Keep It Simple

Lately, I’ve been focusing more on my relationship with God rather than all the rules & formalities I was raised around in my small Baptist church.  I’m blessed enough to say that I currently attend a church where freedom reigns, but it’s still difficult for me to let go of the restrictions I knew as a child.  However, I am working on it and learning more everyday.

It’s important to read your bible daily, yes.  You should attend church regularly, you should serve your community, you should “be a good person,” yes, absolutely.  But those are all works, and Ephesians 2:8 reminds us that works don’t amount to jack if you don’t have a personal relationship with God.

For by such grace you have been saved through faith. This does not come from you; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8

So often, I think there’s a certain expectation for Christians to have some sort of cookie cutter image.  Church services are expected to look and sound a certain way, much like the people who attend them, and anyone who veers off what is considered “normal”  is judged heavily by those cookie cutter Christians and they miss the point altogether.  Can we just be real for a sec?  Like, really real?

We. Are. All. Screwed. Up.

There, I said it.  Don’t you feel better now? We’re all sinners and I don’t know about you but I’m sick of putting on my game face all the time.  In fact, I think we might be more successful in reaching others if we were more open and honest about our struggles instead of trying to pretend we’re flawless.  These are my confessions:

  1. I cuss like a sailor. No, really.  I’ve been trying to clean it up now that we have Ellie because I don’t want her to be the kid on the school bus who teaches the others new words, but it’s a struggle.  I know when to filter my foul mouth, obviously, but being a Christian doesn’t take away my love for the f word and other ‘sentence enhancers.’
  2. I like to drink.  Not in a get trashed every weekend kind of way, but I do enjoy a glass of wine or a good mixed drink.  I’m sipping a bourbon peach tea as I type this. Jesus drank wine, y’all, and there’s a difference in having a drink and being an alcoholic which is detrimental to your health and relationships.
  3. I can be really greedy.  What’s mine is mine and that’s just the way it is, but I’m working on that too because I only have what I have because I’ve been blessed.  Does that make sense?
  4. I wasn’t a virgin when I got married & my husband wasn’t my first.  That’s a story for another day, but I think you get the point.
  5. I’ve struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide on and off for years.
  6. I’ve also struggled with low self esteem, negative body image, and been pretty obsessive about both of those things.

In short, I’m a hot mess and I don’t see that it should surprise anyone because I’ve yet to meet a Christian who wasn’t an equally hot mess once they really start opening up about themselves.  I think that the misconception is that once you become a Christian, which is not the same thing as going to church FYI, you’re suddenly perfect and you should appear to have it together 100% of the time.  You’re not, that’s the whole point.  Our flaws don’t count against us any longer because Christ sacrificed Himself to cover them, but we aren’t without sin.  So why do we act like it?!

Church is there to refresh us after a week of struggling to be better in a world that does nothing to encourage you, and to come together with other believers to help lift each other up in prayer.  There should be a sense of unity in any Christian church you enter, and yet, we get so caught up in appearances.  I can recall quite clearly a sermon many, many years ago that began by the pastor criticizing the clothing the teenagers were wearing.  Never mind the fact that they were in church on a Sunday morning at 9AM when they could have all still been in bed, what really mattered was they were wearing flip flops.  Are you kidding me? Dress decently, sure.  I’m not rallying to have everyone show up on Sunday looking like they just stepped out of Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, but considering those kids were there because they wanted to be, I think it’s safe to say that he missed the point and probably turned people against the church that day.

Oh, but wait a second, I’m just getting started.  If I hear one more person complain that the church service is more like a rave or a concert, I’m going to snap.  You do realize that God just says to make a joyful noise, right?  He doesn’t specify which instruments should be used.  And if we truly believe that God made us in His image, shouldn’t we also accept that our talents are a part of that as well?  Why do people get so hung up on the lights, the stage set up, or the music itself if it’s all there to glorify God?  In case you need a reminder, worship is not about pleasing the people sitting in the seats, it’s about worshiping God.

