Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tyson

It started out as a normal day. Well, as normal as a day where you have to unload 40,000 newspapers off a truck by hand can be.

Then I met Tyson.

You know, there are people in life that kinda knock your socks off and remind you of all that is good about living and breathing and not taking a single second of life for granted. There are people whose smile brightens up a room and whose presence simply makes you feel better. Yep, he's one of those people.

You see, Tyson was going about his life when on June 10, 2010 he and his father were in a horrific boating accident that nearly claimed their lives. His Dad was in a coma for two weeks and Tyson 99 days. His family was told he would never walk or talk again and that he would most likely remain unresponsive. Yet here he was, sitting across from me at lunch after helping unload and stack 40,000 papers. He also is finishing his degree in chemistry at UT Chattanooga and is getting married to his longtime girlfriend next June. He is, without doubt, a living, breathing miracle.

There are many things in the story of this young man that are shake-your-head-how-can-that-be-possible things. Like how did he survive 45 minutes with no oxygen after his windpipe was crushed? How did the abscess in his lung disappear when doctors said it could not be attributed to any medical intervention that had been performed? He is the first one to admit that it is nothing short of a miracle and I believe this to be true.

But what struck me most about Tyson is the joy he pours into others. Even after my brief time knowing him, I felt blessed to hear his story and see the smile spread across his face when discussing the things he loves in life including his fiancee Jenna. It made me thankful for all the little things I take for granted. It reinforced for me that anything is possible and that our lives can change forever in a moment's notice.

But, more than anything, it made me grateful to have crossed paths with this amazing young man. Thank you Tyson for your smile, your optimism and for blessing me with your story.

I am forever changed.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tis the Season to Build My Own....

The Sunday afternoon smell of fresh-from-the-oven peanut butter cookies, worcestershire pecans and hot apple cider fills the air while the sound of a crackling fire and the The Polar Express provide the perfect soundtrack for this day.

I love this time of year. There's always something to look forward to. From checking the mailbox to see the spit-shined images of our friends and family in the form of Christmas cards to hearing the familiar strains of a favorite carol sung in harmony...some of my favorite memories involve Christmas and the weeks leading up to this holiday.

But, along with the good come the more bittersweet moments. As I sat in church this morning, we had a time of prayer with a beautiful version of Amazing Grace played in the background. I could not contain my emotion. Tears welled up in my eyes and poured down each cheek as I thought about my Mom and how much she loved both that song and Christmas in general. It evoked in me that longing for her, for my childhood...for the sound of the Beach Boys Christmas album blaring and the smell of cherry walnut bars ready to come out of the oven. It's that silly little angel that would spin by the heat of the candle flame and the chubby little ceramic Santa that was always perched on an end table next to a sprig of holly. It's the wrapping of gifts with her showing me just how much to snip off the end before I taped it down and it's the familiar bulge of the orange in the toe of my stocking. These are things I remember. These are the things I miss this time of year.

Perhaps that is why I now try to create those same sort of smells and sounds and traditions with my own boys...so that one day they, too, might have specific memories of this holiday. But right now I am feeling more selfish than that. I am wanting to be the kid. I want my Mom to walk out of that kitchen and tell me she has a big pot of vegetable soup and cornbread ready for our viewing of The Christmas Story or It's a Wonderful Life. I want all the pieces of the gingerbread house (or my holiday season) to be lovingly laid out for me with a bowl full of frosting and all the perfect candies for decoration organized into neat little containers.

But it's not that easy. I am the grown-up. It's my turn to make the soup and buy the presents and create the sights and sounds of this holiday for my little ones. And instead of just missing her and wanting to curl up in the fetal position, I will channel her energy and her spirit and love of all things Christmas and create memories of my own. It's time to decorate my own gingerbread house. As imperfect as it may be with its leaning walls and sticky peppermint wreath on the door...it is still my own.

Now where did I put that recipe for cherry walnut bars..........


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Bigger!


The swift cadence of the hurried footsteps coming down the hall was my first tip-off that a little boy was aware of the significance of today. "I BIGGER!!!," he shouted as he made the turn from living room into front hallway just steps from our bedroom door.

In my groggy stupor I smiled at the innocent belief on his part that he had, indeed, grown at least a foot overnight. "Happy Birthday, Jacob!" I whispered as he jumped up on the bed like a surfer mounting his aquatic steed and exclaimed "I BIGGER, MOMMY! I FOUR!" The jubilant tone of his voice was no match for the mile-wide, now-four-year-old grin on his little face.

As I reveled in his pre-dawn aging celebration, I found it hard to believe it had been four years since that day. A day when a young woman went into labor and when a slightly older woman sat in her home just north of Atlanta and cleaned and cried and worried and paced and cleaned a little more and double checked the closet in the newly-painted upstairs nursery so tightly jammed with newborn clothes that nary a Q-tip would have fit in there...a day when two families would be forever intertwined even though they might never speak or see each other again in this life...a day when a phone call from the adoption agency saying "he's here!" would bring the slightly older woman to her knees with tears of relief and panic and joy and simultaneous sorrow for the young woman facing a wrenching decision. November 29, 2007 indeed was a day of deep emotion and celebration and prayer and thanksgiving all wrapped into one.

Now as she watched his big four year old eyes sparkle and patted the soft chestnut colored hair on his head, she was overcome with a wave of celebration of her own. From the marks on the laundry room wall tracking his amazing growth spurt this year to the incessant questions about life that now spewed forth from his talkative little mouth, this child had blossomed. He was BIGGER! in every sense of the word and she was proud to have played a role in the spunky little fella's development.

The sense of importance about his getting "bigger" was not lost on me, either. As the younger brother to a very smart and rambunctious brother six years his senior, this milestone was a signal he was surely catching up (and ironically, in size, he actually is). But there were two much-greater benefits of this birthday than trying to be like his brother or giving his Momma a reason to reminisce...

"Mommy! Now that I BIGGER I can wear those shoes that are lighting up in there can't I Mommy? And can we get cupcakes with the rings in them for my friends, Mommy? Since I BIGGER today???"

Yes, sweet boy. Because you're BIGGER.





****************************
I love you, Jacob.
Happy 4th Birthday.

Love, Mommy

Friday, November 18, 2011

How Do You Make Brown and Other Burning Life Questions

My 3 year old son had been alone in the bathroom with me for a grand total of 2 minutes when the bombardment began:
  • What is this? (opens my bottom cabinet, pulls a tampon out and holds it vertically with an ever so inquisitive expression)
  • Why do you put this in your eyes (picks up bottle of contact solution)
  • Why do you put on the make-ups?
  • When are we going to da movie feeter?
  • Did you know Skyler's Mommy died and went to Heaven?
  • Where is Heaven, Mommy?
  • How do you make the color brown?
My head, still reeling from a week long headache, could not comprehend the magnitude of what must run through my child's brain on an ongoing basis. His big blue eyes implore me to answer each and every question to his satisfaction. But sometimes I just don't have the answers.

Like how in the heck do you make brown anyway?

But what I am most thankful for is the fact that he digs. He plunders. He wonders and asks questions and wants to know every detail about everything in his path: what it is, why it is there, how does it work and will he have one "when he is the parent?"

And even on nights when my brain thinks it cannot soak in even one more question...I am grateful for every inquisitive bone in that child's body.

Keep the questions coming my child. Well, all except the tampon ones. I need a few more years to formulate an answer for that one.




Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2:34 am.

The darkness envelopes me as I step out onto the deck. A strong breeze whips through the bare branches and the bushes give off a "sizzling" sound in its wake. The wood is damp beneath my feet as I tiptoe about searching for just the right spot. Arms crossed to huddle against the wind, I reach my destination in the back right corner...

...and I breathe.

The wind picks up and the moist air reminds me of the beach. I close my eyes and suddenly I am standing on a balcony as the surf rolls in. The stray crickets I hear become seagulls and the breeze is now whipping off the water instead of the rose bushes below me. My skin is no longer chilly but instead soothed by the cool touch after what must have been a lazy day of lounging in the sun.

I am there. And yes, it's 2:34am but I am at the beach so it doesn't matter. No school bus to race for, no meetings, no responsibilities. Ahhhhhh.

But reality soon hits and I return to my own bed where sleep eludes me.

At least there won't be sand in it, though.

There's always an upside. ;)




Monday, October 17, 2011

Music to My Ears

As I pulled away from the Nashville airport, tears were streaming down my cheeks. No, I had not just experienced some tearful goodbye with a loved one. Quite the opposite. These were happy tears. Tears of earnest appreciation for the compliment I had just received. I knew I'd want to write about it but I didn't -- and, to some degree, still don't-- know if I could find the right words.

I met Lee Stringer on the first day of a conference I had planned and immediately I knew he was somewhat extraordinary. He oozed wisdom and his life experiences only added to his credibility. As a former crack addict living under the 109 platform in New York City's Grand Central Station, he had endured the most profound of life's stress-inducers: addiction, homelessness, poverty and hunger. And as I listened to his story on the way to the airport, I suddenly felt the urge to drive him to New York instead...to soak up every nugget of wisdom pouring forth from his lips. The only response I could muster was "you...you are amazing."

