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

A Social Worker’s Heart

Sometimes your determination to have a middle-of-the-day visit, forces me to drive 50 extra miles because my other scheduled visits were all on the other side of the county.

…but I agree because my Social Worker heart cares about you and I genuinely want to visit with you.

Sometimes the 50 extra miles I drove to back track and meet at your requested time, makes me late picking up my kiddo at the end of the day.

…but I will do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you and your situation may be a little more dire than my own.

Sometimes I frustrate you because I won’t call a resource for you or complete a form for you.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart wants to empower you to tap community resources on your own.

Sometimes when I’m sitting in your living room, holding your hand while you share of your anticipatory grief, I’m trying not to squirm because I haven’t peed in hours.

…but I endure because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Sometimes while driving to your house, I skip running through the drive-thru for lunch because it might take too long and I don’t want to be late.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Sometimes when I listen to your grief story it makes me sad about my own grief story.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Sometimes I cry when I leave your home because my heart breaks for your grief or because I know, before you do, the gravity of the loss you are about to experience.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Sometimes when I say hard things to you, I wish someone other than me could have said it, would have said it or that you would have just made better choices on your own.

…but I would say them all over, again and again, if it would help you because my Social Worker heart cares for you deeply.

Sometimes, on the night before my visit to your home, I had to stay up all night with a sick child and I’m utterly exhausted and worried you will take my yawns for boredom or disinterest.

…but I come on into work because my Social Worker heart cares about you and am neither bored nor disinterested. Just tired.

Sometimes I am actually disinterested in what you are saying because I just received a text from a family member that said “call me as soon as you can” and it created worry in me for my family’s well-being.

…my Social Worker heart cares about you deeply but it also cares fiercely about my own family.

Sometimes I’m grumpy because I didn’t get to drink enough coffee before I left home or my husband and I were on the outs with each other, but I force myself to be pleasant with you and caring because my grumpiness was not caused by you.

…I protect you from my personal grumpiness because my Social Worker heart knows you did nothing to deserve that.

Sometimes when you’re grumpy with me for no known reason, I bite my tongue so as to not respond with grump because I know I didn’t cause your grumpiness either; most likely your circumstances did.

…I bite my tongue to maintain a working relationship with you because my Social Worker heart knows you won’t be grumpy by the time I leave your home…if I did my job correctly.

Sometimes I arrive at your home immediately after hanging up the phone from a disgruntled caregiver who just cussed at me mercilessly for something that had nothing to do with me, or maybe that did have something to do with me, but I figure out a way to provide you with smiles and concern while I’m with you, as if nothing happened.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Yes, your request seemed small. No, I haven’t gotten around to doing it yet because there were a million other small requests on my to-do list before yours and sometimes I don’t have enough hours in my day. Yes, I feel guilty. Please know I’m working as fast as I can.

…I often come in early or work late because I genuinely want to help you because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Yes, I sometimes run behind schedule because a family needed me a little longer. Please be forgiving, as you might be that family one day and I will give you the time you need as well.

…I will stay as long as you need me because my Social Worker heart cares too deeply sometimes.

I have cried with families. I have cried for families.

…I do it because my Social Worker heart cares deeply and hurts for and with you.

While I was strong for you as your loving spouse of 60+ years took his last breath, and just days before, while I taught you how to support him and comfort him at end of life; I still grieved over the loss of my precious mother.

…but I did it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

I’ve allowed silent tears to stream down my face as I hugged you in your loss while I continued to grieve from loss of my own.

…I keep doing this because my Social Worker heart cares deeply and won’t let me stop.

I sometimes have exciting plans for a beach trip with friends coming up and I’d like to share it with you because we have become accustomed to sharing small trivial personal things with each other, but I hold back because I know you won’t be able to take anymore trips like that and I don’t want you to feel left out or sad.

…I do that because my Social Worker heart cares about you deeply but also needs to rejuvenate so that I can keep on helping you and countless others like you.

Sipping coffee today, thankful for this Social Worker heart of mine and the countless families who have blessed me more than they will ever know; far more than I could ever return to them. ~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.


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

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

I ain’t doin’ it…or am I?

Sitting at work a few weeks back, I pulled up the next bereavement phone call that I needed to make, briefly reviewed the case and dialed the number. As the ringer summoned my bereavement client, I cleared my mind with nothing but thoughts of the moments spent just months ago with this dear family. A wife who fought a tough battle with Alzheimer’s. A husband who spent as much precious time as he could with a wife he had adored for over 50 years. Two adult sons who wept like babies when their precious mama took her last breath. I was instantly snapped to attention with the surprise of a deep chuckling voice that said “hello”.