As I said before, the church I attend is pretty go with the flow.  We do a good mix of old hymns and contemporary music.  Sometimes, the band members even perform ORIGINAL music on *gasp* electric guitars!  They’re choosing to use their talents in worship, did the cookie cutter Christians miss that part, or were they only focused on the fact that it doesn’t look or sound like a traditional service?  Sometimes, we sing and worship the whole time.  Other times, we just have people share their testimonies and close with a song.  We don’t do things in a certain order and we don’t even pass the plate for offering (we still do it, we just have baskets set up so that people bring their tithes & offerings to the stations.)  I don’t even think of these things as out of the ordinary until I visit other churches.  There’s nothing wrong with more traditional churches with their beautiful stained glass windows and weekly bulletins, but there is something wrong with being so caught up in those meaningless details that you end up missing the point of being there in the first place and instead start focusing on the freaking shoes people are wearing!  Jesus hung out with prostitutes and criminals, do you really think that He, wearer of sandals, really cares about  flip flops?! Anyway.

The church isn’t a building, it’s a collection of believers doing their part in the world and working on their relationship with God.  Christianity isn’t being a perfect person or even pretending to be.  It’s more than that but, at the same time, it’s so much simpler than that, and it’s taken me a REALLY, embarrassingly long time to realize it.  But here I am, really getting it for the first time since becoming a Christian at age 7.  May I offer up some words of advice as I wrap this thing up?  Stop getting hung up on the details, the rules, and the formalities and simply love the Lord.  Stop focusing on perfection you’ll never obtain and own your flaws.  It’ll change you in the best way.

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The Grass is Greener & the Rug is Cleaner

I’m not sure if it’s the long stretches of time I spend with no other adults present that prompts me to spend more time talking to God or if it’s something different, but lately, I’ve been hearing what He has to say.  Even in just mundane tasks likes vacuuming our living room rug for the 33rd time that day, He speaks and I listen, and that’s why this post exists.

The rug I mentioned is a recent purchase and one I’m quite proud of for a few reasons.  We needed a new one because the old one just didn’t appeal to me and also because it had survived years of wear & tear… and dogs… and spilled drinks… and just general abuse from us.  However, even after looking online at virtually every internet retailer and store websites, I couldn’t find one that I liked that wasn’t going to cost me upwards of $100.  Yeah, I’m cheap.  That shouldn’t surprise you if you’ve been reading this for a while.  So anyway, I held out until we visited a store on the outskirts of Nashville that is essentially a wholesale Lowe’s and I’m so glad that I did.  I got an area rug for our living room that cost under $30 AND it didn’t look or feel like AstroTurf!

The next day, I put our old, smelly, grimy rug out in the garage and replaced it with our new one.  Since then, I’ve been meticulous about keeping it vacuumed and making sure the dogs don’t slobber their butt breath all over it so that it doesn’t end up like the last one.  A couple days ago, I was vacuuming it before bed and He spoke.

The rug is cleaner when you take care of it.

“Well, duh,” you might be thinking, but there was more to it than that.  Everyone is familiar with the old saying ‘the grass isn’t always greener on the other side’ and this was kind of like that.  The more I thought/listened, the more sense it made.

The old rug was once brand spankin’ new and didn’t smell of mutt, but years in its environment made it dirty and, while it could be shampooed, it does have some irreparable blemishes.  For now, the new one is still pretty and in excellent  condition, but only because I’ve been very intentional about protecting it. The thing is, this rug is in the exact same environment as the last one.  The only thing that will keep my new rug in its current condition is effort on my part to protect it from everything around it that is meant to destroy it.  And that’s when it clicked with me that marriage is a rug.

Stick with me people.

I’ve mentioned before that marriage is more than just romance, and like all other things in life, you experience it in seasons.  Some of those seasons are warm & sunny, others are cold and rainy, and it’s not always fun.  Sometimes I don’t even like Phillip, but I choose to love him anyway.  Sure, there are romantic times, but more than anything, marriage is about creating a life with another person, your partner, and you have to be very intentional with the upkeep or, like my old rug, it’s going to end up all beat up and raggedy, and you’re going to want to toss it out into your garage with the other junk you don’t want anymore.

 

Obviously, I chose to get rid of the old rug, but I’m not planning on doing that with my existing husband because marriage is for life and also because he, unlike that filthy old rug, does not smell like dog. Moral of the story?  The grass is greener where you water it, and the rug is cleaner when you take care of it.

