What Now?

I was having a conversation with my friend Patty yesterday.  We do this every couple of weeks, if not more often.  I’m driving home from work, and it’s three hours earlier for her, so it’s a good time to talk (yes I have Bluetooth so I’m not breaking any laws!)

We became friends, several years ago, when our daughters were in theater together.   When you spend pretty much every “free” hour of your life with people, you WILL form friendships!   If I want no frills honesty, Patty is who I call.  She is the sweetest friend, and will flat out tell it like it is!  I appreciate that about her. She and her awesome Hank are back in CA, so phone calls have to suffice for now.  Anyway, the phone call.

All the usual “how are things going”, etc.  She just lost her Mother, so there is comfort for us both.  I have a couple of years of experience on her in that regard, so maybe I can help.  At least I can empathize.  Then we began to talk about our statuses.  I don’t mean the latest Facebook post, but where we are in life.  All of our children – 9 between us – are grown and on their own. (I don’t get credit for raising my bonus daughter, but I love her and she is has been “assimilated” into the Harris clan, therefore I count 3!)  So the question is what do we do now?  We have wonderful husbands, great kids, family and friends we love dearly.  As we not really bemoaned our circumstances, more just questioned, it hit me.  Being a mom is the ONE thing in my life I feel like I did well.  Not perfect by any means (I’m certain my loving children will agree with that!), but I gave it everything I had.  THEY were my passion.  My focus was on rearing kind, compassionate, contributing members of society.  People other people enjoy being around.  I’d like to think I was pretty successful in that regard.  I’m very proud of them and people they have become and are continuing to become.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know about my journey to me after my divorce.   Who I AM is not the problem.  What do I DO is the question.  Where is that passion?  What is the outlet for that?  And I don’t think I’m alone in that struggle.  I know at least Patty is there with me.  I have a feeling many of you, my dear reader-friends, are as well.  We are at that stage in life.  It’s not a bad thing, just different.  What are YOU doing?  Where did you find your passion?  What is your outlet?  I truly want to know.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made.  We are nurturers by nature.  When the natural progression of life moves your “nuturees” on, what do you do with what you still have?  Comment here, Facebook me.  Maybe, just maybe, we can help each other figure it out.

Preconceived Ideas

I’m reading a new book.  It was written by a lady I used to go to church with.  To be honest, I’m not really sure what made me buy it.  Maybe the fact that EVERYONE was raving about it on Facebook, congratulating her on her accomplishment, thanking her for sharing her story.   Since we’re being honest here, I didn’t really like her.  Of course, I didn’t really KNOW her!  She was part of “that group” and I wasn’t.  She didn’t know me, probably didn’t even know my name.

Sounds a bit like high school, huh?  It is painful to admit that I – as an adult – could be so petty.  So I bought the book – curiosity killed the cat, right?  BAM!  The woman is talented!  I am having a hard time putting it down – she is talking to ME!  Laying herself out there, baring her innermost feelings and thoughts and pain.  Encouraging other women who have felt like she did to be brave, stand strong, and love themselves.  Which is really why I started this blog.  To encourage others, to uplift, to share. I don’t know that I have wisdom, but I have learned some lessons along my life’s pathway.

I learned people will hurt you.  Even those who are supposed to love you the most.  A friend, a spouse, a child.  When you give someone entry into your heart, you also give them the potential to hurt you deeply.  And some will.  Sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. But I also learned most won’t.  Most people really are good and kind and genuine.  Along with that, I learned to forgive.  Them for the hurting me part, me for letting them.  A person can, purposefully or unwittingly, cause me pain.  How I react to that pain is totally up to me.  THAT was a freeing discovery!  I control my reactions!  Mind.blown.  No one has control over me but me.

Here’s a really good lesson – all feelings are valid.  I’m going to say that again – ALL FEELINGS ARE VALID!  (Thank you Patty!!)  Whether or not anyone else thinks you should feel a certain way is completely irrelevant!  Once that wonderful little nugget made its way through my thick skull, my whole world changed!  I was free to feel hurt or anger or joy or sadness or excitement or any one of myriads of emotions – nobody else had to approve.  For years I was told I shouldn’t be angry or have my feelings hurt.  Well, yeah, I should! Because that’s how I FEEL!

