Masks

This has been a season of sitting….and as I take two stops forward, three steps back on most days, the word “mask” keeps coming to my mind….

Webster’s Dictionary has this as a definition of “mask”: something that serves to conceal or disguise.

My time in the trial taught me lessons that I still don’t know how to put into words, but more importantly, my complete and utter disappointment in my outcome…well…it revealed my “mask.”  In some ways, the “mask” was already showing several cracks and thin spots, but it wasn’t until I was faced with something I could not process, that I was forced to take it off just to breathe.

Today’s ramblings, are about my mask…what it was hiding (some of which I haven’t even realized yet) and about the masks we all wear…for different reasons….bear with me, as I am confident we will go to Lucy’s house and back a few times….taking various detours.  Those “squirrel” moments.

I’ve been trying to remember when the mask went on…..did it go on for my disease, did it go on for things I experienced growing up, did it go on as a young Christian, did it go on as an older Christian…..were/are there multiple masks that I’ve used over the years?  Why does one feel it necessary to wear a mask?  Is authenticity something we all “say” we want one another to do, but in reality we don’t?  Are masks to protect ourselves, those around us, or to hide those human insecurities and imperfections that we worry will cause those around us to leave or think differently of us?  Maybe, they are all of the above.

The earliest I can remember possibly using a mask, had to be as a teenager.  I was awkward, acutely aware of what I perceived to be a status of “less than,” craving to belong, wanting to be normal, like my sister(s).  Like most teens, I learned to pretend…a lot.  That age where I would guess, most “first masks” are used. I became who I thought others wanted me to be…in the process losing who i was and missing out on the journey I was meant to be on….I used that mask to take a “forced road.” Like most actors, over time, the longer you play the part, the harder it is to remove the mask.  So, at some point, that mask was stuck on-stupid decisions allowed to be made by that mask I let control me.

I see my next mask mirrored in so many social media posts on Facebook.  The mask of the “perfect mom.”  Can we just get a national amendment passed to simply say, “Moms, your job is tough.  Some days, it will stink worse than a dead skunk.  Some days, you will want to run, as fast as a sprinter. to get away from all of it.  There will be nights you watch the clock tick minutes away…as you await bedtime.  There will be days  you wonder how much therapy your child will need as an adult due to the damage, you are certain, you are inflicting on them as you count your failures for the day.  But, Mom, take off the mask…be real.  There are no perfect birthday parties, no perfect methods, no perfect Sunday mornings as you shout for anyone to just be dressed..just one of you…and there are no trophies at the end of the day for the “Miss Mom Who Faked It The Best Today.”  The only trophy you will ever get is that kiss on the cheek…or that “I Love You” when you least expect it from the child you were certain was demon possessed just an hour ago.”

Can I get an “Amen” on that amendment.  I scroll down my feed and I see the masks.  I can even look back at my own during that season.  I was scared.  I was uncertain.  I was winging it most days.  I failed more times than I can count….and I’m certain God shook His head at me most days in that, “Hmm….maybe Kim wasn’t the best idea for this experiment.”  The mask hid all of that from the outside world….as far as anyone wanted to know….I was a pro.  (My kiddos will tell you loudly…I was not.)  One big hot mess.  Somehow, well, I know how…simply by God’s grace did I not drop one, oh wait…I did that…oops…sorry Meg….ok…somehow, by God’s grace that I did not forget to pick one up after school…oops, I did that too…sorry Josh…naps.  See…my mask to appear all together was hiding nothing more than a mom dancing on hot coals just trying to get to the other side most days.  Getting kiddos from birth to high school graduation….it’s hard.  I wish someone had pulled me aside during that season and ripped my mask off….but I think we were probably all wearing a mask of some sort….had social media been a thing back then..would Moms today have a record to look back on that was real, or would they see the same masks they try to wear today?  That mask that made you believe that if your kiddo wasn’t the smartest, or the nicest, or in a certain class…you were a failure-oh my goodness if they happen to bite a kiddo at school…..how could you be such a terrible parent? Satan loves to dance on Mom’s…..loves to make that mask feel like a weight on our shoulders.  I was a willing participant…I let him hold it on….and I type today wondering how many around me were doing the same thing.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Then came the mask of “College Mom.”  Who knew that such a thing even existed?  Let me say this, and hear me loudly…..letting your kiddos go off to college, even if just down the road, is the hardest thing for a Mom to do that relates to the raising of her kiddo.  You pray that seeds are planted…but at the end of the day, it’s mask on time…because you must appear to have it together in this season.  With announcement, you tell the world that your kiddo is off to college…social media is a thing now.  There is no “empty nester” support group….and there’s no time to even appear less than stoic.  Your mask must present the impression that you have prepared your child for this moment in time….they will be successful…they will make perfect choices…and you will wear their success like a well earned medal.  I’m here to tell you..this mask lies.  Kiddos aren’t perfect.  Sometimes, plans made by them and the family don’t go as expected.  This mask tells you that you failed.  You somehow did something wrong along the way that gave way to outcome A or B or C.  This is the mask that I have wanted to burn a thousand times over.  What good are any of the struggles as a Mom through this season, if we hide them from the other Moms who could so desperately use simply that sign of, “me too.”  The job of Mom doesn’t end the day they leave for college, and our mask shouldn’t be one that presents this perfect facade to the outside world.  Our pain in this season of the empty bedroom…it should be shared. When something goes not as planned, we shouldn’t have these masks on that prevent others Mom’s from realizing, “me too.”  Yet…we do..we wear those masks…and I wore mine proudly.  Like every mask before it, it was the lies Satan had me believing about myself…and about where I was in life.

