The Joy of Mowing

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My sister bought a house not long after I finished college and I became her roommate.  Daddy wasn’t our roommate, so that was when mowing the yard became part of my duties.  Melissa and I took turns mowing.  Initially, I hated it.  It was the most dreaded of tasks.  I hated it so much, I often became a cranky, moody person when I had to do it, I’m ashamed to say.  The blistered hands, the excessive sweating – I just despised it.

After a couple of years of my bad attitude, Sayid came into our lives.  Where my response to mowing the yard was dread, his was unbridled joy.  To this day, if you say to him – “Sayid, you wanna mow the yard?” – he lights up.  He rushes around the house, stalking me until I’m in my mowing clothes, my hair is up, and we’re walking out the back door.  If I take too long, he starts with the high pitched, playful barking, trying his best to lead me to the back door.

As soon as the door is open, he’s out there, pulling out his Jolly Ball.  My boy is a creature of habit.  From the time he got his first Jolly Ball as a puppy, that has been his toy of choice on yard mowing day.  He has one at my house & he has one at Melissa’s house.  My hands touch the mower, the Jolly Ball is in his mouth.  It’s as certain as a sunrise.

While I get the grass under control, Sayid lets that Jolly Ball know who’s boss.  It’s as if he thinks we each have our own important task to conquer and he takes his job very seriously. When he was younger, he’d drag that ball all over the yard, placing it in the path of the mower and barking up at me until I either kicked it out of the way for him to chase or paused in my tracks and told him over & over to “get it” until he finally moved it out of the way.  The high pitched, happy bark is constant the entire time the mower is running.

These days he lies in the grass to rest a lot earlier than he used to, but that happy bark continues and that Jolly Ball can always be found close by.  I’ll catch a glimpse of him while I’m mowing, his head toward the sky, barking joyfully, and it makes me smile.  His joy is contagious.  It makes me feel joyful right along with him.

Sayid’s joy on yard mowing day has helped change my attitude about the chore.  In fact, if it weren’t for my irrational fear of wasps and snakes, I might could even say I kind of enjoy it.  Once I move past the perimeter of the yard and I feel like the threat of a surprise wasp attack or snake sighting has passed, it’s not so bad.  It feels like a good workout, and it is always followed by a refreshing shower, an easy supper, and Netflix & chill.  The fact that yard mowing day is one of Sayid’s most simplest of pleasures makes me look forward to it if for no other reason than to listen to that happy bark and see his smiling face.

Tuft & Needle Mattress Review

After spending my early adulthood sleeping on an old mattress that was probably twenty years old, I decided to upgrade back in 2008.  Following a hurricane with a lot of disaster relief overtime, I used my entire overtime check on a Sealy Posturepedic pillow top mattress.  It was glorious.  I loved that mattress for years.  I can remember two instances where I gave up my bed for friends who were visiting from out of town and they both asked me about my mattress the following morning because they loved it like I did.  I have very high mattress standards.

Fast forward to about six months ago.  As soon as I would lie down at night I would, like always, think to myself – I love my bed – but I’d often wake up with back pain.  I also got to the point that I was waking up a lot at night, rotating from side to stomach to other side to back to side to stomach to other side to back.  It had gotten to the point it was just too soft for me.  It was time to think about mattress shopping again.  My home that I bought about a year ago has a pretty large master bedroom, so I decided I would upgrade to a queen size bed and move my full size bed to my empty guest room.  That’s been something I’ve looked forward to: having an honest to goodness guest room.  This would all work out perfectly.  I just had to find the mattress.

I heard Tuft & Needle advertised on the Dave Ramsey show.  A mattress in a box sounded kind of bizarre, but I started researching different options and reading reviews.  There are actually a lot of “mattress in a box” companies out there now.  Tuft & Needle had great reviews, but there were three things that drew me in:

#1 – $600 for a queen size mattress with free shipping, delivered to my door.

#2 – Made in America!

#3 – They offer a 100 night trial.  If you’re not satisfied, they don’t ask you to vacuum seal a mattress into a box and ship it back.  They have you donate it to a local charity and show your receipt proving the donation and they refund you in full.  (This one was especially appealing, because it’s just incredibly kind.)

So after saving for a few months, I went for it.  I ordered my Tuft & Needle mattress on a Saturday morning.  It was delivered to my door early the following Tuesday.  I was amazed how quickly it arrived.

