Home Sweet Home

For the first time in years … YEARS!!!… I look forward to being home.

When married, I dreaded coming home only to be greeted by comments of what I didn’t do correctly or to be cussed at. It wasn’t a safe place. When I moved out, while in the process of my divorce, I lived in a tiny 800 sq foot, one bath and 18″ of countertop in the kitchen, light blue house. There were spiders everywhere, barely enough room to walk around the coffee table and the garage was missing the bottom 12″ of siding so you never knew what rodent or how much rain would be there to greet you in the morning.

Each time I convinced myself that it was my home. While in Sussex, I told myself it’s where my children slept so it was home. After Owen died, it was the only place Owen knew so how could I go anywhere else? With no other options, moving to the small blue house, I told myself it was at least a happy home. The anger that intruded on my Sussex home would not be allowed in this new home. It was small but it was mine.

Home is different now. There is enough room for all of us. It has a sense of permanence. I’ve painted walls, left a mark, settled in. The anxiety is no longer there when I pull into the driveway. I no longer anticipate the stress of either an angry husband or children climbing all over the place because there is no room. It’s just relief … to be home. To settle in and relax. To be where I am supposed to be.

It’s not always perfect. After the kids have gone to sleep I am reminded that I am alone. Single. There is no other parent. I don’t have a best friend to cuddle and watch tv with. There is no one to help when one of the boys wake up with a fever. At 10:30 pm when I’ve finally gotten all of my chores done there isn’t anyone to reflect on the day with. That part I still hate.

I don’t particularly enjoy being single. I think I’m doing ok at it … Just not what I ever wanted out of life. People give me energy. Knowing that there is someone else out there invested in my kid’s happiness and sharing in the bad days is a deep comfort. When the boys do something totally silly – I laugh and take pictures, but in the depths of my heart I’m sad that there wasn’t anyone else there to enjoy the moment with me.

Part of the way I was knit together I suppose … To cherish relationships. To love people – like a real love of people. Guaranteed, if we have not met I already love you. It’s how I roll. I’ve stopped trying to fight it or to be selective of who I’d like to be around. Instead, I try to give in to God’s plan for the people in my life. Looking through glasses that remind me each person I encounter is a brilliant work of art.

It’s great to have a place I feel safe in. It’s a new feeling for me to want to stay home. I’m moving in the right direction, even if I still have no idea where I’m going!

Love, Mel

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Monday vs MONDAY

When you’re a mom there are Mondays and then there are MONDAYS! And yesterday was an all caps Monday.

Every time I turned around something I had done was undone. Logan, who usually is awesome at getting himself dressed, was either naked or wearing something different every five minutes. Weston flopped around on the ground saying he needed help. For the love of Pete just get dressed and stay dressed! No more changing your mind!

Want to know how to make my mommy horns come out? Put your feet on my walls. Drives me batty and unfortunately the kids know that. When they want to tick me off their grimy little feet go all over my walls. MONDAY was no exception. Weston laid in the hallway with his feet all over my walls.

The clock kept ticking and no one was making progress in being ready for school. I FINALLY got Logan to stop changing his clothes and got Jaden to turn the cartoons off to get his backpack put together. Weston was still flopping around on the ground in the hallway. Ok Love and Logic don’t fail me now ….

“Weston, do you want to get dressed on your own or do you need help?”

“I don’t want to get dressed.”

“Ok mommy will help you.”

Weston runs in the opposite direction. Luckily I still run faster.

“Here is your shirt!”

“Me no want that shirt!”

“Then you can pick one, but hurry up please, Jaden is going to be late for school.”

Weston puts on a shirt. Then, freaks out because the sleeves are too short and throws it off. MONDAY!!

This dance lasted for much too long. I kept looking at the clock – Jaden was going to be late for school. That’s it, I’ve had enough! I picked up Weston (who was just in his underwear) and grabbed his clothes with the other hand and walked him right out the garage door and into his car seat. Here in Wi it’s about 40-50 degrees in the morning. A tad bit chilly for just whitey tighties.

Jaden was late for school – only by a minute or two. By the time we got to day care, Weston had a change of heart and got dressed sweetly in the van. I was thankful I didn’t have to explain why I was bringing Weston to school in just Thomas the Train undies.

