Molly

Belle is 18 now. Newly eighteen. When she was 6, her father and I separated. After twenty four years, our family was irrevocably broken. I didn’t pray with much faith back then. However, Belle was inconsolable most of the time and I needed a miracle, so I asked for a Shih tzu.

Often when adults play out a drama in their lives, we forget how hard it is on our littles. My older children were relieved, if not outright happy, that I had finally decided that we had had enough. The four older kids were all in their teens and twenties and they just wanted the madness to stop.


Not sweet Bellicious. She just wanted her daddy to come home. She didn’t understand and how do you explain that? Without saying, telling, dredging up all the things that will hurt her even more?

I was trying to balance my pain and her hurt. My anger. The older kids anger and hurt.

My guilt. I had made him leave, after all.

I was trying to balance careful words against rooted bitterness. Sometimes words failed and we just cried together. Our lives has crumbled apart and while the rest of us were trying to find our footing, it seemed our baby couldn’t find purchase at all.


So I prayed for a Shih tzu.

Mother came for the I weekend and I told her I thought a puppy was in order. Something Belly could mother. Something to cuddle with at night, when she missed her daddy the most. Something she was responsible for and something to demand her time. Something to occupy her heart as it was so terribly broken.


When I was young, we had the sweetest little dogs. Over the years, three in all. A lap dog, in the truest sense. That’s what they were bred for. Chinese royalty chose this sweeping mop of a dog to be their most loyal companion. And that’s what I wanted for Belle. A baby for the baby.

I didn’t have to search very long, God was already on it. A microwave prayer this time! It was cooking up quickly.


I was friends with a girl on Facebook that was a dog groomer. I really didn’t even know her that well, a friend of a friend I had met a couple of times. She put a post on her page about a little black and white puppy that needed a new home. She posted a picture with a description. A Shit tzu. Two years old and potty trained. She had the cutest little face. I grabbed my phone and sent a message and held my breath while I waited for her response. I let out a big ‘ol whoop when I got her answer.


And that’s how we got Molly. We made arrangements to meet her family in the parking lot of the convenience store to pick her up. She had been newly groomed and she was wearing a pink collar and leash. There were children with her. A boy and a girl. The girl, older, never got out of the car. The boy, probably about four, was crying and asking his mom to please not give his dog away. It was awful.

A mournful little boy watching a smiling little girl.

Sacrifice and blessing.


That little black and white puff of hair changed our whole outlook. She was a bit ornery and loved nothing more than to just lay on Belle’s lap. She slept with Belle. She ate what Belle ate. When Belle took her bath a night, Molly laid on the pink rug next to the tub. They watched Fancy Nancy and Old Yeller and ate popcorn. Belle pushed her in the stroller and on the swing set in the back yard. Molly rode with us to take Belle to school and to pick her up. They shared Happy Meals and blue ice cream from the drug store. They became best friends and it soothed Belle’s soul. Molly became a part of our family.

That was twelve years ago. Molly has been in Belle’s lap for all the heartbreaks over the years. Boys who broke her heart, girls who broke her spirit, the horror of losing a best friend in a house fire…. Molly was there to soak up the tears for it all. She has been our constant in all the changes for all these years.


Molly started getting sick about a year ago. She developed a mass. Because of her advanced age, we decided to let nature take its course. We had no idea she would hang on as long as she did. God was giving me time to adjust. She’s become more my dog in the last couple of years. The older kids have moved out and on. Belle, wrapped up in being a teenager, doesn’t spend time with her like she used to. So Molly attached herself to me. She still demands to be cuddled and hugged and loved. She’s been good company for me. If you know me at all, you know how I feel about all of my dogs, but Molly holds a place very dear. God sent her when he knew she would heal.


I left Molly in the living room on the recliner asleep when I went to bed last night. I’ve been out of town and I couldn’t believe how much worse she had gotten in the four days I’d been gone. I got home and called the vet. I made the appointment to put her out of the misery she was obviously in. I gave her a bath, fed her a hot dog and laid her in my lap while Mother and I watched Hamilton. When it was over and time for bed, she was comfortable and calm so I went to bed and left her to sleep.


We have a couple of oddball dogs that we call ‘special’. They are peculiar in so many ways. One of them is a bluetick coonhound mix named Tallulah. She put the weird in weirdo. We baby these two clowns to the point of therapy. Everything freaks them out so we deal with them a lot. Tallulah woke me up at 2:30 this morning. She is perfectly capable of jumping up on the bed but she was standing up at my side, scratching at me. I scolded her and told her to get up on the bed and knock it off. She wouldn’t. She continued to have a breakdown for a few minutes while I woke the rest of the way up. Coming out of my fog, I realized she was pretty agitated. I flipped the light on and swung my legs over the side of the bed. She pawed at me again and I got up and followed. She led me into the living room, periodically turning to see if I was still coming. She stopped when she got to Molly, who was no longer asleep. I could tell she was having a difficult time, so I took her to the enclosed porch, which is her favorite place in the house. We sat down and watched the lights reflecting on the lake. I’m not sure who was comforting who.

Molly left us this morning. She was here during some of the most difficult times in our lives. She has left a big hole. I prayed for her without an understanding of how important to us she would become. But God knew. He knew what we needed even when we didn’t. Isn’t that the way it always is? I believe all dogs go to Heaven. She’s up there with Scout this morning,, filling him in on what the kids and I have been up to. She was a blessing. Our home won’t ever be the same.

RIP Molly Grace Soden, you were a good dog.

Least Mentality

“At least I’m not……”

How many of your children have said that?
How many husbands or wives?
How many students?

“At least I’m not acting like Karen”
“At least I’m not doing drugs”
“At least I’m not pregnant”
“At least I’m not …….”

Or

“At least I’m passing”
“At least I’m trying”
“At least I showed up for work”
“At least i don’t …..”

Why is our bar set at “least”

Whenever I confront my children with less than ideal behavior, I get an answer like this.