-A

5 Reasons To Live

I just finished Netflix’s new series, 13 Reasons Why, and I’m feeling inspired but also incredibly saddened.  A couple of years ago (May of 2015, to be exact), I witnessed a man attempt suicide.  How’s that for an opening?  The year before, I was depressed and had thoughts of suicide myself.  Going even farther back, in 2010, my plan that I lied about not having was identical to the one he carried out.  This show is bringing all of that back up to the surface and I know that I’m not the only Netflix junkie out there watching this show, so it seems like a pretty appropriate time to address the deeply emotional, tragic, and widespread issue of suicide.

I’ve touched on my own story a little bit in the past, but I suppose if there was ever a time to put everything out there, it’s now.  I’ve always been sensitive to the world around me and in some scenarios, that’s a good thing, in others, it can make things (and life) more difficult.  I can remember seeing the school guidance counselor when I was 10 or 11 because I had a ton of anxiety and worried about my grades to the point that I was developing ulcers. In the sixth grade, there were days I didn’t want to go to school because it was too much for me to bear and I was miserable because I was depressed and just didn’t know what to call it.  High school came and by senior year, those feelings of depression surfaced again.  My parents had divorced, my mom was working two jobs to make ends meet, I was in a toxic relationship with a boy who made it a point to regularly made feel terrible about myself, my self esteem was nonexistent, I was suffocating under the weight of AP classes, and I was trying to decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I found myself breaking down behind the wheel on a frighteningly regular basis, and it took every single ounce of self control I had to not follow through with ramming my car into the guardrails on the parkway going as fast as my Mustang GT would take me.  This time, I opened up to my mom and my then-boyfriend, I had an appointment with a therapist who I lied to about not having the plan I just described in order to avoid hospitalization, and decided I’d get over it on my own.  And I did… for a while.  Then in 2013, I was a newlywed struggling to balance my marriage with a full time job, online electives, weekend classes, 20 hours of practicum each week, and homework.  I was stressed, we were strapped financially, and I was just trying to cope with being an adult out in the world on my own for the first time.  Aside from all of that, I was just depressed, plain and simple.  I drank vodka in the bathtub while I cried more often than I like to admit, and I spent even more time crying in bed, unwilling to socialize or leave the house.  Depression feels a lot like having an elephant strapped to your chest while you try to swim through hurricane-strength waves 6 miles from shore.  But I got through it because I was finally open about it with a select few and I refused to let it control my life.

Fast forward to 2015: I was on my way home late one night from a neighboring town.  My mom was driving and suddenly, a white, ’90s model Buick floored it past us in the left lane, swerved in front of us, and slammed into the rock on the side of the road easily going 80+ mph without ever hitting the brakes.  The car flipped up into the air and landed right side up.  We immediately called 911 and ran to help the person behind the wheel.  The front end and the driver side of the car were wrecked to the point that the motor of the car was resting in his bloodstained lap.  The amount of blood on his person and the car was sobering; it covered the bottom of the driver side door and the man behind the wheel, and he was screaming for help while at the same time asking us to just let him die.  While we waited for the ambulance to get there, my mom and I talked with the driver.  He asked us to tell his two young daughters, whose names I still remember, that he loved them.  As if the lack of brake marks on the road weren’t indicators enough, talking to him that night proved he never intended to walk away from the accident that night.  Thankfully, a doctor happened upon the accident on his way home that night just before the ambulance arrived.

I couldn’t sleep that night.  Every time I closed my eyes, I could hear the sound of the car racing past us and the crumbling metal hitting the rock.  I could see him screaming in pain and crying out for help.  I could see all the blood and the motor on his legs, and I wondered if he would ever have use of them again.  For months after, I was very skittish on the parkway when people passed me because I had flashbacks of his desperate attempt to end whatever suffering he was dealing with, and I would relive the incident in my head.  The day after the accident, my mom called the hospital he was taken to to check on him and the nurse explained he was doing well.  The local newspaper and the police who arrived at the scene called it an accident and said he lost control of his vehicle.  I’m sure they saw that as doing him a favor, but I hope he got the help he needed.