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Initially, I thought I would keep it in the box until I went to IKEA the following weekend to get a queen bed frame to match my other furniture, but I tossed and turned so much Monday night that I asked my dad to come over & disassemble my old bed and help me move it to the guest room.

When my T&N mattress arrived, Daddy came back over and helped me drag it in the house and set it up in my room.  Most people could probably move it themselves and I’m sure I could have tugged and pulled and pushed and made that happen, but I’m about as strong as I look, so I was happy for Daddy’s help!

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Sayid was very interested in the process.  It was kind of fascinating to watch the mattress expand to full size (10” tall) in about a minute once the plastic was cut away.  I ended up sleeping with this mattress on the floor the first several nights.  Sayid doesn’t have the leg strength to jump onto a bed anymore, but I allowed him to sleep on my bed when it was on the floor.  He can still climb 10”.  He approved.  He spent a lot of time on the mattress.  He even bypassed his last treat of the night so he could get to the mattress quicker one night.

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After three nights on the floor and two nights a little higher up on box springs, I had my new queen bed frame and Daddy came & put it together for me.  (Daddy likes to photobomb.)

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The first couple of weeks on the mattress, I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  There were nights I slept really great and other nights I would toss and turn a bit, having a hard time getting comfortable.  I guess going from a plush pillow top to a mattress this firm was such a big change that I was having a hard time adjusting.  I contacted Tuft & Needle and asked if there was a topper they recommended to soften the mattress a bit.  I was told that they actually make toppers and would be happy to send me a complimentary topper.  I told them I’d give it a few more nights and would request one if needed.  Several nights of mixed results followed, so I asked them to send the topper.

It came in just a few days later.  It adds two inches of height to my bed.  My pillow top was really high and I was kind of disappointed that my bed might not be as high when I switched to a new mattress.  My bed is now even taller than it was.  I now have to lean up and look down to see the time on my alarm clock.  I’m considering moving my alarm clock across the room to make myself get up earlier and not hit snooze as many times!

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I’ve been sleeping on the topper for the past nine nights.  My conclusion is that the topper has made this bed perfect for me.  I’m back to that familiar thought that I’ve had the better part of the last nine years when my head hits the pillow – I love my bed.

I don’t need 100 nights to try this out.  I’m keeping it and sleeping gloriously again.  I’m very happy with my purchase.  Also – now accepting guests and providing a very comfortable, albeit very soft, bed!

This is what is true.

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For nine years, from fourth grade through my senior year of high school, I participated in Bible Drill, which is a program that involves a lot of memorization of scripture.  Today I was given the privilege of helping facilitate a practice drill for some students at my church in preparation for their first competition next Sunday.  (To clarify, they’re competing against a clock, not against each other.)  It was refreshing to see students committing scripture to memory.  It did my heart good and reinforced a recent decision I made.

About three months ago, I decided to start making it a point to memorize scripture again.  At the time, I had come across Psalm 116:7 – Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.  That one was short and simple, but I loved it.  It’s a good reminder in life when things get overwhelming. I wanted to commit it to memory, so I wrote it on a note card, tucked it away in my Bible, and reviewed it a few times each morning.  Then I added Lamentations 3:22-24 – Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!  I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.

I’ve since added Psalm 138:8, Romans 8:38-39 (this was by far the hardest to memorize), and most recently, Philippians 4:4-7.

Some of the scripture I memorized as a child comes back to me, especially if I hear the start of a familiar passage, but I usually can’t tell you where exactly to find it.  Sometimes in the middle of the night, I’ll wake up and a Bible verse comes to mind.  It happens when I drive.  It happens when I mow my yard.  It happens when I’m at work sometimes.  (Usually that’s the one about working with all your heart as if working for the Lord and not for men – Colossians 3:23, which I have not committed to memory!  I definitely need that reminder sometimes!)

Earlier this week, I was listening to a podcast where Ellie Holcomb had been interviewed.  She spoke about memorizing scripture and she said our work as believers is to remember.  We need to remember what God did, who He is, and what He has promised.  She talked about a scary time a few months ago when her husband was hospitalized and in her rush to leave for the hospital, she didn’t pack her Bible, but these scriptures she had memorized were coming to mind.  It was as if she was reminding herself: this is what is true.  Even when something is scary or upsetting and doesn’t feel true, this is what is true.  It’s a great comfort.

