Monday, December 31, 2012

Live it, Laugh at it, Love it! 2013 - Go Gentle!!

There is no fortune cookie to ring in this New Year…

As 2012 is finally ending and 2013 is about to come on the stroke of midnight, I have spent some time reflecting.

In all honesty, this has been one of the worst years of my life. There have been so many losses and changes (not all bad) that my heart and mind are having a hard time keeping up.
When I am lying in bed at night (or in the wee hours of the morning) I can either pretend that none of it ever happened, or I relive each moment of it. Last night, I dreamed that my brother was still here…that as part of a medical experiment they were able to bring him back. They had not told us he was still alive until they knew for sure that he was going to make it. In my dream, I went to answer the door and through the peep hole, I saw him. The joy was overwhelming…simply and utterly overwhelming. Then I woke up.  I woke up and wanted only to fall back asleep into that dream, but reality has a twisted way of creeping back in.

I have lost a best friend, my father, my brother, a business that I loved went under, a ministry I have worked with for almost 10 years is undergoing many changes (and I am NOT part of them), I got a new job…I got another new job with in the same college. I work with amazing people all around; have a supportive husband, an incredible mother and three kiddos that mean the world to me, a strong sister-in-law and two beautiful talented nieces.
The blessings are there to be counted. I am trying to focus on the positive, on the happy.
It is just so hard sometimes to lift myself up and put on the rose colored glasses.
This coming year I am sure will bring more changes, but I pray with all my heart no more losses.
I am working on finally getting my degree and at 40 years old…I think I have a direction for my life. (About time, right?!) My oldest son is thriving at college, enjoying playing college ball and continues to touch people with his heart, my middle son blows me away with his personality, brain and sense of humor and my youngest, I am just watching to see where his smarts will take him.  
May your New Year be filled with joy, all your fortune cookies be silly and your hearts be lifted.
Thanks for reading and hopefully growing with me. I can’t promise to be more regular…but I can promise to…
Live, Laugh, Love!
Vanilla Mama

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mission of Fortune

“Let your life be a mission, not an intermission!”

This year has been the worst year in my memory, as a family we have lost so much. My father, my brother, my friend (not a death, but now she is somebody that I used to know)…our hopes, our dreams. Changed, rearranged…the normal changed to a bizarre and surreal abnormal. Life altered and hopes destroyed. How, how do we move on?
I am right now in an intermission…I want the pause. I want, I need a break from reality. My breath is held. Waiting for peace. Begging for peace. Desiring nothing more than to wake up from this cruel dream.
A mission, how can my life be a mission? How can I pick myself up and stop this…stop this madness, stop this intermission? I do not know.
Even now, when I see a picture of my father or my brother, my breath catches in my chest and I am immobilized with grief. A sudden memory of them will freeze me. Knowing that there is such a vast hole, a deep black hole where they used to be crushes me.
Every day is step by step. Each moment is breath by breath.
I know that prayers and Christ lift me up, and my unceasing prayer is that this loving God that I cannot claim to understand – show me what my mission is. In all honesty, I cannot see it…cannot feel it…cannot begin to understand. 
“Let your life be a mission, not an intermission!”
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28. I am working toward this, I believe it. Sweet Lord in Heaven above – take my life, and lead me.
Live, laugh, love ~ like there is no tomorrow -
Vanilla Mama
PS…I am sure there are lucky numbers on the back of this fortune, the mission I charge you with is to make sure you tell the ones that you love…that you LOVE them. All our days are numbered and we do not know how many we have.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Brotherly Love

