Friday, November 29, 2013

Vlog Like a Hoss: Thanks-living Edition

It's that time of week again where YouTube picks a hideous shot of me and I make a fool of myself talking to my computer.

In all honesty, I'm starting to enjoy this… Is that weird to say?

Things You Learned in This Vlog:
1. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner scares me.
2. Hazel wants to be a vlogging star.
3. I don't like being bad at things because I'm competitive.
4. Yelling grown men is scary.
5. I didn't like Gladiator. (My dad would be so ashamed)
6. Cute clothes can make me do almost anything.
7. #sayyesproject on Tuesday. THAT IS ALL.
8. Comments are sweet and great. Engagement is phenomenal.
9. The nest-house post is here. Do yourself a favor and read the comments.
10. There will be twelve days of nativity on the blog and it's going to be so festive.
11. Mr. Thomas vlogged for two seconds.

NOTE: I didn't play flag football. I said NO. Instead, I said YES to being on kid duty and I had so much fun playing tag for an hour with kids and sweating profusely. Turns out kids aren't for the faint of heart.

Finally, to celebrate Black Friday 
all ad spots are 25% off today using code "fridaysteal". 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

It's the day for Turkeys, Football, and LOTS of Drinking!

Happy Thanksgiving you! 
(and you and you and you)

We're off to spend the day with family riding the gravy train... Oh wait, that's some sort of sexual reference right? (I really do have a thing for gravy (as in the kind that goes on potatoes) though.)

Hope you're spending the day in the presence of those you're thankful for. Like your screaming niece. Just kidding! (sort of, I'm thankful for the family and friends we get to enjoy for the day, but you can have the screaming niece.)

On the serious. We're thankful for you Thomas fans. Because, without you, this blog wouldn't be the thing it is. And, we're excited for another run with you through the holiday season. This year we can promise great food (caramel apples), better drinks (hint: fireball), and flannel pajamas abounding.

Happy Thanksgiving friends! 
Have some extra stuffing covered in gravy (from the train) for us!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tomorrow, We Feast.

Taking a break over here today because we're gearing up to celebrate all kinds of thanks and food and feasting tomorrow... But we've got some words going on over at our dear friends The Florkens today, so catch up with us over there!

We're sharing the five tips we've got for divvying up the holidays after you've married. Our one big sticking point even after four years of Thanksgiving and Christmas together is who we spend what time with during the festivities.

What are your tips for scheduling your holiday 
celebrations with your family and friends? 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

MWF Seeking a Nest

Bird's nests have always been of a major fascination to me. I grew up in a house where they abounded: both artificial and real. I found two fallen nests on runs over the summer and I love to check them out: the way they're delicately and intricately made, their intimate use and delighted practicality.

Lately I've spent more time pondering their purpose and the way birds create such lovely little vessels for their babies. In it seems to be a lesson God has laid within the twisted bits of each little construct. While they appear to simply be little balls of sticks, a bird's nest serves as a delightful little home for the eggs turned babes born into each knot. There's a delicate intertwining of bitty branches and threads, little pieces of refuse that create a home in which baby birds are raised. How beautiful that is.

Much like those birds, Mr. Thomas and me are looking for a home. A nest for our future baby birds. Just like those birds, we're trying to see the possibilities of each house, working to envision the way those walls, that ceiling, these floors will make a cozy spot for our babies to grow. And, it's tricky, the process of finding a home. 

There's three reasons that have weighed heavy as both nest making and home searching are tricky. 

1. You can't fake a good nest. 
As a child I wanted to find baby animals in our yard, but we lived in an established neighborhood with no wildlife around so the chances were slim. I came up with a plan: make a nest. I gathered many twigs, forced them into a sloppy knot, and dropped it on the ground for a bird to make it home. I was sure my hands were just as capable as a bird's beak. No bird and no eggs found a home in my nest.

Just like that, we can't find home in a house that's too small. Or too large. It's got to be just right. It can't be too fancy or we feel overwhelmed. But too much fixing up and we're not interested. Oh the houses you'll see. 

2. Nests are made with tender love and care. 
Each little nest is built slowly and intentionally by a mama bird for a very special and specific reason. A nest not created by her is not a place for her kids to be born. The creation of a nest isn't simply weaving together a few pine needles with thread, it's a tedious process collecting, creating, spinning. A mama bird spends as much time creating a safe space for her babies as she spends in the nest atop the eggs waiting to meet them.

Like nest making, home searching is best done over time. It's not about efficiency, but about emotion. It's not simply about the now, but about the later. It's not about us, but about our family. And all this time it was about how much I liked the kitchen -or how much I hated it. 

3. Creating a nest and hatching baby birds in it requires much patience.
Sitting still and trusting there to be a wonderful end to your wait is a test of faith -an extreme test of faith for this schedule-loving girl. I struggle deeply to find peace in the process of house looking and get so tired of the waiting period. I want things to happen and I want them to happen now.

That mama bird does nothing more for her babies by moving, moving, moving. In fact, the process of sitting patiently provides for her little unborn babies. She doesn't sit with others, she sits alone waiting for her babies to break from their little shells, knowing that reward will be worth every effort. May I find peace in the wait. May patience fill my wanting soul. 

