I even kept track of the hours and minutes. Like I said…I took it to an all new level of nuttiness.

Today I realized that, for the first time since April 7th, I did not automatically know how many weeks it has been since our lives were irrevocably altered.

Today, I caught myself referring to his death in terms of months…not Saturdays. Not hours or minutes.

Today is September 7th and we have survived five months without the gentle giant of a man we called husband, best friend, Dad and Pop-Pop. It has not been easy, in fact, many of our days have been heart-wrenchingly difficult but we are adapting.  We have had  good days. We are learning to live without his comforting presence because we have faith that one day we WILL see him again. Saturdays are, once again, just the beginning of another weekend.

I call that progress.

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart all ye that hope in the Lord. Psalms 31:24

The Mask

“I’m so proud of you.”

  (Thank you.)

“You are an inspiration.”

    (I can only hope.)

“You are so strong.”

(I try to be.)

“I couldn’t do what you do.”

  (You, too, will do what you have to if you ever find yourself in my position.)

“I admire you so much.”

  (I appreciate that.)

“He would be pleased you are doing so well.”

(Most likely but he would not be surprised.)

I am a master at appearances.

He knew that.

On the outside…

I appear strong and proud and independent.

I look like I can do all things alone.

I am inspirational and encouraging and have faith that knows no bounds.

I get things done and deal with the daily irritants of life with mostly quiet assurance and strength.

I handle well the grief that everyone expects to overrun me.

But, I am dishonest.  In truth, I am…

Despondent to live without my best friend. 

Heartbroken.  I miss his face, his smile, his huge presence, his hands….

Lonely for the man who knew the real me and loved me anyway.

Mad that God took away my heart, my blessing, my one earthly anchor.

Forlorn for the past.  I miss the days when we spent the evenings and weekends with our children laughing, playing games, going on trips, eating at the dinner table, telling about the “highlight” and “lowlight” of our days, bedtime rituals and enjoying just being together.

Broken.  I want my whole family back and within easy reach of a hug and a kiss.

Scared that I can’t get it all done and be all I should be for my kids and grandkids.

Today, the mask slipped.  Fissures appeared and tears silently flowed.  

Tomorrow, the mask will be firmly back in place.

I promise.

No cracks.

No tears.

All smiles.

Inspiration, courage, encouragement and faith will be free and abundant.

All else remains stashed behind the mask.

The Weekend is Here

I’ve been quite busy since the beginning of August.  Helping with the new baby, traveling, visiting with family and friends and sewing.  Today I delivered a baby quilt, bib and burp cloth to the sweet lady who commissioned it as a gift for a friend and then spent some time with my mom.

As wonderful as all of the busyness has been, tomorrow is Friday, the beginning of my weekend!  I’m so excited because, unless something comes up, I get to stay home!!  I get to fill my riding tractor with gas and head out to tame my yard!  It desperately needs a haircut.  I get to clean my house from top to bottom.  Once I finish all of the MUSTS, I get to tackle two yet-to-be made toddler-sized quilts that must be completed by the middle of the month.

Maybe, just maybe, if I get all of the above done, I will actually pick up a brush and slap some paint on a piece of canvas.  I haven’t painted a lick in months!!

Only time will tell but I quiver with the anticipation of accomplishing a few more goals!

What’s on your agenda for the weekend?

Friday’s day is full of dreams, and expectations of what the weekend will bring.  It is a day of transition.  A day that is at the end of the week, and at the start of the weekend..  It lives in both worlds, yet it doesn’t belong in either.  Anthony T. Hincks

 

Family

My daughter-in-law’s grandfather passed away last week. The funeral was on Saturday so I boarded the dogs and drove up to be there for support.

I really was not needed at all as they have a large, loving family that does what all great families do best…they circle the wagons and take care of their own. It was wonderful to be a witness to that first hand and it did my heart good to see that my son is in great hands. He married into a supportive and kind group of folks who, I know, will be there to help out whenever they are needed.

While I was up in North Texas for the funeral I was able to spend a couple of days with Matt and his family. Matt showed me around where he works, Kendall I talked about reality shows, kids, money and such and I played with Landon…not enough, of course. He is just precious, “Imi (for MiMi), you sit here!” “Sit right here!” “Come play with me!” “Hide (with) me!”

So demanding!!

