Rated “M” for Mature (Or Maybe Just “O” for Old)

We age not by years, but by stories. ― Maza-Dohta

There’s a big difference between “growing up” and “growing old.”  Each process garnering its own tension (and with any luck,) eventually leading to some sense of solace and peace.  Still it seems that in today’s culture, “growing old” is definitely the greater evil.  In fact, I listened to a podcast recently that basically laid out just how taboo aging has become (I realize the mere mention of the word “podcast” clearly ages me as well!)  Let’s face it, at 40something I’m way past the “growing up” stuff.  So I guess this just leaves me mired in the murkiness of “growing old.”  Sigh.

Honestly though, I’m finding more happiness than heartbreak with each passing year.  It’s not necessarily fun watching the wrinkles and the gray hairs appear, but mentally and spiritually I feel like I’m in a good space.  A place I wouldn’t trade for being a teenager again (I’m still apologizing to my mother.)  And as tempting as it sounds, going back to my college years just doesn’t appeal to me as much as it used to.  They say you’re only as young/old as you feel.  And as a self-proclaimed “old soul,” I figure I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Still, crossing onto the other side of the BIG 4-0, I strongly believe I’ve gained some insight.  While I haven’t exactly reached curmudgeon status (I’m working on it,) I certainly classify myself as “old enough to know better,” “wise enough not to fall for that” (again,) and filled with enough “I told you so” stories to write a “how-NOT-to guide.”  Hopefully this makes me “M” for Mature, but more realistically, most would just rate me “O” for Old.  Still, I will not be deterred.  So whether you asked for it or not, let me drop a little wisdom here…because I just might know something.  Perhaps even something worth sharing….

  1. There’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed.  As a kid, I hated going to sleep.  I thought it was a huge waste of time.  Add to that my overactive imagination, frequent nightmares, and night owl tendencies…and it becomes clear that sleep was not high on my priority list–EVER.  Still, I have really come to value the power of a good night’s sleep.  I especially appreciate sleeping in my own bed.  To be honest, I have a really hard time sleeping anywhere else.  Something about MY pillows and MY blankets.  This is a safe haven.  No TV in the bedroom. No scrolling through Facebook or watching Netflix in bed for me.  When my head hits the pillow, I’m out.  Beautiful, peaceful and restorative slumber…in my own bed.  I’m all about it!
  2. Moisturizer is your best friend.  I have always made it a priority to take care of my skin.  Never EVER sleeping in make-up (especially mascara!)  Always wearing sunscreen (something I had to learn the hard way after acquiring a horrible sunburn while working a car wash fundraiser in high school.  Ewww…blisters.)  I’m a Noxema girl and a sucker for its eucalyptus scent.  A family member suggested wearing night cream as well as day cream after college graduation.  Great advice…I am eternally grateful (so is my skin.)
  3. “Respond more.  React less.”  Not my quote, but a great little ditty nonetheless.  Basically, the idea is that we take a moment to process a situation, instead of just going off on someone.  In a world where every feeling is justified for its mere existence, there is something to be said about thoughtfulness.  Look, I’m not talking about being a spineless, doormat…instead let’s hash out our feelings before we broadcast them.  It could save face and maybe even some stress and heartache.  “When we respond, rather than react, we actually communicate from our highest principles and deepest desires.  Reactions on the other hand, come straight from our most shallow anxieties and fears.”  –Hal Runkel
  4. Be generous.  It’s such a human tendency to want to keep things for ourselves.  Some of us do it out of greed or maybe even fear.  Others can’t let go of things because of guilt.  We all have our own reasons, but I have found that generosity is its own reward.  And it’s important to remember that giving isn’t necessarily limited to money either.  Being generous is about a willingness to offer time, energy, attention, advice…the list could go on and on.  Putting others above yourself is Biblical and a little goes along way!
  5. Seek out healing people and places.  There’s no substitute for peace.  As a twenty something I remember meeting a woman who absolutely made the hairs on my arm stand on end!  She was an older woman, polite and wonderful with kids, so when this gut feeling struck…I had no real explanation for it.  In fact, I felt guilty every time the feeling came on.  After some time, I was able to figure out exactly what was going on.  She had an energy that just didn’t jibe with mine.  Her jumpy, antsy disposition made me feel anxious.  Her energy level actually drained mine.  It wasn’t about judgement, we remained friendly, however it was just a gentle reminder for me (all of us) to seek out people who lift us up, people who help us to be our best self, and whose company is soothing to the soul.  You don’t have to be BFFs with everyone on the planet.
  6. Look deeply.  This is a new one for me.  An idea that has just become very important to me in the last year or so.  You see, my kids are growing so fast.  As hard as it is to believe, they actually change in some ways every single day.  This is exciting and completely terrifying!  They say “don’t blink” and wow, that has never been more true.  The idea of looking deeply extends past my children, too.  Sometimes I walk in my front door and just stare at my living room (piles of kid shoes, backpacks everywhere, bulky baseball/softball bags, etc.) and realize I am blessed.  Sometimes I chase down the “deer moon” on a summer night (ask my kids about that one!)  Often, I take photographs of seemingly mundane things just because I don’t want to forget the moment.  If you catching me staring at you…please consider it a compliment!
  7. The grass is never greener.  I know that’s not exactly how the idiom goes, but it’s the truth.  I cannot think of one time when this has EVER panned out.  I’m not into comparing myself to others.  I don’t want what you have, I’m too busy to play that game.  It’s not healthy and it will get you absolutely no where.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a tough one.  The green-eyed envy monster is for real.  And it will wreck your day (and even your life) if you let it.
  8. You can say “no.”  They never tell you this.  From the time we’re babies, people are always telling us “no.”  “No” you can’t have that, “no” you can’t touch that, “no” can’t do that either.  But no one ever tells us that we can say “no,” too.  “No” I don’t have to go along for the ride.  “No” I don’t have to sacrifice my well-being and happiness just to appease you.  “No” your choices don’t have to be my choices.  You get the picture.
  9. Laugh often.  I love sitcoms and comedies.  I honesty live to laugh.  I also have a strange sense of humor and value sarcasm.  Just a look or an odd phrase will have me in giggles.  “Smiling really is my favorite” (ELF.)  It probably helps that I’m easily amused.  Life really is too short not to spend a good chunk of it laughing.  It’s a funny world we live in…seek out your own joy.  And when you can’t find anything to laugh about…laugh at yourself.  It’s humbling and good for the soul.
  10. God is everywhere.  “Life in real-time is messy.  The fingerprints of God are often invisible until you look at them in the rearview mirror.”  Levi Lusko is the author of this quote and it has really shaped how I view the world.  At 42, I already know that God is all around us…what a blessing it is to purposefully seek out His presence on a daily basis.  It sounds lofty and maybe even hard to do, but it’s possible and so incredibly rewarding.  The more we tune our spirit into seeking out His hand, the easier it becomes to discern His handiwork.

