Meet Lizzy

Ridiculous: adjective:1.  causing or worthy of ridicule; absurd; preposterous; laughable; 2. slang for unbelievably good, bad, crazy, etc.

This is the definition for “ridiculous” I found on dictionary.com. If you asked my friends and loved ones, however, they might define “ridiculous” as simply “Hayley.” No, no, don’t think they are mean or making fun of me (ok, they are totally making fun of me). They mean it with all the love in their hearts, and they completely embrace my ridiculous, often unreasonable nature, because it’s what makes me who I am, and I promise, they love me just the way I am. Let me explain.

Have you ever known someone whose grand plans, wild ideas, bleeding heart, or passion leads them into something which makes you think they are completely ridiculous or their situation or wild hare tale is totally ridiculous? They’re one of those people that always has a story to tell, and it always has a dramatic twist or over the top event that leaves you either in stitches or rolling your eyes or both. And yet, despite their constantly being in a state of hot mess, you just roll with it, because they just roll with it, and also, because, well that’s just <insert name of completely ridiculous person here> who they are, and to be honest, that’s why you like them. I am that person. Silly, lively, and known for dramatic storytelling, I am one of those people who finishes a story and hears, “Only you, Hayley.” I don’t mean to be conceited when I say people like me, because of this personality quirk of mine, but I am not crafty, hate to cook, am not exactly ladylike, and I talk way more than I should. Oh, and as a running buddy, I am sometimes super slow as if I were a turtle crawling through peanut butter. If you were super sick or in distress, I would think twice before offering to come clean your house, not because I don’t love my friends, but because I hate to clean. So you see, if I we’re looking at a checklist of what makes a person awesome, I am not winning any awards here, so I am left to assume that my friends love me, because I am completely, totally ridiculous, and I am completely, totally ok with it.

Here is a brief list of some of the ridiculous, wack-a-doodle events of my life and traits of my personality:

1. I flushed my cell phone down the toilet. Not dropped it in…it was swirling around that germy whirlpool like a cow in a Texas Tornado. (Ok, so it didn’t go ALL the way down, but that sounds better than “almost” flushed it down.)

2. When I broke my foot, I was a bridesmaid in a boot…who rode down the aisle in my dress on a knee scooter. No, really, I rolled down the aisle of a large church at a wedding looking like a glammed out Punky Brewster having a grown-up playdate.

3. I went to a bachelorette party on the afore mentioned scooter, and when the handicapped ramp to where we headed suddenly ended, did I back out of the bachelorette party? Nope. I let the other bridesmaids carry my scooter, and I crawled down two flights of stairs to make it to our destination. You’ve got to fight for your right to party, ya’ll.

4. Whenever I see people from the gym in public I say really awkward things like, “Oh, hey! I’ve never seen you with clothes on before!” when what I really mean is “I’ve never seen you with something other then gym clothes on before.”

5. I trip over things way more than any normal person should. I spill, break, and drop things a lot, too.

6. I adopted a one-eyed dog, and I named her Lizzy…Left Eye Lizzy.

Wait, what? Back up to #6. I did what? This is where if you don’t know me well, you might be saying, “No, she didn’t.” This is where if you do know me well, you’re saying, “Of course, she did.”

Here she is…Miss America…

Image

Everyone say it together now, “Awwwww…”

And now, if you know me well, roll your eyes and laugh, because who else do you know would be waiting at the shelter door an hour before opening time to adopt a one-eyed dog? Only your ridiculous Hayley.

Lizzy, formerly Ruby, was at a local animal shelter, and when I saw her pic on Facebook, my heart just broke at the thought of her not being adopted just because she isn’t “perfect.” I am an animal lover as well as a lover of all things which are different, broken, imperfect, or any “type” society views as less. My heart bleeds for pitiful animals, outcast children, unloved adults, and the freaks and geeks of the world. I can’t help it. I don’t say that to put myself on a pedestal…I say it, because that’s just me. My heart absolutely aches for all of God’s creatures, humans and critters alike, who are so different that they just can’t understand that they are “fearfully, wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) just the way God intended them to be. I want to fix all their hurts…find them all friends to play with, partners to love them, or forever homes with never ending belly rubs and squeaky toys. That’s how I ended up with Lizzy. It’s not her fault she is missing an eye. (She came to the shelter an injured stray and had to have her eye removed immediately.) I just couldn’t bear the thought of people pitying her…then passing her by.

And here’s the thing, ya’ll. I need another dog like a hole in my head. Riley is a total spaz attack. (He’s ridiculous like his momma). He and I are always getting ourselves into some hot mess around this place, and it always results in some ridiculous tale. Everyone has been telling me WAIT to get another dog. JUST WAIT, they say. I was ready to “just wait,” and everyone was relieved that I was being reasonable for once…until Lizzy. When I started sending Lizzy’s pic out to friends and telling her story, everyone’s tune changed. My friends know me well. They know my heart. They know my stubborn nature. And they knew, even before I had made up my mind, that Lizzy would be coming home with me. They just knew. Who else do they know that would do something so ridiculous? “Hayley’s adopting a one eyed dog? Of course, she is.”

And so, where there were once two in this house, there are now three. Hayley, Riley, and our sweet little Left Eye Lizzy. Ridiculous, ya’ll. I have lost my mind. Oh, and my heart. This little mutt stole it. The best part of all of this has been the reaction of my friends and family. My parents both encouraged me to take her. My friends have laughed at me and swooned over her. My FB post received numerous likes and lots of comments about Lizzy’s sweet little face. I have enjoyed all of the loving comments, but my favorite words I have heard and read over and over from my loved ones are these, “I love her already.” Riley and I do, too. Welcome to our family, Lizzy. We think you’re perfect.

