Dad’s Boston Cream Pie

Happy Birthday to my Daddy.

My little mama made this man a Boston Cream Pie almost every year for his birthday for as long as I could remember. This was his first birthday since Mom passed and I wanted it to be perfect. I was teary-eyed several times during the few days surrounding his birthday because I just hate this loss. It truly sucks. But as for the Boston Cream Pie, latter years I have to admit Mom would buy one for him because it was much easier and almost as delicious. This year I hoped to try and fill the void a little with a homemade version.

Looking back over the last few days, I’m not certain what was the specific cause for all the tears. Ever since January 28th when the world as we knew it crashed, all of our family birthday’s have been the first without her early morning phone call or voicemail singing Happy Birthday, or her phone call to me so we could make the menu for the feast that would be shared. (We know how to put away some food around here! Ha!) But my heart has ached for each specific person on their special day for the individual grief that would be experienced only within themselves. My little brother and my precious niece were the first birthdays without her. Since then, my son, my sister-in-law, my daughter, my nephew, my husband and now my Dad have all had their first birthday without her. But I wasn’t truly certain if my tears were for Dad missing her on his birthday, me missing her with the preparation for his birthday menu or if it was for the fact that this was also the six month mark of her passing. I had no idea. I only knew it was a struggle for several days.

I wish I could say this Boston Cream Pie was as good as Mom’s but I can not. It looked fairly okay, tasted fairly okay, but was most assuredly not the same. See, during the making of this Boston Cream Pie, the top cake layer cracked, of all things. Some cussing definitely occurred but more than that, tears occurred as well. Just a stressful day all together. I got done with the tears, regrouped, squished the cake together and covered it with frosting.

Magic. No one else had a clue. Nice! (Later, I was finally able to chuckle at the hidden chaos; more evidence that chocolate does fix all.) Ha!

God…the pressure of this cake though. Through the years, my sweet mama definitely had the occasional issue but for this one year, I just visualized a perfect creation for Dad’s Birthday. A perfect creation was not to be had. Ha!

Why did it have to be perfect? I guess I just assumed the day was hard for him as well. No Happy Birthday first thing that morning. No birthday breakfast. No constant little comments or texts making the day more special with birthday reminders. Everything was just different.

I cooked supper for Dad on the actual night of his birthday and tried to make sure it was all yummy. Hamburger Steak, rice loaded down with butter and cooked in homemade chicken broth, white peas that Mom had put up the summer before and of course…Boston Cream Pie. Don’t worry, I had already calmed myself and made it look as nice as possible. I didn’t want his day to pass without some acknowledgement of his birthday. I just couldn’t. Yes we had a shindig planned for Saturday with friends and extended family, grilling and chilling; exactly how we do things. But I simply couldn’t let his actual birthday go by without something. Why? Why was this so important to me? Because this was how my little mama handled it every year. No matter what was going on around us, birthdays were meant for special meals and family time. No matter if a big gathering was planned for the weekend before or after; a Birthday was a birthday and it was meant to be celebrated.

In the heat of the battle…wanting everything to be perfect, planning this meal, planning Saturday’s meal, making certain every detail was covered, deciding how I would duplicate the old Boston Cream Pie Mom used to make, making certain to call Dad’s birthday in to the local radio station for a chance to win the birthday cake…what did I neglect to do? I never bought the man a present. Ha!!! So on the night of his birthday, after the food was cleared, candles blown out and kitchen cleaned up I asked, “Dad, what do you want for your birthday?” Well, in typical Dad fashion, he commented, “well Baby I don’t really want anything or need anything”. Okay well that was not helpful. Ha!

So, the days rocked on. My baby brother and I finished the final pieces to Dad’s Birthday shindig menu. Groceries were purchased. We cooked. We grilled. We ate. We socialized. We laughed. We cried. We laughed some more.

I felt my sweet Mama smiling during that day because I knew we had honored her wishes. We were taking care of Dad the best way we knew how. She asked us so many times during her last year to take care of him. We are doing just that, mama.

My brother and I cling to each other through this carrying on business. Sometimes we’re in control of our grief. Sometimes our grief is in control of us. But all we know to do is to carry on. She would have it no other way.

In all of my stress and concern regarding making things perfect, you must know two things about my Dad’s first birthday without my sweet mama. I never got around to buying this man a birthday present and that Boston Cream Pie ended up upside down and jumbled in a storage container the night we ate it. He didn’t want plastic wrap messing up the chocolate frosting top layer…so upside down in a deep container was better. Ha!

Maybe next Birthday, not so serious Paula. Ha!

Oh, and since I’m apparently writing out my confessional, I suppose I should say, I’m not actually sipping coffee right now because I drank too much earlier today. Ha!

