Meditation for Beginners

Meditation is an art, a long-standing practice that originated with someone very wise I’m sure. The ability to center one’s self, to breathe deeply and live fully in the moment is a skill that takes practice. I have visions of mastering this art, and being able to simply be still. Not just my body, but also my mind. To pray fully focused on my intent, to write fully focused on what I’m trying to convey, or to even play with my boys without wondering how quickly I can jump to the next thing.

If you arrived here hoping to find an expert, you’re so out of luck. I was tortured this morning with about 20 minutes of time in a dark room, in a fairly comfortable position, with therapy treatments happening on my back. 20 minutes with no phone, no books, no voices, no distractions. Just me and God time. Or it could have been me and me time. But instead it was me and God time for about 30 seconds at a time, broken up by moments of lost train of thoughts, knees begging to be cracked, a phone buzzing to be checked, before I’d come back to my prayer. I should be enjoying these moments of quiet, with nothing to do but heal and be still.

Instead, I’m searching for a book that must exist, Meditation for Beginners (or Dummies).

In the meantime, here are some things I’m trying, to help me find if there’s a hope for me in this mess of a mind.

– Accepting that for 20 minutes, three times a week, my only activity is being still.
– Putting the phone down more. I won’t likely ever be the person that forgets where their phone is for a day. It’s too much a part of my job and my goals with writing. But I can give my kids my full attention for more than 30 seconds at a time and just be there. (I wish this one wasn’t so hard)
– Just write. Many times I have too many thoughts and ideas flying around and can’t seem to get organized and settled enough to share them. I’m pushing myself to just start writing, and worry about editing later. It’s okay if it’s a mess.

 meditation

The biggest challenge of being still is the thoughts that come that you’d rather not face. Just a week or so away from the 6th anniversary of the last day we saw Austin, thoughts of him come often. Which lead to thoughts of our search and the lack of progress, which lead to thoughts of hopelessness. I wish that thoughts of Austin could ever just be the good memories, but I’m not sure that’s possible. So I don’t welcome the good memories as much either, because they turn into painful ones.

Thankfully, the painful thoughts usually turn to thoughts of hope and images of what the day will look like when we finally know. I still believe that it will be another painful time, one of grieving or more questions, because no matter the result there will be that. But I know who will be standing by our side, who will help shine Hope into the darkness, and know that God will use people like us to keep shining it for others.

But my best chance of shining that light is if I can be present and put all my energy into one thing for those moments I have. So, if you know of a book like Meditation for Beginners, or Meditation for Dummies, let me know!

Milestones

Almost two years ago I started writing this blog, quite unsure of where it might go, if I’d keep it up and how much I’d really be able to share.  I had no real goals for it, besides being an outlet to share my story of losing Austin and our search for him, but also of my ongoing healing process.

Two days ago my blog hit a pretty big milestone, of having 10,000 page views (not counting my own, thank you).  For any noteworthy blogs, that’s a number they hit each day, so I realize it’s a very small number really.  But for me it’s big- it’s taken a lot of courage for me to write, and to ask others to read.  Each time I write I begin to question if what I said has any value in being put out there, if I’ve revealed too much, if I’ve painted to rosy a picture, if I’ve said anything that might help anyone.  So for someone have taken time to look at something I wrote, 10,000 times, means to me that this is worthwhile and may help someone as much as it helps me.

Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, and thank you for encouraging me along the way.  Thank you.

I’m starting to set some goals, and starting to look into promoting this little project.  The views per post continue to grow, but if I’m to reach my real goal of sharing our story and our message of hope with a wider audience, I realize it takes more than just posting it.  But without your support, I never would have the courage to start trying to promote it, so again- thank you.

I care much less about the 10,000 than I do about the 1- the 1 who may read something they needed to read that day.  The 1 will always be my focus.

and p.s.  for my friends who long surpassed my little milestone, tips are welcome! 

Tornado Alley

Life is like a constant tornado right now.  We have a two year old human tornado that does more damage than I ever remember his big brother doing, including:  “look at me!”  as he jumps from chair to couch to pile of folded towels that go flying.  Then there’s the demanding job that has involved a lot of travel lately, sometimes making me feel like I’m blowing through places.  Commitments at church keep me hopping and spinning, always a few days behind.  And then there’s baseball.  Travel baseball is not for the weak mom.  The time commitment alone makes my head spin, and when you combine that with the challenges of helping your kid deal with the pressure, you’re dealing with other parents that you’d like to forget, and still trying to balance the rest…. well, life feels like a tornado and I’m getting blown every which way. 

