Butterfly Formation

SailYourShip

[photo credit: Momastery]

Do you ever get nervous?

Last night our elementary school held the annual Talent Show.

My daughter chose a song from one of her favorite artists to sing. She could have sung several of them off the cuff, she knows them that well.

She sings constantly. Falls asleep to the radio every night. Simply enjoys music. Duets with me in the car. I love hearing her just hum throughout the day, not even realizing she’s doing it.

Her voice sounds angelic to me.

I’m proud of her ( and all the kids ) for signing up for the talent show in the first place.

I’m proud of her for getting up on stage in front of a crowd including her peers, parents, and strangers.

I’m proud of the composure she showed after forgetting the words and realizing she needed to regroup.

Still, this mama’s heart broke for her.

I’m grateful for her friend who encouraged her behind the scenes right when she came off stage and her composure faded.

I’m grateful for my mom and sister praying for her after I quickly texted them with the request.

I’m grateful for her former teacher, who was hosting the show, allowing her a second chance a few acts later.

When I talked to her just before she went back out, she smiled with the greatest confidence and said, “I’ve got it, Mom. I know all the words.”

Feeling nervous is a good thing. We’re putting ourselves out to the world to share something meaningful to us. Those emotions show we’re alive.

I heard a quote this past week which came to mind as she walked out to take the microphone the second time.

“It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation.” ― Rob Gilbert

She did it. I’m so proud of her for getting back up on stage and doing what she came to do.

So the next time you get nervous before putting yourself out there, don’t beat yourself up thinking you’re weak or afraid. Nerves can mean you’re completely alive. Go out anyway and steer your butterflies!

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My Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Monday afternoon I saw the news that Glenn Frey, the founder of The Eagles, died. People all over are paying their respects online, telling story after story of his gift touching their hearts.

What a connection I had with his brilliant music. I’m among the mourners.

Just about a week ago, my family of five was driving from Denver to Phoenix to watch Clemson play Alabama in the National Championships.

Although I was in an F150 and not a flatbed Ford, when we passed through Winslow, Arizona I sang one of my favorite lines from that song. And sang loud.

Winslow Arizona Take It Easy

My singing is part why I’m convinced my husband stayed awake on that 13+ hour both ways family road trip. He may politely beg to differ. My love for music [and car singing] is no surprise though for those who know me best.

I even pulled up Take It Easy on Youtube from my phone for my entire family to hear. After playing [and the two adults in the car singing] the song, I explained to my kids who The Eagles are. They willingly obliged with listening ears. I think it went right over their heads.

I didn’t explain it all, though – who The Eagles are to me. I have a feeling one day I will.

Aside from remembering their song Heartache Tonight as a little kid, I was introduced to the band during my Freshman year in high school. Circa 1989. We went to the mountains of North Carolina to Windy Gap for our Young Life camp.

Seven Bridges Road was one of the songs we sang. That and All I Want is You by U2. I remember thinking it was so cool that we had a little rock-n-roll in our worship time + that God and music were pulled together in such a beautiful way. And whoever these people were, I wanted to hear more.

I also listened to The Eagles’ songs on my walkman in the backseat of my parents car on the way to my basketball games. Every week. I realize The Eagles may not be some people’s pump up music on game day, but they sure were mine.

Speaking of cars, do you remember your first one? Mine was a Mazda 626. Powder blue. Four speed. Nothing automatic about it. Not the transmission, not the door locks, not the windows.

It was a car my Dad had bought from his older brother to give my older sister, which was then handed down to me when she left for college.

I always had hoped my Dad would buy a car from his older brother but had a different one in mind. My cousin Angela drove a cherry red Honda prelude. With a sunroof. And personalized license plates.

I remember the first time I saw those plates [I’ve always had an eye for detail] was Christmas Day at my Grandma Long’s house. The coolest of cars displaying “APL” on the tags was parked street-side as we drove up Sunset Drive.

As a girl who loves a monogram, this spoke volumes to me. My cousin also wore monogrammed sweaters. I was in awe.

However, I was sincerely grateful when it was my turn to have a car no matter what kind it was, and I loved that I could drive a stick. At the time, my parents thought it was important we girls know how.

