Fall in Florida

Well, here I am.  It’s my first fall in Florida, and it is funny.  If you don’t love autumn, don’t move to Florida because you aren’t getting ANY changes in the season.  Granted, I’ve not lived here for too long, but I’ve talked to my new Floridian friends, and they have all prepared me for what fall is like here in the Sunshine State:  an extended summer.

Now as I’ve shared before, I’m an Ohioan, in that I was born and raised there, so I know what a true season change is like, and I love it!  This new fall is going to take some getting used to in my new place of residence.  There are no leaves changing colors.  Actually, there aren’t really any leaves falling at all, except when hurricane-like winds come through, which was the case several weeks ago.  And cooler temps?  Forget about it!

Although this fall is different, there are a couple things I refuse to let go of, and I’ll sweat it out anyway!

  1.  Pumpkin Spice Lattes
    Um…this has fall written all over it, and I cannot let it go.  If you live in the deep south, I recommend drinking it cold OR drinking it in an ice-cold restaurant, which all of them are because we are in Florida.  In fact, you might bring along a cardigan if consuming it in a local coffee shop because you can close your eyes and it feels like an actual fall for a second.
  2. Hayrides
    I might be wearing a tank and Daisy Dukes (j/k!), but I refuse to not go on a hayride this autumn.  I might even have to travel north a bit to find one in Georgia, but I’ll do it.  A bumpy journey on some Georgia clay behind a tractor screams harvest time, and I’m determined to make it happen for me and for my family.
  3. Fall Decorating
    Just because it’s hotter than blazes doesn’t mean I can’t decorate the heck out of my porch.  In fact, I’ve found the more decorations, the more you can trick yourself into believing that it isn’t actually 95 degrees.  I’m just going to make sure that those felt pad eyes stuck to my styrofoam ghost heads are secured tightly, so as to not let the humidity slide them right off.

All kidding aside, we’re continuing to explore our new town and transition into a new place.  I’m sure that we’ll be happy to be in Florida around January when we are experiencing spring-like conditions while the rest of the country is standing in snow for days.  Much like anything, we’ll adjust and adapt to our new environment.  Our neighbors said that they swam in their pool last Christmas…WOW!

Happy October!

 

 

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Unwavering: Standing Firm When Controversy Hits the Classroom

Every once in awhile I get fired up about something.  I’m not one to stir the pot or dive into confrontation, and so I stay at a distance and let the water boil, so to speak.  One second I want to talk to Fox News (which actually was an option for those on either side of the issue) and the next I don’t.  I’ve found that it’s best if I let my anger or frustration fizzle out a little bit before firing off an e-mail or a Facebook status update or comment.

So that’s what I did this week.

But for some reason, I just can’t let this go.  It’s a subject that I’ve remained extremely quiet about.  This blog is one of bravery and courage because goodness, it’s taken me awhile to speak up about this issue.

I recently joined a mom’s Facebook group when I moved to my new city on the recommendation of a friend of mine.  Some days I regret joining.  One day this week I hopped on to find that a parent shared a teacher’s letter.  This particular teacher teaches in the same county that my children attend school in in our new city.  My children don’t go to that school, but it really got me thinking about what I would do in the situation.  In a nutshell, the teacher wrote to parents explaining that she would like to cultivate a classroom where students used “gender-neutral” pronouns (i.e. “they, them, and their”) to address one another.  In fact, the teacher even wants to be addressed as a Mx. (pronounced mix).  In her letter she says, “I know it takes some practice for it to feel natural, but in my experience students catch on pretty quickly.”

THERE IS NOTHING NATURAL ABOUT THIS.

I just sat and stared at the letter and reread it and let it mull over in my mind until I was just mad.  I also thanked God that my students did not a) Go to that school and b) Have that teacher.

I’m a Christian, and this obviously plays a huge part in how I live my day-to-day life.  I believe that the Bible is true, and I believe that God created “man and woman” (Genesis 2:7, 2:22).  There shouldn’t be confusion over this, but this confusion shouldn’t come as a surprise because this world is full of sinful people, just like me.  Let me be clear in that while I’m a Christian and try to live my life according to the Bible, I still mess up.  Nobody is perfect (Romans 3:32).  I’ll never forget the week when a Christian woman with a huge following that I looked up to a lot spoke out about her feelings on some subjects that made me scratch my head and frown.  Her turning from truth is something she’ll need to wrestle out with God.  It’s dangerous to tweak the truth just to survive in this culture we live in today.

