How did we get here so fast?

I’ll just start with warning you that this is one of my top 5 emotional weeks of the year…. We’re approaching 7 years, and it is still hard. February 11 would be my Gran’s 87th birthday- the whole reason this blog started. February 12- 7 years ago that my mom suddenly passed away, leaving my world spinning. February 13- Jeff’s birthday, the day instead of celebrating my husband, we spent planning my mother’s funeral. February 14- Valentine’s Day, to this day, I don’t really care to celebrate- all I can envision is the hundreds of people that came out to show how much they loved my mom. I am grateful for each one of them, but I’m still not big on celebrating Valentine’s Day. So, if the rest of this post sounds like I am an emotional basket case, or a psychopath- either could be true.

Last night was our last basketball game for Lexi Kate to cheer. I haven’t posted about what happened, and I won’t for awhile, but Lexi Kate transferred schools in November. One of the greatest blessings has been the friends she has met at her new school. She had friends at the school already, but her best friends she has developed are new. Making the basketball sideline cheer team created an instant bond with several girls, and we could not be more grateful. After the game, of course all the kids were hugging each other, celebrating a huge rival win, and taking pictures together. Because, you know if it isn’t on instagram it didn’t even happen. Anyway, of all the pictures she took, the picture Lexi Kate posted was this:

Y’all this boy is not a surprise. I even like the kid. I like his whole entire family. Trust me, he’s a good kid or he wouldn’t even be within 5 miles of my daughter. But, the reaction in my heart at seeing this post was “How in the hell did we get here?” Pull the emergency break, jump off the train! HELP!!! Why is my daughter hugging some boy, and no one is doing anything about it? Just last week I was snapping a picture of my baby girl kissing the neighbor on our back steps because he shared his popsicle. Yesterday, Lexi Kate was having her first crush and relationship, whatever that means for 7th graders “in love”. But, something about this picture hung differently with me. Maybe it’s because I have freshman orientation next week. Maybe it’s because my heart knows that when I was 14, I was starting a 4 year relationship that totally shaped my high school career. Maybe it’s because my babies have people in their lives, given the choice, they would chose to hang out with them over me?

Or, maybe it’s because God is answering the prayers I have prayed over my children and I’m not convinced I’ve prayed hard enough for all the things. Have I taught them all the things they really need to know? Are they decent human beings? Do they know how to conduct themselves in relationships? Do they have appropriate standards? Are they willing to communicate and advocate for what they want and deserve? What if they aren’t ready? What if I didn’t pray for the right thing? What if God is momentarily busy trying to hold this nation together? Mommas, pray over those babies’ hearts and step back and let God work. And, I am having to rest in this for myself. I’ve parented real hard up until this point. We are all in, at all hours of the day and night. My kids know I am here for them. But, they are growing their own wings. And, as much as it hurts, they don’t need or want me around as much. I will not clip their wings, because they were born to fly.

For us, that means letting them have these middle school and high school relationships to help find their way. And, while we know these people aren’t likely to be the ones they are with forever, I pray over them none the less. These are the boys she’s learning to trust her heart with, these are the boys she’s learning to set boundaries with, these are the boys she’s learning the importance of common ground with. To me, it’s super important she learn these lessons while I’m still close enough to coach when she looks over at the sideline. I will say both of the boys that have held part of our little girl’s heart have been a true answer to prayer. I couldn’t have picked better boys. (I actually think I may have picked the first one, or at least heavily encouraged it. Control freak, much?) Anyway, they have amazing parents that have great standards and expectations, and I love them both to pieces. Seriously, I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t do for them…. But, they both also know I would absolutely chop them into 5 million pieces if they hurt my baby girl. Have there been tears- yep months of them. Has my child been the one to cause tears- I’d say probably so. But, they are learning. Those prayers I’ve prayed since before my kids entered this world, they are being answered whether I am ready for it or not.

And, sweet Sam. I’m not leaving him out. It’s just that he is more innocent and clueless than the older child. He has a “girlfriend” and she makes him giddy. Super love the fact that because of said girlfriend haircuts and showers take much less bribery from me. She’s an amazing kid with amazing parents too. Again, an absolute answer to prayer. My boy is learning how to treat girls. We may still have some work to do in teaching him how to talk to girls that he’s not interested in, but that’s a post for another day. This week, we are focusing on helping him get brave enough to schedule a Valentine’s Day present drop off. We’re encouraging him to text her parents and ask permission to bring it over to their house. Because, even though he’s only 12; in 2 blinks he will be 16. If the girl he is interested in has parents that require a boy ask their permission to date their daughter (And I really hope she does), I want him to be ready for it. I want him to be able to look a father in the eye and that father know he is a respectable young man, and he will have respect for their daughter. My boy doesn’t lean in to me for much coaching. (Although he did let me wrap his Valentine’s Day present, because he doesn’t have that skill.) I’ve got to model so much more for him than my words say. The way his father treats me is the way he’s going to treat the ladies in his life. They way I treat his father is the way he is going to expect to be treated. And, now it is suddenly occurring to me that I am going to owe his wife a huge apology. I do everything for my boys. They are super spoiled. Oh, geez. Please Lord, don’t let him be a brat! Dear Future Daughter in Law, I will come cook for you and do laundry if Sam doesn’t help, because that’s all my fault! Yikes!!!! He’s super cute and sweet though, and he gives great gifts! He also gives the best hugs! I regress…..

Anyway, how did we get here? Middle school and “in-love” times two?!?!?! I don’t know how it happened so fast, but I do know we have prayed over and prepared for this moment. Maybe I should do more to put a cap on “young love”. But, I think back on the Bob, Kyle, Jamie’s of my middle school years and realize what a safe place those kids were to learn about myself and life. (And, if Lexi Kate is ever dumb enough to secretly get off the bus at a boy’s house instead of ours and ride 4 wheelers all afternoon, then run across a state highway to get home before I do- I will kill her! I still wonder if my mom knew I did that?) I’m grateful for their parents and mine guiding us along the way. I’m grateful for a 4 year relationship in high school. For the things that weren’t great about it, the lessons that came from that were worth it. I pray that my kids and the kids they are involved with will look back in 30 years and say they are grateful for these relationships and the lessons learned and how well they were loved by the Woodfords.