My Dad had me practice in the parking lot of his business which had a slight incline. If you didn’t get it right, you ended up in the middle of the four-lane highway which was Main Street in Mauldin, South Carolina. I learned real fast.

Just before I finished my senior year of high school, my parents surprised me with a white Mazda RX-7, also a stick shift. We were at the old Greenville Mall after church to eat one Sunday afternoon.

My Dad kept getting up, going in and out and I wondered what was going on. When we walked outside and I saw the giant orange bow, it clicked.

I squealed, jumped up and down, and leaped separately into my parents arms like a little kid.

PeacefulEasyFeelingCar

My Mom gave me a gift that day in May 1993 just as memorable as the new car. Two cassette tapes of the Eagles…Their Greatest Hits and Eagles Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.

I left that afternoon and went straight to pick up my best friend and give her a ride around town. Then I picked up my boyfriend and we did the same. Then I drove by myself.

I put 100 miles on my car that day and was gone for almost 3 hours. All listening to The Eagles with the windows down and sunroof open.

Such a happy day in my memory bank of teenage life. That car + that music represented freedom to me.

I had a chance to see them in concert when I was 20. I bought tickets. They came to Clemson in June 1996 to perform in Death Valley the summer between my junior and senior year in college.

Boy was I looking forward to seeing them live! Except there was another big adventure waiting for me that summer. For that reason, I didn’t see the show.

I accepted a summer job at a mountain resort in Grand Lake, Colorado. Across the country, two time zones away from everything I ever knew.

And yet a whole new kind of experience that would eventually bring me out west after graduating from Clemson.

I remember interviewing on the phone. After a lengthy conversation, the owner asked me why he should hire me.

With my 20-year old confidence in need of a little refinement, since in my mind I had already answered all his questions, I said “I’m a hard worker. And I don’t do anything half-as*…I mean half-way, sir.”

Once he stopped laughing, he said “You’re hired! We’ll see you in June.”

And although I didn’t want to miss out on that concert, I’m really glad I didn’t miss out on that summer, and on Colorado.

Whenever I hear The Eagles on the radio I always stop to listen to the station. I used to have their piano book and loved playing Lyin’ Eyes, Best of My Love, and the powerful chords in Take It to the Limit.

I see Amazon still carries it and have added it to the business book in my shopping cart from earlier today. I’m ready to be reacquainted.

I never did see them live in concert. I’ll now play my own to an audience of one.

So as the surprising news of Glenn Frey’s passing was sinking in, a flood of memories came back. A few minutes later tears formed in my eyes.

I can be stoic, which has been of great benefit at times in my life. At other times, I wonder why I’m the one who can cry at what seems like unusual situations.

I’m learning to embrace that instead of fight against it. What a relief! Know why?

God knows what He’s doing when He wires us. After all, I’m made in His image + He created me this way for a purpose.

Plus, I’ve seen a couple of awesome quotes on Pinterest about us sensitive types. Me being a lover of language, I get excited over a powerful stringing of words 🙂

Dreamer Doer Seeker

After praying for Mr. Frey’s family and bandmates, mine turned to prayers of gratitude for his gift and his sharing of that gift.

I have a friend who’s recently challenged me to look at when strong emotion strikes. Notice when change surfaces and stop to think why instead of brushing it off.

I did that today.

I knew that some of my unexpected tears accumulating in my eyes were grateful ones. Tears for his sharing of an innate gift of music with others, which gave me freedom at a time in my life when I so desperately wanted it. Music that made me feel calm when my world sometimes felt like shaky ground.

I’m taken back to the 17-year old girl that day in May 1993, and what was occurring in her life then and in the not so distant future ahead.

And what I would give as a grown woman today to wrap my arms around her. Hold her face in my hands and look her in the eyes. Speak truth into her heart.

Those were the other half of the tears that filled my eyes and, for a moment, the ones who fell free down my cheek.

But you know what made them all dry beautifully? Knowing now that God had His arms wrapped around me. The whole time!

There are days I would give most anything to see the stars from the southern sky. The moonlight and moss in the trees.

Yet I also know the view of seeing those same stars even closer from a gorgeous Rocky Mountain sky.

My Mom remembers me calling her that summer almost 20 years ago. Gushing over how beautiful looking at the stars could be. I’d never seen anything like it.