As I journey, seeing that all along, there were two masks carried that never went away, never got put away.  The mask of my illness and what I showed to the world….and the mask of my faith and what that was to me-not the one I knew needed to be presented. As I open this jar, one common theme is in every single mask-the lies that Satan told me….the lies that I let myself believe as truth.  I wanted to get that out there before I talked about the two heaviest masks of all….

The mask I wore from age five….still wear in many ways today…the mask of an illness..the mask of a voice I didn’t ask for, surgeries that I have grown so weary from…the mask of regret and anger towards that illness…the mask of grief that this illness brings on so many days….the mask that wants to have me sit and doubt that I am prepared for this….that somehow, in a way that I will likely never understand…this illness will be used.  The mask that told me it wasn’t ok to be angry or question God about all of it.  That doing so, somehow made me not have faith. (Goodness, Christ called out to God on the cross!!!) That to just sit and let God know I was tired of all of it, was somehow a reflection on my Christianity.  Oh, this mask is heavy….and I like to think I’ve taken it off, but it’s still there….I’ve just decided to take some of its power away.  The mask of my illness has robbed me of plans that I had made for myself, but it hasn’t robbed me of who I am.  I’m taking that power away from my mask.  In some ways, this mask has become like Jim Carrey’s character in “The Mask.”   With the mask of my illness on, I can pretend the life behind it doesn’t exist.  I can be that person who seems to be handing it with grace.  The crushing defeat of this past month has made that pretending too great of a weight to carry…the mask of my illness has to become lighter if I am to move forward and not get stuck in my sitting. So, while I know the mask is still on, I am taking control of the power it has, but recognizing that times will come where I have to stop and sit in it. Those days, where in order to move forward, I will wear the mask…but now with a knowledge of what I’ve let it control…and my freedom in deciding if it gets that power on any given day, any given moment.

And that leads me to the mask that I am working to take off that reveals who I am as a Christian…what I believe….what I have found to be man-made….the mask that weighs so heavily somedays…that I wonder if I’ll ever have it fully removed.  I have exposed some of this mask prior to today via a few other blog posts….a mask that was/is so powerful, it shaped much of what I thought was true for so long…..truths I am working through at this season….breaking apart what is true, what isn’t true, what’s Biblical, what’s not.  Realizing how that mask, that mask that had me believing certain actions where required in order to be “a good Christian”…that I used that in decisions that caused hurt….to myself…to others around me.  And that, my friend, is authenticity.  I allowed my faith, the mask of it, to be so legalistic when it suited me…that it caused pain, hurt.  God ripped me from the pit of where this mask had taken me.  Today, I can say that mask is cracked…pieces of it missing….but the journey of trying to remove this mask has been hard.  It’s easier to just sit where you are, than to be plucked from the comfort of your little mask and forced to take a jackhammer to that mask to find what’s on the other side.

