It’s been a long time coming

Steve Kern is a planner

When he retired in 2010 from the Sarasota County Fire Department after 25 years of service, he worked the two years prior deciding if his second career was going to work out. He traveled from Bradenton to Ocala every week on his off duty days to be put into a territory that was dying. He wasn’t a sales guy but what he WAS, was the lover of E-ONE fire equipment. He knew it inside out, upside down and all the way around. He didn’t know sales lingo but he knew how to make fire Departments comfortable and they knew they could count on him and be dependable. He has since then proven himself to be a kick ass sales guy and I am his biggest fan.

Five years ago, he gave REV his notice. On December 1, 2022 he said “I will be making changes. I don’t know what that looks like, but I want you to have plenty of time to know where I stand.”

FIVE years people.

Who gives five years notice?

We have planned.

We have a financial strategy.

We are prepared and while it’s on on paper how it will work, it’s still terrifying. It’s hard to know how you will feel when things change. You are home…… a lot. You don’t get up each and every morning, put on your work uniform and leave the house.

Time after time people ask Steve “what are you going to do with all your free time?” If I’m in the area, I usually listen carefully. I’m not sure how this will work and I’ve suggested he find a hobby and for anyone that knows me, I will ALWAYS, in capital letters, have something for him to do.

But really? It’s really ok to not have a plan. It’s ok to take a walk in the morning or swing on the front porch swing. It’s ok to be board. I can probably count on both hands how many times Steve has sat around and did nothing. It’s going to be very different in a really good way.

Steve has worked most of his life. During our early married life he sometimes worked two and three jobs so that I could stay home and raise our kids. A lot of times with little to no sleep based on the amount of calls he ran on in the middle of the night.

Rarely complaining.

It would be easy and comfortable to just keep life status quo.

Bring in the paycheck.

Go on a couple nice vacations a year.

Wash

Rinse

Repeat

But recently we have witnessed people dying in their prime.

46, 60 and most recently 62.

Steve just turned 60 on Thursday and y’all are here tonight to help us celebrate.

I don’t want to have regrets. I don’t want to wonder “what if.”

Again with the planning…. Over a year ago, while we were talking about the upcoming year, he mentions a party.

Steve wants a party?

For real?

He wants One Flite Up to play at his party.

He wants to celebrate his birthday and his new season of life.

Who has Thanksgiving, a huge Birthday, a terminally ill father, a camping trip and Christmas all in a 6 week period? Obviously we do. Holidays we have no control, no one wants their loved ones to be sick and sometimes I think we look for chaos, but while life is hard and the holidays are not always joyous, you do it with grace. I watch you in your strengths and sometimes in your weaknesses rarely varying from excellence.

I’m all about a party so here we are.

Thank you for coming.

Thank you for whatever part you play in our story.

Here’s to the new and improved.

Congrats babe.

I love you

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Talking Heaven with a Five Year Old

I’d been waiting for the news.

Holly would be meeting Jesus soon and when I rolled over on Sunday morning, October 16, 2022 around 6:30am and my phone lit up, I knew it had happened.

In the blink of an eye, my sweet friend, my porch girl, my HGTV cohort, my music buddy had left this earth and immediately looked into the face of her Savior. Hollys relationship with Jesus was intimate but bold! She loves Jesus BIG and it was no secret. She was my all time favorite worshipper and I always wanted her sitting in front of or by me during a worship set because she felt the music in her whole body and she was not ashamed.

I took a deep breath and read the news.

At 4:22am…….

Ok.

Now what do I do?

The dog was staring at me. He wanted to eat and to be let out.

I didn’t want to wake Steve so I got up, fed Duke and silently left our room to make some coffee.

It was going to be a hard day.

I was immediately met in the kitchen by 3 little men and Courtney.

They wake up ready to play.

I didn’t want to play.

I wanted to be sad even for just a few minutes.

I started making my coffee and I looked over to Courtney and said “I just got the news about Holly.”

Jack wanted to know the news. So I knelt down in front of him and explained that our friend Holly (Gracie’s Mommy) went to live with Jesus in heaven.

He immediately started jumping up and down.

“BB!!!!!!!!!” (my grandma name)

“You’ll get to see Holly in heaven!!!!!”

“Isn’t that great??”

“Yes buddy. That is absolutely the best news. But I’m really sad because I’ll miss her.”

“But BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB”

“Heaven!!!!!!!!!”

I grabbed my coffee and Duke and retreated to the porch. It was a beautiful morning and it was my first Sunday singing in church.

