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.


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.


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.



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.




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.


Life Is Good

We always have something going on in this family that acts as a speed bump.  So much so that over the years I’m almost more uncomfortable when there are none.  {Almost}  We dump a lot of plans because of Michael’s unexpected hospitalization or the build up of illness before it, and we always seem to have one child or the other sick as well.

But last week’s still threw me for a loop.  Though it shouldn’t, since a variation of this story seems to happen every two years.

I’ve had a very small and very slowly growing ‘something’ on my neck for several months, not of much concern.  But early last week I realized it was hurting, growing rapidly and very red.  Consensus was that I should see the doctor.  But I was traveling a few days and couldn’t get in ahead of that and really figured it would be okay to just wait and see if it went away.

So I spent the next few days convincing myself it wasn’t really that bad, and thinking it might just go away.  It didn’t.

Friday morning, I went in to the doctor and was promptly sent to the hospital.  I genuinely didn’t feel sick, though going in I’d known it was pretty bad.  The hope was that it was an infection of some sort, but could possibly be something even worse.  If infection, it’s location made it more dangerous than it might have been otherwise.  So, off I went.

Actually, first I was on a conference call for an hour or so getting some work done, then I sent out some emails, all while waiting for a call that I had a bed. I finally went and the same concerns were repeated, and potential plans were discussed.  I had some tests that night, and learned the next day that it was infection thank goodness, and started strong IV meds. Then some painful stuff happened {let’s just block that from memory} and we waited for meds to begin working and to figure out exactly what was growing.  The assumption was a really tough infection that would mean me going home on 10 days of meds through a PICC line.

Oddly enough, throughout the ordeal I felt pretty good.  Well, other than when my skin tried to crawl off as a reaction to the meds, but we switched meds and all was well.  So, feeling pretty good, Michael and I hung out and actually enjoyed some time together.  We watched about 10 episodes of Arrested Development, we watched football, we joked about our idea of a good date.  A few friends visited and my mom brought the kids to visit.  I even got to Facetime in to my birthday party.

Yeah, that part stunk.  I had joked with a friend about how something always comes up around my birthday, and hers was just last week, so we got together with another friend whose birthday is between ours, and planned a fun night.  I missed it.  Of course.

Eventually, the unexpected happened.  It was determined that I can take oral antibiotics, which meant going home and without a PICC line, which would have been a major speed bump to some plans over the next few weeks.  I felt like we’d broken out of jail!

Truthfully, there were some scary moments, and I’m grateful for the prayer and love from so many.

We hate the speed bumps, but without them we might forget how much we have to be thankful for.

So, back at home, back to work and back to hanging out with the kids I love.

Life is good.

some of the meds

some of the meds



Kindness Week

You know how you meet people every once in a blue moon that you know God connected you with to be the encouragement you need?  About a month ago, I had that experience, and have been amazed by the words that this new friend shares, but not just with me.  You should get in on this.

This week she is INSPIRING! us to be part of Kindness Week.

Her family {some clearly cool fabulous people} has been thinking up projects to do all week to just plain share kindness with people around them.  They’ve put a lot of prayer, thought, time, and even $ into this.  I’m already excited for the people they meet who get to be the receivers, but even more so to hear how this impacts her {already super cool} family.

I’m doing some brainstorming on my own of what Kindness Week looks like in our home, but it started yesterday with our family helping to serve a lunch to some VIP’s in our life.

Check out her words, and let us both know if you plan to join us, and what Kindness looks like in your home!





I’m Not Ready!

School starts this week for the big and the little.

We have the supplies, we’ve met the teachers, and even been shopping for food to make lunch boxes.

But we had hopes of more beach trips, more time with family, more some craft projects, more bike rides, more popsicles.  We were going to get organized (you know, for the first time ever) and have our home office area a space we would want to work in and keep things well organized in.  We were going to finish some painting, finish some floors, and finally design our bedroom retreat.

Now we jump into mornings of hurry, nights of homework and bedtimes, worse traffic, calendars and papers galore, and juggling more than ever.  I’d like to put a hold on time.

I’m not ready!

Since I can’t, my backup technique is reminding myself of all the good things.  So here is my list of the top things I’m looking forward to in the next few months, and why I’m almost celebrating back to school.

1.  Sports.  We’re just weeks away from the start of College Football- here in the South, NFL is fun, but mostly for when there is no College game on.  Go Gators!  Along with that is the start of another baseball season.  We don’t take many breaks with Drew, but he’s had a longer than expected break this summer, and we’re all ready to get going.  PLUS!  Ben starts t-ball!  For all this alone, it’s almost worth the end of summer.

2.  Cooler Weather.  HA!  Summer is only actually halfway over, and we have plenty of near 100 degree weather left here in Florida.  But we like to think that it’s around the corner, and start to believe that we’ll have relief one day.