I don’t write this today for pity or any of those human desires….I write to share my masks…and where I am in the journey of the masks that I know about….so that maybe someone out there will maybe just be, “Me Too.”

There will be more on all of this….but just exposing this much has made my head feel lighter….bringing those masks out of the darkness into the light…..

Unknown

Not Twenty Anymore…..

First, it’s official. I do have a heart!  (This is a joke between Lee and I, due mostly to my complete lack of a romantic heart.)  Again, though, I have a heart. I saw nuclear images of it!

A Heart

A Heart

Now, on to the blog…..I am not twenty anymore and if the current list of doctor appointments isn’t enough to remind me of that, a nuclear stress test was a well-played “gotcha” by those above wishing to remind me of said fact.  (We will leave out the new aches that seem to pop up daily now.)

“Stress Test” sounds simple enough.  No caffeine or chocolate for twenty-four hours and NPO after midnight the night before test…easy.  No other prep required.  No barium to drink, no cleansing process to deal with….piece of cake.  That should have been my first clue-the thought of “piece of cake.”  I’m that patient who can and does experience every side effect ever documented…..toss in what a lifetime of surgery does to your veins…and voila…..here comes my day.

My day began at check-in around 8:30.  I was soon taken to the back to start the IV that would be used to administer the drugs for the day. I was very forthcoming about my fear of IV’s and the scarring in my veins.  I strongly suggested ordering a local to help the process.  Thirty minutes later after an unsuccessful attempt to thread the IV and several tears down my face due to pain,  we stopped the process.  The person placing the IV did a great job-she was in on the first stick….it was me and my scarred veins that presented the issue.  Fast forward to the Cardiology RN being called in and finally the light-bulb going off that “we need a local if this is going to happen today”.  Call made to doctor for order, wait for it to come up to the office, and five minutes later-IV in.  (I cannot express in words the pain that is felt as an IV is thread past scar tissue.  Get a local.  Give a local.) Next she administered radioactive contrast and I began the one hour wait until first set of pictures (resting pictures).  At this point I was able to enjoy some water and wonderful crackers.

Finally!

Finally!

Resting pictures are then taken of your heart while laying on your back (very still) for about fifteen minutes.  Enjoy the little nap.  From there, in my case, it was on to the exercise room where I was given a lovely injection of Lexiscan.  (This was a chemically induced stress test.)  Before the injection, vitals were taken and I was told of the “possible” side effects.  Outside of the sudden cardiac event, I was able to enjoy every single one. (Sarcasm) Imagine running a mountain at full speed, realizing you need to stop for a break and somehow your legs don’t listen and you keep going…..that’s what Lexiscan does.  If that is anything close to what a heart attack feels like, I do not ever want one.  The shortness of breath, the pounding of your heart, the pain in your stomach, the leg cramps, the nausea (yes, I got a blue bag to hold), the room getting so incredibly hot….and then comes the headache.  Not a fan.  The bulk of the “stress” lasts about three minutes.  I felt pretty wiped out the rest of the day and it took a good while for the headache and stomach pain to fully leave.  Again, not a fan.

From there, you are monitored until your vitals return to normal and then you are given some caffeine to drink (and the Angels in Heaven rejoiced) and sent back to wait for about an hour.  At that time, another set of images is taken showing the “stressed heart.”

All said, from start to finish, it’s about a 3 1/2 hour process.

To quote my doctor today-“They let you leave the hospital, so there must not have been anything major seen.”  So, with that reassuring statement, the wait begins for the official report to be compiled by the cardiologist and sent over to my ordering MD.

There’s a strong family history of heart disease in my family tree, so there is a small part of me that does carry some concern, but I am thankful that this test is done and over and we will soon have a pretty good idea of the condition of my heart.  After so many surgeries for RRP, my heart health has been something of conversation before now.  What toll has my heart taken due to surgery?  What toll has a lifetime of strained breathing placed on my heart?  Now, we will have that snapshot.

I’m not a fan of Lexiscan and I hope to never meet her again.  She was not very nice to me!  I am a huge fan of Northwest and I am more than confident in the level of care we have with the Cardiology group there.  It’s nice knowing if something was to be wrong, I don’t have to travel to get a high level of care.

