18 Years and Just A Little Sad

In some ways it feels like it was yesterday and in other ways it feels as if it was 40 years ago, but today Dennis and I celebrate 18 years of marriage.  The road hasn’t been an easy one at times but our love has been easy.  Loving, supporting and encouraging each other through the good days and the bad days have been easy.  It is funny, we have said many times that when I am at my weakest, he is at his strongest and visa-versa.  I think God intentionally allows that to happen so one of you is always strong when the other needs you to be.

Our marriage started on a strong foundation with the Lord in the center of it.  We have always strived to keep Him there.  We haven’t always been successful at turning to the Lord first but we have done our best to.  Dennis is my best friend.  I won’t speak for him, but if I am not his best friend it sucks to be him because we are always together (except for the past month while we are living in different cities in different states).  He is the last one I think of when I go to sleep at night and he is the first one I think of when I wake up (yes, even before Hannah).  I was a wife before I was a mom.  I have failed many times at putting Dennis first as Hannah has needed more of me than most kids need their moms.  Let’s face it…..most kids are pretty independent after toddler stage.  Hannah has been a “toddler” going on 14 years now; so she occupies much of my time and mind.  When she goes to sleep at night….I am usually DONE!  Dennis has adjusted to that and realizes that she has to be my number one priority; I am thankful he recognizes and accepts that about me.  But, he is the love of my life and always will be.

Marriage is not easy….having a husband in law enforcement makes it harder…..having kids makes it even harder…..having a child with special needs, well even harder.  BUT….we have made it work.  I know it is because both of us love Jesus first and foremost and love, appreciate, honor, respect and truly care about each other.  I am so thankful for a husband who honors me, puts me on a pedestal (even though I don’t belong there), and has worked hard to provide for me and Hannah and make sure we have a comfortable lifestyle.  He even indulges me and my need for bags, shoes and diamonds!

Today, we are apart and it makes me sad.  In 18 years of marriage we have never spent our anniversary separated but I keep my focus on the reason for it and that in 25 days we will all be together again to start this new adventure in Birmingham.  We closed on our new home yesterday and if I can make it happen we will get up there sooner, but it depends on our movers.  Regardless in less than a month this separation will be over and I am so excited about that.

Happy Anniversary to my one and only, my ride or die, the father of my precious little girl, my protector, my defender, my best freind…..my HEART and HOME!  I love you Dennis!

August 31, 2001….seems like a lifetime ago! Yes, I was a blonde, but not naturally! HA! These 2 “kids”had no clue what life had in store!

Until next time……….

 

 

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The Countdown

I have a friend…..she has been doing a countdown on FB for what’s going on in her life right now.    Her countdown is much longer than mine will be but her countdown is inspiring to me.  She keeps a lot close to her heart but I have watched her and how she finds things to be thankful for and to find joy in during this transition time in her life.  I admire her and her ability to stay so positive…..I admire anyone who can take somewhat crappy circumstances and find joy in them.  I find it more difficult to do that….I truly have to completely set my feelings (that perhaps I wear on my sleeve a lot) aside and instead of focusing on how sad I am or how I wish things were different I need to focus on these moments that will lead me to the final outcome.  In my case, it is the moment where Dennis, Hannah and I are reunited in our NEW home in our NEW city.

Hannah’s sweet teacher, Angela made Hannah a “social story.”  This is a book that helps explain the change going on in our life right now.  Daddy being gone, Mommy packing and Hannah having to leave this house and move to a new home soon.  Angela took pictures and wrote a book for Hannah.  I gave it to Hannah today and she has not put it down.  She keeps saying, “ready to move now, we love daddy, take long drive to Birmingham RIGHT NOW mommy…..please.”  It is sweet, yet heartbreaking at the same time.  She doesn’t completely understand why or when we are moving (the concept of time is lost on her, although I am going to make a countdown calendar for her once I have our moving date set) but all she sees with that book is one day soon we will be with daddy in Birmingham.  Let’s face it, that is our ONLY focus!  We all 3 are ready to be reunited together for good (and it has only been a week), HA!

But, I am going to focus on the good things…..