None of us can turn back time (although I’m willing to spend a small fortune trying-lol!)  And while the world is telling us that 40 is the new 30, I’m not so sure I buy it…at least not wholeheartedly.  I can’t help but think of so many who exemplify aging gracefully and I just pray that I can grab a little bit of that for myself…all labels aside (especially “O.”)

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.  Proverbs 16:31 

Christmas Trilogy, Part 2: Deck the Halls with Christmas Spew, Falalalala Lalalala

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go….  –Meredith Willson

You know the Christmas trees you see at the store?  The pretty ones that they put in the windows and on display for everyone to gawk at and fawn over.  The perfect ones that force you to stop in your tracks and make your mind ponder (just for a moment) if perhaps you’re really ready for a “grown-up” tree.  The kind of tree that screams I have style AND taste.  Yeah, I’ve seen those trees, too….

Mom's Christmas tree 2015

My Mom’s Christmas tree display 2015.

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of them.  Not just at the stores, but on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (the social media list goes on and on) and even in the homes of family members and friends.  It seems to me that everyone has one of these beautifully accessorized trees.  And this sort of thing stands out to me, not because I’m envious or jealous but more from a place of sheer admiration.  You see, I LOVE Christmas trees…all kinds (and especially the Charlie Brown one,) but in my heart of hearts I always imagined that I, too, would have one of these special Christmas trees…a “magazine ready,” picture perfect tree.

My Mom has that kind of Christmas tree.  I can remember the red apple tree, the blue and silver bulb tree, and the crystal snowflake tree, among others.  I always assumed that would be my destiny–like mother, like daughter.  In fact, I tried really hard to have one many moons ago.  When I met my husband he had a Christmas tree in his living room…in May.  Granted it was a mini TV top tree, but he had it on display for Memorial Day, I guess (oh, and a plush Thanksgiving turkey was placed next to it, too, probably to welcome the summer season.)  I took this as a sign that he wasn’t much into decorating and eventually I filed it away as proof that I would be in charge of all holiday décor.  So when we graduated from tiny, dorm apartment living and moved to a home in  Salina, I figured this was my big break.  I was going to do Christmas my way.  I remember telling my Mom that I was going for a blue/white/silver snowman theme.  She purchased ornaments to get me started and I began to gather all the “right” accessories as well.  Our son, Sean, was just over a year old, and after photos with Santa one night, we came home to decorate the tree.  And while I was strategizing and putting a final game plan together, Steve and Sean were already placing ornaments on the tree.  What?

IMG_3328Turns out these ornaments were from Steve’s childhood along with a few others that his mother had passed down to us.  (I’m still not sure where this box came from.)  Sean looked thrilled as several of these ornaments were football related.  And I remember stopping in my tracks and thinking that 49er red really didn’t go with my snowman theme…at all.  Obviously, a “discussion” ensued.  That Christmas the tree was properly adorned with blue/white/silver snowman themed items and EVERY ornament my husband had ever owned in his life.  I figured I had lost the battle, but certainly not the war.  There was always next year, and the year after that, and the one after that.  The odds, however, were not in my favor.

Please don’t feel bad for me.  It really wasn’t a make or break deal.  I love Christmas and pretty much all things Christmas related.  So we moved on and it wasn’t until Sean was in preschool that I finally got on board with the “all-things, everything” kind of Christmas tree.  When that sweet-faced little boy brought me his first homemade ornament from school and proceeded to put it on the tree…well, my heart melted.  He was so proud of himself.  A little man contributing to a holiday that I loved so much.  Sean would tell me in his tiny voice, “I made it for you.”  So naturally every scribbled on, wadded up, half-glued, misshapen ornament made its way onto the tree–as it should.  And when Casey came along, well her “contributions” went up right along side his.

ornamentsAs you can imagine, after more than a decade of “contributions” amassed from school AND church, we now have quite a collection going.  Add to it EVERY ornament we have ever received from relatives, friends, plus our church family, and it amounts to 7 boxes of Christmas knickknack goodies.  Every year the tree is quite full (this may be an important factor when you consider the number of times the tree has fallen over the years,) but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The Spencer Family Christmas tree is full of as many stories and memories as it is ornaments.  This year the kids asked me if we really had to hang every last trinket from the boxes.  I guess they thought that maybe the “bead ornament” (there really is no other name for it since it resembles absolutely NOTHING ever known to man) and the “paper Jesus candy cane” may have seen better days.  “If there’s room on the tree, then there’s room for it,” was my constant reply.  And while I think the “all-things, everything” kind of Christmas tree has roots in my husband’s Christmas tradition, he is the one who announces every year that “it looks like Christmas threw up in here!”  At least he says it with a smile.

Merry Christmas 2015 wideOur tree is still up (it’s New Year’s Day,) it’s leaning to the side as is its custom during the 12 Days of Christmas, and the ornaments are taking themselves down (with a mini thud!)  The Christmas “spew” extends well beyond the tree to the fireplace mantel, hearth, the piano and into the dining room, and it will…for at least another week.  Yes, it STILL looks like Christmas in here and everywhere we go…even if it’s the regurgitated type.  Falalalala Lalalala!

I get obsessed with decorations and decorating the house.  I keep it tasteful outside, but when you get inside it is a bit like Blackpool illuminations, I go BONKERS!  –Johnny Vegas

Stay tuned for Christmas Trilogy, Part 3:  The Sticky Nativity

Dear Daughter…Marry a Chef (You’ll Thank Me Later)

Eating is a necessity but cooking is an art. —Unknown

When I was a kid, I would tell my mother that I wanted to live in a house without a kitchen.  Actually, if I remember correctly, we had several conversations about it.  I’m fairly certain that I’ve even brought up the subject with a couple of past boyfriends (just to let them know what they were in for—yes, I’m a courteous girl :).)  And my poor husband, he knows all too well how much I LOATHE the kitchen.  Turns out that it’s not really the kitchen that I have a problem with…I mean I always planned to have a microwave and a refrigerator (I’m not stupid.)  What I really hate is the COOKING that takes place in the kitchen!