3.  Learning & Independence.  Drew likes to learn, and even Ben has been pretending to do homework recently.  They soak up knowledge and the chance to expand their thinking.  I love seeing that happen, and as many good things as we’ve had about the summer, lots of learning was not one of them.  It’s also time where they can be outside of our wings, but still in a protected place, growing and finding out who they are.

4Time with Friends.  It’s so much fun to hear the stories back from school of the friends being reconnected with, and new friendships being made.  And for us, we reconnect with some baseball families that we’re all friends with, connect with new families, and start to build upon the amazing network we already have.

5.  New Possibilities.  At the start of a new year, there are so many possibilities.  We can’t know everything that will unfold, and that’s pretty exciting.  What doors will God open?  What opportunities present themselves?  What closes?  While sometimes nerve wracking to think about, it also is faith building.  To know that God is in control, and tomorrow may not look like today.  Tomorrow may be even better.

We start back before a lot of other areas do, so some of you may just be starting to think of Back to School.  Are you ready, are your kids ready?  What are you looking forward to?


Leading the Way

Leading the Way

To The Class of 2013

As the Class of 2013 prepares to take the next steps on their journey, moving from high school or college, I begin to step back and reminisce about the years since my last graduation.  I think my younger self would be overwhelmed to know the future, but I think I’d be proud of where I am.

There are some things I’d tell myself though, and since I can’t, let me share them with you, the class of 2013.

– You are ready.  Every experiencehome_love in your life has built to this moment, to equip you to step forward into your future.  Being ready doesn’t mean your steps will be easy, your choices will be faultless, or your dreams will come true right away.  But it does mean that you have the tools and support to keep growing on your own.

– Work hard.  No matter if you’re going on to college or work, you are going to have to work harder than you ever have.  But the rewards will be bigger than they’ve ever been before.

– Keep learning.  I don’t mean book learning (though there’s a place for that too), but by listening to those around you, soaking up the knowledge they share.  Learn what not to do from some people- those lessons will be as valuable as any.

– Prepare for bumps.  There will be bumps, as small as ant hills to as large as mountains.  You will sometimes feel like giving up.  You will sometimes feel there is no way you can get past it.  But you can. 

– Hold on to your real friends, forget the others.  Ten or twenty years from now, some of those real friends will still be real friends.  You may lose touch, you may go separate ways, but you may find your way back.  Don’t dismiss them because you’ve moved on to new adventures.  But those that weren’t real friends, or those that hurt you along the way?  It’s okay to let them go.  It’s growing to know what is real and what can be left in the past. 

– Be flexible.  The path to where you’ll be years from now will wind and twist, and you won’t land exactly where you thought you would.  But where you land may be better than you’d ever believed.  And the twists will be what you reflect on all your life. 

– Go.  The world is so much bigger than the slice you’ve lived.  Go experience some of it.  We’ll be here waiting at home to welcome you back, always being your safe place. 

– Do good.  There is so much darkness in the world, but there is so much more power in the good that can come from those who choose to shine it.  You have that power, to show God’s love to a hurting world.  To be His hands and His feet. 

– Love.

For the graduates in our life, we look forward to seeing you pursue your dreams and build a future.  We love you.


One of our favorite 2013 grads and our boys who love him


Salty and Caustic- That’s Me!

I was once told I was salty and caustic.  I think the person meant it as a joking compliment.  It’s become a joke with a friend of mine who repeats it back to me often, as an explanation for why someone is rude to me or ignores me.

You know, it’s because I’m salty and caustic.

The reality is that I am fluent in sarcasm, am not a touchy feely person, laugh in uncomfortable situations, and will share what I think 100x before I share what I feel.  But on the other hand, I will go anywhere and do anything within my power for a friend, and show I care more than I say it.  The person who called me salty and caustic really did know that.

I take being laughed at well, and will laugh along with you.  I understand when you can’t do something that I really want or need help with.  I respect differing views on politics and religion.  I believe that if we always agreed, we’d not be being honest, and I like to talk with people who think differently than me.  I cut people slack for bad behavior for any number of reasons.  I see things or hear things that could offend me, but don’t take them that way.


Intent is everything to me.

Is what you’re saying intended to hurt me, mock me, or make me seem incompetent, that changes it all.  If what you’re preaching, singing, shouting or laughing about is meant to push an agenda of fear, exploitation or intolerance, that changes it all.

But what I’ve learned, is that most of the people, most of the time, have no intention of doing either of those things.  Most of the time, people have good hearts.  Most of the time, people would rather be in physical pain, than know they’ve put you through emotional pain.

Sometimes, even when understanding people’s intent is not personal, it feels that way.  Sometimes, people cross over lines that make it personal and painful.  Lately, this seems to happen a lot for me.  It’s hard to put those feelings aside, and carry on with the same respect for them.