We must be still and wait for the little eggs God has sitting in our nest to hatch and fill our lives with His grand, unimaginable plan for us. Our eggs may hold that house we can make home, carry our future in a neighborhood of our very own, contain the opportunity to think about babies and family and all the associated chaos.

What eggs are you waiting to hatch? 
And what dreams do they contain? 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Vlog Like A Hoss: #sayyesproject

Oh my gosh I vlogged again! But really, I did. Without make-up. With glasses. In sweats. Just sharing my heart behind the #sayyesproject today and looking forward to sharing in it with you on December 3rd! 

Things you learned today:
1. I'm a book worm gone nerd who shares in major fan-girldom.
2. You need Jesus Feminist.
3. Sarah Bessey is a beautiful soul.
4. Two of my favorite blogs are Hollywood Housewife and The Blahblahblahger.
5. The #sayyesproject wants you.
6. And chances are your life needs a little #sayyesproject risk in it.
7. YouTube ALWAYS picks the ugliest frame of your face as the cover photo.

Happy Friday friends. Happy, happy Friday.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanks-living: Peace. Peace.

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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It seems we're on a bullet train to the holiday season. Thanksgiving will be here and gone before I have time to eat every last ounce of stuffing and mashed potatoes. Shopping's already in full bloom and feels like such a hurry and scurry a midst the sparkle lights and ruby and emerald of the season. We're at high speeds towards the reminders of "the reason for the season" and family gatherings and Christmas Eve candlelight services. All good things.

As we enter Christmas for the first time without Popsicle and with a year under our belts of hurts and aches and joy, I feel some peace. And other times, I feel a mess. Like a hot, ugly crying, stinky mess who doesn't want to pull her shit together enough to shave my legs in the shower.

And, I don't think I'm alone in this.

"'Peace, peace.' they say, where there is no peace." 
-Jeremiah 10:14 

Peace, peace, I say. Peace, yes, I know peace. I love peace. Peace, peace.

But, you love God, Amber. You love Him, so He gives peace. Oh, if only I had such faith.

Dad's dying: peace, peace.
Work unknowns and stresses: peace, much peace.
Sleepless nights: peace, oh the peace.
Writer's block: peace, peace.
I'm good. I'm fine. I'm doing alright. Peace, peace.

When did we start this process of claiming peace when there is none? I do it. Yes, peace, I've got it. Yes, it is well with my soul. Well with my troubled, fighting for control soul.

It started when someone told us that to pray that prayer, to respond to that ah-ha moment, to be worthy of more, we must have all our shit together. And, having our ducks in a row promises peace. Oh, what a lie. Even Jesus struggled with peace. His bloody sweat and angst-filled prayers illustrate the depths of his unrest. It's a human condition even to the Son of God.

So, don't believe because you've found peace. Because it's all fit together in that little faith-filled box. Because you know for damn sure you've got all the answers. Believe because you're a hot mess that needs some semblance of strength. Because you're okay addressing doubt, and hurt, and struggle because sometimes peace is only recognizable in shreds. Because you know for damn sure you can't answer it all.

Peace to you this season, friends. Deep, refreshing peace that's present in the dirty, crazy chaos: real peace. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thanks-Living: The Mr. Thomas Part of This

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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Since I do so much talking about my heart and our marriage and my faith in our God... It seems only appropriate to highlight the man that makes this space Mr. Thomas and Me. Because without Mr. Thomas, there wouldn't be the blog, I wouldn't be a Mrs., and my world wouldn't look quite as bright. 

Without much fanfare or further ado, please meet Mr. T. 
A man with great taste in women and food, but not in fashion. 
A man who owned two pairs of jeans and two pairs of shoes when we married. (Oh how that's changed)
A man who believes no meal is complete without a meat-based protein.
A man who grew up with a backyard of turtles and just as many stories to go with them.
A man whose grown used to the mild danger I seem to attract. 
A man who bought a brand new car then almost had it blown up by an illegal firecracker on Fourth of July. 
A man whose learned that most occasions garner celebration simply because we can.
A man who embraces every photo op I invent... Plus makes his own.
A man whose got a bit of baby fever -to match my oohs and aahs. 
A man who loves my family just as his own. 
A man whose family is as rich with tradition as mine. 
A man who rocks a deep V and a baby in ways that make me proud to be his wife. 
A man who always rises to the occasion -even if it's a frosty black diamond. 
A man who enjoys drinks at the bar at the base of the slopes as much as he does the snow.
A man who believes barbecue is always the answer.
A man whose smarts outdo his good looks -really though, he's a genius.