But, happy birthday Dad! I hope you had fun, enjoyed the food and felt how much we love you! ~paula

We Can’t Continue the Madness.

I began writing this particular entry some time in April of this year but shelved it for a while. I pulled it back up tonight to review what I had written. How strange that I chose today to pull this particular rough draft up and read it when I had just had similar thoughts while driving around today. Fate? Possibly.

Incase you didn’t know, I’m an absolute SUCKER for a good romance novel. Once upon a time, in a land far far away, a younger version of myself would have only been caught reading trashy romances capable of sizzling your panties right off. Well, being the classy, reputable, upstanding, good Christian lady that I am, (stop laughing, all you folks that know I can still drop a cuss word faster than my, once Naval, husband) fast forward to present day, when I read only Christian romance…or at bare minimum, romance without as much juice. Did I mention I am an absolute SUCKER for a good romance?

Moving right along; I remember a particularly well written book by Francine Rivers, “And the Shofar Blew”. The fictional story of the struggles of Paul Hudson, a young pastor who had just taken on a new church and his wife Eunice, who tried to find common ground as her husband poured heart and soul into building God’s Kingdom…but oftentimes at the expense of marriage and family. One Sunday as my own pastor shared from the pulpit of removing some of the excess from our chaotic lives, I immediately thought of this book. As I sat and compared his sermon that day to what I remembered from the fictional Hudson’s, it seemed that you could be too busy, even doing what naturally seemed to be God’s business, to truly be working toward God’s business. Let that sink in. You could be too busy doing what naturally appeared to be God’s business to truly be working on God’s business.

Picture this…a young mom missing her baby girl’s t-ball games for the singles prayer group every Tuesday night and women’s ministry every Thursday night…a pastor constantly working late in his office on the next sermon while missing dinners with his wife who eats alone most nights…a deacon who constantly visits church members in the hospital but doesn’t have enough time to take his wife to her doctor appointments…a dad who teaches Sunday school, facilitates a small group and works on the ground crew but is unable to locate the time for family devotion and prayer with his wife and kids. Man, all sound like wonderful tasks that are very commendable, but when there is an expense to family or our own well-being, does it continue to be God-breathed? I’m leaning toward a negative.

Why do we keep up the church charade? Why do we feel like it’s better to keep up appearances than to truly live the Love of God, show the Love of God, share the Love of God or give the Love of God? If we are not showing this love to our family including church family and other humans in our paths, are our priorities correctly aligned? Again, I’m leaning toward a negative.

How do we get ourselves so loaded with so many things to do that we lose our focus on the why; our relationship with a God who loved us so deeply and without restraint that He sent His only Son to die for us, and to share the love of Christ with others so they can have that same relationship. I think we have such good intentions when we start our walk. Somehow we get overloaded and all of this service turns into struggle.

How can we keep from being overloaded with “service” in the church? It mostly happens so gradually we don’t see it coming, until one day we wake up and realize we don’t even have time to sit with God’s Word and just listen for that still, small voice. The voice we should long to hear.

Please don’t misconstrue what I’m sharing tonight. You can’t stop working in the church. Often a small handful are stuck doing many jobs because of the inactivity of others. If we all shared equally, things could be so much better. We can’t stop working, but we can make certain we have time for what are the only important things; time spent in God’s Word, time spent in prayer and time spent sharing our faith with others. I’m pretty certain time spent in prayer while actually listening to God’s voice and direction would provide the wisdom to know what services are for you and which are not.

I think my desire for less chaos has forced me to evaluate all areas of my life. My cluttered home, that I’m proud to say is slowly becoming less cluttered (still looks like hell because it often gets worse before it gets better, but I see improvements weekly, guest bedroom is next); my cluttered schedule, that still needs a good spring cleaning but has clearly shown mild improvement lately; and, my cluttered mind that often has too much to think about, but even that is regularly getting spruced up now thanks to Coffee with Paula.

What areas do you need to clear out, de-clutter? We can not continue the madness of busy, hectic, chaotic lifestyles and be about God’s business. We can not continue the madness of busy, hectic, chaotic lifestyles and raise healthy, well-adjusted children. We can not continue the madness of busy, hectic, chaotic lifestyles and maintain our own physical or mental well-being. We can not continue the madness of busy, hectic, chaotic lifestyles and maintain healthy relationships with children, family, spouses or friends.

Sipping coffee and wondering how I managed to combine panty sizzling romance novels, a minimalist lifestyle and our relationship with God all into one entry in this little spot I call my happy place…and hoping it encouraged some thoughts tonight. ~paula

Paula, You’re an Idiot

We’re at the baby boy’s house for the weekend. He needed his couch and this mama needed out of town. So what did we do to remedy both? The baby girl and I packed up the truck, scooped up her bestie and hit the road.

