Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Can't Get it Together

Posted by Mandy at 4:49 PM 1 comments Links to this post
My blogging absence has been due to a lot of things. Mainly lack of time and lack of focus. The holidays means a lot of work for me (hooray!) and it keeps me incredibly busy. The reason people turn to me to board their dogs is because of my commitment  to fulfilling their needs. This means I spend a lot of time in my running shoes!

My lack of focus is from the grief I am still struggling with. In all honesty, I feel like it's fresh and new all over again all of a sudden. I've felt it creeping in over the past couple of days as we begin our Christmas visits. This morning it hit me really hard. I really won't be seeing my dad for Christmas. Can I handle this? Right now I feel like I can't. My heart literally hurts. My head feels foggy, my eyes are constantly watering from the tears I'm fighting. I don't mind having a good cry once the day is over or when I'm alone - but not in front of others and I really don't like my kids seeing me so sad. They just want to make Mommy feel better and they are so helpless. I also feel so very, very helpless.

Christmas shopping has always been such a fun time for me, but this year it's full of sadness. Looking in the men's department for our other family members nearly brought me to my knees last week. I couldn't breathe and I had to run away, back to the safety of the kids' clothing. Seeing all of the things that we ALWAYS got Dad because he loved them (Jelly Belly Jellybeans, Coca~Cola collectables, nice button down shirts...) was just too much for me. Maybe because it's been but one month.. or maybe it will always feel this way. I guess I'll find that out as the years pass.

Here it is nearly Christmas Day and I've not even finished shopping for MY kids. I just cannot get it together. I don't even know what I am going to get them. I want to fill their day with joy but it feels like I'm totally incapable of such a task. I am so behind on everything. Housework, laundry, thank-you cards, ... everything. There is so much to do that it overwhelms me. It overwhelms me so much that sometimes I just give up. I sit down with mindless TV, or I go outside to jog, or I play with the kids to just ignore it. maybe it'll go away if I pretend it isn't there...

I suppose the denial part of this journey is going away. It's hard to be in denial this time of the year.  You know that you'd normally already be planning to spend Christmas with your loved one or you would've already seen them - you can't escape that reality. You can't ignore the fact that there is no gift under your tree that says "to Paw-Paw/ love: the kids" and there will be no gift "from: PawPaw" or "from: Dad" being given. I loved being in denial. I could get through my day without crying in denial. I could make supper in denial. I could do laundry in denial. Now that the denial is leaving, I hate to admit it, but some anger is coming through.

I suppose anger is easier to feel than sadness. I don't even know what I'm angry about or who I'm angry with. When I see other people with their dad's.. I am so jealous. When I see pictures of people with their entire families.. I can't help but ask God why he couldn't give me one more Christmas? Why couldn't I have had some warning? Instead of being so thankful that my dad died so fast, so suddenly, with no suffering, I feel that I deserved some idea that this was coming. I want to know why he died so young. I want to know why I didn't get more time with him. I want to DEMAND that God rewinds life and brings my dad back to me. I want to wake up tomorrow and this be a terrible nightmare. I want to know why a 51yr old man with a fantastic life drops dead with no signs beforehand. Because there are no answers, I'm just left with anger. I don't want to be mad.. I want to just say "God, your will is perfect and I accept it." But, I don't. I want my dad back. I want my life back to the way it was. I don't want to miss him. I don't want to be sad each year at a time that's supposed to be so joyful. I suppose if it were up to us, no one would ever die... but I guess to my small human mind, the natural order of life is you get OLD, then you die. I know this is not the case.. I know so many that have lost children.. that have lost parents much younger.

I don't know why I'm posting this.. I should be posting about the great two Christmas visits we've already had with family. I should be posting how blessed we are to have so much family left. I should be able to just get over myself and move on... but here I sit. Sobbing at my keyboard.

