Samantha

It’s been a year since I last saw you. One full rotation around the sun, 366 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes. One full rotation around the sun too long. 366 days too many. 8760 hours since your last kiss. And 525,600 minutes of having an unfixable hole in my heart.

You came into my life on August 17, 2002. It was a normal, lazy Saturday morning until my parents’ next-door neighbor knocked on their back door and asked if we happened to know if anyone who was looking to adopt a puppy. I looked down. You looked up. And that was it. It was love at first sight for both of us, I think.

Samantha Puppy

I wasn’t looking to adopt a dog. I still lived with my parents. But I begged and pleaded and eventually, they gave in making me promise that you would move out once Daddy graduated from college and moved back to Maryland. What they didn’t know was that they’d fall in love with you too. Your adoption created Grandmommy and Granddaddy, since we had to differentiate between me (Mommy) and them. Even now, with you gone, my children call them that. My brother’s daughter calls them that. Because of you! How’s that for a legacy?

I’m pretty sure that everyone who knew you loved you. How could they not? You were so happy, always always smiling. You were so laid back. You were so loving. It sounds so cliche to say that you were my best friend, but you were really were. You were so much more than just a dog. A lot of people won’t get that, even if they say that they do. Even if they think that they do. They don’t, not really, and they never will.

picThey will never understand the bond we had. They weren’t there on our quick jaunts to the snowball stand or the road trips to Virginia Tech to go see Daddy. They weren’t there when I’d cling to you after a particularly hard day or a big fight. And you’d just let me. You’d stay there as long as I needed you and just let me hug you. God, I miss that.

I miss everything about you. I miss that dent in between your eyes that was my favorite place to kiss. I miss how you’d walk over to and nudge my elbow up to pet you. I miss how you’d follow me wherever I went. I miss how you’d get so excited at hearing “go look out the window.” “Daddy’s home.” “Do you wanna…” “Grandmommy/Granddaddy/Uncle Robbie’s here!” “Sammie, look – there’s a bunny!” I miss how you’d look back at me when I made you go outside to do your business in the rain. (You were such a priss.) I miss how you loved to go bye-byes and how you would stick your head out the window. I miss how you said “boof” instead of “woof.” There isn’t really anything that I don’t miss about you.

I always said that when you died, I’d lock myself in my room for days and cry and as much as I did want to do that when the time did come, I couldn’t. I had to go on, I had kids to take care of and work to do. I actually surprised myself at how “strong” I was through such a sad time but I think – I hope – you’d have been proud of me. I had (and still have) my moments. Daddy, Grandmommy and Granddaddy gave me a gift certificate to get a stuffed version of you for my birthday that made me burst into tears. Looking at pictures of you has the same effect. Writing this was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written and it still doesn’t feel like enough. You deserve a book or a song for everything you were to me.

sams urnYou left us on Friday, June 12, 2015, just two weeks shy of your 13th birthday. The kids traced their handprints so you wouldn’t be alone. We had you cremated along with the handprints, and Baby and Hedgehog, your two favorite toys. Your ashes sit on top of our mantle in a beautiful marble urn that says “Our Sweet Girl” with your name and dates on it, and one day it’ll be buried with me so we’ll be together forever. Grandmommy even had your paw print turned into a pendant that I wear every day, so you’re never really far from my heart. I usually go to sleep each night holding the pendant, remembering the 12 years and 8 months that I had it all.

My beautiful Samantha puppy.

My beautiful Samantha Puppy.

 

Happy times with my girl.

Happy times with Samantha.

 

Happy, smiling girl.

Happy, smiling Sam.

 

obx6

Sammie ith Daddy at OBX, June 2005.

 

Miss that face.

Miss Sam’s beautiful face.

 

sam and me 5

Goofing off.

sam and me 4

sam and me 3

 

 

She always loved the snow. She'd lay in it for hours.

Sammie Girl always loved the snow. She’d lay in it for hours.

 

I love you, Sam, and I miss you more than I could ever put into words. I hope you know that somehow. And I pray that we will be reunited one day.

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the invisible mother

The Invisible Mother

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’

Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this??

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’

Some days I’m a crystal ball; ‘Where’s my other sock? Where’s my phone?, What’s for dinner?’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature -but now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, and she’s gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: 1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. 2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. 3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. 4) The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was Almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.

No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he’d say, ‘You’re gonna love it there…’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.

Letting Go

b o a t  c r u i s e sNo no no, not “Let It Go” – letting go. As in, letting go of your kids.

You spend 40 weeks growing these little beings inside you. You feel every kick, every somersault, every hiccup. You dream of their features, their personalities, you choose their name. You provide them with everything they’re going to need on the outside… and yet, as soon as they are born, they’re on a mission to gain independence from you. And this? This is one of the most gut-wrenching things a parent will ever experience.

