Monday, January 16, 2017

A Cup of Coffee

It's 5:30 in the morning on Martin Luther King's birthday and I have an entire morning ahead of me for just me. A whole sweeping morning to fill my soul with writing and reading and inspiring stuff. Oh my word. It doesn't get any better than this.

Roy, sadly, has to work today. And so, I got up to help him out the door, as I do most every morning. As Roy is gone until late evening, oftentimes, we pack an ice chest filled to the brim with food for him. And so, I go to work on that while he readies his truck and gets his stuff together, and is out the door by 5:30.  It's kind of a job in itself getting him out the door, but that's okay.

My reward? A quiet hour in my living room, candle glowing, a cup of coffee beside me, its steam lazily curling up towards the ceiling, and my iPad.


Jace doesn't have school today, either, but he spent the night at Tami's. We headed over yesterday to watch the Cowboys game with them. We dined on burgers, chips, salsa, and guacamole, while we rooted for our favorite team. It was intense -- those Cowboys? They gave the Packers a run for their money...and in my opinion, they should have won it.

But they didn't.

Anyway, in the midst of this crazy game, thunder shook the house. I quickly headed to Caleb's bedroom to make sure that Jace heard it as he is always talking about how much he loves a good thunderstorm.

When he saw me in the doorway, he said, "I heard it, Mom," with that tone that says -- You can leave now.

Kids. Gotta love 'em. Cuz you can't kill 'em.

Anyway, it wasn't long until we all got warnings of a tornado that had landed in our vicinity, and the Keene siren was blasting at the top of its lungs. Chas happens to work with Keith who works on the weather team here in town, and so Chas started texting him. Keith said, no worries. The tornado is ten miles away.

And so we didn't worry. Jace came running in, proclaiming his adoration for living so precariously. "Wouldn't it be cool, Mom, if a tornado actually hits Keene?"

Hm. Not so much.

And so, once the Cowboys' road to glory hit a roadblock, Roy and I loaded up for home while Jace stayed behind to enjoy the stormy weather with the Lewis clan. They are much more fun than his parents.

I called Dad last night and he and Jo told me how they were iced in and more was on its way.

Clearly life has slowed down in the midwest. It's pretty slow here today as well.

Recently I read a statement that stopped me for a moment:

Hurry always empties a soul.

I remember one time when the girls were little and I was teaching quite a lot and had to rush out the door for some sort of academy program. I was screaming at them, getting angrier by the minute because they were taking their good sweet time, not a care in the world, and making me late. I headed to their bedroom, raging in full blast that they needed to get it together, and get out the door because I am LLLLAAATTTTEEE!!! And in that moment, I looked up.

At the end of our hallway in that Wisconsin apartment was a mirror -- a fairly large mirror that told the full truth about what it saw. And when I looked up I saw this raging ugly woman.

And it totally stopped me in my tracks. Because that was the woman my kids saw.

My kids' mom was an ugly raging woman.

And suddenly? Well suddenly it didn't matter that we were late. I changed my tone, lost the anger, let go of the rage.

I became the mom, at least for that moment, that I wanted to be, that my kids deserved.

Now I'm sure I didn't magically turn into Mary Poppins from that day forward; but I was more aware. That mirror provided a life-changing effect on me.

Our lives are busy these days. If I want to spend time with people I love, we have to be purposeful about it. Between work and school and home responsibilities and travel and the list continues, we are in the typical go go go mentality that has taken our nation by storm.

But today I am going to slow down. Today I am going to nourish my soul.

Excuse me while I pour myself a cup of coffee.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Back in the Saddle

Lately I've gotten lazy. Well, that's not really true. I've always been lazy.

But lately I've gotten especially lazy about writing.

I'm not sure why...maybe it's because I've had lots of people in my house. Or maybe it's because I'm distracted with other things during the early morning hours when I typically write. Or maybe it's because I've become addicted to Game of Thrones and it, sadly, fills my free time.

But for whatever reason, I've put writing on the back burner...until today.

A few days ago, my friend Jacque enrolled in a class called Lifebook and she gifted it to me as well. It's incredible. It's about achieving mastery in the 12 areas of one's life.