An example,

Me: Don’t talk to me in that disrespectful manner!
Kid: At least I didn’t run over you with a car!

🙄

It’s always the absolute worse case scenario.

Why does a compare and contrast between your bad behavior and someone with horrible behavior make your behavior acceptable?

Even worse….

A parent saying in connection to a child’s decisions, choices or attitudes,

“At least they aren’t doing something worse”
“At least she/he isn’t with someone worse”
“At least they aren’t flunking out”
“At least they didn’t….”

I don’t want “least” behavior. I want “most” behavior.

I want you to be the most you can be, not the least to get by.

I want the most for you not just what we can throw together.

I want excellence from you and for you.

The “least” mentality is an excuse for bad behavior, poor choices and disrespect.

There’s no nobility, no integrity, no pride, no peace, no comfort in “least” mentality.

“At least they aren’t cheating on me”
“At least they aren’t hitting me”
“At least I have a job”
“At least I’m not THAT mean”
“At least I’m doing it now”
“At least….”

At best, you stay where you are
At worst, you plunge downward
There is no upward thinking with “at least” thinking

Every decision has a consequence
What’s the consequence for “least”

God didn’t put me here, in my circumstances, to be the “least” for Him

His plans for me are far beyond what I’ll ever comprehend

The devil lies. He is the least. That’s what the enemy wants for me.

I want my bar to be “most”

Pray for “most” mentality

I want to shine

Until about a year and a half ago, I’d never felt true peace.

I’d never felt true joy

I’d had joyful moments in my life. I’d been happy.

But that’s not what I mean. I mean, just the calmest, settled feeling that things are okay.

It’s work feeling like that. It’s something I have to choose every day. Every morning.

I have an alarm set for each morning that says “Wake up! Something wonderful is going to happen today!”

It’s a daily reminder to choose to anticipate good things.

And the devil tries to steal it every day.

Waking up and thinking about everything you’ve done wrong. Like in my whole life! A flash drive of screw ups.

But….God

If you can’t wake up in the next morning and know that the mistakes you made the day before are forgiven and erased, you can’t have true joy.

You can’t do that alone

You think you can….because the enemy lies

1 Peter 5:8
Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour

He whispers of your faults and failures constantly.

We were made to seek our creator. That’s why there is an emptiness and longing. We need Him to be whole. We need Him to know we are completely forgiven, washed clean, the blemishes gone. We can start fresh.

All that shame and regret are from the enemy.

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy

The second part of that verse is

I have come so that you may live your life to the fullest

Newness comes from God. He’s the only way you can feel that true joy in your life. The peace that passes all understanding. I heard that my whole life and had no idea how to attain that. It was lyrics in a song that I mindlessly sang in church.

Then I started having a relationship with God. I wanted to feel differently. At first that was my only objective. To feel better. Emotionally, physically, mentally. I was drowning.

It took almost two years of studying, listening, reading, talking….

And all of that over and over again.

For the rest of my life.

But…..It’s not a to-do list now. It’s a hunger that can’t be satisfied now. It’s a thirst for more and more and more.

I’m not there completely. No one ever is.

But I’m so much better. So much stronger. I’m able to tell my children now all the things. All the things that matter. The only things.

I still wake up beating myself up occasionally. I still cuss and fuss occasionally. I’m working on it.

With Him.

That’s the difference you see. That’s the only way being okay works. You have to sit next to Him no matter what. Knowing. Knowing that if His answer is what you want or what you don’t want, it has to be ok. Because in the end, Him.

You’ve tried it on your own for so long. Trying. But with no help. And the help is strength. You pray for strength in your battle. The battle doesn’t go away but you now have the strength to get through it. And after you’re through with that battle, you gather up what’s left and help someone else.

I was on a merry go round of garbage. I stepped off. I step back on once in a while but I can step back off and regain my footing much quicker now.

You can step off too. No more going around the same mountain over and over again.

Healing. Joy. Peace. That’s what I’m after.

And to shine. So bright that you can’t help but ask why.

That’s my New Year’s Resolution this year

To Shine

Being a family

I have seen so many posts this Christmas where families are at odds over children and Christmas visits. Mothers and fathers spending Christmas alone because it wasn’t ‘their year’.

Ex -husbands and ex- wives being ugly and selfish, for whatever reason. No one is to blame and everyone is to blame, depending on what side you’re on. Parents talking about the other parent in horrible, inflammatory ways in front of the children. Saying things your kids will never forget you said.

Children in the middle. Missing the absent parent, kids torn when they see their parent upset because they are left behind on what’s supposed to be a holiday centered around peace and love.

I know that there are situations that things like this can’t be helped. I also know people are small. I’ve seen it so much this Christmas. Post after post about it.

I’ve been divorced since 2009. I was married 25 years and share five generous, loving children with this man. I loved him a long time. I loved him when we divorced. I’ve been hurt, mad, sad, fed up, ticked off and so aggravated I could smack my head into the wall over this man. And that was AFTER the divorce.

And I happen to know he has felt the same way about me.

We have continued to have our quarrels. We have said dreadful things to each other out of anger. And on my part, I’ve regretted every single one.

In all those years, all those holidays, graduations, the birth of our grandchildren, we have held it together for our children. I’ve sat at birthday parties struggling to hold back tears because of a friction between us and no one ever knew anything was wrong.

There have been times in our divorce-relationship that I have been incredibly hurt by something and still demanded my children respect their father. And I happen to know he has done the same.

We aren’t perfect, not anywhere near. Our marriage and divorce were full of hurt and chaos for us and our children. But we managed to be good to each other when the times called for it.

There hasn’t been a time where either of us have excluded one another from any significant, or insignificant, occasion in our children’s lives. We’ve sat together at ballgames, taken pictures together at graduations and cried and hugged when our grandkids were born.

Because the truth is, we have to do this together for them. They didn’t make the decision to break up our family, we did. So we have to stand by each other in the hard times and the easy times. For them.

I thank God all the time for being able to handle this. I thank God Bill can handle this. And I thank God that I have a husband who embraces my open heart towards someone who will always be a part of my life.