I just needed a minute, but a little knock came from the door.

A sweet little face was plastered to the window mouthing “please let me come out with you.” (We have child locks on the door knobs)

He grabs a blanket from the basket and crawls into the chair with me.

“BB?”

“Yes Jack?”

“Did Jesus make Holly all better?”

“Yes baby. Holly is all better. As soon as she closed her eyes in the hospital, she opened them in heaven. And guess what?”

“Today is her birthday!”

He asked, “How will she celebrate her birthday in heaven?”

I asked him to close his eyes and think about the best birthday party EVER. He smiles as his eyes are closed and a smile comes to his face.

“I bet Jesus throws the best birthday parties.”

“BB, who will go to her party?”

“Everyone,” I replied.

“Papa Peewee? (my dad) ? Will he go to Hollys party?”

“Yes baby. I’m positive Papa PeeWee will go to Hollys Birthday Party.”

“Can I write Gracie a letter so she’s not so sad?”

“Of course we can.”

“BB?”

“Yes Jack”

“If Holly is feeling better and had a great birthday party, heaven must be great.”

“Yes love.”

“Heaven is great.”

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The Rescuer

I’m in Master Gardener School . We were given as assignment to write about anything, as long as it had to do with gardening.

Here is my written report .

These are my people

My favorite humans

My dad was my hero and my best friend. He went to live with Jesus in December of 2017.

Dad gave me the love of searching for items that needed rescued. Dad was the Master renovator of old cars but as he aged and couldn’t do such strenuous and demanding work, he and I became quite the team. We would scour yard sales, thrift stores and score side of the road treasures frequently. Some items would need extensive repairs while others would only need a little sanding and some paint as we gave it a second chance at life.

Since 2017, I’ve done a lot of rescuing on my own. I’ve taught myself, and was mentored by my really cute husband, the skills that Dad used to do for me. While learning new skills, I’ve discovered my love for finding an item that was intentionally meant for one purpose and giving it a new and different life.

Recently, gardening has come to the top of my love list. My best friend Becky and I hunt regularly for our next favorite plant. We talk about what we love and where in our gardens it will go. Do me a favor……find someone who shares your loves, it’s so much fun. Include lunch and make it a day.

I love to be outside. I love watching things thrive in my yard, on my fabulous front porch or especially inside.

My favorite plant is my seven foot fiddle leaf fig. Her name is Felicity.

If a plant is not thriving, it’s fun to figure out why, what it needs, where it should be moved to, even if that means to another persons house. I have a three times and you are out rule at my house. I’ll move you three times and if you still don’t like it here, obviously you want to be moved to someone else’s house.

As I mix my love of finding things that need a second chance at life with my love of gardening, I recently created a tiered basket succulent garden. The tiered basket used to be a fruit basket and when I found it on the side of the road, all it needed was a good cleaning, a little sanding and a fresh coat of paint.

As I gathered the supplies, I could see the final result in my head but making it in person took a little creativity.

Each tier was a different size so when I found the coconut liners, they were all too big. However they were easily cut with scissors. I added a layer of soil to each tier and added succulents. 

I used cuttings from plants I already had but a trip to the nursery is always fun.

If you have succulents in your garden, they are so easy to separate and propagate. As you pull them out of their current pot, sometimes they are already separated or you can just pull off a leaf. Succulents like to dry out before putting in soil so plan ahead.

The coconut liners allow water to flow freely from each tier so make sure you account for drainage when deciding where to put your creation. This one belongs to my friend Diane and it was recently auctioned for my friend Holly who is currently fighting ovarian cancer. It lives on a back porch in partial sun.

I have this garden attached to the side of our shed and it drains directly into the ground.

You are not restricted to succulents for your gardens. This one is attached to the wall in the Pool house and I planted golden pothos. The floor is pavers, so again, water draining isn’t an issue.

I have been able to fill my hurting heart sometimes with my love of junk, sometimes gardening and sometimes both.

Each and every time I think of Dad and smile.

I miss you Pops.

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The 9’ Table

Before we even lived in the old house.

Before we were ready for a table .

Long before we knew we would need a table for so many people.

I stopped at a thrift store to look at 1 table and left with another.

She was a beauty. Nine feet long with two drop leaves on each end with a lovely painted base.

Who needs a 9’ table?

For the space I wanted to put the table…….I did.

Immediately inside the front door. Just to side of the stairs and immediately in front of the brick fireplace we FOUND during renovation.

We put the table in storage with the rest of our belongings because we were living with Mom and Dad since our previous house sold and we were kind of homeless.

