#herestothegoodlife

Why is it that #thestruggleisreal? This is a legitimate  question for me. Tonight, I came home to find my kids’ bedroom was in the process of being taken over by ants. I live in the south. These are red ants. They bite. They leave welts. They freaking hurt. I spent the better part of an hour shaking ants off the kids’ clothes on the back porch, only to find that I shook the majority of them onto myself. Then, I vaccumed, sprayed, vacuumed, washed, re-washed their clothes and vaccumed some more. #thestruggleisreal.

Oh…and I am trying so hard to watch what I eat. Except that I haven’t been home a single weekend this month, so I haven’t been food prepping. After working two jobs, taking care of two kids, and generally just stressing, my eating habits have been out of control. One night this week, I had ice cream for dinner. ICE CREAM. FOR DINNER. Tonight, after ant emergency, we had pizza. Let’s be honest…I ate it. A lot of it. Now, I’m laying here looking at my food baby and wondering what I will eat tomorrow. #thestruggleisreallyreal

Yesterday at church, I was carrying my 11 month-old in my arms, plus the church bag (full of fun, awesome games that don’t make noise) while my almost 3 year-old walked (okay was threatened to stay) beside me. Anyway, some of the sweetest people attend church with me. Here I am, standing in the aisle with my kids and they are all giving me compliments on my mad mommy skills when it happens. Mrs. Smith was mid sentence about how she is so proud that I am able to get kids to church alone and…BAM. I feel a cool breeze. I continue to act like I am listening to every sweet thing she is saying while I wonder in complete ignorance if my 3 year-old has just lifted my dress far enough for everyone behind me to see…or if he just moved his hands in a forward motion which caused a breeze. I wonder these things all the while I am still listening to sweet Mrs. Smith. I am sure the anguish of not knowing was in my eyes because she quickly ended her sentence and scurried off. I found the closest empty pew and plopped down in it. I was too embarrassed to turn around and meet anyone’s eyes behind me. It seems to me that I remember similar situations happening around me when I was a tiny human. I think all the other adults just pretended it had not happened….so I decided to do the same. #thisstrugglecannotbeforreal 

Oh hashtags, how did we ever define our feelings before you existed? With help from hashtags, life makes sense again! I think I can officially answer my own question. Why is it that #thestruggleisreal ? The struggle is real so that every day we have the opportunity to be thankful for the things and people in our lives. The struggle taught me to be thankful for ant spray, carbs, my church family and my kids. Without struggles, life would be easy, but it sure would be boring. #herestothegoodlife

For your viewing pleasure, I have added a few examples of #thestruggleisreal 

     

    
   
    
   
 

   
     

  
 

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Levels 

Life is scary on scales and levels. 

  

Working towards a new career, I would give that a level 6 on the rating scale. (Disclaimer: if you are trying to break into the stuntman business or studying to be a brain surgeon, your rating is going to be considerably higher than a 6). 

 Moving across the country away from everything you have ever known, that gets a 5. If you are moving alone, it gets like an 8…maybe a 9 depending on where you are moving to and from. 

If you are a first time mother, giving birth gets like a 6. If you are having twins, that automatically goes to an 8. If you are a mother of 3 kids under the age of four, your scary scale is off the charts. 

What is the point in all these scales? In our minds, we all have these levels. We may not correlate them at the time they are happening to us, but when we look back, we realize just how scary things really were. 

Yesterday, my 2 1/2 year-old was at the sitters. While the sitter was making the bed, he found a pill bottle in her bedside table. Let me clarify, my sitter is the most amazing lady in the world. She loves my children as if they were her own grandchildren. As far as I am concerned, she is an angel from heaven. I never worry about my kids or the care they recieve from her. EVER. I NEVER WORRY. Moving along, she is a hard worker. She works outside. She is Mexican (I’m sorry if Mexican offends anyone, but they have told me they prefer to be called Mexican instead of Hispanic) and all she has known her entire life is manual labor. Anyway, she sometimes takes a muscle relaxer at night. Fast forward to yesterday, my child is sitting in a corner with the muscle relaxer pill bottle. She then finds two of the pills on the floor and they are wet. She asks my son if he ate any, he tells her he spit them out because they were “yucky.” 

I won’t go into all the details because I don’t want to be judged by the decisions I made as a mother. All that matters is that he was fine. When I left to go back to work, he was happy and jumping on the trampoline. MY CHILD IS FINE. I don’t blame the sitter. Any type of situation like this could happen at any time. It could have been something at my home. 