A man whose sense of adventure and humor drug me through an eight mile hike on our honeymoon.
A man who could probably get me to do it again -with wine.
A man who loves the outdoors more than I can understand. 
A man whose dream is to own a bass fishing boat and catch us some dinner. 
The man whose heart belongs to two little ladies -one Hazel, one blonde. 
The man who serves our family with a strong, quiet spirit. 
The man who helps heal the hurts of loss with his humility and jokes. 
This man, he is, Mr. T. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thanks-living: Packing Light

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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A book. Oh, but there's so many. My shelves and dresser and nightstand over flow with them. While I have many a book to read, I don't have any a book to repeat. Until Packing Light. As the book was coming to a close I found myself hungry to begin it all over again, to reread every stitch of her thoughts word by word from cover to cover.
"One of the hardest parts of packing light, I've learned, is that it's as much about what you take with you as it is what you leave behind. Letting go of everything isn't the answer. In fact, sometimes letting go is the easy part. But packing lights isn't as simple as throwing up our hands and leaving everything up to God. It's as much about holding on as it is about letting go -and knowing the difference between the two." (194)

I didn't hunger for the action, because it's not action as we know it. The plot is intriguing and sparked a little fire under my wanderlust. But, I wanted to absorb every ounce of theology Allison (because I know her deeply after reading this) throws my way. Theology sounds so heavy and burdensome, do not be confused. This is no thick language or heavily metaphorical Bible talk. It's refreshing, daring, easy to read faith that translates from her life to your own with ease and blessedness only He can deliver.

Though the first 50 pages of the book feel slow -especially in comparison to the rest of novel-, they are necessary for you to understand the depths of Allison's complex relationship with her things, her thoughts, and her God. Just as your visits here require some understanding of the complexity of my life, my marriage, and my faith. Do yourself a favor and be challenged by Packing Light, no part of you will be disappointed and, at the close of the novel, you'll be wishing for more while trying to live in less. Oh, the contradiction of a life well-lived.

So, I take this opportunity to gift this book to you. To establish a new opportunity for you to be thankful and thoughtful and lesser. And, what's a good book without a steaming cup of joe.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I did receive a copy of Packing Light in return for a review, but all thoughts and opinions regarding the novel and Ally Vesterfelt are solely my own. All promotions on Mr. Thomas and Me are honest critiques from one [or both] of the Thomases and thought to be relevant to our readership. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Letter to Myself

Dear Sweet 17-year-old Amber,

High school doesn't get any easier... I know, the teasing gets old and is so hard on you, but hold strong. It creates character, adults say. It does.

Stop giving such a damn. Those cheerleaders are hormonal and bitchy and jealous. I know, it hurts. But they're immature and don't mean it. Believe it or not, you'll be friends with them later and the hurt will be forgotten by you AND by them. Your heart is genuine and your actions abnormal to other teens, but that doesn't mean you're wrong. Stick with it, you will be rewarded.

Texas, although beautiful and so southernly hospitable, is too far from those sweet little brothers with which you have been blessed. Plus, there are big things for you to do in San Diego. I know it's going to break your heart when USC and Stanford send you letters of rejection, but there's a plan, a grand plan... And you'd hate the LA traffic anyway.

Dad isn't going to be here forever. Get over your bratty teenage angst and get into the depths that relationship promises. Enjoy those Monday date nights, leave that phone at home, and tell him the stupid little details you don't think he'll care about because you won't always have him to talk to about the interesting and the mundane. He cares whether he expresses it or not.

When he gets sick the family will stick together like glue -a stronghold type of glue that's unbreakable regardless of what comes its way. You and Mel are going to be good friends. I know, you can't stand how she knows so much and you're so immature in comparison, but you're ten years younger and she's got lots of knowledge she can share. Keep that heart open, you're going to need her in ways unbelievable right now.

Speaking of sisters, join that sorority. Put yourself out there and believe in the good that others bring to your life. Because they do in ways that you need. Let them add to your soul and to the lyrics of your life-song -no song is complete without some backup singers. You're going to become part of an amazing family where God will grow you in ways unimaginable. When they say sisters for life you'll roll your eyes, but it's truth that you will lean into post-graduation.

You're going to lose some friends. You're going to win some too. That's life. It happens. You'll be disappointed and you'll be a disappointment. Remember grace -for them and for yourself. No one's perfect and sometimes hurts are too large to mend. But time comes in and does so. You lost a few friends who knew your soul deeply and, while you can't imagine that being healed, it is. In a beautiful, honest, tender way that challenges your 24-year-old self. Challenge is good for you.

That boy you're dating, he's not The One. He's cheated once, he's going to do it again. Please know God has such a greater gift for you. Please, oh please. There's a better one coming, better than you could ever possibly imagine. He won't look or act like you're expecting, but usually assholes end up being assholes in the end so give the sweet guy next door a chance.

Happily ever after doesn't look how you imagine it. And, really, it's overrated. Because in trial and loss and love, faith is magnified and hearts are transformed. Remember people are watching you, looking to you for a glimmer of hope. And your heart is full of that regardless of the circumstance. It's hope that keeps you smiling now and it'll be hope that keeps you in joy later. Hope: an anchor to the soul.

Amber, life feels hard some days and it'll continue to do so, but you're doing your best at it and that's enough. You're young and eager and bright-eyed, don't let that be dulled by others. Surround yourself with beauty and it'll fill you.

I'm proud of you Amber as unsatisfied with yourself you may feel. Know your heart is good, your humor is dry, and your words are genuine -all wonderful, unique things.

Older, but only slightly wiser, 24-year-old Am 

All this to wonder: what will my 30-year-old self say to the today me? 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Vlog Like a Boss: Doggy Style

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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Happy Friday friends of Mr. Thomas and Me! 

You thought you were coming around here to listen to my Ma talk and talk and talk into a computer screen looking all foolish. But then, I struck again! 