But trying to get out of the car was still a struggle … Logan had no shoes on. Awesome. And to top it off their backpacks weren’t in the car. Double awesome. Please tell me I’m not the only mother this has happened to?

I kissed the boys goodbye in their room only to get in the car to head right back home. 20 mins later I was at daycare for the second time with Ninja Turtle shoes for Logan and two lunch boxes. Finally mom duties were fulfilled and I was on my way to work.

Work proved to be just as exhausting. I absolutely love my job. Some days are just easier than others. I survived and even found a smile for the car ride home.

These kinds of days are unavoidable as a mother. MONDAYS are inevitable. When tough times arise it’s more about breathing and surviving. Being a parent is (in my opinion) the hardest job on earth and certainly warrants hazard pay!

But parenthood isn’t a paying job. We are compensated in hugs and kisses. In sweet little hands slipping into ours at unexpected moments. In the “I love you mommy” whispers just as our little ones are drifting off to dreamland,

I survived my MONDAY. I expect I’ll have more MONDAYS. But I survived and you will too. One foot in front of the other. Inhale then exhale. Sometimes it’s the only thing we can do to survive … Wether we are surviving a MONDAY or if you are just trying to figure out which way is up in life, Just keep breathing.

Love, Mel

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Connections

I’ve been thinking of what I wanted to write about the Briggs and Al run/walk we did last weekend in memory of Owen. The day was beautiful … Perfect really. We had a cookout in the parking lot following the walk. I was both healed by all of the orange and inspired by the Children’s Champions who walked on our team. It’s astounding what we can do when we come together.

That’s what I keep thinking … It’s amazing when we come together. Individually we are flawed, weak and limited. But together – amazing, unimaginable things happen. A friend stopped over to pick up a book for our upcoming bible study. While our kids played at our feet, we shared parts of our life stories that we don’t usually talk about. My past before I knew my ex husband, the reason why she got back together with her fiancé … We shared parts of ourselves that don’t come up in casual conversation. It was meaningful.

This moment was not planned – there was no coffee date planned to catch up on life, but rather, it just happened. I opened the door to my home, I welcomed her in and then I listened and asked questions. The rest just happened.

What encouragement I received knowing that I wasn’t the only one … I’m not the only one who is afraid, who has made bad choices, who dreams of being in love and who wants to sick it out until the end. I realized, in those moments on my stairs, sometimes that’s all we need to make it through the day – to know that we aren’t the only one. There is someone else going through the same things, feeling the same kind of pain. If they can do it, so can I.

I find rest in finding someone who understands. I find comfort in knowing I’m not the only one. We are born into community. We live together. Sometimes it’s all we got … And something’s it all we need.

Sometimes it’s terrifying to open up to someone about the hidden parts of ourselves. The fear of rejection and judgement can be padlocks on our hearts. After losing Owen, pain to me is real and it’s every day. I don’t want to say that I love to find broken people, but I’m not sure how else to say it. I feel like I can let my guard down and say, “yep, life really sucks sometimes!” Because it does! Good people get cancer, innocent children die every day. It sucks! But to be able to connect with someone, you’ve got to be able to go there. How can you connect with someone who doesn’t understand the hurtful parts of you?

I don’t want perfect people in my life, I want perfectly imperfect people. I always use the analogy of weightlifting. When trying to build muscle, you are literally tearing apart the fibers in your muscles. When they heal they are stronger than they were before. That’s why you are so sore after weightlifting. Your body needs to heal and then it’s stronger. Same is life – I get torn over and over, but each time I survive, I come out stronger than before.

Bottom line? We need each other. We need to connect and most of all we need to be kind. Treat each other with care – we are all fighting our own battles. Just because someone looks happy and strong on the outside, doesn’t mean they feel strong on the inside.

Love, Mel

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I know better

I mean well … but I know better. I know better than to open my mouth and share my opinion when it isn’t asked for. I know better than to let my own feelings get in the way of what a friend really needs.

A friend shares that she is struggling in her marriage. My heart breaks and I want to help. I remind myself to be a better listener than talker. I do so well until the very end. I couldn’t quite hold it together long enough. I asked God to give me the right words and to say the things she needs to hear. But I know, as soon as it comes out of my mouth, it was wrong. I try, but I fall short.

