Did You Know IKEA Offers Humble Pie?

IKEA Memorial Day

IKEA…it’s a great idea!

In Colorado, we’ve had what feels like a monsoon of a May. We are used to our 300+ days of sunshine each year, and May has been wet and dreary.

All.month.long.

To say the least, everyone here is over it. We chose Denver over Seattle for a reason. We miss our sunshine and mild May weather.

I long to sing “Here Comes the Sun”. I never heard that song until I came to Colorado for the first time in the Summer of 1996…and it’s one of my favorites to this day!

I always equate Colorado with sun. And this song. And me falling in love with Colorado.

“Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here”

As I saw friends posting about their lake and beach outings for Memorial Day weekend, I laughed that my family’s big Sunday afternoon adventure was going to IKEA.

I even took a picture of the “Welcome to IKEA” sign upon our arrival, thinking I’d say something tongue-in-cheek on my personal Facebook feed.

However, two hours later all I left with was a piece of humble pie. My family had spent the last part of the afternoon walking that glorious 3 story building of a store with a pitstop for dinner in their cafeteria…where a family of five can eat for $25. Nevermind one family member ended up sick in the middle of the night…

I digress. Back to the giant mecca of organizational goodness. One of my kids was disappointed, and let’s say showing such in that regard since we didn’t leave with a desk and were simply looking to see what we liked and what would fit in said child’s room.

It was an ordeal. And that’s an understatement and putting it politely.

We were trying to beat the closing time clock, and on our way out saw an organizational rack that was the second item we wanted to check out while there. Our garage desperately needed something to wrangle our shoes, cleats, gloves, bats, helmets, and folding chairs for all the kids’ sporting events.

Just at the time I was admiring the bins that perfectly fit on the shelves and thinking of one per child to contain each of their shoes in a gloriously organized fashion, literally seeing the beautiful structure in my mind and practically salivating at the thought, my youngest announced he needed to get to the bathroom stat.

This would make round two or three since we arrived. It was my turn to take him.

If you have a three year old, y’all understand the need to not wait in those moments. My husband took our older two kids and was headed to the self serve center to pick out our box of unassembled goodness. Less than five minutes before closing time.

We were on a mission.

Before leaving he said he was trying to find a pen to write down the item number to take to self service section to find, and I said I’d take a picture of the number instead and text it to him. Forget not taking your phone into the bathroom…little man was the one using the facilities, but I followed him in to the stall just to make sure. I texted from the bathroom stall in a sense of “whew!” on both fronts as my youngest made it and I quickly sent the attached photo.

I saw Todd from across the room as we were making our way to the checkout. I noticed he didn’t have the bins. “Todd! Toodd! TODD!” I secretly love projecting my old cheerleader voice with such depth. We needed those bins. He didn’t hear me (or maybe he did 😉 ).

I raced down that aisle to see if perhaps they had the accessories to the shelving close by. No go. Two minutes until the store closes. No time to go back upstairs to that department and get them.

I picked up my 3 year old and ran.

All this to say, when we met up at the check out line, just as the cashier greeted us and I was catching my breath, I asked “Todd, where are the bins?”. He said he didn’t see them. I asked the cashier where we could find them. We needed three, remember?

The cashier said he could call that store section and ask someone. I thanked him profusely. Todd interjected he didn’t think we really needed them right now. The store was closing and it wasn’t that big of a deal. I totally ignored him and proceeded to look at the cashier with a glance that must have made my point known that I didn’t want to leave without those bins.

Any of you who have wrangled three kids under 10 to IKEA on a holiday weekend where the free onsite childcare is full because it’s so crowded can appreciate wanting to get what you came for. And not making another trip for the stupid bins.

What happened next? Let’s just say we had a “difference of opinion” right there in the IKEA checkout line. Me, my husband, and the poor cashier right in the middle of it.

Next, I did what any mature, 39 year old, gracious Mom of three would do. I gave…the eye roll. Hard. I may have even grunted somewhat audibly and nearly burst a blood vessel in the process. I went to walk off. I wanted to make it known I was mad and didn’t want to be around anyone. I stomped my feet a little in my mind. 

I quickly realized little feet were beside me. Following. “Mommy, why did you just roll your eyes like that at Daddy?” Goodness gracious. Out of all three, SHE was the one to see that? The one we’ve been talking with about how to express ourselves, even when things don’t go our way, without pitching a fit?

That’s it’s fine and normal to feel frustrated but how we go about showing that frustration should have some parameters? Not to storm off making noises under our breath?

The one not 30 minutes ago I had to talk with in the desk section about how we don’t always get our way and sometimes we have to wait for things? The one who had me channeling our beloved kindergarten teacher from years prior singing “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”?

Well, I now see the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. My middle child heart embraces, understands, and breaks for her middle child heart. I was ticked because I didn’t get my way, and she was frustrated for me.

Almost in the same moment of feeling convicted on the inside of how I was acting, I was convicted on the outside by my daughter.

My daughter became mad at my husband on my behalf, and I had to draw the line. That’s not OK. I get she’s sticking up for me, and I remember doing the same thing with my Mom and Dad under different circumstances.

Time to pivot.