It's Hazel here. Breaking into the blog and doing my thing. But, I heard it's Vlog Like A Boss day on the interwebs and something you might not know about me is that I'm a damn good vlogger. So, without further ado I am here to share my latest and greatest talent with you. 

The things that you learned from this vlog:

1. Ma CANNOT understand when I say I want freakin' treats in my whiny voice so I bark.
2. I love barking. I love treats more.
3. Ma's voice doesn't sound half as beautiful as mine (though I harmonize with her so well).
4. Part of me wants to bite Ma's fingers off when she doesn't give me treats fast enough.
5. I am loved.

I'm off to sniff things. And beg Nana to give me treats. And dig the roses up. And eat Ma's pumpkins off the vines. And lick myself. I hope your weekend plans are more fun than mine.

Over and out. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanks-living: The Gardens

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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I introduce you to The Gardens -or so we call it. Because adding Memory Care Unit to anything sounds so… Dreary. It’s like adding FREAKIN’ TINY before you say apartment. No one wants to own that shit. Thus, we drop Memory Care Unit. 

Popsicle’s new home is at The Gardens. He’s been a resident there for the better part of this year. And it’s a place I never thought I’d find myself thankful for -if we’re honest. Because, really, how are you thankful for somewhere he’s gone from the home he built, the family he loves, and the town he once knew like the back of his hand. 

But, for The Gardens, I am thankful. Because it is places like The Gardens that picks up where we, the family, are no longer capable. You see, dementia is an odd disease. It's a disease that robs the sufferer little by little of their mental abilities. It escapes with logic, with sensibility, with concern for safety. And, as a family the disease goes from manageable and as easy to care for as a child, but then, it progresses. Rules are no longer understood or manageable, safety is nearly impossible, communication is tense and flustered. When, finally, we admit defeat.

We came up short in caring for Dad's dementia. A weakness I will gladly admit and beg for help from those more capable than I. And, on Christmas Eve last year, we, as a family, did just that. Waved our white flag and reached out to those around us that knew more about the next steps. Many tears, a few moves, and two weeks later, we began our relationship with The Gardens: a place that welcomed Popsicle and his disease while promising more than we could manage at home.

For the short-coming and subsequent humility in seeking help, I am thankful.

For The Gardens, I am deeply grateful.

I’m thankful for the safety it promises. He can’t get lost in the streets surrounding the facility like he can at home. He can’t skip a meal because everyone’s got to be in the dining hall at breakfast, lunch, and dinner time. He can’t wander out of the warmth of the building into the freezing cold, pouring rain late at night like he did a few times at home. 
I’m thankful for the professionals. Though sometimes their opinions clash with ours, their views with his written final requests, they know what they’re doing. And, as hard as it is to admit, we didn’t. As Sundowners would set in and he’d pack to leave for the night (to go where we don’t know), redirecting him to stay home could be challenging. When a memory would become a fresh, present moment in his sick mind and agitation would surface, calming him and reminding him of today was delicate and tense. 

I’m thankful for the care. Some of the staff does their job and that’s it. Others invest in him and care for him in the same way we, as his family, do. They throw up high fives in the hallways, shake hands with him as he passes, create needs for help because he found value in assisting others. As he walks the halls with his chair at the lead (because rearranging furniture is always a good time), they encourage his movement and giggle at his antics (as we all do). 

The Gardens was a place I never wanted to know. Their lawn, their halls, their sun-kissed patio. Life would have felt just as full and lovely without such familiarity, but, if I had to know somewhere, The Gardens is it. 
Next time you’re in a place that’s one of those places you’d really rather not be (let’s not get to talking about emergency rooms and our frequent flier miles there), look for the promises in it. Maybe it’s the promise of safety or of adventure, the promise of laughter or of uninterrupted sorrow, the promise of family or of friends. Regardless, take away a thankful memory even if memories aren’t it’s strong suit. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Is This What Skinny Feels Like?

On April 15th, 2013 I weighed 147 pounds. Three and a half months later, I weighed in at 130 pounds on the dot. 

Seventeen pounds lighter feels nicer on my shins (that are prone to splints) and my knees (that suffered damage in my ten years on the soccer field) and my hips (that ache with too much working out). My body looks different: thinner, stronger, tighter. And my progress pictures reflect that. 

The pictures were nice points of reference from month to month. Like, that's where I was, this is where I am -good job Amber. But then, they were more of an obsession. Like, that's where I was yesterday, where am I today. Whether I like it or not, change doesn't happen overnight. 

Spending a lot less time in bathing suits with the cooling weather has halted the progress picture train. Thank goodness. But, it's spurred a new relationship. An intense and needy relationship with the bathroom scale. 
Is this what skinny is supposed to feel like? 

Like irritation over a pound or three. Like wondering how much bloat is from last night's cheat meal or from my hormones. Like contemplating when the best time of the day it is to step on the scale. Like sneaking away from a conversation to "use the bathroom" -code for step on the scale one more time to make it isn't broken. 
Is this what skinny is supposed to feel like? 

Like I can't eat clean enough. Like that glass of red wine is followed by a gruesome hangover of guilt. Like water is the only liquid worth passing my lips (and you KNOW how I love coffee). Like a random HUNGRY morning is going to derail my months of progress. Like beating myself up over a good old breakfast burrito, Cadillac margarita or late night greasy food craving. 