Ok--mastery might be a stretch...but the overall point is that we need to live more purposefully about creating a life we love. To begin, we take a "test" that determines our happy quotient on a scale of 125. This score is determined by scoring our happiness in each of these 12 areas: health and fitness, social life, emotional life, career, etc. I scored an 84. But my friend Jacque? She scored in the 120's. But if you knew her, you'd believe it. Jacque lives with such purpose and motivation that she always inspires me.

Anyway, the point of all this the challenge is to set a goal for the next 30 days, plan how to achieve that goal, and then do it.

Do it.

The two magical words.

Now here's the thing. I'm really good at talking. And planning. And thinking. And dreaming. I've got all of that down to a science.

But the doing part?

Not so much.

For example...I'm super good at planning how I'm going to eat healthfully...or exercise faithfully...I make all sorts of promises to myself. I've created charts and found recipes and researched diet plans...

The works.

But when it comes to doing it? ...

I read recently that the resolve to stick to one's decisions has to do with one's character.

Clearly my character sucks.

So today, when I watched the guy on Lifebook challenge me to create a goal and stick with it, I thought--I'm going to choose something that doesn't involve exercise or eating healthfully. I am a wee bit tired of hating myself in those two arenas. And so, I chose writing...

For the next 30 days, my goal is to write for a minimum of 30 minutes a day.

Now I will say, that doesn't necessarily mean blogging. I'm not sure I have that much inspiration (this blog I'm writing now is quite inspiring, I realize...) But the purpose is to hopefully harness all of those excuses and get me back in the saddle again.

And goes...

Day one.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy 2017!

It's a brand new year.

I love brand new.

This year? I haven't really made any resolutions. I'm not exactly a raging success at those. And so, through the years, I've learned that it's better to just steer clear and avoid failure. However, when Savana and Guerin were here for Christmas, we all created vision boards. I read about those somewhere online and so the girls and I headed to Walmart one day where we loaded up the cart with creativity. Then we headed home, gathered around the table, and cut out, glued, laughed, talked, dreamed and created our visions for our futures. It was fun, inspiring, and failure-free.

I read one time that vision boards are the true answer to change.

I'll let you know if it works in January 2018.

Meanwhile, I figure, for the sake of posterity, I will write down my Top Ten highlight reel of 2016:

My daughter got married to her dream guy. And it was a perfect day.
Roy, Jace, Jace's friend Gavin, and I enjoyed a weekend getaway in Gatlinburg. The boys ran the swimming park while Roy and I "chilled" and did whatever we wanted. Ah--perfection.
On a whim, Roy and I took a quick trip to Oklahoma to look for teaching jobs that, clearly, didn't pan out. But it was a moment of spontaneity, similar to what we did in the early days of marriage, and it brought hope to our hearts when we needed it the most.
We survived an entire year of Darian living in the jungles of Bolivia where we only talked a couple of times a month via Skype with a fuzzy connection. But this year proved life changing for our girl and I'm so glad that she took the plunge.
Savana graduated with her Master's in Clinical Counseling and Guerin graduated with his Bachelor's in Mechatronics Engineering. #success!!
In an absurd turn of event that still makes my head spin, we moved to Texas where I started a new job as alumni director at SWAU.
We purchased our home that is absolutely perfect for us.
Roy started a brand new career with Lamb Star as an Inspector and he LOVES his job. #bestnewsever
We talked Tami and Chas into buying the adjoining 2 acres of our property and they are going to build a house there. Whaaattt??? Sisters for neighbors...the very best kind.
We managed to have a fast and furious Oklahoma Christmas that only required 5 hours of driving one way--rather than the typical 17...and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

As for 2017? Here's to hoping that we don't have nearly the changes that occurred in 2016.

Here's to good health, good friends, and contentment.

Here's to the courage to communicate when communicating is difficult, the strength of character to be kind when being kind isn't easy, and the resolve to make healthy choices moment by moment, day after day...

Happy New Year, my friends!

Friday, December 16, 2016

A Perfect Day

Yesterday? My birthday?

It was a perfect day.

I don't think it could have been any more perfect actually.

For starters, the people I work with in the Advancement Office took me out to at to a restaurant in Cleburne called Pastafina's. It's similar to an Olive Garden and it was delicious. We all laughed and talked and stuffed ourselves silly and just had a lovely time.