What’s your favorite scripture or passage of scripture?  I’m not sure which one I’ll commit to memory after I get Philippians 4:4-7 permanently stored away inside, but I’m sure another one will grab me before I know it.

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your graciousness be known to everyone.  The Lord is near.  Don’t worry about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God which surpasses every thought will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.   – Philippians 4:4-7

This is what is true.

Something New

Goodness, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? So here’s something new – I bought a house! It’s an adorable little house and I am very fond of it. It’s perfect for me. It’s roughly 1200 square feet – actually a little less, I think – and it suits me perfectly. I think this house and I are MFEO. (For those who aren’t fans of Sleepless in Seattle, that means we’re made for each other.)

I wasn’t sure if I’d like living alone. Before I bought this house, I’d never lived alone. Sure, I’d have weeks here and there when Melissa and I were roommates and she’d go out of town for vacation and I’d have the house to myself for short periods of time. But truly living alone? I wasn’t sure how I’d like it. It needed to happen because I was ready to buy a house and I am, indeed, solo. I’ve got about five months under my belt at this point and I can conclude that living alone suits me just fine.

Am I a little warm or cold? I can adjust the thermostat to my liking. Do I want peace and quiet? I can have a completely silent home. Do I want to blast an iTunes playlist while I clean or watch an episode of Friends while I cook? Have at it! When I want to go to bed, the house is nice and dark and there’s no light creeping under my bedroom door. There’s no sound of a television when I’m falling asleep – just my fan & Sayid’s snoring, which I love. I like a clean kitchen when I go to bed and the dirty dishes and messes that come about are mine and mine alone. Well, sometimes they’re Sayid’s, but I don’t mind cleaning up after my boy. When I have lots of dirty dishes, that just means I made something really great from scratch or I had company over for a meal and those are both good things. Plus, Netflix can keep me company while I clean up. I have covered parking. I haven’t experienced winter yet in my home, but there won’t be ice on my windshield. My stained concrete floors are a breeze to clean. My living room is adorable. When I sit on my couch and look across the room, it’s nothing but encouragement and words of wisdom on my gallery wall. When it’s time for a Netflix marathon, I pull my chair and foot stool up close, grab a blanket, and spend some quality time with the Reagans or the Taylors or the doctors of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.

My sweet parents are just a few miles away, so Daddy comes over with his measuring tape, nails, hollow wall anchors, and level and hangs up my wall decorations whenever I find where I want something to be placed. Everything looks so good. I love it. I feel very blessed to have this home. I’m very thankful to have this place. It’s good. It’s a good place to be.

On work mornings, it’s still pretty dark when I get up, but on Saturday mornings, when I exit my bedroom, it makes me smile when I see my living room with the morning sun coming in. There are times I think to myself – I can’t believe I live here. I think this house and I can grow old together.

On days when I mow, I sometimes encounter snakes – I’ve seen six so far! – and I have a pretty good sized hill in my back yard which takes some effort, but even still, I’m thankful. I have a yard to mow. I get to mow a yard.

I could not have an easier commute from my new home. I get to work just as quickly as I ever have, but don’t have to deal with nearly as much traffic getting to the interstate. I am literally five minutes from my church and it still surprises me how quickly I arrive.

My recent DSNAP deployment, which was literally an exhausting 100 hour work week, brought about one of those very rare overtime checks, so I decided to use some of it to splurge on three adorable bar stools. Now all I lack is a guest bed & dresser and a grill. I think this place will feel pretty complete at that point.

At the moment, I’m sitting on my couch with my feet on my foot stool, listening to a great playlist on my iTunes. Sayid is snoozing at my feet. There are two small freezer bags of leftover spaghetti sauce, ready to go in the freezer tonight for those nights I don’t want to put in any more effort than boiling some pasta and shredding some parmesan. (I’m sure Sayid hopes he’s with me when that happens, because the boy can hear a cheese wrapper from a mile away.) The dishwasher is full and running.  Friday night has arrived. Work is over for the week. Sleep is welcome. I have a cute house, which at times felt like it would never be a reality. Life is good.  I’m thankful.

