Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Leaving Las Vegas

 “Beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad, but it's what's in the middle that counts."

As the chapter to Las Vegas ends and a new one in Dallas begins this quote keeps bouncing through my thoughts. Nothing can be closer to the truth. In a nutshell the beginning of this chapter was one of the scariest parts of my life. The end of the chapter is sad, the word to best describe it would be bittersweet. The middle was full of so much laughter, so much life, so much... I sit staring at the beautiful pool where we shared so many moments. I think this pool is what I'll miss the most. The walks as the sun set behind the mountains and the way the palm trees swayed in the wind. I look back to three years ago as we began this journey and want to tell that little girl it's going to be okay. I was digging my heels in the sand, hanging on with every inch of my being that God wasn't going to make me move. It was one of the main reasons I got out of the news business; I knew one day being a reporter would make me leave the state and by God I was not going to leave my loved ones for another state. God laughed. He had His own plans.

Of course, there were hard times when you want your family and best friends right there. We spent Thanksgiving with lovely friends instead of going to be with our families. We don't regret it. We made some wonderful lifelong friends in our new land. People brought us under their wing and treated us as family. Of course, it wasn't the same as it was back "home," but we made new memories with new people. We are so very blessed with the people God brought into our lives in Las Vegas. No matter the love that surrounds you, family will always be home to us. To me narrowing it down even more to West Texas will always be home to me. Being in the same state only a few hours away from my Dad and Brenda makes my heart smile. To be only an hour away by plane so they can see Walker, it's priceless to me. We will be under an hour away from Nick's parents meaning they will get to see Walker a lot as well.

Three years plays tricks on you. It's yesterday, but it's far away. You cannot simply move away and think nothing changes. People change, lives change, cities change. We know. Nick and I are some of the most annoyingly loyal people you'll ever meet. We love people hard. We knew some friendships wouldn't be as strong as we thought while others would be stronger than ever, distance is no matter. In life people can say they have no time for this or that, but in life the truth is we can always make time for our priorities. I have a friend that texts me every single day just to check in. I have a very best friend that is so crazy busy we get to talk every few weeks on the phone, but we pick up like no time has passed. One of these friends lives in Dallas. One lives in Big Spring. The point is that relationships of any kind that are loyal and true are built on this level of comfort. A friend visited us here that I had only spoken to via Facebook, but she came out and called and we hung out, hadn't hung out in probably a decade... no time had passed. We were still the silly teenagers, yet we were in our 30s. Nick and I knew us being far away wouldn't be an issue because we would never let friendships perish. We added friends along the way and now we will be loyal to those people we leave behind in Las Vegas.

We end this chapter with Granger and Walker, not here when the chapter started. We cannot imagine what life was like before they were in it either! I am excited to tell Walker tales of this place as he gets older and I will make sure he always knows it is a very special place. I only wish he could remember. We'll tell stories of going to the Strip only twenty minutes away. It seemed as if we stepped into another world as we entered the Strip. It's magical and unique, quite entertaining. The lights dazzle as they bounce in the night. We'll tell stories of going skiing only forty minutes away as we entered a cold, beautiful world in Mt. Charleston. The weather was always almost too perfect. I missed the squirrels and the big thunderstorms of Texas. There's so many things about this land that I love. It's just different than Texas, so I cannot even put them in the same category. Texas is Home, that is the main thing that draws me back. No matter how far away you travel, home is where your know your heart lies. We will leave with tears in our eyes, but we leave with happiness in our hearts.

Endings are sad. They're tough. We look back on being scared to death at the beginning. I would cry many nights asking God why He wanted me here. Then somewhere in the middle of it life was okay. I was okay. God put me in this strange bubble where not too many crazy things happened back home. We missed a few weddings, a lot of birthday parties, a few births... but, we were there for the big stuff. We got to see our families as much as possible. We got to travel to Hawaii and across the states. We were just fine. Now a new chapter begins. It's scary. It really is because you just never know what ahead in this new chapter. Fear of the unknown is the scariest thing as the page turns. Leaving Las Vegas, we wave with a tear and a smile. To many it's a town where gambling and lights come to life. To us it's a town of love, hope and beauty. Turn the page.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Freak Tornado in the Dead of Winter

You blink and life fast forwards 16 years. It's quite strange that each year I still write as if I'm trying to find every single thing to say. I wrote in 2013, "Sometimes I think it's time to stop writing about it. It does not define me. Somehow I decide each year I have to share my thoughts or they just sit in my mind spewing around me. Truthfully in my heart I think at times it's just milking every little ounce of anything I have left of her. If I don't write, if I don't think, will she forever be gone? Will anyone remember her? I get angry with myself when I cannot remember things. She was with me for 19 years, yet my mind blocks these parts out and she becomes this figure just standing in my imagination. She is no longer real this way and it is quite easy. Then I will dream of her and she is real again. I will hear a story that makes me remember her." This is why I write even when the fast forward key seems stuck on my old jambox.