Another friend is struggling with her spouse and setting healthy boundaries. She knows it and I know it. She has just enough energy to get through the day, let alone address the issues in her life. So why do I continue to have the same conversation over and over? Let it go Mel … let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore – ok my kids are a little obsessed with Frozen – it’s worn off on me. But honestly, what is my problem? Zip it Mel! If you want to be there when it’s all over, don’t say so much now. She needs silent strength from the sidelines. She knows what’s going on; she’s the one fighting the battle. Of course, it’s easy to think you know how to fix things from the sidelines. The coach on the sidelines might get upset when a play doesn’t go as planned, but to the players on the field understands why. 

It’s so dang hard to watch people who have so much to offer the world, sit and accept below average circumstances. These friends are amazing – they are loving – they are caring – they are people I want to be around. So why is it that I continue to say things that aren’t helpful? I honestly just want to help. I want to light the fire in their souls so they fight for something better. I want to plant the seed of hope deep in their souls that grows into new dreams and guides them when things seem unmanageable. I want to scoop them up and love them. I want to be an answer that makes it all better.

Knowing that many in my life have watched me struggle and have felt the same about me … I know that the best way to love is to just listen. Offer thoughts only when asked. When my life was unmanageable – I knew it. I didn’t need anyone to point it out to me. The people that I clung to were those who were able to talk to me about normal stuff – who were there when I broke down and needed to unload – but were also able to carry on normal conversation. I’m only able to do it for so long … pretend the elephant isn’t in the room for only a period of time.

I know I need to cut myself a little slack. I guess I’m hard on myself because there were so many people who were wonderful to me. I want to be the same for those whom I love.

I’m the kind of friend who isn’t afraid of struggle. I’m not afraid to join you in the trenches. Life is messy – I’m alright getting a little dirty. Hell, I’m ok being covered in life mud. What I am afraid of is losing people who I love.

Dear heavenly father, guide me and teach me to love people as you did. Guard my tongue from saying things that aren’t helpful. Use me to speak your promise and to grow loving hearts. Encourage those around me to know just how much I love them. Use the love I have in my heart for your good. I pray that those I hold close know just how special and loved they really are.

Love, Mel

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The danger of dreaming

A few posts ago, I wrote about dreaming. It is a healthy thing to do … thinking about what the future could look like. It’s also a slippery slope … it becomes dangerous when your dreams begin to turn into standards. When you begin use your dreams as a pathway to control and plan the future.

I’ve always been a thinker & a planner-outer. I like to know what I”m doing each night – where I’m going to be. I tend to plan out things. (Works well in the office, but drives my family nuts!) In high school, I had a serious boyfriend – we dated for almost 6 years. During my sophomore year, we were “on a break.” I had heard that he wasn’t going to go to his homecoming dance because we were broken up … I agreed/offered (whatever you want to call 15-year-olds trying to figure out the dating world) to go with him as friends. I had little to no expectations of the evening. It ended up being the most amazing night! We danced, laughed and just enjoyed each other. That night I learned (and I”m still learning) that you can’t dream out every second of your life. You’ve got to let go and just experience the moment. When you spend all of your time dreaming about what each day might hold, you place unrealistic expectations on yourself and others.

So, how do you keep your dreams from becoming expectations? I’ll be honest … I”m really not sure. I do know that it helps not to think about something too much. When you start to think about a “what-if” more than what is actually happening … it might not be balanced. I spend so much time dreaming about what it would be like to have a man in the house, that I am missing the experience of being independent. Mystery. I am too big of a control freak to just let the mystery happen. God says, “Close your eyes and just experience the ride, trusting in Me as life whips around each corner.” I’m so busy trying to see the tracks, that I forget I’m not the one steering the car. Each time I try to plan out what is ahead, I ruin the surprise.

The ironic part? I love surprises! Want to show me how much you love me? Plan a little surprise. That’s how Doug caught my eye when we were dating off and on. He went to great lengths to surprise me on my birthday. He baked his first ever cake (chocolate cake with chocolate frosting). Then, he had the receptionist call my desk to let me know there was a package I needed to sign for at the front desk. As I rounded the last flight of stairs, there he was, standing with his 9×13 chocolate cake. I knew that birthdays weren’t big to him, but he knew they were big to me. We found a table in the cafeteria and shared a piece of cake and a little time together. It was simple – doesn’t take very much – but it was a surprise. Magic.