No matter where I’m seeing the stars, there is indeed a taste of time sweetened honey. Because as a 40-year old woman I can see that He has been there every step of the way, on whichever bridge or road I traveled.

He has loved me like a baby
Like some lonesome child
He has loved me in a tame way
And He has loved me wild

And that is the best kind of peaceful, easy feeling there is.

Missing You, Jennifer

MissingYouJennifer

We were 23/24 years old when this picture was made. I’ve known her since we were 10. She was the first friend I met when starting a new elementary school in the 5th grade.

Countless sleepovers, then when her family moved basically one street over, endless bike rides to each other’s houses. Her adorable little Pomeranians. Her older brother’s boa constrictor that freaked me out but she thought was so cool. Her white wicker furniture I always wish I had. Her fascination with my contact lenses…she’d want to clean them whenever we would spend the night.

The blueberry muffins her mom made for breakfast. Letting us lick the bowl. Every time I make my kids these, I think of her. I told her that a few years ago. Instant grits with bacon bits. She loved them and got me hooked. Lots and lots of memories.

Going to her favorite place, Holden Beach in North Carolina with her extended family when we were in middle school. Everyone watching Dirty Dancing and me going into the next room at the beach house because I knew I wasn’t allowed to see it at the time. She came in to sit with me so I wouldn’t be alone. Rocking on the porch overlooking the ocean, singing Belinda Carlisle’s “Circle in the Sand.” We were in 7th grade. Every time I hear that song, I think of her. Sometimes as adults we’d send each other a message when hearing it on the radio.

Dancing for hours at Churchills on teen night to Tainted Love and lots of Depeche Mode. Unknowingly showing up to prom our Freshman year in identical dresses and laughing. She got her license first…and we’d drive around in her blue Honda civic listening to music with me holding the boom box because she didn’t have a radio.

As Seniors, we were batgirls for the high school baseball team. We learned how to spit seeds and keep count on the scoresheet. We screamed and shouted as the boys we had grown up with, most like brothers to us, won the state title.

Fast forward to our twenties…when I lived in Charlotte for a year, she drove from Greenville to go to the Backstreet Boys concert with me in 2001. On her way up she stopped and got her first tattoo…four leaf clovers since her oldest daughter was born on St. Patrick’s day a couple of years before. We laughed and (only half jokingly) screamed like we were teenagers at that concert and had a blast.

She flew to Denver for my bachelorette weekend a year later. There was a huge snowstorm, and I remember she cracked up that everyone seemed to just “pick a lane” to drive. Every time it snows like that, and drivers are truly making their own path, I think of her. She and my sister held each other tight on the flight home as we all were crying saying goodbye at the airport.

Her oldest daughter was one of my flower girls and she was an honorary attendant. All of our friends from Colorado who made the journey to our wedding in Greenville thought she had the best personality. She exuded hospitality to our guests and made sure they experienced why the South is so special.

I remember visiting her after her second daughter was born and learning why she had cabbage and sports bras on hand. I held her baby girl and day-dreamed about one day having little ones of my own.  A few years later she helped throw my baby shower.

She would always come to my Dad’s house to see me when I was back home for a visit. Often asking about my kids through email and later on, Facebook.

She was the first friend to text me when news broke that my Dad had died from cancer. She came to his funeral so she could give me a hug.

Although miles separated us and time even more so these last few years, there are so many memories held close in my heart. These are the ones flooding back over the last few days. The tears keep falling.

What I would give to be able to hop on a plane and hug her family tight tomorrow morning as her life is celebrated. It’s moments like these that I would give anything for two states to be not so far apart.

It’s starting to snow in Denver right now. I’m not sure how much we’re going to get tonight, but tomorrow I’m going to go out in my car and smile (and I’m sure I’ll cry), thinking of my childhood friend as I ‘pick a lane’.

I will always treasure our friendship and am thanking God for the gift of knowing her. Missing you, Jennifer.   

Why Have You Stopped?

Have you ever stopped doing something you were good at?

Have you ever stopped doing something you weren’t so good at?

I’ve done both.

I’m most bothered by the things I stopped doing that I was good at. Here are my three.