So, that’s my Nuclear Stress Test review and the announcement of the fact that I DO have a heart!!!  Now that heart may never be one that wants candles and flowers and all that romance stuff…but it’s there and it is beating!

(PS-how does one follow up a test to show the health of your heart?  Why with Freddy’s for dinner, of course.)

Vacation Review-Sandestin 2014

I love the ocean.  I love the beach.  I simply love everything about it-the sand, the water, the smell of the salt air, the way the waves roll up the back of your leg…all of it-well, minus the whole I am part of the food chain once I enter the water part.)  If I could figure out a way to pop a tent and call it home for the rest of my life, I would.  (With indoor plumbing, of course.)  I love the New England coast as much as I do the beautiful beaches of the Florida Panhandle.  From what I hear, I think I would say the same thing about the west coast.

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Growing up in Mississippi, going to the Florida panhandle is just what folks did.  The idea of possibly going to another part of the country to another beach area, just didn’t come up in conversation.  Some may call it the “Redneck Riviera”, but I simply see it as the closest thing we have to the Caribbean here in the United States.  Over my lifetime, I have visited the coast of Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and even the Atlantic side of Florida, but my heart belongs to that stretch called 30A.  Reaching from just outside Panama City and going west to the edges of Destin, it’s paradise.  “The Truman Show” was actually filmed in Seaside, which is on 30A.  Sandestin has been our “go to” choice now since our oldest was in early high school.  Nestled on Miramar Beach, just east of Destin, this resort has grown into almost a small town with the addition of shopping/restaurants, and everything you need to make a vacation comfortable.  We have been to the coast in May, June, July and August and this year we added October to that list….and it did not disappoint.

A glimpse into Sandestin

A glimpse into Sandestin

A Village Peek

A Village Peek

One of the biggest questions you have to answer before you book a trip to Sandestin is “Beach side or Bay side?”  We have done both.  We have stayed steps away from the beautiful turquoise water and we have stayed steps away from the bay and all the fun the Baytowne Village brings just steps away.

We love the ease of going to the “Village” when we stay on the bay-side in the village and we also love the ease of grabbing out beach gear and making the three minute walk to the beach.  One is not better than the other.  This year, the condo we enjoyed on the beach-side was undergoing some October construction, so we opted to trek across Highway 98 and stay in the Village on the bay-side.  It was a great choice for the October trip!  We were able to get to the beach in less than five minutes and in the evening were able to be in the Village after a short two minute walk.  The pool for our condo this year is my favorite pool of the entire resort, so that was an added perk!  (It’s a zero entry pool that at its deepest point is only four feet deep.  It’s a beautiful pool for kiddos, parents and adults who just want to enjoy the tranquility of the water without the cannonballs in the background.)  We were directly on the bay as well, so we had the beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay glistening between the tall pine trees that line the bay.

On the Bay

Beautiful

Beautiful Sunset

Evenings could be spent walking along the piers by the bay or biking the resort or walking in the soft, white sand of the most beautiful beaches in America.  Tennis and golf your thing?  More than you can possibly ask for….grass courts, clay courts…..several golf courses….all located in a gated, secure resort.  Dining, playing, kid/teen activities…all right there. This is not where college kids go for spring break…..winner, winner, chicken dinner!   We are huge Sandestin fans….now…we will be the first to tell you that if you go during high season-expect crowds.  That’s just the nature of the coast of Florida in the summer.  It’s never been intolerable, but I have to admit…October has been our all-time favorite visit.

The water did not have a speck of sea grass in it.  Probably the clearest I have ever seen the water.  Just beautiful.  Temps were perfect.  Warm enough to enjoy the water, the beach, the pools, but cool enough not to worry about heat danger.  (Take sunscreen!)

Beautiful Clear Water

Beautiful Clear Water

We did have one “rain day”, but even that was a fun day.  Two treks over to Seaside were both met with gully-washers and we finally got the message we were not meant to spend the day at Seaside.  Back to the Sandestin/Destin area for a little outlet shopping at Silver Sands (hello North Face, Kate Spade and Vera Bradley outlets!) and that was followed by deciding if it was a movie evening or dinner out.  (We opted for food, of course!)