Tonight I will pray, I will read scripture, I will beg God to hold me through this. I will pray for my family, my sister, my stepmom and my brothers. I know they are in pain as well... my stepmom more than any of us. I will pray for comfort and acceptance. I will pray for all of the people that I know that are feeling this exact same way as the holidays are here. I know many of you by name, and my heart aches for you, too. I know three people off of the top of my head that are missing their father's for the first Christmas just like I am this year. I will pray for God's joy to enter all of us. That we will all enjoy Christmas and not feel sadness. That we will know that because of Christmas we can celebrate that we will eternally be with our loved ones as long as we know Christ. There is great comfort in that...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Getting Out of Debt: Part 3

Posted by Mandy at 4:18 PM 4 comments Links to this post

Back in the summer I posted about our journey to get out of debt. (here and here) We have stuck (pretty much) to our plan and have been consistently paying off credit cards. I am quite proud of the self control we've had! Sure, we could have done a bit better, but compared to where we were, we're rock stars!

We're still debt snowballing Dave-Ramsey-Style and we are seeing changes. Some days I feel really pumped up about where we've gotten, and others I feel so defeated at how far we still have to go. Right now we've pretty much reached the peek of that roller coaster. We just need a little shove to get up and over and we'll be smooth sailing! Amazingly, being so close to having another card paid off is more frustrating to me than exciting. I just wish I could pay it off TODAY. I don't want to make more payments. I don't want to wait. I'm tired of focusing on this darn card... be gone already! (and, for those thinking "umm.. hmm.. that's why WE don't have credit cards!" as you look down your noses... let's evaluate the car you can't afford to drive, the house you can't afford to live in, the other loans you can't pay back... most of us Americans are in this boat together - the boat of DEBT.)  Those of you that are rocking the debt-free (or mostly so) life.. you deserve a medal for your awesome choices!! Share your knowledge with the rest of us and keep us encouraged!

Once this card is paid off... we'll be able to whittle away at the next one a lot easier. It will just be a big weight off of our shoulders and we're so ready to get there. I'm working my booty off, as is Clayton. I keep telling God to keep doing what he's doing to help us out because we know that any money we are able to not only earn, but use towards "our" plan, is totally by his doing. He gives and takes away.. that is a hard lesson to learn sometimes. (at least for me!)

We are talking a lot more now about seriously looking for a house or land. I even went to get a survey of a piece of land we've been eyeing... things are starting to feel more real. Goals feel more reachable. Expanding my business on several acres seems possible. We're so close... so close it almost hurts!

One major setback is that Christmas is here. We've pretty much decided that Christmas will be fun but minimal this year. We refuse to ruin our long-term goals for one day of way too many presents under the tree. It just isn't worth it.

Another set back I see coming is medical bills. After some extensive testing I had done recently.. I'm dreading writing those checks! (that we'll have to pay out.. ugh.. taking away from the money we usually put towards paying off credit cards. Anyone else living this story?!)

So, we're still trucking along. We are determined. We have huge dreams that we know we can accomplish - and that keeps us motivated to just keep doing this. I can't believe it's been 6 months ago when we started this plan.. it seems like it was just a few weeks back. Time flies so fast.. whether you're making wise choices financially or not.

What choices will you make as the New Year approaches? Will you be where you are now 6 months from now or working on moving forward - refusing to let finances hold you back any longer? I'm praying that we'll be somewhere much different. Having a house that we've been able to sell, debt totally paid off, and a house on a perfect amount of acres. God is leading us... and his timing feels painfully slow. I do know that in the end, wherever he's put us will be perfect and I'll be so amazed at how he reveals his timing to us. That's how he works. I think he does it just to drive me crazy...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Expanding my Business - Because I'm Insane

Posted by Mandy at 11:03 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE my job? Really... LOVE it. Have I said how amazed I am that God's letting this crazy idea of mine actually work? That I'm my own boss and it's actually profitable? Well, if I haven't - then there ya go.

With training sessions going really well, and client's keeping my book fairly full, I've decided to go out on *another* limb. I'm starting Doggie Daycare. I can't help but see this huge need for it in our area. With no dog parks, no where great to walk dogs, and seeing the hectic lives most of my client's live.. I just figured it makes sense to expand my services to include daycare.