This year the thing that kept coming to mind is that time of life. It hits me now when I am 16 years older, the truth. My mother passed suddenly on a Monday. I was back in college the next Monday. There were no questions asked, I was back. At the time people said it was strength. No, it was nothing like this. It was pure shock. When you are in the middle of a storm you aren't thinking about anything but survival. I was in such shock that I shut down. If you know me, when tragedy hits I don't cry. I've been to 26 funerals. I know a lot of people. I love a lot of people. But, I have a weird survival skill in that I ice up and brave the cold. It hits me later when I am alone and am able to deal with it myself. Oh, it's not a good thing. It's great to be strong; it's another to be icy. I've written many times about my ice melting. Back to that time of life... My dad is a true superhero. He took on this grief and he could have taken me in to stay with him for months to grieve together. No, he let his teenager daughter go back to live her life. He dealt with things in his own way. I so badly wanted to be so strong for him that when he would bring Mom up, I remember telling him we had to move on. I would do anything to protect him from feeling that pain, but I couldn't understand his pain of losing a wife. I only knew my own pain. And at that moment it was so blind, I was in such shock that I could feel nothing. We all change in 16 years. If the Julie today was this Julie at 19 she would have stayed home to protect the world, or so she thought. I would have tried to do all of the business things, clean out her closet and hide her purse so no one got sad when they saw it. Everyone did these things for me because they are the real superheroes.

You look back at being 19 and stare at the 35 year old in the mirror. Now I have my own son so I understand the love my mother had for me. I always said there was no way I could be as good as her. She was this pure woman that just "had it." She had this wit, this love, this zane for life. She was a legendary teacher whom everyone loved. Julie Adams Gray is none of that in my mind. Then it hit me one day with Walker. She did her best with me just like I am doing my best with him. Sometimes I hear something she would say and I laugh to myself as it comes out of my own mouth. I have the same deep love she had and I share him with the world just like she shared me with all her students. The problem is we figure this out at 35 instead of 19. All of the days I shut my door after dinner and watched TV in my bedroom or talked on the phone all night being a teenager... All of the days I rolled my eyes and told my mother she was nerdy...

Again, that time of life. It pulls at me now that she was a young 48. I didn't understand that was young until a few years ago. People don't pass of heart attacks at 48. It doesn't seem normal. It's like a freak tornado in the dead of winter. It happens, but it's just so few and far between that we don't usually register it. You see, it's no longer about grief, but about what happens after that storm. You're no longer in the middle. As I get older it's a lot about recognizing who Mom was as a person instead of just "Julie's mom." It's about wondering how people pass at young ages from strange things. It's about looking back in awe at all that has unfolded in those 16 years. You never thought God could bless you and all the superheroes around you with such a life. Life is always on the fastest speed. It's stuck. Spend some time watching a stupid show you don't want to with loved ones. Send your mom flowers for putting up with you in the teenager years. Sit and talk to your grandmother about her days on the farm to see the sparkle in her eyes as she rehashes the good old days. These are the things that matter. I don't take loved ones for granted. I might not be the best at telling them aloud how much they mean to me, but I can do it in my own way of writing. You blink and the fast forward button catapults you into another decade. Hold tight.





Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mommy is 35. I'm 18 Months.

 

Mommy is 35. I'm 18 months. When I was growing up my mother always captioned my Dad's birthday photos with something along these lines. So I turned 35 on January 19 and Walker turned 18 months on January 21. I am honestly amazed to say 35. That just sounds insane to me. I am still 17 in my mind. I didn't want to think about being 35, but knowing me I still want to celebrate! 

The week started with church and Disney on Ice. The Dallas Cowboys lost so we were very sad, but we were very excited to see Mickey skating on ice!!! Walker loved it!!! 

 

 

I really miss the big celebrations Nick and I always had for birthdays in Texas because we brought so many different groups of our friends together at one time. This year we did it more family style and it was just as amazing!!! I was very excited as Dad decided to come during the week (Brenda had to work so she stayed home)! We had such a wonderful time. The first night he was here we just hung out then we went to eat at Nora's, this amazing Italian eatery. I knew Walker wasn't feeling that great and, of course, the next day he had a fever and the sniffles. He had not yet had a cold!!! So his first cold comes when my Dad is here on my birthday week!!! Nick was so kind and took Dubby to the doctor for me and did all the business stuff so I could hang out with Dad. When Walker was feeling better we went to downtown Summerlin to shop and then out to dinner that night for my real birthday dinner! (Even though it was a day before)... I was sad to take Dad to the airport the next day. We had a good time sharing stories and watching TV all together. Walker is like a cat, you have to earn his love after a few days so he liked Papa Mark this visit! He even followed him up the stairs! I wish Walker had been well the entire time so Dad could see how crazy and fun he truly is all the time, but he got to see his sweet, vulnerable side this time! 


