Life or Something Like It, Vacation Days

Niagara Falls, Holmes County, and the Mansfield Reformatory

This was written 8 years ago.  This year (2022), we celebrated 28 years of marriage together.  He is my favorite human ever.

Niagara Falls, Holmes County, and the Mansfield Reformatory

Living Out God’s Story 20 Years Strong

Living Out God’s Story 20 Years Strong. Today is the day I married the man God intended for me to marry.

I met him during a horrible time in my life. Sadly, I was in an abusive relationship and very beaten down. I had just transferred to our local university. Also, I had moved out of my home. My family was in turmoil, and it wasn’t easy.

I remember walking into the game room. Amazingly, I had gotten a job on campus, and this was it. I was late because I had driven from my parent’s home, an hour away. By the time I got there, the other employees had already lined up at the front desk and heard the “speech” given by the head guy.

I noticed a boy, about the third or fourth in line. He had whitewashed jeans, a light green shirt, a cub’s hat, and a lip full of tobacco (yuck). I only saw his profile.

My first thought was, “I’m gonna marry him.”

I had no idea his name as if he were single. Honestly, all I knew was his butt looked AMAZING in those jeans. Also, he had a kind expression on his face.

I walked to the end of the line and heard the speech. Then, I got my schedule. I remember looking at it in detail. Sadly, I knew no one. I was paired on the weekends with two guys. One of the guy’s name was Shawn, and the second guy, I remember looking at his name and thinking, “who would name their kid Bart?” Seriously, I had no idea who “Bart” was. Honestly, I just got tickled with his name. I even called my sister, snickering.

Then, as I went for my first shift, I met Shawn. He was a nice guy who loved to pick his nose on yards upon yards of toilet paper. As I sat there, I looked up, and here he came, Bart. He was the guy with the whitewashed jeans. I remember thinking, “OH MY GOODNESS!”

My heart Flipped.

His eyes were sky blue. He had a bitty mustache. He was quiet and reserved. His hands were HUGE….my thumbs put together would equal one of his thumbs. He was smart. Soft. Encouraging.

My “relationship” with the guy I had been with was very controlling. He did not allow me to talk to ANY male person. Also, he would come and watch me. It did not go well when I had to speak to a guy. He would stand there and watch. I walked behind him. I had no opinion on any subject. He told me what to think and do, how to act, and who to associate with, and it was sad. Even sadder, though, as I yielded to that mindset and treatment.

We had bowling alleys in our game room, and they occasionally broke down. Bart and I would have to go back to where my “boyfriend” couldn’t go so we could work on the lanes. He would talk to me and tell me what he thought I deserved and how I should be treated, that I should be treated like a princess and without abandon. I deserved better.

He loved me, and he showed me love. Also, he taught me how to love.

From meeting to marriage was about a year, and today, we celebrate 20 years of marriage. I’m so thankful my first reaction was spot on and that through the years of love, laughter, pain, and loss. He has never left my side.

Happy Anniversary to my FAVORITE person (you’ve still got a great butt)

Niagara Falls, Holmes County, and the Mansfield Reformatory

On our 20th Anniversary Trip, we spent time in Canada, Buffalo, NY, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and more. We booked a reservation at the Skylon Tower. Then, we went for a walk through Toronto and Ontario. Well, we got lost in Toronto.

It was breathtaking. All of it was just breathtaking. This is a place I would go back to year after year. I have never seen anything so gorgeous in all my days. It is a close second to Dhera, Ethiopia.

Niagara Falls, Holmes County, and the Mansfield Reformatory

Niagara Falls, Holmes County, and the Mansfield Reformatory

 

We saw many nations represented.

In addition to the Falls, we saw Tibetan Monks, Rabbis, a sweet Jewish family, and many Amish and Mennonites.

We looked up and ran into old acquaintances among the many, many people. We have not seen these people in years. They were as shocked as we were. We attended church for years and taught each other’s kids during AWANA. It has probably been ten years since we had seen them. Then, we ran into them in Canada.

Tonight we had dinner at Fuji Grill. It was a hibachi grill, and it was wonderful.

 We were blessed enough to share our table with a traveling couple from Indiana.

We laughed, shared, and talked the whole time.

Tremendous.

Part of my Bucket List

Part of my bucket list is Kissing Big Daddy under a waterfall (at Niagara Falls). Well, I successfully did that. There was a quick moment of Kissing Big Daddy Under the American Falls at Niagara.

There was a moment when we were attempting to get under the falls. The pressure, the wind, and the force of the water made it hard to stand. So, I got under, and he tried to get a picture. Then, Bart got under it, and I tried to get a picture.

As He Was Walking Out From Under the Falls

I remembered my bucket list and made him run back under the falls. Then, I tucked my camera under my poncho and ran under there.

Then, I did it. Success.

It was windy and wet.

However, there was no picture until after the fact.

Check it off my list 🙂

Now, for 1001 more items to check off my list. One by one, Big Daddy and I were doing what we love to do. He is my favorite travel buddy!

One day, I want to sell everything when the kids are gone. Then, I want to buy an RV and travel all over the place. The thought thrills me to my toes.

On 20th Anniversary Trip Day 6, we slept in, which was lovely.

We went to the mall, and I had my first experience in the Coach store.

Big Daddy let me in the store alone. Big, big, BIG mistake.

The colors and the smells dazzled my senses.

Big Daddy tried to whisk me away, and he did so in vain. I was helpless in the clearance section. I also had a 50% off coupon. This was such an exciting moment. I remember when I would cry in the drive-thru at McDonald’s because I had $1.00 to get a sandwich.

Niagara Falls, Holmes County, and the Mansfield Reformatory

It was too much.

I succumbed to the powers of the store and bought a bag. It was fabulous. However, since I bought a bag, I told Big Daddy that I would see a movie of his choice.