Kiss the Cook :)

Kiss the Cook 🙂

Maybe my dislike for cooking comes from possessing a very plain and boring palate.  For example…I’m pretty much a beans and rice girl.  When we go out for dinner I typically choose one of three entrees:  cheeseburger, pizza or chicken, and I’m not really into sweets.  There isn’t an adventurous bone in my body when it comes to trying new foods (asparagus anyone?)  And I’m actually very okay with this.  I view eating in the same manner that I see the need for sleep–a mere necessity and nothing more.  I have a hard time relating to a lot of my foodie friends who rave about their latest food find and go on and on about “pairing” this delectable tidbit with that scrumptious delicacy (am I even using those words right?)  I really just don’t get it.

In my own defense, I WANTED to get it.  I wanted to be a so called “expert” in the kitchen.  While I make a mean sandwich, there actually was a time when I secretly aspired to be whiz in the kitchen.  I own a lot of cookbooks, including the elusive Joy of Cooking CD-ROM (lol) and at one point I was absolutely addicted to the Food Network.  Like many stay-at-home moms, Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, and Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) were not only my idols, but also my best friends.  As soon as it was acceptable for me to turn off Nickelodeon (11am or so) I would quickly click the channel to see what my “friends” were whipping up for lunch and dinner.  Never has anyone been more into “homemade” and “from scratch” as yours truly.  I was rolling out dough, making my own stock, and a regular in the fresh herb section at our local supermarket.  I’m not sure if I crossed the line into “cooking obsessed,” but I’m pretty sure I was right on the edge.  When my three year old daughter started to request tuning into Rachael Ray instead of Dora the Explorer I finally woke up.

To be honest, I was spending a lot of time, energy and money on a hobby that I hated.  Not only did I not enjoy cooking, but truth be told, I was NOT very good at it.  In hindsight, I realize that I was fighting a losing battle.  Don’t get me wrong…I have the utmost respect for foodies and chefs alike.  It just turns out that it’s not my thing.  Slowly, I stopped turning in to the Food Network and filling my time with other things.  I began adhering more to the Sandra Lee method of food prep—“Seventy percent store-bought, ready-made plus 30 percent fresh allows you to take 100 percent of the credit.” Her kitchen motto was all that was left of my so called “love of cooking.”

Needless to say, my family didn’t starve to death.  Not once has any one ever said, “Oh, Anna, how I wish you could go back to making (fill in the blank.)”  While there are few remaining recipes that I rely on all these years later, I don’t really sweat it…especially since my children inherited my same plain and boring palate.  We primarily live on the basics:  a variety of chicken dinners, tacos, spaghetti, LOTS of sandwiches and whatever my husband can grill.  It’s not exciting, but it fills a hole.  What used to make me feel like a failure as a wife and mother, now has crossed over into the realm of acceptance.  I no longer want to be a good cook.  If I could, I honestly would quit cooking altogether and live on cereal. Unfortunately, that is not an option.  Sigh.

So here it is…I am over the mom pressure from the foodie crowd (I couldn’t grow or can anything to save my life.) I will be the first one to shout from the rooftops that being a successful wife, mother, & homemaker doesn’t mean that you are required to be a culinary genius, too.  Just because you stay home with your kids does not mean your worth and value is tied up in what’s for dinner.  Serving chicken nuggets does not make you less of a woman.  I wish someone had told me all of this years ago.  Today, the only chef I pay attention to on the Food Network is Guy Fieri…and that’s because I like to drool over the food (mostly cheeseburgers and barbeque) he samples on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”  Mmmmm….

I completely understand that no “knight-in-shining-apron” is going to come to my kitchen rescue anytime soon.  Research shows that even in today’s modern society, woman are responsible for nearly 80% of household food prep.  And while a growing number of men are becoming more and more comfortable in the family kitchen, I realize that meals will continue to fall into the woman/wife/mom category for the foreseeable future.  And that’s okay because I’ve already been coaching my daughter to marry a chef.  Problem solved.  (You’re welcome.)

Today’s menu has two choices:  TAKE IT or LEAVE IT!

I’m Only Happy When It Rains (NOT!)

One can find so many pains when the rain is falling.  –John Steinbeck.

Rain, rain go away…, oh, forget it. We’re past the point of cute nursery rhymes, the rain has gone on long enough, the puddles are turning into ponds and I’m going to come clean–I HATE the rain!  I’ve always hated the rain.

For years, I feigned interest when people talked about rain.  In Kansas, it seems that we never have enough rain and the topic comes up ALOT.  People love to talk about the weather here…it’s a conversation staple.  Don’t get me wrong…I am a big-time weather nerd, but the rain just doesn’t float my boat.  At all.  I can’t stand it when it’s gray and cloudy and I especially don’t like it when this type of weather goes on for days.    This spring has been especially rainy and I’m so over it.  In some ways it’s gone from annoying to spirit draining.  I’m done.

SomePeopleFeelTheRainOthersJustGetWetI thought about writing a blog titled “5 things to do in the rain,” or maybe “5 things NOT to do on a rainy day, or “5 ways not to go INSANE when it won’t stop raining,” but…I just don’t care.  This is what the rain does to me.  It puts me in this pensive mood.  It takes me to a place where time feels like it’s standing still…clocks no longer matter.  The rain brings back memories (both good and bad.)  It keeps me in this sleepy sort of daydream like mood.  I feel like eating chocolate (and I’m not a huge chocolate kind of girl.)  I have no energy.  And the worst part is that I just don’t know what to do with myself.  I should clean the house, I should catch up on work, I should start a project, I should bake something, I should read a book…but I can’t.  As I write this I can imagine family and friends reaching for their phones…thinking that they should call and check on me.  I’m fine.  The truth is, I just hate the rain.

SpongeBob Uno...Jellyfish wild, anyone?

SpongeBob Uno…Jellyfish wild, anyone?

It’s funny to think that the rain could affect me so much.  Especially since I LOVE thunderstorms!  Crashes of lightening, booming thunder, and hail–oh, I’m a big fan.  It’s exciting and BRIEF compared to our recent bout of never-ending showers.  Several people have been complaining about how the rain is forcing them indoors and cancelling all their social plans.  This makes me laugh because these are things that don’t bother me in the least.  I’m not an outdoors person (too many bugs) and I’m perfectly happy keeping myself company (a self-proclaimed introvert.)  Others have seized the opportunity to use these rainy days for family bonding and togetherness.  This is all well and good, but there’s only so many games of Uno one can play in an afternoon (BTW that number is 37.)