As we were walking to the car, I told Carson we’d need to talk about this as a family. I told Todd what happened somewhat in code words and am grateful that with a well known look he took the cue of “we need to have a serious conversation here.” I apologized for acting like a brat who didn’t get my way, and the kids were able to hear us say it’s completely fine for Mom and Dad to not agree with one another.

I even took it so far, as I am trying not to gloss over things anymore (my sister will be so proud!) to say “I did it because I’m angry. I wanted those bins to go with the shelving, and I didn’t want to come back for them, and yes I got mad at Dad for putting a kink in my plans as the store is closing.”

I was owning it. I wasn’t proud of my actions. At the same time, I don’t want my kids or my husband to stuff their feelings, and I wasn’t going to stuff mine.

I grew up not allowed to express much of an opinion and it’s not healthy. Bless my sweet husband’s heart in understanding 21 years of pent up opinions have started to come out with a vengeance in the last few years! He gets me. He knows. I am guessing when I go on one of my rants in his mind is “this too shall pass” 🙂

We all had a good laugh and there may have been some impressions of me given. A healing laugh + a healing talk the whole 30 minute ride home. We both made sure to give our point of view in even this tiny situation so that our kids could see and hear what it’s like to not be on the same page, even get mad at the other person, and still work it out over something that seemed so little.

I didn’t see that growing up. It’s something super important to me for my kids to know.

What’s that saying – the little things are really the big things?

My kids got to see that parents can disagree, even argue, and be okay. I got to see that husband and wife can disagree, even argue, and be okay. Even in our 14th year of marriage I still need to be reminded of this.

I want them to speak up when they feel strongly about something. I want them to know they can speak their mind in a healthy relationship, and even if they disagree – everything be ok. They can talk quietly, raise their voice, or even scream and shout if need be, and still be heard. And if you can’t speak your mind, it’s not the right relationship.

Todd and Carson ended up having some great Daddy / Daughter time putting that shelving together when we got home. They listened to Dave Matthews as the sun set and used the power tools and put the whole thing together by themselves. She was SO excited and so proud to help and have that one on one time with him.

And for all this rain? My church had a women’s conference recently I was fortunate to be a part of, and during the conference we agreed amidst all the bad weather…it felt like we were in a state of cleanse. I can’t help but feel mine has been extended all month long. As much as I miss the sun, I will be the first to say it’s been a solid month for me of much needed cleansing. And for that, I’m grateful for all this rain.

Who would have thought a trip to IKEA would leave us with some of that yummy Swedish chocolate plus a slice of humble pie?

And truth be told? I still want those bins. But, the lesson learned here is even greater.

The Hustle for My Voice

Branding. I love it. I’m passionate about presentation. First and lasting impressions. Etiquette. Manners. Image. Protocol.

These things invigorate me, yet have also almost paralyzed me.

Until now.

I have been self-employed for many years now. My passion to do so started when I was working in Corporate America and newly married.

I assumed we’d expand our family 1 – 2 years after getting married, similar to all our friends. Little did I know then it wouldn’t be quite so easy.

I wanted to create a life working on my terms so I could be flexible in being home with our children when they were born and for our family.

In my mid-twenties I fell hook, line, and sinker for a direct marketing company. I loved what I did and wholeheartedly believed in it.

Once I set my eyes on leadership within the company, I worked my tail off to make it happen. Checked the box.

I empowered women by teaching and training them how to succeed and encourage others while building their own businesses. I wanted to make them feel beautiful on the inside, while the product I was selling made people feel beautiful on the outside.

It was never about the cosmetics. I didn’t actually like selling the product although I did enjoy using it.

What clicked with me? Believing in women and showing them they could succeed.

I never had to downplay my faith and that was a huge part of the appeal. I’m an encourager at heart. My cheerleading roots run deep.

I will forever be grateful for my time with that company. I learned so many valuable life lessons.

I became confident at teaching others and in public speaking. I ran meetings and conferences and my heart skipped a beat when infusing encouragement and belief into another person.

I also became strong in my convictions. When I knew my values and the ones I was seeing play out in the company were no longer cohesive, it was time to move on.

I’d created the set up I wanted for the family I didn’t yet have. Orchestrating my plan, not knowing His. That was over a decade ago.

I recently heard someone ask “What did you love to do as a kid? Around ages 8, 9, 10? Those are at the core of who you are.”.

I loved to play basketball.

The swish of a basketball catching all net is one of my favorite sounds to this day.

Annie Tribble Lady Tiger Clemson Basketball

Me with Annie Tribble

Around age 9, I started going to the well-known-in-the-South Annie Tribble’s Lady Tiger Basketball Camp at Clemson University. My older sister and I would go in the Summers.

There were back to back years I earned awards at the end of camp week. One year was the Sportsmanship award. I was honored to receive it as I knew it stood for good.

Want to know which one meant the most to me? The Hustle award. Out of the whole camp from 3rd graders through seniors in High School, this scrawny elementary school ten year old girl won the hustle.

To this day when I have a goal, I remind myself I’m a hustler.

I’ll scrap. I’ll go for it. I won’t give up.

What else did I like to do as a kid? Talk.

Whether it be on the phone, in person, or passing a note discreetly in class, I absolutely loved building connections with others. Call waiting coming on to the telephone scene was like a constant Christmas morning high for me.

80s teen room phone

Room changed to pink and lace once Dad realized that wasn’t Banarama on my wall…

An influencer in my life told me as I was growing up and even as an adult that I talked too much. That I was too emotional. 