Until then I am going to be wiping tears, holding my breath, and hitting my knees like never before. These babies sure don’t keep. But, mercy I am so proud of the people they are becoming!

Heart stopping conversations with our kids…..

I’ll preface this story with acknowledging I’m not writing here much lately because my kids have gotten some back lash from my openness and honesty. While I very much want to share our experiences, help others through similar journeys and be a voice of truth, I will not put any of that above my kids safety, happiness or well-being. However, this one issue has been pressing on my heart from some time and after what happened last night I just felt like it was time to share and encourage parents to check in with their kids. Jeff and I were at dinner with clients. And, I just suddenly had a very uneasy feeling that told me I needed to get home and see what was going on with the kids. I came in and checked on Sam first then went to Lexi Kate’s room. She wasn’t crying, she was actually very happy, but I could tell something was going on.

“Mom, ‘Jack’ (name changed to protect the guilty) is telling my friends that he has nude pictures of me. And, he is sending the pictures out saying it’s me.” My. Heart. Stopped. This is a conversation we’ve had many times at our house. My child fully knows the implication of doing these things. One hundred thoughts flooded my head. Keep in mind ‘Jack’ is a casual friend. Not someone she is or has ever “dated”, not even someone she talks to or hangs out with regularly. I was ¾ of the way to ‘Jack’s’ house mentally, weapon in hand ready to kill him. And, I made myself stop and gather for a minute. “Honey, we will handle this. But, first, I need to know: Is there any way possible it is truly pictures of you?” While my child knows where we stand on this issue, she is a very good kid, we have extreme check-in measures in place, and she has given us zero indication that she may be engaged in this behavior; it was important for me to not jump to conclusions. I needed to give her an opportunity to confess if she was truly guilty of sending the pictures. One of the things we’ve talked to our kids about many times, is the fact that we are always a safe place to confess mistakes and ask for help finding a way out. In the event that is what was happening in this moment, I didn’t want to make it hard for her to do that by immediately jumping to conclusions, threatening to kill a kid, and placing the blame somewhere else. I never want to interfere with an opportunity for repentance and healing, no matter what I think my kid may or may not be capable of. “MOM!!! No, it isn’t me. I would never do that! I’m scared Coach is going to find out and I’m going to get kicked off the team.”

Now the question becomes, truly how are we going to deal with this? The “evidence” that this has taken place is not in my possession. And, honestly may be unrecoverable at this point. The pictures and accusations were sent through Snapchat. And, unless the one of the kids took a screenshot or saved in a chat, those have now disappeared into cyber world. The phone that received them isn’t mine, and I have no authority over the child or family that owns that phone to hand it over as evidence. And, to be honest I am not sure I want to. I don’t want to create a ton of drama and get our family or others in a mess that lingers on. The parent of the boy sending these messages isn’t exactly engaged and making great choices by him either. At the end of the day, my responsibility is to protect my child, her image, and her heart.

We talked to the friend that received the messages. Assured her that it wasn’t Lexi Kate. Asked her to stop the communication with ‘Jack’, and even got him to confess that it was a lie. I also reached out to Lexi Kate’s coach, and will probably reach out to the principal in the event the word continues to spread at school, just letting them know we are aware of the situation and we’re handling it as we can. Fortunately for Lexi Kate, she has 2 very distinct birthmarks that would exonerate (or convict as the case may be) her from accusations of sending such pictures.

I tell this story to beg you to be engaged with your kids. Talk to them about what is going on in their lives. Over this summer so much has happened with Lexi Kate’s friend group and it absolutely breaks my heart. I’ve stayed away from commenting about it publicly before now because I don’t want to start drama and parents wondering who is doing it and who isn’t. But, these kids need to know what a big deal it is. On the low side of the problem is the fact that this is slander and/or harassment- spreading rumors and sending pictures saying it’s one person when it is not. Secondly, it is child pornography. This can RUIN. KIDS. LIVES. Let it soak in parents, by your kids receiving and sending nude pictures of middle and high school kids they are guilty of being in possession and distribution of child pornography. That is a serious crime. Worse yet, I am willing to bet you own the phone they use, which means at the end of the day, your name is tied to this, and you are in possession of child pornography. It could cost you your career and ruin your life too. I am not over-exaggerating here. I personally know a child who lost a full ride college scholarship over sending and receiving nude pictures of his girlfriend that became the ex-girlfriend. Her parents prosecuted. Not only did he lose his scholarship, have his acceptance to the university withdrawn, he’s a registered sex offender- he was 18 she was 16. The life of a kid with so much potential is drastically altered forever.

This is not just happening at the high school level. Our middle school kids are engaged in this. I won’t name names, but I could easily name a dozen very good kids that I know are engaged in this behavior on snapchat. I don’t know how it gets started, but I know they get sucked in and wrapped up in it and then feel trapped. It terrifies me to think what high school looks like for them if nude pictures are the norm in middle school. Give your kids an out. One thing I do fairly routinely with my kids is give them a “free pass” day. We’ll spend some time together and I will give them an opportunity to confess something they are doing wrong without consequence. That doesn’t mean we won’t put some measures in place to correct the behavior or protect them from having it happen again. It just means they are safe to tell me in that moment without an explosive reaction, without immediately being grounded for life, and without me shoving their phone so far up their backside they have to vomit for a week to find it on the other end. I also give them a safe place to talk to me about what their friends are doing and discuss whether or not I should involve that parent. I will never claim to be a perfect parent, but we have established pretty strict guidelines, a whole lot of freedom, and so far our kids have made good choices. They’ve both been busted and had consequences, and they’ve both come to me to admit they’ve done things they shouldn’t.  It’s all part of the process.