Here are a few (bullet points for Brian, Sharon and Tracy):

  • Thankful I am not rushing around to pack…..ability to take my time
  • Wonderful neighbors who have checked on me and have taken my trash and recycle to the street for me
  • Chicken salad handmade and hand-delivered by Adrienne (y’all, if you know Adrienne and have had her chicken salad you know what a blessing that is).  She also delivered chocolate donuts for Hannah…..WIN/WIN
  • Help by Brian and his son Hunter…..they have gone above and beyond…..I will list those things here:
    • Boxes, boxes and more boxes to pack with
    • Cleaning out my attic and putting everything in the garage for me
    • Allowing me time to go through the attic stuff and then hauling away what I didn’t want
    • Brian is going to fix my mailbox and help me unload my far garage soon  (he doesn’t know the garage part yet), HA!
    • A PHONE call away
    • Willing and ready to cut my grass (because y’all know I ain’t gonna do it)
    • HIs wife Monica, willing and ready to come help me pack; texting me and encouraging me
  • My friend Bill willing to haul a load of stuff to Dennis on closing day for our new house so he can live there immediately
  • Time with Hannah…..she tells me “Mommy/Hannah best friends forever!  MELT MY HEART!
  • Time with this home….a home that I will always cherish.  My sweet grandpa built it for my mom.  It was my safe place until I met and married Dennis.  Y’all don’t ask me how many times I moved in and out of this home in my 20’s…..I lost count!  This has always been home to me and I am thankful for the 30 years of safety I have felt here
  • AMAZON (Need I say more)????  LOL!
  • Target delivery
  • Publix Pharmacy staff that truly are sad that I am moving.  Y’all…..I have the BEST Publix Pharmacy.  Those people are my family.  You know that show Cheers (the bar where everyone knows your name)  Well, that is my Publix Pharmacy and I will miss them all so much!  I suppose when you pick up close to 20 prescriptions every month for yourself and your child; well, they are bound to know you!
  • Some special friends who want to see me before I leave
  • Babysitters who are going the extra mile to help me out so I can have a few nights out in the next few months
  • Hannah’s tutor, Angela…..6 years……6 years of her being part of our family.  Watching her have a family of her own.  Her willingness to come twice a week while I am here to work with Hannah.  ABSOLUTELY PRICELESS TO ME!
  • Hannah’s love for Danielle (her ABA therapist and one of our babysitters), Julieann (she calls me Aunt T, she is part of our family and our other babysitter) and my niece Megan…of course Angela too.  I am going to miss these 4 women more than anything and Hannah will have a huge void in her life for sure.  I am cherishing them right now.
  • My brother and sister-in-law……they are just there…..whatever I need
  • My sister-in-law and brother-in-law……again, whatever I need
  • Dennis…..he has a wonderful family he is living with right now (in their basement apartment).  They are taking such wonderful care of him and treating him like family.  In fact, he might be getting a tad bit spoiled.  He told me that Kay was ironing his top sheet and pillowcases today…..Ummmmm, I ain’t doing that!  Ha!  So thankful for Kay and Chip (thank you Adrienne).
  • Dennis’ cousin Brady and his family!  OH, how I can’t wait to get there and spend time with them.

I know that is a lot of bullet points, but I am thankful!  I could go on and on but I am sure you want me to stop.  Bottom line is…..I will be thankful and find joy in this transition period because in just a few short months we will be reunited with Dennis in our new home in Birmingham.  I.CANNOT.WAIT!

Missing him

 

SOON, baby girl….VERY SOON!

Until next time…….

 

Just For A Moment

CHANGE is H.A.R.D

Transitioning through a change is H.A.R.D

Being without your other (better) half is H.A.R.D

Single parenting is H.A.R.D

Being away from your child is H.A.R.D

We are in the middle of H.A.R.D but it is just for a moment…..a few months that will most likely seem like years.  I keep reminding myself that it is just for a moment and we will be reunited in our new home, new city, new life and on our new journey.

I am sitting here today rather numb.  The tears have fallen freely today (I am giving myself today to just allow the grief to consume me), but tomorrow I will pick up the pieces and forge forward counting down the days until we are reunited as a family.  I am praying our house sells quickly.  We close on our new home on August 30th and I pray that shortly after that we can all be together in Birmingham.