I shared this moment of motherhood because at the time it was happening, my mind wasn’t telling me, “hey, this level of scary is 10.” Somehow my brain functioned through one of the scariest moments in my life so far. Somehow, being strong, brave, and completely scared all at the same time happened. 

Don’t let the levels fool you. Get through your moments and then look back and assess your levels. If you try to assess your levels first, you may never take that next step or you may freeze. You are stronger than you know. 

Ablaze

I had a rather large and disappointing blow dealt to me today. No, it’s not my health or anything to do with my kids. The fact that I even have to add that disclaimer shows me that there are way more important things in life than being disappointed about something.
Still, I felt the sting of tears in my eyes. My heart did ache. I was angry. I was sad. I allowed myself those few moments (okay, hours) of self pity.
We all have those magical things that make us who we are. We have personality traits that people like or hate or like to hate. We have our own personal ideas of what our lives should be and how we picture them working out. Once we get that vision in our mind, we set out on our path. Depending on who we are and what circumstances surround us, we either find some deviation of that path or blaze a new trail.
I have always been a firm believer in staying true to your dreams. There have been plenty of opportunities for change. Even more opportunities to conform or simply survive. The only way I know how to describe my feelings is to say that I have worked my whole adult life at trying to fan some embers of a fire. The embers smolder and smoke. I would use one of those old school fans you see people in colonial days keep on their fireplace hearth. I would fan the embers of my dreams. At times, I would see the fire ablaze. It would have so much heat radiating from it that it would take my breath away. At other points, there would be no sign of those amber streaks of light, only the remnants of what was once a hot, heaping pile of fire. But, there underneath all that coldness, in the depths of that darkness of nothing, there were the tiny stems of a sparking light. They may have been unseen to anyone who passed by the black and burnt woodpile, but they were there. They were there all along.
That’s how I feel about keeping my dreams alive. I feel like I try. I feel like I push. I can hustle. Where are the rewards? Where is my happy ending or my happy beginning for that matter?
Today was just a setback. I feed myself that line more often than I care to admit. So, here I am, still sitting at square one. I have nothing left to do but give it up to God. I will keep praying that I find my way. I will not lose faith in my cold, hidden dreams. I will not be selfish. I will not fall victim to self doubt and self pity. That’s what the enemy wishes me to do. He wishes me to fail. He wishes me to give up. My dreams are my dreams. Nobody can take them from me, not until I let them.

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Dark World

Do your dreams define you? Do they always push you to want more from yourself? I want more from myself everyday. I want my dream career. I want the things I write to be important to me. I want to look back one day and be proud of my accomplishments. (I don’t particularly care what anyone else thinks of them.)
I am on a journey. My journey is to be the best wife and mother I can be. It is also to be the best me I can be. I don’t want to wake up when I’m 80 and regret not trying at my career goals. All I have wanted for as long as I can remember is to “be a writer.” What does that mean exactly? I’m not sure. I’m not ashamed to say that either. It can mean so many things. It could mean that I sit at a desk every single day and have a boss or it could mean that I have a small space in my house or my yard where I go to write when I feel inspired.
Either way, I want to know that my career is mine. I’m not defined by a box. I don’t necessarily need a title. I need to live and breath for inspiration. I need things that give me a reason to want to be better. I need to remember that I can make my own rules. I may not be able to pull this off in other areas of my life…cough, cough…potty training my son, but I can do it when it comes to expressing myself through my work. I can never truly be at peace with myself if I don’t attempt to unleash my creative beast.
I’m not giving up on my dreams. It would be a dark world without them.

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My Vow

I have spent the last few weeks of my life trying to figure out if humans are ever really satisfied. As a whole, we are always looking towards that next thing. We are forever chasing a dream or striving towards a goal. It can prove to be difficult to just stop and appreciate the here and now.
In my world, as in everyone else’s, time escapes me. A few minutes here or an hour there really adds up. I can’t decide if pushing yourself towards something or slowing down to enjoy things is the right way. I know there can be a balance of the two, but more times than not, I find myself pushing on towards something. If I push and push and push, will I eventually wear myself out? If I am always looking ahead and never bask in the moment, am I missing the gifts that God has given me in this life? Am I missing the point of life?
I hear stories about how life passes us by before we know it. I am not 100% convinced that we don’t know it. I think we choose not to see it.
These last three months have been a blur. I feel like my son’s birthday was two weeks ago (two months ago). It will be Christmas next week at this rate. I do believe that a busy person can be a happy person, but what happens when you don’t even have a chance to enjoy your happiness? What happens when your happiness doesn’t look like happiness but instead busyness?
I have vowed to take time to do nothing. I promise myself that I will sit and hold my son. I will take a vacation with my family that has no plans. I will let time catch up with me.
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