Skinny feels like never being enough. Like I'm always falling short.

I don't like the way skinny feels. I don't like worrying about the number of carbs in every morsel of food I eat. I don't like skipping my nightly glass of wine. I don't like passing on chips and salsa. I don't like hating servings of seconds when the food is that damn good. I don't like choosing veggies over pizza. So I won't. 

Because skinny doesn't feel so good. And I want to feel good. 

I eat three meals a day plus two snacks, healthy 90% of the time, cheats the other 10. And, I like those habits. I also like my 130 pound body with it's balance of muscles and curves. I like healthy. I like set point weights. I like cardio and weight training. I like feeling good. And I do. 

So, skinny, you aren't enough for me. And all this time I thought it was me not good enough for you. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thanks-living: A Lesson in Disappointment

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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Dad, I'm disappointed in you. You let me down, just like you said you would. Just like I didn't believe.

You fell short of the superman I knew you were. And, some days, I'm in shambles over the reality of that. You were the first man I truly loved who truly loved me back. And the first man who taught me the depths of a truly broken heart. Some days, it feels like a brokenness that can't be repaired. You taught me how to do business, learn business, and be business, then you were gone from the office before I could show you I learned it.

Dad, I'm disappointed in you. Because, you're human. And I wanted you to be more -so much more- than that. I needed you.

When we sat curled in balls on the living room floor the morning of the diagnosis, you said, "I can't believe I've done this to you and your siblings and your mom. You don't deserve this." I told you it wasn't your fault. But now, I get it.

You weren't referencing the disease. You were disappointed too. You couldn't believe this disease wasn't beatable, because you'd conquered everything else in life. I share that heart Dad. I'm disappointed too.

But, Dad, you did one thing right. You pointed me in the direction of what I needed -deeply, unabashedly, terribly needed- in order to survive the disappointment. You told me, I needed Him because everyone and everything else would fail me. And I told you, "no." I told you, "that isn't so, Dad because there's you." You did like you always did, raised your brow, shook your head, and laughed a bit under your breath. You did that right, Dad.

I was stubborn and scared and short-sighted. Because disappointment abounds -everyone has and everyone will. Because everything isn't actually anything. And, Dad, you were right. I need Him in such an intense and powerful way there aren't enough words to evoke the feeling.

So Dad, thanks for falling short. I wouldn't have learned the lesson otherwise. And, Dad, as much as this wasn't how Superman looked, you're still a superhero to one little girl who, despite growing up, loves you infinitely.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thanks-living: The Story behind the Photos

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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These are the pictures you see of our moments with him. Faceless, but love-filled. Because he is gone from that face we know. And, we don't want to remember him like that. Because though his body remains, his infectiously joyful spirit is gone. Because those baby blues that were once backed with great thought, deep humor, and much love. Now, there's emptiness. 

It breaks our hearts. In a million little splintery ways. And, there's something so painful in looking at those eyes that remind us how his deep mind and personality have been stolen. So, we don't capture them. We don't capture the disease at all. We capture the memories we are making despite his inability to do so. And, that makes me feel like we're winning. 

Because dementia can steal a lot from us, but our love, our moments together, our deep family ties remain. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thanks-living: #happyhourhangout Edition

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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After the success and fun of the first #happyhourhangout. I wasn't sure what the second would look like. Part of me came with no expectations so I could be joyful in however the hour turned out. The other, probably bigger part of me, was sure that it just couldn't measure up. And, somehow, these women encouraged my heart in ways completely different, but just as wondrous as the first crew.

The women and words that made up last night's #happyhourhangout warmed my heart in deep and necessary ways. Watching women who were strangers just an hour before giggle together and joke about the woes of content creation and the difficulties of writer's block while sharing in the frustrations of unmet vulnerability and the emotions behind dead-end blogging was a beautiful scene. Be still my heart, community is here. And now.

Of course, I did what I can't help myself to do: take notes of big, lovely quotes and share them with you.  And I come the day after to share that wisdom that screamed to my heart to you.

Without further adieu, meet my #happyhourhangout dates and their wise words 
(that I tried to quote but most likely paraphrased):

Yammering Yankee
"Content is a crap shoot. Vulnerability should be rewarded [with comments and interaction], but it's not always something that resonates with your readers." 

"When you read another blog and their content resonates with you, but you don't know what to say give them the compliment that means most to you because, most likely, that's what they long to hear. And you don't know what that interaction could turn into." 

"My blog started as a diary and artistic outlet but then turned into something I love that I'll ride on until it's something that doesn't interest me any more."

Art of Balance
"Engagement from my readers is vital to me because I believe that's how I establish a community." 

Crazy Bullies
"The friends I've made online can, at times, be my emotional sanity because they're removed from all the drama that's local to me." 

My dear co-host, the brains behind this operation, and the detail handler. 
"I don't write to engage people; I write and people engage." 
-speaking to the importance of being proactive. 

So, you're interest is peaked? Yeah, mine would be too. We're booked through December and January because this thing's more than just a little bit of fun people, so sign up now. You've got something I need to hear, that'll encourage me and warm my heart, that's inspiring to all of us because you're valuable.

