Monday, June 30, 2014

Red and the Bread Man

One morning, while I was visiting my parents in New York, I woke up at 5:30 in the morning and couldn't go back to sleep.  I assumed it was from sleeping in a strange bed. I got up to go to the bathroom and decided to take the dog outside.

I walked down the stairs and froze in my steps.  There, I saw a familiar sight.  My dad, aka The Rev, on his knees in prayer.

Just think about that.  How often have you found your dad on his knees in prayer?  Its a pretty familiar sight for me and one I took for granted for many years.

They call him the Bread Man.  For years, he has delivered bread and other food to needy families.  He does this, not because he wins awards or gets any accolades, but because he has been called to serve.

Another morning, I woke up to the smell of chocolate flowing throughout the house.  I came downstairs to investigate and found a hot pan of brownies in the oven.  My mom appeared out of the laundry room.  "Good morning, sweetie.  I thought you and the girls would like some brownies for the boat.  And these brownies, they are my best yet."

Today my parents, Rev and Red, celebrate their 41st Wedding Anniversary.  It would be a fabrication if I told you its been a cookie cutter marriage.  There is no such thing.

What it has been is a consistent example of prayer & care for others before themselves.  It makes me extremely proud to know the stock I am from.  They are easily two of the most thoughtful, giving servants of the Lord that I have ever met.

When I was younger, I undervalued their calling.  I thought it made me weird to have parents that made us go to church and pray before meals.  I was embarrassed because they still held hands and kissed each other goodbye.

For their 30th anniversary, we gave them a scrapbook entitled "Thirty Years and Three Kids Later".  It was filled with letters from family and friends on what their marriage has meant to them.  Obviously we've added some spouses and grandkids to that title, but the common themes in the letters still ring true.

 "Thirty years of commitment to God, family, and especially, each other..."
"But most of all, I have learned to love."
"You live, you love, you marry, even though sometimes love is scary."
"Modeled servanthood."
"Your marriage represents to me a pillar of strength."
"The Lord shines on you."
"You lend a helping hand, no matter the occasion."
"God bless you richly for all of your loving, caring, sharing and endless giving."

When I got engaged, my mom gave me one piece of advice.  "Serve the Lord and Serve Robbie."  It is advice I have to remind myself of regularly.  Today I was blessed to sit at the dinner table with my parents and celebrate their marriage.

Happy 41st Anniversary, Red and Rev!!!  Keep on smooching and keep on serving!


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bean Post: Genesee Country Museum

Hope you enjoy Lily's first blogpost!!!

I can't wait to go to the Genesee Country Museum!!
I heard that people at the Genesee Country Museum act like old times!
We planned a FUN day with my cousins, AJ and Jaxson, my grandparents Mamie and Pops, my mom Autumn, and my brother Tate.

I took this AWESOME selfie at the entrance of the Genesee Country Museum!!!

I love quilting!!! Quilting is so interesting back in the days!!

Sheep Sheering!!! Only happens once a year!! Lucky us!!!!!!!! :)

Buddies making cornmeal!! They taught us how to cook in the older days!! Love spending time with my brother!!!

Carving wood so the side of the wood isn't so sharp. Then they attached to the oxen rake!!
AJ is enjoying the museum!

Pottery!!!!!!! My FAVORITE!!!!!!!!!! Checking out the pottery with my cousin Jaxson!!!

A beautiful church!!!!!!!!! My Pops likes the church because he is a pastor. LOVELY!!!!!

Had a wonderful day at the Genesee Country Museum!!!  So sad to leave!! :(

Hope you can visit it someday!!!

Lily Bean

Time for Me to Fly

I document our lives a lot.  I don't owe anyone an explanation on why I share my life happenings on social media.  No one really needs to understand why I post some of my most treasured memories on a blog.  There are many schools of thought on this, but for me, I intend to live a life that is wide open.  That's not to say, I don't have privacy.  There are many things that I hold near and dear to my heart that are not for public consumption.  Some are painful.  Some are just sacred.  These things are protected and documented in a more private venue.