Basketball: I remember Saturday nights as a child playing ball in our driveway with my sisters in our nightgowns, while Dad was grilling steaks + Mom was fixing the rest of dinner inside. Certain cracks in the concrete marked our spots for “Around the World” as well as the slightly off centered free throw line.

Dad would pause from grilling duties and get scrappy with us while we dribbled, which made me a better player. Then he’d swing me around as the laughter would ensue. I loved those Saturday nights.

To this day, swishing a 3-pointer gives me a high like no other. I loved stealing the ball from an opponent. I was a hustler. Aggressive for the ball. Absolutely loved playing. I stopped after high school. I’ve often wished I played as a young adult even in a church or rec league.

Instead, I’m teaching my kids the basics + enjoying shoot outs on our double set in the basement with my basketball loving husband. By the way, the night we met we discovered we both had donned #24 on our basketball jerseys as teenagers. ***swoon***

On the 2nd anniversary of my Dad’s passing, I went outside in the middle of the afternoon all alone. I shot hoops in our cul-de-sac. I actually had my phone and took a picture after the release of what became a swisher.

I smiled + cried at the same time while saying in my heart and out loud to the empty streets while the wind whistled in the air “That one’s for you, Dad. All net.” He was my coach.

BasketballSwish

Want to know something weird? As an adult, I’ve had recurring dreams of feeling panicked, being in a game and not being able to dribble correctly. Not able to shoot the ball. Unable to lift my arm.

The truth is, I love dribbling and, in fact, the drills. I can still sink a shot. What happened in my dream? I was paralyzed by the fear of not doing it right.

Playing the piano: My Mom and my Nana spent countless hours taking us girls to Yamaha Music School for our piano lessons. It’s one thing I’m most appreciative for now as an adult.

I’m grateful my Mom allowed me to choose songs I wanted to play in recitals instead of the traditional pieces we had to learn in class, and what seemed like everyone else was playing.

Mom has always encouraged me to stay true to me, and I’m grateful to have her influence on my life. Parents, never underestimate how far your belief in a child will take them.

In 4th grade, I remember the rest of the kids choosing eloquent classical music for their performance in our Spring recital. Although beautifully composed, they were so boring to me.

Mom knew what I wanted to play, and got the sheet music for me. With every ounce of confidence I walked out across the stage, sat down and tickled the keys to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. I was 9 years old.

The shade of my sheet music’s cover? I can still remember it to this day. It was lavender – my favorite color. Everyone thought the song choice was so bold, but I didn’t.

I wasn’t trying to be bold; I was being me, and that moment being me meant not doing what everyone else was.

One song I still play by memory is Stand By Me. I learned it in elementary school, and that’s also when I stopped taking lessons. My skill level is still that of a pianist my children’s age. I will hear a song and can play it by ear, although very basic. I used to have a book of Journey’s greatest hits – Open Arms and all! Wish I still had that and my Alabama one.

From classical hymns to Christmas music to Dixie, I often play to an audience of one: me. Why? I get nervous and mess up when others are listening.

And I don’t like messing up, much less when someone can hear me. It’s a perfectionistic tendency I acknowledge and own, but regardless it’s still there. I am paralyzed by the fear of not doing it right.

Earlier this year, Ben E. King passed away. I discovered the news on Twitter and was home alone. I immediately went downstairs. Took my phone out to record, and started playing his song. Music has always resonated with me. I become drawn in by lyrics and lost in the song.

I wanted to write about it that day, but I didn’t. I didn’t quite know what to say until now. This video is my first take, unedited. Promised myself I would record it once and only once…and that one day I would share it when I knew why. Here’s my moment.

Have you ever read The 5 Love Languages? If you haven’t, buy a copy. And if you’re a parent, read The 5 Love Languages for Children. I promise you it will be time well spent and your relationships with those most important to you will flourish from what you learn.

One of my love languages is Words of Affirmation. Looking back over my life, I can see this pretty clearly. I keep notes and letters that should have been long thrown away. I keep cards so I have the handwriting and sentiments of love ones no longer able to send them.

