Marriage and Term Limits

I have said a couple times lately that I think the fine institution of marriage needs term limits; like at year 15, you both could yell “SWAP”. Ha! What that vision would include is that somewhere during year 12 when you fantasize about pinching their nose clean off their face because they continue to leave their crap all over the house for you to clean, you could just tell yourself, “don’t do it, just a few more short years”. Ha! (I feel the need to insert “just kidding” right here. Hopefully that wasn’t necessary, but either way, just wanted to be on the safe side. Ha!)

I do have something on my mind though about this very topic. Picture this. You’re sitting at your desk when a new co-worker comes around to meet you. The both of you hit it off nicely and after a week or so of brief office chit chat, you go for a quick lunch one day. After several quick lunch dates that go fairly well, you decide to go out for dinner and a movie one Friday night. It gets to where you start noticing increased heart rate; a little excitement when you see this new interest round the corner to your office or when you see their name pop up on your phone; you feel your cheeks blush with certain eye contact or simple touches and just the thought of a kiss makes you giddy with anticipation. You begin hanging out more and more, determine that you are now going steady and get to the moment of saying those precious three little words, “I love you.” After that, you are attached to the person…feelings of possessiveness come into play, they are yours…your special person. You feel safety when you’re with them and seek them out while in a crowd. You’re just naturally drawn to them.

Typically the next step would include meeting the families, later getting engaged and finally marriage…Lord willing and the Creeks don’t rise. Right? So which part is the love part? All those mushy feelings or the part where you say “I love you”…which to me signifies that you will love them or continue the act of loving them for an undetermined amount of time? With this comes the question of today…is love a noun or a verb?

I’ve come to realize that we have a very skewed view of love when we see love as the noun…those mushy feelings if you will. Let me just tell you, feelings come and go as quick as Aunt Sally’s Homemade Banana Pudding or Uncle Fred’s Scratch and Win Lotto money. (insert eye roll)

Marriages have been thrown away for the sheer fact that one or both spouses don’t feel like they love the other any more. If love is a feeling, then yes, you probably don’t love them anymore. If love is an action (verb), you can choose whether you do or not. I think real change happens in a failing marriage when you come to view love as an action and not a feeling. You can make that choice to “act” all day long, but feelings, you have no control over; they come and go with the wind.

When we vow to love someone for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part, do we really know what we are promising? I’ve posed the question before…if we knew what til death do us part meant for us as a couple, would we still walk that aisle?

As a hospice Social Worker, my eyes are wide open as to what that phrasing means. We are saying that we will love our spouse until they take their final breath; that we will wipe their behind when they are unable to do so themselves; that we will make difficult decisions about nursing home placement; that we will spend some lonely years when the kids move out to live their own dream; that we will possibly lose our ability to help our mate when they experience a decline in health because we ourselves are experiencing a decline in health; we may look at each other from one wheelchair to another and chuckle at the fine situation you both find yourselves in this time.

Of course, all of this time from the aisle of the church to a spouse’s final breath is riddled with bad but also with much good. Funny memories are created from eating Ramen Noodles and dented-can-mystery-meat from the clearance bin because diapers and formula are super expensive; moments spent on the back porch after the babies are down for the night; sweet moments spent on the couch under a cozy blanket while you watch television…or while the television watches you cuddle and smooch; moments of pride as you see your children grow and chase their own dreams; grandbabies being born…just so many good times also.

I find myself back to the difficult question of how can one couple make it to the final breath and some make it only to ten years and a divorce attorney? I’ve decided it’s all in your perspective. You can make that choice to love or you can hit the road the moment the mushy feelings flee the scene. But I can assure you, the next relationship you run to will entail all of those same feelings initially but they too will finally dissipate. How many times do we change partners to chase those feel good mushy lovey dovey feelings that accompany new love? How many is enough?

Sipping some delicious warm soothing “muddy water” as a friend recently called it and thinking to myself that after 26 years of marriage…and no term limits…I might better view love as an action because those mushy feelings have been g-g-g-gone for a minute now. Ha! ~paula

What I See Now

There might be a topic or two in this entry that some may say is TMI so I decided to say that out loud before I carried on any further. You know, at least give you the opportunity to read with one eye open and one eye closed if you were scared of possible content. (Nothing super horrible though, so for sure, don’t feel like you have to read with both eyes closed.) Ha!!!

There were so many things that I had stopped doing, stopped caring about and stopped even using brain power or energy for during the year of Mom’s illness; and honestly, all the way up to about 6 months after she passed. I didn’t realize what an absolute funk I had been floundering in until I slowly stopped floundering in it. I can’t tell you if I stopped floundering in it or if the funk just dissipated enough that I could see reality again. Well, I shouldn’t say I saw reality again because that funk was my very real reality for so long…so long.

Anyhoo, during our last year with Mom, the dishes at my little mama’s were done thoroughly. Dishes at my house stacked to the ceiling and I had no ability to care, even if my very life had depended on it. Christmas decorations at my little mama’s house were immaculate this year. As opposed to our Christmas tree that had lights with an angel on top and nothing else. I did buy my babies their new ornaments as I do every year, but they never made it to the tree. I should also include that my tree remained up this year until around late July. I could not have cared less what a soul thought about it either. I’m going to say that again. My tree stayed up this year until around late July…lights on. I. Was. In. A. Funk.

