Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grandma's Eulogy.

As most of you probably know by now, my Grandma Donna went home to be with Jesus this past week.  I was with her in the last couple of days and was at her side when she left earth for Heaven which was a true honor and something I will cherish for my entire life.  I was astounded at just how quickly I missed her and know that I will forever feel that ache in my heart.  
I spoke at grandma's funeral, hoping to honor her with a tribute that was fitting.  Many have asked for copies of my eulogy so I thought it may be easiest to type it here, where I will also be able to come back and read it in the coming days.  I am so thankful for the hope of Heaven and praise God for His mercy in my grandma's death.  It was beautiful and peaceful and she was in no pain.  That leaves me with great peace!
I want to thank you all for coming and showing your love, kindness, and sympathy on behalf of my grandma and all of us.  In the last few days I said to her many times, "Grandma, you are loved by so many people," and each time she replied, "I know it Ramee and that's a really good feeling."
I wanted to take a few minutes to share with you the things that I will forever cherish about my grandma Donna.  Some of my earliest memories are of sitting around a kitchen table in my grandparent's log cabin.  I spent much time across from my petite grandma, as her tiny feet, not touching the floor, would swing beneath her.  We would write together.  Now my great passion and my greatest accomplishment-I'm certain it began with hundreds of hand written pages there in her kitchen.  She was always so proud of that.  We would write our signatures, practice our cursive (I loved her handwriting so I would watch her intently), and we signed our names to dozens of cards.  Come to think of it, I probably learned the timeless gift of card giving from her as well.  She was deeply empathetic and I vividly recall her sending cards to families who had recently suffered a loss.  She understood the pain of that, after all.  I always admired that of my grandma.  She had endured the devastating loss of her baby boy-her Stanly, and yet, she seemed strong.  She missed him deeply and even as a young girl I felt so lucky that she would talk to me about him and how she ached for him.  We spent so many hours through the years sharing photos and learning about the details of the uncle I never had the privilege to know.  My grandma was never afraid to tap into those deep emotions although it must have been so very difficult. 
Looking back, I always admired that she had suffered and yet went on to really live.  She had deep friendships, pursued hobbies, hosted holiday after holiday after holiday, fostered a marriage, traveled, ate good food, enjoyed good coffee, worked a full time job, played UNO with grandchildren, often, sewed Halloween costumes, and gave of herself to many neighbors, friends and loved ones along the way.  In sharing with me about the uncle I never knew, she gave me the gift of knowing who he was.  But in living her life with poise, strength and dignity in the years that followed0she gave me the ultimate gift in truly knowing who SHE was.  Her character and determination were rooted in hope, charity and family.  And as a grown woman who was once an ornery, loud, stubborn little redheaded girl stands before you, I can truly say that if my grandma could live such a vibrant, full life after such a heartbreaking tragedy, I'm confident that I can too.  She has given me great unspoken wisdom.  All I had to do was sit back and watch the way she lived-and it was a gift. 
But, it wasn't all unspoken.  I'm certain that so much of my fiery attitude, wont-back-down personality and great big (for such a little girl) confidence is due, in great part, to her.  If you knew her, you probably knew her opinion  She was an open book and I loved that about her. 
I'm sure so many of you share in the many of my wonderful memories because my grandma opened her home and her heart to everyone.  Family and community were so crucial to who she was.  There isn't a time in my life that I can remember the door to my grandma's home not being open.  She had a unique way of making everyone feel like family.  She not only opened her heart, but also her ears, her hands and her life to all.  This is another trait I feel proud to have inherited and can only pray that I would continue to carry on in her memory. 
Through the years there have been family reunions, Christmas parties, Thanksgiving feasts, Halloween popcorn balls, and the biggest annual Easter egg hunt ever.  There were October wiener roasts, birthday celebrations, red velvet cakes, homemade noodles and homemade blankets.  There were board games and bust trips, red convertible rides and for us grandchildren0rides in the back of a big, old van to see the Christmas lights year after year.  A pot of coffee always on, a phone call always answered, faithful dairy queen social sessions and her little laugh that always felt like home to me.  Even on her last day, she laughed up at Mabel as we greeted her for the morning.  She sewed many homecoming dresses, baked many cakes and big cookies, displayed proudly every photograph and showed up to every single ballgame or event I ever participated in.  In fact, she wouldn't have missed it to save her own life and as a grandchild that was the best feeling.
She was faithful, loyal and every area as long as I can remember. 
 In the last year I watched my grandma fight to try and get better.  She loved us all so much and I know she wanted us to always know she gave it all she had.  She was a little fighter-always.  Loud, opinionated and ambitious and she never backed down-not to anyone...even my grandpa.  She always gave him a run for his money!  But she loved that man.  And in this year as he cared for her every day, I know she wouldn't have wanted it any other way.  She trusted him and I watched humbly as she looked up at him with thankfulness and reassurance that it was all going to be ok.  She appreciated how you loved her, grandpa and she wouldn't want you to remember, because she was a woman of great faith, that only God directs our path.  And as you took care of her at the tail-end of her life journey you were part of an extraordinary thing-you helped usher her into Heaven peacefully.  With Jesus and with her baby.  I know she's thankful!
To my dad and Uncle Bill-
You were loved so much!  You were her boys!  She would laugh and speak of your mischief but she would defend you and stand up for you always.  She adored being your mom and she was always looking forward to time with you.  I know she was grateful for the times that she was able to share with you after hunting, a motorcycle ride of Sunday morning breakfast.  You were her life's purpose and ultimate joy.
To my sister with grandma's eyes-remember when you put on your make-up where that green/brown color came from.  It's beautiful. 
To my brother, the baby, you were grandma's boy!  There's not much to say about it because your bond went far beyond words.  She loved you like no other.
To Will-
Grandma was so proud of you!  Of your family, and your job.  She loved you uniquely.  She was always telling me how cute you were as a little boy, much like your Aiden.
And to Nora, Braden, Mabel, Aiden and Wyatt-
You were so lucky to know your great-grandma!  So many children don't get the chance but it was a special gift!  She loved and cherished each one of you oh so much!  You were her joy and she was always so proud of you.  Never forget that.
I know that goodbye is not easy.  I know how heavy and hard and sad it feels  But I also know my grandma Donna.  I know she would want us to remember her, celebrate her and then I know she would want us to move along-enjoying all this beautiful life has to offer, resting in the hope that we will see her again one day in Heaven-our true home.
Before I close I wanted to read a verse that was sent to me this morning by a dear friend.
Deut. 31:8
"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you He will never leave you or forsake you; do not be discouraged."
Again, thank you for coming and wrapping our family in love and for the awesome reminder of how cherished my grandma truly was!
Last night Nora told me how beautiful grandma looked at her visitation, like she was made for Heaven.
She is oh so right!