It was X Men.

Say a prayer.

In my opinion, these movies are stupid.

It was a good movie, shockingly enough. Since I went into it knowing nothing, Big Daddy had a lot of explaining to do. He didn’t seem to mind. It is lovely spending time doing something that he enjoys doing. I mean, I did get a new purse and all!

On our 20th Anniversary Trip Day 8, we went to the Mansfield Reformatory.

Niagara Falls, Holmes County, and the Mansfield Reformatory

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It was WOW and WOW.

I have lots of pictures.

The thought of how many young men died in this prison was mindboggling. Bart’s dad played baseball with the inmates on this front lawn. How cool is that? Oh, how I wish he were alive so we could share this with him. I would love to hear all of his stories.

The new prison is beside the old one. We accidentally got into the parking lot of the wrong prison. I guess the no trespassing sign should have been a cue. Honestly, we looked up and saw the line of prisoners walking from the yard back to their cells. We left quickly.

We also headed into Big Daddy’s parent’s hometown of Cardington, OH.

There, we met up with his aunt and uncle. They were gracious enough to let us stay with them overnight. They took us out to a great little diner.

We left the diner and headed to the campground, where I met another aunt and uncle (after 20 years of marriage).

We stayed and chatted for a while and then headed back to sleep.

On our 20th Anniversary Trip Day 9, we headed into Amish Country.

The place we chose, which we remember when we were 20 years ago, is in Holmes County, OH.

We ate at Boyd and Wurthman’s Diner. It was locally owned and operated. The food was delicious.

I got a few pictures, not many because the Amish do not want their picture taken. I took a picture of one little boy. Respecting their beliefs is important to me because it was important to my father-in-law. I chose to respect that.

Sad Fact

It was not as we remembered. There were so many more businesses, English businesses. It has become very commercial. We only shopped at locally owned stores and no “English-run” businesses. The scenery, however, was just as we remembered. It was gorgeous.

We went to Heini’s, and we sampled about 20 different cheeses. It was wonderful. Heini’s is a cheese factory. Let me tell you; it will be in heaven when I get there. A place dedicated to cheese. Yes, please.

Excellent food.

We also got to see a covered bridge and a castle 🙂

Niagara Falls, Holmes County, and the Mansfield Reformatory

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Life or Something Like It

My Oak My Mama

My Oak My Mama

My Oak My Mama

When I think of an Oak Tree, I think of being little and standing next to the giant oak tree in our yard. It was so big that I could not wrap my arms around it.

I remember looking up at it and seeing it touch the clouds. The giant limbs stand firm in the wind while the little limbs sway back and forth.

I can still see the beautiful leaves that protect me from the sun. I also vividly remember the life living on and around it. The ants and critters crawled up the massive trunk of this tree.

Then, when I look down, I am standing on the roots. These roots are so big that they are bulging out of the ground. I can follow the roots from the tree’s base for as far as they reach.

Many days, I stood in awe of the beauty of this massive living thing that God created.

This mighty tree may bend, but it never breaks.

Our oak tree provides shade in the summer. It loses its leaves in the fall, and the old things pass away. The leaves dying allows the sun to shine through the branches and provide heat on a cold day. In the spring, new life forms, and it begins again.

The circle of life in this tree.

My favorite tree is a tree of strength, honor, and consistency. An oak tree to lean on in hard times. This oak tree brings me joy at the sight or the rustle of the leaves.

I would like to introduce to you my Oak, my Mama.

Thank you, Mama, for loving me without abandon and giving me solid roots.

Thank you for being that big, sturdy branch while I flopped in the wind.

You led me to Christ through your faithfulness in your walk.

Also, for guiding me back to Christ when I wandered off and got lost.

You have always loved my husband and my children.

Thankful that you have never judged but were consistent with your faithfulness.

For showing me love when I was unlovable.

You have taught me values and stood up for me.

Mama, you rescued me, rocked me, and baked with me.

More importantly, mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese, green beans & potatoes, and lima beans for your fried chicken.

You, my Marth, have been a living, breathing example of a Proverbs 31 woman.

You, my sweet Martha, are Oak Tree.

 

Life or Something Like It

Wonder From the Eyes of the Typical

Wonder From the Eyes of the Typical

Wonder From the Eyes of the Typical

Wonder From the Eyes of the Typical kid has inched into my brain. I use the words “typical” and “atypical” loosely. In my world, there are no “typical” kids or people. We are all a bit screwy from time to time. That is what makes the world an exciting place to live. Not being all alike, it gives areas flavor and personality.

My Reason

I used that terminology because of the movie “Wonder” that I watched last night. You can find a Christian review on this film at Plugged in Online to learn more about the different content of this movie.

They used the word “typical” in the film while referencing their oldest daughter, Via. Their youngest son, Auggie, was born with a deformity. He, too, was a biological child. For the most part, I enjoyed this movie, though it hurt my heart.

My Thoughts

This movie did not depict the strain that raising a medically fragile child can have on a marriage. The ‘parents’ seemed to get along great, and there didn’t seem to be underlying anger/hurt/resentment towards one another.

That, right there, is why this is a movie and not real life.

Raising children with special needs, whether mental, physical, life-altering, terminal, etc., have a great deal of strain on any couple. The pressure does not discriminate on whether the parents are married, co-parenting, etc. It isn’t easy. I know why people do not stay married. The all-consuming nature of special needs children is just that, all-consuming.

The Typical Child

What I feel they were pretty spot-on with is the feeling of the older daughter. The child in the shadows. The child you just let skate on and upward with because they know not to make waves. These children have learned to problem solve, maintain, and stay calm on the outside when their insides are screaming.

Guilt begins to permeate.

This movie made me think about my ‘typical’ kids and what they have seen/heard throughout the years. The pain is unbearable at the thought that I have swooshed them under the rug because I was busy putting out fires of my ‘atypical’ kids.