Other tidbits of information to show you just how much of a funk and tail spin grief can provide…we ripped out carpet last July and replaced with laminate floor; until August of this year, I still hadn’t hung one thing back up on the walls again…including curtains.

I want so badly to help others who grieve silently by grieving out loud through my blog.

I want you to understand that I have never been one to keep a spotless house. Not Child-Protective-Services-level filth…but if I have some dishes in the sink and some clutter here and there, I totally feel at home and am okay with that. Ha!

But to say I had let my house go was the most monumental understatement I could ever let flow out of my mouth. I lost control of a situation that I barely kept under control anyway.

During that time of funk, I would go days without showering. Weeks without shaving my legs…and when I did, the area shaved would only be specific to whatever article of clothing I chose. (Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. Ha!) I don’t know that I even brushed my teeth regularly. When I say funk, I mean funk. (Literal funk. And in a lot of different ways.)

I would say that around the 7 month mark after my sweet little mama passed, I realized…Good God woman, wake the hell up, what is going on, who have you turned into and how did all this happen??? My house was a wreck, I had hairy man legs, my tree was still up, the house was so full of junk that when I “cleaned” it still looked horrible.

So what do you do when you wake up and life has gone on without you for months and nearly suffocated you with stuff? You start cleaning and throw stuff out…and you shave those damn hairy man legs! (I don’t mean shaving what is specific to the article of clothing anymore, I mean shaving your legs…both total legs…because you have enough care and concern to not want man legs anymore. Ha!)

I made the comment recently to an old friend but new reader (yay!!!) of Coffee with Paula that I want so badly to help others who grieve silently by grieving out loud through my blog. This is real life grief. This is what grief looks like. Grief is not just feelings. Grief has a personality, a look, is tangible and had consumed me. I worry that others only see the put-together-Paula and think that I don’t hurt or feel or grieve or feel anguish or despair. It is real. It is a part of my life and I don’t want anyone to be confused by my laughter, my smiles, my ability to keep moving everyday, my ability to joke about life, my ability to sing on a praise team or keep working with hospice patients every Monday thru Friday. I grieve, I hurt, I want to give up, I want to cry, I feel despair, something is missing, there is a dull ache in my heart…it has been like this since I found out she was going to die and gained in intensity after she passed. All of these are decreasing in strength now. But they are still there.

To say that I am so much better now, is the truth. Those are not just shallow words. I have evidence that I continue to get so much better. I still miss my little mama, the dull ache is constantly there, random tears still fall unexpectedly…but the consuming funk has gone. Will it come back? I hope not. But I think Paula is back. And that feels amazing!

Sipping coffee and liking the me that I see now…but wishing someone would get that Christmas tree box off my front porch. I got it out of the house, somebody else can take it the rest of the way. Ha!!! ~paula

For Whom Do You Sing Harmony?

I adore singing in the choir. I have some of my most carefree moments of each week…goofing, laughing, singing, harmonizing and practicing with my fellow choir members…who just happen to be some of my closest friends.

I sing alto, as did my sweet little mama. She managed to teach me that I would love choir…or else. Ha!

During my early years in choir, she was my choir director. Let me just tell you, when your mama was the choir director…you sang in the choir. Needless to say, I can’t say I always had a passion for singing or harmony, but it is now as much a part of who I am as my skin color, eye color, hair color and my facial features. I LOVE TO SING.

But to say I love to sing, is not really the full picture of what I love about this topic. I do sing pretty much all day long…in between patients, on the way to church, in the shower, while I listen to music on the beach… I even have to school myself NOT to hum while I’m in a conversation with someone because it could be construed as inattentiveness to what is being said. I have it bad. Ha! But the truth of what I love about singing is the harmony.

When I sing to the radio, I’m full on harmonizing. I sing alto in the choir which is primarily harmony. I feel a little disappointed when the alto line has to sing the melody and the sopranos have to bust out the harmony.

Sidenote: I realized recently that Sopranos don’t typically like to sing harmony either…so music writers…stop that. Ha! On second thought, maybe you should keep doing that occasionally so we are forced out of our comfort zones more often. But that’s a whole other topic.

Google depicts harmony as a noun that is: 1- the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions that have a pleasing effect. 2- agreement or concord. Synonyms: accord, agreement, peace, peacefulness, amicability, friendship, fellowship, cooperation, understanding, unity, rapport, like-mindedness. Basically, in music, harmony is a note that compliments the main note, the melody.

As you have gotten to know me…you knew I wouldn’t be able to let this go, right? You knew I would have to take this a step further. I couldn’t just let the definition of harmony be the end, right? There are so many life lessons all wrapped up into this one little topic. (#deepthinkerprobs)

I think that in life, we have to be the harmony to our fellow man’s melody.

As a Social Worker, I must be the harmony to my patient’s melody as I work along side them as they make decisions. I absolutely can not be the melody for my patient or families. They are the melody. I am the harmony. I accompany them as they make decisions they will live with for the rest of their lives. They are the lead. I provide necessary accompaniment.