Being present that night, sharing in such a traumatic experience with a stranger, gave me a different perspective altogether when dealing with my own rounds with depression from that point forward.  In typical Amanda fashion, I ended up binge watching 13 Reasons Why and it made me think about my reasons for wanting to end it all in the past, and looking back, it’s clear to me now that my reasons for living outweighed the list of negatives in my life.  Sometimes, it can be really, really difficult to think of even one thing worth living for when you’re in the thick of the soul sucking monster that is depression, so I’ve made a list in case you’re currently in that situation.

Here are 5 reasons to live:

  1. The Future
    Here’s the thing about all of my bouts with depression: they got better.  I hate to think about everything I would’ve never experienced had I ended my own life when the thought originally occurred to me.  I graduated high school as a valedictorian, a lifelong goal at that point.  I graduated college with honors.  I met the love of my life, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who thinks the sun rises & sets with me, and I have an amazing job doing what I love.  I’ve held my best friend’s firstborn, stood next to her at her wedding, celebrated multiple births in my family and several birthdays.  I’ve taken trips, saw George Jones at his very last concert, flew for the first time, and laughed until I cried instead of crying myself to sleep.  If it seems like you just can’t go on, give it another day.  And then the day after that.  Eventually, things will improve, even if you can’t fathom the possibility.
  2. Your Testimony
    You know what happens when you’re open about your own struggles?  You open the discussion about things that NEED to be discussed and you help others overcome the same struggles.  Instead of being another tragedy, you can be an inspiration to someone else who is struggling to keep their head above water. As someone who has dealt with depression in many forms in the past, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy and I would much rather be their inspiration to keep going.
  3. The Poor Soul Who Finds You
    The scene in 13 Reasons Why during which Hannah’s parents find her lifeless body absolutely broke me.  I found myself crying hysterically along with her mother because I could empathize with her.  How would I feel if I found my own daughter, my pride and joy, in a pool of her own blood because she felt her life was worthless and she didn’t have any other way out?  How would I feel about my mother finding my body?  What about a stranger whose life is forever changed in the worst way because of a decision you made?  I have the unique perspective of someone who has both contemplated suicide and witnessed a suicide attempt.  I can tell you that the man’s suicide attempt shook me for more than just a couple of days. I thought of him and his family everyday for the longest time, and even though it’s been 2 years, I still think of him and that night often.  And I didn’t even know him.  And he lived.  Imagine if things had been slightly different.
  4. Your Life Has Value
    I know it may not feel like it, I’ve been there, but your existence is a good thing.  If you feel like you aren’t contributing anything by being on the planet, change it and not by choosing suicide.  Sign up to be a bone marrow donor and save a life instead of taking yours.  Volunteer at a local nursing home and hear stories of how life is full to the very end.  Help out at an animal shelter and spend some quality time with a furbaby who definitely appreciates you and your presence.  The list goes on and on.  You matter, you are worthy, and you belong here!
  5. You Will Be Missed
    Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Ernest Hemingway, Alexander McQueen.  Do you really think the world is a better place without them?  Yeah, me neither.  I knew none of those men,  but their deaths still sadden me.  Why would you ever want to inflict the same pain you’ve been experiencing on someone else?

Help is out there, people care, there is hope and I’m living proof.
Your story isn’t over yet:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Project Semicolon
You can even email me if you need someone to talk to: marriedwithfurchildren@gmail.com

Child-like Faith

While I was pregnant with Ellie, I heard countless cliches about pregnancy and parenting, and some of them hit home a little more than others.  This week, while Ellie was throwing a fit because I’d taken something away from her, I was reminded of this particular bit of insight from some of our church family: “Being a parent gives you a whole new perspective on God’s love for us.  It gets you a little bit closer to fully understanding it.”

Once I remembered our friend saying that, I made a list of the other times it clicked with me that day alone and I’m basing this post on said list.  I can only imagine how long it would’ve been if I had been keeping a list from the beginning!

“I don’t want you to hurt yourself!”