Are you seeing the pattern here?  As I paid attention and learned about people, I was learning about ME.  And maybe about you too.  One little sentence from this book today that stuck out to me is this: Don’t let cowards with lung capacity determine your value and your worth.  I learned that anyone else’s opinion of me is none of my business.  Now, I want to be a good person/mother/wife/friend, don’t get me wrong.  But someone gossiping or bad mouthing me does NOT make me a bad one.

As I re-read this, it is all kind of jumbled – imaging living in my head!  So here it is in a nutshell:

  • Most people really are good.
  • There are some that will hurt you.
  • Sometimes they will do it on purpose.
  • Forgiveness is not for them, it’s for YOU.
  • You have a right to feel any and every emotion.
  • Don’t be afraid to re-examine something you thought you knew – you might be surprised what you find.
  • Be the kind of woman that fixes another woman’s crown without telling her it was crooked. (yeah, that was a Facebook meme and I LOVE it!)
  • Always be willing to look again, look closer. Maybe you need to learn the rest of the story.

Being Intentional

A couple of weeks ago, we had a “cousin dinner”.  There are 11 of my generation first cousins on my Daddy’s side.  Seven of us live in the Atlanta area.  When any one of the others comes to town, we try really hard to get together.  So Friday, we had 8 of the 11, in one place at the same time.  With 3 of the brothers who fathered us, and a spattering of our kids.  I think I told the restaurant 27.  Pretty much total chaos ensued.  And it was wonderful!

This whole idea started 4 years ago at our Aunt Jenny’s wedding.  Sandi, Tony, Pamela, John, James, Mandy (representing for Mike) and I were all there.  We took a picture and realized we had not had that many of us in one locale in longer than any of us could actually remember.  AND WE ALL LIVE HERE.  I met, for the first time, James & Ginny’s kids (who were all teenagers) and John & Nicki’s kids (mostly teenagers).  WHAT?  We decided then that we HAD to do something – now!  We have a generation of kids growing up not knowing their family.  Not acceptable!  So we have been trying to do something at least once a year since then. Trying.

You see, growing up all my parents’ cousins were also Aunts and Uncles.  It took me a while to figure out the “real” ones from the rest.  🙂 We had family reunions all the time.  Holidays were family.  Not just my immediate, but everybody!  Wash tubs of tea and lemonade, gallons of potato salad, coconut cakes I could never duplicate.  And cousins!  Aunts, uncles, grands, great-grands, great aunts and uncles, first cousins, second cousins, first cousins once removed (yeah – I REALLY still have no idea about that.  They’re all just cousins!)

And this next generation doesn’t have that.  MY kids don’t have that.  And that makes me want to cry.   So as Jeff and I stood Friday night talking and laughing and just enjoying the chaos that is the Harris clan (they were smart enough to put us in a back room!), he said “we have to be intentional”.  Mind.blown. That is IT.  WE HAVE TO BE INTENTIONAL.  We have to call each other, Facebook each other, whatever it takes to be in communication.  And then it hit me – WE have to get in on the planning of these reunions now.  The generations before who have handled it all are getting older and we have to take on that mantle.  My Mother, Aunt Judy, Aunt Mary, and Aunt Jane – they are not here to do it or convey the messages to us.  As we’ve had kids, and our kids begin to have kids, we have to take on that mantle.  If we don’t, our kids’ kids will have no greats or “extra” aunts and uncles, or cousins to the nth power.

And family is too important for that.  Just for a moment I’m going to wax philosophical:  I would venture to say that many of the problems in our communities, our country, even our world, can be traced back to this very thing.  Not knowing family; not having the ties to people and places; not feeling the love in the hugs of the Aunt Elsas and Aunt Ednas or fishing with the Uncle Jakes or tree swings at Papas.  Family is fun!  Family is love!  Family is necessary!

So here it is, Harris clan (insert your family names here) – let’s do this!  We’re going to have to plan in advance a little (gasp!) since we do have cousins who live away, but it’s time to be intentional and make gatherings happen.  We need that.  I need that.  Let’s look ahead.  Who’s in town for Christmas?  Too soon?  How about next summer?  I don’t want to lose what we have, and I want our future generations to have it too. I’m serious, and I’m intentional.