As a wife, I must be the harmony to my husband’s melody. In this day and age it is frowned upon to say this, but he has the task of leading and I have the task of accompanying him as he accomplishes that task. Do I always play perfect harmony with him? Like, a big hell no to that. He makes me angry and crazy and absolutely nuts at times and I purposely turn that harmony right into a ‘dissonant’ chord. (Fellow music folks, do you see what I did there? Ha!) But luckily, dissonant chords are a ‘thing’ also. When a dissonant chord resolves itself into beautiful harmony again, life is good, right? That means kissing, folks. And kissing is good, right? Ha!

Moving right along. As a mother, I must be the harmony to my children’s ambitions in life. They have so many decisions to make along the way. I can’t run their lives for them. As much as we want to stop them from making the same mistakes we made, they have to live their life on their own. We can educate…harmonize, if you will…but we have to let them be their own melody. At the end of the day, they are the ones who have to lie their head down on their own pillow at night and live with their own thoughts. Not us. We live with our own thoughts.

I should probably revisit my earlier comment “we have to be the harmony to our fellow man’s melody”. What does that really mean? If we are always the harmony for others, when do we get to be our own melody? Almost always would be the answer. If everyone learned to compliment other’s melodies, there would always be someone available to be your harmony as well.

“Your true character is most accurately measured by how you treat those who can do nothing for you.” – Mother Teresa

Just sipping some Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée Coffee and thinking about puttin’ on a kitchen concert. Where’s my spatula mic??? I’m about to bust out some major harmony…whose gonna tackle the melody for me??? ~paula

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

img_3120I got a snap from a good friend of mine that she left a surprise on my desk at work and it would be waiting on me the next morning. I, of course…since I hardly have the ability to be serious…suggested that I was hoping it might be a certain singer & song writer who I currently crush on pretty hard. But I mean, how would they have gotten Ashley McBryde to agree to come to my office and just sit on my desk and await my arrival until the next morning? Nope, that couldn’t be it. (But seriously, her lyrical ability that literally makes you question whether or not you are the one in the song coupled with her mesmerizing vocals…and amazing tats…who wouldn’t crush on all of that!)

But I digress. (Clears throat and gets back on task.) What was awaiting my arrival this morning was a bag of Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée, Ground Coffee by Archer Farms. This coffee is described as “Sweet vanilla and burnt sugar flavors with a light body”. I wouldn’t have been able to come up with that choice of words if my very life depended on it. I didn’t actually read that description until I had already tasted the coffee which was preceded by me smelling the coffee as it brewed. Man. All I could think to describe the coffee was “damn”. Ha! See what I mean? The level of delight experienced by my happy little taste buds decreased my literary skills by about 37.9%. I went sort of neanderthal…just grunted “damn” and kept slurping. Ha! But that description was spot on! Delicious!

So delicious that I even took a picture of the moment and decided there was something that should be said for good friends and thoughtful gestures. It just needed to be shared.

My mind considered the Random Acts of Kindness movement that was so prevalent for a while. I definitely hopped aboard the proverbial band wagon and dished out a few little unsuspecting niceties. They definitely made my heart smile as I hoped it did for the recipients of my kindness. I just wish the movement had truly swept the nation and made a lasting impression. You know, reached every single corner of the entire globe…nice people everywhere…waiting, watching, ready to pounce with a nice gesture the moment the opportunity presented. This would have resulted in so much sugar dripping from every street corner that you wouldn’t have been able to breathe. Ha! Not likely though, right?

Nice gestures and sweet friends are only two tiny pieces of the enormous puzzle that make this life pleasant. There are a lot of things that make life lovely and pleasant and worth it. Closing your eyes as you get lost in a slow kiss, refreshing rain showers enjoyed while rocking on the back porch, the first sip of morning coffee, slipping under clean sheets with freshly shaved legs, the first long drag of a cigarette while you stress smoke, a long icy chug of a 20oz Mountain Dew straight from the cooler, the aromas that waft from your mama’s kitchen, watching and hearing the waves crash onto the beach while the breeze blows your hair, your teeth squishing into the juicy sweetness of a summer  sun ripened watermelon, listening to babies belly laugh with no inhibition, kicking your shoes and socks off and plopping down on the couch after you come in from work. Aaaaaah! I could literally go on for hours of all the nice little things in life. Things that are often overlooked, discounted…taken for granted…but can’t be bought.

My pastor used the word content recently in a sermon and communicated how we should learn to be a little more content in life; stop wanting so much stuff. The word content is so integral in making or breaking our perspective on how life is treating us. If we only look at the things that are missing; your car isn’t as cool as your neighbor’s, you don’t have enough money for that new house, can’t find your second fuzzy sock, your television is broke; we will miss out on so much of the “good stuff”.

Sipping my new favorite coffee tonight which was such an unexpected sweet gesture and learning how to be content in life…looking for the good in everyday situations. What did you enjoy about your day? You had to have something you could consider “nice”. What makes you content? ~paula

 

 

Schlabor Day, As We Know It Now.

(Photo from 2010; ‘Chelle & Paula’s toes)

Several years ago, my little mama decided that we should begin going to the beach every Labor Day…just our little clan of folks. Dad and Mom; my brother and his fam; me and my fam. Oh the fun we have had throughout the years on these little excursions. Doin’ our thang which always included laughter, food, being ridiculously loud and crazy and then more laughter. It’s pretty safe to say we put the fun in disfunction during these long weekends; as we clearly do in any occasion.