As we Clampett’d our way through the journey, the back of the truck packed to the hilt with no cover over our “stuff”, we began getting texts from the hubby and from the baby boy that there was rain on the radar all around the couple of towns we were going through at that moment.

Driving through Ozark, the sky was darkening to the left and the term “makin’ tracks” became our mantra. Further into the trip as we neared Dothan the sky had gained pitch black status ahead of us and to the left of us. Ever on the lookout for gas stations with awnings or bridges to whip under if necessary, the rain continued its threat to engulf us, but still not a drop. I mashed the gas pedal more furiously. (Always love a good excuse to drive fast. Ha!) But man, all the slow moving vehicles who shared the road were clearly accomplices in the heavy clouds’ attempt to drench my son’s couch and the rest of our bags before we could deliver. The sleek and shiny Silverado fiercely weaved in and out of traffic until it finally veered south…bright sunny skies out of the windshield, dark threatening skies in the rear view. We just might make it!

The tension I felt from worrying about the couch getting wet had finally began to dissipate. The threat of rain was still there as we had another few hours to drive but the realization struck…If that couch gets rained on, it will wind dry before we arrive…all good. What specifically had been my worry?

We stopped to re-fuel, potty and grab a snack but we were determined to not let the rain catch us. Back to the truck as quick as possible and back to “makin’ tracks”. I knew to stay on task and not delay our arrival to get the couch inside and away from the rain, but the tension was gone. No more pressure.

I stuck the baby girl in the driver’s seat so she could gain some long haul experience and I kicked back and enjoyed the ride.

What happened to the couch? Did we make the delivery without it being touched by water? Yes. We arrived as the dark clouds caught up with us. We jetted to the door, the baby boy came out and the couch was hoisted out of the truck bed and whisked to safety. Our arduous journey to deliver a safe and unblemished couch (well, as unblemished as a 13yo couch can be, Ha!) was finally complete.

I’m just so crazy sometimes. My brain rarely shuts off so I started contemplating what lesson could be learned from that journey. Maybe the lesson learned was that worry was futile because worry had no ability to change an outcome? It would only impede your ability to think clearly when clear thinking was imperative in the middle of a storm. I could not worry those rain clouds out of the way or further behind us. Maybe the lesson learned was that those dark clouds were an example of the world trying to engulf and pour down on our Christian beliefs and as a Christian our version of “makin’ tracks” must include keeping the SON in our windshield and darkness in the rear view?

I finally decided, Paula, you’re an idiot. It was just a trip we took to deliver the baby boy’s couch, have some absolutely wonderful fam time and splendidly delicious food that happened not to have rain. Must there always be a lesson?! Ha!

Sipping coffee at the baby boy’s house as I tell myself to stop overthinking everything…as I sit and overthink everything. Ha! ~paula

What in the World?!

Disclaimer: I began writing this entry, weeks ago, but never published its contents. Well, the exact same situation presented itself again last night and mildly has happened tonight. So…to publish was imperative.

As I sat at the dining room table my mind raced with thoughts. Things to do, accomplish, create, make or prepare that would in some way make something or somewhere a little nicer. All creative things; start a book, submit another blog entry, paint the bathroom, paint the living room, finish the chalkboard wall in the kiddo’s room, get the Christmas Tree down…do not judge me…or clean out/rearrange the bedroom. All I could say was Jesus, Betty, settle down. It’s a work night. You don’t have time for that.

I know you’re wondering what I ended up doing that night weeks ago, as well as last night…and now tonight. Well…not one thing. I sat and sipped coffee of course; sipped coffee, perused Pinterest and continued to allow book ideas to flood my mind as well as consideration of whether to have a pen name for privacy or just embrace the writer gig as who I am.

I suppose there are times when you just need to allow yourself to visit with your own thoughts. I think our brains are over stimulated for the most part and absolutely exhausted from the constant consumption of social media, work related dilemmas, family dynamics and mindless stares toward the television. We don’t allow ourselves moments of quiet so that we can listen to see who we are.

A previous entry When did I Lose Me could have addressed this as well. Don’t we lose ourselves sometimes? Forget what’s important? Forget who is important? We get so caught up in going through the motions and “doing” life that we forget to “live” life. But to truly live life we have to know what we like, who we like, what we believe.

I’ve read numerous articles recently about the minimalist lifestyle. Man! Eye opener! Where have you been all my life?! I’m talking stars and rainbows and unicorns presented themselves in my line of vision while I read the lists of tips and pointers and the basic philosophy behind the minimalist lifestyle.

The basic philosophy of the minimalist mindset is “clutter equals chaos”.

