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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Choosing Gratitude

I had a very nice week.  I got to spend several days with Lauren, Leah and the new baby.  I LOVE spending time with my children and their children.  There isn’t any experience that is much better in this whole world.  We played at the park, enjoyed good conversation, hugged the littles…a lot…and just loved on the part of the family that was present (missed the part that wasn’t).

This weekend has been a slightly different story.  Saturday was 18 weeks; four and half months, since Steve died and for the past two days I’ve missed my Steve…badly.  Parts of each day have been good, productive and comfortable.  But, just when I think, “I can do this! Yes, I can!” an overwhelming sense of loss just comes in waves threatening to drown me in its sadness. 

So, to follow my own advice, I’m going to find joy by listing those things for which I was thankful for this week:

    • Rain!  It rained hard and long Friday night, twice on Saturday and a little bit today.  We have needed the rain badly in this area and our crunchy grass, hard soil and our wilting oaks appreciated the wet stuff.
    • Naps. I don’t often nap but I took a couple of short ones!  Niiiicccceeee.
    • Cooler weather.
    • My children, their spouses and their children.
    • Lovely breezes.
    • Antelope grazing and lingering in the back yard.
    • Dishes done.
    • Goats bleating on the hill behind the house.
    • Quail flying up out of the prairie grass and across the road.
    • Laundry done.
    • Sewing machine fixed. By ME!
    • Good wine.
    • Better bourbon.
    • Starting a new book.
    • Finding my mother okay in her home after NOT answering her phone for over six hours!  
    • Planning and scheduling two new adventures.
    • Nutritious, tasty meals.
    • Morning coffee, afternoon popsicles and evening wine all on the back porch.
    • Kisses from my pups.
    • The scent of rosemary and lavender hovering in the air after the rain.
    • Hummingbirds.
    • Butterflies.
    • Memories.
    • Texts from friends.
    • Scheduling time with those friends.

Although it is sometimes difficult….Today, I Choose Joy!

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What are you thankful for this evening?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13. 

New Babies

OH my goodness!

Babies!

Our third grandchild was born in mid-July and he is perfect!  Just like the other two, of course.  Our fourth grand baby will arrive in December…a little girl.  We will then have two of each!

Steve would have loved to be here to hold, love on and spoil the two newbies just like he did with Landon and Leah.  Who knows.  Perhaps he got to meet them in heaven before they were born to their earthly mamas!  It’s okay, Honey Bunches of Oats, I will spoil them for you.

Welcome, Baby Jase, to the family who loves you to the moon and back!

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Joy in the Midst of Trials

They say that all of the “firsts” after a loved one dies are the most difficult. I agree with that to a point because, as we are still experiencing the “firsts” since Steve’s death on April 7th, I have nothing yet with which to compare the statement. Every day is a “first” for now.

Since that totally awful day, we have celebrated Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, our what-would-have-been our 35th anniversary, July 4th and today, July 11, our youngest’s 28th birthday without the man that made it all worthwhile. Some days have been harder than others but we are working through it, each in our own way.

Steve has been gone for three months. A quarter of the year!  It has been a tough road yet, day by day, I seem to be able to cope with and come through those crazy moments of sadness and despair more quickly. Honestly though, there was a two and a half week period in June from which I doubted I would be able to recover. Anything that could go wrong did. A lightening storm knocked out the electricity to my home and caused several thousands of dollars of damage to circuits and appliances. Steve’s will was probated during this time and I did not realize what an event that would turn out to be. Probating the will was just so…final. Repairmen traipsed through my home and I wrote endless checks for repairs completed.  I even wrecked my riding lawn tractor!! Some days I literally felt like I was being torn apart at the seams!

Where was the joy? Has there been anything joyful on this new road of life?

Surprisingly, yes! In those darkest of hours when my heart is shattered beyond all repair, when the anger at our loss struggles to escape at everyone I hold dear, when the mere whisper of his name causes unstoppable tears and feelings of intense aloneness and abandonment there has been joy.