The cake was magic because I didn’t expect it. When I start to dream about every moment, it ruins the magic. It eliminates the possibility of  being swept off of my feet. Ha! And that’s what I dream about most of the time … being swept off of my feet. How is someone going to surprise me if I”m busy thinking of all the romantic ways someone could enter my life?

Turn off your brain Mel … stop thinking! Just focus on what is in front of you. Put on your cement boots and stay grounded. Stop focusing on what you could have and love what you do have.

Dreaming is good – it keeps fresh air in the room. When life gets tough, it keeps you focused on tomorrow. Dream on friends … the sky is the limit! If you’re like me … just be careful and don’t let your dreams become expectations. Turn off those over thinking brains and let yourself be surprised. I can type out the words, but it’s a lot hard to do than type. Maybe we can work turning our brains off together?

Love, Mel

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I heard angels sing

This week has been a little on the crazy side. The church that I work for has been hosting a children’s choir from Africa. That translates to an extra 22 children (ages 5-11) and 9 adults in the building. There has been a buzz in the hallways, angels singing from the Sunday School wing, running, laughing, soccer being played in the front yard. There is energy in the building. These children hug everyone they meet. They call me auntie. They are obedient and silly. They are just lovely.

I watched them for a while during their dress rehearsal. The beat of the drums and the energy was enchanting. They had moooooves! The six year old could move her hips better than this mama of four!

This afternoon, someone asked me more about the choir … so I pulled up asantechoir.org and started reading. Every single one of these children is an orphan. They have no parents, no family – no one. Yet I had no idea by spending the past few days with them. Not one of them looked sad or lonely. They just love Jesus. They have innocence in their eyes. Reading their story moved something within me. It made me realize that their happiness wasn’t because of their innocence … it was because of the love of Christ. The love from other Christ followers that have given them hope again. They felt rescued and loved.

Puts things into perspective. When I don’t like the food I have in my refrigerator. They are just happy to have food on a plate. I’m irritated because it was too hot to sleep well the night before. They are thankful to have a bed to sleep in. I struggle to find enough time to fit in both family and friends. They have no one but each other. Incredible how quickly you can be knocked into a new perspective.

When I watched them again, tears just rolled. Watching each of their smiles. Watching their beautiful costumes and their vibrant colors under the lights. Then picturing them in their home towns … living on the streets, torn clothing, bare boned, no parents, no job … nothing. Yet they were jumping and clapping and signing about God’s love. You can’t manufacture those kinds of things.

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The concert ended with a young boy, about 7, belting out “I’m Trading My Sorrows.” The choir jumping, clapping, arms flying and faces smiling behind him. Those smiles. Those loving eyes have seen such great despair. Those tummies have felt such extreme hunger. And here they are living care free.

I don’t think that they were so lighthearted because they were rescued. See, when I pictured them in the streets of their hometown, I still see those same eyes. I see the same Jesus-loving hearts. They are lighthearted because they follow a good God. They sing about an all loving, all powerful God. He’s the skip in their walk and the twinkle in their eyes.

Such beauty in such young people.

I’m so incredibly thankful that God brought the Asante choir to our middle to upper class, mainly Caucasian congregation. I’m blessed to have been moved by the beat of the drums to have danced to the songs of angels. I’m telling you … they are angels walking on earth. It’s all perspective. And it’s all about the big guy upstairs.

Love, Mel

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Living Out Loud

There are some very serious moments that I wish I was one of those classy ladies … you know the ones that can pull off heels with any outfit, that always have their nails painted, they have a cute laugh, they know the right thing to say and they can hold their tongue (not literally, but figuratively). But I’m not. I bite my nails … I love my flip flops … I snort when I laugh …

I mean I can try to be more composed – I can put on that “well put together” face, but it only lasts so long. I’m like a kinked hose on full blast. It all builds up behind and when you let go – watch out! It all comes sputtering out. I’m messy. I’m emotional. I say too much. I’m raw and emotional. I have no boundaries when it comes to talking about “stuff.” My life is open … I share lots of things that “normal” people might not.