Spencer family swamp.  May 2015

Spencer family swamp. May 2015

Basically I am in survival mode trying to busy myself with anything that will distract me from staring out the window.  This is where Facebook is an absolute godsend!  I so enjoy all the posts about the rain…the worried, the productive, the thoughtful and especially the FUNNY takes on the weather!  It’s rainy days like these where Pinterest is a lifesaver as I pin all the projects I will NEVER get to.  Thank you, Instagram…#hashtag everything.  Fellow blog writers…I appreciate all your genius insights into every subject under the sun (oh, yes, the glorious SUN!)  Right now, you’re all keeping me sane AND awake!  And finally, HGTV…where would I be without YOU?  This sounds like an Academy Awards speech for keeping my head above water, but it’s so very true.

Right now all is quiet and it’s not even 9pm.  The kids have retreated to their own corners of the house…binging on Minecraft and streaming TV shows.  My husband is at the computer working.  And the rain–well, it’s NOT stopping.  When I pray tonight, I’ll be sure to thank God that I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest (as their rainy climate would absolutely kill me.)  Along with this constant drip, I hear only one song playing over and over in my head…and it makes me smile.

Pour your misery down….

June Bugs in May (A Horror Story)

Insects are my secret fear. That’s what terrifies me more than anything – insects.  —Michael O’Donoghue

This will probably only make sense to those who know me best: I HATE June bugs!  I don’t remember when my phobia began, but I’m pretty sure that it’s hereditary since I have early childhood memories of my mom, my aunts, my cousins and my sister shrieking in terror when one would come around on a warm spring/summer night.  By the time I was in junior high, the phobia was in full force…as my good friend, Joy, and I would part ways at the street light halfway between our houses.  Under this light it would seem that June bugs gathered by the thousands…just looking for young girls with long hair to attack.  Of course, we played it cool…walking to the street light, quickly saying our goodbyes and running like maniacs back to our houses screaming all the way!  I think it’s their large bodies, hard shells, sticky limbs, drunken flight patterns and the sheer noisiness of the little beasts that send me into a tizzy.  YUCK!

June bug memeTurns out that up until now, my fear of June bugs was strictly theoretical.  You see all that time I spent dodging them and screaming about them and running from them was merely child’s play.  I had never actually had one land on me.  I’ve never had to pull one from my hair.  Mostly, when I saw one I ran the other direction and if I came across one on the ground well, I stepped on it and tried not to throw up (it’s that body crushing sound that makes me want to hurl.)  This system was my response to these scary critters and while it may not sound like a great plan, it had always worked…that is up until last night….

While sitting around a warm campfire, preparing s’mores on an especially beautiful night I met my fear head on (so to speak, ) but let me back up just a bit–I should probably set this up a little.  My kiddos were having friends over and with all the comings and goings I left the outdoor lights on.  I wanted parents and kids arriving at our house to have a little light…especially since the bulb in the lamp-post that lights the sidewalk had burned out.  This meant the flood light that illuminates the patio and basketball goal was on…for HOURS!  It was during this time that a swarm of June bugs made their way to our house.  There were so many that my son and his friend took to trying to exterminate the problem by clubbing them with sticks (probably a boy thing) and stepping on them.  This was all well and good (or so I thought) because 1.  it gave them something to do while they were waiting for every one to arrive and 2. they were killing the June bugs!  By the time we were ready to get started I foolishly believed that the June bugs were no longer and issue and that any remaining little beasts would simply move on to someone else’s yard once we turned out the lights.  But, NO.

The only good June bug--a dead one!

The only good June bug–a dead one!

Throughout the campfire we could HEAR the June bugs lurking.  Much of the noise came from June bugs running into the garage wall where the light had once been.  There was even a loud popping noise when the less brilliant bugs sizzled up in the fire–much to the amusement of the kids.  And finally there was the crackling noise of the June bugs beneath MY feet as I moved about helping the kiddos make their s’mores.  Each crunchy moment made me want to lose my dinner and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to stomach eating a s’more myself.  After about 20 minutes my thoughts drifted away from these horrible bugs and on to the silly ghosts stories that were being told.  But wouldn’t you know it…just when I finally got past the situation enough to put together my own ooey gooey, delicious s’more I felt something.  No it wasn’t in my hair or on my arm…no the sinister little beast was crawling up my pant leg–ON THE INSIDE!

So there I was with my marshmallow stick in one hand and my fixin’s in the other when I could feel something moving up my leg (darn those wide leg, boot cut jeans.)  Okay, I thought, be calm…we have company.  We don’t want to panic the children.  I’ll just crush it up against my leg and then it will fall out, right?  (As I type this I can’t believe those words crossed my mind!)  So I quickly transferred everything to one hand and smacked my knee with the other.  I heard and felt the crunch.  I shook out my pant leg, but nothing fell out.  Surely, I had killed the thing!  I mean, I hit it pretty hard.  I shook my pant leg even more, stepping out of my sandal and using the moonlight to search out the area.  NOTHING.  Alright, maybe it fell out and I just didn’t see it.  Yeah, that sounds good.  I’ll go with that.  Thinking that the issue had resolved itself, I went back to the task at hand and set out to assemble my s’more.  As soon as I bit into that little square of goodness that same feeling returned to my leg.  This time I couldn’t help but react.  I jumped, squirmed and announced, “There’s a bug in my pants!”  You can imagine the giggles and fits of laughter.  Great.  So again I smacked my knee as hard as I could and this time I knew without a doubt that I had succeeded in killing that thing.  You can’t deny BUG JUICE! (Excuse me now while I once again try NOT to throw up!)

What I realized last night is that somewhere along the way, I must have grown up.  While I still wholeheartedly claim AND proclaim my June bug phobia–somehow I got through that moment.  In the past a trauma like this would have completely ruined my night, but not this time.  Instead, I shook out my pant leg (again) and what was left of the bug fell out (of course, I immediately stepped on it for good measure.) Then I moved past it.  We finished up our s’mores and Steve and I enjoyed chatting by the fire until nothing was left but smoldering embers.  It was so peaceful.  Obviously, I didn’t want to discover another bug up my leg, but I wasn’t afraid to let my feet rest on the same slab of concrete where the incident occurred.  Call me crazy, but this is BIG GIRL stuff!  I felt so good and proud of myself (especially after that squishy spot dried on my pant leg.)  Sometimes it truly is the little victories…”sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug”…and sometimes you just get over it and move on as dignified as possible…BUG JUICE and all!

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:25

 

My Purse Keeps Getting Bigger (and Not for the Right Reasons)

As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled. –Victor Hugo

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My briefcase-sized purse…easily weighs 8-10 pounds.