My kids’ needs range from minor to significant things. We have dealt with everything from Dyslexia to Mild Mental Deficit. Splash in Reactive Attachment Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Deafness, and Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome. You will have my kids in a nutshell.

Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

My kids have seen SO much over the years. I’m so blessed that they are so aware of God and follow (mostly) in His forgiving ways. To think back, it makes me shudder to remember the looks on their faces when the violence would ensue.

I can still hear the still, small voices saying “mama stop” when I had had enough. The fear that would splash across their faces when one child would rage for hours on end. This child destroyed anything and anybody in the path of the tornado rage that was bearing down on us.

My kids didn’t have anyone over. It was not safe at times. They saw me cry more times than I could count. I have learned, over the years, to be mindful of catching my emotions before they run amuck.

Did I lose track of them in those years? Was there too long of a delay before I had had my belly full? Did my other children go unnoticed because of the acts/behaviors of one or two kids?

Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear

The things my kids have heard are horrible. The threats, the evil spewed out, the anger that flows like lava. They have listened to it all. One day, amid a storm (figurative, not literal), I noticed my son. God love him. He was corraling the other children to the back of the house.

I realized that day that he was moving them to safety. He wanted to protect their little eyes and ears from all that was going down. It was at that moment that I took control back.

No more was I going to let Satan rule my house. I was done, oh so done. Everything that I was “taught” to do by the so-called foster care rules, my church, my family, friends, other caregivers, therapists, and doctors…nothing worked.

It was time that I saw the other little faces, and I stopped the insanity that had ruled my home, mind, and heart for too long. I began to stop seeking approval from those that did not have my family’s best interest in mind. There were no more doctors, medications, or therapists. I was done.

James 4:7

Submit to God. Resist the devil. He will flee.”  James 4:7 This was the verse I would chant while the world raged around me. We made tough decisions in regards to one of our children. A decision that I tried to back out of, but my family and my physician said it was for the best. Tough decisions are sometimes the hardest ones to make but also necessary for survival.

Reflecting on our past is not all a bad thing. I must be mindful to capture the thoughts that are not of God and put them in the place they should be in my mind. From the beginning of time, he knew the children that I would have, and He has made perfect provisions for each of them. I’m so thankful that He has guarded the hearts of our typical and atypical kids from remembering everything.

Hang tough, fellow mamas in the trenches. God has our backs!

 

Adoption, Life or Something Like It

An Apology Without Change is Manipulation

An Apology Without Change is Manipulation

An Apology Without Change is Manipulation

Gracious, this is such a reminder of what I live with daily. It is so hard when you have such consistent, horrible things said to you and then a fake apology. That is exactly what it is. Fake. I probably have done that, but I learned to be sincere with my apologies. When I do something wrong or hurt someone unintentionally, it hurts me so badly. 

It Was Not Her Fault

There was an issue with an acquaintance, and though that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, it was not her doing anything wrong. I was just emotional. Yet, this is one isolated instance. I was not manipulating her, and I was sincere in my apology.

Now for my family member, this is a different ball of wax. This member has many types of diagnoses. Part of me thinks that this individual cannot help it. They do something wrong, have a hollow apology, and then do the same thing 10 minutes later.

It is almost to the point where I don’t want an apology. I want this person to leave me the heck alone. Can we say BOUNDARIES? I do not have boundaries, but they certainly need to be established.

Kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder

They do this quite often. In this quote, kids with RAD are good at manipulation, Confabulation, and triangulation. According to Webster’s Dictionary, to manipulate means to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means, especially to one’s advantage.

Confabulation means filling in gaps in memory by fabrication. To “normal” people, this means to lie. Then triangulation means allying. In this situation, it is a child with one parent against another parent.

It is all exhausting and makes my brain work on overload. My boundaries had to be firmly placed, though they broke my heart into a million pieces. I had to take into consideration other family members and myself.

The stress was hurting all of us.

Life is Hard

The Lord did not promise us a walk in a rose garden. If we had that or all the answers, we would not need Him. He completes and sustains us even when we are physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted from creating those hard boundaries.

He gives us the wisdom we need when we seek it, to “speak” to us. For me, this is done through intuition, Scripture, other people, and dreams. I have learned to accept that my family member does not understand what it means not to manipulate and to be sincere in the apology.

It is hard. Completely and totally. Maybe one day, the Lord will heal her mind, body, and spirit to where she can function well in the world around her.

 

Life or Something Like It

Barefoot Faith Journey Blog Update

Barefoot Faith Journey Blog Update

Barefoot Faith Journey Blog Update

I mentioned in a previous post that I’m updating my blog. This blog has been going on for about ten years. I started this blog when we began our third adoption. Initially, it was more of a journal for me: something to remember, a place to keep my family updated on our adoption, etc. 

He has been home for ten years, and things have shifted quite a bit. We thought adopting again was not going to happen. I, we, were utterly content with our six children. There was much to work through with their trauma, but we were in a good flow.

Content is a 7 Letter Dirty Word

I mentioned, in prayer, that I was content with my family. That I no longer desired to bring children in through adoption. Honestly, I just wanted to focus on the healing that needed to happen with my kids from hard places. I returned to school to get my master’s in marriage and family therapy, shelf-cooking, cleaning, homeschooling, and things.

However, with God’s funny sense of humor, in November 2016, we (at 42 and 41 years old) began raising our great-nephew. He was 21 months old at the time. Hello Shock. Nice to meet you. I had a 21-month-old 7th child, and my 6th child was eight years old.

So, my blog stopped. I was busy beyond busy. Lots of things going on in that familial situation put everything on hold for me. Then, in June 2017, H got sick with Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome. From then, my blog started back up a bit to process everything we were going through.