There is joy to be found but I caution you…it doesn’t always jump right out at you.

You have to look for it.  Some days you have to dig deep and look HARD for it!

Sometimes joy is as small as our little dog, Darla, curling up next to me in bed, head on paws, staring at me with those deep chocolate eyes as if saying, “I’m still here and I love you.”

Our hummingbirds and the occasional cardinal seem to appear en masse when I am at my lowest. It’s as if God himself (with a suggestion from Steve, perhaps) says, “Go let Laura know that we are here with her. She is not alone.” Oh, when they show up during those moments I bawl even harder but I am grateful and consider it a joy!

An unexpected reimbursement check, a sweet bank employee’s smile, a heart showing up on my phone from a dear friend who is thinking of me, a video sent by my children of their children, an unexpected rain shower, a new flower, FaceTime, a Scripture verse tailor made for me…the list literally goes on and one.

Even in sorrow joy exists.

I challenge you to find joy in your life!!! Even if today has been disappointing or disheartening, I challenge you to look for just ONE thing/person/action that brings you joy.

Write it down.

Tomorrow, write down just ONE thing that brings you joy. The day after, write down ONE more thing and repeat the act on each day following!

Before you know it you will have a long list of things, people, events, or words that have brought you joy and with it you will have developed a new habit of viewing your world through the lens of joy and gratitude.

Life is not easy and the road is not always, if ever, straight and smooth, but our attitude can make the journey more joy-filled!

I’m still sad. I still cry…daily.  There are even days when I think, “Nope. I don’t want to play today!”  On those days, God never fails to show show me something that gives me a smidgen of joy to get through the day.

Ask Him for help to find the joy in your world.

He will!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

Loss

t’s been a little more than two months since my last post.

Much has happened.

More has changed

Steve has passed away and all of our lives have been altered. Forever there will be a huge hole in our hearts, our lives and our spirits.

On March 20th, Steve began to run a fever. In cancer patients, a fever of more than 100.5 is the cue to get moving! I hustled him into the car and made the hour trip into San Antonio as quickly as humanly well, as legally, possible.

We ended up spending a little over two weeks in one hospital and three days in another. They thought it was pneumonia. Then they thought it was the cancer. Then it didn’t matter anymore what it was.

Thankfully, he was able to say goodbye to his precious children, to my mom, his sisters and his closest friends and then he went to sleep for a few hours and then he was gone. Just gone.

In my last post I talked about how life goes on.  It does.

I wrote that there is still joy in the world.  There is.

I espoused that I didn’t know what held the future but I know WHO holds it. Still true.

But this is the hardest thing I have ever experienced. It has been a month now since we laid him to rest and tomorrow will be five weeks since he died.  While I find many good parts in most days, I often find myself in the middle of a puddle of tears.

Like right now.

I still take my morning coffee on our back porch. This year, we have more hummingbirds than ever before; more than a dozen visit the feeders. Steve would love that fact! Usually I laugh at their antics but today is not one of those days. Today, I weep over our loss. I miss my best friend. Today, the loss…it cuts to the bone. The pain is real. It is sharp and it is deep.

It will pass.

Sunday is Mother’s Day and the precious man who made me a mom will not be here to celebrate that fact with us. I know the kids and I will miss him horribly on this day.  I suppose that it’s just another one of those firsts  that we will have to move through.

I want Steve back so badly.  Since that is not an option for we mere mortals, I have a box of tissues on the table next to me as I watch our hummingbirds, listen for the turkeys and enjoy the cool, southern breeze as the sun starts to peek out from behind the fluffy white clouds.

I know that joy still exists. I just have to look a little harder for it.

Some days it feels like God is no longer here with me. I know that He is.

In the end, Scripture says, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

I look forward to that day!

Hope in the Midst of Trials

Tomorrow will mark four weeks since we found out that Steve’s cancer has spread.  At some point between the November and early February CT scans the immunotherapy drug stopped working and the cancer exploded in his body.