That's when he blew me away with an observation so touching that I will never forget his mannerisms as he said it or the cool tone with which he spoke. He said "Listen to me. I want to tell you something." I wasn't sure where he was headed, but I knew I would hang on his every word. He continued, "I have been watching you this week. And you are an amazing event planner. You are an outstanding people person...you are incredible at what you do." And before I could thank him, he continued..."But it is not WHAT you do that makes you amazing, Katie. It's how you do it. You plan events and you live your life....with music." As he uttered the word music his clinched fist opened up in a starburst fashion and I was speechless.

You see, music to me is soul-soothing, uplifting, emotion-evoking stuff. It possesses the power to transport me to places I've been as well as places I wanna be...it carries with it a sense of purpose, of communicating feeling. In short, it moves me. That's why Lee's comment made such a big impact on me.

I have struggled recently with a job transition that was not of my doing and a feeling that my eight years of service to them was swept under the rug at the end. But, fresh on the heels of that came this smaller meeting along with a feeling of genuine appreciation by attendees and fellow staff alike. It was refreshing and timely...and then came Lee's observation.

Little did that man know what an impact he made on me. It is no secret that my love language is words of affirmation and his words not only affirmed me but moved me to the core. I love what I do and I love the people I do it for. And as I pulled away from the airport, tears streaming down my cheeks, I realized someone had actually seen me. The me I want to be.

Believe me, it was music to my ears...and to my heart.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Blessed Beyond Belief

The candles were lit and the steam rising off the water glistened on the bubbles that floated on its surface. The windows that line the wall beside the tub in my master bath were cranked open and I exhaled in delight as I slid into the water for a relaxing bath last night. The cold breeze blew in through the window and I felt every care, every worry slip away as I watched the steady rain fall from dark, winter-like skies.

And that's when it hit me. Where was Ron at that very moment? For those of you that know me, I'm sure you are wondering who Ron is and why I am thinking about him in the bathtub :) Well....

Ron is a homeless man that lives on the streets of West Nashville. He sells The Contributor as a small source of income. But, for now, he is without shelter. Suddenly, my love of "bad" weather was tempered by concern for my new friend. As I lay in the comfort of a bubble-filled tub of warm water surrounded by candles, Ron was surely braving the elements in a much less appealing way. And the realization of just how blessed I am hit me like a ton of bricks.

Over the past few days, I have had similar experiences that have opened my eyes to the oh-so-comfortable life I lead. I read an article in a back issue of the paper written by a now-homeless woman that sells the paper downtown. She remarked at the professional women that walk by every day and how she remembered wearing the same skirt as a particular passerby. "Turquoise blue with brown and beige flowers, bought at The Dress Barn," she wrote. She then recalled the days of having skin care products and nice-smelling lotions that made her feel pretty and compared that to feeling lucky to have a bar of soap to bathe with now.

And then I thought about the basket. On the closet in my shelf there is a basket. This basket is overflowing with bottles of lotion and body sprays in every scent imaginable. Rarely, if ever, used. Under my sink, there are baskets of skin care products I just "had to have" and pedicure creams, nail polishes, bath salts and hundreds of hotel-sized shampoos, lotions and the like. So, I devised a plan to take those, divide them into little trial size plastic bottles, slap a label on them with the scent and hand them out to the female vendors I meet. If something sitting unused on my shelf can make someone else's day... then it will surely make my day, too.

Then, the most heartbreaking one yet. As I was returning to the church after lunch, I was shielding myself from the steady cold rain. I thought to myself how happy I was I wore my rain boots as I sloshed through puddle after puddle. As I rounded the corner of the church, a man bearing backpack and tennis shoes soaked through asked my coworkers and I if the church had a clothing closet of any kind. We replied "no" and he mentioned that all he was hoping to get was a pair of dry socks to keep his feet warm.

Really?

I can't tell you how this is changing me from the inside out. I want to help. I want to contact clothing manufacturers about the endless numbers of reject socks they might be tossing and see if we can somehow distribute those to people like the man I met today. I want to do something to make even the tiniest difference in one person's life.

I am incredibly blessed. How can I do a better job of sharing those blessings with others? I'm not exactly sure, but you can bet I'm gonna figure something out.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rollin on the River...

I will be the first to admit I did not feel like going.

As the sunlight poured through the slats in the window shutters, I was cozy and comfortable and reveling in my lazy Saturday morning slumber. Keith had proposed that we take a family canoe trip down the Duck River and had even gone so far as making reservations. Ugghh....I thought to myself as I pondered a day in the heat rowing a canoe with two whiny children in tow. But up I bounded, located bathing suits, towels and sunglasses and off we went.

After checking in at the canoeing company, we drove down a gravel road with dust flying. I was still in full doubt mode that this outing was going to end up well. That is, until I saw the excitement on my youngest son's face when he realized he would be riding a big, yellow school bus down to our drop-off point. The sheer joy he exhibited brought a glimmer of hope that this might have been a good idea after all.

Boy, was it ever.

As the bus made its way down to the water, I realized this was exactly what I needed... what WE as a family needed. The laid-back feel of the whole process set the tone for the day as nothing felt rushed or scheduled. It was truly an "at-your-own-pace" experience which fit us to a "T." We selected a canoe, got the boys secured into their life jackets, got settled into our boat and off we went. The minute we pushed off I knew it was going to be a good day.

The sun was warm and the breeze cool as we slowly rowed down the first stretch of the river. Keith was in the back to steer and I was up front with the boys sitting on the floor in the middle of the canoe. They took delight in pointing out every butterfly, dragonfly or stick in the water that they were sure was an alligator or snake. We rowed past large outcroppings of rock and under trees with bent branches drooping over the water creating canopies of refreshing shade along the way.

At one point, I challenged the boys to be completely still and quiet to see how many different sounds they could take in as we floated. Surprisingly, they accepted the challenge and we all soaked in the sounds of nature around us. Cicadas buzzed in the distance as the gentle breeze brushed through the branches of the trees above us. The gentle lapping of the water on the rocks mingled with the sound of our oars gliding through the water. It was, without doubt, one of the most peaceful experiences I have ever had. Sure, I have had quiet times alone that were "peaceful"...but this rare moment of solitude with boys that are normally going at mach-10 was special to say the least.

And to think, if I had had my way, I woulda missed it all...Jacob's school bus excitement, the colorful canoes lined up by the shore and feeling of freedom as we pushed off at the start. I woulda missed picking out the perfect swimming hole, tossing the boys through the air, the laughter that always followed as soon as they returned to the surface, and the feeling of contentment that washed over me as I floated on my back staring up at a cloudless blue sky.

I woulda missed it all... but I didn't. And as we made our way back up that same dusty gravel road to head home, I was thankful I gave up a lazy Saturday morning and took the road, or in this case the river, less traveled.

It indeed made all the difference.



"Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll go canoeing." ~ Henry David Thoreau


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding a New Rhythm...

The sound of the organ music fills the air as the sunshine pours in, dancing on the dust particles floating about. I sit here, laptop open, tap tap tap.... pondering the interesting twists and turns my life has taken recently.

For so many years, I had become complacent with my career...completely saturated in the familiar, the comfortable...planning events from start to finish for groups with whom I was utterly familiar. My job had almost become second nature. A pattern developed in the cycle of my year and I floated from month to month knowing exactly what to expect day to day.

Boy how times change.

As I sit in an office of the Downtown Presbyterian Church here in Nashville, I am suddenly aware of how interesting my career--and subsequently, my life--has become. As part-time event planner and volunteer coordinator for Nashville's street newspaper, The Contributor, I am not only coming in contact with all sorts of fascinating people but I am marinating in an environment of creativity and relaxed productivity that has long been missing from my life. The cadence of this work is so unlike what I have grown accustomed to and that is refreshing. My day has been filled with meetings, laughter, touring an old bank-building turned home/event space as well as digging through intriguing art studio spaces which I would give up a leg to inhabit.

This new position will also allow me to explore other income opportunities such as the catering company I met with this morning. It is another avenue with an entirely different set of interesting people where I would put my skill set to work through networking, meeting with clients, artistic design...you name it. I could not be more excited.

A few months ago I was in tears at the thought of my job situation coming to an end by no fault of my own and how I would never find anything comparable to replace it. Now I see that the opportunities unfolding for me are possibly much bigger and better than I dreamed.

I'm liking this road I'm on. And as I watch the dust dance on the drops of sunlight I suddenly feel like dancing, too. The tune I dance to may be changing but I will just find a new rhythm.

Look out folks, they're playing my song.....