I want to add that I’m aware that I cannot live my mom life or parent in a bubble.  I wish I could, but I cannot.  My children will be subjected to these issues, just as much I will be confronted with them.  And that’s why I wish that my children could live my childhood. It was simple.  I felt like I stayed innocent a lot longer than my children might.  I know alternative lifestyles existed then, but thanks to media today, it’s loud and proud and smeared all over the place.  The issues I read about and see out there today scare the crap out of me.

One might say that yes, I lived in a conservative homogeneous little town.  One might say that I grew up in a Southern Baptist church.  One might say that I lived in a conservative Christian home.  “Yes” to all of the above.  I’m thankful that I grew up in that town and was raised by two amazing parents.  I have lived a lot of life since then.  I went away to college, got married, earned my master’s degree, moved south, and then I moved south of south.  My parents raised me to be kind, loving, and considerate of ALL people, BUT they also taught me Biblical truth.  It has stayed with me.  My faith has become my own and not just my parent’s faith that was projected onto me.  It leads me to this:

I cannot turn a blind eye to sin.

I cannot take from the Bible what I like and forget what I don’t like.

I cannot twist the truth to make me feel better.

I cannot be silent about the gospel.

I cannot allow my foundation to be built on sand and not the “rock that is higher than I.”

It is because of the above, that I stand by the fact that if one of my children was in the classroom of the teacher who sent that letter home, I would ask if my child could be placed in another classroom.  If not, I would probably pull my child out of that school…or even out of public school in general.

As a parent I have a responsibility to share and model Biblical truth to my children.  When I launch them off at age 18, it is my prayer that they will remember everything their father and I taught them.  I am not stupid.  I know that they’ll make mistakes.  They will make decisions that might disappoint me.  This will be a phase of my life where I will have to let go and truly let God grab the steering wheel.

If you are a parent that would applaud this teacher’s letter and blow trumpets in the name of inclusiveness and diversity and tolerance and different lifestyles, I still love you.  I disagree with you, but I will not disrespect you.  I would love to sit peacefully over a cup of coffee and chat about it (even the Mx. in this controversy).  I’m all about learning different viewpoints, but I will stand firm in my faith.

I know that this post will be controversial for some.  I almost didn’t hit the “publish” button, but I felt like these words were too important for me not to do so.  I don’t want to let fear rule me, and so I became brave today.  If you think differently than me, that’s fine.  I love people, and I love Jesus.  I also love the Bible, which is the inerrant Word of God.

A lot of people, even some Christians, like to think of Jesus as a big cuddly teddy bear who is completely love.  He is love (1 John 4:8) and yes, he ate with sinners, but what a lot of people deny or forget is that he is a just God (Isaiah 5:16) who abhors sin (Psalm 5:4, Proverbs 6:16-19). Thankfully, He sent his son to pay our debt on the cross.  I am a new creation in Him because of this.  Therefore, I  have to allow this scripture to permeate who I am, especially in this climate and in this culture:  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

 

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Restless

Hello again.  I haven’t written in awhile.  We’ve been busy.  Oh, let’s see.  We moved into our new home in Tallahassee on August 8, had a child at urgent care the first weekend, went out of town for the Florida State University season opener the following weekend, hosted my inlaws, hosted my mother, had a two-night hospital stay for our youngest, and prepared for and survived a major hurricane.  Whew!  We live such a boring life.  This is a great segue into this actual post.

I don’t know what boring looks like.

That’s my problem.  

This morning I dropped off my children at school, came home and sent out a couple e-mails, and went for a run.  The “dust has settled,” so to speak.  I should feel an ease, even a breath of relief that life is back to some normalcy after the crazy we’ve been through in the past couple weeks.  The entire morning, however, I have felt so unsettled.  Perhaps it stems from yesterday.  I met another mom for a meeting, hoping for a new adventure.  I was excited, and my expectations were high.  I left the meeting like a deflated balloon.  I didn’t get the answers I wanted, and it left me confused and frustrated.

So here I am this morning contemplating my life…call it yet another occupational hazard of a stay-at-home mom:

Should I write?

Should I teach?

Should I teach Jazzercise or should I teach preschool?

Should I find a job?

Should I work part-time or full-time?

OR SHOULD I JUST BE STILL?

I really don’t think it is in my nature to be still.  My life is full of turns and twists and dead ends and detours.  Sometimes when I have a dull moment, I can hardly stand it. That’s really sad.  It’s easy to get stuck in that mindset of, “I should be doing something for crying out loud!”  All I need to do is check social media to start the tangled web of noise in my head:

She is creating.

