Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

What’s Her Name

(30 Days of Truth – Day 21 – Write about your best friend (not significant other) and what makes them special)

I’ve been excited about today’s topic since I first read the list. There was no question in my mind who I would write about, but what I would write has been a work in progress for 17 years. I first met Ashley in January, 1994 when we started working together as pharmacy technicians. Only back then, she wasn’t Ashley Lambert, she was Elizabeth Childree, or El for short.  Same person, two entirely different personalities, but I guess 17 years can do that to a person. It still blows my mind that we ever became friends in the first place, but that we’ve survived all that we have is simply miraculous.

When I met Ashley, she was just 18 years old, a newlywed and brand new to the area. She was very young and I did not take to her right away. As a matter of fact, I actually kind of avoided her when I could. The funny thing is I can’t even remember the reasons why I didn’t much like her those first few months, just that I didn’t.

My memory is a little foggy on the details that surrounded the event that changed everything about our relationship, but it goes something like this. She and her husband were riding through our neighborhood and we just happened to be outside. They stopped to say hello. This was the first time that our (first) husbands had met and they struck up an immediate friendship. Well, one thing led to another and the next thing I know, the four of us are drunk as sailors. I have vague recollections of table dances, people passed out on the front lawn and ….. I think I’ll stop there.  Let’s just say a bond was formed and Ashley and I have never looked back.

Over the next 17 years we would experience infidelity and divorce, new cities, new states, career changes, distance, financial woes, vacations, college and then college again, births, boys and more boys, deaths, name changes, new loves, stepchildren and children. When my father was dying, Ashley drove 100 miles to be by my side without a moment of hesitation. When I needed a vacation from life, Ashley was always ready with a packed bag. When I needed to vent about my mother, Ashley always had a very sympathetic ear. We even share a love for cats that binds us in a crazy cat-lady kind of way.  And don’t even get me started on the drunken stupidness, or was it stupid drunkenness? I really don’t know how we survived some of those nights. She has never made me feel bad that for 15 years I could not remember her birthday if my life depended on it.

Ashley has been a constant in my life through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. She’s provided laughter when I needed it most and silence when I needed that, too. She’s always known exactly what I needed at the moment I needed it. She’s never questioned me and has allowed me to make mistakes without an ounce of judgment. She’s been the first one in line to praise me when I’ve done a good thing and to reassure my faith in myself when I had none. The bond that we share is solid to our core. It’s tied together by common threads we’ve woven with our relationship together and our experiences beyond that with other people in our lives. She understands my soul and why I think the way I do and what makes me tick from the inside out.

The last few years have seen Ashley and I both leave our home states to make a new life in Florida with the wonderful new men in our lives. Ashley is now a mother to two of the prettiest babies you’ve ever seen. Oh yeah, and a third one on the way. If someone had told me 17 or 10 or even 6 years ago that our lives would lead to where we are now, I would have said they were crazy.  We’ve been through a lot to get to this point in our lives but we’ve managed to make it here only with the knowledge that we are always just a phone call away. We may not see each other very often but we talk frequently and we know that no distance in miles will ever create distance between our hearts.

Ashley, I know I don’t ever tell you but I want to tell you now. I love you. I’m so happy that you came into my life. You have enriched it in ways that you can’t imagine. I’m not sure I would have made it through some of the trials of my life without the knowledge that you were there beside me, even when you weren’t. Thank you for being my best friend.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Ashley, posted with vodpod
Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

Love Actually is…

(30 Days of Truth – Day 20 – Discuss your favorite movie and why it’s important to you)

Have you ever watched a movie that, when the credits roll, leaves you feeling like you’ve just run a 100-yard dash through a sand trap? Have you ever spent 135 minutes wiping away tears of sadness and laughter simultaneously? For me, this is Love Actually and this happens every time I watch. Love Actually is a one of those movies filled with complicated, intertwining relationships where the telling of multiple stores culminates in the end with everyone coming together in a big closing scene. This movie is funny and sad and everything in between. It’s filled with people falling in and out of love and people hoping to be loved. It’s a movie that celebrates the loss of a beloved wife and mother. It leaves you agonizing over a love that can never be realized and it fills your heart with giddy elation when the boy finally gets the girl.

As much as the stories in the movie move me, it’s really the accompanying soundtrack and musical score by Craig Armstrong that invokes my extreme rush of emotions. As much as I would love to describe in great detail how this movie makes me feel, I just don’t think I’m capable of it. And to make matters worse, I watched the movie AGAIN tonight and now I just want to take my ‘all is right with the world’ arse to bed. I thought it would provide me with mounds of inspiration and the words would just start flowing but it had the complete opposite effect. I’m sitting here and can’t think of a thing to say. I’ve experienced emotional overload and now I just need sleep. However, I don’t want to leave you hanging. Besides, these clips and these quotes will do more justice than any silly words I write here.