I don’t know how military families do this…..I mean a week or 10 days apart is fine….but months and even a year?  Oh, the sacrifice…..the heartbreak……the difficulty.  I stand here amazed at so many men and women who do this to defend and protect our country.  THANK YOU!  Until this moment I didn’t realize their complete sacrifice to leave their families for months at a time.  I am ashamed that I never knew what this must have felt like for so many to leave their spouse and children…..

For those who have lived life ALONE for so long, God bless you.  I am sure the loneliness can be all-consuming for you.

For those who live one place and work in another……where they travel constantly but leave a family behind when they do……I feel you right now and know that you are doing it for your family and my heart is with you as you work hard to provide.

Dennis, Hannah and I will get through this time apart and be reunited.  This separation is just for a moment; but right now, from where I am sitting, it feels like an eternity already!

Please pray for Dennis as this is harder on him than on me.  He is in a new city…..alone…..trying to learn a new job…..missing his girls.  Pray for him please. Pray for Hannah.  She misses her daddy.  Pray for me as I keep things going around here and pack up our house.  This is just for a moment…….

Until next time………

Where Have The Years Gone…..Happy Birthday Hannah Boo

14 years……where has the time gone?  They say the days are long and the years are short and there is no truer statement.  Today, 14 years ago at 6:29am I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl.  I will be honest, the pregnancy (after week 17) up until her birth at 37 weeks was filled with fear, worry, sadness and even some anger (God and I had many discussions and disagreements during my pregnancy).  You know the “how could you do this to me” and the “you picked the wrong girl for this” and “what in the world were you thinking” type disagreements.  I cried…..A LOT!  I grieved…..I struggled.  I prayed in anger, sadness and resentment.  It was hard to find the joy in my pregnancy or in the fact that I was bringing a precious life into this world.  My joy and happiness was overshadowed by the diagnosis of a chromosome abnormality, heart defects, bowel/kidney dysfunction, limbs that were not equal length, fluid on neck/spine, etc.  I was told “the fetus won’t survive birth.”  When we refused to abort Hannah, the doctor told us we were thinking emotionally instead of logically and the words that cut me like a knife were….”then don’t plan to bring her home….plan a funeral instead.”

14 years later:

 


14 years later this is the child I have the honor and privilege of calling mine.  I get the great honor of staying home with her, taking care of her, teaching her, helping her and most importantly LOVING her.  I have said many times that she is my greatest gift and biggest blessing in life.  I stand in constant amazement of her resilience, joy, contentment and love for others.

I acknowledged many years ago that God gave her to me for ME.  Her number one purpose in life, in my personal opinion, was to take a selfish, materialistic, uncaring, uncompassionate and hard woman (aka me) and show me what unconditional love was.  She showed me how to care for others and she taught me how to love myself.  I have learned the past 14 years that you truly cannot love and care for others until you love and care for yourself.  She has taught me what is important in life and how much better it is to give than receive.  She has been my greatest teacher.

She tells me all the time that “Hannah and mommy best friends forever” and it melts my heart but it is also very true.  She is my best friend….heck, I don’t spend time with anyone in life like I do her.  There were times where I struggled with everything our life consisted of….the routine, being stuck in the house, the same conversations over and over and over and the lack of being independent the older she got.  It was weighing on me that she was so old; yet still so much a toddler in many ways.  But, God did something in my heart awhile back.  Instead of bemoaning the fact that our routine was the same and we had the same conversations I became thankful.  Thankful that I have this amazing little girl who has taught me so much.  Thankful that there is such innocence in her sweet soul.  Thankful that I get so much time with her; as so many parents don’t at this age.  Thankful that she is my best friend and she will always be with me.  Thankful that I get to enjoy her hugs, kisses and sweet spirit every.single.day.  Thankful that I don’t have to send her out into the “world” that is unsafe.  A world where she might be bullied or treated unkindly.  A world where she will hear and see things that are not what we have taught her.  A world without Jesus.  I get the rare privilege of keeping her safe in the nest and that is indeed a great gift from the Lord.