Here’s a good spot for a story … I’m a spaz. I leave cabinets open all the time. It’s like a tornado just came through the kitchen when I’m done cooking. Drove Doug nuts. He would get so irritated with me … couldn’t understand why I couldn’t remember to just shut a cabinet. I honestly don’t know why – perhaps I’m just doing too much at once or too excited to get on to the next thing that I don’t fully finish what I was in the midst of. I know I’m not perfect and I have idiosyncrasies that drive others nuts. But I want to be loved despite them. I want someone to giggle and shake their head when they see cabinets left open … “Mel was here.” When I lived in the rental, I would sit down for the night and could see right into the kitchen … cabinets were open all of the time. No one got mad. In fact, I often shook my head and said … yep I live here.

There is a deep desire to be comfortable in my own skin and for people to like me. There is a real fear of being judged or looked down on. I live my life out loud. There is no changing that. But, when I live out loud, you always know where you stand with me. I love you. Plain and simple – I love everyone. You’ll always have a friend in me – even if we didn’t end on good terms. If you call, I’ll be there. Second changes are given freely (sometimes too freely). I believe in second chances.

So here I am, with my open cabinets, hoping I can bare my soul without being judged. Praying that one day I will find someone who will love my messy self. Maybe it’s not in the cards for me to find true love. Maybe my work is to learn how to love myself. I’ll continue to pray for love every night. There isn’t enough love in this world … love each other.

Love, Mel

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Lots have happened in the last few months…

So much has changed over the past few months. I’m approaching my 1 year anniversary at my job – which  means I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable in my role, rather than just trying to learn what the heck I’m supposed to be doing. The boys and I moved into a  new home. All kinds of new responsibilities and tools to learn how to use. The kids are getting ready for another school year. Just lots going on. I also feel like I’ve had a little more time to think about what it is I want.

All kinds of things that I want. … house projects I want to accomplish … dreaming of new flooring in the bathrooms, new toilets, paint the deck … I feel like a kid making a list for Santa. A pretty lame Santa list … but a list all the same.

Then, there are the things I want to do with my kids this year – water parks, bike rides, trips to take. I dream of a bedtime that is less than an hour long. I envision and start to plan for a “mommy boot camp” where I get my supermom powers aligned and take mommyhood to the next level. I think about how I can be more involved at Jaden’s school while still being a full-time working mom. I think about how I can figure out time for Jaden to have a friend over. I find myself making imaginary chore lists on the things my kids could do to help around the house.

I look in my **new** craft room and dream about all the projects I bought supplies for but haven’t actually accomplished. Beautiful yarn to crochet into afghans, blank canvases to paint, photos to put into scrapbooks … there just isn’t enough time in the day.

I also find myself thinking about what I want out of my life partner – if I would ever dream of marrying again. I think about the “type” I’d go for …. the rugged cowboy who knows how to fix anything but also cleans up well and likes to go out for dinner and go nice places. Someone who can share what’s on his mind and who cares what’s on my mind. The traditional man who wants to protect his family, but one who would cherish a warm meal and a woman who would be by his side always. (This could probably be another post.)

Bottom line is that life is starting to settle in but my dream list is growing exponentially. I feel like there just won’t be enough time to accomplish everything in life. It’s a constant game of choices – a balancing act of what needs to be done vs. what you’d like to get done. Where to spend your energy when you know you’ll never have enough for it all? I love to sleep, but I really wish I didn’t have to some nights. Just think about how much more we could accomplish or even dream about if we had another 8 hours to our day?

What’s on your dream list? Dreaming of what what you want life to be like is healthy – a sign of growth. There is hope in the future and a promise of a better life. Change is inevitable, pain is unavoidable, but dreaming for the future is something to work for. There was a day when life seemed like it was never going to get better. I was plagued as a single mom forever – life was just going to be hard and I would have to get used to it. I never imagined I’d be dreaming again …

Love, Mel

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I donated blood today

The church I work at held a blood drive today. It’s been years since I last donated blood and I thought it was about time. I never expected it to bring back so many memories. Not memories of the last time I donated, but rather memories of Owen receiving blood while on life support. I had silent tears running down my cheeks from the moment I sat down in the little cubical. The guy probably thought I was a nut job.

He treated me just like any other regular donor. Inside I was wondering if he knew who I was. I mean, come on … I am the mother of an organ donor. Like the biggest of all donors … you don’t get more donor-y than giving your organs! He concentrated on the tablet in front of him, verifying my information. My account should be flagged or something, right? There should be something on his screen that would show him that I was a VIP … a first class donor. Giving my son’s organs makes me a gold card holder, right?