There have been times in my life where I let that stifle me. I’d hold back. Stuff the un-stuffable deep down.

Interesting how our words so deeply impact those we care most about!

Thankfully, as an adult I have grown to know who I am and trust in Whose I am. I was created in His image and designed with these traits for a purpose.

I’m combining the mindset of hustle, the joy and desire for purposeful connection, and releasing myself from the paralyzation of stinging words directly related to my core, and using it to build community with and for others.

When the time came to officially name my services and market myself, I went with me. Why?

I can never go wrong with being me.

For years I’ve found pure joy in helping a company / brand / entrepreneur figure out their voice and how to package that online. Be themselves. Reach their key audience. Present their best yet authentic self.

Right now, that medium is largely through media marketing. Will be exciting to see what that looks like in 5 years. I do know that the connections and community made on a personal level in reaching customers are the pulse of a company. I get a charge out of bringing that to life for my clients.

After all, a human side to a business makes it relatable. Facilitating those conversations and teaching others how to do so brings me great joy.

I have a marketing background as well a degree in the major from Clemson. The design process for my brand has been fascinating in all the detail. I just love the creative side!

From the characteristics of my logo, to color scheme, right down to the word choice in my tagline, all have purpose and meaning.

When I was in middle school, my parents allowed me to paint my bedroom purple. In the mid 80’s, in my particular home, that was wild. Mom even bought me turquoise, purple, and black sheets.

I felt like such a rebel.

It was my own way of standing out, even thought it was more on the inside of our home, than in my outside world.

I’m still shocked I was allowed to have a Poison poster on that lavender wall as Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ album was banned in our house at the time.

Poison Look What the Cat Dragged In

Poison circa 1986

Guys with makeup? I’m convinced my Dad had them confused with Banarama and that’s why they stayed up as long as they did.

The colors in my company logo? The navy is strong. Bold. Dependable. I am those things.

The lavender? It makes me smile. Whimsical. It’s also my favorite color.

How liberating to tell my designer “I want to use purple purely because I love it”. WOW. So freeing!

Seeing the colors together? The combination is exactly what I wanted. They balance each other.

I feel that way about me and what I bring to the table in my work. My brand should reflect the same.

There are parts of me as a child, teenager, and even adult that were subdued. How freeing to find my voice.

And my gift? Helping others share theirs.

Authentic

Will the Real Mindy Please Stand Up?

Authentic

Do you ever start something and not finish it? Please tell me I’m not the only one. I have 11 post drafts in my Evernote folder just for this blog. New to this personal blogging scene, I don’t know if that’s too little, too many, or just right.

I smile and sigh seeing them. Smiling in thankfulness that I wrote some of the stuff down when I did, as my brain has finally reconciled with my heart that I won’t ‘just remember’ these things. Sighing that some of them are difficult to process through.

Two weeks ago I attended a Christian Writer’s conference. I’m not even sure why, except I just said “yes”. I had a peace in my heart that this was where I was supposed to be on Saturday, February 28th in Lakewood, Colorado.

In a period where I feel like I’m sometimes saying yes to too much and no to too little, this yes felt wonderful. 

I grabbed a Moleskine (3 pack at Target – love them!) off my desk to pack in my purse. I’m a note taker. Oftentimes I never re-read them, but I do enjoy writing it out. Same with Sunday sermons – I have notes on weekly bulletins galore.

It feels like the message sears in my brain when I write something on paper. The first one I noticed was my client journal (which I do often reference), so I went in search of another. Before doing so, I found two entries from my daughter I had never seen before.

20150310_121016

Wow. If that’s not a reality check I don’t know what is. How many times has she heard “Not right now”, “I have to finish this”, “Just a few more minutes”, “I’m on an important call”? My yeses are resulting in my noes to the most important people in my life. Bless her heart.

I vowed that morning to never let her feel like an interruption again.

At the conference, one of the breakouts I chose to attend was with Lucille Zimmerman titled “How Your Personal Journey Can Help Others”. To kick off the session, she asked what people were currently writing.

One young lady sitting in front of me was a Columbine survivor and is now a counselor who works with veterans and non-veterans, focusing on people with PTSD without physical injury. A gentleman in the front row was writing a book for Christian entrepreneurs. A single mom in her 50’s answered that she writes poetry for other single women.

I thought “well, I’ve written lots of posts and content for my clients, but applicable to this group I’ve written FOUR WHOLE POSTS on my personal blog that I just started this Summer”. I was cracking up at my novice situation. Inside I was shaking my head like “I don’t even know what I’m doing here”, but my heart was also shaking saying “this is a good yes”.

I kept that information to myself and avoided eye contact with Ms. Zimmerman. I felt like she’d see right through me if our eyes met. Would I feel like a little girl playing dress up in my Mom’s clothes? Was I worthy of being here among these ‘real’ writers?

When I was a Sophomore in college, I became a substitute teacher on breaks at my high school. Mind you I was a Marketing major and still not sure how I passed the county requirements to be a high school substitute teacher at age 19. However, I needed the money and was going to find a way to earn it. This was an option.

I wore my Mom’s church suits to look professional. I am not kidding, the suit I remember wearing the most was ‘blush and bashful’ for all you Steel Magnolia fans, complete with shoulder pads. This was 1994.