Friday, August 12, 2011

Runnin' Off the Tracks in a Good Sorta Way

The alarm was set for 5:30am and I had the best of intentions. Rather than prop my eyelids open with toothpicks to finish a report the night before, I would wake up early and utilize the quiet early-morning hours of solitude to accomplish the task. Nothing could derail me on My Track of Productivity. Nothing....until I heard the pitter patter of Spider-man-sock-clad feet turning the corner in the hallway.

"I need a snuggle, Momma."

Derailment of train.

He hopped up next to me in bed, the warmth of his little boy body a soothing heating pad for my chilled-by-the-ceiling-fan arms. He did his characteristic move of inching back until he hit the cradle of my arms just perfectly...wiggling and nuzzling until the spot felt just right. His chest let out a deep exhale signaling that he was just about as content as a person could be...as was I.

We lay there, our in and out breaths in perfect rhythm as I gently grasped his tiny hand in mine. Each one of his fingertips was a wonder to me. Those tiny baby hands had transformed into strong little boy hands--usually covered in dirt or splatters of his favorite strawberry milk. I soaked in this time of stillness, inactivity...such a rarity where a three year old boy is concerned.

That's when I realized that reports can wait. Showers can wait. Making the bed and getting breakfast ready can wait. What cannot wait is getting unsolicited snuggles from a three year old sandy-haired little boy clad in froggy pajamas and spider man socks.

You see, this window of opportunity doesn't open for long. But when it does, it's worth running the train off its tracks every time.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Flying Solo, Uno, One...Me, Myself and I

No man is an island.

Is it not good for man (or Katie) to be alone.

One...is the loneliest number that you'll every do...

All by myself....don't wanna be...all by myself.............ANYMOREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs personality test? Well the first indicator is extrovert vs. introvert and, as you might have guessed, I am an EXTROVERT off the charts. That does not simply mean you are outgoing or like people. It's actually an indicator of where you draw your energy from--others or from within. After traveling alone all week and then coming home to an empty house since Keith and the boys are in Alabama, I can most assuredly confirm that I am an "E" on the Myers-Briggs scale.

Now don't misunderstand me, I like a little alone time just like the next person. But waking up to total silence this morning, I almost felt like I wanted to climb the walls. I showered, met my friend at the farmer's market, snapped pics, ate a turkey panini, bought lots of produce, got my boys a couple of surprises, watched the rain, listened to music, colored with crayons, baked ooey gooey bars and watched a movie. I then offered to bring some handmade pasta and a salad to my friend Heather's house (aka an inventive way to invite yourself over for supper) so that I DO NOT HAVE TO EAT ALONE AGAIN. A people person can alone take so much quiet, folks.

I do know that I am more than ready to see the fellas. And, from what I've heard, the feeling is mutual. But, for now, I revel in my solitude. Guess I could get off my ka-tonkus and do some laundry or straighten the boys' rooms. But that might actually be productive.

Can't have that now, can we?



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thoughts, Life Revelations and a Priceless Pair of Shoes

As I sat cross-legged on the floor just beyond the altar of the Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville today, I had an epiphany. I knew that was where I was supposed to be. Right then. Right there. Surrounded by those exact people. A sly grin washed over my face as I realized, for the umpteenth time in my life, that all my stress and worry over trying to control the path of my life was unnecessary. God knew where I needed to be. And, when I found myself there, I humbly shook my head and acknowledged in my heart, "you win. again."

I must admit, my life has been anything but ordinary. And, as I stared up at the spectacular architecture of that magnificent church I was grateful for the unexpected twists and turns that led me to that spot today. In the pews directly in front of me sat hundreds of homeless individuals--of every color, shape and size--listening intently to what my new coworker Tom was sharing with them. I noticed several who used that time to sleep...most likely grateful for the cool comfort of air conditioning on an extremely brutal Tennessee summer day. Just days ago, I would not have pictured myself here--sitting cross-legged at an event for the homeless--but my heart was clearly at home there.

As the new event planner/volunteer coordinator for The Contributor--a street newspaper in Nashville founded to help shed light on poverty and homelessness as well as provide an avenue for income for the homeless--I was trying to take it all in...absorbing every detail of this day from the colors of the stained glass to the smile on the face of one of the ladies in attendance. The staff had been so welcoming, revealing through mile-wide grins that they had felt the same feeling of certainty about me as I had about them following the interview. They seemed genuinely relieved to have me there... a refreshing feeling, indeed.

Just then, it was announced that every person there would be receiving a new pair of shoes from the organization Soles4Souls. The reaction was something I will never forget. Cheers, applause, hugs and even a few tears made it feel more like Christmas morning than the last Wednesday of July. A tear rolled down my cheek as I watched the celebration over a simple pair of shoes-- an object that I have far too many of in my own closet. It was moving, humbling and a much needed reminder of just how blessed I am.

I'm sure this will not be the last time I have this sort of revelation while working for this organization. I realized today that the sudden gear shifts of life are just that--shifts. I was comfortable and stable doing a job for a client I have been with for years and then the CEO unexpectedly dies. The new CEO replaces me with someone local and it feels like a kick in the stomach. Fear and doubt and uncertainty suddenly become a swirling concoction that occupy my every thought.

Until today.

My experience today was more than just a first day on the job. It was a renewing of sorts. It was proof that no matter what curveballs life throws our way, somewhere there is a stained glass window with a sun ray pouring in, a new team member greeting you with squeals of excitement and the smile on the face of a lady for whom a new pair of shoes is a winning million dollar lottery ticket.

Thank you Oh Unpredictability of Life. You keep me on my toes and I wouldn't have it any other way.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A Pretty Place

There is a place that beckons me. A place where childhood memories and dreams for my future converge. It is solitary. It is breathtaking. It is a Pretty Place.
And I need to return there...soon.

My first memory of A Pretty Place is a trip to visit my grandmother in Brevard, North Carolina when I was a young girl. My parents knew of this spot and I was intrigued by the wooded, winding and twisting road that led us to our destination. Located in the back of a YMCA camp, one would never guess that such a stunning spot existed as we passed cabins, basketball courts and the occasional stray camper on bicycle. But, the moment we pulled up to A Pretty Place for the first time, I knew this would not be the only time I made a trip to this spectacular overlook.

Built in 1941, the Fred W. Symmes Chapel, or "A Pretty Place" as it is more commonly known, was a gift to the boys and girls that attend camp at the YMCA. It is an open-air chapel with primitive wooden bench seating leading down to what is one of the most intimate, yet majestic, views of the Blue Ridge mountains I have ever seen.

Growing up a mountain lover, this spot hooked me from the start. I was drawn to the cross at the front of the chapel and how it seemed so perfectly perched on the rock wall separating the structure from the valley below. The saying on the ceiling above the cross was perfect, too: "I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto the Hills..." So fitting for this sanctuary where religion and nature intertwine.

On each visit, I would sit atop the rock wall and glance out at the breathtaking sight which, strangely enough, had the power to both captivate and frighten me with its immense grandeur. In the fall, the brilliant hues of golds and reds would make the mountainsides appear to be in flame...the sun hitting in angles creating a tapestry of color only possible in nature. In the Spring, the lush green of the hillsides would darken in random shapes as cloud formations would float past the sun. The tranquility I found here was unlike no other place in my travels.

The last time I visited A Pretty Place was my last Easter with Mom...a sunrise service, in fact. I need to visit again. I need to breathe in the mountain air and surrender all my worries and feel completely at peace.

I will return there soon....



Monday, July 04, 2011

Whiz, Boom, Bang...Happy Fourth!

The summer sun was pelting us as we arrived, cole slaw and lemon pie in hand, to ring in Independence day with a group of friends. It's one of those gatherings where you know you can let your guard down and be yourself...my favorite kind of get together.

The house was brimming with guests--mostly familiar faces--with kids running to and fro. The food table was overflowing with an array of side dishes and the dining room proved a popular pass-through as it held the coveted dessert table. Each family awaited their turn at the grill and passed the time catching up with old friends and making new ones. Laughter was in abundance and the giggles of children added to the feeling of merriment in the air.

As the sun began to fade, brave souls trucked wagonloads of fireworks down to the pond as the observers positioned their lawn chairs and blankets for the show. Soon, darkness set in and the fireworks were well underway...accompanied by at least eight others on the horizon and throughout the neighborhood. Each pop and whistle bursted open into a display of color followed by oohs and ahhs from the appreciate onlookers.

A sense of contentment washed over me as I held my youngest in my arms and joked with friends around me. I am free on this day. I am free to celebrate as I wish and do as I please...and I realized I was exactly where I needed and wanted to be at that moment.Good food, great company, and the traditional whiz, boom, bang of a sky full of firecrackers.

It was a good evening, indeed.

Lemon Icebox Pie Recipe

If I had known how quickly this pie would go, I'da made more than one for tonight's festivities :) For those of you that requested, here is the recipe. It could not be easier:

Lemon Icebox Pie
3/4 c. lemon juice
2 eggs
2 14 oz. cans sweetened condensed milk (I use Carnation)

Mix together well, pour into graham cracker pie shell and bake for 30 minutes or until firm.