Remember the good ol’ days?  Footloose and fancy free?  Not a care in the world?  I do…and what I remember most about them was that everything that I truly NEEDED fit into the palm of my hand.  Gone are the days of tucking cherry-flavored Chapstick into my pocket and heading out the door.  No more securing a dollar bill to the inside of my sock…you know,  just in case.  Forget about making room in your shoe to save that last piece of gum for later (seriously, forget about that–it’s a bad idea.)  All of these good times ended at about age 16…the year where freedom (a.k.a. driving) meant that you had to carry proof that you were indeed legal behind the wheel!  Thus one enters the era of THE PURSE….

At first, having a purse made me feel all grown up.  My purse contained nothing but the necessities, right?  This is sorta funny because at the time I remember searching my room frantically for items to fill my purse.  You know–a comb, lipstick, gum/candy/breath mints (sometimes ALL three), a pen. perfume (I know…I’m sorry,) a stylish journal (for all my important thoughts) and of course a wallet for money…plus that prized driver’s license (the reason I desperately needed a purse in the first place.)  In the beginning the purse was pretty small…always messenger style so I could wear it across my body.  This is important, because when you’re new to carrying around a purse you need one that you can’t lose…just saying.  The purse and I became sympatico and a love/hate relationship was established.

By the time college came around I had to re-evaluate the whole purse thing.  Life was changing–big time!  I found that college life required a backpack and not necessarily a little messenger purse.  The school that I attended was situated on top of a hill, so a lot of walking was a given.  Fortunately, I found an item that I refer to as a wallet-keychain. This nifty little gadget became my best friend for four years.  It tucked nicely into the backpack, held the bare essentials (license, student ID, money, and bank card) and was attached to my keys!  Genius.  I wished I had discovered it in high school.  This would make everything better…or so I thought.  But the purse would eventually have its revenge.

After graduation I ventured into a career path that required some “primping” to say the least (I am only slightly embarrassed to say that I wanted to be the next Connie Chung 🙂 )  Carrying a make-up bag, a brush and comb, etc. was just the norm for this girl with big dreams.  Add onto that the things I needed for work:  a pen (a back up pen,) a notebook, tapes (and back up tapes,) and HAIRSPRAY!  Then there were the snacks (you wondered when I would get to this point?)  You see, when your lunch hour varies (or doesn’t necessarily exist) you need more than gum to sustain yourself.  Small packages of crackers, cookies and even instant coffee started entering the picture and filling my (now bigger) purse.  My shoulder aches just thinking about those days.

I wish I could say that changing career paths meant less stuff and a smaller purse.  It didn’t…and mostly because I moved to California.  You’re probably wondering why that matters, but it does matter and maybe not for the reasons you might think.  It wasn’t that I needed a big purse so that I could keep up with the Kardashians, but rather I needed a purse filled with survival supplies.  While California is amazingly beautiful, it’s also a jungle!  And jungle life meant that you had to be ready for your 11 mile commute to take as long as two hours.  If you had to cross a bridge, someone else’s fender bender might have you looking at a 3 hour delay.  Traffic is ridiculous there and so you had to pack ridiculous things in your purse.  Water was just as big a deal then as it is now.  Carrying around water bottles was not only in vogue, but it could save your life on a warm, Cali day if the traffic was particularly uncooperative (especially when you AC goes out!)  Food in your purse was a must, but because this was the Golden State you felt obligated to have “healthy” food.  Fruit, nuts, cheese and crackers were the standards–and “fresh” food meant carrying a cold-pak, too.  I pity the person who got busted stuffing their face with Cheetos on the California freeway!  (Really, you should know better!)

But never was the purse’s revenge as terrible as the day I become a mother.  It’s like I could hear the purse saying, “You will never, EVER go back!”  I tried making my purse into a diaper bag and when that didn’t work I asked the diaper bag to do double duty as a baby-things-carry-all and a purse.  Either way you look at it, I was carrying around a bunch of nonsense.  Okay, you’re thinking…”Well, your kids weren’t toddlers forever, right?  Eventually you went back to carrying around a plain old purse.”  Well, yes AND no.  Now that I was a mom I discovered this unwritten rule where you are forced to carry things for your kiddos.  This form of servanthood is sneaky, even to the most savvy mother.  So many times I have told my children that if they brought it, they had to carry it…only to find my purse a little heavier and their book, toy, or gadget safety tucked inside while my child proceeded to run and do hand stands all over the place with their newfound freedom.

My migration to the extra-large purse didn’t end with just the kids’ stuff.  My purse also doubles as a medicine cabinet.  Bandages, Neosporin, allergy medicine, etc.  all make their home here as well.  I am the keeper of Kleenex, keys and bubble gum (of various flavors nonetheless.)  My purse houses accessories for cleaning glasses, and extra contact lenses as well as a portable hair salon equipped with fashionable hair-ties for my daughter.  Need to write something down?  I have pencils, pens and SHARPIES (assorted colors) in my bag!  Not to mention lotion, hand sanitizer, post-its and a small magnifying glass (BTW I’m aging and my eyes were the first things to go.)  I have ear buds, sunglasses and occasionally pizza crumbs (don’t ask.)  These are just the staples, I could go on (and on….)

So why am I telling you all this?  Because I want it to stop.  REALLY.  I am over the purse thing.  I want to be the kind of person who just goes with the flow (sans the “luggage.”)  The kind of person who doesn’t need a million accessories just to go to the grocery store or to watch my kiddos play ball. I want to go back to the days when everything I NEEDED fit into the palm of my hand.  I am craving simplicity and I think the reason all of this has to come to a head is because physically AND spiritually the purse is weighing me down.  Stop.  I know that’s a pretty big leap, but hear me out.  I finally understand the reason I carry around the equivalent of  a briefcase everywhere I go, 365 days a year.  It’s because of fear and control.  Every time a situation has come up in the last 20+ years and I DIDN’T have the tools I needed to handle it, another “something” was added to the purse.  This is a pretty big revelation for me.  While feigning having it all together, what was really going on was a lack of trust.  I didn’t trust myself, I didn’t trust life and in someway I was also saying that I didn’t trust God (at least not completely.)

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My new wristlet…smaller than a paperback book!

After so many years, it’s going to be hard to change this pattern…to fight the urge to cover all the bases, at all times–EVERY time.  The desire to be superwoman, superwife, supermom, etc.  is so very strong.  Listen, I know this isn’t the biggest problem on the planet, but I feel convicted to make a change.  I want to trust more…to put myself out there.  In some suburban-housewife-kind-of-way…this is my next faith test.  So here’s where I am–I purchased a wristlet (which just may be the grown-up version of the wallet-keychain that I loved so much in college.)  Full disclosure–right now the wristlet resides in my purse (along side a million other items,) but I am making a plan to downsize to this little dandy.  Just the NECESSITIES!  Those of you who know me, know that this is a tall order!  I think I’m up to the challenge.  Don’t worry, I’m not going cold turkey…I will still have a large bag (NOT a purse) for sporting events, kid-related activities and church projects.  So what if I don’t have a bandage for every boo-boo or a just the right flavor of gum for my kiddos?  I have a funny feeling (and a whole lot of FAITH) that we will survive…and it just might save my shoulders, too!