My younger sister, a high school Senior at the time, threatened her friends if they acted up in my class when I was the science sub. This is a fun memory to relive. We still laugh to this day about it.

In reality, I did look like a little kid playing dress up. Even the janitor did a double take one day and said “Don’t you go here?” I loved working with those kids though.

My favorite was the Resource Development class, which was where I typically subbed. I clearly remember one day helping a student with math. The very moment he realized how to find the solution to a problem he found frustrating, his whole face lit up with joy when ‘it’ clicked. Right then and there I said to myself “Now I get it. This is why teachers become teachers.”

Being at the writer’s conference could have easily made someone in my infant writing stage feel like they shouldn’t be there (minus the blush and bashful suit – I wore something much more stylish), but it didn’t. Every person there was an encourager. From the people I surprisingly knew to the new friends I made, from the afternoon keynote speaker who invited me to sit at her table to the conference creator, the welcome was genuine and warm.

I felt worthy of being there. In my heart I knew there was a purpose for that day in my life, although I still didn’t know when or if I would realize why. In reading my notes, I see that I made a side caption in Lucille’s session when the handful of attendees shared what they were working on:

heart flutters

want to cry

heartstrings pulled

stories come alive, we all have them

During her teaching, Lucille used a metaphor of the Israelites escaping Egypt to head for the Promised Land. What they took with them was the plunder…the gold and jewels the Egyptians gave them (Exod 12:36). You can read all about this in Exodus.

The plunder – a reminder of the Egyptians – the Israelites took it and trusted God (through Moses) and left. They acted. In the future they used that same plunder to make the Tabernacle. That sacred dwelling place is where God met His people when they were wandering in the desert for 40 years under Moses.

Get it? The plunder of the past was ultimately used for good in the future!

WOW. If that’s not an eye opener I don’t know what is.

To paraphrase Lucille from my notes, “People are terrified of their stories. They’re leaving plunder. That’s what God wants us to use. We need to process all our dirt, not just tell it. Some have shame over our story. We need to heal over that shame first”.

And get this. This was my aha moment.

“Healing happens through relationship because that’s where we get hurt.” – Lucille Zimmerman

Sweet baby Jesus. This is why I came, God. This is why You wanted me at this conference. I have to process and heal over my story. I haven’t done that yet.

YET. I will.

Allen Arnold, another wonderful speaker, delivered an opening one liner in his morning keynote that I’ll always remember:

“If you can create your story without God, it’s too small of a story.”

He said that in our stories we have scars. We are wounded early on by the enemy, and our scars are the most powerful weapon we tell.

If through my processing I am able to help just one person feel normal, hopeful, not alone, then the various scars of my story are worth it. They’re already worth it, as I see how God has always had His hand over my life and that His promises are true.

When I started my blog, I had a few different ideas of what I wanted to write about. I bought the domain name before ever writing a first post…or so I thought. What I recently found in an uncategorized notebook in my Evernote was my first true post, here unedited…

Untitled

Dated July 14, 2012

Here we go. For years I have been told to journal. I haven’t. Part of me feels I should have. Would it be therapeutic? Helpful? Reflective? Not sure. With my elephant memory, I have always felt like I would remember anything that needed to be remembered. That is getting harder now…so here I am, writing a first entry.

Sitting outside in the crisp Colorado early Summer morning air drinking a cup of coffee (beyond excited to finally have a Keurig, fresh out of the box). I should start every morning this way….clear mind, ready to tackle the day.

Hmm…..what to write about? What is my passion? I have several. To pinpoint one is the journey I am now on. Find Mindy. I am wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, businesswoman, all those hats lots of women wear. Which one digs deep into defining Mindy? I am not sure anymore.

And through this discovery is how my different scars will fully start to heal…

God's Protection

Love Songs from the Minivan

Do you have certain songs that instantly make you want to sing in the car? What about those that make you cringe? Laugh? Dance? I do. Music has a way of getting to my soul. Most every genre, in every season of my life. I simply love music.

Last week I was leaving my house and a Bryan Adams song came on the radio. I used to be a big fan…even making a road trip to Charlotte with a group of my friends and sister Kristin circa 1992, complete with a pit stop to the Waffle House on the way back home via southbound I-85.

His gritty voice, singing about a summer when I wasn’t even born but still enjoyed the lyrics, his encouragement to never surrender {which I found out was really sung by Corey Hart after being disappointed Bryan left that one out at the concert}, and my favorite, ‘Heaven’. I pretty much liked all his music with the exception of ‘Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman’, which I thought had more cheese coming out of it than a squirt can pressed full throttle.

sisters high school cheerleading

Sisters – MHS Fall 1991

However, there was one of his songs featured in a Kevin Costner movie that at a time in my youth reminded me of a high school boyfriend. Did you ever have special songs?

Mixed tapes made, calling in to the radio station requesting the song and sitting there ready to press the play and record buttons at the same time to preserve it on cassette, and wondering how the DJ knew just when to stop talking before the words started. I even learned to play this particular song on the piano when the sheet music came out. So this one that was special eventually turned into a I-don’t-ever-want-to-hear-it-again song once that relationship ended.

I remember being at the Haywood Mall and literally walking out as fast as I could, trying to fight back tears as it was pumped through the department store airwaves. This song would have made the ‘Top 5 Torture Songs to Hear After a Breakup’ on the soundtrack of my teenage life.