She is organizing.

She is cleaning.

She is volunteering.

She is working.

She is making money.

It’s a trap.  It’s a comparison trap.  I’ve written about it before.  It’s impossible to sit still to even hear the voice of God when your mind is racing with questions and self-condemnation.

So how do I get to the point where I’m simply sitting still?  I’m so bad at it.  I have whittled it down to a couple points, though.  I’m preaching to myself here:

  1. Literally sit down.  Away from distractions.  No phone, no computer, no television, no food, no nothing.  Stripping everything away will pave the path for a conversation with God Almighty.  Maybe that even means getting on your knees in a posture of worship.  Lay it all down at His feet.  He can take it.  He is our helper.
  2. Listen.  This is a hard one since the Lord is invisible.  Oh, how I’d love to sit at Starbucks with Jesus and get some bullet points of what I’m supposed to be doing with my life right now.  That’s not how it works.  I do think that listening, however, is not rushing and acting out because of our feelings.  Afterall, faith is not a feeling.  Listening requires being silent.  Have you ever been in a conversation where you dominated and left little time for your friend to speak?  That happened to me just last week when I chatted the entire length of time my friend and I had together on the phone.  She couldn’t get a word in edgewise.  It’s the same in our prayer life.  If I am asking God for help, I need to be silent and lean in toward Him.  Maybe that means looking up scripture, doodling, or writing out something.  Maybe it’s listening to praise and worship music and just “being.”
  3. Reflect.  Speaking of writing, get out an old-fashioned pen/pencil and piece of paper.  Write out pros and cons for a possible opportunity you have.  Perhaps even do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).  Journal what you are feeling.  Where is the Lord leading you?
  4. Yield.  Finally, yield to the Holy Spirit.  The fruits of the spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).  The two I struggle with the most hands down are patience and self-control.  With that being said, I need to have patience in this matter of figuring out my purpose because God’s timing is never mine.  Also, that whole self-control thing is linked to patience.  I want God to go ahead of me in any adventure and not the other way around.   

So now I’m going to do just that.  I’m going to sit down, listen, reflect, and yield.  I may not walk away with an immediate answer, but it is a step in the right direction.  Finally, no matter what the Lord has called upon me to do in our new city and place, I’m going to hide this word in my heart:  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

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Too Much Mommin’


Full disclosure:  I DO TOO MUCH FOR MY KIDS

I do.  Call it an occupational hazard of a stay-at-home-mom…who still struggles with perfectionism.  

I fix their breakfast, pack their lunches, check and double check their homework, put hair up into ponytails, fill water bottles, search and rescue socks and shoes, put socks and shoes on my youngest, pick up toys, fix their snacks, and hold their hands.  “Have you brushed your teeth, gone to the bathroom, and washed your hands?”

Yes, some of this is just part of the position description for “mom.”  My children, however, are not babies anymore.  I have a 10-year-old, a soon-to-be nine-year-old, and a five-year-old.  Also in my position description:  prepare littles for life.  

With that being said, I need to LET GO more and allow them to fail.

“You were hungry at school?”

Maybe you should have a) eaten what I fixed you OR b) fixed yourself something else

“You forgot to do a homework page and got points taken away?”

Maybe you should have paid attention at school when your teacher went over homework expectations for the next day.

“I can’t wear tennis shoes without socks!”

Maybe you should have listened to me when I told you to grab some socks before walking out the door.

Actions have consequences.  This is real life.

This is tough love, but I’m going to get better at it.  I’m sending these kids out into the world in the very near future, and it would be a huge disservice to them if they flew out of my nest so unprepared.  

I can’t even dive into the whole chore thing.  I keep seeing these articles about how children who do chores are more successful in life, and I keep picturing my children living in our basement and me in fetal position in my walk-in closet upstairs.  I need to assign chores to each of my littles and keep them accountable for completing them.  I’m not good with charts and stickers, but something has to stick.  I refuse to hand off my ill-equipped son to a wife someday.  Leave and cleave, but good luck getting your husband to notice that the trash needs to be taken out!  Nope, not on my watch.

You see, watching kids grow up is also a nice little reminder in letting go.  As a mom, I have to project responsibility on them before it’s too late.  I can’t always be there for them, so they need to be self-aware as well as aware of their surroundings.  I need to be okay with failure because honestly that’s where the learning so often takes place.  There is no room for perfectionism in parenting.  It’s okay if the towels aren’t folded just so and the dishes aren’t loaded correctly.  At least the towels are folded and the dishes are loaded.