I’ll start with the official trailer for the movie.

One of my absolute favorite scenes and by far my favorite movie quote of all time comes from 11 year old Sam. Sam is in love with a girl at school but he thinks she doesn’t know he exists. This is dialogue between him and his step father.

Daniel: So what’s the problem, Sammy-o? Is it just Mum, or is it something else? Maybe… school – are you being bullied? Or is it something worse? Can you give me any clues at all?
Sam: You really want to know?
Daniel: I really want to know.
Sam: Even though you won’t be able to do anything to help?
Daniel: Even if that’s the case, yeah.
Sam: Okay. Well, the truth is… actually… I’m in love.
Daniel: Sorry?
Sam: I know I should be thinking about Mum all the time, and I am. But the truth is, I’m in love and I was before she died, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Daniel: [laughs] Aren’t you a bit young to be in love?
Sam: No.
Daniel: Oh, well, okay… right. Well, I mean, I’m a little relieved.
Sam: Why?
Daniel: Well, because I thought it would be something worse.
Sam: [incredulous] Worse than the total agony of being in love?

Tell me that’s not the most adorable line ever spoken by a kid in a movie!

This is a compilation of scenes I found on YouTube that, in my opinion, truly conveys the level of sadness felt thoughout the movie by some of the characters.

In this scene, Mark uses written messages to confess to his best friend’s wife, Juliet, that he loves her. This is the definition of romance.

And who doesn’t absolutely love Hugh Grant?!?

The first time I watched this movie I honestly believed that love, real love, did not exist. I remember the feeling I got when I turned the movie off at the end. It was a feeling of hope and that all I have to do is look around. “Love actually is…all around.”

Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

Shattered!

(30 Days of Truth – Day 19 – Something that shook your belief system to its core (a big disappointment in your life)

Tonight’s blog is going to be a slight continuation on yesterday’s topic of how a random person has impacted my life, as well as touching on today’s subject of something that shook my belief system to its core. For everything that Melissa has been to me, Jane (not her real name) was the opposite.

I met Jane on that same trip to Chicago but I met her at the airport while we waited to board our plane. The company I had recently been hired by had told me that there would be two of us traveling together from the south Alabama area and we were on the same flight. Dothan has a really, really small airport so it wasn’t hard for us to find each other. The minute I met Jane, I fell madly in love with her. No, not the romantic kind of love but we both felt an immediate connection. We didn’t stop talking from the moment we first said hello until we settled into our respective hotel rooms that first night.

Over the next 10 days Jane became my mentor, confidant and fellow mischief maker. We laughed and we even cried during some of our talks. As each of us struggled through some areas of the training, we were there as each other’s cheerleader. She told me all about her family back home, husband and four boys with the youngest a high school senior at 17 years old. She clearly loved her family and talked a great deal about her boys and her life back home. She was even a writer for a national magazine’s regional publication so I thought that was way cool. I had never met an actual published writer back then. And just as with some of the other women, we vowed to stay in touch when we returned home.

The first red flag that I completely ignored was waving brightly in front of my face on our flight home from Chicago back to Dothan, by way of Atlanta. There was bad weather and we were very delayed leaving Chicago. That would normally not be a problem but our connecting flight from Atlanta to Dothan was the last one that Friday evening and there wasn’t another until noonish the next day. Jane and I contemplated several alternate plans in case we missed our flight but none of them worked very well for me because they all required me spending money that I didn’t have. About 30 minutes into the flight, Jane leaned over and said, “I’ll get us home”. I was reassured and settled back to relax.

What I didn’t know was HOW Jane was going to get us home. She faked a seizure. Well, not a full blown one but enough to convince the flight attendants she was having one. It was a good 15 minutes into her act that I realized she was faking it. I heard her explain to the attendants that she was out of her medicine and must get home that night. I was so shocked and speechless at what I was witnessing that I didn’t know what to do. I had never seen anything like it before in my life. She was so convincing that the pilot had called ahead to Atlanta and they held our connecting flight. As soon as we landed, the attendant made an announcement that there was a medical emergency and for everyone to remain seated. They then directed Jane and me off of the plane and into a waiting pickup truck right there on the tarmac. We were whisked away to our connecting flight and made it home to Dothan with only an hour delay. Jane and I said goodbye at the airport but I was still reeling from what had just happened. I have to admit that a huge part of me was so happy to be home that it became easy to forget what she did. She never admitted to me what I knew had happened but I never asked her about it either. Ignorance is bliss I suppose.