As a grown woman with lots of life experience, I realize that may sound juvenile. However, at that time in my life, it was truthfully painful to hear.

So I’m backing out of my driveway, headed to pick up my youngest child at preschool. Lo and behold this song is on. And after about 5 seconds, I started LAUGHING. Instantly. Seriously. Could not stop cracking up.

Did I really used to cry at this? Race to turn the channel? Mindy Long – bless your 16 year old heart!! How cheesy is THIS song?

I wasn’t laughing at the girl who back in the early nineties had a struggle with hearing this song, as those were valid feelings at the time. I own them, and to a brokenhearted teenage girl, those emotions were authentic.

I wasn’t making fun of me by laughing. What I did do was begin to thank God through my laughs that He had a bigger, better plan for me.

That momentary heartache was a life lesson I would learn from and years later be so thankful for on more than one occasion, coming through a stronger and better person. Despite wishing the now-me could have given the then-me some swift advice on navigating the teen years {OH what I would tell her!}, all my life experiences both positive and negative shaped who I am today, and for that I am grateful.

God's protectionAll this said, I pulled over to the group box to check our mail as Mr. Adams was crooning about how I should know it’s true, that everything he does, he does it for me. I’m smiling thinking about all this wisdom I’ve gained since my teens {and admittedly shaking my head at the same time} and what I’d tell my younger self, and all these great things that come with age, and how 39 is starting to feel closer to a well-earned badge on the journey of life.

As I pull out the package in my mailbox, I laugh even louder! How ironic that during all this gratitude-for-age moment is my new bottle of fancy anti-aging serum I ordered… to help SLOW DOWN the aging process. Here I am wanting the wisdom that comes with age, yet longing for the skin of my youth {heck I’d even settle for the skin of my 20’s}.

Remember that graduation speech “Just wear sunscreen”? It’s true. I should have listened to my Mom and one of my dear friend’s Mom, who was a makeup artist and used to get on to me constantly about getting burned in the tanning bed and the South Carolina rays. Hey though – that was fun going to Patsy’s Sun Room with my friends for $2 a pop in Simpsonville, South Cackalacky (those where I’m from know what this means). Good times, not so good skin to show for it.

I was always able to relax in the tanning bed and was bummed when they upgraded to the quick-that-could-tan-you-in-less-than-ten-minutes beds. I enjoyed lying there with my own thoughts for a solid half hour, the radio on 107 WANS and a plug-in oscillating stand fan to help control the heat and humidity…yes, even inside the building. If this new serum works like the YouTube lady and the reviews say, I’ll be grateful!

Fast forward a couple of miles down the road, and the next song that comes on the radio makes me laugh and smile even harder. This is getting comical. A song I used to could not stand. I mean turn the radio as fast as I could. Tears for Fears – ‘Everybody Rules the World’. It just grated my ever loving nerves. Anyone remember Real Genius and the popcorn scene at the end? Yep. THAT one. Please tell me I’m not the only one who checked their dorm room closet for a secret elevator shaft when arriving at college?! True story.

Why is this funny? My husband REALLY likes that song. Like crank it up, sing it loud, loves that song. Don’t ask me why. I discovered this when we were dating. It was one of those things I chose to overlook, like he chose to overlook my pet anxiety CD’s for my little dog and the birthday cake I flew in from a Southern pet bakery for her {he even had it delivered to his business so it could be refrigerated until I was off of work – the ridicule he suffered for me and my Pawley!}.

dog pets beach

Ocean Isle Beach – Pawley and me – May 2000

He likes to pump up the volume when this song comes on, knowing how I can’t stand it. After all these years, it’s like an inside joke between us. And now I laugh.

I hear it and see his smile in my mind – so I crank it up and sing in an exaggerated way, thinking of his cute smirky grin and the looks we exchange whenever we randomly hear it. Come to think of it, me casting a scowl look about that song all these years probably aided in the advancement of my fine lines my new fancy serum promises to correct.

By this time I’m nearing my destination, and have realized the quick trip down memory lane has been provided by the local easy listening station, and I’m driving a minivan. Sobering thought. Who comes on next but Michael Jackson. I turn in to preschool with MJ softly asking me ‘Why? Why?’.

Why these particular songs in this order on this day? A song that at one time was special, then was sad to hear and now seems just plain silly, followed by a song I used to dislike and now I’ll listen to purely because my husband likes it and what he enjoys makes me smile. This all balanced in the middle with a healthy dose of age fighting when I am actually in the process of age embracing.

So I decided to talk back to the gloved one, giggled and said “I don’t know Michael, I’m asking why, too!” I guess it really is all just ‘Human Nature’. Ha! Can I get a witness for a song I actually want to hear?

Now, as much as I love music, I’m sure it’s no surprise I’m a sucker for ringtones. Of course he has one! Initially I was disappointed I couldn’t find our wedding dance song to use {disclaimer: Verizon, will you please consider a version of ‘By Your Side‘ with an option to start at the chorus?}.

Then, I found the perfect one.

My eyes light up at the lyrics. My heart skips a beat. Every time I hear this new-ish song, and usually this happens to be when we’re together, I squeal and say “This song reminds me of you! Turn it up!”.