Right before writing this, I had reminded my son to fill up a water bottle for his flag football practice…multiple times.  I watched him walk out the door without one, and I had to bite my tongue and glue my feet to the floor.  

I bet he comes back from practice thirsty.

And that’s okay.

Tough (but important) love matters.  Pick and choose your battles wisely and lovingly.  This parenting job is no joke.

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It was a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood


Much like family, you can’t choose your neighbors.  You find a house, love all of it and its imperfections, and move into it.  You might have driven a time or two in the neighborhood to look at your new house, but you really have no clue as to whom you’ll be living next to or near.

For seven years my family and I lived in an unfriendly subdivision at the north end of town.  This was our first impression of Knoxville, which was disappointing.  It was a nice area, in that it had a walking/bike trail through the subdivision and a couple playgrounds that we could walk to quickly.  The actual people, however, were around a C+.  That whole “southern hospitality” expectation was not met.  In fact, a week after moving into our home, an anonymous handwritten note was placed in our mailbox to “make sure and pick up all the grass clippings after mowing.”  It looked a bit like a ransom note.  To this day, I’m pretty sure it was the couple across the street with the immaculate lawn that seemed to be their full-time job.  

We knew very few of our neighbors.  We were always out and about, but none of them seemed very interested in us or our lives.  After two years of living there, we had our firstborn child.  Even with introducing children into our family, not many people wanted to get to know us or form a relationship of any kind.  There was one exception, and this woman truly was a gem.  She was the catalyst to connecting us more with another neighbor.  It’s too bad that we moved not too long after she had moved into our village.

Fast forward seven years after we moved into that first home, and we took a leap of faith by moving our family to the west side of town.  As mentioned above, all I really knew was that I loved the charming older home built right in the middle of lots of trees.  The neighborhood was beautiful and secluded but not too far from the bustle of the town.
We lucked out, folks.

This neighborhood is not only beautiful, but the neighbors here are beautiful on the inside and outside.  In the (almost) five years that we have lived here, we have had each others’ backs at every twist and turn and up and down.  We have watered each others’ flowers, cooked meals for new mamas, attended funerals of their loved ones, celebrated holidays together (Independence Day and Halloween being the biggest two!), and the list could go on and on.


I’ll never forget running into two of my mom friends on our street this past fall when an illness had hit our house.  Of course, as Murphy’s Law predicts, my husband was out of town, and at this time we were foster caring for two children.  These moms didn’t back away or make excuses.  They saw me distraught and in tears, and one of them offered to go pick up dinner for us that very night.  A couple weeks ago a neighbor quit mowing and spent so much time trying to fix my oldest son’s bicycle for him.  He took time even when he didn’t have to because he cared.  Recently, our good friends and neighbors offered to swing by and help pull boxes down from our attic because I didn’t know that the movers would not do so.  One night this summer our neighborhood got together for pizza and water volleyball at our neighborhood pool…just because.  I observed a neighbor who has three grown children playing with my littles in the pool and making them laugh until they were almost in tears.


Woodbrook Park is just a special place with special people.

Not every neighborhood is like this.  My prayer, however, is that our new place will be special too.  I know that it won’t be the same.  A subdivision is more than a string of houses connected by yards.  It’s so much more.  It’s about the people who reside there.  A friendly face, a good deed, a helpful hand.  Kindness is what it is all about.  Kindness then births into something more, which is a relationship that hopefully develops into a friendship.

And to be clear, I don’t need for every neighbor in my neighborhood to look like me or to be the same age as me.  In fact, that’s what made Woodbrook Park special:  intergenerational, diverse individuals loving and respecting others.  Young parents and bachelors and retirees all living in the same space.

Many of our neighbors have become like family to us, and it is hard to say goodbye.  I leave, however, knowing what a great neighborhood looks like.  If I find it in my new city, that will be awesome.  And if not, I know how to cultivate one because I know what it looks like.

Woodbrook Park residents, thank you for being a friend.  It was a beautiful five years in your neighborhood.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself     Matthew 22:39 ESV
 

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Yes, I Will Child


Colton:  “Mom, I love you.”

“Honey, I love you too.”

Josey:  “Mom, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”  She then slips her hand into mine as we’re walking.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you either, sweetie.”

Wyatt:  “Mommy, will you hold me?”