Clutter, I’ve learned, comes in all forms: messy relationships, cluttered living spaces, owning more clothes than what you actually wear or kitchen gadgets unused within the last year or so that remain sardined into those kitchen cabinets. What actually blew my mind though, was the concept of time management and how a minimalist viewpoint suggests we deal with managing our time.

Were you aware that if you don’t want to go to supper with a friend, you don’t have to? What about hurt feelings? Trust me, I pondered this for a long time before I fully understood. We are typically more prone to hurt our own emotional well being before we will jeopardize someone else’s. How is that healthy? Goodness, let’s wake it on up folks. We can choose what…or who (Ha!)…we do with our time.

Why do we waste time in relationships that are going nowhere? Why do we continue to allow outsiders to sway our decisions? Why must we strive to look like everyone else? What is wrong with knowing you, what you want in life and saying nope when something arises that goes against who you know you to be?

What do you do when you wake up one day and realize, wow, who am I? What happens when you realize your marriage isn’t going to turn into the fairytale you dreamed about? What happens when you realize you’re burned out with a career you thought you loved? What happens when you’ve been an Auburn fan your whole life but you realize you love wearing Crimson so much better? What happens when you realize you’d love to own a ranch and sleep deeply and soundly every night from the back breaking, soul completing work? What happens when you realize there is more to life than your usual go to…chocolate…I mean there’s Skittles…did you know that? And they’re wonderful!

I’ll tell you what needs to happen. You need to sit your behind down, away from chaos, and allow your mind to flow…question the why of anything and everything that adds negativity and turn your face toward the Son. (That’s not a misspelling.) Remove the garbage. Leave only things that bring you peace.

Sipping coffee, vowing to get rid of some of life’s clutter but wishing I could talk to my sweet mama about it. What clutter do you have that needs removing? ~paula

Above the Fireworks

I imagine Independence Day in 1776 looked a little different than Independence Day in 2018. Do you suppose they went home, fired up their grills and lounged by the pool sipping iced down drinks after they dropped their “John Hancocks”? (Did you see what I did there? Ha!) Maybe they attended the local township’s fireworks that night, while sporting their fresh sunburns from an afternoon by the pool; don’t forget the bloated bellies from chugging beer and grazing on glorious munchables all day? Possibly they just shot some fireworks in the back yard, while saying “Hear ye, set thou gaze upon this spectacle of which I am about to manifest” in the most distinct British accent…cue loss of fingers or limbs. But I’m pretty sure that is not how the rest of their day went.

Almost as much has changed from my childhood memories of the 4th of July to how we will celebrate this year.

My earliest memories of 4th of July include slurping watermelon juice while chomping on sweetness; spitting seeds at unsuspecting cousins. The chilly goodness of hand cranked homemade icecream as it rolled across your taste buds. Swimming in the pool all day with no responsibility whatsoever other than to not pee in the pool…or at the bare minimum, make certain no one knew. (Ha!) Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles manned the grills, icecream makers, long knives for cutting watermelon and the kitchen sink full of dishes. (Lord at the dishes with our huge family back then.) Dad’s grilled ribs were almost more 4th of July to me than fireworks. But the nearly perfect day was always completed by taking our sun burned shoulders and rosy cheeks to watch the City of Troy’s fireworks display. Just wonderful times filled with people you loved and who loved you in return, laughter, full bellies, American flags fluttering, slapping and popping in the warm breeze and of course, the red, white and blue spinners clacking from forced air as us kids ran with their sticks clutched tightly in our hands.

Then enter “adult” 4th of July. Dad and Mom moved into a new home several years ago, big enough to hold many people comfortably and they decided to begin holding 4th of July at their home. Kid laughter emerged all day from the red neck swimming pool; you could expect cold, wet splatters if you were an adult and dared to walk too close. Neighbors, family, friends, acquaintances, all gathered to join in one accord to celebrate our nation’s freedom. The adult version of Independence Day looked more like hauling food from one location to the next to make it all fit on the counters, refilling tea and lemonade pitchers, hauling trays of food from the grills, reminding the kids not to pee in the red neck swimming pool, making a point to catch a minute to watch the kids play as it brings so much joy to see their joy, killin’ it on the volleyball court but chugging water and popping ibuprofen because you’re old and the volleyball court might actually be killin’ YOU. (It was a toss up. Ha!) Adult Independence Day nights are for lawn chairs and fireworks; sitting by your mama, splendidly exhausted from the day, and thoroughly satisfied knowing everyone had a great time and enjoyed themselves.

As for Independence Day 2018…we will eat…we will be with a few family and friends…we will watch the fireworks splendidly displayed over the City of Troy…and on Saturday we’ll get together with a few more friends and family to celebrate. But the main difference this year is that my sweet Mama will get to see what the tops of those fireworks look like. We know full well what they look like underneath from years of gazing at them in awe of their deafening beauty. I suspect this year’s fireworks will look a little less splendid, the laughter will be a little more subdued, the atmosphere of excitement a little less charged. This Independence Day, I will have to allow the cherished memories of years past to carry me through the day’s activities and fill in the gaps where sadness from her loss leaves a hole.