Wedding Dance First Dance

First dance as Mr. and Mrs. – ‘By Your Side’ – April 6, 2002

And just at the moment I am pulling up the hill to pick up my son, one final song is played. The music isn’t coming from the radio, but from my phone. It’s him. And all of a sudden Ed Sheeran starts singing that sweet melody…and all I see is my husband’s face. I love it when he calls, usually once a day, just to say hi and see how my day is going. No other reason but to show he cares, and that’s one of those precious little things that’s actually a big thing to me.

And that, my friends, is saving the best for last.

What a Difference 10 Years Make

December 31, 2014. Celebrating New Year’s Eve with our own party of five. Having everyone home warms my heart. I’m perfectly happy watching the ball drop on TV, all in our jammies and everyone fighting to stay awake. Home is where my family is, and we were in the place where our daily lives are carried out. This is the place I make a conscious effort to be a safe haven for all who live here.

Even though one by one were drifting off to dreamland, we were all together and that’s what mattered. My husband was the first one out, crashed on the sofa. My youngest was next, right in Daddy’s arms. My older two kids and I were enjoying snuggling on the couch and watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, singing along with the artists, and chatting on Hangouts with my sister’s family celebrating at Disneyworld two timezones ahead. Minecraft, Madden mobile, and Twitter were occupying our devices. My daughter was bound and determined to see T. Swift perform. Bless her heart, she was out like a light about 15 minutes before Taylor came on. I even tried to unsuccessfully waken her. Thankful for DVR capabilities. No blank spaces here honey, we have you recorded!

Who’s left but my oldest child and me. My night owl. I love it when he and I have time just the two of us, which is a rarity. We get each other and can quietly sit together, do nothing or do lots, and be just fine. Content. I smiled thinking how different my New Year Eves were these days, much to my liking, from my younger years (which at the time were fun in a completely different way).

I thought “Wow, Ryder’s turning 10 this year. In 10 years, he’ll be almost 20. Todd and I will be hovering around 50. Wonder if we’ll all be celebrating together.” Then I chuckled inside realizing he will most likely NOT be around us when he’s 19 on New Year‘s Eve, although he’s always got a welcome spot in our home and hearts.

I’m turning 40 this year. I’m starting to look at things in decade chunks and embrace a lot of self reflection, which then prompted me that night to think back to what I was doing around New Years back in 2004. Let’s see. Todd and I had gone to South Carolina for Christmas and just returned home to Colorado. In our DINK (Dual Income No Kids) stage, we promised my younger sister and her husband that we’d spend every Christmas together, alternating who traveled each year. That never panned out but was great in theory!

DINK

DINKS

My stroll down memory lane quickly shifted to a day that used to haunt me. It’s amazing how it seemed so fresh. So not 10 years ago. I was sitting at the light waiting to turn on Morrison Road, just a few miles away from our house. Headed home to go pack for our SC Christmas trip the next day, I received news in the car that I never expected to hear.

“We got your test results back Mrs. Rodenburg, and I’m sorry to tell you this over the phone.” “Tell me.” “{lots of medical lingo}…Basically this means you are likely never going to be able to get pregnant, and in the event you do, it’s highly unlikely you’d ever be able to carry a pregnancy to term. Why don’t you think about it over the holidays and let us know what you want to do. I have some specialists you can call.”

No. No no no no no. This is not me. This is not happening. Breathe. BREATHE! Keep focused on the road. Knuckles white. Dear sweet Jesus NO!!!!!! Tears. Steam. Cloudy eyes. Breathe. Stinging tears. Plugged nose. Breathe. In and out. Heart pounding. Panic attack. Gripped steering wheel. After I manage to pull over to the side of the road, I called my sister. The second she answered, I screamed. I could barely get the words out. It’s a wonder Kristin was able to even understand me. “Where are you. Where ARE you? Is Todd with you? I’m calling him right now. Go straight home and I’ll tell him to meet you there. I love you.”

Two weeks before, I had gone to the hospital for testing. Poking. Prodding. Things you never anticipate having to experience. My dear friend Misty took me to that appointment and we prayed over my belly that answers would be discovered and miracles would happen. She cried with me and for me. She held me and held me together. I was crumbling inside.

Two years of hoping. Praying. Calculating. Months of temping. Reading. Exercising. Yelling through tears at my sweet husband (and thankful for his grace through those times) that this is all our fault for not trying sooner. We were trying to wait for the perfect time to start a family and now look at what’s happening! Hopping on the wild ride of an emotional roller coaster and knowing more about how amazing our bodies work than I ever dreamed possible to know. Sitting in church on Mother’s Day fighting back tears when all the Moms were asked to stand in recognition and receive beautiful roses on the way out. Such a tender gesture that tormented me. I so badly wanted to stand. Maybe next year. A year goes by. Surely next year. Still seated. Answering those questions “Just when are you going to have a baby?” “What are you waiting for?” Hearing “Oh be so thankful you aren’t pregnant right now. My head stays in the toilet I have such bad morning sickness.” What I would have given to have my days filled with morning sickness if it meant I was pregnant!