It’s not easy. That doesn’t matter. What matters is, at Karter’s birthday party in February, Bill and I will be there together. We will laugh about the ornery kid Kyler was and how Karter is so much like him. We can tell stories about the kids and reminisce and be thankful for the family we have together.

Be bigger than you have to be. Be forgiving, even if your situation is horrible. Being angry only hurts you and your children. And if you’re one of the unlucky ones who tries all the time and gets knocked down every time, God’s grace is sufficient. God is also a just God. So if He’s allowing it, He will bring good from it.

Peas and crackers, it’s a mouse

Okay…so I am an animal lover in a BIG FAT WAY. We have eight dogs. Only because we found homes for two others, we used to have ten. People dump their dogs off in our little cove on the lake. There is a private boat ramp that affords sneaky prigs the chance to throw scrawny, unkempt animals out of their Dodge darts before heading back home to eat the raccoon they killed that used to live under their porch. So we pick them up, dust them off and fall in love with them. We try to find homes for them…some stay.

I am a bird lover. I adore my little squirrels. I have feeders for both in the front yard. At Christmas time, I splurged and got them special food so they would know there really is a Santa Clause. Sometimes I just walk around the neighborhood and yell out “Come to my house, you don’t have to struggle in life! I’ll feed you! I’ll leave you strings and sparkly things to feather your nest with!”

I sit down by the lake and wait on my birds. Herons, egrets, hawks, a bald eagle or two, those funky buzzards and if the world is in perfect order….pelicans.

I leave bowls of food in random places for cats with no homes. There was a possum family under my porch and my dogs were chasing one of the little ones. They were grounded to the house for the duration of the possum family’s stay.

I love animals.

I even love mice.

Kendall had several pet mice when he was little. They don’t scare me…they can startle me. Especially when one runs across the top of my feet.

I have lived here for six and a half years. We have caught two mice. Two. In SIX years.

And then this year….ELEVEN so far!! My husband thinks it’s because all the other animals I feed put out the word that I was a sucker for a furry face.

Unfortunately, there are little mouse bb’s all over my house. I mean, not any more, I cleaned it all up. BUT, I have to keep cleaning it up.

Ten mice ago, my husband put his foot down and said we had to catch some mice.

I tearfully agreed on several conditions.

1. I didn’t have to clear out the traps.

2. I didn’t want to see it. Hear about it. Talk about it. Nothing!

3. If we caught one and he wasn’t at home or asleep, I could stay in another room until he was available to dispose of it.

4. I am allowed to cry for the mice.

So……

Everything was going as planned. For us, not the mice. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly. It was being handled. Horribly, in my opinion, but handled none the less.

Until today.

I decided to make a cup of hot tea. My throat has been a bit peckish and I needed some nice hot tea and honey. I walked over to the stove to put the kettle on and……there was a mouse on the trap.

I lost my mind and ran out of the kitchen hollering, stirring the dogs into a barking frenzy. Shushing the dogs and trying not to completely flip out, I decided I would just suffer through, tea-less…………And then it made a sound. Not a good sound. A bad sound…..

Holy crap. It was alive. Stuck. Suffering. CRAP! What was I going to do now?

I paced the kitchen and dining room floors for several minutes. What was I going to do??? I couldn’t leave it there! It was crying. I was crying. A frigging mouse was stuck to what amounted to a giant maxi pad. Trying not to vomit, I made the decision to end the poor thing’s misery. There was no hope for him. His whole body was super-glued to a sheet pan of death.

I gingerly picked the little guy up, soothingly telling him that I was eternally sorry for this precarious situation I was a party to and I swore on my mother’s grave that no other mouse would suffer in this way, His torture would not be in vain. Saint Sorrel of Mouseisi. A martyr for all vermin everywhere. (My Mom’s not dead, btw, but I was hysterical)

Although I am being a bit flippant, I am seriously upset about this. To me, this is no different than if I would have found a kitten stuck to this death trap. NO MORE.

I gingerly brought him over to the trash can, him making squeaky little noises of distress. I am not even kidding. By this time I am full out Scarlet O’Hara bawling.

I have to do something with him now. I decided the quickest way to end his anguish is to just step on him. So I lay the trap down on my hard wood kitchen floor and mash the Fraggle Rock out of him. I am trying not to throw up, I have snot running down my face and I am hiccuping because I have been crying so hard.

I stand there a moment and try to regain my composure. Sighing, I reach down to pick the trap up so I can do away with it. I actually thought about burying him, but it’s seventeen degrees outside and the ground is frozen solid. And what does it matter now?? I have ended his life, his soul is gone. So into the trash he goes.

The trap is stuck.

It is stuck to my floor.

The whole thing.

It’s like someone duck-taped this atrocious contraption to my floor. I pick and prod at it. Sobbing again. I finally get hold of each corner and start to peel it up off of my hardwood. I can see the mouse, the sound that this is making….. I am trying not to pass out. I am right by our basement stairs! If I fall out, down I go. With a gut wrenching yank, I get the trap up. Most of it. The poor mouse is up but there are bits of sticky trap stuck to my floor. Martha Stewart would pass out if she could see this.

This has been a traumatic day for me. I am exhausted. I had such high hopes for today. Then I murdered an innocent creature. I have no words. I mean, except for all of these I just typed out. I am spent. I have no intention of even getting out of my pajamas today. I have picked up all the other sticky traps in the house and thrown them in with the graveyard that my trash can has become.

If you have mice, be kind.

Oh no…..

I can hear him…..

Or is this the Tell Tale Heart?

I may be going mad…….

squeak

Scaredy Cats

It’s storming. Not a bad storm, just a nice gentle rain with some thunder. However, my dogs act as if we are in the middle of a volcanic, tornadic, hurricane-like, weather event of monumental proportion. We have given them doggy Xanax and they have gone to bed with Dad, rooted under the safety net of my chenille bedspread.