We immediately began calling it Schlabor Day, to honor our family namesake; Schlehmeier. It was a time we all looked forward to and planned for months in advance. Around March, or sometimes the week we got home, Mom would make reservations for a huge house that would fit our motley crew. We stayed at various locations during the years, but always there was a separate bedroom for each married couple, always a kitchen big enough to hold the amount of food it would take to feed a group 67.9 times larger than what was actually there, relatively easy beach access, balconies for cigars and enjoying the beach breeze and plenty of lounging space inside…cuz that is what we do…we lounge. Around 6 weeks before the weekend arrived, my little mama would start emailing me and my partner in crime about meal plans; cuz I swear to God, what is a beach trip without good food, right? The three ladies would all have one supper meal and would all have one breakfast meal. We never had to plan lunches because there was always so many leftovers or junk food, no one needed lunch planned because food was just there if you wanted something. It eventually evolved to include one big outing where the men could drink beer and eat oysters.

Approximately one million pictures were taken throughout these long weekends each year; we wanted the weekends to be in our minds forever and we wanted these little nuggets to be available for remembering each amazing moment! In 2011 was the first actual family beach picture we took. It was always Mom’s favorite. She had every single one of her little chicks in the picture and she loved it for years to come.

(Photo from 2011)

Below, random pictures that commemorate some of the craziness and the fun-loving nature of our clan. I’m not certain where all of the craziness comes from, I’m just very proud that it’s there. We ain’t boring people. It doesn’t even take alcohol to make us crazy, it’s just already there. Ha! But I tried to find just one picture from each Schlabor Day we spent together; some I chose two or three. But enjoy as you scroll. I enjoyed walking through memory lane as I reviewed pics to choose the ones I would upload. A few tears but of course a few chuckles as I remembered.

(Photo from 2012)

(Photo from 2012)

(Photo from 2013)

2013 was another year my little Mama had every one of her little chicks right where she wanted them…together.

(Photo from 2014)

The T-shirts, you’ll notice, are air-brushed creations designed by the famous air brush duo…’Chelle & Paula. For a small nominal fee, they can design your family’s next T also. Ha!

(Photo from 2015)

(Photo from 2016)

Did I say there were always shenanigans?

(Photo from 2017)

Then enters Schlabor Day, 2017. There were still shenanigans, laughter, food, love and more laughter. But there was also some hidden tears, some hidden heart ache, some hidden dread. We knew that one of our precious group would most likely not be with us for another Schlabor Day. Man, when I say we did this year up right, we did it up right.

(Photo from 2017)

‘Chelle found us a house directly on the beach with tons of space, a huge balcony directly overlooking a breathtaking view of this beauty that had been so much a part of our lives since we were babies. For the first time in a couple of years, Mom was able to sit and just soak in the beauty. For the last couple of Schlabor Days, she wasn’t able to get out onto the beach or walk very close due to her knees giving her so much trouble. But this year she soaked it up for hours on the balcony because she knew it was her last time, her last opportunity.

(Photo from 2017)

We all loved a little deeper, laughed a little harder, savored the moments a little more intently because of the cloud that hung over us. We knew time was limited. We lived life differently now.

(Photo from 2017)

This was the final Schlabor Day pic with my little mama included. She loved this little group of people more than I can even begin to explain. Her goal in life was to see her family be together, stay together, stick up for each other and accept each other no matter how stupid or ridiculous we might be acting at the moment. She loved those grands fiercely and you needn’t try to deter that. If she wanted to buy them something, you could hang it up, cuz it was bought. If she wanted to take them somewhere or be somewhere they were, you could hang it up, cuz she was there. She loved fiercely.

This Schlabor Day, Schlabor Day 2018, has been with family, with laughter, with lots of food but with hearts that are still a little lost, still trying to figure out our normal and still asking “who the hell are we exactly right now”. We still shared the weekend together as she would have wanted but we just couldn’t pull off the beach trip. I’m certain that plans would have needed to be made back during the months when we were still floundering from the gravity of the loss of her and we just couldn’t wrap our minds around planning a beach trip when we didn’t know if we wanted to keep living ourselves much less plan a beach trip.

Next year may be different. Who knows? All I know is that grief still sucks us down fiercely at times; demands that we choke on the waters of despair while gasping for precious air. Precious air that one day will be ours again. I do notice moments now when I am allowed to breathe in the fresh air of contentment; moments that do not have that nagging hint of despair and loss. It still presents itself often, but I see hints of contentment now. The feeling that everything-is-okay is ever so slowly coming back. I will never not miss my little mama. I will never not wish we could have her healthy self back with us to spend the rest of our lives with us. But everything is going to be okay one day. One day.

I’m pretty certain she would be fairly content with how we spent Schlabor Day 2018. Pretty content with the fact that we still chose to spend it together, feasted together, gained a few Schlabor Day pounds as usual and just loved on each other. Maybe we will take Schlabor Day back on the road for 2019. We’ll see.

Sipping coffee this morning and thinking about a little mama that loved fiercely; and wanting to be just like her when I grow up. ~paula

 

Haiku! Bless You! I Didn’t Sneeze.

I have always secretly loved a good Haiku. You know…5-7-5? I’m not so much in love with reading Haikus as I am with writing Haikus. I come up with these little suckers in my mind if I’m bored or if I see something funny or if I’m especially impressed with something or if I’m especially annoyed with something. I do this pretty much all the time. I have never once written one down nor have I ever shared this with anyone. Some things are better left unsaid. (Ha!) But seriously, the more I write, the more I realize I am definitely a literary geek…and I’m okay with that…so I decided to get a few of these on paper. Hope you enjoy!