“Trust Me.” One of the single handful of times in my life I have audibly heard His voice. I was lying on my couch with half my body over the armrest. Alone. Spent. Exhausted. Mourning what I thought may never happen. I will never forget the moment, the place, the sound, the feeling. Peace. Instant peace. Tears. “OK, I trust You.” I never doubted from that moment forward.
For This Child I Prayed

1 Samuel 1:27

10 years ago on New Years morning I woke up and temped out of habit. Todd was still asleep. So was my little dog. Another high. What? Wait. Really?! I knew instantly what that meant. I hopped in the car and drove to the closest grocery store. I called my sister on the way. No one was on the road. The sun was just rising.

Symbolic now, it was the dawn of a new day, a new year, a new pregnancy. That line was so faint. I squinted, but there were two. I was seeing double in the best possible way! I squealed and woke Todd up asking if he saw two lines. He was so groggy he didn’t even know what he was looking at or what in the world I was saying. I took four more tests over the next three days just to keep seeing the lines!

At our initial doctor’s appointment, the nurse (incidentally the same one who delivered the awful news over the phone to me) was trying to be so reserved. She honestly didn’t think we’d hear a heartbeat. I insisted on listening. I felt like she didn’t even want to look at me in the eyes. She saw my twinkle and probably noticed me practically skipping in to the OB’s office. I asked Todd to get a voice recorder and bring it (smartphones were non-existent at the time). He hit record with one hand and held mine with his other one as she put the doppler on my belly.

There it was. Like a thundering group of galloping horses. Our baby’s heartbeat. I have never cried happier tears! Todd and I prayed before every appointment, and held hands after every appointment the second the doctors left the room, giving thanks for His miracle. There were plenty of those moments as I was labeled high risk and constantly monitored throughout the pregnancy. 10 years ago on New Years Day 2005, a Mom was in the making.

Mothers Day 2006

My first Mothers Day, May 2006

Before my son was born and daily since, I have prayed for God to draw him close and use him in mighty ways for His glory. I realize now he has already been used in my life for His good.
  • he was the catalyst in restoring a broken relationship with my Dad
  • he was the facilitator in me discovering my strength as a Mom and as his advocate through early years of therapy
  • his conception and delivery both served as reminders in mighty ways that I am not in control, and when I try to control things the outcomes aren’t necessarily what would have been best (hard pill for me to swallow!)
  • he has expanded my heart for forgiveness. Forgiveness for people who don’t know how to respond or what to say to someone in certain circumstances (bless that nurse’s heart).
  • he has given me a greater compassion for others in acknowledging those walking along difficult roads and how sometimes words aren’t the fix all to a situation. He has tempered my tongue.
  • he has filled all the little wholes poked in my heart from every negative test, every curt comment, every sting when a pregnancy was announced and I so wanted it to be me, every tear shed
  • he has brought sweet joyous confirmation and winks from God (the first time I felt him kick was when I was singing worship in church)

So this year I am honored to say I rang in the New Year with my miracle baby, the child who made me a Mom, and who has had my heart wrapped around his very being since before I knew who he was. I am learning to let go better than I used to, settling into our new normal of 3rd grade headed-towards-tween behavior, only high fives in public and no more hugs at school and certainly not at football. Requests of “please don’t embarrass me on the field trip Mom, but I’m so glad you’re going to be there” are more current these days.

I couldn’t be more proud of who he is, and that I have the privilege being his Mom. I can’t believe in the next 10 years, he’ll probably be in college and on his own. The old adage don’t blink is true. From blinking through frantic tears to happy ones and now those of contentment, 10 years have flown by.

New Years Eve

New Years Eve 2014

I’m curious…what has been one of your memorable New Years?
Welcome Home

Welcome Home, Doll

The engine roars as our plane makes its final descent…my eyes are closed…”Thank you, Jesus, for a safe flight.” My air travels always begin with a prayer my nearly-92 year old Grandmother prayed over me when I had moved to Denver 17 years ago.

I had come back for a Clemson game, and it was time for me to return to Colorado. She hugged and kissed me goodbye as I was leaving for the airport, and she prayed for “the pilot to have steady hands and a clear mind”.

Ever since, I pray her words when the plane takes off. Every.single.time. I admit I sometimes add on to that for all our luggage to make it on the plane, especially on connecting flights. Upon landing, a prayer of thanksgiving is given, grateful that we’ve arrived safely.

Grandma Long

Visiting Grandma Long

The wheels on the jet that day were just about to touch down. I could feel the bump bump bump with anticipation. My older two children threw their hands up in the air like we’re on a roller coaster and squeal “wheeee!”.

Thank goodness they know how to buckle their seat belts tight as I was using my arm to hold back my youngest, who was excited to now have his very own seat and insisted on copying his brother and sister’s every move. They’ve all been counting the days until we were there. It’s always a highlight of our Summer. We were all smiling!

All of a sudden I hear “Welcome home, doll.” I could hear his voice. Those were always the first words my Dad would greet me with at the airport when I’d fly back to South Carolina. Always.

It’s still so strange for me to land at GSP and not see him. I still tear up, expecting him to be there. The last picture I have with him is at the airport when I flew back to Colorado after our family beach trip in July 2012. He died 6 weeks later.

Me and Dad last pic

Our last picture…me & Dad

This was my third time back since his passing. Every time, it’s like the bandaids are ripped right off again. I can’t help but cry. I do believe since I live so far away and am removed from the day to day of being “right in” where he was, that my grief hasn’t been totally dealt with.

