The Baseball Mom Rules

Our baseball season just wrapped up, much differently than we expected or hoped.  Drew watched the last game from the dugout, with an injured knee, … [Continue Reading]

greatestplayer

In the Storm

We're in a Tropical Storm right now here in Florida, with enough rain to make you think to build an ark and enough wind to blow you over.  Except … [Continue Reading]

florida

Miracle in Ohio

This has been the most exciting week in a long time in the world of missing persons.  Not only did a long time missing loved one come home, but three … [Continue Reading]

Austin

The Roller Coaster Ride

It's not unusual for a year to go by with nothing new to report on in our search for Austin.  That's true of most of us with a cold case missing … [Continue Reading]

search truck

Choosing Joy

A few days ago I wrote half a blog post that I couldn't get finished for some reason.   I was reminded of it this morning, how I'd written about … [Continue Reading]

choosingjoy

Sunrise, Sunset

Up until relatively very few years ago, people believed that everything revolved around the Earth.  The reason that Galileo was not just laughed at, … [Continue Reading]

sunrisesunset

Showing Up

A few weeks ago marked the annual “worst week” for us, which is the week 7 year ago that started with such joy, and ended with such heartbreak.

7 years ago, a little boy was turning 4 and celebrating with people who loved him, with cake and swimming and toys. The world was perfect that afternoon. One of his favorite gifts was a big green dinosaur that moved and roared, from his Uncle Austin. He was excited most of all to be going on a trip away from mom and dad for the first time, heading to the beach with his beloved Nina.

The trip was cut short, the beach had to wait, as he and his Nina rushed back to help find Austin.

This year, that little boy turned 11 and he celebrated with people who loved him, with cake and swimming and electronics, and a carbon copy 4 year old brother. The world was almost perfect for an afternoon. He slid down roller coaster type water slides, posted photos on his new Instagram account from  his new phone, and stuffed his face with pizza. He was excited about his baseball trip the next weekend, ready to hit the clay.

But before that trip, he helped welcome his Nina back, as she came to help find Austin.

So much the same.

7 years ago, friends and family rallied beside us, determined to help find him. Now, in all honesty, most of those who knew Austin don’t show up anymore. But more people than we ever could have asked for, that never knew Austin, do show up. They showed up in large groups, from all over the Southeast (and a few even further).

And the same story was told over and over. They showed up, because my mom shows up. She showed up and sat with them on the side of the interstate while their son was pulled from the water. She showed up and wouldn’t go home when planned, because they needed her. She showed up and handed out tough love, pushing searchers hard. She showed up and was cut and bruised and swelling and kept going.

There is so much to be said for showing up.

This group stood together, on the side of a busy road and hugged and cried and loved. They showed up. For my mom and for Austin. For Rosemary and her family. For Mark and Bryan and their families. For Josh and his family. For John and his family. For the others represented there that night.

vigil

And then they searched.

For 2 days, in 100 heat index weather, in long pants and long sleeves and boots, with short breaks for water and snacks.

Including my mom.

jester_mom

And we reached the end of this part of the journey. Austin wasn’t brought home. And that creates more questions than answers. It felt like our story of the search for Austin was coming to an end. But instead, it was the end of what we know to do for now.

I don’t know what’s next. Before I even thought about it, we needed to go enjoy some family time and be reminded of all the joy there still is. We cheered on Drew in baseball. We swam in freezing springs. We listened to bullfrogs and crickets and horses. We reconnected with friends and twirled sparklers on a beach in the dark.

We celebrated summer like we didn’t get to 7 years ago.

We won’t ever stop searching. We won’t ever stop yearning for answers. We won’t ever stop aching with miss.

But we’ll keep showing up. For me, that mostly means showing up for my kids. Because they deserve summers full of all the things my brother and I enjoyed.

And I’ll keep hearing his laugh, knowing that we haven’t lost all of him.

IMG_4962

___________________________________________________________

What’s keeping you from showing up in areas you maybe should? For hurting friends, for fast growing kids, for yourself.

Showing up can look like many different things. It can look like a hug, a text, a card. It can look like a freshly mowed yard, a plate of cookies or an afternoon entirely dedicated to them.

Something is coming to mind- somewhere you need to show up.

Show up. Celebrate. Laugh. You won’t get today back.

 

 

 

Things that Matter

I get overwhelmed with this writing thing often. A few years ago, when I started, I didn’t have any real goals but to share my heart and search for Hope with you all. I got lost in trying to find my audience and caring if you showed up and read my words and wondering where this would go and learning how to make a better site and questioning if it mattered and comparing my words to others, my story to others.