                                        Xoxo,

                                           Hayley and Riley (the new big brother)

ImageShe wouldn’t pose at the shelter, but she knew just what to do for a belly rub. :-)

A Moment Like This

I don’t get to blog during the week, but it’s a cold, snowy late March day in East Tennessee, and the pup and I are confined to the house. My agenda for the evening is light, so I am happily procrastinating with a little writing. Here’s the prompt for the day: “What are the three most memorable moments – good or bad, happy or sad- in your life?”

This is another one of those posts where I feel like I just can’t narrow it down to a small number of items. I was so torn about what to do that I solicited Mary Grace’s opinion like she is supposed to know the movie reel of my life and what has stood out most to me, but like many of our conversations, the mindless chatting about it brought the ideas to mind without her even knowing she had helped. (Actually, many of my favorite moments of my adult life are Steph-Hayley-Mary Grace moments, but I am saving those stories for the satellite radio show Steph and I are going to host someday.) Anyway, without further adieu, here are the three most memorable moments of my life (as of 6:23 PM on 3/25/14. Seriously…who can pick out just 3 that will never change?)

1. Christmas 2013 at school- For those of you who read this and do not know me, I am a 3rd grade teacher. For those of you who don’t know anything about teaching or education, let me just tell you this: It’s. Hard. Really, really hard. Oh, and I love it. It’s the hardest job you could ever love. Let me tell you about the hard parts. You have 20+ kids from 20+ backgrounds with 20+ learning styles and 20+ different emotional needs. Sometimes their parents blame you for everything that goes wrong. Sometimes their parents don’t know your name. Sometimes you have to attempt to teach things like analogies, elapsed time, and latitude and longitude all in one day…to people who pick their noses and forget to tie their shoes. (There isn’t enough Tylenol on those days.) You teach academic skills, social skills, technology skills, health skills, and life skils like “don’t forget to tie your shoes.” You go home emotionally drained, mentally exhausted, and physically weary, because you feel like you are charged with the task of curing all the world’s ills in a seven hour day. It’s. Hard.
Hard? Yeah, it’s hard, but it’s also a profession known amongst teachers for just the right little joy at the exact perfect moment. I had one of those this past Christmas on the day of our Christmas breakfast. All of my kids were trickling in delivering treats and presents to my desk. Some kids bring homemade and handpicked items straight from their hearts. Other kids openly admit, “My mom said to give this to you.” I smiled and hugged them all the same. I opened their gifts and “oohed” and “aahed” and laughed at their cute notes in their cards. I was happily chatting with guests at our party when I opened a card from the parents of a particularly challenging child- one of those who makes you check for gray hairs- and I read these words: “Thank you for being a champion for our son. Merry Christmas.” It still gives me a chill when I think about those words. These parents had heard a lot from me that semester some good, some not so good. Those are the ones from whom you aren’t sure what to expect in a Christmas card. They gave me something far more precious than I ever expected- a moment when I knew in my heart this job is so hard, but it is so worth it. “Thank you for being a champion for our son.” You’re welcome. Thank you for being a champion for teachers. You keep us going.

2. Goodbye Mamaw- If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will probably remember reading, on more than one occasion, my description of being with my sweet Papaw when he died. That will always be a powerful moment in my life, but I’ve done that one, so I chose another related moment- saying goodbye to my Mamaw. I was closer to Papaw, and I documented my relationship with Mamaw in a previous blog post, but saying goodbye to her was a totally different thing for me than it was Papaw. I don’t know if I can pinpoint one “goodbye” moment, but I will go with finishing the eulogy I gave at her funeral. In her eulogy, I detailed all of the many things her hands had done in her life…taken care of babies, cooked for her family, sewed doll clothes, swatted behinds in trouble, handed out medicine, and adoringly stroked Papaw’s face. Her hands were busy hands, and they were loving hands. They told a tale of her life that connected all of us in that church, her family, neighbors, and friends, together in some way. They were hands that kept going and doing after Papaw passed away. In many ways, her busy hands helped soothe me when I missed Papaw. Even as dementia set in, when she was still going and doing, she still seemed like Mamaw, and it made Papaw being gone seem a little less real. I will never forget standing in front of my childhood church to give Mamaw’s eulogy talking about all of the love and life her hands brought into this world and saying these last words, “The work of her precious hands is finished.” Finished. Over. Done. No more Easter bunny cakes with licorice whiskers. No more just-right doll clothes. No more swatted bottoms. No more hand peeled, yard picked apples. No more Mamaw. No more Papaw. That one line of my eulogy made the finality of it all sink in. I knew Papaw had been gone for four years, but saying goodbye to her closed the chapter of my life in which the main characters were the two most precious, perfect people I have ever known. It’s a memorable moment that hurts, but have mercy, I am so very blessed to have such precious memories that would cause that moment to hurt.

3. Driving Miss Daisy- If you know me really well, you know I love to tell funny stories about my Papaw. Not only was he as sweet as pie, he was hysterically funny, and I love to relive his antics by telling stories about him. That being said, my last passage made me miss Mamaw, so here is my memorable moment totally 100% dedicated to her and the funny side most people never knew she had.
In the last few years of Mamaw’s life, I spent time in the summers helping take her to doctor’s appointments. As her dementia grew worse, she became more and more stubborn and difficult to get out the door on doctor days, but all the while, she remained the same woman she had always been: stern, austere, a statue of a lady. I affectionately called our doctor trip days “Driving Miss Daisy.” If you’ve ever seen that movie, the cold, seemingly unyielding, omnipotent character of Miss Daisy is so much like my Mamaw that it’s scary. Now, don’t get me wrong. She was a wonderful grandmother who loved the heck out of my brother and me, but she was a lady to core, and she did what ladies do, and she did not do what ladies didn’t. No cussing. No smoking. No white after Labor Day. No drinking out of a can. The end. Forever and ever, Amen. That was Margaret Lynn, you get the picture?
One summer day, I came to pick Mamaw up for a round of appointments. I had heard my uncle tell her multiple times that I was going to be driving her to the doctor, and yes, Hayley is old enough to drive, and yes, Hayley is smart enough to talk to the doctor. (We were at that point in her dementia). Finally, she decided she was ready to go, and I said, “Alright, Mamaw, let’s get in the car.” She looked at me very alarmed and said, “In your car? Are you driving me?” I gently replied, “Yes, Mamaw, I’m driving you. Is something wrong?” Without missing a beat, my very own Miss Daisy looked at me and said with the seriousness of a Supreme Court judge, “Yes, something’s wrong. You can’t drive worth a s—.” If you have a Miss Daisy type in your life, eat those moments with her up, ya’ll. They are more precious than gold…even if they don’t help you learn to drive. ;-)