HAIKU

To write a Haiku.

Lines 1-2-3, 5-7-5.

Syllable counts, rock!

>>>————>

<————<<<

COCKROACH

Oh cockroach, oh roach.

I ate you when I was three.

Your legs were crunchy.

>>>————>

<————<<<

BEACH

Waves, larger than life.

Your sound clears all of my thoughts.

Breeze, therapeutic.

>>>————>

<————<<<

CAT LITTER

Thank God for your help.

But I hate your smelliness.

These cats gotta go.

>>>————>

<————<<<

HALLMARK CHANNEL

You let me space out.

Love will always win on here.

No stress for my brain.

>>>————>

<————<<<

SKITTLES

So sweet in my mouth.

I love colors of rainbow.

Happy when with you.

>>>————>

<————<<<

GIRLS

We smell super sweet.

“The taste of cherry chapstick”

Katy Perry likes.

>>>————>

<————<<<

COFFEE

Warm deliciousness.

Trickling into my throat.

Keeping me happy.

>>>————>

<————<<<

DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

You make me so sick.

I wish you would go to hell.

You make me so sick.

>>>————>

<————<<<

TO KISS

You can close your eyes.

Passion and fiery desire.

Never kiss too fast.

>>>————>

<————<<<

CHRISTMAS

Lights that sparkle bright.

Children’s smiles are everywhere.

Family gathers.

>>>————>

<————<<<

MY HOUSE

It never stayed clean.

Minimalist lifestyle now.

Keep the clutter gone.

>>>————>

<————<<<

WEINER DOGS

They love to burrow.

Quirky personalities.

Annoying but great!

>>>————>

<————<<<

MUSIC

I can’t live without.

It speaks deeply to my soul.

I get that from Mom.

>>>————>

<————<<<

TELL IT LIKE IT IS

I speak my own mind.

Can I use cuss words sometimes?

I get that from Dad.

>>>————>

<————<<<

KETO

Bake, bake, bake bacon.

Omelettes and yumminess.

Shrinking fat rolls now.

>>>————>

<————<<<

MARRIAGE

Can be wonderful.

Can be very annoying.

Make me a sammich.

>>>————>

<————<<<

RAIN

Rain cleanses my thoughts.

I am a pluviophile.

Rain showers are nice.

>>>————>

<————<<<

Sipping coffee and assuming this attempt to entertain myself has you guys pretty bored right about now. (Ha!) But writing Haikus is totally mind clearing. I encourage you to try. ~paula

When You Just Need a Minute

If there is anything that I’ve learned through this stupid grief journey is that sometimes I just need a minute. A minute to breathe, a minute to think about my sweet little mama, a minute to think about what things would be like if Cancer hadn’t reared it’s ugly head, a minute to think about all I wish I could tell her, a minute to just feel the pain, a minute to rip off the peel-n-stick smile I use daily and just cry.

Often lately, I’ve noticed that I wish I had the capability to wiggle my nose and instantly be on the beach for whatever time necessary to clear my head and then wiggle my nose to get me back home. I’m pretty sure I just had an epiphany while typing that sentence. It ain’t rocket science, move to the beach, Paula! (The beach is my most loved place on the earth because I think so clearly there…incase you didn’t know.)

But truly, there are a million instances during this thing called life that require us to regroup, reevaluate, redetermine who we are and who we want to be; you know, take a minute to “settle down” when something turns our world upside down.

So many things can manifest our own personal definition of “world upside down”. To one, the loss of a parent; to another, the loss of a job; an unexpected pregnancy; a car accident leaving one debilitated in some way; a house fire; a spousal affair. I could keep this list flowing for ten hours and still have more things to list. So many things have the ability to rock us to the core.

Why? Why are we so easily knocked on our behinds when things go wrong? I think we go along in life and constantly have these ideas and notions that are our own personal goals in life. We so easily let the words slip from our mouths that we want God’s will to be done, yet we keep making plans and arrangements on our own. We have ideas about what our lives should look like, what our kids’ lives should look like, how our neighbors’ lives should be looking. Goodness. For the most part, we can’t control anything and we just have to figure out how to deal with our new situation; even when it doesn’t fit into our well thought out plans.

I’m not saying that when bad things happen it’s because God wanted them to happen or He wanted us to have a less perfect life than we wanted to have, or even that He wanted to give us a wake up call. I’m just saying that this life isn’t ours. It is supposed to be His. He will not place you in situations that He doesn’t have the ability to walk you through.

When our children make decisions we hate. When our spouses make decisions we can’t tolerate. When things happen that are big, that you just can’t seem to accept, what are we to do?

The most simple thing to do is just take a minute to realize, the world hasn’t actually stopped turning. You are indeed still breathing. You do actually still have the ability to feel true joy, it just might be a minute before you can notice. There is very little in this life that is truly the end of the world.