Sipping coffee for now, though the heat will soon dictate I change over to iced water and with teary-eyes praying my sweet Mama enjoys her first year above the fireworks; hope they are spectacular Mama. ~paula

Music is the Sound of Life

How the art of music effects well being.

This was a topic suggested by a Coffee with Paula reader. When I read the suggestion I said to myself, “Oh heck yes, this will be an easy, smooth and enjoyable write as music is a huge part of who I am.” But as I sat to write, writer’s block seeped into the room and plopped itself directly onto my fingertips. What in the world, I asked. What, if any other topic, is more close to my heart than music? When I think of my sweet mama, I think of music. When I think of who she taught me to be, I think of music. When I think of church and worshiping my God, I think of music. Even when I think of work I think of music because I sometimes sing to my patients but always sing in the car as I drive between every patient’s house. So how in the world, with the topic of music, could I possibly have writer’s block? I decided to simply focus on the specific moments in my life where music has had a direct effect, where music has changed an attitude or transported to a different time or place. As soon as I coerced my mind to focus in that direction, the thoughts filled my mind to overflowing, just as excessive rain forces a river over its banks.

One workday I cruised the interstate toward a patient that faced end of life and a spouse who struggled to accept the pending loss. I felt melancholy as my thoughts focused on their situation; my desire to make things better for them was strong, but in vain. As a Social Worker, I have to be okay with the knowledge that I can not fix every situation. It’s a pillow I have had to learn to sleep well on…if I wanted rest. The wind rushed through the open window and tossed my salt-and-pepper locks to and fro while the sun beamed down onto my arm. As I steadily headed toward my visit, I cruised from lane to lane in traffic while the Jeff Healey Band “asked the stars above”. The uniquely delicious timbre of Jeff Healey as he sang about his lady’s Angel Eyes, magically transported me from a sad drive, back to a high school night where I was engulfed in an emerald green, poofy-sleeved, sequin-splashed prom dress that swayed with tuxedoed arms wrapped around that I would later marry. The music facilitated memories…the memories created emotion…these emotions created a fond smile…melancholy was removed.

One Sunday I swayed on the alto row, eyes focused on our director who was led to sing Amazing Grace this day during worship. With arms skilled in leadership, the chords on the piano were initiated, voices later cued and the age old story of Amazing Grace was shared. The mixture of melody and harmony created a steady stream of tears down my cheeks as memories flooded my soul of a sweet mama who, years ago, stroked the ivory with finesse in worship playing the same song, her favorite. The music instantly sent me back to the small chapel where I grew up; the faces of loved ones who surrounded the little piano flashed through my mind, faces who have gone on, just as my sweet mama. The music facilitated memories…the memories created emotion…these emotions created tears.

Sitting beside a patient who neared end of life and hadn’t eaten or spoken in weeks, I softly sang old hymns while I held her wrinkled worn hand to provide emotional support and comfort. I knew her story and that she was a dear old saint who had been a choir member for over 50 years at her little country church until frailness stopped her from climbing the few steps into the tiny choir loft. Family members saddened by her lack of response to I love you’s and can we get you anything’s were absolutely elated as her lips slowly began to move to the words of I’ll Fly Away. Very soft, a half-beat behind me, but every word mouthed while worship flowed upward from her soul to a God for which she had lived her whole entire life, and would soon meet face to face. The music facilitated memories…the memories created worship in its rawest, most simple form. Music.

One of the afternoons before or just after my sweet mama’s funeral, a dear Aunt brought cassette tapes that had been created by my grandmother years before, as in possibly 30 years prior to that day. Cassette tapes that held recordings of priceless moments of family gathered around the piano seated in my grandmother’s front living room. My younger, stronger mama stroked the ivories while belting out a splendid alto which mixed so perfectly with my Aunt’s impressive soprano. Aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins gathered around mama, varying voices intermittently louder than the rest within the audio, laughter between songs, laughter in the middle of verses with missed notes or wrong words. I could clearly see the vision created by this replay of family afternoons so many years ago. Precious time shared between family members who had a deep love for music; feelings created by music when shared with those you love. Music created a bond…music was the catalyst that pulled a family together into one accord…music was the glue that held those relaxing family Saturday afternoons together.

Music can transport us to long ago moments whose memories we cherish and wish for again. Music can bring us right to the feet of Jesus in worship. Music can heal a saddened spirit and provide light in the midst of darkness. Music can calm a troubled soul from the throes of anxiety. Music can incite clear thoughts to dementia patients for small periods of time. (If you don’t believe me, you should check out and look for Henry’s story. It will make you cry in amazement!)