I immediately shared my name, reminding him of my affiliation to the hospice agency who cared for his late spouse and shared with him that my intention today was to check on him and see how he had coped so far on his journey through grief.

He shared with me that he had met someone new and had been spending quite a bit of time with her lately, a person who was also widowed fairly recently.

My “judgy” nature, as the teenagers call it, came creeping out as I peeked back into the chart to see just how long his wife had been gone…six months. Six short months. As I forced myself to focus back on the words flowing through the telephone receiver, I picked up on “getting remarried” and “deciding which furniture will be kept” and “my boys aren’t okay with this”.

A couple of times during this call, I could tell that she must have been near as my client would mumble something I couldn’t understand or chuckle at a joke to which I had not been privy. I encouraged my client to attend our support group, assessed for needs and provided education regarding the phases of grief, as I do every bereavement phone call. When no needs were voiced, I ended the call with please give us a call if we can help in any way.

As I sat in the aftermath of the call, my heart was breaking for the sons who were having to deal with their grief as well as the gravity of seeing their father move on.

Grief has numerous layers. The loss of the person, the loss of hopes and dreams of future events with this person, loss of tasks or traditions that were contingent upon that person’s presence, loss of interest in past enjoyments due to all of the strain from grief, loss of identity after the loss of this person and just the raw pain that is present from having watched a loved one suffer through end of life. They are not easily worked through. Which phase of grief held these sons hostage?

I faced my own grief for the moment and realized that part of my own grieving process is negatively effected by the fact that most around me have moved on. There is only one other person who feels the same depth of loss that I feel after losing my sweet mama and that is my little brother. My dad is grieving as a husband, but my brother and I are grieving as children who will never again see the woman who kissed the boo boos, spanked our behinds, fed us and was always our biggest fan. We lost our biggest fan.

We will never again listen as two parents share stories from our childhood. We will never again have two parents that are present at some function solely to be our support. In my reverie, I suspected my client’s sons were haunted by the fear of being forgotten without two who shared knowledge of their childhood. Haunted by the fear that a new love interest of their father somehow decreased his ability to love them as much or deem them with as much importance as before. My mind questioned whether his sons felt like the life with their mom seemed less important than before. Devalued, if you will. All I could think was somehow one loss had produced a million losses and time continued to march on as if nothing had happened. Utterly infuriating.

There are still days when I cry a few different times within the same day; some days I cry none at all. Most only see the cool, calm, collected me. Most would be surprised at the level of hurt I still feel most days. Am I intentionally trying to hide this pain? Not really. I just feel like most can’t handle being present for my grief as often as my grief is present with me.

I don’t ever want to be the person someone dreads to see coming. You know the type I’m referring to; the folks that have woes they intend to share with every last person with ears. (Drives me nuts. Ha!) Those are the ones you quickly learn to never ask the question “how are you” because they will most definitely tell you and it won’t be a simple “good”. They are the ones who didn’t get the memo that you don’t really want any answer other than “fine” or “doing well”. Ha!

But there are no days that go by without seeing my little mama in my mind; whether it be something pertaining to her final moments or a moment where we belly laughed or a moment where we disagreed. Some good moments. Some bad moments. All of which are neatly tucked away in files in my mind, ready to be pulled up, reviewed and cherished at a moments notice.

There are no days that I don’t feel a tug to spend moments thinking of her; wishing she could be back here…not sick…but the her that was with us before pancreatic cancer entered our world. I long for the days when she was full of life and wanted nothing more than to see the precious family she loved so strongly.

My brother and I have become so much closer during this time. Honoring mom’s deepest wish to have family stay strong. Well, her deepest wish was for us to take care of Dad. But second to that was keeping family knitted together so tightly that nothing could slip between one fiber.

I feel as if time continues to march forward as I continue to drag my feet. Terrified of moving so far away from days when she still lived and breathed and laughed and loved that I’ll forget something; something about her voice, her mannerisms, her likes, her dislikes, the sound of her nails clicking on the ivory. I want to retain it all. Keep it safe in my heart. The fact is that memories do fade; my heart pleads for them to remain vivid.

Is it okay that I still cry when I sing certain songs? Is it okay that my heart aches to see others who don’t still long to have her back as deeply as I? Is it okay that there is a gaping void where a whole, unbroken, uncracked heart used to beat? Is it okay that I’m not ready to move on yet? Is it okay that I just feel like I owe her a few more months of wallowing in this funk?

I’m not certain that I have answers to any of those questions other than grief for me is what grief is for me. I have learned to be okay with wherever I am for that day or that moment. There are no other options.

Sipping coffee tonight out of my “I ain’t doin’ it” mug and realizing, you know what, I am doin’ it…and mom would be proud. ~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