Lessons for our Children
Dearest Emi and Ava,
Thanksgiving has long been a favorite holiday of ours.
It’s always been a time to come together with family and friends, enjoy each others’ company, eat some great food, and reflect on the things that we are truly thankful for.
This year is no different….but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Your mom and I decided early on in our marriage that we would always try to be around family for this holiday….and as far as I can recollect, we’ve done that every year. We’ve taken turns hosting or traveling to family’s homes for this special weekend.
We’ve always enjoyed some great eats and Thanksgiving Day football, then we’d usually begin the annual ritual of decorating our house for Christmas! 🙂
One thing neither of us liked was trying to shop on Black Friday, which has now rolled itself backwards on to Thanksgiving Day. We went a few times together and would always come home and go, “WHY did we do that? Next home we’re sleeping in!”
One of my favorite Thanksgiving’s was last year (2013) at Frank and Tina’s. It was only a handful of weeks after your mom was diagnosed, so family (on your mom’s side) rallied around and we had a grand time! There is always so much laughing and craziness, that it would probably require it’s own dedicated blog for posterity’s sake just to do it justice.
So fast forward to this year.
How much difference a single little year makes.
It’s been over 8 months since your mom went to Heaven.
I’ve been so proud of how you and your sister have handled this change in our lives. God has most certainly blessed us in an amazing and tremendous way!
It still takes me a little aback when people tell me that they “Know they holidays are going to be tough for us.” or that “They know we’re hurting and sad.” And while this is true to a degree, it’s also not. We have to respect other’s though in that they don’t always know how to approach us or what to say. So a simple, ‘thank you’ or smile usually suffices.
We resolved early this year that we were going to make our holiday’s extra special and they would be something we would LOOK FORWARD TO and not shy away from. Granted, we miss your mom. I miss your mom every day.
But the thing is, we always will. And THAT’s OK!
We will also always have sad moments. And THAT’s OK TOO!
But we can also choose how to live our lives! And we have chosen to LIVE! And honor her by living!
So, as with holiday’s past this year, we dedicated time to do something special.
Our first activity, for you two and your cousin Destiny, was to write words that reminded you of your mom on to some leaves I cut from construction paper. We then constructed a tree with all the words you all listed. I loved how you all dove right in and didn’t hesitate in coming up with such descriptive words! It was beautiful!
Once we were done, I asked you to write down 5 people that you were thankful for and to think about why you were thankful. Again, none of you hesitated. I then handed out thank you cards and you spent time writing to those people that mean the most to you.
Then we made a trip to the cemetery to spend a little time in reverence and offered up prayers of thanks for your mom.
Being that it’s Thanksgiving it is easy to reflect on those things that we appreciate, because truly truly, we have much to be thankful for. And I hope you remember this throughout your years!
Our prayers were simple, but were basically this – We are thankful that God blessed us with your mom for the amount of time that he did. We are thankful for all that she poured in to each of us. We are thankful for her example of godliness, grace, and courage. We are thankful for the experiences we had and memories we have of your mom. She was a truly special woman and we are thankful that she was such a big part of our lives.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
I love you!
As of late, donuts have been a fave on Sunday mornings because I have to be at sound check for worship team at church early.
But what you may not know why we get our donuts from the doughnut shop that we do.
Well, for starters, your mom LOVED donuts. Really.
In fact, her favorite was a chocolate iced donut.
But not just from any donut shop, she loved the chocolate iced donut from Shipley’s Do-Nuts.
It’s funny, because anytime we went to another donut shop, she would always say, “It’s just not the same.” And then she’d give me this look of displeasure. So, I always made every effort to find a Shipley’s.
A few years ago, they started opening up in Northwest Arkansas. I remember driving by a “coming soon” site in Rogers, AR and your mom’s eyes lit up and she started pointing. She just kept saying, “LOOK! LOOK!” and was as giddy as can be. Who get’s so excited over a Shipley’s D0-Nut shop? Your mom. That’s who.
And then one moved even closer to us, which meant we got to have donuts more frequently. AND finally, one opened up in Bentonville this year. Your mom knew it was coming, but wasn’t ever able to have a donut from there as it opened after she passed. I know that she’d be so excited though. …and we’d probably have donuts every day. 🙂 Just kidding.
I know you two are enjoying the donuts. Emi, you get a regular glazed. Ava, you’re following in your mom’s footsteps with the chocolate iced. And of course, I usually go for an apple fritter (thanks to my dad) and/or an old fashion donut.