Keeping My Eyes Above the Waves

Since then, it has been hit and misses with when I write. I go in spurts of cooking, grief, trauma, life events, processing of everything, and a terrible season of suicide updates with lots of resources.

I’m trying to revamp what I want in my corner of the web. Yes, I still love Jesus, cheese, and cats. Also, I’m a huge adoption advocate but with a different perspective. I parent children from trauma, and we are muddling through that. There are moments when I’m considering getting my doctorate and going back to work. Cooking is not as much a passion though it is a necessity.

Sifting Through it All

I am going through the last ten years’ worth of posts, which is around 800 posts. There is a lot that I’m choosing to mark as private. Reflection has caused me to have a new set of eyes. I’m keeping them for my kids but not for the public.

There is a lot of SEO work that I’m doing, which is not my idea of fun, but it is necessary. You will never notice several things because it is on the blog’s backend. I’m taking all personal pictures of my kids and grandkids off of my blog. I don’t want to post any images without their permission. That goes for my social media stuff, as well. If you see a picture I might have missed, feel free to send me a message and let me know. I am also attempting (though probably going to fail) at taking my kids’ names off of here.

I want to share things in my journey that might relate to a lesson we have all learned through a parenting experience. Yet, I don’t have to attach a name to that story. I will forget and miss a post, but I will do my best.

PTSD Lockbox

For now, I’m reading a lot and learning a lot. I can process and refile something in my brain in the proper spot. I am working on going through my special “PTSD” lockbox, picking out memories or events, and writing about them so I can process them properly instead of keeping them locked away. I no longer want certain things to trigger me and cause a reactive response. If you work through those deep dark things, you can get them out of that lockbox and file them accordingly. When you do that, you no longer have a trauma response; you have a crappy life experience that no longer holds you captive.

So, bear with me. Subscribe if you want. If you do, you will get notifications in your email when I write something new. Be a guest blogger. I’m good with that as it is pertinent to my content. Give me book suggestions or ideas if there is something you want me to tackle. Ask if you have questions here, my email (barefootfaithjourney@gmail.com). You can also like and interact with my page on Facebook, Barefoot Faith JourneyPinterest, or Instagram.

Life or Something Like It

Upcoming Changes to the Blog

Upcoming Changes to the Blog

Upcoming Changes to the Blog

Upcoming Changes to the Blog are in progress. For one, I’m going to possibly have that boy in an arrangement with my second daughter do some behind-the-scenes work. That means he is going to do things I don’t know about.

An addition will be either a category or a page dedicated to book reviews. I have been reading a lot lately, and I want to share with you what I’m reading to see if it piques your interest. I usually stay away from fiction, though I can stomach a few John Grisham books, and then there are a few classics that I love. Mainly therapeutic books, brain healing (from trauma), Holocaust books, and so on.

I am definitely going to make a page dedicated to Momentum Influencers Network. I have been working with them for years. I want a space dedicated to the reviews and giveaways they offer. This is such a good company, and 98% of the time, they have great opportunities.

Another “piece of business” thing is I am in the process of taking pictures of my kids and grandchild(ren) off social media platforms. This is a personal decision because I never want people to think I’m exploiting my kids for profit (I make nothing). Still, my adult children can give me informed consent, but my young boys cannot. If I have one standard for one kid, it goes for all my kids. I will still talk about them, but I want to respect their privacy.

As for my blog content, I’m on the fence about whether or not to take down posts regarding H’s health or my adoptions. I may go in and rewrite certain things…I want people to know how good God is in everything He worked out about those subjects. Yet, I want to be sensitive to all parties involved.
Now, this will all take time as I’ve been writing for a long, long, LONG time. I don’t even know if anyone reads my blog. My blog is more of a journal for me and an outlet. Recipes are a given; my mental health and my faith journey will still be here, and I will still write about it. Also, I will be accepting guest bloggers on a case-by-case basis. I may even start my FB group back up. It was deleted when I deleted all my social media accounts a year or so ago. I may try and see if there is interest in that. We shall see.

Life or Something Like It

What is and is Not in My Control

What is and is Not in My Control

What is and is Not in My Control

What is and is Not in My Control. I am a work in progress. Without hesitation, I can tell you that trying to control everything is 99.9% of my problem. Well, that and lack of trusting anyone…maybe that goes hand in hand, I don’t know. It’s a problem. I know that, get it, and respect it. There is a problem, and I am it.

What is IN My Control

  • my self-care
    • I get my hair done
    • Massages
    • Tattoos
    • Alone time at night
    • Reading
  • asking for help
    • Reaching out to family
    • Communicating with Bart and being vulnerable
    • Therapy
  • my decision
  • the friends I have
    • I don’t do this one well
  • my actions
    • I have apologized to those I need to
    • Forgiven most people, I need to
    • The Lord has made me HYPER aware
  • my boundaries
    • Hahahahaha
  • my thoughts
    • Oohhh…
  • my attitude
    • Well…
  • my words
    • Uhmmm…
  • what I say
    • Learning how to use them
    • Learning how to RESTRAIN from using them
    • Work in progress

What is OUT of My Control

  • who likes me
  • past mistakes
  • other’s feelings
  • what others think
  • other’s apologizing to me
  • other’s actions
  • what other people believe
  • weather
  • who loves me
  • other people’s time
  • someone else’s distraction

What is on Your List?

My struggle in the “out of my control” list is who likes me (why does this bother me so badly), past mistakes (I can’t forget), what others think of me, others’ actions, what other people believe, and who loves me. Those are my Achilles heel problems. What is on your list?

 

Life or Something Like It

The Loss of Donna

The Loss of Donna

 

I started writing this on October 6, 2021. It has taken me all this time to finish because I have needed to grieve, process, sit in the quiet, remember, and honor those I have lost that was so dear to my heart.