In trying to stay grounded and take a few deep breaths I had this vision of what Austin would be doing in response to my spinning.  It’s almost like I can see him there, sitting in a chair in my living room, with a sly smile on his face.  Sitting back and watching it all, and laughing.  Laughing at me, laughing at my boys, laughing at the tornado.  I’m trying to do that a bit more, just enjoy it.  Just laugh.

As I reflect and enjoy more and get carried away less, here are some thoughts to share, that Austin would probably approve of.

– It’s a season of life, this fast pace won’t last forever and I’ll miss knocked over piles of towels and clay from cleats on my floors.

– The job is a job.  It’s a good one, one I usually enjoy.  It pays the bills, it lets me see a few sights, and I work with a lot of people I care about.  At the end of the day, if I gave my best and know I acted in a way I wouldn’t want to hide, I can smile and leave.  And try again tomorrow.  If this job ends, there will be another.  But learn all I can now.

– Baby steps toward goals are okay, they’re steps.  This past month I took a few pretty big steps towards my goal of sharing the real message of Hope with people.  More about that to come, but I’m so excited.  And I’m not going to worry about how many steps I didn’t take. 

– The contentment of knowing real friends is a comfort like no other, even when the tornado is whirling and you’ve lost sight of them momentarily in the wind.  The rest of the people?  Love ’em, but don’t let them hurt you.  I do NOT have this one nailed!  But I’m working on it.  The people who repeatedly hurt you are those you need to forgive but let go.

At my wedding, 2001

Austin had these concepts down pretty well for most of his life.  It’s part of why I hate depression so much- it robbed him of the ability to be the real him, the one who could laugh through it all, and always know what really mattered.

Sometimes the advantage of the tornado is you don’t have time to stop and miss…. I miss him today.  Maybe the tornado isn’t all bad.   

A Boy Named Austin

Austin

Austin is a fairly common name today, and we regularly meet kids named Austin, which always makes me pause for just a moment.  We know sweet kids and goofy kids, kids who make us laugh and kids we cheer for at baseball.

But besides my brother Austin, my favorite little guy named Austin is this one.  He’s a cutie!  He’s almost two.  We got to play with him and love on him a bit a few weeks ago, which is a treat because he lives in Oklahoma, far from us.

Matt and Austin

His Dad is one of my ‘other brothers’, those not made from blood but forged from years of being as close as family.  Matt is a great “kid”, that I remember asking 1,000 questions, loving animals to extremes, and then joining the Air Force and growing up before my eyes.  He and Austin were just a year apart, and also much like brothers.

Matt was very upset when Austin went missing, and called to check on progress or ask what he could do more than most .  It was always comforting to know that though I didn’t have my brother here, I had him checking in and knowing that someone else missed him too.

So when Matt and his wife were expecting their son, they asked about naming him for Austin…. though hard at first in a way, we knew we’d love this little guy and loved the honor.  I think my brother would love this kid, and would laugh at knowing someone had been named for him.  But knowing how much he cared for Matt, I know he’d be honored.

Thanks for sharing your Austin with us, we love him.

Ben and Austin

Five Years….

Five years ago today was the last time I saw Austin.  Five years ago tomorrow is the last time anyone we know of saw him or spoke with him.  It’s truly unbelievable.  Honest to God unbelievable.  As in, sometimes I have a moment of thinking I’ve made up this whole thing in my head and laugh at how crazy I am for making it up.  Then I remember it’s real.

I’ve been trying to think of how to express what I feel, and I’m still at a loss.  But this photo might tell it best.  I’m standing beside those I love, with the past in the near distance, and holding out that smiling face hoping that someone will see the color and the life and remember Austin.  It’s not that our lives are now in black and white- but that our lives are now a canvas for sharing our story of hope, and any talents that we have, for those who are hurting.    

I’m not sure if Austin being gone was truly God’s will, or if Austin being gone was God allowing Austin free will while working in it and through it regardless.  I’d rather him just be here.  I’d rather not have to explain what I feel on the anniversary of the last time I saw him.  I’d rather not say that I don’t recall what we said, what he wore, or if he was laughing or smiling.