I don't share my pictures, places and things because I think I am so interesting and there are people who want to know about me.  It is also not for social acceptance.  Quite simply, in a former day, I was a scrap booker.  I would spend hours cutting, cropping and journaling my life's happenings.  Many things happened to change this practice.  To start, I lost everything I owned in a house fire right after graduating from college.  I didn't have much, but what I did have was treasured.  This type of event quickly shapes how you preserve your memories.  So does having two kids and a demanding full-time job.  Hence, the end of my scrapbook hobby.

Therefore, I do it in a way that makes sense to me (and keeps my mama who lives 800 miles away from her grand babies happy).  My 2014 word is CAPTURE.  I could say this is also a life theme.  I don't want to forget life.  It gets busy.  It gets blurred.  And then there are moments I want to go back and remember.  

Call me historian.  Call me paparazzi.  I call me "one that needs pictures and words to help remember the details of my life."  

I'm addicted to moments.  The moments in your life that don't really feel like moments.  Instead, they feel like a scene from a movie. One of those scenes that you rewind over and over because of the way you felt at that exact time.

I love these times because they most often reflect "game changers".  They are the "2 roads diverged in a forest" events that change your life perspective or purpose.  I write about these moments often.  It is my way of remembering them forever, although I'm quite certain I couldn't forget them if I tried.

There was a lot of drama that surrounded my move to Tennessee when I was 18.  My dad wanted me to go to Lee.  I couldn't imagine living that far away from everything I knew.  I didn't want to leave my family.  I knew I would miss my friends.  And of course, there was a boy.

I think I caught everyone off guard when I abruptly decided to attend Lee.  I can't even tell you why I did it, but I just came home in April and said, "Fine.  I'll go."

The months following my decision were some of the happiest in my life...a successful softball season, memorable marching band trips, high school graduation, concerts, lake time, and summer parties.  Every day felt bittersweet as I tried to celebrate, savor, and say goodbye all at the same time.  I felt time slipping through my hands and I desperately tried to hold on to it.

And then, it was my last day.  My friends and I tried to cram as much in 24 hours as we possibly could...dinner, a concert, a campout.  There were a lot of wonderful moments that day.  

Moments of laughter.  
Moments of tears.  
Moments of regret.  
Moments of hope.

But one moment will always be THAT moment.  The moment I knew everything was changing, but would always remain the same.  There I stood, at a concert, with my neighbors and friends, preparing to move 800 miles from everything I knew.

Bodies Swaying.
Voices Carrying.
Tears Flowing.

We sang an anthem that night and I knew my life would never be the same again.

Time for me to Fly
Oh I've got to set myself free
Time for me to fly
That's just how it's got to be
I know it hurts to say goodbye
but It's time for me to fly

The next morning, I loaded up my parents' car and made the move to Cleveland, TN.  I cried the whole way there.  I cried for the people I was leaving.  I cried for fear of people I hadn't met yet.  I cried because I wasn't sure if all of my "moments" were done.  In my 18 year old mind, I envisioned my movie scenes ending.  I couldn't imagine loving my life any more than I did the night before.

I, of course, have had a lifetime of beautiful moments and wonderful people.  My life has moved far from that 18 year old girl and yet, I still crave those moments that make me scared and hopeful all at the same time.

The beauty of true friends is that time and distance can't separate you from those moments that connect you.  The other night a few of my high school friends decided to have a Girls Night Out while I was in town visiting.  We laughed and reminisced like teenagers, even though each of us will celebrate our 40th this year.  These ladies helped define me. 

We froze our bras at sleepovers.  
We broke our first rules.  
We snuck out of the house (shhh don't tell our parents).  
We swore we'd be friends forever.

After dinner, as I pulled out of the parking lot, a familiar song came over the radio and I was quickly transported to that night when NY became a place I visit and no longer my home. I turned to my friend, Amy, and we both knew what to do.  Within minutes and several driveways later, all of us were together again.  

Their husbands thought we were nuts taking a convertible ride at 11:00 at night.  There we were, creating a moment, four 40 year old women cruising down Route 5 & 20 scream-singing an all-too-familiar song.