I have been doing and posting a lot of reviews and having a ton of giveaways lately. It has been good to see some positive, heart-changing things on the big and small screens. Yet, it is also a way for me to dissociate and remove myself from being vulnerable or sharing anything that is truly painful.
So, here I am, not posting a review or giveaway. I am sitting in my new dining room, listening to a fan dry the mud from the drywall where we had a flood in our new kitchen, looking at my cat, who appears to want to murder me, and pondering on how this month has been affecting me.

Fall. I love this season. With the cooler weather and the changing of the leaves, the world is preparing for everything to die in the winter, only to regrow with beauty and new life in the spring. I love it. Yet, this month, in particular, brings tremendous sadness and grief.

October 1 is the fourth anniversary of my Lady’s death. That day never passed without me reflecting on our friendship and what she meant to me. How I miss her and how I have never really mourned her loss. I just push it down, push it down, WAY down. Thankfully I had a sweet distraction on that day. CM was here to love me and keep me extremely busy. I simply can’t wait until my next grandbaby makes a grand entrance next year. Grandchildren are God’s way of saying, “you survived raising children, now enjoy the fun part.”

Yet, today, I find myself struggling again. Today is my friend’s 62nd birthday and her first birthday in heaven. We met years and years ago; she was Leigh Ann’s mom, my friend that passed away a few years ago. I would not have made it through Leigh Ann’s death if it weren’t for Donna. I should have been a rock for her, which I was when she needed me. Yet, she was my rock in coping and reminding me of the fire that was Leigh Ann. A few years before LA’s death, Donna lost her husband to cancer. David was a sweet man. Quiet in nature unless you ticked him off, and then BOOM, he would explode. Those episodes were few and far between. He was the love of her life. Donna and I became incredibly close after the death of her daughter and my friend.

She was in the thick of raising LA’s kids and her grandchildren, and I was raising kids around the same age. We bonded over the silliest things. There were things we disagreed on, there were things we debated together on, yet our foundation was strong. We could love regardless of those differences. That is what friendship means.

We talked every night or every other night. I would watch Detail Geek and describe it all to her. She watched it vicariously through me. We would solve the world’s problems, discuss our day, and she would make fun of my suppers. She called me the Casserole Queen. That woman never made a casserole, and I made one every night.

Donna had not been feeling well since her granddaughter’s hospital stay. We both thought it was just stress, exhaustion, and adrenaline from what we thought was cancer which ended up being a severe kidney infection. The kidney infection led to the removal of her granddaughter’s kidney. She wasn’t eating well, drinking anything but soda, and smoking. Man, we mama’s can live off of anything in a stressful situation.

I encouraged her to go to the doctor, but she refused. She had a fear of doctors. You go in and never come back out was her mentality. We talked about her quitting smoking, which she did because the cough got to be too much. She began having dizzy spells and not being able to keep food down. All of these symptoms started in about March, I would say.

We thought maybe it was Co-Vid and that she just had a horrible case. Still, she wouldn’t go. She was just going to wait it out. Then, when it didn’t go away, we thought grief was beginning to settle in her. She never really had time to grieve her husband and daughter’s loss. Grief can, quite literally, kill someone.

She lived with the age-old question, “Is it better to know someone has something terminal, so you can prepare yourself and say all the things you need to say? Or, “Is it better for it to be quick, so you don’t have to see your loved one in pain?” She experienced both in a very short amount of time. Frankly, they both suck.

Then, she began losing weight. She had no appetite. She would say that nothing tasted good and she was just so weak. Nothing her son, her grandchildren, or I could say to her could get her to eat. She quit smoking and mainly just slept. There were times I could not understand her talking on the phone. That’s when I knew. I knew something was wrong, and I had to try again to get her to the doctor.

On her birthday, I surprised her and popped by her house. I knocked on the door (much to her dismay) and heard the dogs. Then, I heard Lexi running to the door. She opened the door, and I hugged her sweet little neck. Lex quickly disappeared back to her dungeon (LOL). As I walked in, my heart sank.

One thing those closest to me know is that I do not show emotion. Also, I’m a rockstar in stressful situations. When I am alone, that is when I process and stuff emotion. Healthy? No. What I do? Yes.
I turned to look at Donna lying on the couch. She was nothing but bones, and she was so jaundiced that the whites of her eyes were yellow. She had lost more teeth and had no strength. I stood in the doorway. Frozen. I put my head down, and the tears flowed freely. I could not hold them in.
She first asked me why on earth I knocked. Family does not knock. I still couldn’t move. Then, I heard her say, “Brandi, come here.” I walked over and sat next to her. I lay across her frail body, weeping uncontrollably. She just stroked my hair and said that things would be fine. She said she drank some that day and hadn’t thrown it up.

That moment froze in time for me. Again, here Donna is, knowing what she knew, and she was comforting me. See that day, she had called me earlier and told me that the good news was she did not have Co-vid, but the bad news was that she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

You don’t realize it until you see it. I knew Donna’s time was limited. She was going to fight and do all the right things. She was going to drink more water, eat more, and do whatever the doctor said, but by then, it was too late. She knew. I knew. We all knew. Yet, we hoped that it would be different.
I begged her to let me take her to the ER just to get some fluid. Her belly had begun to swell, and I knew she was hurting from losing so much weight and laying in one position. She refused. Every day I would go over there and stay for as long as possible. Most of the time, it was just us. Sometimes her grandchildren would come in and out of her son. They all lived with her.

With each passing day, she would get weaker. One day, she wanted me to brush her hair. One day she wanted me to rub her feet and legs. They were so swollen, but the pressure of me rubbing her feet made her feel better.

There were some days when her older sisters would come. One lived in Michigan and came home to be with Donna as much as possible. I tried to lift as much of the burden off of them so that they could spend good quality time with her.