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Finally, an answer

A specific question has come up a few times in life.  I remember it being asked during a board game called Loaded Questions and also it seems like it was a journal topic in school.  The question is this:  If you could share a meal and have a conversation with one famous deceased person, who would it be?

I’ve never had a definitive answer to that.  Not famous?  That’s easy.  My friend, Ashly, or any one of my grandparents.  Famous?  I don’t know.  I’m not that easily starstruck and nobody ever stood out to me.

So here I am, thirty-five years old and I finally have an answer to that question.  It’s not someone who just died recently.  This person died in 1983 when I was three years old, but I just learned of her and she has gained my respect and admiration.

A few weeks ago, in my short morning devotional, I read a few sentences about an experience had in a concentration camp by Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsie.  Corrie’s autobiography, The Hiding Place, was referenced.  I like to prop up my Kindle in front of me and read it while I dry my hair every morning, so I checked the Kindle store for The Hiding Place and downloaded a sample.  After reading the sample, I knew it would be worth the $7 or $8 to purchase the book, so I bought it.

I find a lot of books that I’m happy to read for a few minutes in the morning and they make it tolerable to sit under the heat of my hairdryer for a few minutes, but this book was incredible.  It went beyond just a book to read while drying my hair.  When I wasn’t reading, I wanted to be reading.  I read it any chance I got.

I was fascinated by the story of this Christian family in Holland who was arrested and imprisoned at a concentration camp because they were helping Jews during World War II.  Corrie ten Boom orchestrated an underground operation to help keep Jews safe and fed and alive.  They were caught and punished for it.  Corrie’s mother had passed away years earlier, her brother and one sister were married with families of their own, but Betsie and Corrie were both single and lived and worked with their father in his watch shop.  Their father, Casper, was such a kind man and was loved by their whole town.  Betsie was so genuinely kind and nurturing.  Corrie was bold and brave but also had her moments of indifference and sarcasm.  She reminded me of myself in some ways.

While reading this book, there were times I wanted to hug them, like when Casper, in his eighties, was going to be released just after his arrest since he was so old, as long as he assured them he wouldn’t cause any more trouble.  His response was, “If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks.”

Or when Corrie was having her hearing and being questioned by a Nazi lieutenant about her activities.  She didn’t want to mention anything about the Jews hiding in her home, so she talked about other “activities” and mentioned her church for mentally retarded people.  The lieutenant responded, “What a waste of time and energy!  If you want converts, surely one normal person is worth all the half-wits in the world!”  Corrie boldly replied, “The truth, sir, is that God’s viewpoint is sometimes different from ours – so different that we could not even guess at it unless He had given us a Book which tells us such things.  In the Bible I learned that God values us not for our strength or our brains but simply because He has made us.  Who knows, in His eyes, a half-wit may be worth more than a watchmaker.  Or – a lieutenant.”

There were other times I wanted to come to their defense – like when a prison guard showed such a complete lack of compassion to Corrie when she received the news that her beloved father had died.  The guard’s treatment of her was so disgusting to me that it made me wish I could have done something about it or defended her in some way.

There were several times I laughed while reading this book.  Corrie’s memories of her aunts who lived with them while she was a child were funny.  One of the Jewish men they housed made me laugh.  There were even a few laughs while reading about their time in the concentration camps, believe it or not.

Her story is absolutely remarkable.  Corrie and Betsie risked their own lives and safety in the concentration camps by smuggling in a Bible and telling the other prisoners about Jesus and the love of God.  I was completely blown away and inspired by this book.  I ordered it in paperback after finishing it on my Kindle, because it deserves a spot on a bookshelf next to some other favorite books.  It’s one that needs to be read more than once and I like to have tangible copies of my favorites.

So there’s my answer to the question; I would share a meal and conversation with Corrie ten Boom.  And if we could squeeze a couple of extra chairs up to the table, I’d invite Betsie and Casper.  I want to hug them all.  One day I will.

Searching

Lately Switchfoot has been singing the soundtrack of my life. Some of these songs are fifteen years old and some are pretty recent, but it’s like Jon Foreman is reading my mind and just saying things more eloquently than I could.

I feel like I’m quickly approaching a crossroads and I’m praying God will show me the right direction to take and that I’ll have the guts to follow through even if it’s to walk down an uncomfortable path. Comfort zones are overrated, I know, but I get awfully settled into mine.