When I was a child, my mother had a stationery set made for me personalized with my name on my favorite shade. To this day, I get excited when the stationery catalog arrives in the mail. Yes, they still make them and I’m on the mailing list 😉

I want to write. I’ve become so timid in the process, that I’ve fallen short on sending thank you notes, birthday cards, and hand-written words of encouragement in the mail that truly used to feed me and I hoped fed others. Plus, I view sending thank you notes as showing good manners.

I use words to encourage others…I was a cheerleader…still am in many ways…a nurturer…I try to always find the good in someone, and sometimes share it out loud with them. Not false praise, but just like there’s always something to be thankful for [1 Thessalonians 5:18], I believe there’s always something good in everyone.

To me, that verse does not mean we give thanks for everything that happens, but in everything that happens we can find something for which to be thankful. There’s a difference. So with people, I believe that even though someone can be mean or make horrible choices, there is some good thing in them.

I feel that so often we hear what we’re not good at, and I’ve been guilty of this with myself as well as with others. What I’ve found is when we lift others up with genuine words of encouragement…not flattery…that person may be inspired to do small + big things. They may even go on to make a positive impact for someone else in their own way.

My daughter often asks me “Why do you talk to strangers?”. I tell her it’s just who I am. Honestly, I find people fascinating. I simply love conversation. Everyone has a story – a different story from you + from me. I’ve noticed over the years that people just want to be heard and listened to.

How do we validate others? Listen to their stories. We don’t have to agree with them. We don’t have to fix them. Don’t have to share the same point of view, political party, or religion. Just share time in their space.

After all, it’s at the nature of who we are to live in connection with one another. Want to do this in a small way? The next time you ask someone how their day is going in passing, actually wait to hear the response!

Have you ever found it easier to not do something because you think you may get it right? Then what?

I think this boils down to a fear of success. A lot of times I hear people say, “what if I fail.” Well, you might. I might. So what? Then you know. And what if you fly? What if it takes off?

I’ve been scared of that before. Apprehensive to walk back through parts of the muddle that on the other side, made me become who I am. Even if only going over things in my mind, not even sharing to anyone else directly, I’m concerned over how to phrase in certain ways not to hurt someone’s feelings or be disrespectful to their story, no matter how theirs may have impacted + in turn molded part of mine.

Not to dissect the past, but through it help to be purposeful + present in the now. Maybe in even a small way shine some hope for someone else’s future.

I’ve asked myself does anyone really care what I have to say, why does my viewpoint matter, and will anyone besides my sister read it? Whether by humor, vulnerability, or just sharing the stories of life, will my words positively impact someone…anyone?

I’m a recovering people pleaser. Perhaps not so recovered.

I’ve become so paralyzed that I’ve stopped doing one small, tiny, seemingly insignificant thing that I used to love to do, and I’ve realized it’s enveloped in a much larger paralysis.

Want to know what it is? Writing notes. It sounds so silly! I’ve stopped writing little notes because what I’m really scared of writing is a much bigger story. Writing is my #3.

So, I’ve made a promise to myself. I’m going to spend time daily penning my thoughts to paper. Some I’ll share, some I’ll keep tucked away until I know just what to do with them. Some of those will only be known by me + my Savior. Regardless, I will move forward.

Friends, will you ‘stand by me’? Think of what you’ve been good at, something you used to enjoy. Do one small thing towards something that’s made your heart smile before.

Whether it’s going out in the cul-de-sac and shooting hoops, to writing words of encouragement either in a note, a post-it in your kid’s lunchbox, or drafting a book, to playing the song that’s been in your heart all along.

And if you want to share it with me either in the comments or in a private message, I’ll cheer you along the way 🙂

xoxo,

Mindy

Mindy practicing piano at home

Overwhelmed

This morning, I was overwhelmed in the best possible way. A favorite song came on the radio after I dropped off the kids at school. I sat in my garage in the car (not running 😉 ) to finish singing it with simultaneous tears and a smile, feeling the weight of God’s greatness in my life. Music hits my heart and always has. 🎼🎵🎶

Our current sermon series at church is called Family. We’re focusing on what it means to have true community. Our pastor encouraged us to go wide with many, and deep with a few. His explanation was just as Jesus had the 12 disciples in his circle that he “did life” with, he went even deeper with 3.

Just this morning I reached out to three of my “deep” few for specific prayer, and the sermon became real.

We’re not meant to live in solitude. Who can you reach out to today?