Sitting up, crawling, first steps… all exciting moments. But with each of those moments comes the realization that your little one needs you just a little less than they did before. The good thing is that these milestones only happen every so often. The bad news is that they sneak up on you like a stealth ninja warrior and before you know it, your child is waving to you from the window of his school bus or ignoring you as you drop her off at the mall to meet up with some girlfriends. (You hope.) And you wonder, how did I even get here?

I am not quite there yet but I am at the precipice and let me tell you, these are scary waters to navigate. My daughter came home with an invitation to her first non-family sleepover party last week and like any 6 year old girl, she was stoked. Absolutely stoked. But then I read the invitation and my heart sank. I didn’t know this girl, nor did I know her parents. I knew nothing about them! There was no way I was going to allow my kid to go to some party with people I didn’t know from Adam. And then I stopped and I thought. I thought about the sleepovers I went on when I was younger. My parents weren’t friends with the parents of those girls… but they still let me go. Crap.

One could say that it’s a different time than we grew up in and yes, you would be right. But when we were children was a different time than when our parents were children and… they still let us go. Knowing that my husband was on the same “No Way” page as I was, I asked my mom for advice and as she always does, she came through. She suggested I reach out to the parents to see if we could meet before making a decision about letting our girl attend the party. Such a simple solution! DUH. Because any normal parent would totally understand and anyone who didn’t, well, that’d be our answer right there. So I contacted the mom – who totally understood – and we set up a time for our entire families to meet. The meeting happened earlier this week and wouldn’t you know it? Super nice people, nice kids, and off our girl goes in another week to her first sleepover party.

But all of this got me thinking. If our parents’ generation was mostly okay with allowing us experiences – even when they weren’t thrilled with them – why and when did our generation become so scared? I was ready to throw this perfectly nice kid’s birthday invitation right in the trash and for what? The unknown. I was scared.

You could say, Well, our parents grew up in a different time than we did” and you wouldn’t be wrong. But they grew up in a different time than their parents. Every generation has their challenges. And there has always been evil in the world — it’s just at our fingertips now. Literally. We have access to so much information, it scares us.

I’m not suggesting that we let our kids do everything they want to do. Obviously they need to learn about the dangers of the world and boundaries and all that fun stuff but they still need to live. They need experiences. I know a sleepover is a minor thing but I’m so glad I reached out to my mother for her advice instead of just throwing the invitation – and this opportunity for my daughter – away.

Now, will someone please remind me of this post when my children reach driving age?

Playing catch-up

W I N  A  T R I P If there’s one thing I hate doing, it’s playing catch-up. Whether it’s at school with homework assignments missed during an illness or just a simple conversation of which I missed the first part, it’s a pain in the butt to play catch-up… and yet, that is where I find myself today with this new blog of mine.

My apologies for disappearing off the face of the earth. On October 1st, I started a new job – my first job in almost 9 years, actually. So I knew October might be a bit on the crazy side, juggling kids, home, new job, and everything else. But then on October 2nd, my grandmother passed away aaaaaaaaaaand that was the (temporary) end of LoveLaughterLunacy. So again, I apologize and I sincerely will try not to let 6+ weeks lapse between posts here.

That said, what I’d like to share with you all today is my new job.

A couple months ago, it was becoming clearer and clearer that my days as a stay-at-home mom needed to come to an end. I was beyond stressed – I hadn’t worked since 2006. Who would hire me? Especially with my limited availability? AND make it monetarily worthwhile? I’ve done retail before and I hated it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns; there was NO WAY I was doing that again. So I decided to meet with a ridiculously smart and business-savvy friend from church to go over how she successfully launched her education blog and how I might do the same. It was quite daunting to think about, especially for one as UN-business-savvy as me so when she approached me a few days later with an offer to do some general office work for her, I jumped on it.

You know you just know when something is right? For me, these times include things like when I first kissed my husband (even though we were only 17 years old and we’d known each other for years, I just knew that was it) or when we first walked through the doors of our church. And now it also includes my job. From the very first day, I knew that this was the beginning of something really awesomely special and so far, I have not been disappointed.

My new job combines three things that are very near and dear to me – children, the arts, and education. I provide office support (and am dabbling in marketing) for an arts integration professional developer. What is that? Well, there are some school districts in the world who think that the arts (music, visual art, dance, theatre) are not important and have either done away with those programs in schools or are threatening to do so. We help these schools find the connection between the arts and the subjects that are pushed (science, technology, engineering and math), like teaching fractions through music because that’s what music notes are – fractions of the measure! What we DON’T do is show “regular” classroom teachers how to incorporate the arts so that the music/art/dance/theatre class in the school itself is abolished. Not only am I able to work at home 99% of the time, but she understands when things come up (like when my daughter running into the doorframe at her school yesterday and ending up having to go to the doctor to get checked out). She tells me all the time how happy she is with what I’m doing and how much I’ve helped her. The best part is that I don’t even feel like what I’m doing is work! It’s fun and interesting and I absolutely love it.