I’m reading a book called Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs. I just came across this book the other day in the Kindle Monthly Deals section and it was $2.99, so I bought it. I’m halfway through it now. This gal is so much like me, except she’s been brave where I have not, but the book shows me it didn’t come naturally, so that helps a little. Also, her sense of humor is very similar to my friend, Janie’s, so it just makes me like her even more. There have been moments reading this book where I’ve thought – Bingo. I could have written this exactly. It’s like she’s reading my mind.

I’m one week into an eight week Bible study called Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul by Jennie Allen.

Next up on my Must Read List: Do Over by Jon Acuff and another older Bible study by Jennie Allen called Restless: Because You Were Made For More.

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Is it obvious to anyone else that I’m itching for a change or is it just me?

It seems every time I have attempted to make a plan in this town, it has failed. (Not a plan like going to garage sales with my sister or going to see a movie with someone, but bigger things.) Ah, and there goes Switchfoot:

All attempts have failed, all my heads are tails
I’ve got teary eyes, I’ve got reasons why
I’m losing ground and gaining speed
I’ve lost myself or most of me
I’m heading for the final precipice
But You haven’t lost me yet

Then there’s this:

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps. – Proverbs 16:9

So, for that reason, for that wisdom, I have to be thankful that none of my plans are working out. I’d rather the Lord determine my steps than me, because He’s a whole lot wiser than I am, but I sure wish something would come together. A girl can only hang out in the bedroom she slept in the night she graduated high school in a dead end job in a lonely town for so long before something’s gotta give.

Again, Switchfoot –

I swore it would never come to this
the average, the obvious
I’m still discontented down here
I’m still discontented

If we’ve only got one try
If we’ve only got one life
If time was never on our side
Then before I die, I want to burn out bright

The future is a question mark
of kerosene and electric sparks
There’s still fire in you yet
Yeah, there’s still fire in you

I’m thankful for a God who reminds me of the good stuff even in a frustrating season of searching and trying to figure things out.

About four or five months ago, I took up running. Up until the month of June, it was pretty enjoyable because the weather was bearable. Now it’s just hot. The excessive sweating (and probably stress to an extent) have caused me to have the complexion of a fourteen year old, so that’s not fun. It’s so humid outside, it’s ridiculous. One morning last week, I happened to wake up on my own around 5:20 so I considered getting up to run. I checked my weather app and it was currently 100% humidity. One hundred percent. Needless to say, I decided not to run that morning. Louisiana summer has made running less fun, but I’m not giving up entirely. After several miserable runs, I recently went on one where there was a light breeze (for the first time in a while) and a light rain. It was still hot and sticky, but also refreshing in comparison to recent weeks. As I was finishing my cool-down walk on my way back to the house, I was walking right into the wind and it was such a welcome feeling, it was overwhelming. Then this came to mind:

Because of the Lord’s faithful love, we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! – Lamentations 3:22-23

God gives me reminders like this at the perfect time. It was perfect for the moment – a much needed cool breeze on a hot, sticky morning – and it was perfect for this unsettled season of life.

It’s an uncomfortable prayer to pray when you ask God to keep you discontent and uncomfortable until you’re actually heading in the right direction, but that’s where I am. That’s the prayer I’ve prayed and that I’m still praying. Complacency comes naturally to me and digging in my heels is pretty bad habit of mine, so I’m praying for direction and for a clue and for bravery, and counting the blessings I have, because I have lots of them. I realize this sounds so contradictory unless you’ve been there. I’m thankful that even with this underlying unsettled, discontentedness that has been sticking with me, I notice all the simple pleasures like a great homemade iced mocha, puppy kisses, laughing around the table with family on Thursday nights, Grey’s Anatomy marathons at my sister’s house, and a ridiculously comfortable bed to sleep in at night. There’s a lot of good mixed in and that leaves me with a sense of gratitude.

So here’s praying for a clue and some guts.

Let me experience Your faithful love in the morning, for I trust in You. Reveal to me the way I should go, because I long for You. – Psalm 143:8

Thoughts on Father’s Day

Bo Leporati is as good a father as you will find on this earth.

As a ten year employee at the child support office – which I didn’t even know existed until I interviewed for a job there – it has been made abundantly clear to me how blessed I am to have the dad I have. I see that there are a lot of biological fathers who did nothing more than participate in the creation of their child and otherwise have nothing to do with them. (This certainly isn’t the case all the time, but it is very common.)