Xoxo,
Hayley and Riley (the dog who agrees his Momma could use some driving lessons)

These Things I Believe

I wasn’t planning on writing today, but this prompt popped up in my inbox: “For today’s post, tell us three things you believe in your heart to be true. Tell us three things you believe in your heart to be false.” My first thought was, “I like it.” My second thought was, “Uh…what do I believe?” I like this post, because it feels meaningful to me and on many levels, I do know what I believe about all sorts of things, but it’s also been a hard one for me to get going, because how do you pick just six things you believe to be true or false? I mean, I believe lots of things to be true: God is real. I will always work with kids. I am a horrible person without coffee. Richard Simmons is dying to be my bestie. (Ahem…the post said things I believe to be true not things that necessarily are true.) I also am confident in many things I believe to be false: Broccoli is tasty. (How about…no). A woman’s place is in the kitchen. (Eat one made from scratch meal by me, and you too, will change your mind about this). Cleanliness is next to godliness. (Jesus and I talked about it, and he told me St. Peter won’t be looking under my bed before he calls me into heaven.) But which of my beliefs matter most to me? Let’s check it out together.

Things which I believe in my heart to be true:

1. The people nearest to our hearts, even after they have departed this world, never completely leave us. I actually talked about this with friends while running yesterday, and it was the first thing that popped in my head when I read this prompt. When I say I believe our loved ones never really leave us, even in death, I am not saying I believe in boogedy-boogedy Scooby Doo style ghosts. Instead, I believe the people we love the most are always with us in some way, shape, or form, and most of the time, we never know they are there, but sometimes, in a rare moment, we feel their presence so strongly that nothing can explain the feeling other than acknowledging that loved one was there. Does that mean I believe white robed, golden haloed, ethereal angels pop up in our bedrooms when we are sad? No…I believe God uses our loved ones in profoundly simple ways to reach out to us in the most random of moments to let us know they are there, He is there, and all is well.

A few months after my Papaw died, my Mamaw and I sat at her kitchen table quietly talking. She was in her usual seat at the table, I was in mine, and Papaw’s was painfully empty. I missed him terribly as did she, but neither of us spoke of it. It hurt too much. Then, in the middle of our conversation, her voice faded away, and at the same moment, she and I both turned and stared at Papaw’s chair. Not glanced- stared- like something had pulled us both in that direction and wouldn’t let us turn our eyes away. Just as randomly as we both looked to his chair at the same moment, our gaze broke at the same time, and as we looked back at each other, she gave me the most peaceful smile, and said, “Hmmmmm…” and got up from the table and walked away. In that moment, my mind was reeling wondering what had just happened, but I look back, and I know in my heart it was just Papaw checking on his girls. After his death, Mamaw spent a great deal of time living her life as if Papaw was still alive…ironing his church clothes, turning down his bed, setting his place at the table. Do I think she suffered from clinical dementia? Absolutely. I also think, however, in some moments, she did those things not because her mental state was deteriorating with age, but because to her, he was there. I know she could feel it, because I have felt it, too. I believe in my heart that we are never, ever alone.

2. Kids are the best source of goodness on this earth. I believe this with my whole heart. I know, I know. We hear and say it all the time, “Kids these days…” Kids these days are hard. They are different from kids when we were kids. They are more and more challenging to teach and raise every day. Newsflash! Kids have always been hard. Kids have always been challenging to teach and raise. The behaviors and tendencies of children change with the world, and so do the ways we teach and raise them. It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg…do their behaviors change, because of the way we are raising them, or are we changing the way are raising them, because children have changed? Has the world changed our youth, or have our youth changed the world? It’s all very complicated, but I believe in my heart this truth: At the core of their being, children are good…SO good. In my 3rd graders, I see the pure hearts of kids who I don’t have to tell to go play with the new student who is alone- they just do it instinctively. I read serious, heartfelt handwritten letters to a soldier they have never met telling him all the things they love and how they are thankful he protects them. That mouthy kid you just put in timeout for talking back one more time? They still love you, Mom and Dad. I know, because they cry for you on you early dismissal days when they are afraid you have forgotten to come pick them up. That rowdy kid whose recess I just took away, because he can’t ever just do what I have asked the first time? He still loves me. I know, because he sneak attack hugs me on the way in from recess…even on a day when I took it away. Kids are so good, ya’ll. Believe it.

3. All dogs go to heaven. I just know they do. I have to believe that. I just can’t imagine that our God could create something as pure of heart and loyal  as a dog without intending to reunite us again someday. I don’t buy into any of the theories that dogs don’t have feelings or memories or any human-like cognitive or emotional qualities. I live with a dog who doesn’t know he’s a dog , and I believe he has a spirit and a heart that God loves just like mine. My two preceding passages were lengthy, but I have to keep this one short, because I am having to face, a little more everyday, that my little buddy is getting old. It hurts my heart to think about, so I will dwell on this belief: All dogs go to heaven, and I hope, when the time comes for my Riley, it will be filled with squeaky toys that never bust. 