Hospice had been called in, and Donna told them to get out out out. She refused them because she knew what that meant. I know David was flooding her mind in the last few days of her life. She knew hospice meant death. She was not ready for that. Her sisters bathed her, which seemed to exhaust her yet refresh her. Her great-granddaughter also came for a visit, which lifted her spirits; plus, she was expecting her second great-grandchild, a boy.

We had some excellent conversations once we were alone. A misunderstanding for a season took us apart for several years. That was the first time that Donna ever said she was sorry. It took me back because I had let that go years ago. She said that she remembered saying all those things, and then Donna looked into my eyes and saw the hurt and pain of what she had just said. Also, she stated that she couldn’t bring herself to talk to me because she was so ashamed of herself. That touched my heart and humbled me.

We talked about her daughter and all the things that come with her. It was so healing. She spoke of David and the plans she wants for her son and grandchildren. I have never really spoken to someone with such clarity towards the end of their life like that. We talked about the worst-case scenario and what we would do when she got better. Everything was covered.

Then, it was the afternoon of chaos. So many people had come in and out. I had found out some things I never knew and made phone calls I never wanted to make. Her granddaughter was overcome by it all and was acting out due to the trauma. I was called, and she was in the back of a cop car. It took me an hour to calm her down. I had to remind her of my love for her. L needed to know who she is in Christ. I am so glad the officers understood the situation and showed her grace upon grace. These kids have been through more in their lives than most adults will ever experience.
On October 15, 2020, As I walked into the trailer, strangers (to me) were there. They didn’t stay long; eventually, it was just her grandkids, her son, and her sisters. Donna was very uncomfortable. I rubbed her belly, legs, feet, head, hair, anything she wanted, but I couldn’t get her comfortable. I begged her to let me call 911 because her belly had so much fluid on it. I explained that I would go with her if she went, and she would not be alone.

Finally, she said yes because the pain was unbearable. I called, and we immediately moved things around to make it easier for the EMTs to get in with the stretcher. They got there and realized that the stretcher wouldn’t fit, so they had it out by the bus and brought in a wheelchair-type thing that she could be safely strapped to. I informed them of her bed sores and her protruding tailbone, and the discomfort that she was experiencing. They were so gentle with her.

As they were picking her up, she was screaming in pain. She was afraid she would fall out of the chair. I was holding her hand and explaining that they were going to strap her in, and I promised her they would not drop her and she would not fall. That I was right behind her, watching and monitoring the situation.

They got her down the three steps, and then I saw her arm fall off the side, and her head dropped. I screamed her name as the EMTs rushed to get her on the stretcher and get her O2. I could hear her grandchildren screaming. Her son with a panicked look on his face. Her sisters. There was no time for me to console them.

At that point, I jumped into my van with Stevie (her son), and we beat the EMTs to the hospital. Her sisters were not far behind. I parked and ran to the bay as they pulled into the bay. I feared that Donna would be gone. She wanted me beside her when she died. Donna didn’t want to be alone. She wanted to be with someone who loved her.

As they backed in and got to the back, I saw them drop her legs to the stretcher. I stood in fear with her sisters and son beside me. I looked up and saw Donna wave at me. At that point, I dropped to the ground. It was like my legs had no bones, and I wailed. That was not crying that came out of my mouth. I felt sick, scared, relieved, and like someone had taken an iron skillet to my body. I couldn’t move. Her sisters just stood there, trying to help me.

Finally, I pulled myself together, got my mask, and ran into the ER. They let me back (only because her family asked me to), and I stood/sat by her bed there. I was watching her. She looked over at me and asked me if she was going to die.

I told her yes. We talked about her salvation, and then we talked about what she wanted for each person in her family. After she had settled all that, and the doctors couldn’t do anything, they left us for a moment. She looked at me and said, “Well, we have got everyone figured out. Now, what about you?” I asked her what she meant, and she wanted to know if I would be okay and who would take care of me. In awe, I just looked at her and told her I would be fine. I would miss her every day and would keep an eye/ear out on her family and always be there if they needed me. I thanked her for her love and friendship. Without missing a beat, she said, “There’s room in the bed…I will scoot over, and you can lay down with me.” My heart. She knew that that was my comfort.

I told her they would probably kick me out if they saw me do that! Then, I asked if she wanted her sisters and son to return. She did, so I went to get them and let them have quiet moments with her without my intrusion.

They released her from the hospital because there was nothing they could do, and she wanted to go home. Stevie and I watched them pull out, and we beat them home again. We got the couch ready. By then, some people had begun to stop by again.

I was trying to stay out of the way and let those who needed to be by her side. At that point, she was not awake. Not long after I had gotten there, it was late into the evening. Bart called and said I needed to come home now. There was an emergency that could not wait. When he explained what was going on, I lost it.

I wanted him to try and explain to the person waiting for me that I was at an end-of-life friend’s house and couldn’t leave. They didn’t care. I hugged and kissed Donna. I told her I would be back shortly, and I flew home.

I can’t even with what happened at home. I do remember, after talking for what seemed like forever and completely losing myself, where I had been. I told her I had to go and she could come back or follow me. She let me leave.

As I was flying back to Donna’s, her sister called and said to hurry. I did the best I could. She took her last breath right before I got there. I walked into everyone sitting around, not knowing what to do.
As I did a week prior, I stood frozen in the doorway. I looked at my friend, and I went and laid down beside her. It was hard for me to catch my breath. She was gone, diagnosed precisely a week before. She went from okay; I’ll fight this to meeting Jesus and being reunited with her husband and daughter.

After I collected myself and the coroner came and took her body, I sat in the big chair. Her sweet granddaughter came and curled up in my lap. Grief had overtaken her, and I was the warm body that she fell on. With me, there has been nothing but love since she was 3. I had been there through it all, and I was again comforting my sweet girl.