And while there may be better donuts out there somewhere, every time I go to Shipley’s I smile and think of your mom….and how if we go anywhere else, I’ll hear this little tiny voice saying, “It’s just not the same.”
I love these little reminders of your mom and I hope you do too.
I love you!
Dearest Emi and Ava,
And hindsight being 20-20, I can tell you that my original idea was horrible.
I’m pretty sure that if I would have gone through with it, she probably WOULD NOT have said yes.
But I will tell you about my flawed plan (which still makes me laugh to this day – it made your mom roll her eyes at me when it was brought up).
Back then I was a state trooper (Arkansas State Police) and your mom worked for a title company in Maumelle, AR.
Your mom and I both knew pretty quickly that we wanted to be together and wanted a future together. In 2001, we started talking about getting married.
And then one day, I mustered up the the courage to go see Papa at his work place and ask him if I could marry your mom. You may recall from Memories of Mom #39 that Papa also worked at the fire department with me and had threatened all of the firefighters NOT to date his daughter. Papa knew we were dating at this point, but this was a bigger step.
I remember my hands being all sweaty as I went to ask him. He looked at me with that long quiet Papa look, gave me a little guff (I’m pretty sure he said, “She could do worse.”), and then gave me his permission. It was hugely important to me and I was so relieved to have it.
So, with ring in hand and a few people notified and asked – I put my horrible plan in motion.
Your mom and I frequently went to lunch together. And there was this stop sign right by her work that she ALWAYS ran. I used to tell her that she was going to get a ticket one day, but her response always was, “everyone does it.”
Your mom and I were set to go to lunch that day. So, I asked one of my trooper buddies to sit up and watch the stop sign.
I told him to pull her over as soon as she ran it.
Then after he got her driver’s license he was to ask her to come back to his patrol car and put her in the back while he “checked things out”.
Now, your mom was a big chicken when it came to the police. She did not like getting pulled over. And I knew she would be hysterical.
My plan (that in my infinite wisdom I thought was brilliant) was that she would call me (which I knew she would) and I would show up like her price coming to save her, open the back door of the patrol car to let her out, get down on one knee and propose.
Now…we’ll stop the story here to provide some commentary from your mom, because that isn’t how things worked out.
She told me later (once I had fessed up), that she would have KILLED ME! “Why would you take me on a roller coaster ride like that?” “I would have said NO!” “That is so mean!”
Again – hindsight, she was right. Bad idea.
Luckily, God had a different idea.
[Back to the story]
Everything was ready. My trooper friend was set up, your mom was just leaving work, I was nearby with the ring in my pocket.
All of the sudden I got a call from my trooper friend. I heard sirens in the background and knew it wasn’t good. My first concern was that April was leading him on some kind of pursuit.
Then he told me that he wasn’t going to be able to help me because he was being called to a car accident on the interstate.
WHAT WAS I GOING TO DO?
I ended up meeting April at the deli at the nearby Harvest Foods (grocery store).
I was at a loss. I had told everyone I was going to propose. I had a ring burning a hole in my pocket. And no plan B.
After lunch, we were in the grocery store at the magazine rack.
Since we had talked about getting married, she did what most women do and picked up a bridal magazine.
Then I got a bright idea!
I picked up a different magazine, slid her ring inside, handed it to her and said, “There’s something really interesting in this one.”
She opened it up, her eyes got big, and by the time she looked back at me I was already down on one knee and proposed right there in the middle of a grocery store.
I remember her hands shaking as I slid the ring on.
People around us were wondering what the heck just happened. 🙂
Her saying YES was one of the best things that ever happened to me. That and God saying, “Your proposal plan is horrible, I can’t let you do that, I’m going to intervene.”
Fast forward to this weekend.
I drove through Maumelle on Saturday and remember where I was sitting waiting for her to get pulled over. I saw the stop sign that she always ran. And the grocery store is now a storage place.
It brought back great memories of a horrible plan, some quick thinking, and your mom loving me enough to say YES, even in the middle of a grocery store. And the rest is history.
This is one of my all time favorite memories of your mother. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do telling it. And I hope that when you are proposed to one day, it is spectacular – and not in a grocery store or out of the back of a police car. 😉
I love you!
Dearest Emi and Ava,
It seemed very fitting today, on your mom’s and my wedding anniversary, to tell you about how your mom and I met.
Back in the early 1800’s, I was good friends with Frank and Tina. Well, actually not that long ago, but since you think I’m ancient…the time period seemed fitting.