Things I believe in my heart to be false:

1. “Just date! You’ll feel better when you’re dating again.” Before I elaborate, let me just say I believe this to be false for me not necessarily everyone. Now back, to this “just date” stuff. This was the advice I was given a lot after a terrible break-up, and I still get it now. For some people, the whole just date around thing works, but it’s not for me. After the afore mentioned break-up, I went on my first date about a month into being single again. I was excited. My friends were excited. I picked out a cute new outfit. I got to choose where we were going to eat. I got my dinner paid for. I got doors opened for me. I got walked to my car. I got a hug goodnight. And that was it. No more calls. No more texts. No more dates. I was so disappointed, and the irony of it was I wasn’t really even attracted to him. He was nice. We had a good time. Neither of us felt a spark (hence the hug goodnight). But yet…I was bummed. Hello? Was it not clear to this guy that I was a newly single goddess waiting to be worshipped? That’s what my friends told me I was! Was he deaf, blind, or just stupid? Something was wrong with this picture! Nevermind that I wasn’t really interested. I needed to feel pretty and sought after. Instead, I felt like his sister, and with him, I didn’t want to be more than a sister type which made it all the more confusing. Fast forward over the span of about eight months, and the “just date” life continued. I went on date after date after date. Some were good. Some were awful. In the end, they were all united by the common factor of “not gonna work.” In the end, all I felt was tired of trying. I needed a break…a break I should have given myself at the end of the relationship that led to “just date.” I needed time to breathe and figure out who I was without him. I needed to start fresh on my own. I needed to do anything but “just date.” Do I regret it? No, because I learned a lot from it, but I have only been on one date since August, and that’s ok. Now, when I need to feel special, I just go to the local full service car wash where the guys working always treat me like a lady and make me laugh in a no-pressure way. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince? Maybe…maybe not. Maybe you just need room to breathe before you try again.

2.”The whole world is going to hell.” Listen, I know there is a lot of bad in the world. I am a news junkie. I can singlehandedly put a damper on good pizza and beer  by discussing all the horrible things that can go wrong on an airplane flight. I can Debbie Downer with the best of them, my friends, but the good news is I choose not to. Why? Because all I have to do is look around me and see that the world is not all NPR style doom and gloom. Rainy days hold peace and rest. Disasters and tragedies often bring out the best in people…strangers and neighbors alike sharing the common bond of humanity. Disappointments reveal lessons learned. Even the harshest winter will always come to an end. (Slowly but surely, my Southern friends!) Spring always comes. The storms don’t last forever. There are always people looking to help others. Does the bad ever completely go away? No. Utopian life does not exist. Does goodness always shine somewhere in the world? Always. Does it take some effort to find the goodness sometimes? Of course. But it’s always there. No, the whole world is not going to hell. There is too much good- people sharing, children loving, volunteers working- for me to believe that.

3. “One person can’t make a difference.” When I graduated college, I bought myself an expensive leather bracelet embossed with the words, “I will make a difference.” I wore it often my first year of teaching. I believed those words so much. Then, someone made fun of it hinting that I only believed it, because I was an innocent (aka totally clueless) first year teacher. It broke my heart, and it embarassed me. Nearly 10 years later, I could kick myself for believing I was wrong. I can make a difference. I am a teacher, for crying out loud. I have the chance every day to make a difference, but what’s even more powerful than that is we all have the chance every day to make a difference in the world. Really, we all do. Making a difference doesn’t have to be curing cancer. Making a difference can be as simple as a kind word or gesture to someone you know needs it, or even more special, a kind word or gesture just because- whether you know someone needs it or not. The old saying tells us “no man is an island,” and it’s true. You are not Tom Hanks trapped on a deserted island. You are a person with a beating heart who possesses the power to make a difference no matter how small. My favorite quote from Dr. Suess’s The Lorax says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” I believe the whole world is not going to hell, because I believe in the difference makers. I can be one. You can be one. And we should. One person can make a difference. Put a whole lot of “one person” making a difference together, and you’ll end up with a whole lot of something special. That’s one more thing in my heart I believe to be true.

                       Xoxo,

                           Hayley and Riley (the dog who will barrel through the gates of heaven someday ready to get the party started)

Who Invited Father Time?

Hey, there- it’s me, again! I had settled myself into a nice routine of once a week blogging, and then I got really busy with a charity committment I had here in Knoxville. That’s over now, and I am on spring break, loving life, and ready to write. I really should be scrubbing baseboards and cleaning closets- you know the things grown-ups are supposed to do with extra free time, but the thing is, there’s something about spring break that makes me feel very carefree and un-adult (is that even a word?), so I am shaking off responsibility for a little longer and going for this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge.

Here is a direct quote from this week’s challenge and my jumping off point:

“For this week’s writing challenge, we’re asking you to explore what age means to you. Is the the loss of youth, or the cultivation of wisdom? Do things get better as you grow older, or worse? There are many ways to interpret age, often depending on your relationship with the passing of time.”

I don’t always do the weekly writing challenges nor do I always write the daily prompts I receive. Some speak to me, some don’t. Some I avoid, and some, I feel like, chase me down screaming for me to tackle them. This one, however, tugged at my heart a little, and said, “Awww…come on. This one will be fun.”

It seems a little precocious for me to be writing my deepest thoughts about age when I am only 31. I’m not going to lie…I have lived an exceptionally charmed life. I am not a street smart girl from the school of hard knocks, and I am not wise beyond my years from a lifetime of struggling to get by on my own. I’m your average 31 year old woman living in a condo with a messy closet and a stinky dog. What do I know about the great unknowns of age and aging?

When I decided I wanted to write in response to this topic, this was the line in the challenge post that pulled me in: “There are many ways to interpret age, often depending on your relationship with the passing of time.” It made me stop and question what is my relationship with the passing of time? How do I feel about it? Do I embrace it? Do I pretend it’s not happening while I bathe in wrinkle cream? (Seriously, ya’ll, I’m thirty-flipping-one. Where do those lines come from?!) Do I celebrate my journey and acknowledge 31 is really young, or do I mourn 31 years already gone? I gave it a lot of thought, and, I decided, in the Facebook lingo of my generation, “It’s complicated.”