Serve with whipped cream.

Enjoy!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine...

Found this great article on getting the most out of every day. It referenced one of my favorite all-time quotes by poet e.e. Cummings: "The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.”

That is my new mantra, peoples. OK, I guess it's not entirely new. I do laugh a lot just by nature of me being a dork. But, sometimes I take life much too seriously and let the little things affect my overall attitude. Every time I start thinking about the mistakes I've made, the way I might have been "done wrong" by others...well, it does affect my mood and outlook on the day. So, I'm gonna work on that.

If there is one thing I learned from losing my Mom eight years ago, it is that LIFE IS SHORT. Breaking news, right? Well it might as well be with the way I race through my days...completely overlooking many of the little things that make life good. I tunnel-vision on a project or event and lose sight of all the opportunities for happiness along the way.

Well that is changing, folks.

You see, I turn the Big 4-0 in nine days. And lest you think I'm having some big mid-life, birthday-induced epiphany, it's really not that. I simply have so much to be thankful for. I have lived hard and loved deep and lost big. I have laughed, cried, hurt, celebrated, and tried (sometimes not hard enough admittedly) to document it along the way. And, God-willing, there is a lot more to come. I mean, just today a three year old woke me up singing "Cock-a-doodle-doooooooooooooooo" in my face. A smile-making moment for sure.

It's gonna be a good day.



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Yikes. I'm Kinda Supposed to Be the Grown Up Now?


It didn't really hit me until we were pulling into the parking lot. The bright red sign pointed to Ruby Falls and suddenly the memories came flashing back.

It was 1980 and it was one of those marathon road trips we used to take without DVD players and gameboys and iPods. It was me, my sis, my folks and a whole lotta highway. I'm not sure how she did it, but my Mom had road trippin down to a fine art. We each had a little plastic drink holder thingy that stuck out of the window, a makeshift trashbag in the back, snacks readily available and a host of coloring books, travel games and anything else 2 young girls could need to keep them occupied for hours on end.

She was a magician, really.

During that one particular trip 30+ years ago, Lookout Mountain and Ruby Falls were on the itinerary. And, pulling up today it amazed me that now I am the one making memories for my own boys. (A scary thought, indeed.) Other than a backpack loaded down with snacks and ziplock baggies of wet wipes, my preparation for this last-minute trip was "hey guys! we're gonna go to Chattanooga for a couple days! Put your shoes on and let's go!" I consider it a victory that they both had a clean pair of underwear and a toothbrush to use. Clearly, my expectations are not very high.

Even though I might not have won the prize for The Most Organized and Prepared For Trip of the Century, the overall mission was accomplished. We spent a couple days in the company of family and, well, just having fun. No formal plans, no set agenda, we did as we pleased and took in many of the same sites I did as a young girl.

And, as we reached the end of our half-mile trek through the depths of the cave and reached our final destination--Ruby Falls-- I saw the wonder in my childrens' eyes as they stared at the majesty just like I did way back when. All the "he's touching me!" and the "Mommmm, I'm hungry/thirsty/ needing to go potty" as well as any worry about being "Super Mom" all dissapated as I watched look of sheer awe spread over their faces as they surveyed the brightly colored waterfall before them.

I may not be filling out any applications for Mother of the Millenium just yet... but we made some pretty special memories on this latest journey.

Isn't that what matters?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

1...2....3.....4...BOOM!

I'm pretty sure I was smack dab in the middle of a good dream when a clap of thunder rocked the foundation of my house around 5 o'clock this morning. I bolted out of the covers, oh so certain a 747 had landed in my bedroom.

After my unexpected wake-up call, I realized it was just a strong thunderstorm and nestled back down under my toasty covers to enjoy the show. My crank-out window had been open all evening and the sound of the rain lulled me in and out of a drowsy sleep. The flashes of lightning were nearly constant--more 80's dance nightclub than peaceful light show but I was entranced nonetheless.

I have written many a time of my love for bad weather. As a young girl I would play the counting game to see if a storm was moving closer... A bolt of lightning would flash and I would start counting 1...2...3...4...5...6... CLAP! The thunder would boom. So, on the next flash of lightning I would begin to count 1...2...3...4..5 CLAP! Oooh! "I only got to five," I would exclaim! It's coming this way! My heart would race anticipating swirling winds and a thunderous invasion which would require me to leap under the nearest blanket for safety. I have no idea if my theory of counting in between thunder and lightning is a true indicator of a storm's position. But it sure did make for some fun childhood memories.

This morning I lay alone in the bed (Keith is in St.Louis) and relished my private light show. My slow inhale/exhale reflected my relaxation and I honestly did not want it to come to an end. I'm thinking a day of nasty weather and absolutely nothing to do sounds like a little piece of heaven to me.

A girl can dream, can't she?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Time Flies....

Time slips by on pitter patter feet
Hours fade into days and then
weeks gone by and suddenly

years

Seasons fly... first winter, now summer
A scant slice of spring in between
Where Christmas decor once stood, now

flowers

My mind is abuzz with to-do lists and wish lists and dreams
Balancing the have-to's from the want-to's or wish-I-could's
Creating memories while always striving to keep it

real

Cause I am just me

And life is what it is

I'll take

one

day

at

a

time...

...and make each one as beautiful, meaningful, productive and kick-butt as I can.

Cause time flies.

The least I can do is be a good co-pilot.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Nothing a Little Rain Can't Fix....

Just like a child who can't help but splash in a puddle....I couldn't resist. It had been raining all day and as my entire family napped in various locations around the house the urge overcame me. I ran into the garage, grabbed a couple old comforters and ran out to the trampoline. My strides were that of a little girl dancing between raindrops as I rounded the corner of the house.

The rain was steady and cool on my shoulders as I climbed through the net and slid onto the now-wet surface of the trampoline. I laid one comforter down hopped on and covered with the other--giggling to myself at how silly I would appear to anyone watching.

Strange how hard it rains now
Rows and rows of big dark clouds
When I'm holding on underneath this shroud
Rain

I lay there in my temporary cocoon watching the raindrops kerplunk! on the surface of the trampoline. The soothing rhythm of the rainfall beat lightly on my back as drops of water tickled any toes that might have snuck out of the bottom of my makeshift cover. I felt giddy and relaxed and rebellious--even protected-- as I lay there taking it all in.

Without doubt, I have had my fair share of challenges over the past few months. Stress has stolen from me the ability to find my inner "Katie-ness"...that part of me that delights in the simple, everyday pleasures of life. I have trusted others and been let down. I have given my all in certain situations only to find that the end result was not worth the sacrifices along the way. But all of those stresses and swirling thoughts of doubt fade away when raindrops are keeping you company.

Cause tomorrow's another day
And I'm thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain....

I found a little piece of myself today. I felt spontaneous and young and alive. All with the help of a rain shower, a trampoline and a couple of old blankets. I liked the Katie I spent time with today. I think I'll see if she wants to hang out more often.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

All in a Day's Work

I had been watching the forecast all week...eyeing the 10-day weather tracker for Brentwood, Tennessee like a hawk and praying that the Isolated Thunderstorms icon would magically disappear. Having been an event planner for 16 years, I know my track record: If I plan it outside, it will rain. Period. So when the Wascom family hired me to plan an after rehearsal dinner for their son's wedding in an outdoor setting, the prayers for no rain began to fly.

June 24 arrived and I kicked it into gear. The day started with a few last minute errands and plans to be at the house by 11:30 to get set-up. Walking out of Kroger with The World's Officially Most Ginormous Fruit Tray Ever I felt confident and excited about the day ahead. I placed the tray on the front seat and cranked my car. Or, TRIED to crank my car but it was dead. D-E-A-D. No sign of life. 10 minutes later the hood is up and I am surrounded by four employees of that store assisting in the jumping off of my battery. Engine now purring, I thank them wholeheartedly and race to the venue to get things rolling.

And so the fun began.

Tables that were delivered the day before were rolled into the back yard. A call is placed to the rental company to tell them the chairs are not the ones I ordered. They dispatch another set to be delivered. I hold off on tablecloths in case the passing afternoon thunderstorm comes our way. Centerpieces I had made the night before were unloaded and supplies were brought in from the host's car. Plates and utensils were unwrapped, a candy/dessert bar was assembled, furniture rearranged, punch made, lighting set and placecards for the food and beverage were written and... my phone rings.

"Ms. Bodiford. We are here to deliver the chairs but no one is home."

No one is home because they have delivered the chairs to the billing address (MY house) instead of the delivery address (the venue). SIGH. Chairs are on the way, I leave instructions for chair placement with the homeowner and I race home to change and pick up a few more items I'll need for that evening.

As I pull in my driveway, the phone rings. "Katie, um, the new chairs they delivered are the same dark brown as the ones we have." Seriously rental company? A call is placed telling them we will use the darker brown but asking that they credit us for the cost of the chairs for the trouble. A quick 10 minute change and I am back on the road.