It’s funny how you can spend an entire day sitting on a beach and look down and realize it’s six hours later than when you first sat down.  Beach life was how we spent our Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and most of Thursday.  Toss in some time spent at the Destin Harborwalk to view the weigh-ins for the Destin Fishing Rodeo and food excursions…and that’s pretty much our week.  One of the biggest highlights of our visits to the coast each time is that I get to see my beautiful cousin, Jan and her adorable family.  Our second trip to Cantina Laredo with another snapshot of us all together.  Granny Page would love that we are able to see one another…even if it’s just once a year or so. Jan’s son, James, has to be one of the most gregarious kids I have ever met! Imagine a twenty year old bottled up in the body of a first grader!

It was so wonderful having our Josh come in for a few days (Fall Break) and this Momma heart just overflows with how much I enjoy time with this kid and enjoy feeding him!  One of the great things about staying in a condo is that you get a full kitchen and that kitchen made my baby boy his favorite sausage gravy and biscuits!  Speaking of our condo, we did have one HUGE issue during our stay……a tree frog.  I am so afraid of frogs it’s almost silly.  I had picked out my spot for coffee on day one and that spot was my friend…until…the frog spotting.  That frog took up residence.  Finally, in desperation to have my coffee spot back, I had my hero, Lee, bag the frog and set it free in the lawn area downstairs.  (I may have looked daily for the frog after that….afraid he would return.)

The FROG!

The FROG!

As with every trip to Florida, the day the week ends always brings me such sadness.  I’m confident I am a walking billboard on that day for “pity party 101” and how not to act when it’s time to go home.  Not only do I just enjoy the coastal world and all it offers, but my health does too!  I keep wondering if I can get a RX for beach relocation and have it covered by my insurance.  Pity party aside, I am so grateful for the time we did have on the coast and am already counting down the days until our next visit.  Sometimes, the best vacations are the ones where you go and simply sit and listen and watch….the vacations that restore your joy and force you to stop for a few days.  That’s Florida for this coffee girl.

Yes, this happened.

Yes, this happened.

Now to get you up to speed on some of our favorites of the week!

Tradition is that we eat at Pompano Joes for our first meal of the week.  It’s directly on the beach and you can sit and enjoy the waves and good food at the same time!  Some of our favorites there are the crab claws, fish tacos and fried shrimp and pineapple slaw.  (For shrimp folks out there, gulf shrimp simply put every other shrimp in the world to shame!  So sweet and wonderful!)

For those night we want to cook in the condo, a trip to Sexton’s is in order.  This is our favorite seafood store!  Such fresh seafood and so clean and you won’t walk in and be knocked down by the smell of fish. (Ya’ll know what I mean!)  We were so fortunate to be able to take Royal Reds home two different nights!  Three minutes with some Old Bay and just watch how quickly they disappear!  If fish is your thing, expect some of the best grouper and flounder around.  Several other options are there too, but I am a shrimp girl and just gravitate directly to those!  The folks there are so nice and will answer all your questions!  It’s a little bit of a drive from Sandestin as it’s close to the Destin Harbor, but it’s worth the drive!  Open until dark!

Dewey Destin is our next go to place to eat.  The fried oysters, shrimp and fish (grouper) are the best we have found.  Hushpuppies are tasty too, as is the slaw!  This is not “fine dining” and they don’t pretend to be.  It’s just well cooked seafood that is fresh off the boats.  The key lime pie-oh my.  Don’t share….you won’t want to!  Harbor side seating is available.

Louisiana Lagniappe  is the place to go for sure.  It’s pricey, but oh my goodness.  Make this your “special” meal of the week.  Yes, you will think you are lost when you pull into a residential area on the bay, but you are not!  They don’t take reservations and there will be a wait during high season.

Another Broken Egg in Sandestin at the Village.  We try to eat breakfast there once or twice during our stay. Most mornings we eat in the condo before we trek to the beach.  (Huge money saver there and bring a cooler and pack your lunch!)  Some personal favorites are the Grits with gouda, bacon, tomato and green onions, the French Toast with bananas foster topping, any of the scrambles and just a word of warning-portions are HUGE!  The steel cut oatmeal is tasty too and comes with real Tupelo Honey.