Anyway, I was really good friends with Frank and Tina. In fact, Frank was the fire chief and I was one of his assistant chiefs at the local fire department – so we spent a lot of time at work together.
It was also a time in my life when I didn’t have any family close by, so I spent a lot of time off duty with Frank and Tina. In fact, I was pretty much adopted in to the Hill family.
Your mom was Tina’s cousin. Tina’s mom (Marilyn) and Papa are sister and brother.
And so, by default, I knew your mom casually because I would see her at Frank and Tina’s house or at family functions.
In mid 2000, your mom and I started hanging out and after a while quietly started dating.
I say quietly, because Papa and Uncle Chris also worked at the fire department and Papa had threatened all of the firefighters that they COULD NOT date his daughter. 🙂
Of course, I didn’t listen. Your mom was so beautiful and we got along so well! Tina and Frank were the first ones that we told when we started dating. 🙂
One of our first official dates was the Faith Hill and Tim McGraw concert. We sat way up in the nose bleed section in the back, but it was a lot of fun to go to together. Right around that same time, one of our other first dates was to the Arkansas State Fair, where we took our first ever picture together. It’s one of my favorites! (see the black and white pic to the right)
Over the years, Tina and Frank have been some of our very best friends in the world. We’ve done lots of things and had lots of fun with them – which you well know. Like I said, I completely credit them with introducing me to your mom. And I will forever be thankful and indebted to them for doing so! We loved and love them so much!
I love you!
Dearest Emi and Ava,
Funny story….and I’m not quite sure how it started.
Early in our marriage, your mom and I were talking about her birthday and she was saying something about October 8th (which is her actual birth date), but jokingly, I was like, “Your birthday is on the 10th, not the 8th.”
All week before her birthday I kept telling her it was the 10th and that she was just messing with me. And she would say, “You keep messing around, but if you forget my birthday I’m not going to be happy!”
But then every year, I would do this to her. In fact, one year I changed it on the calendar. And she warned me, one of these times you’re going to mess up and forget my birthday. And every year, I would get it right.
Until one year. The 8th creeped up on me, but I thought I had time because I kept telling myself it was the 10th. It was fixed with a late night run to Walmart the night before (which always yields an awesome gift).
So, if you ever find yourself in the same predicament, don’t mess with your spouse’s birth date – even in jest!
Here are some other important birthday facts you should know about your mom:
NUMBER 1: Your mom never got wrapped up in “how old” she was (except I could tell it pained her a little when she turned 30….so old!).
NUMBER 2: Your mom never asked for much hoopla around her birthday. She was pretty low key when it came to her own event, but liked to put a lot more effort in to your birthdays.
NUMBER 3: Your mom never asked for a lot of gifts….she was always content to receive whatever she received….although every so often I would get a nudge on something she was really interested in. Now, I would try my darnedest to go above and beyond and surprise her. Some years I did and some years it fell flat. But her favorite gifts were the gifts of love that had meaning behind them. The hand written cards from you two. Or a shirt that she mentioned that she loved, but didn’t buy – but I snuck back and bought it. She loved things that showed her that we loved her.
NUMBER 4: Your mom liked to have fun. As I scrolled back through pictures I saw where we had simple parties and dinners, attended Razorback games, movies, soccer games, went shopping, and even bowling one year.
NUMBER 5: Your mom loved chocolate chip cookie cakes. I don’t know why, but she did. We got her one a couple times – most recently her 29th birthday.
NUMBER 6: Your mom loved chocolate cake – sans the cookie. This was by far her favorite dessert and the one we had most often year after year.
NUMBER 7: Your mom loved chocolate ice cream. Do you see a pattern here?
NUMBER 8: Your mom hated when I told the restaurant staff that it was her birthday. She didn’t like the singing and public attention.
NUMBER 10: Your mom loved you both dearly – and even though it was her day – she did everything she could to ensure that you two always had a good day on her birthday.
Girls – your mom was awesome. There is no two ways about it. And I know we miss her, but it’s these kind of awesome memories that help keep her alive in our hearts and minds.
I hope that as you get older, your spouse and kids are able to pick out your fun facts. But remember, never mess with your spouses actual birth date. It can lead to disastrous results!
I love you.
Dearest Emi and Ava,
As I was walking through the house the other day watering the plants and realized, “Wow, we have a lot of plants.”
That may not be unusual for you, but it certainly is for me.
Because your mom was horrible with plants!
And she knew it!