I’d rather not have had my son mention yesterday, on his birthday, that five years is a long time and we don’t know if Austin is alive or not.  I’d rather Austin have just been here to help us celebrate.

We don’t have that choice, so instead we hold him out, hoping someone remembers.  And we hold our story and our talents out, hoping we can help others who are hurting.  We remember what’s behind us, but we focus forward. 

Now that I write this out, I do know how I feel today.  Mostly, I feel grateful….that I had a brother, and that there have been so many willing to share their hearts and their talents with us.  And that makes the hurt so much easier to share.

**I also want to thank a good friend for taking these photos that express today so much better than words could.  Talk about sharing your talent….  George Bass Photography

Day One

Two years ago I wrote about the day we realized Austin was missing. It was actually the day after his last known whereabouts, but we didn’t know that for a few more months.  I’ve already forgotten many of these details, and even what some of it felt like.  Remembering is painful, but remembering is good.  And since writing this I’ve come to understand how much sharing can help.  Both myself, and others who may need hope.  Thanks for taking this journey with us, all five years of it. 

Day 1
I often don’t remember details well.  I remember emotions, and I remember the overall feel of things, but not all the details.  But this day is different; this is a day I remember the details of. 
I went to work and had a normal day, nothing special.  I was wishing I was at the beach with my Mom and Drew, but was so glad he was spending time with family and knew he was loving it.  I missed him terribly, it was after all his first time away from us, but I was relaxed, knowing he was safe and I had a quiet house to head to.  But then my cell phone sounded with the ring tone of an unknown number.  I usually don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t know.  But something prompted me to pick it up- maybe it was the ease of the day, or maybe God prompted me.  
Later learned it was June 26

It was a voice I had heard once before, a voice to a face I had never seen.  But her voice, that call, would change everything.  It was Austin’s friend and co-worker (and more I would later learn), Kelly.  She was panicked sounding and said that Austin hadn’t shown up for work that day, and wouldn’t answer her calls.  She told me he had called in the day before and she hadn’t been able to get in touch with him since.  She said it was unlike him.  She said he had never just not shown up for work.  This was after all, a job he loved.   She said that I needed to call the police.  I told her I’d think about it, and would probably call.  I wasn’t sure I would, but wanted to calm her.  

