Monday, October 30, 2017

Where to Begin...

It's been far too long since I logged on here, and I've been avoiding it.  I decided today, to rip it off like a Band-Aid so I can get back into the swing of regular blogging, as my heart feels up to it.

Many of you regular readers will already know this from Instagram, but my daddy passed away in mid-October.  It was sudden, even though he had early onset Alzheimer's.  He was fine (well as fine as you can be at age 66, living in a memory care home).. and then one Thursday morning, we got a call that he wasn't, and they didn't know why.  We went to the E.R. with him that day, thinking that he might have suffered a stroke, which was preventing his mobility, out of the blue. (He had walked and walked, day and night, for those eight solid months of living away from my mom.  He didn't like to lay down or rest ever.)  After a day of many hospital tests, they discharged him and told us to begin thinking about hospice.  They said he wouldn't make it 90 days. We cried and stood there in shock, watching him sleep... we didn't actually believe them.  He had just suddenly quit really eating, and drinking and walking earlier that week.  My heart thinks that he was simply done.  He slept most of those following six short days, but he woke one morning, while I was leaning over him, rubbing his shoulder... he looked up at me in the sleepy haze he seemed to be in and mumbled, "Hi baby-sweet."  (He called all of his girls in the family that as a regular endearment.)  It was my daddy-daughter moment and I knew someplace in my heart, that I wouldn't get another, as he drifted back into sleep.  I soaked it up like the treasure it was and even now thinking of it, I feel so treasured by him in this life.  So much love, even in those final days.  He loved me well and it was an absolute privilege being his princess in this life.

We were so deeply blessed and loved on by friends. We were at the home my dad lived in, day and night, round the clock for his final days.  My mama never left his side once and extended family came and went, but my brother, mom and I were almost there non-stop, together. I kind of neglected my kids but I have nine girlfriends that surrounded our entire family in every conceivable way during those days.  Two took it up on themselves to bring the kids treats, one even prayed with them. They brought coffees to the hospice room for us in the middle of those long days, as well as bags of food, waters, magazines, and items for my dad's comfort.  Many of them brought meals, big, delicious things for many extra family members, breakfast, and some brought multiple meals.  I didn't have to think about any of it.  My concern was for my mom as she cared for daddy and my support circle filled in every single gap for me.  I'd come home and they would be in my kitchen leaving me notes and flowers.  They all had the garage code and would come and go as needed, stocking my fridge and leaving love. I've never been so overwhelmed by tangible love in my life.

We had the unshakable peace that comes from knowing.  We knew how Daddy felt about all of us.  He never hesitated to tell us how he loved us, how proud he was of us, or anything else in this life.  We knew how he felt about my mom too because he told her all the time, and he told us too.  She was his soul mate and they showed us how two imperfect people should do marriage.  They did it so beautifully.  We knew Daddy was at peace with eternity and we knew he was going to be with Jesus, no question.  It sounds crazy but we had heartbreak, joy for him, and even a bit of jealousy that he was getting to leave and be with his Creator, all in one.  We felt the obvious guilty-relief of his suffering from this crappy disease being over as well.  People began seeking out the room we were gathering in and shyly telling us that we were encouraging them, and that they wished they could be a part of our family. We invited them all in and it was almost, at times... a party.  Peace gives such a gift. We used those six days to move through shock and confusion to acceptance.  Those days were a gift and we got to be together as a family in our grief.   I miss him so much.  The holidays will be empty without his big personality but he won't be far from our minds or hearts and we will find ways to honor and remember him...  I'm so thankful for my life as his kid.  I'm so thankful for so many parts of how this transpired, and how God pushed every detail that we needed, into place.  We look backward and can see His fingerprints all over the entire story, even though we can also see massive question marks too.

 I made a massive and beautiful fall flower arrangement for his memorial service and thought you might enjoy seeing it in this post.  He wouldn't have cared about the flowers necessarily, but he would have really loved to see me using my creativity.  He was always my biggest fan when it came to art, good ideas and creativity.  I loved knowing what words he would have probably said to me, if he had been standing beside me as I created it, and it makes me want to be really intentional about telling people in this life, how good they are, and how I feel about them, so that my words become a mental recording in their heads.

It's good to know, and be known.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sweet Fall Celebration & Simple Gatherings

Today I am sharing a peek into a celebration we're hosting.  When my daughter heard that it was time to get her braces off, she declared that it called for a dinner she could really "sink her teeth into." (grin) She instructed us that we needed to have all the favorites she hadn't been indulging in for the past couple of years, and by her request, that was ribs, corn on the cobb, caramel apples and a huge bowl of Caesar salad.  I couldn't say no to making a special meal to mark the occasion.

 Even better, I got my hands on a copy of "Simple Gatherings" by Melissa Michaels and I need to tell you- I sat down with a big cup of coffee and read the entire thing from start to finish, in one delicious gulp, one afternoon.  This book... oh it's such a keeper you guys!  Melissa has always had a way of sharing exactly what's in my heart, when it comes to home d├ęcor, hosting and the like.  I've loved every single one of her books, but this was like she plucked all the thoughts and dreams and plans right out of my head and got them all down on these pages.  It's hands down, my favorite of her books, to date.  The photos were crazy inspiring and I may already have dog eared many of the beautiful pages and ideas for future gatherings! (Just tiny dog-ears though!) In fact, it was really her book that inspired me to make a simple, casual meal into a special (yet relaxed and inexpensive) event.  What I most love about this book, are the literal start to finish guiding plans she lays out.  She gives so many DIY tips, recipes, games, conversation starters and such and my favorite part was how she shared that she is an introvert with a small-ish home, yet she hosts all the time.  We so often think "Oh I can't host because.... " We get stuck on so much when it comes to hosting.  Not enough space.  Bad flow for traffic.  Not a big enough budget.  Not clean enough... etc.  She addresses all of those concerns, and then some. 

So I took Melissa's hosting words to heart, and then agreed to a slightly inconvenient "event," to show love to my daughter in something that is a huge event in her life. I decided on easy to prepare (slow cooker ribs) and a throw together salad.  Make ahead dessert (caramel apples) which doubled as cute place settings.  Things like that make it look like an event that much planning and thought went into, but in reality, they can be ridiculously easy to plan and make.  Win

Another part I really connected with as I savored "Simple Gatherings," was when Melissa spoke about creating simple place cards for guests. (Which I very much adore by the way) She shared, 'Place cards tell a guest, "You belong. You're important.  You have your very own special place at my table." '

That is my heart.  Letting my guest know they are wanted, anticipated, celebrated and that they belong.  It begins within my own family and works outward to those we invite in.  If you want to get your hands on your own copy of this spectacular little book, you can order yours here.