Then there’s my dad.

My sisters and I never went without clothes or shoes that fit as we grew up.

We never missed a meal except for the time we were driving to Florida for vacation and nobody was hungry and I was asleep. I woke up the next day angry that I hadn’t had supper and tried to demand four meals that day to make up for the one I missed. What can I say – I’ve always loved food.

My dad took off work early for every one of my middle school basketball games, just to sit in the bleachers and watch me warm the bench. I wasn’t a star player and only even got put in the game if we were ahead by 20 points with a minute or two remaining, but Daddy was always there.

My dad picked me up one night at the high school after a marching band competition and gave me no choice but to drive us home in his new truck when I had no interest in learning to drive. The death of a friend in a car accident resulted in an aversion to driving, but Daddy knew I needed to do it, so I found him firmly planted in the passenger’s seat when I got to the truck. That’s one way to do it. Then shortly thereafter, once I had my license, he sold that same beloved new truck so he could buy me a used car and then he drove a company vehicle for years.

My dad would go out in the driveway at night and play basketball with Melissa and me. We spent a lot of time out there.

My dad would drive to the Calhoun ballpark on summer nights when Melissa, Craig, Greg, and I had ridden our bikes out there earlier in the day and we were too tired and it was too dark for us to ride back home safely. Daddy would load our bikes and the four of us up in his truck and drive us home without complaint.

My dad was kind to friends of his children and would treat them as well as he treated us. A lot of my childhood friends called him (and some still call him) “Daddy Bo”. He took in a few of our friends over the years and allowed them to live under his roof for a while when they needed it. At the moment, I’m living under his roof again.

When Mama called Daddy two years in a row to announce she had agreed to host a foreign exchange student, he took it all in stride. He was a wonderful host father to Jana and Sharon. I remember he taught Jana how to drive when she lived with us.

As a young child, after I counted my change all week long in anticipation of buying from the ice cream man and the ice cream man ripped me off and made me cry, Daddy got in his truck and chased him down to have a word with him. Then as a college student when I bought my first digital camera and UPS delivered an empty box to the front door, Daddy went back and forth between UPS and Sony, who were both blaming each other, and finally called Sony and told them, “Let me tell you how this is going to work. By next Friday, you are going to deposit. $___.__ into my daughter’s bank account.” Sony obliged. Daddy is such a kind and patient man, but when someone is messing with one of his children, he’ll step right up and work things out if necessary.

To this day, Daddy insists on changing the oil in my car because he knows he’ll do it right. When my car needs anything – new tires, new inspection sticker, new windshield – he runs those errands for me so I don’t have to take off work for it.

A few years ago, Daddy drove me to IKEA in Frisco, Texas, was patient as Mama and I spent hours roaming the store, then he loaded up all my purchases on his trailer and drove us back home. He spent the next few days putting together a bed frame, a dresser, a book case, a night stand, and a linen cabinet. He has helped paint many bedrooms, bathrooms, and pieces of furniture over the years.

When I was in college, Daddy once forced me to go to a Dave Ramsey seminar on a Friday night. It was the last place I wanted to be. My friends were having fun in Ruston that night and I was reluctantly sitting in a four hour financial seminar against my will. Since this seminar, I’ve become a Dave Ramsey fan and actually was finding it interesting by the time hour four was wrapping up, but I didn’t tell Daddy this until later. I wanted to keep up appearances of being mad that he made me go.

My dad will do anything he can to help anyone out. Acts of service are his thing. As his daughter, I’ve seen him serving people and treating others with respect and kindness my entire life. I know what a good man looks like, because I was raised by one. I think I can speak for all his girls when I say we could not love him more.

I’ve asked Daddy before if he was disappointed he never had any sons and only had daughters. His reply was, “I wouldn’t trade my girls for any boys in the world.” We wouldn’t trade him either. We couldn’t have dreamed up a better dad than the one God gave us.

For any friends who may read this who are fathers, know this – you matter. Even in the times when culture makes dads seem irrelevant, you matter. Your kids are paying attention. There are things your kids won’t understand or appreciate until years later sometimes, but keep being a good dad. You are incredibly special and important in your childrens’ lives and they are blessed to have you.

We Meet Again!