Sweet Bread French Toast with Bananas Foster Topping

Sweet Bread French Toast with Bananas Foster Topping

Those are our “go to” places near Sandestin to eat, but as long as you stay away from the super touristy spots, good food is not hard to find.  (If you like seafood!)  Chains are chains and we typically stay away from any chain that isn’t a local chain.  (I can get that food anywhere!)

When planning the trip to Sandestin you also have to decide if you want to rent via Sandestin (pricey) or an outside management company or owner.  We have found VRBO to be a great rental resource and My Vacation Haven has wonderful properties and quiet often has a coupon code.

Just no words for the beauty of the ocean

Just no words for the beauty of the ocean

So, pack your bags, grab the sunscreen, and leave your cares in the driveway and head on down to the beautiful Florida gulf-coast.

My Joy.....

My Joy…..

Dreaming of Florida……

Footprints....

Footprints….

A Coffee and Mimi Rambling….Ella’s Day

Today, I wanted to take this space to celebrate our adorable Ella.  Ella is our third grandchild and well, she turns one today!!!!

Ella Smiles

Ella Smiles

Now, I’m not sure how it happened, but I have the three most adorable grandchildren in the entire world. Each with their very own unique personality, but all three with the most infectious smile you can imagine. Our daughter, because she is superwoman, had three children in three years and the youngest two are about 11 1/2 months apart. So, to say any outing is an adventure is an understatement….but adorable….oh my. Can you just kiss and squeeze those little cheeks all day!!!!????

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Today is Ella’s day! No longer a baby and now an official toddler….soon she will be tackling the hallways of high school…no really, it does go by that quickly. How many of us are sitting at home today wondering where in the world those eighteen years went with each child??

Ella's Mommy

Ella’s Mommy

Being a Mimi is awesome. Take being a parent, remove all the muck and daily yuck, and then add that your only job is to spoil and love and teach…and BOOM! Best job ever! So, to our daughter, thank you for sharing these kiddos with us…and to Ella…HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY GIRL!!!! You are loved to the moon and back and forever and always….

Ella, one year ago....

Ella, one year ago….

Love,
Poppy (Boppy) and Mimi

Middle-Aged….What! When did this happen?

middle age

“According to Collins Dictionary, this is “… usually considered to occur approximately between the ages of 40 and 60”.[1] The current edition of the Oxford English Dictionary gives a similar definition but with a shorter span: “The period of life between young adulthood and old age, now usually regarded as between about forty-five and sixty.” The US Census lists middle age as including both the age categories 35 to 44 and 45 to 54, while prominent psychologist Erik Erikson saw it ending a little later and defines middle adulthood as between 40 and 65. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the standard diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association, used to define middle age as 40–60, but as of Edition IV (1994) revised the definition upwards to 45–65.” From the most reliable source on the internet-ask.com

Geez….thanks for this little tidbit of information that honestly was better left not defined!  Basically, I am coming to terms with the FACT I have been “middle-aged” for thirteen years, or eight years or three years (depending on the source)…..my fifteen year old self is screaming, “YOU ARE OLD.”  Who am I kidding, my twenty five year old self is screaming it too!  

Let’s be honest….it’s not like the signs weren’t all there.  It’s the tag that feels like a dagger to that inner part of you that is still clinging to that thirty year old self….at least my brain is. (Notice I did NOT say body…that ship has sailed and lost its way back to port!)  Let’s talk about some of the signs you are at the half-way point.

1. Progressives-it slowly sneaks up on you.  One day you are looking at a menu and then the next day you are sitting at the table attempting to be the Incredible Stretch Woman as  you force your arms to extend ten feet so you can read the special of the day.  They should rename your 45th birthday the day of readers!   (And the day you purchase a Bible with larger font.)  