One of the biggest problems with most dogs' behavior that I show up to train is extreme frustration and hyper-activity. This typically comes from not enough exercise. It isn't that their owners don't try, it isn't that they don't really WANT their dogs to run and play to their heart's desire - but where will they get the time?! Enter my crazy idea.

I've had one person already approach me about this before I even made it public knowledge that I was going to start it. Great! We'll see how it goes. I'm guessing slow at first and then hopefully it will build with time.

I used to offer dog walking to try to solve this problem, but it was simply too difficult to travel all around town walking so many dogs. At one point in the summer I was walking about 8 miles a day! I ended up with a painful tendon injury from over doing it. So, this is a great alternative. I can take all of the dogs on the same walks together, play with them in between, train them while I've got them, and then return them to their owners calm and tired. Perfecto! (or so is the theory...)

I never imagined I'd actually succeed in this, but here we go. Taking off! We're seriously looking into our moving options right now to expand the business even more. To make it easier on clients and on myself. Who knows what God has in store for Canine Corrections!

If you'd like any information about Canine Corrections boarding, training, or daycare - visit our website. Also included is a complete price list.

Feeling like a really good friend? Share this website and information with all of your K-9 loving (and owning) friends! :)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Man Killed by Exploding Gum (yes, really..)

Posted by Mandy at 6:29 AM 0 comments Links to this post
I assumed I had read the title of this news story wrong, but sure enough, this really happened.

A 25-year old Ukrainian man was found with the bottom part of his face blown off after his relatives heard a loud "pop" come from his room. Apparently this guy had a weird habit of dipping chewing gum in citric acid before chewing it (why??) and must have confused that packet with another "unidentified" substance in a different packet. Obviously, the other packet contained explosive material. Man.. tough mistake!

They're calling in experts to go examine the mystery substance to see what exactly it is. They were afraid to transport it because, well, for obvious reasons.

I'm curious to see what this turns out to be and why on earth he had it sitting in his room in the first place. You would think explosive material would be labeled or packaged so you could know what it is.. and not be able to mistake it for citric acid.

Makes you think twice about opening that pack of gum!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Merry Chris.... umm.. Happy Holidays!

Posted by Mandy at 3:23 PM 3 comments Links to this post
Another wonderful Christmas day is approaching, and stores are full of lights, ornaments, decorations, ribbon, trees, and cheer. One thing you might find missing more and more is the actual word "Christmas." Apparently, we are simply celebrating the "holidays"... which are apparently code for "we don't want to offend anyone by saying Christmas..shhh.."

News story after news story, both online and on TV, I keep reading all kinds of insanity about Christmas bans. Bans on "Christmas" parties at school. Bans on "Christmas" music at "holiday concerts." Bans on nativity scenes, baby Jesus, or posters of pregnant virgins. (okay.. you know the one I'm talking about)

Has the world gone mad? What is all the commotion about?

This story talks all about a school district banning any religious Christmas music from being sang at a Christmas concert. Umm.. yes... a Christmas concert. If Christmas music offends you or your kid... DON'T GO. Much simpler solution than putting an actual BAN on "Silent Night." Like it or not, December 25th is a celebration of the birth of Jesus by the 80ish percent of Americans that say they are Christian. That's most of us.. meaning most of us enjoy singing "O Holy Night."

How about this story where one woman is causing chaos by demanding all religious symbols be taken down from the town square during Christmas. What's even crappier than the war she's waging, is that cities across the great USA are so afraid of being sued by these rare fruit-cakes that they're taking things down WITHOUT A FIGHT! So, everyone but one or two people in your town WANT religious Christmas symbols.. and you cater to the two? I know that in certain times, the law is there to PROTECT the minorities... but what exactly do they need protection from in this instance? How does seeing a nativity scene damage someone? How do the words "Merry  Christmas" actually offend a person? I see less outrage over rap music - which typically offends EVERYONE! Let's get with the program folks.. pick your battles!