When my sweet little Mama took her final breath, my heart stopped along with her’s. The problem was, mine started back again. For those few minutes directly afterward, my world was quite literally spinning out of control and I couldn’t catch my breath or have a coherent thought. I saw talking all around me but could only hear the screaming inside my head. I had held it together for so very long and the screaming inside my head was the tears and gut wrenching heart ache that had been waiting for the moment I would finally allow them out. The revelation came…I didn’t have to be strong anymore. When that realization hit my mind and soul, to say I absolutely lost my shit, is quite the understatement. I let a million loud, rushing tears go and it was not pretty to say the least. A solid year’s worth of withheld tears and despair flooded out of my weary and exhausted body. I could hold them back not a second more.

Who knows what all happened after that. Those immediate days following are such a blur to me now. I just know that I was surrounded by so much love and concern and tenderness from friends and family. I’m certain my little mama was orchestrating it all to make certain we were cared for during a time she tried so desperately to prepare us for, because she knew she couldn’t be there to physically help us herself.

What I do remember was the overwhelming need for time to stand still for just a minute. I NEEDED A MINUTE! And I was angry that no one was giving me that minute. I needed that minute to get my mind wrapped around what had occurred but there was no minute to be had. Time marched and I sort of just flowed with it. Had no choice.

But what I was being taught during that time was that there is an amazing God who was still on His throne, who kept His arms around me the whole time and never allowed me to slip under the currents for more than I needed to be under. He didn’t give me more than I could bear…with His help. THAT’s the key. He will not give us more than we can bear…with His help.

There is such a valid lesson in this for every aspect of life. Our kids don’t always choose for themselves the things that we want them to choose. They make downright stupid decisions sometimes; as do our spouses; as do we. Our spouses aren’t always capable of meeting the standard we think is required. Promotions at work don’t always happen when we think they should. Life gets messy! But God is always on His throne…no matter what rocked your little world to the core.

So take your minute when you need it. But don’t stay there. You have to get back to “keepin’ on”. You have to figure out how to keep moving and growing. I saw on a church sign one time, “If God brought you to it, He’ll bring you through it.” Right? Right.

Sipping coffee tonight and being so very thankful for parents who taught me that nothing that happens to make our life messy or troubled or rocked-to-the-core is the end of the world. Nothing. ~paula

What Am I Running From?

Have you ever wondered what wakes a person up in the morning? I’m pretty certain it’s safe to say I have never wondered what wakes any specific person up. I’ve never sat at my desk or on the church pew and wondered “Hmmm? What ringtone wakes so-and-so up every morning?” Cuz, quite frankly, that’s just weird. But just incase you’ve ever wondered what wakes me up, it’s the dreaded RADAR ringtone from my iPhone!

This morning, as I scrambled to snatch and strangle the culprit of what I considered the most dreaded sound to have ever pierced my ear drums, I had already begun to try and come up with a legitimate reason to call out of work. I was exhausted and wanted to go back to sleep. I didn’t hit snooze but I did decide to set the alarm for thirty extra minutes.

Honestly, I didn’t get another second of sleep during that thirty extra minutes. I just kept mulling over any reason I could possibly think up that I could use to call out. Nothing sounded legitimate and I absolutely refused to lie about a reason for calling out.

Any of you that know me well, know that I despise calling out and rarely do. I do believe that situations arise that make it super legitimate to call out, but some people look for reasons all the time and actually use them. Those are typically the co-workers I do not respect. (This is not to be confused with scheduled vacay days. Scheduled vacay days are a must when trying to maintain sanity.) But, I believe that when you agree to work for an agency…you agree to work for an agency whether you feel like it or not. They pay you whether they feel like it or not, right? So, with a little bit of work ethic, let’s come to work people. (That was my version of a public service announcement and general pep talk. Ha!)

But, I digress.

This morning I kept hanging out on my pillow. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to copy/paste a smile today. Making small-talk seemed positively abhorrent. I had no desire to do anything productive. No motivation. No energy. But still, I had no true or legitimate reason to not go in to work. I wanted so badly to call out just because but I could find nothing honorable in that.

Why didn’t I want to go? I love my job. Some would say that with drops of sarcasm but I do truly love my job.

As any good Social Worker would do, I began to analyze where in the world these feelings were coming from. What was I running from? I had no specific task that I dreaded for the day. I had no huge to-do list that was daunting. I had no specific problem cases that kept me wanting to hide under the covers. I had nothing that hurt, ached or felt sick in any way. What was I running from?

I came up with absolutely nothing. So I got my behind up, nursed a huge cup of coffee as I sat on the couch and stared off into space and then left for work. (Somewhere in the mix, I did brush my teeth as well.)

As I turned the first big curve in the road, my thoughts began the old familiar slide show that is so common for my morning commute. With the steering wheel in one hand and coffee cup in the other, I allowed my mind to flash to my sweet little mama. I watched snippets of her final days and mulled over priceless conversations that I will cherish for the rest of my life here on earth. I pictured some of the wonderful, intentional moments spent with family during her last year; laughter, tears, hugs, food, more laughter…did I mention laughter?

I thought of all the things I absolutely long to tell her; things that I know she would want to know. How Dad is doing, what is new with every single person in her little family, if we are taking care of Dad as we had promised. Hunter is doing an amazing job in band and loving it. Kelsi is beginning college and has the world at her fingertips. Zack is now a band director and lives in Florida. Madison babysat this summer full time and did an amazing job. Lee and Ana are killin’ it with their college classes. And p.s. Lee drove me in his car and I almost peed my pants…it was the most exhilarating feeling in the world! Ha!