My friend got in on the arts integration movement in the very beginning so even though it’s a newer movement, she is already a well-established and credible source of help to struggling school districts. The sky really is the limit for her and I feel so blessed that she allowed me to join her in this journey. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!

Sweet Sorrow

Confession: I stink at goodbyes. Like, really really badly. Unfortunately next week I have to say farewell to a woman who has come to mean a lot to me and the idea of it honestly fills me with dread.

A little back story is in order. When my husband and I moved to our current home, it was way more of a whirlwind decision than buying a house and moving out of state should be. And for awhile after we moved here in November ’06, we weren’t happy. We loved our house but we disliked everything about this town. We were only an hour away from family and most friends but it felt so much further.

Autumn ’09, in particular, was a pretty bad time for me. Don’t get me wrong – things with my husband and kids were fine but I was miserable. We had been operating with just one car for over a year at that point so when my husband drove to work each day, I was literally STUCK at home with a little kid and an infant all day. Every day. I couldn’t even run to the grocery store if we ran out of milk. It took its toll on me and I remember sobbing to my husband that something had to change. I needed this huge void that had taken over to be filled.

Growing up, I attended church religiously (hahaha, see what I did there?) and I realized I really, really missed that. We tried getting involved in the Catholic church down the street but it just didn’t click. It wasn’t welcoming, there was no literature on how to get involved in stuff, nothing. After that experiment was a dud, I I told my born-and-raised Catholic husband that I wanted to try a Lutheran church. The very next Sunday, off we went.

Walking through the doors of that church in November ’09 turned out to be a life changing moment. From the second I walked in, we were welcomed warmly by everyone. The first time I heard the organ, I got chills up and down my spine. (Turns out it’s the 8th largest organ in the world.) The ushers assured us all through the service that our children were not, in fact, behaving like heathens. We went back again the following Sunday. Five days after that, I joined the choir.

Now, not many people who know me now know that for years, I had planned on majoring in music. For the longest time, music was my life. The stupidest decision I ever made was giving it all up after some drama with various band people my senior year. I regret that every day, even over *cough* 18 *cough* years later but joining choir was like… well, it was like being let out of a prison and into the sunlight for the first time in decades but what made it an even sweeter deal for me were the people who ran the choir.

I absolutely fell in love with them both.

The Minister of Music is a force. He is so ridiculously talented and funny and smart and he makes you want to be the best version of you that you can possibly manage to be. He is amazing with everyone, from 3 year olds to 103 year olds. He is one of the most amazing disciples of Christ I have ever known. And then there’s the Associate Minister of Music. She is quiet and unassuming even though she is not only the Associate Minister of Music but also an Associate in Ministry, a composer (and one of the most internationally respected hand bell composers ever), an organist, a pianist, a harpist… She has every right to be a pompous jerk about it but she is exactly the opposite of that. Put these two awesome people together and it’s just magic. It really is. They go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

It was she who first asked me to play the flute for a church service. Everything in me was screaming no because I hadn’t played in eons but I said yes. With her gentle guidance, she gave me the confidence to do it again. And again. And again. I’ve played for 25 people at the Saturday evening service and I’ve played for hundreds of people in the community singers concert. Me. I played with her for the last time just this past Saturday and I don’t know if she could tell but I could barely see the notes on the page through all the tears in my eyes. To be honest, I feel a little silly being so emotional over this – after all, I met her not even 5 years ago! I don’t really know how to explain it but in so many ways, this woman touched my soul and changed my life. She awakened the lost musician in me and gave me the confidence to perform again – not only instrumentally, but vocally too. She changed my life and I, very very very selfishly, am ridiculously sad I only got to be in her presence for 5 years.

So. KLB. If you ever read this, this is the goodbye I could never give you in person because I’d be a blubbering mess. (Like I am right now, but you can’t see me. Ha.) I cannot possibly even begin to thank you for everything you’ve done for me and brought back into my life. You are an amazing woman, a ridiculously talented musician, and I will miss you (and your eyes that literally twinkle when you laugh) more than I can ever say. Godspeed to you and happy retirement. May you receive the blessings that you’ve given to others tenfold.

Mission Statement

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.

Benjamin Franklin

Welcome to love laughter lunacy! That Ben Franklin quote? That’s gonna be my mantra. I wear many hats in this crazy life I lead – wife and mom being among the most important ones. I’ve been married (to my high school sweetheart – go ahead and gag) for 10 years. I am also a stay-at-home mom to 3 (mostly) awesome kids. My oldest is an 8 year old boy and the two younger ones are both girls, ages 5 (going on 15, complete with eye rolls) and 3. They keep me on my toes and provide me with lots of material which I cannot wait to share with you.

Additionally, I’d like to share with you my other interests which range from photography to movies to cooking to travel to trying out Pinterest pins and trying not to embarass myself too much. Oh, and reading. With all three kids finally (mercifully) in school, I am really looking forward to getting back into reading.

So if I do my job correctly, we’ll have lots of laughs together and maybe even learn a thing or two from each other. Thanks for checking out love laughter lunacy!