Daddy

Daddy

I am a Daddy’s Girl.  I could end this post right there because that says it all.  I loved – and still do – my Mother with all my heart!  She was beautiful and smart and strong and independent and selfless, especially when it came to my sister and me.  But my Daddy.

He’s a man’s man.  He doesn’t hunt and fish and stuff like that.  But he’s tough – more on himself than anyone else.  He wears a cowboy hat and boots EVERY day, except Sunday.  Sunday is a white shirt and dress pants.  Are there sports of any kind on TV?  Then THAT is what’s on in the living room!  If it can be built or fixed, he can do it.  I STILL think to myself “what would Daddy do” if something needs repairing.  Before Jimmy and I bought our house, Daddy gave it a once over.  He spent most of my life in construction, and I wouldn’t DREAM of purchasing a home without him giving his stamp of approval.  My precious husband even asks his opinion and ideas for any projects he undertakes around our house.  (And looks maybe a little proud when Daddy tells him what a good job he’s done.)

And he’s fiercely protective.  Do NOT mess with his girls!  Or the grandkids.  For real.   I think he’d come after you with his bare hands – still.  And my Mother?  Lordy – that man loved her with every ounce of his being.  And protected her – even from us.  On vacation a few years ago, Sandi and I were picking on her, just playing around.  Apparently we got a little too carried away, because the Daddy voice said “Girls, that’s enough”.  And you know what we did?  We SHUT OUR MOUTHS!  Because he is Daddy, and you obey – even if you are 50something!  Jimmy says he was “scary Ira” in high school -and we were just friends then!

He’s a caretaker.  For many years his brothers did not live in the area, and Daddy “checked on” every body.  If Granny (my great grandmother who lived with his father) needed anything, she called Daddy.  He worked in Fayetteville most of my life, so it wasn’t difficult for him to run down to Papa’s house if she needed him.  During the almost 30 years I lived away, his first words in every conversation were “are y’all ok?  Do you need anything?”  When Mother got sick, his life mission became taking care of her.  He learned to cook, and do laundry.  Mother would laugh and tell me “Daddy ran the vacuum today!”  She would also say “let’s go get some coffee – your Daddy is driving me crazy!”  He doted on her – maybe a little too much.  J  I think Uncle Wesley started taking him to lunch once a week as much for her sake as his.

He is the stereotypical Southern Gentleman.  He opens doors, takes out the trash, has “his” recliner and the remote in his control.  He is strong – there to be leaned on.  He’s been my shoulder more times than I could ever count.  When I was 21, my very serious boyfriend and I broke up.  I walked back in the house and just sort of stood in the doorway to the living room where he was laid back in his recliner, reading his paper.  He took one look at me, put the foot rest down, folded his paper and laid it by his chair, took off his glasses and put them aside, and patted his leg.  I went and sat in my Daddy’s lap and cried my eyes out.  Because he’s not just a Father, he’s my Daddy. 

In previous posts I’ve talked about Mother’s illness and moving them in with us.  She used to ask me about the “plan”.  I knew she meant after she was gone, and I did NOT want to go there, so I kept blowing her off, changing the subject, whatever I had to do to get away from that.  Finally one day she got VERY intense when I said “we have a plan,’ and in her Mother voice said “I NEED to know what that is!”  And it hit me – she did.  She needed to know that HE would be taken care of when she was no longer here to do it.  So when we lost her, there was never a thought about where Daddy would be.  He would be with us.  In our home.  With Sandi and Paul two doors down.  Right where he should be.  And I’m so very glad he is.  I’m quite human I readily admit, and there are times when I get frustrated.  I’m watching him get old”er” every day and that’s more difficult than I think I thought it would be.  But he’s my Daddy.  And I’m hanging on every story told at the dinner table or on our front porch.  I’m learning more about him than I ever knew.  And about the Harris bunch.  How he was in school, and what their growing up was really like.  I chuckle when I hear “Get you a lick, Nick!” or “What are you doing?  You KNOW you need to be throwing strikes!”  I get to see his face light up with one of the grandkids calls or walks in the door.