Logistically, a $10.00 sponsorship promises you an hour (or two) with eight other bloggers sharing in problems, questions, laughs, and drinks. Not only that, but the sidebar and social media perks. Hi, win-win situation!

And, my quote from the night, since I enjoy imparting my wisdom on all: 
"For me sponsorship isn't about the page views, it's about the content. I don't care how MANY people read you; but, instead, what of yours they read and enjoy." 

With that, good day because it's Friday and Monday is a holiday (at least for some!). 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thanks-living: The Drain is Clogged.

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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It's raining lots in my offline, not-so-bloggy life lately. Not bad rain, just lots of rain, unexpected, wild, torrential rain full of watery goodness. It's refreshing and lovely -like most rain can be-, but there's no drain to stop me from getting all puffy and liquid-logged.

This overwatering consumes my mind and blocks my writing.

The rain looks like numbers and stats, like changes at work, like searching for a new home, like reading, reading, reading, like filling my calendar with lots of social things, like stress that keeps me up at night and preoccupied during the day. It's rain I'm not complaining about because I've always loved the rain.

But, when rain doesn't drain, I lose my shape. Like a sponge I get all engorged and eventually stinky. And lately, this content, feels engorged and stinky.

My job here, as blogger, writer, Mrs. T, is to deliver original, interesting, heartfelt content. My job in all of life, as Amber, Mrs. T, daughter of Him, is to deliver original, interesting, heartfelt content that glories Him. As of late, I've moved these two jobs in opposite directions because I want to be what you want to read. And that is where the drain was clogged.

The drain is filled with what I think you want, with the numbers that reflect your presence (or lack thereof), with stress over what's next. And, while your comments and page views bring me happiness, they don't bring me deep joy. 

I'm all wrinkled and soft like water-logging does. And my writing is growing to be the same. But, I've noticed it. Oh yes I have. That awareness comes with a realization that I must do my job not the job that others are doing. That in doing my job I'm different. And different is okay, is good, is me.

So, over the next few weeks I'll be unclogging the drain, wringing out my soaked self, and writing about what weighs on my heart. Not just about what you want, because, at the end of the day, it's not about you, it's about me. And Him. And us in His love. 

I'll be here, writing, present because, I believe, that's the best way to celebrate the rain: in the presence of others who are experiencing the same. And then when the sun breaks through those clouds it shall dry a bit and we'll celebrate that too. Because that's what we're working to be skilled at: celebrating our present circumstance.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Should I Stay? Or Should I Go?

Sometimes I wonder when I'll leave here. Here being my soapbox on the inter-webs. I wonder when my focus will be so centered on my family and my life outside of this place that online won't be manageable or interesting anymore. When life will be so vibrant and wild that time spent sitting, typing to online strangers and friends, posting pictures and snippets of life will look pale and pasty in comparison.

I wonder if that will be sad. That movement away from the online and into real life. Will it feel like a small loss? Or will I just feel like a winner? Like I'm winning because it means more time with my family? Will it feel relieving to not fuss over content again and again and again? Will it feel slower and more relaxing on my mind? Or will I long for it deeply and whole-heartedly?

Sometimes I do wonder about leaving, about falling silent, and what that'd look like. Part of this, lately, has been because there's big changes going on personally. Changes I love and am excited about, but change is always a bit stressful regardless of the fun involved. So, I think, what will ripples will a home make in the Mr. Thomas and Me space? And then, one day, what will a child or four do to this place? And I want to plan that out. Right now.

Just like I want to plan months and months of quality content and lovely photos and sponsor shout-outs. My mind races about all the things I've got to do to keep this moving in the right direction, though, I've started to put pressure on myself to do better, to write faster, to be stronger.

Then I'm reminded to be here. Right now. With you. Without kids. With Mr. Thomas and his love and support. Without a list of extremely original content. With our changing lives but my need to write. And I realize I want to continue to share. I don't long for more privacy, less friendship, more time, less words and responsibility. I do know, I won't do this forever -at least I don't think I will. And, I'm happy about the way life morphs and transforms and changes our hearts and priorities.

As for now, I'll ride it out, enjoy my writing, enjoy your reading, stop thinking about the end and what that'll look like because I want to live in the RIGHT NOW. Live with me? Remind me to stay here, stay now please.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

#sayyesproject: Racer-Girl Edition

Welcome, welcome, welcome my lovely YES sayers! Today marks another day of sharing our out on a limb YES moments from the last month. Please stay tuned until the end and then share your own moment with us.

Mr. Thomas and Me
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Last month Mama Bird and I said YES to running our small town's Third Annual Half Marathon. Seemed like a piece of cake through the beautiful wine country under skies filled with weekend hot air balloon tours. Then, we got to Mile Five. 

But first, the back story. We are runners at heart. Both of us believe that hitting the road is what keeps our legs toned, our hearts strong, and our minds sane. So we run and run and run. And we did a dozen races together sharing in our love for said sport. But when Popsicle got sick, the running took a dive and races were out of the question. So, we took a pause. 

Then after moving him out and settling into a new routine at home, we realized we had more time to hit the road. And we did just that. Our times got better, our distances grew larger, and our legs stronger. Then, in August I got this wild idea to hit the race course again. And where better to do so than home. Which is just what we did. 