Time for me to Fly
Oh I've got to set myself free
Time for me to fly
That's just how it's got to be
I know it hurts to say goodbye
but It's time for me to fly

Twenty-two years ago, it was my time to fly.  But as we know, having roots is as important as having wings.  Over the years, I am so thankful to have both.  Thirty year old friendships don't happen over night.  They happen over long distance phone calls, letters in campus mailboxes, random text messages, and late night convertible rides.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Silk PJs with a White Out Stain

It was August of 1992 and my first day in my new hometown.  I was excited and slightly nervous as I realized I had completely failed in the outfit selection process.  I can assure you there was never a lesson in the good ole 14561 that taught girls like me what to wear to college registration.  On top of that, I got to the end of the registration line and the man asked me how I was going to pay my bill.  Again, I was stumped.  I quickly came to terms with the fact that I was totally unprepared for this college gig.

I came into the laundry room at my dorm to see this girl with the most beautiful white hair I had ever seen.  It was curled up in ringlets like Nellie Olson.  I thought they were fantastic.  Her makeup was flawless, her shoes were spotless, and she had a gleam in her eye.  I couldn't tell if the gleam was friendly or cruel, but either way, I was intrigued.

My nervous energy went on full throttle as I rambled on and on about my day...the guy that hit on me in line, my new work-study job, and the comfort level of my new shoes.  All while her eyes looked me up and down.  She couldn't get out of that laundry room fast enough.  She later told me she couldn't tolerate one more word...I simply talked too much that day.

It didn't take long before we met up again and eventually became college roommates.  For ten semesters, we shared a room; me on the bottom bunk and her on the top.  She had a matching ensemble for her room.  She had Precious Moments dolls that were probably worth quite a bit, even though I found them rather scary.  She had a white stereo.

She was messy and liked to sleep in.  She survived on Cracker Barrel and Velveeta Shells and Cheese.  She listened to Color Me Badd.  She sang in the choir. She had a necklace with her name in cursive letters.  She matched her shower gel color to her outfit for the day.  She was from South Florida.

Twenty-two years later, and there is still absolutely no reason we should be friends.  I could tell you story after story that would leave you in tears.  She is one hilarious chick who finds herself in the oddest predicaments.  We had one fight.  It was over her erratic behavior after a break-up with her boyfriend.  She slammed a dozen roses in the parking lot and I thought that was just not kind.

The thing is, she was bold and didn't take crap from anyone.  I think that may have been why I was drawn to her.  My courage was on the short end at the time and she was not afraid to tell anyone what she thought.  One time, her favorite pajamas came up missing from the laundry room.  She came back to the room in a rage, "I'm going to find those pajamas.  You know they'll be easy to track down.  There's a white out stain near the collar."  Sure enough, ole girl searched the dorm, tracked down the pjs and had a great night's sleep that night.

One late morning in college, we were all sitting on the couch watching tv, when we heard this commotion rolling down the stairs.  We looked up to find Michelle, in her pjs, sprawled out at the bottom of the stairs from her tumble.  She shook her head, smiled and said, "And good morning to you!"

It is one of those friendships you see in the movies.  We have both grown so much because of and in spite of each other.  There are times I push and she stands still.  There are times she pulls and I turn the opposite direction.  The best friendships are made, not on what you expect or want from a person, but from what they are to you, at any given moment.  For me, Michelle was my biggest fan who always made me feel that I could conquer the world.

A few weekends ago, we both found ourselves in unfamiliar territory.  She, Mrs. Career Driven, was not working over the summer, and me, Mrs. Overplanned, had nothing on the calendar.

One of my dear friends, Leslie, quickly offered to host a brief get-away for me, Lily, Michelle and her daughter Anabelle at one of my favorite places, Howe Creek.

We had never been on a beach trip before this.  I cherished every moment of sun kissed splendor filled with convertible rides, wildly inappropriate stories, great music, and late night tears.  Each night we forced ourselves to bed, well past midnight, as we knew the young ones would awaken early.