I heard them praying while I was fixing their medicine…they asked for forgiveness for chasing the pregnant cat. They said they were sorry for pooping right in front of the door because they were afraid they would get struck by lightening if they went outside. They also thanked God that the thunder and lightening couldn’t get them in the house while asking to be able to trust Mom and Dad more when it came to life and death situations.

The chill pill has kicked in now, they are tranquillized into a deep slumber that will hopefully outlast the ‘storm’. People make fun of me because of the deep, abiding love I have for my animals. I tell anyone who dares to roll their eyes or makes a tsk sound in my direction, these are just people with fur. Their feelings are as important as mine. My mom always said, “If you’re scared, you’re scared. There’s no talking your way out of it.” Well the same goes for dogs.

Seriously though, if your dog is unnerved by thunder and lightening, don’t be one of those people. Buy a thunder coat, get some doggy Xanax or just sit and hold them tightly and croon in their ears. Be a good human, be kind and caring to your dogs. They love you.

I’ll let you know if these two survive…

My Gift

I’ve been having a hard time for a while. Mentally and physically. There is no need to go into all of the particulars, it doesn’t affect this post at all. Having said that, keep reading, God is good and I am going to tell you about it.

I woke up today and it’s grey out. It has been unseasonably warm here in Northeast Arkansas. Balmy, if you will. However, it’s been drizzly, hazy and colorless. The air is heavy, wet even, though it’s not raining. This kind of day magnifies the melancholy mood that smothers me these past days. As I fixed my coffee this morning, I did it through tears and prayer. I prayed that something good would happen today. Something that would propel me out of this somber climate. God heard me and answered me. Wait, I know he always hears me. I know he always answers me. This was so loud though. Silent in it’s descent, boisterous in the stirring of my faith.

I placed my coffee cup on the corner of my desk and went to adjust the volume on the television and something caught my eye. Just a white flutter, really. I have lost most of my peripheral vision, I see mostly straight on. But for just a second, a shadow of snowy calm peeked into my view. I spun around and there they were.

Our lake is a man-made lake that covers 645 acres. It was originally to be a part of the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program until the Small Watershed Act was passed which allowed for construction of bodies of water to  benefit fish and wildlife development. The lake was constructed to be a water source for the Lake Charles State Park for seven months a year. In October, the lake is drained to flood the Shirey Bay-Rainey Brake Wildlife Management Area, which is managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish. The purpose of this is so that duck hunters have a place to hunt successfully. Well, successfully for the hunter, the birds have a somewhat different take on this. What’s normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.

Our house sits in a little cove on the opposite end of the lake from the State Park. The park sponsors bass tournaments and local fishermen frequent the lake each summer. During this time of year, the boats are scarce as there isn’t a lot of water in the lake. What remains is shallow. Because the land was wooded when construction began, there are trees and brush that scatter the floor of the lake. Motoring a boat through a maze of timber both fallen and still standing takes a special skill. Even if you are very familiar with the lake. Right now, where the water is usually clapping against the bank, you can walk out two hundred feet before you ever reach the water. This isn’t something we usually take advantage of. The ground is marshy and in some spots, almost quicksand like. Our hounds love it! They tramp around in the muck, wading in and out of the water to take a winter swim. Coming back to the house covered in mud, they are crest-fallen when I get the hose out to spray them off.

Because the lake is so low and the sky is so grey, I don’t pay much attention to the happenings on our lake this time of year. So imagine my surprise when I suddenly saw such an awe inspiring gift this dreary February morning.

Pelicans. At least a forty of them. I have seen them on the lake a few times before, usually in a group no larger than four or five. They were floating on the skirt hem of the lake. Bouncing up against the shallow waves that the blustery day created. They were so quiet. At first I thought they were snow geese. My eyesight, the distance my eyesight had to adjust to and the time of year all lent to this assumption. I soon realized these weren’t geese.

Pelicans are huge! The first time I saw one on the lake I was flabbergasted by it. There were only two and they were getting ready to take flight when we came upon them in our flat-bottomed boat. As they unfolded their wings and started to skip across the lake, we were showered with the spray from the water as their feet quickly paddled, bobbing and weaving, propelling their selves into the air. I immediately thought of Orville from the Disney movie The Rescuers. I was sort of expecting one of them to adjust their goggles. I remember the laugh that sprang out of my mouth before I could catch myself, I was trying to be quiet as to not startle them. Well, that didn’t work. My excitement was enormous. I had never seen anything like them. Their beaks were a foot long and the color of a traffic cone. Their necks stretched out in such a comical way. And their wing span, oh my goodness. I had no idea they were so immense! As I watched their colossal departure, I was mesmerized. Ken and I just sat there laughing. It was a sight to see.

My excitement was unmistakable and my dogs immediately knew that an adventure was afoot! Now, I have too many dogs. Of that, I am fully willing to own. I also do not seem to have any control of the hoard I have amassed. They run around willy-nilly and yip and yap, creating chaos continually. Today, however, there was no way they were going to spoil the gift that was waiting for me at the length of my back yard. I screeched for Heidi, a friend of Belle’s staying the weekend, “Look!Grab the camera!” I snatched the four-wheeler key off the wooden board that hangs by our front door and out the door Heidi and I went, scolding and pushing dogs back so that they wouldn’t impede my race to the lake’s edge.

Now, I am not very good on our four-wheeler. We had an older one for several years and I could handle it pretty well. It was a green behemoth that had no power steering and sort of lumbered along. Then my husband decided to buy a new one. The new one is FAST and very powerful. It has power steering. You think that sounds like a good thing. (insert eye-roll here). It just makes it feel like I am about to tip it over all the time. It has taken well over a year for me to adjust to my not-so-superior driving skills on this particular ATV. However, I am tenacious. I hopped on this cherry red beast and Heidi slipped behind me. I thrust my camera out to her, warned her not to drop it and I started the engine. Off we went, soaring across the yard and towards the lake. We bounced and careened over the yard, through the line of pine trees and around the bonfire leavings. Heidi let out a piercing little shriek and we both giggled and held on tighter, her to me and me to the handle bars. I was having fun! I slowed down a bit when I drew up to the shore of the lake. I tried not to disturb the flock. They were floating and bobbing away from the bank and I was quickly losing any hope of capturing pictures of them. I stood atop the seat of my little rocket and started snapping. They were moving rapidly down and out, away from me. They weren’t swimming or navigating with any purpose, they were just gliding along and letting the wind move them about. Unfortunately, the direction they were moving was away from me.