I’m sharing a video of the song from the radio. It’s filled with adorable animals + precious children. I couldn’t help but smile, and hope it brings a smile to at least one of my online friend’s faces too! Happy Wednesday 🙂

Have You Ever Broken a Promise?

I could fill a book with stories of how my Nana and Papa made my childhood a magical one, up until the age of 15 when they were both gone at way too early an age. My Nana died the Summer after my freshman year in high school. She and Papa were my two favorite people on earth. Time with them was never enough, and I was so thankful they lived only two miles away.

Every time we spent the night, they had our favorites stocked in the fridge: jello pudding was mine. When I was really young, my Papa worked the night shift and always left a little surcee on the chair for me to find when I woke up. They recorded our favorite TV shows and we were allowed to watch them nonstop. My Nana taught me to cross-stitch and alway had an unending supply of ceramics for me to paint. They had a ColecoVision just for my sisters and me. I loved playing “The Smurfs”!

Nana had died in the Summer of 1990, and Papa was increasingly lonely over the next year and a half. After she died, it was hard for me to go to their house. However, I knew he needed some company. I went over to hang out one day after cheerleading practice early in my sophomore year. Papa suggested we go for a drive. With me driving. At 14. With no license. Yay for me! He was a little irritated I kept taking forever to turn left as I was gun shy. I chalked it up to he needed to get out of the house more, and just kept smiling. We hit a country highway and drove to a town about 20 miles away and back. In rush hour traffic. No reason, just to get out of the house and drive.

Looking back, I think my love for just going on a drive stems from him. Sometimes you just need to get away. And feel a little rebellious when doing so at the same time making a fun memory with a loved one.

He had a round light blue keychain, and in bold blue it said “I’m a smoke-free Papa” with a bear beside the words. I can picture it now dangling from his cream Oldsmobile, the car my little sister later drove and named ‘Ole Bessie. He was diagnosed with emphysema when I was young and was told he could continue smoking and die, or quit and live. He chose to live. He carried an oxygen tank daily and I can still hear the sounds of it pumping life into him.

That particular day he looked at me and said “Promise me one thing Mindy, promise me you’ll never touch a cigarette.” “I promise, Papa.” He died the next year, and soon after so did my promise to him.

The tobacco industry is heavy in the South. When you’re driving across the state of South Carolina through back country roads on the way to the beach, the tobacco and cotton fields truly are some of the most gorgeous scenery you’ll witness as you edge towards the lower part of the state.

We were just being ushered out of the era where high schools had designated smoking areas, so it’s not like it didn’t go on. Just not me. At 13 entering high school, I remember there were three very hard and fast rules I made for myself: no smoking being one of them.

Until…I was a senior, and kids just tried things. Lots of my friends did and it really wasn’t that uncommon. So, I felt like trying it too. It was something I felt like I was getting away with, knowing it was something I shouldn’t be doing.

That spring, I got caught. The moment was life affecting.

Fast forward a few months when I’m a college freshman.

Inhale. Puff. Exhale. Every time, for a few years, every time felt like a rebellious “I’ll show you. You’re not going to tell me what to do.” I was trying to hurt someone else in my mind because they had hurt me.

Lots of kids were socially smoking cigarettes, the first time we’re all “on our own”. Except for me. I became addicted. I couldn’t quit.

My girlfriends and I would go exercise then come back on the apartment back porch. We’d each drink a huge glass of ice water because the guy at the local Y told me that burns an extra 100 calories after working out, and most would have a smoke as we cooled down and chatted. Those were fun times and some of our best conversations.

For me, instead of a social smoke, I became an everyday one. I learned to put dryer sheets underneath your car seats to get the smell out. Before going out at night, sprinkle baby powder in your hair to absorb the odor. Let’s say Downy and Shower to Shower were grocery staples for me for those very reasons!

Fast forward to my senior year. I so badly wanted to quit. I even bought Nicoderm off an infomercial knowing I couldn’t stop on my own, to no avail. I was in tears talking with the 1-800 customer rep for the company as I gave my name and mailing address.

Didn’t work.