When we all moved into the the old house, it was suggested we eat together as much as possible.

That was 6 years ago.

Three boys later and many many meals at the 9’ table. I would say we eat together 5 out of 7 nights with Sunday night being with everyone, sometimes even our basement tenant friend.

We eat

We entertain

We have game nights

We talk

There are arts and crafts , puzzles, legos and many games of candy land at the 9’ table.

It was looking pretty shabby.

Lots of colored markers adorned the table.

The cracks on the top of table definitely needed cleaned out and today was the day.

The old house is always occupied. Rarely is there time for sanding and time to work on something without a small boys wanting to help. Helpers are fine most days but sometimes I just want to get it done.

Today was the day!

It was school day for little boys

Men went to work

I was home almost alone (Mom was next door in her house)

Sander ✅

Vacuum ✅

Polyurethane ✅

Wow I made a mess.

There was dust everywhere

Tonight we will have a picnic while the table dries but here’s to a couple more years of eating together!

I’m always curious if others eat at a table? We didn’t always but it’s another way of intentionally spending time with one another.

Next up……. Clean the gross cushions!

Jack and I sit on the pew together every night 😍😍😍

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When We Pray for the Old

I love a celebration of magnitude.

I love when God shows up in a BIG, GIGANTIC, HUGE way and we get to give Him all the glory.

My friend is celebrating.

She made a big mistake a few years ago and today it ends.

She has paid her dues.

She has spent time in suffering.

She has waited for today because today it ends.

Last night as we chatted about the celebration this coming weekend, this is what was said,

“My old job/life is what I prayed to be back in place- He laughed and gave me a million times better.”

The old life was great.

A great job.

Many friends.

Security.

Happiness.

Those are just some of the words I’ve heard her say.

I remember sitting in the courthouse a few years ago and wondering how this would end. It was frightening and I, as a friend, had never been in this place before. I watched her bravery and wondered how the next few months would play out. If I was scared being on the outside, how would she feel on the inside?

The months ended and we celebrated.

The next step began and the scheduled time grew.

54 months

1644 days (I only know that because she kept a calendar countdown)

It might seem like forever but in that time…

God has blessed her with a job that is so much better than the one before.

A new husband

A new home

New and old friends

In her words “He gave me a million times better.”

Remember friends when you are praying for your old life, Gods plans for you might just be a million times better.

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Finding Joy

Recently we had a huge event at our home. It was a fundraising event and we invited hundreds of people to celebrate in our backyard. It was a whirlwind and for a few weeks nothing else mattered but preparing for the event. We cleaned, mulched, landscaped, painted, prepared and shopped for ALL THE THINGS.

The event is over.

We rested for a day. PJs for the win!!!

Today is Monday.

We return to the ordinary.

The mundane.

For weeks, our house has suffered from neglect. It’s been ignored and with 8 people, three of them being little boys, it doesn’t take long for things to go awry.

The laundry piles up

The floors really need to be mopped

Don’t even get me started on the bathrooms.

In recent weeks, Courtney and I spoke of the tasks that never seem to go away.

The dishes…….oh my word.

The laundry.

The kitchen counters.

The bathrooms.

The toys.

The dog hair.

It’s never ending.

We have been encouraging each other to find joy in the mundane.

We are so blessed to have a home to care for.

We are honored to be able to be “at home” to care for little boys, to wash the endless loads of laundry, to vacuum.

Am I joyful about it?

Not really.

But I could be laying in a hospital bed.

I could be unable to care for my family.

There are a lots of worse things.

So today, I will find joy in the mundane and be grateful I am able to do the things I’m able to do.

It’s Monday. The start of the week.

How are you finding Joy?

Have a great week!!!

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He Never Wastes a Wound

Not one

Two

Yesterday, two people shared that cancer has come.

I don’t know how to feel.

Every time someone shares bad news my insides tremble. They have shared news with us because we matter to them. They know we will pray for them whether they are Jesus followers or not.

I can probably say that everyone has someone that has or had cancer.

I lost my Dad to cancer almost 5 years ago. He fought a good fight and while I know he’s with Jesus happy and whole, I still remember the days of suffering.

I will NOT question God and His plans.

He never wastes a wound.

That phrase was shared with me when I didn’t know what to say.

When I wonder why a child has cancer.

He never wastes a wound.

Good good people.

Children

Young and old.

Single mothers

I’m currently planning an event for a wonderful friend battling ovarian cancer.