My eyesight has deteriorated substantially in the last two years. For someone who loves nothing more than an afternoon with her camera, this have been something I mourn. I can still use the auto-focus but any manual attempts just end up being a blur. I attempted to use my larger lens anyway. Try or die. The outcome was a blunder, but I am going to share them with you anyway. I want you to grasp the beauty of the moment. I cannot tell you how this lifted me up. It was a spiritual moment for me. I have not one doubt that God set those pelicans on my muddy, shallow lake for me. I love birds. I envy their ability to soar away from scary things, drifting peacefully along. I love their songs. I am jubilant when I find a nest hidden in my yard. I creep slowly about their home, waiting on the birth of something new. I mean, my name is Birdie….

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God knows this. Of course he does, he made me this way. I prayed for something happy, something to lift my spirit and to make my heart glad. I got exactly what I prayed for. I have come to know God differently in the past year. I lean on him as he has asked me to. I have come to know that he wants be to be joyful in my every day life, no matter what is going on. He also knows that the flesh makes that hard sometimes. Our flesh gets in the way. So on a day when I was feeling overwhelmed with life, I asked God for something beautiful to make me smile. He delivered. He always will.

I put an ‘Out of Order’ sticker on my head today and called it a day…..I

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I don’t talk much about chronic pain. Not to you anyway. As I walk with Jesus, I am called on not to complain and to be thankful in all circumstances. I do talk to my family about how I feel. Mostly because they ask. Not every day though. Most days when asked, my standard answer is “I’m ok.” Because, in reality, I am. I could have it so much worse. I could be unable to walk. I could be in the hospital. I could have terminal cancer. I could be dying today. Thank you God that I am not.

However, I am in pain a lot in my life. And then there is the occasional insanity you had no idea your body could even produce. I am pretty sure something Stephen-King-like is controlling the strings of my puppet. I can’t help but be a bit amused at this. It helps me to get through the day when I picture ‘ol Steve up there thinking of ways to aggravate and scare me. It’s all in your perception, folks.

I have been tired lately. I get fatigued every day from the simplest things but the past couple of weeks I have been on a different level in the drained-garage. A lot of it has to do with my activities, but then, a lot of it isn’t. My activities, for any person with out an autoimmune disease, wouldn’t even be noticed. For me, they are an out of tune trombone. Loud and tiresome. When I am exhausted, crazy crap starts happening. Last week, I could see lightening every time I moved my eyes from side to side. No, I am not making that up. Ever seen stars if you’ve been hit too hard in the head? It’s sort of like that. I can feel it. It feels like chewing on aluminum foil. My eyeballs also sort of quiver. Like if you’re having cold chills and you shiver, my eyeballs do that. Makes seeing so much fun! BUT!! At least I can see!!

My pain.

My legs have ached for several years now. This swings between a dull toothache to excruciating Charlie horses. The weather, the level of fatigue I am experiencing, my stress level, if I’ve had enough cake this week, what’s on TV…Anything and nothing at all affects it. I have gotten every home remedy, exercise advice and ‘as seen on TV’ gimmicks that you can imagine. The rotten truth is, nothing helps. When you have MS, your nerves are like frayed wires. It is explained quite often as an electrical cord that is stripped to the wire. Sometimes you get a connection, sometimes not. That’s what our nerves do. So sometimes I get pain signals that aren’t real. Well, they aren’t real in any causation. They are real to me. Lately, it has started to affect my arms. Especially my right arm. From my shoulder to my fingertips. Some days, I just hold my arm against my body, my hand curled into a ball, so that I don’t move it and nothing bumps me. The pain I feel is rooted deep. It makes me nauseated. And there is no answer.

I have taken pain pills for several years now. I started taking them when I was diagnosed with CAS. The chest pain I feel is sometimes more than I can handle, so I have always kept a prescription of Norco. That’s a pretty name for Hydrocodone. When people hear you take that, they look at you differentlyl. I have taken this medicine for seven years. I have never once asked for an increase in the dosage. I have never asked for an increase in the amount of pills I am allowed per day. I take them sparingly. I do this for two practical reasons. Firstly, I don’t want to become dependent on them. Secondly, I have a disease that will only worsen with time. As I will build up a tolerance for this medication, I don’t want to reach a level of tolerance that will require me to be on stronger and stronger medication in a short amount of time. I don’t want to spend my sixties and seventies walking around stoned. Speaking of stoned, I have tried marijuana. It makes my heart race and flutter and scares the crap out of me. It doesn’t agree with my coronary spasms. I wish I could be a pot head and feel great. I know this works for a lot of people. I am fully supportive of that. Sadly, I am not one of them. So I deal. I deal with a fraction of the benefit of pain medicine because I refuse to subject myself to the side affects and the dependance on it. This doesn’t stop the judgement, however. It embarrasses me to call and ask for my refill. I am treated differently at the pharmacy when I have this medication filled. I actually stopped going to the Walmart that is near me. The staff in the pharmacy treated me as if I was refilling heroin. I know there is an issue with prescription medication, but not with everyone. You don’t know my path. I go to a small, family owned pharmacy now. They treat me with respect. But only because they know of my issues. When I first did my business there, I was treated with the same disdain. I finally told one hateful little angel that I had Multiple Sclerosis and Coronary Artery Spasms and that filling my prescription with a smile would go a long way with making my day more enjoyable. Then I felt bad for being ugly to her and I took her a Vanilla coke from Sonic the next time I went in. She probably threw it in the trash. Never take drinks from strangers….