Before I knew it, silent tears rolled down my face. Not a loud ugly cry…just the silent I-miss-my-Mama cry that is part of who I am now.

I’ve learned that, for now, sorrow and hurt still well just underneath the surface, waiting to burst forth whenever I will let them. Just underneath the smiling face that says “I’m okay” are tears that wait patiently, ready for a moments notice for the go signal. I miss my mama.

After the tears dried and my thoughts cleared, I had a very important epiphany for the day.

I was actually not running from anything earlier this morning. I was trying to run toward the grief that engulfs me sometimes. If I had listened to the hints my body gave me this morning, I would have stayed home to grieve appropriately today. I tell my families often to not run from their grief, embrace it, ride the waves, feel the pain, but always, no matter what, be honest and truthful about where they’re at for the moment; get it out in some healthy way. I apparently haven’t listened to anything I’ve said during the last 18 years of working with grieving families. (I’m apparently a slow learner.)

Yes, I arrived at work with a mildly red nose and puffy eyes…no make-up remained whatsoever…but everyone showed kindness and it was never mentioned. I sat down at my desk and got on with the work day. Busy with stuff, my mind shifted fairly easily from my little mama to other things. I was okay. But had I done myself an injustice? Maybe if I had just allowed myself to remain at home today, I would be a little ahead in this crazy game of grief. Maybe I would still be as far ahead of the game because I at least gave myself the hour commute to spend with my grief. Who knows…certainly not me. I’ve learned that, for the most part, grief is a guessing game where flexibility is a must.

Sipping coffee tonight and wondering who noticed how I set my alarm to address me each morning. Ha!!! Also wondering if you can tell the oftentimes capricious nature of grief through this entry…tears and sadness this morning; laughter and light hearted comments tonight. ~paula

Mr. Man at the Rest Area

The other day I was working my way through the work day when I realized I probably just attended a Divine appointment.

The day began as a typical day would in the world of Home Health and Hospice Social Work. I finished up documentation from the day before, faxed last minute details regarding an inpatient rehab stay for a patient that was no longer improving at home, discussed a case with our Occupational Therapist and made arrangements to retrieve items ordered to increase a patient’s independence at home, reviewed a case that had possible caregiver breakdown; all while sipping cold but yummy coffee like a boss! (Wait, if I was a boss, someone might have heated it up for me. Ha!) Four patients awaited my arrival and I was ready to get on the road to see them.

With the length of time in the office and all of the coffee sipped, I knew to potty before I left because one thing for sure was that a bladder was not designed to hold an entire pot of coffee for very long. So. All tasks completed…it was time to hit the road.

I put all of my Social Work paraphernalia in the car, walked around to the driver’s seat but noticed just how disgusting my ride looked. The mud from south Alabama dirt roads after rain was accompanied by the routine road filth that builds up week after week. My guess was that the thick layer of filth on the outside of my car had to be effecting my gas mileage by now. So the next stop was the 5 minute automated car wash.

Finally the work day was back underway as my sparkling ride veered into traffic and cruised toward the first destination; music, of course, set just right. After numerous miles were made and several sets completed of the travel concert that was a constant while in the car, the first destination was getting close. It then became evident that another potty break was necessary. Damn coffee slowing my roll again!

In perfect timing, I noticed a blue rectangular suggestion beside the 4-lane that a Rest Area neared. I traveled the distance, whipped into the parking spot, shut off the engine, jumped out, locked up and sprinted through the rain that had begun to drizzle with the expectation to dash in and dash out.

Wrong.

That was when Mr. Man at the Rest Area (MMRA) entered my day.

Brief pleasantries were exchanged as I entered and walked past the man behind the counter. When I walked to exit the rest area though, I mentioned that I hoped the rain would stop soon because I had many miles to accomplish before the work day was done. He commented, “I know what you mean. By the way, can I ask you a question?”

With that small question, my inner spirit cringed such a deep cringe that the professional poker face I own almost let me down. I didn’t have time for a long conversation. I didn’t want to answer any long nursing questions. (I wear scrubs and sometimes get the most in-depth nursing questions before I can get the phrase out of my mouth “I’m not a nurse, I’m a Social Worker.”) I just didn’t have time. I had patients. But with my most interested upbeat voice and accepting facial expression, I exclaimed, “certainly”.

MMRA proceeded to ask if I was a nurse, to which I explained, I was a Social Worker for a local Home Health and Hospice. This prompted MMRA to share of his grandmother who passed last year, his grief journey through the last few months and that their family used a competitor of ours who he thought did a wonderful job taking care of his beloved grandmother. I assured him that there are several wonderful hospice agencies in the area who mostly employ the same general types of people; ones who are compassionate, have a deep rooted love for all people as well as the genuine desire to help their fellow man. MMRA voiced agreement that it must be true.

But as we chatted further, I’m not certain that he ever truly asked the specific question for which he stopped me; I was fairly certain he wasn’t going to just ask if I was a nurse.

He mentioned studying to be a youth pastor, driving the church van and that he wanted to share God’s love anytime he could. He voiced that he knew I must be a Christian due to my caring nature, which I confirmed. He later mentioned that it’s easy to say we’re Christians but it’s hard to truly act like one; to which I firmly agreed.