A couple of months ago, Steve choked on a hot dog.  From that day forward he had difficulty swallowing certain foods.  In an attempt to find out what was causing the trouble he underwent a procedure three weeks ago.  Following the procedure, the doctor told us that there was a significant narrowing of his esophagus.  The doctor stated that the tumor is pushing into the esophagus and that the cancer appears to be trying to infiltrate that area.

To say the least, it has been a crappy month.

Not sounding too joyful today, am I?

I apologize.

As I have said in the past, no one ever promised us a rose garden.  The game of life is not all peaches and cream.

Since the updated prognosis, we have shared moments of deep despair. We’ve cried. We’ve discussed tasks that must be done. We lost a ton of sleep.  We’ve sat in silence thinking about the future.  We’ve held hands and cried some more.

Yet, in spite of the news and intense disappointment, we also continue to wake, to laugh, to find humor during the less than positive hours, enjoy good meals, experience surprises and to love.

Life does go on.

Without question, our favorite time of the day is in early morning.  We sit on our back porch, kick back with a cup of coffee and just enjoy the quiet of the morning.  Birds sing, antelope nibble through the back yard, dogs play and we just…chat.  We’ve done morning like this ever since we moved out to the country.  Some days are more exciting than others and Monday was that kind of day.  We were sitting on the porch admiring the first sunny day in two weeks when Steve noticed a flash of blue in a nearby tree.  He quickly retrieved his binoculars and we took turns admiring the Eastern Bluebird that had graced us with his presence.  The bird was fabulous and we watched him for about fifteen minutes.  When the Eastern Bluebird flew off, Steve looked to the right side of the yard and saw not one but two pair of cardinals.  Those birds gave him great joy on that peace-filled morning. It was a blessing to see him flash his special, impish smile while he watched those birds. That morning was truly magical.

It’s true.  Life really is about the little things.  A smile, shared memories and meals, nature, prayer, God and…time.

I don’t know what the future holds but I do know, without a doubt, who holds the future. We are not going to let this disease ruin what time we have left together.  Regardless of our circumstances, our God is here with us.  He holds us in the palms of his hands.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13. 

 

 

It’s in the Wee Hours

Our German Shepherd, Ella, has a bladder the size of a peanut.  Either that or last night she simply wanted us to be awake with her.  She woke me up at 3:30 a.m., 4:30 a.m., 5:30 and finally 7:10 a.m.  I was ready to wring her neck because Steve really needs his sleep and besides, who the heck wants to be awakened four times in the early morning hours just so the dog can go pee (or chase smells in the back yard)?  Not this girl!!

Once awake I could not, for the life of me, go back to sleep.  My brain was turned on and just would not stop thinking about the future without my sweetheart.  When Ella woke me up at 7:10 I gave up on getting any sleep so I grabbed Darla and the three of us went outside.

It had rained during the night.  The ground was wet and muddy; the air was misty, damp and cool.  Usually the birds that hang around our home during the spring, summer and autumn are missing at this time of year, but when we walked out onto the driveway, the first thing I heard was the trilling of our birds.  The happy chirping sounds that Steve and I love to listen to every morning just broke me.  I stood in the center of the yard and bawled.  How many more days would we get to listen to our favorite sounds together?  How soon would I be listening to them alone?  At that point, I chose to take my own advice and, in the moment, thanked God for allowing me to hear the birds this morning because that meant that Steve would get to listen to them when he awoke!  That little moment of joy lasted not much longer that that single moment but it helped…a bit.

After the 7:10 potty break, the pups and I returned inside.  Not wanting to disturb Steve a fourth time, I just wrapped  in myself in my quilt and curled up on our leather sofa. Every thought of Steve made me cry.  I guess it’s just going to be a weepy kind of day.

People say that these bouts of tears are normal but I can honestly say that I am not a fan.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;  Yes, our God is merciful.  The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.  Return to your rest, O my soul, For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.  For You have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, And my feet from falling.  (Psalms 116:5-8 NKJV)