Remembering Steven - 
My Brother and I in March - I Miss you Steven, I Love you!
Steven Earl ****, 6’6”, 362, 38 years old….Born: November 28, 1973. Died: September 21, 2012 unexpectedly of pulmonary thrombosis in his sleep. To most people he was Steve, or Steven – but he was well known to us as Steven Earl, that’s what Mom or Dad would yell when he was in trouble.  When we were little I used to put bricks on his head to keep him from getting taller than me – It clearly didn’t work. That may be why he started finding unusual places to sleep. We would find him sleeping under tables, on the stairs, any quiet place…more than likely anywhere away from his big sister trying to “play” with him.
He was a son, brother, husband and father. He was a friend…to all of us.
If you or someone you know currently has or has ever had the password *************(changed to protect the innocent) to one or more of your electronic devices – I know that you are a friend or family member of Steven’s and relied on him for help to set up your computer and internet. He was our techie – he introduced us to MP3’s, ripping and burning disks, wifi and tried to keep us up to date with technology. 
He had a unique sense of humor – of course many jokes needed to wait until kiddos were out of the room!  But, he could even make the littlest ones laugh. Steven was to them, a big kid. My boys always wanted to know if they could stay the night with Uncle Steven, or when he would be coming over again so they could play.
He loved to play games – whether it was a video game, board game or trivia game. If he suggested playing a game, I knew it was a good one. Fact or Crap, Trivial Pursuit, Apples to Apples, Rayman, Guitar Hero, Mario, Xbox, Wii, PlayStation…He knew them all and not being a ‘gamer’ I know I am leaving out many more.  I do know that He could be the most aggravating person in the world, he would annoy you and push your buttons until you just about lost your temper then could disarm you with a wicked grin and saying something perfectly silly or incredibly inappropriate.  He really was the king of inappropriate humor.
Mary, his wife, called Steven her “Laughter.” Through thick and thin – through ups and downs, Steven was her laughter and her rock. And I know that she and the girls were his greatest joy. 
When I asked for memories of Steven from friends and family, so many people referred to him as a gentle giant – and while it is not in print – a few called him Grizzly Adams. Here he was this big, tough looking man (did I mention he was 6’6”?), all burly with a curly beard worried about a baby squirrel not being able to climb a tree. His heart, his spirit through it all was tender…he was a gentle giant.
Steven did not have an easy life, he struggled with constant pain and inner demons – but this man through it all left us with an incredible gift. The gift of his love.  I know he is looking down on us all amazed at how many people are here to celebrate his life. I do not think he ever realized how much he meant to us all.
The little booklet (given out at the funeral) is full of memories that friends and family sent, the theme of all of the memories together is a testament to his heart. I know we all have special memory of Steven – whether it was calling him for computer advice, laughing with him over a private joke or watching him with his girls. He was a big kid and connected with his girls, my boys and so many other kiddos. They loved to play with him, they trusted him and would sometimes open up to him when they would let no one else in. He didn’t judge them, he didn’t judge us.
I feel blessed by his love, even now. All of us have been blessed by Steven in one way or another. Smart, funny and giving.
Live, Laugh, Love~
Vanilla Mama

Friday, September 7, 2012

Training Fortune

“Let us train our minds to desire what the situation demands.”
Can I have Alice, PLEASE?!
I have certainly begun a new chapter in my life…I have taken a greatly reduced role in the ministry work I have worked in for the last 9 years, I am working a full time job at a community college, and now I am also a very part time student with a husband who travels 50% of the time and despite all his hard work, layoffs are coming down the pike.
What I want…I want to be independently wealthy without a care in the world. I want to sleep until noon, have a housekeeper named Alice who will take care of me and my family, I want to already have my Master’s degree instead of working on my Associate’s! I want to wake up tomorrow and be completely fit and be able to eat whatever on this planet I crave!

However, that is not my reality.
My situation demands something completely different than what my mind wants.

What does my situation demand? It demands frugal living, time management, dietary discretion, organization and a drive to succeed.

These are not wants…these are not idle “I wish” things – these are demands that I must fulfill. But, my mind falls back into its whiny brat mode and stomps its feet to have its way. Pitches a little hissy fit – Jeesh, my mind can be such a PAIN!
If I let my bratty brain have its own way….I shudder to think!

“Let us train our minds to desire what the situation demands.”
How on earth do I go about this? Buy (NO – borrow from the library) a self-help book? Search internet blogs with tips and suggestions? Rejoin FlyLady (that is actually a REALLY good idea!) and take baby-steps to getting my brain trained?

I know that with each baby-step I take towards training my bratty brain, my heart will desire the results and that will help train my mind even more.
I really don’t want to make myself out to seem like this lazy, unmotivated person – because in reality, I’m not. I have a strong work ethic, a drive and determination to move forward with my life, a hunger to learn and have a happy family life.

So…in essence my mind is already trained to some extent, I just have bratty brain moments.

Sometimes, it is just hard to see the forest for the trees when I am in the thick of it and simply want to take a break from the world for a moment.
“Let us train our minds to desire what the situation demands.”

So, bratty brain…you’ve had your hissy fit for the night and it’s time to head to bed!
Live, Laugh, Love ~

Vanilla Mama
PS – I NEED to train my brain to buy lottery tickets, I think the situation demands it (but, I guess it doesn’t count as being frugal – sigh!)!
18, 45, 51, 8, 21, 43

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Blocking Fortune

“A closed mind is like a closed book; just like a block of wood.”
For quite some time, I have felt a little closed, a little stagnant. Neither moving forward nor moving behind (of course just the act of standing still puts you behind – life moves forward all around you). My life, my mind felt closed. I had stopped writing, I had been doing the same job for many years, I was wrapped up in the day to day. Until…my husband got notice he was being laid off.