Ellie spends the majority of her day actively trying to kill herself by seeking light sockets in which to stick her itty bitty baby fingers and attempting to swallow items that pose as a choke hazard.  You know, typical baby stuff.  She’s also really good at bypassing every single toy she owns and, instead, searching for cleaning products that I thought were out of her reach.  On this particular day, she proudly presented me with her latest hazardous treasure (I’m racking my brain trying to remember what it was and it’s just not coming to me!) and I immediately snatched it up.  Her mouth, which had previously formed a huge grin, displaying her bottom two teeth, quickly contorted into a full blown chin-quivering frown accompanied by furrowed brows and plenty of tears.  “I don’t want you to hurt yourself!” I said, as I picked her up to comfort her.
It was then that the first parallel formed for me.  She was so proud and excited about what she had in her hand, I thought, but it’s because she doesn’t see the danger that it causes.  She was just happy to have it in the moment and doesn’t understand that I’m just trying to protect her from what I know will happen.
Are we not the same way as adult Christians from time-to-time?  We get so angry and disappointed when something we wanted just doesn’t work out, or we just assume God wasn’t listening to us in the first place.  Jobs fall through, relationships fail or never happen to begin with, so on & so forth.  Instead of trying to see it from His perspective -that He was protecting us- we, too, pout like toddlers. See where I’m going with this?

“I’m right here!”

Now that she’s nearly 9-months-old, separation anxiety has set in full force with sweet Ellie.  Sometimes, I leave her in her room with the baby gate up in the doorway so she’ll stay put  (like I said, the kid thinks of a thousand new and exciting ways to put herself in harms way every. single. day).  I’m out of the room long enough to go get a sippy cup or grab a ringing phone and she can still see me, but that doesn’t stop her from screaming at the baby gate as if she’s been abandoned in the wilderness to fend for herself.  “I’m right here! I haven’t left you, you’re alright!”
As soon as the words leave my mouth, I’m almost always reminded of Deuteronomy 31:6, ” So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
I can’t really get frustrated with my child for screaming at the top of her lungs because she thinks I’ve left her when I do the same thing with God, now can I?  Multiple times just in the last year, I’ve found myself feeling as though God had abandoned me.  It felt like I was in this on my own and He’d just left me to drown, when in reality, I have just been throwing a tantrum at my metaphorical baby gate.  He hasn’t, even for a second, left me and I am, in fact, alright.

“I’ve got you!”

You know how I said that Ellie is forever putting herself in harm’s way?  Well, sometimes I’m not quick enough to stop the inevitable from happening.  Earlier tonight, I was bathing her in the sink and she decided to put her face in the water to blow bubbles, but it backfired and ended up going up her nose instead.  This is a mild example.  A better example would probably be one of the many times she’s rolled off the bed or put all of her weight on something flimsy and fallen in the floor.  I may have told her no a thousand times, but when she falls on time 1,001, I’m there to pick her up when she’s bawling her eyes out and hurting from what is basically a self-inflicted injury, and I tell her, “I’ve got you!  It’s going to be okay.”

I don’t think that one needs any explanation.

If I really thought about it or kept this list longer than one day, I’m sure I could come up with a million other comparisons between parenting Ellie and God’s love for us as our Father.  The most important lesson I’ve learned in being a mama, however, is a little different.  I’ve learned that I need to be more like Ellie.  She might get a little impatient with her meals, but she knows I’m going to provide them.  She crawls to me when she’s hurt because she knows I’ll take care of her.  She wants nothing more than to be with me simply because she loves me.  I’ve said in a previous blog that I am her comfort & her life source, and she is aware of both of those things.  It’s my hope that I can demonstrate these same behaviors in my relationship with God, and everyday I’m learning.  My 8 month old is the greatest teacher when it comes to child-like faith.

Ghosts of Boyfriends Past

A couple months back, I ran into my ex’s mother, the woman I assumed would one day be my mother-in-law, with my  daughter in tow.  Even though I’d seen her once or twice around town while I was still pregnant, something about Ellie looking at her with carbon copies of Phillip’s eyes made this interaction different than the others.  I left the store that day feeling nostalgic in a very bittersweet way.