Dad wasn't thrilled about this picture and I wasn't excited that Walker's shirt is halfway up and he isn't posed perfectly, but that's also why it's so beautiful. Walker wasn't feeling well and fell asleep in Dad's lap. It's so sweet and special.


I had a great birthday! I spent most of the day texting or on the phone to amazing friends. In this world today we don't pick up the phone enough to hear the person on the other end. I spoke to almost all of my bridesmaids in life as well as many family members! It just warms the soul and makes the day even better! Being 35 and you can look at a friend and go, man, we've known one another over 30 years... that's priceless! Nick surprised me with mini bundt cakes as well as a neighbor brought me over a mini bundt cake! Thank goodness we had company to help eat them! That night Nick told me to get out and go do something fun, but I decided to just chill with Walker and him and take a walk as that was the most important thing to me. 

Our friends had me over Friday night for dinner and a movie, Nick stayed home since Walker still wasn't feeling great. Vanessa made me this really cute, yummy cake! She is vegan so it was made without any animal products and it was so great!!!


So this kid is one year and one half old. Whoa. Let's see all he's into and all he does... He loves Paw Patrol or anything with dogs for that matter. He dances to rap even though I try to make him like my music. He tells you about the cow and the lion, but those are the only animals he really knows. He loves to roar for some reason! He gives kisses and loves to kiss the IPad when Facetiming. He says "Cookie" for any dessert or even crackers. His eyes light up when he sees he cat who quickly runs away. He is obsessed with cars. He will line them up on the couch or the ottoman and play for hours. He even loves to get in our front seats of the cars in the garage and play with buttons. When he sees a car or truck out that he likes he growls, "Carrrrr." He loves pasta and Mexican food, but I have to hide veggies. He is very observant like when playing with our friends' kids he watches them for a while then jumps in for the fun. He's very outgoing and funny, yet serious when he is tired or doesn't feel well. He gets in trouble for climbing the stairs too much or trying to stand on the couch. We are enjoying this age and absorbing every minute of this firecracker.








Sunday, January 15, 2017

Christmas Fun in Texas


I heard a leftover Christmas commercial on Pandora today and was very confused as to why it was on in January. Christmas seems like it was a million years ago, but it was only a few weeks ago! Within a snap of the fingers the magic is gone and we are in a new year!

We flew to Midland first on our magical Christmas vacation. Wishing for snow, we were in for some sunny days most of the holiday in Texas.


Walker is very entertained with any sort of car. The parents took all the ornaments off the tree, but he was truly more interested in the lights. He didn't seem to bother the tree too much. He did steal their sleep number bed remote and a cordless phone. He likes to walk around and talk on them, then he forgets and throws it down wherever.

Dad and Brenda set us up a surprise - a carriage ride to look at lights! These horses were huge! It was such a neat experience! Walker fell asleep so he is no fun, but we truly enjoyed it. There were some really fun houses all lit up. The workers told me the horses come down from Amish country so they are real working horses!




When we got home we sang a few Christmas songs before opening gifts. We always sang while Mom played the piano growing up. Brenda has been taking lessons so she wanted us to all sing while she played this year! This piano is my Great Aunt Kitty's from the early 1900s.


It's no secret we love gifts in my family! I love to watch others open what I give them much more than I do to receive them! This year I did a fun gift for Dad and Brenda, a book that chronicled the last 1.5 year of their life via Facebook, every status sort of thing. I thought it was a really neat gift. I think Dad's favorite gift I gave him was a basic t-shirt! We all loved to watch Walker open his gifts. His mind must explode as he gets new toys! His big gift was a a blow up house thing with bouncy balls. Yep, he loves it and those balls do go everywhere, but he thinks it's so much fun! We all had fun playing with our new toys. Never too old for toys!








We made the trek to Dallas on the 23rd. We love to drive around and look at lights in the areas where we used to live in Plano and parts of Nick's parents' neighborhood. We found a really neat house where the owners snapped a pic of all of us!


On Christmas Eve we got everyone dressed and hit church! Then we came back to celebrate with the Bennett clan. It was crazy and loud, just the way we like it. They are such a wonderful group of people and I can only hope to raise Walker to be like all of the young men in that family. After they all left we were able to open gifts with both the parents. We had a really great time, I love having both families in the same room!





Nick's mom has been making fun little gifts to sell out of old life vests from Southwest airplanes. They were just going to throw away the vests so Dianne said she could use them to make things. Walkie had a blast playing in this!




Christmas morning we got up and my folks came over for breakfast. We enjoyed our time together then they drove to Oklahoma. We then opened gifts with Nick's parents and Justin. Walker got so many crazy, loud gifts! He was in Heaven!


It's always good to get home, yet we yearn for our time not to end with family. We got back and were ready to celebrate the New Year!