Jane and I continued our friendship for the next few months. We would spend hours on the phone and even visited each other in person on occasion. She became like a big sister to me and I cherished this new beautiful, strong, smart woman in my life. She was quickly becoming the ideal of what I wanted to become someday. Jane and I even made a plan for a roadtrip together. Remember the Tampa/Miami trip I mentioned yesterday. That was supposed to be a trip with Jane to Tampa then Miami with Melissa and we were meeting up with another friend from Chicago. It was going to be such a fun reunion.

I think it was late September that I received an email from Jane. It was relatively brief and completely rocked my world. She said she had gone to the doctor for some tests and that her breast cancer was no longer in remission. She said she was going to Birmingham for hospitalization and treatment and was leaving immediately. She wrote she was very distraught and didn’t want to talk to anyone so please don’t call or try to contact her during this time. She would be in touch with me in about three weeks. Oh and she wouldn’t be able to make the trip with me. I was in shock, complete and absolute shock. You could have blown me over with a feather. This woman that I had grown so close to over the previous months was about to battle cancer again and there was nothing I could do for her. Unfortunately for Jane, I’m not that easily dismissed. Of course I tried calling and left numerous voice messages. No answer and no returned calls. The next morning I got in my car and drove the 40 miles to her house. I called on the way to give her notice that I was coming but all I was able to do was leave another voicemail.

When I arrived at her house I knocked on the front door. To my complete surprise, she answered the door. Her eyes were red and swollen and it was clear she had been crying. We hugged for so long. We just sat on her stairwell and cried and hugged and talked and even prayed a little. She was scared but optimistic at the same time. She shared the doctor’s prognosis with me and it wasn’t all that great. She mentioned the treatment she was receiving was going to require isolation so she would not be able to talk or write to me while in Birmingham. I was so scared for her. At one point, she left the room and came back with an envelope. Inside the envelope was about $100 cash. She said she felt terrible about not being able to take the trip with me but she wanted to make sure I went and she knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to do it without her financial assistance. I refused to take the money but she was so adamant about it. I could tell I was fighting a losing battle so I quietly took the envelope with the intent to return it to her later. We said our goodbyes and I wished her well with her treatment. I also said a silent prayer as she closed the door behind me.

I think about a week passed by before I couldn’t stand it anymore. My heart was hurting for her and I needed to know how she was doing. I called her cell. No answer but I left a voicemail. I called her home. No answer. I didn’t leave a voicemail at her home number because I assumed the family was in Birmingham with her. I think another week passed and I was out of my mind with worry. I had to know what was going on with her. I called both numbers again but no answer. I then called the hospital to see if by chance they could connect me to her room. They told me they did not have a patient by that name. That sort of made me happy. I assumed she had been discharged. I began calling her home again. After another couple of days I was frantic. I called her home and left a message on the answering machine. A few hours later my phone rang and I was ecstatic when I saw that familiar number on my caller ID.

“Hello.”

Male voice. “Is this Lee?”

“Yes, is this Jane’s husband?”

“Yes.” “I’m calling to find out how Jane is? Is she home? Is she ok?”

“Isn’t she with you?” said the husband.

My heart sank. I played every scenario I could think of in my head at that moment and nothing was making sense. I explained that Jane was not with me and that I had not spoken to her since she left to go to the hospital.

Silence.

I think it was at that moment both of us knew something was wrong. We began to chat and compare the stories Jane had communicated to each of us. There was no cancer. Jane was not sick. Jane was supposed to be with ME in Miami on a work assignment.

More silence.

Jane’s husband and I ended the call but we both knew so much more had ended during our 10 minute conversation.

Days later I received an email from Jane. This email was very long, very detailed and very revealing. Apparently Jane had been involved in a 20-year affair with the man that was actually the father of her 17 year old son. She explained how they had spent the previous couple of weeks together and how wonderful it was. She told me how her son knew everything and thanks to my call, now her husband did as well. She felt somewhat relieved by that. She wasn’t sure of what her future held but she felt I deserved to know the truth. She did not have cancer. It had all been a lie. The tears, the prayers, the stories were all lies. This woman that I wanted to be just like had shattered my heart in a way that no man has ever come close to doing. She crushed my soul and left me spinning with confusion, hatred, and disgust. It was a really long time before I stopped crying every time I thought about Jane. I loved her and trusted her but she didn’t care about anyone but herself and I’m still not sure I know how to reconcile that in my heart.

Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

What an Impact!