While she has a caregiver. She goes to appointment after appointment and we wait for news, I’m a doer and there is absolutely nothing I can do to help her fight cancer. I can send words of encouragement, funny memes and love her HARD from afar but nothing I do can cure her disease.

So I do the only thing I know to do and that’s gather friends and soon to be friends.

A long ago friend shared a story with me last night. Her battle begins. She writes a lyric from a song “whatever you are doing inside of me feels like chaos, but somehow there is peace.”

I don’t feel peace and it’s NOT EVEN ABOUT ME! But I’ve been asked to pray and pray I shall do.

I woke this morning before the sun even thought about rising. My mind immediately goes to what needs to be done today. So many preparations prior to our event.

But I try and stop my brain from spinning and rise.

Make some coffee

Feed the dog

It’s quiet in the old house and that’s a miracle.

Retreat to the front porch with my faithful companion.

I’ve already prayed for my friends, their families, their Dr’s and whatever is to come on this day. I don’t share to get a “hoorah for me.” I share because maybe you’ll add my sweet friends to your prayers today.

Here we go on this Monday morning.

Whatever it is that’s hurting you today.

Remember: He never wastes a wound.

Be blessed my friends.

You’ve got this.

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Palms Up

I was recently going through old blog posts that were in “Drafts.” I sometimes get an idea but never finish it.

This morning, my heart was heavy so I turned on some worship music and started my day.

Clean the shower

Order new lights for pool house

Put crap away (does the crap multiply where you live?)

Fold the towels for the pool house (yea this must be added to the list. There are a lot of towels)

Figure out what’s for dinner

Mundane stuff, right?

Stop for a second and remember something I read this week.

This was from an excerpt in a book I read years ago and it recently came to my attention again:

“ I tell them all the same thing each time: sit in the chair and answer the questions, but do it with your hands palms up the whole time. I tell them to literally have the backs of their hands on their knees and their palms toward the bottom of the table. I’m very serious about this. In fact, I threaten to kick them in the shins if I look down and they don’t have their palms up. When their palms are up, they have an easier time being calm, honest, and accurate. And this is important, because it’s harder for them to get defensive. When people get angry or defensive they tend to make mistakes. But nobody can be defensive with their palms up. Go ahead and try it. Right now, wherever you are. Set your hands on your knees and turn your palms toward the sky. You can try the opposite too. Clinch your fists. Most people could get angry at a grapefruit when their fists are clinched. Something about the hardwiring that God gave each of us links the position of our bodies and position of our hearts. I’m not sure why we’re wired this way, but I rarely have a client get frustrated or confused or get tempted to exaggerate or tell a lie when his palms are up. I learned this technique from Jesus actually. I used to walk around with my fists clinched, defensive, afraid people were going to take advantage of me. There are also many evils in the world that caused me to clinch my fists. I wanted to be angry and swing at the horrible things people do to one another, especially the things done to kids. But it was Jesus who taught me there was nothing I could really lose if I had Him. He taught me to be palms up, just like He was. Palms up means you have nothing to hide and nothing to gain or lose. Palms up means you are strong enough to be vulnerable, even with your enemies. Even when you have been tremendously wronged. Jesus was palms up, to the end. When people ask me what it looks like to follow Jesus, I usually say that following Him looks like dealing with all of the issues everyone else does—disappointments, tremendous joy, uncertainty, the whole bit—and having your mind change all the time as you learn how Jesus would’ve dealt with things. Following Jesus is about having your paradigms shift as you navigate a wide range of emotions while living the big life Jesus invites us into. Because I know Jesus, where I once thought of things in one way, now I think of them in another way. It happens all the time, every day. Jesus seemed to say that a lot Himself. He would say, “You once thought this, but now I tell you that it’s different.” And through the many paradigm shifts I’ve had following Jesus, the one that seems to universally apply is that we should be palms up.”

Stop Charma.

Stop your brain from swirling

Stop thinking about your TO DO list as mundane and boring as it is.

Stop just for a second

Place your hands on your knees palms up.

I’m praying for my friend who sees her cancer Dr today.

Pray for her Mom, the caregiver and the person who keeps it all together currently.

Praying for my family:

My traveling husband and for his safety.

Praying for my kids and their kids. Life is BIG right now.

Praying for my friends

Praying for decisions currently in the pipeline of life.

I pray for a coworkers grandson who will be having surgery this afternoon.

So often I wonder if praying is enough when it seems like tangible would be so much bigger and better. But Palms up allows us the vulnerability to hear what God is telling us.

He will lead us to what’s next.