That is a shell shocker for anyone to hear, a deadline when you will no longer have a job. Not having benefits with three kiddos and a host of health issues, not having an income with three kiddos…all very scary. That’s when I took a second job. Got out of the house (I worked from home until then), met new people…my mind started to open. Then I did not like some of what I saw and found a different second job, LOVED the people there, loved the experience – I grew some more.
During this time, my home life suffered – my nights and weekends were never mine. Such is the nature of a retail job. Even though I undertook writing this blog, everything creatively fell behind.  My husband’s job got extended and we felt safe. A year passed.

We got the notice that he is being laid off for sure, there is no stopping it, it is going to happen.
A friend talked to me about classes at a local college and I looked into it. Medical Billing and Coding – I was blessed with an incredible grant and a wonderful advisor who looked at my background of administrating a non-profit and she recommended I apply to a new position opening up in my area with the college program that I was taking the class through. I applied in February, never heard a thing. Figured they had found someone they felt was a better fit.

I took my class, passed with flying colors made some new friends – my book, my mind was certainly opened.
“A closed mind is like a closed book; just like a block of wood.”

No wooden block here!
Then out of the blue – on the day of my final exam, I got a phone call! They wanted to interview me!!
ME?! ME?!
I interviewed and later that night, they called to offer me the job! I start June 15!!

Now – the pay is not fabulous. The benefits are great! The people are wonderful! But – but, even better…
I can take any class I want, my sons can take any class they want, my husband can take any class he wants! I can finally get my degree – really open my mind, really start to grow again!

We are still waiting for the final axe for my husband’s job, but I feel like we have turned a corner. With my evenings and weekends back, our family can get back on track – this will give my husband the ability to find what he needs to move forward with his career. I am excited!
I will still be working two jobs – one at the college, the other still based at home, but it will all be on my terms!

Life, yes, Life is good!
Live, Laugh, Love~
Vanilla Mama

PS – Your lucky numbers, keep your mind open – it could happen! 14, 21, 16, 42, 32, 11

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fortune of Light

Fortune of Light - 

“You should be able to undertake and complete anything you desire.”

From my fortune cookie to God’s ears…umm, eyes. 

I have undertaken many things in my life – some I have completed, some I have not. The key word there is SHOULD.

I SHOULD be able to undertake and complete anything I desire. 

I SHOULD be able to keep up with posting on my blog, finishing my novel (that I have been working on for literally YEARS!), finishing my classes, keeping my house organized and cleaned.  I SHOULD be able to do a 2 mile walk every day, get my Yoga in, keep up with two jobs, three kids and a husband, and my shows on Food Network….I have undertaken all of this. Should, could, would…

Deep breath, everyone…Haha! 

Life gets better, I always does. (Believe me I have learned NOT to say…”It can’t get any worse!”)

I really do see the light at the end of the tunnel – could be the train…at least I have a sense of humor still. Really I do, I gotta! Without a sense of humor, the night falls to fast. 

 I see the daylight, not a daylight so bright that I need to wear shades or cause a mind splitting migraine….but a softly breaking dawn that is embracing me in warmth and love.

“You should be able to undertake and complete anything you desire.”

I have things I am looking forward to – the Next Food Network Star, losing my last 20 pounds…okay, maybe 30, the end of my classes, seeing my sons grow into men, the start of a new chapter of my life, the new Despicable Me movie coming out next year. Guess what my ring tone is….if you have gone back through and read some of my blog, you know I love Despicable Me and I love my Minions. I digress... 

And – with that, I am off to bed. It’s been a pretty long week…my littlest one had his tonsils out and we are medicating around the clock for a weird headache, my sleep is on the low end of the scale right now and unfortunately the bright daylight that won’t let me hit snooze on it will come much too soon! 

As always –
Live, Laugh, Love ~
Your Vanilla Mama

PS – Lucky numbers could help my Breaking Dawn (and NO, I don’t think much could help that movie, maybe better basting for Bella? I digress…) 2, 31, 37, 39, 40, 42.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Stumbling Fortune

“When you stumble your love will be there to catch you.”

The last few months have been some of the hardest of my life. Some days are better than other – some days I stumble. Stumble so hard that I can barely breath – my heart will literally skip a beat and I feel the world spinning.
Have you had that feeling?

Like you are there, present – fully, but not really. Almost like what is happening, or has happened really only happened to someone else.  A dream state – a nightmare world, an alternate reality that I want out of.