Friday, October 17, 2014

my hope, in writing.

I realized last night as Nora was reading a chapter book in front of me that she is old enough now to read my words here. Words that I have faithfully written since before she was a reality.  I have been writing on this blog for 7 years and wrote in an online journal for 2 years prior.  I have chronicled our lives for a very long time; through good and bad, ups and downs, heartache, joy, pain, suffering, sadness, loss, trial, triumph.  I have written about life, death, loss, gains, my faith, my views, my friendships and love.  I have written delicately and intimately about the lives of my children and the day to day activities that unfolded in our crazy home.  I have noted here every detail of Mabel's journey.  I did all of that with an authenticity that I thought would be important for my children to better understand their mother one day.  Here, I have written some of my deepest thoughts, some of my wildest dreams.  I am so thankful that I took the time to do that because my memory doesn't serve me well in the past couple of years and without this place, I would easily forget so many sweet and important parts of not only their lives but also of me. 
 Of who I am.
With all that I have written here and with all the changes that have occurred in our lives, I see that I, too, have changed. 
Evolved.  Grown. 
 I no longer think the same way about many things.  I no longer find value in the things that I once did.  I no longer feel the need to describe and articulate or even defend my every idea of every little thing.  Over the past 20 months I took a step back and have only written here the things that I find most important.  I write when I have time; I no longer necessarily carve out the time in my day to do so.  It has freed me up in so many ways, emotionally and literally. 
I am a writer, absolutely, at the core of who I am.  But still, with everything I have and will continue to write there are just a few things that I hope my children can clearly see when reading my words one day. 
I hope that they see hope. 
Not a hope rooted in self, others, or this world but a hope that goes so far beyond any of that; so far that we can't even begin to understand it, and we aren't meant to.  A hope that is plentiful, rich, and satisfying.  A hope that after this place we will meet a Maker who is just, fair and righteous.  One who promises to take the very ugly and painful things of this life and redeem them with beautiful, majestic things in another if we only believe in Him. 
That hope, above all else, is who I am. 
It makes me. 
I hope that they see strength.
Strength also rooted in a belief that I don't have to be strong, there is a God who will be that for me.  He empowers me.  He raises me up.  He lifts me and supplies me with all that I need in order to endure this life.  That kind of strength is one that this world doesn't quite understand.  They question and ponder and wonder but it is really quite simple.  That strength is purposed in all of us.  I have chosen to tap into it, and live in it. 
I hope that when my children come here to read the words of their mother that they see beauty. 
Beauty in everything. 
In the summer sun and winter sparkle, in coffee and kittens paws.  Pumpkins and crackling leaves, van dances and sisters singing.  Colored tights and high heels, red lipstick and a favorite book.  Beauty in giving, in nurturing, in contemplating and questioning.  Beauty in heartache and beauty in contentment.  Beauty in clean sheets and drool soaked shoulders.  Beauty in wheelchairs and glasses, long hair or short.  Beauty in long walks, stroller rides and little scooters on a side street with new friends.  Beauty in uncle's hugs and puppy kisses.  Beauty in nanny's house and poopaw's truck, in Uncle Mike's garden and neighbor's porches.  Beauty on cold days and warm nights, in tank tops or snowsuits.  Beauty in glowing trees and flying butterflies, nature and all things colorful.  I hope they see beauty in big white houses or quaint little ones.  I hope they see beauty in elderly faces, or the touch of a hand, in buttons, in afghans, in alleyways, big cities and everywhere in between. 
Because I do. 
I see beauty everywhere in everything.
And that's important. 
I hope that they see laughter. 
I hope the see raw, true emotion. 
I hope they see determination.
I hope they see ambition and sadness, and depth and humility.
I hope they see that friends are sometimes your family.
They show up on Saturday mornings unexpectedly with breakfast and Dr. Pepper only to find you trembling and shaking on the kitchen floor.  They wrap you tightly in their arms and wipe your tears.  They swaddle your babies and file your children out the door.  They love you unconditionally through the muck and the chaos.  I hope that my children see the value of these friendships and the meaning of it all because that matters, almost more than anything else. 