(30 Days of Truth – Day 18 – Someone you met randomly that’s made an impact on your life)

Her name is Melissa Burch and I mentioned her in my very first blog entry. Here’s what I said:

“She barely knew me and she opened her home and her heart to me. She became such an inspiration for me, and I’m not sure I’ve ever told her that. She is so smart and so sassy. I love her spirit, her wit, her Susie Homemaker skills, her generosity, her beauty, her brains, her force, her everything. She is extraordinary and I love her.”

There was no one else that even came close to topping the list of people who fell into the category of random people who have impacted my life. I love telling our story because it doesn’t stop with our first meeting, or our second or even five years into our friendship. She just keeps bringing good things to my world and I don’t know how I’ll ever show her how much love I have for her and how much I appreciate her.

Back in early 2004 I was scanning the classifieds for possible part time jobs. I was already working a full-time 8-5 job, selling Avon part-time and going to school 2-4 nights a week but I’m a glutton for punishment. On a whim, I responded to an ad that said “Interviewers wanted. Flexible, part-time, must be willing to travel”.  Many weeks later I received a call saying that they were calling about an ad I had responded to and would be in my area and wanted to set up an interview.  Well, I interviewed and got the job on the spot. The problem was that I would need to travel to Chicago for 10 days of training. Of course the trip would be paid for but it would mean missing almost two weeks of work at my real full-time job. Also, even though the trip was paid for, I would still incur a substantial amount of out of pocket expenses up front. And all of this for a very part time job when I returned home. This was a lot to think about and my head kept telling me to thank them and politely decline the offer. However, something wouldn’t allow me to do that. I worked a deal with my then boss to ‘borrow’ against future vacation days and I borrowed enough money from family members to make it happen.

In late May, 2004, I flew to Chicago to train to become an Interviewer for the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. As fate would have it, I ended up in a small group of trainees with Melissa Burch from Tampa, Florida. It was some pretty intense training with only one day ‘off’ to actually do some sightseeing in the city. A small group of us took the train into the city and enjoyed a whirlwind kind of day. During our evenings, we usually met up for dinner and then relaxed in our rooms. It was during this downtime that some of us women were able to form some new friendships and even make plans to stay in touch when we all returned home to our normal lives.

Over the next few months I spent many hours on the phone with some of those women, including Melissa. It only seemed natural that when she started planning her birthday party in September that she invite me to come for a visit and attend her party. If course I agreed and planned to drag my mom along and to make a long weekend of it. We left Alabama early one Friday afternoon and headed south for a much needed get away. It never occurred to us to check a weather report. That is until we hit I-75 South and noticed that we were the only, and I mean ONLY, car heading south. However, the northbound lanes were backed up as far as the eye could see.  After a quick call to my uncle, the man who knows everything there is to know about the weather, we discovered, through his laughter, that hurricane Jeanne was making a bee-line for the east coast of Florida. Oh crap was all I could say but I didn’t for one second think of turning that car around. It was the wee hours of Sunday before Jeanne crashed our party. Before I left to come back home, we had several discussions of me returning in late October to join Melissa for a trip to Miami for a Halloween party. Of course I said I was all in.

Now flash forward to October 22, 2004. I was in a job that I hated and was being directed to do some unethical accounting so I walked out. Now what you need to understand is that I had been searching for that part time job months earlier because I was seriously struggling financially. Walking out on my job was not the smartest thing to do at that time and one of the many repercussions of no longer having an income was that I would not be able to make that trip to Tampa/Miami the next weekend. I called Melissa to tell her what happened and she presented me with one of the craziest suggestions I had ever heard. She said, “Why don’t you come on down a day or so early and check out the job market down here?” Hmmm. Well, I had no valid argument against that so I said what the hell. The thing about me is that I’m not a very patient person so I hit the internet and started my search a few days early. I applied to almost every temp agency in the Tampa Bay area in the hopes something would present itself to me.

What I didn’t expect was that on Monday, October 25, I would get a call hiring me, sight unseen, and asking me to start the next day. I explained how that just wasn’t possible but I could start on Wednesday. I promptly called Melissa and asked her just how serious she was about me coming early and sleeping on her couch to check out the market. She said she was serious. I said Good cause I’ll be there tomorrow to start my new job on Wednesday. Once she recovered from the shock of it, we mapped out a game plan and I packed a bag and headed south again. This time there was no hurricane to slow me down.

I arrived in Tampa on a Tuesday afternoon in October 2004 and I have never looked back. I knew in those first few hours that this is where I’m supposed to be. I knew that something great awaited me in this scary, wonderful new city. I just knew.