 If "we" try to force you to have a Christmas Tree with a shiny star on top and make your child learn about the birth of Christ in public school.. fine.. have a tantrum over that. Not the case. So chill a bit. You don't see me trying to sue our schools b/c they talk about Santa - though we choose NOT to do Santa at our home. I mean.. he's for sure not real! Don't try to convince my kid that Santa is a God-like being that sees him constantly and rewards his good behavior with gifts and treasures and scolds bad behavior with no goodies at all, but lumps of coal instead. Still, I'm NOT offended by Santa.. I just choose to do as I please at my home.

I'm a Christian but wouldn't be offended by someone saying "Happy Hanukah" to me. I mean.. if that's their religious view of choice, then great! I'm honored they want to include me - though it isn't something I celebrate. Thanks for the holiday cheer, Jewish Friend! :) You want to put up a menorah? Fine by me!

There is a friend to those that enjoy Christmas - the Wish Me A Merry Christmas Campaign is a really cool thing going on. On the site I linked you can see tons of news stories that deal with both victories for  Christians in this insane war we're fighting, and some issues that are ongoing.

Like it or not, Christmas is a FEDERAL holiday. Our kids get out of school in honor of it, you get off of work because of it. That alone should make you celebrate and have Christmas cheer! Let's stand up for what we believe in and not let the government or a few loony toons take the lights off of our streets or the nativity scenes from our town squares. Don't believe that your love of Christ and the one day a year we have a major public celebration in his honor is offensive, wrong, or intolerant. The few that try to ban us from this celebration are the intolerant ones. They are the offensive ones. The law isn't there to protect us FROM religion.. but to protect religion FROM government. Let's keep this straight America!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

This Cannot Be Real

Posted by Mandy at 9:46 AM 4 comments Links to this post
I've never said a phrase more in my life than in the past few days. I bet I've said, "This cannot be real," at least 10 times a day since my dad died. My gosh... even typing the words "dad died" doesn't seem real. How can this be? He was just here... he was fine.. he was happy.. he was amazing.. he was the best.. and now he's gone. Not gone as in not in existence, but gone as in not here with me.

Where was my warning? Where was my time to say goodbye? Where was my last hug? My last time to hear his voice and know it was the last? The last time for my kids to make him laugh and me know it was the last time to hear his wonderfully contagious laugh?

How do I go on the rest of my time here on earth (which God willing will be many many years) and never smell his scent again? My daddy always smelled amazing. How do I go on for so long knowing I'll never feel his big bear hugs again? He gave the best hugs... and he meant them. Both arms totally wrapped around you, squeezing you until you almost couldn't breathe, and he'd have to do that straining groan for exaggeration, too. He'd always end it with a phrase like, "Oh I love you so much, Mandy Beth!" or "I am so proud of you sweetheart!" He never 'just' loved you or was 'just' proud of you... he was SO proud, he loved you SO much.

I keep trying to remember his voice, his scent, his arms around me, his laugh, his smile, his jokes, his tricks, the way he'd raise his eyebrow whenever he was disagreeing politely, or about to pull some kind of hilarious antics. The more I try to grasp onto memories the more I become horrified that I might forget. I prayed for what seemed like hours last night for God to bring memories back to me. All of them. To burn them into my brain. He did. It was too much to sort through. I could remember him teaching me to ride a bike without training wheels, I had a flash of a memory of playing with a balloon with him when I had to be all of 4, I remembered working in the wood shop with him, I remembered cleaning my bicycle as he washed the cars, I remembered watching him eat sardines and holding my nose, I remembered how he never went one single night without hugging and kissing me goodnight, never. He never let a morning pass that he didn't poke his head into my room on his way to work to say goodbye and have a great day. I remembered crying on his shoulder over my first heartbreak, and him crying over my pain. I remembered him taking me fishing, out to shoot guns, and I vividly remember a deer hunting trip that a deer finally showed up and I bawled my eyes out, begging him not to kill it. And.. he let it go. From then on out he'd take me "deer watching" instead of hunting. He was just that kind of dad. I remembered family reunions with him, 4-wheeler riding, decorating Christmas trees, birthday parties, Father's Days, births of my children, and so many more memories that I felt my head would explode. I guess I should've prayed for them to come in a very organized manner.