Kids, when you read this, please know that one of the things I value the most about my life are the people in it.  They have walked with me through the hardest, darkest, most unimaginable days and I'm positive we haven't seen the worst yet.  They have been committed to me.  They filled our home when it was very empty and because of them, I have never felt alone.  If ever I am not here with you for any reason, or if you feel alone, please turn to one of these women, my village, and know that they are the closest thing to me.  Wrap yourselves in their arms and let them hug you.  Let it feel like me.  Their hearts match my heart.  Their love for you is intentional.  They will not leave you. 
I hope when my children read my words that they see independence.
Character.  Depth.  Truth.
Because here's the thing-changing how you feel about something, or someone; having different views and ideas than you once did, learning from your mistakes and starting over...
none of that makes you someone dishonest and it definitely doesn't make you less genuine.  It just makes you human.  It means you are evolving. 
Kids, I am not the same woman that I was when I married your dad.  I am not the same woman I was 5 years ago.  And I am definitely not the same woman I was 20 months ago. 
I have changed and that is ok.  It is part of my life, part of my story and part of me. 
The core of who I am remains the same but the rest of it is very much different. 
Life and it's circumstances constantly mold us and hopefully help us in becoming a better version of ourselves.  So far, I feel like life has done that for me which is why I am so grateful for every path I've been on.  It's been directed by God and it's landed me here.
I'm so thankful.
I hope that when my kids read here that they can see love.
I used to have an idea about love that was unrealistic.  It made sense in my head but it was limited by words and definitions and it definitely had boundaries.  I look back at my idea of love and I'm ashamed of it in many ways.  It was so very limited, whether by my spiritual views, my ethical ideas, my age, my life experience or probably by all of those things.  Regardless it was incredibly na├»ve and immature and ultimately very sad. 
it was no less love.

The love that I felt at any given time in my life toward any person or any thing was so deeply true that I didn't question or think about it.  It was simply love. 
The Bible says God is Love.  Because my relationship with God has evolved over time, so have my ideas surrounding love.  But it doesn't matter.  What matters is that when I was giving love or receiving love, that's all I was doing.  I was just loving.  And that's all we are really called to do.  We aren't supposed to question it, define it, box it in, give it limitations, expect perfection.  We are simply supposed to give it.  And receive it.  And be thankful for the ability to do both. 
I hope that when coming here my kids will see family.
They will be bombarded with memories of our family as it once was.  A time when their mommy and daddy were married and happy.  Or a time when I was happy, because after all I am the author here and I can and should only speak for myself.  They will read of experiences we had together, of their birth stories, all of their first big holidays and birthdays.  They will read about our family as it once was and I am so grateful.  Because all of that happened.  It was true and real and for a very long time it was oh so good. 
But, kids, as you are reading here you may grow confused by my writing.  There will inevitably be a gap between a time when we were a happy family to a time when your dad no longer lived with us and everything was very different.  I took a break from writing during that time because I needed to focus only on being your mommy.  I needed time to dive deeply through a lot of emotions and I needed to come out of it all ok.  In doing so, I learned a lot about love and I learned a lot about family. 
The two things that are most important for you to read here today are this-
You can always love again.
Family is what you make it. 
We have both. 
We have love and we have an amazing family.
Nora and Braden,
When you do start to read my words here I hope more than anything you see my devotion and love for you.  You are my entire life, my reason for living.  I was created to be your mom.  It is hard, and it is so much work but it is incredibly worth it.  You are both the light of my life.  I am so proud of you.  Your hearts, your love, your hope, your faith, your minds, your interests, your passions.  I am incredibly grateful to be your mommy and I hope that you will always know how very much you're loved.  How every decision in this life was made with you in mind.  How every move I make is with the heart in my chest beating wildly for you. 
And please, Nora, read this to your sister.  She may not understand but she sure can hear.  She would love this story, I just know it. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Little Life Updates.