2. Collecting-while some circles might want to call what happens with our change in mindset towards “knick-knacks”  hoarding 101, I prefer to call it “sentimental saving.”  Remember going to your grandparents house and seeing all the “knick-knacks” and you could not begin to understand why anyone would want curio cabinets full of “stuff” that ranged from the finest of china to the latest trinket at the local Cracker Barrel?  Get ready…..it’s coming to your casa too.  Now, some of this is actually a very good thing-it shows your sentimental side, which shows maturity!  You have reached a point where you cherish that odd little “blinged owl” because you remember who bought it, when and where.  It has a story.  See, that’s what we missed in our blazing 20’s and 30’s….some stuff that we viewed as “junk” had a story.  You hit that magic middle button and you crave “stories” around you!  

nick nack

3.  Muffin Tops-no, I am not referring to the delicious muffin top you can grab at Panera in the morning. It seems that every muffin you have eaten from childhood-“middle age day” never really left…..you wake up one morning and voila….muffin top.  You can exercise, you can do 1000 crunches daily…but they are still there.  One collective group.  Embrace it.  Sure, work on the jello aspect of your muffin top, but you earned the right to carry a little dessert around town with you!  

4.  Face Prep-it now takes you longer to prep your face than it does to apply makeup.  Product A-Exfoliate.  Product B-Cleanse.  Product C-Serum.  Product D-Moisture.  Product E-Skin Corrector.  Product F-Eye Cream. Product G-Primer…..are we there yet?  Repeat at night, but add in another step-Makeup Removal.  What everyone tries to tell you in the blazing 20’s and 30’s is the importance of sunscreen, good skin care, etc…but really….your skin was rockin’!  Why bother with so many steps, so much money when you see a reflection looking back of firm, even, bright skin with that beautiful, youthful glow????  Here it is-you hit this magic middle button and boom….sun spots, wrinkles around your eyes, smile lines, skin that looks like it  might have been baked at a slow 250 in the oven….and…your cheeks suddenly have decided to migrate south!  FACELIFT please!  

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5.  Spanx-all I am going to say about this is they are an amazing invention that I’ve grown to love, but in that same thought process they are a curse to women……You see that woman walking past you in her cute little outfit and she just seems to not have a jiggle in the world?  Spanx.  Yes.  I learned just this year, the world is walking around in Spanx and no one is telling anyone!  Buy them now.  Allow twenty minutes extra to get dressed as you work to pull them on…but just know…everyone has them on.  

6.  Grace-this is the sweet stuff of getting “middle aged.”  Maybe it’s because of your life experiences or a greater understanding of life and your Christian walk…but you will have so much grace that you are so willing to give to others.  Granted, it’s not really “our grace”, but His through us…but you get the point.  Compassion, empathy….it seems like it’s easier to give.  

7. Oh this one is good!  You don’t care what others think! – Act crazy, wave the warms in the air during worship, wear something a little out there, run to the store with no makeup…..you have earned this sweet reward of the middle button-you no longer care what others think of you. You have finally gotten that lightbulb moment of “be you”….people will say what they are going to say no matter what you do…so “be you!”  

8.  And then comes the sweetest of sweetest signs you have reached the middle button of life….grandchildren.  Play, dream, imagine, spoil…..all those things you maybe didn’t have time for in your 30’s due to work or juggling three or four or five toddlers/elementary schedules/etc….now….time is your friend and you can just sit and enjoy.  

grandchildren

Middle-Age.  The physical pitfalls are real…and things will sag, droop, drop, wrinkle….but in the journey you appreciate the quirks of your own grandparents so much more and well, maybe we will all realize this stage is really the sweet spot of the journey.  After-all, we do have a built in muffin top now….

PS-remember thinking how dusty  your grandparents house was sometimes?  Here’s the scoop-YOU CAN’T SEE THE DUST!  It’s a beautiful thing! 🙂  

Empty Nest…it’s for the birds.

Four cups of coffee so far today and I could still crawl back in bed for a long summer nap…..but alas….I can never sleep during the day (Unless near death from the latest plague I picked up from the grands-AKA walking petri dishes….. or the shopping cart at the grocery store….).  So, today we are going to chat about the empty nest….because that empty nest is the reason for this fatigue today…or maybe it’s the food choices made while traveling ….but who doesn’t need a candy bar or two or three on a road trip????  We moved our son back into college this weekend…year three.  

Empty Nest is that season of life where all the birdies are flown off to college/life and you are left with empty rooms, quiet spaces and a much smaller grocery bill.  You know. that season you begged for as they were kiddos who couldn’t make it to the bathroom when they had a stomach bug, or the days they were screaming for no reason other than to hear the sound of their voice?  Maybe it was the day you begged for graduation to come quickly so you could take a bath in peace again….no matter the outcome…we have all been there done that on wishing time away during those super hard days of parenting.  And then it comes.  That day.  