I wanted to go through pictures to post with this but right now it is just too hard. I hate that seeing my father in pictures sends me into hysterical crying. I hate that thinking of him brings me sadness. I hate that I had to write my dad's obituary. I hate that I didn't get to say goodbye. I hate that God took him. I hate the pain my family is in.

The one thing that is keeping us going is faith. I don't know that I've ever in my life felt so much relief as knowing my dad was a Christian. I KNOW he is with Jesus. I KNOW he is okay. I KNOW he isn't sad and that the only ones in pain is those of us left behind. I KNOW I will see him again. And, as a great friend of mine, Ashlee, said to me as I cried to her over the phone,

"Just remember, your time without him is so much shorter than the time you'll spend with him."

No greater words have ever been spoken. She said she didn't know if they would be comforting or not, well, they were. They are.

When I speak of one friend, I feel the need to list all of you. I have never, ever felt so loved. I have never felt God's hand on me like I have this week. Seeing my friends from high school show up at my dad's visitation and funeral... it was so comforting. Having Stephanie and Jennifer drive from Monticello and surprise me with hugs... amazing. Michael McDaniel coming to the funeral - what a blessing. Seeing my cousin Sarah, that I grew up with my entire life walk through the door of my dad's house... my goodness. I don't know if I've ever flung myself into someone's arms so quickly.. I couldn't stop saying, "Oh my gosh I'm so glad you're here! I'm so glad you're here!" as I soaked her shoulder with tears. Seeing my cousins that I've shared my life with cry over the loss of their uncle, and cry with me, my sister, my brothers, and my stepmother over our pain was like God sending angels in our time of need.

My sister-in-law Abby was an amazing gem. I could devote an entire post to her. To the fact that she did everything she could along with my stepmom, brothers, and their Uncle to save my dad's life until the ambulance arrived... that she literally held her hands in his mouth desperately fighting a losing battle with God himself. She was our rock, our clear thinker, our planner, our comforter, and our consistent person during all of this. My dad loved her dearly.. and she him. I pray that everyone involved the day of his death will be able to forget those last moments they spent with him. That God will take those horrible images from their minds and replace them with beautiful memories.

My family, my I love them. Their love, hugs, words, prayers, and just being near them. I am sooo thankful that my dad has a twin brother. I told my uncle that whenever I miss my dad, I'm so glad that I can look at him and still see his face. No, it isn't the same, but it's a lot more than most people get.

I'm so thankful that God gave me 26 years with my dad. I know so many that would have given anything for that kind of time with their parents. I am so thankful that God blessed us with a great relationship so that there are no regrets. Nothing was left unsaid. I know he loves me, and he knows I love him. I am thankful that God's word is true and one day, we'll be together FOREVER singing praises to our real Father. One day there will be no more tears, pain, sorrow, or despair. In all honesty, dying doesn't seem as scary when you know you have two amazing Fathers waiting to greet you with open arms.

For today, I will try to put up my  Christmas tree with my family. I will turn on Christmas music and hide the tears as each song brings back memories of my dad. I will smile. I will love. I will praise God for his many blessings and each day he gives me on earth with the ones that I love. I will thank him for taking care of my dad, and I will beg him to keep his hands on all of us as we go through the hardest time of our lives. I will hold my children tighter, my husband closer, and I will continue to live a life that makes both my Heavenly and Earthly father proud. I will close my eyes, feel my daddy's arms squeezing me, and I will remember his smell, and I will hear his voice still saying,

 "MMMMM... mmm... I love you SO much, Mandy Beth."

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