And then we came back to the office.

Around 2:00, Dean (our development director) came in and said, Could you come into the Work Room for a minute?

And there they all were...again...with a beautiful birthday cake. Vanilla. My favorite. And ice cream that proclaimed itself "homemade" on the label.

And though nothing says homemade like my dad's homemade ice cream, it was delicious.

Meanwhile, Roy sent me a text telling me to steer clear of supper. I asked him what that meant other than don't eat and he said, If I told you, I'd have to kill you. Admittedly I was a wee bit concerned as my stomach was already feeling the bulge just from lunch, not to mention the cake.

When I got home from work, Jace came out of his room and handed me a homemade card that he had carefully created. Now can I just say, Jace doesn't carefully create anything? His writing is typically sloppy, slanted, and brief. But this card was filled with legible, heartfelt sentiments. Roy told me later that Jace called and asked if we had any special paper.

This card? I will treasure it forever.

Throughout the day, Savana called five different times to sing "Happy Birthday" to me at the top of her lungs and then followed that raucous version with a top ten list so that, by the end of the day, she'd proclaimed 50 things she loves or appreciates about me.

Now let me just say, I love words. I could just float away on a bubble singing opera-style when you tell me how wonderful I am.

Ridiculous, I know...but kind words turn me into a giggling schoolgirl.

And of course Darian called and texted and posted on my wall...she's a thoughtful one.

When Roy got home from work, he walked into the door, his arms laden with gifts. This boy knows that I love Mexican food, and so he got me kitchen aids for creating a Mexican dinner: a tortilla maker, a tortilla warmer, colorful little bowls, etc.

It was perfect.

That boy...

And then we loaded up in the car and headed towards Cleburne, parked at our go-to Mexican restaurant, and went inside to a room filled with my amazing family and beautiful friends. Tami and Chas brought black balloons and dice that will help me make decisions about how to spend my time: nap, gripe, complain, etc...

I shall use those every day.

Gina and Eric gave me a lovely throw that is so fuzzy and warm, and Tami and Lloyd gave me a rosemary tree that is so fragrant and adorable.

The kids were there--Court and Cass and Ciara and Love and Josh and Jess -- and laughter was there and love was there and gosh it was fun and amazing and perfect.

Absolutely perfect.

When we got home? My precious friend--the YMP one--sent me a message with 50 reasons she loves me.

50 reasons! But I noticed that she repeated a couple, so I told her...and she sent 2 more.

How amazing is that.

That's a friend right there.

And another one of my precious friends wrote happy birthday on my wall and I replied with...where is my email?...because we are email buddies. She emails me regularly and I eat up every word like I'm starving (and clearly I'm not), and so, because she is such a kind, beautiful soul, she sent me a long, newsy email and I loved every word.

And you know...I love words so...between the email and the 50 reasons message?

 # a perfect way to end a perfect day.

So, today?

Today I feel so loved and so grateful and so like turning 50 wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Today I feel like 50 just may rock my world.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

From the Inside Out

Today is my birthday.

Today I turn the big 5.0.


How did this happen??

Savana asked me how it feels to be 50, and I told her, it feels just like it did when I was 12. And I imagine it will feel pretty much the same if I make 87.

Funny how that happens.

Funny how we are still just the inside looking out. Hopefully we gain a little something in our heads so that we become a bit wiser, a bit kinder, and gain a bit more perspective as the years roll by. But when it comes to just feeling like me...well, I still just feel like me.

Every morning Savana and I talk via FaceTime. She calls right around 6:45 am and we chat away until probably 7:15 or so and she fills me in on all of the goings on in her life. Yesterday when she called, we discussed the fact that when someone is not directly in front of your face, it's like they don't even exist at all. So when we pass people on the streets, it's almost like they are put there as scenery and then when they disappear from sight, it's like they just vanished into thin air, never to be thought of again.

Now of course I realize that people do, in fact, exist outside of me. But I think that this perspective of only seeing what is directly in front of me from the inside out is why it is so darned easy to have this "me" mentality and forget that a world exists outside of myself. Being selfish is natural simply because we are just ourselves, just one person.