Maybe you have those days.  When things feel too close, too personal.  Maybe you need this reminder too.  Try, along with me, to not get so offended that you can’t see past your own beliefs and thoughts, to see what intent really is, and to not then cause truly offensive situations.  Consider their heart, consider their intentions, and forgive.  Even when they never ask for it.

It’s hard.  It’s worth it.

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”  – Augusten Burroughs

Sorry. We can’t be friends.

A lot of the time I manage to hide my craziness, but today I’d thought I’d let it out and write a post I hope makes you laugh.

This post first appeared on BlogHer, but is in all it’s glory below now too.


A few years ago, before the world of Pinterest, an acquaintance of mine posted on FaceBook that she had enjoyed making butter with her kids that morning.  It sounds delish, right?  That’s not how it sounded to me.

As I drove to my full time job, with breastpump attached, and visions of my sick child left at home with my husband, I came to a realization.  We would never cross over from acquantinces to friends.  Our worlds were too far apart.  It’s not that there was anything wrong with homemade butter, or that I disliked the idea of making butter, or her for making butter (heck, if we’d really been friends I’d have asked her to bring me some!).  It’s just that in that moment, I knew that a woman with the time and energy to make butter when there was a store a half mile away with perfectly good organic butter for probably cheaper than she could make it, was not destined to be my friend.  I just wouldn’t have the same kind of time she did to invest in a friendship no matter how awesome she is.

It became a big joke with my friends- “don’t make butter or Anita won’t be your friend.”  I told them they MAY make the cut since we were already friends, but no promises.  It grew to include more things that are on my automatic cut list.

“Sorry.  We can’t be friends if you…” now includes:

Make your own butter.   You get a pass if you are simply adding ingredients to purchased butter to add flavors.  You also get a pass if you bring me some.  Side note:  At the time, I was making all my own baby food- both by boob and by blender.  But I had realized there wasn’t a comparable product I could buy.  But butter?  Come on.   Since then, Pinterest has enlightened me that making butter isn’t that time consuming.  But whatev.

Think it’s gross that I don’t wear socks:  You are absolutely allowed to laugh at my sock “issues” but don’t tell me it’s gross or keep trying to convince me.  I live in Florida, so flip flops are acceptable year round footwear.  And sneakers without socks aren’t that bad.  (And we’ll do a separate discussion on my sock issues one day I suppose.  I need more feedback from my therapist first however)

Know how to say no:  If you know how to say no, you certainly have more time available than me.  If you however, are only able to send me a text between your 7th commitment of the day and your 8th, we may be on the path to a beautiful thing. Unless you can say no to everyone but me and will come help me with one of my 82 things…

Wear $200 jeans:  This is a tricky one.  I’m jealous, so that’s why you make the list.  Because a)  you have the bod to warrant $200 jeans and b) you have an extra $200.  So I’ll be green with envy and that’s never the start to a good friendship.  Though to be real, if I thought $200 jeans would make me look like the people I know who wear them, I’d be all over that.  Instead I have to stick to my $200 sunglasses that make me forget my ugly mom jeans.

Never show up anywhere wearing sweats/yoga pants and no makeup: You won’t want to be seen with me and my 60% of the time slouching it self.  So I’ll reject you before you can reject me.  I have one friend who breaks the mold on this one.  She’s my lifesize Barbie friend.  She’s awesome enough to love me anyway.

Can’t take my sense of humor:  I’m sarcastic more than real.  I like to think of it as funny.  But if you’re not that way, that’s okay.  There are plenty of sweet lovely people for you.  I’m just not one of them!  Okay, I truly am sweet.  I just hide it well.  And this post?  It’s 95% joking!  I promise.  I’m constantly breaking rules.  So even if you’re a butter making, sock loving, socialite Barbie, once I know you, I’m sure I’ll love you.

Just don’t touch me with your socks.


Two of the friends who love me anyway

Check it out over at BlogHer:  Sorry.  We can’t be friends.

Not in the Happy Ending

I read something somewhere this week about the story of someone’s life not being in the happy ending, and it resonated with me strongly.  I try not to focus on the happy ending.  I really do.  But I always feel the need to have something I’m working towards, something to gauge my progress, or a milestone or event that should bring me ever closer to things being ‘easier’- whatever that means.

I once continued to date a guy way past when it was clear that he was not the one for me, simply because I thought I’d invested way too much into the relationship to not believe there would be a happy ending.  I’ve spent a few years at a job (several times) really enjoying it, but always thinking of how it would help me toward long term goals.  I’ve maintained a positive attitude about the search for Austin, because I knew there will come and end one day.