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No Boundaries

This week, I am mourning the loss of two people I have never personally met. I know that may seem like a very strange thing, but they have both touched my life in very special ways.
About 2 months ago, my Editor at the paper received a handwritten letter. He explained to me that it was from a lady in the next town. She was a legend there for being the town historian and she had been a journalist since she was twelve years old. As I sat down and read the hand-written letter, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. She was 101 years old. She was friends with Willie Nelson, the country singer and she wanted someone from our paper to write a story about his upcoming birthday, he was turning 80. After reading and re-reading it, I googled her. The first picture that popped up was of this sweet looking old lady wearing a red bandana around her neck, standing next to Willie Nelson. Upon further research, I learned she was the daughter of a Nebraska newspaper man. She began writing church articles for a newspaper when she was 12. She eventually ended up in Center, Texas. Later in life, she hosted a radio show called “Mattie’s Party Line.” She was described as being the town historian. She also wrote a weekly column for the paper there. Anyway, she publicly voiced her dislike for Willie Nelson, his music and his hair on the radio one day. Someone informed Mr. Nelson of the 70-something’s distain for him. He then took it upon himself to change her mind about him. When he had a concert scheduled near East Texas, he showed up to meet Ms. Mattie. He took her on a ride around the square on his tour bus. They waved as they passed by folks in town. After that, Mr. Nelson had a friend for life. Throughout the years, they remained in contact.
The letter my editor received in the mail wanted people to know it was Willie Nelson’s birthday and wanted readers to send him a birthday card. Ms. Mattie included his home address! My editor informed me to include it in the article. The article ran on the front page of our paper. A few weeks later, I received a letter at work addressed to me. The return address said Ms. Mattie Dellinger. It was a very sweet letter thanking me for writing the story. She was requesting some copies of that paper. She also included in the letter that she was 101 years old and on oxygen “7/24” and that she knew a man with the same last name as me. She had gone to school with him. The following week, I mailed Ms. Mattie four of the Willie Nelson papers and a handwritten letter that explained that she was an inspiration to me. I also informed her that my last name was my married name, but I would be sure to ask my husband’s family about the man with my same last name. When I mailed the packet to her, I remember thinking that it would be really awesome to meet her personally and that she probably had a slew of stories that I would enjoy hearing.
Tuesday we were putting last minute touches on things so we could lay the content for paper on Wednesday. We are a weekly paper. We send to press Wednesday and the paper comes out Thursday. Anyway, late Tuesday, my coworker received a phone call stating that Mattie Dellinger had passed away that day. They were sending over her obit. I caught the name and the general idea of the conversation. My heart immediately sank. Here was this sweet old lady, whom I had never met, yet I was completely heart-broken that she had passed away. I remember thinking that I had hoped she had received my letter. I hoped she had read that she was an inspiration to me. She had an amazing life and career. I hope I wasn’t the last person to tell her those things.
When I first met Ben, he was working on a pipeline in Ohio. Just like now, I would hear many of the same names over and over. One name that has been consistent to me over the years has been Frank Flynn. Ben worked for Frank in Ohio. I remember plenty of times when my husband would tell me stories about Frank. He was a Pipeliner by trade. He really enjoyed learning techie things about his computer. He had programs and GPS programs that mapped out the entire length of a line he was working. Just like my husband, after the job in Ohio, Frank moved around a lot. He owned a house in North Carolina. He has some land in Texas near one of the well known rivers. He has a son who is also a Pipeliner.
Anyway, over the last four years, I have heard story after story about Frank. Frank was almost like a mentor for my husband. He knew way in advance where all the hot spots for upcoming pipelines would be starting. If Ben had a messy question about his current line that nobody working for him could answer, he would call Frank. My husband is forced to be on the phone a good bit for his job. Besides me, his son or a family member, he really doesn’t have phone calls that he stays on longer than an hour because he wants to. Frank was the only other person that he really kept in contact with no matter where either of them were working. I have seen him send people to his voicemail that he didn’t want to talk to at that moment. Frank was never one of those people.
Ben would start telling me some little story about Frank and refer to one of his personal traits, that I knew nothing about. When I looked confused, he would look at me funny. I would have to remind him several times throughout the years that I have never met Frank. I feel like I know so very much about a man that I have never met. This isn’t uncommon for me. I hear about a good amount of people who my husband works for or with and I will probably never know half of them personally. I could pass them on a street one day. I may have heard their name everyday for a year straight and have no idea what they look like.
After the pipeline job in Ohio ended, Frank worked a few other jobs. I think one was in Texas. About two weeks ago, my husband told me that Frank was back in Ohio working another job there. He said that one day, Frank didn’t show up for work and his son was there working with him. Ben said his son called and called and couldn’t get Frank on the phone. They finally sent the police out to his travel trailer to check on him. The police found Frank. They believed he had an aneurysm. They transported him to the hospital. His son called Ben and told him the news. For the past few weeks, I regularly asked my husband if he had heard any news on Frank. One day last week, he said the doctors had told his son that Frank had stage four lung cancer and stage four brain cancer. Last week, they made the decision to send him to hospice care there in Ohio so his only son would be there close to him.
Today, I was laying next to Cooper while he took a nap. My husband came in and informed me that he just got a text from Frank’s son that Frank just passed away. I felt this immediate sadness. I began to cry. I explained to my husband that although I had never met Frank, he was such an important part of my husband’s life that I just felt a true feeling of loss.
I have learned this week that sometimes two paths my never cross physically, but the heart knows no boundaries for love and respect. My heart goes out to their families. Two amazing people I have never truly known have left their marks on my soul.