I remember thinking about this when I was 7 or 8 years old. I had this sweet little friend named Kim and I just loved her. I loved her so much that I wanted to be her, and I often thought, what does it feel like to be you? I would watch her and try to sit exactly like her, holds my hands just like she held her hands, so that I could figure out how to feel like Kim, be like Kim...I used wonder what she did when she got home--how did she spend her time? What was she talking about? I found all of that quite fascinating and could spend a considerable amount of time thinking about it.

I was a weird child.

Yesterday a video was spiraling through Facebook of a teacher in Aleppo who uploaded his last goodbye to the world. Things have gotten really bad there and he isn't sure he will survive all of the upheaval. Ordinary citizens, including children, are being executed on the spot in the streets. And so, he talked about how he hopes that people will not forget Aleppo, that he has lost faith in the United Nations and their empty promises, that despite it all he still believes in the beauty of life.

It was a stunning, tragic video. He wasn't that old--maybe in his 30's, and after I watched it, I couldn't help but I am in my living room with decorative pillows thrown haphazardly on my couch, with lamps glowing, with my dog curled up on the loveseat, with my legs propped up by the recliner...

...and this man from Aleppo is huddled in a concrete building facing what is very likely the end of his life.

...and children are being slaughtered on the streets.

It is a sobering reality.

Of course, life has always been like that--through the ages. We suffer; we eat; we love; we play; we laugh; we cry; we live; we die. And the sun keeps shining and the moon keeps rising and time passes. Day after day.

And all the while, I just feel like me. I just see what's in front of me, from the inside out.

Yesterday Jace spent the evening with the Lewis family. I picked him up at 9:00 and as soon as he opened the car door, he said, "Mom! Did you know that we are going to run out of clean water on our planet by the year 2025? I have been researching how we are running out the very things we need to exist on this planet. We may have to move to Mars and I'm not even kidding! I love earth. I don't want to leave earth!"

(My son is a weird kid too.)

And so, I explained to Jace that there is lot on the Internet that encourages fear-based living. We talked about how we, as a people, must learn to be wiser, to be kinder, to be resourceful with our planet, to be minimalists and consider the future rather than being wasteful and selfish with our resources. That we need to educate ourselves and then take steps to be better.

"Well," he said, "do you think we're getting better?"

"I do, Jace," I said. "I do think we're becoming more aware of the world in which we live."

We discussed how one person making simple changes isn't much; but when one person makes simple changes, and then another makes simple changes, and so on...well, those simple changes become huge and just like that the world is changed.

And I believe that. I believe we are getting wiser, kinder, more aware. I am not a fear-based person and I don't think that our society is getting worse as the years roll by. In fact, I'd say we've come a good pace since those Roman gladiator days. We've made progress since the days of the Wild Wild West. I believe in our youth who are learning to see through kinder eyes and will work to improve our planet rather than exploit it.

And so, even though we are all just on the inside looking out, maybe our vision is getting a bit clearer. I shall hope so...

And meanwhile, I think I'll eat a piece of birthday cake.

Here's to 50.

And hopefully many more.

Monday, December 5, 2016


Honestly, sometimes I feel like I am living in a Norman Rockwell painting.

Last night was the annual Christmas Parade here in Keene. Our alumni board puts up a float every year, and so this year, of course, I was a part of the whole shebang. The City of Keene hosts a contest to see who has the best float and so we were all scheduled to arrive at 3:00 to throw our float together as judging commenced at 5:30.

And so, I arrived at the gym parking lot to begin the big setup at 3:00 sharp...but only two of my board members were present. Someone had dropped off the trailer that had the makeshift Mizpah gate on it and so Larry and I heaved and hoed to get the gate in its proper place...only to realize that we had the wrong sized trailer. And so, Larry made a call to Dennis, one of our other board members, who said he would be there as soon as possible with the correct sized trailer.

Now let me just say, it was cold outside. Of course, I have acclimated to Keene weather rather nicely. Sometimes, I will say to Jace once I've stepped foot outside...Oh my word, Jace! It's freezing out here! And he'll roll his eyes and say, Mom. It's 75 degrees.