Anyone who has ever known me can tell you I have always adored my parents.  Yes, there was teenage angst, but even then I knew how special they were.  But losing my Mother has changed my perspective and made my family even MORE of a priority, a focus.  He taught me to throw a softball (sort of), tried to teach me golf; he taught me to be honest, to be respectful, to be kind, to put my family before anything.  By loving my Mother as he did he showed me how to love and how I should be loved.  I’m so thankful and beyond blessed to have had him as a Daddy growing up, and have him with us now.

The New Chapter

At every milestone in life, someone will say something about “starting a new chapter”.  Moving into teenage years, middle school, high school, college.  Changing homes growing up.  Moving away once you think you’re grown up.  Getting married.  Having children.  THEM growing up and moving out.  And they all ARE the start of something new and different.  And sometimes two or more coincide.  That’s where I find myself now.

We – my sweet husband, my sister, and my brother-in-love, have just spent about two weeks cleaning out my parents’ home.  (Let me just put a HUGE plug in for those two men right here!  Neither of us has been married very long, and these two have gone WAY above and beyond what should have been expected of them.  Without their rock solid-ness and ability to pull us both off the ledge, I do not know how Sandi and I would have handled Mother’s illness, death, or any of the aftereffects.)  After Mother went to live with Jesus, Daddy stayed with us, so we knew the house needed to be cleared out .  For almost two years.  But who WANTS to do that?  We piddled a time or two, moved a few of Daddy’s things to our home, the grandkids all got a few little items here and there.  But the vast majority was still sitting there, pretty much like it was the day we moved them up with us.

So Sandi and I stood in their living room, feeling completely overwhelmed, and said “one room at a time”.  And that’s what we did.  We made the thrift store one happy place!  Mother worked for the Council on Domestic Violence for many years.  This particular store supports that, so all of her clothing and accessories went there.  Mother had REALLY good taste!  J  There were mountains of other items donated different places and several loads for the dump.  My parents did not throw away a box – EVER!!  We’ve teased Daddy mercilessly about that, and he whole heartedly admits it!  We laughed over some things – why in the WORLD did they keep THAT!  And cried over others – like the hat boxes filled with probably every card my parents had ever given one another.  We even found the cards MOTHER’S parents had given one another!  After a 5-day marathon, I admit to being teary-eyed (ok, flat out crying) as Paul pulled out of their driveway and I watched what was left of 50+ years of my parents’ lives drive away in a U-Haul truck.

In my very first post I talked about my ties to and love for Fayetteville and Fayette County.  Here’s the New Chapter part – my parents no longer live there.  Daddy still owns the house – we are renting it out.  But he doesn’t live there.  So going home truly is OUR home.  Before, I had a home and my Mother and Daddy had Home (even if it was a house I never lived in). That was my grounding.  No matter what, I could always go Home.  Honestly, I think maybe I’m finally having to grow up!

Before Jimmy and I got married, we bought a house.  It’s an awesome place and we love it!  It is just perfect for what we needed – God knew what we’d need and when, and provided for that in a miraculous way!  And we’ve worked hard to make it our home.  It’s comfy and warm and, I think, friendly.  I, and I think “we”, could not be more content and happy with it.  But there is something a little strange about knowing there is no other Home anymore.  I did not realize how profoundly important having that second “base” was to me until now.  I know that I am sentimental and sappy, and that many of you have gone through this same thing and are probably thinking “get over it”!  And I will.  But just like starting a new chapter in a book can sometimes through you for a bit of a loop until you settle in again, I’m a little off balance.

Here is what I do know:  first, I have a husband who loves me and holds me up when I can’t stand on my own; second, my Daddy is with us and cared for and doing well; third, that warm, fuzzy feeling I get when I cross the county line into Fayette County will most likely never go away – and I hope it doesn’t; and mentioned last, but of the utmost importance – this is not my home.  My God has a place for me that will far surpass anything I could hope for or imagine!

It may take me a minute to get comfortable with this new chapter.  Different doesn’t mean worse, it just means different.  I will hold on to my memories, embrace the different, and move forward until it’s time to really go HOME!

Mother’s Day

I don’t know how to feel.  This weekend – Mother’s Day – was always a very big deal in my family.  My Grandmother’s birthday was May 7th.  Mine is May 10th.  So every few years one of ours fell on Mother’s Day.  In 1964, the 10th WAS Mother’s Day.  My gift to my Mother that year was all day long labor!  Being born on that day created something a little special between us three.