Age means a lot of things to me both good and bad. 17 is when my parents divorced. 18 was going away to college from the tiny no red light town where I grew up to a place that seemed so far away and so loud and so not home. 19 was the year I wrecked my car twice in one week (whoops!). 20 was the begininng of my struggle with anorexia and serious food issues. At 22, my sweet Papaw went into a nursing home. At 23, I accepted he would never be able to come back home, and I watched the heart of our family start to change. 24 is when my childhood best friend and I had a falling out that permanently altered one of the longest, most valuable relationships I have ever had. The ages 24 and 28 are the years when I lost my Papaw and Mamaw, the two most precious grandparents I could have ever hoped to have. 29 was the worst breakup ever- the one that knocked about 15 pounds and a lot of my sanity off of me.The age 31 is my life now without a husband and kids when all of my friends already have both. 31 is me closely examining my very blonde hair in the mirror trying to decide if that’s a gray hair or one that’s so blonde it just looks gray (seriously, someone with better eyes needs to check that out for me.) 31 is me acting like I have got this whole adult thing figured out then worrying, because I really have no clue how this business of being a grown up works. 31 is me panicking, because I am thirty-freaking-one (have I mentioned that?!), and how did that even happen?! (I know, I know, you people reading this who are much older than 31 are laughing hysterically at my youthful ignorance.) 

I had lunch with a friend yesterday who mentioned that he was 61. Astounded, I said, “61?! Really? Did I know you were 61?” He reminded me that yes, I should know that, but I swear, in my mind, he is frozen in time at 50, because that’s about how old he was when we met, and in my mind, neither of us have aged. He’s 50, and I’m 20, right? No? Oh…well when did all that time go by, and where was I? Where have I been for all of these crazy fast 31 years? Oh…I know. I was living…and loving it.

At 16, I was driving so slow and taking so long on my driver’s test that Daddy was sure I had failed, and I was giggling with delight to tell him I had passed. At 17, I was so joyously, wonderfully carefree headed into my senior year and ready to take on the world. At 18, I was learning how to think for myself and form my own opinions and ideas outside of my tiny hometown, and I am still so grateful for that experience. When I was 21, I was…being 21. Enough said. When I was 22, 23, and 24, I was spending every Saturday morning in the nursing home with my Papaw making the absolute best memories of my life. When I was 22, I put on my “teacher hat” for the very first time, and I welcomed my first group of babies into my classroom, and my heart, and I was forever changed for the better in that moment. At 23, I brought home the horribly rotten dog who stole my heart and keeps me company through life. When I was 27, I got to hold my two best friends’ babies for the first time. When I was 29, I learned that there are way worse things than being single (WAY worse!) At 30, I started this blog with the Single Woman 30 Day challenge, and it was honestly the most liberating, healing thing I have ever done for myself. At 31, I am healthy, strong, and fit and the most in control of my eating issues as I have ever been. I sometimes worry about being single and childless, because holy crap, I am 31! But..sometimes, I am really at peace about it, because for the love of God, I am only 31.

Last week, I did a few appearances on local television to promote the charity event of which I was chair. At one station, the segment before mine featured a group of high school girls modeling the latest in prom fashion. At first glance, I thought “Eh, whatever…hurry it up,” but after I gave them a second look, I couldn’t stop watching them. The girls came off the stage into the room where I was waiting, completely oblivious to me, which I was grateful for, because I was so transfixed by them. They posed for pictures, giggled, talked boys, posed for more pictures, fixed their hair, and giggled some more. Someone asked how old they were, and “17″ was the answer. They were so young, so sweet, so innocent, so…17. For one brief moment, I wanted to freeze time for them. It made my heart ache- seriously, my heart was wistful. I wanted to say, from all of my super wise 31 years, “Oh, you sweet things, I hope you love the heck out of being 17, because you are going to blink, and you’ll be 31.” Then, just like that, my name was called for my segment, the moment was over, time was unfrozen, and I was 31 and living my very adult life instead of getting ready for the prom. I blinked…and 17 was gone. So cliche’, and yet so true. 

So, how would I describe my relationship with age? I guess, in one word, bittersweet. I think it’s only human nature to look back at the passing of time with both sadness and rose colored glasses. I think it’s also human nature to look forward to the time that has not yet passed with both hope as well as fear and trepidation. It’s a mixed bag for me, and maybe that will change as I age, or maybe not. I think there are people in our lives who will always, no matter their age, seem frozen in time to us, and the harsh realities of age will hurt when suddenly we realize the ones who are immortal to our hearts aren’t immortal as physical beings. But there will also come those moments when we realize age and the passing of time have their own beauties and joys…new babies, new journeys, new friends, new stories to tell. Being 17 passes as does the youthful innocence of that age, but joy? Joy doesn’t go away with age. It just sheds it’s glittery prom dress and puts on new clothes…and maybe the occasional gray hair and laugh line. 17? You were so good to me. 31? You have been really good to me so far. The many ages yet to come for me? I’m so excited. I’ll try not to blink…I know it will be gone just like that.

             Xoxo,

                 Hayley and Riley (10 year old, white muzzled pal!)     

Silence is What?!