As she always does, Autumn has sure delivered. 
The morning light shines perfectly onto the front porch and the faces of my children, so much so that an edit or a filter are not required.  It's marvelous.  
This year we tried really hard to see and experience every "super moon."  There were several with this last one being the largest.  Supposedly we will not witness another moon it's size for another 30 years.  We drove to a country road, waited {impatiently and annoyingly} in the van and then headed for home when, at the time the moon was supposed to appear, it did not.  Low and behold as we were driving away we happened to catch a glimpse of it's massive size in the rearview mirror.  We found another spot on another road and quite literally danced in it's presence. 
There is nothing like celebrating the beauty that our God provides. 
We have pulled out scarves, and dark colored lipstick.  The boots came out of boxes and colored leggings and tights have been pulled over our bare legs. 
The time has come.  

This past week our town experienced a huge loss when a teenage boy my brother's age committed suicide.  It was a devastating and heavy week for this small town.  Just like every tragedy it made me dig deep and think about the time not spent with my siblings and all the people I love really.  It's a frustrating reality that we have to actually live our lives; busying around and missing out on the things that are most important-our relationships.  But the truth that I was reminded of yet again this week is that it wouldn't ever matter how much time was spent with them if something happened to them and they were suddenly gone.  It would never have been enough.  I love them more than my own life; more than my own breath.  They feel like an appendage of mine; two arms connected to me strongly, deeply.  Without them I am not quite sure how I would find the strength to go on.
So I have spent the week praying, crying and quite literally pleading with God to give this family strength and comfort.  There's just nothing earthly that can heal that kind of pain.  
Nora and I have had a great school year so far.  Last year was rough and so I was expecting every morning to be an argument or a stressful situation with her but truly, she has done great.  We did have one bad day where she cried hard and had to go to school late.  She is a little anxious, girls have started whispering, she worries about Mabel, and she missed me.  Enough tears and all of that was a good enough reason for me to not force her in the car until she was ready.  She went on to have a good day and a really great week.  She is incredibly smart and her school work is punctual and particular.  She is going to great things!
While the big kids are in school, Mabel and I stick to our same daily routine. 
She wakes, I feed her.  She gets changed and I make the beds.  She fusses and I walk her.  She bites my shoulder and I laugh and swing her.  We get dressed and blanketed and head out for a morning walk.  We listen to music and she giggles and sometimes seizes. 
We spend our days together and it's a beautiful gift for the both of us.  She adores me the way I feel about her and there is nothing in this world better than that. 
Overall she has been doing ok, though this week was pretty rough.  She had an increase in seizures, some that were pretty big and lasted pretty long.  She ended up running a fever and developed a few blisters on her feet.  The fever has since went down though it has still been low grade on and off.  I'm hoping it's something viral that will just 'run it's course,' and hoping that this winter goes easy on my girl.
I'm still in love and have never been happier. 
I have learned that just like my relationship with God cannot be put into a box, neither can my idea of love or family.  Our little family functions more like a family, feels more like a family and loves more like a family than I remember it ever being before.  It is easy, without stress and is so functional.  My love is natural, practical, romantic, present, and incredibly light.  I have never been more grateful that I was willing to open my heart again and experience what life would bring. 
My heart and my life are so full!

This week the kids had spirit week at school.  Nora loved getting involved and rocked it on 80's day.  She knew it too, saying, "I bet no one will look this good today!"
She was right.  They didn't.  

Apple pie, wooly worms on a country road, new candles, and apple butter.
Fall sweet fall.  
And, to kick it off officially, we enjoyed the Homecoming parade with friends and celebrated our small town with a victory football game last night.  We are so lucky to live where we live, love how we love and find joy in it all.  I have never felt more grateful for the chance to experience life with these kids, my friends and the man I adore.  It's my dream come true.  
Enjoying fall and all of it's wonders has never been more exciting. 
Happy Weekend, Friends.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Welcome, Fall!

Fall made a grand entrance indeed and our village celebrated appropriately. 
We rang in the beautiful season in Green Valley with a hayrack, hotdogs, s'mores, kids running wild, barefoot and free.  It was a celebration of Braden's birthday and we kicked it of in my most favorite ways that mimic all of my childhood memories.  I'm positive that they will share in the same adoration of this season when they one day look back and return in their minds to nights like this with little friends who will then be grown beside them. 
This is the good stuff, for sure. 

 Happiest Birthday Brother boy!
And Happy Fall, friends.