Arriving at the venue, I decide that we are past the threat of a rain shower so tablecloths are added, centerpieces and candles set, the caterer drops off food, food is arranged, candles are lit, beverages are iced, desserts are plated, guitarist arrives, music begins...

...and the guests arrive.

This is the moment I dread the most as an event planner. How will it flow? Do we have enough food? Will the guests have what they need? Will there be a comfortable vibe? Will it all go off smoothly?

Fast forward 30 minutes and it sinks in why I love what I do. The weather is gorgeous, the music being played by friends Dillon and Elise provides the perfect backdrop, candles are flickering, food has been devoured and there is plenty remaining, hugs are being shared, photos are being taken and there is laughter all around. Laughter and smiles and kudos are delivered to the host for the perfect evening. A smile stretches across my face as I take it all in.

You see, all the little behind the scenes glitches are invisible at this moment. The darker chairs do not matter because everyone sitting in them is laughing and sharing stories. The pecan pie that didn't plate perfectly is being declared by all as the best pecan pie they've ever eaten. The tight flow inside I worried about is a non-issue because everyone is hanging by the pool outside where I was certain it would rain...

What matters the most is a young couple and their families got to meet and mingle, laugh and create memories on this the eve of a very special day in their lives. Grandmothers meeting for the first time, babies cooing and nervous inlaws getting to know more about each other all made for an unforgettable evening. And as the sun went down and the guests slowly departed a barefoot and utterly relaxed hostess came up and gave me a big hug.

That's when I realized why I love my job so much. I may not spend my days saving lives, but I help people live them. And you know what? That is good enough for me.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Anyway

I debated about whether or not to say anything.

Martina McBride and I were the only customers in Party City this evening--she with her daughter and I with Jacob--and I couldn't resist sharing what one of her songs meant to me. As she looked my way, I said "well, Martina, I promised I would never do this but since my son is with me I cannot resist..."

I went on to explain about the day we got the call about meeting Jacob's birth parents and how petrified I was of the whole situation. I shared how scared I was to open my heart to let him in knowing his birth mother could change her mind and take him away from us. And that, as I was driving down the interstate, her song "Anyway" came on and how it instantly changed my perspective. I will never forget the feeling that swelled in my chest as she sang...

"You can spend your whole life building, something from nothing, one storm can come and blow it all away... build it anyway..."

Suddenly the haze lifted and my mind cleared. Yes, we are taking a risk by trusting this young woman. Yes, there is a chance we could have everything ready including our hearts and we could end up devastated. But the lyrics of the song gave me strength...

"God is great and sometimes life ain't good. And when I pray, it doesn't always turn out like I think it should... but I do it anyway......"

That was all I needed. I sat up straight, tears streaming down my cheeks and at that moment I made a commitment in my heart to love an unborn child that very well could not turn out to be ours. I chose to believe that all things happen for a reason and that the reward of loving and preparing for this new addition to our family outweighed the risk of a broken heart if she indeed changed her mind.

As I shared that with Martina, a smile slowly crawled across her face. She asked Jacob what his name was and he, of course, converted into Shy Mode and buried his face into my leg. She thanked me and I was ecstatic inside having gotten to share how much that song meant to me personally. It truly was the anthem of that entire adoption process.

"I sing......I dream.........I love............anyway........."

Thanks, Martina.



A Certain Madness

I love to write. I love putting into words even the most mundane things that occur throughout my day. Sometimes, truthfully, I love to write so that I am not the only one that knows what's going on in this crazy, mixed-up head of mine. And yet, I find myself going weeks, sometimes months, without logging a single word.

Why?

I hate to say it but I think I'm a lazy perfectionist. Is that possible? Every day, the perfect blog swirls in my head yet I never commit pen to paper--or finger to keyboard--to get it recorded before moving on to my next idea or the next thing on my to-do list. Sometimes it is just a lack of motivation but other times I'm afraid it's because I fear it's not "perfect." That it won't be worthy of someone's time and that is equally frustrating. I am as far from perfect as a person can be...why do I expect my writing to be? It's a madness I tell ya.

I am not going to make some big spectacle here and recommit to blogging something EVERY DAY. Instead, I'm going to give myself a break. I'm dealing with a lot of challenges right now...some I can write about and some I can't. But, what I can do is give myself a little grace and simply write when I can.

And maybe, just maybe, little bits of Katie will start pouring out again.

I guess if you're reading this, it's already working. :)


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Hope for Hackleburg

I'm back home from my time spent in Hackleburg, Alabama. But somehow, I know I'll never be the same.

As I crested that same hill on day 2 of my efforts there, a certain realization sunk in. This town will never be the same. Although the scars of the land may heal in time, the emotional devastation to the core of such a tiny community runs deep. And day 2 in Hackleburg introduced me to more survivors that left me thankful for such an incredible opportunity. I can't bring myself to use the words "amazing" or "awesome" to describe the past couple days. It almost seems irreverent. But somehow, those words fit in many ways.

Amazing. I am amazed at the enormity of the destruction left behind by such a brief weather event. I am amazed at the fortitude of the townspeople I met--many of whom are elderly--and how they braved the storm in closets, hallways, and storm cellars. The response to the situation is amazing to me. The food tents set up on each corner next to semis loaded with supplies... from toiletries and clothing to many obscure things you'd never think about needing unless you had lost everything you owned. And mostly, I am amazed at the power of touch. A handshake, a hug, a touch on the arm to say "You are not alone. Help is here." In so many ways, I stand amazed at what I witnessed in that town.

Awesome. Even though the results were catastrophic, one cannot deny the awesome power of the weather cell that swept through the South on April 27. Awe-inspiring photos of the storm on the horizon continue to take my breath away. But to me, the most awesome part of the past couple days was the power of teamwork. A couple of us would see a homeowner working alone and stop by to offer help. And, without fail, what started as three of us sorting through the rubble grew to dozens of individuals from all over the country working together to make order were there once was none. Friendships were made, smiles were exchanged and a true feeling of community was felt. I will most likely never see any of those folks again...but for a brief time we shared a very important mission. That, to me, is awesome.

Now, as I try to insert myself into my normal routine and the task of being a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend, I realize that a profound change has taken place within me. And the woman who is never at a lack for words simply cannot come up with the right words to explain it. Something is different. Something has changed about the way I view my surroundings. I look at the basket of Sharpie markers that I hold so dear and know that, in an instant, they could be strown miles from here. The dishes, and toys and knick-knacks that I spent time picking out to decorate my home could one day be wet and broken and tossed on a pile of rubbish by a woman named Sharon from Louisiana. It certainly puts the stresses of daily life and managing a home into perspective.

I am grateful for my time in Hackleburg...and that is not the last they have seen of me. There is much to be done. At some point the debris will be gone, the land cleared, some buildings rebuilt but the people affected by this storm will be forever changed. There are needs that go beyond toilet paper and bottled water. My greatest hope for Hackleburg is that this town will rebuild and thrive again.

That is my sincerest hope.






Friday, May 06, 2011

What a Difference This Day Made.....

The destruction around her was unfathomable. What once stood as her homestead--a modest house made of brick adorned with neatly trimmed bushes and whimsical garden art--now lay in a jumbled pile of twisted metal, bricks and scattered belongings. Almost oblivious to her indescribably tragic surroundings, Mrs. Ann sits in a tan leather recliner on the corner of her lot showing me pictures of how her house used to look. It's hard to believe the pictures are just a few weeks old. Hard to believe that in a freak moment of funnel cloud meeting ground, the life of an elderly woman in Hackleburg, Alabama has been forever changed.

As has mine.

As I drove on Hwy 43 South on my way to assist in the disaster relief efforts in this small town, I marveled at the beauty of the landscape. Lush green foilage enveloped rocky outcroppings and shimmering ponds lit up fertile pastures along the highway. As I passed the sign that read "Hackleburg City Limits" I was pleasantly surprised at the spring-like beauty of these rolling hills. It was then that I crested the last hill before entering town. What I saw defies explanation. Before my eyes was a swath of destruction that looked to be straight off a movie set. Leveled buildings interwined with piles of rubble and debris as far as the eye could see. Tears filled my eyes as I realized just how comprehensive the damages were. The schools? Gone. The stores? Gone. Gas stations? Gone. 80% of the homes in the town? Leveled. An unbelieveable sight at best.

The work of the day allowed me to meet some of the most remarkable people I have ever had the pleasure to come in contact with. I mentioned Mrs. Ann and her famous recliner. I embraced this woman for reasons that were initially unclear-- that was, until I started hearing her story. Lost her husband three years ago, no family to speak of and now all her worldy possessions lie in ruin a few feet from her. She had weathered the storm in a neighbor's storm shelter wrapped around two other elderly ladies--one of whom was 93. I listened as she recalled them linking their bodies together as they held the storm door closed to avoid being sucked out into the tornado. I would pass by periodically and check in on her, slather sun screen on her already toasty arms and neck and give her a much-needed shoulder massage to relieve her tension...if only for a few minutes. Mrs. Ann was a trooper and I felt very protective of her as we helped find anything worth salvaging in the debris.