Today (let’s face it….everyday) we celebrate Hannah.  Her sweet life, the lessons she has taught, the way she loves, the way she lights up a room with her smile and the sparkle yet mischievous look in her eyes.  Today I am so thankful that God chose me to be her mom; even though I was so scared that I would fail at this motherhood thing, especially having a child with special needs.  God took this special little girl, gave her to Dennis and me and through her taught us so much.  She is still teaching us and we are still learning a lot of profound life lessons from her.

Happy Birthday “baby cakes.”   Mommy and daddy love you more than we can possibly say and we are so thankful that God chose us for you.  We are the blessed ones.  I just hope and pray we are doing right by you and that you always feel love and accepted;  that you always know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made by a gracious and loving Savior.

We love you Hannah Boo!

 

THEN

NOW

Until next time……….

Parents In the Basement…..The Rest of the Story

From the title you can probably gather that my parents are moving to Birmingham with us and yes…..they will be living in my basement.  I might start writing a book entitled “Parents in the Basement” as I foresee lots of comedy in my future due to the fact that Jerry Stapp will be living with me.

The home we have put a contract on has a full daylight basement apartment.  Everything mom and dad need to be independent yet right there for me to help them when the time comes and for them to help me with Hannah some.  It was a WIN/WIN for both of us and it was Dennis’ idea!  So…..if your husband is suggesting that his in-laws move with you; then you know that came from God!  HA!

Dad happened to be with Dennis at lunch when Dennis received the call that he had gotten the job.  So when they came home and told me, dad called mom on speaker and Dennis said to her “I am moving your daughter and grand-daughter to Alabama.”  My mom, without hesitation said, “Jerry, sell the condo we are going with them.”  I have to admit that caught me completely off-guard (even though Dennis and I had discussed the possibility of mom and dad moving with us at some point).  I mean, for those who know my mom you might understand this as I never thought I would see her leave her job at First Baptist Church or leave First Baptist Church.  My mom’s world has revolved around that place for almost 50 years; so color me shocked!  Plus, dad still works full-time and I honestly thought he might request his burial to be at Lewis Petroleum Company when the time came.  That is how dedicated he is.  My mom will be 74 in August and dad will be 80 in February so I honestly think it is about time they retire; although I don’t think that is the plan even after moving with us.  Mom has stated that she wants to travel some more and she is thrilled that she will have live-in cat sitters…..Dennis is over the moon about this fact….yes, I FINALLY get my inside cat…..he will just live in the basement with my parents!  Speaking of cats, for those wondering…..yes, Cecil the porch cat is going with us.  In fact, while Dennis was in Birmingham with my parents last week looking at the house we put a contract on he stated…..”Cecil will love this backyard.”  HA!  Dennis is not a cat person, but he tolerates Cecil, for which I am grateful!

My heartbreak in all of this….yes, there is some heartbreak.  Even though I will have my parents with me, my brother and his family won’t be.  I actually had my first “melt-down” last week when that realization hit me.  Life without my brother being RIGHT THERE, in the same city, has wrecked me!  If you have read many of my blog posts, you know he is “my person.”  He was my first best friend and the only person who truly knows me and who I trust more than anyone.  I mean, he has known me longer than anyone and the fact is……he has always protected me, defended me, told me to shut up, scolded me, told me when I was wrong and yet also validated me when I needed validation.  So, leaving him is breaking my heart.  Sharon is not my sister-in-law, she is my sister.  She has been married to my brother since I was 18 years old, so she has earned the title sister for hanging with our crazy family so long.  Not having them 25 minutes away is going to be so hard!

I am also sad to leave Donna and Eddie, Dennis’ sister and husband.  Donna and I have such a sweet bond and I am so thankful for her.  She has a tender and gentle heart towards others and has taught me so much about God’s love and grace.  She embodies a spirit of peace, love, joy and contentment and I am going to miss her so much.  Eddie is one of my favorite people ever because he is REAL and makes me laugh…..gosh, I am gonna cry now!

But, I have made it clear to both my brother and Donna that we have PLENTY of space for them to visit….their own upstairs suite and that goes for any of our friends as well.  There were several things I told Dennis when looking for a home that I HAD to have!