Her son and I were together for 4 years throughout high school and the beginning of college.  He was my first love and I sincerely believed we would get married someday… until I learned he had the ring I wanted hidden in his room and I guess the weight of the impending question set in with me.  Our relationship was one of those that was awesome when things were good, but toxic when they weren’t which was more often than not.  Allow me to quote Eminem in describing it as, “That’s what happens when a tornado meets a volcano.”

I won’t bash him, but I won’t romanticize our teenage love affair either.  The good did not outweigh the bad.  I’m referring to both of us when I say that there was a lot of negativity along the way.  Emotional (occasionally, physical) abuse, punching of steering wheels after a fight, screaming, yelling, tears, and a couple of break ups thrown in for good measure made up our time together.  We were jealous, controlling, and overall, immature. I’ll admit, part of the appeal of our relationship was that it was never boring.  I think I was addicted to the chaos in the beginning, and over time, I wanted it to work so badly that I just ignored all of the red flags along the way. However, none of those things were a foundation on which I wanted to build a marriage, and it was when I started picturing our future together without my rose colored glasses that I realized we didn’t really have a future.

We were not good for each other and it took me a while to realize that.  Judging by the posts I see everyday on social media, there are plenty of other women out there struggling with the same relationship problems, which is why I felt compelled to write this blog.

It’s a little sad that someone who was such a major part of my past is now a stranger to me, sure, but I love my life now.  I never imagined myself being happy with anyone else while we were still together even when things were terrible simply because I was afraid of the unknown.  Did we love each other?  I can’t speak for him, but I did, absolutely.  Was it the kind of love that endures a lifetime?  No, and I never would have been able to experience the kind that does if I hadn’t been brave enough to leave.

Despite knowing we weren’t right for each other even back then, I can remember saying to him more than once that the idea of one day running into him in public with another man’s baby broke my heart.  But when that actually happened on Friday (given, it was his mom, not him), it was fine.  I’m doing well, his mom says he’s doing well and has a family of his own, and I can’t imagine that would’ve been the case for either of us if we had stayed together.

Looking back on our time together, I can see everything so clearly and I’m happy to say I don’t recognize the person I was back then.   As badly as I wanted it to work with him at the time, I’m glad that it didn’t.  My life now is everything I hoped it would be and I genuinely hope the same for him.  Life is long and complicated with a lot of unexpected twists and turns along the way, and emotions & memories tend to go hand-in-hand, but sometimes you’ve got to see things for what they are instead of what you want them to be.

Forcing pieces to fit never made a pretty puzzle and relationships, I’ve found, are the same way.  I try not to draw comparisons between my marriage and that relationship, but I will say that God’s plan for my love life has gone much more smoothly than my own, which isn’t really all that surprising.  Like I said before, I was addicted to the chaos because I confused drama with passion, but Phillip is easy to love.  Our relationship is calm, not to be confused with boring, and I wish I could’ve understood that at 17 just as badly as I wish I could get that through to the women on social media who are forever back and forth with boyfriends because of history.

I left the store wondering what my 16-year-old self would have thought about my run-in in the baby food aisle and all that’s happened in between.

Life’s weird, y’all. But hindsight is 20/20.

 

 

 

I am Mama, Hear Me Roar

I’ve been 100% open and honest about the challenges and less than pleasant parts of motherhood,  so I felt it was only fair to be equally as transparent about the good stuff.  I know, I know, you read all the flowery stuff on your Facebook newsfeed, but I mean there is a reason people continue to procreate.

If you’ve not read my other posts, the first few months were rough, and not in a normal newborn/first time mom kind of way.  She had a tongue tie which made nursing all but impossible, we learned when she was around 4 months old that she has reflux, and she was, still is, a high needs baby.  Everyone told us that it would get easier, that we would eventually wish that time would slow down.  When she screamed all day and stayed up all night, I called those people liars (that’s the G-rated version of what I called them anyway) but they ended up being right.

My sweet Ellie is 7 months old now and despite all the hard times, I really do wish I could put time in slow motion because it’s all going by so quickly!  I’ve grown to truly, madly, deeply love being her mother.  Nothing else I do in life will ever be as meaningful as caring for and raising my tiny human, and I think that has finally started to sink in with me.