Newsflash Anita!  There may not be a happy ending for every situation.  Or the happy ending may not be what I hoped for or expected.  And even when there is, that isn’t where the story is.  They story is in the daily details, the ups and down, the good and bad, the joy and the pain.  And when we focus our own lives on the happy ending we expect, we miss out on our real story happening. Or at least I do.

Chill as he waits for surgery

This week, like most, we’re going through the not so fun trials of normal life for us.  Last weekend, Michael was sick and home in bed for much of it.  Tuesday, Drew had minor surgery and spent most of the week recuperating.  Austin’s birthday was Wednesday.  Today, Drew is doing another not so fun medically necessary activity.  I could have so easily been stressed out this week, because between all of that and working and hosting a party this weekend and preparing for travel next week, it’s just a lot.  But I kept taking deep breaths and remembering these things.

Michael was able to enjoy some of the weekend and is doing well now.  Drew’s surgery means that he should have relief from the constant sinus problems, asthma and headaches.  Austin’s birthday is a day we can celebrate his life.  Drew’s day today will go a long way towards solving some other issues he has going on.  A party to plan means we have friends to love.  My busy work schedule means I have a good job to provide for us.  These are good things!  Sometimes it takes looking at the flip side, to see the good through the junk.

There is one thing going on that I just can’t see the good side of this week.  32 years ago Wednesday, God gave me a brother.  28 years ago, God gave me more brothers, though not by blood or marriage.  One of them is in the hospital after a stroke, at just 37 years old.  It’s not his first stroke.  His kidneys are also not doing their job well enough, and different specialists are all involved to help him.  There’s nothing good about this happening.  But I do know there is this to be thankful for in his story:  He has been blessed with a wife that takes care of him with such strength, and is such a good partner.  He has four kids that love him and need him.  He has family who feel the same.  He has good doctors who will figure this out.  He has good therapists helping him work towards recovery.  For all that I am thankful.  For not knowing how to help more, for that I am lost….

I still hope for happy endings for us all.   But they may not come as we want them, or as quickly as we want them.  So for now I’ll keep looking into our stories, seeing all the good there is.  And praying for strength for the times it’s too hard to even see that.

Because our story is not in the happy ending.  It’s in the life in between.



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 choosing to be happy even in times where that’s tough.  Here’s an excerpt from what I wrote:

“When I was a teenager, the words that could irritate me like no other were “decide to be happy”- usually coming from my dad when something in my teen world wasn’t going quite right- and in the life of a teenage girl, things usually aren’t.  I knew he was right but that didn’t make me like it any more.”

Well, things aren’t going quite right for us this week.  It’s Christmas, the most magical time, a time I truly love.  And today and tomorrow are my favorite days of the year.  Tonight’s plan was our KidStuf show at church, with Michael and I on stage and our boys in the audience, with our amazing and talented team helping prepare hearts of kids of all ages for Christmas.  Then, we were to have dinner with a group of friends we call family, and would end the night with a beautiful candlelight service.  Tomorrow morning we’d wake up to the awe and wonder of our boys’ faces as they discovered the tree transformed with gifts from Santa and gifts from us.  We’d have a relaxing day and one of our favorite meals (a big pot of shrimp boil) before packing the car and making the drive to see Michael’s family for a few days.  As with every day, especially days like this, we would miss Austin and wish he was there.  But it would be a magical time regardless.

view from the room this morning

Instead, I’m writing from Michael’s hospital room yet again, and making sure that all bases are covered for Santa to still visit, and the rest of Christmas Day to be postponed until we’re home.  We won’t be able to reschedule Christmas Eve with our family of friends, or reschedule the trip to West Virginia anytime soon (much too long a drive for a weekend visit, much too expensive to fly and tough to schedule with Drew in school).

Today’s a day I truly have to choose to be happy, but I have to dig deeper than just happy.  Happy is a feeling that is influenced by circumstances, but Joy is part of who you are.  Joy is knowing that no matter the circumstances, no matter the feelings of the moment, your soul has peace.  I could get away with giving into the disappointment today, it’s understandable.  But I won’t.  I choose joy.

I’m joyful for the reason for Christmas, for a savior who was born to change the world.  I’m joyful for the promises made that no matter our circumstances, there is reason for joy.

All around us there are people needing to choose joy because of things happening that make it so difficult.  I see it here- from staff who will be working, to families wishing they were anywhere else.  I see it in those I love who are missing someone or are struggling to provide.  But I’ve seen people choosing joy already today- nurses and food services staff who are cheerful and give no clue they’d rather be home, and family members wishing Merry Christmas to those they see.  And we have many around us choosing to help us find joy by loving us in their own ways, as they have so many times.   What I’ve realized, is that when we choose joy for ourselves, we can’t help but spread it to others as well.

Merry Christmas my friends, what a joyous day it is.