I signed myself up. Then texted her something like: "You've got to say yes." And she did. Because that's what we do. 

October rolls around and it's time. We don our matching outfits right about dawn and head out to the start. Where we get the quick photo-op before the starting gun sounds. Then, we run. 
We ran 13.1 miles to be exact. 13.1 miles of HILLS upon HILLS upon HILLS. I wanted to walk. The deepest parts of me just wanted to drag my feet slow and angry-like up and down at least a few of the hills. But, Mama Bird wasn't letting me fall behind. And, her desire to do THIS DAMN THING together begged me to say YES to my determination and NO to my tired beyond belief legs. 
We said YES to taking pictures and to stopping and enjoying the scenery. And by scenery, I mean the miniature pony named Sparticus that was hanging out along the course to cheer our tired asses on. I do believe he has a little smirk on his face that says, "suckers."  
Near the finish we saw Jason and Miah waiting to cheer us on... And the best part of the race, getting Miah to say YES to finishing alongside us. The last major hill was conquered in a team of three and he looked like a champ doing it (in his Oklahoma City Thunder gear). 
The finish was glorious and exciting and couldn't have come soon enough. And a race photographer caught the best running picture of us to date. Despite the shopping fast, I said YES I need this sweet picture of Mama Bird and I. The picture where we look like mirrors crossing over a finish line in the dust and vineyards of our beloved wine country. And, it's lovely. 

Our legs were shot and our tummies were grumbling as we walked ourselves through the wine garden towards our car. But, our hearts were proud of the accomplishment of the race. At mile eleven we'd resolved we could walk the MAJOR mile twelve hill and come to terms with how tired we were. We ran and ran and ran wishing for that little sign that would tell us we're in the approved walking area when suddenly mile thirteen's sign appeared. YES ONCE AGAIN! 
The best YES of the day was breakfast with a dear friend who's turned our running duo to a triad. She cheered us on at the finish (and snapped some precious pictures of us) then guzzled down mimosas with us at the local diner. All friends need a friend who can do the same for them: appreciate the run, celebrate with fun. 
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And, if this month didn't have a new and exciting (though it can be small) YES, 
please join us next month on Tuesday, December 3rd for the next #sayyesproject link-up. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thanks-living: My Blate with Always Ashten

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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I've read many a time about the magic of meeting online friends offline. How "blates" are dreams come true filled with giggles and cocktails and happy pictures. I never imagined myself on one. Until Saturday. 

Ya'll are faithful enough readers that you're surely aware of the day I spent in sunny California with Ashten. But, let me tell you about this girl in REAL LIFE because as great as she is online, the person I got to spend my afternoon sharing coffee and cocktails with is better than your blogging bud. 

First, this girl's got awesome taste in cocktails. Have you heard of a Moscow Mule? Because I hadn't until yesterday. And now it'll be my go-to drink for days! We got to do blog talk over nachos, tacos, and mules in the beautiful southern California sun... A dream come true. As much as our friendship started in Blogland, we spent so much time talking life outside of it -an experience I never thought I'd have. 

Second, her Vlog-Boss-Ship is FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC. Like watching (and participating) with her vlogging process is like magic. While I video the same thing twelve times over before it's acceptable, this girl gets it right THE FIRST TIME. Next time Los Angeles news needs a new anchor I know who I'm submitting for consideration.

Anyways, we did as all great bloggers do and grabbed some red-cup Buckies while we talked through our Vlog. Because, when there's two bosses vlogging (one who's hardly a boss) you've got to make a plan Stan. Never had I ever imagined myself sitting in a Starbucks talking to a computer with another woman about animals, cocktails, make-up, and guys. But I did with little to no embarrassment. 
I didn't imagine I'd laugh so hard (and make such absurdly unattractive faces) with Ashten, but I did. And she did too. We vlogged like bosses answering questions you submitted... Something I, too, couldn't have dreamed up. YOU CARE WHAT MY SPIRIT ANIMAL IS?!? YOU WANT TO KNOW MY FAVORITE BEAUTY PRODUCT?!? People, you are way too kind

We rocked the socks off your questions and then some. And here's proof we're on our way to you... TOGETHER. Please check out Ashten's spot tomorrow for the #sayyesproject vlog I'm telling you about so lamely... My words just don't do the whole thing justice. 
Then it was time for cocktails with some of Ashten's friends. You know how they say you are who you hang out with? Well, this girl's hysterical as are her girls. She's a welcoming spirit with an open-book approach to life which delivers a breath of fresh air. And, she's got awesome taste in sunglasses and really pretty hair.

Another first for this girl: parking in the electric vehicle ONLY spot. Picture a grid-locked parking lot filled to capacity with cars circling like vultures hoping for a shred of roadkill. Then we swoop down like the honorable, earth-loving hawk that we are and swoop so gingerly into the EV spot since I was driving Mr. T's electric vehicle for the day. Hallelujah!
Excuse the terribly blurry picture, but I was THAT happy. Forget standing still in the frame, I just want people to see me, little old me, parking in an electric vehicle spot! 