We talked about the books we wanted to write.  Hers is dark and twisted.  Mine is hopeful and encouraging. She said, "You probably wouldn't read my book."  I said, "You're probably right, but I'd throw you one heck of a book-signing party."

Before falling asleep each night, she would say, "I love you Auts.  Thank you for a great day."  She knew just what this girl needed.  Loved and thankful.  That I am.


E. A. T.

I was not one of those people.  You know, those girls that have their children's names picked out.  The truth is, I never really imagined raising kids.  Just last week, Tate was asking me questions about our lives before he arrived.  Most of his questions would fall in the "typical" category.  That is, until he asked, "Did you and daddy plan for me?"  I'm still not sure what the appropriate answer to the question is, but I'm sure "Hey kid, you were a complete accident," is wildly out of appropriateness.  So, I pulled something out of Paulette's playbook and mumbled about the Lord always having a plan before quickly changing the subject.

Now, before you call the Department of Children's Services on me, you should know that I 100% love being a mother.  However, I would be lying to you (and to my 10 year old son), if  I pretended it was something I orchestrated.  Looking back now, I'm certain I felt inadequate to do the job.  I felt like there were more promising potential parents out there with far more skills than I.  I envisioned completely wrecking someone's life and hearing about it for the rest of mine.

One would think I was prepared.  After all, I had Monster #1 and Monster #2 dragging me through their childhood.  Those boys exposed me, their untrained caregiver, to any gross object or inappropriate action known to man.  It was almost a hazing (or birth control) of sorts for anyone that imagined being a mother of boys.  Within ten minutes, you not only knew how unprepared you were, but you also questioned your desire for kids EVER!!!

That being said, I have certainly embraced my parenting years.  Each twist and turn is exciting and exhausting all at the same time.  Most recently, raising a 10 year old boy has been interesting, to say the least.

The one thing I learned from babysitting my brothers, is that boys are wildly unpredictable and non-communicative.  Earlier this month, my son left us for two weeks to stay with my brother and his wife for basketball camp.  This has become a yearly tradition, and while, its an awful way for this mama to start the summer, it is something my brother and son absolutely cherish.

I love a lot of things about kids ages 7-12.  In fact, my preferred grade to teach was 5th or 6th grade.  They are awkward and interesting and extremely inquisitive.  It is the perfect formative age.  There is one item that baffles me.  Hygiene.  I can say this without embarrassing either of my children.   I have never met a child at this age that smells better than they think they do.  Yes, read that again.  Its as if their noses stop working.

You can imagine my anxiety, as I prepared to send my son to camp, knowing that he would probably not entertain an idea to change clothing or wash regularly.  As he climbed into my brother's car, I reminded him of our acronym.  "Don't forget to EAT!!" I said.  My son giggled knowing I was talking about cleaning his Ears, Armpits, and Teeth.

He had a great time at camp.   I beamed with pride the afternoon Rusty called me to tell me that Tate had just come in from shooting free throws as a result of missing the last one at camp that day.

It was a quick reminder that I didn't need to be there to tell him what to do.  He was built with good stuff and no longer needed his mama to guide his every decision.

I remember when my kids were younger, a friend of mine asked me, "Doesn't it bother you that your kids don't miss you when they're away from you?"  It didn't take me long to answer.  My view of parenting is to prepare my kids so they are absolutely ok without me.  I want them to be confident and secure in themselves.  The act of being missed is not the measure of their love for me.  My life was enriched by relationships with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  I love that my kids are experiencing that same kind of love.

We would FaceTime each night.  The words were few but the smile was great.  He was absolutely having the time of his life. I had snuck a care package in his bag with a note for each day and some snacks.

In typical 10-year-old boy fashion, he seemed less than impressed.  Every night I would ask him if he liked his note.  I got the same response.  A shrug followed by "Yeah."  That all changed one night, during our FaceTime, when he leaned forward, kissed the screen, and whispered, "I miss your guts too."  I felt like that giddy girl that was just asked out on her first date.