A stumble so hard that mentally I have skinned my knees. Scraped my elbows. Bumped my head.
“When you stumble your love will be there to catch you.”

“Your love” – all your love – from every source, from friends, from family, from God. All that love, will catch you, catch me…please, please catch me.
When I stumble my love will be there to catch me. All the love that has been bestowed upon me, it is mine. Mine to cling to when my heart is hurting, when I stumble. Mine to share with anyone else who may need it. Because –

Did you know…Did you know love grows when you share it?
I know that – I believe that.

When a man loves a woman it can grow into a child. That is a literal interpretation – to be sure. But, seriously creating a child is supposed to be one of the most expressive and intimate acts of love. (Of course Human nature being what it is – it gets perverted, but I am not going to even touch that here, right now!)

Opening up your heart to a new person – expressing your love to someone, can and does make your love grow. Your circle of people can grow and deepen – if you let it.
“When you stumble your love will be there to catch you.” – if you let it.

Every day you meet people, you don’t know what these people are going through. Did they just get a speeding ticket, did a family member just die – are they just plain stupid, are they going to be a soul mate? Someone that when you meet them, you know the rest of your life is not complete without them…It could be a parent, it could be a sibling, it could be a mom you meet during a little league game, it could be the person behind you in the grocery store line, or the man who helped edit your book…a soul mate is someone that touches your soul. If you let them.

In the last few months I have an extremely dear friend that I called my sister walked away, I lost my father – my life is in flux. I have stumbled…I have fallen, but my love, your love is there to catch me.
I let it…I have left myself open. I am here and present, even though I want to pretend the last few months never took place…

Live, laugh, love ~
Vanilla Mama

Friday, March 23, 2012


How do you measure a loss?

What constitutes a loss?

We are constantly watching Wall Street and the gas pumps, every nickel, every penny….tracking loss.

Losing your phone, losing your keys, losing your dog….

I have lost all of those.

And most anyone who is reading this will acknowledge that none of these, NONE of these prepare you for the loss of a person. A live, human, breathing, loving person.  A person that you love.

How do you measure that loss? How do you get past it? There is no financial advisor, no hidden extra keys, no micro chip embedded in a lost pet, no cell phone insurance – they are gone.

A co-worker, a friend, a family member…an aunt, an uncle, a grandparent, a parent, a sister, a brother,  a spouse, a child…how, do you measure that loss. How do you move on?

Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second – breath by breath!

Please keep my family in your prayers. We have lost so much…we have lost my father to pancreatic cancer. My grandfather’s son, my mother’s husband of 40 years  (almost 41 years), a sibling to my aunts, an uncle to my cousins, a friend to many more than I could name….he has gone home.

He was welcomed home by many loved ones, friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, a mother and a grandbaby.

Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second – breath by breath.

Fortune Cookies, Bible Verses, and Prayers…many, many prayers!

Most important - Prayers!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fatherly Fortune

My Dad taking care of Little Me!
I have not posted much as late, and will be checking in from time to time. But, life as usual has thrown myself and my family a tremendous curveball that I need to be fully present for.

My precious father, my Dad, my Daddy – has been in and out of the hospital since Thanksgiving of last year and recently they finally were able to tell us what he was suffering from. This strong, capable, loving man is suffering from pancreatic cancer. It is advanced and it is incurable.
All the fortunes in the world, all the little slips of papers that are stuffed in little bites of cookies – do not prepare anyone for this.

Please keep my family in your prayers. Please keep my Father in your prayers, please keep my Mother in your prayers. These two incredible people who have made my life possible, who daily show me an example of love and selflessness, who are facing one of the most difficult things a married couple can face together…with dignity and grace.

Even when I am not there with them, my heart is. I want to wrap my Daddy up in love and protect him from pain and from fear. I want to lift my Mom’s heart up and protect it from the hurt and anxiety. I want to shield my brother, my nieces, my children – I cannot, no one can.

There is one verse, one Bible verse that I look to – Romans 8:28. There is a reason – there is a reason for all this pain, and I pray that God will make it apparent at some point.
The outpouring of love and support from friends and family for my Dad has been such a blessing – and I encourage anyone who reads this to reach out today and let someone know that you care. Reach out today…
With love, blessings and best wishes~
Vanilla Mama

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Strange Fortune

“An hour with one friend is worth more than ten with strangers.”

Lately I have not had enough time with my friends. Spending a lot of time with strangers – nature of retail, but not enough with friends. We will message back and forth about getting together for a girl’s night, but it hasn’t happened recently.
These ladies, these amazing friends that I treasure – I miss them. We connected through our kids at various points in our lives and blessedly, even though our kiddos have grown (mostly) we have been able to maintain the connection. Even if we don’t talk or see each other on a regular basis, we click when we are together.