While I’m opening all the eyes to the things your kids may be engaged in, search their rooms. Like every drawer and pair of socks, under the mattress, in the top of the closet for vape pens or puff bars, or Jewels, or whatever the word of the day is. I would say 50% of Lexi Kate’s friends have tried it, and 30% of them are active users. Unfortunately, I know of Sam’s friends who were doing it in the 5th grade. We’re talking kids as young as 10. I do not care what you say about how much safer vaping is than smoking cigarettes or marijuana. It is dangerous, especially for young kids. If nothing else it creates an addictive habit that leads to greater addictions. They want a higher high, they want to get away with more. We just had a family member in rehab for an addiction that started with vaping, that led to marijuana use, that led to more…. The kid is a young teenager. The kid is in a good family that is engaged. It is happening in the church, it is happening in upper middle class families, it is happening with kids of stay at home moms, and super involved dads. No one is exempt from the temptations our kids face today.

I am not going to pretend to have the answers, and I most certainly will not claim to be parenting perfectly. But, we are having very open conversations. My kids know the risks and the consequences. And, my kids know we are a safe place for getting help. I pray daily that my kids won’t ever need help from these problems. But, I also pray that if they are in this mess, that they will get caught before the stakes are too high. I pray that for your kids too. And, if you aren’t comfortable having this conversation with your kids, at the very least let them know that I am an open door. I might scare them a bit with how brutally honest I am, and I will just rip that bandaid off. But, honestly at the end of the day, I think that is what our kids are begging for. I think they want to be caught, I think they want the discipline, and I think they want a way out. I know a couple of Lexi Kate’s friends have been relieved to be caught and want help getting out of the cycle. Be available parents.

I don’t really know how to conclude this story. Just know I’m praying. Know that I want to know. If you have any reason to believe that my kids might possibly be involved in something I would not approve of, let me know. I promise I will not be that parent that shames you and makes you regret coming to me, swearing my kids couldn’t possibly be guilty. I also won’t jump to conclusions and discipline my kid based on a rumor. But, I will for sure check it out. I’ll make my kids sweat. And, will fix the problem. I’m here to bounce ideas off of for other parents who don’t know how to handle the situation. We’ve got this parents, let’s be engaged and finish raising these kids well.

My Best Friend

I really should have written this post a month ago when we were in the thick of it, and all I wanted to say was fresh on my mind. But, as life would have it we were busy and I didn’t sit down to write, and now I’ve forgotten half of what I wanted to say. Today, however, I need some writing therapy, so I’m forcing myself to sit with my thoughts and type away.

I’ve always had a couple solid mottos when it comes to raising my children: 1)Teaching them to love Jesus and follow Him as their Lord and savior is my primary role as a parent (check, check) 2)I am raising adults, not grown children (Jury is still out. I think I’ve got a solid chance with one, one is probably going to live in my basement forever.) 3)I am not your friend, I am your mother, and I’m worried about love and respect not whether or not you like me. While I’ve eaten many a “I will never” words over the last 12.75 years of parenting, my ideals generally haven’t changed so much. Until, I had a middle school daughter. And, at this point I am fairly certain I’ve totally fallen off the parenting wagon, I have no goals other than to ensure we are both still alive in 5 years.

We’ve had many tear filled nights. We’ve had many deep conversations. We’ve asked 17 thousand million questions I cannot answer. We’ve prayed, we’ve pleaded, we’ve yelled at God, we’ve yelled at each other. It hasn’t been our most glorious times. But, one night in the midst of working through girl/friend drama my heart really began to change on one of my mottos. Lexi Kate was struggling with wanting a “best friend”. She has several friends, and has actually done a fairly decent job of building a tribe at her new school. But, there is always a little drama here and there, and someone doesn’t like me today. Someone was mean today, someone hurt my feelings today….. Through the sobs, she just pleaded with God to please send her a best friend. Someone that would be there through thick and thin, someone who would tell her she was being “too extra” instead of judging her for it, someone to give life lifting advice instead of tearing her down. This is something I’ve prayed over her for years. And, it hit me. I’ve made a hard stance on not being my kids’ friend. But, what my daughter needs more than anything right now is a true friend. She needs someone to model what friendship in hard and awkward times looks like. She needs someone to be goofy with and talk about embarrassing things with and decide whether a boy is cute, or if an outfit is flattering….. All of those things are especially hard for LK because she is mentally a 30 year old trapped in a 12 year old’s life. She’s just more emotionally mature and thoughtful than most of the girls her age and she struggles to connect because they don’t get her.

And, you know who does get it. You know who had those exact same struggles in the 5-8th grades. Yep, Me. So, that night as we laid in the bathroom floor crying, I decided my daughter needed a best friend more than she needed a mom. I know all you momma’s are about to judge me and get up in my grill about what a terrible choice I’m making. Trust me, I would have judged me too, six months ago. But, maybe God is answering my prayers for a best friend for my daughter in me. Thankfully, I’ve parented pretty hard and steady over the last few years. She knows how to make a budget, she knows how to cook dinner, wash clothes, and make babies. She also knows that practicing making babies is a really bad plan anytime in the forseeable future. She’s got a solid Biblical foundation, she has boundaries in pretty much every area of her life, it’s been well established that we are the strictest parents on planet earth. So, I’m going to hedge my bets on the parenting we’ve done thus far. And, I’m taking a mom break. I’m going to be my daughter’s best friend.

I truly pray I get replaced sooner than later. I pray we can go back into a role of me being her mom and mentor and not her friend. But, until then, I’m going to be what she needs me to be most, a friend that truly gets her. Middle school is weird, we all do real weird things. I’m just going to roll with it. It’s just a phase, don’t miss it…..

Deep Connection

This morning Jeff and I were sitting on the back porch drinking our coffee. It was a particularly slow morning as our power went out multiple times last night, and each time it came back on, our alarm system would go off. I did not get my needed beauty sleep. As I was sitting, sipping, and staring into the woods a sudden sense of anxiety and sadness came over me. I looked at my phone to see what time it was, and I noticed the date was 5/9 and it was 6:05 am. It had been 2 years ago at that moment that GranGran left this earth. I was immediately amazed at the deep physical connection our body has with grief and stress. That even 2 years later, I was connected to that moment.