I'm not sure that anything could prepare me for a love like this.  I'm just thankful the Lord took a chance on me with my pitiful parenting potential and gave us this precious boy to raise - smelly armpits and all.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Coach Named Brady

I have a confession.  I was cut from the 7th grade softball team for twirling my bat.  I remember it quite vividly.  I was on deck.  It was a cold day.  The batter in front of me was taking a lot of pitches. I dazed off for a few minutes.  Before long, I started twirling the bat to pass the time.  Seems harmless enough, right?

I cried myself to sleep that night of the cuts.  I'm sure it was a combination of embarrassment and the idea that I had disappointed my dad, even though he was quite understanding about it.  I remember wondering why twirling was such a big deal.

The days and weeks following were torture.  I dreaded going to school to hear my friends talk about practice the day before.  I was ashamed.  I felt like things would never go my way.  At the time, I didn't realize I was experiencing typical feelings swelled by junior high hormones.

As an adult, I reflect on my teenage years often.  I guess my job affords my brain opportunities to see similar scenarios on a daily basis.  Even now, I struggle with focus when the pressure is on.  You see, I work from both sides of my brain.  It seems, at times, my logical side and artistic side battle it out.  I do my best work when I have the music blaring in my office and a chart on my computer screen.  It's my way of finding balance.

Intensity and competitiveness don't come naturally to me.  What does come naturally is a desire to do my best.  Not to be the best.  But to be MY best.  There was a day when I saw things differently.

I was 15.

I felt average.

I seemed to blend in with the crowd.

My confidence was not at its best.

I was a member of the Marcus Whitman Junior Varsity Softball Team.  I would watch the older players everyday and wonder if I could ever be as good as they were.  They seemed to ooze perfection.  The more I watched them, the more nervous I became.  To be honest, I didn't ever think I could be one of those players that made the big play.  It consumed my thoughts.

One day, the varsity squad finished early.  Our team was taking infield practice and I was playing first base.  It was a normal day.

After taking grounders, we headed off the field to pack up.  The varsity coach was sitting on the bench talking with my friend, Brandi.  Brandi was in the same grade as me, but she was one of those players that made the big plays.  She was a dynamic pitcher and athlete.  I'm sure the coach and Brandi were talking about some really important pitching stuff when he turned to me, almost as a side thought, and said, "You have great hands."

To all my non-softball peeps, this may seem like an odd statement.  To the 15 year old version of me, it was the best thing someone could say.  I had worked hard on those hands.  I had spent countless hours with my dad, Aunt Becky and Grandpa Ike throwing hard grounders at my glove.  They would say, "Soften it up.  Don't stab at it."

I decided that day to prove that varsity coach RIGHT.  For the next three years, I worked hard to have "great hands".  I wasn't a natural athlete and it didn't always come easily.  There were a lot of failures and some really exciting successes.

Coach Brady was tough on me.

He worked me hard.

He never let me give up.

He never let me make excuses.

He never let me get in my head.

He believed in me.

Sometimes he would yell.

Sometimes he would kick dirt.

Sometimes he would make me run.

Its funny how those moments are blurred from my high school playing memories.  What I do remember is a coach that saw something in me that I didn't see in myself.  He saw a girl looking for something to be good at and a desire to have value.

He toted me around the State of New York on summer travel teams.  He paid for my food and uniforms on more than one occasion.  He even recruited me to play soccer my junior and senior year, giving me one piece of advice.  "See that ball.  Run as fast as you can and kick it to Brandi."  I was fast and it seemed easy enough.  Fortunately, Brandi knew what to do with the ball once I passed it off.  The rest is history.

This parenting thing is tough.  Robbie and I have been super careful with our kids and our approach to sports.  Philosophically, we both believe kids have to love the sport and build relationships before they can master skill.  For this reason, we have taken what seems to be an unconventional path in parenting from two former college athletes and college coaches.  We were anxious, but we waited.  We waited for the moment when they showed an interest in something.  Once that moment occurred, we encouraged them to do their best and be a good teammate.  