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”  “Nothing,” they answered.  Luke 22:35

 

 

 

Losing Our Easter Booth (and Our “P.I.G.” Status)

When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go. –Alexandra Stoddard

Never, EVER, did I think I would be writing about a midwest BBQ chain and Easter Sunday.  Yet, here I am.  This goes to show two things…first, that the cliché holds true (again):  Never say never.  And second. that convenient, tasty, family style BBQ is perfectly acceptable as a go-to meal for ANY holiday or celebration (and in our family’s case, especially religious ones!)

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Easter Lunch 2013

For the past six years we have “dined” at Famous Dave’s on Easter Sunday.  Okay, I know it’s not fine dining.  Yes, I am aware that they are a paper napkin establishment (gasp!) And I understand that French fries are not typical Easter dinner fare.  (Glad we got all that out of the way 🙂 )  Still, I think Famous Dave’s is just as good a place as any to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.  It’s a Spencer family tradition that’s often met with puzzling looks, stammering comments and even a little pity.  But that’s okay.  We like Famous Dave’s and we especially like the reason we ended up there in the first place (insert sappy background music here….)

In 2009, my husband was called to lead what I will politely label a “broken” church.  You see the pastor had decided to leave our denomination and he additionally took the congregation with him.  For whatever reasons, all that was left were about a dozen people, loads of tech equipment and a lot of questions.  This clearly would not be easy.  And, did I mention this was Steve’s first senior pastor appointment?  Despite the best efforts of many, the prayers of many more and the sheer broken-heartedness of the situation, a decision was made to close down the church.  All of this took place in a matter of weeks.  It was one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed.  So here’s the worst part…the last worship celebration for this now defunct church would be on Easter Sunday.  (I can hardly type these words!)  CLOSING A CHURCH ON EASTER.  (There really should be a law against such a thing!)  I could barely stomach the idea.  I thought of the church members who stayed behind.  Those who wanted to restructure and carry on.  And all those who put their heart and soul into trying to make this church a healthy, functioning place of worship.  But it wasn’t meant to be.

Much work went into that final worship celebration.  First, there was the cleaning.  Since worship would be held in the church’s youth building, couches had to be moved, chairs brought in and EVERYTHING had to be wiped down.  The sound system was reconfigured, light bulbs were replaced and a small room was readied to serve as a nursery.  A sweet woman who had hoped for a different outcome for her church set aside her sorrow and assembled Easter baskets for any children who would arrive on Sunday morning.  With just a few musicians, songs were selected to praise a newly risen King.  My husband crafted a sermon of hope and promise…in the midst of all of the responsibilities of closing a church.  It was a sad and rainy morning.  I felt like God was weeping right along with us.

But if you know how the Easter story ends…then you know that there are no limits to what our Great Creator can do!  As worship came to a close, the sun and the SON broke through!  The rain moved out and although we closed the doors on that final worship celebration, what we didn’t know was that God was already opening another.  It was almost three o’clock in the afternoon when we left the church parking lot that day.  Our children, ages 7 and 4 at the time, were tired and hungry.  In the midst of all that was going on we neglected to make lunch plans…and that’s how we ended up at Famous Dave’s.

The restaurant was practically empty.  The lunch crowd was gone, the wait staff looked spent and here walks in this family of four…dressed in now wrinkled Easter wear, tired and clearly saddened.  We crawled into what would be called our Easter booth…to be honest, while we always sat in a booth on these occasions it wasn’t the same booth every time–and that was okay.  Steve ordered ribs, I ordered the baked potato with chili and the kiddos put in their request for chicken strips and fries.  Then we waited.  Not just for food, but for everything.  We honestly didn’t know where we would land…although we knew it would be another church, most likely in another town.  And yet somehow, in that little booth our spirits lifted.  The children made us laugh and we counted our blessings.  We were together and life was in fact GOOD!  There was safety and warmth in those comfy, red seats.  The little kids’ menus reminded us that at Famous Dave’s we’re all P.I.G.s…Pretty Important Guests!  I liked the thought of that and when the meal arrived, we prayed.  The food tasted extra delicious that day, too–satisfying in a way that I cannot explain.  An afternoon at Famous Dave’s was just what we needed.

Obviously, we kept going back.  Steve was appointed to a new church in a nearby suburb and our Easter lunch plans practically wrote themselves.  After a busy Holy Week and all its activities, we found a sanctuary at the east side’s Famous Dave’s restaurant.  The pig-themed decorations, the fishing signs and decals, and those red colored booths–we loved it all!  I have several photos of our kids in their cute, little Easter outfits posing with their Daddy for our annual Easter pic.  Good times.  Blessed times.  Necessary times…but as you can guess, “the times they are a-changing” (thanks, Bob Dylan.)  Famous Dave’s closed this past fall…and the Spencer family DID NOT find out about it until January 😦

Holy Week has arrived again and the question on everyone’s mind is “where are we going to eat Easter lunch?”  I don’t have any answers.  I have tried to coordinate just how long it will take us to drive to the nearest Famous Dave’s (too long unfortunately.)  I’ve looked into dining at other BBQ establishments.  I’ve tried to sell myself on the idea of having Mexican food on Easter (it’s not working.)  I’ve even thought about preparing and cooking a meal myself (and if you know me, then you know this is a desperate thought!)  The reality is we’ve lost our Easter booth, but we certainly haven’t lost Easter and all its promises.  So tonight as I type this, I still have no clue what we will be doing for lunch.  Somehow, though, I’ve gone past worry and fret to a place of “wait and see.”  Not a flippant, inactive state, but rather an active, hopeful resolve.  My husband and kids are not with me in this place.  They want answers and our P.I.G. status back!  But please, don’t feel bad for us…because I so clearly remember a gray, downcast day not so long ago when the sun and the SON came out.  It’s Easter, everyone, and we KNOW how the story ends.  I’m not sure if the booths will be red, but I know that wherever we end up we’ll be fed (in more ways than one)…and it WILL certainly be good!

Praying that the Holy Spirit moves you to worship this Easter Sunday and that you experience the hope and renewal that Christ Jesus offers to us each and every day.  Amen. 