I have been faithful to my word. I miss Donna daily. There are days when I miss her more and some days when I don’t think about it until the night. That is when we would chat. I have not watched Detail Geek again. Her son is okay, as okay as he can be. Her grandson is a father of 2 and working. Her granddaughter is living with a relative, and she is doing well now. She is working on school and has a goal for her future. We chat as often as a teenager wants to speak with a 49 yr old woman 🙂
I am ready for this month to be over. I am ready to heal. I am glad to remember the good times instead of the end. One day. Maybe when I see her again in heaven!

The Loss of Donna

 

 

Life or Something Like It

Misuse of the Word Friends

Misuse of the Word Friends

Misuse of the Word Friends

I have been chewing on the word “friend” for a while now. Honestly, I have no idea why. Yet, I feel we Misuse the Word Friends at an alarming rate. Maybe I have been thinking about this because this has just been a hard month. My Lady passed on the 1st, Donna passed on the 15th, and I miss them. Maybe the Lord is speaking to me on this subject.

Types of Friends

  • First
  • School
  • College
  • Church
  • Work
  • Fairweather
  • Fake
  • Social Media
  • For Now
  • True Blue

That’s a lot of different types of friends you will have over your lifetime. I can say, “Oh, my friend Jane, from elementary school just did this and this” according to social media.

We all know that the goal in life is to get as many “friends” as humanly possible on any social media platform. Honestly, though, are they all friends?

Have their feet been under your table? Do they truly know you now? Have they walked through difficult times with you or you with them? Even though you may not talk to them daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly. Can you still count on them?

If you can, and there are several I can, count yourself blessed.

Here are some examples from this list.

First Friend

I fondly remember meeting my first friend at Homemakers. My mom went, and Julie and I would sit on the floor and take our shoes off. We remained friends throughout all our school days. I went to her house and spent the night a lot. Honestly, I don’t remember her coming to my house, but she did come to my Smurf’s birthday party and for a sleepover one year.

Over time, we grew apart, as most people do. We know little to nothing about each other in our adult lives. Yet, I still hold her very dear to my heart. I know if I ran into her, we would quickly chat the night away and catch each other up on our lives.

Also, Terri Ann, we did not go to school together, but we did go to church together. She went to a “rival” school. We grew up together, and she was the first person I knew that had ever been adopted. She introduced me to the concept, which has stuck with me all these years. She even sang at my wedding. Again, our lives do not intertwine (she moved to another state), but if we did chat, we would not miss a beat.

School Friends

Do I even talk to any of my school friends? Did I even have friends in school? I had Julie, but that was about it. My school days were not significant. I was bullied a lot, and because my dad was a police officer, I never got invited to anything. Sadly, I would mask and try to inject myself into the different clicks. That didn’t work very well. I was just made fun of more, behind my back and to my face.

Honestly, I find it comical when people from my schools try to “friend” me on a social media platform. When I first got there, I would accept it and then look through their photos and read about their lives, yet there was no interaction. Then, I got smart. What makes you think you will like me now if you don’t like me? You treated me like crap. Forgiveness and transformation can happen, but that doesn’t mean I have to let you in my life. Does that make sense?

College Friends

I had and still have one college friend. We were so close in college; our lives took us in different directions. Once we stumbled back into each other’s lives, I counted her as a true friend. She has been one that I’ve reached out to for prayer and to share my heart, and I always get Christlike and honest responses from her. I adore her.

Church Friends

Aw, this one is tricky. You want to think everyone is a friend, the pastor and his wife. Then, you are slapped in the face with a frying pan. It’s all well and good if you stick to Sunday School and big church. Once you get involved, you see where the church is held together by duct tape and a q-tip.

The flaws, the lies, the theological differences, and the disregard of an entire group because of their age. Then there is the “looking over” the things that any age group should not do. From there, you get threatened by your pastor; your pastor’s wife says you should “get over rape and be available to your husband. Suck it up; it’s over.” I still cannot believe that woman said that to my face.

Pastor’s who say your family is too big and not to attend a program offered. Deacons forced my husband into “salvation.” They would not leave him alone and badgered the crap out of him until he decided to do what they wanted him to do.

“Friends” who told me that I was never going to be taken seriously because I was too loud, too outspoken, and my hair was pink. People threatened to turn me over to CPS because I didn’t let my daughter have dessert one night. They demanded to know their personal story. I refused. It is not my story to tell, and it is none of their business.

Luckily, I have still been able to maintain some respect and love for a few people from churches of the past. We don’t talk often, but I hope they feel they can call me if they need me. I would do the same for a very select few.

I am so glad to have stumbled on Christian Fellowship. Richie and Jenny are two of the most genuine people I have ever met…no matter where we are. The love of Jesus and the desire to make Him known oozes out of their pores. I have never felt such family, love, and support as I have felt going to this church.

Work Friends

Yep, again, I only had one. I called this friend my priest because he was going to school to become a deacon in his Catholic Church when we met. He did that. I was blessed to be invited, and I know he is one I can call. Other than that, there were none.

Fairweather Friends

These “friends” come and go like the ebbs and flow of the ocean. They get mad and step out of your life for a minute. Then, they get happy and start slowly beginning to communicate. Next up, they are all up in your stuff. Lastly, they flit off again. Several several several “friends” in this section of my life. I’ve decided to clip their wings, so there is no more flitting into my life.`

Fake Friends

I think we can all say we have had fake friends. Honestly, most of my fake friends came from churches over the years. Seeing how spiritual they are on social media makes it so funny to me now. Yet, when it comes down to slinging mud, getting dirty, and being the hands and feet of Jesus, they are entirely dismissive and judgemental.

I would LOVE to call these people out. Many people know these people and have horror stories of their behavior and actions towards others. It is embarrassing. Yet, I remember Exodus 14:14, saying, “The Lord will fight your battles. You need to be silent.”