Sunday dinner (see – good Southern girl here!) was fried chicken or roast beef with all the trimmings –   Corn on the cob, potato salad, carrots and potatoes, biscuits, green beans.  You get the idea.  And a big birthday cake that Grandmother and I shared.  It was much later in life that I realized how much work MY Mother put in to make that day special for HER mother and me.  I grew up and moved away, but tried to be home every year.  I might miss Easter, but Mother’s Day I was coming.

When we lost my Grandmother, that holiday became a little less “holiday”, a little more somber.  I was in Nashville and unable to get home at the end, but my Mother held the phone to her ear so I could tell her I loved her.  I knew Mother loved her mother, but I had no idea what she was feeling.  Until now.

On August 11, 2016, after battling ovarian cancer for 3 ½ years, my Mother “traded up,” as my sister put it, and went home to her Jesus.  I don’t say that lightly, or to make myself feel better about the afterlife.  I say it because I know it to be true.  God is real, heaven is real, and Mother is dancing in the streets!  And while “we do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13), we do indeed grieve.

As soon as Easter passes (or even before!), the Mother’s Day items appear; cards, gifts, flowers. “The perfect gift for Mom” floods my TV, radio and social media news feed.  And it hurts.  To my core.  That might be the first time I’ve actually admitted that.  I want to call her and tell her all about Kendall’s apartment. I want to talk about Will’s job and Lauren’s sweet puppy!  I want to see her make “that” face when Sandi and I get a little carried away picking at her and ask her more questions about her family and childhood.  I’m not sure how to do this – life with her not in it.  You KNOW your parents will most likely pass before you do, but I don’t care how sick they are or how they struggle, you ARE NOT ready for it.  I was ready for Mother to no longer suffer, to be whole again.  But couldn’t she be whole HERE?!!

So, as that day approaches again, I do not know how I will handle it. Last year, I could not go to church; I barely got out of bed.  I will always feel a little remorse because I know my Daddy was hurting, and I couldn’t give him anything – I just didn’t have it to give.  It’s my birthday, and I want to play and be happy (I LOVE me a birthday party!).  I’m a mother, and I want to celebrate that.  But I’m the last of the trio and part of me doesn’t want fanfare and celebration.  Maybe that will change as time goes on, I don’t know.  I know that neither Mother nor Grandmother would want me to be sad and miss out on “my day” (I actually get two when they don’t coincide).  The memories are becoming more often warm and sweet, but I still get those gut punches that come out of nowhere.  The kind that make you suck in your breath and lose contact with reality for a minute.  But in the form of a true Southern Lady, which my Mother was in every sense of the phrase and so I strive to be, I will go forward.  I still don’t know what kind of “celebration” there will be for Mother’s Day.  My children are scattered, and my Mother lives with Jesus.  But I know they love me, and I know she does too.

Love

I love Love!  I always have.  My parents were a wonderful example to me growing up.  I was surrounded by family who loved me and each other.  Even while going through my divorce, I wasn’t angry or disheartened with Love.  I was angry with myself; I was angry with my soon to be ex-husband.  But Love was still this beautiful, attainable idea.  We had the pleasure witnessing Love at not one but TWO weddings two weekends ago.  One a second marriage between two “grown-ups” and the second a first between two “kiddos”.  The overwhelming feel of love and devotion at both was beyond description!

The “young ‘uns”.  Miss Sarah went to school with my kids.  I’ve known her since she was about 12 and played softball with Kendall (that one season K wanted to be athletic!).  She was one of my “band kids” at IHS.  Watching her grow into a beautiful, strong, warm, loving, compassionate young woman has been an honor and a blessing.  I did not know her now husband until meeting him at the wedding, but the look on his face as she started down the aisle was all I needed to be assured that he was indeed totally in love with my young friend!  The weather was perfect, the Bride beautiful!  It was sweet and genuine. And so much fun! What a joy to watch young love unfold!