I am drawn to greeting cards like other gals are drawn to purses and shoes. I love them. Greeting cards are one of life’s simple pleasures for me. I’ve talked about this before. With about 98% of my belongings in storage, I kept out a small box of greeting cards. Some are blank inside and some are for specific occasions, but before packing away all my stuff, I picked out a few favorites to have available. I just love greeting cards. They’re my thing.

Years ago – I’d say about six or eight years ago – Hallmark had a section called Fresh Ink cards. I loved these cards. Several friends and I were Fresh Ink snobs and would always get them for each other. Sometimes I would buy certain cards just because I loved them so much and I’ve been known to hold them for years until I find the perfect recipient for that particular card. They’re the greatest. I still have about five or six in a box that I’ve held on to for years. The Hallmark Corporation had a lapse in judgment and discontinued Fresh Ink cards several years ago. I can’t describe how much this disappointed me and a few of my friends. The disappearance of them from the store shelves made my little stash extra valuable. These cards are stationery gold, I tell you.

Fast forward to today. I went to Hallmark to buy a sympathy card. Sympathy cards are the worst, on account of the pain and loss associated with them, and I’m feeling extra sensitive these last couple of days, so I was reading sympathy cards and fighting off tears, willing myself not to lose it in the Hallmark store. After I found the best card to fit my needs, I proceeded to the funny cards. It was necessary. As I read the cards and laughed at a few, I thought to myself how I wished they still had a Fresh Ink section. The Shoebox Greetings are great, but they’re no comparison to Fresh Ink – you know, except for the one I noticed that started as a Fresh Ink card and has now been recycled as a Shoebox Greeting. (I’m looking at you, Stephanie, who likes corn on the cob.)

I moved on to the boxed card section which offers the best bang for your buck and makes my budget focused heart sing. I could have purchased at least three boxes, but I picked my favorite and started toward the check-out. But wait!

Insert Hallelujah chorus here!


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Instant smile! I must have looked at at least twenty-five of these cards. I picked out a few in advance of some birthdays coming up. I could have bought more and more, but I made myself stop. They’re back. They’re back! No need to get greedy right now. My aforementioned budget still exists.

As I checked out, I told the cashier how excited I was that the Fresh Ink section was back and how they are my favorite cards ever! I asked, “Didn’t they go away for a while?” She said they did and that they (I assume she meant corporate) don’t always listen to them (the employees), but when enough people speak up or when surveys are done, sometimes changes are made. So, GLOW-ry! Fresh Ink has returned! Welcome back, my old friend!

Hello, January

It’s remarkable the difference a week makes. Last week, being Christmas week, was so hectic. The house was full and loud and busy. It was fun, for sure, but exhausting. I love Christmas, but I love that breath of fresh air feeling that comes after Christmas. The decorations get put away, the gifts get put away (in my case, most of them moved to storage), laundry gets done, and things just settle down. It’s refreshing.

Last week, I heard it mentioned how a lot of people feel down when January starts. I suppose it’s the post-Christmas blues after all the excitement and activity. I don’t get down in January. I love it. It’s a fresh start. It feels good to take in the brand new feeling of a brand new year.

It’s true that you can set goals or make changes at any time of the year, but January lends itself to that sort of thing. Welcome, January. Let’s do this.

I feel gratitude for some developments in 2014.

I’ve got some hopes for 2015.

I hope before the calendar rolls over to 2016, I will have a house of my own. I’ve been hustling hard on saving a downpayment. The hustle continues after a short break to save up the entirety of my Christmas 2015 budget, because that’s how I start each new year.

I hope to step out of my comfort zone a few times in 2015. I get awfully cozy in my comfort zone, but I stepped out of it a few times in 2014 and was always glad I did.

I hope to mentally let go of some hindrances that should be long gone from my psyche by now.

I hope to get back to getting enough sleep at night and eating better, healthier food. (This is a pretty easy fix. Just make a choice and do it.)

I hope to read some good books.

I hope to be a good friend.

I hope to be generous in lots of areas, including my time.

I hope to spend more time giving Sayid fun exercise and experiences – more walks, dog park, etc.

I hope to see my south Louisiana college friends more than I did in 2014.

I hope to try lots of new recipes.

I hope to do well in my job. I’m still learning a lot in this new role I’ve been placed in, but I sure want to be successful.