Psalm 48:14
For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.

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It’s a Gift

Life is such a beautiful gift. This week has been a roller coaster of emotions for me. Today, my sister gave birth to the most precious baby girl, Avery. I am so overwhelmed with happiness for her. Being a mother is such a wonderfully, scary, rewarding, awkward, breathtaking, heart stopping, and glorious thing. I am so excited to watch my sister as she travels down this new path in life.
I am also very sad at the same time that the distance between us has prevented me from being able to hold my new niece or give my sister a hug. I know I will meet her soon enough, but I still just wish I could have been there to see the amazing bond that was instantly formed between them.
This range of emotions is such a high compared to the feelings I was having the two days before. On Monday, the tornadoes hit Oklahoma, where my husband has been working the last year. He does a lot of driving throughout each day. Most of his travels take him as far north as Oklahoma City and sometimes east, west and south of OKC, depending on the day. The travel trailer is parked in Ardmore which is about an hour north of the Texas line on I35.
Monday, I was at work. I had just returned to the office from getting an advertising picture. I got a text from my husband that read, “Tornadoes hitting the ground. Pray for us.” I panicked. I immediately began to sweat. He kept me updated the best he could, but he had plenty of guys working out on right-of-ways that he was trying to check on and continue to watch the path of the tornado. Soon enough, reports started popping up about the tornado in Moore. I watched live video that was streaming from the computer. I felt my body go into panic mode. I was drenched in sweat and my stomach was in knots. I received another text that said they had left the office because one was located 1.8 miles south of the office. That was at 3:36 p.m. At 4:08 p.m., he wrote back and let me know that he was safe. At 5:40 p.m. he was in Norman. He waited out the remainder of the storms there. All the while he was very concerned about his guys out in the field. At one point, his boss called from Denver and asked him to get in contact with everyone working for them and make sure they were all accounted for. There was no phone service, he could only send and receive texts. After rounding up a response from everyone, including one that took an hour to answer, he could breath a little easier. This was great news!
8 hours after I received the first text, I finally heard my husband’s voice. He finally had phone service at 1:00 a.m. as he was driving back south toward his trailer in Ardmore. I think the events of the day really began to sink in at that point. All he talked about were his two kids. He was exhausted emotionally and physically. I sat there on the other end of the phone. It was quiet. I could hear the sadness in his voice. I could hear the quiet calmness of the night air. Just like everyone else, I can’t comprehend the loss of life. I can’t watch the news without crying. I can’t keep myself from reading and watching the stories good and bad. I want that constant flow of information. I want that spark of hope.
This week, I was reminded how precious life is and how truly blessed I have been. I will continue to pray for the families in Oklahoma. I will continue to worry too much and sleep too little. And I will praise The Lord for my sister’s new gift of life. Don’t take any second of life for granted. It’s a gift. It’s a beautiful gift.

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