And Shelly.  What Jimmy and I were able to witness Saturday morning, in a beautiful little rock chapel, was nothing short of God’s abundant blessing and answer to prayer.  I had many friends who walked beside me as I tried to navigate divorce and life after, and I am more thankful and grateful than can be put into words.  But this dear sweet friend, was walking WITH me, truly.  She was doing the same in her own life, at the same time.  We have cried and fussed and screamed and laughed and cried some more.  Eaten and not eaten; slept and not slept; and cried some more!  And prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed!  What we asked God for was His timing, if we were to find love again.  Then for His peace as we waited (which neither of us does very well!) and healed and started over.  She absolutely GLOWED as she looked into the eyes of the wonderful man God provided and they vowed to love each other until they are parted by death.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so beautiful!

I know how she felt.  When God opened the door, and my heart, to the possibility of an “adjustment” (as Jimmy says) of our friendship, my whole world changed.  I remember thinking, as we stood looking at each other during our ceremony, “This is how Love should feel.  I just want to remember this feeling right here.  No one else matters, absorb this moment.”  And I did.  Every single word, the look on his face, the love in his beautiful blue eyes.  I am married to the kindest man I’ve ever known.  I’ve always felt that way, since we were 14.  Now I just get to see it in different ways.  He is gentle, sweet, loving – there aren’t enough adjectives!  He is also strong and fiercely loyal, and I have not a single doubt that he has my back whatever comes our way.  I know that I know that God did this.  He allowed us to become friends all those years ago.  That is the very best foundation for a marriage.  And I think we have the best marriage ever!

As I’ve prayed for these new couples this week, I’ve asked God to bless them; to teach them to be best friends.  If I have any advice, it’s this – do not take one single moment for granted.  Show/tell your spouse how much you appreciate them and every little thing they do for you.  And laugh – a lot!  Even when you get irritated, step back and see the situation for what it really is, not what it’s blowing up to be in your own head (hmmmm – listen to my own advice maybe?!).  Most conflicts are just white noise.  Don’t let that drown out the beautiful song you are writing together!

The weekend was filled with beautiful weather and beautiful people.  Sunshine and joy and FOOD and fun!  And was just confirmation that in the end, Love wins!!

I Am Blessed

I seem to be spending a great deal of time reflecting lately.  Maybe due to the start of this blog, maybe because of so many changes for so many of my family and friends, maybe I’m just getting old(er)!

I am blessed.  That statement is probably over used, but it is the simple, absolute truth.

As a child I remember my Daddy waking us up at 0-dark-thiry on Saturday with “get up girls!  We’re going to Chattanooga for lunch!”  I played in mountain streams cold enough to chill our watermelon while camping.  My Mother skipped lunch every Thursday during football season while Sandi and I were in Jr. High, so she could get to the games and see us in the band – just sitting in the stands playing!  We drove across the country in a Ford Falcon to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico because Daddy was an Explorer leader. We spent hours and hours at the lake skiing, and taking whomever wanted to go with us.  I had parents who were involved – probably more than I wanted at times!  I am blessed.

And while getting up at ungodly hours to wash band T-shirts before competition trips, or spending hours painting sets and applying mountains of glitter to anything and everything may not be your cup of tea, to me those things are priceless.  I worked concessions during hockey games and special events at what was then the Sommet Center in Nashville for four years to pay band fees at my children’s high school.  While that was frustrating and extremely tiring (especially weekday games!), the friendships, the bonds, that were formed are beyond explaining.  I have a “paint shirt and jeans” with every color of every set of every play during my daughter’s high school career.  I am STILL vacuuming glitter out of my living room rug (K graduated in 2013)!  There were car washes and yard sales – fund raising for theater.  I was TIRED!  But hearing my kids and my “other kids” call me mom, and hug my neck – far outweighs any lack of rest.  I am blessed.

I have been divorced.  It’s ugly and it’s painful, and one of the worst experiences of my life.  But I had family and friends come around me, and love me, and encourage me – and jerk a knot in my tail when I needed that too!  True friends give you the hard stuff too. I have some of those!  While I was hurting and walking through that awful moment in time, one of my very best friends was too – at almost the exact same pace.  And now – this weekend – I get to be there as she marries a man who loves and adores her, as she deserves.  I am blessed!

In May of 2016, we moved my parents into our home, two doors down from my sister and brother-in-love.  She had stage 4 ovarian cancer.  It was our turn – our parents needed us. For 3 months we were able to help where we could, talk to her, love on her.  In spite of the frustration and struggle to watch the Mother I knew disappear, I am glad we were able to be there when she needed us.  The morning Mother traded up to her mansion, she was at home, surrounded by her family.  I am blessed.