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Shouldn’t I be getting first class treatment? Hot towels? Free glass of champagne? Be escorted into a special waiting lounge? Where were the fancy bags of pretzels? I wanted to ask him if he knew who I was … but he didn’t. I was just a normal donor like anyone else that walked through those doors.

What really made the tears flow, was when he brought over the bag and started scanning all the bar codes. I remember Owen’s nurse, Cindy, bringing in the same kid of bag and hooking it up to Owen’s IV. He received platelets a few times while on life support and did get a blood transfusion towards the very end. And here I was donating to fill the same kind of bag that might help someone else’s little baby boy. I’ll never know who or where my blood is given … but maybe another mom will have the same memories like I do. It sucks to know that another mom might need my blood for her child, but on the other hand, it’s comforting to know that I can help another mom sleep a little easier knowing that the medical care they need is available.

Dear Blood Center of Wisconsin, if you are reading this post – perhaps you’ll consider giving us donor mom’s a gold card for when we donate blood. I know I’m one of thousands … I’m no one special really. There are other mom’s out there who have given their baby’s organs and have never received the recognition that I have. It just doesn’t change the fact that I want the world to know that I have four sons – not three. I have a son that no one can see anymore. He lives on in more than just my heart – he lives in the eyes of his brothers, in the smile of Josie (who has his heart), in the prayers for the little girl in IL who was gifted his liver. He lives on in each of you who wear orange and remember him. I speak his name almost every day.

So why was it so hard to bring up Owen while donating blood today? Instead, I let the tears roll down my cheeks one at a time and gave my blood in silence. I listened to the woman, Trish, who was taking my blood. I made small talk; asking her how her day was and about her family. Turns out her mother-in-law passed away only a week and a half ago. She was her main caregiver and brought her home to die, in her own home. She held her mother-in-law’s hand while she took her last breath. Trish spoke the Lord’s name and said, “All I’ve ever wanted to be was a good servant. Just help wherever I am needed.” What a life moto. Just aim to help where you are needed. 

I’m usually the one who has a crazy life story to share – one of life in the midst of death, hope and healing. I listened this time and God was there. Trish ministered to me.

The flashbacks I had today were unexpected. The tears still flow, three years later and I’m going to guess that they always will in some way. Losing a child isn’t something you ever really get over. But you can heal to a point where another person’s pain feels greater than your own. Trish’s grief was fresh and raw … it still stung with every hour that passed by. Proof that I am healing … day by day … and Trish will too. It all just takes time.

Love, Mel

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When Dreams Come True

Yep – this happened a few weeks ago.

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I think I am still in shock that I would ever have a home I would be proud of. Being a single mom of three boys isn’t easy. Every morning I wake up I wonder if it was all a dream. A happy home. A home where there is enough room for my boys to play. A kitchen with more than 18″ of counter space to make lunches on. Enough bedrooms for each of my kids. A neighborhood where I feel safe. Finally a home that reflects the kind of family I want to be.

There is a sense of sadness in being a home owner on my own … I’m alone. I never dreamed of owning a home by myself. I never wanted to bare the responsibility only on my shoulders. It sort of made me stare at myself in the mirror and be honest with the fact that I am single. Which hurt. It sucks to be honest with the truth that someone who was supposed to love you forever, really didn’t love you at all.

I have received so much help over the past few weeks – it’s hard to know where to start in thanking them. I like to think of myself as a handy girl – and if not handy at least, resourceful. But dang there is so much to learn and I’d be lost without my loved ones, especially my dad. I did successful learn how to lay commercial grade tile in my laundry room and how to re-stain and varnish my window sils. I also learned how quickly a dishwasher can flood my kitchen floor. My dear family friends and family were at my house until almost midnight, every night, for almost a week – painting, cleaning, unpacking and making my house a home. I’d be lost without them … or buried under unpacked boxes.

So yes, I wake up every morning thinking that it couldn’t possibly be true that a dream became a reality. I am reminded of how much I still have to learn every corner I turn. And I am starting to wonder if there will ever be a night without a house project!

I am so blessed. Dreams really do come true and girls really can know how to use power tools!

Love, Mel

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