I’m on a pain rant this day because it’s bad. I am speaking this blog today as my hands hurt so bad it is hard to type. My eyes are blurry this morning so my monitor is actually on the corner of my desk, as close as I can get it without it falling off. I am waiting on the delivery of an electric blanket from Amazon because sometimes the heat is soothing. Sometimes it makes me tired and will add to the issue because of my sensitivity to heat. It’s a merry go round and Pennywise is chasing me.

Sometimes pain is embarrassing for other reasons. Ken and I went to St Louis last year to see an MS specialist. While there, he took me to the zoo. It was warm out and the zoo is big, so he rented a little scoot-about for me to ride on. The looks I got were so humiliating. The exasperated sighs when I was in the way and they had to wait a minute to get their view. The rolling eyes when I had to say excuse me because I needed to back the scoot up a bit to turn around. One woman even told her child to move, I might run over her. I felt like telling the little girl that her mother was much more disabled than I would ever be. But I smiled and waited on them to pass. I won’t do that again. (rent the scooter, not refrain from maiming a human)  What people saw was a lazy, somewhat overweight woman who was too young to be riding a scooter. Remember this story when you look at someone and think you see the truth.

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All of this being said, I am thankful for my life. I am thankful for the struggle. God allows trials to bring you out on the other side whole. I do want you to stop and think. If you have someone in your life that has challenges, ask yourself what you can do to help them. Mow their yard, make them a meal, send a card. You have no idea how these things lift the spirit. It’s a struggle to maintain peace and joy sometimes when your body is in such turmoil. I have things to do today. My husband deserves a warm supper, my daughter deserves to have her favorite jeans clean and on her bed when she gets home. My sink was clogged then leaked all over the kitchen floor and I am out of trash bags. I can’t drive to the store to buy more…. BUT!! I have a new book to read and Kadey and Anna Claire bought pumpkin spice creamer for our coffee. So all is good today. The kitchen floor has been semi-mopped and I found a box for the trash. Always a silver lining. Well, most days. I am humbled by the Grace God grants me to make it through days like these. I am praying for comfort and motivation today. It would be awesome if you’d pray with me.

Thank you, as always, perpetual reader. Be kind to someone today. #loveloud

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My little guy…

I have the most amazing human in my life. God created him just for me. He turns twenty-two today. His whole life has been a blessing for me. If you don’t know my Kyler, you don’t know what you are missing.

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Kyler was born during a trying time in my life. His dad and I were separated. I had three other children and I was going to college full-time. God sent me this angel for so many reasons. He pulled our family back together. He changed my faith in God. Kyler was a gift.

When he was born, Kyler had serious medical issues. Frankly, there were times when I thought we wouldn’t have him very long. For the first time, I reached out to God in a different way. My desperation was so enormous. My prayer warrior at that time was my Aunt Lyla. She called me every day at the hospital and prayed with me. I would be so down. My hormones were crazy, my husband and I were separated and my baby wasn’t going to live. I had my mind made up. I just knew he was going to be taken from me. Aunt Lyla wasn’t having any of that. She talked me through it all and prayed for all of us. Kyler’s issues stopped as suddenly as they had begun. He began to get better and thrive and in no time, we were going home. I learned the power of prayer during that time. I learned that prayer warriors are essential and I learned that forgiveness crucial.

After we brought Kyler home, we spoiled him rotten. We were all afraid he would get sick again and we treated him like he was the most fragile of souls. He didn’t make a sound before three other children and I were on top of him seeing what this sweet baby needed. Kendall was the most enamoured of him. He loved Kyler from the moment he laid eyes on him. He would sit and hold Kyler and watch every blip on the monitor that Kyler wore. He played with him and fed him and was selfish with his time with him. I often had to tell Kendall that I was his MOM and I would be just fine handling him alone. Unfortunately, all this attention went straight to Kyler’s head. He was spoiled rotten in no time.

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As the kids got older, Kyler became the boss. We didn’t like it. We tried to dissuade it. However, none of us could stand to see him cry. Well, none of us except Kade. Although Kade was the older brother, Kyler bossed him around incessantly. Our children always slept with us. We had a king size bed and we just all piled in. There were many times that Kyler would throw a fit because Kade and Kennedy would be in bed with us. He wanted to be top dog. This did not include sharing me, my bed, the television. He would announce that it was time for the kids to go to bed, point his finger in the direction of their rooms and tell them to ‘git’. Then he would prop himself up on our big pillows, tell me to put Spongebob on and demand a bowl of Lays potato chips. Oh my, he was awful. And we all let him! We totally created this monster.

 

The three middle kids were my ‘stair-step kids’. Kendall and Belle are my bookends. Kendall was much older, Belle was much younger. The three in the middle were born in four years. There is exactly eighteen months and one day between Kyler and Kennedy. The three in the middle have always been a trio of chaos. They fought the most, loved the most, got in trouble the most. Kennedy was the innocent bystander that got lead into precarious situations out of her control. She trusted her brothers and was guileless in her participation in most of the calamities that befell her. They would cook something up and persuade her to join in. A lot of times, they tried to blame her for things she didn’t even really know were happening. Luckily, I was an ornery kid too, so I knew she was just being dragged into the predicaments they created. More often than not, she just stood there wide-eyed until the storm had passed. It’s funny to hear her talk about it now. She will tell how Kyler would dare her to say a curse word, he would keep after her until she would finally relent, then he would come and tell on her. The two of them kept Kade busy too. They would do anything to irritate Kade. Kade has always been particular about his belongings. He did not want them in his room. Not only would they sneak in there, they would get on his top bunk and get in his stuff and drive him crazy.