    
I took it all in, with my mind quickly making up reasons why there was no cause for concern.  Sure I hadn’t seen him the night before or that morning, but he was an adult, I didn’t check in on him.  There was one moment of panic, that maybe he was in his room and was “gone”, the image of him with a gun flashing through my mind.  Michael was home, so I called him immediately.  I didn’t want him unprepared for what he may find, even as strong as he is.  So, I let him know about the call, and asked him to please check in the room.  I stayed on the phone, not breathing, but still driving down I-10 until he said “he’s not in there.”   But he also said that Austin’s computer was there.  Austin didn’t go many places without that.  His things all seemed to be there, no clothes missing, all 25 pairs of shoes in place (possibly an exaggeration, but he did love shoes).  
I called my mom, while still driving down I-10 and heading home, sure that I could piece the puzzle together and all would be fine.  I just needed to get home.  The closer I got, the faster I drove.  When my mom picked up, I quickly told her about the phone call.  It was another moment where I thought that it would become less real instead of more, after all, Mom solves everything.  Even when she doesn’t solve it, she brings rationale and helps you solve it.  I wish Mom could have solved this.  She stayed calm and asked questions, wanting to know all that Kelly told me, all that anyone knew.  There is a somewhat unfounded- okay, completely founded up until that time- thought in our family that I can’t handle difficult things.  It’s not that I can’t so much, as I just don’t.  I’ve always lived by a thought that if you ignore the issue, it may just go away.  Tasks and jobs I handle great, just once the decision of how to handle the issue is out of the way.  This is one of many things that has changed since Day 1.  
Mom and I discussed calling the police.  I had a strong belief that if I called and reported Austin missing, that he would come home in the middle of it, or shortly after, and be mad about it.  He would be mad that I thought he wasn’t responsible enough to handle himself, mad that we had looked through his things, mad that I had talked with Kelly.  Or laugh.  He laughed a lot.  I also had the completely untrue belief that most of the country has, that you need to wait 48 hours before law enforcement will take a missing persons report.  I have one other memory from years past, of a missing persons report trying to be filed on a loved one.  I recall police saying that it hadn’t been 48 hours, if they weren’t back by then, to call them (thankfully, they were found safe).  
Regardless, it was decided that we should call, and since he lived with me, I needed to be the one to do it.  I did some quick checking online as soon as I arrived home, and saw on the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office website that the person didn’t have to be gone 48 hours.  I also read that being suicidal was one of the possible reasons to get action quicker.  While I still wasn’t convinced, I called and said I needed to file a report.  
While waiting, I decided I needed to bite the bullet so to speak, and call my Dad.  I let him know what was going on, and he was immediately concerned and looking for something to do, something to help quickly solve the question of where he was.  I called my Mom back as well, letting her know I had called the police and would let her know what they said after.  She tried to stay calm, but I think it was tough.  I believe that they both had a similar reaction as I did- a bit of concern, but a belief that he would walk through the door shortly.  We all felt there was no real need to panic.  
The house was oddly quiet without the sound of the television or constant chatter and noises of Drew that normally filled the house.  There were no distractions, the house was very clean because we had just put it on the market to sell and had cleared all the clutter away.  I just waited.  
A uniformed officer arrived about an hour later.  I can clearly picture him standing, he refused the offer of a chair, which meant I stood also.  Michael paced around the house.  The officer stood at the end of my kitchen counter with his laptop turned away from me.  As soon as I gave the basic info, he pulled Austin’s information up and got wide eyed.  That alarmed me.  I remember telling the officer that I was aware that he had some outstanding tickets, and had a court date coming up for his recent arrest, but that it was all misdemeanor things.  I hoped I was right, hoped there wasn’t more we didn’t know about.  He confirmed for me that nothing serious was on his record, and nothing from the past week.  He had just been surprised at the number of tickets a 26 year old could accumulate, with several of them yet unpaid.   While the officer was nice, I instantly felt like he was being nice out of respect for me, while writing Austin off as a troublemaker.  
It was in the moment of the officer giving me the unsaid impression that he had no real concern, that it hit me- this was real, there was real reason for concern, Austin was gone.  I turned from being the passive report filer who thought there ‘may’ be a problem, to serious about it.  I gave the officer details of the recent discussions Austin had with Kelly, intent on convincing the officer that Austin was suicidal and they needed to take this seriously.  I gave him details of Austin’s life over the past three years, from breakup to job changes, to constant physical pain, all in an attempt to get the officer to understand.  As I convinced the officer, I convinced myself too.  Looking at just the facts, this could be bad.  Looking back, I had no idea how bad, no idea where this would lead and how our lives would change.  But at least I finally understood that it was real.  
The officer left after telling me that it would probably take about 10 days for a detective to be assigned to his case.  He emphasized that our family should take the lead in looking for him.  He suggested calling everyone we knew who he could have been in contact with, but not much else.  When he walked out of the door, while I still thought Austin may just show up, I knew we needed to start taking action.