Writing music and lyrics is a whole other blog entry; you can share your story of hardship, love, abuse, grief, trouble, excitement, money woes, unrequited love, good times, bad times, sober moments, drunk moments,…need I go on? Music is anything and everything that you need it to be.

Sipping coffee, humming Amazing Grace and hoping you can see how music effects more than well-being; it effects who we are and life in general. Thinking the next song on my play list might be Percy Sledge’s, When a Man Loves a Woman; might be some smoochin’ goin’ on later. Ha! What is music to you? ~paula

I Admit it. I’m a Pluviophile.

Are you satisfied now? I finally admitted I’m a pluviophile. I suppose all the years I commented negatively about rainy days, were the years prior to my epiphanous moment of “hey, I’m a writer”. I’ve observed that rainy days are my best days…the days I have the most creative thoughts…the days my fingertips are drawn intensely to the keyboard. And for a beach lover like me, non-rainy days are a must, or are they? defines pluviophile as “a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days”. Yep. Sounds a lot like me.

Working as a Social Worker in Hospice and Home Health requires me immersed in the elements daily. Sunny days, rainy days, cloudy days, humid days, snowy days, hot days, cold days, just-right days. I’m one of the weirdos who gets much satisfaction from doing my job on rainy days. Why? I truly have no answer. It’s the weirdest thing.

What about rain gets the creativity flowing? I feel the same creative feelings when I’m at the beach. The roar of the waves and the roar of a heavy downpour absolutely irrevocably calms my soul and quietens my mind, making a clear path for good thoughts to take over and reign. Just the phrase roar of the waves or heavy downpour can jump start my mind to clarity. Maybe the recipe which creates a rainy day at the beach with a covered balcony on which to sit and observe is my absolute salvation, my holy grail, the utopia for my soul. That may have been a little too deep…it’s basically my happy place folks. Ha!

But I have gotten to a place in life where I want to truly know me. I want to know what makes me tick…what keeps my hamster wheel turning. Ha! I think that until a person truly knows themselves, they simply can not know true contentment. If you don’t understand you, how can you make decisions wisely and effectively of who you spend your time with and how or where you spend your time? You should spend some time with you this week! It’s your challenge, your homework if you will, from Coffee with Paula. You might be nicely surprised with who you find.

Sipping coffee this morning, wondering which Coffee with Paula fans are also pluviophiles and considering a move to Seattle…all while soaking in the sound of the rain. What have you learned about yourself lately? ~paula

I See You for what You are.

Dear Depression and Anxiety,

I truly despise you with every ounce of my being.

You steal joy and replace it with an empty, colorless void. You freely create disinterest where interest should be full. You cripple. You ostracize. You create a sense of hopelessness. You rob marriages of happiness. You steal parents from children. You make spouses lonely…even when they sit so close their hands are touching; lonely. You make co-workers see lazy when lazy is the farthest from the truth.

Most can’t see the two of you. Some see both of you; as vivid as if you were both entities of your own; living, breathing entities. Some see the symptoms you create but can only speculate as to the cause of those symptoms. Some see the absent friend, spouse or parent and assume they don’t care enough to show up to some special occasion or event. Because of you, negative thoughts and comments are exchanged such as “how could they miss this”. Even those that understand the why, can’t control the emotional response of anger and hurt from that missing family member or friend who just couldn’t make themselves leave the house that day…because of the two of you!

Depression and Anxiety, you are both truly disgusting and because of you, moments of intimacy for couples can be so few and far between they wonder if they ever had a sex life or what it would be like to actually have one again? Because of you, friendships are ruined by unanswered calls/texts and countless declined offers for lunches, movies, bowling, fishing, shopping. Because of you, jobs are lost when absences outweigh days present.

Depression, how revolting you are to me…you can make a person that is so full of love, willing to do some of the most seemingly selfish things…miss important events, leave bills for a spouse to deal with, not answer a call/text on purpose, not plan a spouse’s 40th birthday, miss family trips, leave children wondering why you missed their track meet, stop dying patients from spending precious time with family, stop adult children from attending their parent’s retirement dinner, make a spouse drink so many beers before bed on an anniversary night that they fall asleep in the recliner before any intimacy was shared. You’ve even made a parent miss their child’s baptism.

Anxiety, how revolting you are to me as well…you can make a person that is so full of love be grouchy and cranky and snippy toward the ones they love because you make them so worried about being worried that they are distracted with figuring out what the worry is, making them easily annoyed when approached with even the simplest of topics…because it adds more for them to think about. You also rob of restful sleep that could help them deal with you more effectively. Very low blow anxiety, very low blow. You sir, are no gentleman!