Everyone says that you can’t imagine the love you have for a child until you experience it for yourself, and while it’s a massive cliche, it’s completely true.  I was drinking my morning coffee in her bedroom floor with her a few days ago, watching her play, and I was in awe of what her little hands were capable of doing.  She has gone from being my 8lb 15oz newborn to being this inquisitive little creature who crawls and uses her tiny hands with impressive dexterity to turn the pages in her books and inspect whatever she can reach.  She noticed me watching her, looked up at me and smiled before crawling up into my lap and jabbering.

She’s mastered dada and recently learned how to blow raspberries -she’s especially fond of the noise she can make by blowing onto hard surfaces which she thinks is hilarious- but the rest of the time she babbles like we’re having a conversation.  Her little eyebrows furrow and raise as though she’s experiencing a thousand different emotions during her monologue, and I can’t wait for the day that we can have a real conversation.  Nothing I’ve ever done has ever felt as fulfilling as raising her, especially when I have had the gift of watching her learn and grow over the last 7 months.

The world is still brand new to her and I get to experience everything through her eyes.  She views everything with such wonder and excitement that I can’t help but marvel at her.  The love I have for this child is too intense for words.  I sneak into her room at night just to watch her sleep and, in the morning, I make a fool of myself just to see her laugh.  Her eyes crinkle up, dimples form in her cheeks, her mouth opens wide enough to expose her two bottom teeth, and she buries her face in whatever is closest because she can’t control her laughter.  And my heart swells.  And I know that I’m doing something right because she’s thriving and happy, which makes me thriving and happy.

Ellie is beautiful and smart.  She’s curious, funny, adventurous, bubbly, social, and sweet.  She’s independent, sassy, and expressive.  She’s a Texas-sized blessing in a petite little package, better than any baby I could’ve ever dreamed up, and God knew exactly what He was doing when he put us together.

She is a ton of work –a full time, unpaid, no days off or vacations ever, kind of job, but the benefits are worth it.  I am the center of her entire world, and the smile she gives me over the edge of her crib when she wakes up in the morning lets me know it.  I am her comfort, I am her life source, I am her caregiver.  I’m a milk making, pattycaking, lullaby singing, bedtime story reading, peek-a-boo playing superwoman.  I am Mama, hear me roar!

 

Say Say Oh Playmate

“Some women pray for their daughters to marry good husbands. I pray that my girls will find girlfriends half as loyal and true as the Ya-Yas.”
― Rebecca Wells, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

In 1996, a wire haired dachshund named Mitzy changed my life.  My dad had gotten her for me from the local shelter when I was insanely sick as a way to make me feel better. The problem was, the saying ‘have legs, will travel’ definitely applied in this situation because she ran away constantly.  Fed up with having to go back to the shelter on a regular basis because animal control had picked up the little fugitive again, my parents suggested that I give her to the little girl whose house Mitzy had chosen as a regular hideaway.

“This little girl has a fenced in back yard.  Her mama said she’s been outside playing with her all day, maybe we should give Mitzy to her.”

I thought it was a complete injustice because Mitzy was supposed to be my dog.  I didn’t give a rip if that little girl had a fenced in back yard.  Good for her, what does that have to do with me?  I thought to myself.  After being told that I was free to visit whenever I wanted and it was explained to me that the fence would keep Mitzy from potentially being hit or taken into the Humane Society for the umpteenth time, I agreed.  And I immediately took the family up on their offer to  visit Mitzy, which is when my best friend, Tabi, came into the picture.

As it turns out, the fence did little to suppress Mitzy’s gypsy soul because she ran away from their house too and never returned, which devastated her dad but had no effect whatsoever on our friendship.  Because of that awful little dog, she and I became best friends instantly and for the next several years we practically lived at each others houses.  We were nearly polar opposites, but we got along like siblings.  She was very athletic and I painted my nails to match her softball team’s colors.  I played with Barbies, she collected them and tortured me by keeping them in their boxes.  I insisted on arts & crafts, and her mom banned those sorts of things because she knew we’d ruin the carpet. She tanned easily, I fried like bacon, which leads me to my first anecdote.