To this day, I say 2014 and 2017 were the very worst 2 years of my life. In 2014, I lost my mom, both of our sisters were going through divorces, our marriage struggled, my baby started kindergarten and I was pretty much a red hot mess. I grieved losing my mom in ways I never expected to experience. I’ve always been a pretty emotionally level person, and not one to be victim to my circumstances, but I caved. All the moments of stress and hard situations I had internalized came rushing out as I grieved my mom. I just didn’t have the emotional energy to compensate for anything.

January through May 2017 was a train wreck. I had 3 surgeries between January 25 and April 10. The following week Lexi Kate broke her leg. 3 days after that, Gran started hemorrhaging in the middle of my kitchen floor. That led to a week in the hospital, and our eventual decision to move her to hospice care. After 21 days without any food or water, Gran finally passed away peacefully. As grateful as I was that she was no longer held hostage by dementia, as relieved I was of the burden of caring for a dementia and heart failure patient, I was extremely grieved. She was essentially my last connection to my mom. I felt like having Gran with me was having mom with me. Taking care of her was my one last opportunity to serve my mom, to make my mom proud. I’d always dreamed of taking care of my mom, and I never got that chance.

The remainder of 2017 played out with an epic battle with a crazy neighbor. And, ended with us deciding the best thing for our family to do was leave the neighborhood we dearly loved. Those were our people, they were literally our circle. And, we left. Our whole family spent several months grieving home.

Two years later, here we are. Looking back on the deep connections we had to our family and friends, feeling sad, yet so grateful. Our grief is only possible because we loved so deeply. I wouldn’t give up the love and connection in order to avoid the grief even though it hurts down to my toes.

Living Life to the Fullest

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ll fairly quickly discover a few things about me: 1)I always error on the side of experiences instead of giving my kids things. 2)The Woodford’s love a good party 3)I always want my kids and their friends to know our house is a safe place to land. So, in the grand scheme of things, no one should really be surprised that I agreed to throw my kids a killer end of school party. I called a buddy with a limo service and worked out a decent deal, had them pick the kids up at 3 different schools, and came back here for a day of food (9 large pizzas, 100 bags of chips and sweet snacks, 2 dozen apples and a dozen oranges to be exact), swimming, 600 water balloons, and jumping on the trampoline. I’m fairly confident all 18 kids were sound asleep by 7:00pm.

But, this post isn’t so much about the party itself. It’s about how God orchestrates things in our life. First of all, I’m an introvert and I don’t particularly love to be surrounded by lots of people. I debated letting each of my kids having separate smaller parties. But, then I decided that was twice as much work, and I might as well rip the band- aid off and have one big party. This left me with the dilemma of how to get 18 kids to my house after a 2 hour school day without inconveniencing parents. Earlier LK had asked to have a limo, and I said “no way”. But, then as I’m thinking about getting these kids to my house, I thought “why not?”. Is it normal for elementary and middle school kids to ride in a limo? No, of course not. Do I want my kids to get used to such luxury, nope. But, today it was something I could do to invest in them and their friends, so I did it.

You can imagine, rolling up into an elementary school and middle school in a limo got lots of attention and talk. But, one lady’s comment really struck me. I recognize this lady, but I do not know her. I simply know that she was a parent at the middle school LK attended in the fall. I’ve never even spoken to her. But, with a scowl and huff, she looks at another mom and says, “That woman can spend money faster than they print it.” Hmmm, interesting that someone I don’t even know their name knows my spending habits. Normally, I give zero concern to what others think of me. But, this has been an interesting week in terms of mom judgement, so I really wanted to retaliate. This woman doesn’t know that 3 of my 4 grandparents died before 65, 2 of them before 55. She doesn’t know my mom died at 55. She doesn’t know I have a family history of every flavor of cancer they make, and heart disease on both sides of my family. So, my gene pool history leans to the fact that I’m not going to be on this earth 100 years. If I’ve only got 15-20 years left to live, I am damn sure not going to waste a minute of time celebrating my kids. Should I spend that money on saving for college? Maybe, but we do have college funds set up, and my kids are wicked smart. So, college funds aren’t a high priority in my life. Should I save for retirement? Maybe, but, again, history doesn’t indicate I’ll need much. Should we put money in savings? Yes, and we do. Should we donate to the less fortunate? Absolutely, and we give not only our money, but our time. However, at a time we have expendable income, I simply choose to enjoy these precious times I have with my kids. So, until you’ve examined my bank account, and understand my life, you really don’t get to judge how I spend my money.

We are raising these kids in a super hard world. Social media, television ads, and peer pressure feeds so much negativity into their lives. I honestly feel my greatest struggle as a parent is to make sure my kids understand that they are known, heard and loved, not only by me, but by their Heavenly Father. He loves us in big ways, so I’m going to love them in big ways. I’m going to be present in the school pick up line. My house is always going to be full of plenty junk food, messy floors, and kids running in and out from the pool. Why? Because when a bunch of 16 year olds ask my kids and their friends if they want to go out drinking and driving around town, I want the 18 kids at my house today to say, No thanks, we’re going to go hang out at the Woodford’s. I remember growing up I had 3-4 mommas, and I was happy to hang out at home with my friends. Never once did I feel the need to make bad choices to feel accepted and loved. I want my kids to have the same. So, if that means throwing ridiculous birthday parties, or picking up kids from school in a limo, I make zero apologies for that. My kid may be the only 6th grader without an iPhone, but she knows her momma loves her big and wants to be part of her life.