  1. I had to be in a neighborhood….no more country living for me (Golf Course Community here we come)
  2. I had to be within 5 miles of a Target, Publix and Chick-fil-A (the house we have a contract on is 4 miles away from all of those things and much more)
  3. I had to have a home that was big enough to entertain and have out-of-town guests where they have their own suite and don’t have to share Hannah’s space (bathroom)
  4. Mom and dad needed enough downstairs space to be comfortable and to be independent

We are blessed that we found the perfect house that checked off all of our boxes plus some we didn’t know we wanted (wait until you see our backyard).  So, that is the rest of the story.  Now we just pray that all goes well with the purchase of the home in Birmingham and the sell of both our home and my parents condo here in Jacksonville.  We are ready and excited for this move and I promise to keep my faithful friends and blog readers updated!

Until next time………

 

 

Our Future……God’s Plan

Well…..it has been over a month since I blogged and that rarely happens that I go that long without sitting down and writing; but I just haven’t taken the time to do it with so much going on.

I have so much to say but I am going to do my best to keep this short….I know, I know…..I can’t keep anything short but alas, I am gonna try!

For those who have not heard we received BIG news in June.  With that big news came Dennis retiring a few months early and us putting our house on the market.  We are packing up and moving to Birmingham, Alabama!  In fact, as I type this we have already found a house and have a signed contract on it!  Now….we just need to sell this one but it will happen in God’s timing.  What I have learned since May is God’s plan is perfect and His timing is impeccable!

Let me back up……7 years……

7 years ago this August as we packed up and left Birmingham after Hannah’s 3rd open heart surgery and having lived there over a month Dennis looked at me and said, “I love this city…..we are going to live here one day.”

6 years ago Dennis started talking to a friend of his named Wayne.  It was at that time that Dennis was very interested in Wayne’s line of work and told him if a job came open in Alabama to please keep him in mind….of course not until he was eligible to retire; but he knew this would be a job he would like for his 2nd career and Dennis knew he wanted to live in Alabama.  Dennis and Wayne kept in contact over the years and Dennis always kept putting that bug in his ear about the job in Birmingham!

5 years ago Dennis decided that he would do 5 more years with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and then retire.  He would have his 25 years in by then and had decided that was enough; knowing of course he would have to find another career since he would need to provide for our family.

The next few years were good; he loved his job with JSO and the people he worked with.  Unfortunately, about 3 years ago his parents started failing in their health.  He helped his sister Donna the best he could in caregiving for them and it took its toll on both of them and the family.  I have to give a huge shout-out here to my sister-in-law Donna and her husband Eddie.  I watched both of them as they cared for (sometimes doing things that no child/in-law should have to do for their parents) but they did it with pure love, grace, compassion and complete joy.  I don’t know if either of them know the depth of my admiration for them having watched them LIVE out their dedication to Wayne and Eunice.  Of course, Dennis too, helped the best he could…..I have never seen a man love his parents the that way he did.

Last year, as you all know, Dennis lost both his parents.  He lost his dad in May and his mom in August.  Dennis will tell you today that as much as he misses them he knows they are happy, healthy and with Jesus and he wouldn’t want them back because he can be happy they are whole!  He handled caregiving for them in life and grieving for them in death with such love and grace.  I truly admire him.

This past January Dennis decided it was probably time to start looking for his next career as he was 11 months from retiring.  But, things got in the way and he never really put any feelers out other than to talk to someone about helping him update his resume.  The end of April, Dennis received a phone call from his friend Wayne.  This conversation CHANGED OUR LIVES!  Wayne told him that the man who had the job in Birmingham was retiring and if he was interested then the job would be posted on May 1st and he needed to apply.  So, Dennis did just that. He applied and sent in his resume.  The middle of May he received the offer for a phone interview.  A few weeks later he received an offer to come for an in-person interview in Montgomery, Alabama.  Our good friend Bill Cutts traveled with him to Montgomery.  I am so thankful for Bill and his wife Adrienne; they are such dear friends.  Dennis needed Bill during that trip for no other reason but to keep his mind occupied and his nerves calm.  Dennis was so nervous as he had not interviewed for a job in over 25 years.  He got through the interview and we waited……and waited…..and waited.  This is when God made me BE STILL.  Waiting is so hard especially when it is a big life changing decision that is being made.

A week and a half after his interview Dennis received the call….HE GOT THE JOB!  We are moving to Birmingham!  Oh my….the joy, the fear, the excitement, the nervousness…..crazy the plethora of emotions you can have in an instant!