Before I start this post, let me just say I am not a hermit who spends all of her weekend time blogging about her dog and Diet Coke addiction. I actually have a very busy life, and Fridays are a long day for me as I get to school by 6:15, go straight to the gym to teach a class after school, and return home about 6 PM. After a long day at the end of a long week, I typically choose to be fairly antisocial on Friday nights. Even an extrovert like me needs to recharge my batteries before I hit the ground running again Saturday morning. Just wanted to throw that out there in case you were considering adding me to a prayer list, because you think I need a social life. :-)

My post this week comes from the Daily Post weekly writing challenge which challenged bloggers this week to “make ‘silence’ a presence” in a post. Now, if you know me well, you probably just snorted your drink out your nose, because “silence” and “Hayley” go together like “Justin Bieber” and “good music.” They don’t. I will be the first to admit that silence is not my nature, and in many instances is not even my preference, but something about this writing challenged intrigued me. How would I, who am so adverse to silence that I talk in my sleep, write about a topic that I seem to know so little about? Silence is golden? Negative, ghost rider. Not buying it. But what is silence to me? What role does silence play in my life? Am I really never silent? Do I even want to be silent? It gave me a lot to ponder.

Before I can really delve deep into silence, I feel like I have to explore and explain why I love noise. Not noise in a negative sense. Noise as in the sounds of life. With noise comes the delightful sound of a 1st grader reading a funny book for the first time. Have you ever heard a child squeal with laughter at just the right moment? It is magic that cannot be found in silence. While I am on the topic of kids, have you ever heard a kid who is a struggling reader finally sound out that really hard word? Or what about that moment when you hear a child speaking kindly to a child no one else has befriended? Silence is what? I don’t know, but I know I would choose noise every time in those moments.

In noise, I have the precious memory of my Papaw’s voice booming, “Hey, Fat Cat!” everytime I walked in the door, and his laugh…oh. my. word…his laugh. I try not to live with regrets, but I do regret not recording Papaw’s voice before he died. I would give up so very many things to be able to hear his voice or his laugh just one more time. Silence doesn’t hold that for me.

Sound delivers me to and motivates me to stay in the moment in the grittiest part of my workouts. Noise is chatting with my best friends on a long run. It’s laughing really hard and loud with my coworkers at lunch. It’s my puppy’s sweet doggy snore. Noise is the soft rhythm of my fan lulling me to sleep at night. It’s how I think out loud when I am alone. It’s the carrier of the Southern accents I love so much. It’s my favorite outlet of praise and worship. Even the Bible tells us to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” Seriously, ya’ll, if Jesus is on board with noise, then I am saying LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE! Clearly, silence is not my nature. It’s just not. Silence is what?! Crap. Total crap.

This might have been how I would have directed this entire post if it hadn’t been for a conversation with a dear friend and coworker this week. As we were catching up, I told her some things I had been praying about, and she told me she had really been focusing on not just praying but actually stopping to listen. The verse, “Be still and know that I am God” kept running through her head. Be still. Listen. Know. Rest. Stop. Talking. This conversation with her made me think of this writing challenge, and it really pushed me to think about the beauty of silence. Is there beauty in silence? Can I find beauty in silence? Can I even be silent long enough to do any serious consideration of silence? (I tried timing my silence…8 minutes was all I managed. Total fail). Needless to say, it was hard. Really hard in fact, but here is what I found in the sound of slience.

Silence comes with the look of deep concentration on a child’s face when they are trying so hard to figure out that word or solve that problem. They are silent, because they are so focused on doing their best and making you proud.

Silence is the peace that was in the room after I said my last “I love you” to my Papaw as he was dying. It was so still and so painfully perfect that anything but silence would have ruined that precious moment.

I always smile when my constantly overly excited dog finally stops snoring and settles into a silent slumber. He is never as sweet and restful as he is when he is all snuggled up.

Silence is the reward a teacher or a parent gets when you control your temper when your kids drive you to that point where you just. can’t. take. them. anymore. Can. not. CAN. NOT. But you keep your nuclear meltdown under control until you get to the bathroom. Alone. Where it is silent. So silent, in fact, that when you think, “Thank you, JESUS, for the silence in this bathroom” God says, “SHHHH! This is a silent place.” (If you think a single girl with no kids doesn’t know what this feels like, come spend one day in my classroom. During a full moon, it will only take one hour until you too are sucking your thumb in the faculty bathroom soaking up the silence as long as you can.)

On a cool fall morning in the little valley where I grew up, there is the kind of silence you can only find in the country. Because I am a biased Southern girl, I like to think it’s the kind of silence you can only find in the country in the South…a soothing silence that is so mesmerizing you are almost scared to move, because one false step could ruin it all. The silence of shade trees in autumn colors and farm animals still asleep and farm land before the day’s work has begun is so unique that you just have to experience it to know what I mean. I woke up to the sound of that silence on the mornings when we buried my Mamaw and Papaw. It had been a long time since I had lived in the country, but when I woke up to that sweet, small town, Southern silence, it was like I had never left. I let that silence wash over me, and it was such a comfort to my soul.

Silence is found in the joy of a big bear hug from a friend you are so excited to see that you just don’t know what to say when you see them, so instead you just SQUEEZE them. Silence is the comfort of a friend who knows that sometimes when you are hurt, talking it out DOESN’T always help and just leaves you be. Silence is in the patience of a much more reserved friend who has always lovingly embraced my boisterous nature, and silence is the grace she possesses that would never be genuine in me but is oh so perfectly her. Silence is what? Oh…silence is not so bad after all.