#7 had a rough start to the 2014 Softball Season.  She tried out for a summer travel team and didn't make it.  She cried herself to sleep that night.  She decided she wanted to take pitching lessons.  She found out a week later that her finger had been broken for some time.  She would have to take some time out from sports.  This kept her from her lessons and playing in the Recreation League in our town.  She was devastated.

Despite the adversity, something happened this spring.  Right after spring break, I found her in the yard, tossing the ball up to herself.  She asked me if I would work with her and help her get better.  Believe it or not, it was the first time she acknowledged I might be a source of help in the softball arena.  Up to this point, I was just Mom, not former player and coach.

She was asked in April to play for a summer team.  The team is short on talent and big on heart.  They are undersized and often outmatched.  None of this is important to Lily.  She has willingly and eagerly given up summer playdates and activities to play on her TEAM. As a parent, it thrills me to see her desire to work hard and belong in a sport that I love.  She is having fun and has a skip in her step that is irreplaceable.

Coach Brady came to watch Brandi and me play in college.  Again, his words after the game stuck with me.  "You've come a long way, girl."

Not such a long way.  I still twirl when I'm nervous.

To Brady - Thank you for never giving up on that scrawny lost girl.  You helped her find herself and a sport she still loves today.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Falling Slowly

It's summer.  I think.

The temperatures are hot - mostly.

We cook dinners on the grill - some.
We spend time as a family - kind of.
Things slow down - not really.

I am a lake person.  Yes, I appreciate a good beach trip now and then, but my heart's desire lies on a raft somewhere in the middle of a lake.  

The water is still.  There are no frisbees flying overhead.  Your skin is not frying from the scorching sun.  You can float and gaze and dream.  Pure relaxation station.

The ocean is a different story.  Make no mistake.  I enjoy a good trip to the beach.  I find it relaxing in its own way, but there are times when I'm there I feel I'm in an episode of Man vs. Nature, taking on each wave as if its a new battle.  

There are no tidal waves in the middle of a lake.  All the more reason I love a day on the lake.  You see, there is no floating in a tidal wave.  There's no gazing or dreaming either.  All that tidal waves bring are fear, panic and the need to survive.  You know where the tidal waves are?  Life. 

As our family gets older, it seems there is little time to catch your breath.  There are plenty of games, clinics, and camps for the kids, all of which I enjoy.  But nothing, absolutely nothing, can fill my tank more than good, ole-fashioned quality time with the people I love. 

Fridays mean summer.  At least, for me. In the four-day work week, kid-shuttling, life catching-up days of Summer 2014, there is one day that I hold dear.  FRIDAY.

The plan was Lake Winnie.  Last night I packed the bags and put the kids to bed early.  I told them we had a surprise in the morning.  Unbeknownst to me, Friday, June 6th is the ONLY Friday this summer that Lake Winnie is closed.  

I heard their footsteps about 8:30.  They both came barreling down the stairs with anticipation.  We snuggled in the bed for a few minutes before I broke the news - No Lake Winnie.  This is the part where I have to brag.  I don't know how other kids react, but man - MY KIDS ROCK!  They not only shrugged it off, but started brainstorming different ways we could enjoy our Friday.

The first item of business when we start our adventures is the music.  Lily quickly claimed the title of "Music Nazi" and decided on the M&A Wedding mix (ironically its their one year anniversary today).  Within a few songs, her favorite came on.  She squealed with delight.   I've heard the song many times, especially since Lily always wants to replay it.

Maybe it was the fresh air.  Maybe it was knowing it was Friday.  Maybe it was Lily's loud singing.

For whatever reason, today the words stuck.

"Take this sinking boat and point it home.
We've still got time.  Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice."

I'm sure the muse for the song, was a lovely lady that had won his heart.  My muses were sitting in the car with me.  At some point in Lily's third play of the song, Tate reached up and grabbed my hand with both of his.  Man, I had a moment.

A moment of floating.
A moment of gazing.
A moment of dreaming.

The Score?
Tidal Wave = 0
Mom = 1

Enjoy some still water this summer, my friends.

*Photo credits to Lily and Tate.
**Lyrics from Glen Hansard's, Falling Slowly.