 

 

hymningandhaing (The Title Explained)

First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.  Epictetus, Greek Philosopher

Not that anyone has ever asked, but I thought that maybe I should explain (just in case the thought ever crossed your mind)…why hymningandhaing?  If it sounds familiar and looks horribly misspelled, then you’re right on both accounts.  The title is my take on the familiar idiom “hem and haw.”

hem and haw and hymn and ha

When I began writing this blog in 2011, I planned to share bits and pieces of my faith along with my everyday life and I wanted a title that would reflect that theme (go with me on this one, the road is a little twisted here….)  To hem and haw means to dither, refuse to give a definitive answer and to keep one’s options open (according to The Word Detective at least.)  So while the more familiar version of hemming and hawing connotes a level of indecisiveness, uncertainty and fence-sitting, my interpretation is a little more personal.  The “hymning” part is a playful way of suggesting that while I’m a pastor’s wife, I am also the least literate hymn person in the congregation!  I didn’t grow up in church so for the most part the hymnal is full of dozens of songs I’ve never, EVER heard of.  Not exactly what you’d expect from the so-called “first lady of the church,” (a title that makes me giggle every time!)  While this might seem like a sad state of affairs, the “haing” part of the title (pronounced ha-ing…like ha, ha, ha) suggests that I try to take all this in stride and accept the fact that no matter what role I find myself in (wife, mother, sister, friend, etc.) I always try to find the lighter side of things and not take myself too seriously.  Afterall, NONE of this was my plan.  I am just grateful that God’s plans are so much bigger than anything I could have imagined for myself!  And that’s where the original hemming and hawing meets my variation.  I don’t know where all this is going or how it will all play out.  For the most part, I try to stay open to the possibilities, be thoughtful in all situations and just wait and see…realizing that I don’t have all the answers (if any at all.)

So that’s it.  It’s definitely not an earth shattering revelation.  Just a little insight.  Although I will admit that it makes me belly laugh every time someone mispronounces the blog title!  My favorite to date is when someone asked me why I call it hymning-and-HAYing…is it because I live on a farm?  (No, I don’t.) 🙂

 

 

 

 

Ohhh, Christmas Tree!

The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!—Charles Barnard

THE Christmas tree:  Symbol of that oh so special holiday, proudly displayed each and every year in a place of prominence, carefully adorned with treasured and sentimental ornaments.  A recognized hallmark of the Christmas season and the BANE of my Decembers. As our family always opts for the “real” variety (instead of the plastic trees of my childhood,) it seems that somewhere along the way a war has been waged between the Spencer family and THE tree.  A battle that never fails to entertain and frustrate at the same time.  This year proved no different.

So may I present to you our annual Christmas tree adventure–in song form!  Oh yes, this year’s tree had us fooled…we REALLY thought this was THE perfect tree 🙂  Each family member convinced that we could avoid the typical end of the year evergreen hijinks.  Fools we were, this tree had our number from Day 1.

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THE tree on January 4, 2015.  A little scraggly....

THE tree on January 4, 2015. A little scraggly, still standing!

Still standing!  We made it through December and into 2015.  Sure, it’s a sight to be seen and my son is already begging me to “please, take it DOWN.”  No, son, not yet.  I promised my daughter I would try to have it down by the time her birthday rolls around (mid-January.)  In the meantime, I will sip coffee and watch our once majestic tree transform into a scraggly shrub, daily picking up the ornaments (aided in their fall by the dog no less,) placing lights back onto the branches and taking bets on just how crooked it will get before it tips over (again)…and then, maybe then, I will take it down.  I’m in no hurry.  The whole ordeal has practically become its own Christmas tradition…a tradition I secretly wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!  Ohhh, Christmas tree 🙂

Don’t measure the height of your Christmas tree.  Measure the abundance of the love present in your heart!  Have a blessed Christmas!–author unknown

What About Bob? (aka A Fire Belly Toad Love Story)

No one has greater love than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:13

Love is a funny thing. It will make you take insane risks. You’ll find yourself in unbelievable circumstances. And sometimes, yes sometimes, love will cost you absolutely everything! But let me back up a little bit because every good love story needs a little background.

Sean Brings Home Pet Toad

Sean Brings Home Pet Toad–August 2010

So, a little boy showed up at school one day with a toad in a small plastic habitat.  And in “monkey see, monkey do” fashion, my son had to have one, too.  And since his birthday was coming up (and since I’ve been known to slip into moments of complete mom idiocy) we decided to add to our family.  After a trip into Wichita a purchase was made in a somewhat questionable pet establishment in an equally suspect part of the city.  The sales fella assured us that this was an easy enough pet to care for and that our new fire belly toad would happily enjoy the little plastic habitat that we had already purchased at Toys R Us.  (FYI:  living creatures almost never thrive in plastic containers.)

So, Todd the Toad moved into my son’s bedroom.  WAIT…I forgot to mention that fire belly toads (which are poisonous by the way…so should have looked that up before we brought it home) also need LIVE crickets every 3-4 days.  Okay–if you have never seen a toad devour a cricket you might be surprised to discover that it’s pretty amazing and just as cool as some of the things you’ll see on Animal Planet, except that it’s happening right in front of YOUR face!  So Todd would entertain us during feeding time, but that was about the extent of it.  And since this particular toad didn’t have much of an appetite, more crickets drown than actually made it into his mouth.  And this was a problem because cleaning this little plastic habitat became not only necessary, but also quite gross.  To top it all off, poor Todd wasn’t thriving.  He seemed miserable, sad and scared.  My only thought at the time was:  please, please don’t let us kill Sean’s birthday present!  Something had to be done and thus another moment of mom idiocy ensued.

Google is one of my best friends.  It wasn’t long before I had loads of info and armed with knowledge we headed back to a different pet store (in a better part of town) and looked for a whole new set up AND a companion toad (because two is always better than one and who doesn’t need someone to pal around with?  I know, even more mom idiocy!)  Almost $100 dollars later, we were set up with a new industrial terrarium and cover, a special light bulb, a new lamp, spring water, an electric thermostat and even a little greenery and log to keep our toad chums happy.  The children were ecstatic and tossed names back and forth on the drive home. They settled on Bob and Todd because it sounded like good radio DJ names (???) and the dynamic toad duo settled into their new digs.  We are such good parents 🙂

Bob and Trudy at home in their new habitat.

Bob and Trudy at home. Bob is bright green and on the left. Trudy is dark green and on the right.

So here’s where the actual love story begins…you thought I forgot?  Within a week my son had a few questions. There’s nothing quite like the “birds and bees conversation” presenting itself when you least expect it.  After a very matter-of-fact talking to…Todd was renamed Trudy and my daughter declared the two “married.”  Casey began praying for baby toads while I couldn’t believe what we had gotten ourselves into.  Back to Google…more research needed to be done.  (I am pleased to report that we were NEVER blessed with the “pitter-patter” of tadpoles!)