So, there you have it. My take on silence: the good, the bad, and the noisy. I definitely feel like I still stink at the whole “be still and know” part of prayer and meditation. I know there are people who know me who wish I could maybe not be so loud all the time. I also know God loves me and forgives me even when there is more “squirm, talk, and worry” during my time with Him than there is being still and knowing. I also know that I am super blessed to have friends who love me for who I am: loud, talkative, opinionated, and almost never silent. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to try to go appreciate the joyful silence of my cozy Friday night. I will be hiding in the bathroom if you need me. Shhhhhh…

           Xoxo,

              Hayley and Riley (the silent, snoozing pooch)

*This is for my sweet, long time friend who I won’t name, but so she will recognize herself, I will say, “WOO-HOP!” I love you and your peaceful, quiet grace. I need some of that in my life. :-)  

Love is Louder

It’s Friday night, and I am home with the pup and blogging. Oh, and it’s Valentine’s Day. So…I am single, home with a stinky dog blogging on a Friday night that just so happens to be Valentine’s Day. You’re probably thinking, “Great. Here goes the single girl/bitter man hater on her stereotypical anti-Valentine’s day rant.” Here’s what I say to that: Roses are red. My toenails are pink. Valentine’s Day, you really stink. That’s profound, I know. The truth is, I don’t really care for Valentine’s Day, and I never have, and even when I am happily married someday, I still probably won’t be a fan of what I see as a Hallmark holiday, BUT, I am a fan of love, and since love abounds on Valentine’s Day (ahem, it should everyday), I present to you…a blog fully devoted to things I love. I hope you enjoy it more than a box of Walgreens chocolate.

Hayley’s Love List

1. Roses are red. I love Diet Coke. I thought I could quit it. That was a joke.

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 2. I fell in love with running. I fell out of love with running. I got saddlebags the size of Mississippi. I started to fall back in love with running. I broke my foot. Afore mentioned saddlebags grew to the size of Texas. I am ready to fall in love with running again.

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3. Kids- I love kids and being a teacher, because they do things like this:

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And this…

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But since love and life and children aren’t always perfect and sweet, I also love kids, because they do things like this:

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Did ya’ll know Neptune has a pig? No? Well, now you do. You’re welcome. Remember to share your Jeopardy winnings with me someday. (Alex: This planet has a pig. Super educated blog reader: What is Neptune?)

Oh, and I can’t forget this gem…

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Because nothing says “Valentine’s Day” like poop and hot dogs. (If you are not laughing right now, we seriously cannot be friends. It just won’t work.)

4. (I think…I lost count) This guy.

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Short story behind this pic: YES, RICHARD, I WILL BE YOUR VALENTINE!

Little bit longer story: I love Richard Simmons. I can’t help it. I love his positive attitude. I love how he encourages and supports literally everyone in their weight loss and fitness journey. I love, love, love his kindess. I love his willingness to poke fun at himself. If you don’t follow him on Facebook, you are really missing out. He is an absolute joy. Richard, if you ever read this, when I get married, I want to have my bachelorette party at your LA gym, Slimmons. I really think we would be besties. I am so for real.

5.

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I don’t really have words for this. “Mutts” comic strip is another great joy to follow on Facebook if you’re an animal lover. This is for my furry little Valentine, Riley-dog. I say it often…there’s no love like dog love.

6. This verse: “No one has ever seen God, but if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us.” (1 John 4:12 NLT). This goes well with a quote I saw today from “Love Does” by Bob Goff: “While you’re figuring out what God’s plan is for your life, just go love everybody- that’s the plan.” That makes me get a little teary eyed, because I feel like, in this very adult but still very young stage of my life, that I spend a lot of time trying to figure out God’s plan for my life. The who, the where, the what, the when, the why, the how- I want to know it. Now. Yesterday, really. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to figure out where God is going to lead me instead of just letting him lead me. I love people, and I love to serve, help, and love others, and I feel like I do a pretty good job of that, but what could happen if I quit trying to figure it all out, and just let Him lead me? It’s so easy to be selfish and think of ourselves first when in reality, His plans are far greater than our own. I love the idea of God’s plan being about loving others the way He first loved us…not about getting married, having a baby, scoring an awesome job, or building your dream home. Those are all great things, but how awesome is this: “Just go love everybody- that’s the plan.” I’m on board with that.

7. This quote from Brant Hansen of Air 1 Radio: “Marriage is a gloriously difficult, wonderful thing. Single-hood, on the other hand, is a gloriously difficult, wonderful thing.” Many of you know this blog started as part of what was called the Single Woman 30 Day blog challenge. It for sure changed the way I think about being single, for the better, but it’s still hard at times. I cried when I read that quote today, and I cried again just now as I typed it, because it’s just so good. Marriage, dating, single-hood…it all has to do with love, and it’s all gloriously difficult and wonderful all at the same time. Those words feel like a big, warm hug to this single girl. Whether you’re single or not, I hope you feel the hope in those words. I think it’s this: Life is beautiful and good- no matter what.

8. And last, but certainly not least, I am going to give you a fabulous quote from the internet sensation, Kid President, but let me give you a little background first. If you don’t know Kid President, YouTube him, Facebook him, follow him on Twitter, do anything you can to get in on the fun and joy this kid brings. His message is one of hope, joy, acceptance, service, positivity, and all sorts of other mushy, good stuff. His videos are the most delightful thing on the Internet (sorry, Richard…), and I cannot get enough of him and the team behind all the awesome stuff he puts into the world. I saw this quote on his Twitter today, and I melted, and I knew I had to include it in this blog: “Just a reminder: Love is always louder. For real.” In a world full of hate, sorrow, anger, and just plain old ugliness, cling to love. Whether it’s Diet Coke, a dog, a funny kid, a world famous group fitness instructor, or maybe just the sweet little old lady next door who brought you Walgreens chocolates, I hope you will always cling to love, and share it with others. “Love is always louder. For real.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

            Xoxo,

                 Hayley and Riley (my furry valentine)

PS All I want for Valentine’s Day is for Richard Simmons and Kid President to get together for a video. The internet would explode. Ok. Maybe just the internet at my house. ;-)                 

 

The Life of Riley

“Write a story about yourself from the perspective of another object, thing, animal, or person.”