Just so you know, not that either of you care, but it must be said…Being married to a person with depression and anxiety can be the loneliest place in the universe. On the flip side of that, being married to a person who doesn’t have depression and anxiety, while you do, can also be the loneliest place in the universe.

Depression and Anxiety, you remind me of Satan. You sound like the biblical description of Satan. Let that sink in. You fit the Bible’s description of Satan. 1 Peter 5:8-9 …”the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”. John 10:10…”the thief comes only to steal, to kill and to destroy”. Depression and Anxiety, you both walk around like roaring lions, seeking whom you may devour; you come to steal, kill and destroy…but I want you to know that I am on to your ways. I see you for what you are.

I attribute the growing suicide rate to you both! I firmly believe you are the demons who whisper to your victims that suicide is the only way to freedom and true peace. You lure your unsuspecting victims toward you with a siren’s song of peace and tranquility; straight into the clutches of your death talons! I see you for what you are.

What a loathsome duet you both create!

As a Social Worker, I’ve heard countless tales of your effects; day in and day out; countless tales. As a Social Worker, I feel helpless at times as the tricks of the trade I teach are only minimally effective. The medicines prescribed are also only minimally effective and come with side effects that are often more distressing than just dealing with the original problem; you two! I see you for what you are.

As of right now, Depression and Anxiety, you are winning the battle but you will not win the war! This letter needed to be written so as to leave no room for doubt as to my loathing your existence, as do countless others. I pray daily that the two of you go back to the depths of hell from whence you came…and one day you will. I see you for what you are.

Angry inside for the millions effected directly and indirectly; sipping coffee like Kermit, but mad. ~paula

How Do I Have an Affair? (Asking for a Friend)

I sat down at the dining room table the other day and started making some notes. I decided I wanted to have an affair and I needed to make a check list of who I might want to start with. You know, make a list of who I wanted to have an affair with, places we could go together and ways to keep it on the down low…said no one ever…in the history of the world. (I had you going there for a minute, didn’t I? Ha!)

Comments such as “Hayden and Cameron are getting divorced because Cameron had an affair with the assistant coach” and “Reese and Taylor are getting divorced because Taylor had an affair with the secretary” are becoming so prevalent. The list goes on and on.

Who walks that magical aisle on their perfect day assuming they will one day have an affair? Who picks out honeymoon locations thinking in the back of their mind “Oh, in just 29 short years, I’ll be picking out my affair partner”? No one. No one does that.

It is often said in disgust, “they made the choice to have that affair, now they have to deal with the consequences”. Really? Did they make that choice? Did the guilty parties ever sit down and mull over the specific question…to have an affair or not to have an affair? My guess is no. My guess is that specific decision never ran through their minds.

Well, if that decision never ran through their minds, how did it happen? How did an affair occur? How could she agree to sit with him at that bar for two hours while they shared marriage woes? Because he had been coming into her office at work to chat most afternoons and they had developed a friendship. How could she decide to meet him for a scheduled and planned drink? Because she had accidentally ran into him at the pub two weeks prior, had fun and had gotten the attention she craved with two hours of conversation before going home to a spouse that is disengaged. How could he decide to buy her that single rose and place it on her desk at work? Because he knew she loved roses, she seemed very appreciative of the drink he bought for her the other night while his wife no longer shows appreciation for his gifts. How could she decide to meet him at the beach for the day? Because they had already met for drinks (one accidental, one planned) she was given a rose which was so romantic and she was getting the attention from him that she used to get from her husband and by this point, probably felt the proverbial butterflies with all of the attention. Why did he ask her to meet him at the beach for the day? Because he wanted to be more intimate and cozy with her, away from prying eyes, eyes that might recognize what was going on between them.

If he had invited her to the beach for the day without all of the initial chatty afternoons, chance meetings and romantic gestures, would she have agreed to it? Probably not. Would he have ever asked her for such a bold step? Again, probably not. Would either of them have moved past an accidental meeting for drinks if their needs were being met at home? Why would they need to? So nope.

The baby steps we take to the edge of that cliff aren’t as noticeable as the huge leap over. Casting Crowns is a band known for their song Slow Fade that sums up the descent so nicely. Excerpts are as follows:

Be careful little eyes what you see. It’s the second glance that ties your hands, as darkness pulls the strings…

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away. It’s a slow fade when black and white are turned to gray. And thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid, when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day…It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade…

The journey from your mind to your hands, is shorter than you’re thinking. Be careful if you think you stand, you just might be sinking….

Basically, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

So, how do we guard our hearts against an affair? How do we make our marriage a priority when we wonder if it’s even worth it to bother?