And now Daddy lives with us.  I’m a Daddy’s girl – always have been, always will be.  I help with his laundry – he’s pretty self-sufficient!  I do his medicines.  Sandi handles the bills (THANK GOD!  Money is NOT my strong suit!).  We watch Wheel and Jeopardy and NCIS; he answers our questions about his childhood and school years with funny stories and thoughtful moments.  Sandi and I take turns cooking dinners; it’s sort of a little Harris commune!  But I was gone from Georgia for almost 30 years.  The time I’ve been able to spend with my Daddy in the last 2 years is priceless.  I am blessed.

The children.  I have two by birth, and one bonus daughter by marriage (I’ve known her since she was born so there was no learning to love her – I already did!).  They are fun and entertaining!  “Never a dull moment” does not even BEGIN to cover it!  They are all growing to be strong, independent young adults, contributing members of society.  They are good people.  All three are talented and intelligent with good heads on their shoulders, good hearts, and a passion for life.  I am proud to be their mom – birth or step!  I am blessed.

Jimmy.  This man was created by God, for me.  He has been my best “guy friend” since the 10th grade.  He still is.  We got married in October 2015, while he was still working in Charlotte, NC.  He got a job in Atlanta and started in January 2016.  We moved my parents in to our home in May.  4 months.  We had 4 months alone.  And he just takes it all in stride (except that thermostat thing!  Just kidding sweetie!!).  I have asked more of him than anyone should have to handle.  He is kind and gentle and strong and smart and funny and loving and honest and trustworthy and just fun to be around.  He KNOWS me – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  He has my back, no matter what.  He loves my family – and it’s a big one!  He loves my kids.  He treats me like a queen. We are “those people”.   You know, the ones always hugging or holding hands or a little smooch here and there.  And I love it!  I am blessed.

Deuteronomy 30:3 says “God, your God, will restore everything you lost; He’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered.”  God has picked up my pieces; He has restored me; He has restored my family; He has restored my faith.  He has healed my heart and shown me how to love, really love.  He has taught me to appreciate and not take anything for granted.  I am grateful.  I am thankful.  I am blessed.

Finding Sarah

Since this whole blog idea came from my “40 Days to 50” journey, I went back to my Facebook page and read some of those posts.  When I turned 50 in 2014, I was newly divorced after nearly 25 years of marriage, my children were either in college or out on their own, and I was living alone for the first time in my life.  I had spent half of my life thus far trying to be what I considered the best wife, and a good, involved parent.   I have no regrets, please understand that.  But I did kind of lose, forget, who I was as an individual.  That journey to 50 came from counseling and realizing I needed to find me.

My quest to find Sarah was 40 days of self-examination, very painful at times, and a HUGE amount of prayer.  Ripping off the scabs that had begun to form over the wounds from the divorce was not pleasant.  At all.  But in every relationship, both parties play a part in the good and the bad.  Admitting to myself my part was ugly, but necessary.  It is also necessary to forgive – everyone involved.  Forgiveness is not for the other person, it’s for you.  Let that sink in a minute. I read somewhere that holding on to anger is letting someone live in your head rent free.  I control that.  With God’s help I forgave my ex-husband, and myself. Then I was free!  Wanna see some of what I learned?  Here are some nuggets from a few of those posts:

April 10, 2014:  I am -even in the midst of all life is throwing at me – having the time of my life!  I am going to be 50 and Fabulous!!

April 25, 2014:  15 days left!  So what have I learned thus far?  1- Be Still means Be Still.  He’s not kidding.  If you think you’re being told that, you probably are.  Listen.  Trust me on this. 2- Emotional health is equally, if not more, important than physical health.  Talk it out, pray, go to counseling.  Do whatever it takes to get yourself back to that “good place”. 3- Any exercise really is better than no exercise.  Get up, go outside, walk, run, move.  You’ll feel better, and you’ll feel better because you are doing SOMETHING!

May 10, 2014:  So, where did my 40 Days Till 50 take me?  I could write a book, but here’s the Readers Digest condensed version.