He talked of an aunt that retired within the last few years from an agency where I used to work. I reveled in an it’s a small world moment as I shared that I remembered her very well and had actually just driven by her home within the last two weeks working in an area that was not typical for my work day. How strange that I would run into the nephew of this lady after I had just passed her house in an area that I hadn’t been for over five years. Crazy.

Chatter died down and I really had to get to my four patients so I bid farewell and headed to my car. All I could think to myself was why in the world did that conversation happen? I had always been a firm believer that things happened for a reason; this random conversation would be no different.

Maybe MMRA needed a moment to honor his beloved Grandmother with shared memories to a complete stranger? Maybe MMRA needed to affirm his faith and his decision to become a youth pastor by sharing that with a complete stranger? Maybe MMRA knew deep down this complete stranger needed a reminder that being a Christian is more than just singing in the choir and doing churchy things; that it’s more about a relationship with a Heavenly Father, sharing God’s love to the world and making certain you are walking in His will? MMRA’s comment, “sometimes you’re the only Bible a person will ever see” played over and over. The reality sank in deeply; Paula does not always look like a Bible; Paula does not even look like a Bible most of the time.

Sipping coffee this morning and wondering if Mr. Man at the Rest Area knew he had an impact on my heart with that random…or maybe not as random as I’d like to think…conversation. ~paula

Getting Rid

I am basically over spending needlessly, collecting junk that does not make me giddy with joy, storing things that I might need one day, organizing closets so everything will fit.

I. Am. Done.

I currently have a guest bedroom that wouldn’t hold an actual guest if it’s very life depended on it. I have stuff organized and shoved into nooks and crannies that shouldn’t be holding anything, much less the choice of ridiculous tidbits that I have obtained…and stored…through the years. Sadly, the nooks and crannies in my guest bedroom currently need nooks and crannies.

What makes us feel this absurd desire to store, collect, save?

I have a walk-in closet. But guess what? I can’t walk in. Clothes hanging that I wore ten years ago and even if the size was still correct, the fashion certainly is not. The fashion most likely wasn’t right when I actually bought them, per my kiddo. Ha!Boxes for printers, computers, cellular phones stored…wait for it…wait for it…incase we need to send it back. Newsflash! If you don’t even still have that printer, you’re not going to be sending anything back! Papers. Never ending mounds of papers. Why? Why are they in my beautiful walk in closet with the amazing storage unit?

I don’t know why we ever allow ourselves to place items in charge of our home. I am determined that from now til Jesus Himself comes back for His children, I will be the one in charge of what-goes-where in my home, what items enter this home and what items remain in this home.

I’ve come to terms with the knowledge that clutter equals chaos. I will allow it no more. Getting rid of unnecessary stuff is the name of my game right now.

Clutter comes in so many forms. Unhealthy relationships. Unhealthy spending habits. Unhealthy uses of our time. Unfinished projects. If you truly evaluate your situation, you may realize that quite a bit of your relationships, most of your expenses and a huge majority of your chosen uses of time are needless and destructive to your well-being. Why do we allow our sanity to be chipped away by things, of which, we should be fully in control?

We have absolute control over spending time with friends or acquaintances who tear us down and deplete our inner well-being. (Just don’t go.) We have absolute control over what our hard-earned money is spent towards. (Just say no.) We have absolute control over how we spend our time. (Stop agreeing to everything, you can’t do everything. And if you did, it all wouldn’t be done well. Right?)

We not only should have a place in our home that brings us peace, tranquility and relaxation; but our home should bring us peace, tranquility and relaxation; as should our relationships and our finances.

Goodness. Just thinking about the opportunity with which I’m faced in this game of declutter, encouraged an optimistic feeling that crept into my soul and a feeling of carrying less weight has begun.

I just want a home that actually looks clean when I clean. (Ha!) God knows how bad I hate to clean; I certainly need to be able to stand back and admire my work when I do actually get around to cleaning. That only makes sense to those of you who have more stuff than the space you’ve been allotted. (Like me!) I want the stuff that I have in my home to be stuff that makes me smile when I view it; not stuff that makes me anxious to look that direction because I know it needs some attention…like transportation to the trash can or thrift store.

I also want a home where I don’t see ten different unfinished projects because I don’t have the cash flow, time or energy to complete because of all the clutter I’ve allowed into my life. As of this second, I have two living rooms, two bathrooms and one bedroom that still need paint; two living rooms that need trim work from flooring put in months ago. Frustrating.

Now granted, the majority of these project delays were due to time well-spent with my precious Mama during her final months that I will never once regret, even if I live to be a million years old. But it’s time to start taking back control of a life that became chaotic during a time when I could only focus one one thing…a mama that was preparing for the most important journey she had ever taken that would rock our world to the core.

But one of my last purchases was a big box of the flex trash bags; biggest size bags and box available. You would be surprised by how much junk will go into a strategically packed flex bag. Over the next few weeks and months, the local thrift store will obtain quite possibly half of the items in my house, maybe a husband or kid also? Well, I don’t know that they would fit in the flex bag so I probably better just let them stay. (Not to mention, that just raises too many questions anyway. Currently laughing out loud right now.)

But just to let you know, I’m sipping coffee tonight out of one of the few mugs I will actually be keeping as I declutter. If it doesn’t bring me great joy or a sense of peacefulness…it’s outta here! ~paula