For all of us who have been married more than 20 years…or over one year for some…we all know what it’s like to feel ignored, unattractive, undesired, unimportant to the one person who vowed to be our person for all time. Gosh, we all get lazy in our pursuit of this person we chose to be our mate. We get complacent in our quest to win this mate because we already won that race, right? We already have our prize, right? We have their hand for all time, right? Wrong.

I’m pretty certain this “pursuit” should continue until “death do us part”. If not, you both are destined to have a fairly miserable life. We all want to feel loved, cherished, respected, sought after. If not, it’s very easy to be tempted by the first set of eyes that give a little attention. Slicing-through-warm-butter easy!

Spouses, you better be flirting. You better be setting up appointments to date your mate. You better be intentional about making your mate feel as if they are your priority. You both had better be attentive to intimacy needs…out of the bedroom as well as under the covers. You better be giving compliments to each other…in front of others. You better be putting your marriage before your kids, they are moving out one day, your spouse is not. (Settle down, I don’t mean neglect your kid’s true needs.) Spouses you better be seeking ways to serve others together. Spouses you better be constantly setting goals together, working toward them together, then setting more once they are reached.

Sipping coffee at midnight, thinking about our date tonight that was planned 100% by my honey as a surprise…feeling loved and cherished. Do I always feel loved and cherished? Nope. But do I tonight? Yep. ~paula

Shut the “bleep” up and Reroute Already!

Has google maps ever sent you on the quickest route? But that “quicker route” required you to do 6 u-ey’s and 3 loop-de-loops into approximately 42 lanes of oncoming traffic? As in, it’s definitely going to get you there quicker…assuming you’re not killed in the process…but it may not be the simplest, least stressful route.

Often in my workday (Social Work) I find myself driving to crazy locations and needing some navigational assistance to get there. I don’t always want to follow the specific route google plans, so I may take a side street over to another side street to get back onto the specific path google has laid out. During that time, my google lady is repeatedly saying “make a u-turn”…”make a u-turn”…”make a u-turn”. I find myself saying so often during the work day, “Would you just shut the hell up and reroute already?!” (I say other things in traffic as well, but I’ll leave it at that for now as all of my other “traffic related” sayings are for another entry…another day…another more adult rating. Ha!)

But why is it necessary for us to always follow the directions to a T? Aren’t there always a few different ways to arrive at a specific destination? Some routes are more simple, more direct, more carefree, while others are more stressful, more lengthy, more difficult. You still arrive at the same destination. Right?

I must admit though that different days call for different paths. For instance, if I have only 3 patients for the day, I want to take the path of least resistance, the path that takes me down two lane roads where I can enjoy the scenery through open windows, radio blasting and hair whipping. (And quite possibly the occasional cigarette if the mood strikes, but I swear to God if you tell anyone I’ll deny it. Ha!) But for a day when I really need to see 62 patients, I want the interstate, 26.7 u-ey’s and a couple loop-de-loops to get to each patient in a super quick manner.

But as I ponder trips, routes and destinations, I can’t help but think of the many road trips I’ve taken since I was a child. Some with parents and grandparents, some with my parents and baby brother. As I got older, some with friends, some with the hubby and some with my hubby and kids. (I have a lot of trips under my belt folks because I quite literally always sit on ready.)

But what was most important about all of those trips…the destination or the journey? Some, like my husband, might assume the destination is the highlight. He can literally only see two things on a road trip: point A and point B. Nothing, I repeat, nothing in between those points are important to him…so unimportant that I suspect he would be quick to debate their actual existence. He tends to be a stickler for departure times, arrival times and sticking to the discussed and pre-approved itinerary. Now don’t get me wrong, Disney World is phenomenal, the beach is divine, the mountains so majestic. But the most cherished part to me is the journey itself.

Intentionally driving through small towns off the beaten path just to try a quaint little locally owned restaurant with savory dishes that have never before graced your taste buds. Spending an afternoon walking the streets of a huge city you’re passing through to experience sub-cultures not your own that open your mind to thinking outside your comfortable little box. Gazing through car windows at scenery you’ve seen only in print. Laughing at jokes told by friends to pass the time until the next stop. Ragging whoever missed that last turn while determining whose fault…the navigator or the driver. Singing to the top of your lungs while an old favorite plays on the radio, taking you back in time to some other road trip…another set of shenanigans. And last but not least, the perfection of bladders syncing and all who are along for the ride needing to stop at the same time…the journey.

Make time to intentionally enjoy the moments given; force google maps to chill out and redirect already…it’s simply a must. We are each given one life on this earth. I choose to use each moment to savor the goodness…especially sips of this steaming nighttime cup…or am I cheating and drinking ice cold sweet tea? I’ll let you decide.

Til the next pot…or pitcher. ~paula