Calls to the few contacts of Austin’s we had yielded nothing.  So Day 1 ended.  No one slept much in our family that night, or for many nights to come.  But, being the one person in the world who can sleep anytime anywhere, I did eventually drift off.  I woke repeatedly, always hoping I’d heard the lock turning, but never actually hearing it happen.  Michael stayed mostly quiet, but didn’t sleep much either.
The Early Weeks 
I won’t try to detail the steps and actions that everyone took.  There is so much that I won’t remember, or do justice.  I only know for sure, what happened from my perspective.  There were so many people involved, so many people that we will be eternally grateful to.  They may think they did no good because they didn’t find him.  They are wrong.  If you’re reading this and you helped in any small way, you did us a world of good.  You gave us hope.
By the morning after the report was filed, my Mom and a few family members from the Mexico Beach area (who had been gathered together for vacation) were on their way to my house.  By that morning, I also later learned that my Dad was tromping through woods all around my house.  Since Austin had been wandering in those wooded areas just days before, we all felt that if he had taken his life, that’s where he would be found.  No one wanted my Dad in the woods alone, his physical health wasn’t suited for it.  Thankfully, he had wonderful friends who stepped in and made sure he wasn’t alone after those initial hours.  We all knew that regardless of his health or physical ability, he would be there.  I loved him for that.  
Michael and I went to work, but he stayed as close to home as possible.  I tried to work, but I’m sure I wasn’t very productive.  I didn’t know what I should be doing, but I knew it wasn’t at the office.  But since I didn’t know what I should be doing, and I wasn’t comfortable asking for time off to search, I stayed.  I’m not sure if that’s a good thing that I was able to continue on, or maybe it shows my previously mentioned pension for ignoring issues.  But it’s what I did, right or wrong.  
My Mom, two aunts and two cousins arrived that evening.    It was so nice to see them, that for a few brief moments, I almost forgot why they were there.  These are women of action though, so they got to work.  A flyer was designed quickly and taken to a print shop for copies to be made.  Every taxi company in town was called since we believed he may have planned to take a taxi to take care of the tickets.  His room was searched.  Boy was that a mess.  I was actually pretty mad with him over that since we had just put the house on the market and his room was not ready for prime time, or even close.  So not only was it searched, it was cleaned.  Homeless shelters were called.  Hospitals were called.  Media outlets were called and sent flyers.  
Speaking of the media…. Ah, the media and the misconceptions that the public has about the media and how missing persons cases are presented to the public.  We quickly learned, much to our naïve surprise, that it was all about the ‘story’ and not much about the person.  Austin was a 26 year old male, and though he had a sweet baby face with dimples, wasn’t too much of a story.  So getting any coverage was very tough.  There are cases that the public becomes wary of, with children or young women constantly shown.  They may have interviews on all the national networks.  They may have signs made and displayed at businesses and churches.  Their family members may turn down requests for interviews because so many come in.  That wasn’t the case with us.  That isn’t the case with most missing persons, but especially men.  Our family, and so many more we’ve met, had to beg for coverage.  We literally begged reporters and producers to show Austin’s face.  Because we didn’t give up, we did get a few interviews and did get his face shown a few times.  We were fortunate, so many don’t.      
We weren’t getting any information from the calls being made, so we decided to start getting flyers out.  Austin’s friend Kelly stayed involved and got a friend to make many more copies of the flyer than we thought we’d need.  In those early days we thought this was a sprint, didn’t realize it was a marathon.  Oh how I laugh at our innocence now.  While Dad and others continued foot searches of the wooded areas, we took to the streets with flyers. 
We actually had fun, which I know sounds odd.  At one point, I was in a vehicle with my cousin Mark driving, and friends Bart and Jason with us.  We had grown up spending time together in the summer, playing till all hours of the night.  So we laughed together about old times, about funny memories, and more.  I spoke earlier of irrational fears, and another surfaced with the flyers.  I had a real fear of going in places and asking to hang a flyer.  It makes no sense, I have no idea what ‘terrible’ thing I thought might happen, but the thought of doing it made me queasy.  Thankfully, we had Bart with us.  Bart knows no stranger and I’m pretty confident, has no fears.  Our differences can be listed out for miles, but I appreciate that quality in him.  While we went one direction, others in mom’s family went other ways.  
While we did that, others were organizing more ground search help, primarily friends of my Dad.  Word was also starting to spread and friends had started to venture out into areas on their own.  Often, we didn’t even learn about that until much later.  Everyone who knew about it wanted to help.  For some reason, I kept it quiet with our circles, and I honestly don’t know why.  It might have been a belief that if I started telling people it would become more real.  I think it had more to do with being confident we’d find answers quickly somehow, and didn’t need everyone involved.  (Here’s another spot to laugh at my ignorance, I won’t count them, it would be too self defeating).  
I did pray a lot through these early days.  Probably more than I had in years, even though my faith was active and strong I thought.  It was strong; it had just never been tested quite like this.  It was during this time that I started to think that I needed to redefine hope for myself.  It had always been a lightweight word, conjuring images of things I wanted and prayers answered in very specific ways.  The hope I had in my life was more about a bright sunny spin on life, a belief that ‘it will all work out’ than something real that had depth and meaning.   I wasn’t yet sure that I knew fully what was blooming, but I started to have a change in my heart.