So stinkin’ cute!

So filled with joy…all day long!

He makes my heart soar.

Of course, so does his daddy. Even under the grown up beard, broad shoulders and tall stature, I still see the little guy that he once was. The dimples peeking out from under all that facial hair, the bed head (hair untamed and sticking up in all directions), the sideways glances when I say something ridiculous or when he wants to “stealthily” see what I am thinking, the little fingers clutching his Game Boy (now the iPhone) playing his games, his excitement when sharing the day’s events and his delight at showing me what he has done/made/accomplished…all that Matt was when he was an itty-bitty still shines  through his adult eyes to remind me of the best times of my life!

Bodies may get bigger but the little children inside all of us remains.

Family.

Memories.

Good stuff!!

 

Another First has Passed

Good Sunday morning, my friends!

Here in the Hill Country of Texas it is a gorgeous morning!  The sky is a lovely shade of blue with wispy white clouds just hanging in the sky.  I think it is setting up to be another hot one…not in triple digits but warm nonetheless.  It is relatively quiet this morning with sounds only of insects, the humming of a lone hummingbird and the breeze blowing through the oaks.  That’s entirely okay with me.  Quiet can be a great blessing!

When I wrote my post last week I had begun to really feel the pressure and sadness of Steve’s upcoming birthday.  I wish I could say that my mood improved over the course of the week but I would be lying and I don’t wish to lie!

The rest of the week just continued to spiral.  I cried every single day.  More than once.  I hate to admit it but I am not one of those women that look sweet and more beautiful when they cry. (Oh, is that only in the movies?!). I am one ugly crier let me tell you.  Red nose, puffy eyes that get smaller as I bawl.  I will leave the rest of the description to your imagination.

Steve’s birthday was on Thursday.  I went by his gravesite in the morning before going over to my daughter’s house. It was a lovely day and the cemetery was dotted with color from flowers brought by people whose loved ones currently reside under the ground at  Holy Cross.  I bawled and wrote yet another letter to him.  Leaving after about a half hour, I called my son, Matthew, picked up tacos for Lauren and Leah and spent the morning over there.  At 2:30, I hauled butt back to my house where I had just enough time to shower, change and get to SA to meet my mom and Lauren’s family at the restaurant.

I made it!

Steve had to be laughing his head off at what happened next.  Lauren and family arrived right as I was walking in so I turned around to help get the kids out of the car.
I had taken great care to wear something bright and with no collar as that was required dress for my evening adventure.  I took Leah out of the car and she cries, “My tummy hurts!” and proceeds to vomit all over me!  As I struggled to comprehend what was going on another volley of stomach contents spewed out and down the front of our shirts.  Finally, my brain kicked in and I put her down where she threw up a third time.  Poor Lauren is standing there, wringing her hands saying, “What do I do?”  “Do we leave?”   I asked for water and cleaned us up as well as I could and we went in to dinner.

A trip to the restroom made me, at the very least, presentable but, oh my gosh, I cannot imagine how badly we must have smelled.  Leah was fine, just car sick and hungry.  We decided to hold our noses and we just laughed and laughed!  Why did I say that Steve was probably laughing at what went on?  Because when the kids were little he was the one onto whom they ALWAYS threw up.  Never me…just Steve.  At the house, in the insurance office, at the doctor’s office, in the truck.  You name the place, he had most likely experienced being thrown up there!  I guess it was finally my turn.

After dinner, Lauren gave me her blouse (yup, she gave me the shirt off of her back) and Mom and I moved on to the next part of Steve’s birthday celebration.  Every time Steve and I drove past the iFly Indoor Skydiving sign he said, “One day we should look into that!”  So I did!  It was such a blast!  The instructor, Dave, was phenomenal.  I felt safe, did a great job of controlling my body and even did some 360s which they said most newbies don’t/can’t do!  I am going back.  I’ve even put “sky diving” on my bucket list.  Steve is probably cringing at that one!

Funny thing is…after Steve’s birthday everything started to fall back into place.  Spirit has improved a bit each day.  Productivity has increased as I have finished binding two baby blankets,  began two more and  designed a wall hanging for a Wounded Warriors event.   I attended a small theatre production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown last night which got the juices flowing for a new painting.

Remember…

“weeping may endure or a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5

Enjoy the photos and have a glorious week!

 

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