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Kyler was also stubborn. He hated clothes. He was always in his underwear. People would actually come over when he was dressed and feign surprise at the fact that he even had clothing. He had a temper. He would get mad at Kade for something and would vow his revenge. He actually peed on one of Kade’s game systems one time because of some slight he perceived as war-like. Bill had the painting company and his crew came to the house every morning to start the work day. The boys did terrible things to these poor men. When it was hot, the guys would turn the hose on and get a cool drink while they were cleaning tools. These awful boys peed in the hose. They shot windows out of the truck on one employee. BB guns were not allowed after that. Kyler would go to work with Bill and when they stopped to pick up one of the employees, Kyler would tell them they had to sit in the back seat. He has always been the boss.

When all of the other kids started school, it was just Kyler and me. The kids went to a private school so we took them every morning. After we dropped them off, Kyler and I had breakfast. He always wanted Hardees or Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel has always been our spot. He wanted no guests to eat with us. This was our time. I miss that most of all I think.

For six years, Kyler was the baby. Several years, it was just the two of us. We spent all of our time together. He didn’t want to stay all night with Nana or friends. He just wanted to be at home with momma. Then the unthinkable happened. I got pregnant. We were going to have a new baby. Oh my goodness. The hysterics. When we told him we were having a new baby, without missing a beat and with a seriousness that was terrifying, he stated “I’m going to kill it.” Good grief. Fortunately, he got over all of that when he saw her, and when I assured him that he would always be the baby, even though he wasn’t the littlest any more. I put him in charge of diaper patrol and bottle gathering. He was full of pride at his resourcefulness and he loved her like she was his toy. He still does.

 

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Kendall and Kyler were always close, but because of the closeness in age and the ability to get under each other’s skin, Kade and Kyler took a little longer to become good friends. When they did, they got into more orneriness!! They were fearless and their goal in life was to live up to the Soden name. Their grandfather and dad had left a legacy of being the ‘badass’ and they weren’t going to let that stop with them. As I look back now, I don’t know how any of us made it. On the plus side, I got to know a lot of nice policemen. Luckily, they grew out of all of that and they are good boys. They are also best friends. Their loyalty to each other and the other kids is so amazing to me. I don’t have a really close relationship to my brothers (I’m working on that). These kids love each other. They care about what is going on in each others lives. They love spending time together. The best times are Sundays when everyone comes. Every one of us cherish that.

Kyler picked out his girl early in life. He was fifteen, I think, when Kennedy told me that Kyler had a girlfriend. I met her and fell in love with her. I can remember thinking I hoped he kept her, but at their age, that probably wouldn’t last. It did. He’s never had another. There have been other girls when they have broken up. They lasted all of about ten minutes. None of them were Kate. I am forever thankful that this is who he chose for us. And in our family, you chose for us. We spend too much time together to choose someone who can’t adapt to our brand of crazy. She did. They have been together through everything. They have grown up together. They are a family now. They gave me my most precious gift, Karter. He is so loved. He’s the only grandbaby for us and the only nephew. We all dote on him. He has brought a ray of sunshine to all of us. I am grateful beyond measure that Kyler chose Kate and blessed me with Karter. They are a wonderful little family. I am so proud of my sweet son. And Kate? She is kind and loving and the best mommy. She is also such a hard worker. Her whole life revolves around making a home for her family. She started nursing school this week. I have no doubt she will be an incredible nurse.  My boys are so lucky. She is an angel.

Today is my baby boy’s birthday. It makes me so sad. Birthdays do that to me now. Just a few minutes ago he was sitting in my bed with me watching Spongebob and having me scratch his back. He has the biggest blue eyes and they hold the key to my heart. Kyler is my sweet son, he is also my friend. I am so lucky. If you see him today, wish him well. His new turn around the sun starts today. This last year has been extraordinary, I cannot wait to see what he accomplishes next. Happy Birthday Kyler. You’ll always be my little guy. Momma loves you.

My friend, Sam

19396984_10214052718058673_6761842725271749094_nI have an old coonhound named Sam. We aren’t really sure how old Sam is, he was someone else’s throwaway who landed at our door. Kennedy was on the front porch one evening and Sam just sort of ambled up onto the porch and took over our hearts. Kennedy came and got Ken and I out of bed so we could see what was outside. She excitedly led the way and what we found was one of the most pitiful things I’ve ever seen.

Sam is a blue-tick coon hound. He has big chocolate ears, a sad brown face and his body is a map of liver spots and ticking. His ticking is creamy white with blue/black tick marks. When he found us, he probably weighed less than fifty pounds. His coat was dull and coarse and he had more ticks on him than I ever thought could get on a dog. Ken and I sat down with Kennedy and Sam just walked up and rested his head on my knees and sighed really big. It was like he was saying, “I’m so tired.” Belle soon joined us and for the next few days we spent any free time picking ticks off of Sam. Kennedy would rather cut her fingers off than touch bugs, and yet she loving pulled hundreds of nasty bugs from Sam. There were hundreds around his eyes and so many in and around his ears. That was the worst of it. They were so tiny and it felt like we would never get them all. We also started feeding this skinny hound. You could run your fingers down his sides and count every rib. His shoulder blades stuck out like sails on a ship. He was just all angles. Except for his big, loppy ears. Sam has great ears. Anyway, we fed him dozens of scrambled eggs and hot dogs and anything else we thought would put weight on him. Ken got up one morning and made biscuits and gravy, after all, gravy makes you fat! We groomed and nurtured and fattened and loved this sweet dog back into doggy shape.

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It wasn’t long and Sam made it into the house and was taking regular naps in the sun beams crossing the end of the sofa. He moves with the slowness and ease of an old timer. He saunters around the house, stopping to chuff things out, sizing things up and making sure things are at the right. He is an affectionate scoundrel. He loves hugs. He doesn’t seem to realize his size, which is now closer to eighty pounds than the scrawny fifty he was when he landed here. When I sit in my chair, he comes over and puts his front paws up on the foot stool and slowly starts maneuvering his way into my lap. Usually I am trying, unsuccessfully, to explain to him that he is too big to be in my lap. It would surprise you how small he can make himself when he is determined. He lowers his head and pushes up against your chest with his forehead and just stands there. It’s like he’s saying he is so thankful. Or he’s telling you he will keep your secrets. You can trust a dog with anything. They listen and love and in the end, you both feel good. You can’t say no to Sam. It would break his heart…and mine.