I’m not getting anywhere I want to go fast enough. Or maybe at all.

And then I get overwhelmed with all the things I want to say, all the things that need to get done, the feelings of it not mattering anyway, and so I don’t. And that’s why it’s been too long since I’ve shared here. Cause my life and my thoughts and my feelings are messy.

But I’m here.

Because it does matter. Not because I’m of any significant importance- but because we all are, and because the stories of all of us matter. And I want to keep hearing yours.

Oh, and the revelation of the day for me? (And yes, this is one of those that I think God keeps revealing to me over and over and must frustrate Him sometimes.) There is no fast enough, there is no timeline. There is today, and what I can do with that. He’s got plenty of time to use me and love me, and let me do the same for others.

Today I’ll beat myself up a bit less over my time away and release the pressure valve that says I’m not getting “there” fast enough, and just hang out with you here. Because really, there is no “there”- it’s just simply “here now.”

Do you believe any of these crazy lies, like that your voice doesn’t need to be heard? It does my friend, it does.

StoriesthatMatter

 

3 Years & 167 Posts

I just realized that I recently passed the 3 year mark of writing and sharing here.

It was a crazy idea at first, one I toyed with for some time. Who would care to read what I said? Did I have enough to say to bother? Was I brave enough to share?

It turns out that some of you do read and care, I have a lot to say, and no- I’m not that brave and have to push through a lot of fears as I write. But it’s been good. Really good.

I think about shutting it down a lot, or letting it fade into oblivion. But tonight, there’s this kid, sitting beside me working on a speech that he’s to give to his class tomorrow. And he’s sharing about his Uncle. He didn’t have to choose that, and he’s fought through some emotions as he dug into the details and thought through what he wanted to say.

But he wants to tell about Austin, and said it’s okay that it’s hard.

It’s okay for things to be hard.

It’s okay to slow down and take breaks, but eventually I come back. Because it’s hard, but because it’s good. Good to be here, good to share here, good to be with you.

Over time, this has become more about our family, and as Michael’s health has worsened, it’s had a lot more focus there than I thought it would. But the intent is still the same- to share our world and our challenges, to show you where we find Hope, so that no matter what darkness you go through, you can find it too.

Not much has changed, yet quite a lot has in 3 years and 167 posts.

 

3 years & 167 posts

 

A Moment to Remember

We all need more moments like these. Or at least I know I do.

Complete abandon, going down screaming with joy, one hand raised in the air in triumph, with no concern about what’s at the bottom.

Have one of those moments today.

Let’s do it.

Ben_slide

Not Our Ending [and wondering if there ever will be one]

I read things from all these brave people, who put their heart and emotions out there like gifts, for people who need to hear them, to know that their own emotions and shortcomings and failures are no worse than anyone else’s. I read them and I break. Because I measure out what I share in very tiny doses. I compartmentalize and bottle up. And almost two years into this journey of sharing my words here, I still am terrible at it.

So I’ll try to tell you about it. About this week, about another search for Austin, about walking away again empty handed.

It started almost two years ago really- back in August of 2012- when Monica Caison, the CUE Center for Missing Persons founder had a few days of not being able to stop thinking about Austin and where he was. She had images in her head of an area that matched the description of where we grew up. My mom had always thought that area was too far away from where he last was and didn’t make much sense as an option. I always thought it did. I’ve even had dreams over the years that we find him there. The only other area that we felt strongly about has been covered so many times, and that was all that really seemed left.

And in January of 2013, a small search took place. (You can read about it here) Much of the area was under water, and there were areas that really needed to be cleared to be able to fully search. It was swamp like and forest like, all at the same time. So the decision was made to come back at a later time, with equipment and more people, when it was also dry.

Then, 15 months went by. 15 months is a long time when you’re trying to stay hopeful that answers will come one day. It’s times like that where I start feeling like we’ll never know, and we’ll never bring him home. Where it feels like the positive outlook I’m constantly trying to keep up is crumbling. I tread very lightly and don’t ask often, because it’s a lot different when your mom is also a searcher.

But finally, a few weeks ago I got a call that they were coming back.

A group of people that we love and respect so very much arrived on Tuesday. These are the toughest women (and one man) that you’ll ever meet. They come from all walks of life, and from different areas around our state. They are a force that can’t be matched. Including my Mom.

But, it’s Spring in Florida, and the area that wasn’t covered previously due to how thick and wet it was was even more wet than before. And no less thick. So though some areas were researched, some are still undone. The team and their caravan of equipment, dogs and searchers kept on though, researching other areas that had always concerned us, and some that never seemed likely to me.