On the one hand, it hasn’t even been two years. On the other, it feels like forever. Thankful for plenty of smiles to help dry those tears in remembering all the special times my husband, kids, and I have had there, and will continue to make when we visit.

Despite sadness welling up inside because Dad wouldn’t be there, I was filled with joy in anticipation of seeing my younger sister, her family, and my Mom there to greet us that day. Time spent with them is always treasured and full of fun, and I was so excited to soak them in along with the rest of my family we’d be visiting!

Mom and kids airport.jpg

My Mom, my children & my nephew upon our arrival

Now I realize people either loathe or appreciate humidity. Personally I’m a fan as one instantly looks at least 5 years younger when enveloped in it, plus we all save room in the suitcase with no need to pack lotion. My sweet husband is the opposite and feels suffocated by it, bless his heart!

In all sincerity, one of my favorite moments each time I deplane at GSP is when I feel the humidity literally smack me in the face. I absolutely love it. It means I’m home.

What do you treasure most about where you’re originally from?

A Missed James Taylor Concert = A Blog Is Born!

Concert tickets. Something that seems so trivial, yet something important to me. Music has always resonated with me across a variety of genres. Emotion. Memories. Energy.

One of my all time favorite artists…James Taylor…is playing not 5 miles away from my house right now. A part of me wants to throw caution to the wind and drive to Red Rocks Amphitheater to try and hear him sing even if only from the parking lot. Those lyrics…those songs…they have been a constant in my life for over two decades.

I started listening to the original “JT” in high school. He, the Eagles, and Stevie Nicks were my favorites. I remember my Mom gifting me two Eagles tapes the day my parents gave me an early high school graduation present, a white Mazda RX7. I played those over and over and just drove. Freedom!

At Clemson, I used to take naps during the day (more often than I should) and at night fall asleep to James Taylor’s Greatest Hits. My roommates will even tell you hearing his songs reminds them of me. Those soothing sounds helped lull me away to a place where I felt safe. Asleep. College was some of the most memorable years of my life in both wonderful and horrible ways. I would always rest easy though, listening to his music.

Bid Day

ADPi Bid Day, Clemson 1993

My Mom took me to his concert 20 years ago. She knew then the importance of music to me. I’ve since worn out a tape and two CD’s of the same album. Music relates.

After moving to Colorado, when I would get so homesick for South Carolina, those songs would bring tears to my eyes. Although the tears would fall, I couldn’t turn it off. I’ve taught myself lots of music by ear on the piano…long after the years of lessons as a young girl passed. Sometimes I just play it to hear the notes when I’m by myself. Although I have the Greatest Hits piano book, when I play I most often tickle the keys by memory. Music soothes.

I remember one of my dearest college friends dancing with her Dad on her wedding day to Fire and Rain. She told me he had always sang that to her through the years. I smiled with misty eyes watching them so beautifully glide across the floor and imagined her as a child dancing on her daddy’s toes, much like I did with my Dad when I was young. In that moment that’s probably how he saw her, too. Every time I hear that song, I think of their amazing relationship. Music inspires.

When I married, our guests received CD’s filled with our favorite songs as wedding favors. He was one of the first on my list of songs as well as on our wedding highlight video. Music delights. 

Wedding CD

Wedding Favor CD, April 2002

When our babies were born, I always played music in their rooms to help them drift off to sleep. Beautiful lullabies, hymns, sometimes even Baby Elvis, and of course, James Taylor. I especially loved rocking them and singing Sweet Baby James, You’ve Got A Friend, and Carolina In My Mind. As they grew, I danced with them around the family room to How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). Music connects.

Imagine my excitement when ringtones arrived! My Mom and younger sister were affectionally given Boogie Shoes. So appropriate and vibrant for them. They have a zest for life! I smiled every time they called. My Dad and my older sister rang Carolina in My Mind. Equally appropriate and welcoming for them. They remind me of an oak tree, so strong and steady! I smiled every time they called. Now when I hear the song, I often cry. My Dad passed away a year and a half ago. I had to take the ringtone off as when my sister called, there were times for an instant I thought it was him. It used to be a sobbing, can’t control it, ugly cry. Now it’s more of a healing one. Music speaks.

Every night after prayers and high-low points, I sing to my children. They have their two favorites. One night my little girl asked “Mama one more?” and I turned to James Taylor. Although my a capella voice sounds nothing like that of a recording artist, to my children it is peaceful and calming. I love that they ask me to sing and to them, it’s comforting. That night I sang Carolina In My Mind. She started to cry. I asked why, and she said it reminded her of my Dad. In our minds, Carolina is family. It’s my heritage, my roots. It’s my children’s second home. We cried together, talking about life, death, family, and memories. We held each other. Me and my 7 year old. Music heals.

So tonight, I will sit on my back deck and hope to hear a little sound. Although with his soft tones, I am not expecting it to reach my ears from even those few miles away. That’s okay, because I have the true music inside. I can hear it whenever I choose…

Litchfield Beach, July 2011

Litchfield Beach, July 2011

I am grateful the Good Lord blessed us with musical ability, some more than others 😉 Whether praising Him, softly singing bedtime songs to my children, or just driving and hearing “my music” now on the easy listening channel while rockin’ out in a minivan, I am amazed at how something can so deeply move me.

What speaks to you? Please do share in the comments.