But, I can honestly say that I don’t really think me getting a limo today had anything at all to do with my kids. Within minutes of getting in the car, conversation turned to the fact that our limo driver was currently caring for her mom with dementia. Coincidence? I think not. I spent the next 2 hours ministering to this woman from a road I’ve already walked. I was able to pray for her, recommend resources for her. Encourage her that there is a light at the tunnel. Encourage her that it is okay to feel like you are in a living hell and you would do anything to get out of this situation. Encourage her to get help, and some ways that she could get services cheaper than what she is currently paying. And, not to toot my own horn, but it gave me a chance to financially bless this single woman who is seriously struggling to financially take care of herself and her mom. Did my kids need a limo today, not at all. Did Samantha need us today? Beyond a shadow of a doubt. If I hadn’t said “why not” to spoiling my kids today, I would have never met Samantha. I don’t know how Samantha’s story would have panned out if we never met. But, because we’ve met, I’m confident her story gets a little better. She’s already texted me several times today expressing gratitude for our chance meeting. I know she’s told the limo owner about it, because he’s texted me about it. And, I know I’m committed to praying for this woman. And, continuing to help her walk the road of being a care giver for a dementia patient. Would you do me a favor and say a prayer for Samantha tonight?

So, yes, we go a little over board when it comes to celebrating our kids. But, we’re going to live this life to the absolute fullest. I hope instead of judging how we chose to parent our kids, you’d join me in finding ways to celebrate yours- regardless of what scale that is on. Trust me, there were years we had to celebrate our kids and live life to the fullest on a negative budget. It has very little to do with a limo and a swimming pool, and everything to do with being present and loving well.

On this day…

One of my very favorite things about Facebook is the “Facebook Memories” that pop up each morning with the posts and pictures you put up on this day in years past. Usually, I look at them with a gentle smile or a happy tear of how much my kids have grown over the years. But, today, when I saw the memories of past May 6, it was painful. Facebook reminded me that May 6 was a hard day in 2015, 2016, 2017- each year Gran was in the hospital and I was staring death in the face bearing the sole responsibility of making the decision to fight for her life or let her go. I was questioning why in the world God would put me in that place over and over.

So many times over the three years that we were responsible for Gran’s care I remember thinking God, I cannot do this another day. I cannot clean poop up out of the floor, I cannot change and bathe a grown woman, I cannot listen to her tell me how awful I am, I cannot watch her hurt my children- I simply cannot do this one more day. Yet, each time when we were faced with the decision to continue medical care, I continued medical care. And, God gave us the strength to do it one more day. Until last year. Gran went into the hospital on April 19 and as situations progressed we moved her to Hospice on April 25. I felt like a complete and total failure. I felt like I was giving up on her. I felt like I was the one making the decision to let her die, as moving her to hospice was certainly the end. But, I also remember sitting in a conference room crying my heart out to the palliative care doctors saying I didn’t have anything left in me. I could not possibly bring her back into my home. I was exhausted, my husband was exhausted, and my kids were spent. Dementia had taken her brain, heart disease and diabetes had taken her health, and now a stroke had taken her sight and likely ability to walk. Knowing all of this in my head didn’t change the agony in my heart that I was quitting on her. In a way I think those were thoughts brought on by the last 3 years of thinking in the moments mom was sick and dying, that I should have demanded she be transferred to a heart focused hospital in Nashville, that if we could have just gotten her here they could have done something to save her. Maybe, I should have demanded they put her on life support and give her body time to heal from the infection, but we just let her go.

Now, I know these are all crazy thoughts, but the emotion surrounding May always brings me to a place of did I do enough? Did I finish well? I don’t know if I will ever not feel regret about how I cared for Gran in her final days. I don’t even know why I have these thoughts. I guess it is just the fact that we live in a fallen world and Satan will use every foothold he can get into our hearts to make us doubt that God is good and His plan is perfect. So, today, as I look at May 6, I’m part sad that it brings back memories of really hard times. Part of me feels glad that this May 6 brings sunshine, church, a special afternoon with my little man, a sense of peace and gladness of what God has brought us in this last year. And, honestly, a part of me feels guilt- guilt because I’m thankful our whole family is no longer suffering with the burden dementia brought to our lives.

I don’t really know the purpose of this post other than just to confess that the emotions are still raw, the memories are still hard. It’s been over 4 years since mom died, and just a couple days shy of being a year since Gran died and I still question every decision we made over those years. But, the one thing I do not question is the faithfulness of my God who provided us just enough grace and just enough support to make it to the next day.


A Trip Home

It’s a cold, rainy, nasty February day. I’m pretty sure February 11th will always be etched in my brain as a miserable day, regardless of the weather. Now, four years later I can still remember every single detail of my February 11, 2014. I can still remember Lexi Kate walking into my bathroom as I was drying my hair, a pencil in one hand, my cell phone in the other saying, “I told Mimi you were drying your hair, but she said she had to talk to you.” That conversation of, “The doctor says I’m fine, I’m just at the hospital having some fluid drained off my lungs….. don’t come down…. I haven’t told Grandmother…. I’ll call you back later after the doctor comes by…..” kicked off what would be the very worst 24 hours of my life. So, with hair half wet, I grabbed an extra pair of sweat pants, a long sleeved t-shirt, clean underwear and a tooth brush, screamed at Jeff, “Mom, needs me, figure things out here.” and I bolted out the door. I made it from Franklin, TN to Mayfield in just under an hour and 45 minutes. Later that afternoon, as I looked at the scans of my mom’s heart, despite what the doctor’s were saying, I knew I was going to lose my mom. She looked and sounded fine, but I just knew. And, so began a journey of doing way more adult-ing in 4 years, than I had done in the last 17 years of my “adult life”.

Today, I once again made that cold, wet February 11th drive from Franklin to Mayfield. February 11th is Grandmother’s birthday. Mom died on February 12, so I wanted to bring them flowers today. I made the trip alone today. That is not at all reflective of this four year journey. I have been anything but alone on this journey- friends, family, and strangers have supported us in ways I could never express. I still feel the pain and loss of not having my mom 4 years later. I’m still working on reconciling how I feel about Grandmother being gone, 9 months after she has died.