A couple doors down stood a sprite of a lady in a light pink jacket and sporty sun visor. Ms. Geraldine was there to oversee the bulldozing and salvage of her family home...where her parents had lived and where she had created many a special memory. We spent a lot of time getting to know this special lady and I even cried with her as she broke down describing what her parents would have felt about all the destruction. I shared her pain as we looked at what was left of her family home and it reaffirmed why I was there. Ms. Geraldine is a class act and I am better for having met her.

Thennnn...there is Mrs. Pat. This woman begged us to help her find her "plates"--which I had to share were all broken and strown about the yard. Mrs. Pat was decked out in work boots, leggings and an oversized blue shirt. As I balanced on what used to be her kitchen wall, I lifted a fallen door and Pat exclaimed "you found my straw hat!!!" There, pinned under the wooden door was a half-bent, stained straw hat which she promptly placed atop her head. She was quite the jokester so I followed suit and tossed her a box of cake mix inquiring when she would bake it up for us...or why she hadn't "bothered" to straighten up if she knew she was having "company" (us). She smiled a warm smile and exclaimed, "if you can't laugh about things, life's not worth living." She is, without a doubt, my new hero.

I learned many things today. I learned that you can make a snap decision, jump in the car, drive hours away alone and make an unexpected difference. I learned that collegiate rivalries mean nothing when neighbor is helping neighbor recover pieces of their life strown about by nature's fury. I learned that organized chaos is the result of imperfect people doing a perfect job of trying to help others the best they know how. But, most of all, I learned that a smile, a handshake, a hug or even just a kind word can make every bit of difference in the lives of hurting people. I loved on people today. I cried with people today. I spent twenty minutes searching for Mrs. Ann's dentures and Mrs. Pat's dishes and sorting through pictures with Ms. Geraldine. And you know what? It may not have made a huge difference in the lives of these survivors.....

But it sure did in mine.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You Can Keep the Flying Cows...But I Do Love a Good Storm

The steady drum, drum, drumming

Of water on wood

Droplets splashing

Kerplunk!
A soothing rhythm
Enjoyable repetition

A steady lullaby

For sleepy eyes...


~ktb 04.27.11


* * *


The steady rain outside is soothing and, in a way, cleansing, but is a stark contrast to the fury that Mother Nature has unleashed lately. Tornado sirens have become almost commonplace and the dreaded "red cells" on the weather map seem almost expected.


Last night was no exception.


I piled the boys up in our bed and took my post on the couch to monitor the bad weather as it moved into our area. With each tick of the screen, the brightly colored swath inched a little closer to Franklin causing my heart to beat a little faster. The lightning flashed, the thunder boomed and I lay there under a soft, warm blanket taking it all in. At one point, I turned off the TV and let the flashes of lightning fill the room as the hard rain made music on the deck railings outside.

My love affair with weather started as a young girl as I took pictures of dark cloud formations thundering across the sky. My sister and I would curl up on my bed and count the seconds in between lightning bolt and thunder clap to gauge how close the storm was to us. With each count, the time between the two would grow shorter sending us into a fit of nervous giggles. My love of a good storm was firmly cemented from that moment on.


Maybe it's the thrill of the unknown that gets my heart racing as the dark clouds loom. Perhaps it's the break from monotony that turns the four walls of my home from just an ordinary house into a place that is secure and protective. Who knows? Regardless of what draws me to a good storm like moth to flame, I am hooked. I wouldn't get to the point of having a satelitte dish strapped to the top of a van and data reports of wind pressure spitting out of a machine in the back seat... but I can sure see a Chevy Tahoe out scouting around for a cool funnel cloud.


Care to join me anyone? ;)



Monday, April 25, 2011

If You Go Lookin For It, You Might Just Find It...

There have been a couple times over the past week that have have gone looking for contentment and, amazingly, I've found it.

One day last week, I'd had enough. Stresses that had been building over the past month as well as putting on a major event had simply worn me out. I had been burning the candle at both ends and trying to be all things to all people and I needed a break. So, I took what I called a "mental health day" and basically laid on a blanket in the back yard. I watched the clouds passing by overhead and reveled in the gorgeous blue color of the sky. I soaked in the warm rays of sunshine and rolled over to find the most delicate of flowers disguised as a weed. No bigger than a pencil eraser, this yellow beauty lay hidden among the blades of grass partially trampled as I picked the perfect spot.... and it was only after close observation that I even noticed it. I made note of its tiny, delicate petals and how perfectly formed it was. I marveled that had I not made a point to take a "time out", go outside, lay on a blanket and stare at the ground...I would have never discovered this perfectly perfect little bloom.

What a metaphor for every day life. What beautiful things are right under our nose--largely unnoticed due to our "busyness" or our failure to simply look for them? Yes, the little yellow bloom I found was indeed "just" a weed. But it was beautiful and a much-needed reminder that focusing on even the most minute, seemingly unimportant details can bring things into perspective.

I also found contentment this evening in the most simple of acts. And that act was cooking dinner. I picked up the boys from school and had NO desire to go get groceries. However, not only did I buy groceries, I bought enough to last a couple weeks. And after putting them away, I put in a load of laundry and began cooking dinner. The boys were outside and Keith was cutting the lawn and I found it. Contentment. I lit the candles in my kitchen and living room and soaked in the simple pleasure of having enough. Enough money to buy the groceries I needed (and many I didn't!), enough time to pick up the boys from school and take them with me on my excursion, enough determination to clean the house before we left for Easter so I could have a peaceful start to our week... and enough insight to appreciate the simplicity of an uneventful, regular ol' evening of doing things for my family.

Needless to say, I'm happy I made a conscious decision to look for contentment lately and am always amazed and when, and how, I find it. One thing's for sure--whether it's in the unappreciated beauty of a miniscule flower or the sizzling of onions in a skillet on my stove...I'll be looking at my life a little differently from now on.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Dancin Bear

There are people in your life that just make you smile. Period. Gary Murphree was one of those people. That is why his passing yesterday makes me so intensely sad.

Affectionately known as The Dancin Bear, my friend Gary was one of the kindest, most gentle souls I have ever met. Never without a twinkle in his eye, his quiet strength and soft spoken demeanor only served to mask a cunning wit and keen sense of humor.

I have told this story many a time in the sixteen years I have known Gary. It was 1995 and we were sitting around a table with a group of friends at a restaurant during a real estate conference I had organized. The mood was jovial as we all shared our favorite stories. The discussion then moved to a central theme: "What is a dream or fantasy you've always had?" When it came to me, I said, "well, my fantasy has always been to be in a long red sequined dress, thrown across a piano singing some deep throaty torchy song in a piano bar...." Without missing a beat, Gary quickly spoke up and, in a faked tone of disbelief, said, "That's unbelieveable! MY fantasy has always been for you to be in a long red sequined dress, thrown across a piano singing some..........." He didn't even get to finish as outbursts of laughter filled the air. I reached over, smacked him on the head as he blushed profusely.

It was a story I will never forget. Nor will I forget the sweet man who was never without a kind smile, a warm hug or a nice thing to say about someone.

You will be missed Dancin Bear. I'll sing one for you soon.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Just Another Day...

Tomorrow is March 13. It's just another day. Really, it is.

But I have been in a funky mood today and, truthfully, have wanted to do nothing but curl up in the fetal position. And I have a strong suspicion that it has something to do with tomorrow being the anniversary of my Mom's death.

I have written on here before about this particular day not being harder than any other day without her. Every day is a day that I cannot ask her for a recipe, or call her on the way home from work or share with her my favorite new song. Every day is a day that I wish I had my Mom to help me sew window treatments or to put the trivial challenges of my life into perspective. It is another day that I look at my boys and wish that she would be able to know them, and love them, and sew cool stuffed animals for them like she did for so many of my friends' children. Every day is just that. Another day without her.

But, when chatting with my friend Amy the other day, we discussed how the children she adopted from Ethiopia were experiencing some behavior changes as they approached the time of their mother's death. We talked about how children who don't even know that the anniversary may be coming seem to instinctively sense it... as if some cyclical force somehow reminded them-- even subconsciously-- of their loss.

All I know is that I have indeed been in a funk today. I miss her. I miss her calling and telling me to "put the rolls in!" when they were approaching our house around dinnertime. I miss the way she would call me "Kate-a-la" when she needed me or the silly box of newspaper clippings she'd always have waiting on us when we'd go for a visit. I miss all of it.

Tomorrow is just another day. But, for some reason, my heart hurts more than usual.

Today, tomorrow, and every day...I miss you, Mom.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

If He Knew the Number To Child Services, He'd Probably Use It....

Jacob, my wide-eyed three year old, is at that stage where every stinkin thing he says or does is cute. His view of the world and how he communicates provides some sort of comedic relief every. single. day.