Like all southern mamas (and probably moms everywhere, I can only speak for those in KY), her mother told us to ‘quit running in and out’ and forced us to pick one or the other.  As I said before, Tabi was very athletic and never endured a sunburn, but I agreed to play outside anyway because she had a trampoline and my mom would never let me have one because I was accident prone and she’d seen a kid break his arm on one when I was still in diapers.  (Honestly, her swing-set was way more dangerous.  The only time I ever got close to having a swing level with the top of a swing set was at her house.  I stopped trying to do that because the chains broke and I hit the ground with a solid thud that knocked the breath out of me.  Thinking I was dying, she took off running to her house screaming, “Daddy!  Daddy!  Manda’s hurt!”  I swear, if ever a child came close to being as clumsy as Eugene from Hey! Arnold, it was me.) We spent hours on that trampoline competing to see who could jump higher.  Mom didn’t know until recently that we hosed it down with water because we thought it was more fun that way and it kept us cool.  No one ever got hurt, though Tabi did end up nearly falling off at one point; her bathing suit strap caught on the springs on the way down and kind of yo-yo’d her, but she never actually hit the ground!  On one occasion, I fell asleep on that trampoline… in the middle of the day, in the middle of the summer, and she never woke me up.   Once marshmallow white, I became Mattel logo red and experienced sun poison for the very first time in my life.  My lips quadrupled in size and my mom slathered me in aloe for days after that.  Fear not, reader, Tabi got hers.

My brother used to race motorcycles in the AMA Midsouth series, which just means he raced in the woods instead of on a motocross track, pretty much every weekend and my dearest Tank (if you’ve not read my older posts, my iPhone used to correct Tabi to Tank and it stuck) would tag along to keep me company.  As long as we didn’t wander too far, my mom let us explore the woods to keep ourselves entertained, and during a race when the weather was just starting to turn cool, we discovered a little creek.  While exploring the bank of the creek, we noticed that it narrowed a bit and there was a hill on the opposite side we wanted to climb.  Slightly taller than me at the time, I convinced Tabi that if she got a running start, she could probably make it across and we could explore some more.  Unfortunately for Tabi, she listened to me.  In my defense, she did make it across, but she lost her balance and windmilled her arms for a few seconds before landing in the middle of the creek like she was about to make a snow angel.  Like I said before, it was starting to get a little chilly out so she needed to change clothes, but didn’t have any with her since my mom didn’t expect us to get wet.  Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it) for Tabi, my mom had some garbage bags full of clothes to be donated to Goodwill in the trunk of her car, and Tabi had to sport a teddy bear sweater and green stretch pants for the rest of the day.  I like to think it was the universe paying her back for my potential case of skin cancer later in life.

So much of my childhood was spent with the girl I still call my best friend that I can, and likely will in future posts, go on and on with stories like these. Tabi was and still is like a sister to me; her family is my family and vice versa.  We were in each others weddings.  If

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Say say oh playmate, come out & play with me…

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…& we’ll be jolly friends forevermore

not for her, I may not have met Phillip because it was her idea to go out that night.  She was there the night he proposed and she was one of the first people I told when I found out I was pregnant.  She keeps Ellie for me on a regular basis and she gets it when I don’t immediately respond to texts because she, too, is busy raising a tiny human.

Last week after I went to pick Ellie up from her house following an out of town meeting, we went to eat lunch together along with our munchkins.  When we were getting ready to leave, Tabi told her little boy to give Ellie a hug bye; Ellie grabbed his face with both hands and gave him a slobbery kiss.  Later that day, I was telling my mom about it and how precious it was and she mentioned how she loves watching as the generations continue, and it really put things into perspective for me.

I don’t know many people who are able to say that they even speak to their childhood best friends, but I’m blessed enough that our kids adore each other and will grow up together.  I’m so blessed that I can lean on her for prayer or just someone to listen to me rant about the same things I’ve been ranting about since the ’90s.  She’s my brutally honest voice of reason when I need it (she couldn’t lie to me if she tried, the girl doesn’t have a poker face, bless her) but she listens without judgement.  Out of all I’ve been given in life, my best friend is one of my biggest (and oldest!) blessings, and I am just so very grateful for her.

And I guess I should also be grateful for the Amazing Disappearing Mitzy: official sponsor of a 20 year friendship.