Life is choices.  There are few things that we go through that we haven’t caused by our choices, good or bad.  How we deal with them is a choice.  Finding joy is a choice, happiness is a choice, loving and being lovable are choices.  Eating better, being more active are choices.  Spending more time alone with God is a choice.  Not reacting to other’s actions and letting that define you is a choice.  From here on out, those are my choices.

Life is – or should be – intentional.  Do you intend to be happy?  Most of us don’t intend to be unhappy, but we roll through life unintentionally, letting what happens to us define us.  I think I posted this from my Pastor last week but it’s worth saying again: we go through life thinking we will drift into the best version of ourselves – we won’t. I’m not drifting anymore.  I’m not defined by anything that’s happened to me.  I am worthy.  Not because of me, but because God says I am.  I am not the smartest, wisest, thinnest, most beautiful or most spiritual person – even in my own group of family and friends.  But no one else is or can be me either.  God says I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and His opinion is what counts.

So, what next?  I love others, I love myself, I do my best to be the best mom, sister, daughter, friend I can be.  It’s all a journey and I’ll keep learning along the way.  It’s a little daunting and a lot exciting!!!  I’m so ready for this next chapter – life is to be lived, and that’s exactly what I INTEND to do!!  I AM 50 and fabulous!!

I have read and re-read those posts as I put this together about 10 times.  Being intentional with life changed my life.  There is still much to be done, but I am a better me than I was before my 40 days.  I am stronger, more confident, more accepting of myself.  I am more compassionate toward others, trying hard to always believe the best. I like me, just like I am. I have a husband who adores me (that’s a post all by itself!), a great relationship with our kids, and that circle of family and friends I talked about before. I am blessed beyond measure and grateful beyond words.  Turning 50 was daunting.  That number was scary – I won’t lie!  But I truly believe the best is yet to come.

Welcome to my Blog

I’ve thought about starting a blog for a very long time.  During and after my divorce, I had many friends who followed my journey and encouraged me to blog and share the insights I had gained through that process.  I don’t know that there is any real “wisdom” or anything new here, but it was new and sometimes earth-shattering to me.

Before I share what I went through and where I am now, some background might be a bit helpful.  I grew up in Mayberry.  Well, not ACTUAL Mayberry, but something very similar.  Fayetteville, GA in the mid-60’s and 70’s was the quintessential small town.  Families who had been there for generations, lots of farmland and the farmers to go with it, little town square with a beautiful, majestic, white Courthouse right in the middle – clock tower and all!  My family has been there forever – my Daddy’s Daddy went to my high school, as did both my parents, numerous cousins and some of their children.  I was born a FCHS Tiger, and I will die one!

My childhood was filled with football and camping trips, square dancing at the Post House (American Legion Hall) and hours and hours of bike riding, weekly visits to both sets of grandparents and family reunions in Uncle Jake’s front yard, complete with sweet tea and lemonade in big galvanized washtubs with metal dippers, block ice, and leaves from the pecan trees we used for shade.  I had 5 sets of ACTUAL Aunts and Uncles (including my Mother’s brother), then you start with the “Greats” and the cousins and those friends of my parents who became Aunts and Uncles.  When you’re talking about the Harris family “there’s a whole lot of ‘em”!  More than once in my life I’ve heard “You’re a Harris; I don’t know which one, but you are one!”  And I am.  Hook, line and sinker.   Irrefutably, undeniably, unashamedly.  I am proud of my family.  I am proud of my heritage, of the Harris clan (Whites, Banks, Steeles, Fields, Allisons, and on and on) before me who were hard workers, dependable, honest, trustworthy, loving, caring, giving.  I am proud of my sister and cousins – our generation – who are carrying on these traits and doing all we can to instill them in the next generation.

I tell you all of this so if you choose to read what I write, you will know the perspective from which I see things.  It’s probably different from yours – it is a lot of people I’ve encountered.  I was blessed, and I know it.  I grew up with parents who loved me and were active in my life, a sister who kicked my butt, but would lay you out for messing with me, and more extended family than pretty much anyone I know.  Our circle is big, and tight!  I am a Southern girl from a small town with a big family!  I am not naïve, but I am generally positive and try to see the best in people and situations.  So, that’s my background in a nutshell.  Those who know me would tell you to hang on!  You just never know where my crazy mind is going next!  We’ll talk soon.  J