I hope to purposefully practice gratitude.

There’s more, but that’s a good start. Time to start figuring out steps to make all of this happen. Cheers, friends. Happy 2015.

2014 Highlights

I had some fun times in 2014. First was New York in January with Valerie. We visited the 9/11 Memorial, the Statue of Liberty, Top of the Rock, and experienced the No Pants Subway Ride. (Not to worry, we were both fully clothed, but our eyes were assaulted.) We walked the Brooklyn Bridge and attended a taping of the David Letterman show. I checked two experiences off the bucket list – biking in Central Park and ice skating. My favorite was the ice skating. I could not stop smiling and only fell down three times. It was worth the soreness and bruises it caused. Goodness, I love New York. I’ve got the fever. That is one fun city and I’m feeling the need for another visit.

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In February, we went to see my nephew, Jacob, play basketball. I had never really enjoyed watching basketball until this game of ten year old competitors. It was so fun and intense that we ended the month going to a Louisiana Tech Bulldogs basketball game on my birthday. The Bulldogs won. (Jacob’s team did not.)

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In April, Mama and I went to Dallas to help with my sister’s co-op and learn how they run theirs. We had so much fun and loved it so much that we started our own co-op a few months later.

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Also, Joe and I went to Jackson, Mississippi with Melissa and Stacy for the two of them to run the Warrior Dash. It was a long, hot day and got kind of boring for Joe and me, but after the race was over we went to eat at Babalu and went shopping (where my sister won $100 on her Victoria’s Secret card!). It ended up being a really fun day. Now if only I would get myself into shape and run the Warrior Dash. It seems so fun.

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My sweet boy turned six. We celebrated with his little plastic pool and a new rubber ducky.

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In July, I learned from a friend in Oklahoma of all places that there was a blueberry farm about five minutes from my house in West Monroe. Melissa, Stacy, and I went one Saturday morning and picked berries – a huge gallon bucket for $10. We went our separate ways to different blueberry bushes and it was the most relaxing morning – just me and my iTunes. The blueberries were delicious and I still have several bags in the freezer. I’m ready to do it again next summer.

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Our co-op started! Melissa and I shopped first and this photo shows what came in a $10 stash for our first co-op shop! The first round of our co-op had eleven shares. Round two has seventeen. Round three will be starting shortly, so it’ll be interesting to see if the co-op grows again. I’m loving it.

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The Tech ABS had a reunion at the end of July. Only a few of my friends showed up from my years at Tech, but it was good to see them. I was the only one without a new baby, but it’s okay – they still accept me.

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Then came the annual beach trip! Amber came from Oklahoma to go with us. Joe and Stacy came, too, as well as Melissa, Mama, Mrs. Barnes, and me. It was a great week. The weather was perfect. Amber was coming straight off a positive health report. Everyone felt good. It was relaxing. The only thing that could have made the trip more perfect is if our condo’s pool hadn’t been as warm as a bathtub.

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Melissa and I took Mama to Jackson for her birthday and treated her to Babalu. We ate the most amazing burgers and Mama got her very own birthday sparkler.

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Melissa graduated with her Master’s degree! She worked hard the last several years and graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA. My sister, Ashley, and her family came in from Texas for the day and one of Melissa’s oldest friends, Lynnette, came over from Shreveport. I spent the entire day with a laughter induced headache until about an hour after Lynnette (the source of the laughs) went home. It was a fun day.

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Daddy, Melissa, Stacy, Joe, and I went to the final Louisiana Tech home football game of the season and watched Tech win by a score of 76-31 and wrap up the Conference USA West Division Championship. It was unreal watching the score run up that high.

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In December, my parents treated Melissa and me to a play at the Dixie Theater in Ruston. Our childhood friend, Johnathan, and two of his children were in a play – The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. That was one of my favorite Christmas movies growing up, but I hadn’t seen it in probably twenty years. Johnathan was great in the play, we all got some good laughs watching it, and then I ended up ordering myself a copy of the DVD as soon as I got home that night. We’ve watched the DVD twice since it came in.

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Then came Christmas. My sweet Sayid had a big time. Also, it’s one of just two or three times a year all of the sisters are together. (Yes, we all look a little goofy in this photo, but that’s pretty standard for us.) It was a good day.

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2014 was a good year. Bring on 2015. Let’s do this.