Today was no exception.

I was gathering my things before heading out the door to take J to school when he spotted a conference binder from an event I did in New York in September 2007. As I do with every event, I slip pictures of the kiddos in the back of my binder to appease all the kind folks that say "have any pics of the boys?!" On this particular binder there was a pic of Keith, Daniel and me taken at a family reunion earlier that year. And Jacob, you see, was born at the end of November 2007 so naturally he was not in the pic.

But this was lost on my child.

Eyeing the picture carefully, he looked up at me with those saucer-sized baby blues and said, "I see Daddddy....and Danielllll...and Mommmmmy.... but I no see Ja-jub." Quickly I responded , "I know baby. That's because you weren't born yet."

"Why?" he asked.

"Well, because you were born a few months later."

"Why?"

"Well, because that's when God wanted you to be born."

"Why?"

"Oh, come on, let's get our stuff and head to school, ok?"

That's when he dropped the bomb. He stopped in his tracks, looked up at me with the saddest, most earnest look of betrayal that these eyes have ever witnessed and said:

"Why you leave me home all by myself???"

"What baby?" I asked, wanting to make sure I understood him.

"Ja-jub no in picture. Whyyy you leave me home all by myselfffff?"

I busted out laughing and reached down, picked him up and hugged him tightly while trying to compose myself.

"Momma would never leave you home all by yourself, baby. Jacob had not been born yet. That's why you aren't in the picture. God had not made you yet. "

"Why?"

"Because God had a special time that he wanted us to become your Mommy and Daddy. So he made you at that time."

"Why?"

"Because, well....(going for the distraction route) uh, hey be sure and grab your jacket, ok???"

"Why?"

Lawd help me.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunrises, Solitude and Burrito-Wrapped Sweetness

It took five solitary footsteps to realize I was the only one up at 6 o'clock this morning. The house was uncharacteristically silent as I padded down the hallway and past the kitchen window. I did a double take and then raced into the laundry room to grab my camera bag. The sun was just beginning to peek out from behind the soft clouds and I wanted to be sure to capture it when it did.


I snapped a few photos when I heard the patter of little feet scampering down the hallway. I walked inside to find a tousled hair little fella wearing nothing but a Charlie Brown shirt and some white baseball-themed little fella underwear. I asked him if he would watch the sunrise with me and as he sleepily nodded yes I wrapped him in a blanket and we ventured outside to a front porch rocking chair to enjoy our own private show.




I sat down with my burrito child and began to rock back and forth slowly while puffy dark clouds crossed in a single line formation across the sky. The birds chirped cheerily in the distance as we rocked back and forth, back and forth..... Jacob's contentment spurred my own as I watched him watching the sky with wonder. I began to sing to him a song my Mom sang to me as a child....


"Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.......
sunshine, in my eyes, can make me cry.....
sunshine, on the water, looks so lovely...
sunshine almost always makes me high..."

As the sun dipped behind the clouds again, Jacob turned around to face me and wrapped his arms around my neck. I placed my forehead against his peering into his blue eyes with my own and asked him, "are you happy?" He nodded yes and then softly laid his head on my shoulder.

I savored more than a sunrise this morning. I soaked in the simple solitude of mother and child enjoying a quiet moment together... a moment when it didn't matter what the house looked like, or how much laundry still needed to be done. It was just me and my child rocking back and forth surveying God's handiwork.

It was a good morning indeed.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Morning Conversation

I talked with my child this morning. This went beyond the normal conversation between Momma and Jacob (my 3 year old). It went beyond "PopTart. Handy Manny." (which translates into "Dear Mother. Would you be so kind as to cook me a breakfast pastry and then allow me to eat said pastry whilst watching my favorite cartoon character fix things?")

Instead, it went something like this:

(setting the scene: Katie on couch under blanket because she was rooted out of her bed by a 3 year old with a penchant for sleeping horizontally. Jacob wakes up to find her gone, comes running in the living room and the conversation ensues.)

"Good morning, Jacob..."

"Ta mornin Momma"

"Why were you sleeping in Mommy's bed last night? You haven't done that in a long time."

"Der were piders and snakes in my bad-tub and dey were cwawlin on the bad-tub and dey were..."

"Wait. There were spiders and snakes crawling in your bathtub?"

"Yes. And dinosaurs."

"Dinosaurs were in your bathtub, too?"

"Yes. Cause my bad-tub was wheely, wheely, wheelllllly big."

"Well I guess it would have to be, wouldn't it?"

"Yeah and the dinosaur had red and blue on him and had wheelllly big hands."

"Wow."

"Yeah and the dinosaur was scared of the pider too and jumped out my bad-tub. And I don't like dinosaurs cause dey scare me and dey don't love Jacob. Jacob does not like dinosaurs but he does like Mommy."

"Well that's good to know. You know dinosaurs aren't really real anymore, right? I mean they were a long time ago (am I really trying to explain extinction to a three year old?) but they all died and they aren't real anymore."

"Why?"

"Well because there are only so many of some kinds of animals and once they all die there aren't anymore left."

"Why?"

:: silence ::

"Hey, how about a Pop Tart?"

Friday, February 18, 2011

Is a Haircut and Blowdry Included with this Shampoo?

Yeah, I've had quite a year so far. First I crash a funeral and now this. I've been told once or twice to write a book about this adventure that is my life. For the first time, I might actually consider it. Cause Erma Bombeck ain't got nothin on this.

It was all a blur, really. Just an hour or so ago I was going about my daily routine which, on this day, included a quick swing through the car wash. How to convey what happened in words is going to be somewhat of a challenge because this truly was an "on location situation." But, I shall try.

As I pulled up to the attendant to select and pay for my car wash, I rolled down my window. No big deal, right? Normally. But, you see, this is the window on the side of my car that hit a deer a couple months ago and I completely forgot that it does not roll up quickly. That's actually an understatement. I have watched molasses pour out of a sticky bell jar faster than my window rolls up. Do you see where I am going with this?

So I pay the attendant who instructs me to slowly pull forward. He then begins yelling at me in Spanish and all I understand is "NO HIT BRAKES!" So, I am trying my best to comply as I come to the tragic realization that my window is not rolling up. The HotMamaMobile is slowly being sucked into the Vortex of High Velocity Soap Spray and I cannot get it to roll up. Supersonic jets of white suds are being shot with machine gun intensity straight into my driver side window. As I frantically punched the "up" button on the arm rest, the inside of my car including my steering wheel, dash, console and ME are coated in soap suds.

Meanwhile (I wanna see if you are paying close attention...) what has Katie ALSO forgotten to do? She is so panicked about NOT hitting the brakes and getting her window to roll up, she has......yep, you guessed it......forgotten to put her car in NEUTRAL. It occurred to me that none of the washing mechanisms were coming on because I am barreling through this narrow passageway at 50 miles per hour. As I approach the exit, the two young Hispanic men that are drying off my friend Heather's car in front of me sense their impending death and start waving their hands yelling "BRAKE! BRAKE!" I slam on the brakes and come to a sudden stop, soap covered and laughing hysterically.

The manager comes over to my window--which is finally rolled up-- and asks me to follow her around the side where she asks one of the cars in the front of the line if I can cut in and have another go at it. At this point, I am crying because I am laughing so hard and wonder what others must think of the sudsy minivan-turned-winter parade float that is cutting in line.

So, I approach the scene of my latest Episode of Tragic Embarassment, keep my window rolled up, place my car in NEUTRAL as soon as I am jacked up on the spinning roller thingy and I come out nice and clean. And, although the rest of my visit was without incident, I am sure I am now a legend at the Auto Express Washateria.

But I will say this... the left side of my hair has never been shinier.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Soul Food of a Different Sort

There are certain non-earth-shattering experiences in life that make me want to write about it right then...as in "pull-the-car-over-and-grab-a-napkin-and-anything-to-write-with" kind of right then. This evening was one of those times.

The sun was setting as I pulled onto Highway 31 to go pick up Jacob and I couldn't help but be mesmerized by the unusual cloud patterns and how the fading sunlight illuminated the horizon. Yes, I write about and photograph sunrises and sunsets all the time. But, this one was different.

Perhaps it was the storm front moving in from the west, but a low, dark swath of clouds stretched across the sky. All the clouds above were bathed in deep peaches and pinks with a ribbon of lavender swirled throughout. As I drove, one of my favorite songs, "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel poured out of my radio....

"...when I want to run away, I drive off in my car... but whichever way I go I come back to the place you are..."

On the rolling hillside, winter-bare trees took on a nearly magical form as their intricate branches were backlit by the stunning colors of the sunset. I have seen these same trees every day as I drive to and from the school but, on this evening, each one seemed like a masterpiece--framed only for my eyes. Their jagged branches twisted and curled toward the sky forming interlocking shapes that all but demanded my gaze.

"In your eyes, the light, the heat...I am complete...in your eyes....I see the doorways to a thousand churches...."