For months I lived with Melissa and her family and I’m sure I would not have the life I have today if not for Melissa and her generous soul. She housed me and supported me when I couldn’t even afford to buy my own lunch. She took me places and showed me what living life outside of Small Town America was really all about. She took care of me both physically and emotionally during those months I lived with her, and long after I found a place of my own and was able to financially support myself again. Melissa never once asked for anything in return. Never, not once. Ever! Do you know how rare a trait that is in a person? Melissa paid it forward with me tenfold. She took a chance on me when she barely knew who I was. I pray that I’m someday in a position to impact someone’s life the way that Melissa did (and still does) for me.

I couldn’t help but include this video of Hurricane by Needtobreathe. It’s these lyrics specifically that I think are most appropriate for this post.

In the light of the mourning
Can we change what we felt and heard
Can we turn it into the glory
Break the paths of our fathers before us
Though we stand on the outside
We will find what we once believed
And will crawl our way to the clear skies
Standing up we are
Standing up we are

Posted in Crafts, Post A Day Challenge

Patsy’s Pet Beds

(30 Days of Truth – Day 17 – )

I couldn’t find any inspiration whatsoever to write about today’s task to describe someone with whom you shared a friendship/relationship that simply drifted out of your life. The thing is I’ve been in a good mood all day and the idea of the people who have drifted away from me kind of brings me down. Instead, I want to share with you a project my mom has been working on for some time now.
Earth Tone early prototype 1She’s crocheting pet beds and they are really awesome. She started out with a very basic design and has steadily improved on that to get to where she is now with them. They are very well made and machine washable. I’ve even put a couple of the one’s I have through the wash several times and they are holding up very nicely. She’s even putting catnip into the lining for the cat beds as a special treat.

Georgia Bulldog Pad 3She had a special request before Christmas to make a Georgia Bulldog themed bed so we found an online source to order fleece and this bed was born. She can order pretty much any team color fabric and we even went ahead and got some Alabama and Florida fleece to have on hand.

All of the beds she’s made so far have been about 18 inches wide but she has an order now for a larger bed with an inside diameter of about 30 inches. It should be fun to see that one come together. Here are a few more examples.

Pastel and Purple 9
Pittsburgh Steelers 3
Varigated Reds 4

If anyone is interested in ordering one of these, just let me know. She is charging $45 for the small size bed. She’s willing to work with you to determine what colors or themes you want and the possibilities are really endless. As you can see, she’s got some pretty satisfied customers.

Pastel and Purple 5
Varigated Reds 1
Pastel and Purple 4

I’ve added another page titled Pet Beds. You can click here for more information and more photos.

Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

A Sacred Romance

(30 Days of Truth – Day 16 – A book you’ve read that changed your views on something)

In September, 2005, I fell in love in a way that I never imagined possible. I met Gil that year but this wasn’t the love of which I’m speaking. However, Gil and our then broken relationship are the very things that led to this discovery of a Sacred Romance.  We had ended our relationship and I was completely and utterly distraught. I was in one of the darkest place I had ever been. I was angry and sad and sure that I was going to die from a broken heart. I was struggling to get through a Monday morning when I opened my email to find my Daily Inspirational email with a story entitled “Romanced by God”. In that email I read that “Life isn’t a series of random events or a litany of facts; life is a story. It is a great story full of comedy, drama, tragedy, horror. There is a God who is the author of the story with invitations to a journey that is sometimes beautiful, sometimes painful, often bewildering, but ultimately hopeful.” I felt outright compelled to run right out and buy the book that inspired this daily devotional, The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge.

I started reading it that day and devoured every single word.  It really was as if God sat down next to me. I could feel His presence and it inspired me with such a sense of understanding and soothing comfort that I cannot begin to explain it.  Not comfort from what I felt for Gil and our breakup…..but for myself. I have always been a firm believer that no matter how small or insignificant something seems, things happen for a reason.  Coincidences do not exist; it is all part of a much larger and majestic plan that we may never understand. I truly believe this book was a gift from God to me. In this book I found holes in ideals I had been taught my entire life, and I also found the words I needed to patch those holes. Within the pages of this book, I found the ability to forgive and let go of any and all negative emotions I was feeling at the time. After reading this book, I was so overcome with feelings that I had to release them. The only way I knew to do that was to just start writing down everything I was feeling. What came of that was an 8 page letter to Gil. I’m going to use my words from that letter to describe how this book changed my view on my entire belief structure.  Below are some excerpts from the book, a follow up booklet by John Eldredge, as well as my letter to Gil.

“The southern culture she grew up in demanded that she literally divide her soul in two to be acceptable:  a helpless Southern belle who was non-threatening to men and Southern society, and a competent, independent career woman who could make up any family deficiency.”