**Today’s post is written by special guest author Riley-dog.**

My name is Riley, and I am a dog. Not just any dog…I am the dog of “A Girl and Her Dog.” I think that means I’m kind of a big deal. If you’re wondering how a dog can be writing a blog post, I’m going to assume you have no imagination and probably don’t talk in funny voices to cute animals. You should probably go find a different blog to read. If you’re still with me, you clearly understand that I have important things to say. You can repay me for giving up my bi-hourly nap time to post with squeaky toys and a new bone. This post says it’s supposed to be a story about my girl from my perspective, but since we’re a team, I’m going to tell you about me, too, because let’s face it, I’m cuter than she is and probably have a better story to tell. So, here it is, the life of Riley and his girl.

My girl and I have been together for 8 of my 10 years. As soon as I saw her, I knew she was going to pick me. She laughed at my crooked ear. She clapped when I fetched the ball. She said, “Awww, dammit, he sheds” when she saw my fur in her lap. She melted to a puddle when I showed her my teddy bear eyes to make her forget the fur in her lap. She hugged me. She kissed my forehead. She said, “He’s mine.” She took me home, and that’s how she became my girl.

My girl and I have a happy life. One of my favorite things we do is called “walk”, and we do it at my favorite place called “outside.” I like outside. When we go there, my girl listens to music, and my brain turns on, and goes like this: “Walk. Walk. Run. Stop. Sniff. Sniff. Run. Turn. Sniff. Walk. Walk. SQUIRREL! PANIC! BARK! LOUD! SQUIRREL! Oh, wait! My girl! Where’s my girl? THERE SHE IS! Awwww, man, I lost the squirrel! Walk. Walk. Sniff.” Doesn’t that sound awesome to you? No? Oh. Maybe that’s why you’re a person and not a dog. People, even my girl, are sometimes too busy to notice the important stuff like birds and squirrels and digging up bones. My favorite part of “walk” time is when those little people who play outside stop and talk to my girl. They ask, in their little people voices, “Can I pet your dog?” I hear “pet” and “dog” and pray, “Please say yes. Please say yes. Oh, please, oh, PLEASE say yes.” I love the little people and how they call me “doggie” and scratch my ears in just the right spot. They hug me tight, and tell me they love me in a way that makes a dog feel extra special. My girl knows I love her best, but she also knows my ears perk up when I hear the little people and smiles as she tells them they can pet me. “He’s friendly,” she says. My heart pounds harder at the joy of the love from the little people and seeing my girl smile. I think that means I am a good dog. I am grateful for “walk” and “outside” and my girl.

Another thing I love about life with my girl is “night night.” When she tells me we are getting ready to go night night, I know she is going to put on the soft clothes and get in the warm bed and turn on the quiet fan. She will pick up a book, and I will get on the bed beside her. Sometimes, I warm her feet. Sometimes, I lay my head on her belly. Sometimes, when I beat her to the bed, and she makes me move over, I “hmph” at her and point my butt at her face. She needs to know who’s boss, you know. But even when I am unhappy with her, I love night night time. My girl is too busy, sometimes. The computer, the phone, the papers, the work, the everything she does at home that is not loving ME- it’s too much, and it makes me sad, sometimes, and it makes her sad, sometimes, too. At night night time, though, she puts down the phone, turns off the computer, and if she talks, it’s to me, and if she moves, it’s to scratch my ears. Her words change from “lesson plans” and “volunteer hours” to “Riley-dog, you’re my best buddy.” I think that’s human talk for “you’re a good dog.”

Life with my girl is not always happy, though. Every day, she pulls out the machine thing that makes her hair not be wet anymore. She puts on the fancy shoes…the ones that don’t tie which are the ones that don’t mean “walk”. She says, “let’s go, buddy,” but I don’t go. I know what she’s doing. Leaving. I hate it. She opens the front door and jingles the leash. I run to the landing of the stairs, act like I am going to come, and as soon as she reaches for me, I bolt like lightning, hide, and go totally limp when she finds me forcing her to carry me to my crate. I hear, without fail, “Dammit, Riley!” Sometimes, I think “dammit” is part of my name, too. I don’t think it means I am a good dog, but I’m not sorry. Why doesn’t my girl see that I need her to stay with me? She puts me in my crate, scratches my ears, and then, she’s gone. I whimper. I paw. I cry. I flip over my water bowl. I’m still not sorry. I’m not sure if my girl has been gone two hours or two weeks, but it doesn’t matter. My girl left me. Once upon a time, my girl used to leave me out of the crate when she left, but then some psycho broke into the house and tore up a bunch of walls and stuff. On multiple occasions. And left drywall in my whiskers and paws. It wasn’t me, I swear. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Either way, my girl left me then, and she still leaves me now. She acts like she has to the pay the bills or something.

After an eternity in my crate, I always hear the same sounds…the garage door…the keys…the bag dropping. I make my best “I hate you for leaving me alone in this hell house all day” face. Be cool. Be still. Don’t blink. Don’t wag. She’s walking toward me. She’s calling me “buddy.” Don’t show weakness. She called me “dammit”. Don’t wag. She’s reaching for the latches. The switching starts. My tail wiggles. My feet wriggle. One latch slides. My ears perk up. My body is a traitor! The other latch slides. My tail starts to thump.Stop it! She pulls the door open slowly. She calls me “sweet boy.” I think that means I am a good dog, and I can’t help it. I explode out of the crate. I jump. I wiggle. I dance. I run to the front door. I run to the back door. I run to the kitchen. I run up the stairs. I run down the stairs. I make it really hard for my girl to get the leash on, so we can do “outside,” but I just can’t help it. My girl came back! She came back for me! And you know what? She comes back for me every time she leaves me. Every time I chew the wall…every time I am “dammit”…every time I squeak the toy in her face at 3 AM…every time I mess up “walk” by pulling her down trying to get to the squirrel…my girl comes back for me every time. Every time she opens my crate, I see the same smile I saw the day she chose me, and I know her heart speaks the same words from that day: “He’s mine,” and I know that means I am a good dog. I live, and love, the life of Riley.

                         Xoxo,

                            Riley and Hayley (My girl…I think she’s kind of a big deal)    

 

 

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