There are days when I don’t want to be silent—just saying. My flesh gets all up in my feels, and I want to scream from every rooftop what a fake these people are and be aware.

Social Media Friends

In the world of social media, the more friends or followers, the more you look unique and vital. I’m here to say that is a crock of crap. I went a long time with all my social media deleted, but I had to open some of them back up because I do reviews.

When I do reviews/giveaways, I check to see if anyone entered to win whatever is being given away, but other than that, I am not active—on Twitter, Insta, FB, Pinterest, etc. I do have accounts, but they are linked through my blog, and I think most have my blog name. I do not follow or befriend anyone if you check (except FB and Insta). Now, I don’t necessarily do it on the platform. It may be through messaging or texts.

Over the years, outside of family, I have made three friends that I have been friends with for almost 20 years. We are all opposites; we don’t talk often, but we have mutual love and respect for each other. I am closer to one of those people than the other 2. I treasure every one of these ladies.

For Now Friends

These are in-the-moment friends. These people have been with me in so many situations, whether from adoption (for us), foster care adoption (again for us), special needs, etc. I can count on these people right now for this season. Sometimes these friends (or any friends) are for a season. They ebb and flow like the waves of the ocean. You know what, though? That is okay.

They were there for the season that you needed them. Glean what you can, apply it to your life, and then spread it to others who are in that situation.

When something arises, I know I can reach out to a few mamas raising kids from hard places. These are the ears I want because they are judgment-free and follow with prayer. I covet those friendships.

True Blue Friends

Well, this comes down to it. My college friend is a true blue friend. She is there, hopefully, for the long haul. Our paths may go in different directions, but her number is on my phone, and I do not hesitate to call. My Lady and Donna were my true blue friends. Now, they are with Jesus.

One of my social media friends can be counted in this group. We are so different and lead such different lifestyles, yet we respect each other and look past the differences to see the heart behind the human.

My For Now Friend is still hanging tight with me. I swear, we are the only two people who actually get what we are saying and don’t even think twice. She is such a friend that she stood in the gap when I had to take a break from parenting one of my more challenging children. There was never a hesitation. She just said, “you are doing this.” I was in such a state that all I did was cry and barely utter thank you. She has seven children from hard places, and she took my child for a little over a month to help my family regroup. Love her.

My pastor and his wife have my back at any time. Another couple from church we just think the world of would help us at any moment. By Steph. Forever. These are all people from church.

I could name more people, like Susan but know that my circle is small, and that is what I prefer. Slowly, I am finding more people who fall into this category that are new but hopefully long-lasting. You know, like an excellent battery.

I don’t have many (and I’m not even mentioning family), but the few I have are powerful warriors who would do anything to help our family if/when we need it. These people have seen us at our worst and still love, pray, and try to help. Lately, it’s been pretty bad!

Acquaintances

Let me sum it up with this meme.

Misuse of the Word Friends

Let’s start calling a spade a spade. A true blue friend is your friend through thick and thin. Most of the rest are just acquaintances with some genuinely extraordinary exceptions. Guess what? That is OKAY!

Oh! Just in Case You Were Wondering

My mother (my Oak) is not my friend. She is my mom.

My daddy is not my friend. He is my dad.

My children and grandchildren are not my friends. I am their parent; they have enough friends. They need a parent to guide them and not always agree with them.

My husband is not my friend. He is my lover, rock, person, husband, father of my children, grandfather of my grandchildren, stabilizer, and leader.

Friends come and go in the night. Family stays forever.

 

Life or Something Like It

Honoring My Lady and My Best Friend

Honoring My Lady and My Best Friend

Honoring My Lady and My Best Friend

Today, I am Honoring My Lady and My Best Friend. Every time I see this picture, this Lady is GORGEOUS in red! That was my favorite color on her. She was smiling because it was her 81st birthday, and her “boyfriend,” aka Big Daddy, was taking her on a fish date. I was the third wheel because all best friends are great third wheels.

How She Loved Bart

She loved him so much. Even during a very trying time in our marriage, she could have just said: “Leave him,” but she did not say that. She carried my weary body into her home, placed her beautiful hand on my hand and the other on my head, and prayed.

Then, she picked up the phone and called a trusted and fantastic human. She briefly (and discreetly) said a few things and then hung up the phone. As she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and a smile, she said: “It is going to be okay.”

In Time

It was, but during that “it time” part, she held me accountable for my words and actions. She also had another man work with Bart. Together, they walked with us through the mud. Our marriage is stronger because of the prayers and advice we received.

I miss her so much that I physically ache. Everyone should have a Ms. Jo. I mean everyone. Someone strong, not afraid to speak her mind, and loves so completely. I never doubted that she loved me. She never doubted that I loved her.

I Wish We Had More Time

We had little time, ten years maybe, not long enough. It is as simple as that. What started as me admiring grace and beauty (and her voice) moved on to noticing her beautifully crooked finger. Then it matriculated into me timidly requesting her to be my mentor. Quickly, followed by me sitting on her porch and squalling. I cried so bad that she said we were making the neighbors talk and, for the love of all, to get in the house.

Next, it moved to me helping out here and there, going to lunch, and running errands. Lastly, it moved more into caregiving and sitting with my Lady. Many nights of me making supper and eating it together while watching Jag. Cleaning. Oh my goodness, I cleaned things out. We looked at her billions of pictures, and I soaked up all her memories.

Find a Mentor

Talk to your church and see if you can set up a mentor/mentee program. It is so worth every moment! “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” Titus 2:3-5).

You will not regret it. I miss you, Lady. More than I can even describe. My best friend, person, mentor, accountability partner, and teacher. I am so excited to see you again! Until we see each other again, I love your face off in heaven!