I don't know how to explain how taken I was by this scene. It occurred to me that in my life, I am always biding time in between the "circled" dates on the calendar--that big event, or special holidays...even visits from friends and family. Much like a roller coaster, I find myself waiting for that "high" only to come back down again to catch my breath for a few moments. But tonight was an ordinary moment turned extraordinary. It was a drive I do twice a day--sometimes more--that turned into a soothing feast for the senses.

You know, sometimes it's the down time in our everyday routine--the dips in the roller coaster ride--where beauty can be found. I found this beauty today in the colors of clouds, the silhouettes of tree branches and the words of a familiar song... food for my soul indeed.

A Bedtime Prayer

Jacob's bedtime prayer last night:

"Dear God,

Thank you for my food. And thank you for Donald Duck and thank you for Daisy Duck.

Amen."


Good grief I love that child.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Nine Years Ago Today...


9 years ago today, a baby was born. I'll never know exactly when or where, or colors were on the drapes in the hospital room, or if there was even a hospital room involved....but there is one thing that is sure about that day. My heart leapt.

You see, we had tried for eight long years to have a child but to no avail. Toward the end of that time period, my Mom and I began to look at patterns for baby clothes and she even picked out the name she wanted to be called by her grandchild(ren): Grammy. But then my focus was tossed in another direction with a hard shift to the left... in 2002, my Mom was diagnosed with cancer that spread quickly from the lung to lymph nodes to brain and eventually her bones before robbing me of that precious influence on my life in March 2003. The day of her funeral, I looked at Keith and said "Enough is enough. Life is too short. We are adopting."

One would think our adoption story began there. But it didn't. You see, on February 6, 2002 a little baby boy was born in Astrakhan, Russia...a small city just a few hundred miles from the Caspian Sea. And on that day, our journey to each other began. At almost the exact time that he was saying goodbye to his birthmother, I was saying goodbye to my own. The winding, twisting path to parenthood took 8 months until that February day, shortly after his second birthday, when I held my child in my arms for the first time.

The past 9 years have been a whirlwind of change and growth in our lives. And I would like to share this with my oldest child on his 9th birthday:


Daniel,
Today is the last time you will celebrate a birthday with one number in it. You are growing so fast and learning new things at a rate which continually amazes me. You are a smart, funny, stubborn, engaging, determined and loving child who brings joy to my life daily. You challenge me to be a better person and serve as a daily reminder to me to live life with zest and an appreciation for the little things. We are never without our "butting heads" times but I sense that is because are so much alike and for that, I am grateful. I want only the best for you and will continue to be here for every laugh, every smile, every tear, every bump or bruise. Although my kisses may not always magically make it better, I will always be here for you and will always be proud to call you my son.

Love,
Momma

Nine years ago today, a little boy was born. I may not have heard the first cry or have seen his first step. But I was there. I knew him in my heart long before he stepped into my arms....

Happy Birthday, Daniel. I could not love you more.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Little Pleasures of Life

I envied my child.

Just moments ago, I watched him do something he does, without fail, every morning of his little boy week. He stood there, in his comfy little "buzz jamas" (Toy Story pajamas), watching Handy Manny and eating breakfast.

So, where does the envy part come in?

Well, as he noticed me watching him, he grinned from ear to ear skipped over to my chair and gave my leg a tight hug. He then skipped back to his "spot," positioned his warm bowl of oatmeal just so, made some little boy noise of contentment and took a sip of his milk as he watched his favorite show. It was at that moment that I realized all was right in his world and just how remarkable the beauty and innocence of childhood really is. He had all he needed at that moment. Something to eat, his favorite pj's, his favorite show and his Momma right by his side.

It made me think: when is the last time I felt that content? That happy? And then it hit me... RIGHT THEN. That is when I last felt that way.

I may not have a mind unburdened by the stresses of this world...but my little boy does. I may not have all the perfect pieces of my dream morning line up for me each day... but my little boy does. And, I might not have a Mom anymore to watch me take delight in all the little pleasures of life... but he does.
And that, for me, is all the contentment I'll ever need.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It Will Stop Snowing at Some Point, Won't It?

At least I packed with this kind of weather in mind.

But, what I didn't expect was the swing in weather that I've experienced since arriving in Alberta, Canada on Wednesday. After landing in Calgary, I threw on the heavy, Antarctica-style coat only to shed it the moment I stepped out the door. The air was crisp but not chilly making it feel like an early Spring day back home in Nashville rather than a wintry Canada day. For the next couple days, I delighted in this unexpected blast of "warmth" and stowed my winter gear in the closet.

That was then. As of today, it is 12 degrees outside and we got a foot of snow overnight and it is still pouring down. It is oh-so-beautiful but COLD OH MY GOODNESS IS IT COLD.

Tomorrow I head back to Nashville where I hear people are at the park in short sleeves and such. I am green with envy. Winter 2011 has allowed me to see more snow than some folks see in a lifetime.

Bring on the buttercups, Momma Nature. I couldn't be more ready.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

If We Don't Answer Does it Count?


Her voice is always chipper
And Birdsong is her name
If her name was Carol Williams
It just wouldn't be the same

She's Mother Nature's Helper
Every school child's dream
But her name showing up on caller I.D.
Makes parents want to scream

The yard is now snow covered
As the flakes do softly fall
I sit in dread
Cause I know what's coming...
The Carol Birdsong call!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Have Kleenex, Will Grieve....

I dreaded it like the plague. And, before I tell my story I will preface it by saying that this would only happen to me. Trust me.

My flight had just landed in Albuquerque, New Mexico and I was hopping in a rental car to race to the hotel to change before going to the funeral home for the viewing. My insides were all twisted as I realized the finality of seeing my friend/ client/ coworker for the very last time.

I had booked my hotel room off an online site because of its proximity to Daniels Family Funeral Home where Debbie's services were being held. As I exited the interstate to head to the hotel, I drove past a sign for Daniels Family Funeral Home and saw a blue gazillion people milling about outside.

Ugggg. Was I prepared for this? I would only know a handful of people but was I ready for all the sadness and the grieving? That sure was a lot of people.

After making it to the hotel and changing clothes, I retraced my route back to the funeral home and parked the car. I then took a deep breath and made my way to the front door where a nice gentleman named Mr. Louis pointed me to the guest book. All around me were people in huddled circles quietly whispering or crying and I instantly felt a lump in my throat as I realized the reason we were all there. Young and old, I surveyed the throngs of people that had come to pay their respects as I eased my way into the parlor.

The music was playing and a slideshow was flashing above and my heart sunk as I eyed the casket for the first time. There were flowers everywhere and several people gathered around her so I slipped in a back pew and began to cry. I cried for the senselessness of it...losing someone with whom I had such close daily contact at age 48. It just didn't make sense. I occasionally glanced up at the slideshow and saw pics of her boys apparently fishing or four wheeling and it made me cry a little harder as the enormity of their loss sunk in.

Just then, it occurred to me that I had not seen a single photo of Debbie during the entire slideshow....and then the thought crossed my mind that I didn't know that Debbie actually knew so many Hispanic people.................and, just then, the crowd moved away from the casket revealing to me my greatest fear at that moment. I was plopped down on a back pew grieving for..........a 17 year old named Pedro.

I was mortified.

As the only blonde in the room, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I had noticed glances cast my way since I arrived but then it sunk in. They were all wondering who I was and why Pedro's death had hit me so hard. She must have been the teacher "that cared"...I bet some of them thought. I prayed they didn't see me doing my little side step scamper as I exited the room.

Upon cross examination of Mr. Louis, I learned that Daniels Family Funeral Home has six locations in Albuquerque and that Debbie's services were being held 15 minutes away. As I got into the car, I know onlookers thought I was sobbing in heavy grief. I was actually giggling so hard I could barely breathe. Only I would make it into full-on grief mode at the funeral of someone I do not know. I mean, crashing a wedding is one thing...you get good food and maybe some dancing or a champagne toast. But crashing a funeral is a different story.

I will say that, although it was a highly embarrassing situation to be in and I am saddened at the loss of a teenager's life cut short, my mishap served as much-needed comic relief before I did have to face the real service for which I had traveled so far.

Just wish I could have heard those first folks as they were reading the guestbook.....

"Quien es Katie?"

Friday, January 14, 2011

Yeah, Well...You Gotta Start Sometime

It was there. Right at the top of my list of things to do in the new year:

BLOG EVERY DAY.

Even if it is a favorite quote or how I watched one leaf as it fell from the tree and followed it all the way to the ground (I know you can't wait for that post)...but blog SOMETHING every day. And what is today? January the what? The 14th. Have I blogged even one time since the beginning of 2011? Nope. Do I have good reason? Yep.

But that's beside the point. I am here. And I am typing and I resolve to begin today...to return to this little home of mine and open the curtains, remove the dustcovers from all the furniture, and let the sunlight pour in. And even if no one comes for a visit because they think this house has been long boarded up, that's ok, too. I need to be here.

Hello old friend. I've missed you.