One night I was enjoying a casual evening out with my friends, in my college town where everybody pretty much knows everybody. A guy at the bar walks up, confidently smiled as he walked closer, and silly me thought he was going to try and flirt. He then leaned in with a whisper. He truly was not being a jerk, but some sort of sage advice giver. I had never seen him before. I’ll always remember the words that flowed so freely as he spoke: “You’d be so much prettier without that cigarette hanging out of your mouth.” Then he walked right out.

I don’t even remember how I responded, probably telling him off in my mind, but deep inside I knew it was true. I wanted to quit and couldn’t.

Fast-forward to one year later, and I’m living in Colorado. The altitude alone is one way I’m convinced we don’t have as many smokers (well of the cigarette kind these days anyway) as the air is thinner and it’s harder to breathe.

Months after dating Todd and admitting I used to smoke, he told me that if he had seen me smoking the night we met, he probably wouldn’t have talked with me. He couldn’t stand smoking.

The night of our first date, I distinctly remember coming home and lighting up while calling my girlfriend in SC. It was probably 2 am her time yet she talked with me and heard every detail of my exciting first date with this boy named Todd. I hadn’t had a cigarette all night, so I was due one, right? That’s what I thought. It was January, winter in Colorado, so I opened my sliding door and sat on my carpet close to the balcony, put a blanket around me, and jabbed away on my cordless phone. We talked and talked. Actually, I did most of the talking I’m sure, as she listened all about my evening with this tall blonde haired boy.

One of our next dates we ended up at sports bar downtown, watching games and having a beer. In walks three of Todd’s friends, who later I found out of course knew we were going there and wanted to “meet” this new girl their buddy was spending so much time with. Surprise, surprise, they showed up! We had a great time, then I excused myself to go to the ladies room. In the hallway, by the bathrooms, out of sight, I sneaked half a cigarette. It calmed my nerves.

A month after meeting him, just a month, I quit. He had invited me up to the mountains to snowmobile with his family, and I had run out of my pack that Friday. I knew it was just as good of time as any. I had none and would not be anywhere to purchase or partake in them for three days.

He helped me quit an addiction he didn’t even know I had.

A couple months later when I revealed I was a new ex-smoker, Todd’s face lit up. I didn’t understand. He then told me he swore that night at the sports bar he thought of a cigarette after kissing me goodnight, but convinced himself he must just be imagining things as he knew I didn’t smoke.

When he found out that I had been a smoker, even when he discovered I had a relapse when we had broken up (because I smoked in front of him at a friend’s wedding after getting back together, just for “let’s see how he handles this”), he still accepted me for me. He never said one thing about it except “I wish you didn’t, but I’m not going anywhere.”

I quit all on my own cold turkey (twice, the last time for good 15 years ago) because of his positive influence. It was honestly one of the easiest things I’d ever done, when before meeting him I absolutely couldn’t do it alone.

Changing out of fear doesn’t seem to last. People just sneak around anyway, sometimes not for the act itself but just to spite the enforcer. Changing from the heart does.

I’ve found when we’re able to have conversations around mistakes and be there for each other when we fall, effective change can happen.

I have forgiven myself for breaking a promise to my Papa, which used to haunt me.
I have forgiven who hurt me as a teenager.
I am proud of the young woman who made a decision to change for herself because of someone else, not in spite of another.

One of my kids especially is offended by the smell of smoke. I can’t be around it now because it’s nauseating to me. I’ve heard once you quit, your nose becomes extremely sensitive to it. That’s true in my case. I can smell it on someone / in a car / in an area when others can’t.

My kids have asked me, “Mom, why do people smoke? Mom, does anyone in our family smoke? Mom, have you ever smoked?” and I’ve answered honestly to each one.

I have to remind them it’s not a scarlet letter if people smoke. It doesn’t make someone a bad person. Mine don’t know anyone who smokes, so for them, it’s a big deal when they see people lighting up.

My personal experience with smoking was so much more than a kid testing the waters. My children don’t need to know all the details, but I’ll share with them should the conversation merit going deeper one day. It sounds so small, but it’s not. I have wounds not from the smoking itself like my Papa did, but because of it. Then, Mindy the woman experienced healing for Mindy the teenager through a man named Todd.

And through it all, God is good.