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I don’t know if you’ve ever been around a coonhound, but they don’t bark, they bawl. Sammy has the most mournful bay. It seems to start around his tail, by the time it gets to his throat, his head is thrown back and a deep siren of a call comes out of him. I can’t get enough of it. Even after this many years. Other’s aren’t quite as passionate. Belle has a friend who fishes with his grandfather on our lake, she has had more than one phone call telling her to shut her dumb dog up, he’s scaring the fish away. His cry does echo all across this lake. Wherever you are on the lake, you can hear Sammy. He also loves to swim. If he gets out, oh my gosh. First, you can forget catching him. Stubborn. He doesn’t hurt anything, but he loves to ‘tree’ cats. He stands at the bottom of the tree and with every breath announces to the world that what he was trailing has been caught. When he gets bored, or hot, he heads for the water. Not just in and out. He gets in, leisurely gliding in until his feet no longer touch, then he just swims. Back and forth. It stresses me to no end in the summer months. I am afraid someone is going to come in to our little cove and run right over him without ever knowing he was there. When he’s had his fill. he climbs out, shakes off and has a nap in the sun under the huge oak tree in the front yard. People in the neighborhood always stop to say hi to him. He has a big, easy grin and he loves a bit of a scratch behind those big ears.

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He has become the favorite of everyone in the family, but his heart is really Kennedy’s. She isn’t home much, she’s out adulting. He waits. He knows her car. Just as soon as he hears her, he starts in. Sound the hounds. Out the doggy door, to the fence, in the doggy door to the front door and back. This is a constant loop until she comes in. Then he hugs her. He stands up, wraps his front paws around her neck, puts his forehead against hers and just stands there. He is so happy she is here. For the next three or four hours, no other animal will be able to get anywhere near her. She is his. He chuffs and gruffs and lays across her. It’s obvious to me. She found him and saved him. He came to her. She said it best, “God sure gave us a special gift when he had Sam show up.”. That’s the way we all feel.

I became a true coonhound mom the night Sam was out and I thought he was hurt. It was the first night he had gotten out and stayed out all night. I could hear him baying over and over and I was convinced he was stuck somewhere. It was freezing rain outside, I was home alone and I couldn’t stand it, I had to go and see what was wrong. I put my robe on over my pajamas, my muck boots on, snagged Ken’s big ol spot light from the kitchen and went out front and jumped on the mule. The window was iced over, the wind was blowing and I was trying to hold the spotlight and drive. The week earlier, we had lost a tree in the weather and I was convinced he was caught in that tree somewhere looking like Jack Nicholson at the end of the Shining. Mind you, this is about three o’clock in the morning. So I am yelling and yelling for him and suddenly he jumps out in front of me. I swear he was smiling. He was wagging his whole body. He was having fun. I was so mad. I whipped that mule around and headed straight back to the house. Damn dog.

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Sam is terrified of storms. I know some dogs are nervous during bad weather. We have two others that don’t do very well during storms. Sam is not even on their scale. He can sense it coming. So on many occasions. he has alerted me to the fact that bad weather was on it’s way. Once the thunder starts, Sam is a full time job. I was the first one who got to see this. I kept telling the family how awful it was, but like most things, everyone poo-poo’s mom. One by one, they have each had their turn. It truly is pitiful. In March, I had just gotten out of the hospital and Sam had gotten out. He was amorously chasing another throw-away pet in our neighborhood who happened to be in heat. He was not coming home. We had been out in the truck, on the mule, on the four-wheeler. We had walked and yelled and bribed. When you got feet from him, he bolted. He was BUSY. Kade and Ken had been trying to get him in, we knew bad weather was coming. They both had to go to work and I was going to be home alone. I was nearly hysterical. Everyone left and I sat and waited, Periodically, I would go out on the front porch and yell for him. He didn’t normally come to the guys, but would usually always come to one of us girls. I yelled til I was horse. I wasn’t supposed to be driving anything but it just kept getting uglier and uglier out. I called Ken and Kade in a panic and they both told me to calm down, Sam was a dog, he would be ok. Well that was the dumbest thing I had ever heard.  I took this opportunity to use my furious-ness as the catalyst to stupidity. I got on the four-wheeler, which I never drive. It has power steering and goes two hundred miles an hour and I hate it. It just feels unsafe to me. Especially in the rain, with my eyes, legs and that peripheral vision thing…Off I went. I just kept screaming for Sam. I went up and down all of the dirt roads and all around the neighborhood. I went where he usually went if he managed to escape. Nothing. No sign of Sam. I was freezing. I was shaking so hard, I kept pulling on the handlebars and jerking myself to one side or the other. I kept slipping off the seat because everything was slick from the rain. My hair was in my eyes, the wind was blowing so hard. I decided I’d just better go back home. I got into the house, went straight to the basement and got out of my wet clothes. I grabbed Ken’s robe, it was hanging in the laundry room. I came upstairs, sat down on the couch and just boo-hooed. About that time, Sam walked in the back door. He was soaked to the bone and as cold as I was. I laughed and swatted his butt and then hugged his neck. After drying him off and making him a warm bed on the couch along side the one I made for myself, we cuddled. I cannot tell you the relief I felt.

Our dogs are our family. We have voices for all of them, so we carry out complete conversations we perceive they are having. They all have personalities and quirks that we cater to. We know who is scared of what and who is certainly going to get into trouble if left unattended. They get gifts at Christmas and they have special back to school treats. Although they aren’t going to school. they will be so sad Belle is. They hate it when that big yellow box takes her away for the day. Sam and Tag will stand guard waiting for her to come back home. I don’t know why God chose us for Sam to come to. I know that he has been a comfort to me on so many occasions. I love that big ol coonhound. He will look at you with those big brown, sad eyes and it just makes me smile. I don’t know who decided to throw him away, but I am thankful every day that they did.

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