No truer words were ever spoken to describe me.  This is exactly how my father raised me, almost as if he came back from the grave to remind me.  Except, he forgot to tell me about the helpless part or maybe somewhere along the way I just forgot the helpless part and it became more of a reflection of weakness, rather than the need for rescue. I forgot to remember the fairy tales that we loved to hear as children, both as boys, the heroes, and girls, the beauties.  As strong as I want to be, and as independent as I need to be, I have to finally admit that I want what all little girls want. I want to be fought over and cherished and rescued.  The book reminded me of that.  I have just been looking for the wrong rescuer and expecting each one of them to fail.

During my week-long self-reflection I have tried to figure out what went wrong with my thought processes. This is not to say that anything ‘went wrong’ but it certainly gives me a clue as to why I think the things I do and feel the way I feel.  I can only imagine how my life would be different if my father had read this little 52-page booklet, You Have What It Takes.  I don’t remember my father ever telling me “You’re lovely”.  I do remember being told over and over again how smart I was.  Sometime during my childhood I remember the comparison made between my sister and me…Lee’s the smart one and Tammy is the pretty one.  I can’t remember who said this and thinking back, it may have even been me, as a result of how I felt, that smart was more meaningful than pretty. How would my life be different if my father had stopped every now and then to tell me I was beautiful, or pretty, or worth fighting for?  If he did say those things, I have absolutely no memory of it.

I remember the lessons of my father very clearly.  Do not be like your mother. Get an education and become a strong independent woman who does not need or require a man to support you or take care of you.  I know that his goals were absolutely earnest and well-intended.  He was trying to break the cycle of the women he had known and to make me feel commendable.  Unfortunately, he was very misguided in his actions.  I truly believe that my self-image is a direct result of his teachings.

I kept thinking about your children while I read.  I’m not sure why they were on my mind but I kept thinking how your life now, affects their lives forever.  Teach Daniel to be the hero and show Natalie that it’s ok to want to be the princess, the beauty, and it’s ok to want to be rescued.  Teach them both that it’s ok to reverse those roles on occasion.  Teach them about hope and remind them never to forget.  God is pursuing them, the same way he has been pursuing you for so long now.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-   I took the one less traveled by,    And that has made all the difference.

God has been pursuing a romance with my heart since before the beginning of time; I just need to stop and let him catch up.  I am standing at the chasm, still not ready to make the choice but at least I’ve been reminded that the choice is MINE to make.  This book is about me and the way I perceive my life and my choices and, no offense, was really not at all about finding liberation from my despair over you, even if it was my despair that led me to this awakening.  There was a time when I thought I loved myself but I know I was only participating in the indulgences of life.  I have to be more willing to allow God to rescue me and less distracted by the aforementioned indulgences. … I want to be the star in my story, with God standing center stage, with me, within me, as writer, director and producer.

If I had not been open to let you touch my heart and soul, and leave me wounded and hurt, I would not have been awakened and reminded of God’s true love for me.  I want to share in a story, a fairy tale of love and hate and monsters and disappointment and more love and then…complete forgiveness.  That is the message I want to share.

“…trying to free ourselves through willpower is futile. Only God’s Spirit himself can free us or even bring us to our senses.”

I have to let go of the idea that I’m different from every other girl, because I am not.  I am every woman. This book gives me hope that there is something better out there, yet to be experienced and just waiting for me.  And this has nothing to do with finding my one true love or even a false love, but finding myself first.  Everything else will come.

My feelings for you are MY cross to bear, not yours.  And I fully intend to bear that burden with grace and as much dignity as I have left…I forgive you and I pray that you will forgive me…in the meantime, I have God’s romance to fill my empty heart and this letter is my way of letting the excess flow into you.  I don’t want you to ever regret anything that you did with me because in the end, they did live happily ever after, just not with each other.  Please dismiss any guilt that you have in your heart because of me. You have been forgiven and there is no need for you to continue to torture yourself.  You have enough demons to battle, to defeat, to prove your heroism with. In your darkest hours, know that you are loved….by God….and me.  And remember, there is hope.

Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

Painting with a Purpose

(30 Days of Truth – Day 14 – )

Today’s task was to write about a band/artist whose music impacted your life. If you know me even a little bit, then you know that band is Sister Hazel. However, I’m not going to write about this topic today. I’m going to save it and combine it with Day 23’s topic of describe a truly spiritual moment in your life. When that day rolls around, it will be very clear why I needed to combine these two into one. Now there is another reason I don’t want to write about today’s topic and that’s because I’m dying to share something else with you.

I saw an advertisement recently for a new business opening up in Tampa called Painting with a Twist. The concept is way fun and super cool. I immediately wanted to sign up for a class but never quite had the time between Rock Boating and recovering from Rock Boating. Well, a couple of days ago I saw that they were hosting a fundraiser for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and they were calling it Painting with a Purpose. And then I saw what we would be painting.
Ok people, it doesn’t get more perfect for me so I signed up and invited my mom to join me.