We truly are so very excited and we have watched God open the doors as we make this huge change and move in our lives.  The way things happened the past 7 years was truly God…..He moved mountains and paved the way so that Dennis would be open and available for this job.  Had this job come open anytime prior than it did; he might not have been able to apply.  But, it happened in God’s perfect timing!

Dennis starts his new job the end of the month and hopefully Hannah and I will follow him soon after we close on the beautiful new home God has provided for us….(if y’all want you can say a prayer that our home here in Jacksonville sells SOON).  We are excited for this new journey; although it is bittersweet in so many ways.  Leaving family, friends, Hannah’s doctors (especially her Pediatrician).  Leaving the only city Dennis has ever called home and other than a 3-year period of time in my 20’s, the only home I have ever known too.  BUT GOD…..He has gone before us and we know this because the peace we feel is indescribable!

There is MORE to this story but it deserves a blog post all on its own so stay tuned to the rest of the story (hopefully tomorrow).

Excited for our new adventure ahead!

 

Until next time……..

 

 

Make A Choice


A friend of mine posted this on Facebook this morning and it hit me……we have all had bad things happen to us.  For some people it is a series of events; one thing after another where you think you will never get a break.  Some events are life-altering, some tragic, some are temporary……no matter what bad things happen though you have the choice on how it affects you.

I am faced with a choice in my own life right now and to be honest, I have been allowing the “bad things/sad things” to define me.  I refuse to allow them to destroy me but I have allowed things and people to steal my joy and take so much personally.  I am deciding here and now to allow these things to strengthen me instead.  I am going to take the bad/hard/difficult days and use them for good.

I refuse to apologize for how I see things or handle things.  I refuse to allow other people to control my thoughts and feelings.  I refuse to allow anyone or anything in my circle that can’t be happy for me when something goes good or allow me the time I need to grieve when something goes badly.  We all have ways in which we handle things in our life; good or bad.  But, if you have a friend who is struggling and those are the moments you are silent and/or walk away….they don’t need you in their life.  I am S L O W L Y learning that you don’t need MANY friends….you need just a few who are willing to love you and encourage you through your life; good, bad, happy, sad…..YOU are worthy to be loved.  YOU have the right to be validated for your feelings.  YOU have a journey that is YOURS; but you need to surround yourself with family and friends who will love you, support you, encourage you and allow you to be WHO you need to be and deal with things how you feel is best, so your bad times strengthen you instead of defining you or destroying you.

If you have people in your life who YOU are allowing to rob you of your joy and make you feel unworthy, unloved, lonely and like you don’t matter…..YOU don’t need them.  Rid your life of those who aren’t kind, loving, encouraging and loyal.  Having one or two good friends is better than a plethora of fair-weather friends.  Hard but necessary lesson especially when you are going through difficult times.  Don’t allow anyone or any difficulty to define or destroy you.  Don’t allow bitterness or resentment to creep in (been there, done that and it is no fun).

BE YOU!  You might not be “cool” or popular.  You might not be as fun or quick-witted as others or be able to hang with certain groups of people, but that is okay.  God made you uniquely you and you are perfect in His eyes.  Don’t allow people to hurt you…..don’t allow people to dictate how you should feel or how you should handle things in your life.  Sometimes in life, God gets us to the point where we ONLY have Him to depend on and sometimes getting to that place in cathartic.  Sometimes, realizing you ONLY need Him and that you are strong enough to get through difficulties with ONLY Him is all you need to validate your feelings that YOU are enough.  YOU are worthy.  YOU are strong.  YOU can persevere.  YOU are going to be okay.

Yes, I am preaching to myself here but perhaps someone else needs to hear it too.  People have NO clue what you go through on a daily basis.  Honestly, most people DO NOT care what you go through on a daily basis.  Oh but I know WHO does care….He created you.  He loves you.  He is always there for you and He is waiting to be there to carry you if you allow Him to.  I don’t know where I would be without the Lord.  He validates me.  He loves me like no one else.  He makes me feel worthy and like I have purpose.  Those days I feel all alone…..I know I am not; because I have a Savior who loves me unconditionally and will never leave me or forsake me…..who else can you say that about?

Until next time……..