Moral of this post: I'm thankful for Ashten. I'm thankful for blates. I'm thankful for Moscow Mules and tacos. I'm thankful for electric vehicles and special EV parking. I'm thankful for a fun day with my first online friend gone real life friend. I'm thankful for senses of humor and no awkward moments. I'm thankful for vulnerability and honesty in real life. 

And, MOSTLY I'M THANKFUL SHE WASN'T A CATFISH (although I'd love to meet Nev and Max).
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Before you go:
Are you ready for the #sayyesproject going up tomorrow?!? 
I can hardly handle my excitement. Want to know why? 
Because I can't wait to read your stuff this month. Slash, I have something cool to share. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thanks-living: The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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You read that right. Coochie, as in vagina. Snorcher, as in snorcher. 

One time in college I was in a play. It was a friend who read a poster about auditions for the Vagina Monologues and then dared me to try out. Mostly because, I refuse to leave a good dare unfulfilled. 

One sunny San Diego morning I dragged my shy self out to auditions where I sat and waited for my turn. I stood in front of five women who had a passion for the Monologues and women and vaginas. I read my lines in my sweetest of Texas accents. I said, "Thank you for this experience." And I checked the dare off my list of life accomplishments.

One busy Thursday evening, I got a call. A call from one of those five passionate women that said, "You have been cast as our Coochie Snorcher." Short of speech (something I rarely am), I thanked her. We ended the call and I about died. 

Two Sunday mornings later I met in a room with 35 women who were making this Vagina Monologues happen. Half were actors (dare I call myself that), the other half stage crew and marketing. I sat amongst the women and wondered, "WHO AM I?" 

One February Friday just after Valentine's Day, I took the stage in my black and red. I delivered my monologue about a vagina for ten minutes in front of the man who I had barely just met. 

One February Sunday just after Valentine's Day, I celebrated closing night with those 35 women. We hooted and hollered about the three sold out shows, about the thousand plus people who now knew Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues. We patted each other on the back for our bravery and our bravado.

One Saturday in November several years later, I miss that first time I took the stage. Though I was terrified and full of nerves for days leading up to show weekend, the adrenaline you feel as you deliver those lines as you embody a character so not your own as you bow to the applause impressed with your feat is indescribable. 

I hadn't done a play before the Coochie Snorcher and I haven't done one since. It's a feather I wear proudly in my cap. It taught me I can do hard things and say hard things and feel hard things all while in the eyes of a crowd. 
And some fun for the road. This is one of Jason and I's first pictures together after our closing show. I was on an adrenaline high with all of my family there so the smile is a bit over the top with excitement. Don't we look like babies? And by we, I mean, mostly him. 
Want to check out my monologue? You can find it delivered by an extremely talented woman. It's from this video that I memorized my lines and began to understand the emotion behind the piece. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thanks-Living: A Person, A Ma'am, A Tattoo

This is a post in the Thanks-Living series on Mr. Thomas and Me. It is a part of Chasing Happy's #thankfulproject. From November 1st until Thanksgiving day we will be living an attitude of thanks. One that seeks gratefulness in all days and all things. Should you care to join, you can find the prompts here
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It all started with a confession. "Sorry, I was just staring at your arm." 

I look up to see a woman. A random woman. Mid-forties. Shorts, hoodie, blonde hair in a ponytail. Non-descript in all regards. Other than the way she addressed me in the shampoo aisle of our local Target. 

Oh, this arm ma'am. The one with the tattoo. Yes, this is my arm ma'am. Free for all to see. 
"Yes, why'd you go and ruin yourself like that?" 

Ma'am, respectfully, I went and ruined myself like that to remind myself of the faith that didn't allow dementia and loss to ruin me. I went and ruined myself as a memory of not being ruined. I went and ruined myself as a bold statement to keep my eyes on the prize. 

Yes, ma'am, you call it ruin. I call it art. 

Ma'am, you are the first person to say it's not beautiful. And I believe you're the first to see nothing but ruin. Because, though it's not for everyone, though it's large and bold and demanding of attention, it's also meaningful and beautiful and excruciatingly thought out. 

Yes, ma'am, you call it damage. I find myself saved in it. 

Ma'am, I share this cross with two other men -my dying dad and my beloved brother. Those birds, they are sparrows, and they remind me of God's presence in the life of all things. The roses, they're simply beautiful and feminine, like me -despite women like you who tell me differently. The hummingbird, that's for my Mama Bird, the woman who taught me life can look a million different ways, but never is it impossible. 

Yes, ma'am, it's not your style. But ma'am, it's not your body. 

Ma'am, I call it a tattoo. You call it an eyesore. Let's simply avert our eyes and avoid one another. Because if you haven't got anything nice to say, why say anything at all? Maybe, just maybe, America needs less opinion and more respect because our differences make us interesting, not worthy of judgment. America's got to be more like a resume -strength found in being well-rounded- instead of like an encyclopedia -wishing to categorize everything and everyone. 

Yes ma'am, you call it ruin. I call it life. 

Ma'am, your challenge caught me off guard. And at first you, honestly, offended me with your candid statement. Then, I remembered that I walk around with my Honorable Thomas pants on reminding anyone who isn't doing it my way that they are less than me. When, in fact, we're all equal and different and strong. That's what makes us lovely and life interesting, ma'am. 

So, ma'am, call it what you will, but I love my ruins. 

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