But this was no 75 degree weather. It was cloudy, windy, and at least 50. And so, as there was nothing we could do until the trailer arrived, we all went back to our separate vehicles to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Finally, around 5:15 or so, just before the judging was scheduled to begin, Dennis arrived with the proper trailer. By this time, we had several of our board members present. Many of them are strapping big boys -- well over 6 foot tall, strong, capable men. And so, once that trailer arrived? That went to WORK and I just stood back and watched, amazed. They flipped that gate over to the proper trailer, threw those hay bales in one mighty swoop, strung the lights in nothing flat, and had that float ready to go in less than 15 minutes. It was a sight to behold!

Others had been there working on their floats for hours, and so, it was quite comical when the judges came by and presented us with the first place trophy for Best Float! The trophy was large and obnoxious but we proudly stood it on a hay bale for the world to see.

And then the parade began. We were towards the back of the line and so we all sat on our hay bales, holding bags of candy and began the trek down the street, around the block, and then down Old Betsy, the main thoroughfare through Keene. People lined the streets like they were coming out for New York City's Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. Honestly--I couldn't help but just chuckle to myself the whole way. Little kids scrambled and fought over thrown peppermint balls like they had never seen candy before. People, dressed in coats and scarves, and some huddled in blankets, waved and shouted Merry Christmas! well all drove by. Some people shouted, "Hey Vonda!" To me and I threw them their very own peppermint ball as a reward.

And then? Just like that? It was over. We parked back in the gym parking lot and once again those big strapping men went to work, dismantling that float in about five minutes while I hurried to keep up by simply throwing our Christmas hats in a box.

In the midst of our moment of mass destruction, a big boom lit up the sky as fireworks  were displayed over our very own Keene pond. And that is how I drove home, stopping momentarily to watch the show and smile to myself.

I love small town living where a community comes out to celebrate together. Somehow? I just think this is how life is meant to be lived.

One for all and all for one.


...even when that means huddling in the cold to watch average floats roll down the street and cheer like it's the best thing since sliced bread...

Because maybe, in fact, it is.

Friday, December 2, 2016

My Very Best Christmas Friend

I have had a difficult time getting into the holiday spirit this year. Normally Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the Christmas carols, the holiday jingles, the lights, cozy breads, and Oklahoma family. Typically my tree is laden with gifts by now and Jace spends hours arranging and rearranging, counting how many are for him.

This year? Not one single gift is under the tree. It is December 2 and I'm still contemplating what to buy for who.

I think it's the weather.

It's difficult to be in the holiday spirit when it's 65 degrees outside. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who moved here from Vermont; she said it takes three years to adjust to a warm Christmas.

In the meantime, I will go through the regular Christmas motions in hopes that it jumpstarts me into gear.

We always put our tree up immediately following Thanksgiving. And so, last week Roy, Darian and I headed into town to purchase a tree. On the way there, we decided to get a fake tree as we are all tired of the hassle of the real ones.

I think I am getting old.

We settled on one we all agreed was beautiful and that we will enjoy for years to come. And then we came home, dragged out all of the ornaments and lights and house decorations and went to work.

This week our student workers filled the office hallways with Christmas decor. It's quite festive there. And this weekend? We have our Christmas parade down the main thoroughfare of Keene. Our Alumni office has a float and we will spend a few hours decorating it on Sunday before displaying it in all of its glory that evening in the parade. It will be a fun day and I'm looking forward to throwing candy to all the kids lining the road while wearing my Christmas stocking hat.

Time is marching on and December 25 is approaching quickly, whether my heart feels that holiday spirit or not. And that's a good thing. Savana and Guerin are coming to visit for a whole 8 days.

Eight days!

Of course, we will spend a few of those days in Oklahoma, celebrating with the people I love the most in this world. Savana says she isn't ready to give up on an Oklahoma Christmas quite yet and so she convinced Guerin to spend Thanksgiving with his family and Christmas with ours. Of course, they (they being the Willliams family) are a close knit bunch as well, so it wouldn't surprise me if S and G alternate Christmas each year. But for now, Oklahoma is in Savana's blood as well.

That's a beautiful thing.

Thankfully today is Friday--my favorite day of the week. Friday means a half day at work--off at noon. It means long evenings filled with reading and journaling and hot baths. It means Roy and I contemplating how we are going to spend the next two days of freedom that are spread before us like a banquet.

And this particular Friday? Well, I do believe I shall spend some time with Amazon, my very best Christmas friend.