We arrived to a room full of people ready to go. We picked up our aprons and canvases and found our seats just in time to hear all about what our ‘purpose’ was. The proceeds from today’s class would go to the Humane Society’s February event to helps spay and neuter cats in the Tampa Bay area. PURRFECT! I was motivated and ready to paint. Oh and did I mention how terrified I was at the same time?

A few years ago I decided my mom, the painter/artist, needed to be painting. She had not done so in years and I thought she could use the creative outlet. I signed us up for a painting class at Michaels. I had never held a paint brush in my hand before and was pretty darn sure this was going to be a complete and utter embarrassment on my part but I wanted to be there for her. We took the class and lo and behold, my painting turned out OK. And then we took another class and that painting is now hanging in my sister’s house (or it was before they moved, not sure if it still is). I’m just saying, it wasn’t horrendous. Who knew?!? I certainly never in a million years imaged I was slightly capable of putting paint on a canvas and producing something pretty to look at.

Today was the first time since that second class years ago that I put paint to canvas. I was actually very nervous about today’s class. I cannot draw. I know this to be a fact. I have tried and it’s just bad. I knew this class was going to require some minute ability to draw and I was sure this was going to be my downfall. Little did I know but our instructor today is also an illustrator. An animal illustrator at that. She was able to guide us along using shapes, very simple circles, ovals, triangles and slightly bent rectangles. I know it’s hard to see in this picture but this is the outline of what will become my cat. It is nothing more than a series of shapes draw ever so lightly in pencil.

After I jumped right over that drawing hurdle, it was smooth sailing all the way til the end. Here are a couple of shots of us in action.

It still completely blows me away that I’m capable of this. I know this is not gallery worthy and that I’m a long way from being an artist but I’m very happy with what I did today. I was reluctant to do it because of one tiny bit that intimidated me but I didn’t let it stop me. I dove right in, head first. (If you are interested in seeing more photos of our experience, visit my album on Facebook)

I’m reminded of several conversations Gil and I have had recently about this blog-off we have going on. I have wanted to put my thoughts into words for a long time but I was scared. He encouraged me to just do it and I have been having so much fun ever since. Just like with the class today. I’m starting to learn some things about myself, which is great when you consider I started this blog as a tool to help me discover my authentic self. What I’m finding is that there is a lot more to me than I thought there was. I think I’m going to make 2011 the year of “Finding leelee”. This is going to be the year I tear down the walls of fear and uncertainty to discover exactly what lies beneath?

Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

The Light of My Life

(30 Days of Truth – Day 14 – Someone who has made your life worth living for)

I have to start this post by clarifying that today, at this moment in my life, my husband is the person who makes my life worth living for. He is my rock, my guiding angel and my absolute source of strength. He loves me and takes care of me in ways I never thought possible. However, in the days before this amazing man came into my life, there was another. That is the person I want to talk about today.

His name is Hunter Walker Love and he is and always will possess a very large piece of my heart and soul. He was born at 7:21 A.M. on December 26, 1995. It was in that moment that I understood what parents talk about when they talk about the love one feels for their own children. The problem with that is that I didn’t give birth to him, my sister did.

Christmas 2004

Hunter has been the guiding light in my life since the first moment I laid eyes on him. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on him and when I did, it was hard for anyone else to get a turn. I was so lucky to spend so much time with him in the first week of his life. I really think that was the reason I formed such a special bond with him. The thing about baby Hunter was that he formed that same bond with all the people in his life, he just loved everyone and we were all so blessed to have him in our lives.

As Hunter grew older, about 7 or 8, I had the wonderful fortune to move within walking distance to him. And boy did he take advantage of that. I can remember most Saturday and Sunday mornings I was awoken to the sound of his dirt bike jumping terraces in my front yard. He would do this until he saw my front door open. This was his not so passive way of checking to see if I was awake so he could come hang out with me.  During those years there were so many phone calls from his mama asking “is Hunter there?” that I lost count.  And yes, he was almost always ‘there’ with me.

It was during these years that I was dealing with some pretty dark personal issues and bouts of depression. I can honestly say that this little boy was the driving force in my ability to get out of bed and maintain some semblance of being normal. He was my sunshine and the single thing that brought joy to my life.  I could be at a devastating low point and hear the hum of that dirt bike flying down my driveway and it would change everything for me. He would bring light to all my dark places.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to move to Florida and it was the right thing for me to do at the time. I have to admit there has been a giant void in my heart since the day I left. I haven’t been as close to Hunter since I left Alabama but he is and always will be in my heart and my mind constantly. We talk and visit when we can and I always tell him how much I love him and that I miss him. I’m just not sure he understands how much that is. As he gets older and becomes the wonderful man I know he’s destined to be, I hope that he always remembers the special times we shared. I hope he always knows how much his Aunt leelee loves him.

Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

Wouldn’t It Be Cool If I…

(30 Days of Truth – Day 13 – Discuss some of the things on your bucket list)

I realized something today. I don’t have a Bucket List. Am I the only one? I hear people talk about theirs all the time but it never crossed my mind that I should have one. Maybe I should. Or maybe I already do but don’t really recognize it as a bucket list but more of a Wish List or better yet my Dream List. I think I’m just going to list my string of ideas that fall under the header “Wouldn’t it be cool if I…” so here goes.

Wouldn’t it be cool if I…

…obtain an MBA.
…visit Key West, Las Vegas and New Orleans with Gil.
…(we) attend both the Oscars and the Grammy Awards ceremony.
…open a cat rescue.
…watch my nephew graduate from college.
…perform some athletic feat that no one expects (hike a mountain, run a marathon).
…skydive with the US Army Golden Knights (DOH, wait…I already did that one.).
…fly like the wind in a homemade stock car like my mom and dad used to do.
…see my husband’s face when he realizes his book has been listed on the NYT Best Seller list.
…become a successful nonprofit fundraising event planner.
…do Skyjump Las Vegas.
…(we) watch the sun set/rise over the Grand Canyon.
…(we) travel cross country in an RV for a year.
…help with a dental mission trip (or any working mission trip).
…(we) take the kids on a Disney/Nickelodeon cruise before they get too old to enjoy it.
…(we) visit Gil’s family in Mexico.
…could visit Cuba.
…(we) take the same roadtrip as Cate and Max took in Lives Vol I.
…see Dwyane Wade win more rings than Jordan.
…had a full-time maid.
…(we)attend the 2014 World Cup.
…watch my husband on Oprah.
…live long enough to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.

Now, I clearly need to expand on this list so give me some ideas. Comment below and give me three of your bucket list items. I’m very curious to know what other people dream about doing. Nothing is too big or too small. Ok, ready. Set. GO!

Posted in 30 Days of Truth, Post A Day Challenge

Stop The Cycle

(30 Days of Truth – Day 12 – Something you hope to change about yourself and why)

Today’s topic is a pretty easy one. I wish it wasn’t. I wish I had to sit and contemplate for hours about what I would change about myself but that is just not the case. I wish I was happy with who I am and how I look, but I’m not. I wish the list of things I hope to change wasn’t so long, but it is.

For me, the most obvious answer is my appearance. I want to be skinny.  No, that’s not entirely true.  I want to be healthier which would most likely result in a leaner, toned and more slender version of myself. I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. I remember how in middle school and high school I could never share clothes with my friends. This was brutal on the psyche and self esteem of a girl trying so hard to fit in and be popular. The funny thing about this is that looking back at photos from that time in my life, I was actually just the right size. As it turns out, I just hung around with really skinny girls.

It was after high school that my weight really became a problem. I could fluctuate 10 pounds on a weekly basis and often yo-yo’d up and down by 20 or more pounds every few years.  I went through T-Factor, Dexatrim and prescription Phentermine when I could find a doctor to prescribe it. There was a time that I even tried exercise but that never lasted longer than the first lactic acid burn in my inactive muscles. Some of these weight loss methods were very successful and some not so much as the weight would almost certainly find its way back to my body.

I’ve dealt with this cycle for more than two decades now. I’ve been in relationships that destroyed my self esteem and I’ve been in relationships that loved the extra cushion around my middle.  There have been times when I was at 180 lbs that I’ve felt as beautiful and sexy as it gets. There have been times at 140 lbs that I felt like an ugly duckling. I’ve lost and gained weight because of who I was or wasn’t with. I’ve gained and lost weight in both happy and sad periods in my life. There is no rhyme or reason to the viscous cycle that is my waistline.

I want to stop the cycle. I want to stop it now. I want to stop the dieting and yo-yo’ing and just get healthy.  I want to do this for me. Not for who I’m with or what I’m doing. Gil is the absolute perfect husband when it comes to my appearance. He loves me, pure and simple. He loves me at 140 lbs and at 180 lbs. He loves me exactly the same no matter what the scale says. This is why it’s so important for me to get healthy. I want to be around for a very long time and I’m afraid that my up and down weight cycles are going to create unnecessary health issues in my future. I’m no spring chicken anymore and it’s time to take this seriously.

I know that becoming healthy is not going to happen overnight. I know that the pounds are not going to melt away in a few weeks time. However, when I’m needing a little help appreciating what I look like right now, this song never lets me down.