“As long as I can lift you, buddy, absolutely.”

Parenting can be tough.  This summer has been perhaps one of the toughest seasons for me.  I’m in the middle of flying solo with my kiddos, and even though it’s only for a short time, I do miss my reinforcement walking through the front door in the evening.  Talk about having a new appreciation (and humility) for those who fly solo all the time.  Single parents, you are my heros!

Lately, I have been so focused and on mission with moving, that it has taken a toll on me and drained me of my energy to focus on my children like I usually do.  Unfortunately, I don’t look at them as the blessings they are on the hardest days.  I hate to admit that.  Doing what I’m doing right now with all of the responsibilities of running the household, preparing to move, and working toward a big transition has made me lose it a time or two.  So many times my answer to the kids becomes…

“No.”

“Not now.”

“Maybe later.”

“Wait a second.”

“I said no.”

But there are sweet, beautiful words and actions that my three do often EVEN AFTER I HAVE GIVEN THEM SECOND PLACE, and I can always say, “Yes” to those things.  They make me pause and recallibrate.

Colton loves to affirm me with words.

Josey wants to physically show me she loves and needs me by holding my hand.

Wyatt wants me to hold him just because.

And I always oblige because I’m learning to say “yes” more than “no,” if possible.  I’m taking their words and actions and stamping them in my head and on my heart because I’ve been chosen to mother them in this world.  It’s not always easy, but to know that they are mine and that we are not together by accident is all I need to know.  It’s enough.

So even with a lot of “no’s” lately, my answer will always and forever be “yes” to giving them love and affection.  I will drop everything to give life-affirming words, hug big, hold a hand, and pick up my little.

Yes, I will my child.  There is always time for love.

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Hard

HardI just sat down with a huge sigh.  I’m tired.  No…exhausted sounds better.  Defeated.  Beat up.  I just put my kids down for bed, and it is 10 o’clock p.m.  Nope.  Correction.  My daughter is awake and awaiting her twin bed sheets to dry in the dryer EVEN THOUGH SHE COULD SLEEP IN THE MADE BED ON THE BOTTOM OF THE BUNK BED.  I give up.  I’m not gonna win.  She can wait up, but I’m not going to make that top bunk bed.

As many of you know we are moving.

I never want to move again.

It’s hard.

I might just have a good long cry about it.

At this very moment my husband is hundreds of miles away in our new town.  He has stress too.  It’s unlike mine, but he has it as well.  Starting a new job has its sighs too.  OH yeah, and that house hunting thing?  The act of closing on one house and making an offer on another and counteroffers and showings and house inspections and signatures and AUGHAUGHAUGH!  That’s not for the weak.  HGTV makes it look smooth and sexy.  It’s not.

I realize that these are all FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS.

But they are ours.

This summer was not exactly what I planned, but we’re rolling with it.  And by rolling, I mean my boys are rolling on the ground fighting.  Seriously, though.  There’s been a lot of fighting and arguing, some complaining and grumbling.  Relationships are hard, man.  Especially those with the ones you love the most.  I’m currently googling, “How to deal with disrespectful kids”.  My oldest has been really disrespectful lately.  The article I just read stresses to remain calm and get to the root of the situation.  <insert nervous laughter>.  Yeah, that hasn’t happened.  I go from a 0 to 10 as quickly as he does because don’t you know, child, it is in the Bible:  “HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER…” Deuteronomy 5:16.

I feel a bit ill equipped for this crazy summer and scenic route leading into a fall that I cannot even think about at the moment.  There are a couple camps, but any structure I had wanted to put into place for my kids has been thrown out the window.  I’ve been packing and researching and packing and planning and occasionally ordering groceries.  The kids are somewhat on auto-pilot with the exception of a couple camps sprinkled here and there.  The guilt sets in for just a little bit.  I carve out time each day to be out of the house.  I’ve also been intentional about visiting all of our Knoxville hot spots.  This town has treated us right for 12 years, so we want to bid it a proper farewell.

Bottom line:  I’m trying.

And that’s about all anybody can ask of me.  “Do your best” is on repeat around my house.

“But mom, I can’t do this!”

“Do your best.”

“This is hard, mom.”

“Do your best.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Do your best.  That’s all I’m asking you to do.  Give it your all.”

And so with that same advice I give my children, I’m going to “do my best.”  Because you know what?  That’s enough.  As Joseph Kennedy said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

I better get going now.  What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger, and strength is something I can roll with.

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