I have to say that the first year was probably the easiest for this nest.  You get so caught up in their excitement over the entire process, you honestly don’t realize what’s barreling down the tracks at warp speed.  Every box, tote, shopping list is another adventure…a new experience to share.  The day comes to load the cars and off you go.  (In our case, the first year was a college 23 hours away…so most of it was loaded into boxes for Fed Ex or purchased upon arrival.) You arrive and it’s still honestly ok.  Your chick is kinda starting to freak out over the whole…wait a minute…this is happening and looks to you for those moments of assurance and confidence only the owner of the nest can provide at that time.  Life is still pretty rosy in the nest.  Unpack, set up, attend various parent events for first year students and then off to the house you go while the student begins year one.  Still ok….because for the masses, most of the kiddos are less than two to three hours away…easy to visit on weekends and such.  It’s like they are at camp.  (A very expensive camp!)  We had that version with kiddo one, but kiddo two was off to far away lands…..

And this is where my nest begins……prior to our last kiddo loading up boxes to begin their adventure outside of our nest, we had already experienced two summers of this kiddo being gone.  Far, far away…..he had played with BUTI in western MA and it meant sending him off on a plane for six weeks, with maybe one visit by us all summer.  Freshman year off to Boston University this kiddo went.  Home for the holidays was it….and maybe one parent visit up to Boston during the semester.  Hard.  For the sophomore year, a transfer to Nashville to Belmont was in order.  Boston, the city, was amazing.  It treated my kiddo well and in return my kiddo fell in love with all it offers.  A transfer was still the right thing in this season for him.  So, we go from a plane ride away to a nine hour drive away…..I was giddy thinking how much better this would be for this Momma Bird.  Fail.  It’s still hard.  And today, we start year three of the empty nest…..with our kiddo being gone all summer playing in the Aspen Music Festival, we honestly had about 48 hours with him in the past nine weeks…and then it was goodbye again.  I dislike goodbyes.  

I’ve heard people chat about how much they love this phase of their life.  I just feel unemployed.  My job was raising my kiddos….and that job, for the most part, is now over.  I think about what is truly missing in our nest now…and it’s those day to day interactions.  Hearing about this or that event….being a connected part to their world.  I am so thankful for Facebook, Face time and texting.  The world does seem a tad bit smaller than I am sure it did to parents twenty years ago….but it’s still an empty nest.  The bedrooms are empty.  The chair is vacant at dinner.  Your heart feels bigger and fuller for all that you see them accomplishing, but it also feels a tad bit empty over that piece not being there to say good-night to in person.  Empty nest-it’s for the birds…….

Don’t misunderstand me….I am beyond thrilled at this journey my kiddos are on in life.  I am so thankful that no dream was too big to go after….and that my last kiddo was so full of confidence and adventure that no distance was too far in order to make his dreams come true.  I cheer that part of the empty nest.  I just wish the other part didn’t go by so quickly.  In the blink of an eye…it was over.  

So, today, I sit here in full understanding of being told to “number their days” as they are few.  Then they are off to tackle the world in their own incredible individual way.  It’s just quiet.  I miss Spongebob blaring from the TV. I miss the unmade bed.  I miss cooking for my baby birds.  I miss all of it.  Being their Mom was truly the greatest gift God ever gave to me…and that was my sole job for over twenty years…..and that job is completed.  Contract fulfilled.  Year three has started and before I blink again, it will be time to pack up this last kiddo and make the move to graduate school…in a town far, far away again.  

Raising kiddos is hard.  There are days you dream of the nest being empty and all the freedom you will have.  The empty nest comes…..and you realize that those moments of insanity were some of the most joyous days of your life.  The days of what matters…..life…the stuff that makes up life and the memories you store inside your heart.  

So, embrace that third cup of spilled milk on the new carpet…..cherish those fights between siblings that even the UN could not mediate….breathe in…breathe out….and know that the days are numbered and the last one comes before you are ready….and then it’s done.  

To my Megzie and my own Harry Potter….you are loved to the moon and back and back again…..and I am so proud of you having such strong wings!  

My Harry Potter…

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