I think the one thing I have been feeling most lately is loss of purpose. I know that sounds strange coming from someone who is a wife, mother, and has a career. But, the day my mom died, my primary purpose in my mind became honoring her by the way I cared for her mother. I had training on how to be a good wife, mother, and worker- I watched my mom do those things better than anyone for 35 years. I had no clue how to care for an 80 year old critical heart patient with dementia. There’s a few books out there, and there’s groups who are willing to offer support, but there isn’t a step by step instruction manual on how to raise kids and adults without totally losing all your shit. So, it was 3.5 years of hands on, pour all you have into this mission survival. And, now it’s over. And, now I’m still not real sure what to do with myself next.

We bought a foreclosure house and remodeled it. I think a big portion of my desire to do that was to have something to focus on and pour my energy into. Now, we’ve finished that to the extent my wallet will allow, and I’m back at the point of not knowing what to do with myself. For the last 3 years when I wrote out my annual goals, I was able to relatively easy come up with things. For the most part, because my life demanded I be laser focused in order to achieve it all. Because, my mortgage company didn’t give a rat’s behind that I had a whole lotta life going on- they still expected a check. This year, I’ve really struggled coming up with my goals and dreams to focus on for the year. Everyone around me says, take a year to rest. Find yourself. You don’t have to do anything big. I want to agree with that and take it all in. It’s just a huge struggle for me. For the way I am wired, I need a big purpose, I need a big dream, I need hard things to accomplish just to motivate me to get out of bed in the morning.

So, here I sit, in the middle of a cemetery, beside my Mom’s muddy grave, asking what’s next. I’ll admit, I really, really, really want to ask God why He took my Momma away so early. Why in the world I had to sit bedside and watch the 3 strongest and most influential women in my life die (I watched my dad’s mom take her last breath when I was 19, I watched my own mom die when I was 35, and watched Gran slowly die of dementia and heart disease over the last 3 years.) Here is what I do know. Because of the strength these women modeled for me, because of the love and dedication they poured into me, I can do really, really hard things. If God calls me to do nothing else big in this life, I know I’ve done more than most. And, it isn’t a competition. It’s about living the life I’ve been given well. I’ve failed forward a whole lot. Looking in hind sight, I’d do 90% of it differently. But, we don’t live life in the rear view mirror, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I can say I “showed up”.

So, hear I am, 39 years old, sitting beside my momma, crying like a baby, just wanting to make her proud more than anything in the world. I don’t know what’s next for this small town girl, but whatever it is, I’m ready. As, I’m preparing to leave Mayfield, and head back home. I hear my mom saying, just pray, “Here, I am Lord, send me.” And, I know He’ll send some pretty amazing guardian angels with me.

Mom, Gran, I miss you more than words on a blog could ever express. We’ve got big things left to do, let’s go.

We’re officially homeless

One of my last posts was about our failed attempt at buying a new house. Well, we learned that everything works out for a reason. And, once again looking at a house for clients, I found one for us. This one wasn’t the love at first site kind of feeling. But, rather, imagine what we can make this feeling. I truly can’t wait to share the before and after pictures with you.

As we prayed over this decision, God has just blessed our socks off every step of the way. One of those was in the selling of our house. As of today, it isn’t really ours anymore. I wrote an article for my real estate newsletter that speaks a little to do that :


Oftentimes in my parenting, I say things like: “Do as I say, not as I do.” Or, “Trust me, I know these things.” These great words of wisdom have now come into play in my professional career. For the first time in the 10 years I have been selling real estate, my husband and I have taken a turn in your chair- the client. Over the next few months, I’ll be writing a series of articles on the things I have learned about the process from the other side of the table. This week, I am starting from the perspective of selling your home.
Let me start by giving my sincere apologies to all my past clients who felt like I didn’t get how hard it was to get your home ready to sell, to go through the showing process, and the emotional process of letting it go. You know I am a checklist girl, I manage the back side of a transaction like a well oiled machine. But, you’re right, I didn’t get the emotional side of just how freaking hard it is to sell a house.
The house we sold today was Jeff and I’s first house together. It was the house where we bought both our babies home. It was the house we had our most exciting memories in. It is also the house we’ve probably lived some of our hardest days in. We’ve lived here all but 18 months of our marriage- 12 years in this house full of memories and let’s be honest, a whole lot of crap! I’m not really the emotional one in our marriage, I’m the more black and white one… But, today was emotionally harder for me than I thought it would be, as we signed our rights away to the first home we owned together. I’m sure the day we move out will be even harder. And, holy moses is getting a house staged and ready to sell a nightmare when you are living in it. We did rent a POD, and I probably should have gotten a dumpster too, but the downsizing furniture and fighting the kids over the toys they could live without for a couple months would have made for some great reality tv. And, I won’t even give details about the possibility of the unkind words I said to my husband when I didn’t think he was going to get the list of “upgrades” I wanted done before picture day completed. It was a rough couple weeks, but we made it.
So, back to the do as I say, not as I do part. From the day I put the sign in my yard until the day we closed was 18 days. You read that right, eighteen days. We listed on a Thursday and had multiple offers on Friday. And, of course we took the lowest price offer. Because, all good realtors negotiate a terrible deal for themselves. Just kidding, it wasn’t a terrible deal. It was the smart deal, even if the sales price dollar was lower than it should have been. As I tell my clients, there are many more factors in the negotiation than price, know what your wins have to be. It’s been pretty much a nonstop whirlwind of preparation, showing, inspections, repairs, and bam- closing. I tell my clients to always give themselves a bare minimum of 21 days, thirty preferred. There are just too many moving pieces and parts to cram it all in to 2.5 weeks. But, we did it. It was every bit as stressful as I expected it to be. I wouldn’t do it again. You need time to breathe. If you think it sounds heavenly to rip the bandaid off, and do it that fast, trust me, you don’t want to do it this way. I touched the stove for you, learn from me…..
My one saving grace is another place where I didn’t take my own advice. Trade keys for money. I always get nervous when my clients want to let buyers move in early or sellers stay beyond closing. Well, the one reason we took the offer we did on our house (it was a multiple offer situation, with all cash offers) is because they agreed to let us stay 45 days beyond closing. So, yes, my house closed in 18 days, but I didn’t have to have it all packed up. So, that made it mostly better. We didn’t buy our new house contingent on this one selling. And, it needs a good 3 weeks worth of work, which requires cash. I am beyond grateful in this situation to have a quick close on our current house, and then get to stay here while we do the work. It far beats having to do temporary housing and storage. Let’s all just pray that I don’t live to regret this the rest of my life. I still think the best occupancy policy is day of closing, but I’m warming up to the idea that it just works better in other situations.
What have I learned from being the seller? The big thing was the emotional element of it. Yes, this is a business decision. And, when you decide to sell, it is no longer your house. But, we’re all human and there is no way to totally remove yourself from the emotion of it all. Beyond that, cling to those checklist. All of the staging tips, things you need to do to get your house ready for listing, documents to have ready on listing day, all of that- great tips. The more you follow the checklists and have things together and prepared, the easier this whole process goes. Having your house truly ready to go to market gives you the absolute best chance of selling the house for top dollar in a very short period of time. And, it helps you navigate the deals between contract and closing with relatively little stress.
We can do this! And, I’ll do it with a little more compassion the next time around with my clients.