I am blessed to know these women and men. (Yes, I am one of those people who believe you can be friend with a man without ending up sleeping with him.) God puts these people in your life for a reason. We may never know why we connect with the cashier at Albertson’s or the Mom at your son’s first basketball practice – who ends up being like the sister you never had.
There are people that enter your life everyday – you might meet them through your kids, through work, standing in the line at the grocery store. Maybe they are one of the strangers that you end up spending ten hours with. What matters is that you are open to letting them in.

I write this with a heavy heart, I miss my friends. Desperately, truly miss my friends. There is one incredible woman I miss and think about constantly – she is in my prayers, my thoughts and my heart. If there was anything she asked for, I would be there.
I am actually going to make this a fairly short post, because I am going to look and my calendar and see when I can get a girl’s night planned.  I think we all need to reconnect – couple of margaritas, some sangria and maybe a box…umm..bottle of wine!

“An hour with one friend is worth more than ten with strangers.”
Here’s hoping that I get ten hours with my friends!

With friendly vibes –
Vanilla Mama

PS- your lucky numbers…11, 13, 19, 21, 25, 28. If you win – take your best friend out!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Intelligent Fortune

“You Will Attain the Highest Levels of Intelligence.”

Since I am considering going back to school and taking some classes to try to put myself in a better position for a lifelong career, that would be good news.

Looking back on my life truly I do not have many regrets…everything I have done, everything I have been through has made me who I am today. Today, I think I am an okay person.  I make mistakes, I’m not perfect – but I am pretty happy with who I am. There are certainly areas of my life that bear improving – but show me a person that is not a work in progress and I will show you a person that is likely six feet under.

The one true regret that I have, not finishing my college education. At the time it was the right decision for my health, and I kept telling myself I would go back. Then I got pregnant and the family years began. There just never seemed to be enough time with raising kiddos, then going through a divorce, being a single parent, getting remarried, having another baby, working two jobs…well. Somehow it just never has seemed the right time.

Here’s the bottom line – I ain’t getting younger. The clocks a ticking, I’m pushing 40. Yes, ladies and gentleman Vanilla Mama is going to hit 40 this year. I have the college freshman and the grey hair to prove it.

“You Will Attain the Highest Levels of Intelligence.”

My advice to my kids, to friends of my kids, to random teenagers I meet – Finish school, go to college, get a degree! The job market is so competitive out there, you need that piece of paper. I am a prime example, I have plenty of experience, but without that slip of parchment showing I stuck it out for four years and got my degree – I am looked over. Many careers/job opportunities do not even want you to apply without a degree.

I have learned the hard way, I am not good at online classes and self study. Tried that – once I set down at the computer to do the classes I get distracted by the millions of other tasks I have waiting or the phone rings. It’s kind of the same thing with exercising at home – we’ve all been there! How many of us have a treadmill that has become a catch all for hanging laundry (please chime in and tell me I am not alone!), a stationary bike that doesn’t move at all, or a yoga mat that serves as a rug? I need the structure of a classroom environment.

“You Will Attain the Highest Levels of Intelligence.”

It’s way past time for this Vanilla Mama to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up! My ultimate dream – I would love to write full time. My reality at this point…I work two jobs, have three kids and barely find time to post a blog (yes, I checked it has been exactly ONE MONTH since my last post!). My wonderful hubby asked, “you are stressed to the max already, doing two jobs, keeping us all on track, how on earth are you going to take classes and go back to school?” My answer was, “I know that at the end it will be worth it. I will be reaching a goal and helping our family!”

I do believe the sacrifice will be worth it – I need to strive to attain the highest levels of intelligence and further myself, my eventual career and set an example for my kiddos.

On a completely unrelated topic – I CUT my hair this week! I don’t mean a little – I am talking Jamie Lee Curtis short. I had her cut off EVERYTHING that was dyed, since I have decided as my New Year’s Resolution…of which I only have one…I am not going to color my hair. I was worried that I would end up looking like a man, but I have been told it is very feminine and flattering.  Not quite ready to share a picture, if you know me on Facebook, you can find me there.

So…anyway, I promise not to be a month between posts next time. I may even try to get on a regular schedule…who knows posting regularly may get my on a path to higher intelligence!

Live, Laugh, Love ~

Vanilla Mama

PS – There are no lucky numbers on Panda Express’ fortune cookies – the turkey butts! Thanks Camille for sharing your fortune with me. BTW – Miss you!