Austin, We Will Always Remember

As the five year mark of Austin being missing approaches, so did time for me to write another guest post on Time’s Up.  I shared some thoughts and hope you’ll visit there and read them.

Then, check out ‘About Austin’ and help us remember him over the next few weeks especially.  Milestones are difficult, but also give us the chance to remember and share more about him.

Thanks for letting me share my journey. 

Austin, we will always remember.

Wild Ride in Cambodia

Very few people actually seem to have any memory of Austin.  Or so it feels some days, when the support we get is mainly from people we’ve known in more recent years.  So it’s really nice from time to time to hear someone say his name, or simply share a thought about him.  One comment on his birthday that really made me smile was “I miss that guy” from someone I’m introducing you to today.

In part because he remembers Austin, and in part because he’s an author and now world traveler, and is kinda what I want to be when I grow up!  Ryan and I shared a few of those oh so fun teen years, and we recently reconnected through the magic of Facebook.  He’s pretty cool, and I wanted to share his story with you today because I’m excited to follow the journey he’s taking and think you’ll enjoy it too.

The remnants of  their 4 bedroom house.

Ryan and his family recently left for Cambodia, and he’s taking us with him on the adventure through his writing.  As I sit here in my office, wishing I was having an adventure, I’m hoping his provides some inspiration to you and I both.

Can’t wait to read more!

Visit his blog.

and check out his book.

Getting Messy and Birthday Cakes

I’m attending an amazing conference that kicked off tonight- but has already rocked my world in a way I wasn’t quite prepared for.  The speaker, Reggie Joiner, talked about how we can’t reach people without it getting messy.  It gets messy for us to be involved and share ourselves, and it gets messy for them.

I don’t like messy.  What I mean is emotionally messy- lives intertwined, issues faced together, sharing hurts and feelings.  Surface is easier.  Surface is safer.  So in order to keep a bit more control in this crazy life where very little is under my control, I control that.  I let few people in very deep, and I don’t get very deep with others.

But I’ve wanted to be a bit more messy, I’ve wanted to share, thus this blog.  But you notice it’s been a while since I posted.  It’s been too hard lately, anything I would have said would have required me to share more than I really wanted to.  But yet I keep asking God to use me.  But you know, without the mess.

It doesn’t work that way.  I’ve let few things get messy in almost five years, and truthfully avoided it usually even before then.  For almost five years I’ve stayed out of ministry areas of the church that required me to get messy with people with few exceptions, and I’ve been involved in missing persons work but in the least messy way possible.  Tonight was like God was speaking directly to me though- letting me know that I can’t do the work I’m called to do without being willing to be messy and uncomfortable.

It might be baby steps, but here is my first go at it.  Writing a post when I’d rather keep it private.  And sharing this:  Yesterday was Austin’s 31st birthday and in my no mess style, I made one post on Facebook and didn’t think about it much again- because you know, I’m fine.  But I wanted to take a cake home to eat with my mom and the boys and recognize the day, so I stopped at the grocery store.  I thought I’d get something he’d like.  And that’s when the minor meltdown happened, when I realized that I don’t remember what he liked.  I walked in a circle around the bakery for 10 minutes, long enough for four employees to ask me if they could help find something.  I left empty handed and brokenhearted.   

I don’t know what good may come of sharing that simple honest look at a tough day, but I know that like 2 Corinthians 3:3 says, our lives are a letter from God, meant to show Him to others.  I hope that someone can see that in my letter there is pain and trouble but there is an ever present hand of God.

Getting messy isn’t going to be easy, but I’m going to be trying more.  Feel free to ask me how it’s going and keep me in check- because I know Reggie was right.  Ministering to people is messy.

Out With The Old

Trash pickup has never been an eventful day for me.  I don’t even take the cans out, just notice them as I leave, thankful that my husband takes care of things like that.  This Monday morning was a bit different though, with me actually considering taking a photo of our trash- and then almost tearing up when I realized they had just taken it away and I didn’t even see them load it.

Just a few days ago I decided that we really did need to get rid of the dirty broken jeep that has been in our yard.  Even though Ben likes to sit in it, it needed to go.  No big deal.  Sunday night I dragged it to the front, glad to have it gone.  But the next morning, I had a moment of questioning if I could really get rid of it, as Ben saw it through the window and wondered why it was there.

It’s just a silly 4+ year old kids toy, but it is in the last (and one of the only) photos I have of Drew with Austin.  It was from the last Christmas Austin was with us.  Watching Drew’s eyes light up, a sweet 4 year old so happy to see what Santa had brought, with family around that he loved.  It was a special moment as a mom.  And as a sister too, as I saw my brother share in it.

But I let it go, because it isn’t the memory, just a yellow piece of plastic.  The photo and the memory remains.  But it didn’t stop me from walking out into the driveway to see it drive away one last time.