And left empty handed once again.

They worked hard, sacrificing time and money and emotions that they could have easily spent elsewhere. When I say they are heroes, it’s only because I don’t know a bigger word. I stood with them and laughed and shared and could not possibly have any more respect for them.

But yet, here we are.

And for one of the first times ever on this journey, I’m out of hope.

That’s the raw truth. I can no longer envision how this story ends, how I help someone else going through darkness with the hope that I know is true. I can no longer picture a service where we finally get to say goodbye and honor his life.

I’ve always said that Hope wasn’t about an outcome, but about knowing that good can come in any darkness, and we’re not alone. I know that’s true. I know that God isn’t limited in how He uses us, requiring a bow on a story. But how I wanted that.

Not the happy ending, but some ending.

Today hurts. Tomorrow will be better.

Thank you for loving us, for showing us Hope in human form, for searching with us or praying with us or feeding us or laughing with us.

 Tomorrow will be better.

trees_sun

monica_mom

outofthewoods

From the Heart of a 10 year old as we Search for His Missing Uncle

I don’t know what to add to that.

Except to please pray for him too.

Car Conversations & 90′s Rap

This past weekend I spent a good deal of time in the car with Drew, on our way to or from baseball fields. (Between our family there were 6 games, 1 photo session and 1 Tryout this weekend!)

I don’t usually have that much time alone with him with little for him to do but talk to me, so I cherish those moments I do have. I remember that when I was growing up, drive time was often when the most important things were discussed. And when there was nothing important to discuss, we talked about all the things that didn’t seem important at the time but were investments in us, that showed they cared. We also listened to a lot of music and sang along loudly.

So today we do the same with our kids. But these days our songs of choice are 90′s rap. {Don’t judge.}

Some of our conversations this weekend were funny. Some were sad. Hopefully all helped build him.

Here’s a recap:

Discussion about hitting. And how you must swing the bat if you’re going to get a hit.

Requests for chicken nuggets, reminding me that he’s no longer filled by the kids meals.

Letting him know that a search team was coming this week to again look for Austin.

Letting him know that this search is focused on remains, because that’s what we can search for. And what’s likely.

Why people commit suicide, and why I don’t like using the word “commit” like it’s a crime.

How his Uncle Austin would he think he’s really cool. Especially with the long hair that Austin often sported too.

Discussion about hitting. And how you must swing the bat if you’re going to get a hit.

Update on what his coach told his team- including “most of you are weird.”

Mistakes are okay. Repeating the same mistakes over and over means you’re not learning.

Singing and dancing in the car. To 90′s rap.

Talking about the play he’s in, and how cool it’s going to be to watch him sing and act on stage.

How proud we are of the big brother he is. But also how he can relax and let us parent.

That baseball isn’t everything. But we love watching him do something he loves.

Discussion about hitting. And how you must swing the bat if you’re going to get a hit. (And how that’s true in life too)

Singing and dancing in the car. To 90′s rap.

 

Those are the moments that hopefully help build him as he faces life. And hopefully even helps prepare him as the searchers roll in tomorrow.

I’d tell you about Ben’s part in them- but that mostly involves jokes about eating your own eyeballs, crushing the ball (hitting), and how Bulldog Frenchie is his best friend. Not sure about that kid.

Pray for us all this week. I’m not sure any of us have enough of those building moments to make weeks like this be easy. Weeks where we don’t know quite what to hope for and quite what to fear, because they’re all one and the same.

 

swing

 

 

 

 

 

The Girls We Once Were

I remember us. Do you?

Young and beautiful and free.

Dancing, and jumping and twirling and laughing.

Do you remember that time we drew a circle of onlookers as we showed our skills on the makeshift stage at the roller rink?

Do you remember the time we played in the dark, hiding from the neighbor boys in a game that could have lasted all night?

Do you remember the time we rode our bikes to the drugstore and bought sodas and felt so grown up?

Do you remember the night we swam and ran on the beach at what seemed like midnight, but was really just past dark?

Do you remember when we earned those high scores after flipping and leaping and spinning till we hurt?

Do you remember when we planned snacks to share in class, with our teacher just shaking his head at us?

Do you remember when we planned for you to go to school with me in the 3rd grade and somehow pulled it off?

Do you remember when we worse sweats and ponytails because we didn’t care what anyone thought?

Do you remember when we didn’t know that friendships could end?

Do you remember when we didn’t know that our loved ones could be lost?

Do you remember when we believed we could do anything?