The Problem with my White Privilege

Today, I realized I am white privilege in America. And, the problem with that is that I don’t even think I have a problem. I am a “wealthy” white woman, living in a “wealthy” white community with my white husband and our white children. I’ve never considered myself racist, and my kids don’t even really get the whole skin color difference. We have immediate family members that are not white, we have friends that are not white. We have white friends who do not have white children. But, for the most part we live in a really white world. I don’t by choice surround myself with so much whiteness, it’s just how life turned out. And, anyone that knows my heart knows you are welcome in our world no matter your skin color. And, my daughter especially will go to the mat in 2 seconds flat to defend someone she loves who has been a victim of racism. In fact, it’s the only reason I’ve ever had to visit the principal’s office on her account. Sam probably would as well if he even understood it. All that to say, I’ve never given much consideration to the problem of prejudice in our world, because it isn’t a huge factor in the world I live in daily.

Today, I witnessed first hand prejudice in my community. In fact, I was a victim to it. And, I almost ruined my kids’ epic day by beating a lady to a pulp. We had planned to go to Soar Adventure Park for some put-put golf, but when we arrived it was closed until noon. So, we decided to have lunch a little early at Steak-n-Shake just down the street. We arrived at 10:45, which is otherwise known as Senior Citizen lunch hour. So, here I roll into the over 60 crowd with my 5 children. Not literally all 5 children are mine, but they were with me today; and I’d adopt the 3 bonus kids in a second. So, today, they were mine. Granted, I wasn’t dressed to the nines today, and the kids weren’t sporting 3 piece suits. We were all dressed for outdoor adventure with a side of lunch. And, of course, since we were a large group, we got seated smack dab in the middle of the restaurant. No bid deal, these are good kids, and they know how to behave themselves, and we will not disrupt everyone’s lunch. Shortly after we were seated, another older couple was seated adjacent to us. I kept noticing the lady looking over our way and giving me a funny look. I kept looking back, thinking where do I know you from? You must be looking at me because I know you and I should speak. Literally, nothing else crossed my mind as to why she was staring me down. When our food arrived, I noticed she had started giving us a really dirty look. I was perplexed. I promise the kids were not making a peep. They were building the cars from the kids menu and drinking their milkshakes…..

And, then it happened. I’m staring right at her when she says to the man with her. “Look at that mess. Kids of every color and I bet not a one of them has the same father. She can’t work, but she can eat out while we buy her groceries.” I’m here to tell you, thank the good Lord above the kids didn’t hear her say it. And, thank the Lord it was early in the day, and I hadn’t lost all my patience yet. Because, it took every ounce of patience I’ll have all week not to pounce on this woman like a Tiger on a bunny rabbit after he hadn’t eaten in a month. So, I am stewing. Do I walk over to her and say, “B@#$%, I work my ass off to provide for these kids. And, you ain’t paying for my groceries either, or any of these kids’ groceries for that matter. And, yep there are 3 different daddies represented at this table; but there are also 3 different mommas. And, this is no mess. This is community, God’s plan coming together perfectly. For my kids to love their friends so much, regardless of their skin color, social status, religious or political upbringing, to want to spend the last day before school starts with them having an epic day. So, I’m sorry that we aren’t all dressed like we’re the distinguished white people you want to see in this town. And, I’m sorry that it bothers you that one mom has 5 kids in a restaurant by herself. But, don’t assume you know anything about the situation.” Instead, I sat quietly with my precious children. I smiled back with the classic, “Bless your heart” southern smile. And, I gave myself a pep talk during the rest of our lunch reminding myself that lashing out would only ruin the kids’ day, and I didn’t take off work to ruin nobody’s day….

So what if they were all mine. So what if I had kids of different skin colors. So what if I had kids by different fathers. Nope, not my story. But, it is the story of many of God’s dearly loved children. And, when we judge people’s stories and situations, we not only hurt the hearts and spirits of those precious children; we hurt the heart of God. In all my whiteness I sometimes forget we have a prejudice problem today. I think, Oh, we’ve come so far… I often see a bigger prejudice for socio-economic status in our community that I do race. And, I see our poor hispanic friends fall victim to racism far too often. But, today, I was victim of both. Because of the way we were dressed, and because there was one mom with several kids, representing different races; someone assumed we were “a mess”. You know what, God has blessed this hot mess. And, I’d take these 5 kids all day long over your messy attitude.

Let my experience today be a reminder to us all that prejudice and racism are still alive and well in our society today. Not just in inner-city Chicago, or upstate New York. It’s right here in perfect little Franklin, TN. And, when we continue to operate in our perfect little world of whiteness, we become part of the problem. Reach out, love your neighbor, and let the little old lady at Steak and Shake know that there’s nothing wrong with my story or yours, no matter how many you have or what color your children are.