Bob and Trudy were quite the pair and displayed text-book fire belly toad characteristics.  Trudy was quite docile and ended up being much smaller in size than Bob.  Her skin stayed dark in color and she would secrete the poisonous milky fluid that wards off predators whenever she became frightened or uneasy.  Bob on the other hand ate like a champ, his skin color would fluctuate between various shades of green according to his male hormones, and he frequently “barked” through the night to communicate with his beloved Trudy.  (The barking sounds like a high-pitched dog bark, but it is so faint that for weeks we thought our neighbors must have purchased a small canine.)  Bob was very protective and frequently “bowed up” when we would get too close or stare a little too long at the goings on in the tank.  However, Bob displayed one unusual characteristic…while Trudy would hide and bury herself in the rocks, Bob was always trying to escape.  On more than one occasion we would find Bob tucked up in the top corner, trying to get out.  Although the crickets did manage to escape the terrarium on a regular basis, it basically seemed impossible that Bob could ever get out.  He was easily bigger than Trudy but still small for an amphibian (2-3 inches at best) and the tiny crack that separated the cover from the terrarium was just too narrow.  Bob wasn’t anywhere close to strong enough to move it on his own.  It just couldn’t happen, right?  Yet, he continued to try.  We imagined he was on a quest to take his beloved Trudy and blow this popsicle stand…aka our house.

These antics played out day after day, month after month, and eventually year after year.  We became regulars at the  pet store (our frequent cricket purchases earning us occasional freebies) and we became experts at fire-belly toad behavior and habitat maintenance.  These tiny toads became members of the family.  They were my son’s roommates.  We learned to recognize their barks and moods.  We had to arrange care for them whenever we traveled.  Not to mention, our dog was extremely jealous of his pet brother and sister.  Like any family member, they were thought of and cared for on a daily basis.  So imagine our surprise when sweet, little Trudy started slowing down.  She would bury herself in the rocks for days now or hide in the log.  While she was never the most active toad, her lethargy became worrisome.  When she stopped eating, we feared the worse.  We were about to lose a member of our little family.

We had lost ants (and countless other bugs) and a Beta fish named Swimmy, but on some level we all knew this would be different.  We had cared (and dare I say loved) the toads for quite some time.  They really were a part of our every day.  I wondered how the kids would take it.  Would they cry?  What kind of questions would they have about death?  And heaven?  And ultimately, our Great Creator?  I’ve read countless articles about the important lessons we learn through our pets and that death is a part of the life cycle that we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about.  And while all of this was milling about in my mind another thought occurred to me, what about Bob?

I wish I could say that we had plenty of time to delve into the subject of death and loss, but we didn’t.  Trudy’s time had come.  And afterward, Bob barked and barked and he continued to try to escape.  And it wasn’t but a blink after Trudy passed away that her companion, her partner, her protector, her “husband” (my daughter pronounced them married, remember) went missing.  MISSING!  A poisonous toad was lost somewhere in our house.  Good gravy.

Of course, the kids were distraught.  Bob just had to be found.  How could he have possibly escaped?  They couldn’t lose BOTH of them.  It was too much.  We searched the tank…uncovering rocks and logs and faux plant life.  Nothing.  We searched the bedroom.  Under things, behind things, and around things.  Nothing.  We systematically began searching the next closest bedroom, closet and hallway.  Finally, the thought occurred to us.  If Bob did manage to escape, would our dog have eaten him?  I know it’s gross, but we were in sleuth mode and had to check off all the boxes.  My husband made a quick call to the vet and we waited, but Maddie (the dog) was as healthy as ever.  And no Bob.

After a week all hope was lost.  We gave up.  We wondered if some how he managed to make it out of the house.  And the question became, if he did–how long could he survive?  We cleaned out the tank.  Repurposed the table it sat upon and eventually moved on with life.

Every once in a while the toad topic would come up.  Everyone had a theory.  1)  Bob just couldn’t live without Trudy.  2)  He escaped in a desperate effort to find her.  3)  He met his doom in the belly of our dog.  4)  Or….he some how managed to make it outside..found freedom and made a new life for himself.  5)  Perhaps, he was eaten by the crickets (I know this one sounds extremely far-fetched, but research shows that the crickets can and will turn on a predator and in large numbers crickets can actually take a small toad down.)  We just didn’t know, until…well, until we DID know.

About half a year later, I discovered Bob (or what was left of Bob) shriveled and flattened…hidden under a pair of old baseball cleats in the far corner of my son’s closet.  Now, before you think I’m a bad housekeeper I must say that YES…we had searched that closet dozens of times, YES…Sean regularly gets in and out of his closet, and NO we are not like many on the popular Hoarders TV show who neglect their surroundings to the point that critters frequently die and go unnoticed for months at a time.  I don’t know how Bob made it across the room.  I don’t know how long he survived in that closest (he would have needed a food source, water and tropical temperatures.)  What I do know is that he was found, the mystery was solved and my heart was heavy.  The love story was over.

RIP Bob

RIP: Bob the Toad

Those itty-bitty toads taught me many things.  First of all, I never thought I could love such exotic, and let’s be honest–ugly, creatures.  I didn’t think that something so small and needy would ever survive in our care!  I couldn’t imagine what a time commitment they would be or how much fun it would be watching them grow, play  and change. These tiny creatures were awesome in so many ways.  It is just another example of a truly amazing Creator!  How could I have known that these toads (like children) thrive in routine and schedules, they’re very social and live in a communal setting in nature, they pair up and protect one another, and at the same time they are remarkably equipped to protect themselves from predators of every kind?  They were such a wonderful example of a committed love relationship.  And in many ways they came into our lives at just the right time…their parting prepared us for difficult moments to come.  It still blows my mind.

Love truly is a funny thing. It will make you take insane risks. You’ll find yourself in unbelievable circumstances. And sometimes, yes sometimes, love will cost you absolutely everything!  What a wonderful lesson for our whole family.  In the past few years we have experienced loss (unfortunately, on more than one occasion) and as we grieved it occurs to me that while acknowledging the death we have also celebrated the LOVE.  The love of family and dear friends.  Of course it hasn’t been easy (it never is,) but I think we honor those who have gone on when we remember them well.  We still talk about the toads.  In fact, as I was writing this, I wondered did I ever take photos of them?  Will there be images to keep their tiny spirits and their special story alive?  And to my delight, I found many pictures and thus, many happy memories.

 What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.  –Helen Keller