My hope for my children is to know they can come to me with any question and I will answer honestly. As the kids get older, the topics get deeper. As parents, we don’t have to be scared as the conversations get more intense. It’s a beautiful privilege to raise young people with inquisitive minds!

Our level of authenticity (the truth of our words + actions) should never waiver although the amount of transparency (how much we share) may shift depending on the situation.

My prayer is for the words which flow from my heart be what’s “pretty” coming out of my mouth, no matter how difficult they may be to say. Not because it looks perfect on the outside, but because it’s overflowing truth from the inside. No buts or “butts” about it.

Remember to Take Off the Tags

I was working from Starbucks earlier today and became amused at the guys sitting at the neighboring table. One buddy walks in and the one originally there instantly teases him about his big, untucked shirt and short tie. He had been on an interview and admits that it’s his Dad’s shirt. My eyes glanced over and there it was. The blue dry cleaning tag, small, but glaringly obvious still on the shirt towards the bottom. How had no one noticed? I so wanted to tell him, then I thought, bless his heart, let him enjoy the downtime with his buddy and not correct him. I’m sure his Mom will when he gets home as he mentioned still living there.

They proceeded to talk and jab decide where they were going for lunch, much in the way carefree friends do right out of college. Mr. Big Shirt dropped a few colorful words here and there, then talked about walking his dog and used the word poop as if he were talking with his Mom. In a weird way it was a sweet reminder of that stage in life when you’re trying to find your way as an adult, not quite grown up but headed in that direction, yet holding on to your freedom of youth.

I thought of my friends and that fun stage (minus the colorful language), how three of them flew out to Denver when I had moved here and we road tripped it to the mountains in a day and back just so they could see it, then dragged them out at night to meet up with this boy named Todd that I had met just a few months after moving to Colorado.

My reminiscing quickly turned to giggling at myself as I recalled my 1st corporate job out of college. Todd and I were headed to my company Christmas party in 1998. We had been dating almost a year. I had gone in 1997, but was just 2 months into the working world then. Now I had a whole year under my belt, was in a new role within the same Marketing department, traveling across the country doing tradeshows, happy as could be with my boyfriend, and felt on top of the world.

Most of the people there were headed home somewhat early in the night to relieve babysitters and get back to their families. I for one was excited that I was finally a “grown up” and didn’t get carded when I asked for a glass of wine at the bar (wine at 23? I was trying to be grown up).

A neighbor of mine came over to my apartment once Todd arrived to pick me up to take a picture of us. I had a Charlie Brown looking tree, decorated crookedly but it was all mine and it was real. Between that and my prized Laura Ashley bedding (it was the 90’s, and I am from the South), I truly remember feeling at that time like life was grand.

Todd and I danced. We danced and danced and smiled and enjoyed each others company. Carefree. 23 and 24. Then, as the night ended, he looked at me with a strange look on his face. “Mindy, I think there’s something on your dress.”

Oh no! Did I sit in something? It was a beautiful light grayish-lavenderish (I am part color blind, I honestly don’t know which color it was) dress that I felt beautiful in. And it was Ann Taylor. I loved shopping at Ann Taylor. There and Casual Corner to get the full “corporate woman” look. Now my cute boyfriend is telling me as we’ve been one of the only ones on the dance floor, that it’s ruined (I overreacted in my head a little).

Silly me, it wasn’t a stain. He said “come here, wait, there it is”. And in all its glory, the price tag was on the dress. In full view, hanging out of the criss-cross back. How I hadn’t seen that, felt that, Todd see it, or my neighbor for that fact, I’ll never know. To top it off, I found it on sale. I love a good bargain. So not only was I representing Ann Taylor, but also her clearance rack as the price tag had a huge red slash through it.

So for all you early 20’s out there (who am I kidding most of my friends are more likely their parents, but may appreciate this and reminisce themselves), in the middle of figuring out how to be a grown-up while you’re still enjoying being somewhat of a kid, please remember this: enjoy the moments.

What a special time in your life! Your friendships will grow and change. You’ll make lots of new ones + still treasure the old ones, and you’ll meet lots of interesting people along the way. You will find a job. And another one.

Don’t get “hung up” on the little things, but embrace the journey for the great big things coming your way. And whether from the dry cleaners or the clearance rack, remember to take off the tags 😃