A dose of empathy

Let me tell you a little story about never say never…… Last Wednesday I was looking at houses for a client, and found one that had some pretty cool features. I sent it to them for a look, and they really didn’t like it; and it was priced on the high end of market value. On Thursday, I got an email saying the price had been significantly reduced. And, I did the thing I’ve only done 2-3 times in my 10 year real estate career- I called the hubs to meet me there…. He walked in, and he knew exactly what I was thinking. “This is our house.” Not wanting to make a rash decision, I had one of my realtor friends come look at it and make sure it was worth what we were paying. She gave it another resounding “yes”. I said I would NEVER move from our house until my kids were grown.

This house isn’t a fancy house. As a matter of fact, in terms of bells and whistles, our current house is a fancier house. Our current house is a much newer house. But, this house had some things our hearts truly long for- acreage and a fantastic location within minutes of our beloved downtown Franklin. In fact, it was only minutes from our current house. This house also had a fabulous space for our kids to grow into teenagers and bring their friends over. It’s a big house. Not that our current house isn’t big enough- but this house was considerably bigger than our current house. Folks, who know my heart, it had 4 dining areas. A bistro area in the kitchen, a breakfast room, a formal dining room, and a kitchen area in the basement. I was in dinner party heaven. I immediately saw my house full of people at Christmas.

So, I did the very thing I tell my clients to NEVER EVER do. I started pursuing a house before getting lender pre-approval (Disclaimer here- I know mortgage guidelines and have a running idea of what is needed and knew we were okay, and a few lenders in my back pocket.), we put an offer on a house without even a remote thought of selling ours, and we entered a multiple offer situation unwilling to go above list price or remove our financing or inspection contingencies. I started working like a bat outta hell to get our ducks in a row. Let’s just say 2 self employed people need a whole lot of documentation to prove they really make good money. And, praise the Lord we don’t cheat on our taxes, because that would have made the process a whole lot harder. I was a little nervous about the situation, so I drove all the way to KY to sit at the foot of my mother’s grave and pray over our decision. Considering we are so happy in our current house, we had no desire to move, I wanted to make sure this was truly the right thing. And, on the way back from KY I got the call that we had won the multiple offer situation.

And, that’s when the party started getting real. I had this burden in my heart because we hadn’t told our kids, family or friends we were buying a new house. I was so excited, but I know not to count chickens before they hatch. We wanted to make sure everything was a go before we shared the news. We went to the house again and made notes as to what we needed to plan to do rehab wise. We fell in love with what this was going to be.

And, then we had the home inspection. And, my guts just started turning inside out. Pretty much everything that could be wrong was wrong. As I often say to clients who are buying older homes, “they’ve just put lipstick on this pig.” The house had been remodeled, but it was just a mess. We had contractors out to look at it and give estimates. More than anything, we wanted to stay with this purchase. But, through the process, we had prayed that God would make it crystal clear what we should do. And, yesterday without hesitation, but with plenty tears, I said “Jeff, I am out.” We just couldn’t commit to the months and tens of thousands of dollars this house was going to involve. It would mean we had to stay in our current house for 4 months or so while the work was being done there, plus the expense of the work. And, while we’ve been fortunate to save decent money, that would have wiped us out. And, no house is worth putting our financial future at risk. So, I cried some more and called the agent, who I adore, and told them we were done. I hated it for the family who desperately needed to sell this house. We had already connected with them on an emotional level. But, this wasn’t an emotional decision- it was a business decision. And, we had to make the right decision. Lord, knows I’ve made plenty bad ones.

And, although this didn’t work out the way we wanted it to…. And, I feel like I wasted $1000 on inspections for nothing…… I didn’t sleep for a week…… I’ve been stressed and emotionally torn to the max….. My kids are wondering what is wrong with me, and I haven’t been able to tell them….. Through it all, I am thankful. This experience has allowed me to see this process from the other side of the street. Something I haven’t done in 12 years. This process has allowed me to empathize on a deeper level than I have recently with clients walking through multiple offers, negotiating inspections, and trying to decide to take that leap of faith.

The two songs that has been in my head this whole week are Colton Dixon’s “You Are” and Mercy Me’s “Even If”:

YOU ARE: When I can’t find the words, to say how much it hurts; You are the healing in my heart; When all that I can see is broken memories, You are the light that is in the dark;

You are the song, you are the song I am singing; You are the air, You are the air I breathe in; You are the hope, You are the hope I am needing; You Are.

And when my circumstance leaves me with empty hands, You are the provider of my needs; When all my dirtiness has left me helpless, You are the rain that washes me;

You are the song, you are the song I am singing; You are the air, You are the air I breathe in; You are the hope, You are the hope I am needing. You Are.

If I had no voice, if I had no tongue; I would dance for you like the rising sun; And when that day comes, and I see your face; I will shout your endless glorious praise.

You are the song, you are the song I am singing; You are the air, You are the air I breathe in; You are the hope, You are the hope I am needing.


They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Good thing
A little faith is all I have right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Pardon my French, in a post where I just posted Christian lyrics, but 2017 has been a bitch. It’s probably God protecting us from ourselves that we aren’t moving. I even said before this got started, my sanity probably couldn’t handle that. But, many things I’ve prayed for just haven’t happened. God has changed our course more times than I would like to admit, because you know I’m not a change course kind of girl. God can use us anywhere and in any situation. And, while I wasn’t looking to leave our neighborhood, because these are truly my peeps; I’m really sad that I’m not going to have a rocking yard with an amazing pool and walkout basement anytime soon. So, back to finding joy in our house with dozens of kids spilling colored gatorade on my brand new porch cushions. And, there is much joy in this house. And, I am beyond grateful to have it. But, I’d also be grateful to have last week back, and my $1000 back. But, moving on with more empathy for my clients and the stress of purchasing and inspection periods and all things I just push around on paper.