He will give us strength we need to continue

Palms up is kind of scary but I’m all in.

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No Shortcuts

Sleep didn’t come easy last night.

Nothing astounding happened but sometimes the brain swirls and doesn’t rest well.

I’m planning an event and while I can’t share details yet…it’s a doozy.

It needs to be perfect.

It needs to raise a lot of money.

It needs to do a lot of things.

It’s really REALLY important.

I’m not so good at new. I like the feelings of familiar. but directly opposite of that, I love a new project.

Hey babe, let’s sell the RV and get another one to renovate.

Hey!! Let’s sell the golf cart that we JUST finished and get another one. Maybe bigger and holds more people!

Let’s build this!

Let’s go here!

How about if we rest?

How about if we enjoy the RV?

Let’s go on a golf cart ride?

Let’s sit on the porch and swing.

Let’s swim and maybe float around on a Sunday afternoon.

Let’s play a game (candy land is the current favorite)

I watch as life speeds by like a locomotive. Time stops for no one and while I like new things, I love the comfort of knowing where my head hits the pillow each night.

I love knowing I have people I can count on.

I love the daily grind of laundry, food prep and housework (love might be a stretch)

I love old friends and making new.

I’m really trying hard to sit in today. Not rush to later, tomorrow or even next week. It’s not easy but I read recently that shorts cuts aren’t for anything worth doing well.

Happy Monday friends. I’m heading south for a couple of days to spend time with old friends.

They are worth it

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What does the Golden Girls have to do with Healing?

I write on this page because I want to remember.

Life is a blur most days and while not every event is worthy to remember, sometimes an extraordinary thing happens and each and every year when it comes up in the memory section of social media, I want to remember.

Yesterday was Tuesday. Anyone that knows me, knows that a group of women meet at my house. Sometimes it’s 15 women and sometimes it’s 5. No matter the size, it’s usually a blast. We laugh like nobody’s business, we share stories, we share heartache. We do life together, we pray for one another. One person usually goes through life with a few people you can really count on. I am blessed to have more than a few.

Yesterday we sat around the pool house table. We have a sweet friend who is currently in treatment for an illness. We sign up to bring the family food and to help in anyway we can. Most of the time, there’s nothing to do but wait for news.

It’s hard to sit and wait.

I asked one of our girls to bring communion items and anointing oil yesterday.

I looked for something to anoint to give to our sweet friend. Annointing with oil is a physical way of expressing a spiritual truth. We belong to God and have committed ourselves wholly into His care.

A golden girls blanket might seem like an odd choice but there is significance.

Here is the note I wrote to go along with the blanket

“My dearest friend,

As we spoke of you this Tuesday morning, there was so much love. There was kindness and concern. There was love and care.
I can’t really explain how a table full of women can fill space the way they do. It is a genuine feeling of care that I can not really put my finger on. You have experienced it, and while at this moment you are unable to participate, know that without a shadow of a doubt, you are here.
Your wit.
Your banter.
Your knowledge.
Your openness and honesty.
Your strenth.
Your tenancity.
Your bravery.
Your beauty.

All of you.

This morning we shared communion together as a group. It was so lovely. We then decided we wanted to give you something.
Something that when you wrap yourself in it, you can know that you are thought of, prayed for and so very loved.

I fought for this Golden Girls blanket at a white elephant gift exchange at Kate’s house this year. The moment I saw it, I wanted it.
Charitys boyfriend Craig also wanted it. I thought I might have to fight him for it and he doesnt know me very well. I might be small in stature, and he most certainly is not, but my Daddy used to call me “Tiny but Tough” and I would show him my toughness if he thought he was going to get this blanket. I don’t know why I wanted it so badly then, but I for sure know why now!
The Golden Girls resinates with my girlfriends. my porch girls, my closest lady friends, the fiercest of women whom I am honored to be friends with. Today this blanket is yours my wonderful friend. as you battle…….know you are not alone. you have your golden girls (porch girls) in your corner with their boxing gloves on ready to stand beside you, or in front of you, or in your place. The blanket has been anointed with frankencense oil. As you smell the sweet aroma of the oil, remember who loves you.
God first
your family
your friends
so many that you could never count high enough.

We love you so much today on this day and so many more,
Charma and all the porch girls.”

Today, the day after the blanket was delivered, I sit on the porch thinking of our friend. I’m never alone so Luke sits with me while I type this note to myself. We have prayed together and listened to a couple of songs that are currently on repeat.

Today on this beautiful day, celebrate the goodness.

Whatever that may be.

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