The mere thought of that makes me laugh out loud! I was telling some of our friends about this last night! While your mom was good at much, it’s sometimes funny to talk about the things she wasn’t good at too! 🙂
Over our marriage, the only thing your mom managed to keep alive (and for a pretty long period of time) was this one little bamboo plant (pictured).
It wasn’t for lack of trying either. We would get plants from time to time and I’d eventually come home from work and look around and ask, “Where’s that plant?” And I’d either get a “It died weeks ago”, or a shoulder shrug and a smirk, or a “don’t ask me because you know I killed it” look. LOL!
Maybe we didn’t put enough attention in how to take care of them or maybe it was just a serious case of “brown thumb”. They just weren’t your mom’s “thing”.
Interestingly, we have several plants in our house now – most came from your mom’s celebration last March. And they are all thriving and doing well (as long as I remember to water them).
My favorite plant though? That little bamboo plant that your mom kept alive for all those years. Every time I look at I think about your mom.
And even though everything points to the fact that this plant too should have met it’s fate long ago, it has shown tenacity to overcome the odds and thrive regardless. Kind of like us.
I hope that as you get older that you have a green thumb like Buela, because there is much beauty and enjoyment in being around God’s creations. But more importantly, I hope that you thrive regardless of your odds and circumstances like that little bamboo plant.
I love you both!
Dearest Emi and Ava,
And there were so many wonderful things that came to mind.
First, your mom loved movies. She loved the stories and would get wrapped up in them.
We loved watching movies together. We could watch any style – except horror. Neither of us did horror flicks. We tried a couple times, but both found ourselves hiding our eyes. I was a bigger baby about them than your mom.
Our favorite thing though was cuddling up together and watching a good movie. We didn’t have to talk, just enjoy the movie and being near each other. It brings a smile to my face just to think about it.
Second, your mom ALWAYS made fun of me because I loved watching the ends of movies. Like before we’d go to bed, I’d just flip on HBO and watch the ending of a movie. She thought it was so bizarre, but it didn’t discourage me from doing it all the time. Watching the end of the movie tonight made me laugh, because I could just picture your mom rolling her eyes at me and giving me that famous smirk of hers.
Third, the movie itself. We Bought a Zoo. April and I watched it together a couple times. I saw the end of it several times. 😀 It wasn’t an all time favorite, but we both thought it was a good cute movie.
The last time I saw this movie, I was with your mom. The storyline of the movie though means more to me now than ever before. And until the moment that we were watching it tonight, I didn’t realize the impact of it.
You see, in the movie, Benjamin Mee’s wife passes away after a bout with an illness, leaving him behind to care for his 14 and 7 year old children. He decides to buy a dilapidated old zoo and restore it with his family. The movie continues on about the struggles in their journey to do so and find themselves and find new happiness in the process.
While we aren’t going to buy a zoo (so don’t get your hopes up), I can see the parallels in our own lives with this movie.
One of the most important parts of the movie is when Benjamin is talking with his son about 20 seconds of courage and encouraging him to be strong – just for a little bit – to accomplish something amazing. And I think about you girls and how you (and your mom) have shown incredible bursts of courage over the last year. I didn’t have to pep talk you (much). You did it innately, which proves to me how truly strong and amazing both of you really are.
At the very end of the movie though is one of my very favorite parts, especially now. He was showing his kids how he met their mother and had his 20 seconds of courage to introduce himself. He was walking through the actual steps in a mostly empty restaurant that he and his wife had met to show his kids how he spoke to her for the first time.
The camera flashes to him saying, “Excuse me…”, then the camera flashes to a once empty seat, but this time ….like a dream….his wife is there. Looking up at him. He says, “Why would an amazing woman like you, even talk to someone like me?” She smiles and says, “Why not?” And whether it was because of his good storytelling or some magic, the kids can see the whole scene play out with their mom there.
Which brings me to the final point, your mom loved happy endings. I think we all do, but there is just something about how good you feel when there is a happy ending. If it was a tear-jerker, like this movie, your mom and I would just look at each other afterwards and smile at each other and not say a word. If I could see she was crying, I would hand her a tissue without her even asking. I loved this soft side of your mom.
The good news for all of us? There is a happy ending in sight. God has much planned for us, girls! And while he blessed us with your mom for a time, I believe he is going to keep blessing us and the best is yet to come! Plus – our happy ending will also involve reuniting with your mom in heaven one day! 🙂
So, in the future, if you see me crying a little during these movies – give your dad a little latitude and just smile and pass me a tissue without saying anything. 😉
I love you!