I remember us. Do you?

But we were told we might get hurt. We learned that scary things came in the dark. We learned that our bodies could fail us. We learned that people could hurt us. We learned that there were limits. We learned that friends moved on or away. We learned that those we love could be gone in a moment.

We learned there were limits. And we shrank back.

But only for a time.

We learned that hurt could make us stronger. We learned that we could be the light in the dark. We learned that our bodies could give life. We learned that we could love deeper than we ever thought. We learned that friendship can last years and miles. We learned that our memories can last.

We learned that the limits were meant to be broken through.

And now…

The girls we once were look so much like the women we are now.

I remember us. Do you?

 

{My post is dedicated to the beautiful girls who have become even more beautiful women who helped shape my life.}

This post is part of Story Sessions’ The Girls We Once Were linkup. I was inspired by the words there, and wanted to join. Read more of them, or add your own.

aalittle

Good News for Failures

I have said more that a few times that my son is uncoachable.

He listens intently, tries his best to do what he’s instructed, and picks up on things pretty well. He’s a smart ball player, who can take the things he’s told and translate them to the play.

Until he makes a mistake and a coach corrects him.

Sometimes it’s just correction in the form of what to do next time, and sometimes it’s a good old fashioned ass chewing. When he was a younger player, there wasn’t so much of that. But now that he’s one  of the most experienced players on a travel team, more is expected. And the intensity of the corrections is much greater. But as soon as that happens, he gets very defensive, and stops hearing what the correction was and only hears the tone and emotion. He ends up only focusing on the negative, instead of the opportunity to do better.

And as I stood by the field last week and had that thought again, it dawned on me that it’s a confidence thing- that he truly feels that if someone critiques something he does, they are critiquing him. And he feels that if they are critiquing him, that he’s a failure or they don’t like him, or he isn’t worthy at all. All because of being called out on one thing.

After thinking all that, my next thought was this- CRAP. That’s what I do. That’s me.

It’s all or none. Love me or hate me, accept me or reject me, all is good or none is good. But that’s not life. That’s not real.And that confidence issue, of not being able to see mistakes for what they are, causes me a lot of pain. Because I get defensive, feel attacked before anyone speaks a word, and feel like I’ve failed.

Maybe you have that challenge too. Of feeling like any mistake is a failure. Of feeling like one mistake makes you not worthy. Or one mistake may make someone not love you.

There’s good news.

failures

 

You’re loved. You’re worthy. You’re coachable. It’s okay.

Coaching helps us grow and learn. Coaching helps us be the best us.

It’s so easy to remind my son of that. Not so easy to remember myself. Let’s work on that together.

 

You Know You’re a Working Mom When… Beautiful Realities

I recently read this post that all working moms can relate to. It’s pretty good. I think the author, Rebecca Rose, and I could be fast friends. We could sit over a cup of coffee, or better yet a glass of wine, and connect.

She so vividly and accurately wrote of the challenges and heartaches of a working mom. (and please, oh my gosh please don’t let this turn into a battle of how you define ‘working’- for purposes here, it means a full time employed outside the home mom.) She made my heart ache a bit.

And she concluded with encouraging words to us, that despite it all we’re doing okay. But I got to thinking…. sometimes as Moms, we focus on the challenges and let the guilt build, and forget to see the amazing things too. So go read that and you’ll see some truth. But there is more truth.

Beyond the ugly realities, here are some beautiful realities.

You Know You’re a Working Mom When….

Your  kids know that your time is scarce and the time you set aside for them alone is even more precious and tells them how much you love them.

You Know You’re a Working Mom When….

You gladly use your vacation and sick time anytime possible to see their school awards, nurse them to health or visit their class, because you’d rather be there for them during those times than anywhere else.

You Know You’re a Working Mom When….

Your kids introduce you to the friends you don’t know well, telling them about how you help people, build cool things or are in charge of a big department. No professional award can measure up to that.

You Know You’re a Working Mom When….

Your kids never question their ability to grow up and be anything they want to be, including a SAHM.

You Know You’re a Working Mom When….

You learn to use the short special moments to their fullest- the car ride and bedtime are your greatest multitasking achievement of the day- pairing a necessary task with investing in your relationship.

You Know You’re a Working Mom When….

You’re teaching your kids that you’ll do anything for your family, including be away from them all day if needed.

 

Our experiences are all different, our reasons for either staying home or working away from home all being different. Me? I’d always pursue a career, but might do it differently if I had it 100% my way. Many of my mom friends feel the same.

There are beautiful realities in any circumstance. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of them.